This has been one busy week and I am back with week six of our Advanced Brand Strategy Masterclass. We are continuing on the second part of brand strategy development framework which focuses on brand identity, brand images and brand delivery. The delivery one is probably the most important and interesting aspect.
Two of the key drivers to building brand strength are creating a distinct brand identity and developing a unique brand personality and their associated images. Unfortunately, semantics quite often gets in the way of understanding how these two factors can influence brand strategy. Brand identity, for example, is often used in a limited, graphic-centric manner or used interchangeably with brand image. All too often, identity is seen as just the graphics, logos, colors, and symbols that generally make up corporate identity. Those elements are the appearance (which is very important) but not the substance of a brand, just as the clothes you wear are an important, even distinguishing, part of your identity, but not the substance of who you are as a person. An obsession with image tends to attach greater importance to appearance than to inner reality. But brand identity is a richer, more substantial concept to embrace. The two concepts are quite different. There’s also a simple way to sum up and understand the essence of the two terms: image is how the marketplace perceives you; identity is who you really are. We recommend that companies focus on building brand identity as the driving brand-strategy component. Brand image is not to be diminished at all. It is, after all is said and done, how a company is perceived. But don’t make the mistake of thinking your brand image is your identity. The challenge for brand strategists and champions is to align image and identity. That happens—and can only happen—by careful, proactive management of your brand identity components.
The next big goal is the translation of the Brand Promise into Customer Experience Strategy for brand delivery. It is easy to make the mistake of developing a grandiose brand promise that one cannot deliver. Although you must combine vision with realism, one should not take weakness in any particular dimension as an excuse to do nothing. No company gets it right all the time. The customer experience strategy is used to align the brand promise to customer expectations. It describes the service characteristics objectively. It is important to depict these service characteristics so that employees, customers and managers alike know what the service is, can see their role in its delivery. (One of my business partners Scott Friedmann is a big believer of this, he is trained in service managment at Cornell grad school and believes the crossover of tradtional service deisgn principles and software as services can spark unlimited innovation). Services are delivered through integrated systems consisting of three basic elements. First are the steps, tasks and activities necessary to render the service; in other words, the service process. Second are the means by which the tasks are executed, typically some combination of people, technologies and products. Third is the evidence of the experience and how customer relates to the experiences. All service systems can be visualized by understanding these elements and their interrelationships. This is where things break down. The people who create the brand are not the people who develop the brand. The people who design services and operation standards are not connected to those who develop the brand. The people who design the interfaces are not connected to those who create the ads. Sure we've all seen that.
The customer experience strategy gets complicated these days. The deployment of machine-dominant (automation) interfaces on the front lines drastically improves business economics, but creates a new set of challenges. People are good at conveying empathy and handling exceptions but are challenging to manage and costly to deploy and maintaining consistency, especially in scaleable businesses. In effect, the front office needs computers to compensate for people's shortcomings and people to compensate for comouter' shortcomings. Today businesses are using a hybrid approach. Then comes Web 2.0 and brings a whole new element of disruption. So the interfaces, the communities, the content and the connectivity all becoming part of the band and brand experience.
But that doesn’t stop here, with the success of Starbucks and many are experimenting with the launching of hundreds of Brand Spaces, all those large flat-screen TVs, WiFi and comfy lounge chairs, and are finding ther ways into banks and clinics etc. These are the most tangible physical manifestation of any brand. Here are some interesting examples: from launderettes turned ‘wasch.salon.lounge’, like German Clenaucum, to the boom in private clubs in London or NYC. Even hotel chains such as Hyatt (Hyatt Place) and Sheraton (Sheraton/Yahoo) are waking up to the fact that their long ignored and depressing lobbies could be converted into brand spaces. Others include LG Washbar (Paris, pictuer below) ING Direct (picture above), Nokia (picture below), Apple and Nintendo. Expect this is become the latest experimental front for brand experience innovation.