Creating a new brand often feels like hitting the reset button. The new look and feel tells customers that you've changed. If you have indeed changed, a new brand identity is a great way to mark that change. If the organization has not changed, a new identity is a great way to lose customer trust.

Many of our clients who initially approach us to develop a new website are actually trying to address deeper issues related to their brand. Most of the time we bring in an outside expert who holds a half-day workshop, does some research, and comes back with recommendations for changing content, voice, look and feel, etc. While this traditional approach does add value, we find it lacks a human-centered focus. Most approaches to branding emphasize style and voice, or how the brand looks or sounds. We believe there is something deeper.

In a previous blog entry, I wrote about how a brand, from the customer or user perspective, is a mental container. In this container, a customer stores their opinions and observations of their experience with an organization. How does a customer form these views? It boils down to promises. A customer evaluates your brand as good or bad based on whether they feel you kept your promises to them or not. To your customer, your brand is an experience. So why not treat your brand that way?

This was Story+Structure's intention when developing our Brand Experience Engagement. We sought to move beyond how a brand looks and sounds, to the experience a brand delivers. We capture this experience in four-part model.

Brand Experience Model

1. Brand Concept

Alone, the brand is nothing but a concept or a thesis. It is an expression of why your company exists. Your customer will never see or come into contact with your brand concept. The goal of a brand experience is not to bring the customer to the brand, or the brand to the customer. Its purpose is to allow the brand to shape customer perception. As your brand moves through your organization to the customer, it changes. It goes from being a brand to a customer experience. As an experience the brand is relevant to the customer. During the brand experience engagement we endeavor to define this process at key points. Creating a consistent experience across all user touchpoints requires that all significant interactions be aligned around the brand concept. To achieve this alignment, we break the brand concept down into brand promises.

2. Brand Promises

If the brand concept is a thesis statement, the brand promises articulate what an organization wishes that concept to mean to people. The brand promises also create an opportunity to differentiate your offerings from competitors. After all, differentiation is simply telling your customer you are willing to make promises that other organizations can't, won't, or have yet to make.

3. Service Blueprint

To help companies keep their brand promises, we developed the Service Blueprint. The service blueprint maps the customer journey, as well as touchpoints along that journey. We can then look at each part of the journey and design ways to deliver on the brand promises at each touchpoint. A walk-in visitor is different from a phone call. A website has unique capabilities that a billboard doesn't. The service blueprint helps identify the varied ways an organization makes contact with customers and the value of each. The service blueprint does not script or micro-manage each touchpoint. Instead, it helps individuals become designers.

4. Touchpoints

A touchpoint is any interaction your organization has with a customer. When a customer sees your billboard, visits your website, walks in to your place of business, or calls you on the phone, they are engaging in touchpoints. These moments of interaction are valuable because this is where you make, keep, or break brand promises. If customer service representatives understand brand promises, as well as the customer journey, then they have the tools they need to navigate the conversation and provide an experience that is an appropriate expression of the brand concept. The same is true for someone producing marketing collateral, making technology decisions, or determining anything else that influences or impacts a customer.

In summary, our Brand Experience engagement helps:

  • Create clarity and a common language across organizations
  • Empower teams to deliver on defined brand promises
  • Identify metrics and observable measurements to determine if brand promises are being kept

The biggest takeaway is that a living brand expression can move and adjust along with changing customer needs.

Check out our case study with CSU Channel Islands to see how this model has led to positive changes campus-wide. In the coming months we will be featuring more client success stories here on the blog. Click here to learn more about our brand experience engagement or to set-up an initial consultation.