A few months ago at a sales training I was giving, I talked about our offering of “Brand Defector Research” and its use cases in the market. A team member raised his hand: “But we do not talk to Brand folks usually”. I looked at my slide, I looked at the words I was using, and I noticed the word “brand” repeated a few times. I processed the information put forth by my team member for that brief moment and responded: “You can talk to CX folks about this research. ‘Brand’ is just the general term to represent the company’s identity, as in we need to understand the ‘customer experience’ provided by this ‘brand’, both as in ‘by this company and its staff and tools’ as well as ‘under this brand name’.” At that moment, although I was able to justify my purpose of bringing up “brand” in a customer experience context, I felt sad that we trained ourselves to keep those two terms segregated.
What do we Refer to as ‘Brand’?
I was quite happy to find the above definition of ‘brand’ on the Internet. Here, the association between brand and experience (in the way of quality and satisfaction) is clearly stated. The role ‘brand’ plays in loyalty is implied (in the last sentence).
Besides the technical definitions of ‘brand’, such as the one quoted above, in the business and operations world, we refer to the total package of a company as ‘brand’. It could simply mean ‘the brand name’, as much as it could be a reference to the company identity to associate with personalities of consumers. It could also include anything the company stands for. It is like the external image of a company; what one sees from outside when they look at the company. ‘Brand’ is built through not only the anatomy of the company, but also by its behaviors—its words, motions, sounds, exchanges.
Consumers experience companies through their ‘brand’! They see, hear about, buy from, talk about to their friends and families, and think about the brand when they make purchasing decisions. Some brands are simply represented by the company name or logo, especially when there is a strong identity around the company’s qualities or what it stands for. Apple is the most common example of this. However, some brands need more than just the mention of the company name to create perceptions in consumer minds. They need a description of what “the brand’ did to help explain what it stands for. In the end, the image of the brand is built through the experiences of consumers.
Why Does a CX Practitioner Worry About ‘Brand’? Isn’t That the Brand Team’s Problem?
No, it is the entire company’s problem. ‘Brand’ is built through everything the company does, says, and projects. So, it is something everyone who works for an organization should worry about. Especially the employees who are responsible for creating experiences with the “brand”. I’m talking about those who design and produce the product and its packaging, those who determine the services to be provided, those who craft and publish the advertising and other messaging about the products and company, and those who face the customers when delivering those products and services. Moreover, as partners or channels outside of the company are involved in completing some of these activities, such as publishing of advertisements, they contribute to the ‘brand’ as facilitators of the experience. Consumers associate the ‘brand’ as the representative of the product, service, and staff they interact with.
But It’s a Two-Way Street… CX Impacts the ‘Brand’ and CX is Also Impacted by the ‘Brand’!
As a CX Practitioner, we do not only worry about influencing the brand perceptions through the experiences we create and deliver, but we also need to take into account ‘brand’ to understand how customers experience us. Consumer decisions and behaviors aren’t only driven by rational evaluations of the products and services, but also by the emotions of the consumers at the time of choice. The emotions about brands are built through experiences. However, it is not always their own experience that creates those emotions. Many times, it is others’ experiences that are communicated through various means, such as speaking with a friend or through mass media. This is why “word-of-mouth” is such a prevalent means of advertising today.
Moreover, when consumers think about recommending or advocating a ‘brand’ to someone else, they think of various aspects of their experience with that “Brand”. Since it’s all impacted by emotions, it is the “perception of the experience” that counts.
Be Aware of What’s Happening on the Opposite End of This Two-Way Street
I love when I hear from a CX client that they want to share with us their brand personality information and what they stand for. This helps us measure if the customers’ perceptions of the experience they deliver are aligned with their brand. Companies that share brand personality information with us are the ones who recognize the strong relationship between brand and customer experience. They break the silos of Brand and CX departments. These companies are the ones who can successfully and comprehensively identify what drives desirable customer satisfaction and loyalty. They acknowledge it’s not just the experience delivered through a channel at one moment in time. It’s more than just a single experience at a call center, store, or on the website, which will bring that customer back for more. Customer experience and loyalty are outcomes of a collection of experiences, not only those that are lived personally, but also those that are lived through other consumers.
As CX Practitioners, we need to be ‘brand conscious’. That entails not only being considerate of how we impact ‘brand’ through the experiences we create and deliver, but also being aware of the influence ‘brand perceptions’ have on how the experiences we create and deliver are perceived. We need to understand that influence and how much of a customer’s satisfaction is based on their perception of what the brand stands for versus the actual experience “delivered”.
Let’s have CX and Brand work together! Let’s break the silos, have CX Practitioners talk about ‘brand’ freely, and have Brand Managers take into account that ‘experience’ helps build the ‘brand’. Let’s measure them together to better understand the influencers of ‘loyalty’, so that we can grow our brand (as in company) stronger. Let’s have Brand and CX be in the same room.