The Brand Experience Manual: Addressing The Gap Between Brand Strategy And New Service Development.
ABSTRACT Customer experience has now become a central arena for competition in services. Companies are working hard not only to develop memorable customer experience, but also to infuse those with brand associations. To be able to transform brand strategy into a service concept capable of delivering a brand-aligned experience, the New Service Develop (NSD) teams need proper brand input. Nevertheless, literature and practice suggest that current brand manuals do not address these needs properly. This paper, through an extensive literature review and interviews with practitioners from the fields of Service Design and Branding, proposes the concept of Brand Experience Manual as a way to bridge the gap between brand strategy and the NSD teams. In doing so, it contributes to a better understanding of the status of current brand manuals, the evolution of branding, and advocates for an experiential focus on brand manuals.
Customer experience has now become a central arena for competition in services. Companies are working hard not only to develop memorable customer experience, but also to infuse those with brand associations. To be able to transform brand strategy into a service concept capable of delivering a brand-aligned experience, the New Service Develop (NSD) teams need proper brand input. Nevertheless, literature and practice suggest that current brand manuals do not address these needs properly. This paper, through an extensive literature review and interviews with practitioners from the fields of Service Design and Branding, proposes the concept of Brand Experience Manual as a way to bridge the gap between brand strategy and the NSD teams. In doing so, it contributes to a better understanding of the status of current brand manuals, the evolution of branding, and advocates for an experiential focus on brand manuals.
The increasing importance of the customer experience for businesses has been properly covered in academic literature (e.g. Carbone and Haeckel, 1994, Pine and Gilmore, 1998, Pullman and Gross, 2004, Berry, Wall and Carbone, 2006, Zomerdijk and Voss, 2010). Although in it`s initial phase experience was sometimes understood as the staged hedonic offering from the service provider to the customer (Pine and Gilmore, 1998), another approach that understands experiences as the individual perception from a service interaction established itself as the consensus in academic literature (Carbone and Haeckel, 1994, Berry et al., 2006).
It is now understood that one company cannot create an experience, but only the requirements that enable the customer to have an experience (Zomerdijk and Voss, 2010). For such, the company must develop the prerequisites that will render the experience. This is done through a semantic transformation (Karjalainen, 2004) during New Service Development (NSD) process, where the brand strategy is translated into service touch-points (Clatworthy, 2012).
The New Service Development (NSD) process ‘refers to the overall process of developing a new service’ (Johnson, Menor, Roth and Chase, 1999) and can be understood as comprising a planning and an execution phase. In the first phase, also know as the front-end, the service concept is developed. The service concept defines the experience the new offering is trying to deliver, and guides the execution phase – the design of the service delivery system – in creating the service process and the service system (Edvardson and Olsson, 1996, Johnson et al., 1999, Goldstein, Johnston, Duffy and Rao, 2002).
Therefore, for an adequate development of a brand-aligned experience, the brand strategy should guide the NSD process in developing a service concept that communicates the brand proposition (Clatwothy, 2012). To do this, the teams dealing with the design of the service concept need proper brand input. In this context, it would be expected that brand manuals would serve as bridges between brand strategy and the NSD teams, however, as Kapferer (2011) notices, and the empirical research endorsed, current brand manuals are mostly graphic identity bibles, and while they might have some use, they do not address the needs of the NSD teams working with service experiences.
To address this gap between the NSD teams needs and current brand manuals, this paper proposes the concept of the Brand Experience Manual. This concept is the outcome of an exploratory research based on an extensive literature review on the topics of Brand, Experience and New Service Development; and interviews with practitioners from the field of Service Design and Branding. The next three sections of this paper will introduce the topics from the literature review; then a discussion on the research findings is presented, followed by a presentation of a general approach to the Brand Experience Manual. The last section concludes the paper by presenting its contributions and limitations, and suggesting topics for further research.
Due to the lack of a proper definition in the literature, branding is generally understood by it`s grammatical meaning as the process of making a brand. This description opens space for a debate on the double meaning of the word: branding, as creating the brand identity (Aaker and Joachimsthaler, 2000); or branding, as delivering the brand proposition to the customer through brand`s manifestations (Semprini, 2006).
De Chernatony (2010:3) defines brands from a service perspective as ‘a cluster of functional and emotional values that enable promises to be made about unique and welcomed experiences’. For Berry et al. (2006), service branding starts inside the corporation, and it is not about advertising the brand, but defining its core values and designing services that communicate the brand proposition. In this sense, the brand is the core of the offering, which is delivered to the customer mainly through services. Since there always is an experience resulting from service interactions, the company must manage these touch-points properly, in order to adequately communicate the brand proposition (Berry et al., 2006, Clatworthy, 2012).
One challenge faced by service brands, which is not so ubiquitous in products, is that many times the service offerings share the same name and brand with the corporation (McDonald, de Chernanoty and Harris, 2001). As Berry (2000:128) notices, ‘in packaged goods, the product is the primary brand. However, with services, the company is the primary brand’. Since building a corporate brand from the scratch is not much of an option for an already functional organization, it is more realistic to include new services under the established corporate brand. This close relationship between service and corporate brands also raises issues related to alignment between the brand and the corporate values.
At a broader level, any marketing action creates impressions on the customers, and these impressions help to form the basis for the brand evaluation (Fournier, 1998). Ducan and Moriarty (2006) suggest that in the service dominant logic (Vargo and Lusch, 2004), the brand message is delivered by the brand`s touch-points, which are created when the customer or stakeholder is exposed to some brand manifestation. Since service brands have many touch points (Berry et. al., 2006), they must be managed in a way to deliver the brand proposition clearly.
Branding can thus be understood as the process of communicating the brand through touch- points, which behaves as the interfaces between the customer and the brand strategy. When this process is done to perfection, the consumer`s perception of the brand is the same as the brand`sproposition (de Chernatony and Riley, 1998). Thus, to enable the translation process, and deliver the brand promise, a brand-oriented company also needs a well-structured brand identity (Urde, 1999) that can be helpful in the development of brand-aligned experiences.
Lately, ‘products and services, and even commodities are increasingly branded and marketed by using experiences’ (Brakus, Schmitt and Zarantonello, 2011:160). Under the service-dominant logic perspective (Vargo and Lusch, 2004), services and experiences are increasingly becoming more intertwined (Sandström, Edvardsson, Kristensson and Magnusson, 2008) to a point that services can be understood as the means to provide experiences and value for the customer (Johnston and Kong, 2011). As Sandström et al. (2008:120) suggests: ‘value is the evaluation of the service experience’.
Although some academic literature is available (e.g. Brakus, Schmitt and Zarantonello, 2009, Brakus et al., 2011, Clatworthy, 2012), the link between brand and experience needs further development. Brakus et al., (2009:53) ‘conceptualize brand experience as a subjective, internal consumer responses (sensations, feelings, and cognition) and behavioural response evoked by brand-related stimuli’.
Experience is generally understood as the overall outcome of a series of emotional and personal sub-experiences resulting from interactions with elements created by the service provider (Pullman and Gross, 2004, Berry et al., 2006, Zomerdijk and Voss, 2010). ‘An experience is thus essentially a private event that occurs in response to some kind of stimulus’ (Brakus et al., 2011:161). Although Pine and Gilmore (1998) recognize experience as the individual perception, they present a different perspective, one that focuses on the staged experience as a ‘distinct economic offering, as different from services, as services are different from goods’, and not as the outcome of the interaction.
The differences between these two perspectives arise from the fact that the first focuses on experience from a psychological perspective (Sandström et al., 2008), while the second understands experience as the performance. Also, Pine and Gilmore`s (1998) definition has a strong bent towards the hedonic meaning of the word. Differently, Sandström et al. (2008) and Johnston and Kong (2011) suggest that experiences can happen in any type of offering, and not only in entertaining ones, for experiences emerge from any customer interaction (Berry, Carbone and Haeckel, 2002). As Zomerdijk and Voss (2010:67) suggests, ‘an experience occurs when a customer has any sensation or acquires knowledge from some level of interaction with the elements of a context created by a service provider’.
For Carbone and Haeckel (1994:9), experiences are the result of performance and context clues emitted by the product, service, and environment to the customer. ‘Performance clues relate to the function of the product or service’, being also called functional clues by Berry et al. (2002); Context clues, also known as emotional clues (Berry et al., 2002), are the ones associated with the environment, and is composed by humanics clues, the social interactions; and mechanics clues, the tangible elements of the environment (Berry et al., 2006).
From the company perspective, a service is a set of processes, but from the customer point-of- view it is an experience (Johnston and Kong, 2011). Being a personal and emotional outcome from a service interaction, a company cannot provide an experience, but only stage the prerequisites for the service experience (Sandström et al., 2008). Those prerequisites, which are developed by the NSD teams, ‘typically include the central concept or activity of the experience and the context in which that takes place’ (Zomerdijk and Voss, 2010:68).
NEW SERVICE DEVELOP PROCESS
Johnson et al. (1999:5) define New Service Development (NSD) as ‘the overall process of developing new service offerings’ which ‘is concerned with the complete set of stages from idea tolaunch’ (Goldstein et al., 2002:122); being a new service ‘an offering not previously available to the customer’ (Johnson et al., 1999:2). Service design, for its turn, is defined as the ‘design of experiences that reach people through many different touch-points, and happen over time’ (ServiceDesign.org, 2008). For Koivisto (2009) and Johnson et al. (1999), service design refers to the first steps of the NSD process, and is concerned with the development of the service concept.
The service concepts details what will be offered to the customer and how it will be implemented. Similarly to experiences, a company cannot design a service, but only the prerequisite for its delivery (Edvardsson and Olsson, 1996). The service concept defines the “what” of the new service and guides the service delivery system design into implementing the “how” (Goldstein et al., 2002). The service delivery system, for its turn, is composed by the service processes and service system; the service process is the prototype of the procedures performed to delivery the service to the customer, and service system constitutes the resources required for realizing the service concept (Edvardson and Olsson, 1996).
Goldstein et al. (2002) noticed that the link between business strategy and service design is weak. For Carbone and Haeckel (1994), the design of the experience prerequisites has to relate to the business strategy, as agrees Edvardson and Olsson (1996) and Sandström et al. (2008). As the importance of brand alignment with the business strategy has already been consistently covered in branding literature (Aaker and Joachimsthaler, 2000), this paper understands that brand orientation in the NSD process can strength the link between business strategy and service design.
It is the role of the NSD teams to transform brand strategy into a service concept (Clatworthy, 2012). For such, these teams should engage in a semantic transformation (Karjalainen, 2004), a process based on Peirce`s semiotics (Santaella, 2008) where the brand`s manifestation mediates the brand identity for the customer. In other words, it embodies the brand strategy, making it perceivable for the customers. As most of the decisions regarding the service concept are made in the early stages of the NSD process (Clatworthy, 2012), it should be expected that accurate brand input at this stage would guide the development of a brand aligned service concept that could deliver better service brand experiences.
This paper is the result of an extensive literature review on the topics of Branding, Experience and New Service Development, and interviews with practitioners from the field of Branding and Service Design. As O’Brian (2001) suggests, ‘knowledge is derived from practice, and practice informed by knowledge, in an on going process’ (Situating Action Research in a Research Paradigm, para. 3). For such, this research engaged on fieldwork as a mean to understand reality and grasp the current status of brand manuals and to develop new insights on the topic, contributing to the development of the Brand Experience Manual concept.
The data collection process was done through semi-structures qualitative interviews. This method was chosen because it focuses on the informant`s perspectives and knowledge, and allows some freedom on the question formulation, facilitating further exploration of particular aspects of each interviewee (Hopf, 2008). In the context of this paper, which aims to understand empirical reality and develop new solutions for the research problem, this flexibility was essential for the process.
The interviews took place between May and July of 2012, and were conducted personally in 7 occasions, and through videoconference in other 6 occasions. Interviews ranged from 30 to 120 minutes, and interviewees were from brand agencies (5) and service design consultancies (8), and from 5 different countries (Brazil (4), France (1), Italy (4), Netherlands (2), Norway (2)). The format of the collected data includes recorded interviews and field notes.
Due to time pressure, only 7 of the interviews were transcribed, while the other 6 were analyzed thought the field notes and summaries from the recordings. The data was analyzed through qualitative content analysis, considering the communicational context and the latent meanings. The material was then summarized by an inductive category formation leading to more manageable findings (Mayring, 2008). In the following section the findings are presented and discussed.
As a consequence of the methodological approach taken, the findings were intertwined with discussions; therefore, many of the insights presented here are the result of the discussions with interviewees. Since for this paper the reflections and developments from findings are as important as the findings themselves, those will be presented together in this section.
CURRENT BRAND MANUALS
The inadequateness of brand manuals noticed by Kapferer (2011) was confirmed in the empirical research. Although some interesting work in terms of experience manuals was found, most of those relate to the design of environment and interaction scripts, being to strict in their control of the brand manifestations. Even though these can be used as examples for the design of new touch-points, without a proper definition of the brand experience, it leaves much decoding to the design teams (See “The Current New Service Development Process” sub-section). Also, while some thorough approaches on the brand personality have been noticed, those many times described the proposed experience only indirectly, or with very broad words.
Therefore, an apparently contradictory situation was found, where brand manuals are too narrow, when in comes to controlling the brand expressions, and too broad, in the description of the brand experience. This situation is inadequate for the NSD process focused in designing for experiences, for they do not give proper input to the NSD teams on what experience they should design for; and at the same time, restrict the their freedom in adapting the brand manifestations to new contexts. Some interviewees suggested that current brand manuals reflect an old mind-set, inherited from past decades, and are created for communication agencies, focusing in controlling the visual communication. As Interviewee C noticed, ‘it is still very much about a bunch of guidelines on how to use notions. So it is how to apply a visual identity more than branding bible’.
As mentioned previously, brand experiences are the personal outcome evoked by a brand- stimuli (Brakus et al., 2008); hence one cannot design an experience, but only for experiences (Zomerdijk and Voss, 2010). Designing for brand experience requires a specific sort of brand input, one that focuses on the delivery of the brand values proposition and not only in communicating it (Berry, 2000; Mosley, 2007). It was also noticed that brand input should also deal with the dynamic nature of the service brand: its multiple touch-points and the evolving character of the brand. As Interviewee F explains below, brands, as people, change with time.
… brands evolve, so this is probably what makes the whole experience complicated to keep it alive and meaningful. Because we change as people, right? We change, and if my assumption is the brands are made of people internally and outside of the company, with all the complex relationships, people change, we change, the environment change so brands are in constant change and that is probably hard to, to keep alive in a meaningful way. (Interviewee F)
Again, findings suggest that current brand manuals are too broad because they are made for agencies, and do not focus in delivering service experience, but just communicating it; as Interviewee E notices: ‘… branding is sort of owned and claimed by people who are not in the business of creating new stuff. They are in the business of talking about stuff’. Interviewee C observed that the role of these brand manuals is to control the brands visual expressions, and not to propose settings to deliver service experience:
Most of the brand guidelines that we create as well are for the agencies… so we create pretty detailed manuals with examples of how this could look like, so we ensure that the space, the capacity of then doing something wrong is limited… things like tone of voice, often we describe a little bit in the brand manual, but not enough, at all. And the experience, what kind of experience we want our customers to feel, I don’t think I`ve seen any brand manual where it is described very well… (Interviewee C)
It was also noticed during the interviews that corporate values are not properly aligned with brand values. This can be especially harmful for companies trying to develop service experiences because corporate commitment is key in services; for goods, production and consumption are separated, while in service, most of the time they are simultaneous. This requires a stronger brand culture within the corporation, which can serve as mediator between brand proposition and customer experience (Mosley, 2007).
Also, a strong brand culture within the corporation can help to align the brand expressions in multiple touch-points, which is a particular challenge for services. As interviewee H noticed, ‘branding, many times happens within the marketing department, but the whole thinking, the whole strategic thinking, is not really spread within the whole company’. To properly delivery service experience, all the touch-points should be aligned, and the people within the corporation should be feeling like they are part of it.
It is not just communicating the ideas that the genius designers, or the genius director developed for the branding of the company. People need to feel that too. They need to relate to that. And the best way to do that is making them as co-creators of the process. (Interviewee H)
The disjunction between brand and corporate values, the lack of brand culture within the corporation, the communicative focus of brand manuals and it`s inadequateness for service design seem to have the same origin. They are all inherited from product-dominant mind-set, where production was clearly separated from consumption, brand building was a role reserved to communications, and therefore instigating a brand culture within the company didn’t really make much sense, since the main brand touch-point was the product, branding was restricted to marketing and sometimes to the (product) design department.
THE EVOLUTION OF BRANDING
Advertisement communications, as early as the 1980s, broke free from the functional offering, focusing in creating “wonder worlds” that contributed to the emergence of the debate of the role of the brand and product. At this stage, brands started to lose connection with the offering, becoming a ‘pure advertising phenomenon’ (Semprini, 2006:31), taking the brand promise to a place far away, as Interviewee A notices: ‘advertisement and marketing hijacked the value proposition and kind of took the value proposition to a place that wasn’t real, that the company couldn’t really deliver it anymore’.
By the 2000s, the battle between brand and product was already over, with brand being victorious. The old marketing mix centred in the product would be replaced by one focused in the brand, and the elements of the marketing mix becoming manifestations of the brand proposition. The brand then re-arranged itself in a more fluid way, becoming a value proposition in itself (Semprini, 2006). From this point forwards, a new branding approach started to emerge, focusing in creating relationships with the customers (Merz, He, Vargo, 2009), integrating the brand actions throughout the company and communicating the brand proposition not only through advertisement, but also through any brand manifestation (Semprini, 2006). In this sense, the brand evolution was towards becoming an intangible proposition communicated through the company`s products, services and marketing actions.
Also, as the result of the evolution of communication technologies, and greater interactions between consumer, specially due to the increasing presence of the Internet, social medias and the word-of-keyboard, the corporations started to lose control over their brand`s meanings (Formosa, 2011), reinforcing the need to control the brand perception by the quality of the service delivery (de Chernatony, Drury and Segal-Horn, 2003), and not only by trusting on advertisement communication. As Interviewee A notices below, customers are much more informed, and lying to them through marketing campaigns doesn’t work as it used to anymore.
Because of an increased transparency that is enforced on companies because of Internet, etc…. they cannot get away with lying anymore, or cheating. I mean you can get away with, they are getting away with it, but you know, less and less. So … now marketing has to be a conversation and not just a one-way street. (Interviewee A)
A NEW BRANDING
In the very influential paper “Evolving to a New Dominant Logic for Marketing” Vargo and Lush (2004) propose a new understanding for value creation process, focusing in the service interaction process instead of in the exchange of the production output: goods and services (Merz et al., 2009). As mentioned previously, under the service dominant perspective, services can be understood as a mean to deliver experiences to the customer (Berry, 2000; Sandström et al., 2008). This experiential view is also defended by Prahalad (2004:23) when he suggests that ‘when we escape the firm product-/service-centric view of value creation… and move on to an experience-centric co-creation view, new and exciting opportunities unfold’.
Under an experience perspective, delivering a brand experience needs the involvement of the whole company, consistency between corporate and brand values, brand alignment across multiple touch-points, and a focus in delivering the brand promise, and not only in communicating it. In this sense, this emerging branding approach focuses much more on “doing” than “saying”, and relies more on disciples like service design than advertisement, since it aims to deliver experiences and not just communicate it. This is especially relevant for services, since services brand are strongly driven by the customer experience (Berry, 2000). Above all, this new branding approach points towards the emergence of a new mind-set, that is integrative in it`s nature, and consider all the possible touch-points (internal and external) as manifestations of the brand, as Interviewee A notices below.
Well branding and service design I think, as with most ideas, expertise… methods, everything is going merge. So branding… because sometimes it feels like, you understand branding, so like marketing, communications or advertising, and then you have branding. I think all that, kind of needs to be revised, … all those words, you know, are meaningless… again these are just words that are symbolizing a need for something else, a new approach, a new mind-set. (Interviewee A)
The importance of dealing with corporate issues within the company was present during the whole research process. Interviewees noticed that the acknowledgment of branding as a holistic concept depends not only on the corporation you are working for, but also on the contact person you are dealing with. As Interviewee H suggests: ‘you really need to work first the mind of the person who is hiring you’. Most interviewees also mentioned that working with people with in a higher management level was important to nurture corporate commitment, and, as Interviewee P notices, because ‘higher management have, generally speaking, broader vision and understand the role of the brand’. Another reason why consultancies and brand agencies prefer to work with higher management is that they need power to influence the corporation in doing a proper branding process, as notices Interviewee T:
That is why you need to get into a really higher level, because then you can make the client understand what they probably need to do. Because if you (are) not getting high enough, or get enough influence on them, you might not be able to do what they need and you might have to do what they want, which may not be as successful in the long run. (Interviewee T)
Issues related to the lack of alignment between corporate and brand values, mentioned while describing the current status of brand manuals, re-emerged in the corporate culture context. The use of two separated set of values, one for the external world and the other for the internal corporation, has been suggested to be inadequate in delivering a brand-aligned experience, especially due the role of corporate culture as mediator between service brands and customer experience (Mosley, 2007). As Interviewee A notices below, this separation between internal and external values is very common:
… Internal communications, external communications… the way will you communicate (to) your employees and the way you communicate to your customers… These were two different worlds, so you could have for instance a different tone of voice, a different style, different colours, different typography, you know… completely different communication internally than you had externally. (Interviewee A)
For McDonald et al. (2001), since service brands are mainly built by experiences and not by advertisement communication, internal branding becomes very important; also, it should be noticed that brand are as intangible for the employees as they are for the customer (Berry, 2000). Mosley (2007) suggest that an authentic brand experience for the employees, where the brand values are actually lived in the company for the internal customers, and not communicated, can lead to better brand experiences to the final user. Stompff (2008) shows that once the brand values are really internalized by the culture, the new offerings will consequently be brand-oriented. As Interviewee P exemplifies, companies should engage in internal marketing to involve the staff in the brand culture.
For example, Consultancy X does that for Consultancy X people, so we feel part of something that has a goal. So, the result of that is that we deliver better work to our clients and that everywhere Consultancy X has an office you find more or less the same mind-set. And that’s not because they play the pendulum trick on us, but because their business strategy is relevant and everyday they try to give employees the tools and what is needed to deliver, and understand where we are going as a company. (Interviewee P)
THE CURRENT NEW SERVICE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS
Throughout the data collection process, it was noticed that due to the lack of proper brand input, and the need to work with organizational issues, the design agencies need to go inside the corporations to understand their internal processes and grasp the brand identity, going through a process similar to a semantic decoding (the reverse process of semantic transformation (Karjalainen, 2004)), accessing the brand`s values through its manifestations inside and outside the corporation. As Interviewee F explain below, it is about getting into the corporation, and start working with what you have available.
It is about understanding whatever exists within a company and giving it a sense, fill in the gaps, sometimes it is a question of distilling what it really means, and you can do it as a professional, you can do the different tools, you can do it by asking people, internally and externally, different stakeholders etc., what resonates, what is important, relevant for all the people and build the brand around it. (Interviewee F)
Although this is supposed to fix the lack of proper brand input, this process might lead to the dilution of the brand identity, resulting in the lost of the brands original meaning. Even though some consultancies try to share their understanding of the brand values with other consultancies working at different touchpoints, with the intent to minimize the variations, this multiple rounds of semantic decoding process will unavoidably result in the misinterpretation of the brand’s original proposition generating a misalignment in the brand’s manifestations. As Interviewee E notices, this is one of the reasons the brands need to frame their brand in a proper way:
That is exactly the reason why it is so important that company start realizing that they need to frame their brand in a way that each kind of agencies can work with this. Cause if they don’t, the agencies will start to play around with the brand themselves and you get all different fragmented interpretations. (Interviewee E)
Also, due to the lack of a proper brand leadership within the company, the brand values might end up being forgotten, resulting in the development of new projects with a myopic understanding of what the brand stands for; becoming too customer focused, losing track of the original brand proposition and consequently delivering services to the customer that are not aligned with the brand. As Urde (1999) suggests, in a brand-oriented company, the customer`s needs are fulfilled within the brand framework. Below, Interviewee C comments on this issue:
I think that (the ’lost’ of the brand identity concept) happens all the time, they forget their own brand, and new people came in and people go out, and things are evolving all the time, and a lot of people work with only one or very few touch-points: ‘I work in sales’, ‘I work in Marketing’, ‘I work in IT’, or whatever, and they don’t have a real relationship with the brand in their daily work, which means when they create new stuff, whatever it is new touch-points or new services, they kind of do what they think is best without looking back at the DNA. (Interviewee C)
BRAND EXPERIENCE MANUAL
It has been noticed during the research process that most of the problems related to the lack of adequate brand input for the NSD teams designing for service experiences are associated with two main causes: the inadequateness of brand manuals and corporate culture issues. While dealing with corporate culture may produce a more effective result, it is much more challenging, complex and costly than reframing the brand manuals. In this sense, this paper proposes the concept of Brand Experience Manual, an approach to communicating the brand strategy to the NSD and internal teams that focus on clearly communicating what experiences the brand is trying to deliver, as a way to tackle the problem of inadequate brand input.
While dealing directly with corporate issues is out of the scope of a regular brand manual, the importance of the subject suggests that an experience focused brand manual should tackle corporate issue indirectly. An opportunity for such arises from understanding employee as an internal customer and exploiting the role of internal marketing in building a brand culture within the organization. Since the development of brand culture needs to be nurtured, the Brand Experience Manual should promote it by fostering internal marketing actions that communicate the brand values to the staff, such as through motivational posters, as suggested by Interviewee P. Also, the Brand Experience Manual should promote internal marketing actions that tackles the lack of alignment between the internal and external values, by promoting the right environment inside the corporation, and creating an authentic brand experience for the employees (Mosley, 2007), reducing the gap between corporate and brand values.
It must be noticed that Brand Experience Manual is just a medium for communicating the brand proposition. Before that, a process to understand what the brand stands for, what are their values and what is the experience it wants to communicate must be done. To enable the delivery of an adequate brand experience, it is essential that the business strategy and the brand`s proposition are aligned. As such, the development of the Brand Experience Manual should help to align the brand values with the business strategy. Consequently, this would strengthen the (weak) link between business strategy and service design noticed by Goldstein et al. (2002).
Concerning to the NSD team needs in the development of a brand-aligned service experience, an experience focused brand manual should tackle multiple issues. It should communicate the brand proposition, taking the visual identity just as a manifestation of the brands identity; deal with multiple-touch points; and tackle the evolving character of the brand, for, over time, brands are influenced by the changes in people and society, and also new touchpoints experiences that may change the brand`s identity.
Refining the brand identity and using the Brand Experience Manual to communicate what brands values and experiences the company wants to deliver, and as a lever to foster brand culture within the corporation is a relatively simple solution to achieve brand-alignment in the NSD process. Although it might seem to be easier said than done, such approach to the Brand Experience Manual is a feasible and relatively cheap solution. By doing so, such an experience focused brand manual would give freedom to the NSD teams to adapt to new situations and communicate the brand proposition more adequately to new audiences, while still developing brand-aligned experiences.
As Meroni and Sangiorgi (2011) suggests, one of the roles of the design team is to translate the brand values to new cultural contexts, facilitating the development of what Shillum (2011) calls brand patterns, a process that focus on brand coherence. In this sense, it seems that the role of a brand experience is much more about giving freedom to the brand to adapt to new situations and better communicate its values, than it is to restrict it.
The previous sections presented the current state of brand manuals, and explained why they are inadequate for the NSD team needs and the development of brand-aligned experiences. The emergence of a new branding approach that focuses on delivering the brand experience through service design, instead of focusing on communication, has also been noticed. Another relevant finding was the importance of the corporate culture to the NSD process, and the role of the brand culture in the development and delivery of service experiences.
This paper presents an exploratory research done through an extensive literature review and a series of interviews. It is not the purpose of this paper to validate if the problems faced by the interviewees are generalizable, but to extend the knowledge and understanding of the link between branding and experience in the NSD process. The concept and a general approach for the Brand Experience Manual were presented, although further work in the definition of its content and adequate format is needed. This paper contributes to the small, but growing literature on brand experience, and answers to Clatworthy`s (2012:125) call for further investigation on ‘experience- centric brand documentation development’. While Clatworthy (2012) focuses on aligning customer experience and brand during NSD process, this paper takes a step back, and proposes a way to bridge the NSD teams with the brand strategy.
Implications for practice include a suggestion for stronger focus on defining what is the experience the company is trying to delivery. It also suggests that understanding the company`s employees as internal customers and promoting brand experiences inside the corporation may foster a brand culture within the organization. For theory, this research contributes by exploring of the reasons of the current state of brand manuals, proposing the concept of Brand Experience Manual as a link between brand strategy and the NSD teams, and implicitly pointing to the need for further studies in branding under the service dominant logic.
Aaker, D., Joachimsthaler, E. (2000). Brand Leadership, London: Free Press Berry, L. L. (2000). Cultivating Service Brand Equity. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 28(1), 128-137.
Berry, L. L. Carbone, L. P. Haeckel, S. H. (2002). Managing the Total Customer Experience. MIT Sloan Management Review, 43(3), 85-90.
Berry, L. L., Wall, E. A. & Carbone, W. W. (2006). Service Clues and Customer Assessment of Service Experience: Lessons from Marketing. Academy of Management Perspectives, 20(2), 43-57.
Brakus, J. J., Schmitt, B. H., Zarantonello, L. (2009). Brand Experience: What is it? How is it Measured? Does it Affect Loyalty? Journal of Marketing, 73(3), 52-68.
Brakus, J. J., Schmitt, B. H., & Zarantonello, L. (2011). Brand Experience. In S. S, Posavac (Ed.), Cracking the Code: Leveraging Consumer Psychology to Drive Profitability (pp. 159-180), Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharp.
Carbone, L. P., & Haeckel, S. H. (1994). Engineering Customer Experiences. Marketing Management, 3(3), 9-19. Clatworthy, S. (2012). Bridging the Gap Between Brand Strategy and Customer Experience. Managing Service Quality, 22(2), 108-
127 de Chernatony, L. (2010). From Brand Vision to Brand Evaluation: The Strategic Process of Growing and Strengthening Brands.
Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann. de Chernatony, L., Drury, S., & Segal-Horn, S. (2003). Building a Service Brand: Stages, People and Orientations. The Service
Industries Journal, 23(3), 1-21. De Chernatony, L., & Riley, F. D. O. (1998). Defining a “Brand”: Beyond the Literature With Experts` Interpretation. Journal of
Marketing Management, 14(5), 417-443 Ducan, T., & Moriarty, S. (2006). How Integrated Marketing Communication`s “Touchpoints” Can Operationalize The Service-
Dominant Logic. In R. F. Lusch & S. L. Vargo (Eds.), The Service-Dominant Logic of Marketing (pp. 236-244). New York: M.E.
Sharpe. Edvardsson, B., & Olsson, J. (1996). Key Concepts for New Service Development. The Service Industries Journal. 16(2), 140-164. Formosa, D. (2011). The Sudden Death of Brands. Design Management Review, 22(4), 40-45. Fournier, S. (1998). Consumers and Their Brands: Developing Relationship Theory in Consumer Research. Journal of Consumer
Research, 24(4), 343-353. Goldstein, S. M., Johnston, R., Duffy, J., & Rao, J. (2002). The service concept: the missing link in service design research. Journal
of Operations Management, 20(2), 121-134 Hopf, C. (2008). Qualitative Interviews: An Overview. In U. Flick, E. von Kardoff and I. Steinke (Eds.), A Companion to Qualitative
Research (pp. 203-208). London, Sage. Johnston, R, & Kong, X. (2011) The customer experience: A road-map for improvement. Managing Service Quality, 21(1), 5-24. Johnson, S. P., Menor, L. J., Roth, A. V., & Chase, R. B. (1999). A critical Evaluation of the New Service Development Process:
Integrating Service Innovation and Service Design. In J. Fitzsimmons & M. J. Fitzsimmons (Eds), New Service Development:
Creating Memorable Experiences (pp.1-32). Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Sage. Kapferer, J. N. (2011). The New Strategic Brand Management: Creating and Sustaining Brand Equity Long Term, London:
KoganPage Karjalainen, T. M. (2004). Semantic Transformation in Design: Communicating strategic brand identity through product design
references. Helsinki: University of Art and Design of Helsinki. Koivisto, M. (2000). Frameworks for Structuring Services and Customer Experiences. In M. Satu and M. Koivisto (Eds.), Designing
Services with Innovative Methods, Helsinki: University of Art and Design. Mayring, P. (2008). Qualitative Content Analysis. In U. Flick, E. von Kardoff and I. Steinke (Eds.), A Companion to Qualitative
Research (pp. 266-269). London, Sage. McDonald, M. H. B., de Chernatony, L., & Harris, F., (2001). Corporate marketing and service brands – Moving beyond the fast-
moving consumer goods model. European Journal of Marketing, 35 (3/4), 335-352. Meroni, A., Sangiorgi, D. (2011). Design for Services. Surrey, UK: Gower Merz, M. A., He, Y., Vargo, S. L. (2009). The evolving brand logic: a service-dominant logic perspective. Journal of the Academy of
Marketing Science, 37(3), 328-344 Mosley, R. W. (2007). Customer experience, organizational culture and the employer brand. Brand Management, 15(2), 123-134 O’Brien, R. (2001). Um exame da abordagem metodológica da pesquisa ação [An Overview of the Methodological Approach of
Action Research]. In Roberto Richardson (Ed.), Teoria e Prática da Pesquisa Ação [Theory and Practice of Action Research]. João Pessoa, Brazil: Universidade Federal da Paraíba. (English version). Retrieved 16 April, 2012, from http://www.web.ca/~robrien/papers/arfinal.html
Pine, J. B., & Gilmore, J. M. (1998). Welcome to the Experience Economy. Harvard Business Review, 76(4), 97-105. Prahalad, C. K. (2004). The Cocreation of Value. [Invited Commentaries on the paper Evolving to a New Dominant Logic of
Marketing by S.L. Vargo and R. F. Lush]. Journal of Marketing, 68(1), 23 Pullman, M. E., & Gross, M. A. (2004). Ability of Experience Design Elements to Elicit Emotions and Loyalty Behaviors. Decision
Sciences, 35(3), 551–578. Santaella, L. (2008). Semiótica Aplicada. São Paulo: Cengage Learning. Sandström, S., Edvardsson, B., Kristensson, P., & Magnusson, P. (2008). Value in use through service experience. Managing
Service Quality, 18(2), 112-126. Semprini, A. (2006). A Marca Pós-Moderna: Poder e Fragilidade da Marca na Sociedade Contemporânea. São Paulo: Estação das
Letras ServiceDesign.org, (2008). Service Design: Definition. Retrieved 16 April, 2012, from
http://www.servicedesign.org/glossary/service_design/ Shillum, M. (2011, July). Brands as Patterns. Method 10X10. Retrieved 10 July, 2012, from
http://10×10.method.com/pdf/Method_10x10_Brand_as_Patterns.pdf Stompff, G. (2008). Embedded Brand: The Soul of a Product Development. Design Management Review, 19(2), 38-46. Urde, M. (1999). Brand Orientation: A Mindset for Building Brands Into Strategic Resources. Journal of Marketing Management,
15(1-3), 117-133. Vargo, S. L., & Lusch, R. F. (2004). Evolving to a New Dominant Logic for Marketing. Journal of Marketing, 68(1), 1-17. Zomerdijk, L. G., & Voss, C. A. (2010). Service Design for Experience-Centric Services. Journal of Service Research, 13(1), 67-82.
This paper was originally published at Proceedings of the DMI 2012 International Research Conference: Leading Innovation through Design
Reference: Filho, M. 2012. ‘The Brand Experience Manual: Addressing The Gap Between Brand Strategy And New Service Development’. In Proceedings of DMI’s 2012 Research Conference. 08.08.2012–09.08.2012. 667–677. Available: http://www.dmi.org/dmi/html/conference/academic12/AC12Proceedings.pdf