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Brand Innovation in Service Design

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The importance of the brand has been recognized in both literature and practice. Brands makes promisses which should be delivered to the customer through touch points. Based on the concept of semantic transformation, this projects proposes to address the research gap in the development of brand based service experiences.   More »

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Developing a Brand Experience Manual for djuice.

Experience has been one of the hottest topics in marketing for the last years, and a lot has been said about how important it is to deliver a memorable customer experience and how customer experience can drive business growth in a saturated market. Despite all this talk, little has been written about how to integrate brands and experiences, and brand manuals haven’t changed much since the old the corporate identity days.

Recently, as part of a collaboration between The Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO), Eggs Design and the commercial service provider djuice, an experience based brand manual was developed for djuice. This was the result of a 4 months exploration, and is part of a Ph.D. research conduced at AHO by Mauricy Motta-Filho.

This process started on March 2014, and the first step was to gather customer, employees and company insights over the djuice brand and service experience. This first exploratory phase allowed us to define the Service Personality (something like the brand from the customer’s perspective), which was the first step in the development of a Brand Experience Manual for djuice.

Image 1: The process used to develop djuice’s Brand Experience Manual (Click on Image to Enlarge)

Following the definition of the Service Personality, we could move towards to understand how the experience delivered by this personality would be; from that moment on, we moved towards defining design principles that would help to embed that ‘Service Personality’ behaviors on the design process of new service experiences.

In a sense, this became a Service Design Manual, but our focus, being on influencing the brand experience; the customers’ perception of the brand throughout the service interactions – is what makes this process so relevant.

Also, by understanding the service personality, we could define the Experience Proposition, a sentence that condenses what experience the brand wants to deliver to the customer; in other words, how the company wants the customer to feel after interacting with the brand.

The outcomes of the process were presented to a team of djuice and key stakeholders in Telenor Norway. Both the processes and the outcome were very well received. In the following article we will introduce the concepts used at this process, and, throughout the text, present the first reflections on the research.

 

Branding through experiences

Branding, although a very common concept, suffers from a lack of consensus when it comes to its definition. Most of the time, branding is understood by the grammatical use of the suffix “ing”, which implies some sort of action to the word brand. Thus, branding can be understood as doing brand, in other words, making the brand alive, and, although this is a very good interpretation, it opens space for a discussion on two possible meanings:

  • Branding as defining what the brand is, focusing on graphic design, corporate identity, brand values and brand strategy
  • Branding as delivering the brand to the customer, focusing on how to deliver brand experiences through the service interaction

The two understandings are not mutually exclusive, and we would argue that branding on the second meaning is not possible without the first, for, to deliver the brand, you must first know what it is about. But only defining the brand won’t do much in the current competitive market. Doesn’t matter how great your brand proposition is, if it never becomes alive.

In this article we choose to focus on the second definition of branding: Branding as delivering the brand experience through service interactions, and brand experience as the customer’s interpretation from the brand interactions.

Although we chose to focus on branding as delivering the brand, we still believe in the huge importance of understanding the brand, and throughout the text you will see that defining the brand was not ignored in the process, as framing the brand through the customer’s eyes is the fist step in developing an experience based brand manual.

So, by branding through experiences we mean: first, understanding the brand through the customers’ perspective; and second, translating this brand into guidelines that could help New Service Development (NSD) teams to embed the brand into the new service experiences. The first part of the process refers to the development of the Service Personality, and the second part, the Brand Experience Manual itself. But before introducing these two concepts, lets review how brands can be embedded into the service experience.

 

Embedding the brand into the service experience

Service experiences are the result of the customer interaction with the service. As Kahneman (2011) suggests, there is a difference between the lived experience and the remembered experience. In this article we focus on service experience as the remembered one, the result, on the customers’ mind of the interaction, and his evaluation of it.

These experiences emerge through the brand interactions (lived experiences), and it is very difficult to predict exactly what is the customers’ perception of it (remembered experience) will be, as there are many factors that cannot be controlled, such as having a very bad day and getting into the interaction already with the left foot.

Since we can’t directly manipulate the customers’ remembered experience itself, the brand should focus on the elements it can control, the service interactions (lived experience) that will lead to the remembered experiences. Thus the focus shifts to the New Service Development (NSD) process.

It is in the New Service Development (NSD) process that we can embed the brand in the customer experience. It is a process of translation from a concept (the brand) into service interactions that will influence the customers’ perception of the brand, as the brand experience is the overall customers’ perception of the brand through the interaction with multiples (controlled or not) brand’s touch-points.

This process of translating brand into expression is called “semantic transformation” and has been research Karjalainen (2004) on the design of products, and Clatworthy (2012) on the design of services. In this article a research project that intended to create a tool that will help NSD teams to apply the semantic transformation for the djuice brand is presented. As mentioned before, the first step of the process was to understand the brand (define the Service Personality), and its outcome is a tool to help the NSD teams design brand-based experience.

Also, the focus on service design is explained by the role of the NSD process in embedding the brand in the service interactions systems, processes and concept, as those are the elements that will enable the branded experience to emerge, as suggested by Edvardsson and Olsson (1996). In this sense, the experience proposition can be understood as a set of qualities (characteristics) that, when embedded in the service, make the brand shine through the interactions, not only through individual touch points, but through the journey as a whole. ilustra4

Image 2: The Brand Experience Manual sits at the New Service Development level (Click on Image to Enlarge)

It is also imporant to notice where the Brand Experience Manual sits in the semantic translation process. As the image above shows, Corporate Identity Manuals sit on the brand corner, and are of little use for the service design process. On the other extreme of the brand – touch-point line, there are the Design Manuals, which are focused on the prescribing how a touch-point should be designed, and are not very re-usable (for more on this topic refer to Motta-Filho 2012).

The Brand Experience Manual, in its turn, is meant to sit in between these two extremes; helping the NSD teams design different touch-points by translating the brand into a service design based brand manual. The assumption is that the consistent use of the Brand Experience Manual will help to align the touch-points and will ensure a coherent brand experience across the service journey.

In the following section we will introduce the two main parts of the Brandslation process and introduce the elements of the Brand Experience Manual.

 

The Brandslation Process

Finding the Service Personality: Framing the brand from the customer’s perspective

The Brandslation process for djuice started as most service design process would: Understanding the current situation and gathering insights from customers, employees and the company. A series of workshops were conduced, and a lot of material regarding the organization was made available by djuice. ilustra1

Image 3: The Brandslation process up to the definition of the Service Personality (Click on Image to Enlarge)

The customers’ insight part was done in two separated workshop (Image 1: Exp.1 and Exp.2). On the first one, customers with more than 2 years of djuice were invited, and it focused on understanding the brand image; The second workshop, developed from the outcome of a series of six interviews with customer that had been with djuice for less than 3 months, focused on understanding the customers’ current experience. Although each workshop had a focus, both explored the current experience and the brand image, and also the desired experience.

The third workshop (Image 1: Exp.3) focused on employees’ experience and rendered insights regarding not only their perspective working with the organization, but also on their relationship to the customers and customers’ reoccurring issues. There was also an exercise to understand how the employees see the brand, and great insights on challenges in delivering the service experience were gathered.

Finally, there was a workshop with the management team of djuice. This was essential for understanding how djuice sees themselves and to position djuice against Telenor and competitors’ brand. This also led to great insights regarding the business behind the brand and the organizational limitations.

To sum up, the workshops gathered insight from the customers, employees and the company, related to the past (image), present (experience) and future (desires) of the brand and service experience. On the top of that, there was a plethora of material sent by djuice regarding their competitive environment and their brand platform that was essential for the next phase.

After organizing the insights gathered so far, the project moved towards the first generative workshop (Image 1: Gen.1). The first step was to understand the brand identity, and for such, we needed the help of the management team. As the brand descriptions were spread across multiple documents, the management team was the most qualified group to synthesize the brand identity properly.

Once we had a good description of the brand, we could start developing the service personality. This was done by aligning the outcomes from the explorative workshops with the brand, and resulted in a series of desired qualities (adjectives) for the brand experience. These qualities were later grouped by meaning affinity, and from this clustering exercise the personality traits emerged.

 

Brand Experience Manual: Delivering the brand experience proposition

The Brand Experience Manual is a tool to communicate the brand experience proposition to New Service Development (NSD) teams, and to help them design services that embed the brand into the new experiences. The focus here is to align the service experiences, so they are all consistent with the brand.

To do so, we developed a series of steps for the NSD teams to understand what the brand experience is, and help them design for the brand’s Experience Proposition. Following, we introduce the main parts of the Brand Experience Manual, and briefly explain their use and ‘raison d’etre’. ilustra3

Image 4: The elements of the Brand Experience Manual, and how they were developed (Click on Image to Enlarge)

  • The Experience Proposition is a statement that summarizes in a couple of sentences what experience the brand wants to deliver to the customer through the service interactions. It the present case, the Experience Proposition was developed based as an expression of the Service Personality.
  • The Service Personality expresses who the brand is and what is the brand’s relationship with the customer. It helps to create a deeper understanding of the experience, as it expresses whom the customer will be interacting with. Although it is presented as a set of traits, it is meant to be understood as a whole. This means that, even if some traits might seem very generic, it is the interaction of those that create the Service Personality for the brand.
  • Tone of voice, in this case, extends a bit beyond the conventional meaning of the word. It is meant to reflect the main characteristic of the Service Personality, and, in a sense, is like an overall Principle that should always be active. Also, there is the need to adjust the tone. The voice is always the same, but the tone must be adequate to the circumstances.
  • Principles are guidelines that help to embed the brand experience into the services through the design process. As with the Service Personality, the Principles might look a bit generic, but there are two details here:

o   1- The principles headings (e.g. “Make Things Simple”) are mnemonic clues to more a much complex meaning. For example: “Make Things Simple” can de done in many ways. What the principles does is to define what is the right way of doing it.

o   2- As a colleague noted, the principles are important not only for the ones you choose, but also for the ones you don’t. This says a lot about the Experience Proposition. There are many good service practice guidelines, but not all of them apply to the brand’s Experience Proposition. It is about finding the right ones.

  • Moments are examples of an ideal journey where the principles were applied. These examples serve as inspiration and help to express the desired brand experiences, adding a bit more of a descriptive feeling to a very prescriptive document.

 

Balancing different perspectives

During the development of this process a discussion emerged regarding how to frame the Brand Experience Manual: Should it be focused on describing what is the experience we want to create; or should it focus on prescribing how to deliver the experience through the service design process?

The manual developed for djuice, although having a strong bias towards prescribing, also tries to include descriptive elements by integrating the moments section as a way to express the desired experience from the Service Personality. Also, the Experience Proposition describes what the desired experience is.

Finally, although the Brand Experience Manual is meant to be used by both service designers and internal teams, the structure of the manual should consider their target audience. This was a relevant note from a colleague, and helps to explain the prescriptive focus of the Brand Experience Manual developed for djuice.

 

Organizational Reception

The development of this research with djuice seems to have value not only for its outcome, but also on the process itself. Throughout the process, the company gathered feedback from customers and collaborators. There was also a great deal of organizational reflection that was catalyzed by an internal process on re-thinking the brand that was already taking place before our intervention started.

At the end of the process, a presentation was held with stakeholders from djuice and Telenor Norway and the general reception was very positive. Further work has included a workshop focused on helping the djuice team internalize the findings, and an implementation plan is on its way.

An important reflection from this process was the importance of an active leadership in the organization, and the importance of further work in integrating the Brand Experience Manual with the work being developed internally by the organization.

 

References

– Clatworthy, S. (2012). Bridging the Gap Between Brand Strategy and Customer Experience. Managing Service Quality, 22(2), 108-127

– Edvardsson, B., & Olsson, J. (1996). Key concepts for new service development. Service Industries Journal, 16(2), 140-164.

– Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, fast and slow. Macmillan, 2011.

– Karjalainen, T. M. (2004). Semantic Transformation in Design: Communicating strategic brand identity through product design references. Helsinki: University of Art and Design of Helsinki.

– Motta-Filho, M. (2012) The Brand Experience Manual: Addressing the Gap Between Brand Strategy and New Service Development, Proceedings from the 2012 International Design Management Research Conference

 

Further Reading

Customer experience in the brand context: branding through services instead of branding of services

 

Special Thanks

I would like to thank djuice and Eggs Design for enabling this process to happen; Simon Clatworthy and Erik Roscam Abbing for the valuable feedback and discussions regarding this research; and all the people involved in this research, so many that I can’t list here. In this process I learned that a PhD is not the outcome of one mind, but a report of a huge and collaborative process, written by one, but made by many.

 

Notes

– Brandslation is a registered trademark of AHO (Oslo School of Architecture and Design) – 2013

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