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Bridging the gap between brand strategy and customer experience

Purpose – This paper aims to describe the development and evaluation of a process model to transform brand strategy into service experiences during the front end of new service development (NSD). This is an important yet poorly understood transformation that occurs early in service development projects. The paper also aims to describe the theoretical basis for this transformation, and introduces a process model that has been developed to understand and assist with this. Further, it seeks to describe early evaluation results and reflections upon its use. Design/methodology/approach – A research through design approach using participatory co-design led to the development of the new process. The development was iterative and carried out together with three service providers. The process model was evaluated using a combination of qualitative methods, including interviews, observation and participatory observation.

Findings – This work underlines the importance of aligning the customer experience to the company brand and suggests how this can be achieved. A key element in this is the development of a service personality and consideration of service touch-point behaviours through a combination of analytical work and experience prototyping. The suggested process model has received positive evaluation when used in commercial projects, in terms of brand congruence, project team cohesiveness and experiential result. The work advocates tighter integration between brand management and NSD, and has identified multiple issues regarding the content of a service brand strategy. These include the ways in which a brand department should communicate its brand strategy, and how it should be involved in NSD projects to ensure brand alignment.

Research limitations/implications – The evaluation of the model has limitations, both in terms of number of cases and downstream/long term effects. This should therefore be considered an initial evaluation of the model, requiring further verification.

Practical implications – The paper describes a structured three-stage experience-centric process that improves brand alignment in projects. Further, the work shows that brand specifications for services should increasingly focus upon desired customer experiences, service touch-points and touch-point behaviours rather than the current focus upon visual identity.

Originality/value – This is the first paper to suggest a process that transforms a brand strategy into customer experiences during NSD. It also adds original insights into the transition from brand to concept, bridging branding, service design and NSD.

Clatworthy, S. 2011. 'Bridging the gap between brand strategy and customer experience'. Managing Service Quality. Vol. 22, Issue 2. 108–127. Available: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?articleid=17021625