MIND THE GAP: Bridging the Brand & Customer Promise

We all know the classic paradigm:customer sees an ad, visits a store or website, and forms a positive — and hopefully lasting — first impression. Marketing and Brand often remain focused on these traditional brand health metrics, yet today, first impressions don’t happen on our watch. Rather, they’re formed by customer research, reviews, and reputation. One customer’s bad experience can quickly become thousands of potential customers’ bad first impressions. Modern brands must deliver consistent experiences across all touch points, which requires more closely aligned Brand and CX efforts. So how do organizations finally and sustainably address the brand and customer promise gap? To answer this question, we must first understand what separates these experiential elements and the impact that gap has on organizational and customer health.

THE BRAND PROMISE & EXPERIENCE GAP

Metrics and goals. Brand -and by extension, Marketing -tends to focus on top-of-funnel metrics that aim to grow customer reach and revenue, such as brand awareness, consideration, and marketing mix optimization. CX, on the other hand, is largely steeped in growing customer loyalty, as typically measured by retention, lifetime value, and satisfaction. What lies between is often the ‘kitchen sink’ of the experience itself. Not only is there often no real way to measure the gap between brand promise and reality, but many organizations take a less-than-deliberate approach to deliver on the brand promise in the first place. Think of it as a foot race: Marketing/Brand holds the starting gun and CX holds the finish line. What happens during the race is left to chance. Sound a bit like your customers’ journey?

Prioritization. Prioritization is ultimately a function of your company’s goals. As described above, when Brand and CX aren’t focused on the same KPIs and measures of success, the result is often competing priorities, unbalanced and disproportionate budgets, and disjointed experiences. The outcome? Unhappy customers and an unfulfilled brand promise.

Siloed brand and customer promises. A vast gap typically exists between the brand promise and the customer experience. Too often, the ‘starting gun’ and ‘finish line’ don’t match. It’s as if one side is preparing for a sprint (awareness and consideration), while the other anticipates a marathon (customer retention). It doesn’t stop at metrics alone — strategies, tactics, and touch points are all driven by these siloed KPIs. Both the brand and customer promise capture an aspirational view of how customers think, feel, and act. Both are driven by perception. Yet despite how cyclical and intertwined these two things are in the customers’ minds, organizational silos, diverging strategies and goals often lead to discordant experiences and results.

THE PATH FORWARD

The good news: through shared processes, activities and operating models, organizations can find significant ways to bridge the brand/CX gap in meaningful and sustainable ways.

Co-create experience design and delivery. Starting with the brand promise, Brand, CX, Product, and operational teams should work together to define and design ‘proof points’. If Brand has identified tangible ways the brand should show up to deliver on its promise, all stakeholders should be involved in mapping how those proof points surface throughout the experience — from messaging, to touch points, to the emotional feeling and connection it creates for the customer. Facilitated as a quarterly or bi-annual workshop (because experiences will naturally need to evolve and change with consumer preferences, technology, and process), it’s a great way to align and educate teams on what the brand promise really means, to examine how well it does/doesn’t show up throughout the experience today, and to garner ownership and buy-in around future experience creation.

Align on a shared North Star: Value. We’ve seen that when Marketing focuses too narrowly on traditional brand health metrics, it misses other key customer signals of effort, effectiveness, satisfaction, and loyalty — metrics that ultimately serve as indicators of the brand experience and the bottom line. Instead, organizations which prioritize customer value tend to create sustainable brand and customer growth. This is because value requires the customer to consider not just the brand promise, but the actual utilization of said product or service (aka the experience) relative to cost. As such, one can imagine the transformative effect that a value metric has in galvanizing teams to focus on not just one, but all aspects of the experience. Consider what would change if your Brand, Marketing, Product, and CX departments were all accountable to customer value — or any shared brand experience metric — that delivers on the brand promise throughout the customer lifecycle. (Hint: chances are there’d be much more coordinated and deliberate focus on downstream experience creation.)

Streamlined prioritization. Now that we’ve settled on shared measures of brand and experience success, imagine, if you will, how much easier budget and prioritization discussions could be. Following the steps outlined above, companies co-creating experiences that amplify and deliver on brand proof points, as measured by customer value, have a simpler time determining the key priorities that seek to improve or optimize the brand experience. No longer is it a trade-off between developer resources for landing pages vs. billing pages. Instead, there’s a shared understanding and agreement of which touch points, experiences, or processes are most critical to delivering on brand promises (proof points) and key moments of truth (pain points) — making the case for “customer value” as a single and primary input of project and budget prioritization.

In the age of the empowered customer, an organization’s livelihood relies on its ability to consistently communicate its brand promise and deliver a high-quality customer experience. Companies that more formally align their brand and CX efforts and teams will find lasting success in cementing CX (not merely marketing or brand campaigns) as the leading brand strategy to more memorable and lasting customer consideration and loyalty.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

cx ninja. ultra runner. never met a carb i didn’t like.

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