In Review - Creating a Digital-Centered Customer Experience: Starting with Brand

April 15, 2015 Ryan Schulz

A few weeks ago, I hosted my first webinar on why creating a digital-centered brand is essential to exceeding client expectations.

Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.

Abraham Lincoln

Honest Abe may have been referring to personal character, but this thinking also applies to the character of your business: What are people saying about you when you aren’t in the room?

For B2B and professional services organizations, the conversations people are having about you likely fall into one of three categories: reputation, relationships and intellectual property. Reputation is at the center of those external conversations, and organizations must begin to think of reputation management as character management—defining and distilling the overall character of your organization to create an authentic story. When consensus is built around the character of an organization, it no longer needs to worry about reputation.

A few years ago, John Iwata (the senior vice-president for marketing and communications at IBM) and the Arthur Page Society unveiled a new model for corporate communications, but I believe that in this digital age, this model has larger implications and must be central to our thinking as we approach the challenge and opportunity that digital presents.

A strong sense of character is the foundation for a powerful and memorable brand experience, and this should influence all your marketing and communications activities. You can build an authentic character through effective brand planning, coupled with strategic activation and creative expression.

Brand planning is more than just a logo
Although a corporate brand goes far beyond visual identity, many organizations limit the branding process to a new logo, tagline and color palette. These elements are simply visual and verbal signifiers of an organization—the creative expression system that’s used across communication channels.

In order to build a fully formed brand experience, business marketers need to work through the brand-planning framework, starting at the top and working their way down.

Brand Planning Framework

When using this framework, keep in mind:

  • Don’t skip around. Consider the entire framework during each step, starting at the top. Identifying the “big idea” is essential to all other components. 
  • When building out the character, really consider your organization’s purpose and values—why does the organization exist?
  • Beware of tactics that lack a specific strategy and don’t get too attached to specific ones. Many tactics are merely distractions and often stray from the core character.

All business is digital
Business communications have evolved from face-to-face customer interaction to modern day “finger-to-screen.” With the power of the Internet in every pocket, personal interactions have been largely removed and replaced with seamless digital experiences. A process-driven approach to brand planning typically places digital with the rest of the tactics, but this shouldn’t be the case. Digital needs to be the lens through which all other communications flow.

This begs the question: Is your company’s corporate character accurately represented in the digital world? If not, you’ll lose control of the conversations taking place.

The new “face-to-face”
A poorly framed conversation sets the stage for competitors and consumers to manipulate your brand story. ‘Round the clock access to digital tools and social networking platforms have enabled two-way conversation where other influencers can share brand stories, and not always accurately.

Expectations regarding customer service have also shifted; clients and customers now demand a seamless experience that begins online. For this reason, having a digital-centered brand is essential to exceeding client expectations and creating a more unified customer experience.

This new standard of best-in-class experiences raises the bar for professional services and B2B brands. Success today largely depends on evolving and adopting a connected, coordinated marketing approach with digital at the forefront.

To learn more about brand and how it’s supported by digital strategy, tune in to Part 2 of this #1NWebinar series on April 30th, with Managing Director of Strategy Kalev Peekna - Creating a Digital-Centered Customer Experience: User Experience & Brand.

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Ryan Schulz Managing Director, Experience Design

As Managing Director of Brand and Experience Design, Ryan Schulz is responsible for making sure clients’ true character is represented in everything his team does: messaging, brand, user experience, visual design and front-end experiences. With more than 15 years in brand consulting, he helps clients break through the sea of sameness that plagues the world of professional services. 

  •  Favorite color: Greenish
  •  Favorite breakfast food: Breakfast tacos

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