Friday, January 05, 2007

Customer Experience Management Is Really Brand Management (and that's a good thing)

I’m still pondering yesterday’s question of what it would mean for customer management to become more like consumer packaged goods marketing. To me, the dominant feature of packaged good marketing is the focus on brands. In some ways, the brand is a surrogate for the company: because the company cannot create direct relationships with customer, it gives customers as a metaphorical relationship with the brand. Marketers who do have direct customer relationships have been less obsessed with brands, although they still acknowledge their importance.

(At the risk of confusing things, I’m going to refer to marketers with a direct customer relationship as “relationship marketers”. This seems the least painful alternative—“customer marketers” is too broad and “direct marketers” means something else.)

Brand marketers often speak of a brand personality, brand promise and a brand experience. That last phrase obviously recalls “customer experience”. The difference, if any, depends on who is talking. For example, Bernd Schmitt’s EX Group considers the brand experience as one component of the customer experience. (Brand experience involves design, communications, and products. The other primary component of customer experience is the “customer interface”, which covers direct customer interactions. Click here for the EX Group diagram.)

Although I find the distinction between direct and indirect interactions to be useful, I consider both to be experiences with a brand, and therefore don’t distinguish between “brand experience” and “customer experience”. But the semantics are not important. What really matters is that the packaged goods marketers’ notion of “brand” overlaps greatly with relationship marketers’ notion of “customer experience”.

This overlap means the many tools that packaged goods marketers have built to measure and manage brands can very likely be adopted to help relationship marketers measure and manage customer experiences. It also means customer experience management concepts can be described in brand management terms—something that may greatly speed their adoption in businesses where brand management is historically entrenched.

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