Social media has redefined how people interact. We have now become both consumers and creators of information and knowledge. This has impacted the manner in which organisations, their people and their customers engage one another.

Is this social media trend influencing traditional concepts of what a brand is, what service means and the voice of customers? And what do you as an organisation and an individual need to do about it?

Then and now

First, let us examine what a brand was and now is.

The word “brand” comes from the Old Norse word “brandr”, which means, “to burn”. An early example of “branding” was the practice of using a hot iron stamp to create a mark on cattle to distinguish one farmer’s cattle from another. This process of “branding” allowed for identification, distinction and showcased the “personality” of a product, organisation and/or service.

Over time, this concept of a brand evolved and many facets of it gained prominence. Facets such as brand awareness, brand promise, brand image and brand identity expanded our appreciation of branding.

While a brand once was what an organisation communicated about itself, it has now become what customers, potential customers and even non-customers have to say about brand experience, which looks at the totality of the physical and virtual, direct and indirect experience of peoples’ contact with a brand.

So, it seems the final frontier of branding is to look at a brand as much more than a product, an organisation and/or a service. A brand is now an experience.

Top organisations around the world are now consumed with this idea of experience. Cases in point are the Walt Disney experience, the Apple experience and the Starbucks experience.

The service factor

Next, let us examine what service was, is and how it meets a brand.

Service has traditionally been looked at by organisations from the perspective of customer service, which is the provision of “service” to customers before, during and after a purchase.

The idea here is for the customer-service staff to enhance the level of customer satisfaction by meeting or exceeding the expectations of their customers. This perspective of service, while of eternal value, is also limited in scope and perhaps outdated.

The most progressive organisations today look at service as both an external and internal phenomenon, in which the objective is to identify and solve problems at all levels of the value chain, such that new value is created for the ultimate purpose of getting, retaining and also expanding their customer portfolio.

This new appreciation of service has to factor in the customer’s experience at all points of contact and has to backtrack to all areas of the internal value chain.

In this new social media-based world, branding and service have assimilated into one another.

How aware is your organisation that from a customer’s perspective, a brand is now the “totality of the physical and virtual, direct and indirect experience of a customer, potential customer and even a non-customer”?

This brings us to the next logical point: what do you need to measure to appreciate and enhance your brand value proposition?

Customers’ experience

To align yourself to the final frontier of branding, you must measure your customers’ experience in relation to:

  • Your people;
  • Your products and/or services;
  • Your processes, procedures and policies;
  • Your physical and virtual environments; and
  • Your congruency between what you say and what they experience.

If you do this, it will not just give you and your organisation a full 360-degree appreciation of your brand as valued by customers, potential customers and even non-customers, but it will also show you where you can add value from an experience perspective to get and retain customers while attracting new ones.

Are you aware that with or without your active participation, these conversations are already happening in the world of social media and impacting your brand? So, isn’t it time your organisation looked at things from a broader, more future-factored perspective and strategise a congruent course of action?