During a recent exchange on the growing impact of social customer service, Alan Berkson asked me “who creates the brand narrative”? Interesting question (as is often the case with Mr. Berkson). When I search back through Sensei Inc.’s research and client experiences, there’s really only one conclusion that can be drawn in answering this question.
Business strategists and marketers do not have direct control over the brand narrative any longer and evidence suggests that customers don’t have it either. So who does? To answer the question, we must look at the influence or control each player in the equation exerts.
Businesses control customer experience.
Businesses have the option to establish the touch points their brand has with its audience, benchmark results and improve those experiences by re-engineering the elements of that engagement.
Customers control their reaction to the customer experience.
We all have options when dealing with a brand we love or hate, especially in how we react to our experiences with it. A negative experience for example could be met with a silent complaint in the form of a shift in loyalty (and dollars) to another brand.
Alternatively, that same experience might turn into a diatribe on the customer’s blog, topic of a public Twitter conversation or fodder for a viral video shared across other media outlets. The same applies to positive experiences although they are less likely to be shared publicly. In either case, customers control the reaction to that experience.
The amplification customers’ reactions controls the brand narrative.
There’s a duality in reactions to the customer experience: Quiet/Private and Loud/Public. Collectively, they form the brand narrative; as much with what is not said as by what is said.
The key factor of course is the acceleration and impact of either reaction caused by modern social amplification. Consumers are trained to seek validation through colleagues in social networks or through strangers on Google, Yelp and/or other online resources.
Those not in the market for your product, and thus not seeking such validation has it imposed on them through social broadcasting. Either way, the amplification of the reaction(s) becomes the story of your brand.
Full Circle. It all comes back to the customer experience. You can’t create the brand narrative so stop trying. Build, measure and improve the customer experience and the market will take care of the rest for you.
Agree? Disagree? Who creates the brand narrative?
Sam Fiorella – Sensei
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