Brand Experience versus Customer Experience: Twins Separated at Birth?

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Is there a difference between Brand Experience and Customer Experience? The answer makes me think of stories about identical twins separated at birth and reunited many years later. Amazingly many have the same hair styles, similar jobs, and they like the same flavors of ice cream even though they never met. Why? Because they share the same DNA, which is more powerful than circumstance or environment.


BX…CX… What’s in a name?  In business today there is a lot of energy put toward managing either Brand Experience or Customer Experience. Based on my involvement with both I want to set the record straight on the key differences. Like identical twins they share the same DNA therefore they look and act similarly. With twins their differences are influenced by the families that raised them and may result from having different cultures and customs. Likewise Brand and Customer Experiences have different upbringing but their common DNA makes them overwhelmingly similar.

Regardless of nomenclature, experience management and innovation is strategically important to growth. What drives the difference between BX and CX are three things:

1. The Brand building versus customer service bias of the organization

2. How the differentiating and value adding aspects of the experience are inspired

3. How success of the experience is measured and tracked.

The initial difference is cultural bias. If the organization has a Brand driven culture, the bias is toward a Brand Experience mindset. If the organization has a customer service driven culture, the bias is toward a Customer Experience mindset. “Brand” is a complex idea that many organizations embrace but is not often codified, so in the absence of a clear Brand idea and proposition, strong customer-centric values are a fine substitute. Here either bias has a noble purpose. My client experience bears out that a great experience design can result from Brand or customer service scenarios.


Design inspiration comes next. Both BX and CX development processes involve journey mapping and seek to define touch-points and create value-adding and differentiating experiences. Both must bridge the digital and physical seamlessly, address a variety of segments, and accommodate different need states and occasions. They also seek to address problem resolution as a key opportunity to shine. Their DNA is the same. The difference is in inspiration. Brand Experiences look to actively and passively embed Brand-building into the experience whereas Customer Experiences do not have the same primary motive.

Brand-centric organizations have defined Brand attributes and an activation strategy (which should be based on data and customer insights). The experience design is an opportunity to leverage the power of the Brand strategy and build positive equity on specific attributes as intentional additions to the customer experience. This Brand building may not pay dividends immediately, but it is a longer-term investment that synchronizes with Brand messages in advertising and other Brand communications to build equity and brand salience. Alternatively, in the absence of a defined and pervasive Brand, Customer Experiences are focused more on delighting customers in the here and now. They must have core-tenants that are linked to strong customer-centric values. These have the net effect of a Brand, but they are not directly inspired by a defined Brand idea. It’s like getting to your destination using a map or by familiar landmarks. The important thing is that you arrived.


Success criteria is the ultimate differentiator of BX versus CX.  Brand Experience adds Brand-derived attribute tracking to the measurement. It all ladders up to the need to correlate attribute performance to business performance and see the effect over time on Brand sentiment. Ultimately both Customer Experience and Brand Experience measurement have “macro” metrics that inform Brand sentiment… like net promoter scores, defection rates, etc., but Customer Experience measurement may not include (or they just “throw in”) Brand related measures.


So the wrap-up is this: if you are asked to manage or execute an experience innovation initiative, don’t get hung up on semantics because the core DNA is the same. All Brand Experiences are inherently Customer Experiences, and all Customer Experiences result in a Brand Experience by default. Both put the customer at the center with insights and empathy as they seek to create proprietary experiences that foster enduring relationships versus mere transactions. The important thing is to be consistent or else the confusion could bog your organization down.


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