Unblurring the lines

If you buy a product that gives you access to a service of some kind, is that service (and its benefits) part of the product or are they a standalone offer? In other words, where does the product stop and the service start?

My reaction is to say that they’re part of the product — that the very idea that one starts when the other stops is nothing but an artifice.

This artifice is created by the corporate org chart. Frequently, the team in charge of the service isn’t the same one that’s in charge of the product. This happens because many companies organize their teams by functional roles rather than customer interaction. There’s overlap.

What can happen is that the product team will talk about the service first — they’ve got to get the packaging printed in China and in the container in time for the launch — without checking with the service team, who’ve been working away in their corner preparing the messaging for their program. Worse, maybe the service team hasn’t even started on the messaging because they’ve been waiting for the product team to finalize the product. Sound familiar?

The upshot is that the two messages end up not matching. Customers see one version when they buy the product and another when they sign up for the service. Confusion reigns. Enrollments undershoots forecasts. The service is declared a failure. It is held up as “proof” that all customers care about is features and prices, not services.

How can this be avoided? By starting from the customer’s experience, not the company’s org chart. Start with the customer and map the touchpoints upstream and downstream from the moment of sale. With this map in hand we can create consistent messaging throughout the lifetime of the offer. And consistency is a key ingredient to strong branding. Don’t just take my word for it; take a look at this wonderful illustration done by David Armano over at Logic + Emotion.

The more I think about, the more I believe that many brand communication problems are caused by the artificial barriers and silos created by org charts.

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One comment on “Unblurring the lines

  1. Tim
    June 9, 2008 at 6:15 pm #

    I would say that MOST brand communication problems are caused by org charts…and turf wars and reporting structures and obscure legalities, etc.

    A strong content strategist can ferret out these issues and bring them to the surface.

    Nice site!

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