Developing brands beyond guidelines

A brand is much more than the logo; it is the pattern our brains expect based on everything we have previously heard, seen, and felt.
— Reuben Steiger

In part two of our series ‘the role of design in business’ we focus on the intersection of brand development and service design. I sat down with Martin Jordan, co-founder of Service Design Berlin and senior user experience designer with many years of experience in branding, to discuss why branding has to go beyond brand promise and why it is so hard to establish a consistent brand behaviour. The following is an edited excerpt of an interview conducted in May 2015.

When you look at how corporate identities are established, there are three major aspects: behaviour, communications and appearance. An organisation’s communication and appearance seem to be straightforward. For appearance, corporate design guidelines describe in mostly clear terms the visual language of companies and brands—have a look at Nasa’s guides to get a sense. The same goes for corporate communications, as most companies try to settle on a common tone for the way they speak to customers—Mailchimp does a nice job here. When it comes to corporate behaviour however, lines start to blur and clear-cut definitions are hard to come by. Most of the time, guidelines for brand behaviour emerge or are derived from core values that might appear in mission or vision statements. How brand behaviour guidelines can be implemented however, is not straight forward.



When trying to put brand behaviour into practice, processes are usually influenced by a multitude of stakeholders. Often corporates rely on external help when developing and launching new products and services. Consequently, branding agencies develop communication strategies and appearance according to product focus and positioning.

In contrast, the user experience—the facet of brand behaviour that is immediately defined by the use of the service or product itself—often remains with the service provider. Although the described process is common practice in the industry, creating a consistent brand identity this way is complex, since brand behaviour on the one hand and communications and appearance on the other are organisationally separated. 

To align brand promise and user experience, bridges between the identity-building organisations are needed. Only then can a consistent brand image be projected and perceived by customers. One example for operational brand behaviour mechanisms that is widely untapped is the implementation of coherent and structured customer profile building across customer-service interactions – think Amazon shopping recommendations based on your buying behaviour. Such mechanisms offer tremendous potential to establish brand behaviour when done right. Here, brands have the chance to develop personal approaches to customers at scale. Something that has gone missing since many corner stores have been replaced by next-day delivery shipments. 



Establishing brand behaviour this way is not an easy challenge to tackle. Service Design is one valid approach. Integrating all stakeholders into a process to develop a customer centric service offering often leads to more consistent brand behaviour. However, on an organisational level transformational challenges need to be taken seriously, as well. Silo thinking has to be broken down and deep inter-departmental integration has to be established.

So how is brand development connected to Service Design? To put it simple, Service Design is one way to put processes into place that make brand behaviour tangible while staying true to brand promise.