Chapter 13. Brands as Promise-Marks

So far, the hotel scenario has described how the service operator wants things to be. It has used promises to design the desired customer experience at any given point in time. Continuous design also necessitates considering how the operator wants things to become. To understand what this notion means, we need to take a step back and revisit the concepts of brand and brand quality using the language of promises.

The etymology of the word brand dates back to its original meaning: an identifying mark made by a hot iron. Traditionally, marketers used messaging to leave a mark on a customer. That mark would trigger desired impressions in the minds of customers. When people thought of a BMW, they would associate it with excitement. When they thought of a Mercedes-Benz, they would associate it with elegance. When they thought of a Honda, they would associate it with practicality.

By shifting the dynamic through which brand messages are generated, new technologies such as social media are making brand maintenance more interactive. As a result, marketers now often talk about consumers “engaging with brands.” Something about that phrase, though, seems odd. If the idea of brand is as intangible as marketers and designers claim, then how can you “engage” with it? It doesn’t seem as if a brand can do anything to anyone, or that one can do anything to a brand. It would seem more accurate to think of a brand as the result of a company’s and its customers’ ...

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