Part 2: Building a brand in the era of Living Services

Danielle Lundquist

Internet of Things Podcast:

Nandini Nayak, design strategy leader at Fjord, recently spoke to Stacey Higginbotham, a Fortune reporter and host of the Internet of Things podcast, about Living Services. An excerpt from their conversation has been transcribed in a two-part series. This second excerpt focuses on how to build a brand in the era of Living Services. Part 1 focuses on how Living Services will impact people and products.

The full interview can be heard by clicking here

Higginbotham: Let’s talk about (how branding pairs with the notion of Living Services).

Nayak: I think this is going to be an interesting question. If you want to build a brand, you really need to think about how many brands a person can truly have a relationship with. There are many, many brands which have all of these atomized services. And sometimes it’s not the single service but a connection of services that creates higher order of value for the consumer or the worker, and that may be a branded service. So it depends on what platforms emerge and whether branding becomes important in terms of recognition of a consistent logo or a consistent sort of method of how you do things, or whether it is a collection of brands that actually has true brand recognition. Maybe product brands have to figure out how they become experience brands. And it will be the experience brand that creates these connections in the most effective, most comprehensive way. It becomes the brands we recognize. For example, look at any of our computer products. There are so many components that sit inside that that nobody knows are there, but they all participate in creating that total computing product for you. Similar things may happen in the services area as well. It is not going to be the smaller brands, but the overall set of what we call the living brand that you recognize as something that participates in your life. I don’t think we have answers to that yet, but it will be a transformational time when this happens.

Higginbotham: So we’re going to have a reduction in the value of brands, it sounds like. These living brands are going to be experiential, and they’re going to be curated – we’ll call it a platform of these atomized services and experiences. So then my question to you is, as I’m building out these platforms, does this living brand, this monolithic platform, choose whom it plays with? Will there be any real interoperability? Are they going to be doing the hard work of making things interoperate? And as the consumer, does that mean we’re going to have to choose between an established cluster of brands and experiences as opposed to essentially building our own?

Nayak: More and more, given the number of atomized living services that are coming, you want to know that a trusted brand will curate a set of experiences for you. As an example, perhaps Airbnb becomes that brand for travel. Today, Airbnb is curating a certain part of the travel experience, but they’re also beginning to look at adjacencies and combining with adjacent services. Airbnb just may be that trusted brand that does all of that for you. It will be interesting to see how the whole product, if you will, will turn into an experience and how you either give up control to one of those brands to curate that entire thing or major portions. It will be interesting to see how this notion of living brands comes alive, where your total experience may be a combination of brands, with one or two of them having major roles.

Higginbotham: If you’re an established company as opposed to a startup, how do you develop a living service? How do you actually get there?

Nayak: To create a living service, you fundamentally need to know on an ongoing basis the context of where and how the service will render. You need to always know the context of the consumer or the worker, the person being supported, the environments they’re in, the devices they’re using, how they’re connecting to other places. We call that the “know dimension.” The other dimension is the flex. How do you then flex or adjust your service to take those signals that you’re getting from censors in the environment to adjust or tune those experiences? The intersection of those two dimensions is where you can think of the creation of living services.

For small companies, there may be a bit of an advantage because they can start fresh. But my one suggestion would be to not just think about themselves as simply say, a product company. They need to think about how that product plays into a human experience scenario, as well as the adjacencies around that product. That way, they create a fuller capability that allows an API or a connection into other services, so that what they offer is something more complete.

For more established companies, the big challenge is that they have lots and lots of data and, often, they don’t know how to extract the patterns that matter. So one of the things that Fjord is doing to think about this problem is a better understanding of what’s in the data. Are there patterns? Are there insights from the data that can be used to create new living points or living services? On the other hand, you could also ask yourself as a large company what contextual information could enhance the product or service that you’re creating or already offer? And often they don’t ask that because they have tunnel vision into how they think about their customers. A little bit more transformation is needed for larger companies in terms of how they change their viewpoints.

Higginbotham: That makes sense. And when it comes to building a living brand, do bigger companies have it easier?

Nayak: I think because they have an established brand, it would seem that they have an advantage. But I think it depends upon whether they’re keeping up with this trend. Bigger companies are beginning to see that they can’t just be product companies; they have to turn into service or experience companies. And the companies that move in that direction, where they’re beginning to do mashups with smaller services that are adjacent and creating a new version of themselves, they can then clearly use their brand presence to leapfrog in this space. To that extent, you can say it’s very positive. On the other hand, if you don’t express to the market that you’re beginning to do that, then you tend to become an old brand that just provides products. So it could be a benefit as well as a disadvantage depending upon how fast you’re moving.

Danielle Lundquist

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