Thoughts on product design + user experience

The surprising and magical benefits of making “brand” a product requirement

Written by bbb on November 16, 2011

Have you ever struggled with getting teams aligned behind a shared vision of a product? It can be a major challenge, especially in companies who need to execute fast — and who doesn’t? Design teams often find themselves at the centre of this struggle, as they synthesize ideas and produce the first artifacts that bring products to life. If there’s no shared vision, they feel it acutely. Especially in those first few design critiques.

To help alleviate these issues, we can turn to an old concept that’s come under serious fire in recent years: BRAND.

Yes, brand. That’s because brand isn’t about logos anymore. It’s about experiences.

Brand exists only in the mind of a customer, which leads opponents to claim that it cannot be designed at all. That’s spurious reasoning, however. Sure, we can’t design the meaning of an experience directly inside someone’s head — but we CAN design elements of the context and the product or service itself. So what kind of experience do we want to deliver?

My thesis here is simple: make brand a product requirement.

Do this by expressing your brand in terms of the emotions you want to evoke in customers. For instance, do you want people to feel in control while experiencing your product or service? Connected? Proactive? Relaxed? Excited? Choose a few emotions that make sense for your brand and that set you apart from the competition. Then make those emotions concrete targets the product is required to hit.

From my experience, this approach is remarkable for its ability to get everyone aligned, regardless of their position in an organization. It’s like magic!

Last weekend, I took the students of Wilfred Laurier University on a deep dive into these concepts at the Laurier Marketing Association’s annual conference. It seemed appropriate, given the conference theme of “The Future of Branding: A Forum for Technology in Marketing”. Flip through the slides below and drop a comment if any of the ideas resonate.