Opinion: Beauty and logic, transforming the brand experience
Brand experience requires a multichannel, strategic approach to content, comms and branding. How can companies take a new approach to experience design?
The well-documented change in preferences from material things towards experiences is one of the most significant shifts in consumer behaviour we’ve seen in recent years. It’s a transformation in the attention economy that presents a game-changing opportunity for established brands to connect with consumers in a way that’s more profound and fruitful. It also feeds a business imperative to evolve proactively ahead of an oncoming wave of disruption.
Companies large and small should be taking note of this shift and making sure it’s reflected in every customer touchpoint. It’s no longer enough to merely tell people why they should buy a product. Businesses must articulate how they can play meaningful roles in our lives. Like never before, it’s the experience of the brand that must be communicated.
Combined with shifting message priorities, new distribution channels require that we design new strategies and systems. Like broadcasters and publishers, every brand now has numerous channels through which they need to engage, entertain and educate, all day, every day. And the way they do this – from tone of voice, imagery and design, to video, music and sound – must be consistent across all those channels.
This is ‘smart branding’: engaging with real people in an intentional and considerate way. To do it well, all brands must become daily content creators, building a continuous narrative that entertains and educates, with clarity, emotion and authority.
Many executives are understandably frustrated by this challenge. To rise to the challenge, businesses must be prepared to build more brand value into each touchpoint. This is a process that begins with clearly defining brand essence, beliefs and behaviours, then translating those values into a sustainable system to continually generate excitement. It’s a challenge better solved by strategic branding and design than by traditional marcom operations.
There are two keys to a successful brand experience: resonant emotional interaction and clear, consistent delivery. At Trollbäck+Company, we call it ‘beauty and logic.’
Some brands are better at being logical but are missing out on beauty, while some operate the other way around. To flourish, brands must excel at both. For an example of a brand that really understands the relationship it has with its audience and has created a consistent ecosystem of message and medium to nurture that relationship, look no further than Airbnb.
Having done an incredible job of completely reinventing the travel accommodation category, Airbnb worked hard to engage deeply with its target audience using a combination of excellent customer service and compelling content. Across every conceivable channel – including a print magazine – the brand uses powerful imagery and engaging stories from both hosts and guests, all underpinned by a clear set of core themes that include diversity, inclusivity, and exploration. This is a brand that knows how to stir emotion and excite passion in an inspiring and consistent narrative.
Even brands that ushered in the attention economy revolution are working diligently to adapt to this new paradigm. We recently helped MTV International reimagine its multiplatform brand design. Due to rapid global expansion and a desire to satisfy many regional stakeholders, the experience of the brand varied drastically depending on location and platform. We introduced a single holistic design system that brings consistency across all of MTV’s touchpoints, while still allowing each region to express itself uniquely. Now, even while communicating in 13 languages and 45 countries, MTV has the tools to speak with the same brand voice everywhere it lives.
Becoming a more experience-oriented company needs to be driven from the top. This isn’t a minor change to marketing strategy. It’s a fundamental shift in understanding the greater value that a business brings to people’s lives. To help ease this process, we encourage executives to approach the transformation in three stages: define, align and amplify.
First, observe how real people interact with your company, your products, or your services. Identify the challenges they face and honestly assess their frustrations. Imagine they have permanent access to the three-button HappyOrNot system that lets them express whether they’re smiling, frowning or straight-faced about the experience you offer them.
Next, use data and observational insights to align with your customers’ expectations and world views. It may help to think about them as your ‘audience’ instead of ‘consumers.’ At this stage, it’s normal to feel like making an impact will require more of everything: more resources, more people, more scale, more funding. We believe that creating real impact actually requires less: you only need more of the right thing, and much less of everything else. There’s freedom that comes from discarding everything that means nothing.
The third step is inherently creative, using all of your available resources – internal and external – to amplify these opportunities for connecting with your audience. Beyond traditional marketing tactics, this requires elegantly designed systems and communications that allow your teams to consistently deliver a heightened experience of your brand, on every channel, with beauty and logic.
We’ve just begun collaborating with RXBAR, the disruptor nutritional bar brand recently acquired by Kellogg, to amplify their refreshingly simple ‘No B.S.’ ethos across social. By being smart and strategic from the outset, we are building a design system and tools that support a sustainable cadence of quality content to sustain a seamless brand experience.
The evidence suggests we’re at the beginning of something big: a new awareness of how individuals interact with large organisations. The lessons we learn and the brand architecture we build over the next five to 10 years will fundamentally change the world we live in.
If we do our jobs well as brand stewards, we’ll reduce clutter and wasted resources to create more meaning in people’s lives, forging deeper, more sustainable engagement that will help build a brighter, braver and more inspiring future.
Alex Moulton is the chief creative officer at Trollbäck+Company