Many brands make their first or repeat impressions as digital experiences. Increasingly, these experiences are being enabled on a smartphone or via social media – environments known for their fleeting moments. Within our hyper-connected world, and the continual competition for consumer attention, it is time to loudly proclaim:
- Stop building brands like it’s still the 20th century.
- Rethink the linear and slow-moving approach.
- Think digital first.
Here are four simple steps to ensure that every brand-building opportunity includes a digital mindset.
1. Experience Your Brand Through the Customers’ Eyes
Having a user-centered mindset has been a guiding principle in user experience communities for more than a decade. The same mentality is widely adopted by brand practitioners. For too long, practitioners were consumed with solving the Vision/Mission task. The more productive conversation is to shift the perspective from you to the customer. To do so, ask yourself the following three questions:
- What do customers see when they experience your brand on social media?
- What do they see when they experience your brand on a smartphone?
- What impression does your brand leave, after an interaction?
Thinking about your brand in these dimensions means you approach your brand initiative with an “outside-in” approach. The answers to these questions need to align with your brand purpose – otherwise your brand is not credible. The right answers will help you build a brand with a clear, simple, and user-centered promise and voice, when you appear in a mobile, social, or any digital context.
Aside from a global brand like Facebook, I am impressed with how clearly Songza expresses its offering.
2. Define Your Purpose
To build a successful brand you must examine the internal organization behind your product. It doesn’t matter if you are a five-person start-up or a 50,000-employee Fortune 500 company. You must ensure your brand promise is connected to a credible, believable higher calling and higher reason – to ensure your internal audience is motivated every day to perform to the best of their ability. This higher order will inspire everyone to rally around what we call purpose. Research shows that purpose-driven organizations far outperform their peers, who haven’t clearly articulated their organizational purpose. To define your purpose, you must identify principles that guide everyone’s behavior. Some organizations call these principles their values; others refer them as their code of conduct. At Siegel+Gale we have three values: “smart, nice, and unstoppable.” They are crisp, focused, and serve as a lens for different departments – talent recruiting, client or project selection, etc.
This step can be summarized into two simple mottos: know why you do what you do, and communicate this to all levels of your internal organization,
Despite its size, Google remains my favorite example of a brand that clearly defines itself and its role in the world.
3. Develop Your Architecture
Brand promise, voice, purpose, and values in hand – what’s next?
Establishing brand and experience architecture is fundamental to significantly increase your brand’s ability to deliver intentional experiences. Organizing components such as sub-brands, products and services, messages, and touchpoints by audiences, into a brand and experience architecture framework, enables your company to deliver the right messages at the right time to the right audience.
A brand and experience architecture in combination with audience journey maps, allows you to plan, adjust, respond, and consider how an individual change impacts your overall brand. This approach also ensures digital experiences are not separate; instead, they are a part of the brand and experience architecture.
4. Define Your Digital DNA
The identity system of any successful brand needs some essential ingredients to achieve a memorable first customer impression. Every smart digital identity DNA system should include these four criteria:
Defining the “touch” DNA gives a brand direction for screen interactions – is it a tap, pinch, swipe, or zoom brand? Having a defined sonic DNA ensures a brand wins the battle for mindshare. Operating with a clear verbal DNA influences the voice and search performance of a brand. Creating with a fresh, flexible, and modular visual DNA provides the right presentation on every screen, regardless of its size, location, or usage.
Using a brand’s identity system and relying on these digital DNA criteria enable a brand to create highly recognizable, memorable products, services, or communications and interactions. These interactions will in turn increase the chances for exceptional first impressions through intentional experiences.
The new PayPal app is a good example of a brand with a digital DNA at the core of its identity system.
Title image credit: Siegel+Gale illustration.
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