Originally published via Wolff Olins September 2011, posted again for posterity, 2014 edition to follow…
In a world where Brands are no longer defined by positioning but their roles in peoples lives, the experience that a Brand creates and curates though it’s products and services is fundamental to the sustainability of the business. Most peer-to-peer recommendation is based on experience – our perception, the emotional take out of interacting with products and services – if the experience fails, then so does the Brand. So how do we design the end-to-end Experience? How do we support the role of the Brand in the world? The following is presented as a set of principles and questions that brands should consider when designing this system.
The modern Brand Experience should be: Ubiquitous, Social, Semantic, Sentient and Human.
- Throughout the experience / value chain
- Across multiple channels
- 24 – 7 – 365
Where many brands will focus on a few discrete stages of the end-to-end experience, the opportunities for providing increased customer value will usually lie outside of these. Typically many brands will focus around stages of consideration and transaction, yet for customers greater value can typically be gleaned post purchase – Services vs Sales. As a brand, what are we uniquely positioned to offer? What and where are we credible for? Where do we have permission to play? How can we fit seamlessly into or enhance existing systems? How do our customers want to interact with us? Where? When? What are the patterns of these interactions?
- Enhanced by the social graph (but not dependent upon it)
- Creates and facilitates conversations
Brand experience is improved by the presence of other people – their knowledge, opinion, history and future intent – can the experiences we design be enhanced by people but still work in their absence? Does the experience prompt and capture conversation and build on the insights? Is the experience itself and the artefacts within it shareable, viral?
- Gives meaning to complex multi layered data
- Understands human requests
More data exists in the world than ever before, data that can immeasurably enhance our existence if understood and interpreted correctly. Yet this data is complex, multi layered and disconnected – how do we interpret meaning from this, build connections to form insights and answers? When we allow people access to this data, how human is the interaction? Why do we only ask binary questions? How much do we cater to subtly or nuance? With the data we own, do we build and allow connections to and from it? Often data only makes sense when layered with other data that gives it meaning.
- Context aware
- Reacts (pre-empts) accordingly
The brand experience should be living – this requires an understanding of context and the ability to react to it. Do we sense context – time, place, occasion, preference, social connection and history? Can we react or pre-empt against context? Our lives are built around patterns – yet do we observe and learn from deviation?
- Simplifies complexity
- Democratises the service
- Creates new behaviours
- Gives immediate value
Simplicity democratises, and can allow a brand or its products and services to reach new audiences, so why do we often design complexity over simplicity? Why do we bombard customers with choice? Why don’t we design for accessibility? Why a ‘press-and-click’ when a gesture seems more natural and intuitive? And can we even enable new behaviours by making things as easy as possible? Yet humanising an experience is not always enough – we need to make the value of an interaction immediately apparent, whilst conveying that this value will build over time with increased engagement.
While these principles are by no means definitive – as a starting point for challenging the existing experience, they can help a brand maintain a role that is living, human, considerate and above all – valuable.