Branding has faced an onslaught of change since the dot-com era and the entrance of new tech-driven players. One consistent reaction among many was, and still is, ‘to become digital’. Asking why is like questioning a proven fact: you just don’t do it. Just ‘go digital’. If you don’t, you will be a speck of dust in the afterthoughts of your former customers within the year. But what if there was another way of approaching ‘digital transformation’, one that, in fact, didn’t focus its gaze solely on ‘digital’? An approach that weighed up each and every brand touchpoint, alone and in combination, from the perspective of the customer and their needs regarding their relationship with your brand? Enter ‘brand experience’.
Brand experience, holistic branding, 360 degree brands…It is not new, but achieving it is an elusive chalice. The broader a brand tends to think in terms of its experience, the more difficult it becomes to maintain authenticity in their interactions, to ‘live the promise’ that the brand makes to its customers. Authenticity in this case can be assessed by attempting to answer the following questions: is the intention of the brand in this moment felt or understood by the individual interacting with it? And is this interaction meeting the needs that the individual had when they entered into it?
One of the biggest challenges is creating experiences that answer this question with a unanimous ‘yes’. How do you take a high-level brand purpose, promise or story and ensure they are brought to life in design? In answer to this challenge, to provide a compass which offer clarity in navigating the path between brand intent and the resulting design, we created Experience Principles.
Experience Principles operate at the intersection of brand strategy and the creative process. They build the layer that translates brand intention, enrichedand balanced by user needs, into creative imperatives. In practice, they consist of four to five relatively high-level statements written to provide a reference point for experience-related decisions.
Research is an essential component in the development of these principles. It is key that we understand the user as well as we understand the brand. But the Experience Principles themselves will not be used by the user, the product of them will. How can you be sure that those using the principles in their daily work understand their value and live their precedent? We think the answer is quite simple: we write them together. We unite representatives from all relevant departments to creating recognition, understanding and ownership—only then can the principles gain and maintain relevance from the moment they are created, into the brand’s future.
From our observations bringing Experience Principles to life, we have boiled down their potential impact into a simple list. They can:
1. Create coherence
Offer guidance and align all experience-related decisions towards the brand intention.
2. Increase experience quality
Elevate each touchpoint and, in doing so, the overall brand experience.
3. Strengthen co-operation
Increase efficiency and exchange between departments and teams by offering a common ground for orientation.
4. Make you future-ready
Allow the exploration of new technologies and unknown territories with more confidence, having a measure by which to evaluate them.
5. Ensure people-centricity
Foster human-centric thinking from the ground up as they are integrated directly into your Experience Principles.
We believe that Experience Principles lay the foundation for how design can drive business on all levels. They are the springboard to realising the strategic value of design. When creativity, culture and business priorities are in sync, the brand is perfectly poised to bring its aspirations to fruition.
_Filippos Petridis and Jack Mitchell are both UX Strategists at MetaDesign Berlin
_Image credit: Bodies in Motion, Todd Bracher & Studio TheGreenEyl for Humanscale, 2019