Branding and User Experience - Two Sides of the Same Coin?
Both focus closely on the user, or the consumer, but are they really two sides of the same coin? If so how are they closely related? If not, what's the difference?
User Experience while complicated in it's process, is rather quite simple. Imagine a product, what's associated with that product, what's your experience with that product? User Experience is literally an all emcompassing 'everything' that's associated with your product. User experience is a journey a user goes through in order to reach their goals with your product. User experience is all about interactions — no matter what touchpoints users interact with, and all touchpoints have to be seamless in their interactions with the user.
Data is an important aspect of understanding experience, whether it is in user experience or in brand experience. However, data guides our design decisions, helps us understand the users motivations, but data alone is not enough to build great design.
A data driven approach does not lead to product success. Some may argue with me on this, but its a fact. Having the right vision, brand story and visuals that support your data are more important than the data itself. And this is where brand experience comes in.
Brand experience caters to the user, even before they are a user, and even before there are users. It relies on visuals and our senses to communicate a particular message and goal that when a user comes in, its fairly obvious to them, what that message is. Couple this with designs, visuals, colours, fonts and logos you now have various palettes that communicate differently for different brands, even though virtually they could be misconstrued as the same product.
So is Branding essential to User Experience and vice versa?
Branding and User Experience are generally considered seperate disciplines, that intersect only when there's a website build or a mobile application build. I'd argue that the intersection should happen way earlier.
Both branding and user experience focus on the exact same thing; the customer. While the brand experience caters to the customer, before they even are one, the user experience caters to the customers interactions with the product or the brand. But if we have to hit customers consistently through all touchpoints, User Experience and Branding have to intersect to deliver elements like the Brand Promise (how the brand looks, speaks and acts), brand consistency, brand identity and brand imagery.
Let's take an example.
Imagine you've identified your brand archetype as being an explorer. You know that brand behaviour is ambitious, independent and pioneering, how can we ensure that all touchpoints (online and offline), communicate the characteristics of that archetype clearly to the customer? Back in the day of push advertising, we'd design newspapers adverts or television advertisements that communicate those aspects front and center to the customer. There your brand behaviour was an exhibition, it wasn't a one on one engagement with the customer. In today's online age, when a customer visits your website or your mobile application, they are directly engaging with your brand. And every point of interaction with your website will directly influence the customers' perception of your brand.
Your brand is formed primarily, not by what your company says about itself, but what the company does.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon Inc.
Incorporating your brand values to your website is not a luxury, its a necessity.
Nike infuses their brand values by offering shoes that are completely customizable to their customers tastes, whims and fancies. This not only plays into empowering users, but also shows their innovation and, in the end, the customer gets a product that is more authentic to their own style.
What are Nike's brand values?
So how do you connect your User Experience and Brand Experience together?
You need to connect the dots between the real experience that your customers go through, and the brand promise you put out there. Cohesively integrating the two disciplines involve:
Defining your brand promise
What is your brand promise and how do you communicate it on your interactive touchpoints? It shouldn't be just a video saying,"Hey we are Brand X, and our promise to you is this!". It should be cooked into your design and should be a key influencer of your product decisions. It's a metric or a ruler that you continously measure yourself against. Are you as a brand fulfilling your promise to your users?
What is your objective?
Your objective should be clearly communicated to your users, and your users should feel it when they are using your product. This is what leads to a greater retention of customers, brand advocacy and ultimately brand loyalty.
Collect and analyze user feedback and criticism
How can you measure feedback if you don't collect it first. Make sure your product has enough ways for users to address their concerns, it doesn't need to be a feedback form at the end of the day, but it could be a simple Facebook Messenger or Twitter engagement tool on your website. Your customers need to feel their feedback is important to you, and that you are looking into their concerns.
Combining your branding and your user experience is an important part of your brand or product development. Both disciplines are equally important and shouldn't exist in their own silos. Understanding the brand promise, attributes and archetype helps inform interactions on the site. Understanding the users helps us make sure that the interactions and features will be valuable, useful and usable. Our aim as marketers should be to delight our customers, and we can only do that by working together across the multifacted divisions of the marketing universe.