Recently a friend handed me her new golf watch, complaining that she wasn’t able to save her favourite golf course by means of the user interface.
I inspected the watch in my hand. At first glance, I was struck by the elegant design, reduced user interface and user guidance. But after closer examination, I also found that the menu didn’t allow me to select her regular golf course either.
This experience with the brand (i.e. this particular product, and specifically the user interface) wasn’t a satisfying one for us and therefore we were left with a negative feeling towards it.
What is the meaning of a brand?
“A trademark or distinctive name identifying a product, service, or organisation….an association of positive qualities with a widely recognised name”. (Source: Google)
In the age of digital experience, a brand is clearly more than this. It’s about creating a positive, emotional experience between the company (that is to say, the brand) and the consumer.
A brand is not solely a logo or a slogan. A brand is also a subjective perception of worth, which a person discerns and experiences when he or she comes into contact with a product, service or company. Eventually, this person can help form public opinions for or against this product (through social media, for example).
Furthermore, people can become brands or build brands appropriately, as, for example, the late Steve Jobs (Apple) — whose presence and work continue to have an effect today — or Elon Musk (Tesla).
How can a brand be built?
Brands are built from the sum of the experiences we have with them. That includes how a company looks (the logo, graphic elements, typography, pictures). It includes how a company sounds (its slogan, texts available to the company, such as websites, brochures, and communication with the customers). And it includes the behaviour of the company (for example, customer service, or whether the company’s ethics match those of the customer).
Let’s return to the example of the golf watch. After we were not able to select the favourite golf course option as desired, our next course of action was to contact customer service. Perhaps the company’s staff would be able to explain how we could save a favourite golf course. A friendly employee directed us to a link on the online user manual.
But we had no luck with the website. It was only through reading various entries on an external forum that we were finally successful.
This further contact with the brand (through customer service and the website) also turned out negatively. Here is a good example of how the worth of a product itself can be altered by the customer’s online and offline experiences of it. And consequently, from the perspective of the customer, this perception becomes the entirety of the product’s value.
How is it done online with brands?
In the digital sphere, customers interact with brands through websites, apps and, soon, through the Internet of Things (IoT). Thus brand-building is more than a nice image and a simple user interface. Small details such as Micro-Animation (for example, page transitions or icons) unconsciously create positive emotions. A sense of ‘additional value’ and simplification result in clear, positive brand equity.
An example of this: Today I received my Amazon Fire TV Stick. I prepared myself to type in my lengthy e-mail and password; however, as the Stick was already personalised for me, I could simply watch my first film through Plug and Play. I noticed that, due to this convenience, I felt an emotive point in favour of Amazon.
How can User Experience support brands?
“Definition: User Experience is a person’s entire experience using a particular product, system or service. It includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human-computer interaction and product ownership.” (Source: Wikipedia)
By expending time beforehand on user research (for example, through observation, or interviews with actual customers), very specific capacities and weaknesses of a brand can be established.
Through the input of our golf membership number, our golf watch was able to provide us with all of the data relevant to us — including our favourite golf course.
How can UX turn into a brand distinction?
Through the collection of data during the UX process, important insights into user behaviour can be attained. Knowledge and products, which were not originally conceived, can be brought about through these insights.
The golf watch is able to give us a reminder to set off half an hour before the planned departure time. Traffic is abundant along the route. However, we make it in time to tee off punctually.
This is additional value that a company (and thus the brand) can offer the customer. Maybe the customer enjoys going out to dinner after a game of golf. The reservation can be planned with help from the watch, as it stores how much time we require for a round. The watch constantly learns in this way, so to speak; it knows the user’s habits, as it is continually fed with user-data and patterns of behaviour. And what if it were able to provide suggestions for nearby restaurants after the round has been played, regardless of whether the user is playing his or her regular 18 holes, or on a golf course while on holiday?
Such features originate during the research process. These ideas can be tested and refined from the very first prototype. If designers keep these discoveries in mind, they can thereby develop more additional value.
If more time in the planning stages (i.e. research and analysis) is taken, a more relevant competitive advantage can emerge.
How does UX contribute to positive brand equity in the online world?
When the user is happy with an interactive product, he or she transfers this emotion to some of the company’s other brands, products and services, and continues to construct a positive set of values regarding the company. Furthermore, the consumer doesn’t necessarily perceive this positive connection consciously. Rather, this is much more like a kind of bank account, into which emotions are deposited, stored and then later withdrawn.
The manufacturer of the golf watch is aware of this. On the basis of newly-offered additional value, my friend and I are happy with the golf watch. If we find ourselves in the near future standing in front of a shop window, looking to buy a new product, it’s certainly possible that we will be drawn towards this brand, precisely because of the good experiences we have had with the golf watch.
Originally published at gu-co.de on November 8, 2016.