How to Transform your Digital Brand into a Real World Experience?
Today, experiences often start online before coming back onto the streets. And in some cases, an experience is only finished once it returns to the web.
If you’re drawing a blank, look no further than Yelp.
Diners experience an eatery’s brand online first via ratings and recommendations. Even after the perfect place has been selected online, customers take Yelp’s content with them — remembering which servers are best or which sandwiches have “the good bread.” Then, after the meal is long gone, the person returns to rate the food and engage with others.
This online-offline relationship isn’t limited to rating-based applications. In fact, one of InVision’s most recent in-person initiatives emphasized turning our digital brand into a tangible experience — and we’re sharing insights for any company looking to do the same.
Major things to consider before you bring the brand to life.
When your goal is creating an experience, a lot of the heavy lifting happens before anything is truly made.
Quantify the timeframe.
Setting a timeline upfront helps clarify the scope of possibility for everyone involved. Though experiences can be stretched or shrunk to fit any period — weeks or just hours — competing priorities and hiccups should be expected.
Once you’ve gotten the ball rolling, you can make strategic decisions about what to include or skip based on how much time you have compared to a predicted outcome.
Source ideas and collect internal inspiration.
The second step involves teamwork. While you’re ironing out the details of what kind of experience to create, source ideas from your team.
At this point, everything is theoretical — and incorporating viewpoints from multiple functional areas is a sure way to represent the entire brand, not just ideas from event planners and marketing maestros.
How do we know this is an essential step? Because in our experience ideating an invite-only experience, the idea to use a progressive dinner format came from a team member. The Design Thinking Collective Dinner was then designed around multiple venues and courses.
Decide agency or in-house.
Once you and your team have solid ideas in mind, and a timeline for creating them, create a text brief and vision board. This source of truth will also anchor your experience as others contribute.
That’s where you also need to draw a line. Will you create everything in-house or outsource design elements to an agency?
In our case, keeping asset creation in-house meant we could better control the overall aesthetics. We also wanted the experience to be highly curated. Every pixel matters in digital design — like every touchpoint matters in person.
Make important branding decisions.
Many times, the go-to solution is to print a large banner or poster with the event name and company logo. That drastically changes how visitors perceive and experience what you’ve created — especially if your digital brand isn’t being translated into a tradeshow or banquet. The branding decisions you make are key to establishing the feel of your experience. Before you start putting things together, decide how many explicitly branded elements will be part of the mix.
Will you use your company’s colors? Will logos be present on all design elements? Is the goal to showcase your brand or a different idea?
There’s a big difference between layering your company’s branding on top of an existing environment versus working it in naturally.
Designing an experience without overt branding.
When it’s time to pull your company’s persona out of the screen, focus on the why and not the how. By framing each of your branding decisions around a goal — generating leads in a new market, meeting customers, showing appreciation for the community — you’ll be able to control the vibe attendees feel.
“There’s much more to branding than popping a logo on something,” said Michaela Alexander, the Marketing Events Manager who spearheaded the Design Thinking Collective Dinner.
In this scenario, the “why” was to give top design leaders a creativity-inspiring, intimate environment to discuss industry challenges and design thinking without the pressure of an organized panel or media presence. The theme also played off of San Francisco Design Week’s slogan, “Question Everything.”
With each of these things in mind, InVision made every detail of the evening surprising in some way — most fittingly through its design. With the exception of a few small details, the company logo wasn’t present, and it certainly wasn’t the focal point.
Using the narrative that we had crafted in planning phases and in conjunction with the Design Week theme, we based every design decision on our target experience.
“With every decision you make, consider the story you want to tell.”
When doing this for your own brand, think of how your experience embodies the company slogan or mission. That serves as your branding, without the need for a hundred logos.
To drive home the idea that decision leaders would be gathering in an elite but comfortable environment, we added several personal touches. Other things we did to embody our brand included:
- Using the environment to reinforce our intentions;
- Making the experience fluid by incorporating multiple venues;
- Controlling the ambiance of each venue in collaboration with vendors;
- Selecting vendors with congruent design philosophies and approaches that matched the aesthetic being created;
- Foregoing digital components to celebrate design outside of the online community;
Focus on these touchpoints to bring your brand to life.