Why a Successful Brand Requires a Superior User Experience

Original post found here, in collaboration with the super-rad-cool guys & gals over at RealThread

Let’s talk about what we know about a successful brand. We know a successful brand is “memorable, unique, and timeless”. We know a successful brand stands for something. They have values, and create loyalty through sharing these values. We know that a successful brand has personality. They have an origin story — it shapes “who they are” and helps define the character traits the consumer relates to. Most of all, we know that a successful brand is consistent. It positions itself a source of stability for the customer. It adheres to its brand values and follows through on the promises those values imply.

But what happens to a brand when the identity, originally designed to fit three mediums is divided, copy-and-pasted, or resized to fit every new interaction of the ever expanding consumer landscape? The result is a splintered, watered down version of the original brand. It becomes unrelatable — an inconsistent and unstable spectre of it’s former self. It is not a brand that can be experienced.

It’s not news to anyone to suggest that a successful brand is one that can be experienced. This is the age of a calculated experience — UI/UX defined, perfected and dissected into separate tasks, both decidedly too valuable to be the responsibility of a single person — all in a single generation of the web. However, as brand touchpoints multiply, the user experience as executed by a brand remains inconsistent and fragmented. These mantras we’ve built for ourselves, the ideologies we check back with and compare our brands with in order to measure our success have become outdated. A successful brand views user experience as a starting point, rather than a single piece of the puzzle.

User experience as executed by a brand often lacks the perspective to create the experience necessary connect with its consumers in a meaningful way. Handed down from the re-invention of web design, user experience finds itself relegated to a subset of the website — a single touchpoint of a brand. Burrowing the user experience so deep within the brand creates an inconsistent and fragmented impression of the brand. Moving the user experience to the forefront of brand management by definition spans every interaction between brand and consumer. Making the experience a brand priority allows it to grow with the expanding territory of devices and social media, in one consistent voice.

As the calculated experience is being perfected in the web and interactions space, the consumer is becoming increasingly accustomed to a seamless transition from one platform to another; from checkout to delivery; from app to plate. The need for a superior user experience is quickly moving from supplementary, to necessary. Customers have a greater number of choices, and more and more channels through which to pursue them. The consumer environment is such that the integrated and consistent solution always wins.

image source http://weheartit.com/entry/86380979

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Real talk: Cinnabon. We’ve all had a life time of cinnamon rolls, some better than others, some probably better than Cinnabon. Someone says cinnamon roll, you could take it or leave it — probably go for the banana bread instead, to be honest. Someone says “Cinnabon” and the dreams of pulling apart the warm, melting dough and endless frosting are seductive. Eating a cinnamon roll is a snack. Eating a Cinnabon is an experience. From the irresistible smell that drags you in despite a short connection time and a distant gate, to the stomach ache and sticky fingers holding a plate that’s been scraped clean — the experience is engineered. Building the brand around the experience — the anticipation, the indulgence and the mess — rather than just the product itself, and relating every touch point back to the experience creates a reliable and consistent brand. Entire environments are built around the first time you pulled your first piece off a Cinnabon. That experience is recreated — beginning with quality control, to the collateral and right down to the paint choice — until it’s an experience you can rely on, assured that no matter where you are in the world, you’ll find consistency at Cinnabon. It embraces the entire experience, the good, the great and then the very, very ugly, and still leaves you with fond, though admittedly selective, memories and anticipation for your next visit.

User experience encompasses every aspect of a brand, from the product, its features, ease of use and reliability, to the customer service, packaging and marketing. It sets your organization on a path from which all brand touchpoints can originate, and continue to relate back to. It turns a mediocre pastry into a family event, a cup of burned coffee into a national pastime — it’s the difference between a good brand and a great brand, a fleeting brand and enduring brand. As the digital age continues to diminish the barrier to entry for nearly all markets, and drives the competition up, a superior user experience is the mark of a successful brand.