Interfaces and digital experiences are as much a part of a brand as it’s logo - they’re all elements created to communicate values, character and purpose.
A brand is more than just a unique name or symbol to distinguish your business from others, it’s a promise of an experience and a statement of purpose. It is a message to customers that describes the nature of your product, the way in which you deliver it and the kind of character and personality customers can expect when dealing with you.
Every business creates experiences. Whether it’s the experience of using your product, contacting your customer services, walking through your store or reading a piece of content you published, your brand and it’s values will guide the kind of experiences you create. With the prevalence of digital experiences, brands are under more pressure than ever to guide experiences in new frontiers like apps, websites, social media, and physical digital installations such as retail.
Getting brand values right can have a big impact on the success of customer experiences. Getting these right before you design digital experiences can bring focus to creating content, behaviours, interfaces and interactions that forge meaningful connections with your customers.
Branding visuals and content
Through use of tone of voice and visual style you can create a coherent, recognisable sense of character. As part of established brand practices you will no doubt have considered what colours, typography, visual styles, editorial content and imagery best match your brand's attitude. Having focused core values help to shape a common tone and mood, no matter what media or experience you are creating.
When communicating with customers, a brand could focus on the specific qualities of their product, for example by using photos of the product like Apple does.
Alternatively, a brand could focus on the effect it has on the people who use it, for example by using photos of people using their product, like Samsung does.
Both are valid ways of talking about what you do, but they represent two distinct attitudes. The first suggests a focus on premium quality, the second a focus on the experiences that their product can foster.
A brand is not just what it looks like or says, it is also how it behaves. Establishing brand behaviours is important in digital experiences because they guide how you respond to users interactions.
A great example of this is how brands behave on social media. When posting or responding to others on Twitter, it’s a conversation. To have a conversation with other people, your brand needs to be able to behave, respond and act like a person. This means having personality, character and a point of view - and these values need to be rooted in your brand.
Likewise, interactions with an app or website can be mini conversations. Selecting a purchase option on your online store can be conversational. How would you like sales staff to talk to customers? Friendly and quirky, or straight-talking and efficient? Simple little touches like thank you messages or expressions of personality can add up to strengthened customer relationships.
MailChimp is a clear example for simple expressions of personality. They have a great set of guidelines for adding personality to their experiences that covers a range of different kinds of conversations and venues. You can see their complete set of personality guidelines at voiceandtone.com.
Interactive experiences are a new frontier for many brands, and an environment where traditional brand guidelines run the risk of falling short. But, a strong set of core brand values can help direct the priorities given to interactions and tasks.
If, like Google, your brand values include being plainspoken and evidence based, you might lean towards a utilitarian focus on functionality and content.
Alternatively if, like MailChimp, your values focus on friendly experiences for visitors and simplifying complex tasks, you might focus on rich storytelling with colourful, friendly task interfaces.
Branding signature interactions
Beyond visuals and personality, creating unique and visually distinct ‘signature interactions’ can differentiate you from other businesses. These can engage users by encouraging them to interact, and be striking or simple visual cues for brand recognition.
Simple as it may be, Facebook’s like button is perhaps the epitome of signature interactions. This simple tool takes the central purpose of Facebook - communicating with your friends - and makes it easy and immediate. Despite it's simplicity, it's proven to be so popular people have even named their child after it.
You can read Facebook’s short but brilliantly rationalised blog post about introducing the Like button here.
However you feel about them (the Harvard Business Review article “The Worst Business Model in the World” sums it up well), Wonga’s dials encourage users to play with their quote tool and buy into the idea of their financial products.