In the second installment of our webinar series on creating a fully-formed, digital brand experience, I explored the relationship between brand and user experience, specifically, how both work together to achieve the shared goal of creating a great customer experience.
Do Brand and UX/UI Really Go Together?
As creative disciplines, Brand and UX/UI Strategy are often seen as working independently. Traditionally, Brand work tends to be conceptually driven, focused on identity, and concerned strongly with differentiation. UX/UI Strategy, on the other hand, is more data driven, concerned with actions and behaviors, and values best practices. There are definitely times when Brand and UX/UI Strategy seem to speak completely different languages.
The customer is ultimately what brings these two disciplines together. In a truly cohesive and authentic customer experience, UX/UI Strategy will express your brand – it’s how core concepts like voice, personality and relationship come to life in a digital context. Even more importantly, all UX/UI interactions are improved when they are inspired by a strong brand – brand is the core that makes each tactic belong to the whole.
Where Brand and UX/UI Meet
During my presentation, I focused on four key elements that tie brand and UX strategy together, and how they can be applied.
Context is ultimately about the art of placing your content in the right place at the right time. Think of it as Content Merchandising: the same factors retail merchandisers use to place and display products can be used by business marketers to position content. As One North’s Managing Director of Marketing Jen Bullett discussed in a past webinar, including channel, timing, placement, arrangement and people create digital experiences that are not unlike many retail environment.
When connecting brand and context, it’s not enough to just be where your audience is. Your audience can’t just be present; it has to be ready for the conversation you are trying to have. This is why, for example, many B2B brands find themselves focusing on content placement in LinkedIn over Facebook, and in native advertising over SMS messaging. Effective digital context will align not only to the habits of your users but also to the DBA of your brand.
To today’s marketers, content strategy can mean almost anything, but for the purposes of creating brand and UX alignment, aspects such as topic, format, source, length and timing are the main areas where you’re building the brand connection with customers. Well designed content (including both copy and visual content) can create a number of different brand associations: it can engage, inspire, inform, challenge, surprise or even amuse a potential audience. How you develop and deploy content should be aligned with the personality of your brand and the kind of relationships you want to develop.
As I noted above, UX/UI for the web relies heavily on best practices. There are many “rules” that UX designers follow to create effective interactions, such as limiting complexity or establishing a clear hierarchy of importance. We follow such rules because they work; data and research repeatedly show their effectiveness.
However, best practices, by definition, will not get you to anything new, innovative or different. You could follow all the best rules and end up with something that is mediocre or forgettable. By allowing themselves to be inspired by brand, UX designers can move beyond best practices to create real innovations. We create new rules by deliberately (if carefully) breaking some of the ones we inherit.
Tone & Style
Most marketers know that tone and style for copy and imagery are important, but it requires another level of consideration when designing and implementing UX strategy. A good UX strategy enables and encourages content sharing, yet the more content is shared, the less marketers can rely on visual expression systems like logo, color and fonts to create brand associations. This process, known as “brand fade,” occurs more frequently the more successful you are as a content marketer, making it essential for brand voice to permeate an entire campaign. Building a strong voice directly into the content itself (and not just the channel where it is deployed) will ensure that your brand lives strongly throughout a customer’s digital experience.
For more on brand, don’t forget to join us on May 20th for Nate Denton’s presentation on digital branded expression systems, which will conclude our #1NWebinar series on brand planning. Register here!