The last few years have seen significant advances in the general business competency around user experience design and usability. Prodded by industry analysts such as Forrester, and enabled with a growing suite of compelling assessment tools applied both in the laboratory and on the server, executives have begun to understand the strategic business importance of getting customer experience right.
For the pioneers and prophets of user experience design, there’s much vindication here. And perhaps also, a problem. What happens if every competent competitor in your category applies a similar level of skill, resources and business process to achieving better user experience and usability? In aggregate, your industry may be healthier in the perception of customers, but in strategic terms, you are intensifying your investment without a compensating gain in competitive advantage.
With apologies to the aforementioned pioneers, that user experience investment could be one more “red ocean”[1. wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Ocean_Strategy] maneuver. Unless, that is, your user experience investment is anchored with a strategic brand perspective. How is that achieved?
The term we use for this kind of design process is “brand experience design”. In common with “affective design”, the goal of this process is to elicit a specific emotional response. But the difference is this: brand experience design makes explicit formal connections between design goals, experience measurements and brand strategy.
The closest expression of the sense we intend with our term “brand experience design” is the definition offered of “effective design” by Robert Brunner & Stewart Emerey in their fabulous little book, Do You Matter [1. www.amazon.com/Matter-Great-Design-People-Company/dp/0137142447]: “Effective design establishes the emotional relationship you develop with a brand through the total experience, to which a service or product provides a portal.”
Our contribution to this discussion is a practical one:
Supposing you want to create a particular emotional experience across multiple customer touch points with your brand, then how can you do that with efficiency and repeatability?
We see a process that integrates three heuristics as the best working answer to date on this question. These heuristics are:
- Personas – dramatized representations of the targeted customer’s motivations relevant to the field of experience you play in.
- Experiential Attributes – a translation of the meaning of your brand positioning in terms of human experience.
- Projective Research – a collection of research tactics aimed in this case at measuring the range of success or failure in making an experience resonate with the strategic experiential attributes.
Your brand strategy should point you towards a “blue ocean” of distinctive customer experience value. Brand experience design is the process that can move you in that direction, and away from competitors still focused on making the average experience, on average better for the average user.
I’ll be unpacking some of this thinking at an upcoming talk on personas with the AMA in Raleigh. To learn more, follow this link:
For a deeper look at a methodology custom-tailored to address this goal, visit: