What is brand experience?
Brand experience is about more than just a logo and a colour palette, your brand experience is defined by your customer’s interactions with your organisation. When designing a brand experience we are considering our audience, and taking a strategic approach, to create a cohesive experience.
A short case study
A great way to start the brand conversation is to run a brand experience workshop. Poorly defined brands can lead to a poor brand experience. By considering the wider brand experience we can remove brand ambiguity and make strategic decisions to clearly define the brand, both internally and for customers.
I recently worked with an established horticultural society with over 80 years of history in order to redevelop their current brand into one that would support them through a process of digital transformation. With such an established brand meaning a lot to stakeholders and the society’s members, the challenge was in retaining the brand essence while enabling the brand to progress into new digital channels. Brand experience activities facilitated the conversation around the brand and helped stakeholders remain objective and focussed on the most important aspect of their brand; their membership.
The workshop resulted in a collection of design principles and brand assets they could develop and implement as they entered new areas of business.
How we did it
We borrowed some activities from The Brand Sprint, which has been used by Google, and ventures to help define numerous brands (See: https://library.gv.com/the-three-hour-brand-sprint-3ccabf4b768a for more information)
We made some changes from the original brand sprint to adapt it to our specific situation – i.e. We had already completed a user research phase and generated personas, which were shared with the participants before the workshop. We were also working with an existing organisation so it had an existing brand perception, that we explored throughout.
We asked the workshop participants to arrive at the workshop having considered two things;
- The existing brand and what they think it says about the society
- Brands, images that they believe the organisation should be aspiring to
All the ideas and inspiration was captured in a shared Pinterest board which was used as a visual aide for discussion when opening ideas up to new directions. It also served as a reference point for answering questions throughout the activities.
On the day of the workshop we started by defining the goal of the day:
“We want to create a shared understanding of the society. Taking the abstract idea of the brand and making it into something tangible that we all understand.”
Before continuing we reviewed the existing personas and discussed the imagery that had been collected by the participants. This got the participants into the mindset of members / customers and started them thinking visually about the brand.
I then selected five core activities to lead the group to achieve this goal:
- Look back / look forward
- Why, how, what
- Top 3 values
- Attitude sliders
Each activity took around 30 to 45 minutes. Next we will provide a short breakdown of each activity and how it helped the organisation define their brand experience.
Look back / look forward
A way to create an understanding of the history of an organisation along with exploring what aspirations they have for the future.
We drew a timeline on a wall and picked out key points from the history of the society. We then extended this line to look at where we see the society being in 5, 10 , 15 and 20 years in the future. This exercise clearly identified the historic strengths of the society along with areas where there are real opportunities for improvement.
Why, how, what
This exercise helps us to get to the core of why as an organisation you do what you do. By understanding the why we can analyse whether the how’s and the what’s are in alignment. By starting with a clear why you can provide a clear direction for your business and differentiate yourself from your competitors.
We started by drawing the three circles and labelling them, why, how and what. Starting with the what we begin writing on our answers on sticky notes. We discussed and came to agreement and stuck these on the outer (what) circle. This process was then repeated for the how. For example:
What: “we write about growing plants”
How: “by producing a quarterly journal for our members”
Once we addressed these we moved on to the why. In this instance we ended up with two core whys.
With an understanding of why the society exists we then moved on to explore what the brand should say about the society.
In Jungian theory Archetypes are universal truths that can be applied to human personality. In most activities, the focus is not concerned with determining whether they are true or false, but uses them as a tool to help guide, explore and define the brand personality.
I used Archetype Cards to help the group understand each archetype’s personality and apply it to their own situation.
The group worked through the archetype cards, considering each in turn and asking themselves; Do they represent the aspiration of the organisation? This process was repeated as we refined the cards down to two primary archetypes and four secondary archetypes.
This section of the workshop was essential to enabling the client to explore and define where they positioned their brand.
Top 3 values
These are the 3 values that define your organisation. They are another way of really focussing on what your organisation is about.
First I shared a bunch of example values, you can find loads online just search for “company values”. We then each came up with our own list of values for the organisation. Next we shared our lists, discussed and prioritised. This process was continued until we got down to 3 core values.
This process gives us more insight and definition to our organisation and it’s aspirational values.
In this activity we capture the attitudes of the organisation by agreeing where the brand sits on various scales. First I sketched out the following:
As a group we then decided where the organisation currently sits on each of these scales. We then discussed where we wanted the brand to be positioned in the future.
The insight gathered here clearly showed that for each of the aspirational scales, there was some work to do to re-position the brand.
The outputs from the brand experience workshop gave the society a shared understanding of the brand, and provided them with the basis to start defining their brand guidelines. These were presented as a simple slide deck detailing the outputs of the workshop. They will form the basis of the brand as it is refined and built upon. It’s important to note that all the outputs were shared with the organisation, both so they understand them and can take ownership of the brand moving forward.