Brands face an enormous challenge. Whether they are established or not, the digital transformation forces brands to change. Users can, will and expect to interact with brands on many more touchpoints, 24/7 a day. Customers expect a relevant and ‘seamless’ service which reflects the value(s) of a brand. Successful branding in the digital era means different ways of brand management, new forms of working and a focus on ‘new’ disciplines and aspects. In this context UX seems to become more and more important. However, what’s the ideal approach to make businesses and brands more ‘UX minded’? And what are changes (and challenges) for the UX community?
On December 6, UX Meet Up Amsterdam hosted an event with Pieter Aarts and Frans Stijnman focusing on these topics. Working at Osudio they deal with branding, UX and business on a regular basis, helping established brands such as Carlsberg, Danone, Philips, and Miele to become successful in e-business.
Branding: a short introduction
As an introduction Pieter Aarts kicked off with a short history of branding. For centuries, the basics of branding have been the same: as a business, you need identification (who is the owner?) and differentiation (what is the difference with other competitors?). In the last decades the communication of values, both functional and emotional, became increasingly important. Pieter: ‘A premium beer such as Carlsberg or Heineken is differentiating mostly via a strong brand, through emotional values that appeal to the consumer. Beer in itself becomes a commodity, so a premium brand needs to invest heavily in how it appears, behaves and interacts with clients, thus building and creating a certain value.’
Effective branding pays off
Research, such as the Forbes 100 and the British Design Council, shows that companies who are taking branding, design and user centricity seriously, are outperforming companies who are not. Besides higher turnover, profit, NPS (Net Promoter Score), market share, image and reputation, companies emphasizing branding, design and user centricity, achieve a distinctive sustainable competitive advantage. These results are not just valid for big established corporates in the B2C segment, but especially for SMB’s (small and medium sized business) in the B2B segment.
"Successful digital branding depends mostly on ‘delivering the proof of your brand to your customers’ consistently and constantly, trough an enormous number of touchpoints"
Where does UX come in?
Organizations need to deal with change. We’re all in the middle of a transition: from the industrial era, we’re moving into the digital era. This is a new playing field with different rules. Pieter observes: ‘Traditional branding was relatively simple: a strict control and direction on brand identity, brand values, and a limited number of (most physical) touchpoints did the job. But branding in the digital era becomes far more complex. Success depends mostly on ‘delivering the proof of your brand to your clients’ consistently and constantly, through an enormous number of touchpoints. And… that’s exactly where UX comes in!’
The changes (and challenges) for UX
Business and technology are too often the two main drivers for innovation and digital transformation. But user needs are still frequently missed out. Referring to IDEO’s ‘sweet spot’ method, relevant products and services are only creating and delivering value if feasibility (technology), viability (business) and desirability (people) are equally addressed. And exactly in this role UX will create and deliver value. UX as a delighter for users, UX as a facilitator for a more holistic, outside-in and user-centric innovation process, and UX as key success factor for (digital) branding.
How UX can work for branding (and commerce)
That all said, Frans Stijnman kicked in with a clear stand: ‘The UX community is often (too) shy, decent and reactive. Yes, as UX professionals we all know how to make platforms, systems and brands more relevant for clients. But how do you make it into the boardroom? The only way to validate the importance of UX for business and branding is simple: just start doing things.’ Frans pointed directly to the new book of Eric Ries. In ‘The Startup Way’, Ries reveals how entrepreneurial principles can be used by businesses and disciplines of all kinds, UX included. Frans pleaded for a more proactive and bold attitude: ‘Don’t wait for the brand-director or the C-Level to start thinking about UX, just start bottom-up doing the right things and proof how UX really works.’
"For Osudio, next to ICT, UX (CX) is becoming more and more important, simply because it pays off’
The Osudio way: make UX work for brands
In the Q&A Frans dived into the Osudio approach. ‘As Osudio we develop large e-commerce platforms who really have a huge impact on the business of our clients. Next to ICT, UX (CX) is becoming more and more important, simply because it pays off. And yes, we can validate the accountability of UX in our projects better and better. For instance: an increase in Customer Lifetime Value, NPS (Net Promotor Score) and conversion.’
Pieter added to that: ‘Do realize this approach takes time and that our clients and Osudio are learning together, step by step. We now use a very solid foundation of different UX-tools and UX-methodologies which we can use situationally. This really works in the context of a specific account: sometimes UX is just a small but important ingredient, but we are also able to use UX full blown where needed.’
As take-away Pieter and Frans shared some ‘need to haves’ making UX inevitable for (digital) branding:
- Find an ambassador in the organization who understands UX and acts like an advocate
- Choose your battles and be smart where to battle for UX
- Help clients to become ‘digitally mature’, this requires bringing in inspiration from outside as well as cooperating intensively together
- Start fast, start small, create small successes, and build upon that
- Make UX accountable and build solid business cases (and thus make UX unavoidable)
Osudio will host the UX Meet-Up Amsterdam on January 3, 2018: see you all there!
Research Design Council
An article by IDEO about their ‘Sweet Spot’ methodology
Slides PPT (slideshare)