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Design for the people interacting with brands.

/ Aug 27th, 2014

By Massimo Zefferino, Designer+

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I am an African-American male. Don't worry about the color of my skin or the texture of my hair. My name comes from one of my Swahili ancestors. I am over 6ft tall and have an athletic predisposition that makes me a super athlete. You should see me play basketball! It's only a matter of time before I have a sports recruiter knocking at my door and I will be shoulder to shoulder with Lebron or Nash.

No matter how hard and stringent I am with the messages I deliver, what I tell you, what I show you, what I try to convince you of...once you see me, interact with me, and watch me dribble a basketball, you'll quickly experience for yourself that I am NOT in fact who I'm trying to convince you I am.

So, why do companies do this with their brands? Telling you who they are and what they promise to deliver, yet fail to actually take a look at the most important element: the customer experience! What the customer is seeing, what they are hearing, what they are experiencing.

A brand consists of a promise, an experience and a memory. I've witnessed companies (both enterprise and start ups) design their brand promises based on a false impression of who they are - and try to mould their company into it.

The reality is, when the customer 'experiences' the complete opposite of that promise, they will have a very different 'memory' of that brand. Although we may try to govern our brands, we are not in control of them - our customer is, and that's based on their experience and their memory.

Don't design for brands. Design for the people interacting with brands. Pay close attention to every interaction a customer has with your company, your people, your product. A brand is formed on all of a companies efforts, not just the marketed ones.

- If you are a customer centric brand -> have a live receptionist answer your phones

- If you are a support centric brand -> make it human - don't rely solely on tickets

- If you are an eco centric brand -> turn your lights off and buy green energy

- If you are a not-for-profit brand -> be humble - promote desk sharing & working from home

Focus on the customer experience, not just the branded material. Design a customer experience that will leave them with the right memory, the right feeling, the right emotion towards your brand.

The right customer experiences will naturally develop a brand. It will outweigh any branding efforts, and create true, loyal brand champions. Let the customer experience speak for itself and the brand will follow.