Be About It: Your Brand’s Purpose, Authenticity & Experience
If there’s an upside to COVID-19’s impact on the economy, it’s the crash course in accelerated agility.
In my earlier piece about post-Covid experience design, I discussed brand systems and customer experience, explaining that efficacy relies on strategy that accurately reflects a brand’s culture and values.
That’s a fancy way of saying that if you weren’t an authentic brand before, you can’t fake it now.
It doesn’t matter how fast you churn out ‘We’re in This Together’ content and hybrid BLM/Pride avatars. The many embarrassing brand efforts in recent months demonstrate why marketers have been calling for authenticity in the first place. The part that still needs teaching, apparently, is the part about it having to actually come from something real, inside-out.
Owning the brand
The day-to-day vocabulary of brand experience implies ownership (there’s that bullhorn again). It’s usually about guidelines and assets — rules for putting our work into the world. Even with the rise of experiential and immersive content, we haven’t ventured far from the old-fashioned premise that a business creates a brand and a person experiences it. We still run organizations that make stuff and shove it out. It’s all very black and white, active content / passive experience.
We haven’t ventured far from the old-fashioned premise that the business creates the brand, and the person experiences it.
But content on its own isn’t experience, it is part of a system — channels, platforms, spaces, mediums — capable of shaping something more like a feeling. Great brand experiences are much more than assets, they are emotions.
Feelings are the most powerful content type. They’re the ones that — when meaningfully expressed — influence people’s perception of you. This doesn’t seem fair. How are you supposed to create things that influence totally subjective individual feelings? How do we create brand content that embraces the fickle, irrational nature of human desire?
On the other hand, what’s the point if you don’t?
Experiences are outcomes, not initiatives
In a post-Covid economy, a brand’s ability to create positive emotional experiences is more important than ever, and it is putting all of our authenticity, trust, and purpose to the test in the real world — fast. If the brand promise has been a hollow shell, it will crack. In public.
The modern brand has to provide quality, reliable products and services while delivering on quite fluid customer expectations. It should provide real value beyond immediacy. Perception is everything.
Feelings are the most powerful content type.
The first step in navigating the challenge is to flip the script we’ve been subconsciously selling ourselves for years. Get rid of the bullhorn and design the handshake. Make peace with the realization that the experience is an outcome — a result of labor and empathy.
The framework — a system — is designed by us, but the outcome is in the eye of the beholder, so to speak. The value is in the experience.
If it’s not authentic, it’s just advertising
When the value is the experience, there must be depth and purpose. For organizations that have developed their strategy from the inside-out, this is already business as usual. If your organization talks about purpose but isn’t aligned internally on what that means, your evolution will stall. Customers won’t understand you, and it will be painful to adapt to change.
Worse still, it means the entire system is likely to be weak and underdeveloped. Adapting to dramatic change like Covid-19 will be almost impossible, and it will lay bare the chaos that has likely been covered up for quite some time.
The worst mistake you can make at this point is to try to fix the cracks from inside the system. You don’t have the internal capability — or we wouldn’t be here — and you lack the perspective to see the whole system from the inside. You need help, and that’s OK.
Bringing in support that’s focused on customer experience across org units is faster and less expensive than multi-quarter initiatives that suffer from the same internal illness you’re trying to cure. Let us extend a hand.