User experience has been the rising star of our digital world. From managing the user experience on a website to an entire product experience within a software-as-a-service, UX teams have grown in popularity and influence. As UX has grown as a field, companies have faced growing debates over what brand experience means. Who owns the brand experience, and should there even be a distinction between brand experience and user experience?
While it’s possible to make several good arguments that UX and brand experience are one and the same, a brand will be even more powerful if it encompasses much more.
To start, let’s discuss some common definitions.
Many people immediately think of brand elements when the words “brand” or “branding” come up. Brand elements include the logo, fonts, colors and icons developed by a brand. While these are important components of a brand they are only part of the total brand.
User experience, as the name suggests, focuses on providing a pleasant customer experience. Elements of this include ease of use, usability testing, and adjusting small details within the product.
Based on the two definitions above, it’s easy to see how brand managers and UX managers frequently come into conflict. Sometimes following strict brand guidelines can lead to a poor user experience. The brand manager argues that content needs to be brand compliant in order to support the brand. The UX manager argues that a poor user experience harms the brand.
Ultimately, this circular argument is the wrong conversation to be having. A brand’s identity and a brand’s user experience both fall under the overarching umbrella of the brand promise. The brand promise includes the fundamental story, values, and positioning of the brand. With a well-defined brand promise, UX decisions can be driven by that promise and maintain a consistent brand even if a logo isn’t present.
BMW’s brand promise embodies both its customers’ UX and brand experience.
A well-defined brand promise is also what differentiates your business from others. UX is mainly driven by user research, best practices and testing. If an entire brand is based solely on data, there’s little there to differentiate one business from another.
However, a unique and simple brand promise can make your brand stand out from the rest if it is implemented consistently across the organization. In fact, 64% of consumers cite shared values as the reason they associate with a brand.
Brand promise in action
A quick review of the airline industry provides a good example of how critical it is to create a brand promise and then actually use that to guide all decisions from brand elements to the user experience.
United Airlines states its shared purpose as “Connecting people. Uniting the world.” While it certainly managed to “unite” a sea of Twitter users in outrage over mistreatment of a puppy and a passenger that was forcibly removed from a plane, few consumers would cite connection or unity as a feeling they associate with United Airlines.
Southwest Airlines, on the other hand, has been consistent with its purpose of connecting travelers to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.
Southwest Airlines follows the motto of “Happy employees = Happy customers” religiously. Rather than providing strict rules and scripts for its employees to follow, it gives employees the freedom to make their own decisions. This policy allows Southwest Airlines to offer exemplary customer service as its employees adapt to individual situations.
Southwest Airlines was also the first airline to offer profit sharing to its employees and has never laid anyone off or cut pay.
The brand promise is reflected in the brand elements as well, from the heart in the logo to the bright friendly colors and the low-price fares they call “Wanna get away.” By maintaining such clear values, it’s easy for every Southwest employee, from flight attendants to web designers, to live up to its brand promise.
Connecting user experience to the brand promise
1. Define brand experience objectives:
The first step to connecting user experience to the brand promise is to ensure those overarching objectives are well-defined. These objectives are generally decided by upper management, but they should be written down and communicated throughout the entire organization. A good brand promise should be simple, memorable and inspire both employees and customers.
2. Define brand attributes:
In order to act on a brand promise and maintain brand consistency, build out a larger framework that explains how the brand promise is communicated. This is usually accomplished through a series of adjectives. Those adjectives are then further defined by a series of guardrails describing what it is and what it isn’t.
For example, Macaroni Grill’s core attributes are based on the acronym “C.R.A.V.E.” The acronym stands for “crafted,” “regalare,” “amore famiglia,” “vino divino,” and “eataly.”
Each of these attributes is then further defined. For example, “crafted” is described as artisan, unique, fresh and genuine, and it is not corporate, generic, manufactured or inauthentic Italian.
3. Collect user feedback:
Defining a brand’s objectives and attributes will help guide initial UX decisions. However, it’s crucial to also collect user feedback to see whether the UX experience is actually achieving the initial goals laid out in the guidelines. The UX team can then use this feedback to adjust the user experience to better match the desired perception of the brand.
5 Tools for success
UX comes down to the details, and maintaining brand consistency throughout all of the pesky details is much easier with a few good brand management tools in your arsenal.
Rebrandly offers an easy way to take long, ugly links and turn them into branded, shortened links. Branded links help to establish trust, enforce brand recognition, and stand out from the crowd.
Lucidpress is a design and brand management tool that offers lockable templates, empowering every employee to quickly create content while avoiding stretched logos or poor font choices.
HotJar offers an easy way to collect UX data. The service includes heatmapping, visitor recordings, conversion funnel analysis, and form analysis. You can also get direct customer feedback via surveys and test users.
UsabilityHub offers user testing tools, including 5-second tests, click tests, preference tests and navigation tests. You’re able to select your desired demographics or use your own test group.
UxPin is a UX design platform, which allows teams to collaborate on prototypes and document design processes.
Let us know your thoughts on brand experience versus user experience in the comments below.
Guest author: Christina Sanders, LucidPress
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- User experience vs brand experience
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