I’d like to help some of the entrepreneurs out there get it straight.
Your brand and your product are essentially one story that you’re telling. Effective brands let their products reveal different sides of their personalities, while still remaining on message.
The best way to control this messaging is through your product’s design: the way it looks, the user experience around it, etc.
All these design elements should add up to an appealing and immediately recognizable brand experience for your customers. The effect should be similar to how you can pick out the face of a friend immediately from a crowd.
As a dead obvious example, the iPhone is a perfect ambassador for the Apple brand. It’s sophisticated and elegant, yet user-friendly—and all of these qualities scream Apple.
Of course, not everybody has Apple’s formidable resources to throw at product design. If a company is just starting out, chances are money is pretty tight.
The business simply needs to nail down some key principles and iterate from there.
In this short article, I want to talk about four ways a company can help its products express the brand.
1. Do the Legwork
One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is moving forward without having its brand defined.
Now of course, there’s always room for iteration. Sometimes, a brand needs to be determined empirically. It might take some experience as a company before you can confidently define your brand.
Generally, though, a company should have a pretty good idea of who it is and what it stands for before it starts moving into high-volume production.
Without this core identity in place, customers don’t have a lot to hold onto when trying to form a relationship with your business.
And without this emotional component, your organization might move a few units, but there isn’t much hope for its longevity. Each product design will be an island unto itself, dictated by the whims of whatever the designer feels like that day.
This incoherence won’t give a customer anything to identify with, and sales will ultimately suffer. Do the legwork!
2. Focus on the Experience
In a sense, a product only exists through its interaction with a customer.
To return to the Apple example, an iPhone is only relevant because it belongs to somebody. It houses unique photos, contacts, work information, and so much more.A product is an experience, or even a sum of experiences.Click To Tweet
Each of these experiences is an opportunity to relate your product back to your brand. The iPhone is known for its ease of use. Therefore, Apple is known for making easy to use products. Simple.
This principle might seem obvious. But focusing on the experiential aspects of a product will make it way easier to imagine how to form a positive relationship between a customer and a brand.
Think of it like making a first impression. You might be the smartest, most brilliant person in a room. But if you’ve got something hanging from your nose, nobody will care because nobody will want to talk to you.
3. Put It in Context
When designing a brand-expressive product, a company should always stop and ask itself: how does this product fit into the rest of the product line?
Is the design unique while still pointing back to the brand and the other products? Is the art and copy that is supporting the product on-brand?
Having consistent branding is a bit of a delicate tightrope walk. But putting your product in context with the rest of your merchandise and the overall brand is crucial.
A major example is Starbucks. Each product—whether a drink, bag of beans, or coffee maker—relates back to every other product, as well as the core brand.
It’s not just a matter of an iconic logo (though that certainly helps). It’s the color scheme, packaging, etc.
4. Control the Variables
And this leads to my last point. It’s important to keep all variables in your control. Nothing can ruin a good customer experience faster than just packaging your product in a plain cardboard box.
Every element of the customer’s experience is speaking for your brand, so you must give every element the proper attention.
For example, the bedding company Brooklinen packages its sheets in a branded tote bag. This sort of detail, though seemingly simple, achieves a number of things.
First, it shows the customer that your company cares enough to put effort into small details. It also relates the product back to elements of the brand’s identity. The tote bag alludes to the sort of urban lifestyle associated with a brand like Brooklinen.
This attentiveness shows that you can take advantage of every element of a product’s design to leverage a relationship between your brand and your customer.