“We no longer have a user experience role in our organization. User Experience is the outcome of many roles, including marketing, sales, service and design”.
“the sum ofactivities that a user encounters in the process of researching, identifying, buying, sharing and interacting with a product, brand and service”.
We’ve all done it: used the L-word in reference to a certain favorite brand. The common assumption is when we say "I love Coke" (or whatever product we fancy), we’re using love as a lazy stand-in for whatever true, presumably lesser emotion we’re feeling—"contributing to the trivialization of the word," as Don Draper once vented. But what if consumers who say they love a brand actually mean it with the same emotional intensity they do when referring to a beloved person?
It’s a "vital question" that a research trio from Bergische University Wuppertal in Germany, led by marketing scholar Tobias Langner, recently tried to answer. True to Don’s instinct, Langner and colleagues concluded by way of several measures that interpersonal love is far more intense than brand love. No big surprise there, but the work did lead to an unexpected discovery: brands might not pack the emotional punch of a loved one, but they do produce similar feelings to someone we like.
"The emotionality evoked by loved brands is just as intense as that evoked by a close friend," report Langner and company in the journal Psychology and Marketing. "Moreover, consumers experience emotions in a brand love relation that are even more positive than those evoked in close, interpersonal liking relationships."
The researchers first approached the question with structured interviews of 60 study participants about brands and people they loved and liked. They noticed some similarities in the way participants discussed humans and items: those that were loved felt indispensable, triggered caretaking instincts, and enhanced a moment or experience. But beloved brands were described in rational, highly reciprocal terms—the good had to give something back to the consumer—whereas interpersonal love could be selfless and emotionally one-sided.
Both brands and people did produce positive emotions, but even the strongest brand love didn’t meet the extremes of person love. When independent coders analyzed the interviews for emotional statements, they found emotions present in every single accounts of an interpersonal love relationship. The same was only true for 90% of "close friend" relations, and 83% of "brand love" relations. (The figure was 67% for brands we merely like.)
"Compared with their motivations for interpersonal love, consumers are more driven by rational benefits when they love a brand," write Langner et al. "Although interpersonal relations might be benefit-driven too, the anticipated benefits in interpersonal relations tend to be emotional in nature."
The problem with relying on interviews about love is that, almost by nature, it’s a difficult emotion to articulate. So as a follow-up study, the researchers went straight to the feelings themselves. They recruited 20 test participants in committed relationships and showed them a series of pictures: the romantic partner, a good friend, a brand they claimed to love, and a similar product they just liked. The researchers captured skin arousal measures via electrodes during the viewing, and later performed an emotional assessment designed to gauge intensity and positivity.
The physiological tests confirmed what the interviews had suggested. When participants saw a picture of a loved person, they felt significantly more intense emotions than when they saw their fave brand, as indicated by skin arousal and emotional assessment. Loved ones made us all tingly; loved things, a little less so. "Thus … interpersonal (romantic) love and brand love constitute different emotions," they conclude.
But the surprise came when the researchers compared responses to beloved brands with those of close friends. They found no measurable difference in terms of skin arousal, nor in terms of emotional intensity. And on the positivity assessment, the loved brand actually produced warmer vibes than a good pal did. "Thus," they write, "the assumption that close interpersonal relations generally evoked more positive emotions than brand relations was not confirmed." (As expected, emotional arousal, intensity, and positivity for a loved brand were all greater than for a liked brand.)
The researchers consider some of their results preliminary. Both studies, but especially the bodily test, had fairly small sample sizes. Actual contact with people or brands might have elicited different physiological responses than the pictures did. And the terms like and love remain not only relative from person to person but variable within an individual.
But it’s probably wise to think about what message you’re sending a spouse or romantic partner next time you say you literally love a brand. Not to mention your best friends.
Six questions to ask yourself when designing a brand
Your company's logo is the foundation of your business branding. It is probably the first interaction that you will have with your customers. An effective logo can establish the right tone and set the proper ethos. After years of crafting logos for different projects, I've come up with a set of questions that I always ask myself before delivering a new logo.
Above all design guidelines, the most important criterion is whether the logo reflects the character of the company. The emotions that the logo evokes should be appropriate to the company values. For example, the Disney logo evokes a sense of happiness and optimism. The curvy, fun typeface is appropriate for a company that has been making cartoons and animated pictures for kids. However, a similar logo style on a sales platform would not be appropriate.
BEHIND EVERY GREAT LOGO IS A STORY.
Designers should understand the psychology of colors and the effect that typeface has on the design of a great logo. For example, green promotes relaxation and usually reflects growth, health, and the environment. Red, on the other hand, may evoke danger and passionate emotions. Similarly for typefaces, Garamond, Helvetica, and Comic Sans all elicit very different sentiments. Serif fonts like Garamond promote the idea of respect and tradition, and are hence more suitable for an environment that demands integrity such as a university or a news publisher. Sans Serif fonts like Helvetica are clean and modern, and are well suited for high-tech businesses. Casual script fonts like Comic Sans are probably best left for fun companies such as toy companies. A good understanding of the psychology of colors, typefaces, and shapes is an important part of making a great logo.
2. WHAT'S THE MEANING BEHIND THE LOGO?
Behind every great logo is a story. A great logo is not about slapping your business name on a generic shape, which is why choosing from ready-made logos is a poor idea. A logo has to have a meaningful story. A good designer first understands the culture of the company, the tone of the product, and the vision of the business, much before embarking on ideas for the logo. The end result of a quality logo is reflective of the philosophy and values of the company.
The arrow in the logo represents that Amazon sells everything from A to Z and the smile on the customer's face when they buy a product.
3. WILL THE LOGO STAND THE TEST OF TIME?
How will the logo look in two, 10, 20 years? Designers should avoid getting sucked into flavor-of the-month trends. Trends like ultra-thin fonts and flat shadows are design styles that will probably not stand the test of time. Simple is far better than complex. A simple yet memorable logo can be used in 20 years without looking dated.
A good way to test the logo is to let it sit with you for a while before releasing it. Some logos grow with you--the more you look at it, the more you like it. Some logos start to feel nauseating after a while--the more you look at it, the more you hate it. If after a couple of weeks with the logo you find it boring, the logo is probably not strong or timeless enough.
4. IS IT UNIQUE? CAN IT BE INSTANTLY RECOGNIZABLE?
A great logo is distinctive, memorable, and recognizable. Even if you have only seen it once, you should still be able to remember what it looks like after a period of time. A good way to test this is to show your logo to a friend, then cover it up and have your friend describe the logo in a week. A fresh pair of eyes can be very effective in figuring out the most memorable components of a logo.
In addition, if the logo reminds you of others you have seen, it is not distinct enough.
When I begin designing a logo, I always start in black and white. Designing with this limitation first forces you to make sure that the logo is recognizable purely by its shape and outline, and not by its color. A strong logo is one that is still memorable just by its contours.
A one-color logo also provides the benefit of using your brand easily in multiple mediums with different backgrounds and textures.
6. IS IT CLEAR AND DISTINCT IN SMALL DIMENSIONS?
Another way to make sure logos are simple and recognizable is to scale it down dramatically. Even at tiny resolutions, a strong logo should still be recognizable at a glance. This is also a good test to make sure that the logo is not complicated with unnecessary design flourishes. Here, you see that the Nike, McDonalds, Twitter, and WWF logos are still very distinct at small sizes. The GE and Starbucks logos are far more cluttered, and less recognizable when they are small.
These are not hard-and-fast rules, just guidelines for making an effective logo. It is still possible to make a strong, complicated logo, but understand the trade-offs.
THE THUMPF OF A BMW'S DOOR CLOSING, THE MUTED CLICK OF CALCULATOR BUTTONS, A HUMAN ON THE PHONE. IT HOOKS YOU IN.
“The devil is in the detail” is a cliché that happens to be true, but let’s turn it around: The magic is in the detail. What constitutes quality in a product, besides the raw materials you choose? The attention paid to detail.
Look at a knock-off Gucci handbag and consider its original counterpart: The difference, besides the “leather” chosen, is in the stitching, the inside lining, the zippers, and so on. In short, quality resides in the hidden details that aren't obvious to most--until you touch the product and look at it up close. It's craftsmanship that gives luxury fashion brands longevity and which lets them weather trends.
Brands are no different from the products and services that they represent. Frantically searching for the one “Unique Positioning Statement (UPS)” or logo design that is going to simultaneously sum up precisely what your company stands for and differentiate it from the rest of the pack is in some ways a meaningless battle. Taglines may be catchy, but they don't, in the end, make people buy products. What determines whether a woman buys Chanel No. 5 or Issey Miyake's L'Eau d'Issey Florale? Not taglines but how either smells on her skin.
What makes you so special?
What makes your brand unique and better than the competition is the compounded totality of many little things. That means you can’t just consider the attention given to producing an outstanding service or product--you also have to think about how the sales force and support team treats its customers and how the receptionist answers the phone.
TAGLINES MAY BE CATCHY, BUT THEY DON'T MAKE PEOPLE BUY PRODUCTS.
The Jawbone UP24 fitness tracking device is a good example. After diligently tracking my sleep, workout regime, and diet, I became properly addicted to the wristband and to its accompanying iOS app. When the band suddenly stopped working, after three months, I flew into a minor panic. All my data (and exercise momentum) would be lost, I worried. But Jawbone turned out to have an excellent support system. They troubleshot the problem with me seamlessly, on email and over the phone. They used human beings, not robots. I followed the progress of my issue via a concise thread on their support ticketing system. After they quickly exhausted all possible solutions and saw that the device was still malfunctioning, they shipped me a replacement band immediately. I became loyal to the brand thanks to the humane and efficient treatment I received. The extra attention taken by Jawbone to make sure that their staff was professional and courteous--while making sure that I never got lost in a maze of telephone drones or automated emails--made a huge difference.
Keep the details invisible.
It’s the combination of myriad details that shapes brand image in the minds of customers. These details may be transmitted subconsciously. Not everyone recognizes that hand stitching makes a serious difference. Expertly executed details, imperceptible to most, should create a sense of magic and wonder. Think of an up-market German car, such as an Audi, BMW or Mercedes. When you are at the BMW showroom and you step into, say, a 5 Series model, the satisfyingly clean thumpf sound that the door makes as you shut it signifies quality. There’s no rattling, no sound of sheet metal being slammed, just that confidence-inspiring, compact sound. It’s the sound of outside noise and discomfort being sealed off while you enter a safe, comfortable place. Behind the steering wheel are carefully wrought details, too: the smell, the way the seat feels, the feel of your hands on the steering wheel, the way the dashboard buttons have a certain resistance, and so on.
For those who remember, think about the perfect resistance and muted click of the Hewlett-Packard scientific calculator buttons, compared to their competitors Casio and Texas Instruments. The latter two companies clearly hadn’t spent a lot of energy thinking about what it would feel like to press down the keys. And it made a difference.
Advertising and branding should be thought of in the same way. Yes, the big idea is important, but success hinges on its execution, consistency, and attention to each and every word. Do define the brand with succinct messaging, but also trust that consumers will recognize the collective positive attributes of the brand rather than just its tagline. Make sure your communications are well crafted and recognizable. All touch points need to be carefully considered, down to every HTML email campaign.
Apple and Crate & Barrel stand out as excellent examples of how to design the perfect email. Google’s emails, on the other hand, lack consistency and seem rather haphazardly generated. Emails from Apple and Crate & Barrel are advantageously laid out, with beautiful imagery that's logically arranged and information that's easy to digest (if not concise). They're not afraid to make us scroll; they don't cram content above the fold.
All these details, you may think, aren't invisible at all. What's really invisible is the brand's aptitude to carefully organize every detail, whether we see it or not. It all adds up, and that's a lot.