At FutureBrand Speck, we talk a lot about human-centered design that fosters connected brand and product experiences. What does this mean?
We refer to “brand” as an organization’s personality, and “product” as the physical manifestation of that brand – things like devices, service offerings, and environments. With respect to brand, it all revolves around human emotion, and, the way to create an emotional bond lies in connected touch points.
To be clear, we’re not talking about a “customer journey” where the customer migrates along a linear path of touch points from acquisition through attrition. It’s more like a branded cocoon where the touch points form a dimensional matrix that integrates all aspects of the brand and product experience to address users’ unspoken central need drivers. These need drivers aren’t limited to product function – they extend to environment, aesthetics, digital integration, community, service, and more.
Apple is a great example of a connected brand and product experience. Their process starts with a deep understanding how customers want to feel about themselves – in Apple’s case, it’s confident, polished, hip, and included. From there, all interactions with the brand stem from supporting this emotional premise. When customers interact with the product or visit the website, the clean aesthetic, energetic mood, and elegant product design and interface pull through.
When the stores launched, Apple had only four products in the portfolio. To create a connected experience around only four products required that the products themselves be presented in the best possible light – they had to look as good in person as they did in the photographs. In-store, the experience focuses on how these products fit into people’s lives through providing the opportunity to engage with the products in an intimate way, not just as objects but as extensions of their lifestyle.
While the appeal of Apple products and aesthetic are powerful components, it’s the customer facing people that serve as the heart of the connected brand and product experience. In-store, Apple employees are trained to employ a painstaking prescribed service methodology that supports customers’ brand affinity and emotional connection. It starts with approaching customers with a friendly, personalized, and warm welcome. From there, employees are trained to gently probe with a series of closed and open-ended questions designed to match the customer with the right product for what they need, not the most expensive.
Once the customer’s needs are identified, representatives are trained to provide value and solve problems in the moment. Apple employees are reminded that they aren’t in the hardware business – instead, they’re in the business of enriching lives. There are many ways beyond making a sale to delight customers and build loyalty. For instance, if a customer visits the store for technical help without an appointment, a representative can reserve an appointment for the following day in real time. Representatives are also trained to listen for unexpressed concerns – things like learning to use a new operating system. A specialist that senses this concern can recommend special service offerings that include face-to-face training sessions and assistance with transferring data from a PC to a Mac.
All in-store interactions end with an invitation and reason to return. Depending on how the interaction has transpired, a representative might extend an offer for advice at a later date, or offer a business card so that the customer can make direct contact post-sale with any questions. How a person feels at the completion of the transaction significantly impacts both brand loyalty and likeliness to recommend to others. It also drives the impetus to return. While it’s the combination loyalty and subsequent advocacy that create value. It’s the connected brand and product experience that drives the loyalty at the onset.
Our Director of Branded Environments who, prior to joining FutureBrand Speck, worked on the design for the Apple Store experience characterizes the store as part of an ecosystem that connects people to the brand and allows Apple to tell a coherent story across all touch points. Steve Jobs envisioned the store as open, welcoming, and democratic to represent the qualities of the brand experience – openness, accessibility, and ease of use. The stores are designed to be social space, not a transactional one. This intersection of brand, product, environment, experience, community, and emotional connection creates the connected experience and rests at the heart of the Apple value proposition.
Contact us to learn more about how we can help you create brand-driven and human-centered connected experiences to provide value for your customers.