How to Create Compelling Brand Experiences

Crafting design strategies that result in truly compelling brand experiences, products and services demands a change from traditional methods. It requires a more creative and iterative design approach, which is optimized towards identifying real human needs and addressing them with meaningful experiences. Paul Noble-Campbell delves deeper into five critical keys to uncovering those true success drivers.

Traditionally the design process had been begun after an organization creates of an exhaustive list of “must have” features and requirements, as means of a design brief. The assumptions used to generate this document are typically based solely on market research data and voice-of-customer (VOC) information.

Starting with a requirements document is a mistake!

Information garnered through market research tends to be based on what has sold in the past, providing only a rear-view mirror perspective of your market. Typically, VOC information consists of survey-generated data and anecdotal stories from ad-hoc customer groups. This data is helpful only for creating incremental improvements, but it does not provide the foundation of knowledge necessary to enable large leaps forward into underserved, differentiated, or “Blue Ocean” spaces (as described in the book “Blue Ocean Strategy” by Kim and Mauborgne).

Many user-needs are latent – so it is extremely unlikely that you could uncover any game-changing insights through customer interviews alone. It is unreasonable to expect that typical customers will have the imagination necessary to describe a future that is much different from today’s reality. The classic description of this phenomenon was immortalized by Henry Ford, who said “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.

Many organizations spend enormous effort analyzing and refining the wording of their requirements documents based on customers’ pre-conceptions of what they want. The result of following this process is that they miss what is of fundamental importance to their customers. This is why I believe that many requirements documents are “highly polished but deeply flawed”.

A better way – human needs drive success drivers

Uncovering latent and unmet user needs demands the use of contextual and generative design research techniques optimized for discovering the valuable insights that drive innovation and create brand experiences that delight customers. Such techniques as empathetic immersion, user observation and participatory design serve to provide a deeper understanding of what is truly important to customers.

This knowledge provides the background needed to create product experiences that are authentic, meaningful and engaging. Providing your customers with these types of compelling experiences results in increased customer loyalty and superior long-term business results.

With that in mind, here are the five critical keys to uncovering those true success drivers:

1. Identifying needs and solutions is an iterative process

The insights garnered from the holistic approach outlined here serve as a strong foundation to validate, complement, and challenge existing market research and VOC information.

Synthesize the insights you discover so that needs are described as opposed to solutions. View these as a flexible set of product guidelines that become more definitive as the design process progresses. As conceptual solutions are created based on this flexible “insight-based” framework, validate them with customers. Use this feedback to refine the product guidelines.

2. Provide benefits, not features

The value you provide your customers lives in the quality of the experience you create for them – much more so than in your products & services themselves.

The graphic below pokes fun at how a technology company might promote the features of a healthy product like an apple – rather than considering its health benefits, its natural flavor or the experience of biting into a fresh, juicy apple.


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Credit: Smart Design, Femme Den.

3. Understand the context of use

Understanding context is imperative when considering user experience. Observe the moment of use from a range of perspectives with the human experience as your central focus.

An example of one such perspective is the environment in which a product or service is used. Think about who is using your products and services and what physical abilities or limitations they may have. For instance, a product designed for hazardous areas would need to allow for an operator to interact with the device while wearing protective clothing and gloves.

Cultural background also shapes how people perceive their environment and the products and services they interact with. Factors such as the emotional, cultural, social, and physical aspects of the experience are often over-looked but are crucial inputs.

4. Consider the whole customer experience of the brand

Examine the user experience both before and after the moment of use. Think about how your customers research, purchase, setup, learn to use and maintain your products and services. Ask yourself: “What is the environmental impact of my product or service? What happens at the end of its service life?”

Identify the range of customer interactions with your brand (products, services, out-of-box experience, purchasing experience, user interface, customer service, web portals, etc.) and consider how they can be coordinated as a single brand eco-system. Each interaction provides an opportunity to positively impact the overall brand experience.

A holistic view of the entire product experience, including the product’s benefits to each stakeholder, offers valuable insight that may lead to new business opportunities and improve the overall experience.

5. Consider all key stakeholders

An effective brand experience strategy requires consideration of the motivations and aspirations of a range of stakeholders. On the customer side, the stakeholders are those who interact with a product or service such as end users and less obvious groups including purchasing influencers and maintenance providers.

A “Brand Audit” is a valuable exercise to gain a deeper understanding of how your customers respond to your brand and what preconceptions they have of your products and services.

Internal stakeholders, such as executives, marketing, sales, engineering, supply chain management and regulatory teams all have different and sometimes conflicting requirements for future development programs. These needs must be understood and correctly weighted against each other, so that they are always based on what is most important to your customers.


Constructing design guidelines based on deep insights into customer needs is the most vital step toward creating compelling brand experiences and greater brand loyalty. Get these guidelines wrong and you risk creating products and services that are “highly polished but deeply flawed”


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Unfortunately, many organizations fail to correctly prioritize stakeholder desires. These companies end up with inconsistent products and services that are muddled by a lack of coherent vision. In contrast, the few organizations that get it right successfully create a direct and honest statement that differentiates them from competitors.

Great design strategy is as much about saying “no” as it is about trying to be all things to all people. To achieve a unique and valuable market position, clear tradeoffs need to be made. If you want to achieve the highest possible value, you must provide your customers with meaningful experiences, not just a collection of features.

By Paul Noble-Campbell


Top 10 luxury marketing ideas in 2011

Tiffany’s What Makes Love True app

Between stock market inconsistency and spending frugality interspersed with random surges in spending, consumer behavior was almost untrackable in 2011. Therefore, marketers were forced to up the ante and, as a result, had truly mind-blowing ideas.

There were a lot of marketing ploys this year – some were good, some were bad and others even went unnoticed. However, there were a few game-changing ideas that irrevocably changed the luxury industry.

Here the best luxury branded ideas of 2011, in no particular order:

Swarovski’s augmented reality installation – Precision-cut crystal maker took advantage of the busy Rodeo Drive traffic in Los Angeles with its Let It Sparkle campaign that combined in-store, out of home and mobile marketing in November.

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Consumers could download an application by GoldRun to their mobile devices that virtually brought Swarovski products to life through an installation and in branded stores.

The installation was structured like a DNA helix, on which consumers could tweet their own holiday messages using the hashtag #letitsparkle. Consumers were able to text their messages in to the shortcode 877877 and start the message with the word “sparkle.”

There was also a live feed of the Let It Sparkle messages on Swarovski Elements’ Facebook page.

Luxury shoppers strolling along Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles are able to use the augmented reality app by holding their phones up to storefront windows and displays on the street to take pictures of limited-edition products that were made in collaboration with brands such as Missoni, La Perla and Stuart Weitzman.

The products included jewelry, fashion, accessories, lingerie and footwear, all of which are made with Swarovski Elements.

Swarovksi increased brand awareness, fan loyalty and likely sales through its Let It Sparkle initiative.

Chanel optimizes site pages for mobile – Chanel led iconic luxury brands through the mobile-optimization of its makeup, fragrance, watch and jewelry sites.

The brand left behind key competitors such as Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Gucci, which do not have optimized sites, by adding another way to showcase its products.

Users could search for and browse through fragrance, makeup and skincare products, as well as special offers and a store locator starting in February.

Consumers could also quickly buy products from their phone.

Chanel added to this strategy by allowing users to view its fine jewelry and watch sites on mobile devices.

Chanel optimized the sites for mobile

Users can learn about watch information and manufacturing, complete with video and high-resolution images, on the “What’s New” section of the site.

Consumers can tap on a jewelry or watch collection and can swipe the page or tap on the arrows to move through the products.

The chosen piece is brought into a spotlight, where users can further examine the pieces with pinch-and-zoom.

Chanel took this opportunity to not only showcase its products in a beautiful way in a new platform, but also to position itself as a tech-savvy brand in-tune with changing times.

Tiffany & Co.’s What Makes Love True campaign – Tiffany allows consumers to peek inside its branded world with the What Makes Love True microsite and mobile app.

What Makes Love True shows real-life videos, stories and curated customer content mixed with romantic movies and songs. What Tiffany did was create an environment that epitomizes the branded lifestyle.

What Makes Love True shows stories and videos from Tiffany customers on how the couples met and fell in love. There are also sections for curated content from consumers to share love stories and a map where consumers can pinpoint a place in New York where a monumental relationship moment occurred.

Tiffany’s What Makes Love True site

Furthermore, users can browse through love songs, romantic films and lounges and bars in New York to spend time with that special someone.

To add to the marketing, Tiffany created its own channel on the Internet radio service provider Pandora that was a list of all love songs from artists such as Jack Johnson, Beyonce and Train.

Consumers were served an ad on Pandora’s iPhone app where they could click to download the app.

The jeweler also marketed What Makes Love True through its Web site, social media pages and additional iPhone and iPad apps.

What Makes Love True intertwined Tiffany and the idea of true love, likely allowing the brand to increase sales on its most famous product – the engagement ring.

Burberry lets customers shop from the runway – British apparel and accessories designer Burberry is offered online male consumers a chance to buy straight from the runway following a live-streaming of the brand’s men’s Prorsum spring/summer 2012 collection in June.

Burberry is streaming the runway show from Milan at in a one-two punch that responded to instant consumer gratifications and also accelerated the concept-to-store process to undermind high-street knockoffs.

Select apparel from the show was available to order after the show with a seven-week delivery time.

Burberry had already employed a click-to-buy tactic after runway shows for its women’s collection, but this was the first time that the brand has done it for male consumers.

Burberry’s countdown to the show

This is likely one of the best moves that Burberry could have made, especially since affluent men are buying luxury products now more than ever.

Select customers from the Burberry retail location in the SoHo district of Manhattan were invited to watch the runway show in-store and buy products via iPad with the help of a sales associate, which accelerated the buying experience.

Runway shows provide an exclusive behind-the-scenes glance into a luxury brand’s world. Before, only the elite and special consumers were able to see runway shows first-hand.

By providing live, online streaming video coverage, consumers can feel as if they are part of the brand experience. Brands use this as leverage to reach their optimal target audience.

However, this strategy likely will not dilute a brand, despite the fact that mainstreaming a brand’s fashion show could make the show more accessible and therefore less desirable to luxury consumers.

In fact, some experts believe that the opportunity to wear something before anyone else sees it is truly engaging the consumer, their biggest fans.

Nordstrom’s acquisition of flash-sale site HauteLook – Department store chain Nordstrom’s $180 million acquisition of flash-sale site HauteLook in February moved the retailer into a more prominent Web position and will solidify its role in one of the fastest-growing sectors of retail.

HauteLook lets consumers hone-in on the specials of one specific brand, most of whom share customers at both HauteLook and Nordstrom. Through this move, Nordstrom is going head-to-head with other popular flash-sale sites such as Gilt Groupe, Rue La La and Net-A-Porter.

Because most consumers who luxury brands target do not need to pay discounted prices for premium products, there was a whisper at the time about whether brands that discount – or in the case of Nordstrom, associate with those that discount – are tarnishing their name in the luxury sector.

Nordstrom acquired HauteLook

However, this does not seem to be the case here with the Nordstrom-HauteLook deal.

In fact, not only will this bring value to Nordstrom by letting its customers shop and browse in a multichannel context, but it will help the retailer move products through HauteLook and earn revenue.

Furthermore, Nordstrom Rack, the retailer’s discount subsidiary, already exists and is profitable. Any chance of the brand’s name being spoiled would have already occurred.

This acquisition can only help Nordstrom further innovate, since this is arguably the first time that a traditional retailer has acquired a company specializing in online private sales.

If anything, Nordstrom paved the way for other retailers to make a more lucrative business for themselves by latching on to one of the fastest-growing retail sectors.

Missioni for Target – The partnership between mass retailer Target and Italian label Missoni built anticipation through creative social media, television and Web marketing that avoided the latter’s luxury status dissolution.

Some brands have created buzz in the past when combining with lesser-known or lower-end companies. There is always an uncertainty of whether or not the collaboration will dilute the image of the higher-end brand.

The blog titled “All the Way Up Here,” surfaced in the fashion world and, at first glance, appeared to have no connection with neither Missoni nor Target.

However, the blog did release exclusive first glances at the Missoni for Target collection and included mentions of fonder and designer Margherita Missoni as the author’s fashion idol.

A Missoni for Target commercial was also broadcast on TV and YouTube.

By completely separating the world of Missoni and Missoni for Target, the luxury brand has made a conscience effort to ward-off worries that its luxury status could be harmed.

While Ms. Missoni does reply to the blogger’s tweets, the Missoni brand has made no effort to promote the Target collection on its social media pages or Web site.

Keeping the lines completely separate from each other is the best way for luxury brands to retain their high-class status while opening the brand to mass consumers.

Missoni for Target

It does seem that the plan worked – the Missoni for Target collection created so much buzz that it crashed Target’s servers on the first day. In fact, it is still hard to find pieces on the Web site and in-store even though the collection dropped in September.

Indeed, Missoni’s image remains intact and, by giving younger consumers a taste of the brand, could have built relationships with women who may not be able to buy branded products now, but eventually will.

Ralph Lauren’s digital takeover of The New York Times– Lifestyle brand Ralph Lauren Corp. heavily relied on the New York Times print, digital and mobile editions to advertise its collections.

In September, Ralph Lauren bought out a solo sponsorship of the New York Times iPad app with content including streaming and embedded video and commerce from Ralph Lauren Magazine.

The app takeover includes shopping and video as well as a letter from founder and chairman/CEO Ralph Lauren, his car collection, a poem and the principles of craftsmanship. The magazine was displayed through banner and tower ads in the app.

To make a cross-platform transition, Ralph Lauren used the same type of advertising in the Web site version of the New York Times, mainly taking up the coveted top two panels on either side of the masthead and a pushdown ad underneath the masthead.

In fact, it stood out from typical ads with a click-through video leading to Mr. Lauren talking about his inspiration, process and styling techniques for the fall 2011 collection.

Ralph Lauren also used the New York Times Web site to push specific collections, such as its 2011 holiday apparel and accessories in December.

The ads led to the brand’s new holiday microsite where consumers can shop the collection.

Ralph Lauren also takes out ads in the New York Times print publication throughout the year.

Many luxury brands are using all channels of the New York Times – including print, online and mobile – to reach a varied number of consumers who may only spend time on one medium.

Alexander McQueen’s “Savage Beauty” exhibit – Alexander McQueen’s “Savage Beauty” exhibit in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York served as a way to further story-telling and align the brand with quality.

Consumers from all over the world came to see the namesake brand founder and late creative director’s vision at the museum.

On the heels of the closing Alexander McQueen “Savage Beauty” exhibit in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that the exhibit drew in 661,509 visitors.

Alexander McQueen promotion in the Met Gala iPad app

The exhibit, which ran from May 4 to Aug. 7, was the eighth most popular exhibit to ever run in the Met’s 141 years. It is on the same list as the Mona Lisa, Treasures of Tutankhamun and Picasso exhibits.

The Savage Beauty exhibit is the most-visited among the exhibitions curated by the Met’s Costume Institute since its inception in 1946.

In the three months that the exhibit ran, the museum gained 23,000 new members, which is more than double the same time last year.

The design, detail and craftsmanship that go into the making of luxury goods are now being highlighted in museums around the world.

As the economy continues to be unstable, the importance of history and a brand’s core values increases. This is especially true in the case of Alexander McQueen, whose death likely sparked even more curiosity from museum-goers.

Venues like a museum can demonstrate the value of a brand in a more sophisticated, cultural and less marketing-oriented situation.

In addition, as new markets emerge, brands need to ensure that the new pool of affluent consumers understand the brand history and associate the brand with luxury.

Museums offer a place for brands to do this, while directly marketing to educated people who are fans of the arts and high-quality products.

Luxury brands using Facebook commerce – Since this is the age of digital and Facebook is becoming one of a brand’s most prominent marketing channels, it only makes sense that marketers should rearrange their pages to allow social shopping.

In 2011, some luxury marketers have taken advantage of the landscape by letting customers buy products on Facebook.

One smart retailer out of the gate was Italian jewelry and accessories manufacturer Bulgari. It continued the push of its Mon Jasmin Noir fragrance with ambassadress Kirsten Dunst by creating an Enchanted Garden Facebook app where consumers can buy branded products.

Consumers can go to different parts of the garden where they can “check-in” via Facebook, discover new content and begin their purchase process.

Additionally, apparel designer Oscar de la Renta is using Facebook to sell exclusive products available only to fans of the brand on the social network site. There is one original item per month.

Oscar de la Renta Facebook commerce

For example, the brand sold a fragrance ring of its Esprit d’Oscar fragrance in November for $65.

Furthermore, British label Burberry broke into Facebook commerce with the release of its newest fragrance Burberry Body.

Additionally, Diane von Furstenberg, on the other hand, allowed consumers to buy a limited-edition, Facebook-exclusive wrap dress with its wrap-of-the-month promotion.

By allowing Facebook commerce, luxury marketers are not only driving sales, but are keeping consumers coming back for more if they offer monthly exclusives similar to Diane von Furstenberg and Oscar de la Renta.

Orient-Express’ A Journey Like No Other campaign – International hotel, river cruise and rail company Orient-Express is launched a digital awareness campaign called A Journey Like No Other starring a fictional affluent family and their journey around the world through a video series.

The online-only campaign started Sept. 19 and included a video homepage takeover and banner ads on the New York Times Web site as well on the Monocle, TripAdvisor, Wall Street Journal and Daily Beast sites.

These links take consumers to the microsite, where the bulk of the campaign resides.

Orient-Express campaign

In a series of videos each starring one or a few of the characters, consumers can get a view of the Orient Express properties in Italy, Brazil and Peru.

The campaign watches the family of Duke, Lauren, Maximilian and Penelope while they go on their journeys and explore new cities.

Each represent a part of the luxury travel audience, and who each gravitate toward some special part of A Journey Like No Other, the brand said.

In addition to the video series, consumers can meet the family through images, discover the Orient-Express destinations and share content via social media.

A few of the properties from the Orient-Express portfolio shown in the campaign include the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train, Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro and the Hiram Bingham train.

Since the majority of the company’s advertisers are luxury-focused publications, they are an easy target for affluent consumers.

Article by Rachel Lamb, associate reporter on Luxury Daily, New York