Behind every successful brand is a great strategy, but it’s hard to build a successful brand without a successful product. Likewise, products can struggle in the marketplace if they’re created without regard to how they fit within the brand. However, marketers and product developers often miss the connection between product design and brand strategy. Dealing with both separately only results in products that suffer in the marketplace and feel out of place in the brand hierarchy.
On the other hand, brand strategy can have a positive impact on product design and even allow brands to create more meaningful products that readily meet and even exceed customer expectations. Our look at product design and brand strategy revolves around six key points. These points are essential for understanding how both can mesh perfectly to create a more fulfilling brand experience for customers.
Good Product Comes from Brand Strategy
Good products can stand on their own merits, but they rarely spring into existence on their own. Even the best product can struggle for traction if it runs counter to a company’s established brand strategy. Think of an effective brand strategy as a guiding hand for creating good products that wow customers.
How can brand strategy create good products? It all starts with a deep dive into your target audience, understanding their desires, pain points, and expectations. Companies can exhibit empathy towards their customers by making their point of view part of the product design process. Focusing on brand voice, including the words and sounds associated with that brand. Companies like Colum Five offer branding services that can help you set the tone and strategy for your brand.
Brand promise is also an important part of brand strategy. When there’s a firm understanding of a brand’s purpose, including who it serves, what it offers to customers, and why they should believe in it, it becomes easier to tailor products to remain consistent with that brand promise.
Your Marketing Isn’t Your Branding
Think of your branding as the story of your brand, its values, and what makes it stand out from others. Branding involves shaping your brand in a way that resonates with customers and captures its purpose and goals. A brand guide can help tremendously with getting your brand’s story across, as it’ll contain guidelines on how to handle key brand elements.
In contrast, marketing is about grabbing your customers’ attention and making your brand and its products known. Marketing involves getting the word out about your brand and letting potential customers know it exists through various promotional methods.
All too often, most companies equate marketing with branding, not realizing that the brand experience doesn’t stop at the cash register or checkout screen. Many companies attempt to tell a brand story by using the same methods for promoting that brand. While this drives sales, it does little to generate loyalty or emotional investment in the brand.
Remember: marketing grabs attention, but branding keeps that attention long after the sale. In fact, you’ll want to focus on your branding before you even think about crafting a marketing strategy.
Your Product Defines and Reflects Your Brand Expression
Again, it’s easy to focus on product marketing rather than defining your brand. While increasing sales is an important goal, that’s only the start of the customer journey.
The most interaction your customers get with your product is after the sale when they’re using it as part of their daily routine. Their day-to-day interactions with your product shape their perception of it and your brand. Hence, the importance of using these moments to your advantage
When product design meshes with brand strategy, the end result is a successful product that not only impresses and amazes customers but also stays consistent with your brand overall. If you want an idea of how your products will look with your company’s branding, you can experiment with how your brand looks on various mockups and merchandise with a platform like Tailor Brands.
What Happens When They’re Not Aligned
Product design and branding are so intertwined that a disconnect between the two can prove disastrous for even the mightiest of companies. Take Colgate, for example. It’s synonymous with “toothpaste” and it remains one of the big names in dental hygiene. So, it’s hard to imagine that the company would try its hand at beef lasagna, of all things.
In the mid-1960s, the company attempted to expand its brand’s reach by adding new products under the Colgate Kitchen label. It’s no surprise that a brand better known for its line of toothbrushes and mint-flavored toothpaste fell flat when it tried to test-market lasagna and a host of other chicken and crab meat-based entrées.
Colgate’s mercifully brief wrong turn towards frozen food entrées is proof of what happens when product design and product branding fail to line up. The company’s attempt to break into the frozen foods segment simply didn’t jibe with its branding as a trusted name in dental hygiene.
Branding Means More Than Just Logos
Thumb through most visual brand guides, and you’ll find plenty of info on logo placement, color usage, packaging, and the like. What’s often missing is product design or, more to the point, how to best use product design to ensure proper brand storytelling.
Such omissions aren’t surprising. Your brand logo might be able to tell a story about your company, but it does little to encapsulate the spirit of your brand in your products. Simply slapping a logo on a product won’t get the job done, but good product design that reflects your brand’s story will.
Conveying this information in a typical brand guide can be an uphill battle. For instance, overly specific instructions can hamstring designers and limit their freedom when it comes to product design.
Building Better Brand Strategy
Product design and brand strategy can work hand-in-hand in building a stronger brand, more desirable products, and a loyal following among avid customers. But that’s after putting your brand in the driver’s seat when it comes to evolving your business and adding long-term value. The following offers a few essential notes to remember as you focus on your brand strategy:
Know Your Audience – The first step of any brand strategy? Market research. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes when it comes to your brand. Find out who uses your product, what drives them to use your products versus the competition, and any pain points associated with your product.
Know Your Brand – More to the point, you’ll want to know how your brand is perceived. Three common areas to analyze customer behavior are the pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase phases. A close look at customer activities and experiences in these areas can give you insight into how end-users perceive your brand.
Study Your Competition – Chances are your brand is one of many fighting in the same crowded space. Finding out what your rivals are up to and how customers perceive those brands can give yours a well-needed leg up on the competition. You can use what you’ve learned to convince those customers to switch brands.
Understand Your Product – Your brand’s personality, including its visuals, odors, and sounds, can have an outsized influence on product design. Getting to know your branded product can help inform design choices that better help customers identify and desire your products.
Focus on Consistency – Consistency is the key to any winning brand strategy. Without it, you’ll quickly discover a disconnect between your products and your brand.
Never underestimate the power of great branding and, more importantly, how it can guide your products towards success. By leveraging brand strategy in your product design, you’ll have an easier time designing products that stay true to the brand and inspire a loyal following among customers.