Make it visceral! How to create a differentiated and subconsciously consistent brand

Few brands design as meaningful and moving experiences as they could because they don’t consider how the mind builds relationships with products and brands, believes Kate Nightingale. A consumer psychologist and founder of Humanising Brands, she and her team help businesses like Swarovski, Klarna and Harvey Nichols create journeys to make customers feel, in her words, “good as a person, loved and so taken care of.” Here Kate reveals how.

“There are hardly any examples of spaces, websites, products and packaging where it just feels so good to the brain,” reveals Kate. “When it does feel right, that’s our subconscious brain saying, ‘This is a great design. Yay. Thank you very much.’”

“The biggest reason why companies fall short in this area is a lack of subconscious sensory consistency across their whole brand and all of their channels. The shape of every fixture in a retail space, the texture of your packaging material, and the colour of your website buttons might seem insignificant, but when they come together, we can see the power of marginal/incremental gains.”

“The customer won’t understand bad experience consciously. They will simply have this ‘off’ feeling, this slight discomfort, and it will make them leave your store or abandon your website. The more instances of these ‘off’ feelings they have, well, that can get them to leave your brand for good.”

Why are there so many inconsistent brands?

“It usually stems from two things. Firstly, the brand strategy is unclear, outdated, or, more importantly, there is no visceral manifestation of that strategy within the business. When the brand isn’t fully embedded in employees’ minds, they find it harder to make the best choices for the brand. But if you, for example, design an office according to the brand strategy, then their brains are automatically infused with the brand understanding and their subconscious brain will encourage them to choose consistent solutions.”

“The second issue is silos between the marketing, social media, advertising and experiential teams. The more collaboration between these teams, the more subconscious consistency.”

How do you create a subconsciously consistent brand?

“Start with a robust brand strategy. Then clearly translate it into every sensory modality. How your brand looks, how it smells, how it feels to the touch. This is something we like to call Sensory Brand Signature.”

“Then make sure that your whole team and any external agencies know how to apply your strategy to any design, tone of voice and marketing campaign.”

“Identify how you want people to feel about your brand and what emotions they should experience in each interaction with your brand. This Emotional Matrix is key to your overall customer experience and therefore your brand equity.”

“Understand the psychology of your customers. Not every design, marketing tactic or promotional strategy works for every type of psyche. Make it unique to you and to them.”

“Consider what you want people to do and how you want them to perceive your website, retail space, product. Do you want to increase the price perception, encourage people to buy multiple products or engage with a sales associate, for instance?”

“Once you have these basic aspects of strategy and your KPIs set up, you will be able to find design, marketing and experience solutions that are uniquely effective for your brand and your customer. They won’t only work to help you achieve your objectives, but will, more importantly, differentiate you brand in a truly incomparable way.”

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