Brands must integrate the reality of the digital age into their design. Those who don’t, or do so at a slower rate than others, will soon stand out as being old-fashioned and irrelevant. This integration is no longer an option, as the status quo is being disrupted in many industries.
There are a number of factors influencing the need for brands to continually evolve in our age of digital transformation. Beyond technological breakthroughs, social media has helped to make this the age of the customer. We’ve gathered some pertinent insights over the last two years on the impact of digital on design that we’d like to share. This list is far from complete. However, it contains important insights and lessons.
Very Limited Space
Imagine that a brand’s space to express itself is limited to a small screen only. Design has become user-centric and much more visual. Incorporating infographics and icons helps with improved user experience (UX) and user interface (UI). Next, fonts are selected for easier reading online, and photography has completely different requirements than before. The practice of graphic design is fading away as a result. Design briefs have become more comprehensive, as we work to anticipate changes in the constantly evolving design landscape.
New Ecosystems Are Emerging
We see digital and ad agencies entering the space of branding. Design agencies, coming in from the world of programmatic advertising, are building websites, or digital campaigns. While digital services firms don’t originally come from the design and strategic branding background, they manage to convince clients to work with them. They are seen to be more digital—whatever that may mean—than branding and design agencies.
There is a challenge for branding agencies that now need to explain their worth as well as their added value when it comes to digital. This implies a paradigm shift for them, which should have taken place yesterday!
Immaturity Of The Market
For brand owners, life isn’t getting easier. On one hand, they are looking to insource creativity more and more in order to increase agility. On the other hand, they are unsure of the maturity and real ability of all the new players in this domain and what value they may add.
Consistence Versus Coherence
Consistency has been the buzz word in creating brands for decades. It was engrained into education and in many people’s thinking. It’s closely tied to static systems and rules, which have changed completely as well. Within digital space and channels, which have multisensory functions, we’re seeing modular design that makes room for coherence over consistence.
Together they form building blocks and elements that help maintain the intent of the brand they represent. Building blocks online are more interactive and dynamic. Because they are connected to behavior, i.e. what happens when you click, hover, and so forth, they are used in more functional ways. Some examples are navigation and conversion, compared to the building blocks used in offline environments. These more functional elements such as buttons and icons are less able to communicate a specific brand image.
All in all, these are not small evolutionary changes. Disruption is now an ongoing state for brands. We’re already seeing this in the business models of start-ups. The point is that it has fully arrived in the design of brands, and it’s a huge opportunity that both brands and designers should embrace.
With the rise of new digital channels and budget cuts in the marketing communications department, new steps in communications are necessary. But which steps? Optimizing and improving marketing and communications processes are noted as high priorities.
If you look at the current market, a few trends are immediately noticeable. One is the rise of mobile data traffic because of the increasing use of smartphones. Relevant content as a strategic tool is more important than ever. Having the customer as your central focus has always been the mantra. But how? And which channels make up the customer journey these days?
Just as important, how do we ensure we are building trust and a fulfilling work environment that help retain and attract the best employee talent? How do we help to foster collaboration among employees?
If you list all the steps in the choice selection and buying process, these trends are also noticeable. Online shopping is more prevalent. The mixture of finding information online and buying in stores seems to be more common.
One Path: Customer Journey
By mapping all the possible steps in the customer journey, you are looking at things from a customer’s viewpoint. This helps increase customer satisfaction and allows your unique brand promise to prove itself. When you think like a customer, you’ll be better able to address his or her pain points.
The customer journey is not only influenced by marketing and communications, but by other factors that are more difficult to control. The role of a salesperson, the influence of social media, in-store communications, your environment, and opinions of friends and family all play important roles.
The Other Path: Company Journey
Where the customer journey is the external path, the company journey is internal. This path indicates the processes that exist within the organization, and it shows which steps are needed to connect with the customer journey. That sounds logical and simple. However, in practice, both paths do not connect with each other in many instances.
There are internal obstacles that are unfortunately visible externally in the customer journey. Usually, the gaps in the customer journey are quickly closed, but the gaps in the company journey tend to be forgotten and left open. What do you need to do to get this process back on track?
Time For A New Path
For a lot of companies and organizations, it is not easy to choose a new path. Where do you start?
For now, let’s start with a suggestion: close the online marketing department. Digital communication now leads, and it cannot be seen as a separate channel with its own messages, target groups, and brand promises.
Multichannel marketing starts within the organization. Stop thinking inside the box, and tear down the internal walls of the marketing communications department. Remember that the overall business goal is the focus, not the channel. Start by determining the message and then decide how you will deploy via available channels and resources.
Subsequently, map out the desired content and create this content independent of any channels. Then the channel managers should optimize the content specifically for their channel.
This bold move requires courage, persuasion, and shared enthusiasm within the organization. Let the results be your compass. Without detours, you will reach your goal at a lower cost. You will have improved direct customer contact and obtain a higher level of effectiveness because of streamlined traffic along the paths.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Marc Cloosterman, CEO, VIM Group. Excerpted and adapted from his book Future Proof Your Brand.
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