The surprising and magical benefits of making “brand” a product requirement

by Robert Barlow-Busch

Have you ever marvelled at the difficulty of getting everyone aligned behind the same vision of a product? Marketing and technology often seem especially at odds, with design caught in the middle trying to make sense of it all. Well, there’s a simple way to hugely alleviate these issues, and it’s got a name that has come under fire in recent years: BRAND.

Yes, brand. And hold on, marketers, before you get all high ‘n mighty on everyone; we know brand was originally your idea. Please realize we’re not talking about logos anymore. We’re talking about experiences.

Brand exists only in the mind of a customer. And we cannot design experiences, at least not directly. But there’s good news still: we CAN design the setting in which experiences take place, which CAN influence the meaning that people assign those experiences in their minds. Our choices as product designers (and developers) can have a huge effect on the outcome.

My thesis here is simple: make brand a product requirement.

Express your brand in terms of the emotions you want to evoke in people and the meanings you want them to ascribe. Then make those expressions concrete targets the product is required to hit. From my experience, this approach is remarkable for its ability to get everyone aligned, regardless of their position in an organization. It’s like magic!

Last weekend, I took the students of Wilfred Laurier University on a deep dive into these concepts at the Laurier Marketing Association’s annual conference. It seemed appropriate, given the conference theme of “The Future of Branding: A Forum for Technology in Marketing”. Flip through my slides below, or click through to Slideshare to view the speaker notes as well.

What do you think: is the concept of brand dead, or is it stronger than ever?