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I recently came across a question on LinkedIn.com, posted by a UX designer in the Brisbane Area of Australia, which lit my fire for writing a response. The question asked was:

“Keen to hear everyone’s thoughts on how, when and where UX intersects with brand strategy. Does UX need to consider tone, voice and positioning to maintain a positive brand image?”

The replies were quiet interesting and very intelligent. Below is my response to the question.

“Personally, I don’t believe a brand can be positioned. It’s always smacked of dishonesty to me. A product or service ‘is what it is’, positioning it any other way will ultimately lead to a bad experience. Bad experiences = suffering brand. Brands are fragile perceptions and feeling for products and services which are formed in the minds and hearts of people, not company’s. A company can not say trust me, and poof!, they’re trusted. You have to earn trust through time and experience.

I see a brand, in part, as being a result of experiences. They can be good, bad or neutral. From this view point, brands and experiences are not independent from one another, at some point they form a symbiotic relationship.

My approach to being an effective UX practitioner is to clearly understand the timeline in which a person traverses as they interact with a company’s product(s) and/or service(s). The timeline I use starts with discovery (marketing, sales and word of mouth). Then it progresses to validation (are my expectations met or exceeded from my experience). If all goes well, a positive brand relationship will form…. GO BRAND, GO!

The old school way of thinking was marketing through sheer might of advertising and PR could force a relationship with a brand through mind numbing repetition of a promise. Essentially a company with the deepest pockets could buy its way into becoming a brand. Vote for Pedro and all your dreams will come true! Today’s reality is quite different because of the interconnectedness of everyone. We build our initial perceptions about a brand through our friends, family and colleagues (This has happened because we’ve simply stopped trusting marketing and branding). We then either validate or invalidate our feeling of a brand through actual experience, which thankfully has given rise to UX. If the actual experience is bad or fails to meet minimum expectations, the brand takes a hit. Same holds true for the opposite.

So the long of the short, yes, UX needs to take tone and voice into consideration… with one HUGE caveat. It has to be approached with the utmost honesty, and stay true to the expectations shaped in the persons mind. If the marketing promise of the brand, is “easy to use”, it better be easy to use. If the brand has always been experienced as “Increasing productivity”, the experience better always match that expectation. As long as the relationship between marketing and UX always stays honest to the core of the offering, the brand will always be seen positively.”

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