6 Ways Leading Companies Craft Brands Through Devices

This post was written by Andy Kennedy, Senior Product Marketing Partner at InnovateMap.

Brand is often minimized to decoration. It’s the 'pretty polish' for ‘artsy folks’. 

But brand is why Apple enjoys unprecedented margins in commoditized categories. Brand is why Tesla has 375k+ reservations for a car that doesn’t exist. Brand is why Beats beat Bose, when the product really didn’t. Brand sells noisy, expensive motorcycles, the shoes of a retired athlete, and groundwater from an exotic island. 

The Model 3 has more reservations in 3 weeks than the Chevy Volt has achieved in its lifetime. 

Brands are the gut feelings customers have when they think about you.

Our feelings are impacted most by our experiences with the product or service itself. Every admired brand–including those above–solves a human problem and solves it very well. Every human desire presents an opportunity for brands to build relationships.

But the businesses who win crowded markets don't just build relationships, they go further. 

Those who love Beats feel something when they wear them. Beats are like a billboard on your head, telling a story about  who you are.

In advertising’s golden age, leading brands wrote believable product narratives through mass media, and with it, paved a path to prominence. As consumers grew weary of media’s misplaced promises, savvy businesses pivoted, meticulously crafting authentic experiences to endear their customers and facilitate word of mouth. Today a new change is upon us.

The world’s hottest and most valuable brands are digital products experienced almost entirely through devices. Here, customers expect magic. Gone are the days where stable, functional, and ‘gets the job done,’ gets the job done. To win hearts and markets, good enough must get better. Here are 6 ways that leading craft brands through devices.

- Google - 

Solve a problem, solve it well. 

  • By making the world's information easily accessible, Google answers more than three billion questions every day. I accounted for half of them writing this blog. As long as Google is the best at indexing the world’s information, it will be among the world’s premier brands.

- Netflix - 

Know your audience, understand context.

  • What began as shipping DVD's to your doorstep has evolved into a seamless and automated digital experience.

    Netflix launches an entire series at once. They autoplay the next episode once the last is finished. They understand that people share their passwords with friends and family, and more than likely know how awkward it is when you login to your account to see recommendations to things you haven't watched.

    Netflix intimately understands their audience and the context in which they interact with their brand. Their slogan is "Movie Enjoyment Made Easy", because they know that people don't want to work after a long day at work, they want to relax.

    Netflix deeply understands their audience.

- Slack -

Make them feel something.

  • When you’re designing a messaging tool that's actually fun to use, functional utility isn’t enough. And you can’t A/B test shots of endorphins.

    Slack is not a breakthrough innovation it is a breakthrough in human centered design and triggering rewards systems.

 "I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou

- Gusto -

Be helpful and always delight.

  • The name Gusto, meaning joy or vigor in doing something, is an extension of the brand, Gusto (formerly ZenPayroll) has created for small business owners.

    The first and most important feature you notice when logging into any Gusto app, is a helpful checklist on what to do next. Bob the Baker or Annie the Accountant, wants to focus on the people their business serves and not the processes necessary to make it run.

    Their app is filled with positive, bright colors. When a small business owner, has to complete payroll or deal with a compliance issue, they have positioned their app as the help, to make the laborious task less of a chore, and a delightful experience.

- Tesla -

Be known for something.

  • Generally the most prominent brands, especially those in the auto industry, are recognizable in one or two word phrases. For BMW it is "_____", for Ford trucks it is "_____", for Hondas it is "_____", and for Tesla it is "______", I would argue innovative.

    Battery powered, instant torque, technology-focused interior, zero admissions, and now driverless? They have only been around since 2003 and have taken a position as the most innovative automotive company in the world. That is deliberate in their branding strategy.

- Mailchimp -

Find your voice.

  • In a market flooded with "automation", "workflows", and "personalized buying experiences" Mailchimp has created a very distinct and unique product voice that says, "I'm a simple and straightforward tool for the common person". Mailchimp's voice is:

      1. Funny But not silly
      2. Confident but not cocky
      3. Smart but not stodgy
      4. Informal but not sloppy
      5. Helpful but not overbearing
      6. Expert but not bossy
      7. Weird but not inappropriate

    People don't buy products; they buy the personalities and meanings associated with the story of those products.

Creating a successful brand, experience, and product is difficult because it requires a deep understanding of your customers and how these things will fit into their lives. 

Your brand should focus on filling a gap presented by an intrinsic human desire - whether that be a fear or an aspiration. 

It's not easy. It requires hard work, but once you have that deep understanding, be bold and be confident in executing.