Once upon a time, Marty Neumeier wrote in The Brand Gap that brand is, “…a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organization.”
I believed and agreed with this when I first read The Brand Gap, and I still believe it. But what has changed are the channels in which this “gut feeling” is influenced and affected.
One of Substance’s founding ideas is that the ways people interact with brands in digital media directly reflects on the perception of – and the gut feeling about – a company’s brand. And with digital interaction, it’s becoming more than a gut feeling. Interaction with brands is full of expectation, reciprocation, desire and fulfillment.
In other words, it’s complicated. It’s a culmination of so many factors extending beyond going to a store, interacting with a customer service representative, or using a product.
Adjusting a web page layout based on your browser size or viewing device reflects on a brand.
Facilitating online rating and reviews reflects on a brand.
Helpful text that guides you through filling out a form correctly reflects on a brand.
Having a broken link reflects on a brand.
Not being able to hover over a secondary dropdown menu in the navigation because it disappears when you move your cursor reflects on a brand.
The list is endless. And these all affect a company’s brand. Sometimes it’s not even the interactions you craft and create that can affect the interactive brand experience, like slow download speeds, older web browsers, or sluggish computers. The failure or success of a digital brand interaction is measured, not in logic alone, but an amalgamation of emotion and reason; device and environment; input and response.
Interaction can generate strong emotions: delight, appreciation, frustration, confusion. It is the culmination of all brand interactions – navigating a site, the functionality of an app, the feedback and result from clicking something, and of course there’s design, user experience, site architecture… along with the product, the service and the organization – that truly makes up a brand.
Does this mean that interactive agencies are the new branding agencies? Those responsible not only for how something looks, but how it works? The future of branding isn’t with the logo designers. And it isn’t with the web designers. It’s with the people who think about and create how we interact with brands. The great ones, the ones who think about why a brand exists, who conceptualize and create experiences, functionality, and designs with brand as the determining factor – not the brand’s look but what the brand is – we’re the ones who will be defining the brands of the future.