Building a product for a brand should not be considered a single effort within an organization, but rather a continuation (or realization) of that brand. And brand should always come first.
Where brands used to be a single registered trademark, now we must effectively support a brand through digital products, mobile applications, physical and interactive experiences. We’re even asking ourselves how brands should be experienced within the Internet of Things (IoT)?
John Williams from Entrepreneur.com says that strong brand equity begins with consistent, strategic branding. “Nike associates its products with star athletes, hoping customers will transfer their emotional attachment from the athlete to the product. For Nike, it’s not just the shoe’s features that sell the shoe, but the attached experience.” Williams continues.
A brand’s promise and its value are delivered through the products it provides.
For consumer goods, advertising and PR have created a longstanding system for how to make brand promises come true through physical products. But how do brand promises translate to digital features, interactions, animations and more?
You start at the beginning: with brand strategy. For established brands, this means ensuring you truly understand the organization, its goals, and its users. For a new brand, this means putting in the time to establish the product’s brand voice, values, and design language.
Development shouldn’t begin before design has been thought through or, even worse, branding shouldn’t come before a clear mission statement or value offering has been established. But in software, many times it does. These important steps have been put in place for a reason, and although time-consuming, removing these steps or altering their order compromises and challenges the integrity and success of the end result. These shortcuts ultimately end up costing valuable time in the long run.
There are many components to building a product around a brand. From product research and stakeholder interviews to prototyping and iteration, thoughtful product decisions should be made for the sole purpose of delivering upon the promise of the brand. Through patience, a bit of research, thoughtful preparation, and intelligent execution on both brand and experience, products can bring tremendous value to users and investors alike.
Whether you are a designer, developer, business owner, or investor, my advice remains the same: Understand the value offering, establish the brand, and then build your product around those two critical pillars.