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Better Marketing with UX Design

- Friday, August 12, 2011 |

Design has evolved to be an important part of how brands are built and perceived in modern markets. In this article we are going to address an interesting question: can design serve brands better than marketing? The answers may not be easy to digest, and getting to these answers is just the tip of the iceberg. Our purpose is not to denigrate the role of any business or marketing practice, but to point out to how design can be equally important to a brand. Here's why...

Engaging through design. Photo by Rafaeldesigner on Flickr.

Positioning Starts with Designing Interactions

Two years ago a start-up in NY changed how brands managed their online presence. It's called Foursquare and its goal to connect businesses with consumers using geo-location was instantly appealing to businesses in all major consumer industries.

UX design amplifies interaction and supports it. Brands can use design to adapt and extend their presence in a digital environment and amplify their reach. Over time, this can help businesses position themselves better in the mind of global users researching the web for solutions and products that speak to them.

UXD creates opportunities for start-ups to better position themselves as described above, in comparison to what traditional marketing currently does. Web experiences spread fast, reach multiple devices and create a consistent brand image across the world. UX and interaction design add a new dimension to how people perceive brands, especially in terms of availability, reliability and accessibility.

Some of the finest examples range from media giants like The Economist and CNN to retail innovators like Zappos and vacation and travel stars like AirBnB. These companies' response to the market can be described as adequate, innovative and future-proof: rather than focusing on sales and promotion, they spread their branches across multiple platforms and replicate the brand experience on all major social channels. A brand that displays a strong web presence is a brand that positions itself best in the mind of the modern consumer.

Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuck
Gary Vaynerchuck talks about how technology changed the way we do business in his book The Thank You Economy

Creating Digital Incentives

UX and Interaction design have evolved a lot to accommodate important software engineering innovations, new web platforms and a wide variety of mobile devices.

Start-ups selling products online are most sensitive to how technology shapes consumer behavior, market trends and media channels. Because of that, brands will often need to go beyond user's expectations and be one step ahead of the competition. Designers can cleverly use digital incentives to help the brand gain in popularity and market share. Digital incentives range from cross-platform syncing, free of charge hosting, on-demand reports for user data and exclusive benefits for subscribers or paying users to extensive social media integration, custom web apps and fluid experiences across devices.

Designers are best at spotting the benefits of digital incentives for online businesses. Even using simple game mechanics can turn badges and icons into symbolic digital incentives, sometimes more powerful than the 1 in a million chance to win a fancy car in traditional contests.

The Designer Fund
The Designer Fund Project challenges designers to build better businesses

Communication as an Experience

Communication is a central point of reference for how we engage with brands. Although there may be different types of communication made possible by the diversification of media, UX design refined it to the point where users expect more than unilateral engagement, when it comes to how messages are delivered. Where there is a lot of content, they expect an interactive environment able to filter and customize data. Where there is a strong emotion or deeper interest for the brand's content, they demand immersive experiences.

An example of how UX design can change and improve communication with brands is the use of custom news apps designed to promote a band, product or public figure and deliver news related to them in real time. If until recently marketers would make and give away branded t-shirts and promotional items to get their message across, now they keep fans and customers closer with apps designed to entertain and communicate better.

Donna Karan iPhone App
Using mobile apps to communicate with fans: Donna Karan iPhone app

Endnote: If we design better apps to communicate with users, use digital incentives and game mechanics to enchant our fans and create more engaging websites to interact with customers, does this mean that traditional marketing practices are just a waste of money? For most start-ups, that may actually be true. Nonetheless, business owners and designers together should not disregard the strategic use of marketing, as a tool to connect the brand and the vision behind your brand with the decisions you make online and offline. If you find this article useful, please share it with your friends!

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