Creating a brand the UX agency way

In this final part in a series of articles on a user centred approach towards brand creation, Tim Blass - Nomensa's Principal User Experience Consultant - looks at some of the practical aspects behind creating a new brand. 

For simplicity we’ll refer to this as our brand creation framework. 

Introducing the brand creation framework

The first key point to note is that, at first glance, this framework shares many of the inherent properties associated with a user centred design process. 

And, that’s really the point

Whilst it calls on a wider overall skills and experience set, at the same time it draws on many areas typically associated with user centred design.

Diagram showing stages in the user centred design brand creation framework: 'Discovery & Research', 'Concept & Mapping', 'Execution & Design', 'Launch' and 'Sustain & Evolve.'

In the interests of time and expediency we’ll focus on the first three aspects of the process, namely from initial Discovery and Research through to Execution and Design.

Discovery & Research

The process all starts with an exploration of what your organisation truly stands for and how this is reflected in the perceptions, not just of your users but of those who have a guiding hand in the creation of experience. In other words, the ‘indirect’ vicarious experience creators I spoke of in the previous article.

Whilst this approach holds for different types of branding scenarios, for purpose of simplicity, we’ll focus on an organisation looking to create a new brand presence. We can look at different types of brand context and organisational maturity another time.

Gathering and building the required levels of understanding and insight means adopting an appropriate mix of primary and secondary research activities. 

Now’s a good time to introduce the branding work we conducted with Parentpay, a leading provider of school/parent/pupil payment systems. Parentpay engaged with us to create and help launch a new digital pocket money brand and service targeted at young children, parents and guardians.

We used focus groups as a pivot point in the process as a way of testing initial concepts and ideas informed by our 1-2-1 interviews with parents and guardians and further substantiated through an online survey returning nearly 6,000 responses. 

Preceded by some desktop research, this blended research approach of qualitative 1-2-1 depth interviews followed by a quantitative online survey were absolutely critical in allowing us to explore our initial thinking. 

Our research yielded some really interesting and valuable insights regarding pocket money and financial provision between parents/guardians and their children. 

In turn, these core insights helped to inform the whole brand creation and execution process. 

Key insights fuelling the brand creation process

These insights are best articulated through a series of stand-out quotes. After all, nothing speaks as loudly as the words of a ‘brand experiencer’ in waiting.

‘It keeps my daughter safe when she’s away from me.’ (Security)

‘It‘s a cornerstone in my child’s education.’ (Learning)

‘It helps my children become thoughtful spenders.’ (Learning & responsibility)

‘It’s a sign of financial independence and maturity.' (Earnt responsibility)

As well as the mix of emotional and rationale insights identified through the research process, a strong sense of cross-generational behaviour also shone through. 

This was best illustrated via our online survey research whereby nearly two-thirds (65%) of all respondents who received pocket money as a child continued to give their children regular pocket money in parenthood. 

This sense of repeated cross-generational legacy was a key element in shaping the future brand vision and scope of future growth.

Translating insights into action

As we all know too well, insights without action are nothing more than ‘ideas on ice’, so the next step revolved around their translation into a series of supporting design concepts grounded in some good old service-design led thinking.

Of particular importance was to understand how these design concepts and artefacts which were to represent them should relate to one another to form a coherent system in which each element served to connect and amplify those components coming both before and after it. 

As well as the digital aspects of the proposition-website and app, a big emphasis was therefore placed on the physical elements of the service and brand system.

Importantly this included the pre-paid cards young people would carry to spend their pocket money with (tied into Mastercard’s existing payment network) as well as the design of the physical onboarding packs by which children and their parents/guardians would receive their cards post-registration.

Delivering and supporting execution

A range of card design concepts were therefore tested with both parents/guardians and young people to gather insight into design approaches, and preferences to ensure they accurately represented the values and beliefs of these primary target audiences. 

After all, the card carries significant symbolic meaning in the hands and eyes of the young person (e.g. earlier quote ‘sign of responsibility and maturity). Get this wrong and it’s largely game over.

This whole pre-paid card design process turned out to be an exercise in designing in constraints given the exacting set of guidelines all card providers have to adhere to in terms of sizing and placement of the visual and textual branding elements on the cards.

Focus groups were used to inform the pre-paid card conceptualisation and user centred design process. This was accompanied by the creation of an on-boarding experience to welcome new parents/guardians and young people to the proposition focused around an online sign-up and welcome back fulfilment process. 

This initial interaction was carefully orchestrated with gaps being used between initial request ordering and fulfilment to present questions, thoughts and ideas to encourage discussion and learning between parents and their children around money matters and intended card usage.

We ended up refering to this as the ‘daisy chain’ process. And, as shown below, you’ll be clearly able to see why!

Diagram showing how 'mini-events' e.g communications at both key step points in the process and during intervening points in the process 'lull-point' will assist greatly in driving momentum to actively engage with the next step.

Creating a legacy for future growth

So, what started out as a requirement to create a brand proposition and design system for the future launch of a pre-paid pocket money card and website concluded with a brand vision and proposition which placed financial confidence at its heart. 

We also took the opportunity to seek to widen this concept of ‘growing a young person’s confidence’ across a range of other key life skills too giving the brand a broader potential scope of purpose, one which ultimately would create a number of further opportunities and avenues for exploration in the future.

Diagram showing Lifeskills in a circle in the centre and, in circles on the outside, Managing Money, Decision-making, Problem-solving, Team-working, Assertiveness, Creative-thinking, Critical thinking, Effective communicating

The accompanying brand artefacts (such as the prepaid card and online accounts) which lay at the heart of the client’s original brief became, in reality, agents in the overall system to allow this proposition to play out and evolve in a safe and secure environment from parents/guardians and their young children.

The notion of exploration through learning in a safe and relatively closed space between parents and young children was also realised through the ability for parents/guardians being able to control and monitor spending parameters to guide their children’s purchasing behaviour. 

We therefore used this functional capability to weave in the concept of active and collaborative learning between parents/guardians and young children into the brand proposition and core brand messaging. 

All this culminated in the launch of a successful consumer finance product, with recognition ultimately coming in the form of a consumer finance product of the year recognition at the 2017 FStech Finance Awards earlier this year.

Neither did we ignore the client’s own internal audiences as we know how important peers and employees are too for helping to launch, nurture and grow a successful brand. 

The creation of brand and tone of voice guidelines in the form of a nimbl brand book are helping to ensure a consistent and informed handover legacy back to Parentpay to drive and inspire future brand development and communication activity.

Closing thoughts

Fittingly, I’ll look to bring this series of article full circle and close it from where we began

This comes with the recognition that brands, very much like living organisms, participate in a world to which they are subject to competition, as well as evolving trends and changing environmental factors. 

Brand creation really marks the start of what is ultimately an epic and challenging journey. 

For, to be successful, a brand must constantly walk a fine line between sustaining its relevance and delivering meaningful/impactful experiences against an ever evolving backdrop of changing user preferences and priorities. And, all this whilst seeking to remain true to its core values and founding principles. 

As such, experience is a live and ever evolving entity and one in which the brand is continually being tested, validated and re-evaluated by those who encounter it directly as well as by those whose experience is lived through the eyes and ears of others.

In the words of the great contemporary Italian architect, Renzo Piano, ‘What I seek is not a style, but a metabolism of experience.’

If you enjoyed this article, read part one, Brand-erstanding: bringing a UX centred approach to brand creation and part two, Defining Brand Experiences in a Digital World.

Interested in how Nomensa can help you with your next UX project? Email us on hello@nomensa.com or complete this short form and a member of our team will be in touch.