Building Brand Love through Brand Experience Design 

Brand Experience Design

How do you design experiences that make customers fall in love with a brand—to the point that they commit to your brand and not others? That’s the question that’s on top of many brand executives’ minds. 

In our State of Brand Love research report, we highlight the challenges of building and maintaining relationships between customers and brands. With the growing desire among customers for certainty and meaning, winning brands can respond to this need by tapping into the universal human experience of love. Failing to do so can result in customers walking away from a brand, leading to the loss of advocates and market share. 

What’s really at stake? Our research showed: 

  • 70% of consumers say there is nothing that would compel them to switch away from a loved brand 
  • 52% of consumers used to love a brand that they now avoid at all costs 
  • 2/3 of consumers say they can’t be won back once a brand has lost their love

The research underscored three key components to building and maintaining enduring bonds with customers: quality, trust, and customer experience. These are the functional levers to design for the certainty and meaning people crave. As customers try to navigate these times of economic uncertainty, they seek brands that can at minimum remove stress from their lives, and at best elevate their experience of living. 

So, how do you do know how to apply these levers to your brand? These objectives can be achieved through experience design principles. In our definition, the importance of emphasizing “brand experience design” is to center the purpose and personality of the brand as an equal player in a two-way relationship that’s the ultimate outcome we’re designing the customer experience for. To do this, we take a human-centered approach to moments of truth and points of frustration and optimize your organization to create and deliver your best experiences. The attunement to the subtler elements of how an experience is felt and remembered over time is necessary to shift it from “usable” to “frictionless” to ultimately one that is “lovable.”  

Let’s take a look at how applying experience design principles can help foster love between you and your customers. 

A Brand Experience Design Framework to Nurture Brand Love 

Now, how can brands enhance their experience design efforts so customers feel the love? 

Experience design, as a discipline, is commonly thought of as the digital touchpoints for the brand—the website, app, and customer support. But it’s so much more. There are five layers that make up the embodied brand experience. Each layer presents opportunities to reinforce existing feelings about the brand, and to deepen the feelings of affection. 

what-users-see

Let’s talk about the layers that make up an embodied brand experience.

The Skin

This is the surface layer—the words we say and the visuals we show.

  • How to maintain it: Consistent and prominent use of brand identity and signature assets reinforces trust while distinguishing the brand. You should ensure that content is clear and valuable, communicating in line with brand tone of voice. This helps to meet customer expectations.
  • How to grow it: As generative AI changes the dynamics of content creation, over-investing in high-quality content with unique design and engaging stories presents an opportunity to strengthen customer emotional bonds. There are a variety of ways to engage with customers that could fit your brand, but two proven paths are through entertainment (such as every great ad ever) and insight (such as meaningful reporting and research). Enhancing the experience of your content with premium production value like animation and interactivity (combining with the “muscles” layer below) further reinforces quality signals that build brand love.

The Muscles

This is the interaction layer—the functionality and reactions of an experience as a customer engages with the brand.

  • How to maintain them: Start with the table stakes. When you have a working, responsive website with user-friendly navigation and findable content, you meet common user expectations. It’s surprising how many brands still fall short here.
  • How to grow them: Personalization—a loving relationship is characterized by shared history and deep knowledge of each other. Personalization has been a holy grail pursuit of brand experts for a while—but there are a lot of small gains. Take data entry forms, for example. Every time you ask customers to fill out a form with information the brand should know, you’re diminishing brand love. Find ways to offer what you know first for review.

The Bones

This layer serves as the structure of information and journey of interactions that support customers in achieving their goals.

  • How to maintain them: The bones layer helps you to meet customer expectations and follow through on what you say you’re going to do. Are you maintaining continuity of communications and expectations with customers as they move across channels over time for specific tasks? Are you making things as streamlined and simple as possible for them?
  • How to grow them: The adage is true: “less is more.” Remove customer effort by automating whatever steps you can to reduce complexity in the customer experience. What that means for experience design is actually giving customers less experience to deal with, and a faster path to outcomes (achieving the change they want) by taking the effort on for them, with just enough involvement that they still attach something of themselves to the brand experience and give the brand credit.

The Organs

This layer includes the strategic decisions and systems for measuring performance according to your definition of success.

  • How to maintain them: This is as simple as having a clear objective and defined KPIs for every experience, that ladder up to serve topline brand and business goals. This is another one that unfortunately gets underserved, as many projects are done with too siloed a view or objectives that may serve a business unit, but not the brand.
  • How to grow them: Expand the value you’re delivering through the acts of service you provide for your customers. What problems can your brand take on for users that aren’t technically your job, but you have permission to help with? Things to ask yourself: What would the benefit be for taking on these bigger customer needs—in increased loyalty, more upsell opportunities, and organic growth through word of mouth? These are the things customers want but don’t expect. Just like showing up with flowers out of the blue, these are huge opportunities to earn brand love.

The Soul

Lastly, the soul of a brand experience contains the purpose and guiding principles for how you show up and the nature of the relationship you seek to build.

  • How to maintain it: Establish an Experience North Star for every design project that connects how the brand purpose and personality will deliver the functional and emotional value customers desire. Pay specific attention to stating the desired outcomes for the customer/brand relationship.
  • How to grow it: To grow brand love, you need to expand your brand’s experience vision—how your brand expresses its purpose and shows up in the world—and possibly your purpose itself. The fundamental question at the heart of any relationship is: “who am I to you?” Experience design is how brands demonstrate their answer to that question, but they ground their actions in accordance with their values and sense of identity. At the root of every action and every decision made in experience design are deeply held organizational beliefs about the brand purpose and personality. Especially now, in the midst of so much change, brands have an opportunity to revisit and reinvigorate those foundational beliefs to ensure they embody the broadest, and the best, version of who they want to be in the world.

Brand Experience Design Can Get You Into Customers’ Hearts

Earning brand love is a worthy aspiration and an achievable goal—and leveraging brand experience design principles can help you achieve it. By using the framework of the embodied brand experience, you can strengthen your customers’ feelings of affection for you. And once connections are forged between you and your customers, you can earn your way into their hearts and form lifelong bonds.

To learn more about how experience design can bolster brand love, download our State of Brand Love report.

Mason West

Mason West

Senior Director, Design