December 9, 2020
We talk a lot about “surprise and delight” with our clients. From customer service calls to packaging and fun social media shares, how can you surprise and delight your people? What touches can you add that bring a little novelty into their day, or make them stop their scroll… and that still align with the brand identity you want to perpetuate?
Not only does this surprise-and-delight focus help you attract new audiences, but it creates a one-of-a-kind experience that keeps people engaged with your brand and separates you from your competition. But once you get people “in the door,” so to speak, how can that surprise and delight be carried through? How can you create an environment that extends the brand experience and reinforces your presence in their lives?
We think it starts and ends with brand culture.
Brand culture is a bit of a nebulous idea, so let’s start with this: Your brand doesn’t pop into existence once your logo is finalized and you have colors and fonts to play with it. Your company doesn’t create your brand — it is created when a customer recognizes your design and the overall feel that you’ve evoked in them.
Did we just blow your mind? Hope so.
With that in mind, the question isn’t “What do you want your brand culture to be?” Instead, it’s: “How do we want customers to feel?” From there, you can constantly create experiences that are in line with your brand visuals, and that reinforce your brand (and associated feelings!) to your customer. Over time, this constant reinforcement between visuals and feelings is what builds awareness in your customers’ minds — and that’s when a true brand is born.
Just to make it absolutely clear: You’re not going to build or boost your brand’s culture in a day. You’re not going to suddenly have all the visual elements of your brand and create an entire online, physical, or interpersonal connection with each of your ideal customers. It takes time.
To build a brand and an entire culture around that brand, we have to follow up visual cues (i.e. your brand colors, your brand voice, your imagery, etc.) with those small touches that reinforce the experience, and create the feeling you want your people to experience. And in case you’ve been hearing this term a lot, these are called “touchpoints.” You hear this word all the time and it just means any time any part of your brand/company gets to interact with a customer.
These small touches (aka touchpoints) run the gamut from your sales team’s interactions to your social media graphics, your packaging to your email responses. Even if you’re a small-yet-mighty business without a sales team or “departments” of people, your brand is infused into everything you do — and it then becomes your culture.
Just like a visual brand is highly unique to each business and its story, your brand culture — and the ways in which you choose to execute on it — are also going to be unique. For example, we love playing with bright pops of color and citrus themes in our visuals to infuse feelings of “knowledgeability” “freshness” and “joy.” We have also found ways to extend those feelings into experiences that surprise and delight, such as our playing cards. They were a blast for us to create, and our customers and followers loved them!
If your brand focus is to make sure people have fun, and that they feel excited or pleased, then you’ll want to follow up those fun visuals with fun, exciting, pleasurable experiences. For example, you could send surprise gifts in the mail, use fun animations in newsletters, host Instagram dance parties, etc. Or maybe you record a video of your team playing Mario Kart in your company’s shorts, like Chubbies Shorts did a few years ago.
For example, for a more high-end luxury brand like Hermes, it’s still possible to infuse feelings of luxury but also incorporate other emotions you want to invoke. Maybe it’s elements of self love or generosity, which would involve sharing fun gift experiences or incentives. Maybe it’s feeling seen as an individual, which you could incorporate throughout the brand with concierge-level attention to individual customers, beautiful customized packaging, and so on.
Hermes is constantly updating their website and social media to reflect the feeling of the seasons, and they create these videos and interactive pages that make their brand (which is very high-priced) feel endearing and approachable at the same time.
Remember what we just said about your customers creating your brand? The same goes for your brand culture. As you hone in on ways to really bring your brand to life through these unique and on-brand experiences, you’ll learn what resonates with your clients/customers — and also what resonates with you.
For example, we created those playing cards because we felt it was a fun way to make design accessible, to bring a bit of color and joy to our clients’ days, and it was something that we just really wanted to do. The project was fun and virtually effortless (a few mockup dramas notwithstanding). Because of that, the excitement we had for this little project was extended to our audience, and they responded in kind.
If you’re just forcing these small (or big!) touches into your brand culture, it’s not going to feel as organic as something that is truly aligned and exciting for you. And let’s be honest: your customers will know. So make sure that, however you choose to reinforce your brand’s visual cues to make that connection with your customers/clients, you enjoy the experience. Every decision you make to extend your brand needs to be fun for you to execute in order for it to truly charm your customers and keep them coming back.
Step #1: How do you want your customers to feel? What emotion is your #1 goal for each customer/client who interacts with your brand?
Step #2: How can you emotionally connect with customers? Are there unique ways you can invoke these feelings, whether physically, online, in-person, etc.?
Step #3: Which of those activities or projects seem the most fun or aligned for you (and your team, if you have one)?
Step #4: Start creating those experiences, and see how your customers/clients react.
Step #5: Keep doing it. The more you choose to delight your customers and deliver on that visual cue/reminder of your brand, the more you build trust!
These are the things that make customers believe in your brand — because if they see you living out your mission and your brand values, they’ll trust you and support you. So make sure you’re walking the walk. Don’t just talk the talk.
If you have yet to really develop a brand that evokes the feelings that you want your ideal customer or client to experience, it’s time to start playing with your brand! The Balanced Brand Lab Kit is our do-it-yourself branding workshop where you’ll build a personalized and balanced brand formula to guide all your design (and culture!) decisions.
Make your own style guide and find your brand’s trusty sidekicks: from the right colors, fonts, photography, and more! All of this is just the start of creating a real brand and culture that your customers love, but it’s going to build an amazing foundation to work from!
Copyright 2021 Nicole A. Yang, LLC
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