How to Build a Better Brand With Human-Centered Design

Creating a brand in saturated markets is an increasingly difficult task. While adtech is making it easier to target potential customers, producing unique, human-centered content that differentiates the brand remains a challenge for most companies. I deal with this on a daily basis, and constantly work to improve my own brand through updating my website, making sure my content aligns with my audience and connecting through social channels with my followers and customers.

The branding challenge is compounded by the fact that the number of places a brand can be criticized has risen as well. Every person a brand interacts with represents not only a potential customer but also a potential detractor.

Why is it so difficult to connect with customers these days? The following are some of the top reasons.

1. Creating Authentic Content Takes Time

People can spot advertising jargon from a mile away, and the average consumer is practically allergic to inauthentic ads. That means marketers are expected to create unique and timely content to help to connect with real customers.

2. Increased Importance of Visual Branding

Design thinking is becoming a major driver of competitive advantage in today’s digital marketing environment. Research shows that 81 percent of consumers research online before engaging with a brand, which means more and more people experience a brand for the first time online. As a result, the way that brand appears visually matters more than ever.

3. Social Media is Shortening Consumer Attention Spans

Most consumers look at an ad for only two seconds, hardly long enough to process any words. That’s why it’s incredibly important that companies create visually engaging content that makes a connection quickly.

4. Millennials Expect Authentic Branding

Millennials are the largest consumer group ever, everyone knows it. As the first demographic group populated by digital natives, Millennials are driving higher expectations when it comes to authentic brands, and are highly engaged with those that successfully gain their trust.

Marketers that tackle these challenges head-on have a better chance of connecting with their customers in order to build lasting and profitable relationships. Companies that make products that are both beautiful and authentic stand a better chance of cutting through the noise and reaching more customers.

Human-Centered Design

While authenticity is a frequently mentioned priority, the newer, better-defined trend of human-centered design is becoming a popular approach to making a brand more appealing to new customers while retaining existing ones. There are even several free courses that aim to help advance human-centered design in more industries.

In the past, all a company had to worry about was its product or service, but today’s brands have to consider the experience they are creating for consumers, and whether that experience is different enough from their competition.

“Authenticity is a vital characteristic for the emerging and established brands of today. Gone are the days of just relying on broadcast marketing to create brand awareness,” says Matt Munson, CEO and co-founder of Twenty20, a stock photography company. “We live in a new and connected world where creating relationships, and a sense of community is what it takes for a brand to stand out in the eyes of the consumer. As such, brands need to generate a ton of content regularly. That’s a lot of work, but it’s become essential.”

Here’s how.

1. Create More Engaging Visual Content

Munson suggests, “Photos are the primary driver of people’s initial experience with a brand. Brands that recognize this can leverage visual storytelling as a powerful tool to help them create enduring relationships with their audience.” In doing so, companies will be able to create stronger buy-in and affinity for the brand.

2. Focus on the Customer at Every Stage of the Design Process

Tim Brown, CEO of human-centered design firm Ideo, shared in a recent blog, “This is a moment of rich opportunity for design thinkers, and we now have evidence that the world at large is taking notice.” As you implement design thinking in your company, keep the customer at the center of every decision.

3. Close the Loop with Engaging Content to Create Customer Buy-In

Don’t just settle for traditional advertising content, focus on generating authentic, meaningful copy to incorporate in all your communications to help your customers feel like they are engaging with an authentic company.

Brands that effectively leverage these tactics will create visually appealing experiences at a fraction of previous costs, avoid costly customer churn and turn customers into more vocal brand ambassadors that will drive continued business.

Sabana Islam is a digital marketing consultant.