Marketing and design have not always been allies, sitting shoulder to shoulder at the top table of business functions. Despite the commonalities, for many years they have often operated quite separately, keeping to their own territory, missing out on a huge opportunity to leverage the power of Design Thinking and Design Linking.

However, these days, many forward-thinking companies across all sectors are increasingly bringing the two together, sometimes merging entirely to create a more all-encompassing role. This can have a massive advantage when it comes to brand language and the way that is evolving to clarify and focus consistency of brand communication.

Brand language can be considered in terms of two key elements – visual brand language (VBL) and experience brand language (EBL). And it is by bringing the roles of marketing and design closer together that it becomes easier to make the transition from simple VBL to EBL – improving every facet of the customer journey.

Because in markets that have often become commoditized, where there is little differentiation between products and services, the one place a real point of difference can be achieved is through the user experience. Designers and marketers can work in tandem to shape that brand experience.

By scrutinizing the user journey, you can map out how people interact with the brand in its entirety – looking at what they ‘think, feel, do, and sense’ at all stages of the journey. With that knowledge, you can design the best possible experience by optimizing every moment and building massive incremental gain from both small and big changes. This way, brands can offer a better, more holistic, involved experience. Designers can also then work with marketers to think about how to shape, change, and improve each stage in the journey through redesign.

When mapping the journey, the designer’s job is to first consider it from a non-branded perspective – putting the consumer front and center. After that stage, the designer will then apply the brand lens to the journey to understand and see its impact.

It starts with a focus on the visual brand language – pictures and logos – but businesses need to push past the purely visual as this is way too limiting, to consider the entire experience. Together, designers and marketers will determine how EBL manifests itself in a consistent quality of experience.

Take our Sensodyne toothpaste, for example. We would take the brand and break down the consumer experience journey. For this example, customers are most likely to first encounter the toothpaste through a dentist’s recommendation – involving a sample and expert advice. So, it is by ensuring the best consumer experience, starting with their interaction with their dentist, that we can encourage people to move from trying the toothpaste sample to regularly purchasing it in a store. In this way, we can ensure the experience is frictionless and optimized at every possible opportunity.

To improve the experience, we must first recognize that not all dentists and consumers are the same, so we’d create different types of personas for both. The journey maps will consist of points where they are on their own, and points where the patient and dentist interact. A smoother journey can be crafted by considering all these personas and problem-solving along the way – identifying the moments that delight and the moments that detract.

And finally, when designing the experience, we need to consider the Peak End Point rule – because the final element of the experience is the one that registers the most and will determine the overall opinion of the brand. Imagine you’ve gone for a meal out – the food is delicious, the service is great, and the atmosphere has been wonderful. But as you’re leaving the cloakroom attendant can’t find your coat and is unhelpful. It all falls flat at the final interaction and no matter how great the rest of the evening was, you’ll only remember the disappointing finish.

Through a team effort between design and marketing, this experience brand language can then be codified to ensure that on every new product, new occasion, or new interaction, everything is consistent across the whole experience, further building your brand equity and consumer loyalty. With a collaborative approach, the full power of both Design Thinking and Design Linking can be implemented to create distinctive brand experiences that prove memorable for all the right reasons.

Cover image source: Tima Miroshnichenko