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Design Drives Acceptance

and Advocacy.

What are you communicating? 
If your design focuses on your products or services, then you’re only showing your audience what you do. Dig down deeper to the root of why you do what you do, why your company is unique and why consumers should care about you. It’s only when consumers begin to see the unique benefits of your brand that your company can be properly differentiated from the competition and earn their advocacy.

Authenticity = Brand Advocacy
Designers are taught to design beautiful and functional things. The problem is, “things” don’t make for long-term customer relationships. Anyone can build a computer, make a cup of coffee or create greeting cards, but emotional connections to a brand behind the product is what forms the relationship. A few examples: Dell may pitch a computer but Mac sells you inspiration and a lifestyle. Starbucks has turned coffee into a stylish beverage with a signature green straw, while Papyrus has turned greeting cards into small works of art that celebrate the milestones and events in our lives. Designers should be creating experiences that generate an emotional response, excited engagement and long-term commitment.

While a consumer may sometimes be willing to try out a new brand, they are still very much biased towards familiar brands and what expectations they have. If their criteria are met or exceeded, then they will begin to accept the new brand. As expectations continue to be met or exceeded by the brand, the consumer will start to favor that brand over others. Finally, if the brand continues to perform in an outstanding way, the consumer will turn into a brand advocate, meaning they stand up for the brand socially and share their positive experience with others. These stages of interaction can be grouped into four primary stages.

Tolerate, Accept, Adopt, Advocate
The interaction a consumer has with a product or brand goes through four specific stages: tolerance, acceptance, adoption and advocacy. As stated in the example above, a consumer will never move past the first two stages of tolerance and acceptance unless their expectations have been met or exceeded. It falls on the advertiser, designer and marketer to communicate the brand clearly and effectively to the consumer.

In general, the consumer trusts that what they read on the ad, packaging, or label is honest. This placement of information helps to inform the consumer of what the product or service will be. If your brand oversells or doesn’t communicate expectations properly, then you may create an unhappy customer instead of a loyal brand advocate.

Design helps develop expectations and is the touchpoint that can make or break your brand’s perception with a target audience. It’s paramount that designers spend the time and resources needed to understand the brand’s attributes. They should also understand the needs and desires of the target audience. Both the brand’s goals and the audience’s preferences must align or any marketing campaign is merely a waste of time. The brand can only succeed in building a long-term customer relationship if it’s able to accurately present their differentiators and how they are relevant to the consumer.

Struggling to gain advocates?
Your brand may need to:

  • Change the product to better serve your customer
  • Change your target audience to one that better aligns your brand values
  • Or communicate your brand benefits (the “why”) more accurately and consistently

A well-aligned, authentic campaign can make a substantial impact with the audience it’s geared towards influencing. Remember, none of this works if your brand is not authentic and completely honest with what the customer experience entails. So, best advice? Be honest — not only about the product but about the driving force behind the brand, its values and its relevance to your target audience. Design can drive advocacy and build long-term relationships with customers, who will continue to build up the reputation of your brand when talking to family, friends or followers. Need help designing for your target audience? We’ve got you covered.

t’s the most important thing to do as a brand to successfully go to market? Well, it’s actually several things.

Know Your Brand
First, you must have a strong sense of who the brand is and what it offers. You also need to determine what your brand represents and its personality. It may seem odd to think of your brand as a “who” but it helps to personify your values instead of simply listing them out on an About page.

When developing your brand’s positioning, messaging, and identity, honesty is key. It costs much more and is far more difficult to be something your brand is not. Customers today are smart and have more information at their disposal. This means that authenticity is not only endearing but necessary. Be prepared to have consumers call you out on any missteps you take if you don’t deliver what you promise. Never forget that authenticity is the fastest path to acceptance and helps bolster brand advocacy naturally.

Ask the Right Questions
After honing an identity that aligns with your goals and product/services, you need to look both internally and externally to answer some key questions. For us, a combination of online surveys and in-person workshops have proven to be the most effective ways to collect the answers.

There are two key groups that you will be addressing with your sets of questions. To start, it helps to get a pulse on your employees’ individual opinions, as well as pain points, to help identify and quickly bridge gaps within company culture. The next group you need answers from is your best current and potential customers. This helps you focus on what is most important to them and how to improve their experience with your company.

Internal Questions – The anonymous answers you gather from your employees can help you develop better training and ensure cultural alignment. Each employees’ concerns and understanding of their role in your company can help you streamline processes and reevaluate priorities if needed. Make sure that your team won’t be the cause of any miscommunication or negative perceptions.
Getting everyone on the same page while putting to rest any outstanding issues, from product quality to customer satisfaction, will allow your company to work proactively. Address any misperceptions found with strategic and well executed campaigns to successfully dispel myths while validating your authenticity. The last thing you want to do is waste marketing or advertising dollars due to unresolved internal issues.

Asking questions such as, “What makes you different from the competition?” or “How would you describe the brand’s personality if it were a person?” will bring to light any issues. Whereas asking, “What are the company’s values?” or “What is the company’s culture?” will help you confirm if your internal team can effectively communicate your goals to potential customers.

External Questions – A business cannot be successful without knowing their target audience and how to reach them. When thinking of questions to ask customers, think about having a casual conversation about what differentiates your company, what they prefer, and what they think could be improved.

Building out personas, or fictional characters based on your ideal customer, can work but getting multiple responses from actual customers is much more beneficial and can be eye-opening. Make your personas personal. Give them a name, photo, occupation, and other attributes such as age and education that will impact how you reach them to impact their buying decisions. Some other questions you need to ask to create better personas can include age, income, hobbies, emotional drivers, market awareness, and more.
Whether you are B2B or B2C, the whole purpose of this set of questions is to gain knowledge of customer needs and perceptions. While you may think you know their wants, many customers see gaps in places companies are unaware of. You always want to generate more of your best customers, so find out what makes them tick. Since people use logic to satiate their emotional desires, tap into what triggers their emotional need for what you offer.

So What Next?
After completing the brand discovery process, you should have all the information you need to better define the brand’s identity. Your gained knowledge from employees and current or potential customers will also inform things such as culture, color palettes, font families, positioning, message hierarchy, vocabulary, design elements, and image styles.

Defining your brand as well as understanding your employees’ and customers’ perceptions before heading to market, means your messaging will resonate better and, in turn, will produce more leads. Your internal alignment and unified voice will make it easier for your customers to know what you offer and how it benefits them. Now, you are ready to go to market!

If you’d like examples of questions asked in employee or customer surveys or how to solidify brand identity, email us.