Designers Yasushi Kusume and Neil Gridley have helped lead design and brand management for the likes of Philips, Electrolux and Tesco. They are also the authors of Brand Romance, a guide to building a loved brand – we asked them to share the secrets of how it’s done...

Bloomberg Businessweek’s latest design issue starts by announcing ‘We’ve passed the point where design is merely the look and feel of things’, but in our experience there are still many people who believe design = styling. Unfortunately, on this point, many designers themselves are their own worst enemy.

By developing products and services, a brand not only conveys its values but demonstrates it understands the needs of its audience.

We believe good design is about building a relationship between a brand and its audience, creating a strong emotional connection.

Through the process of developing, communicating and delivering products and services, a brand not only conveys its values but demonstrates it understands the needs of its audience. 

We believe design can build relationships based on trust, and even love.

To illustrate how a brand can build a loving relationship with its audience, it helps to think about how you foster a loving relationship with your own partner.

First sight

Do you remember the first time you saw them? Before you actually met them? They probably made some impression on you with their appearance. Perhaps it was their face, or another part of their body, or even what they were wearing that day. It might have happened in an instant, or gradually over time. But however it happened, it almost certainly started with (some part of) their appearance.

We believe that exactly the same idea applies to a brand and a brand proposition. And it explains why a brand should apply design thinking and capability to give it a striking appearance - one that not only makes it irresistible to those who encounter it, but also invites you to get to know it better.

Getting to know them

So, having met someone whose appearance attracted you, you found a way to approach them. And from there a deeper, more emotional bond began to grow – adding a deeper level of attraction by experiencing the way they smiled at your jokes, or the way they talked, or just their body language. 

It's exactly the same for a brand: a brand and its proposition should try to build an emotional bond with its audience. To put it another way, a product should be designed to engage the senses, with qualities that continuously surprise, delight and differentiate it from other brands.

A real partner

Spending time together, you began to discover your partner’s character and personality and, from there, get to know their values and beliefs. It’s when you realise that you share most, or all, of these values and beliefs, you know that you’ve found someone with whom you could build a truly loving relationship.

It's this connection that a brand and a proposition should try to achieve with its audience. And to do that, designers and marketers need to be totally honest about what the brand is and what its beliefs are.

The key

What we are trying to pinpoint here is the key to fostering true love: the discovery, and sharing, of each other’s values and beliefs. And while this may begin with appearance, that appearance is not – unless you're just looking for a one-night stand – the ultimate key to success. So it is with a brand: it may look good, but unless it shares the values and beliefs of its audience, there will be no true love between the two.

 

About the authors

Yasushi Kusume and Neil Gridley are authors of Brand Romance, which will tell you, in short, how to create a truly loved brand by design.

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