In our second post, we will discuss, with a concrete example, how one brand can maintain its values when applying to a digital experience that may not be within their purview.

A good example is a travel brand. Let’s take the website hipmunk.com

Hipmunk states that it is ‘The fastest, easiest way to plan travel’ and its user experience certainly delivers on that brand promise to its customers.

Planning a flight on the website is done in a way that makes sense to REAL people. Fares can be listed by price, time, departure, arrival etc, but also by ‘agony’ – in other words they understand that customers are looking for the perfect balance between keeping costs down and a flight that is not painful.

 

These results are presented in a ‘schedule’ format that allows users to understand when they depart/arrive etc. which allows them to visually compare the right choice for them and select rapidly.

It’s these little details in the experience that fulfill on its brand promise. The overall look of the site is clean, functional and friendly.

Similarly when booking hotels, hipmunk presents results and allows users to filter by the type of hotel you’re looking for, which is unusual (luxury, romantic, business, kid-friendly etc).

So how does hipmunk translate this to mobile mobile experience?

When using the hipmunk app it does NOT feel like an iphone app. It feels very much as if you are in hipmunk’s world – the mascot takes center stage and animates in a cute way when loading results, and the button borders and fonts are consistent with the website. Nothing has been sacrificed in the experience that takes away from the brand.


A nifty feature that makes more sense on a mobile device is the hotels heatmap overlay feature, which allows you to know which hotel is closest to the things you want (food, entertainment etc). It’s a simple easy way to navigate complex choices, leveraging the location-aware functionality of the device.

But hipmunk has the advantage of being designed in the digital era so translating its brand is substantially easier.

What about companies who existed before digital, how do they fare?

GE is a good example of what can go wrong when brand isn’t part of a digital strategy. GE has many applications across different lines of business. Because these apps are often built in house, creative license is taken with the look and feel, or because (practically) its cumbersome to change the look and feel, teams will often reuse existing pieces from other apps.

This leads to a situation where a company with a powerful distinctive brand on its website, ge.com, has a heavily diluted and inconsistent experience across its suite of apps.

How could we rectify this problem?

The first step is to look at the website. A company’s website is still its goto brand statement. We study it from two perspectives:

How do we flow through the website?

What feelings does the website inspire?

First, the website is extremely simple to navigate. Simple sounds dismissive but here it refers to GE’s ability to distill the complex into something that is easy to understand.

A couple of things contribute to the ‘feel’: the statements of GE’s returns in numbers indicates GE’s priority is ‘less talk, more results’. There is a sense that GE’s work and brand is about benefiting humankind through innovation and imagination (reflected in its tagline ‘imagination at work’)

This sense is also paired in the simple, refreshing approach to its visuals and font choice. There is a lot of white negative space which indicates a clean, focused brand. The blue against white indicates clouds and sky which couples well with imagination.

So how could this design be brought into one of their apps?

Let’s compare two of them:

You can see on the right the use of black, gradients, an overall heavy brand. Also a significant lack of imagery detrimentally takes away from the feeling of ‘imagination at work’.

The one on the right is better, especially in its use of fonts and negative white space in its areas of content but to improve it, we would have recommended:

Changing both the top and bottom to a flat blue with white text. The use of gradients and beveled buttons was an Apple standby, and a company’s digital experience should not be limited to the OS on which it is built.

Avoiding the back button which hinders so many iPhone apps. A flexible UI where the user can jump from one page to the other is more intuitive and creates a better experience for the user. When users are locked into a next page to next page approach it limits the experience to the Apple experience, and it not a truly branded GE experience.

Finally one word about organizing your organization for digital brand cohesion – your branding team MUST have the final say on any experiences that are to be put in front of a customer. Any touchpoint, regardless how small, is a representation of your brand, and to have consistency in experience, tone, visual identity and feel you must have a brand guardian that can build your brand equity in the marketplace.

In our next and final post about brand and digital, we will look at choosing the right operation system to maintain and evolve your brand as effectively as possible.