The impression that people have about your brand isn’t formed in one instance and locked in time forever, it’s dynamic.

An ever-changing accumulation of all the experiences a person has while interacting with your brand, or any extension of it.

When someone visited your website did they feel frustrated and confused because of the poor design and lack of information? Or did they feel confident in your service because you knew exactly what they were looking for and curated a smooth process from search to checkout?

When someone interacted with you in person, on the phone, or via email, did you make people feel like you were a professional by putting in the effort to create clear, guided communication? Or did they feel like you were aloof and unorganized, not worth the high price you are charging?

These are examples of some of the earliest experiences a person will have with your brand, but what determines the quality of a brand experience?

Brand experiences have three outcomes

Every experience can be classified as having one of three outcomes on your brand. It can be a positive, negative, or neutral experience. You can picture these outcomes on a line with negative on one end, positive on the other, and neutral in the middle.

Each experience falls somewhere on the line, sometimes halfway between two points.

I’m sure you can already start to think of lots of examples of different kinds of brand experiences, and when you do there will be a general underlying theme that creates each outcome.

What creates a negative brand experience?

The actions in the experience were significantly lower than your expectations of what should have happened. These expectations could have been explicitly set by the brand, influenced by society at large, or be the result of other previous brand experiences.

While an outcome being lower than expected is not always grounds for a negative experience, what ensures a negative outcome is when the result feels so far below the expectation that it feels like it had to be intentionally created, generally with an ulterior motive behind it – typically something that benefits the brand, not you.

An example of a negative experience could be when a brand says you won a contest, but then requires you to make an exchange of value to claim your prize which was never mentioned in the rules. This could be asking you to give them a public five-star review, make an additional purchase, or give them referrals.

This breaks with the traditional expectation you’d have that a contest should not require you to do anything to win the prize (unless stated in the rules) and the company is being greedy.

What creates a neutral brand experience?

The actions in the experience were more-or-less equal to your expectations of what should have happened. It’s not so far off in the negative or positive that it falls into either of those categories.

Most of your brand’s experiences (unless you’ve put thought into them) will have this outcome because you are creating your experiences based on your own expectations. Your expectations will, on average, be equal to the expectations of society at a large, meaning your experiences are what other people expect.

These are not necessarily bad experiences to have, but they are also not memorable or overly positive. They are not going to make your brand stand out or change a person’s perception of it as you were doing what was already expected.

What creates a positive brand experience?

The actions in the experience were more than your expectations of what should have happened. In this case they were so far beyond you expectations that they caused a change in your mood.

A great example is if you had been going to Tim Hortons drive-thrus for your whole life, talking to a generic person who takes your order, gives you a coffee, and then you drive off without even thinking about it. Then one day you go to Starbucks and are greeted by a cheerful, talkative, early-twenties coffee slinger who makes you feel like in the hustle and bustle of your day you were able to slow down, connect, and have a meaningful, yet playful conversation with another human – even if it was just for 20 short seconds.

From that moment on your expectations have been changed.

These are the holy grail of brand experiences. They not only differentiate a brand, but they raise the standard of what a person expects from all brands that are offering the same product or service. What was previously a neutral brand experience at a competing brand can start to feel like a negative experience.

Experience is the new battlefield

Unless you are lucky enough to offer a product or service that no one can recreate, you’re going to have competition. This means that the bar is always being raised. The only way to out-do your competitors is to create experiences that are more positive than anything anyone else is doing.

Leading brands look for ways to differentiate and ways to wow. Other brands then copy the leaders and slowly the expectations are raised and positive experiences become neutral ones – then the cycle starts all over again.

This is where brands are battling now – trying to create the most unique positive experiences they can around all of their interactions. This is why if you bought a new Helly Hanson winter jacket last winter they gave you a free lift ticket at a big ski resort of your choosing. They saved you about a hundred bucks and when you pick up the Helly Hanson branded ticket at the window you’re reminded that you’re getting to enjoy that beautiful day because of Helly Hanson.

Sure the North Face creates great youtube videos that remind you of adventure, but nothing beats the brand that actually gives you the adventure.

Experiences are subjective

As you’re reading this you’re probably thinking that not everyone judges experiences the same. One persons positive is one person neutral – and you’re right. That’s why it’s so important to know who your target audience is.

If you try to create positive experiences for everyone, you’ll create them for no one. You have to look at who your business’s ideal clients are to determine what type of experiences they will want.

You also have to understand your business and your brand to determine how you can effectively create those experiences for your ideal clients. From there, you dive into the journey’s your clients go through, highlighting all of the interactions they will have with your brand. Then you find ways to make them amazing.

Thankfully, there is a process to figure all of this out – and if you do it with the right people you’ll have a great experience of your own.

If you’re a business owner you’ve probably been affected by COVID – if you’re reading this, it’s probably not in a good way. If you’re in a position where your business is still working but revenue is down and you are trying to solve the problem of how to recover and grow from this point – you’re in luck.

I’ve included the top five tools you should be investing in right now to help get your business back on track. Not every strategy is right for every business, but some combination of the strategies listed below will help.

01 – A New Brand Strategy

Sometimes there is nothing wrong with your product or service – just how it’s packaged. COVID has affected your customers’ lives, and when people’s lives change, their priorities and values change as well. Your business may no longer be positioned to connect with your clients anymore – and that’s fine – it just means you may have to rethink your brand strategy.

What is brand strategy? Brand strategy is a blueprint to create a brand that accurately communicates your company’s values in a way that engages with your ideal clients and positions you as an industry leader for your service offerings.

An updated brand strategy will help you take stock of your current situation and pivot your offering to connect with your clients again, allowing you to minimize changes to your current operation while driving growth on a new front.

02 – An Updated Marketing Plan

While the shift to digital marketing started long ago the final push to be online is happening now. The sudden change from an in-person world to a virtual one has rendered a lot of existing marketing plans useless as people’s daily habits and interactions have changed.

The good news? There are lots of ways to find out where your ideal clients are online and how to connect with them.

You can be completely hands-off with your marketing plan having a team of professionals implement it for you, or if you have the time and skills you can do the heavy lifting yourself.

Either way, an effective marketing plan will leverage tried-and-tested digital and traditional marketing strategies to grow your customer base.

03 – A Targeted Content Strategy

Social media consumption is up 72% since covid started. If you’re not posting content online to connect with your ideal clients, someone else is.

Regardless of the platform or format of your content, a solid content strategy allows you to stay top of mind with current clients and prospects while being discoverable by new people. It’s key for creating top-of-funnel interest, helping drive your marketing plan while reinforcing your brand.

Knowing what type of content to create with a strategy to have it dispersed is the key to a successful content strategy. Once again, depending on your resources, you can have someone create and manage the content for you, or set you up with a system on how to do it yourself.

04 – Automating Your Processes

One of the best investments to minimize overhead and improve through-put in your business right now is process automation.

There are many parts of a business that can leverage process automation to increase efficiency and decrease costs. From small segregated processes like client onboarding, to end-to-end business automation, allowing you to manage your entire business through a website on your smartphone.

In the end, the result is a reduction in the amount of manual labour required to operate a business process, resulting in the ability to cut back on staff, redirect their time to more efficient tasks, or allow them to increase output with the same input by simplifying their workflow.

05 – Updating Your Website

Your website is one of the first things prospective clients will see when they search for you. Their experience on your website will play a role in their expectation of the quality of service your business provides and they will compare their experience on your website with that of your competitors before deciding who to call.

If your website doesn’t work well on a mobile phone – people will notice and assume your product or service is not as high value. If people can’t find what they are looking for easily – their frustration will be projected onto your brand as well. If the words you use to describe your service offering don’t clearly connect with their values or needs – they will not take action.

Your website is a huge opportunity to differentiate yourself and create an experience for your clients that will influence your entire working relationship.

Good from every angle
The updated logomark

The existing logo elements were reorganized to create a more versatile logomark. An additional white ‘knockout’ was created to allow for placement on dark background colors. The text can also be stripped away to create an icon when space is limited.

Off The Lens logo
Off The Lens Secondary

Focusing on the elements
The foundation of a brand

Existing color palettes and fonts were streamlined and standardized. New patterns and textures were created to help solidify the foundational elements of the visual identity of the brand.

Off The Lens colors
Off The Lens colors
Off The Lens pattern 2

Choosing photography
More than meets the eye

Since Off The Lens is focused on helping local businesses and driving community growth, we skipped the typical expensive cars and product shots and selected photography that would showcase people, environments, and communities.

OTL image

Putting it together
The visual identity

The end result is a visual identity that speaks to the professional, high-quality social media content and strategy work that Off The Lens creates.

Off The Lens Assets

Ready for the future
The Brand Strategy

In addition to the visual identity of the brand the following components were completed as part of the Brand Strategy. Together they serve as the foundation for creating consistent, authentic messaging:

  • Ideal Client Profiles,

  • Purpose, Vision, Core Values & Mission Statement,

  • Personality & Voice,

  • Value Proposition, Tagline & Messaging Pillars,

  • Comprehensive Brand Guidelines Document.

Brand Strategy Wheel

While design is hugely subjective, there are still some basic underlying principles that will guide you into the realm of clear, easy to digest visual creation.

Here are the seven steps we follow when reviewing a design:

01 – Information Hierarchy

Is there a clear visual hierarchy between all of the elements? Is the most important element seen first, the second most important second, and so on?

02 – Margins and Padding

Is the empty space around elements (text, images) consistent on all sides? Is the amount of space between different elements consistent or proportionally related?

03 – Alignment

Is all of the written content center, left-aligned, right-aligned, or a combination of both? We want to be consistent – so pick one alignment and use it throughout the design.

04 – Scannability

Is a person able to scan the design quickly and understand the overall message without having to read the whole thing?

05 – Typography

Are the font sizes, weights, styles, and colors consistently used? Are differences chosen to distinguish elements or create hierarchy?

06 – Color

Is color being used in alignment with brand guidelines? Are different colors chosen to distinguish elements or create hierarchy.

07 – Clean Up

Are there any styles, elements, or information that can be removed without affecting the overall message?

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