‘A Picture speaks a thousand words’ and rightly so. Communication is a key aspect for any business. Getting the right message out to customers is the key to success for any business. This is the reason why Design is playing the most important role in businesses today. It is the means by which businesses express themselves across an increasingly complex ecosystem of online & offline mediums. Powerful brands understand that even before the consumers start reading or interacting with the product, their subconscious mind is trying to convince them in favor of the product in front of them or against it. And that is the reason why companies, businesses, and brands attempt to build an emotional connection with its audiences. Take a look at Dyson’s Vacuum Cleaners. The most premium brand of all vacuum cleaner brands.
(Image Source – Dyson)
Even though Dyson’s Vacuum cleaners are more powerful and cordless, their biggest draw is the product’s design which is nothing short of a masterpiece. Every single product is carefully designed to draw maximum attention. Compare this to any other vacuum cleaner brand and you would immediately start appreciating the amount of work Dyson has done to produce this stellar work of art. The products look so cool, it makes you want to do your chores!
How Brands Use Design
Our world is full of visual cues and this is why we as human beings still rely primarily on sight and sound to make decisions. This knowledge is most utilized in the advertorial world and most importantly in the food advertorial business. Food advertorials focus on making the product look so much more luxurious and inviting and in order to achieve that, the images, sounds and even the text copy used in the Ads are carefully chosen to subconsciously trigger thoughts about the product being delicious and therefore making the consumers want it. Making Food look delicious and tempting across the TV Screen is so important for the industry that there’s an entire education system designed on how to get it right.
This is known as Emotional Design. The emotional design uses design principles to create products that appeal to us by eliciting specific emotions in order to create the desired experience for the user. Since emotions play a central role in our ability to understand the world, Positive experiences thus enhance our curiosity while negative ones dissuade us away from the brand. This is why, Emotional Design is used by brands to manipulate our impulses and elicit a specific emotional cue, positive or negative. These emotional connections are built on three levels:
- Visceral Level
- Behavioral Level
- Reflective Level
Designers address the human cognitive ability at each of these levels to get the desired emotional response. A positive emotional response could be of pleasure, trust, serenity, hope, etc. while a desired negative emotional response could be of disgust, sadness, anger, bitterness, etc.
Visceral Designs are designs that are crafted to elicit an immediate reaction when we encounter a product for the first time. This is based on the aesthetics and the perceived quality of the product or the design itself, purely from the look and feel aspect of it. Visceral Design is best explained as “I see it, I want it, I will look great with it”. In the late 90s, when most companies were busy making pale-yellowish boxy personal computers, Apple’s not one but thirteen different candy-colored macintosh’s were the perfect example of Visceral Emotional Design put to great use. Similarly, when you think of an Aston Martin in a James Bond movie, you think of a sleek and a beautiful car. That’s Visceral Design.
Behavioural Design looks at the usability of the design, how well it will perform, the functionalities, ease of navigation and most importantly how it meets their needs and requirements. Behavioral design is best explained as “I can learn it, master it, it makes me look better, smarter, etc.” Thanks to Apple’s almost fanatic pursuit for great product designs, any of the Apple products including the iPhones, iMacs and even the now obsolete iPods are great examples of behavioral design put to great use. Sony Playstation’s are other great examples of products built with a great behavioral design.
Reflective Design looks at how the design will impact the end user’s lives after using it or even what values do the end-users associate with using the product. Reflective design deals with a rationalization of the product where the consumer consciously looks at the design and then post weighing its pros and cons, decides to be associated with it or not. It can be best summarised as “I can tell stories about me using it and that makes me feel better”. Tesla’s cars are the perfect example of a reflective design. Starting from the niche market of driving electric cars that are better for the planet than traditional cars, Tesla cars are the epitome of “I drive this car and it makes me look good”. The beauty of the product is desirous but it is just one of the many aspects that make it desirable.
Everything around us has been designed using one or all three levels of emotional design to ultimately elicit a reaction because of expectations of consumers from brands. When one or more of those expectations are met, we experience a positive emotion. Using this emotional design principle, Product companies craft designs to create a positive response. Similarly, when needed, designs are created to elicit a negative emotional response as well. Anti-smoking campaign designs are a great example of it. This is done to elicit a strong negative emotion in the minds of smokers and to dissuade them from smoking by reminding them of the harmful effects. Studies have shown that post the introduction of such campaigns, cigarettes sales have dropped and a higher number of people are quitting smoking. The impact has been so strong that in order to stay relevant or profitable, tobacco companies have since then branched into non-tobacco based products like E-cigarettes, vapes and other products that are still about smoking yet have no immediate or known side effects.
How Your Business can do better by utilizing Design
Let’s touch upon a few techniques that a business can leverage in order to bring Design intelligence in their products:
- Developing Target Personas
Before you can embody emotional design in your product, one of the most important tasks that you need to complete for your business is to understand the target persona of your consumers or end-customers. This target persona development goes way beyond the traditional customer segmentation exercises which are generally performed by identifying generic demographics like age groups, locations, etc. Businesses need to identify other matrices as well for example behavioral differences, spending patterns and even identify pain points experienced by customers among other things. Only when you have a deep insight to the target persona of your end customer would you be able to address their concerns by designing a product that tries to eliminate those concerns.
- Design for an emotional response
Now that you know the secret of Apple’s success and the reason for Steve Jobs’ almost fanatic passion for emotional design, what emotions do you want customers to elicit when they experience your product? Keeping this as the central question, once you know which emotion is desired as a response, your designers should then reverse engineer your product or service and work their way back. When Rolls Royce builds products, they build it for opulence. So, the emotions they aim for are the feelings of ‘Elegance, charm, luxury, and sophistication’ and that their products are only available to a select few. Everything they do centers around this principle – manufacturing, design, R&D, Marketing, and especially Sales. Another great example of a brand centered around an emotional response is Nike. Nike has always centered its products around function and form and yet have carved a niche for themselves as makers of products that consumers simply can’t have enough of. Their ‘Air Jordan’ and ‘Air Max’ series have been the most successful shoe series for the brand. These and other popular shoes have become so desirable that they are considered as masterpieces and hence are collected, traded and even adorned in museums as well.
(Image Source – design-milk.com)
- Crafting the end-to-end experience
Ultimately, design can be transformational for any business but only if the creative vision and business strategy are seamlessly aligned. Brand expression is no longer about what a company says; it’s also about what it does and how it does those things and more importantly how do the customers perceive the brand. Netflix is the perfect example here. Once a dwindling video rental business, Netflix has now become a behemoth in the online video business purely because of an awesome user experience designed on simplicity and ease of access to what the users want to watch. Designing your products, services, and business around user experience is what drives growth and differentiation. That’s the key reason why Slack is at the top of the business chat apps leaderboards.
- Influence purchase decisions with better designs
There are innumerable cases shown where design or emotional design principles have been used by businesses to elicit a certain emotional response that leads to purchases. However, to effectively motivate a certain decision, you need to know what your customers want. For this you need to motivate your buyers along with the decision making the journey via an awesome website, advertisements via online & offline marketing, outreach campaigns via social media channels, etc. This is where well-thought designs can facilitate all these campaigns while still tying together your brand identity together. With smart designs, you can influence and motivate your clients to make better decisions.
- Good designs help your brand stand out
In order to stand out from the crowd, every brand must be consistent in its presence, online and offline. That means an awesome website designed for great user experience, social media channels that build a community around your brand, consistent brand imagery, packaging designs, and even office space design. A good design not only helps your brand make a good first impression, but it also makes your brand memorable, helps you set you apart from the crowd and most importantly build a community of loyal fans. All this ultimately leads to good business, better sales, and larger outreach.
Finally, in the words of great Jeff Bezos – “If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that.”
So if you have been second-guessing the power of design and its impact on your business. Simply – Don’t. A good design not only gives you a competitive edge, in a lot of ways, but it can also actually help you streamline your business and drive powerful results.
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