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Brands are people in disguise: Virtual experience keeps it real

Posted by Chad O'Connor  October 2, 2013 11:00 AM

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[The We are the Creative Industries series: The Creative Industries - video game companies, design, marketing and architecture firms, and talented people who write books, design houses, shoot movies, make art and record music, just to name a few examples - are an important part of Massachusetts' economy, with $1 billion statewide impact and over 100,000 workers. Click here to learn more.]

If it’s not on Instagram, did it ever really happen? We all know that without an online presence today, you might as well walk around invisible. This fact is as true for brands as people today. Sure, solutions of viral ads, saturating SEO, leading content management, and social media campaigns are out there, but businesses are still asking what are my customers looking for? Remembering that brands are people, asking how some of the most influential individuals tackle their online presence, is a great starting place.

The web allows the world to discover a person’s group affiliations, accomplishments, interests, overall what’s happening with them. Consumers want to feel as excited and informed about the brands they know, as the friends and coworkers they see everyday; more than anything consumers learning about your brand want to feel like they’re getting the real story.

Your consumer is smarter than you think.

When it’s too complicated for a consumer to understand they’ve concluded one of two things:
1. You don’t know what you’re talking about.
2. You don’t know it well enough to get the job done.

Either way, the consumer is always going to believe they are smarter than you.

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” –Albert Einstein
Owners of an idea tend to get wordy. Good design communicates the essence of your message. Great design, and therefore great designers, solve problems you never knew were there. This is because the results only reveal the answers. Aim to show your customers more what you do, and less how you got there. Adding excessive depth may actually dilute your message.

Walk a few steps…
Be concise. Use simple terms. Structure your pages so not to distract from the message and its sequence. If your message is something they want, offer them more content to uncover. Approach the design of your website, tablet, and mobile interface to comprise a list of steps. This doesn’t mean the site needs to be boring and systematic, but the process needs to be straightforward and understandable. The more you say, the less they will listen. The more options you offer, the less they will stay focused.

Your website is an extension of your office.
Your brand’s website should take a consumer through a procession. Imagine a potential client is visiting your physical office for the first time. Perhaps you don’t even have an office, well all the more reason to take this approach!

A potential client is greeted at the door, then introduced to your receptionist. Afterward, they will wait in your lobby or gallery space. Finally, they’ll step into your conference room to engage with you and your team. Considering each of these steps in advance will allow consumers to stay focused, remain interested, and discover only the details about your company you intend. Generating a virtual space as thought through as a physical one will form a clear pathway for customers to navigate.

A little research never hurt anyone.
Precedents are a designer’s best friend. Make a list of complete websites and unique functions that comprise your likes and dislikes. Think less about the products or competition and focus more on the experiences that you’re having on these sites or while using applications. Interpret for yourself what it is about particular visual and graphic content that catches your eye.

Use your research to develop some of your own mock-ups. If possible, approach the mock-ups from an A/B testing standpoint. Try out pages and applications before placing them online for the world to see.

Lastly, the virtual world is constantly changing. Trends constantly emerge. Acknowledge that nothing is permanent. Design your site to be adaptable for your internal and external growth.

Michael Luciano Abbate is Lead Designer and Head of Experiential Identity at REPENSO. Check out Michael's work and connect with him at

[We are thankful for Global Business Hub’s support of the Creative Industries. Please note: This article does not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development or its Creative Economy Industry Director for the Commonwealth, nor is it an endorsement of any views, products, or opinions contained therein. The author is solely responsible for the content.]

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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