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Beyond Gratification: Aligning the Millennial User Experience with Brand Promise

Posted by: Alexandra Meyer on February 10, 2014

Millennials – we are an impossible a challenging bunch. As an ode to marketers - we commend you for your efforts to satisfy our fellow uber-skeptical, hyper-disloyal peers. The challenge you face today and going forward will be unlike any other. Luckily, we Millennial Interbranders are here to help.

As Alex Foss’s recent blog piece mentioned, “technology has made instant gratification part of Millennials’ everyday existence. Consequently, Millennials expect that brands weave technology just as seamlessly into their own experiences.” 

This is no longer a differentiator for Millennials – it is table stakes. To succeed, brands must move beyond gratification and ensure the user experience truly delivers on the brand promise.

Humans seek coherence with the products and services we interact with. When dissonance is detected – between the brand and its actual experience - the user becomes frustrated and will feel misled. Consequently, the brand risks losing a customer just as quickly as they gained one.

Millennials simply don't tolerate poor experiences. With knowledge at our fingers tips we know where to go for alternatives. This is not to say that Millennials are the only group brands have to worry about, as other generations are also becoming savvier and less tolerant shoppers. (Two years ago, my father had never heard of Netflix let alone knew how to stream a movie. While last weekend, he became quickly agitated when AppleTV let us know it would be "a few minutes" of loading time before his movie began.)

Your brand promise should be used as a means to shape the user experience and prioritize the most meaningful points of interaction. Brands need to ask themselves where they can find moments to deliver on their brand promise - through the user experience.

Is it through the simplicity of being able to order an Uber taxi and know exactly its time to arrival? Is it through emulating an offline experience online, allowing us to virtually try on glasses as we shop, à la Warby Parker? Or is it putting the power back in our hands, and giving us the ability to self-express ephemerally through apps like SnapChat? These brands go beyond just satisfying our need for instant gratification - they imbue a branded experience that keeps us coming back for more.

User experience as a means to deliver on the brand promise isn't just for savvy tech companies. Well-entrenched brands can and should begin to look at their user experience and identify places where the brand promise can be brought to life. For example, RBC is responding and appealing to Millennials by allowing them to pay through Facebook.

Post by RBC.

All of these moments - parts of the user experience - are so coherent with the brand promise that it's hard to pull them apart. Was that just a good user experience or was that the company delivering on the brand promise? The better you are at aligning these two, the more you are engaging a Millennial with the brand, and the more likely you will be to build loyalty with us. Our loyalty patterns run far and in-between. Although we might love your product, one bad experience could have us running in the other direction.

At a time when mobile/digital mediums are pervading the minds of brand managers, user experience designers, and product managers it is easy to get sucked up into the generality of user experience best practices. These are important - but they are table stakes for Millennials. It is critical to be able to step back and always consider the brand promise. How will it be integrated into new mediums? How will it be translated through the experience and the interaction? How can we create a user experience that is frictionless and coherent with our brand promise? This will ensure your brand promise doesn't become diluted in a purely functional user experience that is anything but aspirational.

Key Takeaways:

• Going beyond interaction design for the sake of usability – deliver an experience that not only satisfies but delights.

• Integrated teams: Foster communication and collaboration among user experience teams, brand/marketing teams and product managers.

• Leverage the brand promise to guide and prioritize moments within the user experience so that the brand maximizes on every opportunity it has to communicate its value - its brand promise - to its users.

Alexandra Meyer is a Senior Associate at Interbrand Toronto.

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