Brand and behaviour

Taking your design thinking process to the next level

Human centred design is credited with product and service breakthroughs in almost every industry- from Apple to Airbnb , Nike to Nordstrom and beyond.

It’s also credited with some of the most boring, bogged down in the detail, customer journey maps that make no real impact on the world at all. The difference between success and failure in these areas isn’t just a poorly executed process. And it isn’t about a lack of smart people trying to solve a problem. From our own successes and failings in the application of human centred design, we learned what was tipping the scales in favour of a great outcome.


What we mean by evidence based design

At UDKU, we saw the application of two additional elements as absolutely critical. One is tried and tested: Brand Thinking; the other new and emerging: Decision Science. When we borrowed the term “Evidence based design” from the world of healthcare and research, we wanted to use the knowledge we had in both of these areas to create innovative design solutions with less risk of failure.


Blending observation and emerging science

Most HCD processes will have ethnographic research at their core. A fancy word for qualitative observational research with real customers to uncover what are hopefully fresh insights. Good ethnographic research is great- in the right hands a combination of the right questions, noticing the details of behaviour and also what is not being said can be incredibly enlightening.

But ethnographic research does tend towards making more conscious observations, and as Dr Gerald Zaltman at the Harvard Business School says, up to 95% of purchasing decisions are driven by the subconscious. The great thing about that statement is that it proves its own assertion- reading it one is more inclined to believe that statement due to the reference to Harvard. That’s just how Authority Bias works. And a variety of other academics have identified and replicated hundreds of other biases. Our evidence approach combines all of these things: what we ask, what we observe, and what we already know about human behaviour to make for a much more robust set of insights and a more original and compelling journey. Running through the biases and heuristics in a systematic way isn’t a straight jacket though- it’s a spring board to a host of other ideas and explanations that we might have missed through the ethnographic approach alone.


Start with the brand, end with the brand

The standard customer journey map tends to follow a set of somewhat predictable steps from ignorance of the products existence to purchase to advocacy. Little wonder then that breaking that down into tiny detailed steps, triggers and barriers may not yield the most inspirational approach.

Which is why we start with the brand. And by brand, we’re not referring to (just) a noble purpose statement or pyramid of features, attributes and benefits. We define the principles of the whole experience.

  • How it manifests in the physical and digital space (and how those channels blend).
  • The impact of culture that guides the values and behaviours of the people delivering the experience, product or service.
  • The partnerships and unique assets the brand has at its disposal to set it apart from others.
  • The approach to data and segmentation that allows the brand the flex required to truly personalise the experience, while still staying true to a consistent identity.
  • The emotions we want to evoke in customers that will elicit the kind of behaviours that will drive the business forward.
  • The social communities, both existing and created that make a brand a part of culture and a part of our customers’ lives.

Essentially, we think about the thing we cannot yet say about the brand, but that customers truly want. That’s the future positioning of the brand, and then we build an experience to deliver it.

With this approach, the output is so much more exciting than a simple ad brief that is rooted in the present day truths of the brand and product and what it can legitimately claim. By leveraging brand and behavioural insight, we’re able to take design thinking to a place where clients can truly embrace the unknown.


Header photo by on Unsplash

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