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Product Branding’s Next Wave

When you think of branding, do you think of something like this?:


That’s Bill Horan, our Creative Director, Interaction Design, on the left and Chris Murray, Director of Industrial Design on the right. Bill and Chris don’t really walk around the office wearing shirts dotted with logos, but they do have branding on the brain.


Our DMI/DesignPhilly event, Product Branding’s Next Wave.

At the sold-out dmi NightOut we hosted at our office during DesignPhiladelphia earlier this month, they presented on branding’s shift from logos that triple the price of a shirt to meaningful, authentic experiences that strengthen the relationship between brands and their audiences.

In Product Branding’s Next Wave, branding looks like more like Apple’s omnichannel product journey than like logos on a shirt:


Shifts in Branding, Products, and Design

After introducing this notion of branding’s transformation, Bill and Chris went into the blurring of the lines between digital and physical. Tech-embedded products have become the norm. What does this mean for product branding and design?


Traditionally, industrial and interaction designers focused on expressing brand values through visual and physical elements, such as color, materials, and finish. Today this remains a focus, but experiential brand articulation through interactive elements also needs to be considered. The product branding professional’s toolbox has expanded considerably to include components such as haptics, voice, light, sound, and micro-interactions.


Chris and Bill illustrated visual and experiential brand articulation through case studies in the tech and medical industries. They also covered some of the challenges and opportunities of practicing experiential digital-physical product branding.

Generic descriptors such as “value” and “innovation” aren’t sufficiently expressive to drive the design of an experiential customer journey.

One of the challenges is convincing less savvy clients of the need to come up with unique identifiers for their brand values. Generic descriptors such as “value” and “innovation” aren’t sufficiently expressive to drive the design of an experiential customer journey. One of the opportunities is the ability to continually improve a product and its relationship with its users by pushing out firmware and software updates – something that’s not possible with a purely physical product.


At the end of the presentation, Chris and Bill offered five pieces of advice for those looking to “catch the wave,” or integrate elements of experiential branding into their product development process:

1 – Understand Your Brand. How will your brand’s values, mission, vision, and character inform the experience?

2 – Consider the End-to-End Customer Journey. Where are your opportunities to make an impact?

3 – Design for Emotion. How will you craft interactions that spark positive emotional responses?

4 – Think Big & Small. How might you disrupt? Create major, impactful moments? Inject delight into small, repetitive interactions?

5 – Craft a Great Story. What story will your customer perceive from experiencing the end-to-end journey? Make it great.

There were some great questions and comments from the audience. And it was clear the point of the presentation had been made when, at the end of the Q&A session, one audience member summed up experiential branding in one short sentence: “It’s all about the feels.”

Many thanks to DesignPhiladelphia for providing a platform, to DMI for creating a strong community of design professionals and programming worldwide, and to the more than 50 people who joined us to discuss Product Branding’s Next Wave. Read more about the transformation of branding in Chris’s recent post, Branding and Joy, A Love Story. And find out more about the interaction design side of experiential branding in Bill’s Brand-Building Through Interaction Design webcast.


(Look at our Facebook page for more event photos of hosts and guests eating excellent banh mi, playing shuffleboard, and drinking Fire in the Hole, the ‪Bg brew on tap.)