McDonalds branding

How UX applies to all businesses, not just software projects.

User Experience (UX) has become a buzz phrase online and in many corporate boardrooms these days. It has traditionally been associated with the design and testing phases of software development projects. A UX Designer often plays the part of customer advocate, researching and advising on the best features and their design, ensuring a product has the best chance of being loved by potential customers. If you want more information and articles specifically on UX Design you can visit this helpful site: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature

The point of this post is not however to rehash the basics of UX Design, but to get you to think about UX from a branding perspective. I am talking about all brands, not just software or online businesses. It is my opinion that UX plays a significant role in the way that customers view a brand before, during and after they encounter it.

Before I dive into some examples to better explore UX in branding, it is critical to understand the following statement:

– Consistency builds trust.

This is one of the most powerful statements in the context of branding. It is so important because without trust your customers won’t buy. Consistency (or lack of it) is experienced by customers when they interact with your brand (i.e. the “user’s experience”), and therefore it is a tool that can be used to enhance your brand.

The best way to explain what I mean is to give some examples of how UX can play out in a real world context, not just in software application development.

Let’s say you and a couple of friends take a trip to a new city you have not visited before. As you’re all walking down an unfamiliar street you decide you want to get a quick lunch. You look around and see a plain sign in a shop window that says “Hot food. Cold Drinks.” The shop doesn’t have a name, and you have no idea what food they sell, or what the food is going to taste like. Suddenly out of the corner of your eye you spot an unmistakeable golden ‘M’ a little further down the street. Immediately you and your friends decide that McDonalds is the better bet that day.

Of course this is only an example to illustrate my point, and I’m not suggesting that everyone would or should choose McDonalds in this situation. What I am highlighting is the power of a brand that provides a consistent experience. The McDonalds experience (being the food style, quality, service, relative pricing, and restaurant fit-out) is consistent around the globe (except for a few menu localisations). When you walk into a McDonalds you are engulfed in their brand experience, where everything from the golden arches on the front of the store to the logo on your red and yellow french fries packet. The food is consistent in presentation, quality and taste, and this consistency leads us to trust that our expectations will be met.

Compare this to the local fast food shop down the road, where they have no branding on any of their product packaging or even their store signage. One of the staff is wearing a plain black t-shirt, the other is wearing a blue Nike branded t-shirt. You notice the items on the menu board are slightly different to what is written on the menu flyer. These little inconsistencies build up your perception, creating a little bit of doubt. The quality of the food might be better than McDonalds, but you are left guessing if it will be or not. If consistency builds trust, you certainly wouldn’t feel a whole lot of trust in eating at this venue.

Restaurant experience
Fine dining is an experience

Let me walk you through another example, this time a fine dining restaurant. As a potential customer my experience of this restaurants brand starts the moment I encounter one of the many touch points associated with the restaurant. The most likely starting point is their website, which I would expect to be branded with their logo, designed in a clean professional manner, and easy to navigate. Upon calling or booking I would expect a professional and prompt response, consistent with the elegant website I had just browsed. At the restaurant I would walk in to see white table cloths, silver cutlery and the sound of a live piano playing in the background. My food would be of a quality that delights, my waiter would provide exceptional service, the price would be high. This restaurant relies on consistency to build their brand, which is based on their customers’ experiences that are continually being either reinforced or deteriorated.

Imagine in this last scenario that some of the experiences I described were drastically inconsistent? For example, pretend the waiter didn’t know which wines were on the menu, or if the cutlery was dirty. Would this detract from your experience of this fine dining establishment? Certainly. UX matters.

Every time a customer sees, hears or interacts with your business they are attaching emotional responses to those experiences. Your goal as a business or brand owner is to ensure that those experiences are consistent with the way you wish to be perceived. Everything your staff say or do, how they dress, the layout of your venue, the price of your products, the quality of images on your website, the time taken to reply to emails, all contribute to the user experience of your potential customers.

Those who consistently meet or exceed their customers expectations benefit from word of mouth marketing, and are on their way to building a strong trusted brand.

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About the author: 

Jake Turner is a Director and Digital/UX Strategist at Potion Digital, a boutique digital design consultancy specialising in UX consulting, branding, and graphic design solutions. Clients include Anglo American, Hatch, Metricon Homes, Amazonia, and Ray White (www.potiondigital.com). Contact me via our website if you would like my help.

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