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The Journey of Design as an Operations Model

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The first morning of FUSE has been an amazing, orchestrated combination of Brand Vision, Brand Experience and Brand Activation. A combination of theoretical understanding to practical activation, challenging in the most sophisticated brands to become more for their consumers, employees and investors and doing it in a way that delivers ultimate value for the organization. The evolution of what is considered a brand has become exponential in the last 10 years as consumers have gained more access, disrupters are offering differentiated value, and business models are being built around the experience. This morning has been a solid foundation for a new perspective and call to action for organization to operate in e different way.

Brand Meaning:

Speaker & Presentation:Bård Annweiler, Managing Director , Mission: Meaningful or Meaningless. It’s Your Choice

The discussion around brand’s having purpose and meaning is often viewed as a soft measure and a nice to have in many organizations. As we’ve seen time and time again, companies get so focused on bottom line results by operating in a purely profit-driven mindset with little to no regard to the livelihood of its customers or employees. Bård’s presentation surrounded some amazing findings in Mission’s recent research in exploring the profitability in brand purpose and meaning. The results were pretty mind-blowing:

  • Finding 1: Core values don’t differentiate the brand in the marketplace
    • Only 66% of Norwegian companies had defined their core values
    • However, 80% of Fortune 100 Companies had defined their core values

The reason the values of an organization ddidn’t differentiate in the marketplace isn’t that they didn’t have the values written, but the values were written in a business-centric way versus a consumer-focused way. The 7 most commonly use Value Words  were Accountability, Reliability, Braveness, Openness, Commitment, Customer-Oriented, Honesty. Not much emotion or empathy here.

  • Finding 2: Only 30% of companies have defined why they exist

In today’s world, where consumers are striving to become better citizens and use capitalism and purchase power to do so, this is absolutely concerning. The core foundation to all brand experiences and branded operations (as we’ll explore later) is the full understanding and reason for being.

  • Finding 3: Companies with a meaningful purpose are the most profitable

Here is the real kicker. If you’re still as skeptic in terms of building a brand mission and purpose, Mission just connected it to your profitability. Bård illustrated that of those companies they surveyed, the brands with a defined purpose had a 41% lift in profitability versus those who don’t have one. There’s you dollars and cents proof

What Bård has provided is a solid foundation and all to action to fully define our brand’s reason for being and connect your values to the place where your consumers, employees and investors collide. Only then can your brand move on to the next brand experience level.

Brand Experience: 

Speaker & Presentation:Cliff Kuang: A Bold Vision for the Future: Designing the 21st Century User Experience

Cliff started the day with an amazing story about the evolution of the brand experience of the Walt Disney company (more specifically Beauty & the Beast). He talked though how a visitors experience to Walt Disney World is carefully curated and powered by data to create Frictionless, Personal and Always-Evolving experience. The brand experience was an experience that connected all aspect of a visitors time with the Brand and vacation, from getting from the airport, to scheduling rides and meals and the personalized relationship while at the park providing individualized experiences based on consumer data points. By orchestrating this level of detail, the brand was able to “free visitors from their goals, which allows them to broaden their experience.”

Key Insights:

  • What Worked (I): Reinventing how a mission is applied
    • Brands have to understand your consumer pain points and build and experience map to visibly understand what these pain points mean to their personal journey
  • What Worked (II): Defining Experience Principles
    • By understanding the consumer pain points, a brand can start to define what their experience principles need to be to satisfy their mission at key moments for their consumers. These principles might be leveraged in the realms of Convenience, Reliability, Ease of Use or Dedication
  • What Worked (III) -“It’s one thing to have an idea, its another thing to live it.” - John Padgett
    • To provide a frictionless experience to the consumer and live up to the mission, brands have to move beyond the planning and actually build the experience. It won’t happen all at once which is where an agile mindset and methodology can come into play.
  • What broke: Collaboration and organizational acceptance internally sabotaged the progress and vision of what could be.
    • Silo’d organizations create a broken experience. To truly have a holistic and always-evolving experience, companies and brands need to embrace User Experience and Design at the most senior levels of an organization.

Brand as an Operations Model:

Speaker & Presentation: Neil Blumenthal, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Warby Parker: The Proven Value of Design: Experiences that Matter, Products that Make a Difference

Neil tied everything expanded on the foundation that Bård and Cliff started to showcase how an organization is built around a philosophy of design and brand experience. The story of Warby Parker is always refreshing to hear and one that provides insight into how companies can be built around the consumer and the consumer experience. The main takeaway from Neil’s presentation is that the brand experience is the number one thing for an organization that you can operationalize your brand values as a way of doing business day-to-day.

Another thing that was amazing about the Warby Parker story is the underlying understanding of Build, Test, Learn iterate, along with the consumer. Too many organizations get caught up in trying to define products and experiences in isolation and perfecting them before launching to the public that a lot will fall flat or fail when it finally reaches their consumer.

The Warby Parker journey to retail is a great example of Build, Test, Learn, Iterate. All along they way they learned what their consumers, liked, did’t like, and what their pain points were then they built experiences to solve for those pain points.

Retail Chronology:

  • eCommerce Direct to Consumer Brand
  • At Home Try On (5 Pairs for 5 Days)
  • Mini retail design in apartment
  • Mini retail design in first office
  • Holiday Popup exploration in Warehouse
  • Developed Roadshow on a schoolbus
  • First Retail in Soho NYC
  • 65 Retail Stores Nationwide

The stage has been set here at FUSE Design 2018 and the call to action has been made to brands and organizations alike. It’s time for a new perspective and a new way of doing business.

About the Author: Paul Miser is the CEO, Co-Founder of CHINATOWN BUREAU, a Digital Product Studio & Consultancy based in NYC. They aim to solve real business problems with a Digital Product mindset operating as a diverse, digitally-experienced SWAT team. He can be emailed at paul@chinatownbureau.com.

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