I recently posed a question on twitter about why people really love Starbucks.
Do people love Starbucks because the coffee and food is good or do they love it because you can always expect a consistent experience?
— Zach Williams (@zcwilliams)
March 14, 2014
I got some interesting feedback, but I believe the real answer is that people love Starbucks because they know they'll get the same drink from one store to the next.
Starbucks has conditioned people to expect the same experience in their store designs, the products they offer, the taste of their coffee and even how their baristas speak with you. I once spoke with a Starbucks employee and they told me they wanted to ensure that their coffee tasted consistent from one store to another so they would burn their coffee beans to take away any variables in the taste of the coffee.
The point here is that the difference between good branding and great branding is consistency. Consumers are looking for a unique yet consistent experience throughout their interactions with your brand.
The Mashup of Digital and Physical Brand Experiences
If someone has a great experience with your product but a frustrating experience on your website, they will lose faith in your brand.
Your company puts a ton of man hours into considering how consumers will react to your products. The same level of intentionality needs to go into the consumer's experience with your store, your website, customer-facing employees and even your ad campaigns. Consumers crave consistency.
The problem with people expecting a similar brand experience online and in a store is that they also are comparing your online presence with other brand's online presence. So if Amazon's site runs incredibly fast and their checkout process is intuitive, they will expect the same from yours or they will just buy from Amazon.
Creating Digital Branding that Envokes the Right Response
When thinking about how to bridge the gap between what you're doing in the physical market and what you're doing in the online market, the key is to start with what you want the user to feel. Yes, your website must be easy to use, but think beyond that and consider what are the unique qualities of your brand that need to be articulated online and go from there.
A great example of a brand that has paid particular attention to the branding across all mediums is Warby Parker. When you go to their site it is clean, easy to use, and has a vintage feel to it. It feels like it's custom made for the user's experience. They have some well thought out features like their interactive imagery and their virtual try-on applet.
Their illustrations and imagery also play right into this architectural handcrafted feel as well. These illustrations are sprinkled throughout the site but help in articulating these same tones.
Finally, their packaging helps their branding go full circle. It is unique and feels luxurious yet boutique at the same time. The uniqueness of their product packaging parallels the uniqueness of their online experience as well.
The key to creating a consistent brand experience across every medium is to be as intentional as possible in all touch-points with your audience. Everything should point them towards one emotional feeling and goal.