The Power Of Brand In Product

Brand doesn’t need product. But product needs brand.

Don’t believe us?

Let’s take a look at Twitter. Sure, you can get to know the product by using it. Its iconic short-form communication, subtweets, and messy celebrity moments can speak for themselves.

But without the bird logo, what does it mean to “tweet”? Without that iconic, electric blue, how would you pick it out from the dozens of other apps on your device?

Stripped of its brand, we lose the Twitter story. We lose its sense of identity. And while we can understand the product well enough from the user experience alone, we lose the bigger picture.

Brand is essential to product because it deepens our sense of connection and meaning with the products we use every day. It’s how we create value in the hearts and minds of our buyers, users, and anyone else invested in our product.

Same Product, Different Brands

Your product’s story isn’t necessarily your brand story, but the two go hand-in-hand.

Brand takes the core story we tell about our product, usually first identified by our product vision and first illustrated by product managers, and amplifies it by illustrating the product’s promised impact. Brands go a step beyond saying what should happen in a product; they preview the experience and reinforce feelings and associations you want to last in the minds of your users & buyers.

It’s for this reason brand can be the difference between a product someone believes in, and one they’ll never touch—even if the products are the same.

Let’s think about it in the real world. AirBnb & VRBO are similar products that aim to solve a common problem: booking your next vacation rental. But they leverage different visual identities and brand quality cues to tell distinct stories that will be attractive to their intended audience.

Just look at their websites. The AirBnb site is full of pictures that show the places you’ll encounter, whether it’s glamping in the woods or taking a cooking class at your destination. But imagery on the VRBO website is more focused on the people, and the shared experiences they’ll have through the vacation. While at the product level AirBnb and VRBO are basically identical, these brand choices tell distinct stories that attract different audiences who value different things.

Activating Your Product’s Brand Potential

Creating a brand that best represents your product requires input from the other product disciplines. Here’s what to look for across three main areas.

Product Management 

Brand promises need to be accurate to the product vision. You can’t promise what your product can’t or won’t deliver on; so, run your promises by your product managers.

Collaborate with your product managers to get insights on features, now and in the future, that your brand can leverage to differentiate your product in market.

Product Design

Product design and brand work together, but they have different aims. 

Product design places a premium on the user experience itself and creating the functionality your product needs to be usable. Brand adds in moments of delight; it’s the bridge from the product to a larger story or reason to believe. This adds more value to the product design itself by reinforcing what you want users to feel—ideally, positive feelings that go on to be shared with others.

Product Marketing

Brand only works when it’s informed by the audience you’re trying to connect with. Let product marketing lead the way in defining who your buyers are and how they operate.

Then, follow suit. The visual language in your brand should align with the tone you employ in your messaging, for example; you need to sound like the people whose problems you’re trying to solve. That way, you’re empathizing with their frustrations and passions and helping them find the best step forward (through your product).

Summary

Brand is a difference-maker. When built right and with the other product disciplines in mind, brand becomes the distinct story your users need. We can use brand to create living, breathing dialogues about the product and its impact on the world.

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