28/08/2013

Get your brand out of my pocket

In a recent conversation with a UX team at an insurance company, it occurred to me that a valuable, but tough decision for a brand to make, when considering its user experience strategy, is when to invite conversation and when to shut the fuck up.

Brand and UX teams are often occupied looking for new, creative ways increase customer engagement, build loyalty and build service reliance. More often than not failing to consider whether or not increasing customer engagement is the right thing to do, from a cultural perspective.

Knowing and respecting your place in the wider social frame can be a real advantage for many brands/services we rely on regularly. Often low exposure products like energy, insurance or mortgages become background arrangements that facilitate higher priority tasks. Insurance allows you to drive, energy allows you to keep warm, mortgages allow you to build a home and so on.

To that end; do those types of brands have any business being on our phones, in our social feeds and our inboxes? It's a tough notion for brand teams to grasp, but there is a strong argument for helping customers buy the product they want and then getting the hell out of their way. Providing a silent, secure service that should only be noticable at critical moments.

Of course reducing plans for ongoing engagement puts far more emphasis on the initial sale experience and the recovery, error handling processes. Which for many customers is the ultimate measure of value. It won't matter how many likes you have on Facebook when you have a service outage and fail to compassionately deal with the problems this causes people's lives.

Dare I say that this perspective demonstrates another overlap between the Brand and UX world. The notion of "calm technology" has been discussed amongst HCI circles since the prophetic Mr Mark Weiser first coined the phrase in the early 90s.

I'm wondering how long it will be before we start hearing the phrase Calm Brands.