Let’s Talk About Product

Clear brand delivery is the ‘sweet spot’ that enables brands to stand out and succeed in a crowded marketplace. It’s built on three pillars: product, services and culture. Today, we talk about product.

How does product shape brand experience? How can a brand’s product experience create a meaningful connection to its customers?

Enhance Brand Experience With a Diverse Product Offering

A brand’s output of physical, digital and service-based product experience is usually segmented into these three categories:

  1. Origin product
  2. Bespoke and collaborative
  3. Enhanced lifestyle offering
Product Experience Sweet Spot

Product experience sweet spot (Graphic: Ales Kernjak)

What Is an Origin Product?

The foundation of any brand – its origin product – is the reason the brand exists. The miraculous light-bulb moments that sparked the creation of iconic brands and products, like Microsoft, Amazon or Mattel, were all created in a garage. Starbucks was born while its founder was watching the theatre of Milanese coffee bars. Guccio Gucci founded a luggage business after working as a bell-boy at London’s Savoy hotel. Origin products are born of a moment, an opportunity spotted, a need yet to be catered for.

Companies such as Gucci, Microsoft and Mattel have stayed close to their original purpose, with diversification serving only to compliment the origin product. When brands move too far from their core offering, they can lose that intuitive connection with their customers. Famously, Kodak’s detour into pharmaceuticals only lasted a short six years, and the range of yoghurts created by Cosmopolitan magazine is best left forgotten.

So, how can brands build choice into their product range and stay true to their origin?

A Bespoke Product Experience

Today, customers expect a huge level of personalisation. It’s connective, personal and it demands loyalty. Choosing the colour of one’s car exterior and interior no longer feels special or bespoke – that much has become an expectation, a basic consumer right.

Bespoke product experience at Aston Martin (Photo: Aston Martin)

The idea of bespoke or personalised products is nothing new. After all, Louis Vuitton have enabled travellers to stamp their initials on their luggage since the age of steam trains. By today, however, the demand for high levels of personalisation has crept into every area of consumerism.

Luxury perfume houses like Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent offer the ability to inscribe names or personalised messages onto fragrance bottles. Even mass-market retailers like Primark and Topshop offer in-store embroidery and printing services on everyday items such as beach towels or t-shirts.

Collaborative Products

Countless celebrity clothing and perfume collaborations come to mind. But few, if any, match the mega-brand collaboration between Nike and Michael Jordan, which generated a staggering  3.1 billion US Dollars in 2018 alone.

This has given rise to connected brand associations. Vuitton answered their much-publicised copyright spat with Supreme by inviting them to collaborate on a product release. This generated much fanfare and saw products emblazoned with both brand logos, garnering huge publicity not only via the products themselves but also by the queues outside boutiques around the world ahead of the launch.

Product collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Supreme (Photos: Imgbin)

Social media has transformed the very idea of celebrity collaboration through the power of influencers, social users with a large follower base offering a curated insight into the products they love and use. Consumers trust influencers because they build a personal connection and it’s here that brands are leveraging power via collaborating with influencers.

One might argue that, in brand experience, the role of product is to curate the lifestyle offer?

Enhanced Lifestyle Offering

The power of consumer choice has galvanised today’s consumer to want more, seek more, demand more – preferably from a brand that speaks with authenticity. Bringing consumers closer with a brand’s lifestyle offering, new and innovative demands are born. This level of enhanced lifestyle offering is not based on goods for sale alone. The consumer demands to be a part of the lifestyle.

Armani answers this need with diverse product offerings including hotels, boats, apartment buildings and soft furnishings. Ferrari now create footwear and apparel, while global members club and hotel destination Soho House and hotel chain Marriot offer the chance to ‘buy everything you see’ via dedicated online services.

Anthropologie and Target provide a curated lifestyle offering, from books and make-up to sofas and house-plants. It’s stores like these that create a modern-day department store-like experience.

Uber Eats Product Experience

(Photo: BGR)

Nothing has revolutionised the way we buy and even define ‘product’, as much as the smartphone. But how does this impact overall brand experience and what can we learn from it?

Through the rise of ride-sharing and delivery firms like UBER, ViaVan and Lyft, the power of product is literally at consumer’s finger-tips. Brand experience has to work ever harder to catch our attention, to maximise product experience and to generate the power of WOW.

By putting an ergonomic aesthetic at the forefront of design, mastering enhanced lifestyle offerings has become a forte of Apple. From ensuring phones are designed around the reach of your thumb, through to magnetic charging cords that unplug removing a tripping hazard, Apple have built the intuitive into the everyday.

Apple’s product experience in a Timeline (Graphic: Wired via Labnol)

Product Experience in Summary

The desire for beautiful, simple products built for us, around us, by us, now drives brand experience. Consumers seek products that stay true to this purpose, from brands with an authentic core-offering. Products that complement their lifestyle, presented with compelling stories and an array of options for personalisation.

Intuitive and agile, always listening but most of all ready to adapt to the changing needs of our times. Putting the power of the consumer at the very centre of brand delivery and experience.

Our new series ‘Let’s Talk About’ covers all aspects of today’s retail landscape, from product experience to culture, visual merchandising to store design and much more. Read other articles in the series here.


About the Author:

For 25+ years, some of the world’s biggest brands like Aesop, PUMA and Timberland have worked with Ales Kernjak for his passion for creativity and ability to deliver results. He creates rich, meaningful 360° brand experience moments, authentic storytelling and consumer engagement reflective of today’s consumers need and tomorrow’s desire. His expertise in retail brand identity engages all the disciplines; retail concept development, design and roll-out, visual merchandising, visual marketing, staff training and retail operational guidance. Learn more about his agency, AK Brand Experience here.

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