What is Brand Experience Design?
February 05, 2018

What is Brand Experience Design?


As a company, we’ve spent the last year clearly defining our work and services.

We didn’t quite fit into a marketing bucket anymore as our work had evolved to include more design around people and their experiences with our clients. What we landed on is Brand Experience Design – a term that, to us, includes three key ingredients that make up every successful brand: People, Purpose, and Product/Service.

How We Got Here

Brand Experience Design speaks to our desire to help organizations design and build powerful human experiences. Brand is not just a logo and tagline, we believe it is the sum of both your internal (employee) and external (audiences) experiences. The best companies are intentional about their brand from the moment a new customer walks in the door or a new hire first sits down at their desk. Our work is to partner with these organizations and help them design these powerful moments and interactions.

Yes, these organizations want to grow their revenue and profit, but they are also driven by a more powerful mission – they want to change the world. Maybe it’s a local change, such as improving the lives of the less fortunate in their community. Maybe it’s a national or global goal, such as making education accessible for all. Maybe they are nonprofit, maybe for-profit. It doesn’t matter.

We seek out mission-driven organizations that are intent on improving the world we all share.

Okay, but practically speaking, what exactly is Brand Experience Design? How is it different from marketing? To us, our marketing work was very tactical, completed behind a desk, connectionless, and mostly uninspiring. We were missing the human element. As a result, we began working differently, thinking of our work as a means of breaking down barriers and fueling conversations in order to understand first, and solve second. We dug for real answers from real audiences, we mapped their actual journeys, helped them tell their stories, and worked alongside our clients to engage all of their people to build better solutions from this feedback. We explored the ins and outs of unique interactions and what defined the many variables. We found that marketing is just a very small part of the larger picture, and could not be effectively done without knowing what that larger picture looked like. 

Of course a pivot like this could have never happened without the support of everyone on the team. Below, ‘Boxers share their thoughts on why this is the right direction:

Jeb Banner: For me, Brand Experience Design, speaks to everything we’ve learned from our (SmallBox) journey. We started out in 2006 designing and building websites, this lead to marketing those websites and subsequently the businesses themselves. All along, we saw that the companies that had the most success were not focused on marketing tricks but on real, human experiences. We saw that their culture informed their brand which drove their marketing and sales. We also saw it work in our business. The more we invested in our people’s experiences, including employees and clients, the more opportunities came our way. We began to see that helping other businesses follow this path was truly the work we wanted to do. 

Jenny Banner: I joined the Smallbox team with an employee experience focus, from the HR and leadership consulting worlds. The concept of brand experience broadened my view beyond a focus only on employees and pushed me to consider customer experiences. I now see brand experience as every interaction that people have with the product or service that you put out in the world. You want people to have positive experiences with your business. We realize that often companies have been on autopilot around employee and customer touch points. We co-create with companies who are ready to intentionally shape experiences for the best outcomes.

Jenny Anderson: For me – Brand Experience Design means taking a holistic view of every part of your organization – from your mission and your employee experience to your programs and your customer touch points. It’s the intersection of your people, your products or services, and your customers or those you serve, and requires a thoughtful examination into the experiences of all of those involved. It requires the vulnerability to be honest with yourself and team members, the openness to hear feedback that might be tough, and the courage to do something with that feedback. Only then can you create the ideal state and begin to tell the honest story of your Brand.

Mark Shreve: We have a simple, yet dynamic, approach with our partners. We help organizations to be more efficient in their work and to be more effective in the ways they engage with their stakeholders. Many great returns can follow these two simple goals.

Maureen Saul: Never, before working at SmallBox, had I been a part of a company who truly valued its team. There’s something in the air here, some intangible sense of curiosity, adventure, humor, and idealism that surrounds every interaction and makes you feel safe to explore and propose something truly preposterous. Coming here was my first taste of brand experience design – it just wasn’t defined yet. I saw and felt the difference by working here and experiencing how a business can live and breathe its values, and pass them along to clients who can’t help but be swept up by them as well. We believe in designing better experiences for people because it is who we are to the core – people looking to do right by others and create meaningful impact for all those around us.