Tag Archives: Authenticity

Defining User Experience Within Audience Development


Audience Development requires a different perspective on User Experience. Traditionally, User Experience relates to what the user or customer will experience when interacting with a product, but the key factor of Audience Development extends the idea to a larger conceit of the experience from all touch-points with a brand or product – what we refer to as Brand Experience. Kieron Leppard of SapientNitro posted an Evolution of UX presentation on SlideShare four years ago and, while a strong layout of the basics, it is outdated because of it’s pure focus on the User Experience design within the product and not all touch-points of opportunity within an Audience Development strategy.

Those touch-points that Audience Development factors in are; product, marketing, partnerships, customer service, overall brand, and whatever else makes sense for the particular company. Additionally, these touch-points aren’t considered to be one-way outbound features but enabling two-way communications that builds the bridge between company and audience. This strategy allows for the entire relationship to be fluid and authentic, because without it, consumers start to question the efficacy of the company/brand. Another benefit that many overlook in this strategy is the value to the employees within that corporate culture. With the clear strategic direction and understanding of how everything truly relates to each other, ambiguity and bad decisions can be left at the door.

We’ve all seen examples of the disconnects in the bigger UX picture:

  • A consumer is intrigued to sample a product after being pitched one thing, only to find a product that doesn’t match the promise.
  • Products come out hailing themselves as new and improved, yet are less appetizing to the consumer – even with strong feedback channels, the consumers are often left out of the equation.
  • Receiving bad customer service after completing a purchase on a site with a fabulous user interface.
  • A restaurant with great tasting and well-priced food, but horrible service.
  • Being on a email list for a beloved-brand – only to be bombarded with communications that are too frequent, not relevant, or even worse, both.
  • Original Content is produced and pushed out to try to broaden the audience, but only proceeds to confuse the loyal existing audience.

For companies/brands to be successful in the future, a strong emphasis on an holistic user experience is imperative to Audience Development. One can no longer develop product and then clean their hands figuring that it’s up to others to market it or relate to the customers – that will only lead to disconnects. From first-hand knowledge of a number of our clients who have come to us after falling into the trap of disconnected product; their businesses either struggled greatly to take-off, flat-lined or dipped because of such pervading methods. In many cases, the clients maintained deep insights about their audience (even developing open communication relationships with them) and understood the concept of the full user experience, but couldn’t determine how to address the disconnects effectively with limited or, sadly, wasted resources without taking a beat to delve into the possibilities afforded through proper Audience Development. Once you can look at User Experience as more than just a sum of it’s parts, a path to success and the ability to turn your audience into a tribe will come into focus.

Lessons From SXSW About Authenticity

At the SXSW Tech Conference, downtown Austin was flush with participants pitching their products and more people clamoring for and chasing insights into those products and more. Steve Smith points to the search for Authenticity in his MediaPost blog – Chasing Authenticity At SXSW.  While he was talking about Authenticity in relation to products and their intended users, the same lessons hold true for communication.


Essentially, Smith captured statements from Walgreens and HBO executives about the development of their companies’ Apps.  In the case of Walgreens, they found that people didn’t care about games – they just wanted to do core activities like simple filling of prescriptions. At HBO, consumers wanted to view original content on the HBO Go App.  In both instances, the companies were able to build user-base solely on the core features and then they were able to expand to other functionality. They realized that they couldn’t hide their “authentic” product to build excitement for something that didn’t make sense for their intended audience right off the bat.

Too often in marketing, we see messaging that is spun too far from the truth.  Or, we see products from publishers, companies and organizations that just don’t ring true to what we believe them to be. We’ve all been there – where we might be too heavily immersed in a product to take a step back and ask the right questions. The right question is not always “Will anyone care/buy?”, but “Does this product make sense coming from us?”

We’ve referenced the common occurrence of utilizing campaign products that are the shiny-object-du-jour and how marketers should really analyze whether that makes sense.  Sometimes, you’ve got to bite the bullet to present what management asks for.  But, we should all be striving to present the authentic core of what our companies represent. The litmus test for any product development or campaign is whether people will immediately understand why you’re releasing/communicating this.  If its not immediately clear to the end user, then you might need to reconsider.

The business world is awash with terms like “optimize” and “leverage” and that’s for a reason.  Sadly, many don’t follow through with the core elements of each. Subsequent campaigns and communications are that much easier when they are derivative of the core values or message.  Through that authentic development and communication, you’ll make bring the right products and campaigns to market with the strongest economic benefit and upside.

Too Much Santa Can Cause Shoppers To Become Scrooges

Alas!  I am not a scrooge! Research shows that I am not alone in my aversion to the overly celebratory holiday sentiments in stores – or even homes.  This year, the holiday season music and decorations started appearing in some stores before Thanksgiving.  And it is not just a bunch of Bah Humbug that justifies that this might not always be the best retail tactic. Nancy Pucinelli – associate fellow at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford – presented the study that overly celebratory stores and areas can actually cause people to buy less.

The real learnings stem from the idea of moderation and effectively smart “positioning” of the holiday within the larger retail environment.  Sometimes, the sugar is poured on too heavily and when that is mixed with the overly jolly staff, it is as nerve-wracking as stepping out of your car on an auto-dealer’s lot and bracing yourself for the onslaught of salespeople.  With tasteful selections of music and placement of decorations, the stress levels can be kept to a minimum by allowing people to effectively opt-out of the celebratory conventions if they would like to.

Pucinelli’s report has been carried by a number of outlets including The Telegraph, Business Week, and even Garden Center Magazine, over the past week with the most succinct capture of the findings presented in Q&A form on MediaPost.

To me, what it really comes down to is authenticity.  This doesn’t just have to do with the winter holiday season.  We are seeing the turn-off phenomenon throughout the year as retailers and brands work so hard to try to tie the nearest holiday bow around their offerings. With so many items tied unsuccessfully to Valentine’s Day, I actually embrace the holiday less and there are increasingly more holidays added to the list that retailers feel they should connect with.  One of the most nauseating instances was just recently when I saw an ad for beauty products tied to Veteran’s Day.  And authenticity surely doesn’t only relate to the holidays.

As humans, we have an innate ability to smell out when things are not authentic. As early as grade school, the kid who pretends to be something he is not is often kept at a distance. As adults, we sense when a brand is taking a wrong step because they present themselves in a light that is not true to their product – and we shy away from purchasing it. The same can be said for retail and the holidays. Puccinelli even singles out the US retailer, Macy’s, as an example of a company that handles the holidays well – and it’s not just because they effectively kick off the Christmas season in the States by ending their long-sponsored Thanksgiving Day Parade with Santa on his sleigh. Even with that core tie to the holiday, they provide the opportunity for shoppers to embrace the holiday without hammering them over the head if they don’t want.

With the seemingly ever-growing winter holiday season the hope is that many will take the learnings to heart and be authentic and smarter with the celebration.  The last thing we want as the global economy goes through its gyrations is yet another excuse for people to consume less.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go hang my holiday decorations…