Yearly Archives: 2013

How to Distribute Killer Newsletters — Without Wasting Cash (Or Trees)

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Great newsletters succeed based on two highly important factors: valuable content and varied distribution. While paper newsletters are settling nicely into retirement, mobile readership is enjoying its new place in the sun.

When print is off the table, how can you distribute killer newsletters without wasting cash (or trees)?

(1) Curate content and let your chosen platform handle aggregation design.

Flipboard is becoming the hallmark of exceptional content distribution for the digital age. Here’s how it works. You (or your Curator-In-Chief) select the topics you’d like to create a publication about (i.e. Technology, Business, Design) and Flipboard aggregates all content from your selected articles, photos, or sources to create a gorgeous, cross-platform reading experience. Here’s a free Skillshare class to get further acquainted with the app’s capabilities, organized by Flipboard Head Content Curator Mia Quagliarello, who walks you through the creation and curation process.

The best part? Flipboard does the work of providing a consistent user interface from web to mobile, so the only work left to do on your part is find or create quality content that excites and engages with your intended brand message — and link to it.

At Brand Fever, we’ve recently debuted our own Flipboard magazine here, including blog posts past and present that our readers can spend time with wherever they go. We’ve also been compiling past episodes of On Branding into its own magazine too, so go and enjoy what we’ve put together for you.

(2) Know thy user.

It’s a mantra everywhere these days: know where your users spend their time, and know how to approach them when the right opportunity strikes. A healthy practice of reviewing web analytics can reveal which devices, browsers, and regions your audience spends its time with. In Google Analytics, for example, try creating custom dashboards (Dashboards > New Dashboards) to drill down into demographics like age, gender, interests and frequency, all pulled from your user’s web traffic.

Another question you might consider: where do your users spend their time away from work-related reading, and how do they digest digital content away from the company website? On social media? On industry news sites? Knowing that answer is the pivot point to creating newsletters that engage. Another method might be to launch targeted Facebook ads that can help direct company employees to your newsletter through sidebar links alerting them to a new issue. Intranet capabilities and enterprise social networks like Chatter or Yammer can do the same when it comes to distributing new content within the company.

Another mantra to remember? All audiences are not homogenous. If your readership spends its days on assembly lines or in customer service centers, it’s critical to think about where they spend their breaks, evenings and weekends — the time when they have bandwidth to fully absorb content. Knowing how to engage users away from the typical 9-to-5 scenario is absolutely essential for all marketers with their mind on digital publishing.

(3) Understand your content based on the philosophies of Fibonacci and wildfires.

Remember the math behind Fibonnacci sequences? Content that resonates grows in exactly the same way — exponentially, and thus, like wildfire. Knowing, finding, and creating excellent content that excites your user base is the #1 most important trick to newsletters that resonate. Knowing how to distribute it is the second leg of the trip.

If your readers want to have a more thorough knowledge of who your company leadership is, find a way to tell them the story in a way that engages. If your readers want more fun, and less corporate news, how can you serve it up hot? Can your copywriter brainstorm new ways of injecting brand voice into content headlines or captions?

These considerations further consistency and authenticity at every branded publication touchpoint. Simply put, engagement encourages exponential sharing.

Bottom line?

If your company has made a commitment to creating or distributing stellar content, whether through videos, photos, podcasts, articles, or brand storytelling, it deserves to be seen. Instead of printing last quarter’s growth statistics or corporate news, try these digital platforms to incorporate a social element of share-ability in your next newsletter rollout.

You’ll keep budgets and forests happy — guaranteed.

Brand Panic: How to Triage Disasters When the Worst Happens

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The worst has happened.

The servers all crashed while you were asleep.
Your East Coast users have woken up to a data wipeout.
The product arrived three weeks late.
Someone contracted a mysterious rash in the shape of a bear.

Your brand is always on. So what can you do to mitigate chaos when all the alarm bells sound?

(1) Reassure fears and triage the damage. 

Your customers will be frustrated, angry, and threaten to jump ship. This is a natural human reaction when brand trust – the thing you’ve tried so hard to build up – comes tumbling down.

Adii Pienaar told a truly shuddering story in our last episode of On Branding, when several months of stored data had been wiped clean off WooThemes‘s servers after a hack. Instead of falling into panic mode, Adii and his team simply told the truth: they had been targeted for hacking, and they were going to make it right. The story’s happy ending shows that it worked: WooThemes customers were quick to show an outpouring of support for a brand that they considered human – and able to make mistakes too.

Seize the opportunity to be a voice of calm by using your brand’s voice — another part of the operation you’ve worked hard to get right. Walk them through any technical fixes that might troubleshoot the problem. Skitch and Skype are helpful, often used by social media queueing site, Buffer, to guide users through solutions.

This is also a time to take field notes at the disaster scene. Gather all the information necessary to investigate what went wrong. Offer sincere apologies and recognize that the old adage is true: the customer is always right, and this is the underbelly of the job.

(2) Understand the nuts and bolts of every problem, or consult with another physician.

For growing brands with global reach, a disaster is the time to assess the best processing system for large batches of issues. Support tickets like UserVoice, ZenDesk, GetSatisfaction, and HelpScout all offer solutions for this – giving your customer support reps a dashboard to view ordering histories, botched shipping and other technical mishaps.

This is also a time to process logistics. What went wrong with the order, the backend, the damaged goods? Including all suppliers and distributors in a reachable place to all team members, i.e. Highrise, lets you act from a centralized command center with no need to go through the grapevine for the right contacts. While you’re on hold, put the customer front and center, positioning them as co-conspirators in solving the problem. By showing them how you handle the chaos, you’re also demonstrating how that critical pivot between wrong and right happens.

Transparency in the process shows that you’re going the extra mile — not just saying it.

(3) Follow through until the wound heals. 

Once the issue is resolved, follow up. Ask if things are running smoothly now, and if you can be of any more service. Users are likely to issue feedback once they’re resolved, and having a concierge-style flow of communication means they’ll feel comfortable opening up about their most candid feedback.

Using Highrise, or a CRM software like Salesforce, keeps your black book of customers close, so you can keep them closer too.

From Work to Whimsy: Our Creative Play Day

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Creativity — though it may seem so — isn’t all fun and games. When work becomes too much like “work” and much less like “whimsy”, it’s time to step back and schedule time for play.

Schedule time for play? Isn’t that a little backwards?  

Last week, that’s exactly what the Brand Fever team did.

As designers, developers and modern day artists know, great creativity comes with high standards, perfectionism, tight deadlines and collaboration that often gets crunched for time.

Creativity “on demand” is necessary, but it also doesn’t have to be drudgery.

So when the calendar flipped to September, we knew it was time to make a return to our “back to school” roots and make time for what we call a “Creative Play Day”. Some unscheduled and uninhibited free time to wander, move our hands, and clear our minds in order to make room for new innovation and spirit in our work is exactly what keeps us fresh.

When Brand Fever arrived to Sips ‘n Strokes in nearby Toco Hills, it felt like a homecoming to the art classes our team fell in love with as kids. The smell of acrylic paint, well-worn smocks, and fresh canvases greeted us, and we spent the morning together painting a gorgeous landscape of cerulean skies dotted with dandelions. A soundtrack of Michael Jackson albums set the stage for improvisation, too. Sounds like the perfect morning, right?

Scholar-practitioner Pamela Meyer studies the concept of “playspaces” and the ability for creative minds to create and innovate in groups. She spoke on this topic at TEDxPeachtree in 2010, touching on the five dimensions of play: relational (opportunities for social bonding), generative (the natural energy and buzz that comes from heightened collective thought), safety (a welcoming environment where all perspectives are appreciated), time (encouraging present moment awareness that respects the bounds of deadlines), and provocative (inviting a stretch in familiar thinking patterns).

When we’re aware of these two creative needs — playfulness and inspiring spaces — our work as creatives simply flourishes. We become more perceptive. Our designs flexible for trying something different. When we embrace novelty, exploring what’s never been done before, that’s where true creative greatness lies.

Brand Reputation Matters: It Isn’t Something to “Set and Forget”

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Brand reputation accounts for a lot of things, but rotisserie chicken is not one of them.

It’s not something you just “set and forget”.

It’s a daily exercise in thoughtful, interpersonal interaction. Logos and content — the “pretty stuff” we fill webpages and social feeds with — has its place to sell and engage audiences. Those are the first impressions, built to ‘woo’ and lure.

When it comes to non-measurables, however, like email etiquette, good grammar, punctuality and thoughtful social media, it’s important to sweat the small stuff.

Because, people will forget what you said — but they’ll never forget the way you made them feel.

Taking the time to correct your spelling or respond to a technical support ticket faster than their expectations, means delivering value in exchange for A+ notoriety.

For instance, it’s critical to write out “you” instead of “u” in a support email, even if you’re responding from Terminal 1A on a Blackberry. Or, to promptly redirect a customer request to the appropriate department when a complaint comes through from Twitter. These things, the behind-the-scenes that often account for the meat and potatoes of a company’s operations, matter to the most discerning customer that only has other brands’ highlight reels to compare from.

For brands and companies looking to uphold or polish a stellar reputation, you’re always on standby, but that doesn’t mean you should never “set it and forget it”.

How are you making your brand’s reputation a daily exercise in greatness? Talk to us on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Branding For Life

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While you’re building your brand’s business, your audience is going about theirs.

Their days are filled with anxieties, like, “Will Sarah get into a good college?’ and “How will I make time to get the oil changed in the car this week?” A life filled with celebrations, uncertainties, weddings and funerals, terrible commutes and headache inducing insurance claims. You likely know what they’re going through, seeing as you’re living a life all your own.

As your brand grows, so do your customers.  

Which begs the question of how your company is connecting to their big picture — their philosophy on life, and the reason why they’re a contributing member of Planet Earth. How will you validate their outlook on life? How will you help make their time here worthwhile?
Brands that are deeply aware of their lifelong value, or, the usefulness that keeps people coming back, is hinged on being one of the following:

• familiar
• respected
• trustworthy
• reassuring
• helpful (i.e. saving time, money, or other sunk costs)
• convenient
• dependable

In the mind of the customer, you’re more than a dish detergent that attacks grease. You’re a timesaver that lets a busy parent spend an extra half hour watching Harry Potter instead of scrubbing dinner dishes. To a family across multiple states and continents, your company produces more than just green bean casserole. It produces a Thanksgiving staple that brings everyone together – if only for a day.

Brands like Johnson & Johnson, Kraft, IKEA and Unilever are standouts. Johnson & Johnson’s baby shampoo is ubiquitous for its ‘no tears’ reputation that keeps babies (and new mothers) happy. Kraft’s macaroni and cheese has become an after school staple, brain food for elementary school children and college freshman. IKEA is known for sharp Swedish design that doesn’t compromise on price or quality. And, Unilever’s Dove soap has instilled self-love in the bodies of women worldwide.These brands have achieved ‘life partner’ status by their consumers for a mix of tradition, storytelling, and a no-holds-barred attention to quality. Most importantly, they’ve given customers their time, money, or self-esteem back.

To become a brand is one thing. To become a brand for life is another.

Are you a brand that can grow old with its audience?

Are The Best Brands B Corps?

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There’s a B Corp boom happening in the branding business.

Sandwiched between a greater push for authenticity, transparency, and value commitments, the phrase B Corp now stands as the certified symbol of success — ethically speaking. Becoming a B Corp means brands and businesses can now be vetted on the features mentioned above, by a nonprofit called B Lab. Being named a “B Corp” shows certified proof of a functioning business that meets acceptable standards of social, environmental, and industrial accountability.

In other words, B Corp certification “is to sustainable business what LEED certification is to green building, or Fair Trade certification is to coffee”.

While mission statements and company philosophies abound in most brands today, there are a relatively modest number of brands that are certified as true B Corps today: 741 to be exact, in 27 countries, across 60 industries. Ben & Jerry’s, Etsy, Cabot, Patagonia, and Seventh Generation are just a handful of names that enjoy B Corp status today.

Last month, the co-founders of Warby Parker, The Honest Company, and Etsy co-hosted a Google+ hangout, sharing insights on their brand, of course, but also how their brand goes beyond branding as mission-driven companies that solves very real problems.

  • “Glasses shouldn’t cost as much as an iPhone,” Neil Blumenthal of Warby Parker said during his introduction. Later, Blumenthal and his co-founder Dave Gilboa, discussed how their home try-on method is designed according to the customer’s needs, and more importantly, their dignity.
  • “Whether you live in New York City or Kansas City, you should be able to have access to the same quality brands,” Jessica Alba said, summing up the philosophy behind her baby-care brand, The Honest Company, which directly mails new products to mothers on a subscription model.
  • “We are a company that provides a way to make a life, not just a living,” said Chad Dickerson, CEO of Etsy. “We’re not just a website, but a platform for sales and community that reimagines commerce in sustainable and impactful ways.”

Are the next best brands, “B Corps”, purpose driven companies?

The marketplace is ripe for it. Having a clear mission, purpose, and very tangible proof of impact is a solid way to capture the trust of customers, according to the founders of Warby Parker, Etsy, and The Honest Company. On top of that, brands that thrive purposefully attract and retain an internal culture that respects employees and customers alike, leading to a living impact both inside and out.

When it comes to brand storytelling, companies today have to think more interactional, instead of merely transactional, and put aside competition in exchange for compassion.

This new crop of B Corps proves that “the new branding” is about living an ethos and selling a product, the two of which become nearly indistinguishable when done right.

To learn more about B Corps and how to apply for certification, visit the B-Lab’s nonprofit site at: http://www.bcorporation.net

Cheers to you, America!

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A 237-year-old nation of thinkers, doers, and believers, Brand Fever is proud to celebrate the us in USA. Determined. Ambitious. Inspired. Since the founding of our nation, we’ve been reminded of the creative spirit that has been passed down from our forefathers to our neighbors.

So cut open that watermelon, take a run through the sprinkler and set off some fireworks. Happy 4th of July!

Bookmark These: 5 Ways to Track What’s in Brand Demand

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Creativity never sleeps, and neither do brands. At Brand Fever, we often tell our clients the same thing: your brand is always on. (So are we!)

The branding industry — much like Times Square, in all its 24/7 glory — prides itself on being an of-the-moment business, with its finger on the pulse of society and culture at all times. Tough job!

When the branding business requires us to stay in tip-top shape and ahead of the curve, how can we identify trends before they rise to the top?

Here are our preferred ways to track what’s in brand demand:

(1) Look at the ads.

What’s already happened in advertisements can often be a portal into what’s next. Check out Ads of The World for a directory of award-winning ads done by top companies like Ogilvy, Wieden + Kennedy, and BBDO. Our team is always looking for classic ads as design and copy inspiration, and this site is a treasure trove of both print and video spots. [Ads of the World]

(2) Spy, if you must.

Snooping out of the corner of your eye while taking a final exam? Terrible idea. Keeping tabs on the competition? Excellent idea. It’s a strategic practice that’ll let you differentiate your work from theirs, adding to your overall brand positioning as a brand yourself. Be aware of who’s producing similar work in your industry with Media Bistro’s helpful “Agency Spy” guide. [Agency Spy]

(3) Read what the professionals write.

Dave Winer was born to blog. (He even says so himself, here.) An accomplished software developer, Winer writes at Scripting.com, the oldest and longest running blog on the web. Keep up with his blog for all the commentary you can handle about tech, podcasting, and the wild n’ crazy happenings in Silicon Valley. You won’t find much on branding explicitly — but you will find off-the-cuff commentary on what’s happening in our modern day culture right now, which is just as valuable. [Scripting.com]

Blogs and bound magazines like Branding, AdWeek, Ad Age, Smashing Magazine, and UX Magazine all deliver content with an eye toward trends and trend commentary. With full-time experts on staff, you’ll get the big industry picture too.

• Branding Magazine
• AdWeek
• AdAge
• Smashing Magazine
• UX Magazine

Of all the brand and digital marketing blogs out there, Digiday is our daily bread. Written for marketers, creative directors, and agencies, it isn’t afraid to address the pressing questions that come with the development of digital branding, like this piece on whether Twitter will force brands to get brief, or how today’s millenial generation is changing the face of advertising as we know it.

(4) Check the mail.

You’ve got mail! The catchphrase may have been laid to rest in the 90’s, but the value of actually doing so remains. Sign up for a select number of trusted newsletters, like Digiday, Newfangled, or Brand Strategy Insider. You may even choose to set up a dedicated inbox for as many newsletters you can get your hands on — the more brand and business content, the better.

On a related note, sign up for an RSS reader like Feedly or NetNewsWire and subscribe to your favorite brand and digital marketing feeds, synced across all your devices. As for bookmarking articles, videos, and other web content for later (read: that 5 hour flight without WiFi), we’re big fans of Pocket and Instapaper.

(5) Listen to the people.

Perhaps the most important compass out there is the cultural compass. Is there a backlash to a new campaign, like JC Penney’s latest billboard? Are people getting a kick out of a new advertisement, like the now famous K-Mart “Shipped My Pants” ad? Watch it all unfold on the Internet’s home page, Reddit, for a refreshingly honest look at how people interact with brands and companies. [Reddit]

Crowdfunding is another way to keep up on brand innovation and new technology, like these new 3D printers or this open source blogging platform. Bookmark Kickstarter’s top lists to see some eye popping new designs and prototypes, and promising brands that are in their infancy. [Kickstarter]

Using LinkedIn As Your Secret Persona-Building Weapon

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Personas help brand architects realize subtle connections and understand diverse perceptions. So how can real-world connections on LinkedIn provide better brand value from first step to last? Read on… 

You know what they say about the word ‘assume‘, right?

Often — and without usually taking notice — we design and develop websites or products assuming that users and personas perceive, visualize, and act like we do.

Pause. Before you start busting out the design tricks of the trade, may we offer a steadfast reminder?

You are not your user.

#1. What do personas do, exactly?

Personas are short vignettes that illustrate real world interactions among your user base. Their lives — whether fact, fiction, or a combination of both — help you define what is crucial to whom. Essentially a ‘square one’ strategy, the act of developing personas help us determine our most valuable someone, without wasting valuable time trying to appeal to everyone.

Usability testing is part convention and part ethos. It’s the humble act of acknowledging that you know nothing about your user, and serving their end goals first.

#2. What purpose do personas have when it comes to UX testing?

Personas develop better user experiences. They act as a gut check on the design team’s part that keeps customers confident in themselves, while assuring them of your ability to provide them with what they need, when they need it.

To use an analogy, user experiences are like top notch waiters who’ve earned their wings in five-star restaurants: there to help you choose from the menu and keep your glass full, but aware enough of the environment to let a good conversation go uninterrupted.

After all, you’re paying for the experience, aren’t you?

#3. What benefits come from humanizing our research?

Personas are not a particularly novel approach to usability. In 1993, Ogilvy began experimenting with the idea of targeted customer feedback, through “day-in-the-life archetypes”. Several years later, noted interface designer and software programmer Alan Cooper named these stand-ins “personas”.

“Each strong brand has a tribe of people who share affinity with the brand’s values. This universe typically divides into a number of different communities within which there are the same or very similar buying behaviours, and whose personality and characteristics towards the brand (product or service) can be understood in terms of common values, attitudes and assumptions. CustomerPrints are descriptions that capture the living essence of these distinct groups of customers.” — User Interaction Techniques: A Reference

Simply put, creating personas is an exercise that puts a face on usability research, collected data, and behavior tracking. Knowledge about your users lets you figure out what’s important to them, and paves the way for a strategy that’s user-centric instead of you-centric.

#4. How do personas get everyone on the same page?

Every part of the process matters, but personas help create a sense of unity and direction from within your design team. After all, brand building through product development, website launches, and service offerings are all interconnected in strikingly similar ways. Information architecture organizes feature and content in an intuitive way that lets users find what they need while reducing frustration. Interaction design boosts information architecture because it configures the layout of all that information (visually). Content and its subsequent style, tone, and multimedia serves users by answering questions and communicating across digital platforms. Backend development keeps security, authorizations, and servers well oiled in the machine’s grand scheme. Front end design creates vitally important visual first impressions. And so on…

So how is LinkedIn your secret weapon when it comes to building deeper, more diverse personas?

Despite what cynics may say about social networks, these online traffic hubs fill a very important need when it comes to designing for the masses.

LinkedIn is where real people meet to talk about real business with one another, which helps us see personas not as singular people, but as dense, connected webs of networks with varying needs, desires, and motivations. LinkedIn provides work history that lets us develop histories around people, rather than seeing them as standstill snapshots. As researchers, we can get the full spectrum of where an individual has been, and almost certainly, where they’re likely to be.

If your brand or business is in beta, for instance, you may wish to experiment with new features or small, impermanent updates to your site. Ask people in industries you care about for feedback. InMail is an excellent resource for this, providing access to millions of top executives, millenials, minority associations, and companies that have a vested interest in the success of your brand, and by association, their online relationship with it. Test the waters.

Of course, you can play with the actual persona building process at a literal level on LinkedIn. Select appealing names from core demographics or pull bits and pieces of interesting biographies. One word of warning, though: steer clear of using specific profile photos. These are fictional characters in your wired world. Instead, try stock photography.

How can you start building personas this week?

Try reaching out to specific people who fit a demographically relevant persona type, and ask them to help build improve your brand, site, or service by answering short survey questions. Survey Monkey or Kwik Surveys are great for this, delivering results instantaneously. Consider variables like behaviors (i.e. How much time they spend searching for recommendations, or how often they look for technical support pages), motivations (i.e. What kinds of friends they’re most likely to get recommendations from, or why they’re interested in your product’s category type), and attitudes (i.e. Do they like using drop down menus or site maps). These are all factors that you can’t see online or with the naked eye.

What are the takeaways?

Ground level brand perception may be the most valuable insight you can gain. By building deeper, more diverse context around personas from the get go, you’re moving from general to specific while you solve key issues that matter to your users. The value in using a social network like LinkedIn becomes clear after selectively choosing members to help your UX research — tapping into a wider array of real-world need states, goals, desires, backgrounds and preferences that help you solve a wider range of problems, and in turn, making your website more intuitive through members’ feedback.

Who said increasing overall brand perception wasn’t a personable practice?

Sonic Branding: The New Strategic Identity Gamechanger

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As music becomes a deeper sensory adventure, so does branding. Companies are plugging into the perks of “sensory branding” by building tribes of brand enthusiasts through the emotional, experiential power of music and curated playlists that reflect the brand’s personality. Learn more about Songza, the company behind the new sonic branding movement, and our first “On Branding” guest, Co-Founder and Chief Content Officer, Eric Davich, on Episode 001 of our show. For upcoming episodes, subscribe to our podcast on iTunes.

As your last few moments of peaceful slumber meet the morning dawn, the dynamite boom of James Brown’s “Get Up Offa That Thing” zaps you awake.

Goooooooooood morning!

It’s go time.

As you move from shower to subway, you summon a playlist that encapsulates your second-by-second mood. A playlist for Monday mornings? Check. A playlist that gets you pumped for that 9:45 a.m. boardroom pitch? Check. A playlist handpicked by Diane von Furstenberg? Hey, this dress is by DVF! Check. Your earbuds buzz a bit as you press play, and the energy courses through you from the first note.

This playlist is sonic fuel, and it’s just as important as your morning cup of joe.

When brands spend hour after hour thinking through captive audience scenarios and experiential marketing techniques, the concept of sonic branding makes complete sense.

What is sonic branding? Simply put, sonic branding is the way a company leverages acoustics to make an emotional connection. Much like the NBC tri-chime, or the “Intel inside” jingle that saw their rise during the golden television age, companies have an opportunity to strike a chord with target consumer markets — especially when brand identity sees a crossover with personal identity.

Once a consumable, passive activity for high society Englanders and 19th century aristocrats, music has darted and dashed into many a new democratic territory. Considering how the Walkman set the iPod up for success, it’s undeniable that both devices have changed the way music was consumed in the 90’s and early 00’s. Now that devices live at our sides at all hours of the day, sonic branding is beginning to reach an apex of relevance.

More than that though, brands are becoming acutely aware of the way consumers — we, the people — are interacting with devices and branded content. How do we toggle between a mobile phone and a tablet as we transition from the backseat of a taxi to the marble lobby of our offices? What experiences call for a “mood match”, in which audio mirrors the mood the listener is in, and what experiences call for a “mood makeover”, transforming a glum Wednesday with TurboTax into an epic aural journey?

Digital music services like Songza are quickly becoming the middleman for brands looking to break into experientially driven events. At the intersection of user experience, curation, and music delivery, Songza provides big brands with that elusive opportunity to get in front of an audience without the trappings of disruptive marketing. Instead, brands are able to make an emotional connection by creating or curating playlists that match the identity of the brand itself.

Sonic branding meets several brand goals:

(1) The “right time, right place” factor.

Brands worldwide are becoming deeply aware that simply “pushing product” is no longer a viable or attractive option to users. Brands have to deeply listen to the rhythm of the day-to-day in order to pinpoint the exact moment of opportune reach. This includes deep reconnaissance into the blogosphere, social networks, and user data that’s pulled from a variety of regularly used services.

ESPN has been overhauling its content delivery over the past several years by investing in cross-platform development that allows game time streaming across every phylum of digital device: mobile phones, tablets, desktop computers, laptops, televisions, devices on WiFi and those without, small screens and big screens…the list goes on. According to ESPN’s Moira Davis, Vice President of Marketing, it’s about behavioral observation and developing content that is able to be consumed across any need state, at any given time.

Multi-screen research by Google is providing tremendous insight into how customers are interacting with devices on a day-to-day basis, spurning interest in the way brands interact with fans — and vice versa. As a result, companies are leaping at the opportunity to provide content in a way that’s natural with the flow of the user’s day.

Content that’s within reach has a higher possibility of being reached for when a brand clearly invests thought into the way the content interacts with users.

(2) The task completion factor.

Great UX designers know it’s the completion of the task that matters. If a subject can’t find what they’re looking for in a reasonable amount of time, if they become anxious as they delve deeper into a webpage or become so frustrated that they abandon the site and go in search of a better one, the designer’s work has failed.

In this case study outlined by Nokia’s development team, the company delves into some of the core considerations that brands are putting into music “tagging” applications like Shazam. Working one-on-one with Shazam’s business development team, the UX designers and developers found that consistent brand recognition across platforms, intuitive user interfaces (UI), and ease of usability all helped to boost the likability of Shazam’s end product. Today, the service connects 300 million people in more than 200 countries and 33 languages worldwide.

In an interview with PCMag, Songza co-creator Elias Roman acknowledged Songza as a “lifestyle enhancement company”, noting that for instance, its team of 25 curators have found that the soundtrack to the Last of the Mohicans made filling out that gnarly Excel spreadsheet an actual pleasure.

In the coming years, as science and technology continue to reach higher heights, it will be especially interesting to watch the neurological studies that can get even more specific in addressing user behavior.

(3) The discovery engine factor.

Everyone’s got a friend they call a “tastemaker”. Great leather shoes. Great tortoiseshell glasses. Great vintage record collection.

You’ll have whatever they’re having.

When it comes to services like Songza, curation is key. Back in 2009 and 2010, while Pandora, Last.fm, and Turntable.fm were pursuing the crowd sourced content route, Songza stepped back to analyze its competitive advantage.

What wasn’t being done? Curated content.

Now, the time is ripe for it. Thanks to a small army of 25 chosen music curators, Songza is able to work with the well-versed and music fluent to compose playlists that are perfectly in tune with the brand’s overall essence, and align with the listener’s own identity.

These brands are also finding that they can provide tactile value to listener’s lifestyles, by offering up a discovery engine that lets music aficionados engage with music they’ve never heard before. Sure, they’re capturing the core of the company through sound, but brand-created playlists are also offering new opportunities for exploration — perhaps one of the most valuable points to all of this.

Brand expression that gives way to personal expression — now that’s on the money.

For more on “sonic branding” and the power of sound, check out this interactive sound experiment from Coca-Cola, called the “Remix Bottle”, a social music project by DJ and inventor, Jun Fujiwara that puts the focus on, “sounds in, happiness out”. Be sure to catch all the high notes on YouTube here.

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