The best time to build inclusive design into your business model is at the beginning of your business; this is also the same time it’s important to start thinking about your brand.
Smart startups devote time and resources to designing and planning a brand before their first product sees the light of day- and successful, enduring companies pay regular attention to their brand presence and how it comes to life, making sure that it continues to reflect their vision and values. Branding is much more than a cosmetic exercise. The real essence of branding is valuable: it defines your mission, how you will disrupt a market, how will you transform the world. Effective branding is quickly and easily understood, speaks to emotions and unspoken beliefs, and tells a clear story about values and intentions.
It can help to think of brand as the clothes your company wears. The right clothes show people exactly what kind of person you are- the materials, how you wear it, how it serves you well. Just as there’s no one “correct” way to dress, there’s an infinity of ways to brand yourself. The key is for brands to tell a story.
Because branding communicates so much about a business at once, it’s a very powerful way to quickly inform- riding the express lane of emotional access to deliver a very direct message. Inclusive design has gained a lot of traction very recently, and there is a huge opportunity to bring those principles to the brand level. By including inclusive design principles in your brand strategy, you are establishing the values of inclusion to stakeholders and consumers. People will see their needs and feelings represented in your brand which will build strong, loyal and long term customer relationships.
Branding establishes a form of communication with the outside world, but it’s also an inward conversation. When you establish your brand, you’re also defining significant parts of your strategy, your values and purpose. Determining the culture and overall strategy of your business is part of a brand strategy.
Putting It All Together
Applying the same inclusive design principles that go into product design here will serve you well- exploring, defining, and understanding your consumer’s state of mind when they encounter you (and how other market spaces may be excluding them) will inform the impression you’ll want to make with your use of language, visual elements like color and typography, features and functionality, tone of voice, packaging, delivery, customer service, and the list goes on and on. A great place to start is by getting a good understanding of your buyer personas- or, as we prefer to call them, “impactful insights.” Next time, we’ll discuss how to create impactful consumer insights, and how to apply them to inclusive branding.