Some thoughts on branding in the online space, from a recent issue of Gerry McGovern’s New Thinking newsletter. The set-up: he’s just gone through a litany of UX problems with the websites of many major Irish banks. Here’s the kicker:
This isn’t usability. This isn’t interface design. This is branding. This is marketing. This is advertising. This is management. And you know what? I’ll bet senior management in all these banks could not care less about my online experience. In fact, I have rarely, if ever, met a senior manager with more than a passing interest in the Web. They think this stuff is technical – something you give to the IT department.
Where customers spend their time is where you build your brand. Organizations need to stop trying to use traditional advertising techniques to create false images. For an increasing number of customers, you are your website. It’s about time senior management woke up to that fact.
[via Building a brand on the Web.]
(I won’t get into McGovern’s apparent quarrel with branding as it’s commonly understood — the “false images” bit — that’s fodder for another post.)
What strikes me here is how well the goals of website usability dovetail with many of the attributes that we’d want in a government brand.
First the brand side of the equation. Off the top of my head, some typical brand attributes for government: reliability, consistency, helpfulness, fairness, accountability, efficiency (ok ok, but I can dream right?). It’s a far cry from the attributes of that hip consumer brands strive for, but hey we are talking government after all.
Now, think about what we want to achieve with government web presences: create reliably working sites that treat our users consistently and fairly, that allow citizens to efficiently do what they need to do when interacting with government while online. Information and transactions are handled in an accountable manner, and navigation and content is helpful to our citizens. Lookit the highlighted words — these are the same as the attributes for a government brand.
And for an increasing number of customers, you are your website. (McGovern is mostly oriented towards private businesses, but this also rings true for those of us in the public sector.)
So for government, usability = brand.