Part Three: Designing Loyalty to Brands

A goal of any product or service is for the customer to emotionally identify with its brand and, as a result, for the customer to trust enough in their experience that they are willing to continue to buy and use it into the future. Furthermore, the aim is that the customer will become an advocate for that brand. The resulting benefit is brand loyalty.


The Aim Is Trust

Since brand loyalty and the trust associated with it is the aim of just about any company, it’s evident that it should also be an outcome of how design thinking is applied to the creation of any product or service. In making brand a priority outcome, it also reminds those involved in the process to focus on the emotional aspects of the customer’s experience and the resulting trust. After all, brand loyalty, like any form of human trust, is about the meaning and trust associated with the experience.

As we continue to peel away the layers of human-centered design and apply empathy, we find ourselves on the journey toward further understanding human emotion and the underlying sources of desire and motivation.  In the last installment of this series, I focused on the three key human motivations that reside at the core of our experience as customers and users: attention, competency, and caring.  As customers, these three motivations are the keys to how we relate to our experience and how our emotional requirements are met.


The Creative Alignment of Brand and Emotion

Focusing on the three human desires allows us to better design products and services, aligning them to meet a customer’s emotional requirements. These are requirements that, when met, provide the emotional fulfillment that translates into the customer’s perception of value. The customer’s choice to come back for a particular product or service results in their loyalty to the brand.

Recognizing the relationship of emotion and brand provides us with an endless set of opportunities through which to understand the customer and more intentionally engage in the rich design of human-centered solutions. It also provides a much more abundant lens through which to empathize, develop more insightful contextual inquiry, and increase the focus on the understanding of the second perspective. Furthermore, the ability to articulate a brand intention offers the ability to more readily define how ideas may align to the customer’s motivation, help in the design of key questions and inquiries, and create an awareness of how out-of-the-box ideas can bring benefit.


Six Brand Intentions, Six Paths to Loyalty

Building on the three aforementioned human motivations for attention, competency, and caring, we find that there are six distinct ways in which we brand products and services. In the book True Alignment, I detail the six brand intentions and provide insight into, and examples, for each of the six. What is important to realize is that each is a natural extension of the underlying human desire and motivation. Each provides a framework for the collection of information and data, as well as its application in the design process.


Connecting Customer Desires to Brand Intentions


The first of the three human desires is attentionThe two brand intentions that result from this motivation are community and customization.



Community describes services or products that invite and deliver community membership, offering relationship, affiliation and connection, the reciprocity of attention, and sharing a common identity with others. Examples of innovative brands delivering community include Facebook, Starbuck’s, Harley-Davidson, and Disney.


Customization is described as the design and delivery of products and services to reflect the customer’s wants, delivering customer empowerment, assumes that the customer knows best, and focuses on their ownership of the solution. These include such brands as Etsy, Land’s End, and 4imprint. In the case of attention-centered brand intentions, the participation of the customer in the design thinking process comes rather naturally.


The second customer motivation is competency. While the two brand intentions of pre-eminence and low price may at first appear to be contradictory, they are both driven by the application of expertise and know-how.



Pre-eminent brands include SAP, McKinsey, BMW, Intuit, and Apple. The focus of design is on delivering product and/or service superiority, delivering innovation and cutting edge uniqueness, or providing tailored solutions by applying expertise and competency to solve the customer’s problem.

Low Price

Low price is focused on delivering price advantage and on innovating to provide operational excellence and efficiency, resulting in customer savings. This includes the sense of competency associated with getting the best price or deal. Brands pursuing delivery of this brand intention include Amazon, IKEA, Target, and Dell. In the case of competency-centered brands, the customers involvement in design is better aligned through the application of well-defined processes and approaches.

Pre-eminence and low price allow the customer to trust in the competency of the product and service provider, as well as help the customer to recognize their own competency and capability.


 The two brand intentions that respond to the customer’s motivation for caring are physical wellbeing and personal actualization.


Physical Wellbeing

Physical wellbeing focuses on the design and delivery of products and services that deliver physical health and welfare, help one to feel good, and create a physically enriching experience. Physical wellbeing brands include Whole Foods, TempurPedic, Nutrilite, and Weightwatchers.

Personal Actualization

Personal Actualization brands include Oprah, The Hunger Project, Tony Robbins and the various offerings of spiritual growth and personal development. The focus is on supporting personal growth, delivering customer self-actualization and psychological realization, and helping the customer to pursue the ideal self. When it comes to the caring brand intentions, design thinking is free-wheeling and best served through an emphasis on creativity and free expression, and the customer is engaged through the desire to explore what’s possible.


Aligning Innovation to Brand

For our book Innovation By Design, my co-author, Thomas Lockwood, and I researched and conducted interviews with 21 highly innovative organizations. One aspect of the success of the study group members is the direct result of their brand loyalty – the emotional investment of customers resulting from their ability to innovate in alignment to their clearly articulated brand intention. Such alignment is demonstrated both through the consistency through which they pursue the design of solutions that respond to their customers’ emotional desires and motivations. They are able to leverage the alignment of their brand intention in how they engage in the design thinking process extremely well.  

Having a clear understanding and alignment of their design thinking process to their brand intention provides a more focused approach. It also provides for a sense of clarity for those involved in the process to assure that their efforts are not outside the parameters of their customers’ expectations, nor that of their organization. The result is the consistent delivery of innovations that solicit customer trust…and loyalty.  


Edgar Papke is an award winning speaker, leadership coach, and business consultant. He and Thomas Lockwood are the co-authors of Innovation By Design and founders of InnoAlignment, a consultancy dedicated to assisting leaders in designing and building cultures of innovation. Edgar is also the author of the books True Alignment and The Elephant In the Boardroom and can be contacted by email: edgar@edgarpapke.com

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