How To Create Concepts Brands Can Grasp

1.) Always start with the frustration

This is incredibly important when it comes to creating something. What is really frustrating about the thing you’re trying to solve? Each of the PSFK reports typically revolves around a theme to help box in the creatives a bit (which is a good thing – saving that for a later post). This past concept for Future of Retail revolved around “Loyalty”.

Data is important and we love it, but often you need to stop and remember as strategists, designers, and developers, we’re all ultimately customers/consumers/humans. What frustrates us about retail loyalty is such a simple place to start. Why don’t we participate in programs? How much money does CVS lose on the stacks of free loyalty cards that people just swipe to save a few bucks? Why do I spend so much with a particular brand and it not seem to matter to the brand? Just simple questions, from simple consumers.

We were given The North Face as our brand to work with. It worked out well that many of our team members are outdoor enthusiasts in some shape or form. So the idea of providing “value” to loyal customers was easy. We just thought about what would really matter outside the store apart from saving a few bucks.

2.) Balance the tension between what is and what could be

I think the big reason why we tend to get asked back to PSFK’s “Future of…” projects is because we balance the tension between what is and what could be. It’s really easy when given a lot of free time to think about what we call “strapping the unicorn to the rocket ship”, which means creating the most insanely cool over the top thing possible. These moments are great, and it’s fun to live there in your head and initially on paper, but ultimately the best concepts have a delicate balance between the what is (current state) and what could be (future state).

We ultimately try to create something that is ahead of what the space is doing but not unattainable. To do this we look at existing technologies and trends. A big part of our North Face project incorporated drones. In our mind, and in the minds of most individuals, drones are still in their infancy. They are developing, changing quickly, and still have plenty of room for improvement. It’s safe to say the drone you want now will be obsolete next year.

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So we wanted to create something that a retailer or brand felt was doable, not necessarily easiest to pull of – but at least with the right amount of intention, doable. Most often we sit in conferences and hear speakers and they present these wild ideas for brands to “improve”. More often than not we’ve seen more confusion than direction. You often hear “Well that’s great, but how can I do that?” We make sure to we avoid that in our concepts. We hope that it inspires the brand to step up without feeling like it’s an impossibility.

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3.) Don’t forget touch

For us the key to good tech and creating meaningful products is thinking about what a person is physically doing while using your product. So when we say “touch” we aren’t talking about screens, we’re talking about their physical world. Designing something knowing that it will mostly be used while walking down a street, sitting on a couch, or driving in a car, makes a huge difference. All of those scenarios aren’t as clear cut, they all have moments of distraction. We like what google calls micro-moments and thinking about micro-moments for users while adding another lense by asking, “where is that moment happening?”

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We knew our North Face product had a few physical moments.  The “before trip” and the “during trip” moments dictated how we decided was best to create the app. For instance, we know we need more of the user’s attention when using the Sherpa Concierge feature, which is why we went with a live chat version of engagement vs., just simple search and response. We needed to keep that user engaged in the discovery process, which made chat ideal. Once the customer was out in the wild, we wanted as little interaction as possible with the app to ensure users wouldn’t be distracted from the nature they were encountering. Beacons were a great way to do this and were a perfect way to be used outside of bombarding you with coupons.

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All of these “touch” moments were important to our design thinking, and ultimately helped us determine the right way to add value to the customer/user outside of just saving them a few bucks.

Hope you enjoyed this little behind the scenes of our process. Feel free to download the PDF of our concept.

PSFK_NorthFace