The Future is in the Cards

June 5, 2013

Traditionally brand managers and CMOs have controlled their brand by controlling everything that represents the brand. As we know, this is done using strong visual and verbal guidelines and lots of brand training.

What if I told you the way people see your brand may soon be devoid of one or both of these things? What if I said your customers will see your brand alongside a commoditized list of competitors? There is a new trend towards encapsulating data into information cards that seems to be gaining traction. The information will be about your brand, but how much you control depends on how much you engage with your customers.

Siri-ously?

Siri wasn't the first example of this type of card based data, but Apple certainly helped to make the idea mainstream. When you can press a button on your phone and ask for pizza, you are presented with a list of pizza shops. These types of lists often aren’t order by preferential data, such as the user’s favorite brand, but rather by convenience data, such as closest, cheapest, highest rated. In the example photo, you see a list from Siri specifically of Pizza Huts. I chose that search for two reasons: 1) To show there is nothing unique about the search results that ties back to the Pizza Hut brand, and 2) To point out that even among the same brand you see differing results—namely the ratings.

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List of pizza huts using Siri

Looking at a specific listing and also at the listing as it appears in Apple Maps, you still see nothing, which differentiates it from any other business—except ratings and distance. This isn’t a far future trend. This is happening now.

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A specific location in Siri

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A specific location in Apple Maps

How soon is “Now”?

This isn’t just an Apple effort either. There is a product from Google called Google Now. It takes search to a whole new level by predicting what you will search for and presenting those results to you before you even ask for it. Sounds impossible? Give it a try for a day and you will believe. Google accomplishes this by keeping tabs on your email, calendar, and location and popping up cards that contain relevant pertinent information.

As you may have guessed, these cards like Apple’s cards often contain homogenized information, devoid of any brand elements. In the example here, the closet Pizza Hut is shown as a card at the top of a list of search results. Google Now would present a similar card around lunch or dinnertime based on my previous search history.

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Result from a Google search

What you can do

This type of information is very important to users, and it can’t be ignored. In fact, you should embrace these users because they often are “searching with intent to buy”, which makes them valuable leads. If they intend to buy, anything that provides less friction, like positive review or up-to-date information, creates more of a likelihood to buy. You can help by ensuring your company has:

This isn’t the end of brand as we know it. It’s just another touch point and an opportunity to prove that your brand garners true loyalty, not just visual recognition. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how else we can improve our brand in this brave new world.

[UPDATE] Apple has just announced version 7 of iOS and it looks like Siri is going even further down the path of making information look less branded. Have a look.

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