Juan Agron

Designer + Art Director → Empowering justice reformation via open-source tools → Building a mindfulness community for people who listen. Caribbean native / Nashville resident.

Course Notes: Brand Management

Brand Management - Creating What Sets You Apart


Brand: An idea system, or network of associations and meanings
Very strong brands command more sales.

Concrete clear identity. Conveys purpose or mission that people want to get behind.

Example: Charity : Water

Today, customers have much broader to media. The ability to consume media is much more on their own terms. Have autonomy with engage with messages when they want to and tune out messages that they do not like.

It's much more important to reach people emotionally and inspire them with content that creates value... rather than just pushing an ad out.

With social media, brand becomes more of a dialogue.


Building a brand

  • Establish pillars
  • Build audience

Brand Management
The discipline of build a system for brand consistency and growth
(Can encompass market research, package design, advertisement development). How do you make it scalable and how to you make it align with your future business strategy?

Brand Elements: Vision, Mission, Values, Positioning, Voice and Tone, Look and Feel

Vision: Do not think too far ahead (fiction) but also not too short term. 3-5 year time frame. Where is the rest of the world going how does it intersect into your narrative? Take a strong stance, even if it is wrong in the future, it can develop and evolve over the way. It should be a little longer and more of a story.

Mission: Should be very succinct, actionable, and aspirational. Everything that your company is trying to accomplish. It should inspire something bold.

Tips: 1. Think about the problem that your vision exposes. 2. Think about the solution, why is it your mission. 3. Whats the most purpose driven way to describe how your company will solve the problem that you identified.

Values: Guiding principles that govern all decision making that your employees make. Code of Conduct for everyone in the company.

Tips: Create a relatively short list of values. Make sure they are aspirational and translate to the whole spectrum of conduct, not just specific circumstances. From what they do in a meeting to how they approach their day at work.

Positioning: Written at the service, solution, operational level. What makes your product different and what do your customers want from it? What is the most important thing that it solves for them.

Talk about solution rather than focusing on details or features. For example, "why do you buy a car" ask "why three times" ... "to get to the store" – "to buy things I need" – "to support my family" – "because I love them" ... etc.

Very sharp and clear and drives at the solution or experience you want customer to experience. Whereas vision and mission may not change too much, your product positioning may change very often depending on how your product evolves (ex. seasonal with fashion lines).

A/B Test different messaging in digital!

Understanding your audience and what makes your brand distinct. Develop buyer personas of typical customer and written language that communicates to that customer.

Sub-positioning: How does a specific product fit within a different category (think about Carpool).

Voice and tone: What is your brand's personality. How do you talk to the market and what are some editorial rules that you abide by? Editorial rules example: Everything we write should be... 1) Thoughtful 2) Interesting 3) Proud 4) Bold 5) Human

Tip: Let your fans know where you come from. Make a "communications audit" often to make sure that the guidelines are working. Everything should sound like it someone from a central source.

Look and feel: Think about colors and visual moods that should carry across to every aspect of the marketing (including store fronts, packaging, store-fronts).


Brand Management: Marketing + Culture

Audience: Know your customers

Communications: Structures like slogans, taglines, marketing messages, call to actions. Invite them to a common experience. Once we know customer, we can start to think about how to develop specific messages that resonate with broad customer audience but also subsets.

Distribution: How to reach audience at scale. Discounts to sign-up for email list, then use email list to sell.

Hiring: Recruit a team that believes in your brand values. Internal communication standards. Distributed across internal documentation, templates and resources, events (like a offsite). Great brands start from within.

Centralization and clear guidelines: A single source of truth for marketing guidelines. Make it easier for different team members to make the same type of good decisions. They will understand what the underlying company narrative is.


Operationalizing your brand strategy

  1. Stories and Campaigns
  2. Brand Memories
  3. Mental and Physical Availability

Advertising effectiveness. Telling stories in a way that your audience will identify with and ultimately share that with others.

Great brands:
– Attract talent that embodies and extends the brand
– Help management teams make informed decisions

Tips: How we onboard new employees. What documentation, what curriculum, what classes, what management team and managers they get exposed to. Dedicated on boarding calendar. Senior managers will give presentations on company values, missions, history, design rules, etc.

Also point them to guidelines in centralized marketing site.


Marketing Channels
(you want to answer 'yes' to these)

  • Does this represent the brand?
  • Does this have a business objective?
  • Does this engage my audience?

Concept of double jeopardy: The more established your brand is, the more loyal your customers are. The more market-share your brand has, the more customers are willing to use it.

The stronger your brand, the more you focus your advertising on establishing physical and mental availability at an aggregate level across all consumers, that is far more valuable than investing on a specific sub-segment like your customers.

Social-proof: Credibility reinforcement. Case study or customer testimonial. Internet has made social proof have more reach. Focus on large-scale brand building and marketing is more effective than focusing on your smaller customer base.

Course Notes: Design Thinking


Design Thinking: How to Use Creative Problem Solving for Better Design

1. What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is using design skills and thought processes to solve problems.

- Establish a framework
- Break out of old thinking
- Work more strategically

Elements of Design Thinking

A) Abductive reasoning
B) Visual Thinking
C) Design Tools
D) Design Attitudes

A) Abductive Reasoning

Deductive reasoning

Starting with a hypothesis, then using evidence to prove (or disprove) it.

Come up with an idea. Test. See if it works. Move on.

Persona: Developers

Inductive reasoning

Using experimentation to form a hypothesis from a set of observations.

Start with research, statistics, data. Come up with solution to fill the gap.

Persona: Business, Marketing

Abductive reasoning

Making an educated guess based on an incomplete set of information

Make big leaps of thoughts to solve problems.

Ask lots of questions to form patterns.

Persona: Designers, Doctors, Detectives

B) Visual Thinking

Uses concrete visuals, like a map or diagram, to create a shared understanding.

Takes ideas out of people's minds and puts them in a physical space to make them concrete.

Author: David Sibbet

C) Common design tools

The tools designers use to solve problems, from simple exercises to complex research techniques.

1. Empathy maps, elevator pitches, research techniques.
2. Design games make meetings less opinionated. Book: Game Storming.
3. Create a toolbox and understand when to use which tool.

D) Design Attitudes

Show, don't tell

Focus on human values

Craft clarity (visualization)

Embrace experimentation

Mindful of process

Bias towards action (UI, business model canvases, prototyping service)

Radical collaboration


2. Understanding the Problem

- Involve users in your research
- Don't just ask what users want
- Focus on behavior
- Understand needs and motivations
- Don't be afraid to pivot

Design Research Techniques
- Interview customers/users
- Ask open questions
- Ask "Why?" to encourage stories
- Listen, smile, nod
- Use silence to your advantage
- Gaining empathy and understanding
- Find problems, not solutions
- Co-Design
- "Design the Box" Game: An exercise that forces teams to make a concrete decision about abstract features. What would be on the cover, side, back, cost, look?
- Empathy Map
- A tool for understanding a user's motivations and environment
- User at the center: Says, Thinks, Does, Feels
- Share your findings
- It's important to gain credibility from all of the insights gathered
- Cognitive Walkthrough
- Walking through a process or question from the user's perspective
- Ask yourself open questions
- "Desk research" (looking things up)

3. Rethinking the Problem

Reframing Techniques
- Mad lib elevator pitch
- For [target customer], who [customer need], [product name], is a [market category] that [one key benefit]. Unlike [competition], the product [unique differentiator].
- Press Release from the future
- Write the story from the future.
- Gives a good articulation of the problem you are solving
- Put a flag in the sand and head towards that
- Business Model Canvas
- Template used to visualize the building blocks of starting a business
- Great exercise for building a new business
- The Five Whys
- Uncover the root cause of a problem
- Get to solve much deeper and meaningful problems
- Talk client through research and rational

5. Creating a Possible Solution

- 100 Designs
- Creating lots of designs in order to force creativity
- 6up, 1up
- Timed brainstorming exercise used to generate ideas
- Design Studio
- Brainstorming exercise to generate ideas in a large group
- 1, 1:1, 2:2, 4:4, 8:8

- An early model of what your end solution might look like
- Get stakeholder buy-in
- Gather immediate feedback
- Save time and money
- Catch problems early
- Interactive prototype
- Wizard of Oz Prototype: Users interact with product without knowing that responses are coming from a human, not a computer.
- Physical prototype
- Bodystorming: enacting the physical experience of using a product or service.
- Service Diagram
- Sketching exercise used to map out all the steps of a process.
- Day in the life, comic strip sketch.

6. Testing Your Solution

- Landing page test
- Stripped-down product to gather user feedback
- Show features, capture email addresses
- People usually only give email addresses if its very attractive
- Concierge
- Using humans to fake the user experience of your final products
- Temporarily fake technology
- Guerilla Usability Testing
- Testing prototype "in the wild" by asking members of the public for feedback
- Ask users to engage in three tasks (core functionalities), then watch them and take notes

When do you launch?
- Product will never be perfect
- After you've minimized large issues

Course Notes: Adoption and Appropriation

Interaction Design Foundation

Section 1: An Introduction

  • Life goals – what does the user aspire to in their life? How might your product get them to that goal? What would motivate a user to choose your product over a competing product that achieves this objective?
  • Completion goals – what do users expect to happen at the end of using your product? What can you measure when this takes place?
  • Behavioral goals – when users undertake achieving the goal without using your product, how do they do it? How can your product mimic that process so that the product is familiar to them? (E.g. it mimics their mental models).

The 5 Characteristics of Usable Products

In 2001, Whitney Quesenbery, the UX and Usability Expert and former President of the Usability Professionals’ Association (UXPA), offered five criteria that a product must meet to be usable:

  • Effectiveness
  • Efficiency
  • Engagingness
  • Error Tolerance
  • Ease of Learning

Marketers should be working with the design team to release news of the development of the product to interested parties within the user base. They should also be preparing their efforts for the launch of the product. The objective for the marketing team during this phase is not to create insatiable demand or unrealistic expectations but rather a sense of interest and to drive anticipation for release.

Key activities include:

  • Making sure any web presence or social media for the product is kept up to date
    • Make sure that they have a list of journalists/media resources that might be persuaded to deliver launch announcements or reviews of the product
    • Building a database of influencers (those with large impact on your user community) and reaching out to them to share advance news and insight into the product
  • Building a list of industry analysts who might be interested in the product
  • Developing clear marketing messages that express the benefits to users of the product
  • Developing any materials that may be needed (such as brochures, flyers, adverts, etc.) for launch
  • Booking any media space for advertising for launch (banner adverts, print, radio, etc.)
  • Running a pre-launch “teaser” campaign when a launch date is confirmed (and only when it is confirmed)

7 components of a user experience

  • Useful
  • Usable
  • Findable
  • Credible
  • Desirable
  • Accessible
  • Valuable

Designing for Value

People use something

*Only if

It has perceived value


Value exceeds costs.

– Note exceptions such as habits.

What are values?

  • Helps me get my work done
  • Fun
  • Good for others

What are costs?

  • Download time
  • Money
  • Learning effort

Value depends on time. In life, people heavily discount both future value and future cost (hence resistance to learning). Low Barries and high perceived PRESENT value are critical. 

Section 2: Designing for Adoption

“…pay attention to what users do, not what they say.”

User research will reveal:

  • What users want
  • How to deliver what they want
  • Whether or not that expectation has been met through design

Market research will reveal:

  • Which communities of users should be involved in user research – in particular innovators and early adopters can be identified early and brought into user research
  • How to communicate effectively with innovators and early adopters
  • How best to educate users that the product exists and what benefits it will bring
  • How to achieve rapid adoption of successful designs

5 Types of Adopters

  1. Innovators
  2. Early Adopters
  3. Early Majority
  4. Late Majority
  5. Laggards

Perception of Value

  1. Functional Value – what does the product do? What problem does it solve for the user or customer?
  2. Financial Value – is the product provided at a reasonable price point? It is worth noting that “reasonable” is very difficult to define as it involves the user or customer making multiple trade-offs between the costs of other things they want or need, the value of competing items and their ability to pay.
  3. Social Value – how does the product enable the user to connect with others? How does it improve the status of the user in other people’s eyes?
  4. Psychological Value – how does the product enable the user to feel about themselves? Does it bring them pride, pleasure, happiness, etc.?

Products must fit the user’s budget and exceed the perceived value in all competing goods. It’s not enough to simply provide a value>cost incentive.

Prospect Theory

Loss Aversion Theory

  • people are more likely to avoid losses rather than seek gains when the stakes are similar.
  • We are more likely to take a risk when something is phrased as a gain rather than when it is phrased as a loss.

Endowment Effect

  • suggests that once the person owns the product they would pay twice as much to keep it than they would have paid for it originally.

Value Networks

  • External value networks: outside of the business in question; these can include customers, users, business intermediaries, business partners, stakeholders, suppliers
  • Internal Value Networks: aren’t limited to business – they exist wherever two or more people work together to create anything
  • Described as: The relationships are seen in terms of either tangible or intangible benefits between the nodes.
  • There are 4 common types of value network: Clayton Christensen’s networks, Fjeldstad and Stabells networks, Normann and Ramirex’ constellations and Verna Allee’s networks.

Clayton Christensen’s Networks

  • a network consists of everything outside a business that supports that business and it’s hard to break into such networks and make big changes because of the expectation that you will conform to that network model.

Fjeldstad and Stabell’s Networks

Their value networks are based on the concept that value networks include certain components:

  • Customers
  • Services – which are used by all the customers and which allow for interaction (though not always direct interaction) between those customers
  • A service provider
  • Contracts or agreements which allow access to services

Examples being:

  • Facebook
  • Insurance Companies

Normann and Ramirez Value Constellations

See value models as dynamic, fluid systems. In which the objective is to continuously improve relationships and roles within the model to create as much value as possible.

Verna Allee’s Networks

a value network is simply a web of relationships that will generate either or both of tangible and intangible value.

when all problems are expressed in value creation terms, you can more easily change how you consider problems.

UX designers ask; “where can I create value for my users?” Verna Allee’s approach extends that to ask; “where can value be created for anyone within the network?”

Book: “The Future of Knowledge”

Social Systems

  • Thought leadership
    • Monomorphic
    • Polymorphic
    • Personal Values
      • Expression of values
      • Professional competence
      • The attributes of their social network
    • If we can influence thought leaders in a positive way, they will influence their followers in a positive way. Work with them early in the process.
  • Digital social networks
  • Organizations

Digital social networks

  • “likes don’t equal purchases” and it’s important to remember this when designing metrics for digital social networks.
  • develop your own “rules of thumb” for these interactions


  • Organizations adopt products differently from individuals
  • ie. Company
    • Internal stakeholders
      • Employees
      • Manager
      • Owners
    • External stakeholders 
      • Suppliers
      • Society
      • Government
      • Creditors
      • Shareholders
      • Customers
  • Collective decisions requires consensus 
  • Authority decisions
  • Product Champions, when an adoption decision has been made, will be empowered to drive that innovation within their business and break through any barriers to adoption. ***

The Diffusion of Innovation – Strategies for Adoption of Products