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In this episode, Gabriel Walker and Mark Hayes will discuss what kind of growth hacking TikTok has been using to become one of the world’s most downloaded apps back in the first half of 2018 (with over 104 million downloads!), and how it gives users an amazing user experience.

In today’s episode:

In our very first episode, ROCKETSHP’s Gabriel Walker and Mark Hayes break down the concept of attribution modeling, its segments, and in which channels you should really be investing.

When it comes to brand positioning, there are essentially 2 ways to communicate your brand values to customers:

As it turns out, using storytelling as a way of building brand awareness is an order of magnitude more effective than fact-based brand building. The greatest brands tell a story – and guide their customers on a journey through that story.

Take, for example, Airbnb. Struggling to properly communicate the Airbnb brand, Brian Chesky resorted to a childhood favorite – snow white.

That’s correct – the age-old fairytale of a princess and a big group of odd, working-class dwarves helped form one of the most enduring brands of the 21st century.

As it turns out, there’s a simple approach to using storytelling in brand building: the Hero’s Journey. Devised by anthropologist Edward Brunett Tylor in the late 1800s, the Heros’ Journey describes a pattern most great stories follow.

Every major character in a good fable goes through several different cycles that resemble roughly the following:

hero's journey

Broken down even further, the journey looks something like this:

As it turns out, brand discovery follows roughly the same blueprint as any good fable – and the best brand UX guides the hero through each of these steps in an elegant way. 

Your ideal customer is the hero – it’s up to you to take them through the process of transformation and self-discovery, espouse your brand values and ultimately take on their old world better armed.

To architect a strong brand UX and build a powerful brand, guide your customers through the hero’s journey and slay the dragon. This article will dig into each of these steps further.

Call to Adventure

The call to adventure is a deep yearning. It’s the great motivation behind your hero’s journey – the value-driven call to action that sends your ideal customer searching for you in the first place.

The call to adventure goes beyond day-to-day problems.

In Airbnb, for example, the call to adventure is wanderlust. Although the company services all kinds of customers, their ideal customer is, in some ways, a dreamer.

Their ideal customer seeks to find adventure – and is motivated by interesting travel experiences, meeting new people and discovering new places.

It’s important to stress here again: the call to adventure isn’t some basic pain point your brand solves (that comes later).

It’s a value-driven motivation that draws (and keeps) someone attached and advocating for your brand. 

The call to adventure defines your entire brand UX strategy – and until you know what that deep yearning is, you can’t possibly build a compelling brand around it.

When you study brands like Nike and Apple, they have a deep understanding of that yearning.

They know exactly who their ideal customer is – and more importantly, what their hopes and dreams are.

The first step of powerful brand UX is to understand your Call to Adventure.

In practical terms, this often starts with some analysis like building in-depth Buyer Personas or digging into the data. Really, there’s no right answer here – it’s a question of engaging all of your resources into determining what your ideal customer’s deepest motivations are.

Another great way to describe this process is discovering your customers big “why”.

The big “why” is the initial, broad motivation that eventually breaks down into smaller “whys”. Ultimately, the “why” gets small enough it fits in a neat little Google search that ends up on your website.

So, one approach to find that big “why” is to reverse engineer the process – start from what questions bring your customers to your web page and work it backwards. 

For example, in Airbnb’s case, the question might be “what’s a cool place to stay in Austin?”.

If you peel that onion and go one step above, the motivation behind that question might be “where can I go in Austin that will give me an interesting experience?”, which peeled further might be something like “where can I stay that will give me a unique and lasting memory?”, and so on and so forth.

Ultimately, Airbnb would probably peel back to the big “why” – “how can I experience something incredible?”

Peel back the curtains behind your best customers and fully realize their deepest yearning – that’s where your brand UX begins.

Crossing the Chasm

Great brands typically accompany great life changes. Understanding your customer’s deepest motivations isn’t enough – you need to identify what changes ultimately push them over the edge to address that motivation.

In the prevailing Airbnb example, everyone has wanderlust – but those who ultimately do travel typically have a “tipping point” that finally sends them on their journey.

We’ve been working primarily with b2c examples thus far, but the same concepts apply to b2b. 

Consider, for example, a SaaS tool like JIRA. The call to adventure behind JIRA’s ideal customer is a software engineering team that wants to be the best – that wants to create beautiful, incredible & memorable products with flawless execution.

This deep-seated motivation is important, but it isn’t everything – there are dozens of engineering teams who hold that desire that continue to lumber on with legacy, outdated workflow systems.

The teams that do ultimately decide to act on that root motivation and migrate to JIRA typically do so because of some trigger. Often, this is an organizational trigger – for instance, the company growing too quickly or reaching a certain scale where it’s necessary to have a more organized workflow.

You can probably see now that this journey-mapping actually offers a very elegant way of reducing product abstraction.

You now have 2 things you’ve understood: what deeply motivates your ideal customer, and what trigger events send them chasing that yearning.

Strong brand UX addresses both of these things.

If you look at JIRA’s UX, it’s entire structures betrays this thinking – everything from their documentation to onboarding, to messaging are all designed to attract the best software teams at the fastest growing software companies.

Another great example is Nike, whose sales consistently spike during Q1.

Why? Because New Years is a time of change – and those customers with a deep yearning to excel at what they do finally get pushed over the edge. 

Beast at the Threshold

Alright, we’re finally here. You understand your customer’s deepest motivations, you understand what pushes them over the edge to start chasing it – so what’s their biggest pain point?

What’s the major obstacle on their journey to enlightenment that they’ve come to your brand seeking refuge for?

Consider the Airbnb example again. The customer’s deepest motivation might be Wanderlust, but the current pain point sending them to Airbnb is “well, where the heck do I stay?”

This step in the hero’s journey is the most directly actionable by a brand’s UX, but ultimately ties intimately with the deep yearning. In Airbnb’s case, it heavily motivates its product decisions.

When you open an Airbnb listing, you’re shown things like host biography, trendy things to do in the neighborhood and experiences with some locals.

Consider some of the “obstacles” these decisions aim to ease. “What trendy neighborhood should I stay in?” “Who is a cool person to show me around?” “Where can I meet other travelers?”

Notice these “obstacles” are all directly motivated by the initial yearning and the catalyst – they’re questions primarily asked by people who deeply seek to travel, and only recently began.

Now, compare these design decisions with some of AirBnb competitors – for example, Marriott Hotels. A typical Marriott Hotel listing doesn’t have any of the above – instead, it lists things like details on airport shuttles and distances to nearby print shops. 

Why? Because Marriott’s ideal customer has a dramatically different yearning from Airbnbs – and that yearning influences the day-to-day obstacles they attempt to address through UX design.

Now instead, imagine Airbnb’s UX approach involved simply focusing on obstacles – if they surveyed their customers and listed out all of their concerns, they’d probably end up adding a lot of the same things Marriott adds.

Instead, by going through the journey and starting with the yearning, they filter apart the obstacles that their ideal customer faces, instead of just generic travelers.

In other words, following the Hero’s Journey enables you to build powerful, compelling brand experiences, because it optimally designs for your ideal and ultimate customer.

Transformation

The 4th step in the hero’s journey is the promise – in less sexy terms, some might call it “value proposition”.

Herein lies the crux of brand value – a strong brand takes in an ideal customer and gives them a new set of tools and perspectives to tackle the beast and continue on the adventure.

A customer might find Airbnb in their search for accommodation in their first trip to Europe, but they stay on Airbnb because it becomes their platform for wanderlust – they use it to be inspired, to stay in touch with old hosts and to discover new experiences.

Their second trip to Europe, the old obstacle doesn’t exist anymore – instead, a new set of obstacles exist. How do I meet more interesting people? How do I get the best bang for my buck?

How do I maximize the amount of time I spend in nature?

This is a good time to bring up arguably the most fundamentally important concept in the Hero’s Journey: it doesn’t end.

A hero will run through several cycles of the Hero’s Journey in a single adventure – the same is true for any brand.

Every time a customer engages with a brand, it’s another cycle of the adventure.

Every design decision a brand makes follows these same steps and takes the user on this same journey – and the stronger the brand, the more cohesive the journey.

By the 4th step, the user is now equipped to continue satisfying their deep yearning, free of the beast that was temporarily in their way.

Final Atonement

The final step of the Hero’s Journey is really the holy grail of powerful brand marketing & UX: advocacy.

Once your ideal customer has gone through the cycle with you, the final step is truly embracing the brand.

The most powerful brands are the ones who consistently take their customers through to this final step. 

Brands like Porsche, Rolex, Nike & Apple all take their customers to this end goal – where they come back to the “real world”, fully equipped with a new perspective on their adventure. 

When the traveler returns from their first trip, they’ve taken another step on the road to becoming a seasoned traveler – to embracing wanderlust.

At this step, AirBnb’s ideal customer becomes a brand advocate. When that customer travels, they don’t just travel – they travel embracing many of Airbnb’s brand ideals.

Powerful brands become powerful because people are inspired by them. Iconic brands are much like iconic people – others strive to emulate them.

The Hero’s Journey pattern offers a beautifully elegant framework for any brand to craft their ideal customer – and then work on sending that customer through the ultimate journey.

A strong brand is like a legendary author – capable of inspiring people and redefining the way they do things.

So – who’s your brand’s hero? 

Growth-driven design is a systematic approach to web design that mitigates the risk of scope-creep, overspending, and large, upfront commitments of time and money.

It is based on an iterative process of continuous improvement, based on insights gained at each touchpoint in the design project.

This type of design methodology relies on short cycles of time called “sprints” to attack the project in small, manageable segments.

Each activity is based on user testing and visitor behaviors, ensuring that your website content is aligned with what your audience actually wants.

Instead of launching a wide-scale website overhaul every other year, more organizations are relying on growth-driven design for an adaptive, fluid style of web design that doesn’t monopolize marketing resources for months at a time.

The result is a website that is based on actual user preferences and behaviors–driving targeted sales and marketing decisions.

If you just went through a major website redesign project or you are just starting to plan your website, this unique approach can help optimize your resources, minimize risk, and continually improve your web content. 

Here’s how it works.

Phase I: Strategy, Wishlist, and Launchpad Website

Just as traditional website design begins with ideation (or should), growth-driven design takes a strategic approach to laying the groundwork for design structure.

The difference is that it doesn’t end there. Instead, it starts with strategy and builds on it to create an informed wishlist and eventual launchpad website, with each step feeding into the next for a rock-solid, sustainable approach.

Strategy

In this strategy phase, the design team should identify how the success of the project will ultimately be measured.

What are the performance metrics that matter most to the organization?

How will those metrics be tracked?

By answering these (and other) questions before the project begins, cross-departmental teams will be better aligned, and you’ll be less likely to suffer from the dreaded “scope creep” that has derailed more than one well-meaning team.

The next step in the strategy phase is to develop specific personas for the audiences that will visit and benefit from your site.

Personas can be based on groups or individuals, and they share a common goal: to identify the characteristics and buying behaviors of your website visitors so that you can structure content and design to meet their specific needs.

After you’ve established and agreed upon goals and personas, it’s time to dive into the research.

First, gather any quantitative data that you can find about your current website (or even your brand).

Take note of what is working well and what’s falling short. As part of your research, don’t forget to consult your current customers for their perception of your current website and brand.

Put on your thickest skin–especially if you designed the website and feel attached to it.

Look at each gap not as a failure, but as an opportunity to improve and let your skill set shine in the new design approach.

After you’ve aggregated the research, and evaluated it against your goals and personas, it’s time to make some educated, fundamental assumptions to drive the overall strategy for subsequent phases.

The key is in applying modified strategies to design at both the page level and at the site level.

User needs will vary from page to page, but the overarching site should function as a cohesive unit, with each page and section complementing the holistic design.

Wishlist

The next step is to create a wishlist.

This is arguably the most “fun” stage of the process, where you and your team can brainstorm ideas based on your goals, personas, and research.

Forget about your current website–this is where you imagine the website of your dreams.

As you ideate, think about what it would take to help check off each item on your wishlist. All is fair game in brainstorming, so disregard the obvious obstacles of time, money, and resources.

You are simply defining what your website Utopia looks like.

As you grow your wishlist and identify elements that aren’t immediately possible because of time or resource constraints, don’t scrap those ideas.

Instead, keep them, but move them to the back of the list for future consideration in later iterations of your site.

The wishlist is meant to be a repository for ideas so that you can prioritize and act on them over an extended period of time.

Launchpad website

With traditional web design processes, the launch is the grand finale of the project.

In growth-driven design, websites are launched right away and iterated on over time.

A launchpad website prevents “analysis paralysis” by taking what you know, translating it into an improved version of your current website.

Don’t fall victim to the idea that everything must be perfect before you can launch.

Instead, pick some achievable items from your wishlist (aim for around 20% of your total list),  launch your site and then commit to an agile approach for making improvements over time.

Phase II: The design cycle

Once the launchpad website is complete, your work isn’t done.

If you only chose 20% of your wishlist items to include in the first iteration of your site, then you still have 80% of your list left– just waiting to be implemented into the next version.

This approach sets the stage for continuous improvement and creativity, but in an intelligent and sustainable way.

The second phase builds on the agility you created in phase one, for even greater potential to learn and improve.

It works by using personas to drive four key steps.

Plan

Just as you began with a strategy in Phase I, the first step in this phase involves strategizing and identifying the items with the potential to make the most impact on the site.

By reviewing the performance of the launchpad website, you can add, subtract, or amend items on your wishlist, based on concrete data.

Next, spend some time with your sales and marketing teams to glean insight about user feedback, needs, and trends.

Those two teams, in particular, have unique data about what topics users want to see and in which formats.

Repeat the brainstorming process to add new action items and ideas for creating a better user experience.

In the second phase, most actions seek to accomplish a few centralized goals: boosting conversions, improving or personalizing the user experience, and building a repository of marketing assets and sales enablement materials.

After you prioritize and adjust your wishlist, it’s time to pick your new list of action items to include in your next sprint cycle.

Develop

As you start applying a new crop of wishlist items to your site, experiment with each one to gauge the impact it has on the overall success of your website.

To do this, you will need to set up targeted tracking metrics and marketing campaigns to drive traffic to each site element you wish to measure.

Reconstruct and iterate on campaigns as needed to refine your message and resonate with your audience–one wishlist item at a time.

Learn

After you’ve experimented with new site elements and gathered performance data, it’s time to put that knowledge into place.

In the “learn” phase, you’ll review the data about your website visitors and their behaviors.

Do the behaviors validate or invalidate what you hypothesized about your wishlist and website?

What adjustments can you make for better results? Did you learn anything new that you can apply to your buyer personas?

As you answer these and other questions, update your hypotheses and socialize learnings with the rest of your team.

It will keep everyone focused on the right approach and ready to make the most impactful refinements possible in the next round of website design.

Transfer

The last step in the second phase of the design cycle is to transfer learnings to other parts of the business.

Often, user behaviors transcend website preferences and can help inform a better sales and marketing experience for potential customers.

Finally (and perhaps most importantly) these phases and their steps are not meant to be completed once and never thought of again.

The process should be repeated and revisited often to ensure the biggest impact possible for your site.

The benefits of growth-driven design

The impact of this approach is remarkable.

As previously mentioned, it alleviates the up-front burden of time, money, and resources and presents an opportunity to make continuous improvements to the user experience and site performance over time.

Research from the 2017 State of Growth-Driven Design Report cites that “agencies who use it see 16.9% more leads after six months [and] 11.2% higher revenue.”

It stands to reason that organizations that follow a persona-centric approach will only be more appealing and important to those personas.

The immediate effects might be higher website traffic, but the benefits reach far past digital marketing and into brand loyalty and customer retention and advocacy.

The internet is a crowded place.

Your audience is distracted by site after site—all screaming for their attention.

Modern businesses can’t afford to leave web design to trial and error–spending thousands of dollars and months of precious time on a strategy that may not even work.

Growth-driven design, by comparison, is backed by research, data, and a careful methodology that considers what the user actually wants from your site.

No matter where you are in the website process, it isn’t too late to take a methodical approach to website planning and launch to stay agile and relevant now and for years to come.