Brand positioning is important. It’s your voice, your values and how your business appears to the world. That’s why it is so important to get it right to ensure it is consistently replicated across all of your consumer interactions. An effective brand positioning strategy will maximise your relevancy and distinctiveness within your space but a confused and inconsistent voice just makes you blend into the ether.
So how does your brand positioning affect your conversational strategy? Your brand positioning establishes key associations in the customer’s minds (Keller & Lehmann, 2006). As we stated above it is essential that your brand is communicated consistently in all user interactions. Conversational is becoming a much larger part of your user’s touchpoints, therefore, it is essential to ensure your brand voice is replicated.
The first step is understanding your brand architecture and the value proposition for your users. This can be achieved by asking yourself a series of questions regarding your business.
First, you need to understand not what you do, but the value that you can offer your clients. To do this look at the 6 aspects below:
- Articulation - What are the needs/issues impacting the organisation?
- Initiative - What actions is the prospect taking to solve the issue?
- Identification - Who feels this pain most acutely?
- Solution - What solution can you offer and how is it tailored to them?
- Benefits - What are the overall benefits this person will gain?
- Differentiator - What makes your solution superior to what they’re already doing?
Hedonic vs Utilitarian user design
The hedonic-utilitarian spectrum (HUS)
Once you understand your value you need to identify whether, at a fundamental level, you are a Hedonic or Utilitarian organisation. According to Voss et al. (2003), customers perform consumption-related behaviour for two basic reasons: hedonic gratification and utilitarian reasons. The hedonic gratification is described as the experience of using a product or service. Utilitarian reasons are based on the “performed functions of a product or service” (Limaheluw 2020).
The lines of your brand positioning may blur across the 2 areas however, ultimately you will lean more towards a hedonic or utilitarian dimension based on what your core stakeholders perceive as more important. It's best to think of the options as existing on a spectrum. Where your brand finds itself on this spectrum is going to be the guiding influence when deciding the “conversational interface of a chatbot” (McTear, 2017).
If your brand is focussed on efficient problem solving then you most likely sit in the utilitarian section. If you have taken this approach then the conversational focus will be on solving problems efficiently. The Chatbot is most likely used instead of Live Chat and it's communicating in a utilitarian way (Chung et al., 2018). The conversion paths are linear and clear and there is extensive usage of buttons by the chatbot. This can be described as a functional aspect to solve problems efficiently. (Viss et al., 2003).
The utilitarian spectrum has the following measurable attributes:
Therefore, a chatbot that is deployed by a brand that positions themselves as utilitarian should focus on the items previously mentioned. Products or services that are highly functional result in less involvement of consumers and are more transactional in nature (Viss et al., 2003). According to Lardhare et al. (2017), utilitarian services are sought for objective, functional and instrumental benefits.
Customers expect the chatbot of a utilitarian brand to focus on functionality. Therefore, chatbots deployed by utilitarian brands should focus on efficiency and provide clear conversion paths and directive instructions such as quick answer buttons to improve the functionality of the service from a chatbot.
If you sit closer to the hedonic side of the spectrum then you will still be focussed on great service but you will also have a large element of customer delight and overall experience within your approach. According to Voss et al. (2003), hedonic brands should focus on the experience of using a product or service. For example, the use of entertainment is a hedonic way of communicating and it results in a positive customer experience or, put more simply, engage and humour your targets.
The Hedonic dimension has the following measurable attributes:
Efficiency and functionality should be taken into account for a hedonic chatbot as these are part of a good experience, but they are a secondary component. Customers of a hedonic brand expect the chatbot to be fun and entertaining (Chung et al., 2018).
Hedonic brands are usually in sectors such as tourism, leisure, entertainment, fashion, and luxury (Ladhari, Souiden & Dufour, 2017). A previous study (Klopfenstein et al., 2017) claimed that overly directive experiences using chatbots with only quick answer buttons and no live chat or long answer sections are not as enjoyable to the user and should only be used where appropriate.
Therefore, it is expected that hedonic brands should not excessively use rigid questions, excessive buttons or other overtly directive methods. They should focus on making the experience fluid and enjoyable.
The balancing act - Task complexity & message communication
Now, this creates issues for implementing your chatbot as you need to balance the design and output of the conversational interface. The interface should be determined based on the task that needs to be solved (McTear, 2017). However, where your brand fits on the spectrum should be taken into consideration.
It is expected that complex tasks require the chatbot to present buttons to solve that task efficiently (Trivedi, 2019) however, clever conversational design doesn’t just include buttons. By ensuring that you have a mix of questions and prompts that are contextually aligned to the needs of the consumer at that point in time, you can improve the experience whilst achieving functionality.
To do this, follow the conversational framework to give your bots context:
- What page have they landed on? Pricing page or Homepage
- Who are they? New visitor or Target account
- Where did they come from? Organic traffic or paid traffic
- Why are they here? Evaluate your product or buy
Once you have this context identified you need to look at how you will communicate based on this. To do this, you go into the next stage of the conversational framework. Engage. Understand. Recommend.
- How will you engage? Greet, respond, add value
- How do you understand them? What questions do you ask? Are the responses open or deliberative?
- What do you do with their answer? What recommendation can you make to help the user?
You need to bear in mind that every value offering should be reflective of your brand, but also human in its approach and aligned with the persona of the user. Li (2015) found that mimicry of a user's communication style, can better engage the user and lead to more perceived transparency, enjoyment, informativeness and credibility during the interaction process.
In conclusion, brand positioning affects every part of your business and should run through it with consistency. It's difficult to make your conversational UX fit with your brand whilst balancing functionality and experience.
However, through the identification of your brand’s value proposition, discovering where you sit on the HUS, following the conversational framework and making efforts to communicate in a human way you can strike a balance between a great experience and effective functionality.