Small gestures with big impact: how to identify what really makes the difference

Insights | 22 November, 2018

For industries like academia, playing your cards right can give small marketing moments massive impact. To do that you need to understand what users need and when and how to give it to them. Creating a user journey is the key to discovering, and responding to, these pain points and opportunities.

Why building user relationships is so important

Every relationship is a journey, built out of memorable moments and everyday interactions. While it’s important to get the big occasions and anniversaries right, it’s the small stuff that can make all the difference.

And relationships aren’t just between people – we all have them, whether happy or contentious, with the companies in our lives. Because every interaction we have with our bank or the café down the street can shape how we feel about them, there’s power in designing for the small moments along a user’s journey.

For over five years, Studio Banana’s user-centric focus has allowed us to discover pain points and engagement opportunities along these journeys. By paying attention to moments of awareness, decision making, and loyalty – not just purchase – our team is able to develop and implement impactful ways of engaging with users, sparking tangible improvements in things like enrolment and retention rates for institutions and ecommerce conversion funnels.

The solutions we’ve implemented are as diverse as the projects and clients themselves, spanning digital, print, audiovisual, experiential, and spatial design. Using examples from our work in academic marketing, we can see just how important a strong user journey can be as well as the various methods and moments of engagement that can exist within a single industry.

Memorable first impressions set the tone

Looks are a powerful first step in building awareness, communicating value, and getting users interested in what you have to offer.

When the British Council wanted to debut its Bilingual Babies Club, our challenge was to visually introduce a trailblazing concept in the context of an academic institution with over 80 years of history. If not communicated clearly, we ran the risk of losing our target audience before we even started.

To attract young children and their parents, we created a playful visual identity connected to values like learning and play. With fresh colours and easy to combine shapes that are easy to use in print, online, and in video, our eye-catching designs compliment the British Council’s existing materials and insure that no matter how someone learns about the BBC, their experience will be positive and bright.

Well-designed moments of impact can last a lifetime

When done well and with a clear understanding of user needs, user journeys can build relationships that last for years.

That’s why École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne chose to work with us on Scientastic, an event designed to foster interest in science and build connections with eager learners. The unusual part? The experience was designed for kids – some of who are more than ten years away from sending in university applications.

Filled with activities and experiments, this spin on the traditional meet and greet helped introduce EPFL to a new generation and engage with parents and school counsellors, two groups who often influence student university decisions.

Meaningful engagement happens in more than one place

User journeys can play a massive role in guiding decision making, which is why relationship building is so important. Because universities know that they are rarely a student’s only choice, they are faced with the challenge of creating personal connections while also trying to find new ways to engage with a generation that has grown up using smart phones.

Universidad Europea approached this pain point by contracting us to organise an event that would help them bond with students in person and online. And unlike a traditional orientation, all accepted students got an invite to campus – even those who hadn’t decided yet if they wanted to enrol.

Filled with activities to give them a sense of campus life, Ponle Cara was teased on social media with short shareable videos, and the event itself was filled with activities to foster their personal bonds with faculty and their future classmates. The social media component also helped extend the two-day experience into the digital space as students connected with new friends and actively shared photos on the official page, giving those who weren’t able to attend an authentic representation of what their life at UE could look like.

The end of one journey is the beginning of another

The best user journey can be totally undermined if, after an organization receives what it wants, people feel like they’ve been abandoned. In the case of academic marketing that looks like universities artfully wooing prospectives only to overlook the needs of students once they arrive on campus.

That’s why, as part of our work with IE University to create a cohesive identity and journey for their admissions process, we also looked at ways to improve the wellbeing of current students.

To do that we tackled a common issue on large campuses: getting lost. Besides saving time, knowing where you need to go and how to get there helps people feel more confident that they belong. So we created an elegant spatial identity and hierarchical visual system integrating signage, directories, facilities, classrooms, and student flow. To keep our solution engaging, we scattered quotes from iconic personalities across campus to create points of inspiration.

Well-designed journeys have transformational impact

Whether seeking to attract a talented workforce, engage potential students, or create an ideal customer experience, mapping out user journey and then developing concrete actions along that path is what helps institutions make an impact when it matters.

In relationships it’s important to sweat the small stuff – especially if you don’t want users to think you take them for granted and start looking elsewhere.



To learn more about how user journeys are important for developing engagement tools, and the creative solutions that we’ve designed, follow Studio Banana on LinkedIn.