From packaging to content

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I’ve been reading about brand strategy lately, and these paragraphs in Marty Neumeier’s The Brand Gap caught my eye:

Before you can create emotion with a package, however, you need to understand the natural reading sequence of your category. It so happens that customers process messages in a certain order, depending on the product, and messages presented out of order go unheeded.

Here’s an example of a typical reading sequence: 1) the shopper notices the package on the shelf — the result of good colors, strong contrast, an arresting photo, bold typography or other technique; 2) the shopper mentally asks “What is it?,” bringing the product name and category into pay; 3) then “Why should I care?,” which is best answered with a very brief why-to-buy message; 4) which in turn elicits a desire for more information to define and support the why-to-buy message; 5) the shopper is finally ready for the “mumbo-jumbo” necessary to make a decision — features, price, compatibilities, guarantees, awards, or whatever the category dictates.

When you present these pieces of information in a natural reading sequence, you increase their resonance and create a sympathetic bond with the customer. But if you lead off with features when the customer simply wants to know why she should care, the message that may come through is this: “Our product’s features are more important than your interests.” …

The award for Most Egregious Disregard of Natural Reading Sequence goes to…that’s right, the World Wide Web.

Since Neumeier wrote this in 2006, not much has changed. We content creators have gotten good at catching people’s eyes, but then we jump from step 1 to step 5. After clicking a link, the reader lands in the middle of “mumbo-jumbo” instead of being guided through “What is it?,” “Why should I care?,” and supporting information. I think the biggest wins for sites in the next few years will be in the UX of how their content is presented, not in creating more or better content.

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