User Experience & Marketing : Working together to achieve common goals

Let me begin by acknowledging the simple fact that marketing and user experience both stem for the desire to understand human behaviour towards a businesses and using them to covert unpredictable emotional responses into tangible results. This however is where the similarity between the two ends. Since both disciplines have emerged from the common goal of advancing their goals through the understanding human behaviour,  it is easy to see how the two are becoming convoluted. Some suggest that UX should be a subset of marketing. And, of course there are many advice pieces on how to use UX design for marketing purposes – but the fact of the matter is their roles and application differ vastly.

History has shown that customer applications fail when they try to perform marketing functions and when UX tries to focus on a key marketing demographic, it loses its audience.

At the end of the day, marketing and UX have very different purpose and methodology. In fact, users consume and experience the effects of these two roles through different media channels too. UX is always about building a ‘system’ of stakeholders around a product by focussing on details like micro-interactions, animations, content’s language style, visual style etc along with an eye on an holistic overview of the product category, the ease of discovering and sharing, and the social and behavioural effects of the product on a user. In comparison, marketing relates to one sentiment or goal at a time and uses laser focussed tools to target users for specific results while playing the important role of establishing relationships between customers and the organization’s offering to the market.

To truly understand if and where can they work in tandem and contribute positively towards a business, there are a few questions that needs to be answered.


If the goal of marketing is to create value for the business, then the goal of user experience is to create value for the customer. Design thinking is all about ‘observation’ and ‘empathy’, and UX designers use a variety of techniques to draw critical insights that validate their ‘observation’ and build products that ‘empathise’ with the user’s requirements. UX designers engage in research techniques like shadowing, role playing, creating multiple users personas, use case scenarios, and journey maps to constantly test their designs and help users accomplish tasks in the most convenient and effective way possible. The ability to serve customers, requires deep understanding of their needs and goals at the point of engagement, and that insight is gained through design research.

Marketing, on the other hand conducts marketing researches to best understand how to ‘reach’ their target audience as consistently and as intently as possible. Marketing proffesionals regularly conduct focus group surveys, analytics, promotional activities, and SEO to ensure the correct content is presented to their target audience at the right time. Insights from such activities and regular marketing researches are analysed and form the basis of the process which help businesses addresses target demographics requirement as quickly and in the most attention grabbing fashion as possible.

The boundaries of these compartmentalised roles are now becoming blurred with the practices of new age marketing, where user engagement and empathy (drawing from the insights and growing role of UX research) are of primary value. It involves doling out thoughtfully planned content strategically to garner customer loyalty. For example, think of the lucrative advertisements that show a juicy hamburger from a fast food chain, or gorgeous hair from using a specific brand of shampoo – The initial association that customers have with such images can only be backed up with consistent quality. In such cases where a product showcased a high perceived value, but did not deliver on quality, the marketing strategy had to be modified to add a more omnichannel approach where users do not just get a taste of the product but also the value and foresight of the company. New marketing channels such as social media, have given marketing departments a mean to empathise and touch customer’s hearts beyond the tested (but short lived) influence of hot media like television or print advertisements. Grassroots campaigns that are tailored for local regions, product line up which reflects the same, and associations beyond just business profits such as social or environmental activism has shown to seriously boost the market image of a brand or product. This really is the effect of understanding customer requirements, empathising with their needs, and giving them content they can relate to beyond just the mere use of the product a company is offering.

ROI on Starbuck's new age marketing
ROI on Starbuck’s new age marketing (Image source :

An excellent example of such approach is the brand Starbucks. Starbuck’s business crowdsourcing, via it’s My Starbucks Idea website (, has been a huge success.They combined the concepts of change, experimentation, social media, customer engagement, and market research and made the results key components of both their brand as well as their marketing strategy. Starbucks by embracing the digital realm, with a strong presence on multiple social networks, has set a high bar when it comes to being social and engaging its customers. It has not only identified its key demographic, but continues to serve them by being ubiquitous (physically as well as on digital media) and by projecting strong and admirable company values which gives significance to best industry and environmental practices – these in turn translates into massive sales and popularity as it strikes a chord with their primary user base.


Marketing apps tend to perform poorly for one distinct reason: they cannot simultaneously serve and sell. Marketing apps that do succeed do not focus on reaching their audiences quickly, or getting the most tangible business benefits from the app but instead focus on UX driven questions such as “How can this product best serve the target audience?” – Keep in mind that the key phrase here is “best serve the target audience” and not “which problem of the target audience should be solved”. UX addresses the changing needs of target audience by allowing a product to function differently based on use case scenarios – when marketing tools imbibe this in their conceptualisation, they succeed spectacularly. This happens because as soon as a marketing tool offers a unique advantage to the target audience, it succeeds. Consumers don’t perceive apps as intrusive advertising—they value them for their functionality.

UX and Marketing – Shared traits and influence

Consumer brands used to follow a handful of fairly simple strategies to connect with their customers. But today’s consumers are being increasingly bombarded by a dizzying amount of information on different screens vying for their attention. How can brands rise above the noise, especially in mobile? One way brands can try to engage with their customer is through branded apps. In 2014, mobile users spent 86% of their time on mobile in apps as opposed to on the mobile web. So it makes sense that brands should try to connect directly with customers with their own mobile app. So, what was it about an app that attracted users in the first place? How can brands ensure that their apps are used not just once but again and again?

The answer is simple: Prove the value and utility of your app. Brands can avoid getting lost in the app fog if they provide clear value. For example successful make up retailers like Sephora have gone on to enhance their in-store shopping experience with an app that lets shoppers scan all products for additional information. The brand also offers in-store pickup of items purchased online. Sephora is sending a clear message that it understands what its customers want during every micro-moment of their purchase journey. Another such examples are companies like goibibo, or Faasos which are utilising a more user driven approach and the application of gamification techniques to garner new customer bases while benefitting the driving user – this is essentially word of mouth marketing getting a makeover through the sustainable mean of a purpose or goal driven customer base which benefits them and new customers coming in, cementing their loyalty towards these brands.

Smart benefits and fucntionalities make branded apps memorable
Smart benefits and fucntionalities make branded apps memorable

Marketing is slowly but surely pivoting towards including more and more channels using user experience insights, tools, and strategies. This in turn will delight the user and create a lasting good impression – adding to the value of the brand.


Marketing is the art of persuasion; UX is the art of service. Marketing departments must come to terms with one simple fact: a branded app cannot – and should not – be a marketing campaign. It has become more and more apparent with the marketing apps available in the market that focus on features. Such apps tend to work well with end users and increases a products customer base by offering value additions that might have been missing before. A great example of this is the Nike+ app . Nike+ (originally for iPods, now available for most smartphones) is an app that works with a special chip in runners’ shoes to monitor speed, distance, and calories burned. Although the app itself is free, people must buy either a sensor-equipped Nike sneaker or a shoe-mounted sensor in order to use it. Nike credits the app with having driven growth of 30% in its running division as of 2012, and it has expanded Nike+ to include apps and accessories that track other activities, from playing basketball to sleeping. Although it does not feel like traditional marketing tool, its success has ultimately helped achieve exactly that – added business!

nike+ app
Nike + App – Recently Updated Version
nike+ app
Nike + App – 2012 Version

Marketing is way more efficient in delivering better conversion rates, if the promise made in the marketing messages is kept by the product itself. With time, more and more  successful digital products are beginning to distinguish themselves with great UX which provides a stable sustainable path towards overall business development. A valuable product with  pleasant UX is the precondition for efficient marketing and will always make the job of marketing much easier. Marketers will get better results by communicating with consumers in a format that enhances their lives and offers long-term value.

Mulling over all these points makes it clear that marketing and UX are not core-value compatible, however, they are powerful assets to a company if managed wisely and held in proper balance. They will inevitably be required to work together as UX evolves and marketing become more and more subtle and refined over the years, as they share the common interests of understanding human behaviour and building brand loyalty. They each need their own leadership, and they must maintain a healthy tension.