Before Vin Diesel was Calling Anybody Family.
The movie, the Fast and the Furious had been based upon the import automotive market, but like any Hollywood movie, it was a loose interpretation.
Having been part of this market for over a couple of decades, I still rely on my process and data to drive my decisions which is how I led the research and discovery phase for the Race Technologies website for the Brembo Sport, Brembo Performance, and Brembo Racing programs.
How effective the solution ended up being solely rested on my ability to be able to work in a collaborative/team work manner. Without it, you’ll see where the end product falls short which is with our digital agency who fell short on delivering, so we had tried to hire a UI and visual designer to help complete the project. Unfortunately, even with an “open budget” we were not able to find anybody who was able to take on the role (this is explained in detail below).
For the Last Half-Decade
My role (changed throughout the duration of the project): branding/marketing strategies, product specialist, competitive analysis, copywriting. UX: research, wireframing, site map, user personas, to high-def comps to name a few. Creative: graphic design, packaging, and photography. To eventually a smaller core team of: back-end contractor/developer (Jeff), myself as the main lead, Ganesh (product specialist), and a couple P/T in-house team members.
As the lead UX researcher
My deep understanding of the needs and motivations is what drove the development of the product design from the usability to the strategy.
1-6 is my process, and you can view that here.
Two companies: Brembo S.p.A, Italy (engineering and manufacturing) and Race Technologies, LLC, USA (logistics and market management).
Over the Past 15 years, Race Technologies (RT) and Brembo Had an Ambiguous Relationship.
The result of this inability of both companies to not define their roles in the market initially played into RT’s (logistics and market management) favor because they would often allow their dealers and the public to believe that they were Brembo (manufacturer).
What fed further into the confusion and created a lot of issues was the miscellaneous marketing collateral produced by RT which reflected their limited capabilities, much smaller budget, and their creative interpretation of the Brembo brand.
These pieces did not adhere to the Brembo style guide, and there was no definitive or established RT brand which was a significant issue to Brembo.
Without a clear brand delineation, RT wasn’t able to manage customers’ expectations of what to expect from RT. The downside to this was that many customers believed they were dealing with Brembo, a lot larger multi-national Italian company with annual revenue of 2 billion dollars a year, and 7.7K plus employees.
It all starts with listening, learning, and understanding what the company is all about.
As the Marketing Director, I managed the expectations of both B2B and B2C by defining what to expect from these two companies and how they relate to each other.
UX/User Research and Market Research
In marketing research, market research, and user research, it is conducted to identify target markets, market opportunities, the extent of the brand awareness, to the brand positioning is researched.
Listed below are several examples of how the research and insights were implemented into the final product.
These interviews were conducted as a one-on-one to prevent group think, but I later got everybody together as a group.
A marketing objective was to communicate Brembo’s capabilities which was to juxtapose Brembo’s massive involvement in not only racing, but also as a OEM supplier compared to the smaller and limited capabilities of other products in the market.
To achieve this, one tactic was to have every “year, make, and model” search deliver up a small brief in the product results page about Brembo which was specific to the “make” search such as with Brembo and Audi’s partnership.
“Audi/Quattro GMBH and Brembo have had a long relationship from supplying the original Audi R8C Le Mans Prototype all the way to the current R18 E-TRON Quattro. Brembo also supplies the Audi R8 LMS Ultra GT program as well. Brembo can be found on several high performance OE Audi platforms like the Audi R8.”
The Brembo.com website has no application specific product information, and their information is not specifically meant just for the markets that Race Technologies services.
The differences not only differ in product offerings, but as with the type of applications such as Europe compared to the U.S. where the make, model, and trims differ quite a bit.
Benefits Versus Specifications
Some might think that somebody who would spend anywhere from $8k to $40 on a high performance brake system is a hardcore user, and they might be, but not all of them have the same motivations or understanding and knowledge about the product which is why we had to develop copy specific to each user.
Content was designed to match the level of experience and knowledge of the user, so for the application lists we designed the extent of information/terms to cater to dealers. Whereas general product information was aimed at users not as familiar with the products and product lines, so we focused on the benefits over citing extensive product specs.
Some companies are considered by the end user to be competitors, but looking at the market overall, only a few companies can come close to Brembo as a competitor which is why we came up with naming conventions to classify these companies. Aside from the competing companies, there are also “marketing brands.” These are products meant to compete against Brembo, but we deemed them to be companies who are marketed as competitors although they are not in the same league.
Developing the “dealer locator” feature always takes me back to when I bought my Cannondale bike. On the Cannondale website, they have their bikes segmented into “mountain,” “electric,” “road bike,” “urban,” to “women,” yet they have their dealers lumped all together. That made it hard to located what I was looking for since their dealers do not carry the entire product line, and many of them specialized in one type more than another.
We developed a dealer locator based upon the market segmentations we had developed. This solution also proved to be a benefit for dealers who were highly specialized businesses that were not too fond of being classified next to businesses that were not. On the other hand, the non-specialized businesses appealed to a larger audience of enthusiasts.
“….The Brembo products segment illustration is based upon the products ‘intended use.’ It may not look all that significant, but I consider it one of the best things we had developed.”
The Brembo products segment illustration is based upon the products “intended use.” It may not look all that significant, but I consider it one of the best things we had developed because I wanted a way for users to understand the overall product line-up with a quick glance. In order to do that, we needed a way to get users onto the right product segment without the need for a mega menu, or a design dependent upon product descriptions.
The solution was an illustration that classified products by the products intended use which may look simple, but it took a substantial amount of understanding of the product lines to develop this piece. We had initially went through the hassle of attempting to classify products by the look of the brake system with imagery, but the product shots were way too ambiguous. Eventually, the illustration based on how users would use the product is how decided to communicate which brake solution was right for the user.
As a global partner to Brembo, we gather and have an abundant amount of knowledge and content about the market, the product, and other users, but the only way RT was able to share and disseminate that information was primarily through our account managers via a phone call, a Word document, or an email exchange. In order to address the bottlenecks and how we were to service our dealers and distributors throughout the world, we had to identify all the ways in which various types of users would interact with our vast amounts of data, and what information would best aid their business or the user, to what format was the most effective in delivering up that content (language, imagery, video to infographics).
To open up the floodgates of information, we produced a knowlegebase (to empower brand advocates), a media library (media to e-commerce), developed a presence on social media: Facebook and Instagram, approached events to address market segment specific FAQ’s, created a standardized template document to ensure that the content had been vetted by RT, and four different ways users would have been able to interact with our content: 1). application list (dealer-login was not completed), 2). product descriptions (benefits vs. just specs), 3). Y/M/M (imagery, articles, to other related content was supposed to be Y/M/M specific), and 4). product assessment (uncompleted because we couldn’t get beyond the UI).
Street, Track, or Race
If you were to ask most end users if they wanted a “street,” “track,” or “race” brake system, the vast majority would respond with “race.” Fortunately, we knew the motivations and attitudes people held, so this was going to be a long over due issue to address.
To advert users from going down that path, we developed a “system dynamics” spider graph which shifted the users criteria to the actual benefits and trade-offs of a street, track, to a race system. One such example is that a lightweight system might help handling, but you give up thermal capacity (brake tuning is a balancing act).
A significant part of RT’s services to support the Brembo Sport, Performance, and Racing programs was to address and resolve inquiries directed at either Brembo or to RT. Unfortunately, the initial inquiries users often submitted would fall short on providing the necessary information to resolve the matter.
To improve the response times, we amended and developed several contact forms to obtain critical information required to address the commonly made inquiries up front. A FAQ and a knowledgebase was also added on each page to be proactive in resolving the matter beforehand.
You don’t just start building a house without understanding who you are designing the house for, so it should not be a shock that you do not lead with UI and visual design.
Software: the titles and acronyms may have changed, but the tasks remain the same. Although, the one change I do like is the dedicated software such as Invision because prior to that, I was relegated to Photoshop, pen and paper, or Visio when I had done wireframes, site maps and task flows.
Truly creative people have to work within very rigid constraints, and if you do not have any, you are better off in the fine arts, doing art for art sake.
Brand Usage Guidelines
A large motivation of the re-design was to give RT its own identity which also played into abiding by Brembo’s brand usage guidelines. One of the significant issues affecting Brembo was that they had some businesses that were deceiving users by pretending to be Brembo. To continue to remain compliant, we had to come up with a design that would come off as Brembo, but it would not be blatant copy of Brembo’s identity.
The first step was to build a style guide that would not mimic the Brembo look’n’feel, but one that would compliment it. One small detail that aims to not come off as Brembo, I wanted to minimize the usage of the Brembo logo, so we developed a solution where it subtle “accent mark.” I achieved this by reducing the logo to only the icon, and only on roll-over will you see the full logo which also distinguishes RT as an “official partner.”
Correctly Depicting Products
One area of opportunity we had with maintaining Brembo’s branding and marketing was with product photography. With the Brembo Sport, Performance, and some of the Racing program photography had been poorly done. Imagery was either incorrectly shot or there just was not a comprehensive product library that was consistently shot for each program to depict the product range correctly.
All the other brake brands shot their product with the caliper and disc separately, or they had the caliper balanced atop the disc out of ease of shooting. In order to further fulfill our service value, we had a special jig designed and built, so that we could have the discs mounted in a leading position (it is either “trailing” or “leading”). Having the correct clocking position would help to further communicate and educate users on how a real brake system looks like when installed on a vehicle since a caliper is never mounted in the 12 o’clock position, but it is either at a roughly 3 or 9 o’clock position.
Testing and Measurement
The entire process is an iterative design cycle although you try as hard as possible to get it right the first time around (yea, not going to happen).
Digital marketing: having experience with coding to SEO helps with knowing how to optimize a website for not only the user but web traffic. A lot of the ways to improve site traffic benefits the user by creating useful content that is appropriately titled and relevant and concise to what the various types of users are looking for.
Knowing the Product and the Market
I have worked in the healthcare, petroleum, tech, food and restaurant, to the automotive aftermarket industry.
Knowing the product and understanding how the diverse group of users would use it was imperative to being able to come up with a solution.
The spider graph is of the “brake pad comparison” page which is a tool for enthusiasts to compare brake pad performance parameters.
The tool is an interactive solution (they are typically static and produced by the manufacturer to only highlight the product) that allows you to be able to compare multiple brands and compounds in which we had to develop the criteria in which enthusiasts would find relevant and useful (initial response, temp capacity, low dust, low noise, low pad wear, low disc wear, and modulation).
This site is the fruition of everybody who had worked collaboratively and effectively as a team to produce it, and I think it is reflective in the end product which hopefully makes their dealers, distributors, their partner Brembo, to the end-user feel more like their part of the Race Technologies/Brembo family.