Integrating A ‘PHD’ Strategy Across Brand Channels

Brand Ecosystems Must Align Physical, Human, Digital Touchpoints Across Channels

By Ryan Schmidt, Head of Technology, Americas at Landor & Fitch. Ryan guides a team of designers, technologists, and producers across multiple studies to create the future of brand expression and experience for clients like Microsoft, Foxconn, Pfizer, and P&G. He has a broad experience leading global teams through design, development, and delivery of web, film, experiential, mobile, retail, and emerging technology projects. Ryan has held production, strategy, and product management leadership roles to develop products and experiences for brands such as Netflix, Nike, Honda, Expedia, UNICEF, and many others. He is a Hawaii native residing in Los Angeles and studied Communication and Human Computer Interaction at Cornell University.

Brand experiences are often fractured and fail to connect strategy across channels. When a brand’s physical experiences, human connections, and digital products are designed by different functions within a company, it is difficult to maintain cohesion of brand expression across channels and experiences.

As the majority of the world adapted to living and working from home, a brand’s experience remains in the hands of brand leaders and marketers to grow brand recognition and create safe customer experiences. The importance of physical spaces continues to transform, giving businesses new advantages to attract and sustain customers, create omnichannel experiences, and develop human interactions with their brands.

As brands look to evolve in this new world, they need to consider the various ways the user, customer, employee and vendor interacts with a brand. In this overlapping system of end user experiences, what is the canon for your brand?


Designing a brand ecosystem for this new world requires an alignment of creative ambitions, an empathy for users’ needs, and a pragmatic approach to technology.

2020 saw an increased democratization of technology, feeling as though nearly ten years of innovation occurred in one year. Because of this increased familiarity for tech, we have collectively become more open to new innovations and brand experiences. This provides an opportunity to re-evaluate how technology can deepen brand expression and storytelling.

To deliver authentic brand experiences and products, we must align the physical, human, and digital (PHD) touchpoints through an integrated strategy.

Here are a few ways to create more meaningful PHD Brand Experiences.

Start With Authenticity.

Establish a clear vision for how your brand looks, sounds, feels, smells, and moves. These Brand Signature details inform how customers interact with your brand, how employees are enabled by company culture and the technologies that power your brand’s ownable experiences. Authenticity must guide all design and technology solutions.

Evolve Beyond The Singular, Linear Journey.

In today’s environment, there is no such thing as a singular journey. Successful businesses have replaced this notion with a curated ecosystem of experiences, products, and content. Brand leaders and marketers must leverage a PHD strategy to design meaningful experiences that align with customer needs, while also contributing to the greater ecosystem.

Prototype To Discover. Iterate Before Scaling.

Prototyping is the best way to evaluate experiences that integrate PHD. This allows companies to test new interaction models such as gestures and sensed spaces before incurring large costs to deploy them publicly. Developing a programmatic approach to continually test, learn, and iterate provides a strong foundation for innovation.

Avoid “Shiny Object” Syndrome.

It is easy to get caught up in the novelty of new, innovative options; however businesses must avoid adopting technology for technology’s sake. Innovations including augmented reality, connected packaging, and virtual events seem appealing, but they may not necessarily be the correct experience for your brand. Prior to implementing new technology strategies, brands should consider whether it will help satisfy user needs.

In 2020, we saw the consequences of some businesses refusing to innovate. While our lives have been primarily “digital” at home, now is the time as brand leaders and marketers to reconsider how our brand experiences truly integrate the physical, human, and digital to deliver authenticity and truth for our brand.