What if brand X did Y?

I’ve been a bit of a brand nerd most of my life. Thinking back it probably incubated when I was a kid and spent ages thumbing through the Argos catalogue. Differentiating between electronics brands, product features and prices.

With this brand spotting and nerding I often ended up wondering… what if brand X did something they don’t normally do? It’s kind of a daydreaming activity where I just start imagining what it could look like rather than caring too much about the corporate strategy and profit margins.

Sometimes the wonderings are really obvious, many of us have probably had the same thoughts. In some cases, the things I wondered already existed and I hadn’t heard of them. This isn’t a smart list of genius ideas. I’m not yelling into the wind “only if brand X knew what I knew”. I guess I’m just interested in collecting my daydreams into one place.

I’ve wondered about…

Tiny IKEA.

We really enjoy the grocery section at IKEA. I’d love to see a tiny IKEA with majority food, a small cafe, marketplace best sellers, new products and a click and collect. I stumbled upon a medium sized IKEA next to the Port of Piraeus near Athens a couple of years ago. There were also a few kitchen and office showrooms dotted about years ago I believe, not quite the same delight as food and essentials.

Nandos Express.

I’m not a frequent flyer at Nandos, don’t mind it but don’t crave it. It seemed bonkers that so many folks go wild for it and you could only get it by going in for a sit down. Well, turns out there is one, I walked past it years ago just near Liverpool Street station. Looks like its gone now as delivery apps have solved this.

Audi Road Bike.

I used to own a Trek 1.2 road bike. It was a mighty little bike for its price. When pedalling up hills across the UK I’d often wonder what an Audi bike would look like, feel like to ride and what acoustic design the components would have. Wonder no more, here it is for €17,500. Ugh, not quite what I pictured.

KFC breakfast

Fried chicken is fine at any time of the day when you like fried chicken. Perhaps I started wondering about this after I had fantastic fried chicken brunch at the now defunct Duke’s Brew & Que. A bit of Googling and we can find KFC has done some bonkers stuff in Japan, and yes, we did even get a trial of breakfast in 2016 from 10 branches in the calm waters of UK KFC.

Vegan Greggs.

Err, this one isn’t even worth typing up. I did buy shares in Greggs once, got scared about picking shares though and went with an index fund instead – Vanguard normcore.

Premium B&Q.

Only the good tools, parts, components, accessories, chemicals, etc, blah. Make it a small shop — are you spotting a pattern here? — so it can easily squeeze into city districts. Amazon is full of bogus DIY stuff too. Sadly a lot of the local indie places are closed up now or not as plentiful as they once were.


  1. Mark Pollard’s strategy frameworks are really fun for this type of stuff. https://www.markpollard.net/examples-of-strategy/
  2. You can run ideas workshops by asking teams to imagine “what it would look like if company X did Y?”
  3. These are just daydreams about brands, I appreciate the death grip of monopolies conquering every bit of our high streets and wallets is probably not for the best.


Written by
Lawrence Brown on 28th January 2023

The balance of your business operational models, brand and customer experience

Short story: I got fined by Uber JUMP because I parked a bicycle outside their operational zone. A few days later I got refunded and emailed the above automatically. This business rule was quite well managed, it created a feeling of trust in JUMP that I haven’t always felt with Uber Taxis & Uber Eats.

It got me wondering, what triggers, nudges and logic for your business can be optimised for a reliable operational model and great customer experience whilst strengthening your brand?

Are you looking at the big picture of customer journeys with a Service Designer, Brand Strategist and an Accountant?

?Valuable Reading:
This is Service Design Doing
This is Service Design Thinking

Long story: Uber are here in London with their bicycle rental service; JUMP, it’s exactly the same as the others, except, the hybrid bikes are better. Although, I’m still a fan of City owned schemes for economic and sustainability reasons.

On my first ride I didn’t look up JUMP’s operational zones. With hindsight it’s an obvious thing to check, especially for rental and sharing services.

I pelted it across London from Hackney to Waterloo station, had 5 mins to spare until meeting someone, locked the bike up, opened the app and then… £10 parking fee (shown above, left). I’ve taken the bike out of its agreed area and this idiot just got fined 229.36% the cost of the journey.

A few days and rides later I got the email above (middle and right), refunding me and explaining a bit more about their service terms. I’m guessing a few pieces of programmed logic are happening here. It’s a designed service journey that is carefully balancing operational costs, lifetime customer value (LCV) and the brand experience.

The blind spot is booking a bike away from an exclusion zone shows you a regular map. Book it near the edges of the zones and you see greyed out regions. You’ll quickly get where you can and can’t finish your ride. I didn’t get that where I started my ride.

Logistics and sharing app experiences are deliberately paired back, they have minimal controls, snippets of information and rarely can you access all your data. Product Designers want simplicity and therefore hopefully more bookings.

Let’s go. Let’s book. ? ? ? ?

There isn’t even a cancel button for reserving a JUMP bike. So you get £1 fall out your wallet if you change your mind, which you can get back by emailing them.

As an industry, we Designers are removing or masking more in the name of simplicity and usability, but we’re not always in it for the customer, especially when the revenue model is precarious (ride sharing, food delivery, etc). This will be at the cost of the brand. Experience = brand.

Still, I believe JUMP made a fair call on the charge here, definitely not the lack of cancel button. It appears to be the careful balance of business sense and customer experience.

One of the big tasks we’re undertaking at NET-A-PORTER & MR PORTER is to fully map out all service journeys. We want to understand them not only from an interface perspective but from a deeper business analysis — we need that careful balance to our customer service, returns policy, logistics promises, stock control… and so on. I know the challenge will always be make sure every function here feels remunerated whilst the customer feels great too.

To wrap up, a few examples I’ve seen or been thinking about

  • Strava ask if you want to join a local running club a few days after a run logged — it leads customers to see the value in a paid account.
  • BOLD hotels surprise you with free drinks at check-in if you say yes to your room not having sheets cleaned every night
  • ?DriveNow should add an AR feature to check car damage before you drive (I’ve been stung a few times by forgetting to check, they could make it fun and easy and logged)

Written by
Lawrence Brown on 18th July 2019