Skip to main content

Designing brands

Over the years I've become increasingly fascinated with the role of design thinking as a business strategy -- not just a form of aesthetics. I think my epiphany happened when I was first exposed to companies like IDEO.

In my work with the Merage School of Business at UC Irvine I've been following the rise of so-called "D-Schools" that are competing with traditional MBA programs as a post-graduate destination for aspiring masters of industry. Witness the rise of these programs at MBA powerhouses such as Stanford and Northwestern. The revolution is on.

So why aren't all companies embracing design as a core business strategy? Because it is very difficult. It requires a CEO-down commitment to have design influence and guide every aspect of the brand...every single customer touch point. Yet Apple has found a way to do this. As have Nike and Target. This month's issue of Fast Company features a very good article on this topic. Yves Behar, the superstar designer, makes a fascinating point: "Design is how you treat your customers." I love that idea -- design is an experience.

Car companies are truly design companies at their core, yet they keep design in a distant silo within the company. Odd. I've worked with a range of automotive brands (Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Toyota). These companies live or die based on design. But they tend to limit their passion for design to the products. Apple, for example, is equally manic about its packaging and store environments. Apple recognizes that all these touchpoints help define the brand. Yet I have yet to find a car company that allows its designers to get involved in shaping the total brand experience. Imagine how much more powerful the marketing would be if the same designers who defined the car's essence, visual identity and personality were also involved in deciding key aspects of the customer's experience with the car -- its positioning, advertising, the website, the showroom display, the autoshow display, etc.

At BD'M we embrace design as a strategic medium through which brands can connect with customers. Design in marketing communications can form a visual vocabulary that speaks volumes to customers. This is not a new idea. Youth brands have known this for years. There is a big opportunity for clients to begin embracing design with the same appetite with which they embrace digital or viral marketing. Design is essential in today's consumer and media landscape.


RP said…
"The same designers who create the car should be involved in deciding all aspects of the customer's experience with the car -- its positioning, advertising, the website, the showroom display, the autoshow display, etc."

Interesting point ... I'm going to look into this.

Popular posts from this blog

What makes a premium brand premium?

I was thinking the other day about the DNA of premium brands . One thing is certain -- it's a relative idea. For example, Hyatt is not a premium brand if you're used to staying at a W or a Ritz Carlton. But if your vacations to date have been holed up in a Holiday Inn, then by all means a stay in a Hyatt is a premium experience. Another thing is certain -- a brand is considered premium only when we believe it is worth the price. And that's where we can dig deeper. Why are we willing to pay more for a product when there are others that provide the same service or function at a lesser price? I have spent a good part of my marketing career developing strategies and ideas for a wide range of  premium brands, including American Express, Sony, Callaway Golf, Hilton, Jaguar, Land Rover – even the Toyota Prius.  Through these experiences I have come to believe that a premium brand is built upon specific tangible and intangible attributes that give it a sense wort

Super game. Dull ads

As a passionate Giants fan it is safe to say that I had a good time yesterday. But as an advertising professional I felt a bit underwhelmed by the caliber of the advertising . Many were entertaining. But few possessed that intangible Super Bowl-ness...big, pop-cultural, fun. Even fewer seemed to have anything relevant to say about the brand, such as the Planters "uni-brow" spot. I loved the Bridgestone "screaming animals" spot, but it would have been a much better spot for the Saab featured in the spot than the tires the car rode upon. As for Bud, good spots, but I've seen the dog and horse thing before. Tide's talking stain was funny, but did it have Super Bowl-ness? My fav? The Coke "balloon float" spot. It was classic Coke (for Coke Classic). Big. Entertaining. Unexpected twist. Utterly charming. And Charlie Brown finally won something. Coke is about smiles. And that spot was just that. The Audi spot that I wrote about last week liv

Will this be your first recession rodeo?

In a previous article I referenced Mark Twain’s quote, “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”    If true, then this is a poem about marketing in a recession by reflecting on lessons which I will attempt to freshen... Ok, no more poetry. I recently revisited the WikiBranding articles I wrote during the 2008-2009 meltdown that spotlighted best practices from a range of marketers.   It struck me that  those of us who guided businesses through The Great Recession can  share  lessons we learned with managers for whom this downturn might be their first.  (Bob Barrie, Stuart D’Rozario and I had just co-founded BD’M; learning how to navigate the recession was not a choice!)     Who decides if we’re in a recession?     Spoiler alert:  the consumer decides.   News stories about the economy lead us believe we’re in a recession – the “R-word” is having its moment.     Economists might say otherwise, based on their often used definition of a recession, i.e., two consecutive quarters