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13 November 2012

Style and function is back on the block

Businesses that are looking to boost interest in new products and services are turning to good design. In fact, design will be a priority consideration this year for 44% of marketers who are attempting to make their brand stand out from the competition.

Slick design is at the top of the list when it comes to planning product or service launches for 54% of respondents. It had the biggest impact last year for 44% of respondents working on product or service redesigns and launches. Improving brand perception and creating stand-out are also rated as areas where design can be most effective, according to 80% and 65% of respondents respectively.

Head of digital for a multi-sector business reveals: “After several years of consolidation, design is now taking a pre-eminent role in the repositioning of our business.”

Rolling out an updated brand and ensuring that employees buy in to the new design is just one of many challenges companies face this year, according to respondents. One marketer says he will have to manage two major brand relaunches this year. The challenge, he says, will be balancing the requirement for good design on a tight budget.

Other areas of concern include ensuring new branding is managed effectively at all touchpoints, modernising an 80-year-old logo without alienating existing customers, linking existing products better through a single brand design, and trying to make financial services attractive to younger people through a new look and feel.

Several respondents even indicate that design has a part to play in ensuring the smooth completion of a new brand identity following a company merger or acquisition.

Using design to create maximum impact has also been a trend over the past year. Notable brand refreshes featured include disability charity Scope, which has a new brand identity based on images contributed by its beneficiaries; Carling, which spent £7.3m last year relaunching the brand with more premium packaging; and B&Q, which is spending £12m on a range of new own-label brands.

The role design plays in an effective brand strategy is becoming more prominent, with 57% of respondents confirming that their budgets have increased since last year, and 55% saying design is “very important” to their competitiveness.

One creative marketing manager working in retail says that: “Design has increased in importance since my arrival, as my predecessor was purely focused on marketing in general.”

A worldwide head of brand for a steel company adds: “How people feel about us, which is formed partly by how we look, influences their preference for us and our products. In this sense, design is clearly a business issue.”

Respondents seek design inspiration from a range of sectors, most notably examples from other industries (71%); examples from competitors (67%); wider media such as television and magazines (60%); consumer trends (60%); and industry magazines (57%). Despite crowdsourcing being a popular way of generating new ideas for brand campaigns and products, just 14% say it is a source of design inspiration.

Others comment that valuable ideas can come from looking at industry trends, what’s happening in foreign markets as well as having a strong relationship with a good agency.

When it comes to making decisions about design, 50% say management have the final say. In some companies the responsibility falls solely on the marketing department (41%). However, a democratic 39% say approval from all departments is required, and a consumer-centric 19% say their decisions are run past focus groups. A few respondents also note that engaging the corporate communications department is a key part of the approval focus.

We want to create unique, innovative and simple designs that will make our brand stand out from the competition. (Marketing manager, financial services)

The majority of respondents say that design is managed by an agency or consultancy (54%), although 49% work on design in-house and 45% say it is a marketing department responsibility. Just 4% say design is handled separately to marketing.

While many are celebrating the recognition that design is gaining in the workplace, some are still struggling to get credit for their work. As one marketing manager for a media company says: “Design is not viewed as important by senior management. They’re wrong.”

Another marketer adds: “Challenges include internal acceptance of the importance of design and investing appropriately in it.”

But for the majority of respondents to this survey, design is finally getting the acknowledgement it deserves as businesses realise the impact it can have on their bottom line.


By MaryLou Costa

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