Marketing & Design Driven

Years ago, we were working with a chief marketing officer who managed to repeat the same phrase in every single meeting we attended. She would always incorporate the phrase “marketing-driven solution”, often in the form of a question. Was our creative proposal a marketing driven solution? What about the headline? It got to be a joke around the office. Does this color look marketing-driven? This paper stock? This Instagram post? And what about that typeface?

Today, design-driven companies are the topics of conversation. The Design Management Institute analyzed the performance of U.S. companies committed to design as an integral part of their business strategy. The study included companies such as Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike, Starbucks, Target and Walt Disney. The dmi: Design Value Index tracked the value of these publicly held companies and monitored the impact of their investments in design on stock value over a ten-year period. The result shows a 211% return over the S&P 500.

Coca-Cola’s Vice-President for Design, David Butler, avoids using the word “design” as much as possible. Though he has written up a 30-page manifesto laying out a design strategy for the company, when he is meeting with manufacturing people, he’ll say, “How can we make the can feel colder, longer?” Or “How can we make the cup easier to hold?” He talks about the benefits of smart design in a language that those he’s talking to can relate.
Mohamed Samah, a design socio-psychologist said, “The design discipline itself is expanding beyond ‘form and look’ to include processes and business strategy in general. Organizations are using design as a tool to stimulate creativity and to foster innovation in the market”. Company leaders use brand strategy and design thinking to research, iterate and ask questions that have little to do with “creating things”, which is the more typical end result of designing.

Because designers typically approach problem-solving somewhat differently. They’re more intuitive and emotional, and less logical and analytical. Instead of going A > B > C > D, designers may start at Q > D > K and end up at P. The bottom line? Starting at Q, D, or K might be necessary to get live feedback, roll out marketing strategies, understand the market and customer motivations. McKinsey offers a framework of questions for the design journey of transforming your company from only a market driven company to one that also uses design as a driver of change.

  1. Do you have a senior design leader with real authority?
    Ensure design factors are part of the business strategy.
  2. Are you continuously reviewing your metrics?
    Go beyond reviewing design metrics and key performance indicators regularly to reviewing them in real time, testing them, and changing your actions in a constant test-and-learn cycle.
  3. Do you really understand what motivates your customers?
    Create a map of the customer journey and use human-centered-design research techniques to interact with customers and uncover pain points and opportunities to delight.

Despite our former client’s binary separation of the idea, I don’t think there is any doubt that successful design-driven companies are also market-driven. There’s no need to separate the two and in fact, successful companies don’t.