Brands get to grips with the art of design

As design makes an ever-greater impact on marketing programmes, six senior marketers share their views on the many ways it can help a build a brand.

Marketing Week (MW) According to Marketing Week’s Design Attitudes survey earlier this year, 93% of clients want their design

agencies to take a more strategic role in helping develop their brand. Is this true?

Angus Kinnear (AK) This is undoubtedly true. All of our best design work has come when agencies are fully engaged in the strategic and business context. Our agency 20/20, which is currently working on the redevelopment of our corporate tiers, started the project by immersing itself in our customer journey. This was before a comprehensive period of external benchmarking to help us reframe our competitive set. It was several weeks before anything was put down on paper, but the result now has both our customers and business objectives right at its heart.

Denise Ellitson (DE) I would definitely agree with the survey’s findings. For example, during the past year we have worked on two different projects with one of our design agencies, True North, which have focused on developing our brand. “Take a Look” was created to promote the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection. And we have been working on a sub-brand for our late-night openings called Late Shift, which has been about widening the gallery’s appeal.
For both projects, the agency had to creatively interpret the gallery’s strategic needs and come up with idea-based solutions built on the insights we had gained from visitor and market research. This demanded taking a more strategic approach than simply answering a design brief.

Roberto Chieppa (RC) A design agency should be able to add value with its work from the inception in the strategy stage where the main path is chosen. We too worked with 20/20 to reposition our brand, which involved a great deal of strategic research. That way, the agency was able to capture and convey to us what was required at every customer touchpoint and back up its design concepts.

Angus Kinnear
Angus Kinnear Marketing director, Arsenal FC

Tom Lucas (TL) When we work with design agencies, we want them to be involved upstream – helping us agree what we want our brand to say to our audience, then finding the simplest and most evocative way to do this. Design makes brands real. Without great design, most brands are simply a set of words on a page and barely more than an ambition.

Catriona Marshall (CM) Pets at Home worked with its design agencies to develop the customer experience in-store, which has been critical to the strategic brand development. We worked with them to develop concept stores and the most successful aspects of these will be rolled out across the chain.

New initiatives include expanding the Woodlands product brand, along with creating an in-store theatre and a reptile zone that will lead the design routes for our future products and packaging. The agencies also help us with selling super-premium and natural pet diets, which are an important part of our brand strategy.

MW The same research suggested that more than 80% of clients think design will have a larger impact on their marketing programmes in 2010 than in previous years. Do you agree?

Andy Knowles

Jones Knowles Ritchie (JKR)

Should agencies take a more strategic role in helping clients with design? I think the universal truth is that clients have always wanted this. Brands have always wanted us to help them develop their strategies.

We find that what clients don’t want is an enormous amount of process. There is still a place for creative intuition in design. Of course, this intuition needs to be strategically informed but it isn’t about clients abdicating their brand strategies to their agencies. Ultimately, companies need their agencies to help them choose work that will be commercially effective; but do they want them to take over? No.

I think design will be employed increasingly often by marketers over the next 12 months. During the recession, we found that brands appreciated that using design well means value for money. In the grocery area, for example, design is always the must-win battleground. When consumers are choosing products, design can persuade consumers to pick a certain brand over another.

Good design in retailing creates a triple win situation. The consumer is able to find what they want easily through the clear design communication. Brands can use design to help them gain a greater share of the shelf; those products that stand out and sell will soon win favour with stores. And the retailers themselves like good design. A good shopping environment is really important to consumers – a crowded, unattractive store is a major deterrent for customers.

In essence, design needs to act as a shortcut to a brand’s idea. The best design links together all the different brand touchpoints in a simple, clear way. The worst mistake a marketer can make in approaching their design is to throw away the past.

There comes a point in the history of your brand where you have to accept that you can’t be the new kid on the block and it’s better to maintain an enduring style that works than chase every fashion that comes along. You don’t want to be regarded as “the oldest swinger in town”.

An important trend for the future of marketing and design is confidence. It’s a very uncertain world at the moment – economically, socially and politically – so people react more to expressions of confidence. Don’t just chase the latest things – communicating confidence and trust with your design never goes out of style.

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