Style and function is back on the block

Good design is back on the agenda says a Marketing Week survey, as more brands make the link with a strong bottom line. But the battle for buy-in isn’t won yet, say marketers.


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, according to an exclusive reader survey conducted by Marketing Week.

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.

One 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 noted by Marketing Week 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 (see Brand Refreshes box, left, for more examples).

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.



About this survey

  • The research was carried out in February 2012 among Marketing Week readers and visitors to
  • Of the respondents, 33% work in an organisation with up to 50 employees, 26% work in an organisation with 101 to 500 employees, while 16% work in companies with 1,001 to 5,000 employees.
  • People from a variety of sectors responded to this survey – 21% are from financial companies, 15% work in the not-for-profit sector, while 11% come from telecoms.
  • Respondents have varying job titles, with the majority (49%) being marketing managers. Client services directors, senior designers and head of communications have also responded to this survey.
  • All results have been rounded up or down to the nearest full percentage point. Not all tables add up to 100, as more than one answer may be given.

Brand refreshes


RBS Insurance announced last month that it is to rebrand as Direct Line Group. The new name and logo has been expected since its owner, Royal Bank of Scotland, was forced to offload its car and home insurance operation by the end of 2012, following its government bailout in 2008.


Disability charity Scope revealed a new brand identity last month based on images contributed by its beneficiaries. Marketing and communications director Alexandra O’Dwyer says the rebrand aims to make a stronger statement of what the organisation stands for.


Burton’s Foods, owner of the Jammy Dodgers and Maryland Cookies brands, announced last November that it would be rebranding to Burton’s Biscuit Company. A new logo and packaging have been developed to emphasis a premium positioning. Chief executive Ben Clarke says the rebrand represents the company’s future ambitions.


Goodfella’s overhauled its pizza range in October last year. Packaging now promotes new recipes and improved quality. The aim of the design refresh is to encourage consumers to rediscover the brand.


Carling spent £7.3m last year relaunching the brand with more premium packaging and messaging. Mark Hunter, chief executive of parent company Molson Coors, says the rebrand aims to reinvigorate the category to stimulate growth.


B&Q is spending £12m on a range of new own-label brands which the DIY retailer aims to be “more inspirational and less functional” to extend its appeal to consumers.




Digital design – the stats

As companies develop digital strategies to keep in step with consumer behaviour, design is being used to knit different strands of online marketing together.

A significant 72% say that design will be a priority this year for online and email marketing, and 51% say this will be the case for their company’s social media activities. Meanwhile, 29% say design will be key when it comes to app development.

Similarly, 44% say design has had the biggest impact on online and email marketing in 2011, while 15% say the same for social media and 8% for app development.

Design needs to be a consideration across all consumer touchpoints, believes one respondent, who is global marketing manager for a retail business. “We want to bring all the elements of design together for a seamless customer experience.”

Marketers are also hoping that good design can help to integrate digital media into retail experiences as customers shop on the high street and online. The retail global marketing manager adds: “We are seeing a more powerful consumer, able to shop where and when they want, possessing better information on price and pedigree, and able to shift comfortably and easily between in-store, online and out-of-store worlds.

“In response, we are gradually seeing a movement from department silos of marketing retail, digital and buying to an integrated approach. Our challenge is to encourage this thinking across all decision makers, starting with the design buyer. Smart organisations have already picked up on this and are making sure their marketing, retail and real estate teams work together rather than in isolation, or worse still, in competition.”



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