Many marketing executives believe that the success and growth of companies like Dell are due to their innovative ability. They’re selling innovative technology in an age of technology.
For decades, businesses have relied on innovations to dominate the market and create new products and services. With a marked increase in global competition, marketers are now learning that bringing innovative products to the market will not allow them to differentiate and position their company from its competitors. It’s not a good idea to base a company’s USP on innovation. Competitors can easily copy any new product in just a few weeks or months.
There are many examples of fakes. Consider a product category like cell phones. How many of them have similar features if they’re not identical? It is no longer effective to base corporate brand positioning or differentiation on innovation.
Companies like Dell excel at incorporating innovation into their products. But there is something more that drives them. Apple, for example, consistently shows that its customers are passionate about the brand. Marketing experts in international business circles have admired and envied the brand passion of Apple’s customers for years.
There’s something profound going on. Few business executives understand that design is the foundation of innovation. Design is more than just the addition of new features to products.
When design is great, it has its roots deep in consumer research. All products and services have a fundamental, intrinsic value. While corporate counterparts may have grasped the concept, creative consultants are not always aware of it. They have not fostered a sufficient respect for design. This is beginning to change.
The concept of making design a focal point in every corporate department and then leveraging it can create a unique, differentiated brand identity for every company. Tom Peters, a marketing guru, has maintained that design should be a priority at every corporate meeting, with the help of design consultants.
What do we mean when we say all-encompassing design, then? Why is it important that all corporate departments embrace innovation and understand its true USP in unifying their internal branding efforts?
Evolution of Design and Marketing
In a few leading companies, the newest concept has taken root: Design is now integrated into corporate marketing strategy in a way that was never done before. This change is having a profound impact on the perception of executive management about design. It could be argued that Experiential Marketing, a concept from academia, was the catalyst for this evolution.
This new holistic approach to marketing has brought about new ideas, new possibilities, and new thinking that was much needed. Experiential Marketing argues that customer experiences of corporate brands extend beyond the products and services offered by the company. It’s all about the intangibles that surround those products and services, which form customer perceptions and thoughts.
The mix of intangibles is more than just products and services that are available from many companies. Meaningful brand experiences are those that are aligned, managed properly, and designed by the company.
How can customers create meaningful brand experiences? They begin with the actual design of its products or services and then extend to an overall design strategy, encompassing all of the corporate-to-customer touchpoints: communication hierarchy, packaging of products/services, the business’s Web site, its letters and special offers to customers, call center interactions with customers, advertising, promotions and more.
This, each part as a whole, is what creates the total experience. The “experiential branding” is not a positive experience in one touchpoint. All customer touchpoints, if they are designed, managed, and aligned with the corporate brand, will be successful.
Corporate executives should aim to design an environment that allows customers to connect with their brand emotionally. Over time, emotional interaction leads to brand dialogues and deeper relationships built on trust. Result? Positive, repeated experiences increase brand loyalty.
Smart executives understand that the design of the customer experience ultimately determines the brand equity and corporate value. Smart corporate executives know that the design of their customer’s experience is the key differentiator in building brand equity. Each employee of the company has a part to play in determining the experience the customer will have with the corporate brand.
Great design is a result of extensive consumer research. Corporate management and the creative consultants with whom they work understand this. In-depth consumer research is essential to great design. The research studies and observes the interactions of consumers with products and services. This information is valuable. These studies help companies deliver their brand first and then products and services. Companies and creative consultants can design the best customer experiences by observing how customers interact with products and services and getting feedback on what they like or dislike.
It allows companies to test the end-user experience. This is a much more effective way to develop products than relying on what R&D or marketing departments believe their customers want. This research is more insightful than consumer surveys.
Many global corporations are already adopting the concept of designing a total customer experience through their corporate brands, services, and products. It is no surprise that these design-centric firms are leaders in their respective industries: Procter & Gamble (P&G), Samsung, IBM (Harley-Davidson), BMW, Apple, Disney, and, yes, Dell.
Alan G. Lafley was the CEO of Procter & Gamble. He once said: “I would like P&G to become the number-one consumer design company in the entire world. We need to be able to make it a part of our strategic plan.” We must make it a part of our innovation processes.”
In a recent interview with Fast Company, he said: “We want to design the buying experience ….we also wish to create each component of the product. We want to improve the communication and user experience. It’s all about strategy.
Mr. Lafley was serious when he brought P&G veteran Claudia Kotchka aboard as Vice President for Design Innovation and Strategy. She hopes to transform P&G into a “design-centric culture.” The CEO of a consumer goods company of this size sees design and marketing as crucial to P&G’s success. This is a sign of a new corporate trend.