Understanding the value of design
Posted by: Anthem
Date added: Mon 14 Dec 2009
Design can have an enormous impact on a brand, but it is notoriously difficult to measure the performance of packaging design as a separate entity within the marketing mix. This is especially true at product launch when there tends to be a mix of product, promotion, advertising and PR too. This intangibility can make it difficult to define just what is the value of design.
Interestingly, though, several years ago the Design Council carried out an in-depth study looking at use and attitudes regarding design amongst UK businesses and I’m sure its findings still hold true. Within its research it identified a group of ‘design alert’ businesses whose use of design had made a direct impact on a number of areas of their business, including competitiveness, market share, turnover and employment. When it went into greater depth with these businesses it uncovered some interesting statistics. For instance, for every £100 a design alert business spends on design, turnover increases by £225 and profit increases by £83.
Add to these figures the well worn fact that 70% of product selection being made at fixture, then there is clearly an important role for design to assume, and a very real way in which it can add value to a brand.
Evidence of this value can be seen whenever new brands come to market. Many brands launch without the resources to deliver promotions or advertising. So essentially, design is all they have. For them, design acts as the vehicle to announce their arrival and to establish a real point of difference in the market. Good examples of this can be seen in the emergent crisp market with relative newcomers such as Jonathan Crisp, Burts and Tyrells bringing something very different to the marketplace through their packaging.
Most major advertisers tend to advertise in small bursts across the year which means that brands are often ‘unsupported’ on shelf. As advertising budgets have been scaled back massively this year this is more true than ever. As a result, the value of design has grown enormously – a strong presence on shelf is paramount to ensure that consumers are engaged at the point of purchase.
In most markets there is relatively low product differentiation. A tin of tomatoes is, after all, only a tin of tomatoes! So what makes the difference is the way in which consumers relate to that brand and its impact on their decision making process to either accept or reject – and design is a key ingredient in this. When I think of tinned tomatoes, I think of Napolina but I think of more than just the product inside. To me, Napolina conjures up an image of authenticity, heritage, trust – and a feeling that they really know their tomatoes! This is particularly relevant at the moment when there is a mass consumer defection to private label, with brands in commodity markets having to maintain brand preference over what is often a substantial price differentiation.
When looking at the value of design, though, there is an equally important, but far less tangible aspect to understand. Design has a key function in representing the brand vision, promises and perceptions that a company wants its customers to believe in and creating brand engagement. It is more than delivering just a product or a service - it is about how it makes you feel.
Strong brands create a powerful (but intangible) sphere of understanding around them, what they stand for, their personality and outlook. The brand appeal can both guide and, in some cases, override the product values. They also generate permission to deliver outside core categories. The Virgin brand is a good example here. The design of the Virgin brand is shorthand for a company that likes to do things differently, irreverently and with innovation. The strength of this has enabled it to operate in a variety of categories, taking its equity to planes, trains and financial services and more. Also, would we reject Apple if they went into other lifestyle technology based products that were not immediately related to their core products – e.g. an electric car? I suspect not.
At Anthem we recognise the importance of brands in delivering more than fundamental product values. We employ brand point management to ensure that the expression of a brand is consistent, engaging and compelling at every consumer touch point – allowing brands to engage in their own dialogue with consumers wherever design plays a role, be it in-store, out of store or in the home.
Interestingly, people used to call packaging the ‘silent salesman’. Well, through bold design he is silent no more! Design connects with people on a daily basis and is evocative, engaging, innovative, informing and speaks many languages. To ignore the value of design is to ignore the importance of your brand.
By Barry Seal, Managing Director - UK at strategic design agency Anthem Worldwide (www.anthemww.com)
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