Design driven strategy__

By Majbrit Weidemann

When talking about using design as a tool for growth, it is imperative to understand how to implement design throughout a companys entire operations, to fully comprehend what it really means to be a design driven brand.

Many brands in and outside of the lifestyle industries are exploring and defining the reasons why they exist. This important focus on “the why” is in part fuelled by the excellent work of Simon Sinek in popularising this term and helping businesses understanding and acting on it. If you have not yet familiarised yourself with Sinek I suggest you do so. The businesses work hard to find a way to communicate to their audience that they have a justification for their existence. However, many forget that once the “why” is defined in the brand strategy, the “what” and the “how” still remain – and without these the “why” will not get to the audience. To fully get the benefit from the “what” and the “how” and to truly use design as the tool to drive sales and brand value, businesses must go beyond establishing the reason why. The reason why a company exists often lays just below the surface of everything, and if not, the company may exist for the wrong reasons and will probably not succeed anyway.

Bridging the gap
High valued brands (according to Forbes) such as Nike, Coca Cola and Apple are excellent in their efforts to deliver coherent branding, externally and internally, from product rigour to its social and environmental values. Aligning brand and design on a fundamental level is a difficult task and often requires large investments. But once the bridge is built, the design upgrades the brand value by visualising the “why” through the entire chain of expression.

Be believers
Ideally, using design as the main driver of all expressions, should span across the entire organisation’s culture and daily routines, from the board of directors, employees, location, collaborations, interior, exterior, identity, tangible and intangible elements, tone of voice, logo, tagline, social interaction and even the choice of computer software and hardware. These areas are all brand attributes and all form a part the brand expression. To benefit from using design as the “how” and the “what”, a brand must understand and be willing to implement it in everything they do, everywhere they act, anytime they speak and in every visual element where the brand holds ownership. In order to do this a company must believe. Believe in themselves, believe in their product and believe in their reason to exist.

Consistency is key
Being a design driven brand also requires consistency. Every time a brand fails to be consistent and compromises on the outcome, the value of a brand decreases. On the other hand, if a company stays consistent the value is increased. Ultimately leading to brand equity. And what does brand equity mean? It means you can fail, yet still sell your product. It means the consumer buys the “why” and not the “what”. It means you brand in itself is worth more than its product. Not all Apple inventions were grand slams, for example the plastic multicolour Iphone 5c or the bendy iPhone 6 Plus, yet it does not seem to have affected the perception of Apple continuously being among the most valuable brands in the world.

Attention to details
If you wish to implement a design driven strategy, brand value will be your ultimate currency. It demands effort, design culture, innovation, constant cohesion and dedication. Even when having the option to converse with your customers on numerous platforms, be reluctant to only publish on the number of channels you have the ressources to do meticulously. The success of a design driven strategy, is not defined by the number of channels in where a brand is represented, it is defined by how it is represented and whether the channels are linked by the same values. Do not focus on what your can tell your customers about your brand or product, but on what your customers will say about you and your values, and you will already have a competitive advantage. Remember it is a strategy, and like any other business strategy, it requires a vision, plan, budget, and excellent execution.

References
Start with why, by Simon Sinek
Design driven innovation, By Roberto Verganti

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