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Brand Differentiation

Brand Strategy And The Power Of Design

by

Brand Strategy Brand Design BMW

Design is an essential thinking skill that must be mastered as a strategic business imperative throughout the entire enterprise. Design is not merely a decorative act.

Everywhere one looks in the marketplace there is revolution and disintegration. Wave after wave of technological change and ubiquitous choice comes upon us more rapidly, engulfing us, confusing us more profoundly. Brand marketers are struggling to keep pace with disruptive forces that are reshaping the manner in which they innovate new value in this so-called new economy.

Globalization has still to prove itself globally useful amidst a world experiencing the dynamic tension of growing consumption and dwindling supply. The new workplace has seen its own revolution. People no longer rely on the old paradigms of security within the corporation as out-sourced manufacturing, customer service, and even out-sourced innovation mark the end of an era of status quo–especially in the US. Ironically, the nature of this paradigm shift has un-hinged our own intuitive human connections even as we become more and more digitally connected in the social web.

Many brand marketers have been unprepared to re-think the structures of their enterprises and flow with the changing times, while new, more agile competitors are doing it for them. Brand strategy is no longer about differentiating brands within a category, but rather designing a whole new category your brand can own.

There are two dynamic realities brand marketers face in this new economy:

1) ideas are more important than process.

2) move up the value chain, or be cast aside.

Nature, in the form of our current economic realities, has had a wonderful way of clearing the dead wood in the system to make room for more innovative players to grow and prosper. Amazingly, as the rules of the game change in real time, improvisation and flexibility is now a useful strategic skill within organizations.

It’s an exciting time rich with opportunity for those who view it as such. Indeed, opportunity is apparent everywhere. If you are a marketing executive, charged with defining and managing the competitive advantage of your products and services, the implications of this disruptive age are of significant importance to your future.

For your brands to stay relevant, your “value proposition” will be less and less derived from attributes of product and service features, and more from the emotional connections and experiences your customers have through their interactions and associations with your enterprise. Creating these “experiences”, and the use value they offer people, is the result of the strategic and creative process of DESIGN.

Design is: a focused fanaticism to create value.

Design is, in all its disciplines (product, process, environment and communication) an essential thinking skill that must be mastered as a strategic business imperative throughout the entire enterprise. Design is not merely a decorative act.

Good design is a value generator. Design has added billions of dollars worth of market capitalization to those enterprises that understand its power and higher purpose. In the new economy, design is the soul of enterprise strategy.

You don’t have to look very far for examples of brands where this principle is applied with phenomenal results: Apple, Nike, Starbucks, BMW, Harley Davidson, Herman Miller, Target, Gillette, Virgin – every one of these enterprises are absolute fanatics about design and its fundamental importance to their business strategy.

Whatever the product or service enterprise, you’ll find design fanatics at the very top of leading organizations. Fanatics who value design as the white hot center of competitive advantage. As a result, design elevates brands above the competitive plane into, dare we say, the more abundant creative plane. Design leaders are not bound by the restrictions of the competitive plane (think cost and commoditization), when they are free to innovate, grow and expand by leveraging the love (think passion and devotion) customers have for their offerings.

In a world of growing complexity and abundant choice, design is the great differentiator.

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2 Comments

Peter Thomson on November 21st, 2011 said

For those of us working in brand strategy it’s all too easy to lapse into thinking of design as an activity, rather than a way of thinking. When I was with the Better by Design programme we had a saying:
“Design is a culture, not a department.”

Brandon Hickie on November 29th, 2011 said

Thanks for this great post. Design plays an important role in the user or consumer experience and often shapes the way he/she perceives a product and its brand. Smart design leads to easier and higher satisfaction from product consumption or use. Design can be a great product differentiator, as it has been for Apple with its iPod and iPhone.

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