by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded
Design can be a killer differentiator. Target, for example, has built an empire on design. Aesthetics has become a key component of the new affluent (see The New Affluent). Gone are the days of pure function and utilitarian only approach. We want richness in our lives. We want “beauty,” “cool,” and any other adjectives you care to add. In essence, it comes down to emotion – and this is what brand is all about. How do your customers feel about your company?
Design can either support the brand emotion or contradict it. Too often, design is either a last minute thing that is hastily decided upon or it is left in the hands of amateurs. Either way, you do your brand a disservice by not quite delivering on your brand promise. Would you let amateurs handle the development and production of your product or service? Design is no different. It is what the customers see first. Yes, you may have delivered the actual product or service, but because of the lack of aesthetics and design, there’s really nothing special about it.
Being special. Isn’t that what we want our customers to feel about us? Too often, companies are their own worst enemies. Even if you sell a service, design still matters. In the words of Tom Peters, “Systems can be beautiful.” FedEx is a beautiful system. They are kings of logistics. Design is in the reports you deliver; your PowerPoint presentation; even your invoices. All of these need to have a true designer’s touch to make them special and not just “another boring report.”
In today’s marketplace, design is a visual key that this brand is different. Look at Apple. They make a living on designing “cool.” BMW, Google, and Southwest Airlines all use design to support their brand. Now, design isn’t just making something pretty. It is soul-deep. It is authentic. It is a visual representation of who you are as a brand. If you don’t have a clear idea of who you are, then design doesn’t matter. It’s just window dressing at that point. Design is what customers are willing to pay extra for because of how it makes them feel. It is the difference between good and great. Design is easy to spot, but hard to create. Research has shown that people believe their eyes long before they believe what they hear. It really doesn’t matter what you say, if what they see is contradictory.
The marketplace in every industry category has tough competitors who are looking to win over your customers. In a world of similar products, similar quality, and similar price points, design becomes the brand tie-breaker, if it is done well and it is really soul-deep. We all can spot a fake, including your customers.