I would like to share a story that has been repeating itself over the last several months in my personal experience in business. A prospect or client calls and wants discuss future marketing efforts. They both begin by saying, we have used design shops or independent designers in the past for our marketing needs, (some cases it’s the in house design department), but when it comes to addressing true marketing needs and strategies, they just don’t seem to get it. We are pleased with the look of things, but there seems to be something missing when it comes to getting market results. What’s wrong?
It is not my intention to bash designers (I’m one by trade). The core difference is design and marketing are two different disciplines. Yes, they both influence the marketplace, but one deals more in the business realm. That’s marketing. To expect your in house designer or a design firm to truly “get” marketing is setting them up for failure. I know I may be stepping on some toes, but from my experience by working in both kinds of firms, I believe it is true. Many marketers have also expressed similar observations. Often, they reluctantly look for a marketing firm to help them achieve the results they are looking for. Even though, in many cases, they love working with their design agency, they are just not achieving their marketing objectives.
When a marketing or advertising agency approaches a problem, they look first to achieving measurable gains whether it’s financial, brand awareness, or public opinion. Design firms look to visually “wrapping the brand” in a pleasing, attractive way to entice their customers. Design is the visual interpretation of the brand, but it is not the brand itself. Effective marketing and advertising firms start problem solving by understanding key messages and drivers first while design firms tend start with what should it look like. One is emotion based. The other is visual based.
I’m not saying design isn’t important, it is, but just as a crappy package design can kill, an otherwise, wonderful product, great marketing can overcome a less than optimum design. For example, the Starbucks logo isn’t the best approach for a design. It’s extremely complicated and the mermaid icon is not readily associated with coffee. Because of their marketing approach, they have turned their clumsy logo into an icon. In reality, all you have to do is show a green circle on a white coffee cup and people automatically think Starbucks. That’s marketing.
So, next time when your company is deciding who should work on the next marketing campaign or project, be sure to set them up for success and not misuse your partners and assets. Don’t ask a designer to perform marketing miracles. It’s like using a screwdriver to hammer a nail in. Can you do it? Yes. Should you do it? Probably not.