As competition intensifies, design offers a potent way to differentiate and position a company’s products and services. Design is the totality of features that affect the way a product looks, feels, and functions to a consumer.
It offers functional and aesthetic benefits and appeals to both our rational and emotional sides.25
1. DESIGN LEADERS
As holistic marketers recognize the emotional power of design and the importance to consumers of look and feel as well as function, design is exerting a stronger influence in categories where it once played a small role. Herman Miller office furniture, Viking ranges and kitchen appliances, and Kohler kitchen and bathroom fixtures and faucets are among the brands that now stand out in their categories thanks to attractive looks added to efficient and effective performance.26
Some countries have developed strong reputations for their design skills and accomplishments, such as Italy in apparel and furniture and Scandinavia in products designed for functionality, aesthetics, and environmental consciousness. Finland’s Nokia was the first to introduce user-changeable covers for cell phones, the first to have elliptical-shaped, soft, and friendly forms, and the first with big screens, all contributing to its remarkable ascent. When it later failed to innovate its smart-phone designs, its fortunes dramatically declined. Braun, a German division of Gillette, has elevated design to a high art in its electric shavers, coffeemakers, hair dryers, and food processors.
The International Design and Excellence Awards (IDEA) are given each year based on benefit to the user, benefit to the client/business, benefit to society, ecological responsibility, appropriate aesthetics and appeal, and usability testing. IDEO has been one of the more successful design companies through the years. Then in 2013 Samsung Electronics won 10 awards, 3M four, and Coway, Lenovo, LG Electronics, Nokia, and PearsonLloyd three each.27 Samsung’s design accomplishments have been a result of a concerted effort.28
SAMSUNG Much of Samsung’s remarkable marketing success comes from innovative new products that have captured the imagination of consumers all over the world. The company has invested heavily in R&D and in design capabilities, with big payoffs. It has a clear design philosophy it calls “Design 3.0,” and an internal design slogan, “Make it Meaningful,” that reflects its relentless focus on making beautiful and intuitive products that will be integrated into customers’ lifestyles. Samsung applies three design criteria: (1) simple and intuitive, (2) efficient and long-lasting, and (3) adaptive and engaging. Like its chief rival Apple, the company organizes its design efforts through a cross-divisional Corporate Design Center that reports directly to the CEO. The Corporate Design Center aligns the design efforts of various divisions and analyzes cultural trends to help forecast the future of design. It also coordinates the work done at Samsung’s five Global Design Centers, located in London, San Francisco, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Delhi. Among the many awards the company has received for design were two IF Gold Awards in 2013—from one of the world’s top three design contests— for its “split concept” color printer and its twin-tub washing machine especially designed for Southeast Asia users.
2. POWER OF DESIGN
In a visually oriented culture, transmitting brand meaning and positioning through design is critical. “In a crowded marketplace,” writes Virginia Postrel in The Substance of Style, “aesthetics is often the only way to make a product stand out.”29
Design is especially important with long-lasting durable goods such as automobiles. As GM’s VP of Design Ed Welburn notes, “. . . every car has its own mood, whether it’s a van for India or a Cadillac for China, and needs to connect with customers at an emotional level” The GM design team for the 2011 plug-in electric Chevy Volt wanted to make sure the car looked better than other electric cars. As the Volt design director said, “Most electric cars are like automotive Brussels sprouts. They’re good for you, but you don’t want to eat them.”30
Design can shift consumer perceptions to make brand experiences more rewarding. Consider the lengths Boeing went to in making its 777 airplane seem roomier and more comfortable. Raised center bins, side luggage bins, divider panels, gently arched ceilings, and raised seats make the aircraft interior seem bigger. One design engineer noted, “If we do our jobs, people don’t realize what we have done. They just say they feel more comfortable.”
3. APPROACHES TO DESIGN
“Design is more than just creativity, or a phase in creating a product, service, or application. It’s a way of thinking that can transform an entire enterprise.”31 Design should penetrate all aspects of the marketing program so all design aspects work together. To the company, a well-designed product is easy to manufacture and distribute. To the customer, it is pleasant to look at and easy to open, install, use, repair, and dispose of. The designer must take all these goals into account.32
Given the creative nature of design, it’s no surprise there isn’t one widely adopted approach. Some firms employ formal, structured processes. Design thinking is a very data-driven approach with three phases: observation, ideation, and implementation. Design thinking requires intensive ethnographic studies of consumers, creative brainstorming sessions, and collaborative teamwork to decide how to bring the design idea to reality. Whirlpool used design thinking to develop the KitchenAid Architect Series II kitchen appliances with a more harmonized look than had existed in the category.33 Not everyone employs design thinking, however.34
BANG & OLUFSEN The Danish firm Bang & Olufsen (B&O)—which has received many kudos for the design of its stereos, TV equipment, and telephones—trusts the instincts of a handful of designers who rarely consult with consumers. The company does not introduce many new products in any given year, so each one is expected to be sold for a long time. Its BeoLab 8000 speakers sold for $3,000 a pair when introduced in 1992 and retailed for more than $5,000 almost 20 years later. When the company was the subject of a special exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the museum noted, “Bang & Olufsen design their sound equipment as beautiful objects in their own right that do not inordinately call attention to themselves.” Today, 15 B&O products are part of MOMA’s permanent design collection.
Source: Kotler Philip T., Keller Kevin Lane (2015), Marketing Management, Pearson; 15th Edition.