Magazine article Marketing

Design of the Times

Magazine article Marketing

Design of the Times

Article excerpt

The launch of Millennium Products proves there is a new impetus British design. Is it enough?

Millennium Products, the Design Council initiative launched last week by Tony Blair, is one of the boldest attempts yet to kickstart Britain's flagging reputation for innovative design and manufacturing.

It is a direct challenge to British industry to become the world's creative powerhouse for new product development in the next millennium.

The Prime Minister threw down the gauntlet to companies of all sizes to submit ground-breaking products that will change the way we live in the 21st Century. The initiative has already secured [pounds]3.8m of funding over the next four years from the Department of Trade and Industry.

Companies are invited to submit their products between autumn 1997 and autumn 1999 to be assessed by a panel of experts in time for the millennium. Leading figures from the marketing and advertising world are among the judges, including John Hegarty, chairman of Battle Bogle Hegarty, and Simon Bullimore, managing director of Mars Confectionery. The Design Council will announce new Millennium Products every six months as part of a rolling programme until the year 2000.

The products that eventually win through will get Millennium Products branding, which will be incorporated into banners, brochures and a Web site. They will also have the use of the Design Council Millennium marque and the chance to display their products at the Millennium Experience at Greenwich. Although they will not get any money for being chosen, there will be plenty of marketing capital to be gained from the accompanying kudos. Tony Blair's involvement in the Millennium Products launch emphasises his enthusiasm for a concerted programme to redefine Britain's industrial image, so long dogged by images of unemployment and picket lines.

The eyes of the world

It was not so long ago that Britain was responsible for world-beating inventions such as the telephone, television and the jet engine. Contemporary successes highlighted at last week's launch include the Psion personal organiser, BT's Touchpoint interactive kiosks and Safeway's Shop & Go self-scanner.

With the eyes of the world turning to Britain and Greenwich at the millennium celebrations, Millennium Products is also an integral part of the government's plan to find a new, more relevant identity for the nation. It is about demonstrating there is more to Britain than castles, cricket and country pubs. As Tony Blair recently said, creativity is no longer a luxury; it is the key to economic survival in the new millennium.

Blair said in his speech: "Too often people have an image of Britain that is stuck in the past. Good at pageantry, less good at new technology. The perception is wrong and it is bad for business and bad for Britain."

The UK already leads the world in traditionally creative areas, such as music and film. Millennium Products will promote the country's world-beating creativity in industries ranging from aerospace and pharmaceuticals to financial services and textiles. Blair says he is looking for "designs that improve the quality of our lives and services which help us create wealth and prosperity".

NCR Financial Systems has created the PersonaS ATM, an automatic teller machine that features a full-colour video screen and issues everything from cash to airline tickets.

NCR's vice-chairman, Jim Adamson, says: "Creativity is our lifeblood and I am glad that the government has recognised this so early in its tenure; it can only benefit British industry."

Millennium Products, which had been on the Design Council drawing board for two years, was finally given the go-ahead in March 1997 by the Tories - and on the day the General Election results were announced in May, the Design Council sent a strategy report to Downing Street's policy unit.

This report had been put together after detailed discussions with Such people as Robert Ayling, British Airways' chief executive, Martin Bell, MP and former BBC foreign correspondent, and Sir Richard Greenbury, chairman of Marks & Spencer. …

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