Works of Art: What Can Marketers Bring to Design?

By Thomas, Hester | Marketing, February 15, 1990 | Go to article overview

Works of Art: What Can Marketers Bring to Design?


Thomas, Hester, Marketing


WORKS OF ART

Marketing is a much used and abused word in the design industry. It means many things to many people and can swiftly raise hackles. Design consultancies quickly polarise between those who claim they are creatively led (and as such view marketing as being of less or no importance) and those who say they are marketing led (and hence see design as a means to an end).

Whatever the standpoint, few would disagree that marketing has had a tremendous effect on the design industry. John Miles, partner at Banks and Miles, sums it up as having "helped to turn design from a cottage industry into big business". In particular, many would argue that it has resulted in more relevant and commercially oriented designs.

There may still be designers who see tasteful graphics as an end in itself. Few clients see design as anything other than one ingredient in the marketing mix. And there are other commercial considerations besides these.

At Amstrad, marketing services manager Chris Anstey claims: "Generally, marketing people in a design company mean it will be better managed and keep to costs." To have a successful relationship with a design company, he says, it "must understand our needs and philosophies, otherwise we spend a huge amount of time tailoring the design."

Stephen Woodward, ex-marketing director at Seagrams, ex-group head at Lowe Howard-Spink and now group development director at Michael Peters Group, believes that in the past "designers were like decorators", in the same way that "advertisers were people who put ideas on a paper. Their work might have been interesting, but not wholly appropriate."

Nevertheless, such an approach may have had good results. In a market where design is poor, new design can do very well. But in markets where design standards are high, simply being new and different may not be enough. "At its worst, brand packaging is just a recognition symbol," says Robert Moberly, managing director at Lewis Moberly. "At its best it enhances and projects the central tenet of the brand."

Moberly, who had worked as a board account director at the advertising agency Foote Cone and Belding, decided to move into the design business "when I realised I had more packs on my shelves than ads on my office walls". He was among a small group of people including Jan Hall at Coley Porter Bell and Michael Peters who, in the early 80s realised the profound business and management implications of not simply producing pretty designs for their own sake, but designs which were fundamentally allied to the client's marketing strategy -- and hence one of the building blocks to profitable brands.

As a result, some design companies started to look at how they could ally design and marketing and at the same time, at how they could market themselves.

Design companies view the role of those who have knowledge of marketing as many and varied. Hugh Jones, marketing director at the Small Back Room believes that expectations depend upon the size of the design company. "The large ones like Michael Peters Group, Fitch and Wolff Olins can afford strategic marketing people, planners and researchers. The small consultancies, those with less than 50 people, can't," he says.

Consequently they have to find someone like himself whose job involves acting as "a marketer looking after the strategic side, a salesman managing new business development and a client account handler".

In fact the size of a design consultancy does not always determine whether or not it can afford personnel with marketing knowledge. Wickens Tutt Southgate employs ten people with planners and account managers outnumbering the designers. The reason for this, explains Paul Southgate, strategic planning director (whose previous employers include Procter and Gamble, Abbott Mead Vickers and Michael Peters and Partners) is, "we see design as a marketing tool." Unless the consultancy defines and understands the marketing objectives, the designers cannot provide the appropriate creative result. …

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