The power of design should not be underestimated. The tough economic climate has forced all brands to re-evaluate their marketing. They’ve had to examine their current use of design, consider how to save costs without losing market share, and ultimately how to make the whole process more efficient and effective.
It is sometimes assumed that only certain channels in marketing can be robustly measured and are therefore more efficient. It is crucial that the design community makes its voice heard on this issue or risks losing budget to other channels within marketing.
In my opinion every part of marketing can and should be measured and evaluated, from digital clicks to sales increases. Design plays a crucial role in sales; numerous examples have shown big sales jumps following redesigns such as This Water drink, which recorded an impressive 100% market share increase. Take Peroni – a 29% year on year increase in sales in a market where premium lager has fallen by 2%.
But the problem often comes from untangling different marketing channels that are acting simultaneously. So for a brand manager investing a set amount across digital, design and advertising and seeing a rise in sales, how can they identify how much of a role design played?
Well, to start with, research can identify how packaging changes consumer perception of the product, whether their dwell time within shops increases, whether the item becomes more memorable and most importantly whether their buying intentions change as a result of the design. One issue with this approach is that shoppers are often distracted, rushed or simply not interested in thinking extensively about product choice, so how much design impacts subconsciously at the decision point is still difficult to fully evaluate.
As an industry we need to tackle this issue. I’m glad to say progress is being made; it is no longer good enough for clients to issue a brief saying my product looks boring/old fashioned/feels like it needs a change without articulating the business motivation. Likewise, awards forms call for a compelling results section to be submitted alongside the visual creative side of the entries. There are even specific design efficiency awards which are highly cherished for the very reason that they focus entirely on ROI on design projects.
Both sides of the table need to marry creative thinking of the design process with the real commercial needs of that business. What should the design achieve, who should take notice, what reaction should they have to the design and how will this be measured? This is not to say we have to discard the creative exciting side of working in design, rather that designers must be able to demonstrate their role as an important part in the marketing mix.
I’ve worked in branding and design for 27 years and in that time much has changed. Digital and interactive design continues to surprise and delight with daily innovations. As an industry we have much to be excited about, but with competition for budget fiercer than ever it has never been so important for us to be able to conclusively prove ROI. So let’s start talking business, demonstrate our worth and wipe out the belief that design can’t be measured once and for all.
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