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Design and Marketing: The Critical Duo

The way we interact with our surroundings is defined, quite possibly, by its structure. Shapes, colors, words, sounds and other elements combine to create an environment that may well be hostile or friendly to us.

All space and objects we come into contact with is subject to a process that has led to this physical creation: design.

Daily, we hear this term applied to many industries, and for various purposes: graphic, textile, urban, architectural, industrial, interiors, editorial, advertising, digital, etc. It has so many meanings and interpretations, and, unfortunately has become a discipline somewhat misunderstood and underestimated. Not many people appreciate its true power, or better yet, its transcendence in our lives and in the business world.

All things we choose in our everyday (clothes, food, consumer goods, etc.), as well as for our big decisions (house, car, school, etc.) are always subject to a criteria of functionality and aesthetics, sometimes in different orders of priority. Thus creating within us a perception that may result in a purchase.

In marketing, design is critical to the success of a brand. From the design of a product: its packaging, presentation, logo, name and colors, to its pricing strategies, point of purchase display and advertising. Everything is conceived, planned, designed. Design must therefore provide a functional and aesthetic solution to a specific need on principles of simplicity, practicality and economy (entailing an efficient management of resources that comprise it, without desire to cheapen the concept).

A consistent design, from all angles, generates great power and value to brands; it projects a very strong cohesion, and its elements are not reduced just to visual elements. A company that displays a careful visual image, a product or service well-crafted, effective business communication, and consistent behavior of its employees or agents, has great opportunities and a huge advantage over their competitors.

If a brand’s advertising is flawless, it is possible to persuade a large number of people to buy it - but if its container is not ergonomically friendly or service lends itself so clumsy or hasty - perhaps it will discourage consumers from buying it a next time. If, however, the physical design of a product is outstanding, many people may not have a chance to try it if your advertising and communications is poorly designed.

The development of effective business design is built upon several disciplines that are complemented by a single purpose: marketing, semiotics, hues and chromes, typography, psychology, semantics, sociology, and so on. Those responsible for the design of a graphical solution, product, space or advertising message need to know this in order to create a strong and suitable concept.

According to several professional and remarkable designers, we can conclude that good design must comply with the characteristics below:

  • Good design is a concept, a story, something to say.
  • Designing communicates, not decorates.
  • Good design should be universal and timeless. Your message must be easily understood in different places and cultures. Moreover, it must strive to transcend time instead of becoming obsolete quickly.
  • Good design is versatile. Fits various means.
  • It is simple, clear and concise.
  • Good design is innovative. It surprises and calls the viewer's attention.
  • It helps us to understand a product. It communicates benefits perfectly.
  • It makes a product useful.
  • It watches the details.

Product Packaging Reloaded: Heineken’s new iconic bottle

Just a few days ago, we spoke about product design and packaging and its impact in branding. Product design constitutes as a physical representation of a brand’s personality, involving form and function and for many, representing the beginning of the brand experience. Now, more than ever, design is a stamp that clearly defines and differentiates a brand from another. Whatever the style, it will speak to the customer’s mind on many levels, and will serve as tool to measure the level of “glitz and glamour” the product has. I mean, after all, don’t we feel as if having or owning something aesthetically beautiful makes us, by default, beautiful as well? Think about the luxury market. Doesn't ownership equal transference of qualities?

With that in mind, the world’s most valuable international premium beer brand- Heineken- unveiled a new packaging redesign that reinforces its positioning of market leader and commitment to innovation and design. This unified visual identity will be present on all fronts- bottles, glassware and cans- and will be present in 170 markets by the end of 2011. Mark van Iterson, Manager Global Heineken Design & Concept, said: “We believe that with one recognizable bottle the global Heineken brand will be further strengthened.  With uniformity comes even greater impact.”

The new face of Heineken

The new bottle, presented in 5 different sizes instead of 15 as before, features a curved embossment on the neck and revolutionary tactile ink that will provide a better aesthetics and grip, enhancing the overall drinking experience. Other changes include the enrichment of the green color, the iconic red star, and its famous ellipsed curve.

Van Iterson added: “Our consumer focuses on details.  This is why Heineken has dedicated time and resources to this design update, making sure every single element was taken into consideration.  We have looked at each and every packaging detail to ensure our sophisticated consumers feel a subtle but significant difference. Consumer response has been excellent. They see the new design to be modern, appealing and innovative.”

What can we say? Bottoms up!


Check out the TV spot for the Heineken STR- the special edition aluminum bottle:


The Importance of Product Design and Packaging in Branding


There are two phrases that constitute mottos when it comes to my professional life. The first one is: “Marketing is not a battle of products, it’s a battle of perceptions.”, and the second: “A brand is the sum of its details.” They are imprinted in my mind so well, that I’ll probably carve them on my door or tattoo them on my body one day. They are the basis and reason I love this profession. Adding to the fact that I was raised in a family of architects and interior designers, you might say I’m no stranger to the concept of design and its value in everyday life.

According to Marty Neumeier in his book The Brand Gap, “A retail package is the last and best chance to make a sale.” Given that not all brands are products and not all products go retail, the truth is that product and package design are vital when it comes to brand image. Consider that more than half of purchases are based on emotions, especially when a client is unsure and must choose between two brands of products.  It’s no surprise that companies that master the art of aesthetics are on the top of their game- Apple, Bang & Olufsen, Nike, IKEA, Nokia, or Cassina- design is what defines them and gives them their competitive edge.

What exactly happens when we find ourselves in front of an aisle with tens of hundreds of products just staring back at us? We start to compare, remember and associate. Bear in mind that the brain is prone to classifying everything around us- it’s the only way we can organize everything we see, hear, feel or know. If we didn’t, we would all go bananas. Filling that slot or opening in that mental category is crucial, it’s what we marketers refer to in our jargon as the ‘Top of Mind’.

Whether we associate the product with its ad, with a friend who we know that uses it, or with the packaging’s color and layout and what those elements mean in our mind- elegant, simple, tacky, appropriate- product design involves form and function and for many, implies the beginning of the brand experience with the client. In some cases, it triggers the basis for customer loyalty. Even shopping bags speak to our clients and influence brand perception.

Even though we are not aware of it, our senses provide a significant amount of information in our day-to-day life. Research shows that consumers have a more favorable approach to brands that reach us through all senses. Design is an essential part of a brand’s approach in that it reaches people through the sense of sight and tact. Imagine pairing that up with marketing tools that target the other senses of sound, smell and taste. You’d be sitting in a winning lottery ticket.

From a product’s first prototype to its final version up on a shelf, product and packaging design reflect a specialty in itself and involves collaboration with industrial designers, manufacturers and packaging engineers. A unified and coherent approach from all levels leads to a powerful brand presence.

The functions of product and package design are:

  • Constitutes the physical representation of a brand's personality.
  • Draws attention to a specific product in a crowded retail space. (in this case a product’s packaging serves as a great promotional tool)
  • Positions a product amongst a certain category and perceived value, hence reflecting a specific potential price.
  • Serves as a protective container, as well as provides useful nutritional information or instructions of use.
  • Constitutes as an essential brand identity tool. Even a specific color might trigger an association to a particular brand.
  • Differentiates a product from its competitors and private labels by transmitting a sense of worth or a story.
  • Packages might also serve as souvenirs, collectibles or a source of storage.
  • When a product design is groundbreaking, it can influence the way we use something specific by shifting behavior patterns.
  • Reflects the level of modernism, creativity and cutting-edge qualities the brand might have.

Some product designs have forever changed the way we view a category’s look-and-feel. Companies such as Apple and Bang & Olufsen are known to have shaped much functionality that has inspired others in the market. They imply physical advancements in the industry.

In this day in age, design can be synonymous to style, usability and that personal stamp that defines a product. And not to mention a brand. With all the competition out there, physical differenciation is crucial if you want to stand out in the marketplace. It provides that added-value that customers cherish so much and benefit from, which in turn serves as a slingshot for you- your product's increase in desirability and percieved value can help you charge more for it. A definite win-win situation.

Vive la Différence.