Design as the new marketing?

“Thinking like a designer can transform the way you develop new products, services and processes and even strategy”. These are words by Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO. He is evangelising the idea of what he calls ‘design thinking’.  In an article at the Harvard Business Review he writes:

“As more of our basic needs are met, we increasingly expect sophisticated experiences that are emotionally satisfying and meanigful. These experiences will not be simple products. They will be complex combinations of products, services, spaces and information. They will be the ways we get educted, the ways we are entertainted, the ways we stay healthy, the ways we share and communicate.”

 According to Tim, “design” is longer just about styling or aestheticts but more about innovation.  There are more proponents of this idea. For instance, Josphine Green from Philips Design  claims that ‘design’ will be new marketing of the 21st century (as part of here presentation around ‘social innovation’).  The way I intrepret this comment is that tradionally, (product) marketing function is in charge of the product creation process whereas more and more ‘design thinkers’ (should) take charge of this process.

That brings me to the question as to how corporations should (re)organise their product creation and innovation process. From my own experience, typically product marketeers play a central role in the creation process, starting by defining product functionality and specs.  Marketeers often act from a narrow view of the type of products  they (are allowed to) work on (in Wacom’s case, the product marketeer for pen tablets thinks about computer interaction as ways to use pen input with a computer).  It is not hard to imagine that this kind of process results in products that are fairly similar to past products and that real innovation is very difficult to achieve.

According to Tim and Jospehine, design thinkers should play the central role in the creation process. In a collaborative way, they should lead a group of marketeers, engineers and end-users throughout the complete design process. This is not limited to the initial creative fuzzy idea phase, but goes all the way from ideation to implementation. For instance, it includes supporting marketing to design a communication strategy.  

For corporations that do not want to rely on the IDEO’s of this world to create new products, where in the functional lines do you put these ‘design thinkers’. They do not naturally belong in any of the functions such as marketing, development or engineering. Should it be a function in itself? If so, which place in it the hierarchy does it belong to?

By the way, I regard myself as ‘design thinker’, even though I do not have a design background and I do not think of myself as ‘designer’. Maybe it would be better to think of some other term, in direction of ‘creation’ or ‘innovation’. Anyway, I would appreciate any examples of how corporations are dealing with this issue, e.g. how they are organising themselves for the new century.


3 Responses to Design as the new marketing?

  1. Cheaw Hwei says:

    Thrill and glad to see this article.
    I just finished a dissertation of almost the same title ‘Design IS the new Marketing’.
    I agree with Tim’s view but my argument is from the following angle
    1. Design is not just a creation tool, but is also a communication tool and hence it can and should be used collaboratively as part of marketing
    2. Effectiveness of marketing(esp. ATL) is coming under pressure and we need to rethink how best to maximise available resource to disciplines that can directly influence the quality of product/service offering which brings to the 3rd point
    3. ‘Create(design) a good product and let it market itself….do not engage in wasteful marketing that exaggerates the communication of an insignificant product benefit!’

    • pkurstjens says:

      Hi Cheaw,
      Thanks for your comment, glad you liked my post. Do you think that every ‘good’ product will market itself? For instance, would the Ipod have become such a huge success without Apple’s clever marketing strategy? In my view, marketing can add a lot of value and is necessary to get products under the attention of consumers that have increasingly more choices and less time. The classical marketing approach of one way communication is clearly not working anymore, but there are other ways to get the viral ball roling.

      Would you mind sharing your dissertation? What’s your view of how Philips is tackling these challenges (I have worked at Philips before and know a little bit about their culture…).

      Best regards, Peter

  2. Design as the new Marketing sounds pretty confusing at first, because to the present time both of them served different and pretty often even contradictory purposes.
    Design if understood correctly should serve the purpose of designating the intent of making things better for people, while Marketing almost often had served the purpose of turning simple ideas into strategies that increase companies profit (not to say that this purpose have been chased, regardless of social and environmental costs).
    And maybe, times are changing now and Design as the new Marketing simply means creating and distributing products and services of real value (not just the fictive and delusional value, unconsciously imprinted in our brains with repetitive advertisements).
    Design and Technology are those that have real problems to deal with and slowly the time of creating false needs is coming to its end. Solving real problems and selling solutions to real problems will transform the Marketing into something completely different – instead of mind dumbing broadcasting of advertisements, Marketing will start to utilize the pervasive network of interconnected individuals and it will start dealing with something far more personalized and far more precise than the statistical consumer. I suppose Marketing will turn into an information channel that will boost the Design process and thus it will be cohesive part of the Design itself.

    Best regards,

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