Advertising is the art of getting a Unique selling proposition (USP) into heads of the most people at the lowest possible cost’ and if successfully done it causes a brand to get business away from the competitor, capturing finite space in the minds of consumers. Rosser Reeves, wrote the book “Reality in Advertising” in 1961 while he was chairman at Ted Bates and company and propagated a claim-based strategy for companies to advertise their product. He supported his strategy with research and used the packaged goods industry as the central ground, though the principles can be applied to other industries as well.
Looking at sales to measure the impact of a campaign might not yield an accurate result as there are other influential factors in a fluid marketplace. Reeves proposed an auditing approach where respondents are divided into two groups; those that remember the said advertisement and those that don't (penetration), then ask each group if they buy the product (usage pull). This helps to measure if the advertisement caused the consumer to buy, deterred them from buying or if they were buying the product anyway.
Once a USP is adopted, the campaign shouldn’t be changed too often and focus should be on one message to avoid confusion with multiple claims. This carefully decided upon USP defines a specific benefit of the product, different to that of the competitors and compelling to the consumer. Reeves also discusses the high number of misses in “brand image” campaign which don't rely on a USP and the importance of an advertiser to control his brilliance and focus more on results. Reeve’s “Copy Laboratory”, set up at Bates, that measured the effective delivery of a message in an advertisement before dissemination, is an excellent example of consumer research and Design Thinking in action.
“A whack on the side of the head” is a witty compilation of thoughts and metaphors that can help stimulate one’s creativity. The author begins the book by explaining the concept of “mental locks” and how they prevent us from reaching our ultimate creative capacity. The book is a criticism of the way we are all taught, right from school, to have the right answers rather than looking out for questions and seeing things differently. Creative thinking, he says, is the equivalent of mental sex! A good way to learning how to think is disregarding our first bright idea and go in search of the second one, that would likely be the result of more innovative thinking than the first. “Inconsistency and contradiction are the hallmarks of human existence”, says the author and then proceeds to explain that nothing is set in stone and we can challenge the rules to completely flip the way we see things. Avoiding contradictions could help clarity of communication but at the same time, inviting contradiction could pose new possibilities.
He tell us a story of how the QWERTY keypad was introduced as a means to slow down typing speed so that typewriter keys don’t get jammed! This is a wonderful example of how we could get stuck in obsolete ideas and forget to escape from them. Creativity is shown to be the collective responsibility of the whole group and a way to ensure this is to avoid “group thinking”, as conformity leads to stifling of multiple points of view. Making light of a situation is also a good way to get creative juices going, breaking away from the mental lock of “seriousness” to get work done. “Humor forces you to combine ideas that are usually not associated with one another”, thus putting on one’s fools cap and being absurd, irreverent, metaphorical and cryptic helps to reverse the view.
I think that a lot of the ideas discussed in the book relates to my understanding of “Design Thinking” The four step method of becoming an explorer, artist, judge and then warrior almost neatly aligns with the design thinking steps of discovery, interpretation, ideation, experimentation and evolution. Asking “what if” questions to open up one’s imagination, adding constraints to increase creativity, encouraging trial and error, working with the hands to stimulate the brain and the cross-fertilization of ideas are all topics we have explored during our study of design management. Disruptive thinking is what sets our discipline apart and the belief that we truly can make a difference, not just to the profitability of companies, but also the social responsibility and sustainability. The whack on the other side of the head, as Von Oech says, is to “believe in the worth of your ideas and have the persistence to continue building on them.”
It’s no surprise that the term ‘Design Management’ has sparked much debate, as the two pillars that it is built on; ‘Design’ and ‘Management’, are both far from exact sciences. Design Management is shown to be present in the operational, tactical and strategic levels of organizations. Its goals are either to control a creative process, support a culture of creativity or build a structure for design to function in. The key roles of a Design Manager are to i. Align design strategy with corporate strategy ii. Manage quality & consistency of design outcomes and iii. Develop new methods of user experience through human centered and cross disciplinary design.
Wikipedia takes us through the history of Design Management and talks about its transformation over the years. Design Management first emerged in the early 1900s with Peter Behrens’ vision and work for AEG but the term only first appeared in later years amongst architects. In 1956, IBM is believed to have created the first enterprise wide corporate identity in the US, shifting the paradigm in the way the value of design is perceived. In the ensuing years, different disciplines of design began to flourish bringing with it a method based approach to Design Management. Various consultancies materialized and books on the subject shed further light on it. Today, its extended understanding has grown to include terms such as sustainable, inclusive, interactive, co-create, open innovation and design thinking.
As the definition of Design Management remains in a state of flux, there is much research into how Design’s value to business can be measured. The Danish Design Ladder defines 4 stages of design application in organizations. i.Non-design ii.Design as styling iii.Design as a process iv.Design as innovation. Research has shown that companies in the fourth stage grow more consistently than others. Design Management advocates are constantly looking to find ways of measuring the impact of design. And who knows? Maybe one day there will be a standard commonly accepted across design and business.
In today’s environment, a business can only be successful if it constantly innovates, and to innovate it must adopt design in its processes and strategic planning. Design’s role has moved beyond the creation of products and services. Design thinking and design management each now have their place in design minded organizations, the former being an essential addition to the repertoire of a person even from a non design background. One of the major challenges faced by design managers is having to constantly reinforce the positive contributions of design to others in the organization. The leadership, culture and environment that design needs to function around, largely influences the amount of value design is able to create in an organization.
The incorporation of design in small and medium enterprises with little or no prior history of adopting design thinking, can be challenging. The management’s personal vision or other seemingly more urgent issues tend to interrupt the effective adoption of design, while creating strategies for the future. In the book, “Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value”, Thomas Lockwood suggests a ten step method to create empowerment and transparency of ideas and methods; all steps towards becoming a design minded organization. The emphasis is on evaluating the outcome of design in the light of its contributions to the triple bottom line of companies. Authors of management books such as Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Kelly, Daniel Pink and Richard Florida have each in their works written about the adoption of design in creating truly successful organizations.
Brigitte Borja de Mozota devised a research based value model in Design Management that would help to ‘measure’ the substantial or financial value added by design. One of the reasons that design is ignored or not given its due recognition is the difficulty in rationalizing its contribution to the organization. Managers/business owners need a familiar way in which to justify design spends. To this end, Mozota suggests using the well known Balanced score card method devised to monitor the consequences of business actions.The four perspectives of the BSC model neatly coincide with the four powers of design, or the four design values system: customer perspective (design as differentiator); process perspective (design as coordinator); learning perspective (design as transformer) and finance perspective (design as good business). I think this is one of the most important contributions in the field of design management as it speaks a language that is easily understandable by managers and business owners thus leading to less apprehension while adopting design.