SWOTs, PESTs and the 4p’s of the Marketing Mix; word porn for marketeers around the world. Anything that can be analysed, forecasted or theorised into a nice chunky report that companies can use to hoist themselves up the rankings. That’s the marketing dream, right?
Others may not agree. A lot of people see Marketing as the “devil”, the last resort if you have a product not worth its space on the shelf. Perhaps there is some truth in that if you consider the majority of products relegated to the QVC channel but to dismiss marketing when creating a new product/brand is, in my opinion, to shoot yourself in the proverbial foot.
My University days studying Fashion Marketing were, in the first two years, primarily about strategy, theory and analysis after analysis of high street brands; where they were currently positioned in the market and where, with all my worldly knowledge at the grand old age of 19, they should be. I quickly came to realise that with all this wordy, academic work perhaps a career in Marketing wasn’t the one for me. In my third year we were allowed to break the mould and specialise in what we were interested in. I chose design. Hurrah! After two laborious years of writing about beautiful brands, flicking through cutting edge magazines, looking from a distance through splendidly merchandised shop windows I knew I wanted a piece of the hands-on action. I threw myself into designing a fully fledged magazine, teaching myself the software along the way and finally after three years I thought “Yes! I have found my niche in the marketing world. Design is the way for me”. But IS design, marketing?
Well. You can’t have one without the other. There’s no point creating a beautiful piece of design if it is never marketed, through all the channels available. And equally, if what you’re selling is ugly please do not fill my Inbox with even uglier, poorly-designed html emails, linking to hideous websites that haven’t been updated since 1995. I. Am. Not. Interested. Design and Marketing must come hand in hand. So, for all my hang ups about Marketing and for the all the lectures that I wrote off as useless and irrelevant I now realise that ‘Marketing’ is actually the necessary scientific sister to the outlandish, creative ‘Design’.
As a Graphic Designer today (I made it!), I regularly work on creating logos and branding for companies looking to portray a certain image to their consumers. They want to look “aspirational” or “funky” or “completely unique but not straying too far from the competition”. Whatever it is that our clients want and however vague the brief generally is, as a designer we have to refer to whatever marketing knowledge we have, whether we do it consciously or not. What does the company want to achieve, who is their target audience, and how do they want their consumers to FEEL about them? There’s an element of psychology about it which a designer could delve deep into but let’s face it, we don’t. With the timescales we’re faced with and the constraints of budget we generally don’t have the time (or inclination) to analyse every detail of a company’s vision, but what we can do is pick out the important elements that resonate with our creative brains and use colours, fonts and shapes to execute the idea.
Colour psychology is crucial and we often have debates over whether the rich, ruby red is just a bit too Tesco Value or whether that funky, exotic purple is channelling a bit too much DFS. And shapes can hold different meanings too. In crude terms, circular shapes usually give off a more creative, fluid, organic feel and straight, blocky logos are likely to look authoritative and no nonsense. But it can go much deeper than that. Have you ever noticed the arrow on the Amazon logo pointing between the A and the Z signifying the huge variety of products they sell? It also acts as a cheeky smile to boast about their high levels of customer satisfaction. Baskin Robbins sneakily promotes the number of different flavours they sell in theirs. Ever noticed? There’s 31. Hidden meanings and subliminal messages in logos can go a long way towards making customers feel a certain way about a brand without them even noticing.
Designers also have to consider how the materials we are creating will be marketed and delivered to the desired audience. There’s no point in creating a beautiful, animated interactive PDF made for desktop if its going to end up on someone’s iPad. Aside from font sizes being illegible and the page being the wrong size, the top navigation bar will probably conflict with the tablet’s drop down menu and the animation will have a nice big error message placed on the top. Equally, there’s no point in having a big bold call-to-action midway up a pop up banner if the table at the event is going to be so high that it cuts off the crucial phone number.
Whether we realise it or not, Marketing does play a role in design and I think should always be considered when looking to create the perfect outcome for clients. One sister without the other does not make for a happy relationship. And although Marketing is often seen as dry, data driven and consumer-obsessed, Design cannot ignore it’s value in creating beautiful yet appropriate designs that resonate with the right people, at the right time, in just the right way.