September 07, 2014 / AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
September 07, 2014
It’s difficult to predict the Return On Investment for design. It’s often an afterthought or an obligatory step in the business process. Yet design is good for business, and insisting on great design helps to shape an even better business. Giving design the attention it deserves is the first step to improving your chances of a meaningful ROI.
Responding to compelling design and a powerful image is an immutable law of human nature. With a careful, thought-through strategy behind it, standout design has the potential to produce healthy fiscal returns, change the way people think about, and respond to, your brand while also enhancing or improving the way they live their lives.
If only common sense wasn’t so common
The common sense logic of the everyday executive tells us that design is nothing more than an expense—a drain on the budget, an area that companies must begrudgingly fork out cash for because someone said there was a need for a new logo, new packaging, or something else that falls within the scope of visual output. Then, one must endure the tedious endeavour of working with those facially-haired guy and multi-color-haired girl types as they talk about colors, typefaces and look & feel. And pay them to put those damn doodles on to paper for you.
A negative attitude towards design is dangerous in today’s constantly evolving world. Of course there are the exceptions, but for many people over many years ‘just make it look nice so I can move on to more important things and focus on how to sell my product’ has been the attitude towards those designery types.
Even if you’re not a designer you can’t help but see that design is an important subject in business today. In so many ways the design of, and around, your brand is a vital part of your product, service and communication. It’s central to what people are buying—the image, feeling and perception that the design creates. Hopefully you’re one of the enlightened few—and if you’re looking for new perspectives and a healthy dollop of uncommon sense, well here it is:
Design isn’t an expense. It’s an investment.
Design is an investment that if done well can deliver an incredibly high yield. Take the yogurt brand Chobani for example, in nine years they became the top Greek yogurt brand in the U.S holding 52% of market share in the category, taking home 12.5% of the overall yogurt market, and according to the Washington Post, amassed $4.3 billion in revenue for 2013.
When the company began, there was no room in the budget for traditional advertising so the founder and CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya realized that the key to gaining attention on supermarket shelves came down to a gripping design. He spent $250,000 (half of his working capital) on cup design, creating a unique, inviting and fatter cup with bold, crisp colors and gorgeously simple elements. “People say, ‘It’s yogurt, who cares?’ but there’s emotion to it” Ulukaya says. “You can make this a moment, the opening of it, the eating of it, the experience. I spent so much time on every single detail”.
Number one in under a decade, that’s an incredible feat and in many ways, solely a result of great design. Forbes estimates Ulukaya’s personal net worth at $1.5 billion—not a bad return on a $250,000 investment in design.
Design is more than a logo or product packaging
Design isn’t an airy-fairy-make-it-look-pretty craft. I’m talking about the work of the pragmatic designers—they are one of the best people to have in your corner. The professionals who are as concerned about the impact and success of your business as you are, and who will passionately utilize their skills towards bettering results.
Pragmatic designers are exceptionally hard working and have a meticulously thought-out approach to how consumers will see your brand. Still not sure design is a worthy investment? Well, Nike paid just $35 in 1975 for their swoosh logo and look at its traction—it’s so powerful that anytime you see or hear the word ‘swoosh’ you can’t help but envision that distinctively curvaceous tick. Go on, try! Convince someone to say swoosh to you or ask your computer to read the term in that mechanical Stephen Hawkins voice, then close your eyes… and you’ll see that I’m right. You can actually see it and have memories flood in that are associated with it.
Design is an investment
When you start thinking about design as an investment you’ll see that it has rewards, both in the short and long-term. Great design can spike sales for a couple of months and keep consumers coming back for generations to come. Consider Coca Cola—my grandparents drank it, I drink it and I’m pretty sure my great-grandkids will too. Sure, the design may have changed subtly over time but the heart of the brand hasn’t and that’s why it’s the most recognized brand in the world.
Design has the power to affect your company’s bottom line and, just as importantly, your consumer’s awareness, trust and perception of your brand—which will lead to even more bottom line growth in the future.
Investing in great design can have far reaching benefits for you and your consumer. Take a national flag as an example. As a physical product, a flag is nothing more than an ordinary piece of cloth with a simple design. But it is hardly ever sold as just a product because it’s designed as a symbol—an identity for all who fly it, salute to it and give their lives for it. If you’re lucky enough, your brand can have as much depth of meaning as a nation’s flag. Apple’s cult-like brand status and following has accomplished this same feat. If people are getting your logo tattooed on themselves, you must be doing something right.
You don’t have to be a designer to realize the importance of great design. We are all inherently drawn to it. People can’t help but be attracted to something that is beautiful, intelligent and commands respect—those happen to be the three prerequisites for a news anchor. Coincidence? I think not.
What price can you put on your consumers’ desire and fanaticism for your brand? It must be more than what a pragmatic designer charges.
So my advice when flying your own flag is to make sure that it’s been designed in such a way that people will want to fly it for themselves.
That’s a return on your investment. That’s exponential growth. And that’s why I believe that great design is worth every penny.