I thought I write this short overview about how design professionals can work with marketing professionals after reading several marketing books, and realising how their objectives are similar yet different, while identifying and alleviating potential conflicts. Designers and marketeers are generally considered as peas in a pod, working with a marketing or communications manager or the even the CEO directly to help achieve the messaging and revenue needs of a given business or organisation. However the true nature of a creative designer can create conflict if they’re not aware of, or fail to appreciate the objectives they are tasked to achieve. This article is to provide a reminder to designers and other visual artists what marketing professionals require from them. A little historical research will show that painters were the first graphic designers before this process specialised and became to be known as graphic design. Ever since this combination of creativity and commerce came into being there has been a strange relationship between the two. The creative nature of designers – wanting to express their ideas or show a range of styles isn’t aligned to what is called “commercial art” and the master it truly serves. Enjoy now as I review the key conflict zones that all creative people should be keenly aware of when working on a project, or an in-house role, that has marketing objectives.
Understanding the need for brand focus and staying on message
Designers can often forget the reason why they’re employed by one specific company which will or should have established design and marketing guidelines. Over time a designer could feel a little stifled always using the same: logo files in set way, fixed colours and typefaces of only a certain weight. However that is the job, and they should find diversity in other areas of the company where they can apply their creative expertise – for instance solving a big problem or implementing something completely new to the benefit of the organisation. This will balance their day job while keeping their creative mind engaged for the benefit of the company, and their own career.
Playing their part of the marketing mix
Designers have to understand their place within the companies’ marketing mix and the role they’re required to perform in it’s creation, implementation, maintenance and updating. This should be simple, as the designer is a willing participant in all things creative but the marketing mix is controlled by the marketing/communication manager and they might want to make more use of public relation processes – than graphics and media. The copy writers, exhibition staff or even the sales team come to the fore here and designers have to make peace with the fact that this is often the case and play their position.
Working to a given demographic
The ability to change styles and address a specific audience or adapt to a specific competitor or marketplace change or even incorporating customer feedback is an important skill designers need to have. Readiness to stop or start again or pivot with no ego to the design but to the purpose of the design is required for marketing objectives and hitting KPI targets. This will require designers to work hand-in-glove with market research staff to understand the specifics of a given demographic.
Working to satisfy an agreed stake holder strategy instead of personal pursuits
Adding to the diversity of styles within a designers portfolio isn’t the responsibility of any company and designers should always remember this. Instead they should take pride when implementing the stake holder strategy as it’ll be good for the business, their target market and for the designer by them observing how their work helps people via the products and services their company of employ delivers.
Understanding that company sectors are different and should be designed as such
A designer could be given a range of freedom, albeit still constrained, by working to serve the needs of different sectors, that will give with one hand and yet restrain with the other. As each new sector won’t be free and open playground for a designers ideas and creative abilities – it will be or should be welcomed as a change from their previous projects, which may well have burned pantone or hex codes into their brains for life.
Helping to get marketing changes accepted by helping the team presentations
An informed and persuasive designer can really help the whole marketing team when they present to managers or C-suite executives. By relaying the process new designs or key changes were made to non-creative people, the designer can significantly reduce the uncertainty or the perceived risk from these unknowns. Designers should view this a story telling opportunity to demonstrate their education and skills to how creative ideas and assets are crafted. This will be greatly welcomed by the whole marketing team who themselves may not be equally able to relay these ideas as effectively as a designer, and this could make all the difference in getting marketing projects and budgets approved.
Respecting the business cycle of invest, grow, harvest and divest – it’s business –
Designers are required to understand they are working inside a business; consequently businesses have cycles that directly affect the daily life of designers. For instance business has cycles of: investing, growing, harvesting and divesting at certain times. Designers are likely to be busy during the invest and especially the growth phases then operate in a maintenance capacity for the remaining the cycles. Understanding these different business phases will be of benefit designers.
ROI and respecting a given budget
A final extension of how business, marketing and communication departments can affect the designer is the need to measure and justify the spending that their job and activities will generate inside the organisation. Marketing departments duty to present numbers to management showing return on investment is an essential element designers need to be aware of. This spectre of budget hanging over their work can be limiting if the organisation has shallow pockets for creative ideas; however this should be seen as an opportunity to understand the effectiveness their design efforts have on the bottomline of the organisation. This is especially the case if their efforts can be measured with relative consistency over the years which builds a great dataset for the marketing department to know what works and what doesn’t. To a certain degree this provides valuable design effectiveness metrics to the designer that will lift their work.
D. Jobber & F. Ellis-Chadwick “Principles and Practice of Marketing” 7th Edition by McGraw Hill Education 2013.