The Relationship between Design and Marketing

I have always maintained that Design and Marketing go hand in hand. Any designer looking to become more business savvy can get quite far if he or she starts with some marketing knowledge. Mike Funk writes:

Marketing is a framework for the organized delivery of experiences designed to achieve a particular response or action. Within a business context, this framework is typically grounded in research, both qualitative and quantitative, and driven by a measurable goal or desired outcome. In most cases, this goal includes some form of economic gain but may include ancillary social benefits as well. Behind all marketing plans is an agenda or point of view that drives the message through various channels where they are eventually expelled at identified touch points. These touch points serve to inform the user of the intended message and help to deliver a meaningful experience.
So, if marketing is a framework for the organized delivery of an experience, design is the act of building the delivery mechanism for that particular experience. Within the marketing framework lives a set of constraints that inform the strategy, delivery and design of a particular experience. These constraints can include budget, timelines, resources or particular market segments and must be the primary motivator when exploring possible solutions. Within a business context, design without marketing is, perhaps, arbitrary. Since the marketing framework includes a research component built specifically to uncover unmet needs or desires, design should be driven by a strategy or intent to meet these needs in a meaningful and relevant way.

Mike’s descriptions of the function of Marketing and Design within an organization are pretty spot-on. However the context of their relationship, though accurate, is only half of the story. The problem I have with his analysis is that he implies that the flow of activities only go from Marketing to Design in a liner and hierarchical manner. From my years of experience working with marketers and leading the design function within organizations, such activities can go in reverse with Design inspiring Marketing. Examples include Design steering and exploiting possible market segments, identifying needs through experience flow charts, and creating a cohesive story through mapping the consumer’s touch-points with the brand.
Perhaps another way to look at this relationship is that Design and Marketing are two sides of the same coin, and what binds them together is the primary focus of understanding and appreciating the user or target consumer. It is a mistake to assume that design does not partake in serious consumer research, or does not bother with uncovering unmet needs during its pursuit of the aesthetic.
Actually you might be surprised to know that many upfront strategic activities in both the Marketing and Design disciplines are very similar. Tremendous value is created when both disciplines bring their viewpoint to the discussion table. After that each function can their piece of the pie away to work on.
This is what I would call multidisciplinary design (thinking).
Via: What is Marketing?.

4 Comments
  • Mario Vellandi

    October 7, 2010 at 10:10 am Reply

    Quite true. In my consumer product experience, it was a two way conversation street between marketing (me) and design (downstairs). They fed me ideas which I passed on as both photos and real prototypes, and I had to feed them ideas for my retail buyers who had specific needs and desires I had to translate. The creative mindset permeated both departments, and that’s what led to very fast prototype turnaround and customer acceptance. The bill of materials and wholesale price? That just had to be approximate enough to be profitable for everyone.

  • Jasper

    October 7, 2010 at 10:38 pm Reply

    To me it sounds like the typical “market-pull” process – and that is for me in an innovation context: 2nd generation. And the disadvantage of such a process is that it usually leads to incremental new products. I agree with DT in most situations today – its more push-pull, still a linear process but with feedback loops and constant interaction with design/technology and market developments directly related to strategic goals of a company, and therefore more multidisciplinary in nature.
    The new trend, well not so new, is “open innovation” or “networked innovation” where cross organizational teams are formed with other companies/universities/other industry sectors to collaborate…
    However he is from the US and in my opinion they sometimes have still a very conservative view on these relationships.

  • billy

    October 9, 2010 at 5:32 am Reply

    sometimes the “push” comes from engineering- ie this is some new material or component we can use, and in the best cases, it leads to a better way to address an unmet need. I’ve rarely seen that kind of research from marketing unfortunately.

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