New and difficult challenges confront the modern company.
But one lesson stands far and away at the top: Your Brand can be Your Biggest Asset. Coca Cola is a brand first and foremost. So is Mercedes. Remove the brand and the value of the product plummets fast toward more commonplace competitors. With branding proving its worth, Business Schools have taken note, adding courses that were unknown in the 1980’s and earlier.
Schools are trying to teach a “Design Thinking” approach where products and services (and customers) are connected together through:
When customers are brought in as participants in product evolution and development, loyalty becomes real. Being listened to by a company in 1950, 60 or 70 (even 80) would have been unheard of. You had a preference. You bought it or you switched brands. Today, it is so competitive that differences from one brand to the next are impossible to see on a functional level. It is all about feelings, customer care, responsiveness and other things that create a great overall brand experience.
Lesson 1: Difference Goes Beyond How You Look.
Smart companies extend design beyond aesthetics and human factors. They “design” their customer’s experience from store and website visits to customer service practices that allow human interaction. So it’s a blend of product and service. Making the best product means making the best customer experience. For example, if your product requires assembly, you should invest in making the instructions a very pleasant and trouble-free experience. And that demands more than a recipe of words. It means clear illustrations, photographs, etc. It means a clearly printed “helpline” and website page (not just your homepage). Lesson 2: People Lie. Getting Research Right.
Dipak Jain, Dean of the Kellogg School of Management said it best, “Buyers are liars.” Ask people what channel they watch on TV, and they will tell you PBS. In reality, 60% of the time they are watching World Wide Wrestling.” This fact puts focus group results and disconnected customer surveys into question. People tell you what they think you want to hear. Getting information directly from users in an honest environment with no “impartial mediator” to “facilitate” the process is essential. Invite customers to suggest processes and products.
Lesson 3: There is no formula for effective design. Great Designers do it Intuitively… and Great Designers are Rare
Breakthrough designs deliver new ideas for entrenched products. Managers that practice the “new” or at least the “different” grab market share. In the Pharmaceutical Industry, the antidepressant drug Zoloft® uses a gentle, easygoing cartoon character alongside childlike sketches of the chemical interactions it controls in the brain. The result is real information presented with a metaphor for the quieting effects it has on the patient. Such obvious and straightforward concepts have more value than tired “slice of life” advertisements using contrived situations that are too rosy to be real. Bravo to the entire Zoloft® team.
The point is, that a quality idea, beautifully executed is better than any formula. In fact, many business schools have adjusted pure coursework so that the MBA is acquired through practical thinking, workshop style learning and and scenario-based exercises. Students confront situations, work with people from other disciplines and create solutions that demand innovative thinking.
Learn more about how design can be your hardest worker. The smaller you are, the more obvious its immediate impact will be. Design is not the luxury of big business. It is the secret weapon of smart business. How smart is yours?