Successful industrial design depends on effective marketing. However, if you’re thinking that this refers to clever sales techniques, consider this quote from Philip Kotler, one of the founders of modern marketing practice:
“Marketing is too often confused with selling. Selling is only the tip of the marketing iceberg. What is unseen is the extensive market investigation, the research and development of appropriate products, the challenge of pricing them right, of opening up distribution, and of letting the market know about the product.
In design terms, the crucial role of genuine marketing is the discovery of customer needs and desires through detailed, imaginative research. Why imaginative? Conventional market research only identifies customer preferences between existing products, whereas imaginative marketing anticipates trends and identifies new opportunities. This is one of the areas in which industrial designers have a role to play in marketing – to ask the ‘what if’ and ‘why not’ questions that create innovative new products.
Industrial designers have some unique qualifications for this role – they are usually from outside the company, so can take a fresh look at the market; they will have worked on wide variety of products; and they have a useful combination of creative and practical skills which can help identify new solutions and opportunities. Above all, they can facilitate communication between marketing and technical staff, solving one of the primary problems in any product development team – the culture gap between practicality and creativity.
Another significant role for the industrial designer in marketing is that of product differentiation. To quote Theodore Levitt, another founder of modern marketing:
“The search for meaningful distinction is a central part of the marketing effort. Yet, in a crowded and increasingly global marketplace, the achievement of meaningful distinction requires a company to make all sorts of new connections.”
The role of the industrial designer in product differentiation ranges from the creation of exciting new forms to the development of innovative functions or methods of manufacture. At Crucible, we think this is the most valuable aspect of what we do – adding value without increasing costs or finding new ways of doing things that save money and improve appearance at the same time.
What does all this mean for your next new product? First, think about marketing as something that happens before you develop your product, not after. Second, get your designers involved at the market research stage, and encourage them to ask ‘what if’ questions. Finally, instruct your designers to develop a new product that is genuinely differentiated from the competition – and makes your customers happy!