What do your products say about you?

20th December 2016

What do your products say about you?

Technical and economic developments are creating unprecedented market changes in every industry – from personal electronics to cars and trucks. This is making it harder for manufacturers to project a consistent brand identity, particularly when they begin to compete in entirely new markets.

The rumoured electric cars from Apple and Dyson are particularly interesting examples, but there are other, less dramatic market shifts happening throughout manufacturing industry. So, how do you project your company and brand values, particularly when you start operating outside your normal comfort zone?

Do you give the right impression?

Those first few seconds when you see something new are the point when you subconsciously decide if you’ve had a ‘wow’ or an ‘ugh’ reaction. In product terms, this often comes down to apparently small details that you may not even be conscious of, but that convey a sense of quality, beauty or strength that immediately impress you. Apple are particularly adept at this level of detail, spending, if the reports are true, vast amounts of time defining each physical feature of their products. It will be interesting to see if they can achieve the same with a car.

The ‘instant message’ that a product conveys can come from a whole range of attributes including the quality of its construction to its physical strength, delicacy or technical superiority. Defining what you want that first impression to be takes time and research, but it is well worth it if you want to build a successful brand. You should begin by looking at your competitors and defining what type of first impression they convey to their, and your, customers. You will then be able to decide if your strategy will be to emulate the competition or to provide an attractive alternative. If you manufacture hand tools, for example, a competitor may focus on durability and you may decide to emphasise technology or performance. The physical communication of these qualities will then be an essential part of the product design brief.

How is your logo?

Most people associate branding with logos, and they are certainly a central element of any marketing strategy. Companies like Nike, Coca Cola and McDonald’s all have famous logos that contribute to their success by building customer loyalty - often at an unconscious level. This is particularly true in the car market, with companies like Mercedes, BMW and Audi all having strong logos that underpin their wider brand values. However, it seems that not all companies need strong, clear logos to succeed. Jaguar are a case in point. Their badges seem particularly odd, with one design used on the front of their cars and a different one on the rear. What’s more, they’ve recently had to add the word ‘Jaguar’ to the leaping cat logo as their customers didn’t recognise it. That said, it doesn’t seem to be doing them much harm…

Whether you have a distinctive and clear logo or a range of options that can help your customers identify your product in the market, one thing is essential – you need to apply your approach consistently and clearly across all aspects of your business, from promotional graphics to emails and the products themselves. Some companies develop very strict rules on the application of logos and the associated use of colour and scale. We mentioned some examples of this approach in last month’s blog

Are you coherent?

Once you have identified the qualities that will define your products and set them apart from the competition, it is essential to focus on these and ensure that all your products communicate the same message. Company rules on colour, graphics and preferred form can all help with this type of consistency, but they also need to allow the freedom to design products that have different functions, scale or intended markets. As mentioned in our blog last month, they also need to allow room to grow and change as markets develop or new opportunities arise. One company that seems to create this sense of cohesion across a disparate and growing product range is Joseph Joseph. All their kitchen products have the same design qualities and corporate style, despite being addressed at a wide range of functions and designed by numerous different people.

What do you want to say?

How you communicate your brand values through your product will depend on your objectives and your market. Companies like Parker Hannifin use strong corporate guidelines, whilst others, like Joseph Joseph, use a broader approach that seems to focus on the user experience and a subtle range of colours.

The starting point always needs to be the core values of your company – in the way that ‘immer besser’ has been the strap line of Miele since the business started in 1899. These core values then need to be applied to everything you do, but particularly to the products you make. Checking that each product projects these values and forms part of a coherent range is an essential step in building a business that will be successful in the long term.                


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