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Can design really make or break a company? What is it about Apple’s ability to consistently develop products that people…love? These questions are answered in Do You Matter: how great design will make people love your company (Brunner and Emery, FT, 2008, 214 pp.).
The authors, who come from successful marketing backgrounds, (one having developed the Mastercard ‘priceless’ campaign and the other having led Apple’s internal design efforts) help the reader understand that design is more than just graphics and art, it is “a methodology to shape and create the relationship between you and the customer” by creating the “customer experience supply chain.”
Do You Matter can be thought of a compendium to The New Gold Standard but with emphasis on the tech sector and building a brand of products, instead of services. If you want to understand why companies like Apple, IKEA and BMW continue to succeed and why products from Polaroid and the Big 3 automakers now fail (despite having an advantage once) then this book is for you.
The first part of the book helps the reader understand what design really is about, what it contains ( elements of risk, serendipity, lessons learned from failure) and what differentiates good design from bad design (innovate vs. imitate).
Case studies are provided throughout the book about the companies that succeed at this (Whole Foods and Cirque du Soleil, Target, Harley Davidson, Nordstrom) by “adopting a design culture instead of an engineering culture.”
The products that these companies design, “embody an idea that people can understand and learn about, one they emotionally engage with.” This is because design, “establishes relationship, what people see, interact and come in contact with…it is the overt, thoughtful development of the interaction points between you and the customer.” A company that is successful at design will have built into the core DNA of the company a “design language” which the authors describe as necessary to “define a product to its base. One that is consistent, recognizable and rests on emotional foundation.” This is a “design-driven company.”
A design driven company is shaped and driven by what customers see, experience and value. It makes the customer the co-creator or co-producer by listening to them, interpreting what they say, and making inferences about what they think. This is repeated a few times ad nausem because the authors feel that, “designing a unique and highly valued set of customer experiences is really one of the only truly defensible strategies.”
Also early in the book, the authors ask a simple question: Do your customers care if you live or die? Or are you like the utility company – a necessity but people don’t necessarily like you? This is followed up by a second self-assessment: Do you Matter? To transform your brand to a point where you do matter, the authors suggest, you have to start with design that’s “designed in” not “added on.” Part of being “designed in” means designing with emotion. Here, the example of Dell’s failure to lead is dissected. In Dell’s case, their superior logistics made them number one, but, as the authors suggest, you can no longer make products based on features and benefits because everyone has (or will quickly acquire) the same features or can get them very quickly. Instead, you must design with emotion.
Again, the authors turn to Apple. They note that, “Apple didn’t invent what became the iPod. Instead, Apple developed the iPod as a portal to an incredibly valuable ongoing consumer experience, of which the driving principle of each change and iteration came from an intense focus on the customer experience.” This is what it means to be design driven which can be broken down into 4 key areas:
· Awareness of where you are and where you need to be, what can be copied and what can not. This must be driven from the top.
· Commitment to taking that leap of faith. Solving a problem to create an emotional connection.
· Implementation of some new approaches and people, taking half steps to full steps. Think different. How resources are allocated & incentives given, what the culture is
· Vigilance to stay fresh and tap the most current customer needs for emotional experience. Find out what people need vs. what they like.
Do You Matter is also a practical guide for building “a design-driven culture” by offering steps to make it happen but being aware that certain realities of the world exist that can easily prevent a company from becoming design driven. This includes:
· Surviving the transparency of customer experience which is far greater than ever before
· Dealing with outsourcing where one may not have full control over the product
· How to have due diligence but not at the expense of today’s need to enter a market quickly.
In building a design-driven culture, the authors suggest 7 keys to success that spell the acronym, FLAVOR
· Focus – Your entire organizational culture, how everybody thinks, behaves, is rewarded, to deliver on the design of the intended customer experience. To that end, the authors note, “the worst form of arrogance is thinking the customer’s experience isn’t your teacher.”
· Long-term – building this does not happen overnight.
· Authenticity –be an aspirational product and be real about it. Don’t fake it, and in the face of opposition or budget cuts, do not change what make you unique.
· Vigilance – spend 90% of your time on implementation and 10% on concept.
· Original – your approach to risk and research matters. Research is more than just sample public opinion. Relative to design, it is discovering an opportunity, design the opportunity then validate. Identify the customer, observe their lives, discover the things that are giving them trouble.
· Repeatable – can you repeat the success you have had?
The overarching theme of this book is that what consumers want most out of life is “a great experience of being alive.” And, businesses too often shun the need to have emotion in building a product. That is where good design can help and why building a design-driven culture is so important.
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