Design Mindset: Achieving “Good” Design is Essential, But How?

We recently explored the business value of the design mindset – an approach that prioritizes holistic design that encompasses not only product design but process design and more. Companies that treat design as an ongoing creative process spanning the entire organization see tremendous benefits. In fact, a recent study by the Design Management Institute and Motiv Strategies found that an initial $10,000 investment in design ultimately created nearly $40,000 in value over the following decade.

How exactly does design deliver this value? For consumers, it’s obvious – good design enables a seamless user experience, which makes products both effective and easy to use. For businesses, there are larger questions. What exactly is “good” design, and how can it be quantified and consistently achieved?
Continue Reading

Google’s Talk to Books: AI Opens Creative New Search Pathways

Google has long been acknowledged as the king among online search engines (does anyone still Ask Jeeves?). As www.google.com became the default “home” page on many of our browsers, it replaced search platforms like JSTOR and LexisNexis, which are now relegated to libraries and educational institutions. It also changed the way we ask questions, consume information, and navigate our own internal mental landscapes.

The power that this gives Google (and Alphabet, its parent company) is immense. There is ongoing debate over whether such a monopoly on access to information is healthy, sustainable, or conducive to democracy. As scholars and pundits debate, the rest of us continue turning to Google for answers to queries ranging from “how to fix a water heater” to “what is the meaning of life?”. Now, a new initiative from the company’s experts in artificial intelligence (AI) is once again shifting the framework of access to information online.
Continue Reading

Design Mindset: It’s Bigger than You Think (and so is its Value)

There’s a quote by Jules Feiffer, the acclaimed American cartoonist and author, asserting that “Design is important because chaos is so hard.” To my mind, this may be the quote of the century. Design is an integral part of our lives. It shapes the way we move through public and private spaces, how we interact with each other, and (more and more importantly) how we interact with technology. Yet design is often taken for granted by the user.

Those of us who are not designers ourselves sometimes think of design as ornamentation – a purely visual pursuit that may or may not impact our lived experience. However, design is more often an invisible force that guides and impacts us without calling attention to its presence. From clothing design to urban design to user experience, unseen designers bring order to the chaos of living in almost every aspect of our lives.
Continue Reading

Zumba: Inside The Global Success of an Unlikely Brand

In the world of high-profile brands, there are many success stories that we return to again and again. Steve Jobs and the creation of the Apple brand – Tesla’s Elon Musk – Richard Branson and his serial entrepreneurial success – Jeff Bezos and Amazon. Other brands don’t get as much attention. This bias is so ingrained that we sometimes overlook brands that might have a lot to teach us.

I originally hesitated to write about Zumba, the global fitness brand that continues to explode in popularity despite a lack of attention from the business community. But to dismiss the brand is to fail to notice how deeply and brilliantly it has tapped into evolving trends in the fitness (and music) world and how innovative its founders’ approach to growing their brand truly is. What makes Zumba work and what can its success teach us about building our own brands?
Continue Reading

Making A Movement: REI’s #OptOutside Turns Branding into Meaningful Action

In our exploration of successful, authentic brands, we’ve discovered a number of recurring themes. Brands that stand out in the minds of consumers aren’t shy about sharing their purpose. They’re aware of and intentional about the value they’re promising to their customers and how they deliver it. They know that a great customer experience really starts with taking care of their employees. They understand the power of words (especially taglines) in communicating their value, and they back those words up with action.

One enduringly successful brand, the outdoor lifestyle-focused REI (which is celebrating 80 years this year), has taken the concept of brand action to new heights in recent years. Their OptOutside movement boldly reshapes the status quo among retailers and provides a powerful model for brands that want to turn their brand image into a signifier of something greater.
Continue Reading

The Best Brand Taglines & What They Communicate to Consumers

As part of our ongoing exploration of authentic branding and how brand makers create and sustain value, we recently discussed Bain & Company’s Elements of Value. This pyramid of attributes provides a fascinating and powerful framework for discussing and determining exactly what a brand is promising its audience. By identifying the values that a brand or product seeks to fulfill, we can clarify the promise it is making to the consumers who purchase its products.

The greatest opportunity for a succinct declaration of a brand’s promise is its tagline – the short slogan that (usually accompanying a logo) provides a verbal “hook” in the brand’s marketing and advertising. Famous taglines (like Nike’s “Just Do It” or Allstate’s “You’re In Good Hands”) can become cultural touchstones that cement a brand’s identity in the minds of consumers. They also speak to the value proposition – the “promise” – the brand is making to its audience.
Continue Reading

Discover Your Brand Promise with “The Elements of Value”

The first step towards delivering an authentic brand experience is creating clarity around your brand identity and character so that you can consistently fulfill it. But how does a brand remain true to its character?

One effective way to keep authenticity at the forefront is to consider a brand’s “promise” – what a company promises consumers through their brand image and marketing. This promise can take many forms. Examples might include “to provide the comfort of home,” “to enable adventure,” or simply “to make it easier to keep the house clean.” Once you’ve identified the promise that your brand is making to consumers, you need to prioritize it in your product development, marketing, and customer engagement to create an authentic, consistent brand identity.
Continue Reading