The business value of branding and design

Brands and design have a big impact on buying decisions. In a majority of cases brand and design are the differentiators of competing businesses. But how do you quantify an intangible asset? Is there an objective way to measure the value of design?

Yes, there is. For this to happen though, there needs to be a shift in the way we implement and use design within organisations. We can no longer treat it as an isolated entity. We must employ a user-centric and analytically informed approach to design which increases business value and success.

Accountancy firm McKinsey’s 2018 report The Business Value of Design* has shown that companies who embrace a design and user-centric approach “increase their revenues and shareholder returns at nearly twice the rate as their industry counterparts.”

The report has identified these key aspects that must be integrated into organisations to enable design to become a driver for business success: 

  • Put user-experience at the core of your business
  • Test, measure and analyse performance in real-time
  • Focus on design and design-thinking across the entire business
  • Listen, test and tweak to keep evolving your brand

Put your user first

They key to successful and valuable design is a user-centric approach. To be able to place your consumers at the heart of your business decisions, first you need to understand them.

Move away from basing your design decisions on internal assumptions that aren’t evidence based and focus on your audience instead.

We need to employ behavioural economics and cognitive psychology to better understand our customers. We need to survey, measure and analyse their buying behaviours to be able to design meaningful user experiences for them. The better we respond to our audiences’ needs and wants, the better we can serve them.

Humans aren’t analytical beings, we primarily base our decisions on emotions. In fact, 95% of all our decisions are made subconsciously. Only 5% of our decisions surface to our conscious for further reflection and analysis. So, the better the customer journey is tailored to our audiences’ implicit goals (their emotional needs and desires), their explicit goals (their logic reasoning), their pain and trigger points, the more we’re able to steer their buying decisions.

The role of technology

Advances in technology allow us to take the pulse of our audiences. It enables businesses to reach customers via a multitude of platforms and channels to gain feedback and insights. It allows brands to objectively measure, analyse and track who their customers are, what they want and need and how they benefit from specific products and services.

On the flip side, technology has also empowered consumers to provide live feedback on their interaction with your brand. The less fractured and the more coherent and seamless brand interactions become, the more trustworthy and authentic the user-experience.

Immediate and highly visible feedback can reach a big audience and is great social proof that you are providing a fantastic user experience. It puts consumers in a powerful position, sometimes with damning effect. That makes it even more important for organisations to continuously deliver a consistently high brand experience.

The omnipresence of design

The value in design lies in giving a brand an authentic and empathetic quality that people connect with. Branding and design are not an added layer that gives your organisation a particular look and feel. Design and design thinking are intricately interwoven and embedded into every aspect of a business.

Most global consumer-brands are design-focussed and commandeer premium prices. Look at Apple for example. Design is embedded within the organisation’s very core – from digital and physical product design to customer service and packing. Apple’s brand value is enormous. It’s worth billions.

To enable design to impact brand and business success it can no longer be treated as an isolated entity. There needs to be a commitment to and consistency in integrating design into every aspect of your organisation to build and provide a seamless user-experience.

Design teams should have a seat in the C-Suite. Design impacts all innovative and creative output within an organisation, from product and service design to digital experiences and customer service. Only a seamless user journey will guarantee a positive and memorable brand experience. Design teams collaborate across departments to align internal processes, but responsibility to maintain the same level of user-centric design lies with everyone in the company.

Keep evolving your brand

Markets and competition changes, consumer behaviours and expectation change, and that’s why brands too need to evolve to stay present and relevant. Keep listening to your consumers. Keep measuring, testing and analysing the impact of your innovations and design solutions. Tweak and iterate to keep your brand, products and services relevant and meaningful to your audience.

Our research and discovery process combine customer surveys, stakeholder interviews, competitor research & analysis, brand audits and a customer journey mapping workshop to help you gain insights into your brand performance. From this, we can help you uncover opportunities to improve or rebuild a coherent customer experience.

McKinsey Quarterly Report: The Business Value of Design, 25 October 2018

About Franzi Scheithauer

Franzi is Creative Director at Studio Brand Up and specialises in brand strategy and identity design.