Marketing work for design

God is a designer cap
God is a designer.

I often joke about the importance of design. I believe everything is designed. So it’s only fair that design should be in charge of everything. I realise we don’t know each other. So you don’t get that I’m clowning around. I don’t believe that, only a little.

In the organisations I’ve worked in, I was in charge of the design team. Often I was also called upon to contribute to brand and marketing efforts, amongst other things. I have had to give a lot of direction, to some really bad design, really bad creative, and really-really bad campaigns.

Where I got especially frustrated, was when marketing did campaigns for the products we designed. A lot of the time they came up with these lofty TV ad ideas that did little to express the benefits to the customers. I would end up having to show them endless ads done by other tech firms, or other companies like ours, who were simply doing it better. Short, punchy, and direct messages that pointed out the features that would be of value to users of that product.

Worse than that is when marketing totally didn’t understand what we were talking about. As an example. We added Zero-rating to the app – no data costs while using the app. Marketing went out with free WiFi. When we questioned this, they flexed that marketing doesn’t answer to design. I may have responded, that they should.

A little history lesson

Back in the day, (in some orrganisations, to this day) Marketing was the creatives of corporate. They did advertising campaigns on TV, print & radio, golf days, etc. 80’s stuff. They even had a seat at the table. So when digital came around, marketing was called upon to get the company online.

They promptly put out tenders to traditional Ad agencies to handle their digital account. This never worked so they got digital agencies to do it. Each agency is unable to serve their demands as they had no clue what it would take and each agency rebuilding its website. IT usually did online banking when that came around.

More current times

Design thinking is popular, the bank is now hiring UX designers to make these online experiences better. Still, they are mostly reporting to marketing. So these teams of consultants run around with their processes and methodologies they wireframe a dashboard marketing very proudly showcase at board meetings as progress.

This is clearly not marketing’s responsibility and it’s clearly not who should be in charge. Along comes a Design Leader. Someone with experience building digital products and services, someone who fought for digital in traditional agencies, and someone who is going to innovate within an organisation.

5 years ago I was that person. I built a design team of user experience practitioners, user interface designers, customer experience, UX writers, content strategists, etc. We collaborated with developers on a design system to align to and speed up production.

Brand recognised this and initially got our guidance on how to digitise the brand. Then included us in even more brand-related strategy and delivery.

Marketing still did their own thing

Marketing was still getting it wrong. While new faces were excited by our innovative approach to product design, there is still a traditional marketing structure that does work that is not measured, has no accountability for the work they produce, and no clue what design does.

As I see it, Marketing should be built into the design process. I put writers in squads to do that very thing. Start writing the tweets, the marketing strategy and sound bites needed to sell the product features being built. That way everyone is speaking the same language internally and then hopefully the marketing gets a little better. But it would be much better if marketing ran their thinking through design after we briefed them. This way as part of the overall strategy and accountability by the team delivering a feature there’s a true reflection of the return of investment.

I’m not trying to play God. I’m trying to get things delivered holistically, and consistently. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but marketing is no longer the creative arm of an organisation. The cool kids are the designers. When we work together, then you’re part of the click. So if you’re not on board with this at your own will, then maybe, just maybe, marketing should work for design.

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