by: Idris Mootee

I was meeting with a friend Adam Oliveira and his biz partner Adrian today and it is exciting to hear that they are starting a new digital agency. More and more people wanted to break out of the old agency mode. We can probably expect a big shift to digital marketing as we move in and gradually out of this recession. Digital marketing will shine through this downturn. (design illustrations by Ashley Payne).

Innovation Is The New Management Consultancy and Design Is The New Advertising Agency. This is a subject I've talked about for a while. I've been discussing it both publicly in conferences and privately with executives of agency holding companies. I wrote about MFA is the new MBA last year in my blog and it resonated with a lot of people.

Why Innovation Is The New Management Consultancy?

Innovation is the core of any business’s strategy. Hear it from P&G’s CEO A.G. Lafley, “Innovation is the key idea that is shaping corporate life, helping leaders conceive previously unimagined strategic options. Take acquisitions, as an example. Most are justified on the basis of cost and capital reduction: for example, the merger of two pharmaceutical companies and the global rationalization of overhead and operations and the savings from combining two sales forces and R&D labs. You can, however, buy earnings through acquisitions for only so long; cost-control, however necessary, is a defensive strategy.

Intel’s CEO Paul Otellini said on stage yesterday at the Web 2.0 Summit about why innovation is not only important but vital, "All the smart people I've talked to in this area suggest that the U.S. is in a two- to three-quarter recession, the current economic slowdown is the deepest one I've seen in my lifetime.” He predicted that morale may stay low for longer because unemployment may remain high even after growth has resumed. He believed innovation will still be on the way regardless of how far the markets fall.

Innovation doesn’t exist in design or business strategy, but the intersections of both as well as other disciplines including social sciences, technology, human factors and service design etc. Management consultant firm focus on the analytical side and lacking the creativity requires for innovation, not to mentioned the empathy element. Emotion. In analytical thinking, emotion is seen as an impediment to logic and making the right choices. In design, decisions without an emotional component are lifeless and do not connect with people

And for design firm, outside of the craft side, designers (or design thinkers) use the word design is a verb and not a noun. It's a way to frame, communicate, solve and visualize problems and so are best positioned to innovate. The challenge is the lack of business (and the economics of everything in general) and analytical thinking that makes it hard for them to understand the problem in business context and put together a compelling argument. Innovation requires skills that spans across many different disciplines.

Robyn Waters (formerly Target, now RW Trend) believed the importance of connecting opposites including left and right brain thinking, and measurement and intuition. She emphasized embracing paradox to drive innovation.

Why is Design Is The New Advertising Agency?

I love advertising, I love it when it entertains and make fun out of little things in our everyday life. But advertising is losing its glamor, or has lost most of  it already. The problem is we put too much time and money into trying to find a USP (unique value proposition) but not enough to create a better customer value proposition. All these me too products are relying on advertising to differentiate and in the end disappoint customers. It should not be about the ‘thing about the thing,’ it is about the ‘thing’. That's how design can come to rescue.

Other reasons makes advertising less effective is the fragmentation of media. TiVo, iPods, hundreds of cable channels, satellite TV and radio, podcasting, Web sites, consumer-generated media, even video games cut people's time and attention into thousands of teeny fragments. Advertisers have a harder time reaching large population segments. They spend more but reach fewer people. They used to reach the masses with buys on three TV networks; now, they must buy on 90+ stations to get the same reach. The other contributory factor is their overemphasis of demographics. Demographic targeting has long been the focus of marketing efforts. The problem is, it only tells you where customers might be, not what messages they might respond to. They have such as difficult time putting their heads around the fast moving emerging media.

Design is the next advertising. Designers love to solve wicked problems, not avoiding it or cover it with fancy visuals and clever tag lines. Designers recognize that any wicked problems means big opportunities for customer experience innovation. Marketers that understand building true loyalty need to embed design into every aspect of their marketing. Infusing the marketing department with design principles can transform marketing, experience is the competitive front. For your next campaign, try asking for ‘design thinkers’ and not ‘creative directors’. You will have some nice surprises.

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