Commentary by Jonah Bloom

Marketing Through Design Is Going to be a Growing Trend

Why You Should Note the Arrival of Philippe Starck and Kate Spade in Ad Space

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A man of many a journalistic cliche, my first editor always insisted: "If it happens twice it's coincidence; three times it's a trend." He'll be spluttering in his warm pint then to hear me conclude that
Jonah Bloom, executive editor of Advertising Age.
the arrival in the marketing space of two celeb designers, Philippe Starck and Kate Spade, symbolizes the growing convergence of product design and marketing. But it does.

Starck -- most famous for his furniture, sleek Alessi kitchenware and outlandish boutique-hotel designs -- has teamed up with Romain Hatchuel, former CEO of the Cannes ad festival, to create a shop that will help companies establish or re-establish a brand. The latest issue of Creativity magazine, which features Philippe and Romain on the cover, quotes Starck as saying that after so many years of design challenges he's more interested in "designing the future of a company."

Kate Spade design
Although they are coming to market in a different fashion, Kate Spade -- of handbag fame -- and her husband Andy are also entering the branding arena. By

Typical designs of Kate Spade of New York.
helping to design the uniforms for Delta Air Lines' Song, becoming part of the story about the fledgling carrier's differentiation efforts, they have hung out their marketing shingle: big-name designers for hire.

To satisfy my old editor, and before you start thinking I've been totally seduced by stripey purses and fancy juicers, it's worth stressing that the increasing role of product design in marketing is about a lot more than the presence of these two boldface names in Ad Age.

Design agencies
It's evident in the growth rates and success of many design-centric marketing outfits such as Grey's G2, Ogilvy's Brand Integration Group and San Francisco independent Attik. These agencies have not only concerned themselves with graphic design, which has long been in the DNA of great print-advertising creatives, but also with product, packaging and even store design.

In recent months, leading package-goods marketers such as P&G have become far more product-design oriented. P&G appointed Claudia Kotchka as its first-ever design chief and has worked to break down the walls between its R&D, marketing and design teams. Likewise Masterfoods, working with G2, is embracing product and package design as a brand-reinvigoration tool. Following the discovery that more than 40% of consumers eat candy in their cars, Masterfoods recently created a cup-like package for M&M's that fits neatly into the cup-holder of any vehicle.

What's driving this marketing-meets-design movement? Well, the global marketplace, for one. In the '70s and '80s many U.S. companies pared back the size and role of in-house design departments, preferring to focus on manufacturing. But now, with ready availability of European and Japanese products -- historically more tailored to the aesthete -- U.S. consumers are exposed to, and are coming to expect, higher design standards.

Major marketers
Media fragmentation and clutter are playing their part too, forcing every marketer to look for their edge, a way of making their product stand out at the point of purchase. And just look at the brand success stories of recent years -- Apple's Macs and iPods, Listerine's PocketPaks, BMW's Mini -- design was key to their marketing story line.

What would you buy if you were John Wren or Martin Sorrell? (It's a fun game for all the family.) Me, I'd be shopping for designers.

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