Innovation Through Design

Design and innovation are inextricably intertwined. Design gives form to innovation making new products practical and attractive to users, thereby increasing the prospect of successful implementation or commercialisation.

Research in the United Kingdom shows that businesses in which design is integral to operations, are twice as likely to have introduced new products or services compared to those who are not design aware.

Not surprisingly then, businesses with a track record of innovation usually have a strong appreciation for the role that product design plays in taking their products to market. And yet, I am often surprised at how little store is placed in the role that graphic design plays in that process.
Graphic design is of unequivocal importance in greasing the wheels of innovation. It is the catalyst driving successful commercialisation and can, clearly, be the difference between success and oblivion.

The key to using graphic design to enhance your prospects of success (statistically doubling them), lies in understanding what can be achieved through intelligent use of your design resource.
At its core level, we look to four key areas of impact:

Improved prospects of securing funding for innovation: By giving your innovation a visual identity, and by creating coherent and compelling communication material, your are more likely to persuade both individuals and institutions to invest in your idea.

Improved stakeholder engagement: Similarly, by making your idea tangible through design, you have a better chance of engaging important decision makers, both within and outside of the business, in support of your innovation – and to retain their support at times when the project fails to run exactly to plan.

Cost reduction and speed to market: By establishing a clear, coherent vision, co-workers will align behind your innovation, driving it forward with greater focus and energy. In addition, you are more likely to attract better quality talent when engaging new people to work on the project. This improved efficiency is highly likely to result in cost savings and increased speed to market.

Development and marketing of the brand: Innovation, by definition, means a change to the status quo. This increases the importance of developing a strong brand for consumers to engage with.The branding process sets the vision and direction for your innovation into the future. It establishes the brand promise; positions it as unique from your competitors and creates coherence both within your own product portfolio and the market at large.Importantly, the brand strategy provides the basis for the development of your advertising, social media and other temporal marketing – and a yardstick against which it should be judged.

Design means good business. Long-term qualitative and quantitative research means the jury is no longer out. We now know that businesses that engage with the process of design – both product and graphic – are not only more likely to innovate, but also to succeed. 

What is brand architecture?

Brand architecture refers to the way that an organisation's brands are positioned one to another and each to the whole.

The right brand architecture creates efficiencies, coherence and focus; adding value to your consumers and your own business alike. Conversely allowing your range of brands to grow without a plan risks duplication, inefficiencies and brand confusion - creating considerable drag on your growth.

The need to consider and apply a brand structure depends partly on the size and the ambition of the organisation, but typically the requirement increases in direct proportion to the size of the company and the number of brands under management. For example, the need might suddenly become apparent as as the business diversifies into new products or areas of activity either through organic growth, by acquisition, which unleashes a range of new brands into the organisation.

That, however, does not mean that you should only plan your brand architecture once your range of products dictates it. Indeed, having a clear brand plan early on in your growth phase will undoubtedly create clarity and focus as you grow, allowing you to integrate new products and services speedily and cost effectively into your portfolio. In fact, having a clear picture up-front of how you wish your brands to be structured will aid your strategic decision making – especially when it come to brand extensions or acquisitions.

The case in favour of a considered brand architecture in larger, established businesses is clearly equally strong. To product based businesses (such as those in selling fast moving consumer goods), brand architecture should be a constant consideration – integral to the overall brand portfolio management.

There are, essentially, three core branding models which can be used to construct brand relationships, though in addition to these, more subtle or sophisticated variations have developed to manage sub-groups of products or services within organisations.

The three core models are:

  1. Monolithic brand structures (sometimes referred to as a ‘branded house’): whereby there is a single brand around which the stakeholders can rally.
  2. Endorsed brand structures (sometimes referred to as a ‘house of brands’): whereby a core entity lends its name to endorse or support a number of different brands in the market place.
  3. Independently branded identities: whereby the individual brands in the portfolio are deliberately positioned to have little or no relationship with one another.

By carefully considering the particular characteristics of each building block, we can construct a brand architecture that encompasses your entire portfolio; makes sense to consumers and employees alike; creates strong marketing and efficiencies; and gives you a framework for the development of your brand strategy over time.

In brief then, brand architecture:

  • has become a critical discipline in modern brand management
  • will create coherence and efficiencies across the product range, adding value to the consumer as well as you own organisation
  • will provide a strategic tool to assist in future planning – especially in terms of brand extensions and acquisitions
  • will provide value and guidance, even if applied from an early stage of growth
  • becomes more and more indispensable as your organisation grows

Next Brand Green

The world is rapidly awakening to environmental sustainability as a key business paradigm - one which will help define winning brands in the decades to come. Next is now able to deliver on sustainable design programs.

Going green in, meaningful, tangible, and transparent ways is now demanded by a broad group of stakeholders including consumers, corporate customers, investors, financial service providers, employees, and regulators - each of which sets its own environmental performance expectations.

Whilst sustainability is a proven means to drive the bottom line through efficiencies in resource use, savvy brands are leveraging environmental sustainability as a strategy to increase market share, their price premium, or both.

However, brands are defined by their performance and stakeholders are growing ever more capable of discerning substantive environmental initiatives from superficial “greenwashing” campaigns.

To help you navigate to this issue, Next is partnering with Malk Sustainability Partners – a consultancy focussed exclusively on working with clients to evaluate their environmental performance and to develop strategies that harness the power of environmental sustainability – to bring a synergistic way of integrating organisational environmental change into your brand strategy in a meaningful and efficient way.