Relationship Between Design and Marketing


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I’m studying up on the automotive industry and recently came across a video interview with BMW Group’s former chief of Design. His name is Chris Bangle and I see that he’s quite a controversial figure in the automotive design world. You can view the interview for yourself if you’d like (even if you have no interest in automotive design, this one is a bit of an interesting watch).

He has some thought-provoking words on automotive design. The one that struck me most is his view of the relationship between Marketing and Design. Bangle’s gist (and this is my interpretation): you have to keep the two disciplines separate. Closer to his own words: If you want to keep the design unique and fresh, you isolate it.

He says: “The marketing guys, these guys you have to keep a little bit at bay because their first reaction is: ‘No, no, no, no, no, no, no.’ You can’t create life under an atmosphere of no.”

I find fascinating this whole notion of a divide between Design and Marketing.

But, is a sharp divide between the two disciplines in the best interests of a brand?

As Brian Ling says over at his Design Sojourn blog, doesn’t Design and Marketing go hand in hand?

I say yes. The conversation needs to flow both ways. A brand lives and dies on its ability to consistently meet expectations. How can you achieve this, however, if one function is isolated from the other with little collaboration?

I value design freedom, but not if it strays away from meeting the needs of the user. That’s not to say Design is less user-focused and must be checked by Marketing… but Design and Marketing’s viewpoints may differ and those differences need to be addressed and reconciled. Each has a role in identifying unmet needs. Each has a role in interpreting how design options meet those needs and how those same options may be perceived by users.

Design and Marketing need to work together; they can’t and shouldn’t work apart. Do I believe Design should have some freedom to unearth possibilities and create life as Bangle says? Yes. But that same freedom comes with a responsibility to ensure the final art form serves the brand and its target audiences. This responsibility is best met with a closer cross-functional collaboration.

I just have to get some automotive designers and marketers together to discuss this one… and how hard could this be after all? I live in the automotive hub of Greater Detroit!

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2 responses to “Relationship Between Design and Marketing

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Relationship Between Design and Marketing | David Cameron's On Brands Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. David, Chris Bangle has a interesting point on Design-Marketing relationship. I’m not sure if he really intended to say that they need to be kept separate, especially after criticizing the design departments themselves for promoting segregation. Too bad he didn’t elaborate more on that.
    I totally agree with you that Design and Marketing need to work together, I sold design for many years to top executives from several departments of the company and the key to a successful product is communication and education. Yes, I learned a lot from marketing and, at the same time, I taught them a lot about design.
    You can find a more elaborated picture on this in my post I wrote a few months ago here http://carbrandimage.com/2010/07/the-state-of-design-2/
    I agree with most of what Chris Bangle says, but I disagree with most of what he does. In other words, he doesn’t walk the talk. He’s a very good salesman but not a good designer. You can read more on this here http://carbrandimage.com/2010/06/bmw-design/

    “I just have to get some automotive designers and marketers together to discuss this one… and how hard could this be after all? I live in the automotive hub of Greater Detroit!”
    I would love to have this discussion, let me know when you plan it. One advice: Detroit is not the place, make it in LA. Trust me.

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