I was reading an article some weeks ago in the Swedish business magazine Dagens Industri which made me a bit confused. The theme was branding (and design). In the article, Stefan Ölander from the branding agency Rewir says; “Today most products and services are exchangeable, it’s branding and communication that make the difference.”

I have a few objections.

My first questions is – could Apple exchange the iPod or iTunes? Could Fritz Hansen exchange the Ant chair? Could Omega exchange the Speedmaster?

My second question is – does he mean that a company can exchange most products without changing the company and its values itself? Like changing into products with bad design, of poor quality, without authenticity which are bad for the environment? Or disposable products that we are not emotional connected to? Or just some smoothed average design that are not iconic and timeless at all? Products made by child labour? And so on…

If we hold for true that a brand is (only) a perception in a consumers mind, the physical deliverance of great products will be even more important; the smell, taste, feel, look and sound. Everything that actually has to do with design. Design is like a “visualization of a business strategy” and products are the true messengers of a brand. Nothing you just replace by snapping the fingers.

Today you can’t diminish the importance of good design. Business executives (and marketers…) that don’t understand the power of design in general and sustainable design in particular will have serious problems in the future. Design is one of the strongest competitive weapons. It can give strong business advantages. Why are so many companies still neglecting the importance of design. Is it just lack of knowledge?

History wise, products were everything during the industrialisation. Later, in the middle of the last century marketing/advertising grew really strong. Then, from the eighties and onwards branding was suddenly the overall solution. I think that we in a way are coming back to where we started. With products, but this time based on the knowledge of the power of design. As an important tool to create the future. Design is even more important in a time when climate changes and injustices are growing. Design can make a difference. It’s sustainable. I don’t think you can say that about marketing or branding…

Maybe you were able to sell anything with simple marketing in the past. Even “canned porridge” as we use to say in Sweden. But it is not like that any longer. You don’t build a brand from only advertising or marketing these days. Because no one believes it any longer, they would even like to pay you to be free from it… Today people are wise and connected. You can only sell a bad product once. Then the rumour is all over. Isn’t that a better world? With the consumers behind the steering wheel?

At David report we believe in building brands with design. We have written about it in two earlier issues of our bulletin called The Credibility Loop and Communication Through Product. Both were released during 2006 but is still as accurate. Read it if you have a minute, or two…


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