Is yours a Chapter Two business? ICD explains and reveals the secret
You worked hard to take your company off the ground. The last quarter wasn't bad, and could have been good, but for the economy.
You’ve built a team which tackles routine issues, you are respected in the trade. Your top line growth is, well, a par score. Deep down you know that your business is in a rut, working but commoditised.
Itu Chaudhuri, Principal at Itu Chaudhuri Design, nationally regarded as a thoughtful consultancy, calls this “a Chapter 2 business”. Proof of concept has been achieved, but “they're looking to leap, to crash into a bigger league. They’re starting to think consciously about change”.
What to do next?
Paradoxically, initial constraints, like finance, aren't the issue—deployment is. Distribution, marketing or technology can be amped up for the big leagues—but it's unclear where to start. Without underlying demand, it’s risky. Yet something must be done!
The old constraints don’t apply, but neither do the old methods. It’s time to look at new ones. Of these, it’s design that stands out.
Good design is good business
At the world’s most successful companies, design is central to strategy. In a McKinsey study of 300 listed companies, design focused companies grew 2x faster than others. And so can you.
Top management consulting firms, Mckinsey included, have rushed to acquire design firms. Apple is virtually built around design. Coca Cola is unifying its 500 offerings using design.
Are these examples too big, too foreign? Sometime back, the new entrant Paper Boat shook up the beverages market—using distinctive packaging and communication. Inspiration comes in many forms.
Design as necessity
Wait, but you’re already doing design, right? Adam Judge, (Little Black Book on Design) says, “The alternative to good design is always bad design. There is no such thing as no design.”
‘No design’ is impossible, but Chapter 2 businesses minimise design. It’s typical to see packaging guided by print suppliers or websites by coding firms.
Perhaps you argue that you aren’t yet large enough for it. But, adds Chaudhuri, “design is not a luxury indulged in by great companies with deep pockets. It's a part of how they became successful in the first place”.
Design at the centre, not a ‘cost’ centre
The secret is to not treat design not as a cost center but as a central function like finance or technology. Because it is. To understand this, let’s look at the short term, direct value of design, and the longer-term ones, that accrue indirectly.
Better Business today
Right away, design can discommodities your product. People desire better looking products with thoughtful functionality— spending money everyone thought “wasn’t there”. Good mobile phones that cost as much as computers—who knew?
Take good packaging. It aids your distribution by adding visibility to reach. (We’ve been noticing more of a certain brand of water with a large blue screw top lately). Free advertising?
Quality packs stand out on the shelf, build reputation, increase interactions that lead to purchases. “Packaging can be theatre, it can create a story”, said Steve Jobs. It’s your theatre; don't leave it to your printer.
Extreme cost effectiveness
A 5% higher rate of in-store conversions can be measured and attributed to packaging. Gains in reputation, however, may be captured by softer terms of trade. With the right lens, the case for design becomes clearer.
Take communication. Advertising makes it rain; but you need a website to collect the water. A well-designed website also talks to your customers directly. It's your space—to sell goods or show them why you matter, at a fraction of the cost.
Advertising or not, design consistency is essential if consumers are to recall your ad when they’re in the store. Consistency is the spine of an identity, the basis of recognition.
Consistency is the foundation of brand building. If you’re there, congratulations: you enjoy protection in difficult times, attract talent and get better valuations.
There are internal gains too. Design fosters a user-first culture. Silos like product, marketing or communications can pull together, all towards a happier customer,
Start here—not anywhere
The best time to start: now. The best place? A company-wide design audit, which identifies areas of maximum return on design investment, (product development, packaging, retail, or website?).
A common error, says Chaudhuri, is to focus on the largest cost head. Instead, let the audit speak; think it through strategically. Identify a reliable design partner for the audit and beyond. An expert-generalist who understands design deeply and crucially, connects design strategy with business specifics.
Create a safe space for design
Change will come easier if design minded professionals are in key positions. Support your design partner to win over management as she links design with your corporate objective.
“Early on, resistance is a given,” says Itu Chaudhuri. “You need to translate design into business terms. And demonstrate a win” Involve your design partner in decisions; you will be surprised at what they find. Not everyone needs a Chief Design Officer like Apple’s Jony Ive, “the soul of the company”. But you do need design.
The road ahead is clear. You have a choice to make. You can turn the first page of this second chapter of your journey and carry on r you can tear up the book and write your own.
Disclaimer: This is a company press release. No HT journalist is involved in creation of this content