Imagine a famous product designer saying, "It's critical that companies wake up to the fact that the product itself is the most powerful brand-building and business tool they have." I doubt this would make much news. It's something a lot of us have probably said and agree with, but the problem seems to be when we say it, it appears too self-serving or falls on deaf ears. This time is different. This time we aren't saying it, Ad men are. Not any Ad men, but some of the best in the business. Meet Alex Bogusky and John Winsor of Crispin Porter and Bogusky fame who have worked on some of the most widely recognized and awarded advertising campaigns around.
Alex Bogusky and John Winsor could be pimping new advertising methods as the latest and greatest way to build brands and grow business, but they are not. They are not saying what they do solves all the problems--that in itself is refreshing. Having worked in a couple advertising agencies and most recently in a product design firm, I am thrilled to see this book emerge. With more than thirty years of product design and development experience, Bob Worrell of Worrell Inc. likes to say, "Brand from the Product Out." That largely correlates to what Bogusky and Winsor articulate as "The most powerful brand experiences and connections begin with the product." It is a very similar thought and message said from different perspectives.
Baked-In: Creating Products and Businesses that Market themselves does an impeccably good job of defining the problem in Part One of the book:
A battery of focus groups, ethnographies, brain scans, and more are arranged to go forth and uncover what the consumer wishes the product really was. Then the marketing budget is spent telling lies about the product… It's now possible to take all that consumer insight and actually bake it right into a new product. A product designed with a mission. A product with a story to tell. A product with the ability to sell itself.
Amen brothers! So, if only clients would pay for more Design Research, everything would be great? I wish it were that simple. Bogusky and Winsor recognize the problem is far bigger. By the very structure of the C-level suite with product decisions relegated to lower level managers, products are not treated with the strategic, brand-building importance they deserve. Bogusky and Winsor are advocating breaking down traditional silos that have impeded products' success, and yes...conducting cultural and consumer research early on that is not undone later by marketing efforts.
The rub comes on how to break down those traditional silos within (and without) corporations, including the divide between those who design products and those who market them. The authors use strong language about how internal silos must dissolve, adding that even customers must be invited into the process. Indeed, they argue business success demands it, but I wonder how we take the first step. A lot of us have recognized that it needs to happen, must happen, but how can we make it happen? I think it's a big first step that someone outside "our" industry has recognized the problem, and has invited us into the boardroom. This may not be the most insightful book on product design you have ever read, but I believe it is the book you are going to want to buy for all your clients, because it argues, convincingly, that product design and marketing should be one.
Part Two of the book includes "Recipes" on how to create products and businesses that market themselves. Although a couple of the recipes are common knowledge to those in the design field, pay particular attention to the recipes pertaining to the monitoring and involvement within cultural movements. Bogusky and Winsor are some of the best in the game at doing just that, and have had huge successes for their clients. For example, the recipe on "Culture Trumps Influencers" has a great example of And1 shoes, and "Understanding Both Sides of Your Truth" recommends digging into the organization's culture: "While many companies try to make their brand or product relevant to a culture, most successful brands actually transform culture by finding and exploiting cultural conflicts and tensions, using them as a lever to drive change."
There are some nuts and bolts issues to make note of. You will find some well-worn examples in Baked-In of OXO, iPod, and Wii, but they're presented in a new light, and I was very pleased to learn about other products that have successfully baked marketing in, such as the Flip camera, Jordan XX, and Xterra among others. Also, you may notice the section on co-creation seems brief, but realize John Winsor has written an entire other book on the subject. Finally, the introductory section on 3D printing may give some product designers heartburn, or make them argue the value and role of product designers as desktop 3D printing evolves. Even if the book feels "perfectly wrong" at times to you as a designer, the authors would argue that that can be a good thing. Again, it can be perfectly wrong for you, and yet the best book you could give to your client this year.
Finally, the authors are trying to practice what they preach in the sense that they have created a blog with recipes that readers can contribute to and modify. Also, they have an ongoing debate found on Twitter at @bakedin.
During the final semester of a rigorous business education, Ed discovered another world while writing a paper entitled, "Influencing Behavior Through Office Design." He noticed a lot of advertising agencies had invested in their own creative environments, and hence decided he should give advertising a try. After studying and working in the advertising world, he became frustrated by the ever more clever attempts to market less than the best products. So, Ed moved upstream into the world of Design Research.
Although he is of Irish descent, Ed Reilly doesn't drink much Irish Whiskey. Although he grew up in Kentucky, he doesn't drink much Kentucky Bourbon. Although he is a trained advertising strategist, he enjoys Design Research and Dr. Pepper.