Second in a series to help creatives increase their value by becoming fluent in the language of business™.
In part 1 of this series I introduced The business 6,™ a very brief glossary of the top six business terms that help creatives move a conversation from a subjective opinion of a design’s aesthetics to an objective analysis of how the design helps a company achieve its goals. When we incorporate these terms into client conversations and meetings, we increase our credibility, influence and impact as a strategic business partner – beyond our role as designers. I’ve seen it in action time and time again: customers hear ours draft Input with more receptive ears when shared her Language – the language of business™.
The reason is simple: as a rule, our customers are not creative people. Instead, they may come from a finance, marketing, or operations background and focus on customer acquisition, growth indicators, and other business objectives. Conversations with clients and stakeholders in the language of business transform a design project from a creative endeavor into an investment in design as a strategic business initiative. These types of integrated business conversations can also give your clients the confidence to experiment and take more creative risks – something I see as a win-win.
In the previous article I covered the first two terms of The Business 6: revenue (and several sales-related terms) and edge. Let’s talk about it in this article market share and decommodify.
Market share driven by design
market share is the percentage of sales within an industry that a given brand earns over a given period of time. For example, Domino’s, Papa John’s and Pizza Hut each have a certain market share in the pizza industry. Brands are trying to increase their market share through a variety of channels, campaigns, touchpoints, etc. This can result in a healthy design budget, but it also comes with some tight accountability in a short time frame. If the goal of the article is to increase market share, as a designer, you should ask specific questions about competitors, market leaders, timeframes, and what it means for the brand to be #1, 2, or 3 in the category. In terms of design, how willing is your client to break the category and escape the “sea of sameness” and “fade”? At this point, all design decisions are aimed at gaining market share.
By understanding market share and how it relates to a client’s business measurements, we can talk more deeply with our clients about how the design we propose can drive them. For example, I can highly recommend a tactile effect on a packaging design, as research points to certain design elements and tactile surfaces that can increase customer loyalty. My customers are beginning to understand that the additional cost of a particular item can be offset by purchases that result in market share gains.
Note that these conversations are less about the specifics of typography, color, layout, and finishing and more about brand personality, messaging, and clarity in the context of the client’s business goals. The conversation is shifting from the granularity of our designs – after all, they hired us for our expertise as creative professionals – and instead we treat design together as a strategic business investment. We show ourselves as a true partner and offer solutions that help our customers achieve their business goals through design.
The importance of decommodification to differentiation
decommodify is a cousin to “distinguish”. Branding naturally differentiates and decommodifies. For example, the branding took the product and technology of a portable MP3 music player and decommodified it to “1,000 songs, right in my pocket.” Branding helps us choose Apple over Microsoft, Coke over Pepsi, Puffs over Kleenex. In contrast, A is Goods is typical Not branded. For example, if you go to a hardware store to buy carpenter’s nails, just pick the size and type that you need. The nails are a commodity; they are not branded. They are often simply stored loose in containers. You buy them based on size, application and price.
To further illustrate how branding and packaging can decommodify a product, let’s consider basil. If we look at a bunch of dried basil that is unpackaged, there is no doubt that it is a commodity. We think, “Basil is basil.” But companies like McCormick & Company, Simply Organic, Spice Islands, and others are packaging basil differently to make it more relatable in the minds of consumers. For example, McCormick added a grinder to their dried basil packaging and can charge around $11 an ounce (instead of $0.50 to $2 an ounce, the average price for bulk dried basil without branding). In this case, the packaging contributed to McCormick’s pricing strategy and premium positioning.
It’s not a design; it is design strategy
Knowing The Business 6 is not enough. We also need to know how to use these terms to collaborate and strategize with our clients. Listen when your customers talk about their business challenges and goals. Ask questions. Explain why your work has the potential to achieve its goals. Share success stories from your other projects. And focus the conversation on the language of business and the value you bring to support your customers’ business goals.
Join me next time as we dive into the last two terms in The Business 6: customer value and return on investment (ROI).
Vicki Strull is a design strategist with over 25 years of industry experience designing packaging, brand identities and a variety of packaging and online touchpoints. Vicki co-founded MarketWise Academy with Daniel Dejan and Trish Witkowski to help other designers accelerate their impact, improve their design strategies and thrive in a corporate-dominated world. This is where the idea for The Business 6 came fromTM developed. To learn more about the business 6TM and other strategies, visit marketwiseacademy.com or contact Vicki directly at [email protected]
 For an illustration of this example, see this video by Dr. Andrew Hurley, Associate Professor of Packaging Science, Clemson University: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHll9z_-g9o