Business Of Design #1: Encountering the Market

(Note: This is the thought process of a designer who is utterly clueless when it comes to business and turning ideas into cash. The following is his best attempt at it.)

One of the modules in the 2nd Semester is Commercial Aspects of Product Design also known as Business Studies, which I suppose it should help us think rationally and facilitate our design service for the commercial appeal. (Ideally to make a living so that you can survive doing the things you enjoy.) Well, not that gloomy. So, the first class throws out the question ‘What is Marketing?’ I thought it is all about selling and bullshitting. Indubitably, I am all wrong about it.


Marketing is a strategy of positioning oneself to get to the target audience (knowing customers’ need and meeting them). It involves data collection to distinguish oneself from the competitors. It also benefits the working culture across an organisation as well as customers’ relation and experience. (1) Ilise Benun, a marketing mentor and business expert for creative professionals, disagree with that notion for one is limited by what the market that comes to you can afford. Marketing plan is selling oneself to reach out to future prospects you want to connect with. Marketing is placing one’s worth for the value people think they are willing to pay for. Marketing is often misconceived for talking all about ownself. It is about what you can provide and do for the market you want to work with. (2)

Established in the 1960 by a marketing professor at Michigan State University, Edmund Jerome McCarthy, the famous marketing mix model – the 4 Ps: Product, Place, Price and Promotion, is the key ingredients designed to help businesses plan, and put into practice, effective strategies for launching and selling their products and services. However in the 1990, advertising professor at the University of North Carolina, Robert Lauterborn, argued that the Four Ps derived from the seller’s view rather than the buyer’s view, and hence no longer relevant in the customer- centered marketing of the late 20th century. He reimagined the Four Ps as the Four Cs: Customer solution, Convenience, Communication and Customer cost. (3)

Professors Jagdish Seth and Rajendra Sisodia then posited the Four As: Acceptability, Affordability, Availability, and Awareness. By 2005, academics Chekitan Dev and Don Schultz claimed that the Four Ps were a pas; that consumer decisions were motivated by emotion and a desire for value, rather than for a specific product to fill a need or a particular price point. Marketing guru Philip Kotler has acknowledged to maintain the 4Ps as the core framework, but suggested the fifth ‘P’ for Purpose in 2013. Zara has embraced the concept by keeping 50 percent of manufacturing in Spain rather than subcontracting it to Asia. Not only can the business react more quickly to changing fashions, it can also be applauded for keeping employment local. We can see similar successful social enterprises like Warby Parker and TOMS. (3) In the maturing landscape of smart consumers, ethical business models are seen to resonate more and strive better. Successfully communicate the story of a business with the consumers will ultimately create a network of community than a one-to-one seller to consumer relationship. A community grows. A community lasts. A community will help the business to grow.

Here are a few differences I notice between marketing and the creative practice. Marketing sees product as an asset or commodity with specifications and features; Creative sees it as value-crafting, sometimes a creative self-expression. Suffice to say although both of them can be solving problem, the creative side can be an ego output whereas the marketing approach is in a democratic manner. While creative innovation may sometimes driven by intuition and intangible observations, a marketing strategy requires hard data and based on trends. To commercialise product, creativity in most cases has to be toned down to fit to the market. Creatives can’t be at maximum creative level as they hope to be in the solution making.

Despite all that, it boils down to IDEO’s approach to gathering human-centered insights that fuel creative innovation. This methodology is proven to be successful in generating viable future products. At a tangent, I think demographic research is a methodology that stereotypes and generalises the prospects. It may only work when specific focus group is of importance, for example baby toys for the parents and the baby, a pen designed for people with Parkinson’s. Find the painpoint of the market by identifying the niche need and desire instead of establishing a set of demographics.

At the end of this, I am supposed to produce a marketing plan for Brim Lamp – the lamp designed for urban nomads.


1. Drummond, G., Ashford, R. & Ensor, J. (2008) Strategic Marketing: Planning and Control. London: Butterworth- Heinemann.

2. Benun, I. (2015) Command The Fees You Deserve. [Online Webcast][Accessed on 11th March 2015]

3. Atkinson, S. (eds.) (2014) The Business Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained. New York: DK Publishing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s