an online conversation
about design management

‘Would you like fries with your
branding sir’

McDonalds are the masters of selling add-ons.

This approach was reinforced recently when I read an article about the way that Wolff Olins works to develop branding. He thinks we should involve clients more closely in the development process and examine the business from a distance.

He demonstrates this by showing businesses how they can prototype new business models. This is exactly what I have written about in The business of design showing a design business model canvas that can be used to develop or re-invent a design business. Having used a business model canvas to examine your business it is just a short step to using it to help clients examine their business model.

When Mercedes came to Wolff Olins, looking for help on creating new lines of business, he began by asking what the company was trying to become. This lead to Mercedes saying they were trying to break free from being just a dad’s car, and become more appealing to kids and mothers.

The usual approach to this would be to develop a marketing campaign targeting these groups. However Wolff Olins helped them create new businesses that would speak to those demographics.

First, they started a “Kinder Class” subscription service where a technician comes by to ensure your car is fitted properly with a car seat – even if that car isn’t a Mercedes. Eventually, that business will dovetail with a Mercedes-branded car seat.

Second, and even more successful, was a Mercedes driving school first rolled out in Europe. There are different courses aimed at different age groups, but the education is progressive, and there’s a particular focus on teaching younger drivers a more refined set of skills than they might learn in driver’s ed. For example, in one exercise aimed at making students more aware of their myriad driving decisions, students drive around a track blindfolded, with their only guide being a passenger who’s telling them when to turn.

This approach is also demonstrated in the Creating Shared Value (CSV) concept put forward by Michael E. Porter, the Harvard business strategy professor/guru.

He and his colleague, Mark R. Kramer, put forward the idea that a business brand can be strengthened by creating shared value. They see the past reliance on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to develop reputations has failed because corporations are trapped in an outdated approach to value creation.

What is “shared value”?

Shared value can be defined as the strategy and tactics that build the competitive advantage of a company while increasing the economic and social conditions in the communities in which it operates. Shared value creation focuses on identifying and expanding the connections between societal and economic progress.

We can translate this into our branding work by showing clients that they need the flexibility to move into different businesses and become a brand that is associated with shared value creation and new business models instead of just selling the ‘same old’ service or product.

In the example above Mercedes created shared value through its program to teach young drivers; a program that will lead to better drivers and fewer road incidents but also add to the Mercedes brand value.

I have been looking at this approach whilst developing the Design value proposition E-course and the more intensive face to face Selling design value course. In both of these I show that by looking at the unique aspects of your businesses you can package up services that you currently probably give away and turn them into services for a fee – that is you are selling design value.