I have been reflecting upon how much our work in the world of marketing design in the retail industry has changed over the years. Now that I’m working from home and have a staff that is communicating online rather than in person, I have taken a deeper look at how our industry has changed. We need to continue to evolve as agencies and clients need to tap into our resources.
A World of Change.
This list is by no means complete. But it is a list of some items that used to matter to us as marketers and marketing designers. The main reason they don’t matter is because of technological advancements, speed to market and client’s evolving needs.
How We Communicate.
My week used to be spent in my car driving to meetings then documenting and disseminating information. Now, communication doesn’t happen in person as much. Many of my clients aren’t in the same state. Those that are, don’t always require a face-to-face meeting. We email, text, Skype, etc. If we don’t understand something, we avoid picking up the phone to clarify comment. But we do Zoom! In fact there is a lot of Zooming going on.
Not as Many Design Briefs.
At one time, I spent the majority of my day writing marketing design briefs for assignments. It would insure a project would meet the client’s main objectives. Communication priorities were established as well as design criteria. After all, how can you judge a design without knowing the objectives? Some of our clients are moving too fast to adhere to a brief. In addition, with crowd sourcing, Fivr, 99designs etc. a client can toss out an idea and they judge it by their own personal preferences. The bottomline is, clients like to collaborate during the design process a lot more these days.
What is Typography?
Marketing designers are great at choosing fonts that represent a brand that works on packaging, digital content, collateral and signage. However, some aren’t well schooled in typography rules. Typesetting used to be an art. Attention to detail like kerning, rivers, tracking and leading was mandatory. We still pay attention to it but I doubt our clients realize we do. I’m not sure how much of this is taught in school, however, I do have a few clients that really zero in on typography errors—others not so much.
A World of Hurt.
I’m not a designer but I’ve been managing marketing design projects in retail and packaging for most of my career. I know change is necessary, but I have watched the marketing design profession be reduced to an app that anyone can master. Now design can be FREE. Here are a few changes that have really hurt our profession.
Branding for FREE.
There are still agencies that focus only on creating brands, but there are fewer. I don’t know how any marketing designer could make a living by participating in crowd sourcing. I also don’t know how a “unique” brand can be created for $100 without using clip art or “borrowing” from other designs. I can see how these options are appealing to a start up or small business but it can be risky. If something is “borrowed” from a client with money and lawyers, they may spend a lot more than $100 and then it won’t look like such a great deal.
Agencies VS In-house Creative.
A lot of marketing design agencies are in a world of hurt if they haven’t evolved or didn’t evolve fast enough. I found out quickly that a lot of what we were selling was being brought in-house to be managed. Since I have worked on both sides of the fence I can understand why. You can keep tighter control of the brand. It is perceived as cheaper. I’ve seen more and more corporations hiring Creative Directors and marketing teams—essentially an in-house creative agency. There are pros and cons and I have blogged about it in the past (see link below). Agencies are still relevant but they need to have a specialized service that isn’t easy to duplicate in-house.
Print Replaced by Digital.
The bottom dropped out of the printing industry years ago but I can still mourn its loss. There are printers that survived or were folded into a larger group. However, the fine art of printing is a thing of the past. No more press checks and painstaking color correcting. Some jobs call for it, but for the most part images are viewed digitally and no two digital images are displayed the same on all devices. Print is still tactile and portable but digital can trump it in most cases. Packaging and some in-store displays are still part of the print portfolio, but those continue to change as well. There is more digital signage that can be updated on the fly. Also packaging now needs to adapt to online sales as well as brick-and-mortar. If designers clung to print as their main source of income, they are hurting now.
A World of Opportunity.
With all of the change, there are still opportunities for marketing design agencies and contractors in retail and other industries.
More Story Telling.
Designers are taking their graphic design education and are carving out their own niche by animating content or creating infographics that quickly communicate concepts and tell stories on social media that can be shared. But this isn’t new to our industry. Saul Bass was an icon in the graphic design world. He took his ability and talent of communicating ideas to the movies. Sure, he was known for some pretty famous logos: AT&T, Girl Scouts of USA, Geffen Records and Quaker Oats to name just a few. But, he broadened his reach into Hollywood and created a new niche for himself by designing movie title sequences like Psycho, West Side Story, Big and Casino.
Sell Strategic Thinking.
Marketing design isn’t cake decorating. There is a reason and a purpose for every element that ties into a marketing strategy. Companies are moving so fast and they have become more and more reactive rather than proactive. Marketing designers are trained to focus on user experience. They care about your customers and how your brand is viewed. This is baked into every touchpoint they are involved in creating: social media, websites, documentation, advertising, landing pages, email, direct mail, Google A+ content, infographics, etc. This strategic thinking isn’t always in-house and from a practical standpoint, sometimes getting this type of consulting is better from someone not too close to the brand.
Present ROI and Prove your Value.
There are so many ways marketing design firms can prove their worth with on-line data. Agencies don’t have to design an email program and hope it works. Now they can test and tweak and test and tweak all of the content they create. If you design a website, present the Google analytics to your client. Often times, they are too busy to even run the reports. There are social media tools that allow marketing designers to check the effectiveness of their posts. SEO is a specialty that many companies prefer to have an outside source manage as well. Ads can be placed where their customers are most interested so they conversion rates are higher. There no longer is an excuse NOT to show your value to a company’s bottomline.
Here are some additional articles that explore design and marketing trends over time: