A report by Essen International

The design report is an exploration into the future of design. A deep-dive into the rapid changes created by tech and man. This report has been developed in co-creation with the most ambitious brand leaders around the world.

It identifies five developments that we all must act upon to stay ahead of the game.

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Agile consumption

Consumers are to a greater extent paying for access instead of ownership. This creates new challenges as it force brand owners to deliver, best-practice, in real time, 24/7. The upside is a continuous and deepened relationship for those who adjust.

47% of US businesses have adopted or are considering adopting a recurring revenue business model. Source: Gartner (Building a strategy for the subscription economy, 2011)

Spotify, Zipcar, Netflix have replaced industrial players Virgin Records, Bilia and broadcasters. Several traditional companies are following: Microsoft with Office 365, Adobe with Creative Cloud and SVT with Play. The ones unwilling to change will probably not be around in a few years.

Action: Acknowledge the situation, disregard the old ways of working, and optimize your brand for real time consumption. Embrace the data created by the deepened relationship and use it to design a better experience.

“The consumer behavior has changed from paying for an owned product or service to paying for access to a product or service”

Design thinking as the game-changer

Today's fastest growing companies do so because of the value and delight they create for their audiences. Their audiences are their marketing.

20% out of 1700 board-level excecutives around the world believes that design thinking will be NO. 1 approach to drive profitable growth for their companies. Source: pwc.com/innovationsurvey

Our research shows that today’s most successful companies are great design thinkers. They operate with a clear determination to be helpful and delightful for their audiences by constantly improving the design of their businesses and the experiences they create.

Action: Introduce design-thinking into your organization. Have confidence that one delighted person will create another. Start at your core and see what you can design better in order to improve your business around it.

“Today’s least successful companies can be identified by the amount they spend on advertising. Companies don´t need advertising, they need to be designed better”

Faster than your neighbor

Minimum viable brand is not longer one among other process perspectives but a necessity in order to reach an acceptable speed to market.

66% of firms using agile methods believe they complete projects faster Source: The agile business by Gist

Modern businesses are not designed with industrialized processes. Modern businesses are agile, fast and explorative. They create, listen to feedback and improve thereafter. This new society of ours has killed our old way of working. Our research shows that today’s most successful companies have intuitively been designed upon this perspective. It´s time we welcome minimum viable brand.

Action: Embrace the state of perpetual beta. Allow for iterative processes that not only quicker allow us to explore the future experience but utilize a modern brand perspective where we ensure relevant and delightful experiences for our audiences.

“We have to work with an agile approach, it enables a faster pace in our developing processes. The traditional development processes within the banking industry are too slow.”

Perfect by being imperfect

Years of consistency mania have put more than a few brands in the bracket of corporate behemoths. Today’s audiences perceive corporate perfection as uninventive and unauthentic. There is a need for a new model. It´s time to give in to creativity.

80% feel that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth Source: Adobe State of Create Study 2012

Our study shows that the most successful brands avoid full brand consistency. It´s perceived as a factor of hygiene and when perfected, something to avoid. The most successful brands keep track of its alignment and make sure to introduce spikes of surprise when the brand is at risk of being perceived as stale.

Action: Allow for change and variation with a constant focus on relevance for your audience. Kill the brand book in favor of a brand portal. Perceive the brand as living with evolution as its natural state.

“It's our job to establish a pattern that our audience can recognize. It's also our duty to break it up every once in a while”

The cool kids are racing

The gap between the best and the rest is increasing. Innovative collaborations are created between the best in two fields, leaving the b-players to fall further behind.

86% feel partnership is more important than stand-alone success. Source: GE (Drivers and impact of innovation)

Cred is the new currency of the corporate world. Cred not only puts you at the heart of early adopters, it allows for innovative and profitable innovation. Brands like Nike and Nasa, Volvo and Stutterheim, Google and Sonos are already doing it. The innovations of years to come will spring from the combination of strengths; by creating innovation upon the combined existing, knowledge of two front-runners. Cred will position you as a potential partner and must be considered an objective in every strategy.

Action: Use early adopters as a target group. Understand and keep track of how they perceive your brand, as their opinions will be the ones of your audience in not too long. Our research show that the most successful brands navigate with a clearly aspirational audience in mind in order to make sure that they are first in understanding when to introduce new innovations. Google for instance, a brand that is working hard in delighting us all works towards a defined audience of urban influencers. Working with a clearly aspirational audience allows Google to be several years ahead of their average user. Time means money. And this amount of time allows Google to be first on almost every innovation.

“Working with urban influencers as our target group as well as ‘amazingly interesting people’ as our brand ambassadors keeps the brand innovative and authentic”

“The starting and ending point of a collaboration is always to focus on values and purpose. Instead of focusing on how many people we can reach we focus on the experience.”

Over the course of three months during 2014, we’ve interviewed some of the most ambitious brand leaders around the world. We would like to take the opportunity to thank every one of them:

  • Niklas Agevik, CEO, Instabridge
  • Thomas Areskoug, Market Director, COOP
  • Åsa Borg, Marketing Director, Volvo Cars
  • Rocky Brennicke, Market Director, Fjällräven
  • Hanna Brogren, Director of Communication, City of Stockholm
  • Jonas Carlsson, VP, Brand and Marketing, Toca Boca
  • Patrick Cox, Creative Director, Independent
  • Bo Eklöf, Founder, Stadium
  • Monica Ewert, Director of Communications, Stockholm Business Region
  • Christina Grönskog, Deputy Director of Communications, Stockholm Business Region
  • Karl Heiselman, Senior Director, Apple
  • Lotta Lovén, Head of Innovation, Swedbank
  • Hoa Ly, CEO, Hoa’s Tool Shop
  • Ulrika Saxon, CEO, Bonnier Media Growth
  • Frank Schuil, CEO, Safello
  • Joe Stitzlein, Global Creative Director, Google Brand Studios
  • Sofie Travessét, Brand Manager, Trelleborg
  • Christian Wilsson, Director of Design, Spotify
  • Magdalena Öhrn, Head of Public Relations, Ving
  • Peter Östman, Director of Communication, Vasakronan
  1. Introduction
  2. Agile consumption
  3. Design thinking as the game-changer
  4. Faster than your neighbor
  5. Perfect by being imperfect
  6. The cool kids are racing
  7. About this report