What design managers can learn from brand management!

It’s not ground-breaking that design managers, like others, can learn a lot by looking over the horizon of their own discipline and can benefit from smart ideas and concepts translated to their own business. In fact, history shows that design management has always been inspired by disciplines like architecture, change management, operation management, etc. However smart ideas that are simple to translate are difficult to find.

In the current issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review Karen A. Brown, Richard Ettenson and Nancy Lea Hyer discuss “Why Every Project Needs a Brand (and How to Create One)”. The leading question of the article, how to get the right level of attention, resources and support, is key for running mid- and large-scale design management projects and programms.

The article describes the Projects Leaders Toolkit, including five iterative stages (5Ps framework), that can easily be used for design management projects. Just take your current project and be honest if you apply the principles of traditional brand management:

PITCH: Initital effort to sell the need of the project

  • Are you convincing key decision makers on the value of design and design management?
  • Are you communicating in simple language why the project is important to the company, not only from the view of the designers?
  • Do you make the work seem compelling and attractive to non-designers?
  • Do you have a catchy project name and elevator speech (incl. the underlying rationale)?

PLAN: Project goals and activities

  • Do you link project activities to the overall project promise?
  • Do you encourage open discussion about the risk and threats of the project?
  • Do you carefully build and maintain the perceived project viability?
  • Do you involve key stakeholders outside the design department to ensure feasibility and credibilty?

PLATFORM: Official project launch

  • Do you ensure that all project participants and decision makers have a certain minimum level of design understanding?
  • Do you adjust your message to the needs of each target group, but simultanously assure message consistency across audiences?
  • Do you communicate your message both emotinally as well as intellectual?
  • Do you have a communication and branding strategy and roadmap (sending the right message in the right time with the right media)?

PERFORMANCE: Delivery of project promise

  • Do you link your project results to the initial project promise?
  • Do you make design decisions based on rational success criteria (not based on individual taste)?
  • Do you communicate results transparently to stakeholders?

PAYOFF: Proof of project promise

  • Do you close the project with proof of promise delivery and lessions learned?
  • Do you link project achievements to business strategy and project objectives?
  • Do you celebrate the project sucess?

If you did not answered all questions positive, better be prepared to adjust or re-brand your project. Project leaders who embrace a brand mindset to achieve personal and organisational strategic goals are more likely sucessful and advance their carreer than those who don’t.

source: Karen A. Brown, Richard Ettenson and Nancy Lea Hyer (2011): “Why Every Project Needs a Brand (and How to Create One)” in: “MIT Sloan Management Review”, Cambridge, Summer 2011 Vol.52 No. 4, sloanreview.mit.edu