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Adobe’s Terry Fortescue on why design-led thinking matters for brands

When Uber redesigned its look in February this year, it added different colour palettes and patterns for different countries, to match their ‘character’. The company said in a blog post, that it is looking to extend this to different cities around the world besides just countries. Why is design so important for a brand like Uber? Terry Fortescue, Adobe Senior Director, Enterprise Markets remarked, “The concept of design has always been a key part of any marketing campaign, but “design” has moved from being viewed as a departmental effort in Marketing to becoming a major strategic initiative discussed at Board of Director and C-level meetings.”

There is also a rise in visual storytelling as visual-based platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest have opened up to advertising. Ms Fortescue talks to Digital Market Asia about why brands need to have a design-led thinking.

“Design-led thinking and ‘design-led innovation’ are part of today’s corporate conversations given the unpredictable market dynamics that can instantly change if a fast-moving disruptive entrant comes into play. Uber and Airbnb are excellent examples of companies that have put design at the heart of their business, not just into marketing campaigns. Becoming a design-led company requires a serious dedication to understanding your customer – and understanding how your customer interacts with your brand. It is critical to invest in customer journey mapping, apply dedication to enhancing what works and changing what isn’t, and to hire experienced user experience designers who can optimise the brand experience,” she commented.

The design culture
Even with the right tools and highly experienced design talent, companies will only succeed if the concept of design permeates throughout the culture. She quotes John Maeda, Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers who had said on the importance of design that some of the top companies are living and breathing design from the top down. Mr Maeda had said, “Nike’s CEO is a designer. Apple has a senior vice president of design. Businesses started by designers have created billions of dollars of value, are raising billions of dollars in capital, and venture capital (VC) firms – a bellwether of what’s to come – increasingly recognise how design impacts the bottom line.”

In this digital era, consumers make decisions nearly instantaneously based on their experience with the brand. “Companies must embrace design holistically – from buy-in at the executive level, to hiring the right talent, to instituting programmes that encourage creativity and innovation within the culture, through to implementing the tools and processes for high-velocity content creation and delivery,” she explains.

Keeping up with the changing times
Last year many visual-based platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Tubmlr and Vine opened up new opportunities for brands to reach millions of new consumers. Speaking about how brands should embrace visual storytelling, Ms Fortescue says, “These platforms, by their nature, have constant refresh of content, so advertisers have an even grander challenge to deliver standout experiences that instantly connect and draw in the viewer with their message or story. But it’s not just telling ‘one’ story or delivering a ‘one-time’ message. Today, advertisers must put forth relevant and personalised stories on an ongoing and measured basis, and this translates specifically into the need for volumes of well-designed content.”

Another development that still continues to drive debates in the industry is of ad-blocking. Once Apple allowed third party-apps to block ads on the iPhone browser Safari, advertisers became worried about their revenues. Ms Fortescue highlights that, “Delivering standout and effective customer experiences has become more critical than ever in today’s market landscape. Powerful experiences change the way we interact, entertain, work, and relate to the world around us; it is how you can break through the noise and make an impact.”

“There will always be advancements in technology, and consumers will continue to grow in their tech savviness. What will transcend these ongoing trends depends on whether the message resonates –and whether it is delivered with perfect performance, personalisation, scale, and relevance,” she added.

Adobe’s focus on design
Adobe has always been at the forefront of design discussions. Speaking about the tools it offers brands to create customer experiences with a design-led thinking, Ms Fortescue remarks, “Adobe’s approach to building great customer experiences is to combine design-led content and data in a thoughtful and sophisticated way. We are the only software company that brings standout content and powerful data together to get results. Through our creative, marketing and document tools, we help businesses build and deliver great experiences across every touchpoint. Building on our unique foundation of content and data, Adobe has developed an enterprise platform to empower great customer experiences.”

The company has three clouds for this purpose – the Creative Cloud, Adobe Document Cloud and Adobe Marketing Cloud. “Adobe works very closely with many industry analysts and our own leading customers to help anticipate future trends.The most common point of view is that it will continue to be an increasingly noisy, digital world. Well-designed, standout brand experiences matter more than ever. The stakes will get higher, so companies today need to quickly assess how to transition into a design-led organisation, and specifically audit their content creation, management, delivery, and measurement platforms. To get ready for the future, organisations need to take immediate action now and begin to take steps towards their digital transformation,” she adds underlining the importance of design again.

Speaking about the future focus of digital this year, Ms Fortescue highlights,

“Digital will become more integral to business ROI – putting design at the front and centre of the content strategy. We know from research that people are becoming more selective about the content they view as they find themselves inundated across their many devices.The ability of a business to understand the value of each piece of content through its metadata and usage analytics will dramatically shorten the cycle of capture / create / output / measure. In many cases, getting it published will be more important than getting it perfect.”

“Focus will grow on ‘always be creating’ – empowering designers to act on creative inspiration wherever and whenever that happens. Phones – already accepted as content capture devices for images and videos – will grow in capability for content capture with even higher quality and improved depth of field. But it will be software on phones that will grow further – in the ability to edit, composite, synthesise and output new content. Not through mimicking desktop actions, but through entirely new touch interface paradigms that will mean totally new and different processes for digital creation,” she concludes.

Ms Fortescue’s 4 critical qualities for great customer experiences:
• It is compelling to capture customers’ interest and draw them in. It needs to look beautiful, be dynamic and display perfectly across devices.
• It is personal so it understands who the customer is, where they are and what they like.
• It is useful so people can get things done faster, wherever they are, so they can move to the next thing.
• And it is everywhere so customers can be reached at the moment where they are working, reading, watching, purchasing or doing whatever else it is that you as a business want to touch. Whether they are in a store, on their mobile device, or using a dashboard in their car – you need to be there.

Shubhi Tandon

Shubhi Tandon is the Assistant Editor at Digital Market Asia. Fascinated by the evolving digital media industry, she has focussed on tracking developments in the Asia Pacific market since 2014.