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Cannes Lions 2010: And the Indian ‘dabbawala’ has a lesson to teach in ‘design’

21-June-2010
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Cannes Lions 2010: And the Indian ‘dabbawala’ has a lesson to teach in ‘design’

The consumer landscape is changing, and there are many factors influencing it. While the various sessions at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival 2010 looked at some of these aspects, there were two sessions that focussed on ‘design’.

In one of the morning sessions, Luciano Deos, President, Abedesign – Brazilian Association of Design Companies spoke on design in context to the BRIC markets. According to Deos, as the global attention on BRIC markets kept growing, there was a need for these markets to take the lead in new ideas. He pointed out that there was a transition from production to creation, thereby bringing in a silent shift from ‘Made in’ to ‘Designed in’, in these markets.

Deos further said that a production economy was emerging due to reasons as diverse as growth of various disciplines to changes coming due to social diversities. And today, design could not be limited to just sophisticated colours, fonts, art and placement - it was also in new thoughts and products. The changing production economy was making way for an unconventional approach towards ‘design’.

One key example cited in this session was the well-known Indian dabbawalas. Referring to a CBS News report on the Indian dabbawalas, Deos explained, “The work and lifestyle in the metros in India have created a new kind of business. The dabbawalas are a great example of design for the masses, where it is providing large scale solutions. Forbes listed dabbawalas as 99.99 per cent accurate and the scale we are talking is millions of lunch boxes carried from homes or lunch providers to offices. One wonders what solution a McKinzie would come up with, if the situation was presented to them.” He also spoke of the electric bikes in China and the voting machines in Brazil.

Design also played a role in simple innovations borne from everyday needs. He showcased some of the examples from ‘My Technology’ shown on Discovery Channel that aired examples from villages and small towns in India on washing machine run by pedal power to devices made for climbing coconuts trees.

Multinational companies also experimented with design to bring products for various strata. The Tata Swatch Purifier, Nike product for Muslim athletes and P&G green tea toothpaste for China were amongst the few discussed.

The new age consumers

Later in the day, a more mainstream discussion on design took place when WGSN officials spoke on different kinds of emerging consumer groups that forced marketers to design products differently to be able to meet the demands of the new age consumers.

According to Susanna Kempe, CEO, WGSN, the three kinds of emerging consumers were ‘New conservatives’, ‘Cocoon-ers’ and ‘Creatives’. She explained, “The New Conservatives are people who are changing the way they treat their social boundaries - they are more liberal. They embrace brands that can echo that. Cocoon-ers, on the other hand, are those that take the ‘Your Space’ proposition and envelope it. They literally stay in the brand that is able to connect with them. The Creatives are those who are sure to respond to new treatment to materials, or to the new approach of finding a balance between intimate and vision.”

Torsten Hochstetter, Global Creative Director, Sport Style Design, adidas Group, observed here that design had to work hand in hand with marketing. He explained, “At adidas, there is immense clarity on which direction the brand has to grow. Hence, on many occasions, the marketing brief was on similar lines of what the design team was thinking. But that said, there are enough instances of battles as well. Marketing eventually looks at something that would appeal to the masses, and would bring in the numbers. Design professionals want to bring the edge. One has to finally find the balance.”

Kempe’s remark summed up the discussions. She explained that today, marketers and creative professionals were in an age when anyone could be a content creator or a creative director or a journalist. “To have any authority in your line of work, you have to be that much better. And that embodies focus on every minute detail,” she maintained.

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