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Nick Foley

President, Southeast Asia & Pacific | 20 Apr 2013

Brand aesthetics and the financial impact cannot live in isolation, what you will see is more focus on the brand being able to financially justify themselves. Design of the brand is the best way for it to truly distinguish itself, as long as the design of the brand is representative of the experience consumers expect to have with it.

Nick Foley is President, Southeast Asia and Pacific, and Managing Director of Landor’s Singapore office. He is responsible for expanding new business in the area. Foley has a keen interest in brand innovation and repositioning mature brands for future success. A highly experienced and knowledgeable marketer, Foley has worked on a number of well-known brands throughout his career at Landor. He has been instrumental in the repositioning of Australian Wool Innovation, has worked on the new identity for the City of Melbourne, and has been involved with the vibrant makeover of Isis, the creation of the award-winning Yummy Tummy Koalas brand, and the inspiring identity for Abbott’s Village Bakery.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Priyanka Mehra, Foley emphasises on the importance of design in the brand mix, optimising design in the brand mix, his expectations from the India market, FedEx case study and more…

Q. The CMO today has donned the role of a quasi-financial officer and has to ensure RoI. Is design as part of the brand mix taking a beating in this process of making every penny count?

The aesthetics of how a brand is now measured in terms of RoI is a global trend. CMOs need to look at the bottom line more than they ever did. Brand is intangible, but it is as much of an asset as piece of factory equipment, it is also a function of design. It all begins with how you position a brand in the mind of a target consumer, the more desirable, engaging and credible it is, the greater the likelihood of the brand having the financial impact that CMOs are looking for.

When brands don’t have meaning and an emotional connect with the consumer, that is when they are driven by price and commoditised. Then the CMO is the first to get a call from the CFO, because margins on that brand are declining, which means relevancy and differentiation have been lost.

Brand aesthetics and the financial impact cannot live in isolation, what you will see is more focus on the brand being able to financially justify themselves. Design of the brand is the best way for it to truly distinguish itself, as long as the design of the brand is representative of the experience consumers expect to have with it.

Q. What are some of the factors to be kept in mind when it comes to optimising design in the brand mix?

To begin with, narrow down what are the factors that are going to advance the brand, and find new ways to evolve the brand. Appealing brand design is what allows you to charge a premium.

Brands are like people, we choose to interact with people because we associate with their values, beliefs and attributes. The biggest risk in repositioning is the consumer’s familiarity with the brand changes, at which point they would choose not to have a relationship with that brand any more.

I would caution against radically changing a large brand because we are speaking about the equity and philosophy that goes it. You only drastically change if there is a distinct commercial consumer benefit; design should be used to drive the brand familiarity and relevance without making a drastic change.

CMOs need to be careful that they don’t rely too overtly on market research, which though useful, shouldn’t dictate what you do. CMOs should have a very good belief on the higher order, which is the brand essence that really propels the brand.

Q. Do you think enough risk taking and experimentation is happening at present?

It has been restricted in the last five years due to global financial crisis, the environment right now is that people want the return without the risk. But to get returns, you have to experiment; risk taking and experimentation are needed most in established categories, and masterbrands such as P&G, Heinz, HUL. Currently, the global economy has affected confidence levels of brands, but I am hopeful that in markets such as India the confidence will be greater, with the influx of youth wanting to take more risk due to the greater entrepreneurial propensity.

Q. Where do you see design as a discipline In India, compared to the global scenario?

If you look at the nations where there is going to be a huge focus from the international community, India is up there with Brazil, Russia, Indonesia and China. Since the global financial crisis, the entire focus is on anywhere that has got a younger population. What you see now is more of a global influence, when it comes to design in India, but as organisations such as the Taj and Mahindra expand, you will see the trend reverse.

Indian designs are very unique. Mahindra is an example of how we have worked with the company to evolve design and make it more globally palatable. You take brands with a local appeal and tailor them to the global market.

India strikes me as the most entrepreneurial, with the greatest propensity to learn, which will have an impact on design. It is also a function of youth, who have cutting edge ideas; the entire world wants to engage with India now.

Q. Do you foresee a lot of growth for this discipline in India five years from now?

I see a lot of growth in this discipline, backed with more financial rigour. Brand custodians will also see design as a more holistic element of the brand.

Q. Could you share a global case study where design aesthetics have helped a brand evolve?

FedEx is an interesting case study, logistics isn’t the most interesting category, but at the heart of every brand is the essence which influences everything the brand does. For FedEx, it is global reliability that was expressed through ‘The world on time’. For the logo, we depicted the brand’s essence through an inverse white arrow between the two letters E and X. They never needed to spend a cent on advertising, when the brand was launched, it was done through the touch-points of the brand. The touch-points were aesthetically appealing, which drove the consideration, trial and which now drives advocacy for the brand. The brand has cut through and the design has enabled it to do this, by virtue of the touch-points.

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