I currently work at an agency. The majority of projects that our clients engage us in are marketing-based. I define marketing as a collateral production executed in order to fulfill a supporting business need of an existing product or service.
Lately, and with increasing frequency, our agency has been retained for projects that more appropriately fall under the category of product design. I define product design as a primary production executed with the objective of developing new business around the item being produced.
Personally, I prefer product design. I believe, and I’d love to discuss this below, that it requires a slightly different and more technically demanding skill set. That being said, the virtue of being a good product designer doesn’t automatically make you a good marketing designer. I am a better product designer than I am a marketing designer. While my marketing projects do enjoy success, it is likely because I approach them with the rigor of product design…which often creates a swimming upstream effect in the fast & loose world of marketing.
Moving on, every once in a while a third type of project comes down the pipe that is neither product or marketing…it is something in-between. I’m not going to go into depth with these types of projects as I don’t know whether to think of them as entrepreneurial marketing or quirky pieces of what could ultimately become a product offering. What I do know is that they are hell to work on from a process standpoint.
While I lack the expertise to go on at length regarding process, one thing I am certain of is that in order to be done at a high level both marketing and product design require their own distinct processes. Personally I feel like it has taken me a foolishly long period of time to arrive at this conclusion, and I recognize that there are many who would not yet agree with me.
As I’d prefer not to debate process methodologies at the moment, I thought it best to start a list of the differences I have experienced with regards to Product Design and Marketing in the hopes that these differences would illustrate the need for separate processes.
- As stated, Product is primary design. Marketing is inherently secondary design.
- Product is driven by the desire to perfect a single, core interaction. Marketing is driven by positioning and messaging.
- Product targets users. Marketing targets demographics.
- Product is a process measured in months. Marketing is a process measured in weeks.
- Finally, and perhaps most controversial… Product, in order to succeed, has to be Innovation driven. Marketing, to be effective, has to be Product driven.
…so, did it work?