This is the era of design as more than just a strategic business initiative -- it's a way of life and a method of bringing creative thinking to rational, left-brained business professionals.
With the current shift from design as a decorative function to design as a business requirement, designers have been forced to equip an arsenal of tools that go beyond what we'd traditionally call design. As such, we designers have been appending the word "strategy" to everything that we do, perhaps in the belief that it creates a higher-level business orientation to our often intuitive decision-making process. Brand strategy. Content strategy. Design strategy. Interaction strategy. Media strategy. We've developed a strategic nomenclature that is like peeling back the layers of an onion. The list goes on and on and on.
But design within marketing as a core business function only has three fundamental strategies. These are what our clients recognize as indispensable foundations for any creative project, though they aren't all "creative" in the traditional sense. And design strategy can't exist without them.
1. Business Strategy
This is big picture thinking that encompasses the most important questions for any corporation: cash flow, product creation and distribution, and overall operations. Marketing strategy and tactical strategy fall out of overall business strategy and support the overall business needs.
To make a bold generalization: this is the area that designers often impact the most, with the least desire of input by the business principals. After all, we have BFAs, not MBAs.
2. Overall Marketing Strategy
Based on our business needs -- which may be informed by marketing -- what actions should we take in the market to better sell our products or services?
This is an aggregate view of tactics that can be taken and their intended reactions in the market at large, concerning long-term brand equity and value as well as short-term sales gains. Most designers want to own this space, as they can predict and control each project that they engage.
3. Tactical Marketing Strategy
What is the approach that governs each individual action that we need to take, and in what channel(s)? This is where we get to do the tangible design work, and reap the rewards of implementing a project properly. Without the proper tactics, you won't have creative that makes an impact.
Over the coming weeks, I'm going to outline a taxonomy of how our creative strategies, as designers, can be properly forged by these three fundamental marketing strategies. I'm also going to outline some baseline rules that can govern what creative strategies you choose, what you outsource to partners, and what you decline to include in your core set of capabilities that you share with your clients.