The Design Management Institute kicked off day two of this year’s conference, Design + Brand + Experience, with two presentations from global brand leaders. The first presentation, from Verena Kloos, president of BMW Group’s DesignworksUSA, was fairly technical and focused on brand strategy. Lars Engman, Design Director at IKEA, spoke next, offering a broad look at the evolution of the IKEA brand and discussed where the company finds new ideas. Click through for a quick summary of each…
BMW’s Kloos calls brands “the most accessible form of visual culture,” relating the most popular brands, such as Apple, to religions or cultures. “When managed correctly,” she says, “brand is the single most effective corporate asset.” (Author Martin Roll made a similar claim when he visited Fast Company last month to promote his book on emerging brands in Asia, Asian Brand Strategy.) To her point, Kloos says that most brand failures (18 out of 20 new brands fail) result from a lack of differentiation, or a weak brand. “We’re branded out,” she said. “There are too many brands!” To survive, stand out by building a unique, strong brand (some technical PowerPoint slides followed…)
Engman, from IKEA, was less concerned with branding strategy, instead emphasizing the importance of building creativity into the company. “Beautiful products are not all that difficult to develop,” he says. “Producing them at an affordable price is what takes work.” To inspire new associations in IKEAs design work, he reaches out to fellow designers at other global companies – places like cell phone maker Sony Erikson, clothier H&M and French auto-maker Renault. IKEA’s designers are asked to take the same approach; each spends one to one-and-a-half months a year on the road, visiting manufacturers and looking for ways to cut costs without compromising aesthetic value. Beyond Engman’s in-house and freelance designers, he works with universities in the US, China, Japan and elsewhere for 8-12 weeks at a time. (Occassionally offering the best students a job back in Sweden.) The motto he extends to all his designers? “To make mistakes is the privilege of the active person.”
Design mistakes? AOK. Environmetal mistakes? No way. Engman notes that IKEA employs a handful of forest workers who replant trees and keep an eye on the company’s impact on natural resources. How’s that for brand strategy?