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Intuitive, attractive and functional design is the most powerful way for a business to stand out against the competition, grow and build customer satisfaction. But, what kind of design am I referring to: marketing design, interior design or even fashion design? The answer is that all three kinds of design are vitally important to the success of a business.
I am not a designer by trade or education, but I have started to notice and feel the effects of design everywhere. Recently, I took a short vacation to Miami Beach and had the opportunity to stay at two different hotels: The Setai Miami Beach and the W South Beach. They are both upscale hotels, with very attractive designs and motifs, but with completely different design concepts. The W is about sharp edges, bright colors, white on most surfaces and boom-boom music playing around the grounds.
The Setai uses muted tones and colors, soft edges, many quiet areas and relaxing music:
At The Setai, the experience on the beach was relaxing and I was able to stay that way all day. When I was lying on the beach at the W, after a few hours, I started to feel visually tried and just a little tense. The Setai has beige beach umbrellas and the W has magenta and white ones. It occurred to me that the harsher colors of the W’s umbrellas were wearing me out and detracting from the experience. I just couldn’t keep looking at them even with sunglasses on.
If the color of beach umbrellas could affect my experience that much, then surely other aspects of design were even maybe more important. I thought back to when I opened my camera store in 2008. At that time, digital photography and Internet selling (think Amazon) had virtually wiped out all the camera stores in existence. Over a fifteen-year period, the number of camera stores decreased from more than 10,000 to a few hundred, and there were very few that were still profitable. People, even those close to me, thought I was crazy for opening a brand new 5,000-square-foot retail camera superstore. But, my new store was all about customer experience, and I now can see clearly that a large part of that experience was centered around design. Within five years of our opening, we become one of the largest single locations camera stores in the country. I would call that a design and branding success.
Most of the camera stores that had existed to that point were small, town center or strip mall stores, that looked much like hardware stores, except replace the screwdrivers and screws with cameras and film. My store had 30-foot high ceilings, bright lighting and products displayed like jewelry. So, was the build and redesign of the interior of the store the major factor in our success?
I asked Maria Savina, Principal Interior Designer at Blue Owl Design, who said, “Yes, the interior redesign of your store was likely the most important factor in its success. Retail design can be an extremely powerful marketing force. People rarely remember the details in a store, but they remember how it made them feel and the experience they had while there — and that gets them to buy more and come back again. The exterior facade, window displays, interior design and merchandising must be both functional and deliver the story of the brand. You can manipulate the colors, forms and shapes of your design to deliver the brand image or message. If you think about an Apple Store or a Starbucks, you immediately can visualize what their stores look like and you instantly get their brand message. I have had several retail clients' store sales go up by 50 percent or more after an interior store and exterior facade redesign.”
My camera superstore also got a fresh modern look to our logo, and we completely changed the way we marketed ourselves. We shifted away from old-style newspaper print ads to using social media, personal branding, employee advocacy and loyalty programs to advertise what we did. So, was our rebranding and redesign of our logo the major factor in our success?
I asked Nicholas Kraus, CEO of Kraus Marketing, who said, “Yes, rebranding and redesign your marketing assets were likely the most important factors in the success of your business. We say that you can use touch points to complete a strategy, or you can use touch points to truly touch people. Visual communication (design) is very important to the success of the campaign. With poor design, some of your targeted demographic will subconsciously ignore your ad. While others will consciously say, “This company just doesn’t get me.” When great design is paired with meaningful messaging, the targeted demographic immediately connects with your company.
We rebranded a $ 10M information technology company a few years back. Its logo was made by a friend in Microsoft Word, and its website wasn’t much better. After a rebrand, the company grew to over $ 50M in revenue in just a few short years. It confirmed that its success was in large part due to a redesigned brand that portrayed it as the thought leading company they had become.”
My new camera store staff also got a fashion upgrade. We previously asked our staff to “just dress nicely,” but I changed that and fitted them all in fashionable blue, button down shirts, branded with our new logo, stylish jeans and shoes. We wanted our customers to easily be able to identify store staff and feel comfortable around them. For myself, I previously came to work in jeans and a t-shirt. I started wearing designer sports jackets, fitted shirts, pocket squares and dress shoes, and that style became a large part of my personal brand, which was the most powerful advertising force we had. So, was our new fashion style and statement the major factor in our success?
I asked Natalie Decleve of Natty Style, who said, “Yes the fashion upgrade was a crucial element in your success. Personal style becomes even more important for an entrepreneur, because your image is your calling card. When you are representing your personal brand, clothing and the way you present yourself become one of the first things that people notice. It’s important to think about how you’d like to be recognized, and how your personal style is reflective of your business.
"I’ve had clients come to me before big presentations or travel conferences when they want to look their best. Even if you’re not looking to make a statement, dressing appropriately will help collogues see you rather than being distracted by poor clothing choices. One client told me recently that he found the confidence to pitch a huge project to some TV producers because he no longer self-conscious going into the room. Another client swears she got promoted because she started dressing better at the office. I’m a big believer in dressing well, so that you can spend your energy on your job – rather than worrying about what to wear. Dressing well is such a mood booster that it can’t help but boost productivity too!”
I think it’s clear that design — interior, marketing and fashion — are huge factors for growth and success of your business. So, is it time for an interior redesign, rebranding, and a fashion upgrade for you, your staff and your business? If you aren’t sure, bring in an expert and see what they have to say. It might be your best chance to go big.