The Difference Between Designers and Marketers

A reader of this blog, recently, inquired about the difference between Designers and Marketers. I took some time to think about it and came to so many conclusions that it was Wicked Marketing entry worthy. This won’t be as snarky as my usual posts, but then again I’ve been known to surprise myself now and then.

The most basic definition of a Marketer is someone who promotes or exchanges goods or services for money. A Marketer is also known as a promoter, but in the very rare occasion a Marketing is also responsible for Public Relations (something entirely different, but yet the same). A Designer, on the other hand, is someone who creates or makes original print and web marketing materials, artwork and the like.

While the two work hand in hand on most projects very rarely are they the same person. A strong Marketer will have at least a working knowledge of the limitations of design. Marketers are responsible for creating, executing and tracking the marketing strategy and tactics a particular project or campaign. Marketers are also responsible for understanding their clients’ needs, consistency of message, target audience and demographics, establishing milestones and creating, or outsourcing the creation, of the text content that is to be used on whatever piece, or pieces, is needed. When they have a concept in mind, they generally create thumbnail sketches or rough drawings of what the pieces they need will be to best communicate the ideas to the Designer who bring them to reality. Last but not least, marketers are also responsible for defining a strategy for and tracking the Return On Investment (ROI) to show the effectiveness of the marketing piece or campaign. First and foremost, Marketers are strategists, tactical analysts and sales people. A Marketer, for the purposes of defining the name, could be a person, team of like minded individuals or firm (larger than a team of like minded individuals, but smaller than a football team).

A strong Designer will have at least a working knowledge of marketing strategies, branding, the psychology of what sells or attracts and the different between how to design for print work or web. The Designer will translate the ideas created by the Marketer and the client to a visual medium. The Designer may suggest alternative marketing pieces, offer multiple variations of the initial design for choices, and suggest alternative mediums to assist in marketing the client (namely to their own benefit). Designers are responsible for creating the deliverables (marketing pieces), providing the pieces in formats for use on multiple platforms (if needed) and working with the Marketer to provide the best possible avenue to produce and create the designed items. A Designer needs to understand the clients budget restraints, voice, target market, avenues of use, and be able to communicate any questions, comments, concerns or ideas directly to the client. First and foremost, Designers are creative people. That means they are one part artist, one part mind reader and one part fortune teller. A Designer, for the purposes of defining the name, could be a person, a group of freelancers, a studio or a firm.

So now that we’ve outline, roughly, what they are; let’s go over how they work together. Generally a client will either source out their Marketer and/or Designer. If they have found their Designer first, hopefully, the Designer will suggest that the client uses a Marketer to come up with the strategy and allow the Designer to do what they do best”¦design. The Marketer will work with the client to determine their desired outcome, target audience, understand past marketing attempts, create a scope of work as defined (or limited by) a budget, and create the overall message. The Marketer will present a few rough ideas to the client for their selection or find one they feel strongly will best represent the client and run with it. The Marketer will then bring in the Designer to meet with the client, get a feel for the visual personality of the strategy and answer any questions the Designer may have regarding past work(s) the client has created.

From there the Designer goes away to that magical land called creation and waits for their respective Muse to hand down a few ideas. Mine tends to wait till the last possible second and then overload me with more choices than I can possibly present. Those ideas are then turned into rough drafts to present to the client. Notice I didn’t say finished works? The Marketer presents the ideas to the client who then has to choose one, or two. The designer gets any notes and feedback on the selection, returns to the land of creation and brings back a more polished product. This process could repeat several times. We’ll fast forward as thought they hit the proverbial home run on the first try.

The client signs off on the designs and the Marketer and Design begin their process of finding the best possible avenue to have the piece(s) created. Once done, the Designer steps out of the picture, tips his/her hat to the client and waits in the wings for the next piece, revision or what have you. The Marketer takes over at that point and, depending on the strategy, distributes to piece to the client or out to the avenues they determine them to go. After the run of the piece, the Marketer will look at the overall success of the project/campaign and report back to the customer with suggestions, improvements, or a finished report.

Please note I said “œGenerally” when this example started. Marketers and Designers are fickle people and the route that a project could take varies depending on both the Marketer and the Designer. The example was, in my opinion, the simplest route that a project could go without going into too much explanation. I only have so much space for text you know. Besides, I’m pretty sure you don’t want to get bored reading this.

Good Marketers and Designers are the mad scientists of their industry. They create pieces that sometimes won’t see the light of day for sometimes close to six months. When they create these pieces they have to look into the future and feel confident that these strategies and designs will still be relevant and appealing as they are when they created them.

What you need to understand, as I close this extremely long entry out, is that both Marketing and Design is subjective. Not everyone will like every concept or idea. These things are organic and can often take a life of their own. As a Marketer or Designer, you’re trying to get as many people you’ve never met to connect with something strongly enough for them to remember it firmly enough to tell other people about it, pull out their hard earned cash to pay for it and simply just engage them in such a way these pieces stand out in their day to day lives. Marketing and Design are not two things you should go lightly into assuming everyone can do. You’re bound to spend a lot of money on things that bring you very little if you do.

In closing, the difference between a Marketer and a Designer is vast, but ultimately you should feel confident in both enough to trust your business, project or event will be a success”¦whatever you decide that to be. I’d love to hear the experiences you’ve had with the Marketers and Designers in your past. I’d also like to know that you found this entry informative and educational. Drop me a line.

Who are you designing for”¦ you or your customers?

I called this entry “œWho are you designing for”¦you or your customers”, because most business owners can’t see that what they are asking a designer, marketing firm or neighbor down the street to do is create the image of how people who have different tastes and interests will perceive their over all brand. They say that first impressions are very hard to change, but triple that when someone picks up your business card, brochure, sees your ad in the paper or looks at your website before they even talk to you. Unless you’ve invested the time in your Brand Identity to ensure that it is reflective, and supported, in all of your marketing materials.

Let’s understand the difference between Brand Identity and Brand Image before we go any further. Your Brand Identity is how you want people outside of your company perceive your company. Your Brand Image is how people outside of your company are currently viewing your company. The two are separate, but the same. Your Brand Image should constantly be reinforced and supported by your Brand Identity. One can weaken the other.

Let’s face it, when it comes to how effective your marketing materials are”¦the initial perception people get is reality to them. You could be the best schmoozer in the world, but hand someone something that looks like you put very little effort into the presentation and all your schmoozing is for nothing. Convincing, begging and bribing may not drive the message home that your first round of marketing materials were done to be “œcost effective”, but instead they may came out making you, and your company, look less than stellar.

First and foremost your marketing materials should be created with your customers, current and future, in mind. When you sit down to have someone create your marketing materials, the building blocks of your Brand Identity, my best advice is to remove yourself from process as much as possible.

I don’t mean that you should not be involved, but you should remember”¦you aren’t trying to use these marketing materials to get you to invest into your company, product or what have you. Sometimes that means you need to leave the confines of your office, ask your best customer some good questions on how they perceive your business and start looking at your company, product or widget from the customers side of the fence.

Your design is an impression not a true test to your companies’ capabilities, but like I said before sometimes all you get is a first impression. Make it the best one you can.

How accurately do you think your companies marketing materials reflect the over all view of your company as a whole?  Do your marketing materials work with or against the way your want your company to be perceived? How strongly do your marketing materials communicate the personality and ethics of your company?

But this worked four years ago?

I was sitting at the mall waiting for my niece to get out of a certain store that had huge round mouse ears, I watched a gaggle of tween-age girls walk by in outfits that I hadn’t seen, and honestly hoped never to again, since 1988. The leggin’s, oversized sweaters and neon bracelets in the hundreds made me think about marketing and design. Because let me be honest”¦everything does.

With that story out of the way, let’s get this entry rolling. I hate to burst your bubble right out the gate, but marketing trends are much like fashion trends. While as all trends do, often enough, come back around”¦ the revival of an old trend tends to be the very thing you hoped would never again see the light of day.

I love when I meet someone who hands me a piece of marketing material or directs me to a website that clearly hasn’t been updated in years. The design is outdated, the content is so old the addendum explanation ultimately could be it’s own piece, and more times than not the reason for this is that some head honcho, maybe even you, was really, really proud of it”¦a long time ago in a marketing plan/budget far, far away.

The reality is that today’s buyer is getting younger and younger. These potential clients are becoming savier to the lack of time or effort you put into your whatever it is. They really don’t want you to dust off the remaining brochure from four years ago you somehow still have and parade it around at a networking function. They want the latest and greatest.

I hate to regurgitate other people’s ideas. Rather than do that take a look at Kim T. Gordon’s The Hottest Marketing Trends for 2008. I agree with her points of engaging your customer, integrating your off-line and online campaigns and following your customers. The one trend that would seem obvious through her suggestions, but is missing is a trend to actively create new/fresh content. All of the trends that she mentions rely completely on having new information to share with each of these trends.

You’d be surprised how many business owners, marketing managers and sales people get stuck in the trend of repeating and regurgitating half a decade old pitches, gimmicks and what not without realizing that their clients see them as tired and old. The widget may work, the sales person may be able to sell sugar to a diabetic, and customer service staff may be the best in the world, but if your customer can’t get beyond the feeling of “œI heard it” or “œbeen there, done that and just had the same thing better pitched by your competitor ten minutes ago” then the new trend you’ll see is a lack of revenue.

What trends do you see today that should have stayed dead and buried? Do you know business owners or marketing managers that are still clinging onto that shred of hope that this could be the year for dusting off that tried, but not true piece? What new emerging trend do you see having legs in the future?