July 11, 2019 by Hedgehog

Marketing and Design: A Hedgehog Live Chat

Welcome to our live chat. The following transcript has been lightly edited.

Jackie (Jacqueline Baxter, Digital Strategist): Welcome to our live chat! Today we've gathered a stellar group to discuss marketing and design; how the two intersect, the best ways to communicate, and opportunities to work together to create the best result. Let's get started with a cornerstone of the process: What do you think is the most important step in building a collaborative process between marketing and design?

Donald (Donald May, Creative Director): Communication of goals.

Leticia (Leticia Shene, Marketing Manager): Being flexible.

Katherine (Katherine Reyes, Marketing Specialist): Communication. Clear Communication! As much as people wish they had the ability, no one is a mind reader.

Leticia: ^that

Hannah (Hannah Speirits, Account Manager): I was also going to say communication. Specifically, communication of goals - making sure you are aligned on and understand what the goal is, so you are all working towards the same objective.

Melissa (Melissa Banks, Senior Web Designer): It's important that everyone talk and listen to each other and let the other person do what they do best. Someone from the marketing side will have a different skill set than someone on design. If each person is on the same page about what the end goal is, they can work together as a team to use their own set of skills together to get to that point. But they have to communicate early and often.

Donald: I agree that each team member brings something different to the conversation and for there to be success it needs to be a collaboration.

Nadine (Nadine Picone, Senior Designer): Communication wins that question.

Jackie: I'm getting a sense that "communication" is important...

Hannah: Communicating throughout the entire process, not just having a kick-off and then not communicating / checking in again until the first client presentation, etc.

Donald: Clear measures of success are also important.

Leticia: Making sure you communicate what you want to accomplish not how to do it.

Donald: Marketing is about moving the needle more traffic, more conversions, better brand awareness etc. Knowing what’s important and what is going to be evaluated drives the concepts, creative and media for hitting those metrics. Design is a means to an end - it helps to influence and drive people to a desired action. Many think design is about making something beautiful; although that often helps drive results, it’s not really its purpose. Its purpose is to market.

Jackie: Communication is clearly key to the process, so the next logical question is this: how can teams keep communication open without hampering the process?

Leticia: I think trust is key- each team has to trust the other team.

Katherine: Agreed.

Donald: I agree.

Leticia: There can never be anything personal if someone says “I don't like that” they have to be able to articulate why they don’t like it for the success of the project.

Katherine: As Melissa said, each person brings their own set of skills to the table. It's important to communicate and bounce ideas off each other.

Melissa: You need to trust each other, but you also shouldn't be afraid to challenge each other to create a better solution. The more you talk about what you're thinking about and talk about potential solutions the better.

Hannah: Saying "why" is super important. It allows you to get to the reasoning behind specific feedback and make sure it is addressed the correct way.

Donald: Definitely. It’s not about like or dislike as much as it is about what will work and is also good design.

Nadine: Know whose feedback is needed when. There are times when everyone’s feedback is needed, such as the early stages. The moment each collaborator should be involved varies. Involve executives early on. Bring developers in before implementation.

Melissa: A lot of it is about framing your feedback. "I think this solves the problem better because..." will be more effective than "I like/dislike this because..." because it helps you create a solution around your target audience instead of around your own personal preferences. You have to know when to step back. That's when having those other team members involved comes in handy because you can keep reeling each other in.

Leticia. To Nadine’s point, limiting choices also helps. It can sometimes be overwhelming. And it’s helpful when design articulates why they have chosen a certain direction or path.

Melissa: Yes, and exactly like Nadine said, it is helpful when all decision makers are involved early so you don’t waste a lot of time only to find out that's not what their vision was.

Hannah: Yes, it is never fun when a main stakeholder is not brought into the project from the beginning!

Donald: Melissa, I think you’re right, but the decision to do a specific design and the feedback for that design need to operate under the same rules. Just like the feedback can’t be personally driven the design needs to be objective.

Nadine: To avoid search-and-destroy mission at the end of a project.

Donald: It should follow rules of good design and solve the marketing challenge.

Melissa: Right. Every decision being made should be focused on solving the challenge and not on what someone personally likes or dislikes from both sides. Focus on the issues that you’re seeing, and then let the other person come up with the solution. This lets each person do what they do best.

Donald: I agree with that.

Jackie: I think Melissa has brought up an interesting point about feedback - the way you frame it could mean the difference between a smooth incorporation or a massive push back. We've got a lot of experience in this virtual room, so in your collective experience is there an ideal way to solicit and incorporate feedback? If so, what is it? If not, why not?

Leticia: I think being consistent in telling the design team what you want to accomplish is helpful. If the end design doesn’t not accomplish the goal, then it doesn't matter what it looks like. It just won’t work.

Hannah: I think it is important to make sure it is a dialogue and not just a one-sided conversation. Also a few of the other things we already mentioned I think apply here as well - involving the correct stakeholders from the beginning, making sure you understand and ask "why."

Katherine: I guess my answer is like Melissa's - it's a *team* effort, not a one-man show. You can't do it all. Do what you can do and involve the appropriate personnel for the other concerns/problems that are outside your skill set.

Donald: How can the decision to understand if something is working also be objective? Do you have any ideas about how to communicate it from a non-personal view? I ask because I struggle with that as well.

Leticia: I think sometimes it's obvious. I mean, if the goal is to communicate a sale and be fun and whimsical and the design is black and dreary with hard fonts then you've missed the mark. I think when starting with design any good client relationship is about getting to know each other and understanding what someone means. When I say soft and light the designer should ask me for examples of what I mean not just assume they know.

Melissa: I think the challenge there sometimes has to do with the brand you’re working with. Sometimes the brand doesn't allow for sometimes dark and dreary and sometimes light and whimsical. When you find yourself in that position it might be time to go back and reevaluate if the brand is still working and if the brand itself is even still communicating the message we need it to.

Leticia: I think if the right work is done between the teams upfront the end is much easier. Examples: showing design what you mean and design showing you what they mean to qualify what you are saying.

Donald: Sometimes it comes down to finding the right designer for a particular job. Designers tend to have a style and if the style is not right for what the marketer wants then it’s a miss from the start.

Melissa: That's why communication is so important. Sometimes the other team member may be aware of other limitations that not everyone was aware of.

Hannah: I always prefer to walk through any designs (internally or with a client) either on a call or in person vs. just sending over a link to the designs. I think being able to walk through the designs and explain your thoughts/rationale is super helpful. It also allows for a dialogue. Afterwards I think it is good for people to process the designs more and follow-up with any additional feedback or comments they may have.

Melissa: I agree with that. If you send something over the wall, sometimes people will make their own assumptions about the decisions being made before you have a chance to explain it. This will in turn affect whether they feel the design adequately solves the problem or not.

Leticia: Absolutely. I really want the designer to walk me through what I’m looking at, so I can provide immediate and initial feedback.

Hannah: Yep, otherwise it just leaves too much open for interpretation. You may react to something differently once you understand the thought & rationale behind it.

Donald: Visceral reaction though is not always telling of how successful something is.

Leticia: True...but having the designer walk me through the design and telling me why it meets my goal is better than me just being left to figure it out. It also eliminates back and forth. I shouldn't have to sleep on a design to know if it works.

Donald: I agree your gut is a valuable tool. But often I find that a client will have some expectation of what the solution is and be expecting to see that solution. If the designer has given something that works but it is different than what the person expected that can often be a more successful end result.

Melissa: Sometimes I like to recommend both getting an explanation and sleeping on it so your subconscious can work through it as well. Unless you know right off the bat that one way or the other works for you.

Donald: It’s a balance. No design will ever come with commentary so to Tish’s point it has to work immediately. That being said, it helps to understand the motivation that drove a designer to the solution they propose.

Melissa: It should work immediately on our target audience, but it’s hard for us to gauge that accurately since we are not our target audience. But we can make our best guesses unless we test it out somehow.

Katherine: Well, again it goes back to trust. Marketing puts themselves in their target audience shoes - they have to put themselves in their target audience shoes for campaigns to work.

Jackie: Does managing expectations play any part in this? We work within a reality of timelines and budgets, which can place limitations on the process from the get go. How can you set realistic expectations without closing the door on either functionality or creativity?

Leticia: I think that goes back to telling design the goal. Honesty - telling them what has worked and what you have had that hasn’t. Giving them brand guidelines. Setting realistic deadlines. Not all marketers have a good sense of how long things take so design must push back as well. Having a project manager is amazing but not all companies have that luxury. It's easy to say oh that'll only take 5 minutes to fix when making "simple" changes can be somewhat time consuming. Not everyone understands that.

Katherine: ^this. No one can't just wave a wand & *poof* it's done.

Hannah: You mean that isn't how it works? 😊

Jackie: Mine's in the shop, along with my crystal ball.

Katherine:

Melissa: You just have to pronounce it right.

Katherine: * swish and flick * 

Melissa: Wingardium leviOsa not wingardium leviosA 

Hannah: I do think that being as open & honest as you can about timing is important. It is never fun to have to go back and say "we need more time than we thought" but better to do it right then and set new expectations than wait until the day before something is due to break that news.

Katherine: I also believe it's important to remember that whatever you envisioned may not exactly be reflected in the final design. It's okay to allow changes and tweaks to be made if the goal and purpose is still being served with the final design.

Melissa: I'm a fan of starting as early as possible and pushing the deadlines up so that if they do get pushed back you still meet your final deliverable goal. If you plan on finishing a few weeks early everyone will feel much better than if things are down to the wire. In other words: hard end date, flexible intermediate dates.

Leticia: As a marketer I also give some flex time – if I need it the 6th I tell design the 2nd, in case something happens. I also try to plan as far ahead as possible (which is easier when you have a staff on hand or an agency of record.)

Donald: Hope for the best…prepare for the worst.

Jackie: I've also found that a hard stop date can be helpful. It's human nature to want to tweak and fine tune constantly, but at some point, it's gotta go live.

Leticia: Yes--perfection is in the eye of the beholder.

Donald: Designers tend to be perfectionists who are never satisfied. So yeah, they need hard deadlines.

Melissa: And maybe a fixed number of hours. The rationale being, there may be 40 hours left in the week until the deadline, but I will need a lot of those for other clients as well.

Jackie: We're almost out of time, so one final question: What’s the number one thing you think the other team should know to get more satisfying results?

Melissa: It is me and you not me vs you.

Leticia: It’s not personal.

Donald: Back to the beginning I think communication of goals is the most important thing.

Katherine: We're a team working towards a common goal. My success is your success and vice versa.

Hannah: We may not use the same "tools" or processes to get there, but we are all working towards the same goal!

Jackie: We'll end on that awesome note. Thanks everyone!

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