“Quality alone is not sufficient. Uniqueness and the ability to differentiate yourself from your competitors are also important. In this respect, design and communication are powerful instruments. According to a number of surveys, companies making conscious use of the design and communication experience higher export sales than companies not taking advantage of this tool,” says Jacob Grieg Eide, CEO of the design and communication company Maritime Colours.
Increased International Competition
Maritime Colours is a strategic design and communication company with a large number of businesses in the maritime sector on its customer list. “When we are working with customers, our aim is first and foremost to provide high-quality advice and then to implement the initiatives we believe will produce the best results. This may be an increase in growth, a higher level of innovation or improved international impact,” says Grieg Eide.
He believes that international competition has increased dramatically over the last few years, and that there are a greater number of businesses fighting for the same customer. “Consequently, it takes more to succeed in today’s global marketplace than it did only a few years back. You have to be proficient in every area. Design and communication are among the factors that may help set you apart from the masses and enable you to differentiate yourself from your competitors,” says Grieg Eide.
He is convinced that design plays an ever-increasing part in peoples’ everyday lives, and that most consumers place greater demands on the products they buy as a result. A well-designed product may be functional, but functionality alone is not enough. The product must also be aesthetically pleasing and pose a clear brand value. “Design is in the process of becoming one of the decisive purchasing factors. As a supplier of products, a company will export in order to increase its sales. However, if the decision makers do not like the product, they will not buy it. It doesn’t matter how good the quality is,” says Grieg Eide.
Export Levels Doubled
Design Diagnose 2009, a survey conducted by the Norwegian Design Council, found that the export level for companies making conscious use of design is far higher than for companies not taking advantage of this tool. Survey figures indicate that the export share for design users is 40% compared to 21% for companies not making use of design. “In other words, design is not just for show. It increases the company’s level of export and will also have an effect on the company’s end result, says Grieg Eide.
Similar surveys conducted in Britain and Denmark support this conclusion. “Some companies have realized this, and more and more are waking up to the advantages of using design as a business tool. The companies that take this seriously are the ones that will succeed, and in an international context as well,” says Grieg Eide.
A number of design users have seen improvements in other areas as well. As an example, the aforementioned surveys show that companies making use of the design concept experience a higher level of innovation compared to non-users. “This is linked to designers thinking outside the box. These people always look for new solutions. Introducing a mindset like this to a company may inspire others to see new possibilities – possibilities they did not know existed. Consequently, design becomes a central element at company level as well as at product level. This is business innovation,” says Grieg Eide.
The positive aspects of design do not stop with this. It also makes the company more attractive. “The design and communication concept is all about getting a message across as effectively as possible. If this is done correctly, the company will be perceived as attractive. This is a positive factor when it comes to recruitment of the best people, as this will strengthen the company’s competitive position. Furthermore, the business will become more attractive to investors, and this is important if an increase in capital is required in order to enter the international market,” says Grieg Eide.
One of Maritime Colours’ customers, a relatively new enterprise, is an excellent example of this. The company operates in the oil service sector, and has developed a range of revolutionary solutions for the industry. “Design and communication have been important to the management from the start. This has been instrumental in the incredible growth of the company, which today has several of the major operating companies on its customer list,” says Grieg Eide.
In order to realize its strong international ambitions, the company needed capital. “To attract investor interest, the business must be perceived as serious. Investors must be able to believe in both the company and its products. Design has helped making this company attractive. Its messages have been clear and well presented, and the capital needed to move forward with the internationalization process has been raised without any problems,” says Grieg Eide.
Must be Placed on the Boardroom Agenda
In order for the design and communication concept to succeed, it is crucial that the management of a company recognizes its importance. “Design must become an integrated part of the company’s business strategy. The strategic element is essential, and design and communication must thus be placed on the boardroom agenda. It is paramount that management teams realize and understand the importance of this. Fail to do so and design is not likely to become the differentiating factor it has the potential to be,” says Jacob Grieg Eide.