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Design Trends 2016, Episode 2: Customer-Centricity on Steroids

The next design trend we look at has been growing steadily for years, but is set to explode in 2016 with the example of Diet Coke's new campaign. It is a hyper focus on the customer through a deeper exploration of Customer-Centricity.

1. Customer Centricity:

Design is not for the consumer, but of the consumer

The Coca-Cola Company understands how social media has flipped the world and erased many of the rules, so they have taken Customer-Centricity to a new level.  This customer-centric shift is like a major earthquake that reverses the magnetic poles. It is based on the idea that:

Design is the product, the product belongs to the customers, and has its origins in the customers.  

This design was based on a customer-fan’s Tweets @DietCoke, #ITSMINE.  Notice the hipsterish elemnets of mixed fonts and sizes, with ribbons, swirls and sparkles.

Their new Diet Coke campaign Retweets of Love,” uses social media to engage their biggest fans.  Instead of the designers creating their own visual language and pushing it on the customers, they looked to Diet Coke fans for the basic vocabulary of that language, and based their designs on that.

Diet Coke fans on were encouraged to Tweet their own designs to @DietCoke using the hashtag #ITSMINE. Then Coke’s designers and illustrators chose 50 tweets from followers and transformed them into very detailed and energetic designs that reflect the customer’s tastes, feelings, and associations with Diet Coke.

Above are three of the designs that were based on customer Tweets, by designers Erik Marinovich, Marta Cerda Alimbau and Jeff Rogers, and have been turned into framed original art.

The digital billboard in Times Square, New York City.

The first of these designs are now on display in Times Square on a large digital billboard for all to see. This is Diet Coke’s thank you to its fans. This shows that Diet Coke values its customers.

Diet Coke fans will also start seeing their tweets reimagined on custom jewelry, framed artwork, and a large outdoor mural in New York City or even in the pages of their favorite magazine.

2. Customer Experience:

A major element of Diet Coke's Customer-Centricity is the focus on Customer Experience.  That experience is the feeling of ownership of the design-product.

The picture below is similar to one in our last blog post, but represents an extremely important idea.  If the design does not meet the user's needs and desires, the user will satisfy them somewhere else.

Ego of the designer vs. the needs of the customer. This design met the core brief - create a safe crossing for people - but completely missed people’s need/desire to cross easily and quickly.

Design teams, as a starting point to generate a user-centered experience, you must:

  • Take yourself out of the center of the process. This requires courage and patience, because it is uncomfortable at first, but soon the power of this new perspective begins to show itself.
  • Have empathy, that is, put yourselves in the place of the customer, see through their non-designer eyes. You are not there to trick the customer, but to help them.
  • Listen. Relearn how to use your ears the same as they use their eyes. Listening skills have declined with the rise of the internet. Listen first, then design, then listen again and iterate.
  • Strive to produce wonder and delight.  Want a design to go viral and generate lots of free advertising?  Produce wonder and delight, that is what people share on social media.
  • Don’t forget texture and the other senses. A customer's eyes are only one path to their heart.
  • Break rules. Realize that many of the traditional rules no longer hold true.  Look for creative ways to break the rules. Sometims just breaking the rule in a successful way produces delight.
  • Have no fear.  A fail, is not failure.  When a design fails, listen to the response, ask questions, and reiterate.

And for design directors it is very much the same. Take yourself out of the central leadership position. Be more of a coach than a "director"  and see failure as a step toward success.  And do all you can to remove fear from the creative process by rewarding, praising, or at least not punishing failure.


3. Social Media Share-ability (Essentialism)

The design is the product. Designs should mimic internet memes, they should communicate their essential message as shortly and intensely as possible and be in a form ready for sharing on social media.

The delight a design can produces is priceless.  Produce delight and your designs may just go viral.  You can't pay for that kind of advertising. 

Above: You don’t get more “out-of-the-box” thinking than this: Every step your customer-fan takes on the beach is an advertisement.  And Notice the textures, and the elements of delight and surprise. 

Below: Diet Coke's message can go straight into the drink. 

The old rules of visual brand consistency have changed. Don’t be afraid to get away from the traditional color scheme or design, and add texture to the experience.

Kill the old rules:  KFC Australia changed its colors to match the Australian football team’s colors to provide more customer ownership to the experience.

The Bullet Points:

  • The whole customer-centricity thing is not going away, it is getting stronger.
  • Social Media has flipped the world, and is moving into a new phase. Its power is still revealing itself.
  • Value your customers. See customers not as a target to be hit, but as a source of inspiration.  
  • Customers are fans you want to please and thank.
  • Look to the customers to supply the basic elements of the campaign's language and visual language.
  • Focus on the customer experience.  Design for people, not for designers.
  • Design is the product

Other Posts in this series:

DESIGN TRENDS 2016, EPISODE 1: FOCUS

Sources:

The Dieline

Unbottled the Coca-Cola blog