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What or who is the end-user?

Well, it depends on where you are coming from.

I was wondering about the difference between marketing and design. I went online to see what others thought about it. I found a piece on Economics of Innovation by Peter Thomson. He wrote “The difference between marketing and design is the focus on the end-user as an individual versus a group.” Explained in more depth in his article [Click here for full article], “Marketing thinking is all about seeing people in aggregate.[] Design thinking is all about seeing people as individuals so you can delight that one person and extrapolate that out to others.

From an interview with Apple’s senior vice-president of design, Jonathan Ives, by Eric Sherman [Click here for full article]

Do Something Well, not Different

Many companies focus on differentiating themselves from the competition. And, certainly, that is important if you want to offer strong reasons why customers should do business with you and not a competitor. But any difference has to be organic and not contrived. “A product has to be genuinely better,” Ive says. “Committees just don’t work, and it’s not about price, schedule, or a bizarre marketing goal to appear different—they are corporate goals with scant regard for people who use the product.” If you’re not trying to do something better, then you’re not focused on the customer and you’ll miss the possibility of making your business great.


I think in terms of product design, (eg cars, computers, devices, etc..) its quite easy to see the logic of these. But how does this translate into print, visual communications, advertising etc…

I think this project I worked on with Susan Wolfe, while she was Marketing Manager at Tekserve, illustrates how well design thinking can compliment marketing thinking.

Tekserve is an Apple reseller. They also sell all the accessories, add-ons, software, and bespoke audio and visual products that compliment Apple products.

As well as their holiday advertising campaign (described in detail in a case study), I was responsible for the design of the holiday gift catalog. A typical approach to holiday gift giving campaigns is to sell to a group. The perfect gift for dad, for mom, for your girlfriend and so on…  I changed from this to an approach focused on the individual characteristic, and in doing so opened up the interpretation to a much broader, less limited customer base. Here is how…

I took every product offered inside the catalog and came up with who it was for. The clever part of this was not the who, but the what. I chose character traits instead of roles. For example “for the person who sings in the shower”  “for the person who loves dogs” “for the person who needs more talk time.”  As you can already begin to tell, these are very specific and yet entirely open to your interpretation. The person you know that loves dogs may be a kid, a cousin, a teacher, a grandmother… and someone else’s interpretation will be completely different. I then added the locality. Tekserve is a New York institution. The customers receiving the catalog all live in and around New York… so I added things that New Yorkers could relate to for example  “for the person who can never find a taxi” “for the person who listens to Weather on the Ones” ” for the person with a big imagination and a small apartment” “for the person who needs more storage space”

The one Apple product that Tekserve didn’t sell was the iPhone, but I knew that this was set to change. So to subtly introduce this, I used the iPhone texting bubbles to represent the conversation between customer and store. The cover of the catalog was covered with the customer questions (white bubbles)  the inside was filled with all the answers (green bubbles). The text inside the bubbles was identical (bar the question mark), the difference was that the green bubbles were next to the product they fitted. If nothing else it made for an amusing read, which differentiated this catalog for all the others that followed the traditional endless scattering (or cramming) of products for you, the viewer, to sift through and work out for yourself.

I like the fact that the catalog made an effort to be helpful, to make the gift giving season easier – to tackle the problem “I know lots of people to give gifts to but I never know what to get them.”   I liked the entertainment, the wit and the New York charm it highlighted. I liked that it saved you time, which is precious, particularly during the holiday season.

To see the pictures, CLICK HERE for the Catalog case study.

To see the advertising campaign, CLICK HERE.

• • •

I wonder if when you next look at a campaign, can you tell if the company is talking to a group or to an individual? Who is design led and who is marketing led? Who has a balance?


I’ve always believed that business is personal. And that the personality of a company can be sensed from its founder(s). Excluding the biggest and the cheapest, everyone else from the garage start-up to the mid sized companies are distinctive and unique. The right designer with the right balance of experience, imagination and natural ability for design thinking can tap into this and bring it out in ways that help communicate the personality throughout the company and beyond to its customers. Personality is key for me because I believe its what we humans connect to deeply. The personality doesn’t have to be a clone of our own to be appealing. Just look at how different all your friends are. It needs to be convincing, true, and all lined up to be worthy of our trust. (see next blog)


  2012  /  Conversations  /  Last Updated February 1, 2015 by Katja Maas  /  Tags: