Last week I attended agIdeas International Design Week, one of the largest and most prestigious design events in the world. Part of the week’s program was agIdeas Advantage, a business breakfast promoting how good design and design thinking are essential elements for businesses to succeed, enter the global market and have a real point of difference in our ever competitive markets. One of the speakers I was lucky enough to catch at this event was Mauro Porcini, Head of Global Design at 3M.
3M are known for their large portfolio of market leading brands including Post-it, Scotch, Scotch-Brite and Scotchgard just to name a few. In more recent years they have been making a name for themselves by taking the approach of innovation by design and as such earn over 500 patents a year through their R&D and are responsible for over 75,000 products!
The main gist of Mauro’s presentation last week was about the need for brands to connect with their audience on a new level. We need to go beyond the functional aspect of our products and services and raise the bar to offer an emotional reponse too. Mauro’s mission at 3M is to evolve the internal design culture, leveraging the company’s technology background to produce innovation and growth with a new experience-driven approach. This is a common conversation in the brand world, but Mauro managed to bring it life with it some really wonderful examples of what they’re doing at 3M both with the physical features of their products and the photography used. With the help of design, 3M are gaining an emotional response from their audience and this reflects directly in sales, making good business sense.
Mauro’s first project at 3M was for a projector. He came in and convinced the team to add design to the R&D stage. “Always our projectors have been very industrial and very standard,” says Antonio Pinna Berchet, 3M’s head of corporate marketing in Milan. “This was absolutely new.” Mauro added, “You wanted to touch it.” Having a fully functioning and reliable product that was beautiful to look at and touch gave the product that emotional element Mauro continually emphasises. Sales of the projector doubled and is a perfect example of what design can do for brands and for business.
3M products now take on this emphasis and are created with an emotional reaction in mind. At the time when Mauro introduced the concept of emotion and consumer experience to the team at 3M, it was quite revolutionary. Mauro talked about ‘what does that mop on the shelf say to the customer when she shops?’ The reaction from staff, some of whom had worked in the R&D department for 30 years was; well, it’s a mop, it cleans the floor. Times have changed though with the same R&D team now having a solid understanding of the value of a beautifully presented product and are immensely proud of the stunning products they put to market.
Likewise in 2004, Mauro had the task of rejuvenating 3M’s tape dispensers. “It’s a dispenser,” he says, “but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be beautiful.” 3M CEO, George Buckley, says, “It shows how design can differentiate a simple roll of tape.”
Buckley says 3M is spending five times more on design than five years ago. And Mauro’s 50-member group is becoming more global, adding designers in China and Japan. Brazil is next.
3M is a wonderful business case that illustrates how design adds value to brands.
Director of Brand Projects
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