discuss Digest, Vol 32, Issue 6

8 May 2006 - 4:18pm
442 reads
Jim Leftwich

This is actually an excellent, if fairly complex question, since any
answer or discussion would depend upon the configuration, hiearchy,
workflow, and interdepartmental interrelationships within your (or
any) company. While many companies share some of these in common, in
general, each company structure and culture is likely to be different.

First off, I notice that many people don't often differentiate
between "Product Marketing" and "Marketing Communications." Product
Marketing is deeply involved in defining product requirements, often
resulting in a document with a name like MRD (Marketing Requirements
Document). This is often the result of both market research as well
as external partner/corporate customer requirements. Marketing
Communications (MarCom), are the folks that deal with advertising,
tradeshows, etc.. In some, generally smaller corporations, these may
be combined. Or, it may be a single department, with individuals
within filling these roles.

FIrst off, as a designer you need to understand how Marketing and
Design are historically/currently configured in your corporation.

Product Marketing, particularly in companies that have close working
relationships with other entities (for example the mobile device
industry, where a handset manufacturer or software company will often
have much of their functionality and features aligned with the
requirements of a carrier. The same holds in the settop box/cable
operator field). In companies like this, Product Marketing is (in
every corporation I've been involved with) *the* group that
interfaces with these large entities. Often in these companies,
Product Marketing leads design (either directly, or in the chain of
workflow). Designers in these companies, if not empowered (another
issue/discussion), often might as well wear paper hats and ask "Would
you like fries with those icons/interface flows?" ;^) In other
words, in those configurations, design doesn't lead. It fills orders.

In those situations, it's best to approach Product Marketing as you
would your new large cellmate. Heh. They're likely to call the shots.

Also, the age of a company will often affect how Product Marketing is
positioned and empowered. If your company is currently selling
Blahware v18.0, and there's a big nasty bloated feature list as long
as your arm, that will generally indicate the hand of Product
Marketing. Remember, that kind of product direction is not always
what a designer might do, if in charge. A designer might want to
radically simplify and purify the user experience. Be forewarned
that this is a conflict that is fundamental in companies where
*improvement* means feature-bloating. And in companies where design
is unempowered, well... bend over.

It's a complicated issue, however, because not all feature addition
is bad (of course). It's just that the Product Marketing values are
not always the same as Design values.

As for explaining design to Product Marketing, find out first how
they understand Design. You'll need to start an explanation at the
point they're familiar with, and lead them toward whatever vision or
role you see Design as having. Invite them to observe your Design
process. Show past projects and workflows. Show past gains and
improved products.

Ultimately, strong, design-informed Product Marketing together with
experienced and big-picture-informed Design makes the very best
combination within a company.


Orbit Interaction
Palo Alto, CA

> From: "Simon Asselbergs" <interaction-designer at lycos.com>
> Date: May 8, 2006 9:37:38 AM PDT
> To: discuss at ixda.org
> Subject: [IxDA Discuss] IxDa-er: 1st interview with Marketing..
> Hi everybody,
> I am now defining my function as an Interaction Designer of a
> medium sized (300+ employees) company. I have now my first
> conversation with Marketing. I think I want to hear how they are
> confronted with the need for an improved presentation and
> usability. I am curious to hear how the house style is developped
> to what it is now, what the design rationale is behind the current
> housestyle and where they think all products should go to (how much
> integration between products, how users should experience a
> software-suite etc). My end goal is to start a conversation and a
> good relation to build upon.
> a. What is the best way to explain Interactiojn Design to Marketing?
> b. What do you think my agenda should be (for a typical first
> interview)?
> c. What lessons others had learned from their first interview with
> marketing?
> I was really pleased with all the feedback I got previous time.
> Thanks guys!
> Cheers
> Simon

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