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Design that Changes Industries, with Andrew Barraclough, GlaxoSmithKline

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Design that Changes Industries, with Andrew Barraclough, GlaxoSmithKline


Andrew Barraclough, Vice President of Design at GSK, has 30 years of experience working across all aspects of design and innovation across many FMCG sectors, most recently in Wellness and Healthcare. His roles have spanned the Novartis Consumer Health, Reckitt Benckiser, a NED of the Design Business Association, and currently GlaxoSmithKline. He also founded and ran his own design and innovation agency, Pure Realisation, for several years. His experience covers: marketing, product & packaging development, R&D, design management, design leadership, design research, design thinking, and innovation process and pipeline development, working across all areas of a business at a board level, strategically, tactically, and operationally.

Brandingmag: You have 30 years of experience working across all aspects of design and innovation. What is, in your opinion, the sector that has best adapted to society and its needs?

Andrew Barraclough: This is a big question. I think many sectors have made fantastic progress in using design. Look at Netflix and how it has revolutionized viewing with a fantastic user interface and curation of material. Or the banking sector, which has developed such intuitive and seamless banking apps that there’s almost no need to go to an actual bank anymore. The gold star has to go to Amazon, which has revolutionized retail and consumer experience, brought Alexa to market to link the physical and digital experience, personalized content, moved into physical space, and made delivery and returns the norm. Their whole customer journey has been redefined and re-designed with a human-centered approach.

Bm: Have the changes in the industry changed you as a professional?

AB: Absolutely. The link between physical and digital design needs to be seamless and your user experience journey has to be flawless, no matter where consumers enter or exit your brand. Design has become more challenging as the discipline fragments into many subskills. Its role is ever more to connect the dots and think about designing systems and system of systems, to use my term. Design Linking is a key skill for design leaders as they look to build a coherent and consistent experience.

Bm: We’ve seen how, lately, global brands have started to (finally) embrace sonic branding as part of their strategy. What’s your take on that?

AB: As you look to build a holistic experience, it is key to understand what people think, feel, do, and sense. To miss out on a key sense like sound is such a massive miss. Look how important the sound of the exhaust note of a Harley Davidson is to the experience of the product, or the melody of ‘I am lovin’ it’ for McDonald’s. How can any brand miss out on an opportunity to further strengthen its equity by owning and designing a unique sonic signature?

Bm: Why are some brands still reluctant in your opinion? And what would you say to them to change their mind?

AB: The senses are such a key element in how you experience a brand and to totally miss one of them out is such a missed opportunity. You need to use every weapon in your armory to drive your brand and business forward, where you don’t only think about visual and verbal distinctiveness, but also about auditory distinctiveness. Sound can deliver so much in terms of emotion and recognition; particularly in a fast-paced, high-volume content world, it can really help you cut through the clutter.

Bm: When it comes to a 360 design strategy for one of your clients, in which category or phrase do music and sound usually fall into?

AB: All too often, music and sound are used as an afterthought and not as a strategic lever. For me, it needs to be upfront and part of any initial brief on the creative front. All brands should have a unique sonic anthem that links back to the values, personality, and purpose of the brand. It is not something you add at the end; you add it at the beginning as you look to build the brand world of any brand. Without a sonic anthem, you do not have all the key materials of a brand world in place. This is not about the icing on the cake, but a key ingredient of the cake!

Bm: How important is the measurement of effectiveness when it comes to investing in distinctive brand assets, especially in sound and music? Quite often they’re overlooked or left aside until the last minute.

AB: As with all things creative, you have to invest to create it. You have to know that investment is adding value to your brand and company, so measuring distinctiveness is key, for me. Then, adding a financial value to that distinctiveness shows the real design value beyond consumers saying they like it; they actually remember it and it triggers them when they visually see a distinctive element or hear a distinctive sound.

Bm: Creativity is at the heart of business growth. It’s something we both believe in. How can brands make sure to embrace creativity nowadays?

AB: Creativity is the lifeblood of brands. Without it, they are moving backward, be that creativity in new products or new services offering to deliver on unmet or underserved needs, or in the way products and brands show up in communication. With so many messages being bombarded at consumers, powerful creative work is the only way to cut through, personalize, and delight.

Bm: What is more important: details or the bigger picture?

AB: Both. You have to think macro and micro all the time. With design, it is often the addition of small incremental gains in many areas that deliver an exceptional experience, yet you have to have the big picture vision to deliver on the details. They are symbiotic in their relationship.

Bm: What does it take to become a ‘best global brand’ now?

AB: If you look at the best global brands, they have three key things that they’re all doing well from a design perspective: better design for the business, better design for consumers, and better design for humanity. If you design for and cater to these three areas, you will have a successful brand.

Bm: And to build award-winning teams like you did?

AB: Talent is key. Great people do great work. Think IQ+EQ+CQ (C for creativity) = a great design leader. You have to have a shared design vision, and then you have to continually invest in your team internally and externally through coaching, mentoring, training, inspiring, and stretching them. Your people are everything. Your people are the conscience of your organization, and you need to think about them all the time. I work for my team, they don’t work for me!

Cover image source: Teslariu Mihai





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