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PepsiCo Head of Design On Building Better Brands with Design

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The pressure to connect consumers and brands is more
meaningful than ever before. Those who can make the connection are thriving and
those who cannot are fading away.
That's why we sat down with Mauro Porcini, SVP & Chief
Design Officer, PepsiCo,, who will be speaking at the upcoming FUSE 2016
conference in Miami this spring on PepsiCo's culture of design-led innovation. Today,
FUSE is the only event focused on design as
a strategic force in your quest to build brands and businesses that connect
beyond compare with consumers.
Porcini shared his insights into how building better brands
can change the world, why it's important for brand strategists and designers to
work together, what exactly makes a design 'iconic', what it takes to build a culture
of design-led innovation, and more.
Here's what Porcini had to say:
IIR: How can
building better brands and businesses ultimately change the world?
Porcini: Building
better brands and businesses may change the world because these two variables greatly
impact the life of any human being, every day, directly or indirectly. But
better brands and better businesses don't necessarily imply a better world and
a positive impact: it may sometimes even be the opposite.
Therefore I would rephrase the question in a different way:
'How can building better brands and businesses ultimately create a better world'?
Design can play a unique role in this. The ultimate goal of a designer is ' by
nature, by culture and by training ' the one of feeling, investigating and
understanding people's needs, wants and desires and then developing meaningful solutions
and relevant ecosystems of experiences aiming to satisfy and fulfill them. As
such, Design puts the human being at the very center of its universe and
constantly crafts products, services and brands that can add moments of joy, of
comfort, of convenience, of safety, of peace, of fun, of health to the life of

All of these experiences are fragments of a broader global happiness that the
entire design community can dream of, design and generate, if we are all joined
by this vision and this mission.

Design can design a better world. Design should design a better world. Because
Design has all the tools to generate a world that is more sustainable from a
social, an aesthetic and an ecological point of view. The business world should
engage the design world more and more and give designers the right stage to
drive this positive change. But to make this happen, the design world must do a
better job of understanding that business world, figuring out how to become a
relevant and reliable asset, able to generate value and drive growth. The two
worlds need to approach each other more and more, understand each other, work
with each other and ultimately learn to love each other.
IIR: Why is it so
important for consumers and brands to connect?
Porcini: Because
we live in a society where people are consumers of stories more than of
products or services. A product is like a body, but a body without personality
is just an empty shell: the brand is what marketing has invented to give a
personality to that product. Designers have the ability, the culture and the
training to take that personality to life, in this social media driven society,
through visual language and storytelling focused on users and consumers' needs
and wants.
IIR: Why is it
important for brand strategists and designers to work collectively?
Porcini: In the
past, the design asset was a 'nice to have' for the business community. In a
world where TV advertising had been the key asset to build brand personality through
its controlled content, communication was a one way street. That era is over. Today,
the age of social media is radically changing the rules of the game: brands are
on stage 24/7, broadcasted every second millions of times a day, and their
personality is a topic of conversation ' more than a simple one way message.
Additionally, brands are now defined by the synergy of every
single touchpoint, from product to packaging, from digital to events, from
retail to service. The presence of these multiple touchpoints becomes an
incredible asset to build unbelievable and unexpected experiences, especially
for smaller and easy-to-control business ventures. They can, however, also
become the worst marketing nightmare if a brand doesn't have a consistent and
believable personality. Quite simply, these touchpoints will expose
schizophrenic behaviors and any lack of authenticity. In our hyper-connected
society, visual language has become the most powerful and intuitive way to
convey a meaningful, straight-to-the-guts, memorable message for our brands.
And Design ' as a discipline, as a function and as a community ' generates,
manages and controls the brand's visual language and therefore the meaning
associated with it.
The world has changed. In just the past few years, it has
become evident that for businesses to survive and strive they must promote a
new alliance within their organizations: Design and Marketing must become
co-conspirators and need to learn to co-lead the invention, the launch and the
management of the brands of the future. That's Marketing 2.0. And that ' also '
Design 2.0.
IIR: What makes a
design 'iconic'?
Porcini: Iconic
design is beautiful, memorable, timeless, relevant and meaningful. All of these
variables are people-related: you become iconic when people like you, when they
remember you, when they don't get tired of you, when you play a role in their
life and when that role gives some form of sense to their life. To be iconic
you don't need to change the world, you may just add some fun to it, some
comfort, some taste, some convenience, some safety. Post-it is iconic. Pepsi is
iconic. The Apple iPhone is iconic. The traditional Italian Moka Coffe maker is
iconic. A Dyson vacuum cleaner is iconic.
IIR: Knowing how
consumers will react can be an art and sometimes involves clairvoyance. How
have you developed this skill?
Porcini: I love
the word you use: 'clairvoyance'. I love it because clairvoyance is not a job:
it's a fine blend between a gift and an art. The dictionary defines
clairvoyance as, the supposed faculty of perceiving things or events in the future
or beyond normal sensory contact and the alleged ability to gain information
about an object, person, location or physical event through extrasensory

I remember being fascinated at school by an early clairvoyant: The Cumaean
Sibyl. She was the priestess and prophetess ' indeed what we would call today a
clairvoyant ' presiding over the Apollonian oracle at Cumae, a Greek colony
located near Naples in Italy. Her prophecies would inform kings and heroes,
guiding them in their decisions. When asking my literature and philosophy
professor how that was really possible, she gave me an answer that I kept
inside my (future) designer's heart until today. It was about 25 years ago, but
she told me something that I like to remember sounded like this: 'She was
probably an extremely sensitive person and an extraordinary observer of people,
facts and events. That was her real gift. On the basis of her perceptions and
her observations she then developed the art of crafting believable truths and
scenarios of a possible future.'
Well, isn't that what a designer does or is supposed to do
in our everyday life? Observing reality, feeling people, understanding their
needs, envisioning their aspirations, and then generating possible solutions. But
to really do this you need to be a designer 24/7, not just at work or during a
project. One must always be on, senses alerted, antennae up, inner eyes open,
hungry for learning, thirsty for experiences, constantly absorbing facts and
events. Sooner or later your instincts, assumptions and knowledge will lay a
meaningful foundation and provide the ability to transform your projects and
your life's work. Designers must act as a modern-day Cumaean Sybil. That's a
gift and it's an art. It's in you, it's in your life, it is your life, and it
is not a job. And you need to nurture it every day. Every single moment of your
IIR: What is the
biggest challenge about designing for a brand?
Porcini: The
biggest challenge is to maintain the brand's authentic personality while
keeping its behavior consistent, sustainable, believable, and yet evolutionary
to keep up with the times. The specific challenge of our current age resides in
how to be relevant in a hyper-accelerated society without betraying your nature
and your heritage. We must grow brands like a person, but dealing with the fact
that person is also ' or at least aspires to be ' a celebrity on stage 24/7 and
his ambition must be to engage and never alienate his beloved consumer. As both
that person/brand and his consumer are evolving and maturing, but at different
paces, in different cultural and geographical contexts, each of them in
different stages of their lives.
IIR: What does it
take to build a culture of design-led innovation?
Porcini: Your
company needs to develop a space for design to exist and express itself in deep
integration with the business units but with the right empowerment and freedom.
Isolation in ivory towers is the worst mistake. Central to this is the
principle of co-leadership between marketing and design, to drive brand
building and innovation. Whereas the business leader is the ultimate owner of the
brand destiny, marketing and design must be deployed together to create,
develop and manage the brand vision and strategy.
To make this happen in a non-design-driven culture, you need
both a top down push and a bottom up effort. A top down push requires
sponsorship and protection from the CEO or a top executive, while a bottom up
effort, integrated across the company, allows the entire body of the
organization to own the new design culture and drive it with you, project by
project, brand by brand. In order to accelerate effectiveness, you should always
hunt for some quick business wins to prove the value of this new culture. This
endeavor will sometimes mandate taking shortcuts or compromises and ignoring
some chapters of the book of the perfect designer, putting the bigger picture
in front of you. Once you acquire the right credibility, trust and a seat at
the table within your organization, you will then have time to consolidate all your
efforts for the perfect design vision and finally deliver sustainable
innovation and long term business results.
To drive all of this you need design leaders with the right
characteristics to strive in such situations. Remember: the quality of your
design leaders is the most important asset you need and it trumps any process
or framework. You need design leaders with knowledge, vision, passion,
resilience, optimism, empathy and curiosity. Without them, don't even start.
IIR: What are you
most looking forward to about FUSE 2016?
Porcini: The
positive collisions of personal experiences, individual point of views and
collective visions of senior design leaders and young creatives. The cultural
debate about the past, the present and the future of Design in this
hyper-accelerated society, between business experts and design thinkers.

Want to hear more
from Mauro Porcini? Join him at FUSE 2016
April 4-6 in Miami. He will be presenting a keynote session, 'PepsiCo's Culture
of Design-Led Innovation' and hosting a fireside chat. To learn more or to
register for the event, click here:

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