Ananya Pathak
Design Digest

"Brands are pushing for novel launch experiences": Mark D’Costa, FITCH India

In our series 'Design Digest', we explore what the world looks like from the desk of brands' design heads, as they face new challenges.

Here's what Mark D’Costa, managing director, FITCH India, has to say (FITCH is a leading global design consultancy):

How has the ongoing (COVID) crisis changed the challenges facing design teams? What is the biggest change?

The ongoing crisis enabled us to fast-track some of the issues we were contemplating to ensure we continue to deliver growth. Saying this, it has not been easy manoeuvring through choppy waters. The key to this success, besides our clients having faith in us, is our great team.

Our immediate priority for the team was to ensure we maintain an ‘environment’ for great work at their home, and provide them the tools to ensure they have information and research material available for use.

Post setting up a ‘work from home’ solution, we quickly adapted to technology that ensured we collaborated as we did pre-COVID. Brainstorming, virtual workshops and design presentations were modified to ensure we continued with the same rigour.

However, with the crisis continuing, we all miss team bonding and the camaraderie. We have introduced various initiatives to ensure there are continued interactions with all team members, thereby enabling us to uphold the extraordinary FITCH culture.

How has the client brief changed? How are they looking to leverage design to gain customer trust, especially at a time when overall consumer sentiment is quite low. What role does design have in helping a consumer trust a brand?

Clients are adapting to the ongoing crisis as there has been a transformational change in India... The brief is being collaboratively developed to ensure we are bolder and quicker. Redefining trust with the consumer is key. New brand propositions are being developed to react to the changes caused by COVID-19.

Brands are pushing for novel launch experiences and laying emphasis on new mediums (more digital solutions in experience). There is also an equal degree of importance on physical and digital experiences.

This agility to create meaningful experience and interactions that push limits and challenge conventions shows the customers a desire to create trustworthy products that will benefit and help them.

How has the visual tone of communication changed since the pandemic started? Are brands turning to a new set of colours/visual markers of hygiene (such as foamy hands)?

People are naturally drawn towards products and experiences that they instinctively believe will fulfil their innate needs. In these times of immense uncertainty, that need has primarily been for comfort and reassurance. That is why you’re seeing a rise in brands trying to communicate that.

FMCG is leading the way on this front. Hygiene products (packs) provide indicators of preventive immunity building measures against COVID-19.

The pandemic has accelerated habit formation in a few sectors, especially personal hygiene. How can product design and the visual language of communication help accelerate habit adoption in consumers?

With the way the world has currently had to adapt to change, the product design and visual communication hold the key to the digital experience versus the physical experience consumers have been used to. The two/three swipes of the page must embody the product promise and consumer trust. Good design must reinforce and showcase it to build a successful habit.

"People are drawn to products that fulfil their innate need for comfort and reassurance... FMCG is leading the way on this front."
Mark D’Costa, FITCH India

Everyone is dividing time and reality into pre and post-COVID. For a design executive and leader, what does the post-COVID world look like, in terms of work, skill sets and related demands?

COVID-19 has set new rules of engagement, with clients working with partners in a borderless world. With more and more accepting digital as a medium, there would be advancement in new career options. Both clients and design studios will need to be ready for the change.

Change is continuous and inevitable. The way I see it, future success can’t be assured by just preparing for one singular post-COVID ‘new normal’. Instead, it will come from a readiness to adapt to change, a willingness to be faster, quicker, less structured and agile.

At Landor and FITCH, we’re looking at bringing our network to the fore. What works in our favour is that digital is already embedded in our process of PHD (Physical, Human, Digital). So, from a skillset and thinking perspective, our offer feels even more compelling.