There has been a lot of discussion over the last several months about whether viral marketing exists. The first time I heard this I agreed and used a coffin as an example of something that would not sell virally. The product is inherently morbid and therefore was a dead end (no pun intended). As I think about it more I have read of the wealthy building large burial shrines for themselves. I can’t find it but read it on CNN. I have not seen any ads for this in Robb Report or The New Yorker so I have to believe that information about this service is being spread around the wealthy community virally.
I’ve posted about usabilty being marketing and I think of it as an important aspect of online design. I think that Apple has shown us the power of design as a marketing tool. If you took all of the iPhone ads off of TV and the Internet I don’t think it would have any impact on sales. In fact I think the iPhone may sell faster. (A gushing review by a peer is more likely to get someones OCD to kick in than a ad.)
As companies embrace having a SME (or thought leader) represent their brand online (who may not be the CEO) through blogging, Twitter, etc the design of the companies product/service will me even more inescapable. Apple’s Jonathan Ive understands this and is in charge of creating beautiful things for Steve Jobs. I don’t think Apple is perfect and yet they have once again reignited a trend of focusing on design.
It is important to remember that design is the how. What your’re designing will never be as important as how the design works. This is simply because people have to use what you’ve created.