Joanna Leonardi: Creating Communicative Design

Story By
Cita Arsita Farani

The Marketing Director of Kamarupa Design Group talks with InClover about building brands, shifting trends and the power of gossip.

Tell us a bit about Kamarupa Design Group. What do you do and how do you differ from your competitors?

Kamarupa Design Group has more than 50 people with creative minds. We are a group of design agencies with expertise in many design fields, from branding, graphic design, website, digital marketing, and interior design. With more than a decade of experience, we have collaborated with diverse industries, both nationally and internationally. The initial idea of joining forces originally came from our clients. They were satisfied with one of our services and they came back wanting more, needing services in other design fields. So with that in mind, we joined forces with those who have prowess in their respective fields. If you ask me what makes Kamarupa Design Group stand out, we can proudly say we are a one-stop solution for your design needs.

What are your biggest challenges as a marketing director and how do you face them?

Meeting with different people almost every day is one of the many perks of being a marketer. I meet with people from all walks of life, from marketing executives and brand managers, to directors and business owners. Everyone is a distinctive individual and each of them has a different perspective on the purpose of branding. The challenge for me is to make them understand how the brand plays a pivotal role and goes a long way in the market. However, it is also important to note that every case has a different solution, just like locks have different keys.

People often see the role of a marketer for a branding agency as a sales marketing position. I am, in fact, more of a brand consultant, who helps the clients to give a preliminary analysis of the brand and to give solutions on how to improve the brand's performance even further. Guiding every client on how to achieve their company's marketing objectives is also important for me. I also need to make sure I have a solid and excellent team of people who are passionate about marketing to help our clients make their key strategic decisions.

How do you turn your client needs into an effective marketing strategy? Can you share a success story from one of your clients?

A strong brand story is one of the important keys to an effective marketing strategy. You don't have to build the whole story, but a strong prologue helps. One of our clients is a newly opened bespoke restaurant in Kebayoran Baru. Based on a very intriguing prologue of a fictional person, we developed the concept further by enlivening the image of that person. We make stories that will see seasonal changes in the restaurant menu, the concept will also change periodically. Captivating stories that frequently change won't bore the customers. After the first visit, the next one might be a whole other story. By then, that distinctive person will be the talk of the town. It will tweak people's interest and attract more crowds, even the ones that didn't bat an eyelid before.

How do you think design builds a brand?

Visuals speak a thousand words, that's why creating a design that communicates well is important. Just like any good first impression that lasts, a good first impression of your brand will leave a lasting impression. In order to hit that sweet spot, communicating the right message and executing the right design that attracts the targeted audience will build a loyal customer base. Consistency also plays a big part in how your customer chooses your brand compared to the others. That's where a branding agency comes in, to create thorough brand usage guidelines to ensure consistency across all of the marketing collaterals so that customers can instantly recognize your brand in both print and online mediums. It's worth remembering that you owe your business credibility to good graphic design because it helps you stand out from your competitors.

Do you think the market shifts in the way customers respond to brand design?

Yes, changes are inevitable. Every week new ventures are established. A strong concept at first will stand out but eventually it will wilt after countless of others follow. A strong brand positioning is what we aim for. How you differentiate yourself from your competitors holds the key here. Can your brand catch up with the ever-changing trends? Design possibilities reach a new level, thanks to the arrival of new technology, the graphics space is sure to be even more exciting than ever in the coming years ahead of us. This presents brands with endless opportunities to change their image or make their existing presence felt even more. However, it's also important to not get carried away by trends. Just because something is new, it doesn't mean it has longevity and is better for your brand.

Can you share with us the current trends in promotional campaigns?

Gossip has always been around us. These days, word of mouth and social media marketing are the dynamic duos. Word of mouth marketing has always been the most effective form of marketing. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. Once you secure those two, voilà, the world is your oyster.

Unconsciously speaking, all brands are trying to feed their target audience with what topic we should talk about and gossip about. They sneak the brand message through soft selling or even sometimes seem unrelated to the brand itself, as long as it's relatable. A prime example would be a memorable hashtag accompanied with a relatable story that hits the customers' bullseyes.

How do you foresee the change in design trend in the future?

There's an old saying that goes, "There is nothing new under the sun". The good news is you can always add your own twist to make it as if it's brand new. Interestingly, visuals will not be the selling point as long as it is campaign-able. It's more to the message behind the design or advertisements. They tend to pay more attention to the message and the purpose behind the brand they want to engage with. Through a branding campaign, the audience will know the emotional connotations of the brand, so it doesn't have to be aesthetically pleasing.

In the next five years, the trifecta will be in the form of a strong brand story, a catchy tagline, and targeted at the right crowd. The main goal will be for people to recognize your brand without even putting up your logo, just by reading the memorable and distinct tagline. Wouldn't that be nice?

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.