NEW YORK: Brands could derive significant benefits from using design in a more cohesive and thoroughgoing way, according to a leading executive from PepsiCo.

"Design is more than a logo, if you think about it; it's more than a package; it's more than a campaign, no matter how cute or clever; it's not just decoration," she said. "It can be, truly, a competitive differentiator."

One this discipline's primary strengths, for Cullen, rests in helping "make strategy real" across various touchpoints and channels. (For more, including how design is a form of "soft power", read Warc's exclusive report: How design is helping PepsiCo win the marketing war.)

"Let's face it, no matter how brilliant your PowerPoint deck or strategy, consumers aren't going to fall in love with a strategy. They're going to fall in love, we hope, with an experience that they have with a product."

If designers have stereotypically been regarded as "airy-fairy" and "touchy-feely", the examples of Apple, the electronics group, and Starbucks, the coffee house chain, should help dispel any such reservations.

These businesses, Cullen reported, demonstrate how a rigorous "design language" can assist in building truly cohesive experiences and enhance customer affinity.

"Design thinking is also holistic; it looks at the whole picture … It's a continuous, iterative process. It's also about meaning," she said.

For many digital start-ups, this type of thinking is baked in to the way they develop and improve their products and services.

"We've got a whole generation … of entrepreneurs and companies where they don't have to add design to the mix; design is completely embedded. You cannot separate design from their product and their experiences," said Cullen.

Having hired its first chief design officer in mid-2012, PepsiCo has made significant progress in this area, too – and this progress has been supported at the boardroom level.

"At the very highest level, there is some very significant advocacy for design," said Cullen. "The leader of our company, Indra Nooyi, is an advocate for design."

Data sourced from Warc