Interviews

Andrew Barraclough, Vice President of Global Design, GSK

By ensuring design is a creative partner to marketing, Andrew Barraclough gives a compelling reminder of why the consumer experience needs to be more than just a buzzword.

Nicola Kemp

Managing Editor, BITE

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As Vice President of Global Design at pharmacy giant GlaxoSmithKline, Andrew Barraclough is a passionate advocate for the power of design to drive a business and a brand forward. “The biggest challenge we all face as a design industry is to convince every business leadership team that design is a strategic partner that should work alongside marketing to deliver against the vision and direction for the business,” he explains.

It’s a strategic vision that Barraclough is committed to bring to life and one that aligns with the company’s purpose. He explains, “Demand for consumer healthcare products is growing as consumers around the world seek affordable and easily accessible products in their search for digital healthcare solutions.”

Far too often design can slip down the marketing agenda; yet in the era of ‘experience design’, it is a marketing discipline which is unique in its ability to cross almost every single consumer touchpoint.  As Barraclough highlights, “To stand out in a highly-competitive marketplace and create long-term value, we as designers need to build authentic and enduring conversations between our brands and consumers.”       

For GSK, design is at the heart of its business purpose, one which is driven not just by improvements in science, but a focus on improving health outcomes across the board. The company defines this “special purpose” as to “help people do more, feel better, live longer."

Design is much less a fishhook trying to do one simple job, and much more like Velcro; lots of little hooks all adding up to one great net effect.

Andrew Barraclough

The experience economy

With trend forecasters lining up to declare the myriad ways in which Generation Z will revolutionise design, Barraclough takes a refreshingly straightforward approach. When asked which key trends are impacting his strategy, he shies away from focusing on individual pieces of technology to instead focus on a holistic customer view.

In essence, he explains, this equates to “giving consumers a seamless brand experience”. An approach which demands that GSK’s brands and products are visible and accessible at the right time, in the right channel, from online right through to traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ retail outlets.

He says, “Design is much less a fishhook trying to do one simple job, and much more like Velcro; lots of little hooks all adding up to one great net effect. I believe that design can play a key role in delivering that consistent brand experience.”

This shift is evident in the continued push by D&AD to readdress the balance between design and advertising. The not-for-profit advertising and design association is adding a Design Transformation category to its awards to recognise and reward projects which use design thinking as a key driver of business transformation and growth.

Beyond Big Data

In the midst of the deluge of big data, Barraclough takes a balanced approach to how data, fused with human creativity, can drive the design industry forwards. He explains, “In today’s connected world, we cannot ignore the importance of data. It is everywhere. But it’s what we do with it that matters.”

Reflecting on the brand’s mission of helping people to do more, feel better and live longer, he believes that data has the potential to help the brand deliver on this mission by helping to have a positive and lasting impact on people’s health.

“The more we know about people’s habits, behaviours, preferences and choices can only help, rather than hinder, our ability to serve our consumers more effectively and to develop creative campaigns,” he adds.

In today’s connected world, we cannot ignore the importance of data. It is everywhere. But it’s what we do with it that matters.

Andrew Barraclough

Local products, combined with a global outlook

According to Barraclough, in today’s fast-changing, connected world, people are taking an increasingly active role in managing their own health, with technology bringing more information and choice to their fingertips. He explains, “Demand for consumer healthcare products is growing with people around the world seeking relevant, affordable and easily accessible products. There is a huge opportunity to deliver global solutions.”

Yet from a product design and marketing perspective, this technology-driven shift to globalisation does not equate to a one-sized fits all approach. Barraclough points to the need for “highly locally relevant products.” He adds, “It is important we offer unique healthcare solutions for specific healthcare problems people have around the world.” In practice, for example, the challenges of finding solutions for affordable toothbrushes in India could also help to break down barriers enabling people to feel better and live longer in other regions and markets.

What keeps you awake at night right now?

Refreshingly, Barraclough declares that “there is nothing that is really keeping me awake at night in my role.” However, his passion for the power of design is palpable. “The biggest challenge we all face as a design industry is to convince every business leadership team that design is a strategic partner that should work alongside marketing to deliver against the vision and direction for the business,” he explains.

According to Barraclough, traditional businesses are set up with very siloed departments and individualistic thinking, leading to fiefdoms. He says, “This doesn’t reflect how consumers act, think or feel. They don’t distinguish their in-app experience from their experience of reading medication instructions. But consumers will notice when the brand experience is disconnected.”

The consumer experience may be at the top of the marketing agenda, but some in the industry believe the structural changes necessary to ensure design sits at the strategic heart of marketing have been thin on the ground. For Barraclough, putting design and its many skill sets at the heart of an organisation can usher in a “transformation to the consumer experience”. By ensuring design is a creative partner to marketing, Barraclough is a compelling reminder of why the consumer experience needs to be more than just a buzzword.