Design is a real estate game

The mind, the space, the location it will reside (quality)

Any design work you do for your clients is all about real estate. Mental real estate: Do you capture the key brand position? Where does your target file your communication in their mind? Literal real estate: What resources do you consume to communicate your message? Does your end product have presence?

Mental real estate

Here, I am referring to the mental space any design work done for you will get from your target audience. This is usually broken down into two types of real estate: Key brand position and other.

  1. Key brand position

A key brand position is the first brand that a customer thinks of when they are looking for your product or a similar one say in a busy Nairobi supermarket. An example of this in Kenya would be what was OMO for any Kenyan looking to buy washing powder a few years ago.

When you are communicating to your audience, you need to know whether you are a key brand or not. A key brand is free to use concepts such as “we are being copied”, “you know and love us” and so on.

Being the Key brand allows you to connect with your customers from an emotional level and to build the relationship with your customer from an emotional level.


What do these bubbles remind you of, and why? Key brand.

Its easy to loose key brand position and market research (see our market research partner’s profile here) will help you avoid any communication mistakes that cost you the envied position.

If your products are not a key brand products, using language that tries to communicate as if they were a Key brand is like trying to sell a gold plated item as real gold, no one will believe you and you will get a reputation for being a con man. Very quickly.

So what do you do with your design and communication when you do not have key brand products?

  1. Other (Brand Monopoly)

When your products are not key brand products, you need to look at the monopoly board of similar products your clients are faced with when they are in a Nairobi supermarket. Put yourself in their shoes, try and find out what they use to determine where a given product is on the monopoly board.


This is done through market research and answers questions such as “what contributes to value?” and “How much do you think is fair to pay, and why?”

Answers to these questions allow you to play the field to your advantage. How? Answers will tell you if your design just needs to be brighter to sell more at a higher price. The answers will tell you if your design needs to be simpler and less busy to connect with the target in the first place. If they feel like your product looks good enough to be in their home and why.

Getting to know the brand Monopoly board for your product is key to connecting with your customers and is always the key to unseating the key brand for your products in your target’s mind.

Physical real estate

Physical real estate is different from the mental real estate in that your design communication will be remembered for reasons that are not directly related to your product.

  1. What medium you use

This addresses the question of whether you should use a Youtube video advert, a TV spot or live wall on a roundabout. Whether you use a newspaper advert, a trade magazine, a lifestyle magazine or the back of an exercise book.

What is the difference? The difference is usually in the mind frame of the target audience. You want to run a Youtube advert you better know your target has time to criticize everything about your advertisement from how well people in the ad are lit to how well they communicate concepts. On a Kenyan TV, they may not have that time or be in that mind space because they have tuned into the TV station at a specific time for content they might miss, say news a favorite show etc.


For a print adverts the same principal applies, in a Kenyan newspaper your advert will be consumed for only two or three days and very briefly (a busy Nairobi office worker). In a Lifestyle magazine it will be consumed over months and the reader will have time to really examine what you present (individuals in waiting rooms, salons and in the comfort of their homes).

How big/long is it?

This is true for print, video, audio and digital media design. Thought must be dedicated to determining how big/long any communication must be. A clever designer will find innovative ways to use the space you give them to work with.

Ideas Wit Design would play with here include spreading a full page into four consecutive quarter pages. Or stretching a Youtube advert into a story over few clips.

How does it look?

This speaks to the understanding your designer has of taste and what that actually means to your target audience. This is about taking feedback from the market research team and turning it into something your average Nairobian will see and acknowledge as awesome. It needs to lead them to express a desire to get involved with the brand, be it a purchase, a follow or a retweet.

How something looks addresses the question of what the perfect tightness of the cut on your male model’s trousers is. Or the ideal length of a woman’s skirt in your advert is.

The answers depend on three factors according to us at Wit Design:

  • Who you want to enjoy the product
  • Who will pay for it
  • Whose opinion matters to your target demographic


  1. Knowing where your brand belongs on your user’s mental Monopoly board is crucial.
  2. The different use ideas for the different real estate options give a wise marketer plenty to work with in choice of medium, size and image to promote their products stature and sales.