On the imperative that designers must be not only engaged early in the process of creating products, but also in the development of the marketing / messaging and even the larger business strategy, Joshua Porter saidbest:

Now, ask any designer and they’ll tell you that design is about communication. But, how effective can designers be if they don’t have any seat the table where the communication is being decided?

Design can be so much more than a simple veneer. Done well, it can permeate both the product and the process with a unique and instantly identifiable personality. And that, in my opinion, is a worthwhile endeavor, as it brings a competitive advantage that very few can duplicate.