Design Thinking For Marketers

This is an era of unprecedented change, and brands need to keep up with soaring consumer expectations to stay relevant and become successful. Also, the socio-economic landscape is fluid and complex enough for businesses to come up with disruptive and volatile changes. In such times, Design Thinking is offering real opportunities to marketers to cope with the dynamic environment and emerge to be market leaders.

The term ‘design-led companies’ is being increasingly used as companies tend to modify and improve their business processes to include Design Thinking. When it comes to meeting consumer expectations, design thinking is lending a helping hand to the marketing teams across industries. In this article, we will discuss how Design Thinking is helping marketers to move from a campaign-led approach to a customer-focused outlook.

Importance of Design Thinking For Marketers

Let us see what are the traits that marketing professionals exhibit in their profession and how design thinking comes into play to enhance their productivity and efficiency.

The User-Perspective

While talking about user-perspective, we simply assume that going ahead with the knowledge of what the users want would suffice to serve them well. It is important to comprehend that users might not always be aware of their own needs due to the limited knowledge of possibilities and viability. In situations like these, traditional research methods like surveys and focus groups stand ineffective. The key to customer success is to step into their shoes to come up with the best possible solution while keeping in mind the technology insights to make those solutions possible.

When it comes to Design Thinking, empathy is the key. The approach is to think and feel the way consumers do, to understand their pain points. Then, consider these pain points along with their scope and magnitude to develop solutions.

The Iterative approach

Always being in ‘constant beta’ marketers could easily adapt to the concepts and methodology of design thinking. Traditionally, market research was the basis to validate ideas and propose best-fit solutions. Today, with Design Thinking, the way forward is for various stakeholders to be involved in designing ideas, rather than just validating them with the existing research. The problem is defined and solutions are arrived at jointly through collaboration. 

All this is achieved by incremental and iterative prototyping which involves converting ideas and concepts to products, services, or solutions. The final results are then again tested, iterated, and refined. 

Collaboration and Teamwork

design thinking for marketers

Effective marketing depends on collaborative teamwork. Even in traditional methods of marketing, brainstorming, which is a group initiative, has always played a key role. Design Thinking expands the scope of collective effort and tends to involve professionals across verticals to drive marketing initiatives. 

Collaboration is a key principle under Design Thinking. It is a process-oriented approach towards problem-solving and is based on interactions as opposed to just cooperation, which is more goal-oriented. In Design Thinking, the concept of sole innovator is a myth. 

How to apply Design Thinking in Marketing

The role of CMOs is shifting from just business growth to business innovation. It takes conviction and courage to make bold decisions for disruptive innovation and Design Thinking helps marketing leaders to drive successful innovations to deliver real customer value. When applying Design Thinking to marketing processes, it is necessary to blur the lines between product teams, marketing, sales, and digital technology, along with using the right tools with the right mindset. 

When the goals are clear, and the process is led by Design Thinking, then the marketing initiatives are bound to be successful and drive significant business innovations. This is how marketers can apply Design Thinking to their operations:

Formulate the Problem Statement

Traditionally, the focus of marketers has been towards developing new product features to acquire and retain customers. In this process, most of the time the focus shifts off the problem we are trying to solve with that product. Design Thinking addresses this issue with the concept of ‘empathy’. This essentially requires marketers to ditch the old methods of consumer survey and focus groups, and rather directly engage with customers and frontline teams. 

Here are some of the ways to understand consumer pain-points and define problem statements to be solved for ultimate customer value:

The human-first approach:

Leverage Design Thinking tools such as buyer personas, customer journey maps, and empathy mapping to understand consumer pain points. Once the challenges and opportunities are identified, prioritise resources and budgets to drive valuable customer experience. 

The Dollar Shave Club addressed a major problem that the leading grooming brands were not much concerned about. Have a look at their launch video to see what they have done differently that paved the way to their success

Gain insights from extreme users:

The most extreme users are the ones which are not using your product at all or the ones who have been loyal customers but have given up on your product or service. Marketers need to identify some of these extreme users and talk to them directly and understand their pain points. Here, you need to try and understand the ‘why’ behind their behaviour and motivation. If you talk to average users, you will get only average insights, which will not translate to breakthrough innovations or solutions. 

Channel the internal creativity

Creativity is crucial in Design Thinking. Building these capabilities in-house brings in the required agility to devise possible and creative solutions to human problems. It also helps in exploring the possibilities in emerging technologies and data. 

Build a cross-functional team for ideation and inspiration:

Assembling a team from diverse backgrounds and experience is a key principle of Design Thinking. A typical team will only come up with typical solutions to the problem at hand. On the other hand, a team with a mix of different perspectives, expertise, and approach will produce extraordinary results. 

Don’t shy away from experimentation

Design Thinking preaches that ideas are free and hence the goal of marketers should be to break these ideas to find problems, iterate and improve. A substantial amount of time is saved while ideation and teams can quickly move ahead into the test phase. Once a substantial number of iterations are performed, teams can go to market with pilots, beta offerings and soft launches.

Be ready for the feedback:

Allowing the consumers to interact with your offering or solution is the best way to garner accurate feedback. Based on the expertise of each individual member of the cross-functional team, they will interpret the feedback and insights differently. This will open up further scope to improve your offering based on different perspectives, and this is the key factor in providing the best customer experience. 

To get a more functional understanding of Design Thinking in Marketing, read this case study

We talked about the pace at which the world, and everything in it is evolving. It is a fact that this pace is not slowing anytime soon, if not increasing. If a faster, simpler, and a more convenient alternative to solve a customer problem emerges, brand loyalty goes for a toss. Such times call for disruptive innovations and Design Thinking is the go-to approach for the same. If you are a professional who is challenged with the task to lead Design Thinking in your organisation or a professional who needs to transition into a Design role, then upskill with Great Learning’s Stanford Design Thinking Program.

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