Dr. Islam Gouda
Dr. Islam Gouda 6 January 2016

The Design Thinking Of Your Marketing And Advertising

What is the meaning of design thinking and how it can be integrated with Marketing and Advertising?

The human brain prefers to habituate most of the activities to make it easier for the people to practice. If we remember every little detail of the car driving experience it would be a very difficult process to perform, instead we just seem to be automating it for our convenience. The risk of automation however, that we fail to see any difference in the process to the point that most of the activities simply becomes the same.

There are many studies and articles about the importance of marketing automation and how it can benefit an organization in terms of the facilitation of the marketing process. 

Nonetheless, when marketing or advertising processes are automated they shift from being an art and science to merely being processes. If a company advertises on the same spot at the street at a regular place and time of the year, people get accustomed to it and simply stop reading.

If we try to understand the meaning of Marketing and its correlation with Advertising, we would get to the concept that it is all about solving problems; addressing a need that doesn’t exist by tackling a problem most people won’t notice and letting them know that we “as a brand” have the answer. This is the soul of Marketing that we can’t find in any academic text book out there – the soft side that marketers develop by experience and having a wholesome look at things.

Whoever understands the essence of Marketing, will understand that it sometimes not about promoting an existing product or service, but as well coming up with new ones to solve a problem and then promote the solution to the customers.

Take for example, the windshield wipers – they are the most used products around the world. They were invented by Mary Anderson, an inventor and designer who lived back in the 1980’s. One day, she was in the car with a group of people where it was cold and snowing. The driver of the car had to open the window to wipe the snow to see the road, but when the window opened a very cold breeze got into the car.

People didn’t complain about it because it was the norm of things, but Mary Anderson took her pen and paper and started thinking about a solution for this problem – with a simple what if question, the windshields were invented and still in use till today. Now, this way of thinking and looking at things – in addressing what most people would overlook or consider as part of their daily life, the design way of thinking.

By definition, there is a commonality between the concept of design thinking and the essence of marketing. There is a need for every marketer not to take things or look at things the way most people do – there is this element of trying or having to find solutions and add value to life, shifting it from merely as people see it to how it can be better.

Most of the new projects, companies, products, and services fail in the market place (96% to be exact as mentioned by a study conducted by the Dublin Group), while 7 out of 10 senior executive named innovation as a top priority in their companies, projects and processes. However, massive investments are being wasted – the answer of such dilemma comes from the world of design.

Designers and design tools can advance innovation solutions from mystery, exploration to experimentation. However, their tools are largely insulated within the design community. Integrating design’s best tools into marketing, research and business innovation expertise could help deliver those illusive, disruptive ideas that we perpetually search for. 

So, what is the meaning of design thinking and how it can be integrated with Marketing and Advertising?

It is a way of thinking that gives organizations context when dealing with their customers, providing more depth into the relationship where it is built on ethnography (which is the journey of the consumers with all what it has of touch points).

The process starts with the collection of all relevant ideas for the purpose of exploring various problems the customers and the company faces, trying to understand the surroundings of the problem as well in order to come up with disruptive new solutions. Finally, there is the concept of prototyping – where ideas are transformed from being on paper to being real, accelerating the pace where they are developed and testing them for better results.

In order to integrate Marketing and Advertising with Design Thinking, the following has to be put to practice:

1. Dissecting the Marketing Problem & Linking them with Business Objectives

When starting your marketing activities or campaign, bring a board and put it on the wall. Address all the elements of the equation, starting from what is the problem. Create a clear definition of the problem and crystallize the insights while linking them with the business objectives. Put the main questions (come up with as many) and put each question next to the other – these questions has later to be addressed by consumer research.

2. Utilize Ethnographic and Contextual Research

Marketing research doesn’t look into what could be created, but it more concerns how the existing could be developed in an incremental manner. Breakthrough innovation comes from experimentation, from contextual research based on ethnography of the customers. Take for example, the use of glasses in sports. 

Research indicates that sportspeople have a difficult time using their glasses when doing sports. The obvious answer would suggest the use of lenses to solve their problem. However, a contextual research of seeing sportspeople wearing their glass, they have developed ways for these glasses not to fall – which would not have been discovered with ordinary research.

3. Bring-in Your Customers to Develop with You

When being tied up with deadlines and specific launch, marketers tend to be very hasty that they just want to release the product or the service into the market. The design thinking process encourages us to bring in our customers and integrate them at the beginning of the process – it is not about them trying what we have came up with, but rather to develop with us our ideas at their initial stage and give us feedback. Marketers should capitalize on the opportunity of having the customers’ voices at the beginning not to waste investment and time on trials and errors.

4. It is All About Failing and Failing till We Succeed

 With the various processes we have and various levels of filtration for the product or services that are about to be introduced – we simply indulge our fear of failure which can be paralysing. The concept of design thinking encourages failure and how we can leverage from it for better products and services which is the true key of innovation. Prototyping assists in getting customer feedback as early as possible – it gives the opportunity for refinement which reduces error.

Design thinking is not a process however, it is a mindset – and that is the biggest challenge. It is how we can adopt that mindset, break the shackles of how we approach problems, and integrate with the way we do our marketing or advertising. 

It takes time to build a culture of prototyping, where there is a linear communication process with the customers. However, the end results are rewarding – where an edge is gained and a competitive advantage is fulfilled.  

Where to find Dr. Islam Gouda,

Twitter: | LinkedIn:

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