Design thinking in the marketing process: Explore the problem

What is it and why is it so critical?

Design thinking in the marketing process: Explore the problem
Design thinking in the marketing process: Explore the problem
min read
Design thinking in the marketing process: Explore the problem
Design thinking in the marketing process: Explore the problem

What's the first thing that springs to mind when you hear the term ‘design thinking?’

Perhaps it has something to do with making things look nice?  It might conjure up thoughts of fashion or trend setting?  Or, maybe it's merely regarded as a ‘fluffy irrelevance’ that's of no concern to serious-minded business people?’

OK, I accept that there are people out there who take a much more positive view of the concept but, given the number of times I’ve heard business owners criticise a piece of design because they don’t like the colour, I would venture to suggest that such positive attitudes are pretty rare!

Needless to say, we at Prizsm are very firmly in the ‘positive camp.’  For us, design thinking is absolutely critical to effective customer acquisition.  Let me take a few minutes of your time to explain why.

What is the primary purpose of great design?

Yes, it looks stunning; yes, the result is a pleasure to use; and, yes, it will have the feel good factor. But, at its most fundamental level, great design is about complex problem solving.  Furthermore, it's absolutely focused on finding human-centred solutions to these complex problems.

A brilliant piece of ergonomic product design, a genuinely intuitive user interface and a logically sound infographic all have one thing in common.  They deliver a simple solution to a complex problem or, in the words of Steve Jobs, “design is how it works.”

Design thinking is the process the design profession has developed to achieve this end result.  It involves acquiring a deep understanding of the customer’s problem in all its complexity, developing a range of original solutions and undergoing a rigorous process of prototyping and marketing testing to to choose and refine the optimum design.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this is precisely what is required for the development of an efficient and effective customer acquisition process.  The problem is complex; its solution has to be human centred (otherwise it won’t work); and it almost inevitably involves communicating complex ideas simply.

It is also an approach that is perfectly aligned to lean and agile management methods since they all have prototyping and real life market testing at their heart.

The end result is a coordinated, effective customer acquisition process that works.

But this is where we hit the problem.

From my experience, management attitudes to design all too often fall into the ‘fluffy irrelevance’ school of thought.  The consequences are severe and business history is strewn with unfortunate examples: new products that flopped; marketing initiatives launched on a whim; and hugely inefficient sales and marketing processes.  Massive amounts of money are wasted, profitability is hammered; and competitiveness is undermined.

Design thinking is not a fluffy irrelevance!  It is a critical success factor that is at the heart of all successful customer acquisition processes.  So, if you suspect that your business is a member of the ‘fluffy irrelevance’ school, now might be a good time to review how you manage the customer acquisition process.

As a first step, check the attitudes of your business against these classic symptoms of a lack of design thinking.

Your customer acquisition operations consist of a series of silos that jealously defend their independence and communicate with each other as little as possible.
New ideas or initiatives tend to be thought up and implemented on a whim with no testing or thought given to how they impact the rest of the business.
The efficiency of each element of the customer acquisition process is either not measured at all or uses vanity metrics to give a false impression of success.
The only criterion used to judge a new design is whether or not the boss likes it.  Typical examples include brand logos and colours, website or brochures or a tendency to sink precious money into ‘sponsoring’ golf, football or any other leisure activity they personally happen to enjoy.
Using family members who like dabbling in design to produce corporate websites or promotional material in the (mistaken) belief that it will save money.

If any or all of this sounds familiar (and believe me, they are incredibly common) then it's a fair bet that the business is seriously under-performing at best.  At worst, it could be heading for disaster.  It's time to take things in hand.

There is plenty of advice on the Prizsm website and take the assessment for a free independent view of your options.


Design thinking in the marketing process: Explore the problem
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