The thinker

I’ve been doing some reading about design thinking, and whilst I’m no guru, several of the principles seem very similar to the methodologies used in digital marketing. Unlike traditional development methods, it’s an iterative process that’s focused on early (and frequent) user-centric prototyping & testing. How is it similar to marketing? User centric, iterative design with rapid prototyping. Let’s break that down.

User Centric

Keep the user at the heart of all marketing design. Understand what their motivations and use cases are to create messages and collateral that provides the right headlines and information. Marketing that’s based on real customers will always have a better fit than anything designed in a black box (a.k.a. boardroom). User surveys are great for collecting large volumes of data, but observation can provide deep insights into behavior and motivations.

Whether you’re surveying, interviewing or observing think carefully about what information you need to understand the true motivations your customers have. Dig deeper than just asking what they want and understand why they’re buying/using a solution. How they think the experience could be improved. What would influence them to buy an upgrade/replacement?

Iterative Design

Test, test and then test again. Keep testing and evolving your campaigns so that they’re the best they can be. Running A/B tests on web pages is cheap and easy (you should already be doing this), but other forms of collateral can require bigger investments and greater commitments. Which makes prototyping and testing other materials even more important. It’s the only way to make sure that you’re getting the best possible results – before you sink funds into the campaign.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your campaign radically, iterative doesn’t mean incremental. Be brave and find something that works. Even traditional mediums can provide rapid feedback.

Rapid Prototyping

Quickly build and deploy components of your campaigns, especially those components which might be unusually different or significant to the campaign. For example test an augmented reality or QR/app component – you want to be sure that it will get used and that it delivers on it’s promise. Prototyping is a great way to observe how users react to your new component in real life. It allows you to get far more insight than just a simple survey. Importantly, it’s cheaper to prototype (and test) a key component than build (and run) an entire campaign. Meaning you can save a huge amount of time & money through early prototype testing.

Whilst it’s origins lie in creativity techniques, many of it’s concepts are relevant for marketers. Like marketing it’s a blend of science and art – and there’s certainly more to it than just these few principles. If you build or plan marketing campaigns I’d recommend spending some time reading about design thinking.