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What Is Design Thinking and Why You Need It as a CMO?

You're the CMO of your organization, and you know that it needs to change its marketing strategy. But how do you know what the best approach is? Design thinking can help.

Design thinking is developing creative solutions to business problems through workshops, brainstorming sessions, and feedback loops. CMOs need it to become customer-centric, test new ideas effectively, create quality products, and empower employees to think like entrepreneurs.

In this article, I'll describe design thinking and why you need it as a CMO. Read on for further details and helpful guidelines on employing this technique to improve marketing campaign outcomes.

What Is Design Thinking?

As a CMO, your business is constantly evolving with the times. But are you doing what it takes to remain relevant?

It's about more than just latching onto the latest buzzwords or following popular trends. You need to think critically and employ creativity for your company to stay relevant. That's where design thinking comes in.

Design thinking includes identifying your customers' needs through research, testing prototypes, and aligning your product with the right market. It's an iterative process that encourages self-reflection and experimentation, leading to better outcomes for you and your customers.

This process is crucial because it helps you transform your business into one that is customer-centric.

This means putting your customers' needs first and focusing on what makes them more likely to purchase from you.

Here’s an excellent TEDx video that explains the ins and outs of design thinking:

The Benefits of Design Thinking

In brief, here are some of the benefits of design thinking:

  • Helps identify problem areas: It's up to you to figure out what problems exist within your company and how you can address them through design thinking. Sometimes, this means rethinking entire business models or introducing new products to meet customer demands better.

  • Encourages innovation: Design thinking encourages self-reflection and experimentation. This means that you and your team can be more creative and innovative than ever before.

  • Allows for manageable change: Employing design thinking isn't just an overnight process. It's a gradual one that requires you to roll out changes slowly so that the entire company adopts them seamlessly over time.

  • Helps reduce risks: Design thinking helps you identify and address potential problems before they become bigger issues. This lowers your risk of losing customers and revenue in the future.

  • Makes decision-making easier: Since design thinking is about testing and iterating, it provides clear insight for making decisions moving forward. If one marketing campaign isn't successful, there's no mystery behind why; you know exactly what to try next.

How CMOs Use Design Thinking in Marketing

CMOs use design thinking to achieve specific business goals through customer-centric marketing campaigns.

Here are a few ways in which marketers can utilize design thinking:

1. Identifying What Customers Want

To have a successful marketing campaign, it's essential to speak your customers' language and know what they want.

Design thinking helps you uncover problems, encourage feedback from sales teams and customer service reps, and conduct market research.

2. Empowering Employees to Think Like Entrepreneurs

Marketing is a crucial part of any company, but that can't happen if you don't have an entrepreneurial mindset.

Design thinking is the foundation for creating new ideas and innovating -- which means you're fostering an environment of empowerment instead of stifling creativity with rules and restrictions.

3. Experimenting with New Strategies

Marketing campaigns aren't successful if they don't reach the right people or fail to make them want to buy your product or service.

Design thinking helps you test new strategies by implementing changes gradually so that you can observe whether they're working before anything is set in stone.

It also allows testers to have a say in whether or not they should implement change.

4. Measuring Success with Data

To assess whether a marketing campaign is successful, you need some data to back it up to know what metric to focus on moving forward.

Design thinking allows for this by tracking metrics from the very beginning and measuring improvements over time.

5. Pioneering Marketing Trends

Perhaps the biggest benefit of design thinking is that it helps you stay ahead of the curve by identifying trends before they become mainstream.

This allows you to be a pioneer in your industry and establish yourself as a thought leader to potential customers and investors alike.

The 5 Steps to Successful Design Thinking for Marketing

Design thinking is a multi-step process that you can implement in a multitude of different ways. To help you get started, here's a glimpse at the process broken down into five steps:

1. Empathy

The first step is to learn about your customers and their problems.

You can do this by:

  • Listening to them

  • Observing their behavior

  • Getting to know who they are as people

2. Defining your goal

Decide what you want to accomplish by creating the marketing campaign in question.

This is why design thinking is an excellent way to go beyond branding and focus on bottom-line metrics like sales targets, customer lifetime value, among others.

3. Ideate

Brainstorm creative solutions for how to meet that goal.

It would help to note that the more ideas you create, the better prepared you'll be for any obstacles that may arise during the implementation process.

4. Prototype

Once you've got a few different solutions to choose from, it's time to decide which one(s) are going to work best and take them into the real world to see how customers respond.

This will help you reduce the risk of losses by first ensuring the product you plan to introduce meets customers’ needs.

5. Monitor the Results and Refine the Prototype

If you find that customers aren't responding well to your prototypes, go back to the drawing board and try again.

Otherwise, continue with the process of refining the prototype(s) until you've got something ready for market.

4 Examples of Profitable Companies That Use Design Thinking

There are hundreds of examples of companies that use design thinking to make their services and products more consumer-friendly. Here are four of the most successful:

1. Apple

Apple is perhaps one of the most prominent examples of companies that use design thinking to appeal to their customers.

They've made entire generations of people covet their products because they're so aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly.

The industrial design of their retail stores hasn't changed much since this company first introduced them to the public, but that doesn't matter because it's such an integral part of the Apple experience for consumers.

Facebook is another example of a company that's equally successful as a result of effective design thinking.

Their "Like" button was one of the first ways for consumers to show their appreciation with a single click, and it still happens millions upon millions of times every day.

Facebook conducts experiments to learn more about what its users want and keep them coming back.

3. Tesla

Tesla is a tech company changing how we think about electric cars by designing them as sleek and stylish alternatives to more traditional options on the market today.

They've even automated driving so that people can take their hands off the wheel if they want.

Tesla also uses a lot of design thinking in their factories to ensure that they're efficient and environmentally friendly.

4. Airbnb

Finally, Airbnb is a company that changed the way we travel and think about accommodations.

This company has successfully marketed itself through design thinking, making itself one of the most successful start-ups of all time in an incredibly short time.

Final Thoughts

Design thinking is a powerful way to appeal to consumers, but it's only effective if you have the right strategy in place. If you don't, it won't make much of a difference. That's why it's crucial to understand how design thinking works and the best way to use it for marketing campaigns in general.

Contact VINK Marketing Studio today to learn more about how to use design thinking in marketing campaigns and beyond. Our team of experts will help you build a strategy that consumers will respond to and the relevant marketing assets so that you can start seeing increased sales and profits as soon as possible.


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