Marketing or Design Thinking?

The much-vaunted complexity of the modern media ecosystem is ongoing and constantly evolving.

The proliferation of devices, media and functionalities presents opportunities and challenges to brands and media owners seeking to maximize their communications ROI. There may be more challenges facing those with large infrastructure investments in legacy systems and processes than newer entrants that delight in disruption.

As the trend toward greater consumer control and interaction around messages grows, the number of social contexts increase. Many of the established practices that characterize long-established marketing thinking then become strained.

We have to question the extent to which intrusive, push-based and display-oriented advertising will continue to work in each medium.  It won’t disappear, but will it continue to dominate?  Will we get to grips with a new way of relating to consumers -- and having them relate to us -- that is not based on an overt and primary sales message? But rather,  in the form of content that can be aligned intelligently and appropriately with the brand in a context that makes sense?

These and many other questions mean that -- in my view -- our current approach to marketing will move toward an orientation more aligned with design thinking.  Whereas media and marketing folk are increasingly orienting themselves around storytelling – and occasionally transmedia storytelling –- this is mostly taking place in the context of media and communications campaigns.

To integrate this fully into an integrated marketing approach, storytelling needs to be incorporated fully into design thinking, a natural sub-set.

Design thinking, to date, has mostly (though not exclusively) been a feature of the product development, design, engineering, architecture and urban planning sectors. It is become a feature of some of the more forward-thinking universities that are developing curriculum that incorporates it

To date, there is little to suggest that there are significant moves to incorporate this approach, which involves data analysis, the empathetic understanding of the factors that define relevant situations (from the consumers’ perspectives), creative planning and the practicalities of deployment and production. Yet,it is hard to see how this won’t become a part of every successful company’s processes in the coming years.

How else will we be able to respond to consumers who are increasingly enabled to engage at will with our brands via their platforms of choice and in the manner of choice: with or without the involvement of brands?

How else will we crack the code on how to gain from mobile and other digital technologies and applications to inform the shopping process in order that both the retail and online aspects of a company’s business both benefit rather than  suffer from cannibalization?

And how else will we learn how to enhance brand-consumer relationships, based on the right blend of customer service, brand positioning, price and reputation, when consumers are becoming increasingly difficult to predict and reach in large numbers with conventional media buys?

None of these or the other pressing questions of the day are beyond solution, but the optimal solutions will come through a design thinking approach and a different mind-set from that which dominates the media and marketing industries.



How quickly we’ll adapt will determine how well we keep up with our consumers.

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