How does Design Thinking relate to Marketing? Part 1: Empathy & Insight

Design Thinking for Marketing Part 1: Empathy & Insight

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you have probably heard about ‘Design Thinking’. Originally conceived as (funnily enough) a methodology for product design, it has now been co-opted to many different settings as an easily repeatable problem solving methodology. It has been used by start-ups as an innovation framework, in change management to help drive sustainable change, and within continuous improvement to facilitate customer-centric solution building.
Essentially Design Thinking is broken down into steps – depending to which school of thought you belong, there could be between 3 and 8. This is the first in a series of blogs which focus on the parts of Design Thinking that apply to marketing. 
The first step of Design Thinking is to define the problem. 
In a marketing context, this means focusing on the customer. What problems do our customers have? How do they feel about that? What can we do to help? Why have they got these problems? What other solutions have they tried? How will our solution make them feel?
By focusing on the customer, we can gather insights that are deeper than the symptoms of the issue. For example, if you were marketing a weight loss product, you would start with a focus on individual customers. 
One customer may want to lose weight for a best friend’s wedding. But why is losing weight a problem? Why has this person not been able to lose weight before? What do they hope to achieve by losing weight? What is the emotional impact of purchasing a product that will help them lose weight?
When you get answers to these questions, you are empathising with your customer and you can develop that empathy into a customer insight. Jenny Craig’s insight was that people were buying hope. So they have designed their marketing around selling hope, not a weight loss program.
A low-cost mortgage company might speak to the same customer and find out that they are desperate to save money for this wedding, but with home-loan repayments and school fees (and now, Jenny Craig fees!), they are struggling. With more time, we might find out that they are also time poor and – if they’re honest – a little intimidated by going to a bank and asking for to refinance.  So rather than just selling low rates, this organisation could start by selling the peace of mind that they can do the whole process online.
This is an invaluable step in Design Thinking. By digging into the customer’s problems, you should be able to empathise and get a deeper understanding of the emotions driving the customer’s needs. This allows you to gain insights that will help you differentiate your solution in a market full of competitors. 
Next week we’ll take this new found customer knowledge and take it through Part 2: Framing the Problem.
If you need help in gathering customer insights to develop real differentiation for your product or service, Atomic Tangerine can help! We run customer insight workshops with you and your team, and with your customers, to come up with genuine insight that can super-charge your marketing.
Sybil Williams
Founder and Growth Catalyst