Design Thinking + Design Doing = Disruptive Growth

Earlier this month, the Silicon Valley Executive Network (SVEN), a 1,200-member cross-functional and cross-vertical C-level network, hosted a “Future of Marketing Series” program about “Design Thinking and Design-Led Marketing.” Design thinking, at its simplest, can be defined as creative or design-led ways of solving business issues. Business case results show that design thinking, coupled with exceptional customer experiences, is critically important for B2B and B2C CMOs and the C-suite to adopt if they are to lead their organizations and disrupt their industries.  

For this program, SVEN CEO Brian Reynard, an Apple and Cisco tech veteran, Rambus CMO Jerome Nadel, and I assembled eight early adopters of design thinking: four from design agencies, three CMOs, and one retained recruiter of CMOs. (Videos from the day are available here.)

Nadel kicked off the program talking about how and why marketing should be part of the design-thinking end-to-end approach. “Marketing and the CMO role should not be limited to ‘downstream’ product or service promotion and lead-generation,” he said. “Marketers should be involved in company strategy, product concepting, and design. User experience and marketing go hand-in-hand. Real CMO work should encompass both.” 

Harry West, CEO of global design and strategy firm Frog, provided the keynote. Frog was an early design-thinking pioneer, working with Steve Jobs and the Apple team in the 1980s. Among West’s talking points:

• “Your ability as marketers to control communication is almost nonexistent, and it will continue to dwindle. And so the way you can influence is less through communications and more through the design of the experience. [Consumers will] talk about it, tell their friends, and come back, and that drives growth. In most businesses, this will overtake every other form of deliberate marketing. ... The empowered CMO is seeing more budget come their way to do this work.”

• “Today, customers judge everything based on experience, not the product. Brand communications matter less and the delivery of the brand promise matters more. Creating and delivering a better experience is today’s imperative.”

You can see West’s presentation slides here.

Ari Popper, founder and CEO of SciFutures, uses science fiction to create potential scenarios for Fortune 1000 companies to prototype and explore their options. Among Popper’s talking points:

• “We are living in an amazing time, an exponential age, where emerging technologies like IoT, 3D printing, VR, AR, AI, robotics, drones, and autonomous driving are being harnessed by exponential companies, such as Uber, Tesla, Square, Nest, Amazon Alexa, Airbnb, and others. ... [But] there are companies who don’t realize that we are living in an exponential age, can’t see the looming threats, and can’t get out of their own way to evolve, transform, and grow. They are on a linear path of doom.”

• “Science-fiction has a lot of unique benefits for innovation, marketing, and for communicating disruption. ... Sci-fi provides narratives that give context and clarity and humanizes future possibilities, which is a good way for executives to get their heads around complex ideas.”

You can see Popper’s presentation slides here.

Panelist Insight
Following are key excerpts from the design-led marketing expert panel.

Nandini Nayak, Ph.D., Managing Director, Design Strategy and Innovation, Fjord:
• “Experiences will help people make better decisions. ... How people relate to brands is not that dissimilar from how they relate to people. Great experiences need to create emotional affinity.”

• “Today’s magic is tomorrow’s mundane. So how do you keep the magic in your product and service experiences going? You have to adopt a design-thinking approach. It will become fundamental to your growth strategy. It isn’t enough to have design thinking in your company. You also need to have ‘design doing.’ But it won’t scale across your company until you have a design culture.”

Menaka Shroff, Head of Marketing, BetterWorks:
• “There is a huge transformation happening in the design space. Ten percent of the Fortune 500 have stated that design is their No. 1 priority. You never used to hear that. These companies know this is going to be a competitive advantage in the long run.”

• “If generating revenue is the No. 1 thing the company focuses on, then you will not build a culture that is using design thinking. ... The No. 1 thing needs to be about thinking about is your mission, your customer, and what experiences they want. It’s important to build a mission-focused culture versus a ‘mercenary’ culture.”

Arya Bariani, CMO, GlobalLogic:
• “Technology, for the most part, is commoditized. The key value differentiator is around design and delivering great customer experiences. ... It’s an evolutionary change for our clients as well as our employees. The customer needs to be at the center of your world. To make this change happen, your CEO or CMO need to be a strategic change agent.”

Sasha Pave, Group Manager, Growth & Community, Adobe (CMO.com’s parent company)
• “Design thinking can be a messy process, but it brings functional silos together so they can focus on the customer and actually have conversations about putting the customer experience first. ... When you use design thinking, it forces teams to let go, to allow for an iterative experimental approach and learn what is important to your customers.”

• “Using design-thinking methodologies, we don’t begin work until we have the right set of questions we are trying to answer. Sometimes we experiment, knowing that the results won’t give us all the answers but help us form better questions. Other times we have immediate action based on results. It involves letting go of the reins sometimes and letting our users give us the answers. And, in the end, we deliver a better experience.”

Shane Steele, VP Marketing, Chime:
• “You cannot separate product and marketing. The best marketing is to have a great product. This gets people talking about what you are doing. The best marketers are also product people. You need to think about end-to-end experience–the entire set of touch points.”

• “Design thinking requires qualitative [research], quantitative [research], and using your gut. You’ve got to have your North Star. What is the mission and the change you want to make in the world, and how is that going to translate into solving problems for people? ... You need to understand where you should focus.”

Kate Bullis, Managing Partner, SEBA
• “In the B2B enterprise tech world, CEOs have moved beyond looking for CMOs with just demand gen experience acting as a service center to sales. CEOs now want to go back to basics on the fundamentals of messaging, positioning, and brand differentiation to make a difference for the customer. CEOs are looking for ‘outside-in’ marketers. This is just another way of saying ‘design thinking’ marketer. If customer empathy is the first stage of design thinking, that is where great marketing starts–out there, not in here.  

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