Strategic-design thinking has one single goal: to understand and solve a problem for its consumer. This method is applied to the design of intangible services and processes, an idea we have become familiar with in the new “Age of Experience.”
The current generation of consumers has developed an intolerance for inauthenticity, which means that brands need to shift their thinking from traditional to thoughtful. The tide is turning in the media and communications industry: Now, it’s about focusing on the truth, or what I like to call the “story behind the glory.” My job is to make sure our clients have as authentic a brand voice as possible.
Authenticity Is Rewarded
A recent global study released by Cohn & Wolfe found that nearly nine out of 10 consumers are willing to take action to reward a brand for its authentic approach to marketing. Despite the fact that this strategy is a sure way to amplify their messages, many businesses poorly execute these new practices of engagement, which creates a proverbial slump that lacks creativity, direction and innovation.
As an entrepreneur who is constantly searching for opportunities to grow and exploring potential programs to add to my growth, I turned to my friend Dr. Natalie Nixon, Director of the Strategic Design MBA program at Philadelphia University. Formulated to incubate a new wave of hybrid thinking, the program’s focus is on trying to understand the experience of your brand through the perspective of the people who are buying it.
The Four Keys
Natalie shared the four main keys to implementing a strategic design thinking model to your business structure:
- Go beyond the quantitative data and seek qualitative feedback. In order to know what motivates your audience to take action, you have to filter through the one-size-fits-all data approach to truly understand who they are and what their needs require. “Empathy education is at the core of strategic design thinking,” advises Dr. Nixon. “Companies have to reach beyond the structured, quantitative statistical research that businesses often rely on. It is interacting with consumers to understand their desires, and then customizing the experience in a remarkable way.”
- Apply lateral thinking. Sometimes businesses get bogged down by the rinse-and-repeat method of the same practices. To drive fresh solutions, it is vital that we look across industries and harvest new sources of inspiration. “To see your business with new eyes, open yourself to the practices of opposing industries – for example, if you work in beauty, attend a tech conference in order to design a new strategy,” suggests Dr. Nixon.
- Prototype experiences. It is easy to wrap our minds around the “look and feel” model of prototyping when a fashion designer makes a prototype of a dress. But it’s a lot more difficult to quantify experiences that don’t fit within our concrete sensory perception. Applying prototyping is about trying to understand the experience of your brand through the perspective of the people who are buying it. How do you prototype an intangible experience in today’s information economy? “Make it an active experience – we want people to ask lots of questions and come up with a range of insights,” advises Dr. Nixon.
- Cultivate the power of storytelling. The bar continues to be raised when it comes to breaking through the noise to capture an audience’s attention. Intimacy is the new interest in the world of social sharing, which means your product or service should only be one part of your brand’s ethos. It is also about creating a way for your audience to experience you. The most innovative brands, like Dove and Chipotle, have created three-minute, viral short films in which you never see the product. It’s more about an understanding of what the brand cares about. A compelling story shows (not tells) and invites (not sells), ultimately building consumer connection.
Applying these principles and shifting to a hyper-centered focus on the user will help companies drive profit and success.