The goal of strategic design thinking is to understand and solve a problem for its consumer. This method is applied to the design of intangible services and processes, which is 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 that our clients have as authentic of a brand voice as possible.
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 explore 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 for advice. Formulated to incubate a new wave of hybrid thinking, the program focuses on trying to understand the experience of your brand through the perspective of the people who are buying it. Here are the four main keys to implementing a strategic design thinking model to your business structure, as recommended by Dr. Nixon.
- 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,” Dr. Nixon said. “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 means 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 newest interest in the world of social sharing, which means your product or service should only be one part of your brand’s ethos. Intimacy also involves creating a way for your audience to experience you. Innovative brands like Dove and Chipotle have created three-minute, viral short films in which you never see the product, as the point is to gain an understanding of what the brand cares about. A compelling story shows, not tells and invites, not sells, which ultimately builds a consumer connection.
Applying these principles and shifting to a hyper-centered focus on the user will help companies drive profit and success.