Point of View: Can marketing and research become better by design?
CAN MARKETING AND RESEARCHBECOME BETTER BY DESIGN?POINT OF VIEWSHARE 1Key to the rise of design has been the growingunderstanding that successful design is user-centric—that is, a product or service must beoptimized around the needs of the people whoare going to use it. This focus on the needs ofthe end user has helped design become a factornot only in the development of products, but alsoservices, organizational structures, and brands.At its best, design encompasses form andfunction, utility and aesthetic appeal. The powerof good design as a means to create value isepitomized by the success of Apple. The visualand tactile appeal of Apple’s simple, intuitiveproducts has helped Apple become the mostvaluable brand in the world, according to the2013 BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable GlobalBrands Ranking. Similarly, good design liesat the heart of the success of Amazon, whereit enables both operational efﬁciencies anda positive shopping experience.Market research has something in commonwith the ﬁeld of design. Like designers,market researchers set out to uncover insightsinto human behavior that are relevant toclient objectives. And like designers, marketresearchers rely on research. (Designers mightsay they are making “observations,” but theirobservations are, essentially, ethnographicresearch.)Though these similarities exist, the fortunesof design and market research have gonein opposite directions in recent years, andmarketing, the discipline that depends on marketresearch, has struggled as well. We all knowthe statistics: most new products fail, most viralvideos go nowhere, and click-through rates arelaughably low. Is it any wonder that a study bythe Fournaise Marketing Group ﬁnds that 73percent of CEOs think marketers lack businesscredibility and fail to drive ﬁnancial growth?Nigel HollisChief GlobalAnalystMillward Brownnigel.firstname.lastname@example.orgCan Marketing and ResearchBecome Better by Design?Over the last decade, the importance of design has grown beyond thetraditional concept of making an artifact look good to take a more centralrole in business, academia, and government.At its best,design encompassesform and function,utility andaesthetic appeal.
CAN MARKETING AND RESEARCHBECOME BETTER BY DESIGN?POINT OF VIEWSHARE 2MARKETING AND RESEARCH:DIVIDED WE FALLI believe that one issue underlying many of theproblems faced by marketing is the approach thatmarketers and researchers take to teamwork andcollaboration. Contrasting marketers’ approachwith that of designers may be useful.In the design process, the same group of peopleis involved from the deﬁnition of the problemthrough ideation, insight, and implementation.The continuous involvement of the same teamof designers creates a seamless process andensures that the insight remains central to theimplementation.By contrast, the practice of marketing is oftendistanced from the research function that ought toenable its success, and different developmentalstages often involve different people. This canresult in misunderstandings, inefﬁciency, and adilution of purpose. What starts off as a racehorseof an idea often ends up looking like a camel of aproduct.In my experience, the most successful researchprojects are those that involve the same teamof people during the discovery, analysis, andimplementation phases. Bringing together multiplestakeholders with different backgrounds andexpertise helps minimize the effects of personalbias. It also helps ensure commitment when a ﬁnalsolution is implemented. To shift toward this type ofapproach will take time and effort, and there will bea cost involved. But if marketers and researcherslearn to work more like designers, the result will bemore effective implementation of new and valuablemarketing initiatives.DESIGN THINKING:WHAT’S IN IT FOR US?What else can marketers and researchersgain from studying the example of designers?Besides their collaborative methodology, isthere something genuinely distinct about theirapproach to problem solving? What are thehallmarks of “design thinking,” and do they haveany applicability to our disciplines?MAKE ITYOUR BUSINESSNever delegate understanding.– American designer Charles EamesLike many creative people, the inﬂuentialmodern designer Charles Eames is reputedto have avoided the “market research” of histime. But I take Eames’ command to mean that,whether you employ researchers or not, if youdon’t have a thorough understanding of a needand its context, you will reduce your chances ofimplementing an effective solution.One of the biggest problems facing marketingand consumer insight today is the expectationthat “insight” is the responsibility of a speciﬁcdepartment or agency. If we learn anythingat all from design thinking, it should be thatwithout all the stakeholders–and particularlymarketing–being involved in the deﬁnition ofthe central question, the risk that researchinvestment is wasted will be high. If you donot really understand what question needs tobe addressed, your research is all too likely toproduce vast amounts of information and verylittle understanding or action.ASK STUPID QUESTIONSQuestion: How many designerswill it take to screw in a light bulb?Answer: Why a light bulb?– from a review of design thinking in Fast CompanyThe quip above may be funny, but it containsmore than a grain of truth. An open, curious,and questioning mindset characterizes designthinking. Designers don’t accept a brief at facevalue; they step back and ensure that the deﬁnitionof the problem is correct. Don Norman, in hisThe practice of marketingis often distanced from theresearch function that oughtto enable its success.
CAN MARKETING AND RESEARCHBECOME BETTER BY DESIGN?POINT OF VIEWSHARE 3article “Rethinking Design Thinking,” suggeststhat there is great power in the ability to ask“stupid” questions, the ones that no one inside anorganization would ask because they are blindedby what seems obvious. A friend of mine whoworks in new product development conﬁrms this,saying, “Designers go back to zero – minus ﬁve,even – and work to re-envisage and reengineer,not just amend what already exists.”Are consumer researchers equally willing to stepback and look at the big picture? We researchersare a challenging and curious bunch, but wemay be too quick to accept the premise that isoffered to us. That is, instead of asking “Why alight bulb?” we may be more likely to ask “Whattype of light bulb?” We need to be brave enoughto ask the stupid questions and to keep on doingso until we get good answers.FULLY UNDERSTAND YOUR CONSUMERTo create good designs, you ﬁrst have to understandpeople—what they need, want and enjoy, as well ashow they think and behave.– Bill Moggridge, co-founder of IDEODesigners put human needs at the center of theirapproach to problem solving. But Bill Moggridgecautions human designers about assuming toomuch about their human end users. “They willprobably be surprisingly different from you,” hesaid, “so it will only be by understanding them thatyou can avoid the trap of designing for yourself.”Marketers and researchers also strive tounderstand people, but we need to go beyondtheir behaviors to understand their underlyingmotivations if we are to build meaningful andwell-differentiated brands. So we need to askourselves: Do we really know the people whouse our brands, not just as people to be sold tobut as people to be served? And if not, how willwe go about getting to know them?Designers tend to rely solely on observationto gain insights and so risk misinterpretingwhy people behave as they do. By contrast,researchers have traditionally gravitated towardasking questions, using verbal or written probesto understand attitudes and behavior. Ideallywe would combine observation of both physicaland digital behavior with questions designed toelucidate these behaviors. New tools such asfacial coding and other implicit techniques canadd a deeper understanding, which is particularlyuseful when people may not be able to vocalizewhy they do something. Our job as researchersis to draw on the combination of methodsthat can best help us understand people’smotivations and instinctive responses.EMBRACE YOUR CONSTRAINTSOne of the most interesting designtensions today is between cost constraints—especially given the economic crisis—and sustainability constraints, or the impacton the natural environment. Some of themost attractive design solutions are drivenby both constraints.– Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, Interviewedfor strategy+business by Art KleineAll design is about working within constraints.No one should know that better than those whodesign research projects. What can we use asstimulus material? What interview methodologyis feasible? What budget do we have?Designers understand that constraints helpproduce better solutions, even when theconstraints are budgetary. That understandingAll design is about working withinconstraints. No one should knowthat better than those who designresearch projects.
CAN MARKETING AND RESEARCHBECOME BETTER BY DESIGN?POINT OF VIEWSHARE 4applies equally well to marketing and research.None of us have the budget we think weneed. But constraints go far deeper than merebudgets. Marketers are constrained by people’sability to appreciate their offer. Time after time,failed “innovations” prove that it is truly difﬁcultto get people to adopt new habits. Brands thatare not aligned with consumers’ experienceand expectations—even if they offer real healthbeneﬁts or are environmentally friendly—are notgoing to succeed.MAKE IT TANGIBLEStupid question: What’s the difference between theoutcome of a design process and the outcome of aconsumer research project?The simple answer, which may evoke theresponse “So what?”, is that a design processproduces something tangible, such as apackage, product, or process, while a researchproject doesn’t. Research delivers potential. Theideas and insights we present will have valueonly if they are acted upon.Too often the potential of research is notrealized. So how can we increase the chancesthat our marketing insights will be acted upon?We can work to convey our research ﬁndingsthrough something more tangible than a slidepresentation. At the very least, we can weaveour facts and ﬁndings into a compelling story.But we might also go beyond PowerPoint tomore experiential methods. For example, wemight try to engage our audience in a task, suchas drawing up a map of the consumer path topurchase, brainstorming scenarios using Post-it®Notes, or presenting the key research ﬁnding inthe form of a slice of cake. Above all, we mustmove people beyond superﬁcial head-nodding todeeply felt understanding.BACK TO THE FUTUREIn writing this Point of View, I have been doggedby the feeling that some of the practices outlinedabove were once regarded as accepted bestpractices. Maybe for some companies they stillare, but I suspect that for the majority they arenot. Why? Because the business of marketinghas become overly siloed, fragmented, and datadriven. At a time when researchers have moretools than ever to help create insight ina timely manner, we are faced with aneven bigger challenge—how to promulgateunderstanding and inspire action. Maybe themost important thing we can take away fromdesign thinking is the fundamental question:“Does it have to be this way?”To read more about new directionsfor market research, please visitwww.mb-blog.com.If you enjoyed “Can Marketing andResearch Become Better By Design,”you might also be interested in:“Big Ideas: Research Can Make aBig Difference”“Creative Storytelling: For Sponsors,an Olympic Sport”“What Makes Market Research sucha Popular Whipping Boy?”Too often the potential of researchis not realized; the ideas and in-sights we present will have valueonly if they are acted upon.