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How design thinking can improve advertising campaigns

By Darrell Kunken

The Sacramento Bee

Sacramento, California, USA


Last month I had the privilege of going through an exercise called design thinking, which teaches an approach to product development and problem solving. My first introduction to this process was through a joint project at Stanford University about four years ago that brought this powerful approach into view.

What is fascinating to me is how powerful a few simple concepts can become in our own day-to-day interactions as we work with local SMBs to solve for improved marketing campaign performance.

It’s human nature that, when faced with a problem, many of us simply try solve it right away. But, if we rush to solve a problem or design a new product as we individually understand it, we may be missing something. That’s because we are all different. With unique personality types, there are different ways we hear, react, and approach situations.

One of the foundational elements in design thinking is empathy. Empathy interviews are effective tools that allow you to listen to your customer, as opposed to telling them what you think.

While there is a lot more to the design thinking process, the empathy interview can bring a lot to strategy discussions with business clients. This is important because we are in the business of finding customers for our business clients.

Listening to a few recent buyers or shoppers still on their path-to-purchase can be very insightful and bring behaviour and experiences (beyond demographics) into the strategy. Holding empathy interviews with consumers who are on that journey is a golden opportunity to hear what experiences they have had.

Through empathy interviews, you can gain insight into how they think, how they approached finding information to help them make decisions, what was difficult or disappointing, what they would do anything different next time, and what their zero moment of truth (ZMOT) was.

These are two recent buyers of oriental rugs. They had different approaches on their paths-to-purchase and different experiences along the way.

Listening and personifying buyers provides insights for campaign strategy discussions. Imagine the deeper conversations and interactions to be had with a business owner when this information is available.

Plan to do more listening and learning, seeking to understand, before anything else.

Then define, ideate, prototype campaigns, and test performance on the road to continuously improving results.

About Darrell Kunken

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