The thinker

Marketing, innovation and design thinking

Design thinking is an exciting creative process, with some interesting applications for marketing. It’s a user centric, iterative design method with rapid prototyping. Let’s break that down…

Trial by fire

Do your customers understand your marketing material?

Have you ever seen a promotional video or flyer and just flinched? Something so disconnected from what you (as a potential customer) might want that it’s almost painful to watch? It got me thinking, how many new businesses have actually met their customers? How many actually vet their (top of funnel) marketing materials with customers?

Did they understand you?

Let’s assume for a moment that you’ve met your customer, and you’ve got a good understanding of what they want. Next step, creating some materials to help promote your business to them. It’s incredible how many different ways there are for one set of words to be interpreted. When they see your material, even if they weren’t overwhelmed, it’s important they hear the right message.

Think of the most interesting advert that you can, what do you remember about it? What message did you get from it? It’s not often that more than three key points get taken away from any collateral (except for possibly detailed spec sheets). You might have multiple supporting points, but they should all lead towards the same tightly defined key message(s). Don’t try to cram too much into one piece of collateral (unless it’s a bottom of funnel piece), your customer won’t be able to digest or recall it. You’ll want to make sure that your point is being unambiguously being driven home.

Did you dip your toes in first?

Whether you’re running a web business that sells to a large consumer audience, or a high-end niche business, the time & cost involved in getting your solution in-front of customers is always high. Going out with material that isn’t leaving your customers with the right message is a waste of your very precious resources.

Instead of a trial-by-fire approach that could potentially burn some prospects, it might be better to test your materials on a sample audience first. Understand what they take away and how they react. Refine your materials based on this feedback so that your customer can easily recall the intended key messages. The key thing here is “test on a sample audience”, not your mum.

The time taken to refine your materials will be less than what’s lost by going out with something unclear, but be careful not to get stuck in analysis-paralysis, or a never-ending cycle of improvement.


If you read this and take-away only one thing, hopefully it will be “Clearly define up-to three key points that you want your customers to recall, then test on real customers”. Message received?


Why your product packaging still matters


I ordered a new STEM toy for my kids, and was watching them open & start to play. It was great watching them play with the toy, and possibly better still when they finished and tidied it back up (how rare is that?). The experience really got me thinking about how they had interacted with the product, and what impact the packaging had made.

The Grand Opening

Logistics, stacking & storage benefits aside (these are important, and your packaging massively contributes, we won’t cover it in this article though), the image on the outside of the box immediately communicated what the toy was, what was included and how it was supposed to be used. The age tag was an important reassurance that, yes, they could do this – just like any professional certification. We hadn’t even begun to open the box and they’d already made a series of assessments.

Having understood the product (in milliseconds), getting everything out of the box was the next priority. Easy to open flaps, that didn’t tear when pulled & a distinct lack of (indestructible) tape holding flaps closed – meant that the interior tray came out nicely. The product was immediately visible, which gave a moment of pause, and perhaps appreciation, before the assembly started. Playing with the toy is the goal, so making sure they can get to it immediately & easily is really important – as is the satisfaction of being able to see it when the box opens.

The product layout on the interior trays is surprisingly important. Whilst it’s much like a grand unveiling, where your attention to detail is rewarded with user delight – it’s also an (almost) linear instructional path for them to follow. Allowing you to guide them through the discovery, setup & assembly in a specific order.

How the products are kept, and managed on the interior trays is just as important. Single use plastic bags & zip ties, make it very difficult to repack the product. Whereas velcro or cable ties are easily reusable. A well thought out box interior, can make it easy for your client to repack & store your product.

Think about a good board game. If you couldn’t put everything back properly, after just a few uses it’d be useless. You probably wouldn’t buy spares, as much as you’d be disappointed that you’d lost everything.

It’s important to remember that 100% of your consumers will interact with the products packaging, making it one of the most critical aspects of your product. So much so that Louis Vitton even had a post announcing its new packaging! Whilst you’re thinking about your product packaging and how you can improve it. Here’s an example of some excellent packaging for inspiration:

  1. Exterior clearly indicates what the product is good for and how I can expect to use it & communicates brand value
  2. Obvious & easy to open flap, which keeps the product the right way up
  3. Product is immediately visible. No unnecessary wrapping or plastic bags.
  4. As the product is removed, the accessories are revealed

If you’re an eTailer, remember that the only part of your brand clients will physically interact with is the packaging (and the product of course).