Business Innovation and Marketing with Mike Parsons
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Business Innovation Blog

Read about marketing, innovation, emerging technology and Design Thinking Methods. Includes lean startup, agile development and rapid prototyping tools.

One Powerful Design Thinking Hack That Will Make Your Marketing Better


More often than not, marketing is late to the party. The product is almost baked and only a few weeks, maybe a month or two, before the launch the marketing thinking begins. This often leads to compressed deadlines that reduce the marketing impact of the launch efforts.

This is all wrong. How do we spend so much time building a product and then compromise its launch by giving the marketing a minuscule runway? 

It’s totally natural that things often come to this awkward point. The heart of the conflict between product and marketing teams is their different motivations.

A product team is on a constant journey of discovery and validation. Finding problems that users face and solving them. Conversely, a marketing team is motivated by a desire for growth. This means they want to see marketing and sales traction that delivers to the bottom line.

Product designers feel enormous responsibility to create a worthwhile product or service. They want to solve problems in the world. No matter how much prototyping and testing is done, there will always be designer doubt before launch. So you can imagine they’re a little hesitant in welcoming the turbo-charged marketing team to their product.

So this leaves us at a Mexican standoff. Marketing want to launch a story into the universe, but also face doubts about the message they’ve picked. Marketing teams are passionate about creating stories that their audience want to share. They want to blow the roof off! Yet, the product team are desperate to avoid product launch fails like the Obamacare website or the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.

How do we bring marketing and product teams together?

The resolution lies at the early point in product design when we’ve validated problem-solution fit. These early-stage insights help us understand how to build the MVP. But equally, the problem-solution insights can help the marketing team too.

Any good value proposition canvas, a critical early stage tool, will define the pain relievers and gain creators a product offers its users. These insights are the foundation of building a brand or a marketing campaign.

If our product feature solves a user problem that helps them enjoy benefits, or gains, such as simplicity and mobility - these become rock solid foundations to build your marketing around. This is real customer value that can translate into a bigger mission in the world. Does “Think Different” or “Just Do it” sound familiar?

For a brand new product, the delight you create for users may lead you to using Simon Sinek’s powerful Why framework for your marketing. From this framework you can define not only what your product does, but how and why. This storytelling tool can become a bedrock of brand consistency.

Alternatively, you may choose to use the STEPPS framework from Jonah Berger. This more campaign-based approach will help develop the social currency and marketing triggers that lay inside of the product. STEPPS will prove powerful for product launches requiring advocacy and social engagement.

And this is the core point for marketing and product teams. Build you marketing on validated product insights. Don’t guess.

This is the approach of Apple and Nike and it works a treat. The lines between product and marketing totally blur with these two brands and the results speak for themselves. Apple makes more profit per smartphone than anybody and Nike’s brand is valued at over 30 billion dollars.

And all if this is can made very practical. Marketing should take the final value proposition canvas from the product team and then conduct tests of features stories, benefits, social currency drivers, triggers and advocacy. 

Whilst marketing is busy prototyping and testing, product people can get on with building and MVP and testing viability, pricing and making sure folks love it.

In a perfect world both teams would provide demos and share learnings throughout the process. And when these two teams make each other better, things start getting Nike and Apple-like.