It's almost the $20 million dollar question, and perhaps there are many people that will charge a percentage of that to tell you their answer. I'm not going to charge you anything and you can take this on board or completely disregard it, however, I am very passionate about this strategy and I have seen first hand how it makes a difference to businesses.
In 2014 Motiv Strategies and the Design Management Institute in the US created a tool that would be able to track the results of human-centred companies against those that were not. They tracked 15 rigorously selected companies over a ten year period to understand the value design thinking, or human-centred design, brought to companies. The results were astonishing. The fifteen companies beat the S&P index by 228%.
Now you might say that it would depend on the companies selected as they may have more resources, greater brand presence etc., and I agree, but more often than not they have those resources because they have used human-centred thinking to grow their business. When you look into the detail of the companies tracked and how they integrate design thinking into their strategy (Nike's design function reports directly to the CEO) and human-centred methodology in their processes, you can see why they are successful. Some of the companies that made the 15 were Apple, Coco-Cola, Ford, IBM, Target, Nike, Proctor & Gamble, and Walt Disney. ( You can read the full article at Harvard Business Review here)
One misconception that I often hear about design thinking and marketing is that is is not related to business strategy. Yes, marketing may be able to produce a nice looking website but if you engage someone to build you a website without fully considering why you want a website, what you want to achieve and who will actually use it, you've just wasted a lot of money on a basically functionally pretty website that isn't going to help your business grow. Marketing strategy using human-centred tools used in harmony with business strategy are the key to business success and growth. At Marketing Entourage we often come into contact with start-ups that have spent the last year working in a garage/home/co-working space and have produced a platform that they think will change the world. They haven't, unfortunately, considered their customers at any point of their incubation and now wonder why no one is visiting/buying/wanting to speak to them.
So, if I can offer you any advice on the strategy you should use to get the greatest return on investment it would be human-centred methodology in design and marketing that aligns with your business objectives.
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by Samantha Hurley
Written by Samantha Hurley
Sam co-founded Marketing Entourage after spending 18 years in senior sales & marketing positions for companies such as Lonely Planet and The Press Association in Melbourne, New York and London. Sam started out in a design agency and used design thinking to help develop a product that went on to revolutionise the media industry in 2002. Sam also teaches Digital Marketing and Data Driven Marketing at General Assembly. The daughter of an engineer and a designer, she learned to code and design at a young age. She feels she has the mind of a scientist and the heart of an artist and likes to sit in the space where creativity, technology and business converge.