As Design Thinking educators and practitioners we’re passionate about the diversity and applicability of the design-led approach. In this week’s blog we focus on how Design Thinking is the ideal framework for optimising the transition to a Customer Experience (CX) led mindset and process for marketers.

As we’ve mentioned in previous blogs (Y2K to CX: The Future of Marketing) customer expectations have been raised and they are taking control of how they engage with brands. Gone are the days of developing stand-alone marketing platforms, propositions and campaigns. The experience that follows must also live up to this promise, which means changing the way marketing teams have worked in the past. 

Marianne Dodd, General Manager of Customer and Marketing at Sensis agrees:

“The only thing that will differentiate organisations in the future is the customer experience. Marketing in the future won’t be about promotions, but rather influencing how customers think and feel when they interact with a brand.”

This involves changing the mindset of organisations that have been product or service driven, often for generations. So how do you transform an organisation or the mindset of an organisation?

Like us, Marianne is an advocate of design thinking as a process to understand the customer experience:


“I started design thinking three years ago and have experienced how design thinking has the power to change an organisation’s mindset and reorientate the organisation around the customer.”

Design Thinkers focus on the customer journey through every interaction. Organisations that struggle with the concept of a customer-centric approach, often instead use the latest advances in technology as their guide. The problem with technology (websites, new user interfaces, apps, Martech, Adtech) is that they focus on the solution and not the problem (a genuine need of the customer).


Just because the technology exists, doesn’t mean it solves a problem for the customer. Apps are a classic example with many conversations within organisations going something like this:

‘We need an app!’
‘Because everyone has an app.’

Rather than: ‘Does an app solve a problem or task for our user?’ or ‘How might we best deliver our product to our customer seamlessly.’

The solution might be an app. But it could also be any number of potential solutions.

Marianne agrees:

“Marketers need to immerse ourselves in the customer experience. The journey needs to be driven by the brand rather than product features, customers need to feel that consistently the whole way through. Every interaction must be branded, differentiated and delightful.”

This presents massive transformation for marketers too. Marketers are now more data driven, as marketing departments transition from creative to analytical. ROI on campaigns used to be vague, if a campaign was successful (or unsuccessful) it was difficult to determine why. Marketers now use data to understand the customer experience, continually learning from ongoing campaigns, split testing, learning and tweaking, getting to know their customers in very specific ways.

“We’re not quite there yet but we are getting very close to one-to-one marketing. We know our customers so well they are almost part of the organisation,” Marianne says.  

Marketing teams now typically have technical roles, such as front-end developers, UX developers, digital analysts, but there is a balance to strike between technology and creative.

“If we let tech take over, we’ll fail to realise the value of marketing within an organisation,” says Marianne.  

As Heraclitus (who died in 475 BC) said, the only constant is change. Technology provides data that enables marketers to adapt their message, to tweak and change course when necessary, but data only provides part of the story.

As Marianne says:

“We have to reorientate how marketing can provide brand and commercial value to an organisation. Marketers don’t yet have the skill set to do it – marketers are creative but they’re not customer experience practitioners, they haven’t immersed themselves in it. Design Thinking gives them the toolkit.”

 We couldn’t agree more.

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