You can use Design Thinking too! If you are an empathetic human being this makes you a design thinker already.

The word “design” often triggers people to imagine that Design Thinking requires some kind of exceptional creative skill. This thought keeps many of us from believing that we too can be design thinkers! The irony is that by simply being an empathetic human being, we perform design thinking every day.

At its simplest it’s problem-solving. The creative part of it is problem-solving using Empathy. I’ve often thought that the people who created the term chose the word “design” to give it an exclusive, elitist status. But it’s is a human thing. We all do it every day, throughout the day. When a someone at work pops by to talk about a problem, or when we meet for coffee with a friend who’s struggling with something, or our child or partner tells us a story about a challenge they had that day, our response is to ask questions about their story to give us a better understanding of their experience. It is at this moment that we are engaged in the first phase of Design Thinking. We are developing empathy for that person and their struggle. And we go on to use that empathy to brainstorm solutions with our colleague, family member or friend. That person, in turn, reacts to the ideas being generated and modifies them to better fit their need, and eventually, we land on a potential solution. The solution may or may not work, and they may come back and continue to discuss their experience and explore new ways to approach the problem. This is Design Thinking! Or more appropriately, the process of using Empathy to find meaningful and impactful solutions.

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Instead of asking “how can we better market to Millennials”, think bigger. Consider instead “how will organizations remain relevant in the future – to customers, employees, and the communities they operate?” And what does that mean to Marketers?

Marketers must consider the cultural influence on the consumer and how that shapes their brand attraction. In PeerSphere by CMO Council, 2016.


We live in an era of chronic uncertainty. The 2007/2008 economic meltdown was a pivotal experience for America. While the too-big-to-fail banks were bailed out, regular Americans lost their homes, their retirement investments lost tremendous value, and the prospects for the younger generations are as bleak as they have been since before World War 2. All of this is a betrayal of the American Dream-the promise that if you work hard, you will be rewarded in the meritocracy that is America. At the same time, there has been a collapse in the authority of institutions, with events such as corporate corrup­tion, religious organizations perpetrating unspeakable crimes against innocents, and government leaders deadlocked and unable to find a way to work effectively together. Society lacks a unifying moral authority.

These experiences create two cultural forces of interest. First, “expect the unexpected” demands a constant level of readiness to deal with adversity. Secondly, “frontier logic” is based on the belief that no one will catch us if we fail (i.e., get downsized out of a job), and therefore, we are on our own as a self-sufficient family unit. Amazingly, we can observe a wide range of interesting behaviors that are cultural responses to this force, like peo­ple taking matters into their own hands instead of waiting for the institutions to lead. Take for example, the surge in entre­preneurship that has disrupted industries by “amateur professionals,” people cre­ating their own economic engines as seen in the craft beer industry, new business models like AirBnB disregarding regulato­ry frameworks and plowing forward with determination, or even yoga being used to provide a way for a secular society to practice spirituality along with fitness.

What I really think is most fascinating is the rise of the social enterprise. Philips Design suggests we are poised to exit the knowledge economy and enter the transformation economy, in which social networks come together to transform so­ciety. If you watch TED Talks, you can see social entrepreneurs seeking to change the world through organizations such as Global Citizen, Me to We and Social Cap­ital while others are embracing organiza­tional concepts such the B-Corporation and Holocracy. New organizations are being created to solve many of the world’s critical chal­lenges, in part because of a shift in values, but also because, frankly, we don’t need more stuff!


Download the piece now to get John’s answers the questions:

  • What market-sensing models, frame­works or processes need to be in place for brands to be culturally informed?
  • How does the role of large-scale social media analytics contribute to this?
  • What techniques should be employed to better connect with the mood, motivation and mindset of consumers on a sustained basis?
  • How does this translate into brand purpose and ultimately to improved brand performance or attraction?
  • Which enduring heritage brands have done the best job of staying relevant, respected and real across generations of consumers?
  • What have they done to evolve, adapt and refresh themselves?
  • Which new digital brands do you think have done the best job of acquiring con­sumer fan following and cultural connec­tivity?

The concept of brand purpose has become a hot topic these days. How to develop; how to execute; and how to evaluate.  Bob Wheatley, CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency and John McGarr, President of Fresh Squeezed Ideas, are two preeminent voices on this strategic development. They weigh in from both a behavioral science strategy and a marketing perspective.


The core tenets and forces that generate business growth are changing. In food and beverage for example, traditional purchase behaviors driven by taste, price and convenience are being replaced. Now more than 50 percent of consumers “weigh factors including health and wellness, safety, social impact, experience and transparency” in their purchase decisions.¹ 

The pendulum has swung, the business world has transformed, culture has moved — and the impact is reaching into food, beverage and lifestyle brand categories. The result: changing fundamentals of what works vs. what doesn’t work — to create growth, to evolve.

For context, in the 1970s we had the Production Economy² driven by efficiencies in scale, alongside a desire for consistency and convenience. In the 1980s we saw the Experience Economy³ take root as an evolution of the former, with a rapid growth in service industries while manufacturing was pushed off shore. The 1990s and early 2000s saw the dawn of the Internet Age and the Knowledge Economy — and with it a shift in control. Brands were no longer the only ones talking about their products or services; now consumers had a voice and a platform.

We are now living in The Relationship Economy where the fortunes of successful businesses depend greatly on understanding how to achieve relevance, meaning and value to consumers based on their lifestyle choices. Of note, people have access to unprecedented levels of information, can avoid marketing they don’t want — and form bonds with brands that understand how to become partners and enablers of their personal interests and passions.

On the horizon: we’re at the precipice of the next landscape change, the coming Transformation Economy⁴, where value will be derived from “meaningful living.” This is the time that ethical behaviors, meaningful contributions and purpose become essential ingredients in the recipe for sustainable growth. Thus, Purpose will become a core component of business planning.

That said, we think it’s time to clear the air on what Purpose is, how you cultivate the right Purpose platform and in the end, what Return On Purpose should look like.

1 Capitalizing on the shifting consumer food value equation, Deloitte, FMI and GMA, 2016

2-4 Rethinking value in a changing landscape, Reon Brand and Simona Rocchi, 2011


Download the full piece to discover how to maximize your Return on Purpose (ROP).

Excerpt from a forthcoming eBook where we explore the roots of attraction to brands, what critical information marketers are missing and what to do to create meaningful value for organizations.

Concepts of wealth and consumers’ motivations, attitudes and behaviors around the accumulation and management of wealth are changing. To succeed in an increasingly competitive Wealth Management marketplace, wealth management firms need to offer value propositions that fit with these changing customers’ expectations better than the competition. Unfortunately, most firms approach understanding their customers’ needs on a superficial level.

All pharmaceutical companies have patients in their mission and vision statements.  Unless this is just window dressing, pharma marketers must learn that without providing valuable service to stakeholders, there is no profit—profit is the reward for providing good service; not your reason for being.  Make no mistake about what your purpose needs to be: serving patients. Being Patient Centric.