5 Tips On How to Apply Design Thinking to Marketing + 8 Case Study Examples

5 Tips On How to Apply Design Thinking to Marketing + 8 Case Study Examples

There are countless great products out there. However, if no one knows about the benefits of these offerings, they’re useless. The art or science of communicating and creating value around a product or service is called marketing. Curiously, the best way to do this is to not think of the product or service first, but instead, start with the needs of the ones meant to use them.

Summary: Design thinking is a versatile philosophy and methodology that can be very impactful when applied to project management, digital marketing, and marketing strategies. Whisk Creative is a marketing agency and consultant based in Mildura, VIC serving nearby parts of Melbourne and beyond that uniquely uses design thinking for digital marketing, web design, branding and identity planning, brand design, and related services.

First, A Story

In 2010, General Electric Healthcare wanted to resolve a problem with how pediatric patients reacted to MRI procedures. At the time, children often cried during long procedures as they sat in a cold sterile room. 80% of them had to be sedated and it had to take several staff members to conduct a single procedure. It was painful, costly, and typically traumatic. The company wanted to redesign the MRI experience for children to lessen the pain points throughout the process– both for the children and the hospital.

Using design thinking, the team identified the crisis points in the patient journey and experimented with multiple approaches, all with the design challenge of making the process more fun and less scary. Eventually, they created “The GE Adventure Series”. They dressed up the MRI machine to be “kid-friendly”, with some that look like a pirate ship, with colourful lights and a TV screen that plays cartoons.

5 Tips On How to Apply Design Thinking to Marketing + 8 Case Study Examples
Photo from Marx, N & Lundquist, L 2016, Design Thinking Applied in Minnesota Philantrophy, Minnesota Council of Foundations, 21 June, viewed on 16 November 2022, https://mcf.org/news/design-thinking-applied-minnesota-philanthropy

The new design has been a success, with children much more likely to cooperate during MRI procedures. This is important because it means that children can now undergo MRI procedures without the need for sedation, overstaffing, or unnecessary costs. The product could be top-of-the-line, but without the relevant packaging and needs-based communication, it will fail to deliver on its purpose.

Design thinking is a buzzword that is constantly thrown around and recommended to brands. Perhaps, despite a digital-first world, brands are still catering to the core needs of human beings, and understanding them is still the key to success.

More and more businesses are using this innovative approach to solve problems and deliver what their customers really need. In this article, let’s talk about how your brand can use design thinking when growing your value proposition and communicating the benefits of your products.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, here’s a quick refresher on what Design Thinking is. In a nutshell, it is an organized yet non-linear process that delivers solutions in the guise of a service or a product as an answer to your customer’s needs. With Design Thinking, we follow a general process;

  1. We empathize with our customers to mine insights
  2. We then define the problem and the design challenge statements
  3. We ideate a possible solution
  4. We create a prototype that is tested, and then;
  5. We iterate and the cycle repeats itself.

For a more in-depth description of Design Thinking – the process, the frameworks, and the challenges it faces – you can read Whisk Creative’s Definitive Guide.

Now we’re clear on what design thinking is, let us understand its importance to the marketing process and how we can apply it to our own marketing.

A New Approach

To understand how design thinking applies to marketing, we have to break down marketing into its fundamental components. One can argue that marketing is all about understanding:

  1. Objectives: What do you wish to achieve?
  2. Target Audience: Who you are selling to?
  3. Content Strategy: What should you communicate?
  4. Distribution Strategy: How should you communicate?
  5. Measurement: How do you measure success?

Let’s see how design thinking can help in each of these aspects.


Design Thinking serves as a problem-solving tool in marketing. It’s addressing a problem – sometimes one that people don’t even notice – and providing an enticing solution to your consumers. It’s creating and communicating something the consumer didn’t know they needed.

Thus, when setting objectives, it is important to identify goals that are beyond financial performance. Along with your set of objectives can be stating the impact that you want to have upon your intended users, or the change you want to happen in terms of their attitudes, behaviours or beliefs. Identify their grievances and examine them with the goal of providing a solution. How may you help? How may you provide a solution to a daily problem they constantly face?

Doing this elevates your marketing campaigns from a mere cash grab to a meaningful investment that users and their communities can benefit from.

Targeting Audiences

The holy grail of a marketer is understanding who they are marketing to. Design Thinking is important since it promotes empathy or putting oneself in another’s shoes to understand them. We, as marketers, empathize with our consumers and provide them with solutions to make their lives easier. That is why Design Thinking is an integral part of marketing.

What is empathy? In the simplest of terms, empathy is putting oneself in another’s shoes. It is to see, feel, and experience what the other does and understand their perspective. It is often misconstrued with sympathy which is where a lot of people – and dare we say brands – fail when attempting to practice empathy.

In one of her lectures about empathy, professor and author Brene Brown discussed what empathy is and why it’s different from sympathy. She drew from Theresa Wiseman’s 1996 study on empathy and enumerated the four characteristics of empathy; (1) taking on other people’s perspective and realizing that that is their truth, (2) avoiding judgement and listening with an open heart and mind, (3) recognizing emotion in other people, and (4) communicating that. Empathy is being there and being vulnerable enough to understand someone. Sympathy, on the other hand, is providing unnecessary silver linings to people’s problems. It’s toxic positivity.

For marketers, practising empathy goes beyond the usual focus group discussions. It’s recognizing the humane needs of your consumer – listening to what they have to say not just about your product or service but about their day-to-day lives. It is providing a safe space for them to open up about their needs, wants, daily pain points, and experiences. You might just be pleasantly surprised at what you unearth.

Content Strategy

It takes time to perfect messaging and creative execution and design thinking is a procedural embodiment of this fact. You can perfect a content prototype after the first or second attempt and move on to the next campaign or it can take multiple iterations and versions. That’s what happens when developing a prototype. You go back to the drawing board more often than you care to improve on the current approach. All these iterations and updates stem from testing with your consumer. What do they have to say about the first version? What didn’t they like about it? What suggestions did they give you? It’s all about their feedback and using it as a jumping point in improving your content prototype. The good thing nowadays is that you can perform real-time A/B testing with digital technology! Solutions like dynamic ads and multi-version testing allow you to iterate different copies, images, and creative executions. Remember– build, test, learn!

Distribution Strategy

In today’s business world, it’s more important than ever to have a well-thought-out distribution strategy. After all, getting your product or service into the hands of your target market is essential to success. One way to ensure your distribution strategy is on point is to use design thinking. Design thinking is a process that helps you to think creatively about problems and come up with innovative solutions.

Design thinking can help you to get inside the experiences of your target market. What does their “day in a life” look like? Where do they get their information? Which sources do they trust? What devices do they use? When are they most receptive to marketing communications? Design thinking allows you to build a reliable buyer’s journey that you can use to design your media strategy.


Design thinking is a process that can be used to solve problems and create new solutions. It can also be used to help with marketing measurement. Design thinking can help by providing a framework for thinking about problems and assessing the impact of corresponding solutions. It can also help to create new metrics and ways of measuring success. Design thinking can help marketing measurement by providing a different perspective on problems and solutions. It can also help to create new metrics and ways of measuring success. By using design thinking, marketing measurement can become more accurate and reliable.

So, is Design Thinking for You?

Yes, it is a tedious and long-winded process. Yes, it entails a large amount of your time, effort, and both your soft and hard skills as a marketer. However, it is also a genuine way to understand your consumer. Providing them with solutions and answering needs that they might not have even realized they needed.

So, is design thinking worth all the hype it’s getting? Yes. Is it worth the try and investment? Based on industries, businesses, brands, and professionals who have tried it, yes. Is it for you? Definitely.

We Are Whisk Creative

We are Whisk Creative, a Marketing Agency located in Mildura. We uncover your brand’s unique capabilities and pathways of possibilities. Ultimately, we aim to develop marketing solutions that put people’s needs and aspirations at the centre. We adapt design thinking into marketing in our effort to make sure every business in Mildura connects with its audience at a deep, personal level. Through design thinking in marketing, we aspire to build meaningful brands in Mildura and beyond.

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