The immediate future of new, as-yet inconceivable CPG products and promotions could be in the hands of a growing practice called Human Centric Design.
Coca-Cola used Human Centric Design some time ago with its “Share a Coke” campaign that put 1,000 of the most common names in the US on their Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and Coke Zero bottles. Coke fans spent frantic hours hunting for their names on retail shelves. Those with less ordinary names were disappointed, but could order their personalized bottles using an e-commerce site. Remarkable marketing, isn’t it?
In the long list of Human Centric Design ideas deployed by Coke are high-tech vending machines placed in malls in India and Pakistan – two countries with a decades-long history of political rivalry -- that brought people of different cultures together. The vending machines allowed Coke customers to complete friendly tasks together, like draw a peace sign, before sharing a Coke. This #ShareTheGood campaign was extended to the Derby Della Madoninna in Milan between Inter and Milan, again two teams with an historic rivalry. Here, the campaign helped promote Fair Play among supporters of the two teams while they exchanged Coke between one another.
Yet another interesting example of Human Centric Design is Nike’s offering of on-demand comfort and support through its self-lacing shoes using new ‘power lacing’ technology. These shoes were science fiction, appearing in the second film of the Back to the Future trilogy many years ago. But Nike took science fiction and turned it into reality, bringing to life the dreams and fantasies of billions of science fiction buffs.
Now imagine making products like household cleaning liquids more useful, engaging, interesting and exciting; or gamifying breakfast cereals for kids. Human Centric Design does just that. It uses customer-centric methodologies to decode what consumers will find useful, exciting and will pay for; it then imagines and prototypes the product or idea to test for empathy, usability, value, buying triggers, etc.; and finally a product is created that is personalized, cool, inexplicably desirable and upgradable at velocity to meet the tiniest short-term market shifts.
The best Human Centric Design doesn’t stop here. It continues with relentless iterations to products using a continuous customer feedback loop, agile development, rapid prototyping and, when possible, automated testing.
Human Centric Design is taking root in CPG companies. This is more pronounced in enterprises that are, ironically, locked in by the lifecycle of their existing blockbuster products. Having invested millions of dollars in managing product value, they are now faced with a very real innovation block. They don’t have the time or the resources to discover and serve the unmet needs of their customers.
Human Centric Design is the solution. It points the compass to the unknown by using a three-point boundary to realize customer needs. It does this by being:
- Customer centric
The practice then synthesizes design principles, customer journey engineering, human motivation and habits, aesthetics, informed intuition, mathematics, business smarts, technology and process to create a new logic that can be applied across the product’s lifecycle.
At the core, the consumer is always the hero and the product is a prop in the background as a method of bringing the customer closer to her dreams, desires and demands. To execute this requires a deep understanding of human psychology, aspirations, motivations and the ability to predict even the most irrational decision-making patterns and leverage them.
For the practitioner of Human Centric Design, this translates into weaving the brand and its customers into the digital fabric of a story that binds technology, needs and products/ services together. This is how amazing products and experiences are created. But it is only when the story, the experience and the value permeates across the value chain – sales, marketing, design, supply chain, support, social engagement and sharing, after market services, end of product lifecycle – that we have successful business innovation.
Business process management and technology have a foundational role to play in the successful application of Human Centric Design. A combination of functional technology elements provides the backbone and insights to facilitate non-stop Human Centric Design. These could include digital marketing, digital asset management, loyalty & CRM, omni channel and mobility wrapped in advance analytics. They serve to unearth new products, keep development and marketing costs low, and ensure market and customer feedback is used to keep the product on the path of continuous evolution.
Practitioners of Human Centric Design need to wear the customer’s shoes first. This means eliminating biases, getting rid of pre-conceived notions, ignoring past successes and failures and starting afresh each time not on a journey from Point A to Point B but on an exploration of what lies ahead. Have you experienced a product that was so compelling you had to buy? How have you applied Human Centric Design in your work and life? Has it been a journey with an end-point, an exploratory endeavor or a process of continuous iterations?
- A byline quoting Srini Pallia from this blog was featured in Jeff Kern’s article, titled “Taking a Human-Centric Approach to Design” in Machine Design on Sept 19, 2016. URL for the article - http://www.machinedesign.com/blog/taking-human-centric-approach-design
- Srini Pallia was also quoted in another byline from this blog that was featured in Scott Thompson’s article titled, “Connected retailers surge ahead, new research”, in Retail Systems, on Jan 20, 2016. URL for the article –http://www.retail-systems.com/rs/Wipro_Planet_Retail_Connected_Retail.php