Design Thinking for Chief Marketing Officers

DR. PAVAN SONI
3 min readNov 1, 2022

What happens when you have 20 of the most acclaimed Chief Marketing and Chief Sales Officers from some of India’s largest companies congregating at a resort in Goa? Of the several other possibilities, sparks fly, quite literally.

As a part of Coalesce 2022, hosted by Deloitte in Goa in September 2022, I was privileged to lead a half-day Design Thinking intervention for the company’s leadership team and some of the marquee clients. As the name Coalesce suggests, we had over a few hundred who’s-who joining us from far and wide to socialize, ideate, reflect and commit on how future could be invented. You seldom witness such a concentration of leaders in a free wheeling manner. Disciplining such an aggregation can be quite tricky as such, but the returns are rich.

So, here I was endowed with the assignment of getting them taking (more importantly, listening), sharing, debating, ideating, and presenting around critical-to-future topics, and all that in just under four hours. 30 high-profile folks, 240 minutes, one large room, and steep expectations — that was the setting for you. To give you a sense of the participants, we had folks from Titan, Skoda, HDFC Securities, Amex, Bajaj Auto, MTR, Tata Steel, Symphony Industries, Tata CLiQ, Vi, Meta, Ceat, Muthoot, RBL, ONDC, Mahindra, HP, ServiceNow, Adobe, and Salesforce. Now we are talking!

Participants of the Design Thinking workshop

Two ground rules always help: 1) cut the crap as quickly as you can and come straight to the point, and 2) keep the phones and laptops safely tucked away. If that’s taken care of, people quickly see a merit in discipline.

We anchored our heads of marketing/ sales into four themes: Simplify, Immerse, Revive, and Accelerate. We had to essentially craft a picture of the customer of the future. For that, we adopted two methods from the stable of design thinking: Customer Persona Map and Customer Journey Map. The former details out the customer (the who), while the latter elucidates the way she makes her choices, purchases, uses and disposes (the how). Together, these maps offer a pretty comprehensive picture of what of expect, both from a B2B and a B2C standpoint.

Notwithstanding the unique industries and nature of businesses that the participants represented, it was essentially to coalesce towards a comprehensive picture where everyone can see some relatability. Generalizing the insights and specifying the applications was the tricky part.

Here, I am presenting some of the models and efforts.

Next is the overall scene in the room, when sparks start to fly and people tend to forget their rank, files, time, and occasion.

And finally, the ideas getting presented. Each team was offered around three minutes to showcase their idea and portray how the customer is going to be(have).

Hope you like this brief. Do share your perspectives.

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DR. PAVAN SONI

Innovation Evangelist and author of the book, Design Your Thinking.