We are all educated and trained to think in certain ways, according to our disciplines and expertise. And once we enter the business world, it’s all too easy to sit in our dedicated departments, following our instincts, doing our work, and dealing with any challenges and problems to the best of our understanding. But while this might be the way things have often been done – departmental siloes working in isolation to address an issue – it doesn’t mean that this organizational structure works best for current business challenges.

The Cambridge Dictionary definition of “silo” is “a part of a company, organization, or system that does not communicate with, understand, or work well with other parts”. When you read it in black and white, it’s obvious that this can’t be the best way to grow a business and improve sales and outcomes – especially as many aspects of our lives are interwoven in various ways.

From a marketing and design perspective, collaboration and co-creation are essential for better products and services. But this does require marketing to have a good understanding of just how extensive design thinking is. In days gone by, the design department was too easily dismissed as the “coloring-in division”. Design was only considered through a very narrow lens – one that improved the look and feel of products and packaging…but little else.

But design can weave its magic across the entire customer journey – whether that’s new bottle shapes, website navigation, incorporating inclusive design to help customer segments, or ensuring that the look and tone of a sample leaflet are consistent with a banner ad, instore merchandise, website visuals, and much more.

For any marketer wanting to ensure their products and services best address customer needs and experience across the whole customer journey, reframing design is necessary. Marketing and design working in unison, applying design thinking across their organization, can co-create to solve problems. Even better – when that co-creation also incorporates the consumer perspective – a human-centered approach becomes more likely and better relationships with customers (and potential customers) becomes possible. It requires seeing the world and the experience from the customers’ perspective – walking in their shoes, viewing things through their eyes. It’s about looking at it from the personal perspective, not the product perspective. With that insight, better experiences can be designed.

As design becomes a higher marketing priority, a brand is more likely to outperform its competition; the co-creation ethos leads to more innovative products and services as these complementary disciplines inspire and build on each other, improving the game of the whole business.

This elevates the whole customer experience – often the only key differentiator in markets where products and services have become commodities. Designing better experiences requires design and marketing collaboration – identifying how consumers ‘think, feel, do, and sense’ at all points along their customer journey. Every moment on that journey must be maximized. The brand must deliver on its promises and customer expectations and that requires design thinking at every point in the user experience to identify when to redesign to improve an aspect of that journey.

Designers are people-obsessed – they want to make things better and are constantly searching for the means to do that. They collaborate across an organization – whether that’s with R&D, marketing, or insights – to design better experiences, better digital, better services, better packaging, better retail and shopper experiences.

Co-creation requires root-and-branch thinking to ensure the strategy is thorough and effective; at GSK we have started that process and are developing it all the time. One example is our work on the toothpaste customer journey. Most customers discover our toothpaste via free samples and recommendations from their dentist. Our business challenge is to encourage those people to follow this up by purchasing it in a store. To do this, we have to look at how we can improve the experience, join up all the elements, paying special attention to points on that journey map where the patient is on their own, and where the patient and dentist interact.

In this way, we can identify the moments that are good (the delighters) or bad (the detractors) and then work on where they can be improved.

In an entirely different market, Lego has a long history of using co-creation to good effect. It was seen as a boys’ brand, while Playmobile owned the girls’ segment. Wanting a more diverse approach, the company carried out a two-year research project among parents, educators, and children to better understand this issue. The result was its new launch of Lego Friends, which became its most successful launch of the previous decade – generating an extra 35% net income in the first two years after the launch (2012).

Co-creation sometimes requires a shift in mindset. It’s not about solving individual problems; it is about considering all the interconnected parts and understanding that when you alter one thing another might also move. It is not a neat activity – it’s about innovation, with all the bumps that come with that sometimes painful test and learning process.

Cover image source: fauxels