The shift from Brand Thinking to Network Thinking

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Maggie Forbes, VP Design

Branded products clearly aim for sales. Online marketing is not enough so brands need new ways to attract consumers. Over the last decades there have been intensive efforts, both overt and covert, from brands to lure consumers in, therefore people today are skeptical and suspicious of promotion activities.

Consumers prefer to follow a brand that is not trying too hard, is not making demands but is connected to real people and real problems.

Even the more subtle forms of storytelling by brands on popular platforms, creating branded content, trying to match the message to the platform in order to go viral, is a short sighted solution. It is never a good idea to try and conceal the real reason for the content, which is the promotion of the brand to achieve sales. No matter how wonderful the story, it will never improve the quality of the product. Clothes or tea can never fulfil their brand promise because they are just clothes and tea.

Nowadays there is a trend to consume less, to be a more sustainable buyer with terms like ‘slow fashion’ or ‘conscientious purchase’. In reality, this also means less branding. But as branding is a form of communication it means it will evolve to embrace branded places like stores, store owners, putting a face to the person that made the effort to bring together the offerings for the consumer, a real person with a real story.
So brands will not try to compete through differentiation as traditionally has been the case. At the age of internet, where everything gets more and more connected, the key is connection, what brings everything together, and not what makes everything different. There is no more need for brands to try very hard to stand out. What is required is that they offer something that people really need, something really useful to them.

The result is consumers that will spend the same or more but on more quality products with a fair trade price rather than fast fashion items. For a brand, this automatically means a shift from a marketing focus to a product development focus and consequently the creation of more value, quality goods for all. The marketing hype and imagination will be replaced by the core functions of branding, the essence of the brand, how and where the product was made and what it really offers. Its design and durability, how it is really better than what already exists. The goal is neither over marketing nor over branding; the goal is fewer, better quality products and consumers will respond.


Why Design Thinking is necessary

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Maggie Forbes, VP Design

Many businesses today base their problem solving activities on analytics rather than including creative activities. Very often, problem solving happens in closed business environments where ‘satisficing’ takes place, meaning feeling the need to agree with the majority. In this case, logical models prevail over creativity and ingenuity by company leaders themselves.
Even though not intended, the side effect is that ideas that could benefit customers and generate long-term value often fall apart or are neglected.

Without an understanding of customer needs, most companies cease to be competitive in the marketplace.

Now that Design Thinking has matured and been used by many Fortune 500 companies with great results it becomes obvious: By meeting customer needs through creative problem solving, technological possibilities, and consumer-based strategies, it’s possible for any company in any industry to excel.

The logic is the following:

Design Thinking is a Problem Solving Methodology:

Designers start from the bottom up to follow a mission or a goal, creating solutions based on constant learning and iteration.
To turn a design into a mature solution, designers, like artists, need time to build, test, evaluate solutions until they deliver their final results.
The results don’t come from question to analysis to answer, rather through experimenting fast with various highly efficient concepts, looking at holistic solutions.
This framework does not focus on a narrow, immediate result, instead it contributes to organic growth across the organisation and industry.

Design Thinking results in Innovation:

In businesses, lack of change over time can either work or lead to less tolerance of risk.
However, businesses always need to differentiate from each other and to do that they need to operate on different principles. The purpose of Design Thinking is to create these unique, novel ideas on which organisations can operate. To create real value and competitive advantage, these ideas need to be highly effective through trying out possibilities, and continuing to refine execution until optimized.

Design Thinking is a Leadership Skill:

A leader usually needs to be creative in his thinking, absorb information fast and be persistent to new results especially after failure.
In this age, with the new product development mindset based on research, new tactics need to be applied rather than discipline and standardisation.
In this way, board decisions are based on market insights and data rather than posturing as design thinking deconstructs business problems and builds new, in depth, creative solutions.

Interdisciplinary Design Teams:

Design Thinking is not only for designers but for every specialist who wants to design solutions to their problems. An organisation can benefit more from teams thinking through the mindset of individuals from various backgrounds and disciplines that can be trained to contribute in a free flow thinking and judgment-less environment in order to produce creative problem solving scenarios.

Encourage Design Thinking mentality:

Design is a mindset. It requires focusing on the possibilities that are generated after discovering insights from people data. Infusing that problem solving approach into teams can shift the solutions towards creativity.
Organisations today strive for innovation, therefore a company culture that embraces design thinking can create more competitive products and services in today’s fast moving business world.


Local food and beverage products as important tourist souvenirs

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By Karolina Buczkowska, AWF Poznań | Turystyka Kulturowa,

Tourist souvenirs are an indispensable element of traveling for most people, especially cultural tourists. Experiencing food and beverages of the country, region or area is now considered a vital component of the tourism experience: “Dining out is common among tourists and food is believed to rank alongside climate, accommodation, and scenery in importance to tourists. Tourists and visitors increasingly see in gastronomy the possibility of learning more about the culture of a place. And it does not matter what kind of tourism they do – all tourists love eating and all of them must do it while travelling. “Food has an undeniable importance for holiday makers. As such, food tourism has gained an enormous potential in recent years. A high percentage of travellers, consider dining and food as relevant activities during their travels”. For some tourists getting knowledge and experience about other culture’s food becomes one of the trip motives and it is much more than just eating. For them the above-mentioned learning represents itself in tasting local and regional dishes, visiting various gastronomic facilities, meeting chefs and sightseeing places where food and beverages are produced. Moreover, an important element of the trip for them is also bringing home the local food and beverage products, kitchen utensils, photos or recipes as tourist souvenirs. Those tourists visiting different places usually want to buy or get something ‘characteristic’ or ‘typical’, and it is pretty obvious that culinary souvenirs are their frequent choices.

“A souvenir, no less than a photo, completes the trip, it is a kind of a trophy, a justification of being ‘there’. It encompasses the whole trip which begins with planning and packing of bags. Unpacking and placing the brought souvenirs on ‘the mantelpiece’ closes up the experience, proving in a tangible way that the trip has taken place, and even though the memories of the trip may fade away, the dust- covered souvenirs will keep the memory of the past.”

Tourist souvenirs are an indispensable element of traveling for most people, especially cultural tourists. Every souvenir means something different, and even the same things may be treated differently by various people – even food products or beverages. However, they play a quite important role in the process of traveling.

A tourist souvenir is “a thing having particular meanings created by its producer, and numerously interpreted throughout its ‘biography’. These meanings must be easily recognizable and easily associated with the destination. The item must ‘express’ a particular genius loci to be so unique that after years it will still be associated without a doubt with particular time (trip) and space (the visited place)” – undoubtedly culinary souvenirs do have such a meaning. As written in a tourist’s story in “The Daily Meal”: “The only bottle of wine that ever lasted for longer than a few weeks in my house was a bottle I brought back with me from a friend’s wedding in South Africa – its contents, and of course the memories that went with it, just seemed too special to drink on any Wednesday night alongside takeout. But when I did finally open it, all of the fantastic flavors and feelings from my trip came rushing back. I almost felt like the bottle of wine satiated my need to go back and do the trip all over again. That’s what food souvenirs do so much better than, say, key chains and T-shirts – they bring back all the sights, sounds, and flavors from time spent in another land”.

Creating and promoting the right tourist souvenirs – also based on local food and beverage – is therefore essential. Moreover, it is of great importance for the development of tourist activity in particular destinations as well as for the incoming tourists.



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By Royann Dean (

Destination brands in the Caribbean are primarily based on tangible assets like beautiful beaches, blue skies and warm waters. They can be breathtaking but that shouldn’t be the end of the story of that destination because at some point, natural attributes no longer represent a distinct competitive advantage.

Developing a sustainable strategy to attract tourists and investments, for that matter, means diversifying the brand with intangibles that are important to a global audience.

Design thinking simplifies and humanizes complex systems.

As we move further into a complex technological and business age, destination branding requires a more holistic approach. The process of design thinking would be an ideal vehicle to shift the paradigm. Design isn’t just a tool for aesthetic enhancements. It is a way of thinking that can simplify complex, intangible systems and add a human touch. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, design thinking is an essential tool for simplifying and humanizing. It can’t be extra; it needs to be a core competence.
“There’s no longer any real distinction between business strategy and the design of the user experience”
– Bridget van Kralingen, Senior Vice President of IBM Global Business Services.

Source: Harvard Business Review

Building a sustainable destination brand requires understanding the integration of multiple sectors from tourism to investments to finance and the shared needs of the people who represent the ability of those sectors to generate revenue. i.e. the user experience. Yes, attracting tourists and investors requires traditional features like modern infrastructure, safe environments and skilled labour. But emotional and social attributes can also weigh heavily in the decision making process.

It looks nice but does it make you want to stay?, a website that ranks small to mid-sized cities by how attractive it is to live, work and visit, examines attributes that include cultural amenities like sustainability, walkability and transportation.
Destinations that project authenticity and deliver cultural amenities like culinary diversity, heritage sites, live performances, museums and public green spaces are in the best position for differentiation. Innovative initiatives that involve multi-disciplinary teams and drive long-term national development are also attractive to investors.

It’s not an easy road but it can be worth it. 

Make no mistake, design-centric thinking will be met with resistance because it challenges well-established behaviors. It can also be difficult to implement for practical reasons. The ROI on design cannot always be measured and developing the best outcome means that the organization needs to increase its tolerance for ambiguity and failure.

Theoretically, the type of amenities that a destination provides can build positive transferable attributes for other areas of government. Savvy destination brands would leverage the equity built in investing in the amenities of a liveable city by making a correlation between those amenities and the perception of positive governmental attributes such as transparency, openness, diversity, and a willingness to embrace new ideas and to build partnerships.