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Good problems are hard to find

Maria Devereux, Executive Creative Director, Colenso BBDO

Issue 54 | March 2020

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious. – Albert Einstein

The most important thing this extraordinary problem solver can teach us about marketing is to be passionately curious. Curious about our customers, brands and processes. By doing so, we'll be continuously searching to interrogate each and every aspect of the business problems we face on a day to day basis. But why bother? Because the more we understand the perceived problem, the more chance we have of knowing we're solving the right one.

A perfectly designed problem isn't always obvious and it usually challenges our assumptions. Take Uber for example; rather than simply replicating the existing service model, they focussed on understanding every single customer pain point - safety for both passengers and drivers, difficulty hailing a taxi, knowing how long it will take to arrive and knowing how much the trip will cost. Their solution to that problem was to provide customers with a direct connection to their driver through an easy to use online platform. Creating this online platform massively improved the customer experience, but it also managed to rectify most of the driver pain points in the process. It's a great example of how creative a solution can be when you uncover the insightful, often universal human truths behind the problem.

So how can we successfully design our problems to ensure we uncover enough insights and learnings to satisfy our curiosity? Not surprisingly, this is where data comes in. But it's not the data that's important, it's what we ask of it that matters. Sure, there's the transactional sales metrics like average customer basket size, unit declines and customer churn. But it's the human interpretation of the data which inspires the most innovative creative solutions.

And you know the funny thing about perfect creative solutions? They can seem painfully obvious. Take Spark Play for example. The perceived problem was that parents needed to reduce their kids' screen time. But the data revealed something quite different - parents didn't know how to encourage their kids to play outside. Their lives were busy and they just didn't have the tools to help manage their often obsessive kids who were in desperate need of their daily screen time. The solution was obvious - to incentivise outdoor play for Kiwi kids by embedding tracking technology into a ball; turning outdoor play into a currency for screen time.

New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation had a different perceived problem - women weren't checking their breasts because they weren't aware they needed to. But the data revealed the actual problem - they knew they needed to but simply didn't have the confidence to successfully perform regular self checks. The solution tapped into a behavioural insight; they were touching their phone screens over two thousand times a day but hardly ever touching their breasts. The solution was Pre Check; an app and multisensory training tool that reproduced the signs, symptoms and textures of early stage breast cancer. By combining haptic technology and realistic visual cues, the app gave women the confidence to check their breasts and even provided monthly self check reminders.

This solution stemmed from a problem no-one knew existed until every aspect of the perceived problem was interrogated. And that's why it's important we all remain passionately curious problem solvers, because when we discover the perfect problems, the perfect solutions seem inevitable.

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