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Using Design Thinking for a Family Glamping Trip


Using Design Thinking for a Family Glamping Trip

How can we make our marketing research projects even better?” is a question we often ask ourselves here at April Bell Research Group.  So, it’s awesome when you find a framework to do just that! I first learned about Design Thinking from Lisa Helminiak, founder of a human-centered design firm, Azul 7.   We met at a women-owned business training event, where she turned me on to some great resources from Stanford’s Institute of Design:

Since then, we have used this thinking in many of our research projects.  When I heard about Azul 7’s Design Thinking Workshop/Bootcamp, I decided to trek up to Minneapolis to attend.  I wanted to deepen my understanding and find new ways to implement it into our research practice.  What I discovered is that Design-Thinking is more than a “process”, it’s a way of life.

This mindset includes:

  • Focusing on what others need

  • Feeling free to experiment while working through a process

  • Getting really clear about what you’re trying to solve.

  • Having a “bias toward action”

  • Radial collaboration

It’s a simple process to reshape thinking. You state the challenge, and then follow 5 steps – Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test – to elevate creative thinking.

Creativity is an essential skill for leaders trying to make a difference. Yet developing the ability to think and act creatively remains a thorny challenge. While there's a hunger for skill development, elevating creative confidence doesn't happen via traditional modes of executive education.Tim Brown, IDEO’s President and CEO

Here’s how I incorporated Design Thinking as I planned my trip to the Boot Camp!

State the Challenge:  How can I take 3+ days away for training when I have so many obligations with work and family?

The Steps:


1. Empathize – immerse yourself, observe what people are doing, how they’re doing it and why. Discover other’s views.  Sidenote: this is MUCH easier to do professionally as a moderator than it is with your immediate family!!!  But here’s what I got from the “empathy gathering” stage:

  • My husband and daughter didn’t want me to drag them along on a trip where I was unavailable for most of the day.

  • They also didn’t want me to go on a trip unless it was a “real vacation.”

  • They wanted to go “camping” – I did not.

  • I didn’t want to feel guilty about going.

  • I wanted to create a great experience for everyone.


2. Define – this is tricky because you’re still not solving – you’re just unpacking what you learned, and getting clarity on WHAT needs to be solved. “Unpack” all of your learnings, then translate these into a Point of View statement – (User) “needs” (Need) “because” (Insight)

  • My definition:

    • The Family (User) needs…

    • …to find individual activities while vacationing together (Need) because…

    • …we want to be together yet have our own idea of what “fun” looks like! (Insight)

3. Ideate – our “family” brainstorm looked a little different than the typical innovation ideation sessions we facilitate with our clients but let’s just say our little familia “tried” to build on each other’s ideas.  And we “tried” not to judge each other’s opinions (some of us were better than others but I'm not pointing any fingers!)  And, my 5 year old is DEFINITELY the most creative and best “ideator” of the family!

4. Prototype – You stop talking (and thinking) in this step - and start building.  It’s a challenge because our nature – at least mine – is to get it right, get it perfect before showing others. This step forces the reverse thinking.  To get better, you must build/create something to test SO THAT IT CAN get better for the user!

5. Test – Then, we tested our first ever 10-day Family Glamping + Training trip!  Our user testing was “doing it.”  Would we do it differently next time?  Yes, we would tweak a few things like making sure our A/C in the camper was working properly before departing.  And allowing 2 weeks for the trip, not 10 days…but we learned a lot.  This was our “prototype”:

  1. Pull camper from Dallas to Oklahoma, spent our first night in Sequoyah State Park in Hulbert, OK

  2. Migrated to Des Moines, IA where we played with our friends, then left our daughter + camper to play longer.

  3. Husband and I drove on to Minneapolis where I attended Azul’s Design-Thinking Boot Camp and hubby happily biked in a city with some of the best biking trails in the US.

  4. Then, we made our way back home, picking up our daughter and camper in Iowa

  5. Spent 2 more nights in Kansas before heading back to Dallas.

Here’s a visual map we made with Fotor, another fun tool we’ve added to our tool kit. That and PicMonkey are both greatat quickly helping you bring ideas to life visually for “quick DIY design needs.”

Loved the Boot Camp. And Design Thinking has not only enhanced our innovation projects but also helped us create a mindset for innovation in our boutique business and even personally!






Live from #TMRE13 Keynote: The Pragmatic Brain

Live from #TMRE13 Keynote: The Pragmatic Brain

Stereotyping is a natural human tendency. Brands are stereotypes. When you think of Disney, what comes to mind? Nike? BMW?

Brand stereotypes create reality. For example, Coors - cold activated cans, Rocky Mountains in the background, frosted bottles. You've seen all the commercials. They create the idea in your mind that Coors' beer is actually colder and more refreshing than other brands. They are tapping into your unconscious and making you believe it.

Stereotypes resist change, but CAN change. In research studies, most people won't change their minds, even after contact itself. Those ideas are so deeply embedded in their minds, that actual proof which negates it, doesn't affect them. However, a few of those who came in contact, actually did change. In order to change your brand's stereotype, you must first make small, significant changes to tap into your consumer's unconscious.

The interactions must feel cooperative. If consumers feel you have the same ideals/goals they do, you will see positive change. For example - Guiness. Not a beer you normally associate with sports. If you saw a commercial of a bunch of guys sitting around watching sports, eating chips and drinking Guiness, nobody would believe it. In this commercial, they associate themselves with loyalty, friendship and having the same values you do, which sets the context for their desired change.

You must drive change with the right type of contact - it must feel authentic. Stereotypes are part of who we are. Find out how people see themselves and how they see your brand. You will then be able to align the two and position your brand the way YOU want people to see it.

Bottom line for market research professionals. Think of your brand as a stereotype and strive to understand the full stereotype. Then you will be able to affect change.

Safely Connected...How AT&T Is Using Consumer Insights to Help Seniors Age in Place

Safely Connected...How AT&T Is Using Consumer Insights to Help Seniors Age in Place

I was excited to hear about some amazing new technology from AT&T that is currently in the early testing phases. Stefanie Elder delivered a presentation about How AT&T Is Using Consumer Insights to Help Seniors Age in Place.

There are over 40 million seniors in the United States. Most of them face the reality of having to move into an assisted living facility at some point in time - only a few are able to stay in their homes with full time care. AT&T found that the vast majority of seniors would much rather stay in their own home yet lack the care or help they might need.

This is where AT&T is stepping in with Digital Life - a security system and home automation that includes video monitoring and sensors that will make it possible for seniors to stay put in their homes. Some of the most innovative features will utilize sensors - one of which will keep track of when the person gets out of bed and alerts someone (via mobile technology) if they don't. Monitoring for the system will be available 24/7 via web or app access.

They are currently testing this technology, in partnership with Burke, which is available to AT&T employees and their families. They are collecting feedback from seniors and their caregivers who are in many different situations - giving them a broad range of ideas and possibilities for the future. With this new technology, the future of seniors is looking pretty bright!



Decoding Millenials: A Lifestyle Segmentation #TMRE13

Decoding Millenials: A Lifestyle Segmentation #TMRE13

The first presentation I attended at TMRE was about the "Millennial Generation," which is made up of people born between 1982 and 2004, and is a growing segment in today's workforce. Being a "Millennial" myself, I was especially interested to attend and learn about what traits/attributes make up this group.Dan Coates, President of Ypulse explained that this generation holistically possesses the following traits:- Special- Sheltered- Confident- Team-oriented- Conventional- Pressured- Achieving

Additionally, the members of this group strive to have a job they are passionate about, instead of simply having a job for job's sake, and seek to "change the world." 

This group is the perfect target for Teach For America (TFA), who heavily focuses its recruiting efforts on targeting these "Millennials" who are passionate about making an impact. In order to effectively target this group and recruit the right candidates, Michael Lewis, Senior Managing Director at TFA, said he knew they needed to uncover what truly drives this group.

With the help of Ypulse, they surveyed over 3,000 millennials and came up with 6 different "Millennial" segments. However, not all of these 6 segments proved to be the "ideal" targets for TFA. They had to dig a little deeper to figure out which of these segments were directly applicable to TFA's values. For example, ideal candidates are those who have respect for teachers and believe they can make a difference. Once they filtered for those unique aspects, they narrowed it down to 3 target segments that they felt would make for the best applicants.

Once all of that was said and done, it was important for TFA to ensure that they had indeed selected the proper target segments, so they surveyed incoming applicants to confirm their findings. It turned out that a whopping 97% of the applicants fell into those 3 target segments, which means that TFA is definitely on the right path. :)

Mayuri Joshi isResearch Magician at April Bell Research Group, a boutique, full-service marketing research firm, committed to delivering fresh insights you can act on! Learn more at

Where Have All The Good Ideas Gone? #TMRE13

Where Have All The Good Ideas Gone? #TMRE13

Steve Landis and Andy Smith spoke about opportunities to help grow your business in Where Have All The Good Ideas Gone? In this rapidly changing world of consumers, there are more products and options available than ever before. So, how does a company make it in this cut-throat market?

Change your ways. The changing marketplace is forcing companies to change their way of measuring success. It's not longer acceptable for survival to be the main goal. Your main focus MUST be growth - growth = success.

Traditional measures don't link to growth. Old ideas that may have worked before, are no longer relevant in this day and age. What makes a good idea? Those that will grow your business, not those that will just boost sales. Ones that may seem crazy at first, but will benefit your company in the long run.

Live from #TMRE13:  Learning from Meaningful Brands

Live from #TMRE13: Learning from Meaningful Brands

Nigel Hollis, Chief Global Analyst at Millward Brown began the session speaking about The Meaningful Brand and how quickly our brains react to information due to instinct.  

In fact, he said, it only takes 1/20 of a second to decide the appeal of a web page.

He went on to discuss the 3 basic types of mental associations which create a meaningful brand.

1.  Emotion

2.  Knowledge

3.  Experience

And then, the stellar panel discussed a bit about how they've been able to create meaningful brands:

  • Brenda Armstead, VP Global Strategic Insights at Johnson & Johnson --  Neutrogena
  • Ellen Zaleski, Director of Consumer Planning at Diageo -- Johnnie Walker
  • Mike Quinta, Director Strategic Insights Global Brands -- Lay's

The key themes were:

  • Foundation - understanding who and what the brand stands for 
  • Communication - stay focused 
  • Shelf space (if applicable) - keep it and expand it
  • Key stakeholders - keep them aligned

April Bell is Principal and Founder of April Bell Research Group, a boutique, full-service marketing research firm, committed to delivering fresh insights you can act on! Learn more at  

Live from #TMRE13: Malcolm's Keynote - Everything in Moderation

Live from #TMRE13: Malcolm's Keynote - Everything in Moderation

This morning's keynote, Malcolm Gladwell, was introduced by Joan Lewis, Global Consumer and Market Knowledge Officer, Procter & Gamble.  She mentioned that when he was asked how he is able to write such amazing books, he said: 

 "I like to collect research that's interesting and I like to collect stories that are interesting…and then I put those together." 

 As a researcher, that hits home!

His focused his presentation on his latest book:  

David & Goliath

.  It was fascinating to hear him talk about how "too much of a good thing" is not a good thing and the role that plays in larger systems.

He discussed his thoughts around crime and the American public education system.  He questions:  

"Is there a point when classroom size becomes too small?"

When teachers were asked this question, virtually everyone said that a class size of less than 20 is too small….because it gets more difficult to control opposing views of children.  

"It's like having 2 squabbling teenagers in the back of a car while driving across country."  

Because "the single most determinant of success with a struggling student is whether they have a peer or not to help them"  true learning occurs when the classroom is full of discussion.  So, when you don't have enough discussion --  you have dead classrooms.  Not enough interaction with each other.

When all you think about is your child's relationship to the teacher, you get locked into how to maximize that relationship.  However, when you think about the classroom as a community, you also start to maximize that part of the learning as well.

He also brought it back to parents and how it's not only difficult for those with very little money but also those with "too much" money. Being a "good parent" gets hard again because you have to try to explain concepts such as "hard work" in an atmosphere where those type of lessons do not make intuitive sense.

Key take away for me - more is not always better...

April Bell is Principal and Founder of April Bell Research Group, a boutique, full-service marketing research firm, committed to delivering fresh insights you can act on! Learn more at  

TMRE: Shifting to an Emotional Lens in the Drive-Thru

TMRE: Shifting to an Emotional Lens in the Drive-Thru

The majority of our thoughts take place in the subconscious mind. Usually, we don't know WHY we are doing something if we are asked directly, but there is usually an emotional reason for it hidden in our subconscious. The folks at Coca-Cola were curious to learn about people's experiences in the drive-thru. Instead of conducting this research ethnographically, which would involve being right there with consumers in the drive-thru to observe their actions and emotional reactions, Coca-Cola decided to take a different approach and do 30 one-on-one IDIs (in-depth interviews). 

The way they did this successfully was by asking respondents to go through the visualization process, to mentally bring them back to their drive-thru experience. "If you ask them to tell you about one of their memories or experiences, they tell you something you might not have heard otherwise," says Kristian Aloma from Brandtrust. His team even asked respondents close their eyes while answering some of the questions for better recall of the event. "The key is NOT asking them why. There are ways a trained researcher can get past the surface to uncover their actual experience," Aloma states.

To Coca-Cola's surprise, many respondents revealed very emotional experiences at the drive-thru. For some it was a place where they could go in the morning to brighten their day; for others it was a get-away from their hectic routine where they could have someone else take care of them. It was a part of their ritual, and it made them feel good.

The presentation was definitely intriguing, and it was also very educational. I learned a lot about the different techniques that can be used to get respondents to open up about their experiences, especially if an ethnographic study is not possible. I'm eager to tell my team members about the interesting findings of this research!

Mayuri Joshi isResearch Magician at April Bell Research Group, a boutique, full-service marketing research firm, committed to delivering fresh insights you can act on! Learn more at

Live from #TMRE13: The Pragmatic Brain

Live from #TMRE13: The Pragmatic Brain

"Brands are stereotypes within themselves," he states. When you hear the word Disney, you might immediately start thinking of Mickey Mouse or your favorite Disney movies and feel some kind of emotion. What you may not realize, is all of those thoughts and feelings that the word Disney brings about is the stereotype that you have of the brand. And in this scenario, the word "stereotype" is not necessarily a bad thing. 

A great example Sack provided is of a prank that Jimmy Kimmel pulled back when the iPhone 5 was about to be released. The phone had not actually come out yet, but Kimmel surveyed people on the streets by showing them the iPhone 4S and telling them it was the new iPhone 5. He asked them, "How do you think this is different than the previous iPhone?" And to my surprise, these people were convinced that they were actually holding a new iPhone 5 and described it as "lighter" and "sleeker" than the iPhone 4S. It just had to do with the perception or stereotype they already had in their minds about the new and improved iPhone 5, and it was affecting their reality. 

All of us have ideas and images that come to mind when we think of certain brand names. So, when thinking about your brand as a whole, it is important to understand the stereotype that it holds in the marketplace. 

Mayuri Joshi isResearch Magician at April Bell Research Group, a boutique, full-service marketing research firm, committed to delivering fresh insights you can act on! Learn more at

Live from #TMRE:  Turning Facts into Ideas

Live from #TMRE: Turning Facts into Ideas

Christopher McKinney with Mead Johnson and Cynthia Ryan/Shari Morwood with Ideas To Go presented on how they turned facts into ideas.

It's always interesting to hear new ways for generating ideas for innovation, especially when the company has a  "new science or technology" and need to ensure the ideas will work with overarching brand positioning as well as benefit the consumer.

The speakers walked us through the process of how this came to life when innovating for their brand, Enfamil.


They began with a team of  "experts" who ideated, giving a variety of perspectives:

  • a futurist who could give a  "Big Data" perspective
  • a brain imaging specialist who provided a view about brain development
  • leaders in pediatric medicine
  • creative consumermoms

Then, they utilized a list of  "general facts" about the brand or category as creative stimuli, and from that, the team created 3000+ ideas. Wow!

Utilizing this process, they were able to restate, categorize, and select a series of 28 potential ideas to move forward with for further testing.