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The IDEO of marketing communications?

I’ve long been a fan of IDEO, the product innovation and design company, and have been thinking about what an advertising agency can learn from how they work. What would the “IDEO of marketing communications” look like?

I first encountered IDEO when ABC news did a story on the firm. Nightline sent a team to the Bay Area company to chronicle a condensed three-day version IDEO’s innovation process, but didn’t reveal the brief until the day before the cameras arrived. Their assignment – reinvent the grocery shopping cart.

Take a look at these videos, served up in three parts. (Disclosure: these videos are sold on Although I lifted these from YouTube, I bought a copy three years ago.)

IDEO and an advertising agency are in the same business, albeit with different outputs. We both create imaginative ideas to help marketers grow. IDEO’s solutions tend to be 3-dimensional products. An agency’s end product tends to be online and on TV.

IDEO’s process is fluid, evolving to meet different engagements. But the core seems to be defined by four key principles:
  1. Inspiration by observation (more anthropological, fewer focus groups)
  2. Collaborative brainstorming (always succeeds over the lone genius)
  3. Hot teams (drawn from diverse fields to create a collision of perspectives)
  4. Rapid prototyping (enlightened trial and error, act before you’ve got all the answers)
The diversity of talent and disciplines we had at Saatchi LA helped us move toward this culture. And our “no walls” credo at Barrie D’Rozario Murphy is designed to foster this same collaboration.

So what would the “IDEO of marketing communications” look like? I have my own point of view (no silos, less hierarchy, more diverse talent, truly collaborative brainstorming, etc.), but would be more interested in learning from others.


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