Promotion: Design Case Studies - Blue Marlin - How to give consumers exactly what they want

Customer-journey insight enables brands to understand their customers' needs and align their products to expectations, thus ensuring satisfaction.

Getting a mortgage is a big deal. The bank shouldn't reward you with a plastic folder - you are buying a home and it should make you feel great about making the biggest purchase of your life.

BMW understands this point really well. Most buyers have probably been coveting their desired car for years, which is why the salespeople put it on a turntable and let them have a good look at it before they take it out of the showroom. This way, the buyer and the salespeople can acknowledge the scale of achievement and the high-pitched feelings associated with the purchase.

Looked at in this light, customer-journey analysis makes a great deal of sense: if you want to understand your customers' preconceptions, actions, reactions and motivations, put yourself in their shoes.

Customer-journey analysis is not new, but its most important implications are often overlooked because, for many, it remains a theory, rather than a practical and applied marketing tool.

Most often associated with service brands, customer-journey analysis can be just as readily applied to FMCG brands, sometimes with surprising results. Walking the walk, rather than just talking the talk, enables marketers, and the agencies that work with them, to gain invaluable insights into how consumers interact with their brands.

Shadowing mothers, for example, enabled Blue Marlin to create a revolutionary and award-wining packaging design for Nutricia, owner of infant-formula brand Cow & Gate. Indeed, the target audience was moved to call the packaging 'life-changing' (see case study).

Consumers experience brands in the context of an overall journey. Over the course of this journey, they come into contact with the brand at different touchpoints and will often be in different frames of mind at each stage.

Allied to these touchpoints are three moments of truth: at point of purchase; when the consumer uses the product; and when they buy the product again and tell someone else about it. The first and second of these have a disproportionate effect on consumers' perceptions of a brand.

Too often designers focus on the first moment of truth rather than seeing the whole journey. Without question, in-store experience is one of the most important parts of a customer's journey and it has a massive impact on brand perceptions. Packaging plays a key role as it is the on-shelf ad for the brand, and graphic design takes the lead within the packaging mix. But design that focuses too closely on this point misses out on the importance of the crucial second moment of truth, when consumers use the product.

It seems self-evident that the packaging must perform when the brand is in the hand, but the extra enhancements that it can provide are frequently overlooked. Does the pack open easily? Reseal effectively? Does it pour efficiently? Fit in the cupboard? Is it easy to recycle?

Over and above this, great packaging can make consumers' lives easier by improving product performance, whether that means making it more straightforward to use, more accurate, faster, less messy or just more pleasurable an experience.

If the packaging does not perform at the second moment of truth, there will not be a third. Bad packaging is a great way to kill off a good product, as people do not repurchase brands that are difficult to use or fail to live up to their expectations.

Customer-journey analysis is powerful because it aligns the way the brand performs with the needs of the consumer at every touchpoint.

When brands are genuinely aligned with needs, they anticipate, as well as satisfy, their customers' expectations. Airline Virgin Atlantic is the classic example, from its chauffeur-driven service to its clubhouse spa facilities.

How many passengers actually use the spa is irrelevant; the fact that it is there reinforces Virgin Atlantic's brand proposition and reassures passengers that they are being well looked after.

When consumers are happy and satisfied, not only do they come back for more, they tell stories about their experience. In the digital age, when the power of advertising is decreasing and word of mouth is all-important, getting your consumers to tell others about your brand is becoming the ultimate goal in marketing.

Intelligent understanding of the customer journey can make positive word of mouth a reality.


Roger Hart was a marketer for 13 years before joining the design industry in 2005. This has informed his belief that great design is only that which is effective and based on insight.

Blue Marlin prides itself on delivering relevant, unique and consistent experiences across brand touchpoints worldwide. It is an independent integrated brand design consultancy with an international network of offices across the UK, US, Australia and the Far East.

The agency creates and grows businesses through brand strategy, identity and innovation, and structural and graphic design. Clients range from big multinationals, including Unilever, Shell, GlaxoSmithKline and Reckitt Benckiser, to smaller owner-managed businesses, such as Orchard Pig and Kettle Foods.

To find out more, visit


Making up formula feeds can be a messy, fraught, time-consuming, tedious and stressful job that parents frequently have to do one-handed while holding a wailing infant. Blue Marlin discovered all the challenges mothers face when formula-feeding their babies by following them, day and night, as they went about their business.

If a parent is exclusively formula-feeding, they are likely to have to make up six bottles a day, which equates to about 35 scoops of formula, all of which need to be carefully measured and counted out.

Mothers wanted packaging that was secure, convenient, simple to use and made life easier.

Shadowing mothers gave Blue Marlin the insight and understanding that helped it create packaging that dramatically simplifies the procedure.

To avoid having to fish out the scoop from the bag or tin of formula, it provided a scoop that clips into the pack's lid. To avoid having to hunt for a clean knife to level each scoop of formula, it devised a built-in leveller. The agency also developed a closure that is fully secure and airtight, but can be operated with one hand. The result was that the whole process of making up a feed can now be done single-handedly.

Mothers called it life-changing. Blue Marlin describes it as customer-journey insight.


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