09/05/2017 02:57 BST | Updated 09/05/2017 02:57 BST

Keeping Up With The Consumer -- A Human Centered Design Approach In Product And Service Design And Delivery

HCD is about developing customer insight before creating a product or service and knowing what your customer wants and also knowing what they DO NOT want.

How many people are still 'Keeping up with the Kardashians?'

As of 30 April 2017, the ratings of Reality TV's Royal family continue to plummet by a total of 200 percent from the glory days of 4.8 million viewers per episode to the current 1.5 million viewers per episode. Currently Keeping up with the Kardashians is number 135 of the most watched reality shows of 2016. What caused such a demise?

Last month supermodel sister Kendall Jenner (from the Kardashian clan's next 'Jenner'ation) received massive backlash when she starred in a less than desirable and very controversial Pepsi advert. For those who have not seen it:

The advert starts with a hand that opens a can of Pepsi and then moves over to a protest featuring thousands of diverse protestors holding banners stating 'join the conversation' and illustrations of heart and peace signs. We then see an Asian, male, musician playing a cello who appears to be uninspired, he opens a can of Pepsi and walks over to his balcony and sees the protest happening in the street; he then joins the protest. We then see a frustrated Indian, female, photographer who is analysing her photos and appears to be seeking inspiration.

She then grabs her camera and joins the protest hoping to capture some inspirational photos. We then see Kendall Jenner in the middle of a glamorous photo-shoot which is happening on the sidewalk, she then sees this protest happening and it captures her curiosity. She catches the eye of the Asian cellist, rips off her blonde wig to join the protest.

We then see her grabbing a can of Pepsi and greets one or two people in the audience (she is clearly the most popular person at the protest) she catwalks towards a police officer and offers him the can of Pepsi. The police officer opens the can of Pepsi, takes a sip, smiles and at that moment the entire crowd cheers, praising both Kendall and the officer for whatever just happened. Furthermore at this point we see the photographer capturing her 'epic photo'. At the end of the advert we see Kendall leading the protest with the tag lines 'Live bolder', 'Live louder' and 'Live for now.'

This was not a frivolous advert, it was a provocative advert. The music, the energy and the plot were intended to trigger an emotional and psychological reaction. The ingredients were intended for the makings of a 'great advert' and even though Pepsi did trigger emotion with its audience, it was not the emotion that they were hoping for. Both Pepsi and Kendall Jenner received so much backlash that Pepsi had to can the advert 'pun intended' and Kendall went into hiding for a period of time.

Had Pepsi not 'pushed their perceived solution' to the customer and rather 'pulled a customer approved solution' would the customer have allowed for this very expensive mistake to make it on air?

The advert was condemned for attempting to trivialise the numerous protests in the United States of America that confront social justice causes. Commentators have said that the advert suggests that protestors and police would live in harmony if the protestors were kinder to police. The advert has been criticised of having little regard for the #BlackLivesMatter movement. One of the criticisms received was from Martin Luther King's daughter Bernice King, who tweeted a photo of her father, being confronted by a police officer at a protest march. She captioned the picture, "If only Daddy would have known about the power of Pepsi."

Other commentators state that the advert was tone deaf and insensitive because a privileged white girl received a very different response when approaching a policeman at a protest as compared to her black counterpart. However, the purpose of this article is not to provide political commentary on the advert however provide a political overview as this will be useful in analysing the advert from the human centred approach which is the objective of the article.

According to, Human Centred design (HCD) is defined as "a creative approach to problem solving. It is a process that starts with the people you're designing for and ends with new customised solutions to suit their needs. HCD is about building a deep empathy with the people you're designing for; generating tons of ideas; building a bunch of prototypes; sharing what you've made with the people you're designing for; and eventually putting your innovative new solution out in the world."

HCD is in essence an innovative approach to designing relevant products and solutions for your customer. We are seeing a movement away from the 'product push' strategy of marketers towards a 'customer demand pull' strategy. HCD is about involving the customer in the design process through a process of co-creation and developing a product with your customers input. It is about developing customer insight before creating a product or service and knowing your customer wants, needs and desires and also knowing what they DO NOT want, need and desire.

So had Pepsi KYC'd (Know Your Customer) their customer, would they have made this blunder of an advert? Had Pepsi been awake to the impact of the #BlackLivesMatter protests on society and listened to how society was responding to the protests - not just the victims of these protests - and the support that they were receiving from non-blacks would they have made this advert? Pepsi was attempting to creatively solve a problem, which was to market Pepsi as a soda for global unity, peace and understanding. However had Pepsi not 'pushed their perceived solution' to the customer and rather 'pulled a customer approved solution' would the customer have allowed for this very expensive mistake to make it on air?

#BlackLivesMatter, the civil society movement that Pepsi was accused of trivialising, was born in 2013 following the acquittal of neighbourhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman, of mixed Hispanic and white heritage, for shooting dead 17 year old Trayvon Martin. The movement gained popularity following the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner which also involved an altercation between African Americans and law enforcement officials.

Similar to Pepsi, banks turned a blind eye to what the customers were demanding and failed to meet their needs and were severely punished.

In 2016, Philando Castile was fatally shot by Jeronimo Yanez whilst reaching for his ID after he had been stopped by the police. His girlfriend Diamond Reynold filmed the incident on her phone making the incident available on Youtube.

Following a series of attacks and protests by the movement, former President Barack Obama stated that "#BlackLivesMatter activists wish to see better relations between communities and law enforcement and that everyone is concerned about the racial bias in the criminal justice system". If protests were demanding this reaction from the President of the United States of America which signal the gravity of the situation, then why would Pepsi even consider making a protest advert amidst a season of numerous protests against police brutality?

HCD is a strategy adapted and applied by numerous large corporations where they crowd source solutions from their customers. These highly innovative companies include; IBM, General Electric, FNB and Discovery Vitality. Their competitive advantage is the fact that they customise their solutions to address their customer wants, needs and desires and therefore as long as they are listening to their customer they will innovative and be profitable. HCD is very popular with FinTech companies that build mobile solutions customised for their customer needs.

FinTech companies are responding to the significant role that mobile phones play in our lives and are capitalising on that. The multi-billion dollar FinTech industry was established because banks ignored their customer and this has cost the large established banks a portion of their value and they are no longer monopolising the financial services industry. Similar to Pepsi, banks turned a blind eye to what the customers were demanding and failed to meet their needs and were severely punished.

Other than FinTech, South Africa has witnessed an increase in adapting and applying innovative approaches to increasing accessibility of quality services to a broader demographic. This includes low cost quality education and low cost health care. Spark Schools pioneered a model which in essence makes private tuition affordable. Curro Schools followed suit. Their respective annual tuition costs are R21,000 and R36,000 respectively. Even though the height of these fees make quality education inaccessible to a significant portion of the South African population, compared to their private school counterparts, which are in excess in R100,000 per annum, they are over 200 percent cheaper.

This means that a greater portion of the population can now afford private education. Good quality health care at a low cost is also beginning to emerge with 'U Care' which are conveniently located medical centres that are providing affordable good quality health care services to the general public. They recently launched in Park Station and have pioneered a business model that not only makes healthcare affordable, but accessible. This is an example of how companies that co-create solutions that incorporate their customers' demands and resources customise a solution in an inviting way that guarantees customer purchase.

Smart business is no longer keeping up with a product push approach in servicing their viewer. The smart business is now keeping up with the consumer using a consumer demand strategy in generating solutions.