Design matters: engaging the ecosystem

Posted on 11 Nov 2016 by The Manufacturer

In last month’s column Paul Stead introduced the concept of 'Design Thinking'. This month he explains how applying this approach resulted in the creation of an award-winning sales programme for Eastman Chemical.

Sales programmes abound in manufacturers to keep order books flowing – but how do you use Design Thinking to create a game-changing programme that attracts new customers and opens up new markets?

One morning, a call arrived from an old client who had just been appointed VP marketing for Eastman Chemical, based in Tennessee. Eastman Chemical is a global company that produces a broad range of advanced materials, chemicals, fibre, additives and functional products, found in everyday products.

Click here to read Paul’s introductory column on Design Thinking and why design matters.

The VP’s challenge was to create growth for the then $6bn chemical giant – and he needed help to establish a new way of connecting with brand owners/designers/ influencers and leap-frog the existing channels to market.

From visualising the route-to-market, it was clear Eastman was a long way back in the value chain; with little influence on the end product application, few links with ultimate product creators and no influence with end consumers. Contrast that with the ‘Intel inside’ programme and the scale of its challenge was clear.

Using The Brewery Group’s Design Thinking methodology we went back to first principles and, with the Eastman team, mapped the key stakeholders in its ecosystem – those involved in the potential sales, purchasing, specification, approval, and manufacturer of products using Eastman materials.

We interviewed and held workshops with these stakeholders – listening, empathising, and understanding the day-to-day issues each party faced. Some common insights emerged:

  • There was little understanding of the performance benefits Eastman materials offered;
  • There were too few user cases studies showing the materials in action in the ultimate product;
  • There was no materials library enabling customers to experience the products – to touch/see/smell samples;
  • And the biggest challenge – a general lack of awareness of Eastman capabilities among key influencers in product development: the designers/engineers/brand managers.

We also undertook workshops with consumers to understand the “material difference” Eastman’s products made. One insight example we discovered – orange juice packaged in Eastman co-polyester bottles was perceived as fresher and more premium – and could command a 30% higher price!

Brewery Group - Eastman Chemical - Design MattersReflecting on this, it was clear a big focal point was needed – somewhere customers could easily connect with the vast array of Eastman products; where they could see/ understand/visualise end use applications; gain inspiration from inventors and designers, and speak in a language which was readily understood.

In response to this need, we created the Eastman Innovation Lab, a strategic programme that focuses on advancing innovation through design and education. This is a dedicated community resource inspiring new possibilities by pairing Eastman experts in material science with leaders in industrial design and architecture.

This innovative marketing programme, an example of design thinking, won a Business Week Gold. The Lab has gone from strength to strength and is a central plank in Eastman’s go-to-market strategy.

To find out more about the the Eastman Innovation Lab visit:

If you have any questions, please do email me: Paul.Stead@

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