Recent events bring to light a key question for achieving future success within the food sector: Is it smarter to focus on making your own path or better simply to react to trends?

“It has never been more important to create a better experience in the marketplace,” says Andy Ford, chief transformation officer at Brado, speaking during a July 9 webinar, “Thinking This Through: A Design Thinker’s Take on the Future of Ag and Food.”

The webinar was organized and hosted by Charleston|Orwig chief executive officer Mark Gale.

Ford further defined the concept of “design thinking,” which he calls a paramount approach to marketing.

Working with food brand giants such as Ruffles and Taco Bell, Brado specializes in techniques to shape future and studies how empathy drives the marketplace. Their focus revolves around creating a better experience for large numbers of customers.

The company’s proprietary processes establish how consumers perceive the different options in a category based on their role or function. This enables businesses to visualize the market landscape to better guide product messaging and identify white space opportunities.

There is an opportunity to have iterative methodology match the actual customer experience, Ford says, and this is the heart of what the customer wants. The end goal is to design an optimal future for the consumer.

“You are really trying to understand the customers’ barriers, needs and desires,” he said. “It’s using strategy to discover where you can affect change. We want to create a product that fulfills total life needs.”

People buy things for three reasons: time, love, or money, and “finding that desire is always the better trump card.”

Brado utilizes advanced technology including artificial intelligence (AI) to uncover hidden gems and gain insights on how to apply concepts.

Having a natural yearning for curiosity is compelling for being a design thinker, Ford says. He recommends insightful reading such as “Look at More: A Proven Approach to Innovation, Growth, and Change” as a key book for reference.

“What is the future going to look like,” Ford says. “Ask people. Talk to them at length. You begin to get a perspective that can really lead to change.”