Design Thinking: Applying Rose, Bud, Thorn Activities to Marketing

Rose Bud Thorn

This week has been quite exciting as I’ve been working with some enterprise consultants from Salesforce and another company to see how I can improve strategy sessions for their customers. A huge gap in our industry right now is that companies often have the budget and resources, sometimes have the tools, but often lack the strategy to kick off an appropriate execution plan.

One application that they take on the road to virtually every customer is a design thinking activity called “rose, bud, thorn”. The simplicity of the exercise and the themes that are identified by it make it a very powerful methodology for pinpointing gaps in your marketing efforts.

What You Need

  • Sharpies
  • Red, blue, and green sticky notes
  • Plenty of wall or whiteboard space
  • A facilitator to keep things on track
  • 2 to 4 key people that understand the process

Examples for Application

Perhaps you’re going to implement a new marketing technology to develop automated journeys for your customers. The project may come to a screaming halt as you don’t really know where to start your planning. This is where rose, bud, thorn can come in handy.

Rose – What’s Working?

Begin by writing down what’s working with the implementation. Perhaps the training has been excellent or the ease of use of the platform. Maybe you’ve got great resources on your team or through a third-party to assist. It could be anything… just write down what’s working.

Bud – What are the Opportunities?

As you begin to pour through your people, process, and platform, some opportunities will rise to the top. Perhaps the platform offers social, ad, or text messaging capabilities that could help you better target your prospects multi-channel. Perhaps there are some integrations available to incorporate artificial intelligence in the future. It could be anything!

Thorn – What’s Broken?

As you analyze your project, you may identify things that are missing, frustrating, or that are failing. Perhaps it’s the timeline, or you don’t have good enough data to make some decisions on. 

Time to Cluster

If you spend a good 30 to 45 minutes empowering your team to post notes and think of every possible rose, bud, or thorn, you may be left with quite a collection of sticky notes everywhere. By getting all of your thoughts out on color-coded notes and organizing them, you’re going to see some themes emerge that you didn’t quite see before.

The next step is to cluster the notes, this process is called affinity mapping. Utilize categorization to move the notes and organize them from rose, bud, thorn to actual processes. In the case of your marketing efforts, you may wish to have several columns:

  • Discovery – the research and data needed to plan the marketing effort.
  • Strategy – the marketing effort.
  • Implementation – the tools and resources needed to build the marketing initiative.
  • Execution – the resources, goals, and measurement of the initiative.
  • Optimization – the means to improve the initiative in real-time or next time.

As you move your notes to these categories, you’re going to see some great themes begin to materialize. Perhaps you’ll even see one are be more green… helping you see where the roadblock is so that you can make a determination of how to successfully push through it.

Design Thinking

This is just a simple exercise that’s utilized in design thinking. Design thinking is a much broader practice that’s often applied to user experience design, but is evolving into helping businesses tackle much larger issues as well.

There are 5 stages in design thinking – emphathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. The similarities between those and the agile marketing journey I developed weren’t an accident!

I’d encourage you to take a course, watch some videos, or even buy a book on Design Thinking, it’s transforming the way businesses are functioning. If you have any recommendations, please leave them in the comments!

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