SBC102 case





Nguyen Thi Minh Thu

Vo Nguyen Thu Uyen

Course: SBC 2023

Date: June 14, 2023




Design is not only an outcome; it is a way of creating. Design thinking is a process that helps individuals gain a thorough grasp of what they want in their lives as well as what they like/dislike about how things are created, packaged, advertised and sold.  The design thinking process revolves around three key stages: inspiration, ideation, and implementation. During these phases, problems are framed, questions are asked, ideas are created, and solutions are obtained. The phases are not linear; they can take place simultaneously and can also be repeated to build up ideas throughout the innovation continuum. To be more specific, the design thinking process involves these main steps, namely Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test to achieve the most impactful outcome.


Products and brands have always been fundamental to design. However, in today’s competitive marketplace, that perspective is inadequate. A wider and more strategic set of organizational operations must now be illuminated by design. The biggest payout of design thinking lies in the design of organizational performance strategies and business models that creates both economic and human value.  To better illustrate design thinking in a corporate setting, Professor Heather Fraser has presented three gears of business design. 


  • Gear One: Empathy – Start with Humans. The first step is to view the business through the eyes of the customer. To acquire deeper understanding and broader behavioral and psychographic views, it is vital to go beyond the direct use of an organization’s products or services to the settings in which they are positioned, in terms of the activities surrounding their consumption. Furthermore, it’s important to comprehend the “whole person” involved in any activity, including how they feel and how their requirements relate to other aspects of their lives. 


  • Gear Two: Concept Visualization. With renewed empathy and a wider range of concept innovation, creativity can be unlocked and advanced through prototyping and concept enrichment. It is essential to look beyond what is towards what could be, using imagination to generate novel solutions. At this stage, a divergent thinking mindset is applied to explore different possibilities. 


  • Gear Three: Strategic Business Design. The third gear integrates broad concepts with future realities by using readily available, well-defined, user-inspired solutions. This entails prototyping business models to integrate their parts and assess overall impact of the activity system. It is crucial to identify the factors that will drive the success of the solutions and prioritize what activities an organization must undertake to deliver related strategies.


Huggies Pull-Ups at KimberlyClark

The magic of superabsorbent diapers was first made known to the world by the Japanese business Unicharm in 1982.. By the late 1980s, diapers had become a commodity business. The competitors in the diaper market had successfully applied their engineering talents to address the problem of wetness control. The magic had worn off, and customers were no longer interested in stories of wetness control, which by then they considered insignificant. All of the diaper manufacturers had ended up in the same place, diapers were homogeneous and cost became the primary factor of competition. 


Kimberly Clark was no exception. Some of the key technologies that underpin diaper design were covered under its patents. It was able to develop incredibly absorbent diapers that kept liquids away from babies’ bottoms and controlled leaks with non-woven elastimers without causing redness. Kimberly Clark so valued its technologies and patents that it highlighted them as significant features  on its diaper packaging to fully inform the customers. Unfortunately, other manufacturers had solved the wetness control and leg seal problems as well, had protective patents of their own and provided customers the same fundamental functionality.


Proctor and Gamble changed the game in 1988 by introducing gender-specific Luvs. These diapers were designed to distinguish boys’ from girls’ diapers. As a result, Proctor and Gamble took over the top spot in the marketplace. Kimberly Clark decided that they had to do something.



In order to reclaim the  number one position in the industry, Kimberly Clark hired the California-based design company GVO. GVO spent time in stores watching people in the diaper aisles. GVO began investigating the use of diapers, spent a lot of time watching parents take care of their infants and toddlers in a variety of settings. They quickly discovered that the stories that mattered to customers were not the stories that were important to Kimberly Clark.


Fluidics experiments and the resulting “hazardous waste disposal devices” they sold as diapers were the focus of Kimberly Clark. These stories were in sharp contrast to the stories parents told about nurturing and taking care of their kids.

Parents  included diapers in stories told about nurturing their children because they viewed them as a way to keep their children comfortable. GVO also heard stories about the aspirations and anxieties parents held for their children. Parents feel a sense of failure when their children were last in the neighborhood to be out of diapers. Over several observations, this story was repeated over and over, yielding the core insight leading to Huggies Pull-Ups.


After that, GVO examined all the qualitative data acquired during the observation to define patterns of behavior and unmet needs. The work yielded two findings. The first was the story of diapers as clothing, not “waste control bandages” as they had been conceived at Kimberly Clark. The second was the story about the frustrations of toilet training, which presented Kimberly Clark a huge opportunity to assist parents with the toilet training process. These two observations served as the foundation for the design work that resulted in Huggies Pull-Ups.


Next, the job is to generate and choose the solutions that best address the demands, then test them with potential customers or users. Kimberly Clark finally came up with a clear idea for Pull-Ups as a cross between a diaper and underwear using prototypes and storyboards. At the levels of use and usability, Pull Ups was designed in the form of wetness control in a disposable “clothing like” embodiment. At the meaning level, the solution was to present itself as children’s clothing, and as a representation of success and physical control, rather than failure. The new product story would emphasize how switching from diapers to Pull-Ups was a big step for both kids and parents. A child could put on a Pull-Up without assistance, and take pride in their accomplishment. 



With Pull-Ups, the company has become the number one in the disposable training pants market. By continually making innovative improvements, based on what moms want, the Pull-Ups brand has maintained its position as the market leader for more than a decade. Kimberly Clark generates nearly a billion dollars in additional income annually from the disposable training pants market, giving the company a significant advantage over its rivals.


The enormous success of Pull-Ups also caused the company to re-evaluate its function in the lives of infants and toddlers as involving more than wetness control and, as a result, approach its markets in a new way. It led to a substantial shift in the organization’s way of thinking, and ultimately to new ways of creating and presenting products. Kimberly Clark began to understand that there were other important factors that went into the development of products, not just technology. With the successful launch of Pull-Ups, the company learned a lot of valuable lessons about things that really mattered to its customers, and about how to better concentrate on what really mattered.



The case of how Kimberly Clark created and led the disposable training pants category with Huggies Pull Ups has become a successful application of design thinking in assuring that your product serves not just the needs of your customers but also those of your company’s growth and resources.  Therefore, to increase efficiency and promote innovation in the context of modern business, organizations should adopt design thinking, delve deep into customer needs to approach problems from a human perspective.



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