The Tangerine Method

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Who are we?

Hello, we are Blender, a strategic design consultancy that owns a unique blend of design and strategic skills. Blender believes in design as a brilliant tool to find new possibilities and opportunities to survive in this shark filled fish pond. To find a new position, Blender spends its days blending in with its clients, finding the right blend of key ingredients for a path that that will lead to long term sustainable competitive advantages. Blender designs creative methods to really get to that core and develop this along with the client. Blender has a strong belief that knowing what the client does and how he does it, are not the most important parts. To develop a valuable position, Blender builds on why the client does it. Therefore we believe:

‘To companies in mature markets: Blender is the one strategic design consultancy that is able to guide brands in finding creative solutions for repositioning by structuring knowledge and thinking from the core essence of the company.’

What do we do?

While most marketing consultants will investigate the demand on the market to determine the best positioning for a brand leading to market-pull innovation and me-too products, Blender uses knowledge brokering (Calabretta et al 2014). This allows us to specifically focus on our target group: Companies in mature markets which are surrounded by strong competition and often struggling to innovate. Our specially designed method allows for these companies to reposition themselves within their mature market.

mature markets

Fig. 1 Mature markets

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The Tangerine Method

Fig. 2 The Tangerine Method banner

While creating The Tangerine Method we were inspired by multiple currently existing tools and methods. The two that inspired us the most are The Golden Circles by Simon Sinek and the ViP method.


The Golden Circles (Sinek 2009) inspired us, because they really bring the user to the core of the business. This profound core of the company is also the base of its products/services. It explains why something has been made and why is works like it does today. If the employees are not even up to date, how can the customers be truly aware? It is the true meaning of why this company exists and must remain constant. It is important to know when one tries to sell products and/or services. If a company can really deliver this story to the customer, it seems to become more sure of itself and appear more inspiring, convincing and reliable.(Liedtka 2014) The ViP method (Hekkert et al. 2011) inspired us, because this also brings the designer to the core of the product. This method lets the designer think about the context and interaction with the product. First you isolate the product and look at it in a vacuum. The following step requires looking at this product and interaction in its current and a desired future context. An interaction is thought within this context and at the end a product is placed back in this context and interaction. This means that design is not only about the design of the product, but the interaction and context are of utmost importance as well. A context can result in a truly different product and/or service than what you first would have imagined.

tangerine method
Tangerine Method
vip png
golden circles png
The Golden Circles
Complete process 80% 50% 20%
End Product The core of the company placed in a context for the,future. Along with this the company receives a visual with the results,of the session. They get a ’design brief’ for themselves for the future The core of a product placed into a context Only the core of the company
Easy to understand and apply? Might be a little vague and abstract for people who did not use it before Easy to understand and to apply Easy to understand, but might be hard to apply. Can be made as vague as one likes
Doable for the company itself? Only in co-creation Doable with knowledge of the method Doable with abstract thinking skills
Time needed Couple of days Couple of days One or two days
Specific end product End product is completely based on the company and therefore only useful for that specific company Slightly abstract end product which is applicable for a lot of companies The core of a company, so useful for that specific company

These tools and methods inspired us to come up with The Tangerine method. In The Tangerine method we first try to find the core of the company. This core exists of different things, namely ranging from the product portfolio to the resources, to functional and experiential qualitiesand so on. (Gemser et al. 2011) When the core and the ’why’ of the company is clear, these are used to create a context for the future. At the end of the method the company is more aware of its core and how to sell this in the future context.

When do we use the method

We do focus on mature markets, but this does not mean that our method isn’t suitable for growth strategies. Finding the core essence of a company can be guiding for any type of company. What new position can the company take within this market?

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The Tangerine method in practice

Now that we have explained what the method includes and when it is used, this section will elaborate on how the method is put to practice. In order to really get to the core, we need the company to be actively involved in the entire process. Since it is a (re-)positioning method that requires abstract thinking, we target the R&D and marketing managers to take the lead in the process.

To understand the method globally, it is wise to know that there are two axes; horizontally the model runs from analyse to execute. And vertically, from bottom to top, the method runs from abstract to concrete, as you can see in fig.3. To offer the user a clear overview, the insights of every phase will be touched roughly, offering a more in depth view in the phase where Blender’s uniqueness is truly exposed; the ‘so’ phase. To provide a better understanding of each phase we will use the Nokia Lumia product as an example case of a company trying to survive in the mature mobile phone market.

Fig. 3 The Tangerine Method

In the first phase, the “what” of a company is determined. According to the golden circles of Sinek (2009), the “what” of a company is the more tangible result of the how and why, and therefore is the building block for the rest of the method. In our method we find this “what” in the current products, and key activities. This first phase will therefore exist of an analysis of the product portfolio, resulting in a visual overview of their outstanding products (in the eye of their consumers). This visual overview will be used for the next phase. For Nokia the mobile phones specialised for niche markets stood out. The Lumia 1020 is a phone specialised in making high definition photos and Lumia 930 is more targeted on music lovers.

In the next phase the “how” of a company is revealed. The output of the previous phase is used as an input. This phase revolves around the question “why these products are interesting for consumers”. The result of this phase is a list with functional and experiential qualities of the products (Gemser et al. 2011, Moultrie & Livesey 2014).

Functional qualities: (niche specific) high quality features of the phone: Lumia 1020 has a 41-megapixel camera and the Lumia 930 has a surround sound registration and is able to play 75 hours of music.

Experiential qualities: Giving the opportunity to highlight your own identity and being able to stay online for much longer than before.

Arriving at an even more abstract level in the “why” phase, where we try to expose the belief of the company. Why does the company want to make these products? Using the experiential qualities (Gemser et al. 2011, Moultrie & Livesey 2014) as a starting point, the result of this phase is their main believe that should inspire and drive people within the company. In the example case of Nokia this main belief is; “We believe in encouraging the passions of people, to enhance the quality of their life.”

In the “so” phase it all comes together, we make the very abstract “why” more concrete and actionable. But we also combine it with an analysis of the external environment of the company. In this external analysis the consumers, competitors and context have to be considered. Giving answer to the question “which unique experience does the company want to offer their consumers?” In the example case we combine their main belief of encouraging the passion in people’s life, with their functional quality of making phones for niche markets and the short battery durations of the current mobile phones. Therefore we say that Nokia wants to offer it’s customers a life in which they are always able to practise their passion. They offer customers a lifestyle in which they can improve their skills at every time and every moment.

Fig. 4 The Nokia Lumia case

To make it more tangible at this phase, the functional product qualities of the “how” phase are linked to this unique experience as well. An inline tangible deliverable is a product showing different scenarios which fit the unique experience. Which will show the life of a customer with typical scenarios of this experience. This might also help the company to look for gaps in this experience where they can add products (THIS) to make the experience more complete.

By playing around with the tangible tool with the different scenarios or a day in the ultimate experience (fig. 4) lifestyle it might become easier for the company to come up with a new product which fits the brand very well. Blender as a consultancy agency doesn’t help the company with that, we leave them with the poster and an inspiring magic folding cube as a tangible tool (fig. 5).cube

Fig. 5 The Tangible Cube


  • It might be hard to come to the abstraction level that is needed in the first phase of the method. This might be too vague and abstract for the client.
  • The method is only useful when people from the company are thinking alongside with Blender. We cannot come to the core of a company without their help. They should get to know themselves a bit better while using this method, which is performed in co-creation with the the company(Snelders 2012).
  • The method cannot be completed in one day. It probably needs a couple of days to be finished.

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So why choose this method?

The Tangerine Method is a very complete method, which brings you from start to finish. It provides the company a complete overview of what the core has to offer. This is presented in tangible things like the product portfolio and the abstract intangible functional and experiential qualities which are made tangible again in the ‘So’ phase. This method is going deep into the core of a company and placed in its own context, so the end result of the method is really unique and specific for that company. For any other company it would not be totally applicable, because it is not based on their core and context. Blender helps the company to see again why they exist and should remain existing and why they have an added value for the market.

It is one of a kind

In comparison with other methods, where the why/ vision is hard to interpret as it very abstract, our method is unique as it makes the most abstract core, the “why”, actionable. This has two reasons. First, we use the “why” only as a phase of the method, but never standing on its own, where it can lose its true meaning. Second, we provide a visual representation showing the unique experiences flowing from this core, instead of jumping to new products.

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  • Calabretta, G., Gemser, G., Wijnberg, N., and Hekkert, P. (2014), “Collaborating with Design Consultancy Firms for Effective Strategic Decision-Making in New Product Development”, in Muratovski, G. (Ed.), Design for Business, Vol. 2, Chicago: Intellect, The University Chicago Press, pp. 126-138.
  • Gemser, G., Candi, M., & van den Ende, J. (2011). How design can improve firm performance. Design Management Review, 22(2), 72-77.
  • Hekkert, P., van Dijk, M., & Lloyd, P. (2011). Vision in Product Design: handbook for innovators.
  • Liedtka, J. (2014). Perspective: Linking Design Thinking with Innovation Outcomes through Cognitive Bias Reduction. Journal of Product Innovation Management.
  • Moultrie, J., and Livesey, F. (2014). “Measuring design investment in firms: conceptual foundations and exploratory UK survey”, Research Policy, 43(3), 570-587.
  • Snelders, D. (2012). “Useful fabrications: Four stories about design for business”, in Karjalainen, T.M. (Ed.), Strategic Design Communication in Business (proceedings of the joint Nordcode / IDBM conference, June 2012, Helsinki and Stockholm).
  • Sinek, S. (2009), Start with why: how great leaders inspire everyone to take action. Penguin Group, New York , N.Y.
Team 7
Anne van Diepen, Mathilde van Nek, Evelien Veldhuijzen, Noortje Hartman, Anne Kompier

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