The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Strategy Stops Stupid …
July 19, 2010, 6:12 am
Filed under: Comment

It never fails to amaze me how often clients express a viewpoint that goes against their carefully constructed brand strategy.

I’ve said it many times, but for all the talk they say regarding strategies importance, they are often more than happy to chuck it all to the side when there’s [1] a chance to boost short-term profits &/or [2] an implication they don’t like.

Whilst everything in life is fluid to a certain degree, strategy is there so companies can achieve their goals in the most efficient and effective way possible … helping guide them to make the right decisions, both in terms of what they do and what they don’t and it’s for this reason that I regard strategy as a liberator because without it, any bollocks can be rationalised and justified, leaving only time to be the independent judge of your misguided choices and decisions.

I know this is a very plannery post … a very plannery post that is stating the bleeding obvious … but we’re here to do more than just make great work happen, we’re here to make great effective work happen and I think sometimes quite a few of us forget that.

30 Comments so far
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I’m not sure brands should have strategies. As you rightly say companies have strategies, strategies that are predicated on sustainable competitive advantages – one of which can be differentiation

Brands/products should have marketing plans that allow them to conform to that strategy by shifting units.

Comment by John

Just keeping things in order.

Comment by John

stop being a smart arse dodds and a plan should already have a strat in it or its just a fucking wish list that you should be presenting to santa claus not your fucking board of directors.

its a good job its sunday here campbell because if this was what i read first thing on a monday id shoot myself.

yes youre right but theres no need to remind us the world is filled with client and planner fuckwits when weve spent so much money on therapy trying to forget the job dissatisfaction fuckers.

Comment by andy@cynic

Oh my god, I agree with Andy and not just because he agrees with me.

Surely John, any marketing plan must include a strategy so it can achieve the goals set to them by their bosses, even if it’s just bringing in a certain % increase on annual sales. Sure, that’s not business strategy but it could certainly be classified as a marketing one.

My issue is that for adland to prove its worth, it needs to be much higher up the influence scale, so instead of pissing about with communication strategies [which are always going to have a smaller level of influence given the key business and marketing strategies have already been laid out], we get to help develop the business and marketing ones.

I know why, in the main, it isn’t happening, but for me it is the only way adland will be able to prove their true value unless of course, they start manufacturing products themselves which a few are already starting to entertain.

And besides. this post didn’t need to be limited to strategists in adland, it is a reminder for all commercial operations and partners who are paid or want to get from point A to point B in the most effective way possible.

The issue is – as my Father used to say – the amount of real strategists versus those who claim they are is way out of skew … but then he used to laugh his socks off that anyone in adland could describe themselves that way at all.

Comment by Rob

you mean you agree with me campbell. and stop fucking writing long comments. just because your posts are freakishly shorter doesnt mean you get credits to bore the fuck out of us the rest of the time.

Comment by andy@cynic

“we’re here to do more than just make great work happen, we’re here to make great effective work happen”

It bothers me a lot that this is a revelation to some planners but trawling the plannersphere they are discussing it like it’s a new concept to the discipline.

Comment by Pete

Surely you mean “strategy starts stupid”?

Comment by Billy Whizz

This should be printed out and put on every planners desk. Great post even if it shouldn’t be.

Comment by Bazza

Reading Billy and your comments takes me back to when we somehow managed to have you in the same office at the same time.

Good times … but it could be my memory playing tricks on me as usual.

Comment by Rob

This is a nicely written post but I feel it is much more for the advertising community than those outside of it, regardless how much you may feel differently.

Could I ask John to clarify his point because I find it interesting and don’t believe Robert and Andrew’s response addresses the heart of the issue being raised.

Comment by Lee Hill

Good morning.

Comment by Marcus

Morning [none-gay] lover …

Comment by Rob

I agree with Lee.

Comment by John

1) My basic starting point is that businesses exist to meet customer needs as justified in their corporate strategy (not to be confused with pointless mission statements). They should include what they do for whom and why they do it better than anyone else. (I would say there are two choices – reduced costs or differentiation – but thats a whole other debate)

2) Everyone in the company should know and understand that strategy and how their role fits into it. That way they can see when they’re being asked to do something that contradicts it.

3) Not only does that contribute to culture, it builds coherence of behaviour and that coherence is what enables the customer to invest the brand with meaning for them.

4)Andy is right in his plan/wishlist point. My answer would be that the goal of a marketing campaign/plan is more likely to be tactical rather than strategic in my understanding of that word. Yes there should be logic behind the plan and that should be both explicit and implicit in that plan, but it isn’t necessarily strategic.

5) Far too many people append the word strategy to their role/work. It’s all too often about self-aggrandisement and I think it can deflect attention and clarity from the corporate strategy which has to be the DNA of everything. Calling something strategy doesn’t make it so and crucially just because something isn’t strategy doesn’t mean it’s not intellectually rigorous and logically consistent.

That’s all a bit rushed but I hope it makes some sense. I’m sure Andy will point out where I’ve gone wrong.

Comment by John

That’s bloody long for a basic point. To be honest, the weakness of most marketing plans is that they are just tactics, as opposed to strategy.
The weakness of most corporate strategy is that is thinks it exists in isolation of ‘gay’ brand stuff, when of course they’re as co-dependent as Frank Bough and whips.
Best example is Sainsburys – corporate strategy – get current customers to spend extra pound with evert visit. Brand strategy – safe experimentation
Tactics – feed your family for a fiver
Brand strategy should tell you what to make, how to sell it, what your truck livery should be – that’s what consumers actually experience.

Comment by northern

Agree with the first half of your comment NG, not so sure about the second. Sainsbury’s corporate strategy isn’t to get current customers to spend an extra pound – that’s the goal of a marketing plan.

Their corporate strategy would in my opinion address where they compete in the retail sector, what products, what geographic and functional areas and at what level of pricing.

As for the brand strategy sentence, I think that is a Boughian conflation corporate strategy (what to make and where to sell it), marketing planning (what to make and how to sell it) and design (livery etc). They’re all crucial and interdependent but I dont think theyre all strategic in my sense of the word.

(It’s a separate issue but I clearly have a visceral reaction to the brand strategy term inasmuch as it implies imposing a brand value on customers where I think it’s the customers who decided based on the experience they have of the behaviour of the company as a whole – hence my wish for everyone to understand their role in the corporate strategy).

Comment by John

I agree with NG … both in terms of the different levels of strat and when it fucks up. My issue with John’s theory is that a ‘plan’ of any sort has to be there to achieve a certain goal – a goal that has a number of defining points – which basically makes it a strategy – though I also appreciate some brands/companies just have the attitude of chucking as many things against the wall as they can and hoping they stick which makes it bad tactics than anything with any strategic depth and consideration.

But then John is the God so maybe we should just accept he knows best …

[Consider that your birthday present John!]

Comment by Rob

Maybe I’m just being semantic here. All plans must have logic and steps by which goals are reached – and so yes you can label them strategies. But for clarity of thinking throughout a company I’d rather there were just one thing labelled strategy.

Comment by John

dodds. semantic? no fucking way. really?

Comment by andy@cynic

Just to clarify, are you saying the work (that planners are here to make happen) is not great unless it’s effective, or are you implying there’s a difference between “great work” and “great effective work”? Not trying to be snarky, but the apparent separation of the two threw me off a bit.

Comment by Rob Meyerson

There is a difference, there’s plenty of great creative work that hasn’t been commercially effective. Planners are not just here to make great work happen, they’re here to make sure great work has a role and is relevent to people it’s supposed to be aimed at

Comment by northern

And you are being semantic John. Long term = strategy, short term = tactic

Comment by northern

most plans are not plans but instruments for job security control..

Comment by voice of reason

For me this is why planners are so important. We want great work, but we also understand it has to be effective. We can (and should) get involved at the very heart of a business strategy, but at the same understand precisely where that should be matched to or differ to the marketing strategy.

Businesses have to get a return on their money, we get that. By making effective work we help demonstrate the value of creativity; and hopefully reduce the amount of short term meddling that takes place. And by getting involved at the inner working level, we help to drive overall business strategies that are based on the long term not the short.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Everyone has a role in strategy, including creatives. Just as we need to give creative ideas a chance to breathe, and not kill them before we’ve had to chance to come to terms with them, same goes for strategy. Creatives can actually be the most conservative of the lot – to subvert the title – stupid stops strategy
On another note – Media Arts stops strategy too, but that’s a whole other story

Comment by northern

Hope it doesn’t seem like I’m mincing words, but “great creative work that isn’t commercially effective” is not great work, is it? Entertaining work, or pretty work, sure. But not great work, within the relevant context.

I don’t see how planners can believe otherwise on the one hand and espouse their necessity on the other.

Comment by Rob M

creatives are better planners than planners are creative. i dont give a fuck if that has nothing to do with this topic, i just wanted to say it. and great creative that doesnt sell doesnt mean its automatically shit, it might be because of a fuckload of reasons out of anyones control (or inside someones control but they dont want to fucking admit it) or it might have made a difference to the brand in a fuckload of other areas but if the goals/strategies/tactics or whatever you planner fuckers want to call them were not included in the upfront thinking and doing then its not bad work, its stupid work and that responsibility lies with more than just the planner or the creative but every fucker who has work pass through their fingers along the way.

the end.

Comment by andy@cynic

Just like renovation then?

Comment by John


Comment by andy@cynic

[…] the earlier post some days ago and nodded very loudly to Rob Campbell’s observation that “Strategy Stops Stupid”, which I hereby […]

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