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

Strategy Is A Direction, Not A Shopping List …

I am getting fed up of hearing strategy talked about in terms of a process.

Of course, there is one, but it seems people seem to value the process more than what it is supposed to deliver.

Which is clarity and direction.

Something that will change the behaviour of the brand/business from the very next day.

Something that will help create a clear position in culture, not just in the category.

Something that will contribute value, loyalty and appeal to the audience that will move them forward.

Something that is focused on the long-term, not just the next quarter.

That’s it.

That’s all strategy is.

And yet, I am meeting so many people who are getting lost in the process or worse, getting lost in the word ‘strategy’ … saying nothing can be done without it being deeply involved at every step – and I mean ‘every’ step – of the process.

Now don’t get me wrong, thinking and expertise is important – but to imply that only someone with the word ‘strategy’ in their title can do it, is wrong.

Actually, it’s insulting … especially when you consider that so much of the magic happens when you invite people who see the World differently to the party.

But it’s happening.

I’m seeing it everywhere.

And what it’s doing is creating so many strands to the strategy discipline, they’re getting in the way of each other.

That might be good for the agency fee, but not great for the work.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these strands of strategy don’t have value – of course they do – but in many areas, it’s not actually strategy … it’s not delivering on any of the 4 areas listed above … it’s simply helping push along the process of the output to get to a [allegedly] more effective result.

In other words, it’s short-term tuning rather than long term creating.

Adding obstacles rather than taking them away.

Or said more cynically, it’s more tactics than strategy.

Doesn’t have to be.

Not everyone is doing that.

Not everyone thinks like that.

But my god, it seems there is a lot of it about … and when you look at the amount of work that is being produced because of it, you have to admit that while there’s a lot of optimization, there’s not a lot of distinctive, magnetic energy.

15 Comments so far
Leave a comment

From yesterday’s romance to today’s piss and vinegar.

I prefer today and what is scarier is that I agree with it as well.

Comment by Bazza


Comment by andy@cynic

Well said Robert. Sub-strategies (which is what these executional approaches actually are) are important but great work doesn’t happen if everyone is attempting to steer the boat. An already complex discipline is being made more complex by giving people the same “strategy” title, often to mask the mundane role of their job rather than to define what they truly do. This practice will continue until clients change and that won’t happen as they don’t care what an agency calls their people as long as their needs are met at procurements departments prices.

Comment by George

What’s that taste? Oh yes, bitterness. ; )

Comment by Bazza

Only in the sense there is more strategy and less sharpness.

Comment by George

Nailed it.

Comment by Pete

When you sell the value of creativity down the river, you compartmentalise your processes and/or disciplines to drive the revenues you killed by your actions. That doesn’t mean all compartmentalisation of strategy is wrong. There is some very smart and nuanced specialisation that has come from this approach, but – as you say – a lot is executional, which is not to decry it’s value but it’s not necessarily the true definition of strategy and can get in the way of the work rather than to enhance it.

Comment by Rob

Great work needs lots of parties involved. They all need to be aligned and experts in their craft. They are all important but that does not mean they are all strategists.

Comment by Pete

You had me at clarity and direction.

Comment by Lee Hill

While it needs to fit with an underlying corporate-wide strategy, planners and marketers need to remember that advertising is inherently tactical.

Comment by John

And that doesn’t contradict anything Rob has written in the post.

Comment by John

big fucking yawn.

Comment by andy@cynic

That’s why, agencies have lost the battle for strategy and are now embroiled in tactics and operative stuff which they call “strategy”

Comment by Miguel

Someone I have just started working with, who doesn’t know I know you, sent me a link to this post. Apparently you’re the talk of twitter town (strategy edition). When I told him I knew you, he was excited. Excited! I am alarmed at the quality of colleague I currently have to work with. .

Comment by George

I thought drug tests were mandatory over there.

Comment by John

Leave a Reply