The story goes, a friend tweeted a link to this article about brand strategy.
In the article Adam Ferrier raises several important points, so I definitely recommend giving it some time. He also commented on my previous post on the subject and he rightly pointed out that it was difficult to read through the rushed job to get to the points, and also had some further feedback which I’d like to explore. So I have re-written, because I think the points raised in the article, and in his comments are worth it.
To sum up the last post, what I really wanted to say was this:
Business problems – in terms of solving these, what we are capable of in digitally-led agencies is huge – I’d like to say it’s practically infinite. Yet often we’re just expected to implement a particular thing rather than think about it first. We’re often not asked to think about the big picture at all, or what it means for the brand more generally.
This isn’t really an ‘us and them’ mentality – I think that things are changing, but they’re not changing very fast. Clients still think they should go to an ad agency for a ‘viral’ or a brand house for a brand strategy. In my agency (and I expect most digital/integrated agencies of a particular size) we have the skills in house to do most of this. I am of the opinion that no brand can survive without sizeable support in digital space. Working with people who ‘get digital’ is essential.
However, this means that planners/strategists have to be ‘digital’ but they also have to be trained in the traditional skills
I go back to my point in an earlier post. Planning is planning, is planning/strategy. Whatever you want to call it, it is still answering the questions:
- What are we trying to achieve? (From a business and a comms point of view)
- Who are we targeting and why? And what insight are we operating around?
- What do we want people to say/think/feel/do?
- How are we going to get there?
- And then returning to the question what are we trying to achieve to check, ‘is this right’? And then going back to the beginning if it’s not (being fairly agile about it, innit.)
Adam Ferrier commented that these felt:
- Old School
- Us vs them
- Consumer centric (vs business centric or NPD centric, or partnership centric)
- Doesn’t take into account co-collaboration (consumer and producer)
- Doesn’t take into account strategy through opportunity – rather than the other way around
I think they are old-school, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think it’s important to remember to try to simplify difficult things by asking uncomplicated questions. There are more questions than this but I do feel that these are the core ones, the ones to start with. If you don’t have answers to these then you’re less likely to have an easy time of it.
These are the things I learnt as a planner in advertising agencies. I count them – as well as the mantra ‘in order to move products you’ve got to move people’ (thanks to Phil Teer for being my boss when I was at an impressionable age) as the foundations of everything I do. So that’s possibly why I’m consumer-centric. A business or a new product is nothing without consumers. I am still the ‘voice of the consumer’ in the agency.
Outside of advertising agencies – and I should say that actually that means London advertising agencies – I have not had an easy time as a planner until recently. In digital it is still being understood as a role and in Scotland it is not a very common thing to be. So maybe that’s why I come across as ‘us and them’.
Digital agencies should be really clear about what their planners/strategists are for, why they are essential, and be much better at selling strategy.
Clients should be prepared to spend more on online brand planning time and research. They should involve their digital agency more in their brand strategies, invite us to the focus groups, and research debriefs.
But mostly it is up to us, as planners/strategists to demonstrate what we are able to do and the value we do add.
First of all, we need to agree that, as Adam says in his article, that brand strategy needs to be taken more seriously in digital agencies. This doesn’t really mean the role has to be re-defined, but we should collectively find consensus on it – at least agree what we call ourselves, what the core skillset is. In my opinion it is the brand and the consumer that are the most important things – whatever we do is dependent on them. Therefore, the decision on channel, activity, technology, whatever, comes second.
How did that sound?