Strategy EDUCATION IS ESSENTIAL
I've found that today's leading companies are filled with highly educated, technologically masterful marketers and creatives who regularly deliver tactical brilliance.
Unfortunately, a lot of these same people don't understand many of the key principles that underly brand and campaign strategies; the definition of a brand, the value of a brand, attributes vs. benefits, etc., etc. And that lack of understanding can undermine the best of intentions.
Fortunately, I've also found that all it takes is a few brown bag lunches, some slides, some one-on-one coaching and before you know it, those same people are talking USPs and RTBs with the best of them. And delivering measurably better results.
Everything still begins with positioning
While a lot's changed since Trout & Weis rocked the advertising world of the 1970's with "Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind," their (somewhat simplistic) approach is still a useful framework to use when making important brand decisions.
This is especially true for those of us whose job it is to involve, educate, gain buy-in, and eventually lead other senior executives (many of whom have limited marketing backgrounds) to strategic decisions that will result in the most successful tactical executions - not to mention an organization focused on delivering on their brand promise.
By breaking existential-seeming decisions down into smaller, more focused questions (target audience, Reasons-to-believe, etc.), one can remove some of the subjectivity inherent in the process. If only one could figure as foolproof a way to help executives make creative decisions.
(NB. Positioning is only a starting point - especially when thinking about how best to deliver a better complete brand experience, I would recommend checking out T3 and their "Brand Usefulnes" Paradigm.)
Everything still ends with creative
No matter how rigorously one works to keep decision-makers in the logical, world of rational decision-making, in the end, every marketing endeavor - whether it's a new campaign, a new offer, a new product, or a just some letter that will go out with the CEOs name on it, results in a concrete piece of output. This is trouble. Because the minute one goes from the abstract world of strategy to the concrete world of words and pictures, all objectivity goes out the window and subjectivity and personal preference suddenly trumps.
This is where I've found Creative Platforms to be invaluable. Half way between pure strategy and tactical executions, and utilizing both visuals and copy, these platforms (aka "Big Idea" boards) bring to life and to the surface all kinds of issues that will have to be addressed at some point. They are therefore an essential tool to help non-creative people make decisions between very different campaigns.
I've created literally thousands of these boards over my career and used them to bring to life everything from simple tactical endeavors to broad multi-channel brand efforts. The following is a simple example that highlights how differently one can present the same support points.
(Click on each campaign to open in larger window.)
from beginning to end, strategy makes sense
Every once in a while, one gets the chance to deliver everything from soup to nuts. Here's an example of just that. It includes educational elements, positioning elements and even a few examples of creative platforms. Pretty exciting stuff, if you, like me, love when everything comes together.