Thursday, December 29, 2011

The strategic planner dilemma - find a balance between why and what

Strategic planning is a growing area in marketing. Not just ad agencies are doing strategy nowadays; both shopper marketing, BTL and digital agencies are putting a "why" behind their actions, which is great. But it gets me wondering: are we planning too much? Is it really necessary?

There is a lot of information, interesting facts and so called insights out there, but what we are really looking for are the revelations. Most times it´s the juicy dark secrets - that don´t tell us how much the consumer loves the product, but rather what the client doesn´t want to hear or be confronted with – that leads us right.

Through my side business as a coach, helping people with personal relationships, I´ve seen how often we say one thing and mean another; how we are complex and how we want a lot of things at the same time, whether they can be combined or not. I´ve learned that we self sabotage and can hurt others in order to be loved. We are confused and wonderful, lost and found. There are so many layers. Quant studies just can´t see them; they only become visible when the tea is finished...

But sometimes a marketer doesn´t need to know it all. How deep should we dig; perhaps intuition alone will give birth to the idea that takes us to the south of France in June? Just by being sensitive to trends and what other brands do - and out of that cook up something fun - creative people can do miracles to a brand´s health. It´s not always important to psychoanalyse the target audience to sell ice cream to them J

Or is it...? You need to put the simplest of products into a life. How can it be relevant for the consumer as a person, not an ice cream eater? To get there you have to get to know people well. From different angles.

Too often I see how marketing managers as part of a brief give you research where every quote is happy and cheerful about the brand. Lalalala! That doesn´t really help, does it? If everyone is mad about the product already, no need to do a campaign at all, right? I´d rather know what is stopping people from buying what you try to sell. What´s the hurdle, the bump on the road? As in coaching, where we look at: 1. People´s big dreams, 2. What is blocking them from getting there (internally and externally). 3. Steps to take to get past hurdles and reach dreams.

Still... Are planners over complicating things? Are we too intrigued by the human psyche to be affordable? A client once said to me “We don´t need to know too much about the target, we just need to come up with some cool shit!”. Perhaps that´s the truth? Are all the wandering around in people´s minds, sipping tea with them to discover their inner dreams and fears, a waste of time? Who can go to India for two decades anymore when it´s pitching time and we´ve got an hour to come up with a million dollar idea?

I guess you need to balance. Be curious and open, ask questions and listen to the answers (and not just base every strategy on YOUR own dreams), but also realise you can´t save the world with an ice cream ad – so dare to be banal. Strategists need to avoid the temptation of finding out Everything, to go further than research and psychology, into the action part of the creative brief, because if the deep insightful consumer insight doesn´t evolve into a smash hit campaign it´s simply a bed time story, putting the brand to sleep...

Is there a formula on how much why is needed for a how and a what? God knows... Or do you? :)

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