You probably don’t know me. So here’s what to know.
How I learned strategic thinking
I was mentored by a creative director who was one of the best strategic thinkers in the advertising business. At our agency, the creative team was integral to strategic development. I loved it. It was just like math. Logic. Distilling things down to their common denominator. Peeling the onion to get to the essential truth.
It’s the process where real ideas are born.
Putting it to work in the real world
I created the campaign for Ralston’s Dog Chow which at the time was losing share to price brands copying Ralston’s recipe and selling as generics. What did Ralston have they didn’t? A research facility. What did that mean? It meant they constantly discovered ways to improve the dog food. So what did that mean? It meant the food was better for the dog. What did that mean? That meant the dog would be healthier. What did that mean? It meant the dog would live longer. “Helping dogs live longer lives” was modified to “Helping pets live longer, healthier lives” and became Ralston’s corporate positioning globally for a decade.
Communication strategies can change your business
When FedEx launched their campaign, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” they had an inferior product to UPS. UPS worked weekends. At the time, FedEx did not. Their success came from changing target audiences. Up to then, delivery purchases were determined by the person responsible for office supply purchases. Pencils and couriers. But FedEx targeted the end user; the person whose job or even company’s reputation depended on timely delivery. This strategic change dictated media choice: TV over trade publications. The rest is history.
Working with smart people
In New York, I was hired by the person who had just been made Creative Director for JWT North America. His name was Jim Patterson and I really liked him. Smart. And wonderful person. He trusted me with some of the toughest assignments in the agency, including a pro bono campaign for NATO. You might know him as James Patterson, the novel writer. I am lucky to have worked with many very talented, very smart people. And I was smart enough to learn from them. and apply the learning to my clients’ businesses as i worked to help them grow and increase market share.
Strategy before everything
Strategic development is simple. Answer a few questions and there you’ll have your strategy. But to create a strategy that moves brands and defines companies requires you take nothing for granted. Nothing. Creative people make some of the best strategic planners in the business. We think laterally. It’s just the way we are. And one of my personal passions is logic. I can’t tell you how much fun it is to see something staring you right in the face no one else has yet seen.
Strategy first. Everything else is execution.
It was customary at one point to review the strategy before any subsequent work was presented to clients; medis, creative, etc. It was a formality. It should not be. That document can make the difference between failure, status quo or success. Every word in that document is crirical. Every. Single. One.
Real success is built on solid thinking. And it should jump off the page of every strategy you count on to grow your business
Imaginative Strategy Samples
My mantra while working in agaencies, big and small in Canada and the United States was “Creative is not a department.” Our job is to develop ideas that are goig to meet and hopefully surpass our clients’ needs.
Doritos was trying to increase market share/sales but struggled. The agency had creatives working ‘without the “constraints” of a strategy. Yet every creative suggestion was evaluated on its strategic implication.
I only work from strategies. I took the U&A (useage and attitude) studies and saw strong sales in the west and southwest but sales were weak in the east. At the time, Mexican food had not had significant impact in the NE. My expereince on Cadbury taught me people want to know what’s in the product.
I wrote the strategy (and creative) that communicated exactly what a Doritos tortilla chip was made of in a fun, energetic and arresting manner. Sales and market share improved dramatically.
Reynold’s Wrap, a commodity product, had seen market share drop from 90% to 50% as people switched to generic price brands. The agency (JWT NYC) had presnted to the client a creative brief that simply said “Commincate that Reynold’s Wrap is quality alumioum foil” although no one could tell me exactly what that was.
I went back to the client suggesting that with 50% market share, the way to greater sales was to grow the category and enjoy at leaast 50% of the category growth. Find new uses. I used a cooking fold as a new use and tested two entirely different creative TV executions. They BOTH scored an 82 unaided recall The second highest test scores JWT had ever achieved.
Why did BOTH TV spots score so well? Strategy.
Labatt wanted to introduce a beer in January as a way to getting ahead of Molson before the baseball season. If you have ever attended a beer focus group, you will be aware that all beer drinkers consider themselves experts.
Armed with that insight, I went back to the client asking them to produce two beers and create a beer battle with itself. “You tell us which is the better beer.” That is not a small ask of a client. But they did. The campaign lasted 3 weeks and in some parts of the country they achieved 6 share of the category. In three weeks, you are lucky to gain awareness.
My brain works strategically. I am fortunate to possess the creative skills to deliver strategies through memorable. engaining creative, regardless of the medium.
You don’t know me so how will we work together?
I am pretty well a WYSIWYG. I am straightforward. I am told I can be funny; often on purpose. I listen to clients. I am unashamedly passionate about this silly profession. The thinking turns my clock.
So we start with a chat. Let me hear what you’re thinking. Hear what’s keeping you awake at night. If we think there is a fit to move forward, I get the brain dump and then start to work with you and your team.
Brand workshops where nothing is sacred. Competitive studies and a deep look at our customers. Today, there is a plethora of digital tools to help in strategic discovery and messaging creation and delivery.
Strategy will determine which ones to use. And how.