The future is bright for planners who can harness skills of collaboration, empathy and core brand planning to turn an onslaught of data into meaning.
Planners are natural interrogators and integrators. We’ve always been denizens of an ‘in-between’ space, connecting ideas and people. And the most important integration tool we have is one we’ve always had, but recently neglected: the brand.
Under pressure to prove immediate ROI, marketing and planning have been lured downstream. Too much emphasis has been placed on digital tactics and micro-segmentation and not enough on long-term brand building, which contributes to truly transformative business growth. As this realisation dawns, a reset of both disciplines is overdue.
A brand renaissance
We believe 2020 will herald a planning-led creative renaissance, driving brilliantly planned and executed distinctive brand experiences.
Part of this industry reset centres on combining the best of technology and channel innovation with insight into real humans. It’s also about drawing on lessons from the past 50 years of strategic planning, and applying the crucial discipline of brand building to navigate the future.
In an era where the term ‘brand’ is rarely used or truly understood, it’s a challenge we’ve been tackling head-on over the past four years.
Jamie Mackay, strategic partner and founder of BWM Dentsu, believes that there’s a need to move away from the current obsession with tactical ‘one off’ executions, in favour of a clearly defined transformation goal and authentic brand idea.
Why bother with brand?
Put simply, strong brands far out-perform the average business when it comes to shareholder returns, as demonstrated in BrandZ’s portfolio of strong brands.
To be clear, we’re not just talking about brand in the sense of the logo and visual assets. We’re talking about the brand as a central core business philosophy and driver of growth – a lens through which we can curate all business activity and investment.
The brand is the single most important competitive advantage a business has, because it’s the one thing it uniquely owns.
Most businesses operate in mature markets where their core products and services are practically indistinguishable from competitors.
If planners want to influence businesses, not just tactical campaigns, they need to be brand drivers and custodians. They can’t afford to use targeting as a proxy for strategy, they have to be masters of branded differentiation.
Organising Idea as integrator
Many marketers face the challenge and frustration of integration – often with different agencies working with a range of barely compatible ideas generated from their own interpretation of the strategy.
The way to overcome this free-for-all is to develop a core organising idea, which acts as the rudder and filter for all decision making around communications and behaviours to drive the brand.
The trick here is to elevate creative thinking into the strategic process rather than handing it over at the end. This means critical execution such as brand voice, distinctive design assets and the organising idea are determined conjointly as part of the upstream thinking.
This process contrasts to that preferred by many brand and management consultants, but it was the key to our transformation of Kmart into one of BrandZ Australia’s top ten brands.
Where worlds collide
With the upstream transformative plan in play, every planner needs to feel comfortable working at the intersection of insight, creativity, commerce, technology and channel.
Of course, planners have always needed to be data literate – being fluent with technical topics and the language of digital planning, as well as that of marketing and business. In much the same way they have always played the role of connectors and facilitators, both within businesses and with external partners.
Strategists, too, should be brilliant at identifying which skills need to be marshalled to deliver omnichannel brand-building ideas. While some will have a highly specialised working knowledge of specific digital disciplines, everyone should have a bird’s eye view of what’s possible.
Bringing out the best [of brand]
Nike’s recent Colin Kaepernik campaign shone a light on the value of big, bold, culturally significant creative ideas. One tweet by NFL superstar, Kaepernik, featuring Nike’s signature tick and line and the words, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” ignited fierce global debate in the lead up to Nike’s 30th anniversary.
Putting a stake in the ground on a divisive cultural topic in a way that aligned with the values and passions of a large section of Nike’s audience was a gambit that paid off for the business. After an initial backlash and a stock price dip, the company quickly rebounded. CEO Mark Parker credited the campaign with boosting sales and driving record engagement, with analysts estimating it had added $6 billion to the company’s market value.
Provided they don’t get bogged down in data streams, creative agencies instinctively put creativity and humanity at the heart of strategy. They understand that brands need to stand for something, and have the power to inspire great strategic thinking because they have a unique perspective.
At the timeless best, creative agencies come up with ideas that are unexpected, unique and ground-breaking, ideas that surf the zeitgeist and fearlessly provoke debate, ideas that make people feel something.
To quote Bill Bernbach, “When you stand for something, you’ll find some people for you and some against you. When you stand for nothing, you’ll find no one against you and no one for you.”
By BWM Dentsu's Moensie Rossier and Jamie Mackay