I lost a brand strategy consulting job yesterday. The reason given was the company wanted a shop that could provide marketing services in addition to strategy. And understandable viewpoint. (The architect/builder relationship comes to mind.) It’s probably no surprise I’m a believer in separation of strategy and campaign. From an economics standpoint (read savings) combining the upfront discovery and strategy with execution may seem a no-brainer. And for small and midsize companies, it’s an easy decision. No subcontractors. But here’s why it’s not a good decision. Marketing and ad agencies are built around “selling” work. The strategy is often a throw-in. “Of course we do brand strategy. How could we not? Our brand position briefs and customer journey docs are the best in the business. Now, let’s talk about the creative.”
In ad agency new business pitches, the creative presentation is set up with a big insight…a big show of brand strategy. But — with a capital B — it always supports the campaign.
When I present brand strategy, it is the star. Executives and owners need to be moved by the claim and proof array. They need to see how claim and proof are organized and fit together. They need to understand the difference between proof and platitude. It’s this organizing principle that makes me family. That makes decision makers know I see the good and the bad. It’s an empowering moment for clients.
Brand strategy is not a flavor of the day advertising tagline. It never, never should be part of a creative presentation. It needs to steep.
I will not stop trying to sell brand strategy as architecture. By itself. The right way. Companies and brand manager who understand this understand brand craft. And marketing.
P.S. Wish I was at MerleFest this year. It cleanses the entire soul.