Words to Strategize By

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Think of the list as a simple set of heuristics to be mated, recombined, mutated, adapted, and evolved for specific needs. Also, feel free to debate the hell out of them. Here we go, in no particular order …

Mike used to say this like a broken strategic record. Strong brands are bold enough to define who’s in and who’s out, who makes the cut, and who is left behind. Most brands, and most marketing managers, aren’t willing to do this. Your product or your marketing message can’t be designed for everyone, and it shouldn’t be. Gareth Kay also says, “have a point of view on the world, not a position in the market,” and without a strong point of view, you can’t decide who’s in and who’s out. Simon Sinek also reminds us that people don’t buy what we do, they buy why we do it.

Gareth Kay brought this one to life. To me, this means that we can’t fall in love with the technology or the medium itself. I’ve seen this countless times, people pitching clever manipulations of a medium, fidgeting within the borders of the ad space, instead of thinking broadly about culture. This kind of thinking is responsible for thecult of clever that permeates digital advertising shops. And this thinking produces the type of advertising that advertising people love, but not messages that spread through culture and ultimately impact behavior. I’ve also found that clients that simply want advertising ideas (and protest anything beyond that) are clients that I’d rather not work for. To me, it’s a shibboleth for both clients and new hires.

Originally coined by Henry Jenkins and fellows about spreadable media, to me this says something profound about what I do. Advertising and marketing isn’t art for one important reason – we can’t afford to be Emily Dickinson, toiling away in obscurity only to be recognized for our genius decades later. Our work is successful if it’s actually distributed by networks of real people and can impact their behavior. Of course, how advertising works is mysterious and complicated, but we have to endeavor to understand it and to make it work for our clients. I try not to pay attention to award shows because they tend to do a disservice to our true goal. Chase business objectives not aesthetic trends.

Faris promoted this one. Brands are increasingly talking to generations that are read AND write, that know how to use their voice, and practice these skills when their passions call for it. This doesn’t mean run another UGC contest, it means find intersections between your needs and your customers’ needs, and mine that overlap for opportunities in co-creation. Marketing must become increasingly symbiotic.

Grant dreamed up these words during a discussion between the two of us regarding The Fiesta Movement by Ford. Instead of reaching out to “the influencers,” Ford (and partners) went out searching for content creators that had accumulated significant following all on their own, but they were people that would benefit greatly by opportunities to create more content. The Fiesta Movement helped them sustain, care for, and grow their networks. In turn, the content creators went above and beyond creating content and promoting the program.

Aaron says he deserves credit for this one, and I agree. This one’s pretty obvious: quit building micro-sites. Fish where the fish are, and other such sporting metaphors. If your big idea is to build an experience completely orphaned from the social platforms that customers actually use, and use to share things with others, then you’re doing it wrong. Basically, if your idea ends with “and then we drive traffic to it,” you’ve failed.

If you want to reach 18-24 year old dudes online, then there’s really no one better to partner with (to both create and spread content) than CollegeHumor. If you want your new soul-uplifting novel to reach housewives across America, then you can do no better than Oprah. Whatever your objective, seek out partners that have assembled the most powerful pathways across networks of your audience, and make their strengths your own.

Once upon a time, a time in which not every product was a pretty good product, brands stood for consistent goods that were responsive to consumer needs. You drank the branded milk because there was a better chance it wasn’t rancid. Today, every product is branded and every brand is a part of culture. And now brands owe responsiveness to that culture. We call brands that do not respond to culture “antiquated” or “uncool” and when these brands do finally choose to make a statement, we often dub them “inauthentic” because of the delay in their messaging. Of course, by now, W+K and Mr. Old Spice have completely proven how effective a brand can be once it embraces a more responsive attitude to culture.

So, what’d I miss?

All of the comments on this post are worth are read, but I wanted to pull out a couple of my favorite thoughts from the fine-minded vocalizers below.

From Edward Boches, “Share everything you know” – Jason Fried and 37Signals have a way of saying this too, something like “Sell Your Process,” but the idea is that you’re probably sitting on goldmine of information and know-how that you can package to sell or spread. OkCupid is an awesome example of this. DonQ Rum built their digital presence around this concept, too. Smart stuff.

From Ana Andjelic, “Make things visible” – there’s a word for this, ‘macroscope,’ a tool which allows us to view the tiny interactions that aggregate into a larger system. Ana points out that it’s a powerful way to show community participation – but before you can do this, I’d say you have to admit that you need community participation (getting people to act is one half proving they have to, and one part inspiring them to do it).

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