With the reality of modern lead times and client budgets, planning folk nowadays are challenged to get to some sort of strategy and resulting brief quicker than ever.
This isn't so bad though, in fact, I think it's probably a blessing in disguise. Here's why.
Firstly, on a process level, if anything has changed in the last few years, it's briefing a small team of advertising creatives on a taut proposition a lot less, in favour of galvanising a large team of different specialists around a clear task at lot more.
This means far less shiny, impregnable 'messaging' solutions that only work for ad people, and more around shaping the collaboration around a clear juicy communications task.
Shapers rather than planners?
In any case, when creatives feel they are helping to solve the problem, rather than bringing someone else's thinking to life, it works so much better, because we all tend to love things we believe we've had a hand in making, including strategy.
On more a craft level, it forces you to stop procrastinating, makes you focus on getting to the root of the business issue quickly and then helping shape the outcome.
Nothing focuses the mind like a deadline.
So how do you get great quickly? How can we get to, business building thinking that frames the right task for communication? That isn't just 'right' it's interesting enough to cut through?
I make no apologies for banging on about 'fame strategy' again. The IPA databank shows us that this approach- getting the brand talked about - consistently proves to be the most effective.
Being seen to be leading, to have authority, to have people wanting to spend time with you can reduce price sensitivity, increase penetration, mantain loyalty, build consideration all in one go.
It's naturally more integrated because, firstly, teams find it easier to coalesce around a clear problem, rather than a clear, limiting 'message' and secondly, because a task to create 'buzz' and get people talking about something is naturally social, as long as you leave the audience room get involved.
This also backs neatly in to the Byron Sharpe school of thought of building distinctive memory structures to reach the light buyers so precious to brand growth - while, secondarilly, maintaining loyalty by involving heavier, more engaged buyers in the conversation or collective action- making them willing, fellow protagonists.
Of course, it's not that easy, the trick is to making sure people are talking about the right thing - whatever is related to your business problem.
All well and good you say, but this only makes is good, it doesn't make it 'fast'.
The fast bit comes from deciding NOT to look for ONE killer insight, or 'Revelation' as Richard Huntington might say, you know, the new discovery that sheds new light on the category.
The velocity arises from conflating much more obvious and easier observations - re-configuring what's already there into new connections.
Three steps I've moved on ever so slightly..........
1. Inspect the business issue. Turn the business objective into a behavioural objective. What do you need people to do? Every business problem is really about what people are doing/not doing/feeling or thinking.
2. Inspect what that means is real life. How your behavioural objective relate to something people care about or need in their real lives? What issue, tension or emerging behaviour can we tap into?
When you have these, you're ready to brief in a clear task for communications. Then you need help with as much stimulus as possible.......
3. Relate that to something in popular culture. What is the most culturally powerful, most relevant way to bring this to life in a way that will make people take notice, care and, in the case of the most engaged, get involved? It goes without saying that relevance and not just 'copying' other stuff is the key here.
For example, this Yeo Valley ad was driven by the fact that the audience get together around the X-Factor, not rocket science, the brilliance to link 'X Factor' with organic values to get a boy band made of farmers.
You'll notice there's nothing about the brand in there, because 98% of the time the brand is not the problem, it's how people feel about it at best. If you set out to solve brand problems as your primary motivation, you'll solve brand problems but not business problems. You should be well versed in the brand point of view, positioning etc, I think it's a bit more about how you bring that to life in THIS particular situation.
Mostly, the 'leg work' in terms of hard analysis should come in at stage 1. Good planners should always be collecting observations and little insights about what's going in real culture - much of stage 1 and 2 SHOULD BE about connecting stage 1 to what you already know, or at least, have an instinct or hunch about.
1. To increase consideration of IKEA kitchens, we need to make them famous
2. Kitchens are increasingly the heart of the home
3. It's a common belief you always end up in the kitchen at parties (and no one has ever made use of the Jonah Lewie classic).
1. Sainsburys needed to add £1 billion to revenue, which broke down into getting £1 extra for every customer visit.We need to give people a reason to spend that £1.
2. People are looking for inspiration for safe experimentation to liven up their food.
That's the brief right there- give shoppers easy inspiration to add a spark of specialness to their routine cooking. Sainsburys has been an authority for good food for generations, we just need to refresh what this means and turn it into action
3. Then tip in insight from popular culture- in a UK where most cookbooks from TV chefs are left unopened on shelves, Jamie Oliver is the champion of 'chef food' you can actually do
The result, an idea that flexed accross promotions, advertising, staff and even product development:
How here's a made up example for Dove Men (with echoes of Old Spice I know)
1. We need to increase penetration for Dove Men amongst middle class Dad's over 30. Not only do they not care about shower gel etc enough to think hard about it, it's mostly bought by their wives who know this, so don't bother much themselves, just buying them non-descript own label or what's on offer.
2. This lack of thought when buying stuff for their blokes is part of a much wider symptom in culture, where mature, reliable men just don't get the credit they deserve. Read this. It's all well and good PG doing the Mums campaign, where the hell was the cheering for Dads?
So the brief becomes: Get women and men to talk about the role of men in family life
3. This audience over indexes on arch, hyper-real, knowing sit-coms like the Office, Outnumbered etc. In most of these, the cultural cliche is of the bumbling Dad and the savvy, resourceful Mum who always saves the day. Subverting this could be culturally powerful.
On the other hand, the middle ages boyband has got traction with Take That. It could be interesting to ask women why Take That are cool, but their own partners are not (in their eyes).What if we did a multi-platform X-Factor to find a grown up boy- band for women who want men, not boys.
Anyway, that's a poor ten minute thought experiment, what could you do in ten hours?
Hope that's useful.