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INsight #194 - STRATEGIC BRIEFS

Brands are being buffeted by multiple crises that are directly impacting how they are going to remain relevant and vibrant in the next normal. Let’s agree that we really do not fully understand what the short or long-term marketing outcomes will be.


Looking at the picture above, taken from a deck overlooking Lake Minnetonka (just west of Minneapolis), you might recite the words of poet Robert Browning, who penned a long time ago, “God’s in his heaven; all’s right with the world.” The long holiday weekend was sort of business as usual, other than limited locally sponsored fireworks displays (unless you were in South Dakota or Washington, DC) and the increased number of closed bars and beaches. It seems that Americans are quick to grab any straw that promises a false sense of security.

New York Times opinion columnist, David Brooks, penned a recent opinion stating that America is facing five epic crises all at once. I believe he’s right, and while you can spin the politics any way you want, together they are creating a perfect marketing storm, especially his last crisis that directly deals with our economic future. They are:

  • We are losing the fight against COVID-19

  • All Americans, but especially white Americans, are undergoing a rapid education on the burdens African-Americans carry every day

  • We are in the middle of a political realignment

  • A quasi-religion, Social Justice, is seeking control of American cultural institutions

  • We could be on the verge of a prolonged economic depression

INsight #1: Taken individually, each is a crisis. Taken together, it’s an epic crisis, feeding off the energy of the others. This is why marketers struggle, because as soon as the team figures out one current set of dynamics, two new ones shift the conversation.

From March through mid-June, the only national and local conversations were about COVID-19. Then the dialog shifted and focused on racial and social injustices in America. Last week, COVID-19 was once again front and center, complicated by even more significant political overtones.

According to the Gartner Group, most marketing teams now recognize that strategy is more important than analytics, personalization and marketing technology. Thirty-three percent of CMOs rank brand strategy as one of their top three priorities, up from near the bottom of the list in 2019, according to a recent Gartner Group survey. The survey further suggests that CMOs have quickly reordered their priorities to focus on brand strategy as the coronavirus pandemic has led to a significant shift in the way brands communicate with customers to advance their brands amid the disruptions in their sales and marketing channels.

INsight #2: Marketers need to carefully evaluate their new strategies to ensure they are not being considered through foggy outdated lenses. This means every new strategic idea the marketing team considers needs to be done through the careful preparation of a strategic brief.

Today’s strategic brief may need to take on a new meaning and purpose. Our EndGame strategic briefs focus on developing outcomes based on the real world today and where the team believes it could go. In other words, strategic briefs have to address the next new normal, while doing business in today’s new normal. Gartner’s research portrays marketing leaders as being much more optimist about a return to normal than their colleagues in the C-Level suites.

INsight #3: There is no place in a strategic brief for wishful thinking. Direction and positioning must be based on the best judgements of researchers, strategists and front-line team members. The brand’s opportunity is to build each new strategic brief around today’s market dynamics and where they are heading tomorrow, knowing that there will be many curves in the journey to the new next normal.

This is why marketers have to adopt our EndGame strategy built on new thinking, new vision and new energy. Marketers have to find new ways to connect with their customers, while attracting new ones. New stories need to be built and new ways of delivering these stories need to be created. This begins with a new strategic brief.

Contact me and let’s get strategic together.

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