As a media agency, most people think of our work in terms of flowcharts, media plans and placing ads. While that is not entirely wrong, those things are more of a manifestation of the work we do for brands. So I thought I’d call attention to a side of our efforts that is only seen by a few, mainly on the client side, but is absolutely vital. Strategy.
As you will see, strategy is the true driver of the work Morgan & Co. does for brands. What might not be obvious is the impact it has not only on the media planning, but on creative, public relations, website development and even business decisions, like market expansion or line extensions.
WHAT STRATEGY IS NOT
Because the topic is foreign to many (an indicator that brands need more of it) the best way to talk about strategy is to call out what it is not. The biggest misconception is that strategy is a flowchart or a media plan. It’s not an Excel that outlines the ad placements, timelines, negotiated costs or flighting of the campaign. Yes, that’s a byproduct of strategy, but not in any way the main output of the process or impact of creating a strategy.
WHAT IS STRATEGY
Much like other industries, strategy in marketing, and especially in the world of media, is about leveraging insights to reveal challenges and opportunities the brand is facing. Sometimes the revelations hover around the marketplace dynamics. Maybe around the value or benefit of the brand. Often times there are audience implications where we learn something about a motivational factor.
Case in point: for one of our restaurant groups, we came across a customer’s comment on social media asking if the restaurant would be showing a particular football game. Insight led to the revelation that this inquiry wasn’t about access to watching the game – this audience has many ways to view the game from the comfort of their own home. Instead, they wanted to experience the game surrounded by other people. People just like themselves.
Insight such as this leads to questions like “how does this steer strategy?”. It tells us a lot about our audiences, their motivations, and how they move through the customer journey (decision-making) process. Part of our process involves a unique customer journey that aligns insights like that above, touchpoint and metrics. From state of mind all the way to loyalty. The result is an explanation and directional inspiration of how/why/when brand and customers can come together. It tells how audiences should experience the brand, while addressing the issue or opportunity.
WHAT IT TAKES TO BUILD A STRATEGY
The above is only the tip of the iceberg. In fact, there is a tremendous amount of work and thoughtfulness that goes into strategy. And it is most definitely a group effort to weed through data, facts, insights and beyond. To accomplish strategy development right, there are a few skills a team needs:
- You must be able to look beyond the data and/or read between the lines and see the bigger picture. Data is not insight. You arrive at insight, which powers your strategy, through connecting the dots to reveal what the data is telling you.
- You must be a problem solver. Remember, strategy is about taking advantage of opportunities or addressing issues. You have to solve for them. Start with a hypothesis and use insights to validate or debunk. By starting here, you gain a sense of direction and avoid wondering aimlessly for weeks on end, which none of us enjoy.
- A strong understanding of the brand’s business and its category is a must. Learn the role of the product in the lives of people, where the category is going, who is the competition, etc.
It goes without saying that a lot of dots needs to be connected. And while the team at Morgan & Co. is known for media planning and buying, connecting the dots to build a strategy is a significant portion of what we do. Albeit mostly behind the scenes, it’s what our teams are built to do. But it is that work which allows us to go from being assigned brand/client goals to formulating a strategy, which ultimately sheds light on the type of media approach we need to create (the flowchart).
No brand should ever jump right to a media flowchart without a clear understanding of the WHY that got them to the media plan – the strategy. Morgan & Co. has created a unique process that addresses strategy through insights, audience segmentation and customer journey. If your marketing and media efforts are lacking a smart strategy, reach out to us, we’d be happy to talk.