Mark Ritson wrote an article for MarketingWeek titled The horror of marketers’ strategic bankruptcy is about to be laid bare (October 12, 2021).

« Specifically, I am talking about two massive problems that bedevil marketing. The first problem is marketing strategy. The second problem is briefing. They are linked: like high cholesterol and heart disease. »

« My best estimate is that about 90% of marketers never develop a marketing strategy… Even though all of them should have a basic strategy underpinning their work, not only do most marketers have nothing, they have no idea that anything is missing. »

« While we spent the last decade variously engaged in worthy, peripheral tasks that that had relatively little to do with marketing, the fundamental basics of our trade have been in rabid decline. »

« Most marketers end up managing brands and campaigns almost entirely devoid of any strategic thinking. Sure, they have SWOT – the most inane and pointless invention in management history. And Maslow’s hierarchy – a concept so nonsensical even Maslow did not believe in it. And there is PEST, Boston Matrix and vague references to early adopters … But these concepts aren’t indicative of the presence of strategy, they are the harbingers of its absence. »

« Many of the mightiest CMOs at the biggest brands are just as guilty.  »

« And that’s a shame because marketing strategy is not just essential, [it’s] also very simple. So simple you can explain it in a paragraph.

First, put down all the tactics, especially all the communications stuff. That all comes later. Second, do a decent bit of diagnosis to work out what is going on. Nothing fancy. But get some data from the market and get a basic segmentation in place. Then answer three questions to build a marketing strategy. Work out who you want to target with your marketing. Then decide on how you want to position your offer to the target(s). Finally, decide on the most important objectives that need to be achieved to be successful in the period ahead.

There you go. A strategy. You are in the 10%! »

« Simple answers often require very complex thinking. »

« And because many of these tactics are managed not by you, but by external or internal others, the need to be able to brief the strategy into the teams assigned to tactical execution becomes paramount. The second big marketing shit show begins. »

« a new report from the Better Briefs Project will finally lay bare the true horror of modern marketers and their inability to do even the most basic tasks associated with marketing strategy and briefing… The project is led by two experienced, awarded planners … Matt Davies and Pieter-Paul von Weiler »

« How can you ensure that you are the one marketer in 10 that delivers a good brief? … seven observations from my own experiences. »

« 1. First, have a strategy… Do you agree on who you want to target? That’s a more complex question than it used to be.

Next, what is your position? Again, there are many names for positioning these days. Half the battle is just being clear on the concept you want to use before you opt for the positioning decision itself. But do you know what you want your target to think before you start talking to your agency? They aren’t supposed to tell you this. You are meant to already know the ‘what’ so that they can then advise on the ‘how’.

And what are your objectives? If there is one area of total weakness in most plans it is the almost total absence of clear, SMART objectives. They teach this stuff at undergraduate level. Sort it out. Then ask yourself if your team can explain these decisions in a manner free from bullshit and complexity. In a way that a precocious 10-year-old or relatively intelligent beagle would be able to grasp. Complexity is what you dealt with, not what you deliver. »

« 2. Stay in your lane. Part of the problem is that most marketers mix up strategy (the plan) with tactics (the manner in which you will execute the plan). They aren’t able to brief because they have already jumped the fences and are running wild in the tactical pastures beyond… Do your job, then stop and allow the brief to inspire and direct the talent you have at your disposal. If you pick up a pen and start suggesting ideas to a creative team, you have not just gone awry, you’re an idiot. »

« 3. Finish strategy first »

« 4. Who the fuck is in charge? … Strategy needs choice, sacrifice and leadership. Leadership does not mean emotion or empathy, it means making the call and shutting the other calls down. »

« 5. Get trained… The best external programs are taught by the IPA in London. »

« 6. A brief is more than paper »

« 7. Build a relationship with your agency… Rare is the supplier who will sit you down and explain why you are doing it wrong. But those are the people to keep close. Aim to build not only an improved ability to brief your agency, but also the kind of relationship with them that encourages a creative team to come back with questions, challenges and feedback. »

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