Brands, Strategists Are Your Shrink: How Does That Make You Feel?
In Black Box, Julie Schumacher, describes therapy like “taking your clothes off and then taking your skin off, and then having the other person say, ‘Would you mind opening up your rib cage so we can start?’”
If brands could talk, they’d probably feel a lot like that when a strategist first sets eyes on them - although, it’s not always something people would expect. We prod and poke and expose layer after layer until we can see what’s really there. In many ways this is where we become the therapist; we help brands console themselves and move on from the mistakes of the past, help them get over their Freudian hang-ups with the Mother brand, and together explore the ultimate existentialist question of who they really are and why would anyone love them.
The core philosophy underpinning it is that the true brand is in there, we just need to help it find itself. And we borrow some tricks from the therapists toolkit as well - projection techniques, diary tasks, and the never ending questions of ‘why?’, are the tell-tale planner tricks.
But while the therapist stops there and lets the newly self-aware person find their own path, the strategist doesn’t. The aim of therapy is to give people the skills to cope on their own in the world. But strategy, when done well, stays the course with the patient in the way a good therapist really shouldn’t. Fundamentally strategy is a creative act, not one that ends at the revelation.
This is where the strategist switches hats and becomes many other things to the brand: A private detective, out observing them in the real world. A casual voyeur asking the people who interact with you what they think of you. An architect helping them to reshape the world around them. All of these roles, and many more, are critically important to making sure that strategy is not just discovered or written but also lived. Any good strategy is a living breathing thing. We need to be out there in the world alongside our brands - course correcting, innovating and spotting the next opportunity. It’s not just fixing problems or uncovering the truth, it’s active guidance.
What I want us to reflect on, is that strategists are not just ‘planners’. Their strategies would not be effective if they aren’t probing your brand at every angle. Many wouldn’t consider the strategist as a creative role, but Strategists are not useful to brands if they just help them discover the ‘why’. The creative side is needed to help take their brand on the next steps of their journey and ultimately build something better and stronger than they ever thought they could achieve alone.