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Strategy is useless

An unfavorable opinion about 99% of advertising strategies.

advertising strategy

Businesses waste millions into a bogus process that’s so disconnected from the thing the customer finally sees, that it feels almost entirely useless. Allow me to explain.

If you don’t know, strategy in advertising is used to figure out a few essential things.

Deciding on your customer base.

This is important, BUT oftentimes you fall into a target who’s far too general. If I had a dime for every time a brief said Millennials, I’d have a lot of dimes.

Part of understanding a target demographic is learning what they want. To do this, many agencies create a “persona”. An example from a past project was the Gritty Striver. A full team of consultants, strategists and account people spent months to arrive at a fancy name for 25-40 year olds who are ambitious. Gritty was just fluff to sound interesting alongside Striver and any additional details had no impact on the final product. None.

Finding the insights

In advertising an insight is a truth about your target customer that’ll lead them to wanting your product. By making it unique you can differentiate the company from your competitors. But, ask any creative and they’ll likely say the insights aren’t insightful. Here’s an example. On a pitch for an appliance brand we were given an insight from a team of 5 strategists that women love to cook beautifully. I don’t know what it means eitther.

You can’t see strategy

All this leads to an execution that makes most of the strategic work feel unnecessary. For example Geico spends the most on advertising. You’ve seen tons of their stuff. So, could you tell me the target customer? How about the insight that lead to their marketing strategy? No. Of course not. They’ve spent a fucking insane amount of money behind the scenes and the result are creative ideas, “you can’t skip this ad because it’s already over,” that promote the same message, “Save 10% or more on car insurance.”

You could say yea, but that’s just Geico. Well, chances are, if you think of any company you won’t be able to say the strategy behind the advertising. And if you can, does it affect how “good” the ad is? Do you remember stuff more? Does it make you want to buy the thing? For me it doesn’t.

That’s why we think Strategy should be practical. Not some abstract BS that is invisible to a customer in a 30 second YouTube preroll ad they want to skip. It should drive actual measurable results. And most important, your assumptions should be tested.

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