Why mission statements and SWOTs are weak instruments

"Unfortunately, you can’t nail down your vision/mission statement (or what I refer to as your Winning Aspiration) without having made your where-to-play/how-to-win (WTP/HTW) choice. Spending time wordsmithing a vision/mission statement before making a WTP/HTW choice is a colossal waste of time."
Check out this short but insightful article: 

The WRAP rules for better decisions.



















1. You encounter a choice. But narrow framing makes you miss options. So … Widen Your Options. How can you expand your sent of choices? …
2. You analyze your options. But the confirmation bias leads you to gather self-serving information. So …Reality-Test Your Assumptions. How can you get outside your head and collect information you can trust? …
3. You make a choice. But short-term emotion will often tempt you to make the wrong one. So … Attain Distance Before Deciding. How can you overcome short-term emotion and conflicted feelings to make better choices? …
4. Then you live with it. But you’ll often be overconfident about how the future will unfold. So … Prepare to Be Wrong. How can we plan for an uncertain future so that we give our decisions the best chance to succeed? …
http://www.farnamstreetblog.com/2013/03/how-to-make-better-choices-in-life-and-work/

The nature of an insight - in less than 7 words.

I stumbled upon a very simple expression that might help understanding what an insight is. And goes like this:

"We woke up to the fact that ..."

I believe that's it. If you can say this about your idea than there has been an insight behind it.

4 types of campaign integration: Which one's most effective for which goals?


The analysis identified four types of integration in campaigns:
1. No integration where a campaign either used a single advertising channel or took a laissez faire approach to merging
channels.
2. Advertising-led integration around a common creative platform. This ranges from visual identity only -the so-called ‘matching luggage’ approach – to a full-scale advertising creative idea across multiple disciplines, including non-advertising channels.
3. Brand idea-led orchestration where there was unification around a shared brand concept or need-state platform. Within this segment, the creative work does not look united by a common advertising idea, yet the audience is able to decode the strands as part of one brand’s message.
4. Participation-led orchestration where the goal between brand and audiences is to create a common dialogue, co-creation, experience or ‘conversation’.






Interesting:
- Not-integrated campaigns don't turn out to be as ineffective as one usually assumes. In fact, they are just as effective in terms of hard business objectives (sales, market share, etc.) as the 3 remaining types of integration on average. Integration rather seems to pay-off on the soft objectives level (fame, likeability, etc.).
- The  campaigns integrated by a "Big Brand Idea" seem to be most effective.
- Participation-lead campaigns are rather effective for market share defenders and rather in terms of (re-) creating fame. The main reasons for that: they tend to engage existing customers and often have to rely on pre-existing brand love.

But let's not forget - the results above stem from an analysis of campaign effectiveness with no direct implications for communications that cannot be categorised as campaigns.

Actionability - A criterion underserved by strategy.

We are quite used to seeing strategy as something governed by its impact on the consumer or in the market. We seek solutions that are Relevant & Credible for consumers and Differentiating against competition. Such criteria are almost automatically used when we try to come up with or to judge positionings, creative ideas, etc.

But is the strategy good for the communicators?
Strategic consumer orientation is certainly absolutely justified but it's important to highlight the company/agency side of the coin, too.

Such an internal perspective on a strategy evokes a different set of criteria among which Actionability is the one I would like to talk about here.

Actionability means that
a) there actually are obvious actions/solutions you can derive from that strategy/idea
b) the strategy/idea helps managing and coordinating the company’s/agency’s activities.

Basically you could say: "You should be able do make more great stuff more easily with this strategy or idea in mind." You could also call it the Fertility of an idea or strategy. (http://account-planning-confessions.blogspot.de/2013/04/on-creative-fertility-of-idea.html)

To support this notion, let me quote what Sarah Watson, CSO at BBH in NY says about the role of a brand essence: "The real question is whether the brand short hands we work with contain a sufficiently nourishing narrative for those working with them to create something good. I always remember Tom Ford describing how he was able to simultaneously design for Yves St Laurent and Gucci; 'one is Audrey Hepburn, the other Sophia Loren'. A quick shorthand but one that had enough vividness and depth for him to create collections and communications season after season."   http://www.contagiousmagazine.com/2013/10/a_safe_distance.php

While this seems obvious it gets often forgotten by planners. The result are often so called "not well executed strategies" which in reality might have been not very actionable ones.

Creative Fertility: 
In creative terms planners often have strategies of limited or even negative creative impact. E.g. highly "psychological" ideas that are often very hard to be depicted (typically in print media). Or ideas that lead to very stereotypical expressions in all kinds of media. Let's say you come up with something like "self-efficacy" as the brand benefit - it often leads to claims such as "You decide". Which seems OK, but how do you show that you decide yourself - let's say in print? But isn't it hard to show "decisions" ... and even more hard: decisions you make yourself as opposed to not yourself? Another example is one of my most hated type of ideas: those built around "Individualism". In 9 of 10 cases this ends up in showing "our weird customers" (= motorcycle bikers or girls with punk-like haircuts) to make clear that they are "individuals". That's awful.

Sufficiently broad communication platforms:
Another important issue that has to do with Actionability is the question "How broad and open should a positioning or idea be?" An actionable positioning / idea should be narrow enough to spark off clear and distinctive executions. On the other hand brand management needs platforms to allow for multiple actions now and in the future - in dozens of channels. So actually, breadth is often vital too. Just think of Coke and their "Happiness" - which is as broad as can be. Old school planning insisted strongly on narrow ideas with little ambiguity. I believe that real Actionability is about maximizing both: absolute clarity of direction AND a sufficient breadth for a whole array of possible actions. This is less contradictory than it sounds. Another example of this is "Good Food deserves Lurpak":




There is certainly more to say about the Actionability of a strategy but I'd rather leave it on that note and maybe revisit the issue someday with some fresh thoughts and examples.