Inputs Before Outputs (Always and Forever)

Definitions matter. Therefore, we endeavor to explain the value of strategy to ourselves, to workshop attendees, and our clients. But before we can explain the value, we also need to explain what we mean by strategy.

Here’s a recent explanation from my Twitter friend Derek Walker:

I’d like to illustrate the above sequence…

  • An online brand is suffering from shopping cart abandonment. That’s the data.
  • One insight derived from the data is people feel unsure about their purchases and/or their relationship with the brand.
  • A strategy based on this data point and the insight derived from it would be to increase trust with customers.

The creative team then takes this call to create more trust and creates a series of ideas that, when executed, build trust with current and prospective customers.

Solve Business Problems, Sometimes With An Ad

Salmon Theory, a weekly philosophy newsletter for creative and strategic minds by Rob Estreitinho features an interview with Zoe Scaman, founder of Bodacious, a full-service strategy studio in London.

I like this passage a lot:

What’s the philosophy behind Bodacious?
Embracing mess and uncertainty and applying strategy problem-solving skills at the broadest possible level. People often ask me to define myself – are you an ad agency, a consultancy, an innovation house – but I balk as definitions, they don’t suit me. I’m all of the above and more. And I’m ok with that amorphous shape. And my hope is that other strategists will start to wake up and feel the same. We keep reading pieces about how the ad industry is crashing and burning and that’s because the problems we need to solve are ever more complex, but the solutions (where the margins live) are always the same, so what do we expect?

Strategists are problem solvers as their core, and that means you should be able to turn your skills to any challenge. The sooner we divorce ourselves from advertising as the output, the better.

This is a theme that I keep returning to time and again. In 2016, I wrote this:

We routinely ask that an action or series of actions be taken by people inside the client company. This is where marketing communications meet operations. When you’re dedicated to growing successful businesses you end up going way beyond making ads. You become an essential part of the team and invested in the outcomes. This level of teamwork and commitment may surprise some clients. It’s our belief that we need to care about the marketing problems at hand, but more that than, we need to care about the human beings our work impacts, namely our client’s customers and prospects, and the community of people employed by the company.

Brand Truth Is Foundational

At Bonehook, we pursue our client’s brand truths because it’s the mud that we make Marcom bricks from—bricks that hold up the brand house.

I hate that advertising is considered to be wallpaper or paint by anyone inside and outside of the ad business. Ads are not decorations, although they can be appealing to look at. Ads that move people to pay attention and to buy are interactive artifacts from the sponsoring company. An interactive artifact (print, broadcast, or digital) can be entered, like a house or a compelling story. An interactive artifact can be explored, altered, celebrated, and shared.

A brand has to know how to turn people on. Is it the quality of the products that drive people to the store? Is it the low price? The magic is always inside the company, yet people go searching for wild ideas far from the where the action is. All the action is happening inside the customer’s heart and mind. Thus, the job of all brand marketers is to know their customer’s desires, fears, ambitions, and day-to-day pressures.

When you know your brand truth and what makes your customers and prospects pounce, you’re ready to advertise. If you do not have these two essential ingredients figured out, we’re here to help you. We can also make your ads after the discovery period, but so can lots of other talented people who focus on outputs. We focus on inputs because when you get your inputs right, your ad campaigns practically make themselves.

Leave a comment