🐾 Creating good strategies
Interview with strategist and brand consultant Désirée Bambynek
Hello 👋 My name is Florian Schleicher and this is the FutureStrategies newsletter from FutureS. I'm glad you're reading along 💚 If you want to learn strategic marketing, my Simple & Sustainable Marketing Academy is just right for you.
What is the difference between a good and bad strategy?
In his book “Good Strategy, Bad Strategy” Richard Rumelt writes:
“A good strategy does more than urge us forward toward a goal or vision. A good strategy honestly acknowledges the challenges being faced and provides an approach to overcoming them. Good strategy is built on functional knowledge about what works, what doesn’t and why.”
However, most approaches that call themselves "strategy" are simply a list of measures.
Good (marketing) strategies start with a diagnosis, from which guidelines (vision & goals) are derived, which in turn flow into coherent actions.
So that we understand each other - that's hard.
This is precisely why there are few good strategies out there and all the more self-proclaimed consultants who create "strategies" in marketing.
But there are also some who have been doing really good work for years. Good strategists have three beliefs, as strategist Roger Martin writes:
Strategy starts with the customers.
So it doesn't start with what shareholders want or what "core competencies" we have. It starts with a deep appreciation and fascination for customers and a deep desire to make their lives/businesses better.
We understand that the world is a complex adaptive system.
Therefore, a future is probable, not deterministic, but not random either. It is easy to fall into the conceit that the world is linear and the past can be deterministically extrapolated into the future.
The third mindset is the confidence to invent the future.
That is, we work to make something true that is not true now. Mediocre strategists believe that optimizing the present is enough to succeed. Great strategists know that they must set higher goals - or someone else will set higher goals and succeed.
Désirée Bambynek is a colleague whose work I really appreciate because she also brings exactly this way of thinking. She is a strategist, consultant, and coach for brand, communication, and future design.
In the interview with her, I talked about the importance of understanding markets and companies and the perspective of people. We explored what stumbling blocks strategies unfortunately often have in implementation and how we can correctly identify and classify trends.
Here are my 5 questions and her answers:
🎙 The interview
1️⃣ What does strategy have to do with empathy?
Empathy is a critical skill that is often overlooked when developing and implementing a successful strategy. A good strategy must consider both quantitative and qualitative factors. A purely rational or tactics-driven view can often eclipse the needs and perspectives of the people who ultimately implement or are affected by the strategy.
Being able to understand and comprehend the perspective of others, and incorporate it into the strategy process, can help create a better, more sustainable strategy that is not just focused on short-term gains, but also takes into account the needs of everyone involved - from the teams implementing it to the customers it is aimed at. This balance between internal and external benefits is a key success factor of any strategy.
2️⃣ What causes most strategies to fail? And how can we set the course to prevent this?
There are various factors why strategies do not lead to the desired success. If we disregard crises and disruptive market factors for a moment, it is often the seemingly small adjusting screws that have not been set correctly to favor successful implementation. These include gaps in communication or a lack of collaboration within the organization.
This leads to an incomplete initial picture not only in the strategy development itself, but also when the strategy is later unfolded in the organization. To avoid this, all departments and team members should be involved and external perspectives should be regularly included.
Flexibility and adaptability are also important. By regularly reviewing and evaluating whether the strategy is still relevant and effective, new influencing factors can be identified in time and adjustments can be made.
Successful strategy implementation requires a balance between internal and external perspectives, as well as clear communication and responsibilities. And this balance requires active, regular attention.
3️⃣ In the world of strategies, brands, and branding, methods are used again and again. What is important for strategists in the application of these models and methods?
Methods and frameworks are tools designed to accompany and empower the strategy process. However, it is important to remember that tools can and should also be adapted to best serve us.
We often tend to fall in love with models because they provide us with certainty or seemingly simple answers to complex challenges. It is important to remember that models are only approximations of reality, and should be considered and used contextually.
Sometimes we need to develop new models to meet the demands of new situations or realities. That doesn't make them any less legitimate or professional.
Many of the models we work with today were developed decades ago. As the world continues to change, we should keep in mind that we may need to develop new methods to meet new demands as we develop strategies for the future.
4️⃣ The world is full of trends - How can companies decide what is worth following and which bandwagon they don't need to be on (yet)?
When we talk about trends, we need to be aware of two things: First, trends can be seen either as a disruptive disruptor, or as an opportunity to change perspective. Second, it is important to distinguish between macro and micro trends, as the latter have limited impact and do not require the same attention as larger economic or societal developments.
In order to evaluate and classify trends correctly, it is crucial to precisely define and live one's brand identity, including values, strategy and value proposition. Companies that know exactly what they stand for and how they create added value, and that 'rest within themselves' as a brand, can analyze and evaluate trends more consciously and incorporate them into their strategy.
A deep understanding of the target group, which includes not only demographic factors but also mindset and motivation, is also crucial for identifying and exploiting relevant trends.
To better equip themselves for the roller coaster ride of trends, companies can engage in regular horizon scanning to proactively consider new developments and avoid reactive behavior. Ultimately, trends are a valuable way to gain new perspectives. However, they should be carefully considered and implemented only if they support strategic goals and brand growth.
5️⃣ How do brands create futures? Or to put it another way - how do brands best explore their futures?
The future of a brand can be actively shaped and should be an integral part of sustainable brand management. To remain fit for the future, brands should not only pay attention to the needs of their customers and current market conditions, but also to societal factors and environmental factors that may influence their brand.
Continuous self-reflection and examination of the company's own values and corporate culture ensure a contemporary brand identity that creates trust among employees and customers, and promotes long-term customer relationships.
In addition, scenario development can be a useful way to explore the future of a brand. This involves incorporating new developments and trends into various possible future scenarios in order to be able to evaluate their impact on the brand, or to identify new opportunities.
In addition, brands can encourage small-scale experiments to test new ideas and approaches today. This is not just about developing products or services, but also about continuously improving and developing internal ways of working and processes. All of these factors help to develop brand resilience and ensure future success.
3️⃣ Last Questions
What book did you just read and do you like to recommend?
Which brand do you think is doing successful branding right now?
The Tibi brand is doing an excellent job of embedding its values into its product strategy and communication, and keeping its customers curious with down-to-earth formats. It's worth keeping an eye on independent, seemingly small brands, because they often create very customer-centric experiences, in my opinion.
The future of storytelling...
…lies in companies more actively and sustainably engaging employees, customers, and communities in storytelling, creation, and evolution. Stories, and especially storytelling, should reflect community and perspectives, and should not be used as a pure marketing tactic.
〜 end of interview 〜
👀 At a glance
A strategy is only ever a plan, so I think it's even more important that we find answers and solutions to potential stumbling blocks in implementing strategies, and Désirée gives some very good input on that as well.
What I have in common with Désirée, besides our strong focus on understanding people as a first step, is our joy in creating future scenarios for brands.
There is not only one possible future we can develop with our marketing strategies.
Or as futurologist Jane McGonigal says:
Future we usually say with an ‘s’—‘futures’—so we can keep an open mind to many different things. We’re not trying to predict a singular future. We’re trying to consider possibilities so we can shape it to be more like the future we want.
Thanks for reading!
Désirée is a strategist, consultant and coach across brand, communication and future growth. She is founder of déstudio, a practical strategy studio specialized in brand building and futures exploration, that is dedicated to helping organizations, teams and professionals create a consistent strategy practice in daily business and create sustainable brand success.
PS: You can also read this posting in German.
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