Image by Jazmin Quaynor

A nostaglic browse through my old strategy notes

(And the pleasant surprise they weren’t all rubbish)

This evening I’ve been revisiting some old notes I made about digital marketing. It’s equal parts sentimental and cringe. Largely because so much has changed and everything I wrote that was meant to be authoritative is a bit laughable now.

I came across one blog I’d written where I referenced Facebook brands before we had pages and the only way to see their updates was to ‘friend’ them. I also found an entry made on the day that @ mentions became a thing.

Digital moves so fast it’s barely possible to hold onto your dignity with online posts. I feel sorry for all that eager bunch who actually published books on this stuff.

However, aside from all my very outdated musings, I found some diagrams, flow charts and furiously underscored questions that have stood the test of time.

They’re the bits that will never date because they’re designed to cut out all the fluff.

Here are three particular notes I’d made, all from 2006, that I’d easily use today at the beginning of any strategy brief.

What is the biggest challenge the business faces yearly, monthly and daily?

Seemingly simple, but not commonly asked.

This question is good because it makes people to think about problems they face in segments. If the question is framed ‘what is the biggest challenge the business faces?’ we will likely get a macro answer that feels lofty and undefined. However, when we think about challenges on a smaller scale, right down to what is holding us back day to day, we get a much better idea of the chain effect.

Often, something that we are simply putting up with every day is actually the reason some of our bigger goals can’t be met; we’ve just not made the connection yet.

If our brand was a person at a party how would they react when the police turned up?

This question may feel familiar, but it normally doesn’t go beyond the party.

I love this visualisation exercise because it’s a great one for determining a brand tone of voice in crisis, or more specifically for daily customer care.

It’s common to put so much effort into defining the tone a brand may take when it’s all fun and broadcasting, yet, we rarely think about how this same person might respond when they need to be a bit more serious.

This exercise does exactly that. By forcing the response voice to be the same person as the fun voice, just in a different context, we avoid that awful brand default of going full corporate when dealing with complaints or issues.

What would Jesus do?

Well, not exactly him, but this was the short hand.

Jesus, in this instance, is a brand from an entirely polarised category coming in and taking over the company.

Say you work sell yoghurt, what would an airline do to stand out against the competitors? Or if you work in an outdoor pursuits company, how might a soap manufacturer address the challenge of getting more people to buy tents?

At a recent Marketing Academy day with eatbigfish I was quietly chuffed to see this was an exercise they recommend for Challenger brands. (Although, if I’m completely honest, I think I made this note around the year I first read ‘Eating The Big Fish’ so I probably can’t claim the thinking at all). Either way, it’s a catalyst for people to look outside the category they’re in.

When we are entrenched in a brand it’s easy to only ever look at what our competitors do. It’s the old mentality of “if it worked for them it’ll work for us”. And while this may sometimes be the case, there’s often a lot more to glean from other industries than we think.

The ‘Jesus’ exercise is designed to simply step outside of our trained thinking and into something foreign to really get a different perspective on what we are out to do.

All fairly simple, nothing too complicated and certainly no ground breaking ah-ha moments! Yet all still sound and solid in their genuine pursuit for thinking differently about common business challenges.

Amusing little evening down memory lane. As it turns out, sometimes it’s worth keeping your old notebooks.