Successful societies are guided by human's tendencies to use both sides of our brains. But sometimes, because of the times, culture, or technology, we lean more one way than the other in other thinking. And we are currently going through a very left hemisphere time in our society - one that relies on fact, and data (of course not everyone), but is devoid of understanding context, metaphor and story.
Since 2011 I have been championing Brand Purpose for our Clients - "the why" a company is in business that resonates with all of its stakeholders. Old news I know, and everyone seems to be championing it, if not hijacking it with incorrect manifestations. But Wall St. and Bay St. have accepted this positive understanding and are rewarding those that authentically adopt that thinking, from Purpose through to execution. And let me underscore "authentically".
But we are in an age of data, analytics and optimization - all of which are good. But my hypothesis is this is not about "or", but "and". This hypothesis is that both left and right brain thinking are required to identify a strong Brand Purpose, for transformative thinking for business and marketing success, even in a world of perpetual start-ups and technological evolution.
Historically, society has vacillated between being very data orientated (left brain) and very context and metaphor orientated (right brain), e.g. the former being the Industrial Revolution; the latter being the Renaissance.
And if I haven't scared away marketers, CEOs and agency folk yet, please know this has important relevance to how you land on a compelling Brand Purpose, how you bring that Brand Purpose to life in your business strategies, and therefore, how your business and marketing strategies get developed and turned into the right tactics.
So What About 2022 Business Planning?:
So, what does this mean for 2022 Business planing?
Firstly, marketing planning is less effective unless the 2022 Business Planning process is complete. Business Planning has to be the pre-requisite to Marketing Planning.
Here are some suggestions:
Please, please, please capture the learnings and best practices from the previous year(s). You are likely not a start-up. If some shit worked last year, it is likely worth looking at again to determine if it should be repeated, even in an updated format. Stop trying to "re-invent the wheel". And look across all the functional areas of the business: from culture, to HR, from pricing models to ops., all the way to marketing.
Use appropriate-for-the-time models and frameworks to describe the current state in the Situational Analysis.
But also give the tasked teams the permission to come up with their own models and frameworks if they do a better job of capturing a new dynamic, insight, or new adjacency relevant to the business or category.
Ensure there are stages in your process that first drive the team to the data, rational side of the situational analysis, but also ensure there are stages in the process that bring them over to the right side of the brain (kicking and screaming if necessary) that is about higher context, metaphor and story.
Ensure you have clearly identified, as the Business Analyst framework defines its practice, a) the required shift/change or transformation, b) the need driving this, c) what the solution could be, d) the stakeholders relevant and important to the business, and e) the value you will bring to them. To get to Brand Purpose, use the "5 why's" framework.
From an organizational standpoint and who you include in this process, consider bringing in your strong Creative Directors from your ad agency and other outsiders in early. For Clients and CMOs out there, don't be cheap. Spend a couple of grand and get T-shaped and square peg individuals into the process. If your ad agency is structured the way it should be (and not many are these days), it should be filled with multi-functional, multi-category, and multi-life-experienced individuals from data analysts to writers and authors, from cultural anthropologists and musicians, to designers who think through pictures. For reference review IDEO's Human Centred Design Principles. Source: https://www.ideo.com/post/design-kit.
Also, if you are truly practicing an Agile operating practice or mindset, bring in your more junior and front line staff into the process when appropriate. They will bring a number of attributes and capabilities senior people may have lost including: idealism and rose-coloured glasses, front line Client feedback, and lastly, new academic thinking, frameworks, models and case studies from their digital native universities and college classes. Don't fall into the trap of my generation's bosses of " if I wanted your opinion, I'd give it to you".
So What About 2022 Marketing Planning?:
There are many tools here. But if I could leave you with one main thought it is to "push the envelope" on the planning process, and bring it back to practical budgetary and operationally feasible solutions later. You have to be "in the market for ideas" at this stage. And by "ideas" I mean strategies, metaphors and other tools to bring these strategies from the left brain to the right brain. People chose emotionally and justify rationally.
Edward De Bono, the person who coined the term "lateral thinking", I believe said "the purpose of thinking is to stop you from thinking". By this, he meant the brain processes something and then compartmentalizes it into our brains so we don't have to think about it again. So, for example, once you know how to work a toaster, you don't have to think about it again. In contrast, throughout the business and marketing planning process, you want to disrupt this tendency and use new frameworks and models, and a diverse group of people with divergent points-of-view to get you to see your business through new lens, even if it's just for one day. (and if De Bono didn't say that, I'm taking credit for that quote - TM).
But seriously, and practically, here are some suggestions, borrowed from some already well-proven areas:
Identify what defines your attributes of your segmentation: demographic, psychographic, usage, geography, culture, other. Ask yourself if these are still relevant, outdated, or if there are other ways to segment.
Develop user journeys.
Develop user stories.
Develop metaphoric prototypes.
Sound these user stories and prototypes off real customers and stakeholders. Don't be shy. Don't be afraid of their responses, but in the context of agile marketing and iterations, they might point you to better, and more focussed insights, strategies, and tactical areas. There's nothing more powerful that a real, strong insight to develop a world class advertising campaign.
I'm sure there are many omissions to the above, but the "net net", is the world has moved to a data focussed, rational, left brain orientation. And this alone has not grown societies successfully. Bring both hemispheres of the brand to bear. Bring the power of creative thinking, which brings context, story and metaphor to your business - because your customers and stakeholders are not waiting for your next quantitative stat. Ask Harley Davidson, Nike, Apple, and others.
Lastly, and for those CEOs, CMOs, Chief Strategy Officers, and Account Planners wanting more, review Iain McGilchrist's YouTube on "The Divided Brain" here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMfybIoFxH8 or his book.
Hope some of this makes for planning during a pandemic, a little more productive.