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  • APG

Brand Strategist Demystified

What is your job title?

Strategist (used to be planner, but the department recently switched)

If you had to describe your job in one sentence, what would differentiate it from other planning and strategy jobs?

I wouldn't be able to say confidently whether I considered myself a creative planner, or more specifically, a brand planner. I suppose the one aspect of my work that defines the approach, is the emphasis placed on getting a great idea that will solve a business problem, irrespective of media, channels, platforms etc. That doesn't mean that those things aren't important, but rather that, at its purest, my form of planning is about starting with a strategy that can and should exist outside of those constraints, and that can then be translated based on the specific brief.

What is the first thing you normally do in the morning when you arrive at work?

Having checked my email on the way into work, I'll normally get a coffee or tea and a piece of fruit from the agency cafe, and sit down at my desk. I'll make a list on a post-it note of all the things I need to do, some of which will be short and quick to complete, others of which will take some proper thinking time.

I'll also think about what I might need help with from my strategy director or BAD, and what I can delegate to my junior. I'll then start on whatever is most important and/or urgent. During this process, I'll likely be chatting with my account team about work/what we're all wearing/ someone they're following on instagram.

What specific tasks do you do that makes you a Planner?

I suppose I do brand strategy stuff (so brand purpose, architecture, brand campaign strategy and briefings) but I also end up doing a fair bit of comms planning on the side for clients that need it.

What is the point of your job?

Gosh, that's tough! I think the point of creative planning as part of advertising, is to distill big thorny problems into a simple communications strategy, and also instill insight into the process so that the creative ideas are as relevant and resonant for your target audience as they can be.

Give us an example of the kinds of problems/task you have worked on in the last week?

I've thought about how to get people to change their preconceptions about how expensive a big retailer is.

I've thought about, based on some research, whether we should run a piece of creative that people understood, but didn't claim to be motivated by.

I've thought about how to make a brand relevant at different moments in the year through tactical advertising.

I've thought about how to reframe a charity so that it behaves completely differently from the rest of the category.

If you had to describe what you do to a kitten from Mars. What would you say to sign the kitten up as a Planner?

My job is all about using an understanding of people to change those people's attitudes or behaviour. If there is anything out there that is as interesting as spending your day thinking about people, and what makes them tick, I'd eat my hat.

What is the best thing about your job?

The best thing about planning is what would make a kitten from Mars want to do it: you learn all sorts about all sorts of people, places, and businesses. I maintain that I've learned more about "real people" in my career as a planner than I did during my 4 years of studying sociology.

What has given you most fulfillment in the last week?

Working as a really close team on a pitch for a brand that is close to my heart. It was a real labour of love, and showed the utter dedication and commitment of the team to a brand that we all care about. Pitches are exhausting, but also some of the most rewarding experiences that I've had in planning.

What kinds of people are best at this job?

People often cite curiosity as a prerequisite for being a planner, but to me, that doesn't really cut it. A good planner is someone who is able to uncover new angles, revealing insights and interesting ways to look at the world, or a problem. It's the ability to see things differently that feels most important to being a good planner. That, and being a good listener and collaborator.

What are the boring but necessary bits of your job?

Ad and brand tracking are unbelievably dull, but necessary for many clients and how they evaluate the success of a campaign. I'm also pretty dubious about pre-testing ads in any shape or form

What is the oddest request you have had recently?

Before I started in advertising, I was at a careers fair where several agencies had stalls. I had a chat with a man at a stall of an agency that shall not be named. He told me that a day in the life of a grad might involve such glamorous tasks as finding pictures of dogs on beaches. Sure enough, a few months ago, several years into my career, my boss asked me to find pictures of dogs having fun, for a pitch. I couldn't decide whether my career had reached its apex, or nadir.

What do you look at all day?

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