Strategy is an art of choice and sacrifice.  

What is brand strategy? We all talk a lot about it, and while it is widely acknowledged it is of critical importance, there is a remarkable lack of clarity about what strategy is and does.  

This is troubling, because having a clear understanding of the meaning of "strategy" is critically important when it comes to making better strategic decisions.  

In my opinion, strategy is about making choices and sacrifices. It’s about making informed decisions at critical forks in the road. Strategic decisions are trade-off decisions, which require us to weigh one option against the other, and to commit to a path forward. 

Choices and sacrifices are involved in every stage of strategy, from determining the single biggest challenge to solve, the right audience to target, the most relevant message to deliver, even selecting which creative idea best addresses the brief. Good brand strategies identify options, criteria and ultimately make trade-offs. 

Avoiding hard choice leads to a lack of focus and woolly thinking. As advertising genius David Ogilvy remarked, “Give me the freedom of a tight brief.” Hard choices bring clarity and accelerate action. 

So, how do we in Hotwire apply that philosophy to help our clients make the best decisions? First off, I’m a big believer in collecting and collating as much data as you can from a broad variety of sources: social media, blogs and forums, news and video, public and private companies, ratings and reviews, customer feedback, patents and your organisational data.  

Category, business and product performance data may also have a key role to play in identifying the problem you need to solve. We feed this precious data into a step by step strategic planning process that transforms it from data to strategic choice. 

Hotwire has a five step process for strategic planning: 

  1. Data. Analytical tools, although valuable, usually produce what I call “rear view mirror” insight. We also use these analytical tools for foresight purposes, applying the lens of the strategic branding planning process to the rich data they generate, both at a micro and macro level for prediction, not just history. 

  1. Information. We bring together behavioural information and transaction data and organise it all into purposeful and logical buckets, turning this data into information and attaching greater value to information from the most credible and up to date sources. 

  1. Intelligence. Having compartmentalised and segmented the data, we begin mining it: comparing and contrasting category, brand and market information over time. This is what fuels new opportunities and moves us from information to intelligence, where we start finding clues to help our clients solve their problems. 

  1. Insight. This is a much used and abused term. For us, insight is not data, facts or even intelligence. It’s a fundamental truth that when solved will unlock business growth. Getting to this point requires a level of complexity, but it’s worth the effort as such truths are often a revelation and catalysts for fresh thinking. 

  1. Choice. This final step is the really hard part. Choice does, however, become significantly more straightforward if you are confident you have the credibility and capability to solve the insight – and what you will be doing matters enough, to enough people. Once there’s strategic clarity a concept can be created. In essence, this is a distinctive, coherent and credible idea around which to build your plans. 

Download our full free whitepaper ‘Why Intelligence is the Foundation of Choice’.