How do you fight fluff when it is presented as strategy?

paper airplane making its way through clouds

We’ve all been there. You’re on the front lines of creative or strategy, and suddenly you’re handed a piece of fluff that’s supposed to be the defining element of the brand.
A purpose statement, vision, mission, or other so-called “brand narrative” elements.

“Hey, we know this isn’t real strategy,” they say. “But the client sees it as gospel, and everyone’s already bought into it. It’s signed off. We can’t challenge it, but we don’t know what the hell it means or how to work with it.”

The first few times this happened (okay, the first few years), I struggled to hide my expression of “what the f*ck is this?”.
But I learned fast that it’s not that simple.

So, here’s what you do.
Recognize that people probably like the sentiment, even though the strategy itself got lost. Adopt a curious mindset and help them uncover the real strategy, then rearticulate it (for internal work use, at least) in a way that doesn’t obscure it.

The main quirk of brand strategy is that it’s not enough for it to be correct – it has to inspire people to follow it. Consequently, The confusion between a strategy and its articulation is the most common shortcut to bad brand strategies.

People always say, “great briefs should both direct and inspire,” but often, on the path to a brand strategy that inspires, the fluff builds up until any direction is lost.

So, here’s what I’d say to my stakeholders: “Sometimes, as insights and strategy get distilled, it becomes hard to identify the original meaning. Can you help us understand the original intention here? We’ll worry about the articulation later.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s