Get/to/bye-bye strategy: how to fix advertising’s favourite framework


smiling man with a tie, holding a hammer in his right hand and making a thumbs up gesture with his other hand. the thumb is bandaged.

This is the story of how a simple and ubiquitous framework threatens to break advertising.

There are many tools and frameworks across strategy, marketing, and advertising.

Have you ever noticed which ones tend to be the most popular?

Is it the smartest ones? The clearest ones? The most effective? The most validated by research?

Of course not!

The most popular ones are those which are easiest to explain and learn, and most importantly — easiest to sell. Internally to teams, and externally to clients.

Unfortunately, even simple frameworks are often not as simple as people think.

When misused – which I see happening more and more often — GTB cultivates bad work, promotes non-strategies, mismanages creative teams, and sets them and their clients up for failure. 

What’s the framework, and where does it come from?

 If you’re reading this post, you’re probably already familiar with the formula, which can usually be found lurking somewhere in creative brief documents. Some even use it instead of a brief, but more often it sits in the section summarising the creative strategy.

 There are various nuanced takes on it, but here’s the rough outline:

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I can’t believe I’m still fighting this F****!

What’s on your list of “I can’t believe I’m still fighting this fluff in 2023!”?

Here’s mine (in no particular order):
👉Generation-focused marketing (millennials, y, z…)
👉 Brand archetypes (and most Jungian psychographics)
👉 “Start with the why” + “GrOw”schools of purpose
👉 Lovemarks (and generally “brand love” residue)
👉 Maslow (honestly!)
👉 “We’re different because we’re customer-centric”
👉 Brand frameworks that are a mashup of other frameworks
👉 Get/To/By creative briefs with no strategy in the “By” (or, often, anywhere else. Post coming soon.)
👉 “Brand is dead” (or TV is dead, or any “X is dead”)
👉 “We need to go viral.” / “create a movement” (in head: “here’s a movement. [flips the bird]”)
👉 “Marketing vs Branding”


Add yours in the comments!


Understanding Creative Strategy, Part 4: Further out

A roundup of examples before we move on.

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By now, gentle reader, you probably think I’m like that kid in The Sixth Sense. Only instead of ghosts, I see triangles.

(a visual refresh, or find the other parts on my profile)

Last time I demonstrated how the same (or similar) three win-conditions of marketing (Integrity, Relevance, Difference) show up across other advertising frameworks and brand valuation models. This time, we’re going further. From advertising to brand strategy and beyond. Starting with two of the world’s most popular marketing writers.

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Understanding Creative Strategy, part 3: The paradigm in the wild (advertising)

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The Paradigm

At the heart of our creative strategy model are the ‘marketing win conditions’ of Integrity, Relevance and Difference. I often refer to that part of the model as ‘The Paradigm’.

I use ‘paradigm’ because I believe it reflects one of the most prevalent and fundamental concepts in business and marketing. I admit that is an outlandish claim. Probably second only to attempting to create a unified model of creative strategy. But I stand by it.

A quick reminder: the paradigm defines how brands win in markets. Typically, they use aspects of their core competence to create a proposition for an audience that stands out from the alternatives (and against the general noise of the world). To do that, you need to get as close as you can to the audience (Relevance) and as far away from the rest (Difference). Often a balancing act. It’s deceptively simple.

(if you missed the visual summary, it’s here.)

Examples of the paradigm in advertising thinking

Here is a small collection of quotes and references that may sound different at first, but all reflect the same or quite similar three factors/aspects. This time we start with examples from Advertising and next time we’ll move beyond (it was too much for one post). Emphasises are mine.

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Understanding Creative Strategy, part 2: model walkthrough and footnotes

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So, to recap — last time I had the cheek to suggest a unified model of creative strategy. This time, I’m going to get a little bit nerdy to unpack that model and the thinking behind it.

That model (name pending I guess, any ideas?) didn’t come out of thin air. I have complained in the past about our industry’s tendency to present models as orphans. So on some level part 2 is me being the change I want to see in the world…

I could have tagged all the people mentioned, many are on LinkedIn, but I’d like to think I’m not THAT kind of LinkedIn user. 🙂

Notes on the shoulders of giants:

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