The secret marketer refocuses his team with substance over style

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Strategy planning this week. A three-day flipchart fest at a rather nice boutique hotel in the South of France. Plenty of work and plenty of play, including a round of golf and some of the best food and wine I have tasted for quite some time. It’s tough working for a big corporate sometimes.

I returned home late on Friday, totally wiped out by the experience and with my mind buzzing in search of the right answers for our business and a mountain of Post-It notes to make sense of.

Many of those sparks that seemed so obvious and inspiring as the brainstorming flowed will, I fear, be less convincing when they are assessed in the cold light of day back at the office.

It is very clear from our session that we are not lacking in ideas or opportunities, but it appears we are pretty suspect on execution. Focus, focus, focus. Fewer, bigger, better. The usual mantras all apply.

As a follow on from this overall divisional strategy, I shall be taking the marketing team away for a planning day of our own. Sadly we shall not be heading to Provence, but instead we shall be accepting the generous offer of a free meeting room from our agency. Very nice of them and no doubt factored into the retainer.

This year, I have decided that the brand planning off site will be run differently. The team will still be required to complete the usual tools and templates that our operating systems require, but they shall be required to circulate their brand plans in advance for pre-reading rather than a big show-and-tell performance on the day.

This has already caused panic for the ’lastminute.com’ fraternity, for whom a looming deadline is the only real call to action. It is also a huge worry for those who rely on fancy props and mock-ups as their get-out-of-jail card on the day. This is no time for style over substance.

On the day itself, each brand team will have a one-hour slot to present a single chart. This chart will contain the one big theme or initiative they believe will make all the difference in the next 12 months. No spread betting, splinters or pick’n’mix menu-style brand plan presentations allowed. By the end of the hour, I want to know what is going to move the dial.

The team regularly complain that we lack focus. It will be interesting to see if they can provide some.

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