Brand Strategy: Build a Business that Lasts | Mark Pollard | Skillshare

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Brand Strategy: Build a Business that Lasts

teacher avatar Mark Pollard, Sweathead

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      The 3-Brand Model


    • 3.

      Model 1: Product-centric


    • 4.

      Model 2: Customer-centric


    • 5.

      Model 3: Vision-centric


    • 6.



    • 7.

      Final Thoughts


    • 8.

      Strategy AMA with Mark


    • 9.

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About This Class

Want to create a brand that can stand the test of time? Learn how with strategy expert Mark Pollard.

In this 45-minute class, Mark shares a unique and insightful approach to building and understanding brands. Using a pen and paper, Mark breaks down every brand into three categories—Product-centric, Customer-centric, and Vision-centric—and draws out frameworks for understanding how brands can develop and thrive within each. Successful brands need a bit of all three, but as the class progresses Mark shows how one of these types of brands continually outperforms the rest and shares how to move your brand towards this model. You can download a worksheet to follow along and learn how to write out your brand on a single page to distill it into clear and concise terms. Key frameworks include:

  • The Pyramid of Advantage: prioritize your brand’s attributes
  • Persona Cards: determine your brand’s target
  • 5 Essential Questions: uncover your unique offering
  • Brand-on-a-Page: boil your brand down to its core

Whether you’re a freelancer, marketer, small business owner, or entrepreneur getting your brand off the ground, this class will give you a deeper understanding of brands, businesses, and quite possibly yourself. Afterwards, you’ll be well on your way to creating a meaningful and authentic brand.


Meet Your Teacher

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Mark Pollard



I run Sweathead, a strategy training company based in New York. We train strategists all over the world.

Our Sweathead podcast has had over 1.5 million listens and our Facebook Group has over 19,000 members. Over 14,000 people have taken my first Skillshare class on brand building. 

In 2020, I published Strategy Is Your Words, a book that raised $37,000 on Kickstarter and has sold over 6,000 hardcover copies without being on Amazon.

Once, I made a rap magazine and sat on the Australian Account Planning Group committee.

I'm from Sydney but alive in New York.

A lot on the Internet: @markpollard and @sweathead and the Sweathead website.

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.

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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Because everyone's creating brands, because there are so many start-ups, because everyone has got a social presence, is effectively a brand, there's never been more noise than ever. And to stand out, you need to stand for something. When people know what you stand for, then the world can follow. My name is Mark Pollard, from Mighty Jungle, and I'm a strategist. At Mighty Jungle, we work with people who have something great to contribute to humanity, but find themselves getting in their own way. Through research, through training, through coaching, through strategy, we help them get out of their heads and into the wild. So in this class, we're gonna look at three ways to look at brands. We're going to talk about how those brands happen, look at little techniques that can help you devise each of those kinds of brands, and hopefully getting you to a point where you can commit to a vision or purpose-centric brand. Running through these frameworks with me and then having to hand draw your strategy, it will feel personal it will force simplicity, and strategy is very much an act of sacrifice. Your strategy can't be to be everything, that's not a very good strategy, is very vague. This project will keep you tight and focused. 2. The 3-Brand Model: Before we talk about the three types of brands that you can have and some frameworks that will get you there, here are some things to keep in mind. The first thing is the word brand, and the other word branding. Branding is more the physical act of applying a brand to something. It's what it looks like, it's the visual. The brand, is essentially, what the brand stands for and how it is better to competition. A brand strategy helps you work out what branding you might need. The three pitfalls when doing brand strategy are first of all, being boring. People want brands to turn them on and most importantly, your brand needs to turn you on, you will take instruction from it. The second is lying, advertising can get a bad rep and brand strategy can't get a bad rep when it lies. You will get caught out, you want to operate from a deep truth within yourself from within your company, not in spite of that deep truth. The third is copying. There are many presentations flooding around marketing teams of all the advertising, and social media and ideas that competitors have done. Don't do them. They are not a compass for what to do. So now that we've gone through some of the essential concepts as far as building a brand, let's look at the three types of brand that you might want to build. So, a really important part of strategy and indeed just having ideas is same patterns and they tend to be three patterns that brands fall in. The first is what I would call a Look at Me brand. "Hey, we've got great products, we've got great features." This is huge in the tech world because engineers think that features win all the time. The second type of brand is what we might call "Look at You." This is where a brand does a bit of research and they want to play something back to people about the person to show that their brand or product is relevant. You see a lot of this stuff on the New York subway. Really witty campaigns by companies like Spotify, Seamless, Manhattan Storage, and Casbah. They're trying to reveal something about people and meet that revelation with what their product is also a good at. The third and I think Patagonia is a pretty good example of this, is what I would call a Let's do this Vision-centric brand. There is research, and if you like to read books, there's a book called Obliquity by John Kay, there's Drive by Dan Pink. Vision-centric or purpose-centric brands tend to outperform other brands and companies that are just about making money. One of the main reasons they're able to complete like this is because they're able to find better talent, people want to work for them, they want to work on meaningful things. When you look at Patagonia and you look at what the CEO talks about, he believes that if he can get people outside of offices and buildings, outside of homes and into the outdoors, that they'll actually want to take more care of nature and that is a big cause the people can rally behind. Now these three things, your brand probably needs to do all of them at some point. I'm not that naive that you only do one of them, but it helps to start at three, because your first need is to have yourself, and if you have employees, to have employees, galvanized and energized and ready to have at it, then you work out the other stuff. So these things do exist together and they can form each other, but it's really important to have a sense of vision or purpose and we'll explain what those words mean, and those things come from some internal belief, something that is true to you for the long term. If you just exist in this product world every three months, every six months, every 12 months. You're going to be wondering about what you need to do about your brand, what message do we need to say that it's going to be effective because you're not operating from a deeper place. That deep place will help you establish a company or a sense of self that will last longer and catapult you ahead. So I'm now going to run you through some frameworks that will help you understand these three types of brands and help you develop them and think about them. Most of them aren't really forms, the work is mental work, the frameworks help you get there, but at the end of this, you will have a very simple hand-drawn form to fill in to help you get clarity on what you and your brand are about. 3. Model 1: Product-centric: So, when we talk about a company or a product-centric approach, we are talking about the features of the product, the ingredients of the product, their function, as in what those features combined to do, and then the benefit, what doing those things helped me with. So, one of the risks that you can face when you're developing a brand or doing marketing or any kind of communications is to just think about yourself. At the very least, what you want to do is to think about the features, the functions, the benefits the things that make you up and how they help people, in a way that you're thinking through their minds with empathy, what is relevant to that person. So, this is one mental framework that is drawn, that is useful and it has a dramatic name. It's called the Pyramid of Advantage. What you're doing is you're listing the attributes and you can use it as a form, you can use it in a workshop with yourself if you like or with friends, with peers. You're looking at the attributes that make up the company, what we would call cost of entry. You have to have them to even be a company or a product. An example, if you're thinking about cars based on how we currently defined cars, cars probably need to have wheels and they need seats, and seat belts and steering wheels, and windows. Above the must have is nice to have. These are the things where you or your customers might have the reaction to them with, "Yeah it's kind of cool, it's pretty cool." So, for cars for example, satellite navigation a few years ago, yeah it's pretty cool. It's nice. It's not really going to push me over because you can get that from different places. Above that is attributes or ingredients that, love to have that are just unique and compelling and motivating. So, if we look at the New York Knicks, they're there in the category of basketball, you can argue that they are in the category of entertainment and then you could think about what category they're in, what industry they're really in, let's focus on basketball. Have a think about what a basketball team needs to have, a basketball team that sells tickets. So, they need tickets, then is some kind of halftime entertainment, they need food and beverage, they need merchandise, there is a certain things that they simply need to have to be considered a professional basket team that I might pay money to. Nice to have, I mean the halftime entertainment might be nice to have, because maybe you don't like their halftime entertainment. Shooting T-shirts out through those massive T-shirt guns at a very violent. Maybe that's amazing to you, maybe it's just nice to have maybe you don't really care, the point is you need to try to understand your own attributes, your company's attributes through the minds of your customer. Love to have, I mean let's face it people would just love to have a New York Knicks that was competitive. That is not necessarily, obviously the New York Knicks had made a decision that being a competitive team is not a must have that they can make money by not being competitive, right? So, that's different because in other cities you would have to be competitive. So, it's different cities, different markets, different customers can lead to a different thing because for many people with the New York Knicks I'd imagine, there's a lot of tourists that go and so, it's just a big experience to go to Madison Square Garden and pay money to see some pretty well known stars. Now if you think about it, if you're just operating in the obvious and the things that you need to have, if you're a car company say, "Hey, our cars have four wheels" Or you're selling tickets to a basketball event saying we have basketball, that's not that motivating. What you do want to find other things that people not just you, but people would love to have and love to have about you or your competitors or you need to create some stuff and then those things become proof points for your vision and your purpose. So, where the pyramid of advantage is really useful just to get you out of your head and into the heads of your customers by working out what you have that might interest them, the benefit ladder can play with that and it can help you work out what the features you have that a compelling, what they do for people, and how that then benefits those people. So, the way that this works and you don't necessarily just do this once. You take the features that tend to be up in this place, in the love to have place, and you can just write them in this box. It could be one of them, they could be five of them, you don't want a lot more than that because then you're not making any sacrifice and you're trying to be everything to all people probably. Then you think about how those features combine to do something for someone. What do those features do? Then you think, "Okay, so that's what those features combine to do, what's the benefit of that to people? How does it help them?" The slight shifts. What you have, what those things combine to do, and how they benefit people. You can then go, "Well, how does that benefit benefit me? How does that benefit benefit me?" And you can keep going. The challenge with that is, sometimes you might start to get too high in the atmosphere and lose air and start using this really sloppy language like empowerment and empowering, joy and confidence and the betterment of the world and people will say, "That's great, looks great on the wall and the business part doesn't mean anything to me, it's not differentiated in big words again" But that's how this benefit ladder works. So, with the benefit ladder, here's a hypothetical example using an actual company. The company is called Plaid Pantry. They're a convenience store that from what I understand, having been out in Portland recently, it's a little run down and it looks like one of those places you would go into when you're up to no good. At least, that's what local people from Portland told me. Now, if we just re-imagined this company and we thought about its feature set based on admitting that it's a place you go to when you're up to no good, its features might include things like cubby houses or places to hide when you're actually up to no good in the store. Could you imagine that'd be fun. Maybe everything is sold in a brown paper bag. Even just for those two feature sets you get the idea of what this company could be like. Now obviously, the advantage of what it does, the function of those two benefits: cubby houses and brown paper bags is, you can buy things in privacy. That gives you discretion and a benefit of buying things in privacy is: feeling less judged, feeling less shame and then you can keep going up the benefit ladder. What's the advantage of feeling less shame? How does that benefit you? And so on. That's a cheeky example of how to use the benefit ladder. So the main thing to take out of these examples is, that they're not necessarily forms. You can use them as forms and you can fill them in but they're really mental frameworks. The second is that, you do want to continually bring it back to the customer any competition. What does the customer want from you or your competition and also what is your competition doing? You then also want to use these types of frameworks to list things in a matter of fact, literal kind of way but then you want to think about making little leaps with them, what's called lateral thought, a new way of seeing something. So that you are creating new meaning with what you've got. Then the final thing is that if you're struggling with this, if you don't have something that's really unique and motivating or if it doesn't have a very compelling benefit, you need to create one. So those two frameworks are really useful techniques to think about your product and your company and you could definitely build a brand on that. However, it's even more useful to take a more drastic and dramatic look at the customer which is what we're going to do in the next lesson. 4. Model 2: Customer-centric: So, we just looked at a way to start building a brand from a product or company centric mindset and now, we're going to look at how to build a brand through a customer centric mindset. So, there are two key reasons to develop a more customer centric type of brand. The first is that humans, we seek meaning and we do see ourselves in the world around us and so, when we create brands that people can see themselves in and try on, it's important and it's effective. The other is that, at some point you're going to create some kind of content and you can think about that word in this broad way as possible. And when you look at the research on content, what we find and there's a particular academic journal Burger and I paraphrase his research that, "we tend to share content that reveals something or inspiring about us or the world around us." So, there's some revelation that triggers the brain, there's some ore and that's similar reaction that we have when we go to a museum or an art gallery or we go into nature and it's revealing new meaning about us or the world around us, to help us understand ourselves differently, to help us understand the world differently. So, a great place to start when you're thinking about the customer is the customer or the person, the human. One bit of jargon is the word persona and while it can be understood and defined in different ways, when we're using the word persona, what we're trying to do is understand the different types of customer that you and/or your competition might have based on different goals with you, your product and your service. So, when I used to publish a hip-hop magazine, we had a pretty big online message board, online forum and what I noticed were two particular types of person. One was a young guy, typically a guy not always a guy, typically a guy and his goal within this hip-hop community was to establish himself through obscure information. So, this was the person who knew the sample on the third track of a white-label vinyl that was released to a 100 people and this person used information to access the community and to establish him or herself in that community, right? Now, as an editor of a magazine and someone running a message board, that's really interesting to me, how can I give that person knowledge, how can I help them share that knowledge, how can we test that knowledge, okay? It's just through a sentence and understanding one particular behavior of this person. There's also another group of people and so, this was around the early 2000s and there was a group of people who grew up in Australia, being very early in the graffiti world and their goal with the message board was essentially to make sure that everyone knew that they existed, to reclaim their fame, to tell their stories. So again, two different goals but as an editor, I can think about how I can help them achieve those goals and even interact with each other. And they were two of about 10 different types of people and behaviors that I would see on this message board. So, here's an example framework for a persona and as I said before, it's not necessarily a form that you have to fill out, but you want to be mindful of these things. It really depends on the formality of the company in which you are, if it's just you, maybe you draw a few of these and you think about how you're going to prioritize them and think about how you're going to help them meet their goals. What are you doing here, really and hopefully, there's some research that helps you inform this, intuition's great, a little bit of research is good. You're going to name the persona potentially a label, you might have a representative photo and then, you list their main goal. You could list a couple of goals, you could list their goal in life and then, you could also list their goal with what you do or you can just list their goal. And then, what you can do is, list some of the needs, the information needs, typically that they've got, the pain points that they have, the thing that they typically run into is that, what you sell is not available near them or it's too expensive or they don't understand it, for example. You can list some of those pain points, some of the behaviors, how do they make decisions, how do they make buying decisions. So often, with agencies for example, with advertising, someone talks to someone, they look at awards, they look at case studies, they see which names were on those awards and case studies and which of those names friends also recommended and then, they reach out to a bunch of people, so there's a journey that's happening here. And context is just a fancy word for where, where do these things happen, where do they hang out, where do they spend their time in real life and online. So, one useful thing to keep in mind is, the phrase perceptual target. What that means is, in your mind, based on your research, who is the ideal customer that you're prioritizing, who you think represents what your brand and company is about and also, for whom there's going to be value for your company. So, you might have five, you might have 10 but in the back of your mind, who's that person for whom, most of the time your doing your podcast or sharing things on Instagram or creating products. So, that's perceptual target. Doesn't have to be a real person, doesn't have to be literal but it's going to be an anchor that's all your ideas and thinking are going to stay true to. Okay. So, you've thought through your customers, you thought through your personas, you've made a decision about which persona you're going to prioritize and keep in the back of your mind as you move through the next exercises and build your brand. And what this model, model is a generous word, it's a bunch of drawings, we are doing something that's quite simple. What we're trying to do here is, take the features of the product that we explored through the pyramid of advantage and the benefit ladder, that's you. Try and collide them, bring them together shazam, with stuff that is deeply true about you. If we take the New York Knicks, for example, they jokingly characterize their product truth as designed to make people angry because of the prices and they don't look like they try and so on and so forth. Product truth designed to make people angry. And then, you think about people in New York and there's definitely a truth here, that in a sentence the human truth could be, that people in New York put up with everything until they snap. And you can see that adding cultural as well, there are people like Joan Didion and maybe even Moby who've written Farewell New York letters, you put up with everything until you snap. Now, you put those two ideas together, designed to make people angry as a product truth and that in New York you put up with everything until you snap. Maybe there's a way that they collide and they could be a brand strategy for the New York Knicks, that the New York Knicks are going to be the best anger management in town and that everything they do is going to be about curing anger in New York through basketball. But again, through three sentences, you've got product truth, human truth and a brand strategy. When we use this word insight, it's very easy to overuse it. A simple definition of an insight is, an unspoken human truth. One of my favorite examples from research from the past is, when I was interviewing men about losing hair, a guy said to me that, "I don't feel accomplished enough to be bold". Usually, when I share that example, we have a little snot or a little giggle and that's the brain, having a bit of a fear reaction, is that real? That's why we like stand up comedy, that's why we like poetry, these things poke us in the brain and challenge us to think differently and that's what an insight is about. Something that when we hear it, when we see it, we relate to it on a deep level but we hadn't quite found the words for it before. We're just looking for something that's not obvious, something that takes facts and make some intuitive leap in the way that all good writing does and that's why we talked earlier about how good strategy is good writing. There are many different ways to write an insight, but there's typically a point of tension in the middle of the sentence. And that tension, can be emphasized by a word like but, the word except, despite or a comma, even though, however, although. These are really useful words because they're trying to say that the thing, the words that come before that tension, have tension with the words that come next. All right, so let's take a hypothetical example and we'll go back to Portland, specifically to Plaid Pantry. Now, remember how we talked about there's a potential product truth that Plaid Pantry is the place you shop when you're up to no good. Now, if we think about the audience there because I ran a workshop and it was mostly people from some of the creative agencies there. So let's call the persona credit professionals. Now, I think there's a deep irony with a lot of creative professionals and I do look for irony, things that don't seem to fit together to get to an insight. And there's a definite irony with many creative professionals, in that, their work is the work of mischief or coming out with strange, rebellious, unusual stuff but if they let on that that's the case, the world might not take them seriously. So, potential insight for this imaginary new brand for Plaid Pantry is that, the work of creative professionals is mischief but if they let on, the world won't take them seriously. That's a tough thing to bear. So, potential brand strategy for Plaid Pantry could be the convenience store for you to buy your mischief in private. And whatever the language is, you could take that sentence and write it shorter and also more flowery if you would like but we're taking the idea of mischief and privacy, discretion, taboo and putting them together. And that doesn't just drive communications, it can drive the entire business, like I said before, you can have hiding spots, make it fun, make it a convenience store, you can run into and hide and that's where this stuff really comes together, when it's driving the business and the business decisions, not just the communications on the outside. In the next lesson, what we're going to do is bring it all together, we are going to work out how to take what's unique and motivating about the product. Something deeply true about people, our customers and then, also some of this deeply true about us and what keeps us moving in life and bring it all together in a very simple way to show you how to write a very captivating brand strategy. 5. Model 3: Vision-centric: Now, we're going to look at some questions and frameworks that will help you work out what your own vision is. So, vision is one of those airy words that it's easy to say, it's hard to know what it really means. I think it's useful to think of a vision finishing this sentence. A world in which, something is different. A world in which, illustrators are sick at strategy. A world in which, strategists are never alone, strategists are always alone. A world in which, creative professionals can shaft without judgment, plead pantry. So, that's what a vision is supposed to do. You can disappear into corporate language and big words, but that's not the point, because you want to feel motivated. You're trying to motivate yourself and other people. So, you want the language to be interesting, a little off-center, a little unexpected but simple. A mission, is how you're going to bring that vision to life. So, let's say my vision in life or the vision that I aspire to was to, a world in which, I want to create a world in which strategists never feel alone. My mission joking, could be to give every strategist to gang. So that they'll always got some access to it. But between those two sentences, you getting a sense for what motivates me and potentially the company that I'm working at. So, I'm going to run it through five questions, and these are five out of about 25 that I typically use, especially with founders. So, the goal of these five questions are really to help you understand yourself better. They're not complicated, but the questions that we don't ask ourselves often enough? When we do and when we start to listen to ourselves better, they can totally change the way that we see the world and the way that we see ourselves. So, the first one is, what are you doing when you come alive? A friend of mine asked me this a long time ago. The way that I answered is, "I like to do silly drawings. I like to say bad jokes. I love teaching, and I love doing it in groups and I like doing it on a stage. I like to write kind of provocative stuff, and poke taboos that people don't tend to do. I also love things like bowling, karaoke, Korean barbecue, and traveling, so on, and so forth." But just listing all those things, impulsing, you might have five, you might have 10, you might have 50. Wondering, how can I pull all those together in my life? In my company? In my brand? It's going to lead to hopefully something that's very true to who you are. Secondly, because of that, something that will last a long time. The second question is, what does the world ask of you? When you look at research on how kids get good at stuff, they might be cultivated by a family. For example, a child might start kicking a soccer ball around, or start dancing, or start singing, or starts telling jokes. Then, they get little bits of feedback and that feedback builds. Then, all of a sudden they start to have an identity, they start to understand who they are in the family, in their community, in their school. We all have this, we've all had it at some point, maybe as we get older and move around, we cut ourselves off from it. People like my silly drawings. I love doing the drawings and the writing. People come up to me and say, "Thank you for trying to take something that's usually very complicated, vague, academic, and doing silly drawing about it." What does the world ask of you? Hopefully, that connects with where you come alive as well. The third one I find really interesting the question is, what do you know that your customers don't know that would change their lives? The right answer, a good answer to that question to some kind of wisdom. A weak answer to that is, well if they knew about my product, it would totally change their lives. If they just knew about me, it would totally change their lives. We're looking for some kind of insight again, some kind of wisdom. A quick example is, for a company that does taxes for credit professionals. Something that many creative professionals, they know it when you say it to them. But something that they don't necessarily think about is, if they don't take care of their taxes, it can ruin their creative freedom. They might have to take on projects that they don't want to do, that could give them occupied for six months. Then now, they're not working on the projects that they want to do, and it can lead to this whole thing. But you've got the idea of taxes and creative freedom. Two ideas that don't always fit together in an obvious way. It's not something we're always thinking about, but that's an interesting answer to that question. Four and five work together. What can you do that others can't? What do you do that others don't? One of the things I like to do when I do strategies, I mostly work in the roar and that just means Google documents where I focus on the writing. I'll do silly things like get a CEO, close his or her eyes and read out my strategies to them. Because I just wanted to be a different kind of experience, and it's true to me being a bit mischievous myself. But these five questions, you can answer in a sprint. You could have 10 minutes or 30 minutes over coffee, or whatever you're interested in. But it's also really good to do that, and then to go for a long walk. To see what percolates, to see what sticks in your mind, and play games with yourself. What are three things I could combine in useful ways or novel ways? What's the one most interesting thing about all of this? You can use numbers to trick your brain into being more specific and to prioritize the things that you're into. So, hopefully, what's happened through these questions, and don't put pressure on yourself for it to have happened right now, by the time that I finished the sentence. At some point, you're going to get some revelations, you're going to hear yourself in a more honest way. If you want to build a brand and a company around what you hear, then you're going to be very clear on how to listen to that, and then turn it into some kind of vision that stays true to what the products slash company are about, as well as what people want from you. 6. Brand-on-a-Page: Okay. So, you've explored a few questions about yourself and what you're about and what you want to be about in the future, and you've probably heard of 'Snakes on a Plane' well, we're now going to look at 'Brand on a Page'. It's not Brandon a page, it's Brand on a Page, great jokes. Often, you'll see in brand strategy these shapes emerge to make the thinking look more important. It could be a keyhole or a doughnut or a house. There's a lot of fancy shapes that can sometimes masquerade the lack of fancy thinking, we're going to do some simple thinking in simple shapes, and what we're going to do here, I'm going to also introduce a couple of new concepts or keep it simple, but we just want to lay out on a piece of paper preferably with a pen, this summary of the thinking that you've done so far. So, you can start anywhere here, but really what we want to do is look at the customer, select the persona, the perceptual target that you're going to build your brand around, which is the person in the back of your mind at most times. An insight, so an insight based on some unspoken human truth, some revelation, some confession, and then you're going to think about the features that make up you, your company, your side hustle, and a key belief that drives you. This is all within a sentence or so, and then we're going to push all of that together to articulate your vision, how the world is different, if you succeed. Your mission, how you're going do this. Your promise, and that really just means what do you promise to people, and it's all going to be connected, and I'm going to show you an example, it's going to be the hypothetical Plaid Pantry example, and then also a creative way of looking at the problem that you solve. This what we're going to look at next. Plaid Pantry is a real store. It's a convenience store chain, in Portland I'm not sure if it's anywhere else, and I was out there recently running a workshop running people through some of these frameworks and some other ones, and we talked about what we thought their main problem was, what's the obstacle? Why aren't people going into the store? And someone said, "It looks run down. " And someone said, "Well, it's a bit sketchy." So we characterized it as the place that you might go to when you're up to no good. That's another way to actually try to characterize your feature set or what you're about as a company, and so that's what I've actually written in here, right. Now, If that's not entirely true, the possibility is for you and your company to make that more true, but we write that down, Plaid Pantry is where you shop when you're up to no good, and we've got some features: brown bags, dimly lit, cubby houses, and these are all made up, but imagine if they had a little brainstorm session like, "What else could we do to be the place that people could come to when they're shopping for their mischief, okay?" Then, Portland as we know has a pretty amazing vibrant, music, creative arts, advertising, industry they're big same. So, then there's this belief that can drive a lot of what they're about that if your work is mischief, because we've talked about their audience being creative professionals, we made a business decision in the background what we're assuming that's at play here. Then there's this belief that if your work is mischief, then shame will stunt your work. If you want to go shopping Plaid Pantry but you don't think you should in case someone sees you going in or coming out and you don't go in, then that's not you being the creative spirit that you are. Okay. So that's the Plaid Pantry side of this. When we look at the customer side, we've got these people, we'll call them credit professionals, and I haven't necessarily going into the detail of the persona what their lives are about their needs, pain-points, and frustrations. But let's say in general, they're serious about work and they are trying to progress, they're trying to do meaningful work, but they do have to hold in their mischief. If you're getting paid by people to do creative work, you're going to feel that, that kind of pressure and tension, and if you work in fancy places with fancy clients, you will feel it quite obviously quite often. Then, let's imagine this is an insight, where an insight is an unspoken human truth, and we're trying to get to this tension of being serious and being mischievous, and we've written that with a little but in the middle. Work is mischief but the creative professionals can't let on that their work is mischief or people won't take them seriously. So, they keep them mischief to themselves, they keep it to their desk or their home. Then, when they're in a meeting, a little bit mischievous, but they've got to be serious because they're often doing high-stakes work. If they've got clients that important the clients probably Nike anyway. So, then we try to bring all this together and we look at a division, a world in which creative spirits can shop without judgment. This is airy but I could in a joking world, a Truman Show world, see a CEO standing up and say, "Here's what we're about in life, we want to make sure that people who are creative for a living can shop for whatever they want without judgment." That's how they're going to change the world, and the way that they're going to do this is to provide creative spirits with discretion. They're going to help creative spirits buy whatever they want with full discretion. Promise or a brand promise is what that literally what that brand promises. So, this brand Plaid Pantry will promise to help credit professionals by their mischief in private. This all fits together and it's a little bit repetitive, but I do like words like mischief and serious being the theme that we're borrowing into and repeating a little bit because otherwise we end up with this really disconnected stuff. If we're using large language like confidence, and enabling, and empowerment, those words don't necessarily mean anything, and just because you put them on a page together, doesn't make them mean anything at all, but the thing is that there's no real theme to grab onto. We've got to create content or create product ideas and the main word you've got to work with is empowerment, it's hard to know how to wrap your arms around that. Mischief and serious, there's some tension there and we can play with this a little bit more. Could I see a world in which there's a Dollar Shave Club like CEO of Play Pantry talking about the problem that they're trying to solve, that sometimes creative people have to shop in shame because they have to keep their mischief to themselves to. I could totally see that, it's a joke but I I can see it. Then, there are a few other things you can play with just to get the brand to congeal to come together a bit more and those three things are, tone, so how, what's your tone of voice? How are you going to speak? Can you use this predictable language like simple, confident, optimistic, it's a little dull, try to use words in different ways. Values, what do you value? I mean obviously with this, one of the main values is discretion or people are able to live their lives with mischief, that language. What are your enemies? Well, what's the opposite of something that you value? So, shame might be one of the enemies of this brand, and when they do communications, come up with product ideas or even thinking about their CSR program, perhaps they're looking at taboo topics that people tend to get ashamed about. Then on a page and drawn, you can start to get a sense for what this company could become. So this is a really, it's a beautiful exercise because you get to explore yourself and that hopefully gets you to simplify what you're about, and simplify in a way that brings something that's even more roar and beautiful about what you're about into the world. There is a worksheet in the resources tab, and it's now available for you to fill out. It summarizes everything that we've gone over. The 'You' section covers the pyramid of advantage, the benefit ladder, and encourages you to think about different ways of seeing those things, what makes you you, what makes you your company. The five questions to ask your brain or to take on a long walk, it gets you to some of the thoughts like the belief that we've got here for Plaid Pantry. With the personas, we get to things like credit professionals and Plaid Pantry probably has tens of different customers, but they need to make a decision about who they're going to build a brand for. if you want to build a brand for everyone, the brand's just going to be really vague and nothing, and it's going to be very hard to make business decisions for, and it's going to be very hard to attract really good talent which is the big five right now in business. Insights we talked about some of the writing techniques such as, a phrase with the word but or except or despite or although in the middle of it with another phrase, we create some sense of tension that your brand is going to help solve. It's a new tension because you're hopefully revealing some unspoken human truth. Then, we've got the work that we looked at, and the frameworks that we looked at for vision and mission, and I've added a few extra things in here to keep it tight. You can play with those things at your own speed, but it's a great way to simplify what you're about. So, to summarize what all of these framework is about, what all the mental gymnastics are about, is about helping you get to a deeper understanding of yourself, a deeper understanding of your customer, and the people that you want to serve, and then building your brand and your business, and for some of you your lives through those two things coming together. So that you're aligned congruent and when that happens, people gash, the energy heightens, people feel motivated, they get themselves out of sluggish living and the world just seems much more vibrant and you'll contribute much more to that vibrant world. When you know that you've hit something, is when you feel it's deeply true to you, and maybe you write something or you hear yourself say something in a way that you haven't quite heard before, and it echoes through you through a weekend, through a week and it just sits there. Then, you might start to put some of that language out into the world and it's not easy for everyone is probably not easy for most people, but you might say to a friend, "Hey, I've been thinking about changing the way I'm doing business or creating new brand, and about this really frustrating thing that I want to solve and here's my vision for it.'' You'll start to get reactions, and you don't want to over listen to those reactions. I think it's important to almost over listen to yourself but to be mindful and as soon as you start to talk to five people, 10 people, 20 people would get some live feedback, and if that feedback has energy around it, you will feel it, and then you know you're onto something. 7. Final Thoughts: Congratulations, you made it here. You made it the whole way, although this is just the starting point. We looked at product-centric, customer-centric, and vision-centric brands. We've given you a whole bunch of frameworks to play with and a project to complete that will help you create a brand that you can stand behind for years to come. So, the three key things, now that you've made it here, to really think about. First of all, many of you are going to be building businesses and brands as an act of self expression. That's a totally good and worthy thing to do. To do that well, because by definition, you're trying to express yourself, you need to listen to yourself and that can be hard to do. What are we really about? How can we put that out into the world? To do that, well, you need to choose good words and most importantly, distill all those words into something that is simple, something that you could hand draw on a coaster, or a handkerchief, or a table, or a wall. Those three things, we have to re-learn them as we get a little bit older, but they will set you up for life. There are couple of things for you to do now. One is to join the discussion in the discussion tab and I would be there every now and then, probably very often, at least at launch, checking out things. If you're posting or if you've got questions, you can always find me on the Internet at Mark Pollard on Twitter and Instagram. Then, as part of this, also upload your projects to the project gallery because we would all love to see them. Don't be too intimidated. It doesn't have to be perfect, sometime it is definitely better out than in. It can be a sentence or two that you'd like to share, it could be that whole worksheet filled in and we will all give you feedback. Good luck, it's worthy work, it's life's work. 8. Strategy AMA with Mark: What's up, strategy fans? It's Mark Pollard back for an AMA, ask me anything about strategy. That makes this an AMAAS, whatever that is. Anymore letters and it will be desperately confusing. Thanks to everybody who's taking the class. It's had a pretty amazing take-up rate and for a 45-minute class, many of you have made it the whole way through the 45 minutes. So thank you. Today we're going to look at some questions on the Plaid Pantry example, on doing strategy and on the career strategy. I've collected a few questions from the community section, as well as on the Facebook group, Twitter, LinkedIn messages, and Instagram direct messages. I get these messages popping up all over the place and I thank you for that. Every time you ask me a question, it actually helps me think through something in a deeper way and I hope that I can then publish that. So, you're feeding the beast so to speak. One thing about anything to do with strategy is when we find ourselves asking questions that are either too broad. So, "do you have any advice about?", "Do you have any tips on how to do strategy how to have a career?" It's way too broad. So, step one on being a strategist is asking a more specific question. It can take a general broad question to get to a specific question, but respect the person's time, not my time, I'm good and actually try to arrive at a specific question so that person can help you in a specific way. The second, are words like should, "What should I do? What should my company do given this particular context?" These should type questions are difficult because anyone who is interested in independent and critical thinking knows that a should is trying to reach for a definite absolute way of being, a definite absolute way of knowing but that's very rare. There are so many more things at play when you're trying to answer a question or think about life or think about strategy. The third thing to think about is, when you have those big broad questions, what you're trying to do, what you want to do is land on first principles. So, first principles are really just a set of ideas or beliefs that you think are the underlying, operating system of something. So, for example, when I talk to people who are a little bit stuck and they're working in an advertising agency, for example, then first principles might get you to ask questions such as, "Are we here to do good work? What does good work mean to you? Does it mean the same to me?" You use these questions to reevaluate and clarify what you're about so that the actions that you then take can match. The Plaid Pantry example, where the strategy that we arrived at was that Plaid Pantry is somewhere you shop when you're up to no good. Most of the questions try to ask in some way or another, how do you know when you're there? How do you know when the words that you have and the strategy that you have there? The thing is you are characterizing it in the same way that a writer could walk around the streets of New York and characterize a particular block and characterize it differently till the block next door. It's an informed opinion. What you can try to rely on other mechanics; are we using short plain words? Are we combining the words in unexpected ways? Does the way that we are combining the words lead to a new way of seeing the theme? So, in Plaid Pantry, it's a place where you can shop when you're up to no good. Those two things don't usually belong together. They're short words and I can see what that could be and within a few seconds, I can start to write down thoughts about how to follow through on that strategy to make the shop like that. Hence the ideas around having it be dimly lit or places where you can hide or secret entrances. So, we're really looking at it from the mechanics. The mechanics need to be in place and then you are dramatizing it, you're characterizing it in a way that it's going to make sense to you, and it's a mind game. You can't be looking for absolute truths and the industry right now, marketing industry is infatuated with data and testing and pretesting, that's fine. Comedians and writers are more analogous to what we do because what they do is they publish in public, is what publishing is and they get feedback. Then for a comedian, the jokes that get the most feedback they survive into their Madison Square Garden Show. Now, since this is a hard way for some people to think because some education systems teach us more deductive thinking that A leads to B to C leads to D and it's a linear approach or one thing easily leads to the next. Whereas, when we're doing in strategy work is sometimes that and then we're jumping into something that's quite different, and that's where we make a new meaning and that's what a brand often does. It creates a new meaning for itself and therefore, for the people who interacts with it. Talk about research and the question is, well, how do I do the research? How do I know when I have enough research? It's not that I'm zen. I'm total chaos at most times. Well, with research and with writing, you just going to have to work it out and over time you work out what you need and then you move on and you know you're going to get that you trust yourself. With research, I do have hours and thousands of words on how I like to do it. A basic process and I'll show you a little diagram for this follows these steps. First of all, you need to determine your mission. Why are you even doing research? The second step is to write a discussion guide. The discussion guide identifies who you would like to speak to and why. Then write in a page or two the key questions that you have for these people. There are definitely patterns that you could use in many interviews. For example, what you are trying to really understand a lot of the time are things such as the attitudes and behaviors, the usage behaviors of people with a particular product or a category. You might start broad, you might start with the category or the industry. So, if you're looking at soft drinks, you're selling the soft drinks and then you start to narrow that focus onto competitive brands, brands that you think are quite close to the product that you have, as well as to your own brand. You're trying to understand why people like something, why they don't like something, whether they know about this product, how they've heard about it, how they make decisions. So, the discussion guide doesn't necessarily take too long to form but it's really good. It forces you to think about why you're doing research and what questions that you're asking. One of the main shifts that I've done in my interviews over the years is I didn't study market research, but I've interviewed thousands of people because I used to do a hip hop magazine and radio show, and I kept all of those two worlds. I kept them pretty separate, and then over time, what I've started to do is in my marketing and strategy research, I've started to use slightly more dramatic questions. So, for example, at the very end of an interview, sometimes I just like to ask someone whether they are the CEO of the company for whom I'm working or it's someone who buys the soft drink, "What's one thing you've heard yourself say today that you haven't heard before?" I'd like to get them to reflect because by that time, we've spoken for anywhere between 45 minutes and six hours, and what comes out of them can just galvanize something that's been lurking in them, sometimes for years if not just in our interview and it does it in a really compelling and clarifying way. So, you write the guide then you need to recruit. You need find people to talk to. Often you will pay these people. You could do a focus group. There's lot of stuff written, a lot of hatred about focus groups, so you can go to a store and watch people. There's many ways to do it. Then you do the interviews, you type them up. I like to type them up as I go. I don't often record them. You can record them. That creates more work for people. I like to feel words. So, I type as I go. Then the next step is a really important step because you've worked out what questions you want to ask. You found people to ask those questions too, and then you interview them and you've got all the words. If you've interviewed about 20 people, you might end up with about 60,000 to 70,000 words at this point. What is a beautiful thing to do if you can is to just let it stew. Read it, go for a really long walk, do some yoga exercise and have a warm shower and just see what the brain focuses on. Then you'll come back and read it, preferably without pens. That takes a lot of discipline. You might be reading for 30 minutes to an hour quite quickly because you're familiar with the words and you just read it and let it flow. Then what you start to do is write down the codes or the categories of the things that you see. The risk at this point is that your codes or categories which you might list on a single page that's a nice creative constraint. It's arbitrary. Its nice. Those closing categories the main risk is that they're too broad, and we start to use this fancy language again. People are looking for soft drinks that empower them. It doesn't mean anything versus people who are looking for soft drinks that they can sip on for 30 minutes while they're on a couch binging on Netflix. That's much more specific and then you again have to make this editorial decision about whether it's too specific and also whether it's useful. Once you got your codes together preferably on a page, you then start to organize the quotes from the interview to support what you found. I will often have the same document open in Google Docs in two separate tabs and I will move around and copy and paste things and I will not judge it too much initially. So, I'll just take most of the quotes that work and put them in the categories in which they belong. Then, I will tighten and by tightening, I will delete quotes that are repetitive, that say the same thing that someone else said or that aren't very compelling and illuminating. Then, I will summarize. Again, I use the creative constraint of a single page. What if I have one page or less to talk to a CEO or even a Chief Creative Officer who doesn't want to spend a lot of time with words and they're working on tens of other projects, what can I say in a page that's going get them to understand the main points of the research? At this point, we are reporting. We are characterizing and editorializing what we are reporting. We're not necessarily getting to the implications of what we should do about it. That's the next deal, then we worked out the implications. I love playing my games with myself, I use numbers three, five, seven, 10. What are three things that I need to communicate? What are the five most interesting things that I found in this research or smit and smat. It's rhetoric. Smit is the single most important thing. So, you just ask yourself, as a forcing function, what's the single most important thing that I found during this research? Can I express it in a word, in a sentence, in a paragraph? Then, what's the single most amazing thing I found? It's different words, you might have land at the same answer, but they can get your emotions to find something a little bit different. So, that's how to do research in a very, very simplified way. Then, what you need to think about, and hopefully you just kept it in a role, at this point, is working in simple Google Documents. You're not over-designing anything, because that's the final step. Is to work out to whom do you needed communicate, what you found and what's going to be an effective way. Is it the video? Is 100 slide deck? Is it just keeping it in a row? Are the people you're working with going to be comfortable enough to see your single page like a memo and get it and know what to do about it or do they need more? So, that's research. Next question is about competitive or competitor analysis. This is one of those exercises that is often thrust upon interns and juniors in an agency, perhaps even account executives and because they're trying to be diligent, they rush and get a 100 slides together about all this kind of stuff. But again, if we use weak words, if we use marketing language, it's just not going to be a useful 100 slides. When you're looking at brand strategy or positioning, or a company tries to position itself in the mind of its buyer. One useful technique is what's called a positioning chart. So, you have a vertical axis and horizontal axis. You then, strategy person, find what the competitors are doing and saying. The taglines, their ads and you try to create your own taxonomy for how they're interacting with and communicating with the world. So, you might have separate to the positioning charts, you might have a list of taglines, brand idea or brand strategy, we're going to get lost in jargon if we're not careful at this point. Audience, and you might get that from the CMO about who they're focusing on as the audience, you might get it through media research, or else social channels that there are, whatever it is. But then, what you get to do as a writer is characterize the different positions that your competitors maintain. If you use marketing language such as on one party access quality, on the other party access performance and then at the top durability and at the bottom dependability, and then you put all the car companies, because they use those kinds of words, on that chart, it's not really going to be that helpful. But positioning charts can be a useful tool if you'd prior, open new ways of seeing the world. But again, it comes down to the words you use and how you characterize what you say. Play in silly ways. You don't have to share what you do that you think is silly, but you might use bizarre words just to characterize and categorize cars for example. That can lead you to a whole bunch of new thinking. A couple of other concepts are useful for research, inputs. So, you have qualitative and quantitative. They're large words. Quantitative, quantities, numbers. Qualitative, not bad. I love keyword research through, if you can understand, if you can find and map the language that people are using in search online, they can be a proxy for how they think in life about a particular thing and how they make decisions. It's not always just what they do online. So, finding keywords is useful and you can do that through Google, you can do that through website analytics, to a degree, it's more private than it used to be. Behavioral economics papers from academics also try to measure how people behave when they're doing things. So, what makes someone donate money? What makes one person donated money more than another person. A great example that stuck in my mind that I think is true, I need to refine this research, is that when a couple argues about how much to donate, they tend to donate more. There's data on this. From what I understand, that's because, yes, they are invested they want to donate and then they start to compete, and at some one person spikes the other person who isn't as generous as that person. There's this whole stuff going on. That's where it becomes really interesting. So, keyword research, behavioral economics. Social data is useful. I personally prefer to troll through social research myself and I'm looking for interesting language and behaviors and hashtags and I'll map them on a piece of paper. The quantitative or numbers-based research for social is useful for benchmarking. I just find a lot of it's shallow. So, I've never really seen a useful word cloud and word clouds are one of the most innocent yet not very useful artifacts or outputs from social research. There's plenty of other analytics. So, looking at your website, where people going on why? When people or potential clients investigate agencies, the about page is usually one of the top two or three pages that someone's going to land on, because people do business with people and they want to see who's there. So, quantitative is useful and qualitative is everything from reading books, watching videos, watching films documentaries talking to people, listening, going to stores and just mapping what you see and again, trying to find interesting patterns that seem true and then characterizing them in compelling ways. What is really useful to do when you do research is you're going to have a lot of mass, you're going to have a ton of noise, but keep yourself honest by having maybe just one piece of paper. Whether you write small or big, whether you use words or drawings, try to use this one piece of paper as a way to document the most important things that stick out to you. Because otherwise, you just get lost in a mess and you're not sure what's important and useful. Knowing what's important and useful takes time. I believe academics call at the edge of domain. So it takes a while for people to get to the edge of their domain. That's one of the reasons that Nobel Prize winners used to be much younger than they are. There's just a lot more stuff to know out there. So don't be afraid of the noise, but always have a tool or two, or mind games that you can play to make sure that there's some simplicity coming out of it at times. How do you evaluate creative work? That's one of those questions, and then I wonder, is that the actual question? I do come back to mechanics. If I'm seeing an idea, does that idea stay true to the insight? Is it trying to solve the problem that we've established? Does it seem relevant to people? Is it an idea? Is it an idea that can stretch into multiple channels? If you're a strategist or an account planner and you've written a brief, you've done the research, you've written a brief and you've briefed your creative team and then they've arrived somewhere, you don't have much more of a role than to say, look, based on what we have already done, and hopefully everyone else in that room when you were doing the review, which is just a weird interaction anyway. It's better to have informal interactions of pieces of paper and coffee and this and that. But if you've got your brief together, your main reason for being is to try to help that creative adhere, comply, echo the brief. Echo is a better word. It's a softer word because you have to be flexible. Nothing's ever pure in its rightness. Very little is pure in its rightness. So I like peanut butter. Peanut butter is pure in its rightness. So point being, it's hard to know how to really evaluate it. You just need a few mechanics in place. So there are companies like Leo Burnett and Heineken that have created ratings out of 10, but the creative directors in the regions would often get together, at least at Leo Burnett, and rank each other's work. The good thing about that as a way of working is, every quarter or so, as a creative lead of an agency office, you didn't want to go to this region or meeting without anything to show. It would not be good for your career. So high stakes, clear ambitions. You needed to do good work. You needed to bring good work. I'll share the rating. I'll share a link to the rating in the class notes, but these things are useful. The ratings go from everything to destroys the brand, so it changes the world. That's based on the philosophy that the webinar has for itself. How do you create decks or a presentation to bring to life the strategy? I have thousands of words on these diagrams, but I'll do it very quickly for you right now. When you're telling strategy, you're telling a story. Obvious thing to say, and that thought can very quickly become cliche. I use a three-act structure like pretty much every storyteller for the thousands of years. At the very top of it, I will write story. What's the story that I want to tell. What's the message that I want to deliver. I'll write it in a sentence. You usually come down to one or two words, keywords that I will ref on throughout the entire presentation or organize entire presentation on it. Story. Under that I'll have theater. What theater do I want to bring to play? One time, I pitched for a pizza company in the bottom of a casino in the Midwest of the USA. They were all about good or great pizza value. Now, I've worked with enough food companies to know that I'm going struggle to shift them from that kind of language because I find that language pretty dull. So I just had a bit of fun with it. My theater was that I took in a little S block, like a kid's letter block with a S on it. I had that up and I said, there's one letter missing from this strategy, it's S. That was my main contribution to that pitch. But there are other things that you have to do for that strategy life. Anyway, but it's a bit of fun you can work out what to do and you're going to have to deliver and live with your own shtick. You could be corny, you could be serious, you could not do it at all. Then you have a three-act structure where you take your ideas and you work out the beginning, the middle, and the end. The problem you want to solve, how you're going to do it, how you're going to know that you've done it. For example, there are many structures that you can use and you put all the information you have, the most important information. So you have to prioritize it first, and then you organize it based on the theme that you started with at the story. So if the pizza story is shifting from great pizza value to pizza values because pizza has lost its way, then my three-act structure might start with something like, how did we get here? How pizza lost its way? Second act could be how we'll get pizza back on track, and the third act could be how we'll know that we've got it back on track. Then, I organize my information and my substories in that three-act structure and I delete anything that doesn't fit. From that point on, I will typically do it as an outline. Again, on a plain piece of paper with pen and paper. In a Google Doc, I give myself one page. How do I tell the story in that page, maybe two if I'm feeling generous to myself. From that point on, it's a matter of, can I increase the drama and the proof while also minimizing the amount of information. So that's just a bit of back and forth, and then, at the very end of the presentation, there's some close. You can have an opening, you can have a close. You might do what's called follow-through or callback where perhaps you started with an anecdote about a pizza place that you visited in Southern New Jersey and you interviewed someone and they said this and it stuck with you the whole time, and then you play it back at the very end, but you give it a slightly new meaning. That's one way to get a presentation ready, but the point is that you're the presentation. You're telling the story. Anything that you decide to use, whether it's a deck, PowerPoint, Keynote, Mime artists, comedians, whatever. They're characters, but it's really about you. A deck or a good presentation is not an excuse for thousands of slides and thousands of words. You do not get paid by the syllable. If you do, you need to work somewhere else because that's not how you get to good strategy. One question that's really popped up especially over the past decade is, how do all the different flavors of strategies work together? Brand strategies, digital strategies, content strategies, interaction strategies, media strategies and planners, UX strategies, design strategies, creative strategies. What's going on? I don't know. Look, a lot of those roles popped up to compensate for people running departments who didn't really want to stretch. So when I was coming up, first of all, there was no such thing as a digital strategist, in Sydney at least, until 15 years ago or so. Not as a mainstream idea, at least. There were people doing that kind of work, but it was not very common. At that time, the people who did brand strategy, who wrote creative briefs and advertising agencies, I truly believe this. I don't think they wanted to deal with digital. It wasn't important enough. It was complicated. It was annoying. So the fact that a lot of heads of strategy or heads of planning in the big agencies didn't want to bring all the people together who had a lot in common. Those things were trying to understand people, trying to understand business and trying to work out how to solve business problems by understanding people and doing it in a creative way. That's it, that's what all those roles have. They just have different inputs. There are different sensibilities. There are people who could flex in different ways into those types of strategy and other people who could not. It's a tough one about how to work with each other because it depends on the urban sprawl of these job titles. So again, you're back to first principle. One can say that a brand strategist's main aim is to work out why a brand exists. A communications, digital, or channel strategist focuses on where that brand comes to life, for whom, and why. Then, a content strategist, editorial strategist works out what content to put into that thing. It's very confusing, but if you've got to split it out, I guess that's one way to do it. In a perfect world, people could stretch through a lot of those roles. I don't think that's incredibly difficult, it just takes time and practice. I think one of the things that more brand strategy people can struggle with is they're not always publishing and writing, and putting themselves out into public. So the idea of going from a private brand thinking person into helping a brand exist in a very concrete way can be a bit of an intimidating leap, and that assumes that they're okay with doing that other work because in some places that work is definitely not seen as being as important. One of the questions that popped up in the discussion for the class was, do I answer the five questions that we cover? Do I answer them as the brand? You can, you can. When I'm working with people, I ask it to the people and I expect them to respond as a person. I'm not expecting them to pretend that they're the brand. I want to know why they come to work. I want to know what ignites them and makes them emotional about the work they do, assuming that exists at all. So, answer those questions, primarily as an individual, and then see if they can flex into the brand. Because in a beautiful world, the brand is an extension, a true extension of the people who work in the brand. A fair criticism and a challenge I think anyone writing about or trying to teach strategy will face is that it's very easy to discuss and then to show some drawings and make it look like it's linear like this happened, and then that happened, and this other thing happened, and woo, it's really successful. But when you're in it, it's a mess. Now, I do think it's a really important thing to have a practice, personal practice. How do you get good at stuff? How do you write? One of the things that I've started to do in the past couple of months is, I carry a little blank book around and anytime I have a little comedic thought or an observation, I write it down. I was in Dublin and I saw a sign that said "handcrafted sandwiches." Now how many of us have ever walked past a sign that said handcraft sandwiches? But I was in a silly mood and I was new into my habit of just writing silly thoughts down. So my brain was like, "That's odd. Is there a sandwich that has not been handcrafted?" So I started to think about that and then I started to think about the alternatives. Were there sandwiches that were face crafted, elbow crafted, back crafted and then I start to think, "Well, what's that like?" And then I thought, "Well, that's probably not that good," but then, and here's where it gets a little bit awkward, so bear with me. I will not be crewed. But then I started to think, well, maybe all those other ways of crafting a sandwich are better than a handcrafted sandwich because of all the crazy stuff we do with our hands, in our mouths, in other places, or cleaning, all that kind of stuff. By the end of my little four or five sentence of messy thoughts, I was like, maybe handcrafted is not a good thing. Okay. So when people are asking me questions in the discussion around, "How do you get that shazam moment from the drawing", which is human truth and the company truth or the business truth. You just playing the game of Tetris, where you have lots of thoughts in your head, this waterfall of thoughts. Hopefully you've got mechanics around how to write an insight and how to write a company truth, and then you just see which stick, and then they stick, and then they stick, and you play a game with yourself. You say, "What if I write ten of these things down?" Plaid pantry is a place you shop when you're up to no good. Write it down. Another five, five after that, and you keep building up your way with words, because your way with words will necessarily be different to my way with words. But it's doable. It's a game. Writing is solving problems and writing the first draft is difficult, but you have to get it out, and then writing is always rewriting. Have a practice and know that you're going to get somewhere, and that over time you'll have the tools to get somewhere. Read good writing, that will influence your voice as well. There's no simple way to say it. Here's how you get to an insight. I mean, look for things that don't belong together. Watch how you think. Look for faces that come through when you're interviewing people and words that they use that you'd never even associated with handcrafted sandwiches or whatever the subject matter is, and you'll get there. Okay, last question. This one comes up so often. I know it's fierce out there and that question is, how do I get a job in strategy? It's difficult. You've got the usual trinkets that you might, might need to have. You might need a college degree, although that is shifting in many thinking jobs around the world to encourage diversity and to address the fact that many people can't afford to go to college or didn't have decent education when they were young. You might need to do an advertising course. I didn't work with that many people who did advertising degrees. They do seem to exist a lot in the states and in America, and I find them very interesting. There are also boot camps, three month camps, month long camps. You might need a portfolio of spec work, speculative work. Work you have done just for the sake of it. You can do that by, you could create your own by googling award shows, advertising award shows, creative word award shows. Try and identify what the brief behind that work was and then giving yourself that brief and coming up with strategies or ideas for that as well. I really do think that if you want to work with someone who runs a strategy team, whose brain you respect, that a lot of what you need to do is an act of intellectual brinkmanship. You need a brain that scares them, that makes them envious, that turns them on, but the brinkmanship is that you can't just be that. You also need to look like you can follow, that you're patient, that you are not like a psychopath, sociopath. So that's where the brinkmanship comes on. Its intellectual fire and the ability to get on within a group context because that's the context in which you will work. The second part of what you'll then need to do is to have other people recommend you. We know that that's how the world works. A recommendation from someone close to that person that they respect carries a lot more weight. Now, you can do what a lot of people do to me, jump on LinkedIn and go, "Hey, can you recommend me to this person?" The thing is that, if I haven't or someone else hasn't seen your work, why are they going to recommend you? They might introduce you just because they spent a bit of time with you and they started to understand that you've put in the effort and that your brain is interesting, and intriguing, and a zest pool, and fun, and unusual, and quirky. But what you really want to do, I believe is, you do this for two, at least two reasons. You want to create stuff, you want to publish stuff. Doesn't have to be words. It could be drawings, it could be art, it could be you putting on events, and that shows people that you have initiative and that you're committed to yourself as a creative individual. It also shows that you're prepared to fail, that you take risks, that you are able to then potentially even get feedback from that publishing to incorporate in something you do later. And that stuff is really seductive to many brains, and it's often more seductive than having gone to what you think is the right college, having done the right postgraduate studies, having played the game that someone else told you that you should play. The brains that really stand out, they have a fire that burns independently of convention. So, that's what a lot of brains who lead planning or strategy groups are going to look for. But not all heads of planning are like that. Many of them are operators. They have survived a long time in a particular company, perhaps they switched over from account management when they were senior and they have different brains. They are not necessarily like that person. Like I said, it would be silly, reckless, dangerous to think that the things that I suggest are the only way the world works. They are a way that a slither of the world works. They are a way that I believe a slither of the world works. But if you're interviewing with someone who's very corporate, and very careerist, and very buttoned up, and they have a role of Head of Planning, and they're not necessarily active on the Internet, so you can't get a sense for them, that's going to be a different kind of person. So if you want to work with that kind of person, then you're playing a more traditional, conservative, conventional game, and that's how you have to play it. That doesn't turn me on, because I want the person who's game is to express, to find things out, to find the world riveting and to put it out there and see what happens, but that's not everyone. The other parts of getting a job you can know and lacks a big part of it. So, do what you will with that non-advice. Final words. If you want to come find me on the Internet, you can find me @markpollard on Twitter and Instagram, you can find me on LinkedIn. Sweat head, the group on Facebook has about 3,000 strategy minded people from all over the place, exchanging ideas on how to get jobs, on how to do research, on how to do strategy. I tried to respond to most interactions that I have. I've just relaunched my website, The two main articles that I've kept up, that have been there for about eight years and I just edited them. One is, how to do account planning a simple approach, and that's 4,000 words, because that's not simple, with some drawings about how to do strategy, in a little bit more of a detailed way than this. Then another one is how to explain an idea. A mega post, and I go into the types of ideas that exist. It's not exhaustive, but the types of the ideas that we generally see, how to have ideas and how to write up ideas and that's at If there's content that you're seeing me put out there that you think could make a great Skillshare class, I mean, I love the platform, I love the interaction, I love the students, feel free to suggest it. I love to do more. Best wishes in your strategy journeys my friends. 9. More Classes On Skillshare: