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Posts Tagged ‘strategic planning’

#Planningness 2012 Recap & Trends

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

A few months ago I decided to attend Planning-ness 2012 and wrote about why I was excited for it. Planningness is an “un-conference” for creative strategists, account planners, digital strategists, etc who want to do, build & make things (vs. just talk about them). Speakers don’t just talk at you, they teach you how to do things. I’m always down for non-didactic anything. Most sessions had a workshop component where we got to work through the topic at hand.

What I heard

Overarching statement heard from every speaker in every workshop: Failing is ok. It helps us learn. Today’s culture and technological advancements require most companies to be in a constant state of iteration; from their positioning to their strategies. We keep learning and turning corners of success.

Quite frankly no one wants to fail– those of us that work in advertising certainly don’t come into thinking we will fail, we think we will overcome anything! We come into it wanting to win! It’s a competitive state, a cognitive sport– have you watched The Pitch? Ha.

We all want to succeed at everything we do but failure does happen and that is part of how we grow; something I embraced many years ago which brings me to the overall trend I picked up on:

We Are In a Perpetual State of Beta.

What does that mean? We need to make sure we build, learn, iterate. Lather rinse repeat.

How can we apply that to our service-based industry, though? We can’t sell “we might fail” to a client. But we can stop selling certainty. Its all in the way you serve it up and we have a lot of work to do on retraining ourselves and our clients to understand that our overall mindset towards product marketing and advertising needs to exist with the environmental shifts as they arise, whether they be cultural or technological. Times have changed as to how we approach building strategies and how we go about executing against them.

Sometimes 1 “big idea” isn’t enough to hang your hat on anymore. We need to be more agile with the big idea to dissect it so there is strategic applicability across every facet of our brand’s challenges.

Each of the 7 tracks/workshops I attended over the course of 2 days was valuable in someway shape or form, however, there were 7 mini-trends that resonated with me the most from specific workshops.




Trend #1

Creative Expression Movement

Creativity is a core value— sharing what makes us creative, what inspires us. Awareness that turns into a product (when you raise awareness of your own creativity, you become a maker of your product).

We have seen this trend take shape amongst ourselves and brands on creative and visual based platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest.


 Trend #2

Design your own success 

The fight for the carrot in the beginning of the professional path may not net out the expected outcome (ie: attorneys). Individuals will create their own path vs. a manufactured and promised one (testing into entrepreneurial business ideas for ownership).


Trend #3

Live like a tourist

Stay Enthusiastic, non-judgmental and curious. Explore beyond your comfort levels to understand your target consumer. Relax and connect and get in their shoes. Engage with the world, participate, be a apart of it, understand. Become a beginner. Learn by doing! Get Uncomfortable for the good of creativity.

all 3 Inspired by:

“How to understand and analyze cultural trends”
Sharon Ann Lee

Cultural Trend Analyst. Founder, Culture-Brain


 Trend #4

Invent Based on Unmet Needs

Get into an alpha wave state to understand and synthesize people, their unmet needs and what will drive the behavior shift by focusing on inventing ideas and experiences in fertile territories where they can grow based on the unmet needs of the consumer target.

Inspired by:

“How to scratch an itch”
Rob Perkins 

Tech startup entrepreneur, former CD at Wieden+Kennedy

Note: By far, my favorite workshop. Rob is an amazing storyteller. We worked in small groups to hack an idea for a brand by focusing on delivering on the unmet needs of the customer. The best part of the workshop was the high focus on NOT showing experiences in slides that die in transit after they are presented (even if they are presented well) Video captures the essence of experiences much better. Couldn’t agree more with this concept and use in practice at my agency.


Trend #5

Design an Experience like a Service

Helps consumers by going beyond what’s expected to interacting with a service-based model that delivers on brand promise.

Agents: messaging/creative that delivers on the brand promise
assets to bring the experience to life
to make sure we execute within the desired mindset we are looking to shift
Logistical excellence


Inspired by:

“How to Design for Service: a service design workshop”
Craig LaRosa 

Principal, Service Design; Continuum


Trend #6

Stop Selling Certainty

We are using old methods of responding to complexities–the world changes faster than we can adapt to it. We move too slow.

  • Reductionism
  • Taylorism (responding and adapting to environmental shifts and demands)
  • Robustness (protecting yourself from failure)–balance with resilience
  • Strategic planning

“In complex systems outcomes are the products of interactions.Our mindset as marketers needs to stay agile and exist w/environmental shifts- we are in a perpetual state of beta.

Inspired by:
“How to Play Go … And Navigate Real World Complexity”

Bud Caddell

VP, Invention Strategy at Deutsch LA


Trend #7

Connected you= Quantified Self

This emerging theme is being propelled by advances in mobile sensors, communication conduits, easier data tools, and our own interest in optimizing our bodies and minds. Technology is engineering our lives and bodies to be more quantifiable.

Inspired by:
“How to get Intimate with the IOT (Internet of things)”

Guthrie Dolin

Principal, Executive Director of Strategy, Odopod
David Bliss
Director of Technology, Odopod

Check out the entire workshop output here.

A Creative Twist

Special shout out to Pelle Sjoenell Executive Creative Director and Fran Hazeldine Strategy Director, both of BBH LA and for running the workshop on navigating the planner/creative relationship. They presented some interesting survey data on planner vs .creative perceptions of the strategic–>creative process and had us think about “special” creative relationships we currently have with the creative teams we work with. This was easy for me, I love working with our creative teams at my agency.


Closing Thoughts

I am a visual person. For years I have taken notes in clusters in sketchbooks with colored pens; differentiated groups of thoughts- it’s how my brain works. A week before Planningness, I attended a Art of Apps Exhibit at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art and downloaded Paper by 53, a sketchbook app featured at the exhibit. I took notes in that app combined with Evernote. Instead of writing a lengthy “here are the trends I picked up on at Planningness post” I decided to let the visual representation of the trends speak for themselves as I sketched them out. Get the app Paper by 53, it’s amazaballs!

The conference was great due to the diversity of the session topics. Considering I live and breathe digital 12+ hours a day I opted to partake in some sessions NOT focused solely on digital. The sessions on social influence and social data sessions received widely enthusiastic responses from other attendees- I was glad to see digital make it into the mix of what has largely been a traditionally focused discipline. One quote that made it’s way through Twitter from Gautum Ramdurai’s session was “The more digital we get, the more human we have to be.” AMEN.

I met some very cool people. Different types of planners from different agencies big and small, different levels varying from junior to uber senior, traditional, digital, some creative and some founders of startups—it was a great mix of minds. Sometimes you need to leave the work for a few days to figure out HOW to best get the work done. I’m refreshed and ready to think, and do.

Special thanks to Mark Lewis and Claire Grinton who orchestrated the meeting/social logistics and curated the speakers for this entire event—very well done.

Presentations from the conference will be up soon you can find them here.

Workshop this. Planning-ness

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

Sometimes, pulling ideas out of people takes work, myself included. Ideas exist in our minds, but sometimes they are ill-formed or fragmented partial ideas. Workshops/ideation sessions are part of the equation to generating valuable insights.

Have you ever been in a non-structured workshop or brainstorm session? I have.
It’s painful.








I believe no idea is a bad idea, but I also believe that ideas need to be focused around the task/objective at hand. For instance if you are trying to build a content strategy for a company/brand to expand an existing campaign, we don’t necessarily want ideas about a new campaign to surface—that would be off strategy.

I’m all for taking every idea into consideration, but it helps when the brainstorm is structured so the output of the session is as strategically focused and actionable as possible.

Overtime, I’ve sat through and led many workshops and learned from the best of best what works. Preparing for an ideation session is an arduous task and first starts with getting the stakeholders smart on the target needs, category analysis and brand objectives. The deep dive is one of my favorite parts of my job (I’m an insights junky). But then comes the thinking.

Moderating the workshop is another story. There are plenty of methods and constructs to exercise the mind in unconventional ways. Lately I’ve been experimenting with new ways/tools to garner valuable and relevant thinking, particularly around the utilization of emerging technology and digital/social channels— an area that not everyone at the table may have knowledge of, or experience with. Mindmaps, evaluative criteria and worksheets just scratch the surface of available tools. I frequently leverage my colleagues’ experience and approaches every time I put a workshop plan/deck together and it’s professional goal of mine this year to focus more heavily on these skills as they relate to innovation and digital engagement.

I’m looking forward to honing my planning skills by attending the Planning-ness Conference 2012 this May with one of my favorite colleagues/friends. It’s a conference for creative thinkers and explorers that is focused on “doing”, not talking. I have waxed on about the T-Shaped skills that I think all strategists should have: the ability to think and do; what I love about this conference is that each of the sessions has a learning component where you are taught a new skill or way to approach a problem, and a doing component where you put it all into action.

I’m confident that having exposure to a creatively inspired agenda and interacting with a small group of strategists will open my mind to new ways of creative problem solving and thinking about business and marketing in general; takeaways that go way beyond leading successful workshops.

What the hell does a digital strategist / planner do, anyway?

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Someone asked me the other day to explain my job function. I started to talk about one thing and then another and then another and then another…and then I stopped when I realized I was jumping all over the place and said, “I think I need to visualize the structure and get back to you”.

This was an eye opening moment for me in many ways because over the past 2 years my responsibilities have grown, shifted, adapted and redefined themselves on a need-based timeline. I know what I do on a daily basis; I know no day is ever the same; I’m in a needs-based position. I am also cognizant of having the word strategist in my title; it begs for a “functional” definition of what do you “do”? Not what do you “think”– but what is it that you “do”, what do you “produce”?

So I’ve gone through this exercise to sketch out what is I think a digital strategist/planner does. (based on my personal experiences and what skills I believe are needed for optimal cross-channel marketing integration)











The net-net: I believe a digital strategist provide guidance to departments: account, creative, UX and production & works as a liaison with departments such as UX, IT, project management and analytics. We facilitate the path for others to define and design sustainable ideas, quality engagement initiatives and memorable experiences across digital channel opportunities, and sometimes I even create those paths alone, by myself. (more…)

Memories of an old advertising agency model… the now of brand engagement

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Over the past few months I’ve been busy at work with pitches, new client accounts and super fun projects and haven’t had much time to put my thoughts into writing. However, a few observations over the last 8 months have led me down an expressive path.

Working in the advertising has taught me to be a better marketer.

Working in “advertising” can mean many, many things. Gone are the days of Mad Men where the “creative agency” developed a mass marketing image campaign and witty headline to live for months/years at a time.



Working in advertising can mean you have small or large focus on a specific area:

  • sell advertising (ie: selling space for ads to live next to relevant content/within your demographic readership aka media buying)
  • creatively develop content and campaigns that live in that space
  • sell an analytical service to track media impressions and overall brand lift
  • execute small ideas on a project basis for a small niche agency/company
  • work in a large multi-service agency working across cross-functional promotional arenas such promotion, PR, media, analytics
  • all of the above

I realize now that growing up in account services, I always had an underlying tie to strategy and had trouble understanding “do this” direction without understanding the core premise of where the direction came from and what insights supported certain ideas. I was always told by peers and certain supervisors that I ask too many questions, that I don’t need to know why, “just do the project” but that was never comforting for me and now I know why.

Observationally speaking, working at an advertising agency with AOR (agency of record) accounts/clients has changed dramatically over the years. 7 years ago our teams didnt have heavy involvement in strategic brand planning. EVPs/SVPs usually held meetings with clients keeping up with relationships and taking them to dinner or golf outings. Agency teams rarely interacted with senior staff at that level. I haven’t seen behavior like that since 2007/2008 when the agency staffing model changed dramatically to accommodate myriad industry shifts:

  • changing economic climate
  • subsequent decreased and more scrutinized client marketing budget allocation, which not only included promotional spend but touched across their own client staff resource allocation
  • Ever-changing and evolving consumer-centric model & myriad promotional channels beyond the traditional print, broadcast and radio

And who was looked at first?—the agency of record.

If you had letters in your title you were not only expected to keep business current, solid and profitable for the agency- but clients started to ask for greater input—what were you contributing at a $300/hour billing rate, aside from prime tee-times? Where was the thinking that stood behind that latest campaign—did we think it could be executed via 1 mass marketing message through the same channels as we always have been? What kind of return were we promising the brand beyond “message recall”? Those “coveted” positions with 3 initials were quickly becoming measurable in their own right. And the dropoff rate for successful KPIs was high.

Within that timeframe my account service responsibilities changed as well. No longer was I just a day-today client direction taker and internal agency facilitator of said direction; I was an extended member of the client brand team. I think it was in 2008 as the customer-centric model of engagement became more relevant to every brand and shifted from customer relationship marketing (CRM) into the form of custom marketing via target segmentation/preference of communication that I saw my role of the agency acct lead shift much more to accommodate a growing need beyond just ideation & execution into the hybrid addition of strategic thinking.


Enter the role of “strategic planner”

Back in the day planners were a bit of an anomaly, they mostly worked directly with market research group at the client and sourced qualitative and quantitative methodologies for product launches or bringing new campaigns to market. Since 2007, I have seen the greatest shift in that position, and the service value it offers to clients and brands.


Planners are the new marketers of the agency world.

We understand and are expected to help identify insights that would ultimately inform and shape immediate and long range brand planning. I have had the fortunate opportunity to be included in all forms of brand building allowing me greater exposure to marketing workshops & exercises with established consultancies like Monitor Group, 6th Sense and Campbell Alliance; strategic identification processes which outlined the customer buying processes; attitudes and behaviors that drive HOW and WHY and WHERE brands should engage their targets and through what levels of emphasis that will engender the greatest return on effort.


But, it never stops at the strategic level









We also help take the brand plan, dissect and disseminate into larger agency team brainstorms to help shape it into recommendations; an actionable and well rounded tactical communication plan that would secure activation across all cross-functional stakeholders within the marketing group. T-shaped individuals, loosely defined as creative technologists, which I wrote about back in December, can do much bigger things and think more broadly.

The vertical shaft of the “T” represents the depth of expertise/skill that a person exhibits, while the crossbar of the “T” represents the amount they are willing and able to collaborate

They are looking for ideation beyond 1 honed skill set, and most importantly how to apply/execute it to meet a business objective of their clients and customers. They are people who are willing to experiment and take risks– in concert with rest of the world morphing around us in parallel. Having spent months at a time building the business plans, the tactical ideation and channel planning is where the real fun comes in. Some planners like to end their contribution at the strategic level, most I know, including myself, also enjoy the ideation & execution part. Understanding drivers for your audience/target is only half the battle; performing a current promotional audit, identifying opportunities for scale and knowing how to wrap the brand drivers around multi-channels of engagement and create experiences that engender the most behavioral change that ultimately fuel the objectives of your brand is where the real pull through comes in.


Had it not been for this hybrid shift, I don’t know that I would have continued my career trajectory within “advertising”.










Being involved in the overall marketing process inherently makes more sense to me. I think– actually, I know, what keeps me most passionate about my “job” is that my role is ever evolving. Specific tasks and thinking may be tied to one another, but it’s rare that I ever do the same exact thing on any given day. And regardless of the brand industry you are in, the strategic construct and process remains the same.

Marketing by far is the greatest passion in my “job”. So much so because of my personal interest that sometimes it doesn’t feel like a job and it’s just plain interesting and fun. Self-satisfaction is a subjective arena; fulfilled only through individual goals, wants and needs. If the strategic marketing process and ever-evolving promotional landscape keeps me an perpetual student, so be it– sign me up for an eternity of semester long learning’s.

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