By Lauren Buckley, Strategy Principal at The Hush Collaborative
Your brand strategy was never destined to succeed. Months of work, resources, discussions, and meetings that somehow never get you to the gold at the end of that proverbial rainbow. It’s a chronic problem caused by the system we’re working both in and against.
Do a quick search and you’ll find reports that estimate anywhere from 50% to 80% of strategic work fails upon implementation. This number is unacceptable. As a strategist, this statistic is incredibly disheartening as it diminishes an essential component of communications work. For brand and marketing leaders, this statistic is scary and makes investing in brand strategy work feel more like a risk than a relief.
We need to change the way we do brand strategy work today. But wouldn’t you know it, change is hard. The good news is, there’s a remedy for making brand strategy more successful and change more possible: learning! And we aren’t just talking about a webinar here, and a podcast there. We are talking about the get-your-hands-dirty kind of learning. The kind where you not only learn but practice the concepts. The kind where people measurably grow and develop while doing. Learning is a proven tool that can break the systems that keep current problems in place.
Ready for your strategy to actually succeed? Start here:
Ask for help. It’s not a weakness; it is ambition.
We need more leaders who aren’t afraid to say “I don’t know,” and are willing to ask for help. This is non-negotiable, especially in the context of change. With up to 80% of strategic initiatives failing on implementation due to miscommunication, we know leaders aren’t speaking the same language, let alone having productive conversations. We need to build shared language, connections, and skills — which requires learning.
Strategy is not a noun. It is a verb. Treat it that way.
We often think of brand strategies as blueprints or plans. Pieces of paper we keep near our workspaces for reference in those moments of “strategic” work. But the truth is brand strategy isn’t just a plan, it is a practice. What distinguishes the good from the bad is how well the people responsible for carrying it forward (which is often a whole mess of people) understand it, can activate their skills against it, and integrate it into their daily work.
Prioritize truth over comfort.
Ego has its place, but posturing is killing us. We can’t fix what we are unwilling to see, admit address, or challenge. We need more honest for good moments, interactions and conversations — all forms of learning. We need to name or address our challenges in real-time in order to solve problems instead of treating symptoms. It will make people uncomfortable, but that is the most fertile soil for growth.
Your brand strategy deserves to succeed. For that to happen, the industry, strategists included, must break down its egos and silos and go back to school, metaphorical or otherwise. We have to learn together to produce and sustain good work. Brand strategy is only as good as the smarts and the skills of the people who carry it forward every single day. Invest in learning to break what must be broken.