I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Brad Breininger, who is one of the founding partners of Zync Communications in Toronto. What is unique about Brad and his agency is that they have seamlessly integrated business development ventures with creative services and experience. They have a refreshing vision for branding, which is grounded in the appreciation of raw business objectives. I would highly recommend that you visit their website and see what they are doing because they will revolutionize the entire communications, branding and PR industries.
I have always believed that marketing, branding and PR are not stand-alone elements of a business plan, yet many people today see these services as just that. The other aspect of this marketplace that has always left me with slight confusion is the unwavering and often blinding focus on strategy. I am the first person to say that strategy drives what you do, but the market today is saturated with people who focus too much on convoluted strategy than they do on practical application, pragmatic decision making and most importantly, business objectives.
Strategy is a funny word. Many believe when they see this word the end product will be flawless. There are many professionals today that spend far too much time creating strategic plans that leave many of us scratching our heads. It’s those reports and briefings that resemble theoretical prose than anything close to realistic plans. What Brad’s agency has harnessed is something that we all covet – the middle ground. They have reshaped how we look at the strategic process.
Business objectives are the reason clients seek out an agency or consultant. It may be re-branding, an increase in sales, brand reputation, expansion, internal/external communications, stakeholder relations, PR and the like. This is Point A. To take them to Point B there needs to be a plan. You wouldn’t be very successful if you made it up as you go, so you need a step-by-step process that meets those objectives.
This is where the strategy comes in. This is also where the business objectives become blurry. Professionals get so bogged down in the strategic planning that the reason the client is there doesn’t seem all that clear anymore. It is often a process that is filled with grandiose plans that seem impressive, but lack the reality of pure implementation and results.
Creativity is essential in the process, but it isn’t the sole element of the equation. Getting from Point A to Point B should not be a stop at Point C, D, E, F and Y. This is usually the road travelled and it has direct consequences on your overall objectives.
What I have always believed in, and what Brad not only preaches but practices, is practicality. Business objectives are the foundation of a company’s success in the marketplace. Your creative process and strategy should mirror that business plan, because it is the road map to their future as a brand or an organization. To achieve this, your strategy shouldn’t reflect your boundless creative mind; it should reflect their core principles and culture in a creative form.
Practicality seems common sense, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, common sense isn’t all that common. Perhaps that is why Zync is a leading force in the industry. Their results speak for themselves – they also highlight the need for those around them to understand the application of “practical strategy” that is intertwined with business objectives.
Practical strategy isn’t built from the top down like many of today’s campaigns. Many of us take these large, dream-like ideas and work backwards to an actionable and implementable strategy. This defies not only logic, but also reality.
I cannot speak for Zync and the details of their strategic process with clients, but I believe strategy today needs to be built from raw business objectives outwards. This ensures the end result is actionable, succinct, focused, measurable, and practical in its application.
There is a fallacious belief that creative and business development don’t always mix. It’s a traditional way of thinking – the silo mentality if you will. It is also a detrimental way of thinking. Creative and business may be two different entities, but they should be connected so closely that growth and advancement is simultaneously built by both.
The connection between the two is practical strategy.
Strategy should not beget more strategy. It should create a campaign that exceeds expectations and directly contributes to not only the client’s specific objectives, but also their overarching growth.
Those operating in this industry should take note. Convolution has the ability to cripple business. Creative should not be seen as a stand-alone element of a company (whether in-house or agency). It should be seen as a critical element of the entire organism.
Understanding, acknowledging and appreciating the importance of practical strategy as it pertains to business objectives defines your ability to take a company from Point A to Point B with success.
I see practical creative strategy as a vehicle that houses traditional business growth and advancement, not a vehicle that is pulling the business along with it as it turns left, right, left and right again.