‘Doing more with less’: what it means to be a strategist in 2023
We rounded up members of the Drum Network's APAC chapter to discuss how marketing strategists are expected to shapeshift when times are tough and pockets are tight.
What is strategists' role in the age of adversity? / Hatiful Yosa via Unsplash
With the world moving quickly, strategists have had to somewhat go with the flow in 2022. So said experts in the area from The Drum Network's APAC chapter when we gathered them together recently. Sure, it has been the year that most brands and mainstream media finally started paying attention to web3. But it has also been a rollercoaster. “There was lots of educating, lots of immersions, lots of pivoting in production before we were launching”, says director of accounts at Invnt Group, Sharon Lewis.
How are strategists expected to show up?
As the recession hits, a recalibration is imminent. In its wake, Mike Manahan, senior strategist at The Marketing Practice suggests that brands avoid being restricted to specific projects or budget strings, instead "trying as hard as possible to open up a discussion that gives your talent the opportunity to explore what those other projects are".
“Sometimes, I think the onus is on creatives to come in with an idea when we haven’t set up the platform or done our work”, Manahan goes on. “I personally take it as a strategic responsibility, and it falls on everyone within the business […] but I think it really is the role of a strategist, at the moment, to be understanding of chief marketing officers (CMOs) and how they’re allocating budget and where they’re working with their teams – and help us better sell into those”.
On the theme of doing more with less, Stanislas Albin, media strategy director at Jellyfish, talks about strategists’ roles shifting from operational to 'consulting partners'. With this comes the task of convincing clients of their value proposition; strategists must be able to provide clear methodology and frameworks (and, of course, results).
The pivot from activation partner to consulting partner points to a simple fact: strategizing is largely centered around people.
Tim Durgan is vice president of strategy and insights for APAC at insights agency Assembly Global. “The client teams and strategy teams are almost now acting as quarterbacks for the whole business”, he says. “They have to know when to bring in the data science team; when to bring in the activation team; and when to bring in third-party research”. The emphasis on teams is a result of what clients want from agencies. One thing clients want is a value-driven approach, not just in terms of marketing, but also in terms of business structure; as Durgan says, “it’s a melting pot of beta talent”.
Today, agencies are bringing in people with different backgrounds, including some who haven’t worked in agencies before, bringing with them skillsets around crypto-currencies or from traditional consulting businesses. This affords insights teams a clearer understanding of the bigger picture.
Bridging the gap between continents
Performance marketing agency Croud has noticed a big discrepancy in how they understand data between Asia and the rest of the world. Croud’s head of APAC digital, Ada Ludo, says a strategist’s role is, in part, to help bridge that gap. “To translate [data] into a view that our headquarters actually understand”, says Ludo. Considering the increasing demands and changing needs of clients, it’s about being able to provide an integrated solution, says managing director for APAC growth at Landor & Fitch, Janice Siu.
Ultimately, strategists are accountable for connectedness between markets and facilitating the space for businesses to grow (so-called 'TikTok brands' are a fitting example of when this works). In Manahan's view, strategists need to be fluid, adopting a Swiss-army-knife way of turning complex data into meaningful metrics that lead to acquisitions.
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