A case for marketers to adopt fluid strategy

In today’s context, many new behaviours are being formed and many old behaviours are being mutated.

As marketers are attempting to unlock our lives with all that it brings, Dheeraj Sinha, the managing director of India and the chief strategy officer for South Asia at Leo Burnett says it is critical to see our future as a combination of multiple successful short-terms.

There is a certain permanence to the idea of strategy. It’s always for the long-term, its fixed, sometimes signed by all stakeholders on a piece of paper and pinned onto the soft board. In fact, the long-term view of strategy is nothing but a reflection of our approach to business, where short-term is typically for investment, with gains being modelled over the long-term. There has been very little regard for anything which is short-term in business planning and thinking. As a result, there are no frameworks that help guide through short-term thinking. Indeed the emotion that strategy would need to be fluid is a disturbing one when we have always seen strategy as long-term and having relatively permanence.

Yet that’s exactly where we are, in a context with very little visibility of the future. The most difficult aspect of navigating these uncertain times is a lack of compass, a guiding framework that helps us think through the current times. That’s where comes in the Short-term Thinking Model that we have named the 0-3-6 model. The model is designed for a strategy to respond to the changing behaviour/motivations in times such as these. More importantly, the short-term thinking model believes that not just now, but from now on, there will be tremendous pressure on businesses to deliver results in the short-run. Being able to model returns far away into the future against investments in the present, will increasingly be a difficult sell. Already, the start-up world is rife with the terminology of unit-economics, with investors looking for unit-positive businesses.

0-3-6 is thus a thinking framework designed for a strategy to be fluid, to be able to respond to the changing behaviour and culture in real-time. So how does one keep track of what’s changing in a real way versus what’s just hype? Enter – Culture Fuels. Culture Fuels are inflection points in the collective behaviour of people and society in response to the current context. These form the basis of our short-term thinking model that allows us to plan and adapt to the changes and uncertainty that lies ahead.

In today’s context, many new behaviours are being formed and many old behaviours are being mutated. Mapping data to discern the big shifts or behavioural changes that are currently reflected in society is the starting point for culture fuels. The next step is to sift through these data points to delve deeper into the ‘why’. A culture fuel cannot be developed by looking at a single fact in isolation. It operates in tandem with other variables of the environment. The short-term thinking framework needs a constant pulse on what’s changing. Unfortunately, the change cannot be derived from quantitative research of a large sample size – because you can’t really ask people caught up in a whirlwind today, how they will behave tomorrow. Culture Fuels, almost essentially, have to be imputed, they have to be derived by triangulation of several data points, including scarps of changing cultural behaviour.

A great example of this thinking in action is the idea of taking the great Indian weddings online for our clients shaadi.com – an arranged marriage website. We realised that marriages in India are organised around certain auspicious dates, once you miss them, you could have to wait for a long time. We also understood that people didn’t want to get married without the quintessential wedding rituals of sangeet (a musical evening) and the wedding makeup. It’s not a real deal without the extravaganza. How could we help couples celebrate this day in their lives, without the real celebrations? How could we help them make it a real deal?

#WeddingsFromHome was borne of this, as an initiative wherein the entire wedding ceremony and celebrations were conducted virtually allowing couples to celebrate their wedding with all the fanfare. The initiative is now turning out to be a service that the brand will offer even post the lockdown. An idea which solves for the current and sets up a new revenue stream.

It’s critical that we embrace short-term thinking as a big part of business planning. We have to go against the grain and accept that strategy needs to be fluid. As we are attempting to unlock and face our lives with all that it brings, it is critical to see our future as a combination of multiple successful short-terms. It may be almost impossible today to predict what the future will be like, but its certain that we can win this in small bite-sized pieces, one success at a time.

Dheeraj Sinha is the managing director of India and the chief strategy officer for South Asia at Leo Burnett.

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