What do they do all day? Conran’s Rachel Morris on role of a junior strategist
This week, as part of our series demystifying the many job titles that make up adland, Conran Design Group’s Rachel Morris unpacks daily life as a junior strategist.
I joined Conran Design Group as a junior strategist in January 2022. I hadn’t heard of brand strategy before Conran, but while I was working here as a new business intern in 2019 I spoke to a couple of strategy directors about what they did and found it fascinating. I learned that brand strategy is about trying to understand people and how they respond to their environments – and that by understanding audience and context, you’re able to tell a brand’s story in a way that’s meaningful and resonant.
Brand strategy is about defining the role, nature and intent of a brand and the different elements that define its space within the market relative to its competitor set. As brand strategists, we create personalities that help express the nuance of how a brand should behave, which then informs the audience’s perception of that brand and its character.
Sometimes, the work we do in brand strategy is an articulation of the business strategy and I love getting into the purpose, vision and mission of a brand – speaking to the C-suite about the kind of company they want to be and the kind of brand that will represent that ambition. Taking the business strategy and bringing it to life, giving it character and expressing a meaningful story is what brand strategy is all about.
Although I’ve only been at Conran for just over 18 months, my remit has broadened and I’m now moving into more of a mid-level strategist role. A year ago, I was doing competitor research and brand audits; if we were working on brand positioning, it would be a case of prepping material for strategy directors to use in client workshops.
Now, we still need to do that foundational groundwork, but I’ll be developing our findings into a point of view before planning and running the workshop with one of our strategy directors. The role has become much more client-facing and I was even lucky enough to travel to San Francisco for a client workshop a few months ago.
Working in a growing strategy team has meant getting lots of exposure to senior strategists who have decades of experience under their belts. This has been great: we’ve got experts in naming, semiotics, consumer insight... and I’m learning so much from them all the time.
As I result, I’ve moved from finding my feet in strategy to really understanding how well-defined strategy positively influences design to create resonant and differentiated brands. Partly, this is down to the collaborative way in which our strategy team works with design; despite having a global team and offices in London, New York and Mumbai, we’re tight-knit and collaborative.
To me, strategy is an essential component of branding. Having a grounding, knowing your market environment and being true to who you are as a brand has to be defined by strategy. The most compelling design is design that’s based on deep strategic thinking and what you know will resonate with your audience. We do a lot of work with semiotic codes, understanding the associations that design cues evoke and working with these associations to make sure the brands we create are perceived and understood in the right way.
Ultimately, strategy gives branding an emotional connection – it’s what makes brands more meaningful.