Strategic planning professions – episode #18

Mini-fairs for Communication professions We Are COM X ISCOM, present the daily life of communicators. Let's go for an overview of the strategic planning sector, in this episode #18! 😎

A few words on strategic planning

👀 Based on observations, facts, objectives, market and customer analyses, the objective of strategic planning is to think of both "customer" and "consumer". In other words, it is an understanding of targets in the service of a brand strategy. All to be able to transmit a context, a guideline and relevant information to the team that will create the the countryside.

Strategic planners have at their disposal all a palette of tools 🛠:

  • Studies: consumer studies (working groups, questionnaires, testimonials & opinions, community interactions, etc.), societal studies (surveys, ad hoc studies, etc.), benchmarks, various readings, press articles, etc.
  • Brainstorming and creative briefs.
  • Key campaign performance indicators.

Expert opinion

From the side advertiser, we are fortunate to receive Martin Gilbert, Product marketing manager within the Accor group. While on the side agencyIs Karine Mast, Founder of the brand strategy consulting agency, Brand Alphabet, who will discuss his daily life in the world of strategic planning.

# 1 – Hello to you both, what is your job to each? 

Karine Mast : After having worked for more than twenty years in a communication, design and branding agency, as a strategic planner, I finally decided to found my own agency, Brand Alphabet. The latter specializes in branding and innovation, as well strategic planning is at the heart of our expertise. 

At Brand Alphabet, we follow two golden rules. Firstly, always trust your intuition. On the other hand, dare to go beyond simple analysis to generate emotion. Increasingly, the strategic planner plays the role of the third eye in the transition phases of brands. Our mission is thus to bring beauty and therefore transmit emotion. 

Martin Gilbert : I am, recently, Product marketing manager within the Accor group. Previously, and still at Accor, I had the chance to practice in the fields of brand content and brand management, in particular for the launch of the All brand, which fundamentally restructured the group and required a major investment in communication. 

In recent years, the ways of consuming have been disrupted, resulting in the transformation of our professions. Besides, the world continues to change. This is where the strategic planner comes in, whose role is to understand these changes, or even to predict them. Tomorrow's brands will be those that know how to adapt. 

#2 – Why and when did you decide to focus on communication? 

KM: I first took a course in communication at university, before joining a design school. My profile was initially very creative, my first experience was in design-editing. As a strategic planner, I would say that I trained myself empirically. To practice this profession, it is not enough to listen to trends, but to truly acquire a vision of them over the medium and long term. If you are both strategic and creative, then you will be able to stay on course and excel at strategic planning. I often say that the best glider is the one that can work with both left and right hemispheres. 

MG: As a high school student, I was passionate about sociology, this science which allows us to understand humans, their reactions and their relationships. However, my approach was absolutely not business-oriented sociology. It thus seemed to me that the fields of communication and marketing were those that came closest to what interested me, the study of humans and trends. I started and joined ISCOM's BTS Communication. Once graduated, I continued my Master's degree, then joined a branding agency. It was only after these experiences and a few trips around the world that I decided to join the advertiser. 

#3 – What does a typical day look like in strategic planning?

MG: The most interesting thing about strategic planning is precisely that the typical day does not exist. To be a planner is above all to carry out continuous vigils, whatever the ways. I like to think that there are as many types of strategic planning as there are planners. Our mission is to bring meaning to communication actions, to bring the little extra that gives impetus to creative people. Also, we have to soak up the world as a whole. 

In addition, our collaborations are daily, with clients, agencies, creative teams or design teams. Being led to work with different profiles, this gives rise to extremely interesting encounters. 

KM : Indeed, as Martin says, there is no typical day in strategic planning. On a daily basis, we monitor trends, but not necessarily in the field of communication. These watches can be oriented towards philosophy, sociology, design, etc. Inspirational topics are everywhere. It is important to acquire a global vision, to see what is happening everywhere around, in order to shed light on these famous “insights”. Insight is what takes place in the mind of the consumer and which will allow the transformation, the passage to the act of the latter. The strategic planner is in a way the guardian of insight. 

In this job, you shouldn't hesitate to have a relationship of astonishment when faced with things. Nothing should be taken for granted, we should be the “crazy agitators” of the brands. Our role also consists of challenging the briefs of the creative teams, we are here to inspire them, to make them want to. As a famous Creative Director often said, “ With each creative brief, you have to reinvent the world. »

#4 – What is the most stimulating part of strategic planning jobs? 

K.M: In this profession, the stimulations are daily. I would say that it is fascinating to unearth something that the customer had not necessarily seen, in order to nourish the singularity and the uniqueness of a brand. More and more, brands are becoming uniform, all over the world and we too often find the same signs. However, the greatest risk for a brand is that of becoming transparent and therefore ceasing to exist. 

MG: Indeed, a brand only exists if it has an identity. The customer's preference for a particular product is not based on the notion of truth but more on the notion of brand belonging. In other words, added value requires recklessness. Recently, I observed, while walking in Paris, many post-covid communication campaigns that used the lexical field of freedom. Attention to uniformity, this has never allowed a brand to stand out. 

Regarding the advertiser side, I would say that the most stimulating thing is to have the chance to work for a sector or industry you love. Communication is a profession that we carry out and that we live on a daily basis. A communicator will be fundamentally better if he is passionate about what he does and thus believes in what he says. 

#5 – What project/activation are you most proud of?

MG: I would say that one of the most interesting projects, but also one of the most significant in which I participated is the launch of the Accor group's new brand, JOE&JOE. Indeed, young people, who are often looking for a good quality/price ratio, were not very targeted and represented by our brands. Ibis, for example, with its economic and uniform positioning, is more oriented towards families or business than towards young people. 

JOE&JOE is the first brand created by Accor in more than 25 years, it is an experience developed for young people, especially millennials and smart-travellers. Initially, we had two convictions. For one thing, the rooms shouldn't look like rooms in the general hospitality industry. We had to reinvent everything, find other inspirations: youth hostels, experiences in tents, etc. On the other hand, this new brand had to benefit from a local anchorage, unlike a hotel which is never frequented by the inhabitants of the surrounding district. We wanted to create a real dynamic of Food & Beverage, parties, bars… where to meet close to home. 

For it, we called on designers, whose brief boiled down to “ do the craziest thing ». And it worked, they produced very hybrid elements of communication, which really come out of the pre-established culture of the sector. 

To better understand this concept, here is a short film made for the launch of the first JOE&JOE, that of the city of Hossegor. And for the record, this establishment was the former Quicksilver surf camp. 

Finally, another project is close to my heart and represents a source of pride for me, that of the launch of the brand. B2C, ALL. The latter has the ambition to become a distribution brand, while Accor remains a company perceived as being " very CAC40 ". ALL is a loyalty program bringing together all of the group's brands. From now on, Accor no longer only sells rooms, but sells member experiences and benefits, made possible thanks to the many partnerships we have developed. With the ALL loyalty card, you can attend a PSG match, dine at a restaurant, book tickets for a festival... Also, mentalities have evolved. We seek to retain our customers, no longer by the quality of our products, which no longer needs to be proven, but by the unique experience that we offer them. 

KM : During my career, I have often worked for brands in the luxury sector, historical brands. I particularly like it becausesometimes it is necessary to wake up the sleeping beauty » according to popular expression. Among other things, I did this in-depth work for the brand of foie gras, Comtesse du Barry. When the team called on my services, the brand was neglected by consumers, apart from a few grandmothers. 😀

The idea was to reconcile Comtesse du Barry with her time. We found a dichotomy effect between the local products, typical of the South-West and the nobility of the name of the countess. And emphasizing these two notions, in the end, something quite distinctive develops. With this red thread of terroir a bit urban », we were able to outsource the brand, which is found in particular in airports and enjoys a good reputation for French know-how, like other emblematic luxury houses. I keep and will keep very good memories of this success story. 

#6 – What are the challenges of strategic planning? The major developments in recent years?

KM: Strategic planning is a sector that is experiencing multiple changes. We no longer do strategic planning, as we could do ten years ago. In my opinion, two major trends stand out more than the others. Firstly, the reaffirmation of identity has become indispensable. Today and more and more, the consumer expects brands at the turn. It is essential to speak the truth and to flee the fake at all costs. As an example, here is a short video of Babel. The objective of this caricature of brand speech is to kindly raise awareness. 

On the other hand, it seems to me that the main challenge is to encourage co-creation. Previously, strategic planning focused on platform brand, whereas today everything has changed. Co-creation must be at the center of the whole strategy. Nobody holds the truth around a brand, so set up the mirror effect of co-creation, guaranteeing better projection. 

M. G. : Indeed, I agree with Karine's two points. I would add that the role of the strategic planner is neither to impose an idea nor to impose a position on his client. Moreover, the reverse is also true, the client cannot oblige an agency to follow a specification. Co-creation is the only option that works. 

So, of course, when we talk about major developments, we are talking about digital. But beyond digital, for strategic planners, it is becoming essential to learn about date, and not only to the data drive. You have to be able to read and handle this data, they are insights to be reused. On a daily basis, the planner receives studies and percentages, which are not necessarily relevant. For example, a site that generates a lot of traffic is not necessarily a site that generates a lot of sales. Also, being able to use data to intelligently analyze consumer behavior is becoming essential in our sector. And besides, it is very interesting to observe that collaborations between strategic planning agencies and data scientists are increasing. 

#7- Do you have any advice for future communicators?

MG: More and more, in the world of communication, people arrive who initially did not belong to this universe, so do not hesitate to get started. Simply remember that communication is a profession that is lived with the heart: the communicator must be passionate, curious and interested in what he does. 

Also, don't be afraid to ask questions, make your own mistakes and experiences. There will always be something to learn. 

Last but not least, to stay curious, stay open, get into the habit of consuming things that don't seem to be made for you. Flipping through a magazine for your grandmother can be just as interesting as keeping watch on TikTok. 

K.M: Indeed, in communication, you will need to bringan eternal curiosity to succeed in remaining an "agitator". To do this, dare to go against received ideas, stay true to yourself, listen to your feelings... And remember that there are a thousand profiles of strategic planners, so keep your sensitivity and your way of doing things. Singularity is what brands need the most.

Karine Mast,

Founder of the consulting agency Brand Alphabet

Martin Gilbert,

product marketing manager at Accor Digital Factory

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