The word ‘strategy’ can be quite intimidating.

Its meaning seems to be pretty flexible – covering everything from a 20-page wordsoup and a series of unintelligible diagrams, to ‘absolutely everything that a company ever does or even thinks about doing’. A Google search for ‘What is brand strategy?’ or ‘What is creative strategy?’ brings up a few unhelpful head-scratchers too.

"Big words are hiding places and good strategy doesn't hide." Mark Pollard

So, for a recent talk to students and lecturers at Dublin’s Maynooth University, we took Mark’s words to heart and challenged ourselves to define brand strategy without using any jargon whatsoever. The result:

Strategy = Deliberately doing things in a specific way

It’s not profound, but for us that’s what it all boils down to. Strategy isn’t useful on paper. Its use is in the real world. In removing subjectivity and misinterpretation. In adding focus. In getting lots of people (with competing priorities and different skills) to do things in a specific way that adds up to a single coherent picture.

Ask your people to be ‘the best’ and you might find some teams try to be the fastest, some the safest, some the cheapest, some the most innovative. Suddenly some people are working to make the product better looking, some longer lasting, some more widely available, some more exclusive. Someone’s working on making the website more serious while someone else is writing jokes for the ads. It’s carnage on the inside so you can guarantee the signals picked up by your punters on the outside don’t make much sense either.

But ask your people to deliberately do things in a specific way – like being the simplest company in your sector, or the most creative, or the safest… and suddenly you’re united. You’re strategic. And no matter how bad a day you’re having, you know the right way to do things.