What’s your strategy?

If you ask that question of a lot of candidates, or the people running ballot proposal campaigns, or the folks involved in tough issue fights, you get a lot of blank stares. You get a lot of nonsense too. Stuff like, “we’re gonna build up our favs then dump a lot of oppo at the end.” Some strategy. And we really love it when they say, “Look, it’s not about strategy. We’ve got some killer spots in the can.” Of course it’s much simpler to run a campaign for a candidate or an idea without a strategy. When there’s no strategy, everything makes as much sense as everything else, so meetings are much shorter! And after all, isn’t it simpler just to have a guru who knows everything and has it all “up here,” than to work out a whole complicated strategy and actually put it on paper?

Strategy actually... works.

Having a strategy means you have a North Star to steer by no matter how rough the campaign gets or how hard your opponents try to get you off track. It means that every resource…money, time, manpower…is used to get to the same place, and everybody knows where that place is and the shortest distance to it – and that saves money. And it means that you’ve thought through what’s important and what isn’t, what’ll work and what won’t, what makes sense and what doesn’t. So the positive and the negative, the prose and the poetry, the image and the issues all work together and communicate a single idea.

OK, I want one.
Now what is it, exactly?

A winning strategy is deeply rooted in a crystal clear understanding of who will support your candidate or idea, what will persuade them to do so, and what would keep them from doing it.

A strategy is crafted from the last day backward, not the first day forward. It decides what the last thing you want voters or consumers to think about, because if you leave everything at the end “to be determined,” your opponents will determine it.

It starts with numbers and regressions and models, adds issues, arguments and themes, is summarized into big and bold ideas, and ends with pictures, images and music.

Strategy + Creativity = Victory

Everyone wants (and everyone promises to deliver) advertising that’s creative, that cuts through the clutter. And there sure is clutter.

Creativity is good. It will capture attention. But when creativity is tethered tightly to strategy, it captures attention – AND hearts and minds. That’s how you win.