Pairing creativity with strategy.

The role strategy plays in creating great work.

As you’ve seen by now, our North Star is an elegant statement of an audacious yet attainable goal: We aspire to create the most captivating, effective work in the world. No biggie.

What is captivating and effective work? Among other things, it’s work that speaks to the hearts, minds and aspirations of the audiences we engage with. It’s work that inspires people to see new solutions, feel good about their decisions, add value to their lives and vocations, and increase the esteem they hold for their clients’ brands and offerings. Great work helps people know things and feel things. Both are critical.

There is no magic formula for creating great work. It’s not like balancing a chemistry equation with only one solution. All we can do is create an environment that increases the chances for it to happen. Many things contribute to great work (amazing talent, great clients, boundless energy, terrific teams, etc.), but one thing that helps is a great strategy. 

So what, then, is a great strategy? It involves guidance, inspiration and surprise, not directives, bullet points and boredom. Above all, once it’s articulated, it should feel inevitable. It should make you wonder why you didn’t think of it to begin with. Getting there requires the marriage of discipline and intuition — that is, left brain and right brain. It should feel like something and elicit an emotion that is grounded in reality but elevated beyond “mere” facts.

For us, the way to a great strategy is to take into account critical components that are all necessary to consider. We deploy a tool called BR Foursquare to give us the structure (that is, discipline) to uncover a catalyzing insight (that is, intuition).

The way it works is pretty simple: After framing the problem, we look for unique ways to solve it based on truths about the audience, the culture (that is, the environment in which our audiences are making their decisions), the category and the brand. If we do our jobs right, we can distill something interesting and surprising out of each of these four areas and then further compress them into one singular idea. The goal is to come up with a sparkling, elegant POV that is motivating for the audience, relevant for the culture, distinctive for the category and ownable for the brand.

Reflecting back on our North Star, what does it mean to have the most captivating, effective work in the world? It means creating work that captures both the imagination and the intellect. Work that appeals to the heart and the mind. Work that tells a story.

About the Author

As EVP of Strategy and Planning at Bader Rutter, Pamela Narins’ perspectives inform all of our business and communications thinking. Pamela has served as a Global Planning Director at DDB and Director of Planning at Y&R, among other agencies. She helped win, design and launch the fully integrated agency model for McDonald’s that placed human insights at the center of all brand and communications development. A graduate of the University of Chicago, she’s a lover of words, who can frequently be found nerding out behind a book, gesticulating madly with a fork, or drinking in every second with her teenage twins.