I was recently asked for ‘secrets’ behind great planning by a journalist. Truth is there aren’t any…not beyond vision, imagination and…of course…empathy.
Planning works best when the rules are discarded. Truly original ideas rarely stem from rigid, linear processes. They may be packaged as such in order to sell a rationale behind them and there is nothing wrong with that. It makes it all seem a bit more scientific and assuring. Post-rationalisation is not a crime. But it’s the ‘unplanned’ planning (for want of a better term) that unlocks truly great ideas.
Planning shouldn’t primarily be the process of narrowing down the strategic possibilities for a bunch of smart people. The problem with this approach is that logic tends to drive all players within a category to the same territory as the information available to everyone is near identical. I believe perhaps the most important role for planning is broadening the view (for a bunch of smart people).
A broadened view that incorporates a social and cultural perspective on brands, as opposed to just the category-specifics, allows us to rediscover the familiar to observe and interpret it in new light. It’s about creatively applying logic, not logically eliminating creativity. And it takes imagination and vision. Most importantly, planning is about people. We mustn’t forget that as planning is fundamentally about understanding human motivations.
Great planning doesn’t happen in diagrams, process flowcharts and PowerPoint slides. It happens when planners spend time with the people our clients want to start conversations with. The industry talks a lot about insight (a relentlessly abused word in the Oxford Dictionary) but the key that can unlock it often gets lost. It’s name is human empathy.