I remember Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, stating that for his business strategy might account for 5 to 10 percent of the work but execution makes up the other 90 percent. He stated,
“I’ve seldom met a consumer who buys our wonderful Knorr products or Lipton or Omo or Skippy because they like our strategy.”
Of course, this is true. You can have the best strategy in the world, the best vision of what could be, and still fail to achieve anything without good execution. But then again, I have seen clients repeatedly try to market a brand and fail because the brand or communication strategy was fundamentally flawed. Good strategy and execution must go hand in hand if a brand is to grow.
Good strategy comes from knowing what needs to change in order to encourage people to buy your brand. Your brand may already have untapped growth potential and all you need to do is make it more salient in relation to the right needs and occasions, but it might also be that you need to create something new in order to change the way people respond to your brand. What will have the most influence on attitudes and behaviors? It might be functional innovation but a compelling new creative idea might be quicker to implement and still boost growth.
Once your strategy is agreed, then it becomes a matter of planning and execution. A fundamental part of good execution is knowing how people respond to your brand and its marketing initiatives quickly. Even the most optimistic marketers want quick reassurance that their campaign is a winner. And, unfortunately, even the best laid plans can go astray.
Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon, master strategist, recognizes that things can fail to go according to plan and says,
“If you’re good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure.”
Like any good entrepreneur, marketers need to behave as if they are in perpetual beta, which getting fast feedback so they can quickly identify opportunities to course correct. This is why Kantar Millward Brown models search and social data and combines it with timely survey data to quickly identify if a campaign is on track for success and, if not, what can be done to get things back on track.
This need to use consumer feedback to optimize and act in near real time is clear. But likewise so is using insight to ensure your plans are based on a solid strategic foundation. My worry is as marketing increasingly focuses on the “need for speed” we are doing so at the cost of looking for the right, new strategic opportunities. Even if the 90 percent execution/10 percent strategy rule is right, we all know in marketing if you aren’t operating at the full 100% you wont succeed!