A few people have asked what a brand strategist is and what resources I recommend for aspiring brand strategists. In super simple terms, a brand strategist is someone who learns everything there is to learn about a brand and everything surrounding that brand – including its users, fans, prospects, detractors – and can distill it down into only what matters to create the most relevant value proposition. And then recommends marketing and/or communication strategies for bringing that brand to life.
A great brand strategist is:
1) A sponge. You don’t have to be a full-blown Account Planner, necessarily, to be a great brand strategist. But if you don’t have a heaping helping of passionate intellectual curiosity, do choose a different path. My top three books on brand strategy are:
Building Strong Brands, by David Aaker. Very academic but it’s The Bible. This is what Harley-Davidson used to craft their brand identity system when I worked on their business. If you still have questions about what a brand strategist is, read this book and there will be no further possible questions.
Disruption. Beyond Disruption. How Disruption Brought Order. all by Jean-Marie Dru and all absolute must reads.
Truth, Lies and Advertising by Jon Steel.
Those are just the books, obviously there are other publications (I love Communication Arts), numerous blogs (see blog roll for just a few of many), piles of research, etc.
2) An idiot savant. I suck at abstract math, science, and history, and really anything truly useful in the world. But I can cut through a brand strategy like a knife through butter. Which does not exactly put me up for the Nobel Prize, but hey, it’s fun. To be a brand strategist, you need a bizarre God-given ability to take an enormous pile of information and cut to just what matters. To craft it into a tight proposition that is confident, relevant and captures the heart of the brand experience. Frankly, I’m not convinced that being a really great brand strategist can be taught. You are either strategic, or you aren’t. If you aren’t, don’t beat your head against the wall.
3) A creative. Right now, I have on my desk essentially a laminated placemat of a brand value proposition architecture that a new client feels captures their brand to a tee. But it is complete and utter garbage if I can’t translate it to a far more brilliant creative team in a language that they can relate to. (There’s some killer stuff in Truth, Lies and Advertising on how to do this. The hair on the balls of a bee; if that doesn’t pique your curiosity, I don’t know what will. Read it.) So it helps if you have at least some creative urges, sensibilities or at least appreciation.
4) A geek. While tactical planning is (thankfully) not a huge part of the job as a brand strategist, it definitely helps to throw yourself learning about all kinds of media, interactive, social and otherwise, so you can therefore bring forward ideas for how to express your strategies in a variety of ways, which inspires others. And it’s important to be an inspiring geek, not a boring geek. If I am a boring geek, God forbid, I hope you will tell me so I stop blogging.
It’s pretty simple stuff. I hope that helps? What other resources do you recommend?