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Chief Strategy Officer Summit: The BIG Questions for 2014 and Beyond

Posted by Julie Kurd on Tue, Dec 10, 2013

strategy chessLast week’s Chief Strategy Officer Summit in NYC (#CSONY) was an electric example of brand strategy in action. If you didn’t get a chance to attend this year I highly recommend making the trip in 2014. In the meantime, I want to share some of the big questions we marketers and strategists need to ask ourselves and our organizations this coming year...and beyond:

  • Are you continuously focusing and refreshing your brand?  If your customer can’t rattle off what your brand is about, chances are your messaging isn’t streamlined enough. Jennifer Dorian, Chief Strategy Officer for Turner Entertainment Networks, passionately described the big decisions they make as they 1) keep their brand properties crystal clear and 2) continue to evolve their brands. Dorian argues that brands need an “essence;” some of Turner’s brand essences: TNT=Drama, TBS=Funny, TCM=Classic Movies. TNT, anchored by Law & Order, embodies drama with programming that focuses on the line between good and evil, passion, and the willingness to take a risk—they’re the stories that make life interesting. TNT is continuously developing original compelling programming that makes drama come alive for viewers (their new show Mob City is a great example). The outcome of their efforts, to focus and clarify their brands? 25 consecutive periods of growth. What are you doing to keep your brand focused and fresh?

  • Which target audiences will you “double down” on? OK, you’re a successful brand with a devout following and yet you know you need to make calculated big bets to claim your unique positioning. South Street Strategy’s Mark Carr was on hand to talk about thinking deeply about your target audience, and your brand’s playbook for actively engaging them. South Street Strategy and CMB, helped the Tauck travel company go from business decisions to successful new product launch with a focused innovation approach. Hypotheses abounded for how to grow and refresh the nine decade old company—intergenerational travel, kid focused, teen trips? CMB and South Street partnered with Tauck to explore people’s life goals for relaxation and for travel. The tram then used a quantitative approach to prioritize areas with greatest appeal. They unearthed the “engaged traveler”—those interested in cultural immersion, moderately active, and seeking adventure. Based on this, Tauck launched and optimized the Culturious brand, a highly successful set of tours geared to active Baby Boomers. You can learn more about our approach here.

  • Are you engaged deeply and passionately enough? Let’s be honest with ourselves, that 30 year old degree from a pedigreed school is looking pretty stale. Digital natives (yup, kids) are supplementing their education with experiences and experiments that are really immersive, both in and out of school. Tanya Van Court, Discovery Communications’ SVP of Partner Marketing, spoke about how the number one non-fiction media company in the world’s Discovery Education brand is re-purposing its content for the classroom.  Discovery is inspiring curiosity and critical thinking with exceptional content delivered in classroom length snippets. When I was a kid we took a bus to the next town to visit the library and scour microfiche for an article from the decade before. Now, these digital natives are actually interacting with materials from the bottom of the ocean to the furthest reaches of our galaxy, all before breakfast, and often just for fun. They interact with content differently, they expect access to current and relevant info and they crave personalized experiences. As Discovery Education disrupts the business of textbooks, watch out world, these digital natives are going to be out in the workforce soon and they combine a lot of passion and outrageous curiosity. Is it time to examine your company and your personal brand through their lens?

  • Is your brand under Caesar’s control or is it spawning fleets of scientists?  Intuit’s Bennett Blank shared his view that “designing for delight” is everyone’s job.  We all need to have deep customer empathy to uncover unsolved customer problems and to think flexibly so we can build durable competitive advantage for our companies. Intuit’s goal is to improve their customers’ financial lives so profoundly that customers can’t imagine going back to the old way they did things. Of course, the makers of TurboTax, Quicken and Mint.com know a lot about making exceptional products and continuously innovating.  Blank contrasts two types of leaders—the” Caesar” and the “Scientist.”  The Caesar’s goal is to win (and not to lose), and to be right. The scientist however, bases her ideas on evidence, has a “do it now” style, and a willingness to be enlightened through trial and error, experimentation, and data. Scientists get results that can be characterized as “discoveries,” while the Caesar sits around worrying that he might get stabbed.  Intuit is frequently and rapidly experimenting so it can deliver “more better ideas” into the earlier part of the innovation funnel that can actually delight the customer. 

  • What’s “long-term” mean for your brand? Quite possibly the conference planners most intriguing decision (or lucky collision?) was pairing Rebecca Keiser, Strategy Administrator for NASA, with Gary Liu, Global Ad/Product Strategy for Spotify. Gary talked about how Spotify’s strategy needs to expand to address the “further future,” and when he talks about the further future for Spotify he’s talking about 6 months away.  NASA, on the other hand, is thinking about the year 2030. Spotify uses word like “throwing together” and NASA word choice like “forging.” It was a great reminder to think about what long-term means for your brand and the decisions you need to make.

So, what questions will you ask yourself, your team, and your organization, as you look to 2014 and beyond?

Julie KurdJulie is an Account Executive at CMB, she's definitely a "Scientist" not a "Caesar;" you can follow her on Twitter @Julie1research.

Topics: strategy consulting, conference recap