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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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1 – Introduction

1.1 – Module Overview

The ‘Strategy: Future Thinking' module as part of the Advertising and Brand Management degree took place in the first semester of the third and penultimate year. It consisted of working directly with the Managing Partner, Account Director and Creative Director at LIFE Agency in Birmingham over a twelve-week period.

1.2 – Strategy

At the beginning of term, a recap on the previous two years was performed to remind the group on what was learned during each module and more importantly, what strategy was.

Marketing strategy is the process of reaching out to a specific audience of people and eventually turning them into customers using the company's value proposition. This process involves several stages beginning with forms of research and identifying key insights and ending with creative outcomes to fulfil the objective of the brief. Aspects such as target audience, demographics and customer journey need to be considered as part of the process to ensure the campaign is successful in reaching the correct audience. More specific details of the brief are held within the marketing plan, which is different to the marketing strategy. The difference between the marketing strategy and the marketing plan is that the strategy sums up the overall proposition of the company, whereas the plan explains in more detail about the key message(s) being portrayed in the campaign. So, factors such as cost, timings, deadlines, channels and platforms are all contained within the marketing plan.(1)

1.3 – Design Strategy

An understanding of design strategy was also gained at the start of term to provide a clear insight into the creative side of strategy. Simply put, the definition of design strategy is to collaborate the campaign objective with a creative solution or a range of creative outcomes. The design strategy process starts off with a review of the client brief to identify what the measurable goals and objectives are, before looking for internal and external factors that will impact the final outcomes. Then elements such as form, and implementation are considered to figure out how the design(s) will meet the challenges and opportunities and how it will be produced. After production of the design, an evaluation will be completed to analyse how well it meets the objective which will then lead on to determining if adjustments need to be made or not.(2)

A key task involved in design strategy is “acquiring a deep understanding of the client's industry, competitors, goals and opportunities” to provide the creative team with a clearer idea of the client background and what they are aiming for through the creative execution. There are a range of components that require research in the process of design strategy which involve addressing; existing and ongoing challenges, customer/client requirements and their behaviours, emerging trends and if there are opportunities to differentiate. Performing this research effectively provides a better supported creative output which will have a greater chance of success when meeting the strategy objective.(2)

2 – Client Brief

On Thursday 4th October the brief was pitched by Chris Walker, Matt Connors-Jones and Nadine Mason at LIFE Agency in Birmingham. It was a different brief to what was expected after looking at the nature of work LIFE had done previously as the aim was directed at aiming awareness of an issue, rather than promoting a service or product. The brief objective was to develop a through-the-line campaign with the purpose of driving awareness and understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the UK, leading to donations to the National Autistic Society (NAS). The campaign had to fit around Autism Awareness Month (April) and a key observation made from the pitch was how Chris elaborated on how important the statistic ‘1 in 88' was.(A)

After receiving the pitch and watching the ‘Too Much Information' film as part of the NAS's most successful campaign, initial truths were noted down to capture the reactions of the group which would be used in our strategy development later in the module. At the time there weren't really any questions from the group as the brief was presented clearly and the specific details of the brief were explained well. The only aspect that wasn't fully understood was the target audience for the campaign, however after questions on this aspect, was cleared up as it was completely open to any audience. In the afternoon of the 4th October, the group had a session consisting of designating tasks to each individual to begin our research on the project.

3 – Audit

3.1 – Purpose and Process

The research that the individuals in the group were tasked with would eventually form together an audit which would hold all of the groups initial research.(B) These tasks would involve primary and secondary forms of research as well as quantitative and qualitative data to gain a good overview of the subject. Everyone's tasks were written down on a Word document that was retained in a shared Google Drive folder, which would also include our research once completed so that everyone could access it.

To ensure that the subject was covered well in regard to research, Ryan Delves and Laura Edwards took leadership roles in the session to decide who would be covering each area of research. They decided that they would produce a questionnaire that was shareable on Facebook, Tom Walls and Rob Wellings would question the University about autistic students at Staffordshire University and complete a PESTLE analysis on the subject of Autism. A PESTLE analysis is a marketing tool to identify external factors facing a company or organisation. The acronym stands for six different areas; political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal and forms part of the situation analysis which should be performed at the start of a project.(3) Rhea Dhillon had to look into the NAS's previous campaigns, Aaron Brassington would research the Autism Spectrum, Steph Urban would gain an overview of the NAS, Connor Montford had to study their brand identity and competition as well as assisting Stu Ellmer with the SWOT analysis of the brief. To create the foundation of a marketing strategy, a SWOT analysis should be performed to assess strengths and weaknesses (internal) and opportunities and threats (external) of a company. This summarises what that company is good at, what they aren't good at, where they can improve and what challenges there might be. Similarly to PESTLE, a SWOT analysis should be performed at the beginning of a marketing strategy.(4) Stu was also tasked with finding background information on the NAS and identifying key statistics from the NAS website with the help of Kenya Petticrew.(C)

Even though the group started off well by designating tasks to individuals and showing a positive reaction to the brief, some members of the group didn't pull their weight when it came to their tasks.(C) This was an issue that wasn't properly addressed until a day before the audit pitch back to LIFE which was unprofessional of the individuals and the group as a whole.

3.2 – Audit Pitch

Three weeks after receiving the brief, the group presented back to LIFE with the audit that consisted of all the research so far. In the Contents and Roles document on Google Drive, it was agreed that Ryan and Laura would present to them which they were happy to do.(C) They also said through word of mouth that they would design the pitch document once all of the research was in the presentation. This was where confusion occurred.

Even though the majority of the group had done their tasks, the performed research had been uploaded to different areas of the shared folder. Some people uploaded their work straight into the pitch document which would allow Ryan and Laura to simply make it look good. Others uploaded their work as separate files into the group folder, so they could still access it, but because it wasn't in the actual presentation Ryan and Laura believed that some members didn't complete their tasks. Another issue in the pitch preparation was that the majority of the group didn't update the Contents and Roles document when they had uploaded their work which didn't help the situation.(C) This was not approached until the night before the presentation which was careless of the whole group and caused issues between the group on the day of the presentation which was very unprofessional.

3.3 – Q&A Session

The group audit was presented surprisingly well by Ryan and Laura on 25th October after all of the confusion between the team which LIFE were reasonably impressed with. A question and answer session then followed LIFE's feedback to solve any queries or concerns with the brief. Connor Montford took the lead when focusing on the questioning as he noted down all of the group's questions before the audit pitch which showed a bit more preparation within the group. He then continued to be the pioneer of the group by asking Chris, Matt and Nadine the planned questions and taking notes based on their answers. As there weren't many issues with the brief, there were only a few questions to be asked but they were insightful. One question that needed answering was regarding budget carving as there wasn't any experience of working within a budget between the group. Chris answered this well by explaining to the group to carve each section of the plan up using percentages. He then went on to say that they will take the lack of knowledge about cost into consideration when marking the strategy plans. Other questions focused on LIFE's previous work and their experiences working on through-the-line campaigns to provide the group with any issues that they might face when approaching the brief. The answers to these questions were shared in the Google Drive folder so that everyone could access it.

4 – Strategy

4.1 – Process

After the audit had been completed and presented to LIFE, the course split up into two teams of three and one team of four which would remain for the rest of the semester. Stu Ellmer was joined up with Connor Montford and Rhea Dhillon to form a team of three. Each member of the group had different skills based on creative execution, strategy and the format in which they work. The knowledge of these aspects was beneficial because each member was able to provide a different opinion or view on ideas and concepts which resulted in going back and forth until the best outcome was classified. The first session back in the studio on Thursday 1st November was the beginning of further research and idea generation for Stu, Connor and Rhea. As they all had a creative approached to campaign work, this session consisted of originating ideas based on the research that was already present in the group audit.

This session also involved producing the foundations of the final pitch document so that any work or research produced by the team could be implemented into a shared document. The thought process behind this way of working was similar to the whole group approach to the audit so that all of the work was in one accessible place and could be edited by any team member if required. However, after the issues raised from the process of the group audit, Stu, Connor and Rhea aimed to be more organised in the way tasks would be completed to avoid a repeat of what happened earlier in the semester. The group looked at the marketing planning systems and acronyms of what had been learnt in the previous two years of the course and devised how they could apply them into their campaign strategy. The key to their strategy was the SOSTAC marketing plan which had been learned in their second year. The SOSTAC model was invented and developed by Paul Smith in the 1990s which stands for situation analysis, objectives, strategy, tactics, actions and control.(5) It is essentially a logical step-by step process that covers the key elements of a marketing plan. Application of SOSTAC had been used once by each member of the group in a previous module so there was already a clear understanding of the model which is why the acronym was the base of their final pitch document.

During the same session, the group used the audit and performed further research to complete a vague situation analysis on what the NAS do and the level of awareness around autism in the UK. This was the first stage in the SOSTAC process. Stu, Connor and Rhea were also able to carve out a main objective for the strategy which would be followed and referred to throughout the strategy development. “Utilising NAS's current social media as a communication platform around National Autism Month (April), increase not just awareness of autism, but the understanding of it and the struggles individuals face daily.”(E) was the group's objective. This had been tested against the SMART acronym to see if the objective was specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-specific. The reason for ensuring an objective is SMART is because it starts the construction of an effective marketing strategy.(6)

There were occasions within the project where a team member would be unable to come in for a lecture or a group session which led to tasks being decided over a Facebook group chat. An example of this was when Rhea was unable to attend the lecture on Thursday 8th November where Stu and Connor pushed on with insight development for the creative execution. As she was unable to attend, Stu asked her on the Facebook chat if she would do some further research into the target audience and start work on the personas for the final pitch.(F) Rhea agreed and produced vital target audience research as well as the two personas which were based on demographics, geodemographics and market segmentation. This was a well-organised way of keeping up with work and ensuring every member within the team was on track.

4.2 – Key Insights

The audit was pivotal for the group when identifying insights for their campaign because the majority of their research was in that document. After studying the audit and referring back to the original brief, they decided on three key insights that would be the base of their strategy and their creative outcomes.

The first insight was their initial truths when they perceived the brief and viewed the ‘Too Much Information' film from 2016.(6) Guilt, unaware and empathy were how each team member felt towards the film and the subject raised within the brief which shows that emotions were raised. This insight was chosen because two out of three of the group were completely blind to the effects of having autism and the tolerance of carers and family members of autistic people. Witnessing the Too Much Information film portrayed some of the effects of having autism from a first-person view which gave the group a clearer perception of what it is like to have autism which increased our probability of donating to the NAS.

The second insight was extracted from the brief pitch document supplied by LIFE which focused on the 1 in 88 statistic. As Chris explained about his personal life and how his son, Dylan, suffers from autism during the pitch, he made it clear how important the objective of the brief was to him. He continued to stress about how the statistic ‘1 in 88 people have autism' and how the group should keep referring back to it when approaching the campaign.(A) Due to Chris's delivery of the brief and his explanation about his personal experience with autism on a day-to-day basis, Ellmer, Montford and Dhillon decided to make this statistic a key insight for their campaign.

A statistic from the questionnaire that Delves and Edwards had shared in the audit was the third and final insight for their campaign. The survey acquired over 70 responses and one noticeable figure was that ‘73% of autistic people and 60% of their families change their own behaviour to reduce the chance of intolerance from the public'.(D) This linked back to the Too Much Information film shown at the briefing where an autistic child and his mother are walking through a shopping centre and he starts to freak out, causing a disturbance within the public environment. The mother then tries to calm him down to reduce the chance of intolerance but unsavoury reactions from by-passers have already been captured.(7) This clearly conveys that the majority of the public don't understand the issues of living with autism which is why this statistic is key to the group's campaign.

4.3 – Tactics

Tactics consist of the specific details in a marketing strategy to work towards the main objective. This is where the use of the marketing mix comes into strategy which consists of the seven P's; product, price, place, promotion, people, process and partnerships. Again, this plan allows the group to separate the strategy into different areas that covers each factor of a good marketing plan and helps meet the main objective.(8)

To go further into detail regarding the strategy, the team of three decided that they would reach out to their target audience in stages. This would be all part of a communications plan where each stage of the strategy would implement a different reaction from the audience to maintain the exposure of the campaign and gain as big of a reach as possible.

5 – Creative

5.1 – Approach

Stu, Connor and Rhea approached the creative by referring to their key insights and using the ‘Too Much Information' campaign as inspiration to ensure that they were implemented into the outcomes. A range of initial ideas were developed that involved a viral video, a print campaign and a flash mob. Each idea was then measured against the customer journey acronym RACE which they had decided to go with as it matched their objective. RACE is a digital marketing planning system that can be applied to channels such as social media which stands for reach, act, convert and engage. It is used for small and large businesses as a structure for digital marketing campaigns to manage and improve results. The benefit of using RACE throughout a campaign is that it can be used to measure the success of each stage, monitoring analytics such as impressions.(9)

5.2 – Outcomes and Channels

The final creative outcomes of the campaign consisted of the viral video, print campaign and flash mob. These three outcomes had been fully developed from the initial idea generation and were tested against each target audience to ensure everything was supported. The production of the print campaign and concept of a video would be the outcomes of this project as there wasn't enough time to organise a flash mob or fully edit a video.

As Connor was probably the most creative out of the group, he decided in an organised group session on Monday 26th November that he would be happy to produce three examples for the print campaign. The visuals for this would focus on the third insight and portray how an autistic person's normal is different to a regular person's normal but should still be respected. This relates to the campaign objective of not just making people aware of autism but making them understand the issue.

The ‘1 in 88' insight was incorporated into the video concept which again, was led by Connor. He was able to contact a friend that was good with filming and editing which enabled the group to show off a short clip of what they were aiming for.(10) The thought process behind the clip was to use a similar style to the ‘Too Much Information' film to show the effects of suffering with autism in first-person and then elaborate on the ‘1 in 88' which would be portrayed in the narrative.

The flash mob was the last outcome for the creative which would be performed throughout ‘Autism Awareness Month' in populated public areas of the UK based on the target audience geodemographics. A flash mob is a form of marketing that involves a group of people performing a pre-determined routine in a public situation to raise awareness of something.(11) Examples of these environments would be train stations and shopping centres in cities such as London, Birmingham and Manchester. The decision behind choosing a flash mob was based on the first insight which mentioned the group's initial truths. This is because a flash mob captures people's genuine reaction which is effectively their initial truths to the situation.

The channels to advertise these outcomes on would be the NAS's current social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. This is because they already have a well-established following of over 500k followers across these platforms which is already a great reach for the start of the campaign.

5.3 – Timings and Measurements

The print campaign and viral video will be launched around the end of March 2019 to begin raising awareness for ‘Autism Awareness Month'. They will then be shared throughout the month by new and current followers to reach out to a wider audience and maintain exposure of the campaign. The flash mob will then be conducted throughout April in the areas stated earlier to go alongside the print and video campaign to reach out further to the public by effectively putting autism in their face.

To measure how successful the campaign is throughout April 2019, the RACE system will be referred back to, so each stage of the process can be monitored. Reach can be measured through analytics supplied by each social platform to measure impressions and new followers. Action can be monitored by the rate of likes, shares and comments. Convert will be monitored by the comparison between the number of people who acted and the amount of people who clicked on the donation link and donated. Then engagement will be measured by monitoring repeat donations from the public.

6 – Pitch

6.1 – Final Pitch

Stu, Connor and Rhea had been updating their final pitch document throughout the process with supporting research to justify each of their points. The creative concepts were the last additions to the pitch which was finished on the 5th December. Slides to be learned were determined on the same day so that each member had a day to learn what they were going to say to appear prepared to LIFE. As Rhea said she gets anxious when presenting, Stu and Connor decided to take the majority of the pitch to take some pressure of Rhea. The final pitch to LIFE was on the 6th December in Birmingham.

6.2 – Feedback and Learnings

After all three groups had presented, Nadine, Matt and Chris questioned the groups on their strategy presentations. The questions were quite tricky to answer as they were trying to pick holes in our plans, but luckily Connor was able to take the lead and answer the questions in detail. The feedback supplied by LIFE was beneficial to the group because they briefly explained where the presentation could be improved and how well they presented.

7 – Conclusion

To conclude, the team of Stu, Connor and Rhea successfully produced a through-the-line campaign that fitted the brief pitched by LIFE. They considered each aspect of a marketing strategy and followed a constructed planning system which led to their success in the module.

They also worked well as a team, exploiting their individual skills between each other and working effectively to produce the campaign and professionally pitch their strategy back to LIFE.

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