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Brandwave-logo-6.png |STRATEGIC PLANNING | JAN 21
The pandemic introduced a new kind of disruption, but in many ways, it is simply accelerating changes that were already well under way. Here's how to plan for the future you cannot see.
The coronavirus has introduced a significant amount of uncertainty into the lives of most CEOs, both on the professional and personal levels. The immediate future has never had as many questions attached to it. How long will it take to feel like the health issues are under control? How will this impact the economy and the way that business operates?

But, in many ways, this recent burst of the unknown is simply accelerating a number of macro forces of change that were already hiding in plain sight.

•  The shift to remote, digital work simply continues the disruption that digital technology and data are having more generally across all sectors (the poster child Uber’s upending of transportation sector).

•  The closing of national borders and challenge to globally-situated supply chains had already been signaled by the rise in protectionism and slow down of labor migration in historically open markets such as the U.S. and the U.K.

•  Spiking unemployment and disproportionate health and morbidity are the exclamation mark at the end of a long cycle of an increasing wealth gap (one that had led to the surprisingly fast growth of low-end discount retailers such as Dollar General and Dollar Store)

•  Regional differences in how the COVID-19 epidemic has impacted local economies is an analog to how heightened climate change risks may appear rapidly and unevenly—such as how vulnerable locales such as Miami, Hong Kong, and Singapore are finding disproportionately downgraded real estate values and insurance cost increases.

Business is in flux in a way most leaders have never experienced it before. But it was already changing faster than ever—often due to forces outside organizations’ control.
In a world of uncertainty and change, today and into the future, strategy remains key to business success, whether to ride out current storms or thrive in whatever “new normal” appears in the next few years.

It’s increasingly difficult to anticipate the trajectory of change—much less have confidence that you’re doing what you need to do to compete. But strategists can’t just throw up their hands in defeat, or propose an ad-hoc “peanut butter” approach—where every perceived “silver bullet” across the business gets a little bit of investment.

CEOs and boards of directors want to know: How should we respond to emerging threats and new types of competitors? Where do we grow next? In a rapidly changing business environment, these questions have no “correct” answer—and it’s no longer possible to answer them using traditional tools like straightforward market analysis.
Strategy remains as important as ever to ensuring that you’re leveraging core competitive advantages, your entire organization is aligned, and operational focus isn’t spread too thin. But it has to be a strategy that reflects the uncertainty of the times.

The Problem With Traditional Approaches to Strategy

Today, we’re seeing the convergence of traditionally unrelated industries. Businesses are increasingly faced with fundamentally new types of competitors. New regulatory regimes are undermining old advantages. In this environment, those able to react quickly to new threats and opportunities will win— and those who don’t will lose.

Consider the taxi industry. For years, it viewed Lyft and Uber as traditional competitors—as just another couple of cab companies, albeit with cool mobile apps. The conventional wisdom was that competing necessitated owning and maintaining fleets of cars and having good relationships with regulators.

Meanwhile, what was actually happening was complete industry disruption. By embracing innovative business models, as well as aggressively leveraging scalable technology and building strong consumer brands— neither of which is a strength of traditional cab companies—Uber and Lyft have changed what success in the industry looks like.

Today, your strategy needs to be ready to respond to that kind of disruption. But traditional approaches like SWOT analysis or Porter’s Five Forces assume that business conditions will remain relatively stable over time. They make recommendations based on historical industry definitions, market conditions, and “mental models” of the business. This focuses management attention on widely known trends, existing competitors, and foreseeable impacts to current business models, and aims at strengthening existing advantages.

By contrast, effective strategy today requires constantly challenging core assumptions, not just one-off projects designed to drive understanding of and responsiveness to customers and leverage technology to change how business works. Strategy must look deeper and more broadly into the future, and be prepared to change direction based on changing circumstances—sometimes in sudden, dramatic ways.

Developing Strategy in Disruptive Times

In an era of big, rapid changes, taking a wait-and-see approach to the future is simply not an option. You need an approach to developing strategy that enables new levels of responsiveness and flexibility—one that is:

Speculative. Strategy used to be about predicting the future, then planning for that future. Now it requires considering a range of possible future industry conditions.

Adaptive. Strategy can no longer be etched in stone. It must be ready to evolve quickly as conditions change, and enable your organization to be vigilant and dynamic.

Portfolio-based. Rather than being about picking a single strategic direction, now a good strategy involves a core strategic emphasis surrounded by a number of side bets designed to give you strategic options in the event of business surprises.

Such an approach helps stakeholders from employees to the C-suite understand how and where the business might create value in the future, and how to prioritize investments in new capabilities versus optimizing business as usual—so your organization will be able to respond strategically, whatever the future brings.

Navigating Uncertainty With a Portfolio Approach to Strategy

Asset management is a good analog for this approach to thinking about strategy: as a portfolio of bets placed against the future, combined with a process for continually updating the portfolio as new information is obtained or new opportunities emerge.

While investment may be weighted heavily towards a particular part of the portfolio—the strategy built for the current most probable future for your business—smaller hedges in other directions (e.g., entering joint ventures or strategic alliances, acquiring new capabilities, experimenting in new markets or with new models, etc.) provide a strategic footprint for evolving the business over time or, if need be, pivoting more dramatically on a shorter timeline.

The future may be harder than ever to predict, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother planning for it. You just need to get better insight into what it may hold, identify a portfolio of strategic options to enable you to respond to different possible scenarios, and then build relevant contingencies and points of adaptiveness into your strategic roadmap to help rebalance your portfolio as the future unfolds.

To evolve your approach to strategy in this way, you’ll need new tools, processes and perspectives. Methodologies might include: scenario planning, foresight research, and ongoing customer ethnography. Organizations can also benefit from new forms of collaboration across their business ecosystem. And whatever tools you use, to develop and execute more dynamic strategy for a disruptive environment, a more flexible leadership mindset and a greater tolerance for change across your organization are imperative.
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As we look ahead to 2021, Marketing Week has identified the key opportunities and challenges that will shape marketers’ working world. First up, the need to adopt a dual-speed strategy and the value of failure.
Our coverage of the ‘trends’ for the year ahead is slightly different this year.

Yes, we are flagging what we think you should be spending your time and money on, and why, but equally it is a commitment from us to focus on these topics in 2021 to help you better navigate the year ahead.

There’s little point flagging these challenges as important without going the extra mile and offering analysis and insight into how to tackle them.

It’s part prediction, part rallying call, part contents for 2021.

Adopting a two-speed strategy

If this year has taught us anything, it is that even the best laid plans still run the risk of being thrown out as the outside environment changes.

Yes Covid-19 is an extreme example of that, but uncertainty looks set to become an economic reality. From geopolitical events such as Brexit or the US election, to the environment crisis and the impact of digital, it seems best to assume uncertainty is the new normal.

With that in mind, it is key to take a two-speed approach to business strategy. Businesses still need to take a long-term view, to have a goal to aim for or a purpose to strive for.

That should influence innovation pipelines, how they think about customer experience and communicate with customers.

But within that long-term plan there must be room to allow for short-term disruptions and to adapt on the fly. We have seen this year that even the biggest businesses can be agile and quickly adjust course. That spirit of short-termism while keeping an eye on the bigger picture will remain key next year.

So too will an understanding of customers, and what drives and motivates them both over the next few months and the next few years. Much has been written about how Covid-19 will change everything. It won’t. But there will be shifts in behaviour. As much as there is no new normal, there is no old normal either.

The challenge is to weed out what is driven by circumstance from what is deep-seated behaviour change. Long-term are we all going to work from home all the time? Unlikely. But is work going to become more flexible and remote? Probably.

What impact does that have and what does your business need to be investing in to be ready for those changes? SV

Embracing failure

For too long failure has been considered the worst thing that can happen in business. This mentality is symptomatic of a working culture where new innovations, campaigns and services are the product of months, if not years, of planning. The stakes are so high that anything less than perfection is considered a serious problem.

In 2020 this mindset ground to a halt. All the best laid plans were shelved as businesses worked on their response to surviving the next few days, never mind the next few months. As brands started to move at greater speed and tear down some of the red tape, they realised their response to the crisis did not have to be perfect, they simply needed to be present.

Deciding not to become fixated on perfection will be important for marketers in 2021. If brands want to move at speed they have to embrace the fact failure comes with the territory and any mistake is an opportunity to learn.

Mars Petcare has focused on being ‘good enough’, for example, rather than having a preoccupation with perfection. Learning from previous mistakes helped the business launch a direct-to-consumer website for its natural dog and cat food brand James Wellbeloved during the spring lockdown. While the technology was simple the website has worked well and is now reviewed by on a monthly basis to make improvements.

The fact more brands are embracing agile forms of working, means marketers will have to get used to regular retrospectives to assess progress. The success of these ‘post-mortems’ comes from looking at failure in a positive way, because, as Mars Petcare marketing portfolio director Arthur Renault explains, if you frame the retrospective from a “punishment angle” people will shy away from taking a risk.

A similar approach has already been adopted at ride-hailing giant Uber. Speaking at the Festival of Marketing in October, global director of brand and product marketing, Meg Donovan, insisted that a marketer’s job is never really done, as there is always an opportunity to “make a better product or build a better brand”.
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2021 Could only be a better year, Season’s greetings from Brandcell team!

COVID-19 brought with it an imminent economic crisis, review the characteristics of the brands that stood firm in the face of uncertainty.

The technology company has been able to recover in record time from the fall in tourism, and that the crisis could not have come at a worse time, since in January they were planning to go public.


“Restrictions on mobility during the spring caused a radical drop in bookings on its website. Airbnb's greatest success has been to adapt quickly to the new habits of its regular consumers, focusing on offering stays close to the visitor's place of residence and disinvesting in non-strategic areas ”, highlights the consultancy.

Elon Musk's company has skyrocketed in stock market value 330% in the past year, surpassing Toyota and becoming the world's highest-valued auto manufacturer . The main factor for its success has been the very high productivity rate it has managed to achieve, to the point of being close to the annual production target of half a million vehicles. But what's really amazing is that Tesla makes a 23.5% gross profit on every car made.

The company continues with its plans to geographically diversify its production in China and Germany, something that has benefited them this year, mitigating the impact of COVID-19.


The e-commerce giant started the year with many problems. As its demand grew meteorically, the news of imbalances in its logistics chain multiplied. Product shortages, shipping delays, strikes in logistics centers ...

But in just two months he turned the situation around. Jeff Bezos implemented a crash plan to overcome internal problems: general salary increases, training plans and many other concessions related to flexible hours. Since then, its profits have doubled and Amazon's stock market value has risen 40 percent.


It is the company that has best known how to amortize the value of its food brands. When the pandemic altered consumer habits and the popularity of products such as soluble coffee or convenience foods increased.

It has also launched numerous innovations in line with new habits and has even bet on the health sciences business with the acquisition of a company dedicated to the development of food for allergy sufferers.


The Swedish company has achieved in 2020 one of its best historical years. Its gross margins have returned to 15 years ago and the forecasts could not be more positive in China, the United States and Europe.

The reason has its own name: 5G technology . Thanks to his clever moves in the midst of the trade war between the United States and China, he has established a leadership position in both the West and Asia.


It has been one of the few companies that not only has not closed physical stores this year, but has increased their number, including with a huge interactive space, a mix of store and museum, in the center of Tokyo.

During the pandemic, they developed a mask adapting their breathable AIRsm fabric, which served as a hook product to increase the influx to their stores.
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FEATURED CASE STUDY: ​Strategy-Playing to Win Workshop
It is rather rare for a team of top executive to agree on a common formulation of “what our customers really need” and even so when asked “which business are we really in?”

Defining our “Where to play” and “How to win” is critical to any successful strategy.
Your Strategy needs a Strategy
by Book by Janmejaya Sinha, Knut Haanaes, and Martin Reeves
In a business environment that is changing faster and becoming more uncertain and complex almost by the day, it's never been more important—or more difficult—to choose the right approach to strategy. In this book, The Boston Consulting Group offer a proven method to determine the strategy approach that is best for your company.


1. Focus on what you can do

2. Extend your product launch

3. Provide valuable resources for customers

4. Use time to make improvements

5. Develop a multi - plan approach

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