Week #1 in the Boot Camp for Account Planning
What I learned from my instructor, Christopher Owens, Brand Planning Director at The Richards Group.
Christopher Owens (MAS grad 1999), Brand Planning Group Head, and Alicia Fisher Damiano, (MAS grad 2009) Brand Planning Director at The Richards Group in Dallas, flew in last Friday to spend three full, information packed, days with the Account Planning Boot Camp students. Enthusiastic, honest and energetic, Christopher and Alicia shared insider tips on how to get the most out of the program, what an account planner really is and how to work in teams to create great work.
“Account Planning” is a vague term that encompasses many different types of planners. According to Christopher, “We are strategists and storytellers, collaborators and champions of ideas. We are not the voice of the consumer and on good days, we do our part to help bring in some fresh thinking.”
The role of planner is not essential in the role of communications, but the role of planner IS essential in the role of effective communications. This is because the quality of the output is only as good as the quality of the input. In some agencies, there aren’t any planners but that doesn’t mean that strategic work doesn’t happen there. However, with all that creative directors and account people have going on, doesn’t it make sense to have one person in the room keeping an eye on the insights?
We like to think the best work and insights comes from the most unexpected places but that doesn’t mean that planners are magicians. Planners are here to help make better work. They help make sure that if you bring in enough learning and insight on the front-end and develop a strategy, you can use that strategy to help persuade someone that the unexpected idea that steps outside the “safe” norm of a product category is actually an innovative new way of connecting with their consumers.
When we bring strategies and briefs that are lengthy, it means we haven’t boiled our ideas down enough, and we aren’t doing our jobs well. A good planner should try to champion thinking that is:
•SUCCINCT enough to be heard
•IMAGINATIVE enough to captivate
•RELEVANT enough to matter
•DIFFERENT enough to stand out
•BELIEVABLE enough to overcome lack of trust
Strategy + Storytelling
If you want to help sell great work that is unique and different, you typically have to have a story. You can have a wonderful insight that can change the world, but it will fall dead if it doesn’t have a compelling story. If you can bring strategy and storytelling together, you can harness the one thing that throughout the history of man has convinced mankind to do absolutely anything. A story well told.
Your planner tools are always on.
In this profession, you never turn off your natural ‘planner tools’, your eyes, ears, and your mind. You are always looking at commercials, TV shows and people on the streets behaviors trying to understand why. Make sure to record ideas that you have when you are out in the world.
What is a brand?
A brand is never just a logo or a tagline. A brand is a combination of items and behaviors that all together form a brand promise. Whenever someone has a thought about a brand, they are accessing a ‘mental database’ of experiences they’ve had with the brand. Everything marketers and advertisers create needs to line up against the brand promise.
Keep brand promises strong.
•Be consistent. Walk the walk, talk the talk.
•Live the brand. The people behind it need to believe in it.
•Have a deep insight about the people you are going to reach.
Get to know your own brand.
There are different types of planners and there are many types of working styles. Learn your strengths. Is it research? Is it analysis? How do you collaborate with your account planning partner? How do you work with your creative team? Awareness of your own personal account planner brand is important for you to be able to articulate when you graduate and interview for a job.
Interested in becoming an Account Planner?