Strategist

Thoughts

An Exploration of Branding, Design and Cultural Trends

The Slow Discovery Movement

A mere three days after having moved back to Brooklyn ... I met someone. No, it wasn't through a digital algorithm or location-based dating app. And it wasn't even on purpose. Having just moved back, in-between consulting projects, barely unpacked in my sublet and only caught up with a fraction of my New York City network, I was not in the place to start dating. Fast-forward a month in, and I suddenly found myself evaluating whether or not we would be a good, long-term match. The need to flip to the end of the book was occupying my thoughts in a way that stunted me from enjoying the process. Maybe being accustomed to instant gratification, instant Google-able questions, books and music that could flow into my phone at a touch of a finger had a profound effect in ways I couldn't imagine. And then it hit me, like the voice-over of a Sex and the City episode, was I short-cutting the discovery process? 

In the agency world, an all-too familiar frustration with the strategic and creative process is that timelines and budgets are getting increasingly cut. Strategists are forced to come up with compelling insights with the same secondary, quantitative research that every other agency and even every publication has access to. The mere mention of a number, likely measuring behaviors over mindsets, holds more weight than any qualitative observation. Despite the lip-service around nurturing the creative process, strategists (and likely creatives), are asked to birth insights and ideas under impossible deadlines, interrupted every hour with a mandatory meeting that stresses collaboration. And the agency world is in a crisis, with budgets being shifted to social platforms and media in a way that is creating panic throughout the industry. 

Recently, an episode from the Modern Love podcast bubbled up on my feed, "To Fall In Love, Do This." The episode is a reading of an essay by Gillian Jacobs from the New York Times where the author tells a story of the time she tried to recreate a 20 year old psychological experiment in making two strangers fall in love. The technique involves a couple asking each other a series of 36 questions, each question increasingly more intimate. As a final task, the couple must stare into each other's eyes for four minutes. To every romantic's delight, the experiment worked and the couple fell in love. Upon reflection, the author mentioned that the level of intimacy created through the discovery process creates a level of vulnerability that serves as a foundation for the relationship. 

A strategy is the foundation of a campaign. Of a brand. Of a creative execution. Of an innovation. It's built on questions that have yes or know answers to them. The obvious - the who, what, when, where. It's built on answers that come from quantifiable data. But perhaps, most importantly, it's built on the why. It's built on factors that might be hard to articulate, feelings that are hard to convey and intuitions that are a struggle to measure. I'm going to dwell in the discovery phase. I'm prepared to get expose myself to a level of intimacy that makes me vulnerable and gets me out of my comfort zone. I'm excited to dig deeper, feeling the path forward, letting the strategy come to me. Who knows, perhaps I'll find the answers when I least expect it.