Raise your hand if your 2020 strategy included under Threats...the worst global pandemic in 100 years, a massive recession, WFH/“remote learning,” and/or large-scale racial equity protests?
Predictions are, ironically, unpredictable. More than that, they’re unnatural.
Philip Tetlock, the Annenberg University Professor at Wharton School and School of Arts & Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania...researched prediction accuracy with 284 experts over four years in a study that catalogued more than 28,000 of their “expert” predictions about the future. The study found...:
“...the forecasters were often only slightly more accurate than chance, and usually worse than basic extrapolation algorithms, especially on longer–range forecasts three to five years out. Forecasters with the biggest news media profiles were also especially bad. This work suggests that there is an inverse relationship between fame and accuracy.”
And yet, humans’ addiction to optimism has us clicking on the fountain of expert predictions that spew forth at the end of every year, with 2020 no exception. Have we learned nothing?
To be sure, the impacts of COVID accelerated emerging trends into the new normal, and that acceleration will continue in 2021. As mentioned in this article, this is what drove many businesses to prioritize Brand Strategy in 2020. But trends are different than predictions, and as Bill Clinton said about governance, “Follow trend lines, not headlines.”
Perhaps the greatest impact of COVID this year was that it reminded us/me what matters most, namely family, friends, health and well-being. Full stop.
In that spirit, I want to celebrate what happened this year, and not spend time on what we can charitably call 'an educated opinion' about what will happen in 2021; to recognize the people who fueled my personal persistent optimism in 2020 as we barrel headlong and without a clue into 2021:
The 2020 G&Co Clients (Chronologically)
Brand strategy in tech is non-stop learning experience. Here's to my mentors....Jason Heath, Madeline Blasberg, and Bob “The Teacher” Sparkins at Leadpages (Congrats on their sale to Redbrick); John Tedesco, Jordan Barker, Ryan Kopperud and team at Drip.com; Ryan Hansen and team owning the Advertising Intelligence category at LumenAd; Aaron Provine, Rob Reinfurt, and Cynthia Yeo inventing the UnNew Outdoor circular economy at GearTrade; Arnold and Katie Engel reinventing the wholesale marketplace at Tundra; Beijan Moallemi and Joe Garafalo engineering the Strategic Finance category at Mosaic; Rob Nelson and co. bringing Data Navigation to BI at Grow.com; Jeremy Segal delivering “Great Deals on Famous Brands” at Proozy.com; Alex Wojik and Ishmael Meskin creating the Business IM category at Kimoby.com; and Ryan Disraeli and his team establishing the Identity and Communications Intel category at Telesign.
In Strategy is Your Words, Mark Pollard–who has done brand strategy for the world’s largest agencies and brands–describes the ideal CMO client thusly:
“There is one person who sees you as an artist. It’s that chief marketing officer who’s built a career on visceral creative work and demands a strategist in every meeting...Often they recognize the art and the artist in themselves and they want strategy, presentations, and meetings to bulge with the eccentric, because they know the eccentric is easier to refine than the dull is to excite.”
This is Dustin. Constantly pushing teams, ideas, and the work to the limits of what is possible. When the CMO is punk rock, the brand kicks ass.
Craig Wilson and the Compass & Nail crew
Every business has a higher moral purpose that drives customer loyalty and profitability. They just don’t know, or they forgot, what exactly that purpose is. What’s more, the disruption to legacy business mindsets and ingrained bureaucratic processes purpose can cause is less of a warm/fuzzy feel-good and more painful than most expect when they embark on the quest. Purpose is hard; Craig and Compass & Nail make it enlightening (and measurable.) It’s not magic, but it’s close.
&Co Crew of Creative Contributors
My strategy chops (and business) benefited when I accepted that I’m small-c creative. The pros that I had the honor of co-creating with this year are the ALL CAP C CREATIVES that bring words and ideas to life. Media artiste Steve Mapp, copy gurus Colin Corcoran and Kammie McArthur, A/D Deven Stephens, design strategist Stacy Milrany, and digital designer Luke Lewis.
Thanks for reading, responding, and challenging the insights and ideas in the same candid spirit in which they are presented.
Carrie, my wife. Can you imagine what it must be like to be married to a freelance brand strategy consultant for 25 years? I can’t. Grateful every day for the support and understanding.
I will make one 2021 prediction (and maybe a little news) that I know will come true, Dustin and I will be launching a consultancy, tentatively called DRMG, to provide brand strategy to the tech product marketing world. I’ll be spending the remainder of this amazing year on pulling together the needed pieces and parts to own the SaaS Brand Strategy category.
So if you are the CEO, work for, on the board of, or have invested in...a company in search of strategy and direction, hit us up.
As always, thanks for reading.
Stay Safe. Stay Strong. And Happy Freakin' New Year.
Peace Sign Snowman,
On this week’s episode of The SaaS Brand Strategy Show, we dissect the debate between business strategy legends Andy Raskin and Christopher Lochhead. Though framed in different ways, there’s an escalating focus on the story businesses use to tell and sell the market. With all our respect to these luminaries that have blazed the trail before us, we dive into their points of view, and ask the question—where is all this language coming from, in the messaging and positioning space? Do these points of view reflect different approaches to the same goal? Semantics or substance?Read More →
Marketing has one message to achieve awareness, sales adopts another to close the deals, and product rationalizes a different one to address competition and/or customer requests. This is a sign the company has likely grown past the original founder's insight and needs a new strategy to base the narrative. The CEO's are left to try and figure out how to get the entire company to talk about what they do the same way. And the CEO's solution is often to ask the CMO to fix it.Read More →
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