The Strategy Puzzle: Branding, Process And Problem Solving

March 24, 2021

Puzzle being solved

A Playful Parallel

The world of campaign strategy & planning is like doing a puzzle: there are always multiple pieces, it challenges both the left & right side of your brain, there’s always a handful of details that’ll contribute to a successful completion and some people are just better at it than others.


If someone asked you to do a puzzle with them chances are your answer would be some version of the following: yes, no, maybe later, etc.  Do you think there’d be a series of questions running through your mind in rapid succession before answering?


The reason for asking is because the request for a campaign strategy can also be done in a single sentence- but don’t let the simplicity of the ask fool you. The amount of complexity involved is similar to that of a puzzle. There could be hundreds, even thousands, of pieces – each one with a unique purpose and placement. But if even just ONE piece is missing the puzzle will never truly be complete. Those who operate in the world of campaign strategy & planning know this all too well. At the end of the day, our ability to deliver for a client is largely based on the strategy behind the strategy.


Let’s start by exploring a few of those questions. Is this a 10 or 10,000 piece puzzle? Where are you going to put it together – the kitchen table? Depending on the complexity are you willing to sacrifice your table for however many days, weeks or possibly even months it might take? Next, what’s your go-to strategy? Do you start by sorting the pieces by color? Borders first? Or do you like to throw caution to the wind and jump right in in no particular order?


One doesn’t need to answer every single question before starting. However, just the subconscious consideration that these questions exist could wind up saving you time and headache down the road. For example, it might not be a great idea to start building a 10,000 piece puzzle on a small side table – you’ll end up needing more space and it’ll only get harder to move the further along you go. And here’s a twist – what if this wasn’t your everyday puzzle but instead it’s a 3D Japanese puzzle? Well, things just got exponentially more complicated.


Food For Thought

Now take a moment to revisit the simplicity of the initial ask and the series of questions it prompted. The questions that followed demonstrate a type of thinking, synthetic thinking, that allows one to not only see how each individual piece connects but also remain forward-thinking enough to acknowledge and envision how, once combined, those pieces might create something completely different. 


When clients ask us to partner on a ‘puzzle’ we go through a similar series of questions & dialogue. This is when the organization (or synthesis) of abstract thoughts into a complex system begins. The information gathered goes beyond the standard question/answer format though. Information becomes the constant in a sea of growing variables; it’s the ‘if’ in every ‘if/then’ statement. As a result, it becomes the universal currency for which we base everything moving forward and evolves in real-time as does our access to more & more of it along the way. 


Similar to a puzzle- whether you’re at the beginning, the middle, or the end of a campaign- the more information you gather along the way, the clearer your picture becomes. A blue puzzle piece is a single blue puzzle piece until it’s combined with 20 others to start creating a sky. And it’s only after looking at those 20 blue puzzle pieces that you can start to appreciate the subtle nuances and variations between the different shades of blue. 


We recognize the powerful influence data & information can have which is why it’s at the center of everything we do. While information could be considered a static input/output (like a description or data point) it’s also dynamic in nature because it varies day to day, week to week and client by client. As a result of this data dichotomy, we’ve found it’s how you source and use the information that proves to be most critical to success.


Last puzzle piece


The Perspective

Every brand has a purpose. How brands operationalize that purpose is their strategy and that’s what we find fascinating. Strategy isn’t one size fits all though. According to Merriam-Webster, the earliest recorded use of the word ‘strategy’ dates back to 1779. Over time the definition and use of this word have evolved, creating new adaptations spanning a range of disciplines, definitions, and applications. One might say it’s even in our DNA; it’s an adaptation that serves an important function in achieving evolutionary success. The one thing that holds true across time & discipline is that it’s the framework for achieving a desired outcome. 


As a strategic partner, our purpose is quite literally the strategy. But how can we achieve our goal & our purpose when it’s dynamic in nature? It’s because we have a strategy behind every strategy. 


We start by laying all the pieces on the table & taking inventory of the data sources available – like publisher performance, website activity, a client’s sales system or CRM, etc. More importantly, we envision the potential organization of these abstract pieces into a complex system thereby creating a blueprint for ongoing data aggregation and strategic advancement. 


We call this the Campaign Architecture. The reason this framework is so critical is because it’s how we source and use the data that proves to be most impactful. You could have all the data in the world but if you’re only able to use 10% of it (whether that’s due to lack of organization, accessibility or time) then what value does the remaining 90% hold? 


Data only holds value if it’s used to inform a position, decision or action. Therefore our strategy behind every strategy is establishing a framework that maximizes the value of our campaign & client’s data. It not only automates the sourcing and organization of data but also continually drives strategic advancement. Similar to the puzzle, the more pieces of information we gather along the way the clearer the picture becomes. As a result, we’re able to identify subtle nuances and tactical shifts that can be made to further enhance campaign performance and results for our clients.  


This might seem like an impossible goal for us to achieve with a single system if every client, strategy and campaign is different. But we understand how all the pieces connect and recognize the greater potential. We developed a model for campaign architecture that’s flexible enough to support multiple versions and can evolve to fit the needs of our clients. 


Whether we’re working with a startup or enterprise level business, the number of pieces may vary but the principle puzzle and purpose remains the same.


Liz Robinson
Liz Robinson