How Google Planning is Endangering Cultural Strategy

Any research that is not already pre-digested with the hit of a button is being removed from the strategic process

by Antonio Nunez*

GOOGLE´S ANALYTIC´S, TRENDS, Console and the rest of their suite of tools, in combination with Google search engine´s simplicity, have made many brand planners believe that you can come up with a great strategy by simply burying your head in a computer screen. This is what I affectionally call “The Google Planning Plague”.

The negative results of understanding Google tools as the only source for creating brand strategies are many:

-1. Planners are not trained in social and observational abilities, like connecting with strangers through empathy or reading consumers’ non-verbal communication.
-2. Planners are content detecting people´s surface behaviors, they forget to dig deeper to discover the ever-evolving cognitive insights that are based on attitudes and values.
-3. Brand strategies do not touch base with consumer´s lives beyond the digital.
-4. Strategies lack a coherent narrative. There is a shortage of the most wanted word in the digital world today: Context.
-5. Planners have stopped reading novels, comics, watching movies or trying to understand our cultural past and brand genealogies. Any research that takes more than a few hours or is not already pre-digested with the hit of a button is removed from the strategic planning process.
-6. Account people and Clients are getting used to having “Strategy Decks” ready within hours.
-7. Agency Financial people and Clients are losing the habit to sign or pay for research budgets.

By over-using Google analytical tools, some young strategist is making the same mistakes that we, the more seasoned strategists, made in the past. For several years we relied solely on another kind of “new technology” research tool: focus groups. Yeah. Focus groups were more convenient, mess-free and affordable than the “old fashioned” long walks in the street, visiting malls or consumers´ homes or in-depth interviews with experts and influencers. Focus groups were the equivalent of going to the movies: you just had to sit and watch. By overusing focus groups, planners realized the hard way that they were not learning about everything that was there. Observation and one-to-one interviews need also to be part of the research equation.

Planners are forgetting the art of what the great Douglas B. Holt called cultural branding: understanding the cultural context, subcultures and the genealogy of consumption myths.

Conducting direct observation ethnos should still be key in any planning strategy. As Y&R´s Global CSO Sandy Thompson usually says: “If you want to understand how a lion hunts, don´t go to the zoo. Go to the jungle.”

Long live the trips to the jungle and long live Google´s suite of research tools.

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*About the author:

Antonio Nunez is an author, speaker and brand strategist specialized in Storytelling. For ideas and tips on storytelling and communication, you can join his free newsletter at antonionunez.com or follow his Twitter @AntonNunez

Communication Strategy Consultant, Author, and Storytelling Teacher at Domestika.com. More at antonionunez.com

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