Bottom-Up Strategist – The Two Types of Strategist

In advertising, there’s two types of strategists; top-down & bottom-up problem solvers.

Top-Down Strategy

Top-down strategists work out the desired final positioning for the brand and work back to where the brand is today.

‘Brand strategists’ start with a blank piece of paper and source information to come up with the final positioning.

Bottom-Up Strategy

Bottom-up approach starts by looking at the current environment (budget, media, assets, competitors) and builds forward to the final positioning.

Comms strategists (insert any ‘executional’ element – creative/integrated/ engagement/interactive strategists) excel when they’re responding to an idea, joining the dots that need to be connected.

Stop the Kitchen Sink of Ideas

Bottom-up planning has emerged as a discipline with the changes in media, in the 60s when Account Planning kicked off there were limited media options so there wasn’t a demand for strategic rigor in the implementation process.

Now it’s abundantly clear when bottom-up planning is missing in a meeting; the agency presents a ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ number of executions for the ideas that are way over budget, not aligned to the media plan and technically they can’t even work. Leaving everyone confused.

Complementary Styles

The two planning approaches help complement each other in the creative development process. The best creative agencies in the world know this and have built out bottom up specific strategists as part of their team (Droga5, McCann, BBH, BBDO, Johannes Leonardo, Anomaly, W+K, Goodby).

Started From The Bottom…

Bottom-up planning has been my craft for 10+ years, I’ve led the Comms Planning departments at BBH and BBDO where my team has gone on to create the following award winning integrated work for PlayStationBacardiFootlockerMountain DewGESnickersM&MsLowesInterscope RecordsBoost Mobile and the Sandy Hook Foundation

What next?

If you’re part of the 10,000+ planners who subscribe to my newsletter Planning Dirty you will have had a preview to some of the key bottom-up resources (Brand Actions LibraryPlanning ToolkitBlueprintsMedia WeightingGolden WindowInterAgency Collaboration). However, there’s only so far general advice can go with the dynamics at each agency and brand varying so much.

I’m excited to now be consulting, so I can work closely with agency leadership to build out a skillset that is right for their agency.

If you know a CSO or agency leader looking to transform their strategy department, tell them to get in touch and we can chat about training, workshops, or coaching.