Execution. The only thing that really matters

I’ve always been a bit puzzled by the emphasis ad and marketing people place on “strategy”.

Like strategy is some mysterious thing that if they just get it right, magic will happen.

In my experience, great advertising is invariably a triumph of mere common sense and sound judgment that was readily accessible to all.

It’s never a secret.

And rarely is it the product of that beaten-to-death marketing term: “insight”.


That’s all there is.

Not “think” something great.

Create something that people will love.

In other words, execute.

Give people something to react positively to.

I think all the palaver about strategy – and that’s what it is, palaver – is just an excuse to hide from the tricky business of actually doing something.

10 responses to “Execution. The only thing that really matters

  1. Shoot first, ask questions later?

    • I’m not saying don’t give things a jolly good think. but that if all you do is think, it’s all a bit pointless isn’t it? who dares wins etc.

  2. And how many times, when you truly create something amazing, does the strategy get retro-fitted to the creative?

    Big clients need “strategy” to satisfy the rational parts of their brains because they don’t trust their intuitive parts.

    Sad, really.

    And then they all extoll somebody like Steve Jobs who understood how to trust intuition. But the truth is, for 99.99%, they won’t be able to follow his example.

  3. Sometimes it pays to stop and ask for directions.

    • agreed. sometimes it’s a bit of a puzzle. but usually it’s not. the problem is usually readily identifiable. but too often agencies offer “process” in lieu of actual hard thinking. if your business model is predicated on complicating things, things are going to get complicated. and the output will suffer as a result.

  4. Strategy is about getting the message/campaign out, the media buy etc. Not creating an Ad! Now to be fair if there is a promotion and the company is having to decide on what that will be relative to market and competition that is strategy. But then they just give it to the creatives and say ‘$5 foot longs all october’ make me a flipping commercial that gets that message out.

    But when it comes to creating ads how hard is it to say ‘Here is the product or service lets sell?’ I mean are the people you deal with such fools…oh wait…there is a reason Marketing is the orphan of sales and why CMO’s can’t keep there jobs.

  5. howie, we are lucky. people come to us precisely because they want to DO something. But one thing i noticed at bigger agencies was there is a whole industry devoted to talking about doing. And speculating as to what that doing might be. And which channels this eventual doing might be best suited to. And what color the doing should be. And meetings and meetings and more meetings and…Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  6. Hmmm, I don’t know.

    I’m with you in general, and in some of your subsequent replies you add needed nuance to your point. But just to say that execution is the only thing that really matters…I want to believe it, but it’s just not true.

    Especially for a marketing person, strategy matters. In fact it is they that should own it.

    Examples of where strategy can matter greatly in the outcome of work:
    1. Deciding to sell a men’s personal care product by appealing to the women who influence or make the purchase (not the men)
    2. Deciding to take a competitor head-on in competitive advertising instead of just sticking to your own benefits (ie. Apple vs PC)
    3. Deciding to prioritize digital over TV to reach a younger target
    4. Deciding to go for long-term brand building instead of product specs (eg IBM e-business)

    And the REASON why strategy matters? A big part of it is for people to cover their ass, to leave a paper trail to justify their decisions if things don’t work, etc.

    But another very sensible reason is…to try to increase the odds of being successful. Without any strategy at all you’ll hit it out of the park 1 out of 10 times. With a great strategy, say 3 out of 10. Nothing major…but enough to make a difference. After all, in this business we don’t get endless bats at the plate.


    • martin,

      i didn’t say strategy is unimportant. far from it. i am mr. strategy!

      but the fact is that we live in an increasingly executional world. and we are all seasoned and jaded viewers who are sick of marketing.

      and a lot of the bigger agencies act like strategy is a mystery and they have some proprietary “tool” to interpret the voodoo. horseshit, as we all know.

      i struggle to think of a single instance where i couldn’t figure out the strategy after a few hours of thought. most products come with history of some kind.

      Execution is all the consumer ever sees/experiences. So how they feel about that is the most important part.

      It has to be. It all comes down to a moment.

      Was that a good moment or a bad moment?

      And great execution is a lot trickier than great strategy. You’re trying to create magic.

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