Language gets in the way of marketing business strategy alignment

Concepts, big ideas, territories, tissue sessions, brain storming and more are all terms people use in marketing and advertising to describe various steps in the development process. The problem is that often there is no agreement in what these terms mean and so achieving business strategy alignment is almost impossible.

A few weeks ago we were facilitating a TrinityP3 Engagement Agreement with a client and their agencies and the first hour was spent simply getting agreement and alignment on what these terms that they had been using for several years mean.


So what are these terms and what do people generally think they mean? Here is a starting point but I would really like to hear your thoughts on this.

Brand Idea or The Big Idea: This is a unifying brand idea from which the communication concept is developed. A great big idea has the ability to last much longer than the annual plan.

Concept or Creative Concept: This is the specific communication idea that is developed from the big idea. There can be multiple different concepts for every big idea. See territories.

Territory: These are the different areas of concept relating to a big idea or brand idea. They are usually not media or channel specific although often presented this way.

Executions: This is the specific media or channel expression of the concept.

Themes: These are usually associated with concepts and can be an intermediary step between brand idea, concept and execution.

Tissue Sessions: This is the process of developing and exploring a number of concepts to a brand idea or a number of executions to a concept.

Campaign: This is the multiple channel execution of a concept.

Strategy: This is basically problem solving or developing a solution to an issue, problem or opportunity.

Planning: Not interchangeable with strategy, planning is the process of mapping out the implementation of the strategy solution.

Directions: Is similar to territories in it defines a number of expressions of the big idea or concept.

Do you agree? Or is there a different and perhaps better definition?

There are plenty more. So let me know.

Hopefully we can build a definitive glossary or terms and help get marketing business strategy alignment between marketers and their agencies.

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About Darren Woolley

Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email:
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7 Responses to Language gets in the way of marketing business strategy alignment

  1. Jon Bradshaw. says:

    Darren, this is a good topic, one dear to my heart. You ask the agency for a platform, they come back with a concept, you have a tissue and it turns into an idea. Confused I know we are, occasionally. The issue, as well as the important point of crafting shared language between the agency and the client, is the message gets lost. At the heart of our work is always a simple message: some variation of tastes nice, buy some, for people like you, solves the problem of x etc. Because we like to be clever about it we often talk in metaphor, or story or some such creative device. It doesn't take long for the positioning metaphor, to get wrapped in a concept, that's articulated in an idea, bent into an execution, then adapted again into a medium. Along they way the poor consumer hasn't got a scooby what we actually wanted to say. Even the brand gets lost as the magic of creativity takes control and everything else gets subjugated. I think it's time we simplified. And each agency / client define a few simple terms and no more. At it's simplest there's message, idea and execution. In order to keep real consistency over time, maybe we also need concepts and or platforms. More than that and I think we risk disappearing up our own thesaurus. What do others think. This seemingly semantic debate goes to the heart of all our work and deserves thrashing out.

  2. Jon, I agree that often we over-complicate the process, but it is also true that the increase in the amount of data / information available and the subsequent increasing complexity in the channels / ways to respond.
    But no matter what the task, at the core of it is a process and I have been surprised how, for a communications category, language has become a barrier to that process.
    The fastest and simplest solution is to agree what you call the steps in your process and define the expectations of those steps so that everyone is aligned.
    But then is there an opportunity to get some type of agreement as an industry?
    I know it took AMI many years to get a Marketing ROI toolkit agreed because of this issue of agreeing not just process / methodology. But perhaps this is going to be easier, because in my experience across many marketers in many countries the core process is basically the same.

  3. Anton Buchner says:

    Agree – its creative chaos out there and made worse by many digital agencies having no idea about business objectives. I see agencies trying to sell a piece of creative, not necessarily a creative idea. Clients confused, focussing on product features. At the end of the day we are consumers and a product or service needs to appeal and be to our benefit. If not, then we won't interact or engage in the advertising, email, tweet, promo or whatever execution we stumble upon prior to purchase. Without naming names, i saw a brand agency recently selling in a promo as the big brand idea! hmmmm nice discussion this one.

  4. Hi Anton. I think that is one of the issues is that objectives and expectations are very rarely articulated in a clear and open way. And even when they are often the other party is not actually listening but only hearing what they want to hear.
    At the last couple of Engagement Agreements we have run this has increasingly been an issue as we get more and more stakeholders from multiple agencies and brand teams into the room for this discussion.

  5. Anton Buchner says:

    Listening is a great word. Many agencies are too eager to 'prove' their creativity without really listening to the challenge, clearly defining the opportunity WITH their client and then developing an effective creative idea that can be taken into different touchpoints. Collaboration, clarity and then maybe creativity that consumers will connect with. Sorry for all the C's – and conceptual directional territory of this strategic comment

  6. Jon Bradshaw says:

    A common approach would be good. But I fear beyond the reach of a community of intellectuals, passionate about the topic, certain of their own process and frankly a right bunch of NIH syndrome sufferers. I count myself, sadly amongst them. But then if you ask me to invent the standard Aussie way I could of course subscribe to that!! 3 day workshop anyone? As for goal setting – don't get me started. I crafted a long post on this topic, but Steve Job's damn computer ate my words. I'll keep my thoughts to myself for tonight.

  7. Anne Miles says:

    Add in there the word 'pitch' too. Different people use this word in different ways. Some say 'We will never pitch' but miss out on the chance to present credentials and a budget proposal thinking that they're being asked to present creative work.

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