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The Core of Strategic Branding

Understanding the customer through research-based strategic planning should be part of any branding strategy, says our Strategic Director Lee Parkinson. 

Deep diving into human behaviour is Lee Parkinson’s key area of expertise.  

Without any rational reasoning behind why certain advertising campaigns resonate with audiences and why others don’t, he set out to create a better understanding of how behaviour influences campaign outcomes.  

“I’ve always been fascinated by what makes people tick.”  

Lee spent some time as an award-winning creative - until a colleague pointed out to him that he’d be a better strategic planner. “We were receiving our briefs from the planning department of a former agency I was working at - and there was virtually no insight in many of them,” he says.  

“So, I started rewriting the briefs for our own creatives. This was not popular with some in the agency but I ended up being appointed as ‘Director of 360-degree Planning.’

"It was an interesting title designed to reflect the emerging need for fully integrated campaigns that were much more than merely producing matching luggage across different media and channels.”  

Since those days, Lee has run and worked at a number of agencies as a founder, strategist and copywriter. At Strategy, Lee is part of a global team of branding experts - all of whom have a core focus on humanising the brand experience. 

To be successful in the creative industry, Lee says a person needs curiosity and empathy. Without these traits, it’s impossible to understand the market and what people’s needs are - the very essence of good advertising and design. 

“Being curious keeps us fresh, and being empathetic helps us see the world through our clients’ eyes and the eyes of the consumer”.  

Lee is not a fan of focus groups and intention-based research. He believes this often causes ‘group think’ and merely tells us what people ‘say they do’ to conform with group and social norms, 

Furthermore, people are often not sure why they acted in a particular way, so we need to find other ways of uncovering what individuals really feel and actually do -the holy grail of market research.  

Instead, he uses a combination of desk research, guided discussions (one-on-one with a person in a place of their choice) and observational research to uncover valuable insights when developing brand, creative, and communications strategies for clients.  

By interacting with people in environments where they feel at ease rather than ‘surveilled’, this generates far more fruitful and interesting findings about a brand and its positioning than traditional methods can achieve  

When helping a client uncover or refine their purpose, vision, mission and values, Lee's approach ensures that no stone in a brand’s story is left unturned.  

“It all has to line up.”