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2016 PLANNING: SIX KEY QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

Posted 11 June 2015 9:00 AM by Steve Swanson

It’s the start of the planning season — the time when agencies and brands question the old and the new in an attempt to pave the way for collective success and, ideally, unprecedented gains. But before you jump into your planning process (and watch everyone scramble to protect their sacred silos, departments or programs), take a moment to ask yourself a key question: What brought you — for better or worse — to where you are today? The universal answer: your consumer. How well you’ve done — and how well you will do — all hinges on your ability to earn the attention, business, loyalty and advocacy of that one key person. And pleasing him or her is getting more and more challenging.

Thanks to ever-accelerating advances in technology, the expectations of today’s consumers are rising exponentially. Every download, click, toggle or swipe is the gateway to a new, more engaging, more rewarding, more personalized experience. This charge is being led by legacy innovators like Apple, Google and Amazon — category giants who have built their multibillion-dollar kingdoms on stack after stack of anticipated and fulfilled consumer needs. The point is, if you’re not leveraging technology and the insights it provides, you’re already falling behind.

As you can see, there are a lot of factors to ponder as you look toward the year to come. To help make that process a little easier, here are six questions to consider as you begin your 2016 planning.

1. Are you stuck in the past? Don’t start with last year’s SOW and retool it. Clear everything off the table and open yourself up to possibilities. Explore and discover inventive ways of approaching issues. And beware of protecting legacy programs and ideas just because they’re funded. This can choke your creativity, demotivate your team and cause costly stagnation.

2. Can you quick turn with blinding speed? You better be able to. Today’s technology and marketplace demands are accelerating at a breakneck pace. You and your agency need to act and react with a level of velocity and agility that can match — if not impressively surpass — that pace. Plan for speed.

3. Do you get that everything’s connected? What’s the next big thing? Think about Uber. Think about Airbnb. Then ask yourself the question again: What is the next big thing? Because whether you’re ready or not, it’s right around the corner. And if you think your category or company is not affected, then think again. Everything’s connected. It all plays out. You need to be on the winning side of that equation.

4. How well do you “omni”? Meeting people whenever, wherever and however they want to engage with you is now the standard. When your consumers use a device, log into their account, pull up your website, pick up a phone or walk through your door, you better be there waiting.

5. What about AR and VR? Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are no longer confined to “The Minority Report” or our imaginations. They are real, and they are a force for change. Already emerging on the retail landscape, these devices give brands from every facet the chance to create heretofore unfathomable and impossible consumer experiences (e.g., someone confined to a wheelchair can climb Mt. Everest, an avid cycling fan can ride in the Tour de France, you can walk on the moon). So make sure your plans include a bucket for innovation. The current recommendation is a 5% goal.

6. Can you become a content-generating machine? Content still rules, yet its kingdom is evolving. Consumer attention spans are now only nanoseconds long. You have to grab their attention with content that engages them in (and ideally resonates long past) real time. That means you and your brand partners have to operate more like a breaking news program than an artistic film studio. Be poised to quickly generate, curate and serve up high-quality content 24/7.

Remember, planning is thinking in action. Look beyond the obvious and challenge the status quo. Invite ideas, dialogue and brainstorming about how innovation can fuel existing programs or long-term deals and commitments. Most importantly, make certain that your current and future consumer is your guide — the omnipresent force in the room who continually informs (through research, literature, surveys, social listening and more) your most intelligent, strategic and profitable road forward.

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