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Never surrender to lacklustre thinking, always know you have a better idea. Image courtesy of asboluv

I like Skunk Strategies.

Or rather I like them in the absence of anything else. And you might find the approach useful especially if you are working in a difficult sector, on a difficult piece of business or at an un-inspiring agency.


We don’t always get to work on dream projects with loads of latitude and the freedom to create the thinking that we feel is the most interesting. This is especially the case at the beginning of our careers or with client organisations or agencies that set their strategic sights low.
So we acknowledge that the confection on the table is somewhat lacklustre in the thinking department, though we are nominally responsible for it. Sure it’s no ‘positive hate’ or ‘tolerate mornings’ but it’s a damn sight better than the original pile of rubbish the client or agency management was determined should sit in the middle of the brand bagel or whatever they happen to be using. And we then reassure ourselves that it is actually quite good for this category.
Everyone can understand why these kind of disappointing outcomes happen. What is unforgivable is when we don’t have an alternative strategy under our hats that we love and tried to sell instead.
Whenever I come across thinking that simply doesn’t excite me but where there are extenuating circumstances for why the strategy is as it is, I always ask the planner for their skunk strategy. A skunk strategy is that alternative bit of thinking that they really wanted to land. Who knows, with a following wind we might be able to create some new energy around it and even if this isn’t possible it is a reassuring sign of professional pride and personal standards.
I heartily recommend this approach whenever you feel that the piece of thinking on the table simply underwhelms you. I mentioned a few skunk strategies – particularly from pitches in the Strategy Safari post I did a couple of years ago.
Incidentally I named Skunk Strategies after an approach we took at HHCL on big pitches. There would be an official pitch team and a skunk pitch team with the later freed from the obligation to follow the pitch brief at all.
When pitching to hold onto the Tango business I was in a skunk team that was concerned with putting the ‘orange’ back into Tango and used the strategy ‘Its the oranges stupid’ in honour of the note that Clinton had pinned around the place in the run up to the 1992 presidential elections. One route was based on the observation that Tango contained the whole fruit a bit like economy pies contain the whole pig. The line was “The whole orange from snout to arsehole” and the work depicted the ghastly abattoir where Tango was made. Hey ho.
Here’s the Folger’s ‘tolerate mornings’ ad by the way – still think its great.

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