Tactical & immediate or strategic and longterm? Are they so different?

We have no money,” a client said recently,  “so we need to think.”

The implication was clear. We must do things differently.

“Isn’t this where the problem starts?” I thought.

Not thinking per se, but believing that thinking in a different way somehow means a better way.

“How clear are you about what your brand really stands for?” I asked.

“We’re pretty clear,” he answered.

“What’s its ‘single organising principle?’” I carried on.

“Not sure,” he said. “But why does that matter at a time like this?”

The sun broke through the clouds.

In these difficult times with a limited arsenal doesn’t every single bullet have to count?

Isn’t a focus on what you fundamentally stand for all the more crucial nowadays?

The single organising principle articulates the truth of an organisation in a way that binds everyone to the cause.

Inside and out.

It helps insiders think relevant thoughts – and so not waste precious resource.

And it makes outsiders think positive thoughts – because they see the brand behaving with integrity.

So perhaps a subject that appears to be only strategic and long-term can be made meaningful for the tactical and immediate?

A few years ago I had the privilege to advise Honda on their single organising principle.

A few weeks ago they broadcast one of their earlier ‘The Power of Dreams’ commercials, written to the brief the single organising principle work threw up.

It was the one that evolves from motorbikes to racing cars to powerboats and eventually to an enormous hot-air balloon in the rushing cascade of a giant waterfall.

All against the stirring soundtrack of Andy Williams in full voice to ‘The Impossible Dream.’

It wasn’t selling a specific model.

It wasn’t offering 20% off.

It was 100% celebrating ‘The Power of Dreams.’

I’ll lay a bet the size of the entire production budget and all of the air-time costs, that the morning after it ran the staff were doubly committed to punching the company out of the torrid situation they’re in, that existing customers swelled with pride, and that prospects took a step closer to becoming customers.

Well done, Ken Keir and the Honda team. You’ve shown true brand leadership at a time when we all needed the inspiration of seeing someone stand up and be counted.

And you’ve managed to solve the long-term/short-term conundrum by staying true to what your brand is really about.

So perhaps the best response to ‘we have no money so we need to think,’ should now be ‘we have a single organising principle, so we know how to think.’