Partner and Strategist, Richard Provost, brings his unique set of skills to The Strategy Department every day. A humble strategic force to be reckoned with, innovator of transformation and father of three who loves date nights with his wife… What skills does someone need to be a Strategist?
- Solid foundation of general knowledge (call me old fashioned but I always preferred a good University background and extensive travel experience)
- A natural sense of curiosity and the desire to constantly engage with people, situations and topics that are outside one’s comfort zone
- An ability to distill through quantities of information and extract the relevant ones that will support the argument
- Once the facts are clearly laid-out, it’s about the visual and verbal skills to tell the story eloquently and effectively
- Finally, it’s about interpersonal skills as a Strategist is only as good as the personality that conveys the message.
What are your strategic strengths?
- All of the above
- Oh and humility of course 😉
- Honestly, you can’t be good at everything but I believe you need a good dose of all to have an impact and last in this profession (young guns are pushing behind so you need to constantly re-actualise to stay relevant).
How can you tell the difference between a marketing campaign that has a great strategy and one that doesn’t?
- You need to see beyond the creative first impression, sit back and ask yourself: ”OK, what were they trying to convey here, was this a lasting and effective way to do so?”
- If nothing sticks beyond a vague impression of coolness, then there is a chance the idea is shallow and a lack of strategy was compensated by “clever” creative expression.
- Ultimately, a campaign that “feels right” is often one that “thinks right” in the first place.
- Once the intent is clear and the insights are pertinent, it is much easier for the creative team to express the strategic idea in a distinct and engaging way.
What part of your job inspires you?
- Diversity (yes again)
- The ability to influence respectable business people in crucial long term decisions
- The performance side of it, when you have to read the room and command respect in an effortless manner within the space of under an hour.
What 5 advertising trends will we see more of in 2015?
- Consumers and marketers by extension have gone beyond the typical “Communication” dimension of a brand
- The winning brands are the ones that have designed a complete experience built around a unique concept or idea
- The promise made in Communication, should be kept in the design of the Products & Services, the Behaviour of the people delivering that experience, and enriched through all its Channels
- Brands, through the window of Digital, now have the power and the responsibility to tailor that experience to each and every consumer out there. The Coke cans, named after each and everyone of us is one step in that direction.
In what way is South Africa ahead of the global strategic / marketing curve and where do we lag behind?
- AHEAD: Even if it could be perfected, the sheer diversity of our markets across Africa, from a cultural, and socio-economical perspective, gives our marketers a greater responsibility to be sensitive and relevant
- BEHIND: Despite a few brands leading the way in building truly brand –centric businesses, many organisations on the continent, still perceive brand management as an extension of the Marketing or Corporate comms department. There is still a lack of understanding and consideration at board and Exco levels for the need to drive brand in every business decision they make.
What do you think it takes for a South African or foreign brand to win on the rest of the African continent? I have mostly experience on the sub-Saharan part of Africa so I’ll focus on those regions!
- Stay humble: Perceptions can be very deceiving in African developing economies and one must revise traditional income or LSM based segmentations to better appreciate true purchasing power and living standards – I always remember this Zambian bank that adjusted its approach to attract gate welders that were not fitting the traditional entrepreneur mould but had similar monthly income.
- Be patient: Trust in Africa is built over time and Western tendencies of short term Returns On Investments fail to comprehend that. Being pushy and getting down to business too quickly can be perceived as rudeness. Engaging people on social media is the same and I heard from solid sources on “Black twitter” that influencers willinvest more time there to build relationship before punting their offer.
- Get personal: Whether it’s about a person or a brand, be authentic and start revealing some intimate facets of your character. People will judge you more on who you are rather than how competent you are.
What do you do for fun?
- Take my wife on dates as much as possible. Three kids tend to make you forget who you decided to live with in the first place!
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