Why I Founded Carousel30’s Strategy Department

Date: 
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Author: 
Greg Kihlström
Blog Category: 
Carousel30
Capabilities: 
digital strategy
By ad agency definitions, I am a creative at heart. I’ve lead Carousel30’s Creative department for nearly 10 years and at other companies for years before that. That being said, I am not always comfortable labeling a person as creative and others as ‘not creative’ because there is imagination, new ideas and innovative approaches required in almost any profession. The term ‘creative’ just tends to get applied to the visual artists and writers in an agency. It is probably because my introduction to this industry was through visual design that I always feel a special connection to that component. But over the years, I have realized that as my design process matured along with the problems being solved by our designs, websites and marketing campaigns became more focused on high-level business goals than aesthetic or purely tactical ones. 

I'm excited about where Carousel30 is in our growth from a creative firm over nine years ago to the full-service digital advertising agency we are today. We have had the opportunity to grow one-person nonprofits to 20+, multimillion-dollar organizations. We've had the privilege to work with household names like Toyota, AOL and MTV. And most important to me now, we had the ability to grow from just providing a small set of assets to running complete national advertising campaigns for great clients like The Nature Conservancy, Audubon Society and National Guard. 

Part of this growth has meant that the strategic component of Carousel30's involvement with our clients has grown and matured over time to the point where several years ago, we could say that all of our work was developed strategically with our clients, and what might have formerly been a standalone tactic has been incorporated into a larger strategy of brand growth, audience engagement and measureable returns. 
 
With this change in our role as an agency came the need to formally address this strategic role that we have been playing with our clients all along. We have always designed unique solutions, developed applications that solved organizational challenges, and created campaigns that engaged and activated our clients’ audiences. But a common thread that became more and more clear was that we were working closely with our clients on making large-scale improvements, modifications and plans to grow the organization, create efficiency, and improve profit margins. These goals go well beyond the goals of a website launch. They are fundamental to the success of a corporation.
 
Because of this, Carousel30 has decided to add a new department with a new focus to our team, Strategy. I am very proud to announce that I’m taking on the role as head of strategy. While I am leading this team, by no means do I work in a vacuum. I am surrounded by people I am proud to share this responsibility with every day, who look at the challenges our clients face from a business, technology, creative and marketing perspective. 
 
The strategy team addresses several aspects of our clients’ needs. We translate organizational goals and objectives into a strategy that optimizes the effects that digital marketing initiatives have on the organization. We do this through the following:
 
  1. Identifying opportunities and challenges to the organization as a whole, and more specifically where digital assets and tactics can help.
  2. Analyzing and prioritizing customer needs and goals that the organization can adequately address and improve.
  3. Creating a strategic framework of how digital assets will fulfill those business opportunities and customer needs, along with a plan to measure its effectiveness.
  4. Determining and prioritizing the digital assets and tactics that can deliver on this framework and implementing the appropriate measurement plan.
This translates into tactics such as the creation of marketing and advertising plans, technical infrastructure recommendations, reporting and analytics frameworks and plans, and digital brand guidelines and a plan to manage the brand across platforms and mediums.
 
How does this set us apart from many of our competitors? It means that we work collaboratively with our clients and are always questioning why we are doing what we are doing. We believe that this constant curiosity and desire to improve what we do is what gets amazing results for our clients and is the reason we have such great success in making genuine connections between our clients and their audience. It also means that we are not always the best choice for companies who simply want a website company to build a standalone Web presence. Strategic approaches, meaningful interactions and measurable success is what we do, and is the foundation for all of our work.
 
Why is this so important? To most of you this is clear, and to those of you who are not working with a strategic partner like Carousel30, this approach should be a breath of fresh air. Instead of being caught up in jumping from tactic to tactic and justifying their existence after falling in love with a cool creative concept, the way that we work is much different. We start with the organizational objectives, which is a higher level than marketing objectives. Unless we can tie everything we do back to a direct positive change in the sales, growth, customer or employee satisfaction of our clients, we must question whether or not we are taking the right approach. This process takes a little bit longer, but it creates marketing initiatives that produce lasting, measurable results. It creates social media campaigns, websites, mobile apps and one of a kind events that complement and add to an organization’s brand awareness and perception, and at every point have goals and measurements that are tied back to what is truly important to the business.
 
For me personally, the shift in my role from creative director to head of Strategy, reflects my true work with Carousel30’s clients, and my place in the advertising industry. Over the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to write and be interviewed for industry publications like iMediaConnection and Website Magazine, speak in cities around the world, and all of these articles and speeches have a consistent thread. Even in a presentation on a great creative concept we collaborated with the United Nations on, the thing that keeps coming out is that a strong digital strategy produces a strong outcome. Even in a presentation on social media basics, a strong digital strategy comes into play. So for me, this is a natural progression to officially do what I’ve been doing all along with my clients and projects that I am so passionate about.
 
In my mind, there is no greater honor or privilege than to be trusted by an organization with the strategic direction of its growth. Being able to collaborate and help my clients at that level is an exciting challenge that has allowed us to achieve some amazing things. And, as I've found over the last 9 years, there is plenty of creativity involved as well.