Mak­ing Strat­e­gy Tangible
November 28th | 2017

Mak­ing is the art of cre­at­ing some­thing tan­gi­ble to express an idea.

So it seems like it might not have much of a role in the early stages of a project, especially when it comes to strategy. But sometimes making can have a huge impact on what happens next.

This whole conversation started for me when I was thinking about how meetings can sometimes be one-dimensional for our clients. It’s a lot of presentations and conversations, and, especially when the ideas are complex and the strategy rooted in numbers and verbatims, it starts to seem pretty abstract.

The point is, it gradually became clear to me that Zeus Jones needed to find a way to use time with our clients to make our ideas feel truly real.

But making isn’t just useful for creating a great meeting – it should be part of the whole process. Ideally, it helps sell the idea at the beginning, but also helps make it a reality at the end.

So, with all this in mind, I sat down to have a conversation with another maker and a strategist at Zeus Jones to explore how making and strategy can support each other.

Ashleigh Penrod
Strate­gist

I was think­ing, Rachel, about how you did some scrap­py mak­ing for our cof­fee client, tak­ing pho­tos at your house of what the morn­ing rit­u­al looks like to bet­ter inform sell­ing that strat­e­gy through. And it was just a sim­ple thing, but it real­ly helped con­vince them that it was the right way to go.

Braden Stadlman
Pro­duc­er

On some lev­el, peo­ple just need to know, What does this mean?” Trans­form­ing an idea into some­thing you can feel or take with you makes every­thing sharper.

Ashleigh Penrod
Strate­gist

Some­times, when you put a lot of rig­or into a strat­e­gy, you feel like you have to make all that rig­or appar­ent in what you say, when you real­ly need to show them the out­put, or the sto­ry, or some­thing emo­tion­al or excit­ing that’s informed by it, but not always the strat­e­gy itself. 

If we’re repo­si­tion­ing a busi­ness, we have to be able to pitch that inter­nal­ly before we can help con­sumers under­stand it.

Right – and the thing we make gives the client the oppor­tu­ni­ty to show some­thing to oth­er peo­ple and express their excite­ment – to give them some­thing where they can say, Look at this great thing that I’m so excit­ed about.”

And emo­tion is a big part of that sto­ry. They have to feel some­thing about it in order to com­mu­ni­cate it even to their own teams.

Braden Stadlman
Pro­duc­er

We tend to think about the upfront of a project as a strat­e­gy, and the lat­er part as not that, but I think that bring­ing in more than pure strat­e­gy at the upfront can make a huge difference.

Ashleigh Penrod
Strate­gist

It’s all strat­e­gy AND cre­ative, so they shouldn’t be separate!

Braden Stadlman
Pro­duc­er

We’ve tak­en the step to say that pro­duc­tion is strat­e­gy, but we haven’t always done the flip of that – to incor­po­rate pro­duc­tion, mak­ing, into the begin­ning. It should be mixed the entire way. 

Ashleigh Penrod
Strate­gist

Yeah, and it is chal­leng­ing, because you feel like you have to have all these thought exper­i­ments worked out – a hypoth­e­sis and a way to solve it – before you waste time” by bring­ing it to life. But it’s not a waste of time – it’s a way to save time.

Part of my process is that I solve prob­lems by mak­ing some­thing, so it helps me to work togeth­er with a strate­gist, to under­stand the think­ing, and to car­ry that for­ward into mak­ing some­thing so much sooner. 

Braden Stadlman
Pro­duc­er

It’s about cre­at­ing a suc­cess­ful team that can do every­thing togeth­er. Blur­ring those lines between the phas­es of a project that help us put the right effort and inspi­ra­tion into what we create.

BTS✨📷 photo by @plesserchick styling @witanddelight_

A post shared by Rachel Hardacre (@rmhardacre) on

Ashleigh Penrod
Strate­gist

How do you decide what’s the right thing to cre­ate? How, as mak­ers, do you fig­ure that out?

It depends on who we’re talk­ing to, and what kind of project we’re doing. I hon­est­ly think it just comes down to, What is the best way to illus­trate this to get peo­ple to bring X and Y togeth­er?” We do that real­ly well at Zeus – take a cul­tur­al insight and an audi­ence or a pair of part­ners and put them togeth­er. And we’re great at explain­ing that, but it’s amaz­ing how show­ing some­thing real and tan­gi­ble can instant­ly com­mu­ni­cate the poten­tial of what we’re offering. 

Braden Stadlman
Pro­duc­er

A lot of it’s about effi­cien­cy, too – what we’re good at mak­ing. But, ulti­mate­ly, it’s about what makes the most impact. If it’s a pack­ag­ing change, and it just looks dif­fer­ent, then we take a pho­to. If it’s about how it feels, then we make the box. If it’s about how it opens, then we film the box. If it’s about how some­one feels about it, then we get some­one to open it and film their face. And then, of course, match­ing that project with who­ev­er has the skills to make it.

But some if it is also about break­ing down those per­ceived walls between peo­ple who can and can’t make, and putting peo­ple into new and excit­ing roles. We’re humans – we have hands, and we’re made to cre­ate. So let’s stretch.

And, if I’m work­ing close­ly with a strate­gist, it’s enrich­ing and excit­ing, and I’m going to learn.

Ashleigh Penrod
Strate­gist

Plus, it makes strat­e­gy less of a strat­e­gy with a cap­i­tal S. Because who knows what that means? Instead, it becomes just think­ing and ana­lyz­ing and decid­ing. Work­ing togeth­er close­ly and col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly takes the cap­i­tal S out of strat­e­gy and the cap­i­tal M out of making.

Braden Stadlman
Pro­duc­er

Right – it takes the pre­cious­ness out of it. It’s not stu­dio art. We have a lot of hands here, so let’s put them to use. 

This con­ver­sa­tion was so enlight­en­ing for me, and helped me think about what’s next for Zeus Jones when it comes to incor­po­rat­ing mak­ing into the work we do – all along the way.

The future is one where there are no siloes between makers and other disciplines. It’s one where, every step of the way, we all collaborate to make our ideas real. That way, the maker can use their strategy brain and the strategist can use their maker brain, and we can both make ourselves, and the work we do together, so much better.