WARC: The strategic bravery gap between agencies and clients

The Future of Strategy 2023 report shares insights from marketing stategists

The Future of Strategy 2023 report released today (3 October) by WARC shares insights from marketing strategists across the globe and highlights a strategic bravery gap.

This eleventh edition of the annual WARC study unpacks the key trends considered pivotal to the future of strategy. The research is based on a worldwide survey with 971 client and agency-side strategists fielded in June and July this year, topics explored at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, and discussions with leading strategists worldwide.

Key takeaways from the study include:

  • Strategy needs more revolution: 70% of strategists are encouraged to be strategically brave, but just a third (34%) agree clients encourage brave decision-making.
  • Over-reliance on frameworks:  Almost half (48%) of respondents agree that accepted marketing frameworks are a hindrance to strategic bravery, while 30% disagree.
  • Planning in a world where niche is big: 76% of strategists agree that greater emphasis on qualitative methods is necessary to understand emerging and niche communities
  • Planning for a sustainable future: 59% of strategists say DEI objectives do not feature in briefs and 50% say sustainability never features  

According to the study, knowing what has worked in the past has its place, but strategy is also about imagining the future, and strategists are well-placed to identify game-changing ideas and innovations. For this, they need ambition, imagination, bravery, and revolution.

“The future of strategy is straightforward. Uphold the bureaucratic way things have always been done and study from a distance, or immerse oneself and explore the way the world truly operates to affect progress.” 

Matt Klein, Head of Global Foresight, Reddit

The study also suggests that with fewer monoculture moments to capture mass attention, strategists and brands must find ways to effectively understand, reach and engage niche communities.

Summing up, WARC’s Lena Roland said: ‘A recurring theme in this year’s Future of Strategy report is the need for strategists to get away from their desks and meet real people. Without this, it’s harder to have a realistic understanding of people’s lives, their hopes, fears, pain points and harder to spot game changing opportunities that build a better future. 

‘Calling for a revolution suggests we need a rethink. Strategies need to be more imaginative and ambitious, and research needs more respect and reality.

Featured image: The Future of Strategy 2023 / WARC