The Strategist's Handbook by London Strategy Unit
My first thought is that this should perhaps be called The Strategist's Newspaper Thingy, but I guess that's not quite as catchy.
Some useful starting points for original thinking
First things first, I should commend London Strategy Unit for bringing together a bunch of great models, exercises, advice and websites for young planners. It certainly delivers on it's promise of starting points for original thinking.
There are 3 sections in The Strategist's Handbook, all written by people in the industry:
- Useful tools and exercises
- How to be more useful to your company
- Intellectually stimulating websites
Section 1 briefly introduces a series of models and exercises that can help you with your strategising (e.g. positioning maps, laddering, the 90-9-1 rule, brand archetypes, P.A.T.C.H, etc). This is the first time I've seen such a wealth of planning resources in one place.
Section 2 is, for me, the interesting part (or at least it should be). Section 1 is probably more useful, but Section 2 is less common and not the kind of thing you learn at university. It addresses a few things, from filing things properly to taking notes and writing summaries, that will help you to be more valuable to your agency. Personally I feel this part could be a lot more extensive and some of the advice is a little weak. E.g. "You should know how to take photos and use them in presentations". This is my response to that.
Section 3 can be summed up in one word: meh. It's a list of website. A good list, but not so good that it's better than Googling "top 100 websites". And if you want advertising websites/resources, then I suggest you have a look at futurerising's list of useful links (it's better than LSU's).
All in all the content is good. And it's different. You can buy a few advertising books but you won't get this kind of stuff, or at least not all of it. Or you could chat to some planners in the industry and it would take them more time and effort than they'd be willing to spare you to tell you all of this stuff (if they can even think of it all).
But it's not all good
I have a few too many qualms about The Strategist's Handbook for my liking:
Excluding the cover, the about page and the advert for LSU's newsletter on the back, there are only 13 pages. Including those it's only 16 pages long. Now that wouldn't necessarily be a problem if it wasn't for my next problem...
2. Price Tag
£8.50. Yeah, you read that right, £8.50. And it's £10 once you factor in P&P.
To put this into perspective, that's about 63p per page (or 77p per useful page). Compare that to Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout which costs less than 4p per page (at it's current price of £7.69 on Amazon). And as far as I'm concerned, that's a much better read for advertisers. In fact, you'll find many advertising books out there that are cheaper and better.
Typically a model/exercise is presented along with a single sentence describing it. Of course some don't need any further explanation, but others most certainly do. And more examples wouldn't go a miss.
Whilst good, there's nothing ground breaking in there. Nothing you can't get from Google and, if you've studied an advertising course, nothing you don't already know.
If I'm going to pay £10 for something, it better be good quality. The Strategist's Handbook is not. As you can see in the pictures, it is printed in a newspaper format - a format that has no intention of lasting very long. 3 hours after receiving it through the post and my copy was already falling apart (which you may also be able to see in the pictures). It's very flimsy and delicate, tearing easily and falling apart as you try to hold it (probably a good idea to put some staples in your copy if you get one). And for some reason the whole of page 2 is blurred.
So should you buy The Strategist's Overpriced, Flimsy Newspaper Thingy That's Too Awkward To Hold In Your Hands?
It's not perfect. In fact it's dramatically imperfect. But nothing else like it exists and it's certainly full (though it doesn't take much to fill it) with useful information and advice for planners and other advertisers alike. If you're going into strategy, this is probably a good resource to have on your shelf - it's up to you whether or not you want to pay the price.
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