Are Strategic Planners a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?

The answer, surely, depends on the planner.

There are designers and creative directors out there who view them with suspicion; who fear being constrained by reams of research and who resent what they see as their meddling. By the same token there are those that appear too frightened to think about a brief unless it has been through the planning department. Neither extreme is healthy.

Some designers may be too young or inexperienced to understand the value insightful planners bring to the mix. Some too egotistical to believe that any other function can have value to add. Others too insecure to trust their creative instincts without someone else’s say so.

I feel lucky to have worked in agencies with a strong planning team that have made my life better. It’s simple: good strategic planning makes for good, inspiring briefs, which make for better creative work.

At Coley Porter Bell we created packaging for Kotex femcare that totally broke the rules. It was a real statement – no butterflies or pastel colours. It used bright red, which was a real no-no before then, on a white background and icons of modern femininity, such as a scarlet stiletto. That groundbreaking work was based on empathy and understanding, which came out of the planning team really getting under the skin of the brand and revealing the key to the brief was appreciating how proud women were to be female.


Here at Blue Marlin our multi-award winning packaging for Isklar mineral water was based on the insight that the brand promise hinged on glacial purity and the attributes of ice. We consolidated those thoughts to create a unique bottle and pushed the production line further than we probably would have done had it been championed by creatives alone. The intellectual rigour behind the creativity gave us more courage, more belief and ultimately a more creative design.


Our strategic planners do not beaver away in seclusion, sealed off from the rest of the agency in an intellectual ivory tower. They are part of the creative team. We work as an integrated team, not as separate departments. And strategic planning is not a bolt on discipline; it is a fundamental part of building the design process. It adds value, it helps clients to understand the design process and gives them the confidence to buy into truly creative ideas and it inspires great work.

Good strategic planners are a very good thing indeed.

By Martin Grimer, Executive Creative Director at Blue Marlin