Does Culture Eat Strategy For Breakfast?

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast ” – if you are a strategist, you’ve probably heard this more than a couple of times, and to me, what I take out of that statement is before you create your brand strategy, you best make sure you look deeply at that market culture and make sure to avoid the things that negate the culture of the people you are trying to pitch your brand to. Why? Because culture eats strategy for breakfast. 

Recently, in the office, we had a guest speaker in one of our knowledge-sharing sessions, Olatomide Asher, an OG, with a brilliant strategic mind, come in to chair this particular session. Interestingly, what he talked about were Culture, Strategy, and everything in between.

Does culture really eat strategy for breakfast, or are they just two sides of the same coin, meaning one cannot eat the other? This question is the summary of that session with Asher in my office, and I would like to share my learnings. 

When the session started, Asher had us scream out ‘Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast’ and we did gladly. I mean it’s what we know, what we are used too as ad men and women. But then he goes on to tell us we should never say that again. The last time we screamed ‘Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast’ should be the last time we do. 

‘This table you’re shaking, Asher”, was what came into my mind. “Are you about to say we have all been wrong for believing that statement that has been passed down from various generations of ad men and women? But after he was done with the session, let me just say, the last time you said that statement should actually be the last time you say it, in light of the new understanding of the statement you will probably have.

First things first, let’s define the terms Culture and Strategy. 

Culture according to Daniel Yankelovich is “ is the effort to provide a coherent set of answers to the existential situations that confront all human beings in the passage of their lives”. Strategy, on the other hand, is “a planned, doable sequence of actions with corporate and business considerations designed to achieve a distinct, measurable goal”. 

So, why can’t culture eat strategy for breakfast? According to Asher, a well-defined strategy must recognize the following: An Outcome – A Plan – Universal Truth – A Playground – A Distinction – A Set of Choices – A Narrative – An Experience – A Resonance.  Nine factors that must be put into consideration when creating a brand strategy, and of these 9 factors, 5 of them have roots in culture. 5 factors, Asher called Culture Pressure Point; universal truth, a distinction, a narrative, an experience, and a resonance. 

“If it does not take you back to culture codes (functioning) to provide a revelation, then forward to establish an experience (behavior shift), then it’s not a strategy”. if your strategy does not have culture embedded in it, should you really call it strategy?

Remember, you can’t have a full strategy without culture playing an important role in it. So culture and strategy, two sides of the same coin. The best brand strategies are based on the culture of the market the brand operates. 

Enjoy this case study of the Project called The Iron Fish to fully understand why true strategy cannot be void of culture. 


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