...or the Role of the Strategic Planner in Advertising

When “BeerCo” found its pub sales falling, market research and competitive analysis provided no help. So it sent out a team of social anthropologists to investigate. The resulting data, including field notes, photographs, and videos, yielded insights that prompted the company to revamp its promotional materials and training methods. Sales rebounded within two years and are still growing.

BeerCo’s story shows how the emerging approach of “sensemaking” can illuminate customers’ true needs and facilitate successful transformations of product development, organizational culture, and corporate strategy. Rooted in the human sciences—anthropology, sociology, political science, and philosophy—sensemaking is a five-step process. Companies must:

Reframe the problem, focusing on the customer’s experience of the product and the market

Collect raw, firsthand data

Find patterns in the data

Generate new insights

Translate those insights into initiatives

Sensemaking can help solve some of the toughest business problems and enables leaders to think creatively about what business they’re really in.
— Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel B. Rasmussen, Harvard Business Review, March 2014