A Cheesy Example of Strategy at the Speed of Thought

Imagine your brand of specialty cheese going into a tailspin. You need results now. Traditional strategy methods take weeks or months. By that time, your brand will be toast (to mix my food metaphors). Time for strategy at the speed of thought.

Clients that are experienced in developing strategies in this way can literally develop a responsive, effective strategy in a matter of a few hours. This allows them to move quickly to execution where they can begin going after the results they want. This particular strategy, derived from a real situation, was put together over breakfast. Tactics, responsibilities and dates were added later. Although gaining internal alignment and actual execution of the strategy took time, developing the strategy and getting resources focused on the right work did not.

Here's a scrubbed example of what the resulting strategy looked like.


Strategic Intent

This is the first question to be answered. “What do you want the strategy to accomplish?" Here's their response:

  • Stem the decline and restore the brand’s market share leadership in the Specialty Cheese channel.



Clarifying the situation requires facts and data, synthesizing the data, and drawing logical inferences. Some of the bullets looked like this (most supporting data removed):

  • Sales volume down 10%.
  • Slipped from our prominent market share position.
  • Merchandising is weak. Private label captured more holiday merchandising.
  • Clean store and other policies, especially in the specialty cheese area by the deli, limit brand merchandising and ability to generate consumer awareness.
  • Some distribution losses.


Strategic Issues

Strategic issues must be identified and resolved or they will severely lower the probability of success. Their strategic issues looked a lot like this:

  • Consumer shopping behavior different than at the dairy case and path to purchase largely unknown.
  • With limited in-store merchandising, brand doesn’t stand out in the case.
  • Very little differentiation.



Insights are those one or two discoveries that if leveraged, will dramatically improve the odds of success. Without a leveragable insight, most strategies fail to deliver the intended results.

  • Market research findings reveal specialty cheese buying behaviors that can be leveraged to advantage.



Objectives are the quantification of measurable goals to achieve your strategic intent. Their objectives (without the numbers) looked something like this:

  • Volume target
  • Distribution target
  • Market share target



Strategies are bodies of work that focus resources and when executed tactically, measurably contribute to achieving the quantified objectives. The strategies looked similar to this:

  • Leverage redesigned packaging to appeal to specific buying behaviors revealed in market research.
  • Execute marketing strategy to drive brand awareness and usage for key occasions.
  • Develop and launch new product innovations to create new “news”.
  • Expand authorizations and distribution.



Each strategy was supported by key tactics: actions that must take place to execute the plan. For each tactic, someone is identified to be responsible and a deadline is specified. Completed tactics are replaced by the next ones and the strategy keeps moving forward. Tactics change, strategies don't. Some of the tactics looked like this:

  • Develop and approve new packaging (name, date).
  • Develop plan to phase new packaging into production to minimize waste (name, date).
  • Launch new product (name, date).
  • Distribution drive (name, date).



Volumes up. Stopped share erosion. New packaging across all product types created marketing scale.