From Strategy-First to Social-First

As much as brand strategy will forever shape the way we do things. What we do is build brands with a focus on social presence and digital identity. It's about time we spoke about it.

October 29, 2021

Building a business is great because there are a multitude of people who’ve been there and done that. We have been blessed with the guidance and assistance of veterans of the game across our business and for their help, I am eternally grateful. Problem is, it’s been there, and been done. And as any entrepreneur knows, if you’re entering a market, the only way to stand out is to differentiate.

We’re all about being different at dooka (as our famed tagline might suggest: Who Wants Ordinary?). We’re also all about strategy - I in fact have written a blog post not too long ago about the importance of starting with the strategy (see below). But the truth is, and it is a sad truth; no one cares. That’s not me being sour (I’m pretty sure), it’s more of a realisation that has transformed our thinking and outward communication over the past few months.

A lot of our content through our website, our pitch decks, even our content that we spoke about was strategy. And of course strategy massively influences our process, our idea generation and the final outcome, but out of all that, the client is realistically concerned about the latter; those god damn sexy deliverables. So we decided to look into why we were ever talking about the strategy in the first place. People don’t want to know how the drill works, they want a hole in the wall.

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Pulled from our site - the strategy massively influences the deliverables, but selling our service comes as part of selling our output.

There are a few reasons I can see why we were insistent on talking about strategy:

  1. Imposter syndrome - Our backgrounds in product and service design positioned us as less adept at specific “graphic design” and more proficient at the end to end service. Therefore, by talking about our process we hoped to convince people we were the right guys for the job. But if you have to teach a client about brand strategy, they’re probably not the ones who are going to pay for it. Our process is undoubtedly strategic and it’s how we get our best results but our output, and realistically what the client is really interested in, is the slick communication at the end.
  2. Big Words = Big Money - Strategy costs dough. It’s specifically more in depth than graphic design and gains it’s respect in the right circles because of it’s application of design thinking as opposed to it’s design execution. However, whereas ideally this positioned our service as a more premium product, in the potential clients mind, it possibly seemed like a massive cost that they didn’t see the need for right now. Therefore, it seemed like an intimidating proposition for our first interaction with a client. Considering our relative infancy as a company, being responsible for such a major part of a company’s marketing budget was perhaps daunting.
  3. “We DO do strategy though” - It’s hard, right? Because you want people to care. We care a lot about the work we do and pour a lot of additional time and hours into it to make sure it’s right (Sorry Haaris and Lisa, I’m aware this is not ideal for our margins). And realistically we wouldn’t reach the same result if we didn’t strategise through the process and feed it into the outcome. But recognising that a picture speaks a thousand words, if we can articulate all that strategy into the deliverables for the outside world whilst we guide the client through the strategic journey, is that more valuable? Is that realistically the world now?

Now that strategy has moved aside and we are learning to view our passion as more of a service (it sounds depressing but it’s actually quite liberating, climbing inside a client's head to view this as any other cash for service business makes you think a lot more laterally about what they want, instead of what you want to give them), what would fill this vacuum?

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It again possibly seems obvious to the outside world but working within a business you can’t see the wood for the trees. But the portfolio we have built over the past year or so is undoubtedly social. A lot of our business has come through Instagram, these businesses or individuals operated through Instagram and Dookas main audience was through Instagram (we have also taken a tentative step into TikTok) It seems a no-brainer that this was our niche. But niches are sometimes intimidating. It’s scary to go where no others have, but also in reference to my earlier statement, if you’re not first; you’re last.

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There are a few reasons I can see for why we were shying away from being a Social studio:

  1. Designing things that last - Social Media seems fickle. Maybe because of its infancy, maybe because of its functionality. Again, our product designer genetics have pushed to create things with permanence, and the nature of social media seems fleeting and therefore, not as important in a way. But design is, and always has been, about the people. So wherever the people are, that's where we should be. And baby, the people are on socials.
  2. It sounds like one of these garish studios that create click bait articles - This is more of a personal perception change. But in the way that strategy was making us sound “old and boring” perhaps social would make us sound “young and annoying”. But for us, Social-First isn’t about changing to a social media agency. It’s about recognising where the world’s attention is pivoting and prioritising brand communications to flourish within that space.

Social first also aligns with Dooka's mantra in more ways than one. Our definition of Social is triple pronged like the hearty trident of Poseidon:

  • As identified, social identity is now as important as any other digital presence, the validation of a company now sits within both their website and their social presence equally. it's where the attention is and in the name of convenience it's often the first port of call.
  • We believe in social causes. We want to support companies operating responsibly, sustainably and with the future of the world in mind.
  • Our approach to business relationships is ultimately sociable; we build social relationships with clients. Upon starting a project we set up a WhatsApp group or Discord channel with everyone involved in the project to openly discuss ideas around the project. These ideas sometimes come through at 10PM at night, but who wants to wait until 9AM when you've thought of something really exciting? It might not be the normal way, but we built Dooka to be different, and to encompass our innate need to get along with people.

The branding/strategy agency model has been operating linearly for the past century, whereas socials have only really accelerated onto the scene for 10 years or so. The old branding model is dead. Businesses need templates, not letterheads. Profiles, not stationary. We still thrive on creating identities that can highlight the unique attributes of our clients, but our focus is on their digital presence. As the dawn of the Metaverse, Cryptocurrencies and TikTokkers shape the future, we have to move in tandem. We are social first.



P.S. I've never wrote in so many lists before, I hope it wasn't terribly boring but it seemed to make the most sense.

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