Hart’s Focus on Strategy Drives Its Evolving Model

Sam Williams, Senior Strategist

A strategic lean drives evolved services and a new business model that focuses on outcomes and consumer connections.


The Situation

There is no denying the toll the pandemic took on everyone. Of course it caused us all to rework our personal lives.  It presented accelerated challenges to brands, including the need to accommodate rapidly evolving digital commerce demands, without losing sight of long-term brand health. And it caused agencies to relook at how they can valuably support those evolving needs. 

Ten years ago a “strategist” was a loose title reserved for only the big agencies with a lot of layers and costs. If you look around at job openings today, anecdotally you will recognize a void in the marketplace for strategists in agency and internal marketing teams. With demand on the rise as a result of the pandemic, confirming the importance of having a well developed strategy has never been more important to producing client and business results.

Over the past year and a half, 69% of strategists felt they needed to work harder to prove their value. A silver lining of the pandemic is it has reinforced the importance of collaboration. When it comes to strategy at Hart, everyone has a responsibility. Pivoting and innovating to a full-funnel approach brings more people around the table (even if it’s just a virtual one) to get a true 360-degree view of possibilities for the best strategy.

Hart's Approach

Recognizing this evolving landscape and the challenges that have only been accelerated by the pandemic, Hart’s modern agency model structure helps passionate brands attain a balance for both short- and long-term brand health.

The evolution of Hart’s philosophy from a traditional to integrated agency model with shared spaces (remote, open, multi-office) has enabled us to rethink the structure of our capabilities and talent to create a more robust roster of nimble collaborators. 

Strategy at Hart is not the responsibility of a few dedicated “strategy” team members, but a matrix team composed of dedicated strategists (communications and brand planners with research personnel) coordinating with subject-matter experts within our disciplines. This data-driven, strategic mindset is tightly woven throughout the fabric of our organization – pulling in team members as needed to solve our clients’ problems.

The new Hart model is different, not because we shuffled leadership, people and titles or developed a new capabilities deck, but because we rethought the structure of our agency, investing in personnel, tools and data platforms, and strategically aligned roles throughout the organization, from the top down. There are plenty of content and production agencies ready to execute out there in the world, and every agency has its place in the marketing ecosystem. However, we believe that to yield measurable results, an agency must be grounded in strategy - strategy that effectively coordinates not only communications, but business development and organizational alignment to produce positive and predictable outcomes. 

Value to Our Partners

While clients are constantly being asked to do more with less, companies are slimming marketing teams; thus, the role “agency partner” has taken on a new meaning – leaning hard on the “partnership” aspect more than previously recognized. As a result, agencies are required to invest more in the name of partnership to help backfill narrowed marketing departments impacted by the pandemic. The result? Strategy and planning for client businesses and agency relationships are increasingly top of mind and in demand. 

To answer that call, Hart is positioned to pick up the ball and execute the play, or scope out the field, create the plays and be the assistant coach. Whatever the point of entry, we focus first on strategy: what and why are we doing what we’re about to do? Ultimately, this enables us to creatively problem solve. We have strong, experienced thinkers with the tools and resources to balance long-term brand strategies that are tactically reliable - alongside performance activities that drive measurable results. 

At the forefront of all our efforts are three key components: 

  1. Real and honest conversations lead us to work with our clients as partners, rather than vendors. Great work comes from mutual trust, respect, transparency and relationships where you can grow together. Just like talking to the doctor, you need to be honest about what’s going on to determine the real diagnosis and find the best solution. For us, this often starts with a discovery session or workshop.
  2. Research and assess where you are. Having an understanding of the client’s marketplace, competition, consumers and journey will allow you to develop a strategy capable of solving real business challenges. At Hart, we use primary and secondary research as well as word-of-mouth from our clients to pull this snapshot together, so we have a strategic roadmap prior to any activation. 
  3. Connect the dots and clear a path. Our broader strategy team connects the dots from business objective to consumer and marketplace to find an approach that leads to the intended outcomes. From this point of view, we can often find the white space, or at least a crease, where our clients can differentiate themselves and move toward their goals. 

As Hart has evolved our focus and services, we've ensured our model is positioned to help brands drive cohesive creative solutions that are deeply rooted in strategy. It's what allows us to help our partners drive purposeful business outcomes. And it’s simply a bonus that we get to have a lot of fun with them along the way.

Get in touch to learn how Hart’s modern approach can help your business!