Monday , 25 March 2019
Home > Brand strategy & thought pieces > How did you become a strategist?

How did you become a strategist?

Got a simple answer? Doubt it.

How did you become a strategist?I am yet to meet a strategist who set out to become a strategist (keen to prove me wrong? Leave a comment!).

Personally, as detailed in other posts on this blog, I fell into strategy consultancy by accident after being made redundant from a client side role. However, it was clear I already had many of the strategy tools I would need. Subsequently, I discovered that brand strategy, the understanding and marrying of of consumer behaviour and needs with brand capabilities was my calling in life. I’m so glad, it is something I genuinely wake up excited for every working day.

Did you train to become a strategist?

Typically when I ask fellow strategy consultants what their path to strategy was they answer with a mixture of ‘I worked up from having an interest in it as an account manager’ and ‘I always had an interest then someone asked me to help on a pitch and do some strategic thinking and I was hooked’.

I did a strategic management module at university many moons ago – maybe the interest was piqued there?

How about you?

Did you plan to become a strategist?

Can strategists be trained or is it a certain type of person that can see opportunities where others see problems?

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About GregDillon

Greg is the founder of strategy consultancy GD | Inspires and spends his days strategising for various design agencies and clients around the world - see more at He is also a prolific entrepreneur having launched - a website aimed at giving advice and insight to new, existing and veteran freelancers as well as commenting on all things strategic. Feel free to email him at: or follow on Twitter @StratTalking


  1. Hey Greg,

    Thank you for the article. But you didn’t really answer the question on HOW you become a strategist. You talked about the spark, not the process to turn into a brand strategist. That’s the knowledge that I need since I’m coming in from a design background.

  2. Hi Tamika,

    Thank you for your comment and apologies for not going into detail, I was trying to provoke others to comment as well as touch on my story.

    The process itself was much like the above; I was made redundant from a marketing role in a client side software firm and had a notion of loving brands and branding but not really sure how to apply it. I then got in touch with someone in the industry (without knowing who he was or what he really did) and he had a need for a one month freelance strategist to plug a hole on a project.

    I agreed to come in, wholly with the view of spending a month learning then going travelling. I ended up staying two years.

    Once I started working as a strategist I read a lot about the art of building, maintaining and fixing brands. Having a fascination with consumers is a must – wanting to know what makes them tick, how they think, feel, react to all manner of situations and an open mind to the projects you will work on.

    From there I started pretty low – lots of research and report reading, hours in the street talking to people (vox pops) and lots of number crunching to develop brand strategies. I’m glad I did all of this earlier in my career as nowadays I have a gut instinct and then use the data to back it up or to change my mind instead of spending hours reading reports etc.

    Does that help a bit more? Any specific questions you would like me to answer?

    • Thank you for the speedy reply. Yes. I know a couple digital strategists. I reached out to them a few weeks ago to meet and discuss more of what they do and how they do it. But our lives got in the way. I’ll reach out to them again to reconnect. However, I know that I have great insight about branding, specifically lifestyle branding, from a marketing-centric design perspective.

      However, I feel like I’m trying to create something out of thin air. This feeling isn’t a foreign to me. With brand strategy and experience design, I will embark on my second career transition in the 7 years since going to college. Graphic Design was easier to transition to from film/video production because I already had a good knowledge base thanks to having a handful of friends that pursued design. I recount the story to people often that through my friends I majored in life and minored in design.

      Brand Strategy and Experience Design are completely different. I would have to master “selling the invisible.” I was just reminded of Harry Beckwith’s book with that thought. I read it five years ago, but didn’t know how to implement it back then. Now that I study the invisible connections between seemingly disconnected, yet parallel concepts, I’m interested in learning how to sell it. The problem is that my entire life I’ve been bad at selling myself.

      For example, I was an introvert for a majority of my life and then I broke out of my shell this year and started being who I was always meant to be. I’m going through growing pains right now because I lacked the social skills to know how to cultivate relationships with various personalities. All my life I tended to flock to personality type, but if I’m going to become a brand strategist, I need to learn how to sell to anyone, anywhere, and at anytime, without them even knowing it.

      How do you learn something like that?


      • Hi Tami,

        Thank you for your honest and candid response.

        Selling yourself is tough. Whether you are freelance trying to get new clients or in a job interview for a permanent role, it really takes practice and perseverance to feel comfortable telling ‘your story’ in a commercial way.

        It can be learned.

        Like you I was an introvert when I was younger and was only once in the strategist role that I began to gain confidence in my brain, my ability to build brands and spot business opportunities.

        The key really is practice. Be it presentations or getting the strategy right you need to give yourself the chance to try it, practice it and see how you get on.

        I was lucky that I was pushed to present over and over again, now I love presenting and have a strange enjoyment from interviews and new business meetings.

        The key is to approach past work with three steps:

        – Business problem
        – Your EXACT role within the project
        – The end result and any revenue / awareness data you can get

        This way prospects and clients get to know your successes and how you got there.

        When dealing with consumers and clients in live projects I would suggest the same approach but always with a positive end benefit / feeling skew so not ‘this product does x, y, z’… speak in terms of benefits so ‘this product will make you feel x’ or ‘this product will help you to achieve y’ – do you get what I mean?


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