Getting started in strategy.

Demystifying the curious and often behind-the-scenes role of a Brand Strategist.

Brands come to brand agencies like DixonBaxi with all sorts of challenges: they want to grow their business, they want to reach more people, they want a brand that better represents what they do or who they are for. And this is just for starters.

A strategist is someone who helps these brands that need direction. They work to develop an insight-driven opinion on how the brand should be positioned in the world: what they should stand for and what they should represent to their audiences. 

A strategist is skilled in understanding the challenges a brand faces, interpreting lots of opinions from within a company and externally, looking broadly at the trends and changes happening in the world and distilling that down into a clear plan.

It can span from creative strategy—developing concepts that inspire a creative approach—to a more intensive brand strategy where you deliver brand positioning and brand architecture. 

Marcel Jacob, Head of Strategy

You can be a strategist if…

Strategists come from all kinds of backgrounds. You could be a creative who has a strong focus on ideas. Or you can come from a more academic background where you use research to find truths and solve problems. Whatever your starting point, you will be a good strategist if you…

  • Can make complex ideas seem simple
  • Enjoy uncovering new information
  • Have patience for the research process
  • Can easily talk to people and can guide conversations to find interesting and often hidden details
  • Never assume you know the answer, but still have constructive and informed opinions along the way
  • Can collaborate with people from different disciplines
  • Keep your eyes on the idea you want to communicate and never compromise
  • Hold onto the things you learn, knowing it will be useful down the line
Claire Langer, Strategy Director

How to apply for entry-level strategy roles.

This is the biggest question that came up in a recent DixonBaxi student talk. What do you show? Do you need a portfolio? This is a particular worry when you're looking for your first role and your university work or personal experience might not be directly related to brand strategy.

The complicated answer: creatives show portfolios. Non-visual roles use CVs. Strategy sits in between. 

If you have a creative background, show your work in a portfolio. It is good to show off the output that your thinking inspired. But put the emphasis on the thinking. Lay out the challenges you faced, the insights you uncovered and the strategy you developed to create a solution. And showing the strategy doesn't always need to mean photos of post-its on a wall or scribbles in a notebook. You could give your core idea, brand strategy or concept a page to shine and design it in the same way you would anything else. 

If you are not from a creative background, don’t worry! A CV also works. List out your work experience, your flagship university projects or personal work; whatever is most relevant to you. Detail your role in each project and the skills you brought to the table. Did you run audience interviews? Did you complete a category analysis? Did you synthesise all the learnings? Did you develop a concept that informed the direction of a thesis? These are just examples, but linking your work back to the core skills of a strategist will help to show a potential employer your readiness for the role. 

Tobi Arawole, Brand Strategist
Alice Auxenfans, Brand Strategist

How to find roles in strategy and what to do if you can’t.

There are lots of job boards for roles in the creative sector: It's Nice That, Creative Lives in Progress and Run the Check, to name a few. It's also worth creating a hit list of creative agencies you love and regularly checking their website and socials. 

But what if there’s no roles popping up? Then it's time to think laterally (as any good strategist should!). 

Try contacting Heads of Strategy directly on LinkedIn. You never know what's going on inside businesses: they might be considering growing their team and you might reach out to them at just the right time. But this can be a daunting task—check out some tips on how to approach this from our co-founder Simon Dixon here. 

Contact Strategists of all levels on LinkedIn. You can reach out to ask for advice on your work, how they got their role and tips they have for applying. This is a great way to learn from people who are already doing the job you're interested in. 

Go to events. Creative Lives in Progress runs regular networking events and portfolio reviews, which is a great opportunity to meet people in the industry and get advice on your work. 

Go for other internships or work experience in an agency. It will help you learn more about the inner workings of agency life, and you can connect with the strategy team directly. Plus you may find a completely different area that interests you as well.

Claire Langer, Strategy Director.