James Swift

10 February 2023

Andy Lindblade’s Strategy Diet 

Wieden+Kennedy Portland's strategy chief shares his tips and techniques for better strategy.

Have you ever wanted to know what the ad industry’s sharpest strategists feed their brains on a daily basis, or what resources they swear by when tackling a brief?

We have. So we’re asking.

Andy Lindblade is the head of strategy at Wieden+Kennedy Portland, where he directs the agency’s strategic thinking and vision, and leads its planning team.

Lindblade was responsible for the strategy that produced Nike’s Dream Crazy ad with Colin Kaepernick in 2018.

What media do you consume that makes you better at your job or helps you think about strategy generally?

A lot of news. Different angles and analysis on the news. What makes people do the things they do and think the things they think? Why do events move slowly, or suddenly explode? Journalists have always felt connected to the real world to me – they push for the truth (of course some have their own overt position). So do comedians…

Are there any resources that you typically turn to first when working on a brief?

Wherever I can get a deep understanding of what’s going on with the brand and the culture they’re part of. It’s different every time.  It might be a movie, an interview, a work of philosophy, a business story, the inventor, the founder, the people who love the thing or hate the thing…

Who is someone that you follow/read/watch for their opinions and ideas?

Sam Harris. He’s a philosopher and neuroscientist, and discusses big ideas about the human condition, especially in relation to current events.

Don’t get caught up in the gymnastics of “strategy.” There’s the strategic engineering you have to be great at, but it’s not the point.

Andy Lindblade, Wieden+Kennedy

Is there anyone or any resource that you think strategists rely on too much that is counterproductive?

Looking at and talking about ‘strategy’ a lot, how to be a better strategist. The practice itself isn’t that interesting. But talking about problems and how original, compelling ideas can solve them is really interesting! Getting to the truth, that’s the trick. Don’t get caught up in the gymnastics of ‘strategy’. There’s the strategic engineering you have to be great at, but it’s not the point.

What do you think is the most underused resource for better strategy?

Our brain’s ability to really absorb what’s going on and figure out a way forward. It’s so easy to get distracted, to not focus. Sometimes it helps to get distracted though because it can lead you to a better place. 

Is there anywhere you go when you’re struggling with a brief or a place that seems to help you work or think?

Out into the mountains, climbing and skiing. I don’t go there to solve a problem, but my mind opens up there and circles back to the problems I’ve been trying to create a breakthrough on.

Office etiquette: music or no music?

Everyone’s different music is cool to hear.

What’s the best free resource for a strategist?

The people all around you. 

What sort of media/resources would you recommend to someone just starting their career as a strategist?

Places that educate you on the business works, and what they truly believe in (even if they’ve forgotten). If you can understand where a company really wants to go at the highest level (and why), it helps you think bigger. It helps you get to a place that is bigger than marketing – more about how a company thinks about and sees itself.

What’s something that happened in pop culture that showed a better understanding of people than advertising?

I look at people like the young congressman Maxwell Frost. They’re able to really connect. How they talk and the ideas they’re talking about resonate with people and the cultures they’re part of in real ways. There’s no fluff. They’re not inventing a fake marketing idea, they are who they are. That’s very instructive.

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