Q+A: Tim Parker, Brand Strategy Director

Q+A Covers Horizontal Tim

Brand Strategy Director Tim Parker on why insight should be used to guide and inspire – and why brand strategy is about distilling complexity into simplicity to shift the status quo.

Tim, you sit within our London strategy team, working across clients like Danone, Sanofi and Coca-Cola Europacific Partners. First question: why strategy? What excites you about it?

I’ve always been innately curious – I’m always wanting to find out something about everything. I grew up across a number of cultures in France, Egypt, Greece and the UK, which I think made me appreciate how different people can be, and fascinated by why people think and behave as they do. It’s a large part of the reason why I studied psychology and began working in insight.

Tell us about your experience there.

My strategic grounding is in qualitative research, where I focused on deeply understanding the consumer and cultural world, and using that insight to feed into everything from innovation and branding to communications. The challenges were thrilling: one week, I’d be talking to factory workers in Wisconsin to solve tensions in the manufacturing process. The next, I’d be sitting with women in Saudi Arabia and exploring their take on femininity to feed into a global personal care campaign.

That desire to solve a knotty problem through deep understanding is what excites me about strategy. It’s about bringing clarity to complexity, identifying how to shift the status quo, building a simple story with clear direction, and transforming ideas into real-world impact. There’s also something thrilling about being part of the creative process, guiding the thinking and seeing your ideas compellingly brought to life.


‘Strategy is about bringing clarity to complexity, building a simple story with clear direction, and transforming ideas into real-world impact.’

For me, the move from insight to strategy felt like a natural one. Over time, my role at a previous agency had evolved to focus less on the generation of insight and more on its use – feeding into the strategic brand thinking. That was the bit I found most interesting. It also offered a welcome degree of freedom – to be guided by data, but not limited to it. 

You’re a big believer in the role of insight when it comes to brand strategy.

Yes, of course. If you want your strategy to move the needle in the real world it has to be rooted in insight. Brands don’t exist in vacuums. They operate within a specific cultural, human, category and organisational context. If you want your brand to have traction and be a strategic asset, you have to understand the fundamentals of this context.

I see insight more as an active force than a passive object. There’s no such thing as an ‘insight’ waiting there for you to find and dig up. It’s about identifying something that unlocks an opportunity. It’s an insight because it’s insightful; it creates a shift in how you perceive the situation, allowing you to see opportunities and ways forward that were not there previously.

Great insight inspires as much as it guides. In disrupting the status quo, it brings freshness and energy to the strategic and creative process.

And what does great brand strategy look like?

I suspect if you asked 10 strategists, you’d get 10 different answers. This is mine. A great brand strategy is one that works. One that can be executed, makes an impact in the real world and enables brand to support business objectives.

For that to happen, it needs to identify and carve a purposeful path – from the ambition and what’s holding you back to how you’re going to get there. You then need to tell that story in a compelling way so that stakeholders understand and engage with it. 

‘A great brand strategy is one that works, makes an impact and enables brand to support business objectives.’

While a poor brand strategy seeks to please everyone, a great one is about making choices, often tough ones. It identifies what to focus on and do, and what not to do.

In the end, though, a great brand strategy keeps it simple. It distils complexity into simplicity and allows you to confidently say: ‘This is what matters’. The biggest compliment anyone can give you is: ‘That makes sense’.  

Tell us about a recent project that speaks to that ‘a-ha’ moment of uncovering what really matters to a brand.

It would definitely be our work with Nykode, a biotech with ambitions to become a global powerhouse. What they did was complex: at a top level, they provided superior vaccine efficacy through tailored targeting. But that was a common story in the category and didn’t do justice to their unique technology and potential.

During the insight phase, we realised that while vaccine efficacy via tailored targeting was certainly true and important, the really interesting angle was that their tech was a modular platform – which meant they could scale and flex to different therapeutic areas.

This realisation informed all aspects of the brand we then developed, from positioning (‘The vaccine platform that unlocks unlimited possibilities for the future of medicine’) to name, visual identity and key messaging. It was a massive unlock and allowed the brand to become a strategic asset in the transformation of their business.  

We know you’re a pretty accomplished photographer – tell us about that.

Photography is where I focus my creative energies when I have spare time. I have lots of ideas but limited creative skill so it’s the perfect hobby! I’m drawn to the mechanical nature of it, too. There’s something indescribably satisfying about the tangibility of holding and manipulating the heavy lump of precisely-machined metal that is a camera.

What’s your philosophy when it comes to photography?

For me, it’s about taking pictures that are interesting, not necessarily beautiful. If you’re open to looking for it, you’ll find something fascinating in even the most everyday and mundane of situations. And I love that when you find it, you’ve experienced – even in a small way – a new way of looking at the world or relating to something in it.

In this regard, photography is like strategy: it’s about finding what makes something interesting and identifying the angle that unlocks a new way of thinking. 

You may also like

Corporate branding lets face it
  • Design
  • Visual identity

Corporate branding: let’s face it

In the face-off between corporate identity and brand, brand wins. Successful businesses don’t waste money on facelifts any more.

Read Article