Increasingly my work and thinking revolves around developing brand strategies in the era of uncertainty.

Not knowing exactly what the future holds is nothing new.

What’s new is that enlightened brand managers/owners have started to embrace the age of uncertainty and demand that its implications are integrated into the overall strategic planning.

The days of having a long-term strategy are over

Rigid strategies don’t meet the expectations of the marketplace. Increasingly, brands ask for flexible strategies with the capacity to quickly adapt to volatile and changing markets. This new goal is more important in the age of certainty than an absolute goal that was common in the socio-economic times pre-Lehman.

Accepting uncertainty dictates a new type of strategy formulation: more fluid than what has worked before but ultimately more useful.

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. (Mike Tyson)

Macro-economic surprises: Debt Ceiling Crisis, European debt crisis, financial crisis, lack of demand, Libya, Fukushima. It has been a crazy year. And we still have more than 4 months to go.

And then we have all the little industry surprises:

How does your Facebook strategy from Spring 2011 feel? Stale, outdated? Didn’t know about Google+, did you?

Is your flash sales strategy still worth a dime after you realize that most buyers don’t come back?

Your app strategy from January 2011 might have been stunning 2 months ago, feels a bit dusty now, doesn’t it?

You need to continue to  develop strategies. They are useful. But only if they can quickly adjust to daily real-world and industry surprises. While it’s important to be resilient, it’s increasingly more important to showcase your adaptability through scenario planning.

The competitive benefit

Most brands are still deploying long-term strategies for the bygone era of certainty. By deploying small strategies that can scale up quickly, managing and prospering from uncertainty, your brand gains a competitive edge. Competitors will have to confront the fact that long-term strategies don’t perform as expected, your brand operating under the premise of the uncertainty will pass competitors by and create even more uncertainty for them.

Holding on to certainty creates more uncertainty.

See also: Welcome to the age of strife.