Do you know what your strategy is? At your company, I mean.

If you’re the boss, you better. But does the rest of your team know? Your managers maybe? How deep into the org chart?

My guess is that most people don’t have any clue.

We see it all too often. Here’s how it plays out:

A client contact at a huge company calls us, asking us to pull some data or run a survey question.

We ask them why – because it will help us find the best way to design the analysis. What’s the business question? What are you trying to decide?

They may stutter through what they think the answer is. Sometimes they’ll flat out admit they don’t know. The request “came from the top” or some such thing.

So, we do our guesswork, hoping we get it right, and send the data we think they need. Sometimes we never hear about it again. Occasionally, we’ll hear it was useful. Sometimes we’ll hear it wasn’t. It’s unsatisfying for all parties involved.

Most of these companies are so big, they don’t worry about it. Throwing stuff away and eating the expense is a cost of doing business.

There are exceptions. We work with a few ginormous companies where strategy is clear, current, and well-communicated from top to bottom – vendors included. It’s not the companies you would think, either. Not tech titans with their enlightened organizational creeds. It’s a healthcare giant, a restaurant, a TV network.

Culture and leadership are the corollaries, not industry, size, or vintage.

Nothing is a more reliable hallmark of a smart and successful company – at least among the ones we work with – than the universal knowledge and alignment of strategy. It allows people to be proactive, to see problems and opportunities around corners.

So then why not do it? Is your strategy so proprietary, so secretive, that you can’t trust your junior-level people to protect it? You’re being paranoid.

Is your strategy changing too fast to keep everyone up to speed? Stop with the whiplash.

I’m not sure were as good as we can be either. I think my team understands our strategy but maybe not. It’s one of my 2021 resolutions to get better.

Because if you don’t have people you can trust with your strategy, people who can impact your business when they’re informed, maybe you have the wrong people.

I know I have the right people.

Here’s what were seeing:

Consumer confidence showed its first gains in two months, but it’s a mixed bag. Our Economic Sentiment Index climbed a smidge in its latest reading, at least temporarily stopping the bleeding as vaccine hopes inject a little optimism into the market. People are feeling better about making major purchases and the overall outlook for the U.S. economy. Meanwhile, attitudes about the housing market and general personal finances fell. I’m going to resist the temptation to overanalyze any of this. It feels like a blip.

Empathy doesn’t seem to be changing people’s views about COVID anymore. In the early days of the pandemic, when cases were most prevalent in high-population urban areas, we saw a clear correlation between knowing someone personally who had the coronavirus and being more vigilant about it. But as cases spread to the more rural corners of the country, the strength of that phenomenon is waning. Among people who say they are planning to celebrate the holidays in-person with extended family and friends, nearly half know someone who was diagnosed with COVID. We studied that and a number of other topics around holiday enthusiasm, fears, and more that you can find here.

Still, the vast majority of Americans support a return to COVID lockdowns in response to the current spread. Seventy-one percent of U.S. adults say they would be okay with stricter social distancing measures while we weather the ongoing storm. The numbers are remarkably consistent by region of the country – not so consistent by political tribe, as you might suspect. Putting it frankly, the people who are most opposed to the lockdowns are also least likely to follow social distancing guidelines – which, one could argue, is why we need lockdowns in the first place. A certain percentage of Americans are convinced were overreacting to this pandemic and nothing will change their minds. Sigh.

Way more people are going to be drinking wine this holiday season because there isn’t a whole lot else we can do. The number of Americans who say wine will be their libation of choice jumped a staggering 29% over last year. Beer, cocktails, liquor, and everything else fell a few points. Wine jumped the most among older consumers, maybe because it’s easier to keep stocked and drink at home, meaning fewer trips to the store or the bar. Seasonal beers and cocktails are all the rage too, by the way, especially among the younger crowd.

Americans are divided about digital health passes as a prerequisite for air travel, but they’re a plus among the group that matters most. Take a topic like COVID and mix it with digital privacy and you have yourself a perfect cocktail of political tribalism. So, when it comes to airlines asking flyers to submit digital health information before getting on a plane, you could set your watch to the polarization. But the most frequent travelers and the ones who log lengthy miles flying overseas are more favorable. The airlines may lose out on a few Disney travelers, but the upside is more than worth it.

We did a bunch of studies about fashion and personal care this week, which probably isn’t a coincidence, but I’m not sure because they don’t tell me much around here:

  • The whole store-within-a-store trend is only going to grow and the Kohl’s+Sephora partnership is probably the next big winner;
  • Gillette dominates the razor category more than you probably realized and beards are more popular – with men and women – than I’ll ever understand;
  • I could tell you more than you’d ever want to know about purses, except I’m entirely unqualified so read for yourself – but COVID sucks for the category;
  • ‘Tis the season for dry skin but most men are too stubborn to do anything about it.

Lastly, even as the virus rages, the majority of Americans would be comfortable going back to work – especially if they love their job. I love my job more than anyone I know, but I’ll wait until it’s safe.

And here were our most popular questions this week:

Answer Key: Depends on which parent; I’ve never even thought about it; BBQ; Pitch dark; Batman, fight me; Only before trash pickup


Hoping you’re well.