It's not just the long, gloomy Icelandic winters that make Detective Erlendur Sveinsson a rather moody figure. His life has had more than its fair share of drama and tragedy: A broken marriage, children battling alcohol and drug addiction and a job that gives him an all too close up look of human suffering and brutality.
Erlendur, an obsessive and brilliant detective, is the star of Arnaldur Indridason's beautifully sparse and emotionally gut-wrenching series of murder mystery novels set in Reykjavik.
I could make a pretty strong case for a Planner being like a detective: We follow the trail of clues, discovering evidence, testing theories, questioning, forever questioning, until we come to a well-crafted solution that answers all of the riddles. And I dare say we've all met a fair few Planners that were brilliant and a little bit obsessive.
But I don't want to make that case here.
What really drives Erlendur and makes him a wonderful detective and character is infinitely more human - it's his empathy.
Having faced his own tragedies, Erlendur identifies with the victims and the loved ones that they leave behind. His insight into the hearts of the people he investigates gives him a drive and a clarity to be able to see answers other people can't.
Empathy is the key attribute of a Planner.
A Planner's role is to be the voice of the audience in the creative process. But it's so much more than just knowing the stats or the latest behavioural theory. It needs to be rooted in a deep understanding, dare I say a deep love, of people, of who they are, what drives them. We need to imagine that we are them. We also need to put ourselves in the shoes of the brand.
In this our empathy needs to drive us to uncover hidden truths. Having digested the campaign objectives and the ambitious vision for the brand, and with our audience hat on, what do we feel is actually possible knowing what we do about consumers in this market? What are the real barriers the brand has to overcome? A healthy dose of empathy here can allow us to reveal the real question that needs answering.
We also need to have empathy for our creative colleagues. What do they need to get inspired? How can we help them realise their best work?
A Planner's job therefore is to champion empathy within their organisation. It's to cut through marketing speak, brand onions, disinterested consumers and uninspired creatives to deliver clarity. And it's empathy that allows us to do this; to deliver strategy that works, that as soon as you hear it you know it instinctively feels right.
At Trinity Mirror Solutions it's all part of our rigorous approach to producing work that delivers: Built on Insight, using empathetic Planning to uncover inspiring audience truths, resulting in outstanding Creative content.
And like Erlendur Sveinnson our goal is to use that empathy to produce answers that other people can't.
This article originally appeared on www.apg.org.uk on 16 November, 2016, by Dean Matthewson, Head of Planning, Invention, Trinity Mirror Solutions