Interview with Gemma Craven

Join me as I have a conversation with Gemma Craven, Digital Brand Strategist at Bosseur LLC in New York. As she shares her 3 pieces of advice for a strategist, her strategy journey, and what she found most helpful in joining The Planning Dirty Academy.

Hello and welcome. I’m Julian Cole and today’s guest is Gemma Craven, who is a digital marketing consultant, Gemma. So good to have you here. My first question for you is what’s your three pieces of advice for a strategy. Hi, Julian, and thanks for, for having me, um, Uh, three pieces of advice. I think, first of all, I would start off by talking and thinking about, um, how important it is to observe people.

Um, so, you know, it’s slightly hard to do that in real life. At the moment I used to do a lot of. Been quite weird and observing people on the subway when we did, you know, commuted every day. But I think spending time in the places where people are hanging out, um, and listening to what they’re talking about and observing what they’re doing, um, to get a real understanding of what they actually care about versus making assumptions.

Um, so, you know, places like Reddit, Twitter searches going there and really diving into the niche groups and conversations, um, When you say you’re gonna have smart brands starting to do this by bringing people together in private groups, like say on Facebook, but again, just listening, um, versus assuming that, you know, you know, what people care about and how they behave, um, is my first piece of advice.

The second one is a build on that actually, and just around being a lifelong student of behavioral psychology. So, so much of what we do and, and building strategy is about triggering a response in a human and influencing decisions. They make, you know, the brands they choose, the actions they take. But I think we don’t think about how people make decisions and how to trigger certain behaviors.

So the, the context, the medium, the interface where a decision. Is made, has got a far greater effect on our decision maker than actually thinking about the long-term consequences of that choice. So we don’t make decisions based on logic it’s most of the time it’s kind of emotionally based. Um decision-making so just really understanding that, um, Rory Sutherland is like the grand master of all things, behavioral psychology and his book.

Alchemy’s truly excellent. And I would just say dive in there and just learn and keep learning because it’s, there’s so much there. Um, and then my third piece is really about, I guess, curiosity, um, and staying curious. I think it’s something that it can wane based on, you know, um, what’s going on in your life for this crazy world around us and.

Um, but exploring places you’re not comfortable. Sounds a bit weird, but it’s like, just because you went again on Reddit a few years ago, doesn’t mean it’s the same place. It doesn’t mean the, you know, the community’s behaving in the same way. Um, you might not be somebody that personally, you know, creates their own tech talks, but you need to understand that that’s where culture is bubbling up.

Certainly here in. In the U S um, and so spending time understanding that I’m looking to other places like, you know, behaviors and in Asia and how people are using technology there, and just really sort of trying to observing and being interested in that. Um, I think that was my. Well, that is my third piece of advice.

The idea of, to me, it almost feels like staying motivated. Like how do you stay curious? And I’ve never thought of like, you’ve got like in my head, it’s like a curiosity candle or something, and you’re trying to like, keep the flame alive or, yeah, I love that. I think, I think we can become quite, um, Set in our ways of thinking, it’s just human nature.

So how do you get yourself out of that? How do you burn that curiosity, candle and how do you get out of the pattern of the places you go? The things you read, the sources that you consult, like thinking beyond those, I think is crucial all the time. Yeah. Excellent. So Jim, and you now digital consultant, um, in New York, how, what’s your story?

How, how did you get there? Yeah. Uh, so it’s a tale, I guess, a journey across three continents and I kind of a path gathering experiences throughout the marketing communications world. That brings me what brought me here. Um, you might be able to tell from my accent that I’m not from New York originally, um, kind of growing up in the UK and studying languages, um, you know, spent time in Europe, in France, and then.

So started out my career in the tech PR world, actually. Um, and, but loved the combination of words, relationships like the comms strategy side of things. Um, and also just understanding technology. And if you. You about the really, really geeky stuff on the inside of a cell phone, like who thought that Silicon chips were sexy, but you could that have an eye to the future of like how we’re going to be using technology and the evolution of devices.

And that was interesting to me, um, and came to the U S in 2007, uh, which was a huge, like a pivotal year for many things like the iPhone launched Facebook. Became, you know, more broadly available, um, Twitter launched and it’s when influencer marketing started to become a thing, influencers sort of become a thing.

Um, and actually from there, I, then that was my foray into the advertising agency world. So joined a big, went to Ogilvy, actually in New York. And my role was really building digital and social capabilities around the agency’s existing strategic approach. So working across all of the functions within that Ogilvy at that time in New York.

So everything from, you know, e-commerce CRM, the creative side of advertising being, um, the bulk of it, but also PR and other like shopper marketing. So it was really, really exciting time to be thinking about. How strategy was evolving in terms of the way that we, you know, the ways in which we are communicating.

And, um, so again, sort of technology being at the core of that, um, to time there, I spent some time on that actually on the platform side, just to get, to get under the hood of like how this stuff works. Um, if you think about, it says there’s the brand, there’s the agency. And then there’s the platforms that we use.

And, um, That for me was an interesting, you know, few years just really diving deeper there. Um, having said, never say no, never again. I went back to the big agency world, um, and again, bringing sort of social and digital capabilities into the core of the strategy, um, process. Um, so ended up being the co-leader of the strategy department at McCann in New York, um, and merging sort of teams and capabilities and learning and really sort of growing up out.

Um, and then really to kind of where I am today, I spent some time on the brand side. Um, um, that’d be working kinds of consulting there ever since. Um, so, you know, helping brands across Ferris industries builds this connection, this cute consumer connection and meeting consumers in the D in digital spaces, and really thinking about how strategy needs to evolve with the way that people are connecting today.

Um, And it, it it’s, it’s super interesting, particularly now after the past 12 months, and there’s been such a shift and this, this, I did find previously there was this, um, tendency to put a person in a box. It’s like, well, you’re a brand strategist, you’re a comms planner. And now, you know, if, if you have that diverse range of experience, I think it was often hardest for people to fit you in somewhere.

And I’ve found now that. I’m able to marry a lot of my experiences at different points in time and have that ability to be hands-on because you’ve got to know how it works to build great strategy and then deliver the strategic thinking as well as execution. So it’s a, it’s an interesting, really interesting time to be working in this, in this space and helping brands evolve the way that they, um, I connecting with people too.

Yeah, I can’t, there’s been so many times in my, my own career as well, where I thought something in my past was like a weakness, but then it turns into like a strength of like, Aw, you know, I can do everything well, now that’s really handy. Or I focused on small business and then. It’s like, Oh no, that’s actually really great.

Um, so it’s yeah, you’ve, you’ve had quite the journey there. Um, and then you’ve been a member of the planning dirty community for over a year now. Uh, what have you found most helpful? That’s helped you in your kind of day to day job from the Academy? Yeah, well, I was, I was thrilled to discover the Academy to start, um, you know, having worked in big teams, uh, you know, big agencies, you know, I’m sure you’ll know this too.

There’s a real energy. And a shared kind of learning and the collaboration. And it’s like, it’s really magic when you experience that, as you can kind of quantify it. And so working as a consultant, um, you know, you have to build that yourself. You have to build the community, you have to build the moments of collaboration, the shared learning, um, And, you know, that’s just, it’s a different way of working, but just knowing that was important.

And I’ve found the Academy just to be a really important part of that for me. So, um, you know, somewhere where I could, you know, I can come and just find best practice and thinking and, um, that kind of ongoing learning is just, it’s been and continues to be such a support. Um, and I’ve got a couple of examples of.

Um, things I find really useful. I’m the planners template is one. So I can get that OCD about decks and slides and formatting, and like, maybe that’s a hangover from being. Some let’s say feedback in my early days, uh, um, the agency, I think I stretched an image and I was like, never again, often it was, um, told off for that.

So it’s just like enabled me to focus on this thinking versus the way something looked. You know, there’s just, the strategy is more important than the design of the outset. And that was another, and then another example I’ve got for you is like, I said a big, uh, brainstorm with a client, 40 different people from across a large retailer and the brainstorm Bible that I found on, you know, the Academy is just really useful to get a bunch of different inputs from smart people that just made me think in a, uh, you know, a fresh way about how it was running the session.

So I’m just continually like pleased and surprised at the great wealth of information there. So, um, Thank you because you make my, you make my days better. I just make, it just makes that some really, you know, important elements that, um, just, you know, don’t really find anywhere else. Yeah, I definitely, I definitely have that feeling too, coming out as a consultant as well.

Now that team anyway, cause you know, you said shared learning. That was always what we’d talk about at BBO and then you’d come out and you kind of like by yourself and for me, my wife kind of works in music strategy and that’s the only person I’ve got to bounce off things. So I’ve found personally as well.

Yeah. The Academy, just like asking questions in there has been very helpful as well. Yeah. No, it’s really great. So thanks to you and everyone you collaborate with. No, for sure. Well, thank you so much. Uh, Gemma, that was so helpful. Love the advice. Um, right. Thanks for having me as a guest.


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