Interview with Ipalibo Dawariboko

Join me as I have a conversation with Ipalibo Dawariboko, a Senior Manager of Brand Experience and Strategy at General Mills.  As he shares his 3 pieces of advice for a strategist, his strategy journey, and what he found most helpful in joining The Planning Dirty Academy.

Yeah. Hi, my name’s Julian Cole and today’s guest is Ipalibo Dawariboko, who is a senior manager of brand experience and strategy at general mills. So excited to have you on the program, uh, or podcast. My first question to you is what is your three pieces of advice for a strategist? Well, thanks. First of all, thanks Julia for having me really appreciate it.

[00:00:26] Um, so we’ll get right into it. I would say the first piece of advice I give to a strategist is, um, Understand what problem you’re solving, what problem you’re solving for your clients, your business, your creative team, and even for yourself, I think that is the foundation of strategy. Um, if you don’t, you don’t need a strategy.

If there’s no problem to solve. And, um, strategists create value by helping people understand what problems they’re solving and sometimes how they can solve that problem. I think sometimes a job of a strategy is simply to say, here’s the problem. Cause sometimes people don’t understand that and then somebody else can come find the solution.

Um, and then the second piece of advice I would say is, um, I would say, um, Process equals success and relationship equals happiness and progress. And so I process and relationships equals happy success. And what I mean by that is if you want to be consistently successful at anything, you need to understand what process you’re using and improve upon it and improve upon it.

Improve upon it. I’m working for a manufacturing. Company, I can tell you that processes and really important, and they’re always improving upon it. And I think in strategy, when I started, I didn’t have a lot of clear processes. So I was, there’s a lot of hidden myths. And then it was only until I started refining, whatever process I was using.

Um, That I started becoming more consistent and then relationships, I think is super important. Obviously, if you’re in the advertising side and working with clients, you need to have a lot of strong relationships with your clients and trust. But even in my role now where I’m in a com in a. In a client role.

I have to have relationships with my sales folks, my brand managers, obviously my marcomm folks might sales, uh, my finance and supply chain folks. Having those relationships allows me to understand what problems we have better and even allows me to, um, find solutions that may not, I may not have thought of.

By building those relationships. So I think you, if you’re always improving your processes and always expanding your relationships, you’re going to be happy and successful. And the last piece of advice I have is, um, lead with questions and gratitude. Um, one thing I think is really hard is when you’re a strategist, you’re expected to be the smart one in the room.

And that puts you in a position where you think you’re meant to have all the answers and, and use. And I think, well, at least from my perspective, I found that when I did that, I was often. Leading with ideas and ideas, or like, here’s the answer, here’s the answer. And a lot of times actually it might be better to just say, even if, you know, the answer, lead people to it, through questions, so you can come to it themselves.

And, um, sometimes Damien actually find a better answer than you thought and thought of because they know something you don’t, but the question you asked them, they haven’t thought of it before. And that leads to a lot of great place. And then gratitude because, you know, I think that people are. Um, people, people really just love being appreciated.

So if you can lead with questions and gratitude, basically inviting them to be, to find their own solutions and then thanking them for the solutions they found. Again, you’re going to, you’re going to do really well because people are not going to not only see you as intelligent, but see you as somebody they can trust and rely on and build a relationship with.

I love that. I’ve yeah. I’ve I’ve thought. Thought about like leading with questions, but the gratitude piece is really important. And when you think about like the relationships that are important in agency, world, back with creatives, having that gratitude and understanding it is such an important piece, but the two together is really makes sense for me.

Yeah. Um, so I’d love to hear a little bit about, uh, how you got to where you are today. So I, if I’m being absolutely honest, it started with a broken leg. I was in college and I did something stupid and broke my leg and I was like, man. This is stupid. What am I doing here? And then I, I, I CA I, cause I was a marketing major, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with that yet.

Um, I didn’t, I didn’t have a good vision of what was possible. And so I literally just Googled, what do you, can you do it a marketing degree? And I found this website by, I think it was the four A’s and it literally was like a quiz almost of like what, like, you know, what your personality type is. And I just kept gravitating the strategy and, um, And this is pretty awesome because I got to work on this brand.

But when I saw the captain Morgan, everyone has, has a captain in them campaign that struck me. And I was like, holy crap, somebody built that campaign and the strategy behind it. I understood like intuitively I understood it. That was the first time I understood the strategy. And I was like, oh my God, if I could do that, that would be incredible.

And so I, I basically decided that I wanted to go into advertising and. Started pursuing it. Um, my first role in advertising came after college and I had an internship in an ad agency in college, but my first proper role was here in Minneapolis at an agency called combing void, um, as a, as a strategy analyst.

And basically I was doing data analytics. And what I loved about that role is that I got to learn how to tell stories through data and come to conclusions through data and facts, um, which I, I still rely on a lot. But at the same time, I was able to expand myself a little bit because I had proper relationships in the agency.

So I was like, I remember one of the first things I was really proud of was like taking a client who I was only doing email analytics. And I used that data to tell a story about why we needed to build customer journeys. And that led to this big strategy project around let’s go build customer journeys for all of our major.

You know, divisions. And that was like the first like spark of like, man, I could, I could take an idea and see a problem and then take it into something else bigger. Um, and that was awesome. And then I left and went to her boss where I was focused on social strategy, which again was a different beast. And, but still required me to understand, like, what am I.

What problem am I solving? Um, and, and especially in a space that’s, that seems so confined as social when you compare it to everything else. Cause it’s really rigid compared to like what you can do in some other channels, but it was, again, what problem am I solving and really working to figure that out.

And then I got kind of lucky in that I got into a role at Kara where I was a global media strategist. And I had got to like, boom Smirnoff, captain Morgan, eventually X-Box and fonts. And that was awesome because I was just working on big strategic challenges that had to make sense across multiple markets.

And that was a really fun experience, um, to work on those types of clients. And I did some great work that I’m really proud of and, but I built some really awesome relationships with my clients and my teams that I really enjoyed. And then while I was in London, the COVID situation was happening and I decided to come back to America.

And at that point with the pandemic and full heat, it just made sense to transition out of my role. And I landed a general mills where now I’m kind of doing, taking on strategy, taking strategy from a different perspective where I’m working on. Brand problems. Uh, how do we solve business problems for a brand, from the perspective of, you know, the full arsenal of a company like general mills as well as then also supporting the communications teams to how do we actually.

Create campaigns that actually, um, our consumers love. So I’m kind of doing strategy from two different sides of the, of the, you know, coin or whatever. And it’s really awesome. I really enjoy, I enjoy doing it from this perspective. So yeah. That’s my story. What do you find is, uh, the unexpected part of your job now that you weren’t doing before agency side that you’re doing now?

That’s a great question. Um, I think that, you know, I think what it is, is like, I think it goes back to the importance of asking questions. I think a lot of people make assumptions about what they know, what, what they think their brand is or what what’s possible. And when even you would think that in, uh, in sometimes, oh man, the client must have everything.

Right. They must know everything. And they answer it. Sometimes they, they don’t, and sometimes they do know something, but they haven’t used that information in the right way. So you have to be willing to ask questions and don’t make assumptions that the client is giving you everything that they know.

Even if you didn’t, if that makes sense, like, so I have to sometimes raise my hand and go like, guys, do we have, do we know this thing? Or is this possible to answer, to find this thing out? And somebody is like, oh, you know, I’ve never, yeah, I’m sure we could. And that leads down a different path. So I think when I was.

You know, agency side, I assume the clients were giving me the best information that they had in the, in the correct context. And I have to realize like, oh, you know what, everyone’s trying to figure this out. And sometimes you need to prove to push them, to make sure that they are thinking about things differently because they might not know what they have in their hands.

They might, they might be having goals. They might have gold and not realize it. Great. And you’ve been a member of the planning 30 academy for a while. What have you found. Um, practically most helpful about the academy? Well, I will say there are two things. The first is like, I think you’ve done a great job in crystallizing.

A lot of really powerful strategic concepts. Um, even stuff like from taking really dense and important stuff. Like how brands grow and putting it in a framework that I think a lot of people can intuitively understand, um, to the more, uh, Lack of better term softest side of like, uh, here’s how to write a simple creative brief with the gut gets you by approach.

I just crystallizing things that I think all great strategists should know, but then also what I really love is the community aspects. Um, sometimes I find that like, I just. I go on to the social, the Facebook group and answer questions or, or people propose like, Hey, this time I’m trying to figure, uh, work on something.

And I respond to it. And by responding, I crystallize my thinking on something and actually improve how I think about things. And that’s been really beneficial. Just have like a place where people are looking to learn and people wouldn’t ask questions. And as a result, everyone is kind of feeding on each other and becoming a better strategist as a result.

Yeah, well, that’s the biggest sacred for me. All this like doing the academy is actually just so it can make me a better stress. Smart move. Smart. So it’s great. Thank you so much for sharing your, your story and the boss. I really love it. So we’ll talk very soon. Thanks for your land. Appreciate it.


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