Every advertiser has that aha moment where they can look back and say it was then that they knew which area of advertising was for them. For Nicole Brooker, Senior Brand Strategist at Boston based agency Mullen, it took interning in account management and a chance introduction to change course. Meet Nicole. You’ll be happy you did!
How did you become interested in brand strategy?
Well I studied at FSU, bounced around a bit major wise before majoring in Advertising, which requires an internship. Between the NSAC and a heavy course load, working etc I took a summer internship at TBWA/Chiat/Day in account management. Once there, I realized Account management just wasn’t the right fit. Luckily, while I was trying to figure out if I wanted to flip to the creative side where I had started major-wise, one of my supervisors thought I thought I might be good at Planning. It was until I was introduced to an account planner that I realized OMG (!) this is what I want to do! I wanted to help influence the creative, to be the GPS and not the actual car. I wanted to know the brand better than anyone.
As an FSU undergrad and IMC student, what led you to Boston?
I ended up in Boston purely by accident. I went on an ad club trip to the AWNY Conference in NYC where I met many great people, ran around the city doing informational interviews and trying like mad to get someone to talk to me. Luckily I landed at Saatchi & Saatchi. I moved to NY and was later recruited to Arnold Worldwide up in Boston. At the time Arnold was on the cusp of an upswing and they were willing to take a chance on me. I worked with some very smart people there. I learned everything I could there before eventually finding myself at Mullen.
What does a ‘Senior Brand Strategist’ do?
Many people think we make schedules or that we are Media Planners. – we do neither. Our role is to be the steward of the brand; be the voice of the consumer. A partner to the Account and Creative teams.. On one hand we are researchers – always understanding the target and understanding how to find the right consumer that believes what your brand believes in (a great illustration of this is in Simon Sineks work and his ‘ golden circle’). Ultimately, a Planner is responsible for writing the creative brief. A single-minded document meant to inspire creative teams. It often joke that we are like kindergarten teachers – we turn complicated things into simple, inspriring stories and we like to add pictures.
Does your role involve research and analytics?
Yes. I work with research that is both quantitative and qualitative. We do creative testing, surveys or really anything to do with testing like A/B banner testing etc. Often times I partner with our Analytics groups – they help with measurement and setting KPIs , which are always important. KPIs (key performance indicators) help you measure the effectiveness of what you’re doing – to prove things work and to learn and optimize for next time. Often research is informed by your gut reaction, your informed instinct and how you can evaluate it. It is important to always listen to consumers and engage them. Learning from brand loyalists is equally important to learning from brand rejecters. Understand both sides, see the full consumer journey, understand the pain points and where the opportunity is for our brands to alleviate them.
Have any brand impressed you recently?
I’m always very critical like “ew, your (creative) brief is showing.” That said, I’m a big fan of the Johnnie Walker work. I enjoy the simplicity of it – for example the new spots with Christina Hedricks, the line she delivers “it’s Johnnie Walker, and you ordered it.” Love it – so simple. I think brands doing interesting experiential things are also worth noting – think of Red Bull with their space jump – behaving like a first follower rather than creating some fake brand experience that no one outside of the agency world cares about. That is what makes me excited about Advertising.
Can people be brands?
Brand is a loaded word, but yes I think people can be brands.
Complete the sentence….
In 10 years, Google will…find itself with a lot more competition.
In 5 years, Facebook will…still be Facebook.
In 3 years, Twitter will…will be more than a news feed.
In 1 year, Vine will…probably be commoditized and purchased like Instagram.
Google+ will.…live for hang out.
What “screen” do you see the most of?
My phone. Technology makes comfortable and simultaneously anxious. My work email is built into phone, so it’s always turned on. Things spill into each other. I constantly am Instagraming, e-mailing and this and that while watching tv – but I love the connectivity.
Do you ever disconnect from technology? Or try to?
I have a Kindle Paperwhite but I still read regular books. If I love a book, I’ll buy it. Something interesting and sweet about having books in your home. It says something about you.
Boston quick hits:
Best Bar: Russell House Tavern (the perfect balance of great food + drinks)
Best thing: New Englanders are a bit cold but if you break through it, the people here are the most loyal I’ve ever met. The loyal culture has grown on me
Worst thing: The snow, well, that and the T closing at 12:45am.
What advice would you have for student looking to get into the advertising and media world
Do what you can and do it well. It’s the only way to be happy. You will work insane hours but you will find that if you’re doing what you love it doesn’t feel that way. Keep the ability to think and to listen. STAY HUMBLE.
Experience is worth its weight in diamonds. The more you can talk to others the better. Want to be a planner find planners and talk to them. Learn from others. Get perspective from older and younger sides of what you want to do. Constantly gut check yourself and be prepared to call BS.