Unknown Origins

Cath Brands on Marketing Leadership

October 12, 2020 Cath Brands Season 1 Episode 12
Unknown Origins
Cath Brands on Marketing Leadership
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Personality goes a long way - look it up on Wikipedia where Cath Brands is imprinted!

Italian blood, New Zealander heart, global dreamer. 

Cath has spent the last 17 years blending the art and science of her craft as a brand and marketing leader by anticipating future trends inspired by industry developments, culture, and aesthetics that connect to emotions and imagination, elegantly composed, and brand-positioned artistic solutions for some of the world's most famous and influential brands: Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Westfield, Jim Beam, Absolut Vodka, Famous Grouse, Amazon, and Microsoft. 

Cath was part of the specialist venture team that established Amazon Go to provide partially automated stores to enable customers to purchase products without being checked out. She currently leads retail and consumer goods marketing globally at Microsoft, contributing to expanding a $125.8B business by driving market share and subscription based revenue growth.

Web: www.unknownorigins.com
Twitter: UnknownOrigins9
Instagram: unknownoriginsuo77

Support the show (https://www.paypal.com/unknownorigins)
Roy Sharples:

Hello and welcome to the unknown origins podcast series, the purpose of which is to deliver inspirational conversations with creative industry personalities on entrepreneurship, pop culture, art, music, film and fashion. Personality it goes a long way. Look it up on Wikipedia were cast bronze isn't printed Italian blood. New Zealand heart global dreamer. Cough has spent the last 17 years blending the art and science of our craft as a brand and marketing leader by anticipating future trends inspired by industry developments culture, and the statics that connect to emotions and imagination. elegantly composed and brand positioned artistic solutions for some of the world's most famous and influential brands. Pepsi Coca Cola Westfield, Jim Beam, Absolut Vodka, famous gross, Amazon and Microsoft. Cough is part of a specialist venture team that established Amazon goal to provide partially automated stores to enable customers to purchase products without being checked out. She currently leads retail and consumer goods marketing globally at Microsoft partially contributes to expanding our 125 point 8 billion business by driving market share and subscription based revenue growth. Hello, and welcome cough.

Cath Brands:

Hey, Roy, how are you, buddy?

Roy Sharples:

I'm doing marvelous. Thank you, how are you?

Cath Brands:

I'm good man, I'm good. It's nice to hear your voice

Roy Sharples:

and you one spire and attracted you to being a marketer.

Cath Brands:

My passion. And my purpose I've discovered over the many years that I've been in this industry is around people. And, you know, I adore people in lots of different ways. But from a marketing perspective, you know, just to say it really, some honestly, it's in a really creepy way that I like people when it comes to marketing. So my obsession is around consumer behavior. I love to watch the way that people touch, see, interact, have emotion, have no emotion, and watch the behaviors when they're in different locations and the way that they interact with brands, I find that the psychology of the behavior, and the way that people interact with brands is just kind of fascinating. And I also love kind of being a puppeteer with them then and being able to serve people content in different formats, and see how they react to it and whether they like it or not. And, you know, that kind of passion for people is what really gets me out of bed every morning, I just love to see the way that they interact to play

Roy Sharples:

with brands. So what does being a marketing leader mean to you,

Cath Brands:

I guess, ultimately, you know, being a marketing leader means to me that you are the person who is going to take your brand into its next frontier. And I think that in order to be a successful brand, you need to keep reinventing yourself every single day. And when I say reinventing, it doesn't mean throwing out everything and starting all over again. It's about incremental changes, and innovations and your brand into can to ensure that you're always relevant and that you're always Top of Mind with your consumer,

Roy Sharples:

what are the all star for

Cath Brands:

you? So I'm a kiwi from New Zealand originally, but I've got many different influences in my life. You know, my family is Italian and so I'm extremely passionate from the Italian side of my family. But I'm also a hopeful optimist, which is what all Kiwis are ultimately. And you know, I grew up in a small town in New Zealand I grew up on a farm. I grew up and a city of 20,000 people the metropolis of Masterton. And I wasn't great at school to be honest with you. I'm not very good at maths, my spelling is atrocious. And but I always kind of found passion within the arts. You know, I started doing ballet when I was three. And being on stage and looking at people's reaction is probably where the foundations of my career within marketing kind of got exciting. And I had this incredible English teacher who was just one of those people that believed in me and believed in my creativity. And she always said to me, you know, have you ever thought about doing marketing. And so that's what sort of led me to University where I went to a tiger University, which isn't uneaten. It's a, it's a student town. 30,000 students, that's what the whole town is made up of. And for a party girl like me, it was pretty awesome. But it was also great via where I lived to kind of understand the discipline of marketing alongside of studying art. So I studied Film and Media Studies. And then I was also heavily involved in the art scene at university as well. So I used to do a lot of stand up comedy. Although I'm not very funny, but that kind of was the fusion point for me, that sort of gave me that insight into the psychology of consumer behavior through marketing, through the arts 16 Film and Media, which had already sort of been passionate about, I learned about the discipline of the tools to connect with people. And then through my sort of comedy, and all the things I used to get involved in at the university level, I just met such a diverse and interesting group of people that really, really kind of heightened my love of people and interest from people from different backgrounds and different places.

Roy Sharples:

What is your creative process in terms of how do you bring idea to actualization?

Cath Brands:

Yeah, so my creative process really starts with this is my sort of motto, right? My motto is, it's not b2b, it's not b2c, it's paid a pain, it's person to person. And, you know, what I find good marketing looks like it means the person driving the strategy or creating the strategy behind the brand, or the interaction with a piece of content, when you can really put your, you put yourself in the shoes of your audience, right, when you can walk the walk and talk the talk. And then it's thinking about it, you know, and being in the shoes of the consumer of the marketing, whether you think it's good or not. And, you know, I think what kind of comes behind all of that, and really, truly, you know, to understand your audience and get under the skin of your audience, it's really got to start with really, really strong foundations around customer research and customer insights. Now, I think it's always a balance between quantum qual, qual as we're in a qualitative research is what really kind of gets your creative juices flowing. And what you use quant research for is to say, Okay, if I am to position the brand in this way, it is going to meet my objectives. Because, for example, at Coca Cola, I know that people between the ages of 16 and 22, don't find this brand relevant. So we need to find qualitative livers in order to try and connect with this audience through the continent producing. So yeah, you know, to me, it's all about really understanding your consumer, putting yourself in the shoes of the of the audience and what you're marketing to. And just thinking about people as people don't think about them as objects, and it's thinking about them as who they are as human beings and, and talking to them about it on a level that you like to be spoken to. And thinking about those people within the audience that you're targeting, you know, it might be, you know, your mother, it could be your father, it could be your grandmother, it could be your child, what you know about them and friends and family within that same cohort of target audience? What is it that you know about the behavior and how they behave, and whether you think then we should just going to resonate directly back at him.

Roy Sharples:

You've worked with some of the most famous and influential brought brands, Coca Cola, Pepsi, famous groves, Absolut Vodka, Amazon and Microsoft, are really interested on what you did, as part of the Amazon Go team, where you were part of that specialists in the unit that created automated stores to enable customers to purchase products, without it being checked out. What was the creative process that you applied when you went through that in terms of from idea to actualization, and what were some of the tension points that happened through that process?

Cath Brands:

Yes, the Amazon guy was such an incredible opportunity. And it was also really incredible working on something that was so highly, highly technical in terms of execution. But really, the the simplicity of the idea was people hate standing in lines when they go to a grocery store. So how can you get rid of the lines? And and then how is it that you bring that value prop to life. And you know, what we always knew about walking and creating this Amazon go and creating this brand was, you know, the technology was going to be the hook that got people in the door the first time, but what was going to drive frequency and success of Amazon go is 100 grocery store within a very saturated market was going to be the experience that happened inside the store from both a food and aesthetics and creation, creation of the, I guess the ultimate in between experience. And you know, the other really interesting thing about working in Amazon is Amazon is a technology company first right? So we went through lots of different iterations as to what we were going to call this place and you know, one of the things we as marketeers kind of got wrapped around an axle on was Amazon doesn't have a lot of equity within the food space because this was its first venture into the into the food area. So we keep thinking about you know, what are some emotion of words that are surrounded by if we can surround the Amazon brand worth in order to create that equity to help enhance that experience of driving frequency and Giving us kind of credibility within the food space. And so, you know, we wanted to call it Amazon market, we wanted to call it so many different sort of words that were associated with food. And I'll never forget the meeting with Bezos was like, I just want to call it Amazon guy. And we're like, what? And he's like, I just want to call it Amazon go, you get in, you take your photo you go. And that, to me was such an incredible learning moment about, you know, where the art and science of the art and science of brands really meet. Right and, and how consumers interact and think about brands, the simplicity of Amazon go and what it delivered, and basically doing what it says on the tin is something that way as marketeers. When it doesn't come naturally to us, right? Like, we like to think about the feelings, the emotions, but but really, this was just about, you know, simply say, what a does it you get in, you grab your food, and then you just go, you just walk out. And so that sort of moment of enlightenment really changed the course of how we thought about the store and everything we did surrounding the marketing of that store. It was, yeah, it was amazing. Like, I'll never forget the day that the Amazon go store opened, I had a 13 week old baby, I went back to work as quickly as I could, because I was so excited that we were really redefining what retail was going to be like forever. And the energy and the excitement behind it was just incredible. And watching people, you know, scan and grab something, and go was amazing. It was amazing to watch. And, you know, the way that people sort of went in, and they look for the technology. But over time, it became so simple. And it became such a new part of became so habitual to the way that consumers use the store that we often used to hear from people saying, You're never gonna believe what happened. I just walked into Whole Foods, and I'm so used to shopping at Amazon go, I walked out without paying, especially for two reasons, right? You know, just to reiterate where I was going in my ramble. But ultimately, it was about when as marketers, we can often make things quite complex, because we're complex being we're creatives. The simplicity that Bezos drove in terms of saying I just want to call an Amazon go was brilliant is a reason why he's such an incredible human being. And the second part of the equation is is it was incredible to be part of launching a piece of technology that was going to change a person's shopping habit forever. It was Yeah, it was awesome. So cool.

Roy Sharples:

What was the experience when you worked at like the Pepsi can a Coca Cola in terms of how they defined defined that kind of brand?

Cath Brands:

Yeah, I mean, it was the complete opposite, you know, now having, you know, five years at Amazon, and I'm now two years into Microsoft, the way that technology companies, tackle marketing is so different to the consumer goods world. You know, at Coca Cola, one of the biggest metrics that we used to care about was around brand love and brand equity. And we used to measure this. And, you know, it's such a kind of a funny thing to think about measuring equity via how much a person says they love your brand. But that was the order in which I grew up in. And so it was a very, it was very emotional, it was highly emotional styles of marketing that we tried to implement. And it was always about connecting with the customer. Because if, you know, you kind of break it down simply, if I think about all the drinks, that I've worked across, you know, all the soft and odd stuff. And these, at the end of the day, it's just liquid in a bottle. So when you've got just liquid in a bottle, you have to create equity through marketing. So it has to be highly emotive, when you work for a tech company, it is highly functional. So you have to create brands that all you have to basically create marketing collateral, that simplifies technology to make it really easy for consumers to understand that benefit of and two very different approaches to marketing. You know, and and ultimately, you know, when it comes down to one is very data focused, and one is very sort of artful and the focus and very sort of creative and two very different parts of the brain. But if you can get the two of those to fuse, then I think you can make the best marketing possible.

Roy Sharples:

what compelled you to kind of get into the alcoholic beverage industry?

Cath Brands:

Yes, so there's kind of two things right. So everything starts from your childhood and I had my grandparents were amazing. And when my grandfather liberato, Mario mijo and my grandmother Kamala, so me, oh, you know, granddad was born in Italy. After the war came back and find found himself after eight engagements, my grandmother, and my grandmother was the ultimate socialite, and she had just this charismatic personality. And she just loved to party. And it was the same with my granddad right? My granddad was this very Henson tool attend Italian looking guy. And he just used to make everybody's heart melt. I even remember it my 30th birthday party when my granddad was 86. And all the girls were hanging around him. And all they could say was, Oh, your granddad is so incredible. And so I grew up in this world where my grandparents were always hosting the most incredible parties. And I just as a little girl, I just remember watching them and watching the way that they used to work the room and the way they used to make people feel. And it's just something that's always sort of stuck with me throughout my life. And so and, you know, my parents were very different. My parents were both like, really, really shy and weaves into it. And I was the first grandchild. And you know, I was it was I was three years by myself. And my grandmother took me everywhere with her. I remember going to funerals with my grandmother. And she would say to me, Catherine, recite that poem that you decided to use today. And so she always kind of bought into these incredible social situations. That sort of, you know, in weirdly, what got me into the alcohol industry is my father bought a vineyard. And I worked on that vineyard, all through my summers and winters and everything picking grapes, pruning, plucking, it was like the worst job as a teenager you can ever imagine. And then my parents actually went on to buy a pub. So I was always sort of involved in the hospitality industry and the alcohol industry. So when I left university, I got into a graduate program, which was with the biggest brewery in Australia, New Zealand could line Nathan. And from there, you know, my sort of, it was great because I got to do two things. I got to sort of marry my fusion in love with parties with the Alexa that made everybody happy. And it was just as perfect fusion. And you know, from why Nathan I then went on moved on to work for a company called maxium. Who owns Jim Beam, Absolut Vodka, famous grass now go wrong. And that was you know, and as like all young Kiwis, you know, all we want to do is leave right as soon as we've done our school, we've done our university, it's time for us to leave. And so I was working for this alcohol company based in New Zealand, and I decided I want to go to I wanted to go to Europe, or go to London more so. And I really love the company and I wanted to stay with them and an opportunity came up and they said, Hey, Kat would have How would you feel about moving to Scotland? And you know, me being 23 and just just be me. I was like, yeah, sure, let's go. And literally, I jumped on a plane. I've never been to the UK before in my life. And I arrived at London Heathrow. I stayed five nights on the floor of my friend's horrible house in Acton with 18 other Kiwis and Ozzy's. I went on to a thing called Gumtree rang these guys called Steven Moore and, and big cave. And they said meet us at the train station. Waverley train station in Edinburgh on Sunday at six o'clock and you can be a new housemate. So I literally got on the train from London, I got off the train. This is not in the days where you had like GPS to take you up. I found the pub. And they were these two lovely Scottish guys. And they took me to their house. One of them lived in a tent in the living room because they were both saving to go on on the face of a holiday to America, the big lights of America. And I live with these guys for the next year and had the most incredible experience. And you know, my my job took me around Europe, and teaching people about cocktails and alcohol was the best job you've asked for in your 20s and I met so many incredible characters along the way. And as soon as you tell everybody you work for an alcohol company you like instant friends, right? So everyone loves to be around you. It was this Yeah, it was a critical fusion of you know, it's funny how my socialite grandmother and grandfather, my parents buying into the alcohol industry with a vignette in a pub, and then landing in this industry that just really matched my personality at the time. It was awesome. Yeah, it's it's been a series of very interesting steps in my life that took me into this industry. I'm just

Roy Sharples:

picturing you. They're gonna keep coming off that train from London into Waverly station and you can come up the steps and you come into princess Street. Beautiful portal to traditional scholarship and where you can get the castle and the venerable architecture. I must have just been such a contrast coming from the new world to the old kind of world. How did that sit with you?

Cath Brands:

Ah, it was like, all my wishes have come true. You know, I'm a dreamer. I will you know, it's just me who I am. I am you know, I always I've always wanted to see the world with big wide eyes. You know, I grew up in a small town and every time anyone with an accent came to town, they became my new best friends. And always just love this idea of of the big one. Well, that was out there. And, you know, arriving in London arriving in Scotland where it was like the complete opposite to where I grew up. Everything was so old. Yeah, but I also have an obsession with with the Royals, right? So you name the king or queen, I've read this story, and I know everything about them, and me and my imagination and how it works as I was walking down the Royal Mile, and I was thinking about, you know, all the different people that have walked the streets before the Royals when the plague hit, Greyfriars, Bobby, that gorgeous little girl that was so loyal to his owner. And it just opened my mind better than before. And it you know, I've always had an adventurous spirit. But being in Scotland, being in London, being in Europe, you know, it's where I really found my stride and where I really became the person that I am today,

Roy Sharples:

your story that our cast reminded me on that famous quote from Maya Angelou, people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel

Cath Brands:

totally 100%. It's one of my life mottos. That's how I like to almost tackle every marketing project or not so much tackle it. It's how I evaluate it, you know, what is the what does the walkway that you take from that particular piece of marketing off the back of the way that it makes you feel

Roy Sharples:

exactly that it seems as well, we have an individual who really cares deeply about the experience that you create, in your everyday engagement with people and not just at work, but in everyday interactions, the experiences that you can create, and the relationships that you engaged with? This is really built upon that.

Cath Brands:

Yeah, that's incredible. Yeah. I mean, it's not incredible. I'm not incredible. That is so true, right. And I have to tell you this lovely little story. So we've just moved into this neighborhood on Capitol Hill in Seattle. And it's a gorgeous old neighborhood, you know, our houses 106 years old. And you know, we're bringing the old girl back to life. But you know, everybody on our street has sort of been on the street for 50 plus years. And I've just come back from maternity leave from having my second child. And it was the Friday after my first week back and I had young Harry strapped to my front. And I was watering the garden, just sort of contemplating life like this is so overwhelming with COVID. Everybody been at home working remote, the baby screaming, just just the chaos that is life right now. And this, this old woman came up to me and she said, You're that lovely girl from New Zealand. And I was like, oh, gosh, I don't remember meeting this woman. I was like, yeah, I'm from New Zealand. That's right. And this and I said, How are you? And she said, I'm turning 107 next month, no way. And we went on this incredible conversation where she told me all about her life, about how her and her husband had always worked hard. They owned a bakery up the road. And it was the biggest bakery in Seattle for 25 years. And then she told me about how, you know, her husband was a chain smoker, and he died of cancer and soda sister, and she been with her husband for 38 years now. And, you know, and then she said to me, what do you do? And I said, I work for Microsoft. And she said, Oh, it's been a good week on the share market this week, hasn't it? I've got Microsoft stock. Wow, you're 107? And she said, Do you think Amazon is going to split the stock like Tesla did because it could be an opportunity to buy into the market. And it was this is the main conversation and it lasted for 45 minutes. And I said to this woman at the end of at the end of that conversation, I was like, What's your secret to life? And you know, sort of contemplating what my purpose was. And she said, My Tai Chi teacher tells me when I do Tai Chi every morning at 6am, you just got to keep moving. So, you know, my, my new motto, my new motto in life is you know, you've always got to remember the way people in the way make people feel but you've also you've just got to keep moving and not just physically moving. It's also thinking about how you keep mentally moving on and thinking about brands. That's how you keep mentally moving your brand for you just got to keep on moving because if you don't keep moving, you're going to become stale and stagnant. And it's such a great motto to think about not just from life but also work as well.

Roy Sharples:

Bullseye. Nature aside, nothing survives. flow of innovation.

Cath Brands:

Yeah. 100%. And, you know, you think about the you think about brands that keep reinventing themselves and even think about people, he keep reinventing them. Yeah. You know, like Madonna, right? Like, I remember she was my favorite singer in the whole wide world. I never forget doing the Vogue dance in my living room with the big old tube TV. And that woman is still around, and still in reinventing himself all the time. Richard Branson is another man. But He reveals Himself in so many different ways he is who he is, is the character, right? He's very sure of who he is as a person. But he continues to modernize his business and his businesses and his approach to business, knowing that the world is going to continue to move and he needs to move with them as well and his businesses do.

Roy Sharples:

Yes, fearless, charismatic, and bold risk takers, who see around the corner, and lay down the tracks and how to get there and make it happen has been flawless. There are people of action, who are always future oriented, they are the doers, the people who start things, they move the world forward and inspire others. Breaking boundaries is just part of their daily routine, one of the key skills needed to be a creative marketer.

Cath Brands:

So I think the key skills to be a good marketer is you need to sort of create that balance of creating the balance of art and science is the best way to describe it. And it's seeing the world through big eyes. And it's Heaven, your eyes wide open at every interaction point as well. I think you know, to be good marketing, you have to be very curious. You have to be able to, you have to be extremely curious. You need to be able to think outside of the box, but also be able to think and act within a box. Because, you know, most of us work within big corporate organizations, and the box is created in order to create, you know, a very clear path and process to get things delivered. And, you know, ultimately, when I think about when I say the balance of art and science, it's around. One of the things I've learned over the years is that, as a marketeer, we inherently are very creative people. And so we always are thinking about the emotive part of the connection. But in order to be able to deliver business value, you really need to get under the skin of the data, because it's all very well and good to have a $10 million marketing budget. But unless you can truly understand the impact that your marketing had and how that helps the business move forward, then you're going to be successful. And I think that's one of the number one things that I have learned over the years as a marketeer is I always used to go with the I always have the creative part, right. I always love shiny, shiny. Let's make a big TV ad. Let's get Kylie Minogue to be part of that TV ad. Let's sponsor six in the city leads to all these crazy big, big things. But at the end of the day, what really drove me ATRIX and what really changed the dial, was when I started to really understand the impact that my marketing was having on the bottom line for the company. And then you start to think more tactical, right. And I think great marketing is about balancing the creativity and the tactics to to drive the business forward from a p&l perspective.

Roy Sharples:

If you were 18 again, now, and you know what you do today, what would you do differently, if at all, anything,

Cath Brands:

there's a couple of things I think the first one is, is that you have to be patient and your career. You know, when you're fresh out of the box at 18, you think you know it all, but you really don't. And listening is a really, really big skill, I think that all young people need to have when they come into business. And I think you know, you need to earn your stripes. But there's nothing wrong with being ambitious. And I think being ambitious is when people stand up and you know, can very confidently speak in front of doesn't matter whoever's in the room. But it's also knowing when not to speak as well, right? Like you, you may be the master of your craft. But there are people who have gone before you who do know a lot of stuff. And there is a lot of tribal knowledge they have what you need to kind of need to, you need to be able to understand how to read the room and understand when your voice is required. And when it's not required. I mean, that's still something that I think about every single day and still need to develop on as I navigate myself through, you know, leadership roles as I get further and further down my career. And just to reiterate the point I made before, the other thing I think that all budding marketeers really can't forget about is data. I know that you know, as creative folks, we're not really good at science, and we're not really good at math we never have been, and it's not so much about understanding the math. The way I now think about it is data is a Another indicator of behavior. So if you understand the behavior, and then you put the number alongside of it, then you can really start to understand how your marketing needs to drive impact to create business results,

Roy Sharples:

reading through the tea leaves that cause the importance of mentorship, and been able to stand on the shoulders of giants, by seeking counsel from people you trust, respect and admire, and who are positive role models who can share their skills, insights and expertise to help not show your ideas and talents, but also as been able to really learn from the past, and fuse that within your your arsenal, and then pivot towards the future, so that you're building upon that kind of knowledge base and not reinventing the wheel, what's your vision for the future of marketing.

Cath Brands:

So you know, it goes back to what I was saying before about the balance of art and science. But I think ultimately, I think the future of brands is around, still delivering personal connection, but it's personal connection makes convenience, you know, the world does since beginning faster and faster. And if you look at brands that are doing a really good job these days, it's those who can truly target and talk to customers on a personal level, but also make it really easy for them to interact with your brand as well. And by interacting, I mean, purchasing, I mean, consuming, I mean, getting it delivered to the doors. So I think, you know, the role that technology plays within this is, is the science behind driving the convenience. But I think that personal connections are something that will never go away the personal connections and now going to be even easier for us to access through the thing through things like AI and machine learning, for example, but you're never going to get rid of people right so the thing that I always think about as great marketing will always be around personal connections and creating emotion and connecting with the person on a personal level. And then technology is the thing to drive it over the line to drive that convenience which everybody is seeking because everyone just wants to make life easier because it's a little bit cray cray at the moment.

Roy Sharples:

Cough What a pleasure. It's been listening for me I got a lot of insight over line a lot of warmth and energy.

Cath Brands:

Thanks, mate. It's always a pleasure to speak to you and you know, I I love my Scott's you're good to me when I when I showed up at the station in your country, and so you always have a special place in my heart

Roy Sharples:

archives. For more inspirational conversations with creative industry experts on entrepreneurship, pop culture, art, music, film and fashion. Please go to unknown origins website and unknown origins.com

What attracted and inspired you to become a Marketer?
What does being a Marketer mean to you?
Where did it all start for you?
What is your Creative Process?
What are the skills needed to be a Marketing Leader?
What are your lessons learned: pitfalls to avoid and keys to success?
What is your vision for the future of Marketing?