We realize you hold a few positions at the moment, can you describe a few of them and what they entail?
Absolutely. Currently I spend most of my time as Europe Director for an American retailer. We’ve spent the last months building up to the Europe market entry with a digital-first approach, and other channels following post launch. My role is managing the business end-to-end from budget, logistics, distribution, operations, brand, e-commerce, marketing, launch strategy and more long-term roll-out & scale.
We just went live with the European e-com presence in UK as a first market, and now aiming to roll out 7 further markets during 2022. Historically I’ve led global expansions from Europe to the Americas or other parts of the world. This is a first at “the other way around”; taking something US-based and establishing it in Europe. It’s an exciting and challenging process, especially from a management- and governance perspective, seeing as the organization is widely spread geographically.
For example, the owner group and core brand teams are located in Los Angeles and other parts of USA. Marketing and e-com teams are based in London. A few team members sit in India and to really make sure we’re covering all time zones, the logistics partner is based in Australia. Lots of moving pieces in this puzzle, a lot of long days, but we’re making it work.
What are the main challenges and key focus areas with this project?
A special challenge when establishing overseas, is the constant balance between the patience that solid brand-building and trust requires, versus the ambitious targets that an owner or board might have on initial revenue, loyalty and quickest path to profitability. So that’s a trade-off we’re working with every day. The same goes for commercial strategy and offering; where you quickly need to understand what wins and unique selling propositions (USP’s) from the home-market should be replicated, and where you need to innovate, localize and take some risk.
Another aspect which is more towards the human side of things, is managing teams and organizations in different parts of the world. I’ve always been fascinated by understanding the different leadership styles required to make diverse teams come together to make something great. I’m always developing in terms of keeping a personal, solid and coherent ethos in my management approach, while adapting and adjusting to individuals and teams from vastly different cultures. It requires lots of contemplation and self-reflection. Of course, this is lifelong learning, which is beautiful in itself!
Can you speak a bit about your other roles and positions?
Aside from this position, I hold a few advisory roles. Both towards mature brands within apparel and interior design, as well as a startup network app, a fem-tech brand and a gym chain.
Generally, my focus of advisory towards these companies revolves around both strategic brand matters, as well as extremely tactical issues around e-com, digital marketing and specific growth and innovation projects. I really appreciate the chance to surf between different industries this way, and also the range of high-level strategic questions mixed with very specific, execution guidance.
What is the most exciting part of strategic and creative work in the next 5-10 years?
I could talk about this for days. Fundamentally, I think it’s exciting to first understand where things are happening, before figuring out what and how it’s developing. There are as many guesses as there are experts on the emergence of web 3.0 and metaverse for example, so that’s something I am trying really hard to figure out personally. This is as much a philosophical prophecy on our society in large, at least if you ask me and how I connect it to strategic and creative work.
If we’re lucky enough to be in the ballpark of where stuff happens, then the exciting parts become how we engage through brave and meaningful communication. I think it’s time to be bolder, take clearer stands and drive real discussions with impact to show for it – not just communicate a mission statement in a slick commercial.
I also think we’re seeing an emergence of going back to solid science and research. Looking at brand for example, there is a shift from shallow “positioning” towards brand “salience”. We’re understanding that a brand is about going deep in neural science to understand emotions and synapses firing in our brain when we consume or experience something. Mapping a “brand” on an X-Y-axis means nothing nowadays. Brand is felt, perceived and judged in a second. In a font. In a sound. In a click.
Speaking to some of your advisory roles, what can you say about the digital growth and marketing fields at the moment? How are they changing?
I see a few clear trends both on the consumer and the brand side of things. I think that tech, software, analytics, algorithms and access to underlying data have equaled out the playing fields for companies. It has all become commoditized. Either as knowledge or as SaaS-solutions, for example.
So with a more equal playing field, we come down to the very core of business; product and brand. The best alternative seen to value wins, which has to be a good thing. We had a decade or so where tricks, tactics, shortcuts and grey-area marketing methods would give “smart” brands significant advantages. I believe we’re going back towards the fundamentals and fairer, product-driven competition. Or maybe, it’s just my naïve wish.
I also think we’re still seeing increased consolidation of power, a bit contrary to the current narrative of everything being de-centralized and liberated. I’m not really seeing this in the data, to be honest. Not yet. Web 3.0 and blockchain structures are still very much “owned” by a few powerful players, and commerce is continuing to polarize in 2 directions mainly, where the mega platforms are just getting more and more powerful.
How did your time/education at SSE help guide you through the career journey you have had?
SSE helped in providing a structured and analytical way of thinking. The ability to effectively boil down information in a systematic way and make sense out of it. I also really appreciate the international nature that permeates SSE. It provides invaluable perspectives and highlights the importance of being humble in opinions and keeping an open mind. It has also provided a great network of inspiring people, doing really cool things.
Following your time after SSE, do you have any words of wisdom or advice you would like to share with our current students?
I don’t know about wisdom, but a few concepts seem timeless. Like, most things don’t matter. Instead, a few things often seem to matter very much. Try to find these things. And do them really well.
Another thing I’d encourage is to think from first principles. There are so many accepted truths out there, but I find that scratching the surface or questioning these truths, can often alter them. Sit with yourself and do your own analysis of what’s really going on. Others' opinions are great and of course you should learn and listen, but be careful of the noise and herd opinions. It’s fascinating to see how quickly herd opinions fall apart or change as a consequence of one single, really thought-through idea or alternative stance. And if you’re wrong, it’s not the end of the world. That’s how we grow and develop – all of us. I’d urge everyone to question herd mentality. That’s often where innovation starts.
What are three words that sum up your time at SSE?
Diverse. Collaborative. Applicable. These words sum up a few key things. The mix of backgrounds, experiences and cultures, as well as how integrated projects and team deliveries were with the real-life business space.