Looking at Feedback from a Different Angle
Katie Lu, brand marketer at South African Breweries takes a moment to talk to us about the importance of feedback from a brand perspective.
D.IO : So, tell us... Where are you at this current moment? Are you having coffee, stealing a moment in the office or perhaps a coffee shop?
K.L : Sitting in my study overlooking our communal pool and thinking whether I should go for a quick swim myself!
D.IO : What was the path that lead you to this career?
K.L : After graduating from university I took a gap year and went to Taiwan to teach English. Whilst it was fun and daring, I realised quickly that it was not for me so I came back to Cape Town and found a job in market research.
At first, I had no idea what this actually entailed, but because of my inquisitive nature, I landed a job at Research International / TNS. Lo and behold, with my inquisitive nature comes many questions and I found myself in the right career.
I loved understanding why consumers chose the brands they did and what made consumers tick. I very quickly learnt about the tobacco industry and this brought me to my next adventure. I have a knack for wanting to explore the world, so I got a transfer to the Netherlands where I looked after the British American Tobacco EMEA account.
After spending 2 years of riding bicycles in Rotterdam and Amsterdam (mind you I was the fittest I have ever been!), I decided to move again.. but this time to big city lights London! This is the place where things happen I thought. I was privileged enough to work on virtual reality market research. This was so innovative, so edgy and first in class. WOW! Whilst still looking after the BAT account in the UK, I also managed the Unilever account where I spent a few good months learning about washing powder in the South East Asian countries.
As it may be strange to my British colleagues, I didn’t think using a bar of soap to wash your clothes was that foreign at all.... After 3 years in London, I was missing my family a great deal and decided to move to Johannesburg where my immediate family resides. Here I joined South African Breweries and learnt a great deal about branding and marketing. Working on South Africa's 2nd biggest beer brand, Castle Lager, gave me all the experience on how to market an iconic brand, working on strategy and brand planning and running nationwide campaigns. When I am not selling beer, you will be sure to see me enjoying a glass or two of Castle Lager!
D.IO : Tell us about the kind of projects you’ve been involved with in the past (brands you’ve worked on), projects you are currently working on and what future projects you have lined up?
K.L : I have worked on Castle Lager's 3 year strategy plan from identifying strategic priorities and carrying them through to bold actions. With my knowledge and background of insights and research, I was responsible for turning insights into actionable recommendations and mining all the brand health measures that could be incorporated into our short term and long term plans.
I am also accountable for the launch of Castle Tank Beer. Castle Tank Beer is Castle Lager's sub-brand and is only available in certain selected outlets across the country. I am responsible for the roll out of Castle Tank beer across the Egoli, North and Cape regions. I am responsible for all the below the line campaigns for this brand and have managed to achieve double digit growth for Castle Lager in these outlets. In addition, I have worked on Castle Lager's 2 main campaigns of the year where one was involved with rugby (Face the Haka) and I was the lead in Castle's Make your circle bigger campaign, ensuring successful execution of all POS across our classes of trade, and being involved in the TVC and radio.
D.IO : We hear that the creative process is complex and involves many stakeholders. How many people are involved in a typical project?
K.L : From the brand team, there is always the general manager, marketing manager and brand manager. Our marketing director generally has to approve all creative. We work with our creative agencies and this typically includes the creative directors and strategists (approx 4-5 people).
D.IO : Take us through the process you engage in when you receive a project. The different steps you take from the concept phase of a project to the execution.
K.L : I would be responsible for writing up the brief and sending it to 3 agencies (max) to pitch. The brief would be written based on a clear insight from either brand health measures or research that we have done. Agencies will liaise with me if they have any questions and a presentation date will be set for agencies to come pitch their ideas to us. As a team, the Castle team will review the different ideas give their feedback based on what worked, what didn’t and finally decide on a winning agency. Consolidated feedback will be provided to each agency after the reviews.
D.IO : Is there a feedback process at any stage in the project? If there is, at what Stage?
K.L : In the initial brief, agencies will ask questions to understand the brief correctly and ensure their thinking is on the right path. After their pitch, feedback is always given, and always in the form of what worked, what didn't and what could be improved on.
D.IO : How helpful is feedback?
K.L : Very helpful. Without feedback you will not know how to improve. Life is a journey of continuous learning, without feedback you will remain stagnant.
D.IO : Please describe your feedback process (from who initiates it, the responses, the amount of participation and outcome, any complexities that arise).
K.L : I like to run my feedback sessions in a 'mini workshop' session. I use lots of post it notes and ask participants to write down everything that they liked and disliked about the creative. When assessing a creative, we use our 4 C's assessment which is:
Consistent (does the creative fit the brief, does it fit the brand narrative)
Clarity (is the message clear and relevant)
Cut-through (does the creative stand out and will it grab my attention)
Compelling (is there an emotional impact that will make consumers go out and buy the product)
Using these 4 C's, we assess the creative and give it a rating out of 5. On one side of the room, all the 'likes' will go there and on the other side of the room all the 'dislike' post it notes will be posted, from there, I group themes together. As a team, we then discuss which of the creative is the strongest and must be taken forward. For each creative, I draw up 'what works', 'what did not work' and 'what can be improved on'. This feedback is given to each agency whether they won the pitch or not. Tools used include our 4 C's assessment, and I like to work with groups of people and use post it notes to group themes together.
D.IO : Overall, is your feedback process effective? Please elaborate.
K.L : Yes, because agencies are left with no doubt in their minds on the reasons of why they won the pitch or why they lost the pitch. We usually find that not all creatives are spot on 100%, so for all agencies, we will give details on what we think could be improved from a brand perspective. anything that could be tweaked or evolved into a better idea. This is merely because brand teams know their brands better than anyone else.
D.IO : On average how many times do you go back and forth in the feedback process and what is the main cause of the back and forth?
K.L : Some agencies like to run their ideas past me before the pitch presentation day to see if they are on the right track. This is generally a good sign as agencies like to give a high road and low road when it comes to their ideas. The high road is typically way over budget and the low road is too safe. So I like to have these check in as frequent as the agency wants them. So generally depending on size of campaign, check in's and feedback could range from 3-6.
D.IO : Does the feedback process hamper creativity? Please elaborate on your answer.
K.L : Depending on the type of feedback. Feedback should not be too prescriptive. Feedback should guide the agency so they know whether they are on the right track or not, whether their idea is a brand fit or not and whether it is within budget. As clients we should not be telling them what to do. By giving them guidance only and not being prescriptive, this should allow agencies to be as creative as possible. I know sometimes, clients end up directing them down a specific path and that would limit the creativity, however, if done correctly, agencies should not feel like their creativity has been hampered.
D.IO : What is the one thing you wish your industry would do but is not being done in relation to feedback processes?
K.L : Being open minded to accepting feedback (good / bad) from external, no matter who the feedback is from.
D.IO : How can your feedback process be improved? Describe your feedback process dreamstation?
K.L : I like to start with the opportunity to provide my own feedback, thereafter feedback gets put into a forum where everyone can see each others feedback. We can all make comments. But there needs to be one facilitator who will facilitate the process. And most importantly, anyone entering this feedback process needs to be 'ego-free'. Everyone needs to be on the same wavelength that there is no such thing as bad feedback and be open minded to criticism. Also respect one another's feedback and opinions. The facilitator must summarize and conclude the process.
Thank you Katie, we can see how you value feedback as your feedback to us is free from ego and certainly not prescriptive. The sharing of these insights serve to give way to the feedback dreams station you describe! Here is to open minds, the spirit of collaboration and sharing.