Storytelling in Tech Goes Back To The Humanity and The Heart – A Conversation with Katrina Craigwell

The final session in The Club’s long-running professional development offering; our A&M:Access To Masters Series was an intimate discussion on human truths and behaviors that drive the overlap of culture and brands between Katrina Craigwell VP, Global Marketing Innovation, GE and Alicia Ray, Product Marketing Manager, AT&T AdWorks.  Here is a a peak into their conversation.

AR: What excites you most about the ‘industrial revolution in attention’ and where does storytelling fit in?

KC: The way in which we use visual storytelling to show what we’re capable of. Particularly when I started with GE there was this moment of nostalgia happening and is still happening.  GE has an incredible archival history so we were able to share our brand story in a new way that was meaningful to people. 

One of your more well-known projects is GE’s instawalk a couple years ago. Of course, it’s a whole new world every six months but at the time utilizing influencers was relatively new territory. Can you share the backstory on how the campaign came to fruition?

The influencer phenomenon is real and what’s interesting is, as a creative it’s not all about you and your vision anymore. There are these amazing creators who are growing and building amazing things on their own. The first thing we as marketers should be doing is calling them.

Your content by nature is extremely educational. As attention span decreases, how are you telling these very complex scientific stories? What platforms or areas are you thinking about now?

Today I’m not certain how good this idea of ‘snackability’ is based on what it has done to our attentions etc. but in any role in any organization you’re likely to have an incredible amount to say. And the truth is, as humans we have to ask ourselves; how do we pair it back for those on the receiving end. It’s all about how you go back to the heart and soul and look at what you want to share with the world, and the people who build content with us who share that passion in whatever form it may be.

 Put simply, how does content become popular?

It always comes back to the people, and their network. You can game the algorithms; you can get it to work for you but after a while it loses its depth. I’m mindful of that.

 Generationally I think there are interesting differences between how groups experience things. Currently I’m practicing non-attachment, non-attached to business practices and models. Building trust through radical transparency happens over time and you have to adopt new models and get people comfortable with them first. Look at Elon Musk who livestreams rocket launches even when they fail. That concept is going to take a while to be standard.

There’s also this idea of fluency and disfluency. Things need to be just familiar enough to take off. It’s a concept articulated really well in the book Hit Makers by Derek Thompson, which I recommend you read. In fact I’ll share my entire recommended reading list (below). You see the rubber hit the road when you think about what mediums are going to touch people and organic reach works when you do it right. It goes back to the humanity and the heart.

The Advertising Club and The ANDY Awards specifically embrace and honor bravery in marketing and advertising. This brave new digital universe can both unite and divide people. How much of that tension do you feel as a B2B marketer?

I think it’s the best time to be a marketer. For so long we thought about brand impact and marketing in two separate places. We have so much data and information now it’s really exciting. We have great leaders in Linda Boff and Beth Comstock that have given us a great runway to be brave. 

If possible to look this far ahead, what one thing do you anticipate will affect the industry in the next two years that could have an impact on your marketing?

We’ve always believed in experiments – run something once and see if it works! That’s going to be the case for a lot of things including voice, AI, AR etc. Personally I think AI is going to work better for us quicker than AR. AI is going to provide more information available and from a utility standpoint, is going to be most effective.

What advice would you relay to anyone coming into our industry today?

Be self-aware. Self-awareness and how to interpret someone else’s behavior is learned and realizing that somedays others behaviors have nothing to do with you. Other than that, get out there, speak up, gain experience in different places early on.

Any final thoughts?

We’re all humans and we create technology but sometimes it gets separated from our humanity. We’re all in this together so what do we stand for? It’s hard to stand apart from values that you may consider important in your personal life as well as a brand. It is very deep and it’s not to be done in a hurry but we’re at a point where we have to choose as individuals where our values are. It’s not easy and not going to happen right away but we’re there.

Katrina Reading List


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