Even startups need boundaries
Kristina Sedeke, Creative Dock’s new CMO, on digital vs. traditional advertising, Gen Z, Spotify, and more.
Words by Michal Schindler
Kristina Sedeke came to Creative Dock from an international ad agency environment, which can basically be seen as the voice of multinational corporations. Her key task? She’s now focused on giving a voice to brands that have been on the market for only a few months & that need to stand out when competing with the corporations mentioned above. What’s her strategy?
Has the Czech advertising business changed in the 14 years that you’ve been part of it?
I don’t think I have such a comprehensive overview in this case, but I think it’s changed massively. When I started out, we had ICQ and we only learned about Facebook from friends who were abroad on Erasmus. When I moved to the Netherlands, there was also a huge shift to the digital era. My first task was monitoring Facebook discussions. I was convinced they didn’t know what to do with me, so they just gave me something “to play around with”.
How did you manage?
I worked on an analysis, but I don’t think they were that impressed by it. When the strategist asked me about Sentiment and Engagement during a review, I had no idea what he was talking about. That was not something we talked about in relation to ICQ. (laughs)
When you returned to the Czech Republic, you went to work for a digital agency, Nydrle (now part of Kindred Group). Had the digital era already started over here back then?
I came back sometime in 2011. And I can say (a little jokingly) that I spent a few years persuading clients to take digital processes seriously. Compared to the Netherlands, we were very much behind. And not just when it came to social media, which was in its infancy stage basically worldwide, but in online solutions. I kept trying to explain to people why it’s not worth spending all our money on ATL marketing.
“I spent a few years persuading clients to take digital processes seriously.” — Kristina
Have things improved since then?
Well… (laughs) In the digital sense, yes, but now we’re dealing with new challenges. Meaning — we’re trying to explain to clients that they really don’t need to be everywhere, that there is no need for a small window company to be on Facebook.
In the digital world, we can now measure and analyze basically anything. Has this analytical ability changed marketing as a whole?
The use of analytics, data, and the overall connection of marketing to IT is a huge milestone and a new chapter for marketing. We’re now dealing with IT disciplines that modern marketers can’t do without. We’re learning what an effective tech/marketing symbiosis should look like on a daily basis. Not to mention the media point of view — we’re segmenting, remarketing, analyzing who should be targeted as well as where and when and how much it will cost, when the customer will buy a product again… and so on.
How detailed is targeting today?
We can target 40+ year-old men who live in cities and their very complex socio-demographic aspects and also run all kinds of A/B testing based on their previous online behaviour. Then again, you can run a nationwide campaign which, based on key parameters, will speak to users all across the Czech Republic, and in that case you don’t really have to care about where they live specifically. You don’t even need to be interested in who the users really are, because your main concern is a profile based on their online behaviour. You might be actually dealing with women, but their online footprint corresponds with 40+ year-old men. And that’s OK — you’re starting out with the idea of a target group and you’re gradually fine-tuning this targeting based on the real group.
But aren’t creative ideas and creative people and their instincts becoming obsolete in terms of marketing now?
I know a lot of creative people who think that. I see where they’re coming from, but I don’t share their point of view. On the contrary, I think the current situation is interesting. We know precisely whom we’re talking to and what and where we’re supposed to be telling them. And, most importantly, we know whether what we’re saying is working. Also, despite all the data and insights, creativity is still based on an “idea”. In an ideal world, the creative will consider the strategic proposal based on data and tested insights, and take it to a whole new level. Significantly further. This step can’t be done other than through idea making, copywriting, design, and other creative disciplines.
„Research and analyses give creatives the possibility to enter a playground where they can do whatever they want.” –– Kristina
So does research help creatives come up with grade-A ideas straight away?
I don’t know if I would say that. Rather that data-strategic propositions give creatives the possibility to enter a playground in which they can do whatever they want.
Is the connection between data and creativity reflected in brand building? Has any big brand changed their strategy or communication based on research?
I think there’s a lot of such brands, also because of the current situation. It’s becoming kind of a cliche to talk about the culinary industry, but many establishments have had to change their concept, product, business and marketing strategy. A lot of them are managing quite well and some aren’t even planning on going back to their original concept. A second example are luxury brands. I would never expect labels such as Burberry or Saint Laurent, which are steeped in tradition and craftsmanship, to change their logo or font. After all, a logo is the only thing you can copyright in the fashion industry.
Speaking of brands — you came from an agency environment to Creative Dock, which is a “company builder”, creating one brand after another. Do startups have different marketing strategies?
It depends. When thinking of performance and media strategy, Google works the same for everyone. A startup has a different positioning however. It takes time to grab people’s attention and you also need a lot of money, which startups usually don’t have. That’s not that important during the first three years though, as you’re making a name for yourself based on the quality of your product. At least that’s how it works in Creative Dock. Marketing has to however think completely differently than with an established brand. Then again, you’re starting off fresh. It’s often easier to build a new brand as opposed to salvaging a tainted reputation.
What were you expecting when you joined Creative Dock?
I was expecting an environment that would mesh well with my personality and the way that I function, but also a place where there would be a lot of new elements in terms of output and the overall work. And this is actually the case. I used to think that agencies were the most dynamic environment — and I don’t think that anymore. (laughs)
And what’s different when it comes to working on marketing for emerging brands?
I didn’t really have any expectations in mind and so far everything is still very fresh. But what stands out for me is that every project is unique — in terms of segment, industry, and team composition. There’s a difference between the fairly new brand Nafirmy.cz, which has a small team and just got its first clients recently, and the online insurance company Mutumutu with a bigger, already well-functioning team, a global investor as well as plans for an international expansion. But it’s quite clear that all projects should be marked by the same milestones and processes: a marketing plan, a detailed timetable, and an accordingly set budget.
That doesn’t sound like rocket science. Are startups struggling in this respect?
It may sound trivial, but in the startup world, the word “process” isn’t necessarily seen as a good thing. What’s more, you need to accept that startup materials or resources are fluid and they need to be adjusted according to the current development. And that’s something people often aren’t too fond of. I’m actually quite often the same, especially when something has to be done five times over. But most of the hiccups I’m dealing with right now stem from this area. That’s something that needs to change. And we’re working on it.
Startups often have lots of fans. But do you think they can actually threaten the established giants?
That’s a question for the CEO of Creative Dock, Martin Pejša (laughs). But seriously — not yet, at least not within the Czech market. But when you’re founded abroad and then come back as an international or European company, you’re in a completely different position. Take the Swedish brand Spotify. It started out in the United States, in a massive way, and then it also took over Europe. Apple Music is unsuccessfully trying to catch up with Spotify, despite a huge portfolio of products and services.
„A new generation of people, who don’t like the way large corporations act and function, is coming into its own.” — Kristina
And what about the Czech Republic?
That will come in time. A generation of people who don’t like the way large corporations act and function across the market is slowly coming into its own. This generation tries to avoid these large companies and — unlike their parents — they don’t believe that only well established companies will take the best care of their money, health, or even themselves.
Do you see the first signs of this happening?
So far, it’s hard to imagine that the hegemony of the big players and the big markets will change. Then again, the covid pandemic keeps teaching us just how quickly almost anything can change. But I’m not alluding to these external factors. Teenagers are changing. I don’t believe the theory that Generation Z only buys fair trade and only wants to live a free nomad lifestyle. If you get out of Prague, you can quickly see these are the views of the Prague marketing bubble. But in the 5 years that I have been teaching at various high schools and universities, I can feel a change coming.
In what ways?
It’s clear the younger generation grew up in a completely different context. They’re faster and more enthusiastic. They want everything NOW — not only in terms of material things, but also when it comes to learning new concepts. It can be difficult to grab their attention when it comes to a more complex topic. They need to be part of the discussion straight away. But they’re able to combine and connect different types of knowledge and disciplines very well. When it comes to new technologies, they’re naturals. They grew up with these technologies, they’re digital natives. This is a huge topic and we could talk about it for hours. I really enjoy watching this generation, especially the younger ones. I’m not saying there’s a revolution coming, but the shift in thinking is obvious. And I’m curious what these kids will come up with as they grow up.
Kristina Sedeke Her marketing career started during her university years, when she studied media and communications in Prague and the Netherlands (she obtained her MA in Rotterdam in 2012). In the past 12 years, she has worked for clients from all kinds of industries — from retail and e-commerce to finance and technology. She focused on strategy for advertising campaigns which won the Effie, IEA, and Golden Semicolon awards in 2014 and 2019. She’s an external lecturer at the Prague University of Business and Economics and the 1st IT High School in Prague. She came to Creative Dock after working at the Nydrle agency (Kindred Group) and after managing the Newcast agency (Publicis Groupe).