Little Grey Cells meets AJ Coyne, Head of Global Brand and Creative at flexible payment company, Klarna, unpacks how a dislike for Marmite, but a love of their advertising led him into marketing, and how their commitment to derail harmful credit and a slew of new products will ensure they’re ahead of the curve in 2023.
What inspired you to pursue a career that embraces marketing?
AJ> Marmite. As a child, I loved their brand, loved the commercials and despite wanting to love the product, I hated it. And their brand platform spoke to that universal truth ‘love it or hate it’ and my curiosity grew from there. So really I have Marmite to thank for my career in marketing. And the proof is in the work as decades later the ‘love it or hate it’ platform is still going strong and continuing to make world-class work.
What are the biggest challenges currently facing your marketing team?
AJ> It’s a challenging time for every business and consumer. Last month, the pound was as volatile as crypto. Now more than ever, it’s important for us to continue to be useful to our consumers. So, ensuring the right message, to the right person, at the right time, and, critically, promoting the right product. I am very proud that our payment products are interest-free, meaning our consumers never pay more than the price of the product, and a lot of our focus will be on ensuring people choose Klarna vs harmful forms of credit, where they’ll end up forever revolving on high-interest credit cards.
Science vs Art: With scientific data-driven marketing at one end of the spectrum and genius creative ideas at the other - which side do you lean towards?
AJ> Science for performance, growth, and driving acquisition or increasing volume. Science also for data, intelligence, and insights. But throw science out the window when you have an idea that you believe will bang, spark culture, or just set the internet alight for a minute or two.
The Metaverse: are you ‘in’, ‘out’ or ‘not sure’? And please tell us why.
AJ> Living my life in a 3D online world which becomes your real-time digital reality to me still feels like science fiction. So I am out. But online platforms where people connect and work together to achieve things and play – I am in. But this is gaming – Animal Crossing, Fortnite, and yes, technology, will only make this play and connection greater. And when it comes to Web3, decentralised ownership and the potential of NFT technology, this is where we are focussing some energy. But the barriers to adoption challenges with education, fraud, and regulation – this is still a long-term play.
How do you adapt a business and marketing strategy to embrace the latest trends and keep ahead of the competition?
AJ> At Klarna, we have a really clear business strategy, and every part of our business is in service of this. As we have 150m global consumers, we have a wealth of data and are continuously learning new insights about our users. This drives our marketing strategy, and at times results in pivots where we need to solve a problem or seize an opportunity. In addition to our internal data, a lot of time is spent immersing ourselves in culture, future trends, and trying stuff, pressing print, testing. I’d much prefer to have nine fails and one win versus 10 maybes that never happened.
What role does your company’s purpose and environmental strategy play within your marketing strategy?
AJ> At Klarna, we are focussed on building the world we want to see, and these efforts are seen across our entire business. Critically, our work in sustainability plays a significant role in our marketing strategy. This is brought to life in a few ways; financially by Give One, our 1% planet pledge and by helping consumers make charitable donations at checkout. Education is also critical; within the Klarna app, every consumer can understand the carbon footprint of every purchase they make, and understand how they can offset it. As we look ahead, encouraging circular shopping and continuing to provide sustainable banking solutions for consumers will be critical.
How important is storytelling when maximising your customers’ engagement with a campaign?
AJ> Storytelling is everything. Make someone feel something. We operate in a world now where attention is currency, and every marketer is guilty at times of overcomplicating the story. Say one thing, be distinctive, and make them laugh, cry, or simply smile.
Creative agencies rail against the time and resources spent working on pitches to win accounts: is there a realistic, fair alternative to the pitch process?
AJ> Big retainer accounts are extinct for creative agencies, so the cumbersome, expensive, draining pitch process should be, too. If you win, great. But I don’t think any agency truly understands the cost ratio of a pitch. As a client, any pitch I’ve ever conducted has been for real work and with a fee attached. To me, this is just smart business; simply put, pay for the talent and the work, and start any partnership on the right path.
From a marketing perspective, what’s coming up for your brand or business in 2023?
AJ> 2023 is a big year for us. A bit of a reset with some epic moments coming up from our brand, as well as pinch-yourself new retailer partners launching. In addition to that, we have a lot of new products launching that will enhance our consumers’ lives, from price comparison (ensuring they always pay the cheapest price on the internet) to social shopping.
AJ Coyne was interviewed By Tim Healey (Little Grey Cells) on behalf of Worth Your while (wyw.agency).