Strategy Is the Intersect of Writing, Psychology, Research and Detective Work
“Conducting in-home market research with strangers is a fun part of my job,” says Kaitlyn Hieb, strategist from the R/GA Austin office, about what draws her to strategy. Here, she discusses how she got into advertising, her most exciting projects and passion projects she pursues outside of work.
Q> What inspired you to pursue a career in advertising?
Kaitlyn> Landing in advertising was somewhat of a happy accident. I set out to be a journalist, but the day my professor asked us to conduct mock interviews with people who had just lost their families in a plane crash, I knew I had to get out of there. I wish I had a crazier story, but it was easiest to switch majors within the comms school so I chose advertising because it seemed interesting and like something I could actually make money doing (sorry, journalism).
Today, I’m a strategist at R/GA Austin and I work mainly on the RaceTrac account. In college, I would have told you that strategists/planners mainly write creative briefs, but today my job is as much about creative direction as it is about business strategy and consulting. I think a part of that is because of how far we push ourselves at R/GA to do our due diligence. The other part is that our RaceTrac clients are extremely open to our point-of-view on matters beyond advertising, like store design and food innovation, which is so cool!
Q> Why strategy?
Kaitlyn> Strategy allows me to research and write like a journalist, while also putting my business minor to good use. A lot of work we do on the RaceTrac account is rooted in understanding the fundamentals of business. Having a deeper understanding of where our business-minded clients are coming from and what their motivations are has been very helpful in understanding how to best package our recommendations for the brand.
Ultimately, the best part of strategy is getting paid to be a writer, psychologist, detective, and researcher mash-up. All this without the career-induced emotional damage that can come along with those jobs.
Q> Where do you get all your information about the market, industry trends, and competitors?
Kaitlyn> The first answer to pop into my mind is Slack. Special shout-out to Shirley Brady, our managing editor of FutureVision, for mining articles every day for the R/GA universe. I also have Google alerts set around anything c-store, QSR, or retail. When I’m on a new project, my go-to’s are usually YouTube, Reddit, and Twitter just to get grounded in the consumer along with perusing all the newsletters I’ve saved. I am a huge newsletter fan, and some of my favourites being Cassandra Daily, The Drum, and It’s Nice That.
Q> What makes you the most excited about a project you are working on or have worked on?
Kaitlyn> I get most excited about projects where the ask is figuring out exactly what people want or exactly how they think. To me, conducting in-home market research with strangers is a fun part of my job.. Apparently, research can actually be a socially acceptable form of consented stalking, and I love it.
At my last agency, we were asked to fly to different cities and talk to people about their trash. My team got to go into their homes and see what they consumed, what they were throwing away, how they were throwing things away, and what they would change about the entire trash process. We learned a few deep behavioral insights that helped our client create a new product and better understand how to win loyalty in a seemingly loyalty-less space.
Q> What advice do you have for others in this position?
Kaitlyn> Become friends with ambiguity. If you thrive in black and white, either get a new job or learn to love the greyness.
The folders feature in Outlook is your friend. I am a little militant about organizing my emails into the appropriate folders every morning, which is less a necessity for this role specifically and more a survival tactic that has saved my mental health on many occasions.
Never stop learning.
Q> Do you have any passion projects outside of work?
Kaitlyn> This is kind of like that question “what are your hobbies” in the sense that it makes me feel so boring! I don’t have a YouTube channel or an Etsy shop or a side hustle of any kind, but I am an insatiable reader. I read about a book per week, which can range from serious to just-for-fun. For the serious, I recommend Scale by Geoffrey West (definitely takes more than a week to read, but worth it) and for fun, I would recommend Educated by Tara Westover, The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides or 11/22/63 by Stephen King.