tricia-clarke-stone

Controlling The Narrative: Meet Marketing Maven, Tricia Clarke-Stone

Narrative agency boss lady Tricia Clarke-Stone on her professional journey and staying motivated

Before Don Draper was the on-screen poster boy for Madison Avenue advertising on Mad Men, Tricia Clarke-Stone was embarking on her professional journey to become a marketing prodigy.

The Skidmore College alum found her passion for brands and engaging consumers as a freshman, presenting to a panel of Fox representatives and professors about a marketing strategy to reach a younger demographic.

“Skidmore has a class called Business 107 and the whole course is about you going through and analyzing Harvard business school cases,” she explains to VIBE. “So every week, you and your team would have to come up with a solution and solve the problem or whatever the task at hand was. Your final is you come up with a marketing strategy and create it for a real-life brand. For our case, it was for Fox.”

She aced the final and went on to join media conglomerate Emmis Communications straight out of college, working with radio station Hot97 FM in New York. The fashionably stylish Clarke-Stone also served as President for pop culture website, Global Grind then launched Narrative agency alongside Russell Simmons in 2013. With her ultimate creativity and biz savvy, she secured top-notch clients like Under Armour and DeLeon tequila. Here, Clarke-Stone offers up some gems on her career trajectory, female mentors and how to keep new ideas in rotation.

How to keep churning out ideas:
I’m one of the most curious individuals ever. I’m constantly looking for what’s new and reimagining what exists. When I was at Emmis, I reimagined what traditional and new media meant as an integrated offering that was focused on creating high impact experiences with a high level of relevance.

At Global Grind, I reimagined what the publisher/content model could be and delivered a more unique value proposition to brands and agencies. Ad technology and product development played an integral role in making the brand experiences transportable with immense engagement. The way to create compelling advertising campaigns to me is through the stories that we tell. That’s why the agency [I founded with Russell Simmons] is called Narrative. So in an effort to reimagine how we provide amazing and highly effective advertising campaigns for brands, it has to start with the stories that we were telling (and not just linear stories), how we were telling them, how audiences can interact with them, and spread the experience.

A project I’m most proud of:
I usually don’t pat myself on the back. To me, you’re only as good as your last victory so I never rest on my laurels, but I am a proud of a lot of work I’ve done across the board throughout my career. I approach every advertising problem that I need to solve with strategic thinking, creativity, innovation and cultural relevance. I always think about the [consumer] experience so everything we do [at Narrative] is rooted in putting the user at the center.

In preparation for the release of Ray Lewis’ biospot, ‘Ready for August’...a universal underdog story that featured a heart pumping soundtrack. Under Armour (UA) tasked us to create a digital campaign that helped extend the raw emotion of the spot, and the UA brand beyond the hardcore football athlete.
Our approach was to extend their brand from the field to the streets, and ignite a broader cultural conversation.

Leveraging the strong music direction and an unreleased speech from Ray Lewis, we created Natural Born Hitters, a mixtape and a campaign that brought UA to the forefront of the lifestyle sector as we invited consumers to be part of an elite performance brand.

In partnership with UA, we kicked off the campaign with a digital mixtape (Natural Born Hitters) that included three original tracks, “Training,” “Practice,” and “Pregame”, inspired by the biospot, ‘Ready for August’ and executively produced by Pharrell Williams.

We then invited consumers to participate as we launched a cross-channel contest that challenged fans, producers and DJ’s to “remix” one of the tracks for a chance to be featured as the new soundtrack to “Ready for August”, which aired nationally during the first Monday Night Football game of the 2013 NFL season.

In order to lower the barrier to entry, we built the “Hitmaker App”. This custom, web-based production tool allowed consumers of all levels to compose a track using pre-recorded sounds with a simple drag and drop function.

The mixtape along with the contest were distributed across various online and offline platforms, including: Soundcloud, top music, entertainment and lifestyle publications/sites, broadcast television, QR activated OOH, and select retail locations which carried physical copies of the mixtape at the point of sale.

We created a stand-alone destination NaturalBornHitters.com, which hosted the original mixtape that consumers were able to engage with using gesture recognition (technology was also available at retail locations). In addition, the destination provided a sneak peak of the biospot, top UGC submissions, content, and eventually the winner/runner-ups.

We even created cultural currency as we honored UA, Pharrell Williams, and Ray Lewis by designing and handcrafting a custom skate deck that illustrated the collaboration.

Female mentors that guided me along the way:
I'm an identical twin and having someone that you're that close with and that honest with has been a great benefit. My sister and I are each other's biggest advocates, but we also don't pull any punches when we think the other is out of line.

Having that completely honest and totally loving source of feedback is a great source of strength and brings a level of confidence to everything that I do.

From a career perspective, I've been fortunate to learn from some of the best in the business. Prior to co-founding Narrative with Russell Simmons, I served as president of Global Grind, which is Russell's digital media company. Russell is someone who's always looking several steps ahead, which has enabled him to build a substantial empire over his three-decades plus career. Cultivating that kind of foresight and seeking to put into action has been a huge influence in how I run my business.

My style mantra:
Glam chic. I’d rather be overdressed than underdressed because I never know what client is going to come in, what meeting I have to go, what event I’ll go to after work. Your style is a part of your brand.

Hardest challenge about starting Narrative:
The hardest thing was probably trying to do something different. When you’re launching a unique business, one of the hardest things to do is innovate and integrate at the same time. I had to build a team, integrate them, and innovate in how we solve marketing and advertising problems. Thinking I could do everything in parallel was a bit naive.

Advice for women who want to propel their profession:
Always establish your competitive advantage, have a clear sense of your value prop and points of differentiation that make you a force.

And these are my 5 Ps:
1. Always lead with your Passion
2. Be Purposeful
3. Have a Plan (in your day to day job, and in establishing work/life balance)
4. Surround yourself with great People (your team and network)
5. Be Poised and fearless (have thick skin, don’t take things personally, don't be driven by fear, you become successful by doing something that hasn't been done before)

The definition of a boss:
A visionary, a leader who is driven, resilient, compassionate and a doer. One that leads by example and knows that they're only as good the team around them.

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Photo Credit: Jason Chandler

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Genres Aside, Here Are Our 25 Favorite Songs Of 2018

Keeping up with all of the music from 2018 was a full-time job, with loads of songs releasing every week and not enough ears to keep track. But the volume of music comes with an advantage: there’s something for everybody. Fittingly, our list of the 25 Best Songs of 2018 represents the multi-genre mayhem that is in everyone’s playlists this year.

Some of the entries on our list, like cuts by Drake, Travis Scott and Childish Gambino, were at the forefront of the conversation in 2018, dominating streaming services and radio around the country. Indie darling Saba made waves, and he’s included here as well. Jazz wizard Kamasi Washington dropped some of the best protest music of the year. But there are also some songs on this year’s list that spoke to the VIBE Tribe in a different way. Cardi B had hits all year, but an album cut impressed us most; Usher and Zaytoven’s new album didn’t make a huge splash commercially, but one of its songs appears here. And Beyonce appears on one of the best songs of the year that never even saw an official release–but that didn’t stop us from including it here.

Music broke the rules this year, and so did we. Read below, and tell us what surprise choices are making your songs of the year list.

READ MORE: Debate Us: The 30 Best Albums Of 2018

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A look back at the collaborator's up and down relationship.
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Remember The Time: 10 Times Drake And Kanye West Were Stronger Together

Kanye West and Drake aren’t exactly in the best place at the moment. West’s Dec. 13 Twitter rant detailed their issues, in which he accuses Drake of “sneak dissing” and threatening him.

“You sneak dissing on [Travis Scott] records and texting Kris [Jenner] talking about how’s the family.” he wrote among many other tweets and allegations against the Scorpion MC.

While this is a bump in the road, the two haven’t always been enemies. Despite the shenanigans surrounding them, Kanye West and Drake have had a very fruitful relationship. All drama aside, the duo have created many memorable moments in hip-hop and pop culture. They’ve written and recorded some incredible songs and shared countless stages during concerts and tours.

To abstain from dwelling on the negativity, VIBE has collected a list of moments taking you through the high points in the rappers’ relationship. Check it out below.

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Drake's Freestyles Over Many Beats By 'Ye

Before he was one of the most sought-after rappers in the world, Drizzy has looked up to Kanye West and sampled his work. For “Say What’s Real,” a single off his mixtape So Far Gone, the “In My Feelings” MC sampled Yeezy’s “Say You Will” off of his 2008 album 808s & Heartbreak. The admiration continued throughout the years, resulting in more freestyles over songs like “Swagga Like Us” and “Barry Bonds.” Both tracks feature beats created by the Chi-town native. 

‘Thank Me Later’ Proves Their Shared Power 

After meeting in 2009, the duo came together to bring Drake's Thank Me Later album to the next level. They collaborated on two tracks- the futuristic love songs “Show Me A Good Time,” and “Find Your Love.” With West holding down production, deep-pocketed 808’s and table-top scratch sounds were highlighted. The accolades for the latter song resulted in the No. 5 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 charts as they created their own lane.

Drake Calls Kanye “The Most Influential Person”

In a 2009 interview, the then-industry rookie had some nice words for West. Speaking specifically about the 41-year-old’s 808’s and Heartbreak album, the Toronto rapper described ‘Ye as "the most influential person” who was important to young emcees in the game.

"Before I ever got the chance to meet him, Kanye West shaped a lot of what I do, as far as music goes," Drake said. He knows how to utilize great sounds and great music. So before I met him, I had the utmost respect for Kanye West. I'd even go as far as to say he's the most influential person as far as a musician that I'd ever had in my life."

Their Collaborations On Wax 

The pair has been making music together for nearly 10 years, with some standout tracks including “Forever,” the remix to “All Of The Lights,” and “Pop Style.” On their 2017 song “Glow” off of Drake’s playlist More Life, both rappers discuss their growing, limitless success. West was rumored to initially appear on Drizzy’s smash-hit “Nice For What.” He reportedly had a verse on the critically-acclaimed track until the beef between Drake and his G.O.O.D. Music cohort Pusha T became lethal.

The Joint Mixtape That Never Happened

Drake and Kanye are no strangers when it comes to making joint albums with other artists. Drake worked with Future on the platinum-selling album What A Time To Be Alive, while Kanye released Watch The Throne with JAY-Z to critical acclaim. However, it has been hinted for the longest time that the two were working on a full-length album of their own.

Kanye confirmed the plan to release an album with Drake to Vogue in 2016, shortly after hinting at a joint project during OVO Fest. The Take Care rapper co-signed the announcement, saying "What my brother was asking before was, are you ready if we make an album?"

Drake Writing For Kanye’s ‘The Life Of Pablo’

Drake wrote a song for Kanye’s 2016 effort, The Life of Pablo. The Canadian hip-hop star helped pen the Isaac Hayes and Nelly-sampled “30 Hours.” Drizzy was also reportedly on the original, unreleased version of Pablo’s “Wolves,” which featured Icelandic artist Bjork (the album version features Vic Mensa and Sia).

The Duo Become Friendly, Competitive Neighbors

By the time of their initial meeting in 2009, Kanye already clocked in nearly a decade of music industry knowledge, and Drake was making the transition from teen TV star to full-time rapper. But who would have thought the duo would have eventually become actual neighbors?

Drake eventually moved to Calabasas, Calif.- a neighborhood in Los Angeles many celebrities call home- around the same time West began publicly dating his now-wife, Kim Kardashian. In the 2016 bop “Summer Sixteen,” Drizzy jokes, “Now I got a house in LA, now I got a bigger pool than Ye / And look man, Ye’s pool is nice, mine's just bigger's what I’m saying.”

 

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There goes the neighborhood

A post shared by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on Nov 7, 2016 at 3:05am PST

Kanye Supports OVO Fest

Drake created a hip-hop festival called OVO Fest in 2010. Not only does it feature notable acts in urban music, but it also gave a platform to upcoming artists from Canada who might not have gotten a platform back home. Kanye West was one of the first supports of the music event, performing at three of the festivals.

He also admitted that Drake inspired him and JAY-Z to record Watch The Throne during 2013’s OVO Fest, stating, "Me and Hov would've never made Watch the Throne if this ni**a wasn't putting pressure on us like that, so I just wanna pay my respects.”

Kanye Apologizes To Drake Over G.O.O.D. Music Album Rollouts

Earlier this fall, Kanye West apologized to Drake in a series of tweets for planning the rollout of albums by artists under his G.O.O.D music roster around the proposed release of Scorpion.

In one of the tweets, Kanye wrote “Let me start by apologizing for stepping on your release date in the first place. We were building a bond and working on music together including squashing the issues with Cudi at our office.” In another tweet, ‘Ye revealed that he never listened to the diss tracks between him and Pusha, and didn’t have conversations regarding Drake’s child with him.

Let me start by apologizing for stepping on your release date in the first place … We were building a bond and working on music together including squashing the issues with Cudi at our office.

— ye (@kanyewest) September 5, 2018

They Shared Laughs Over Meek Mill Memes

Drake and Meek Mill were in an infamous feud back in 2015. After performing his diss track aimed at Meek- "Back to Back”- at the 2015 OVO Fest, Drizzy, Kanye, and Will Smith enjoyed a laugh over the countless memes mocking the Philly MC.

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Debate Us: The 30 Best Albums Of 2018

What a year 2018 has been for music lovers.

Listeners enjoyed a buffet of diverse melodies, savoring in the choice of curating the tunes they craved as opposed to consuming more than they can digest. Rumored albums from veterans like Lil Wayne's Tha Carter V and The Carters' first joint project battled its way to the top of our personal charts alongside music's innovators like Noname, The Internet, Buddy, and Janelle Monae.

Within that aforementioned list of artists, a new generation of lyricists and vocalists found their footing with fans and critics alike. The rising crop of talent released projects that should motivate each of them to carve out space for forthcoming awards. While we took into account the albums released from Dec. 1, 2017 to Nov. 20, 2018, that moved us emotionally, we also checked off a list of requirements like replay value, overall production, critical reception, and cultural impact.

Here are the 30 albums (in alphabetical order, not ranked), that instilled pride in our culture, made us take a look within, and encouraged us to appreciate music all over again.

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