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, 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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There goes the neighborhood

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