Marketing Your Brand For A New Era with Shannon Washington

Shannon Washington is Group Executive Creative Director of R/GA New York where she co-leads creative teams and opportunities for Google, Uber, MailChimp, Cigna, ESPN, and more. Labeled a 'Next Gen CEO' by Refinery 29, she is an award-winning creative who has a solid reputation built on visionary insight, and an obsession with culture. In her 12+ year journey as a professional creative, Shannon has crafted integrated brand and consumer experiences for a variety of industries, from finance to beauty, culminating in accolades from a number of organizations including The One Club/One Show, ADCOLOR, and The Emmys. Shannon joined R/GA after a brief stint in Los Angeles with Media Arts Lab where she helped launch Apple TV+ and build a foundation for original content marketing in the Apple ecosystem, starting with Oprah Winfrey and HARPO, and Deutsch Los Angeles, where she is crafted a new look and language for H&R Block with their 'Block Has Your Back' campaign. Previous to Deutsch, Shannon was a Creative Director at Droga5 where she drove the successful, culture-driven “I Am What I Make Up” relaunch of CoverGirl and sharpened her wit on Chase Bank and their You Invest product launch. In the below discussion, she shares how brands can successfully market themselves in the post-Covid Era.

Can you give us some deeper insight into your role as a Creative Director and your approach to leadership?

I'm a partner for creative problem-solving, I'm a partner for problem-solving, period. My role at R/GA is a bit twofold, I work through the lenses of a creative director and a creative educator.

On the business, creative director side, I identify new ways of thinking about old concepts and push clients to think about themselves differently. I get them to think about what they say, and what they do. That's the collaborative cheerleader aspect.

With my teams, I take the role of being an educator as a personal responsibility. It's my job to help create some of the best creative leaders of the future. I enjoy helping to craft and get the best out of creatives, especially young creatives navigating a culture that's very new to them. Whether they're my clients or my teammates, I work to get the best out of people.

How do you generally move a client from talk and ideas to action?

The brand-client dynamic is a partnership. A partnership is based on trust and trust takes time to build. It takes a level of empathy to understand where someone may personally be in their career and to understand where they are coming from. Conversely, it takes time for a client to learn about a brand. When both parties have mutual ownership of where they are, that's when you start to see trust established and action taken.

The pandemic shifted priorities. What mindset shifts do brands need to adopt to drive successful campaigns?

A shared trait between brands, companies, and creatives, that did well during and after the height of the pandemic is an instinctive desire to pivot. They were able to look at situations that arose and assess them through a lens of opportunity versus adversity.

Do good, and sell good things that work. I can't tell you how many brands I have seen, especially small brands, that invest so much on the label and have trash inside the bottle. Brands need to put that effort into the product.

What advice do you give your clients about having a voice?

Number one is to figure out what you want to say. Number two is to ensure your voice matches your action. Today's younger consumer is so savvy. It's not okay to say nothing. You need to say something. Whether useful or meaningful or impactful or entertaining - the tone of voice has to be super authentic. You also need to be very aware of what's happening in the world. You don't want to over self-police, but you do want to have enough self-awareness to be clear on where you fit on the consumer's hierarchy of needs.

How is today's customer changing in terms of what and how we're consuming online?

The learning curves that kept the youngest and oldest among us off the internet pre-Covid aren't there anymore. Necessity has driven people of all ages to be well versed in various technologies and various platforms. That's something to keep in mind when we think about segmenting our consumer base. Everyone is playing on everything right now, making it an interesting circus.