Keeva Stratton, Founder & Brand Strategist, Quip Brands

Keeva Stratton, Founder of Quip Brands has an intriguing combination of qualifications and experience that amalgamate to engender a problem solver extraordinaire. She is a criminologist, lawyer and award winning brand strategist, who has also worked for more than 20 years in the advertising and media industry. As a film reviewer, she’s interviewed major Hollywood stars, like Quentin Tarantino, Lucy Liu, Samuel L Jackson, and covered Australian Fashion Week.

Deploying this vast array of experiences, Keeva helps businesses to grow by devising a roadmap for the future of their brand, that is aligned with their purpose and values and goes beyond the superficial.

Keeva’s qualifications include Masters in Criminology, Juris Doctor (Intellectual Property), Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Communication and Cultural Studies, and a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. She is a sought after speaker, guest lecturer and is a Board Director at the Women’s Resilience Centre.

You have studied criminology, been a film reviewer, a lawyer, a strategist and worked in media. How does this incredible depth and breadth of experience help you understand humanity?

I’ve always found it hard to define what I do because I’ve been shaped by a fairly esoteric career path, but I realise that’s actually my strength as a strategist. In its simplest form, a strategist is a problem-solver—we look for growth opportunities for businesses, which in my work has typically been achieved through market positioning, audience engagement and predicting what’s ahead.

Studying criminology gave me a wonderful grounding in psychology and a depth of understanding for how humans behave. And, through my work in brand and marketing, I’ve learned how to package these ideas in a way that wins hearts and minds.

If we’re going to make meaningful change, the ability to unpack complex issues yet provide solutions that are simple and appealing, is critical.

What role do companies play in creating cultural phenomena?

We live in a consumerist society, where every transaction casts a vote and tells a story of what we believe and value. Increasingly, it provides an opportunity to make real change. We may not be there yet, but we are moving towards a world where the ethics, purpose and impact of products and brands will be endorsed or rejected consciously at the check-out.

In 1991, the Easter Bilby campaign introduced a generation of kids (myself included) to an Australian species that was on the brink of extinction. Last year, for the first time in 100 years, the first bilbies were reintroduced into the wild.

If chocolate can change the future of an endangered species, and brands like Woolies and Coles can stop plastic bags, then the possibilities for companies to be the catalysts of change seems infinite. Social media has given the consumer a means of speaking directly to brands.

By creating products and services that reflect the values of their consumers, brands can shape culture and be leaders in addressing the key social and environmental issues we face.

What are some of the examples where you have helped companies shape the cultural direction in Australia, and what has been the impact on communities?

All of our research tells us that when you build a brand that’s more inclusive and welcoming to more people, you grow your audience share. A lot of our work is designed to help brands understand the impact of their image, story, or brand position on their audience, and how to reposition in a way that will engage a larger market share. We have been developing a framework for diversity and inclusion to make it more practical for brands to implement.

Right now, we’re also working with a social enterprise that’s looking to prove that being inclusive of people with disability can improve your culture and your profit. It’s wonderful to know that the work we’re doing will not only help a purpose-driven company grow, but will also have a positive impact on people with disability and neurodiversities.

As a futurist, what are three tips you have for companies to shape their strategic direction?

Firstly, stop clinging to the past. The demography of Australia has changed. The way we consume knowledge, products and entertainment has changed. And businesses that are willing to not just invest in strategic growth, but make fundamental changes to how they set their own culture, who they have representing their brand, and how they engage their audience by using technology as a platform to fulfil human needs, will ultimately have a competitive edge.

Secondly, start to take notice of how we are changing as a society. We are facing a future where there is a growing divide in our society’s wealth and experience of the world that’s occurring alongside an increased dependence on digital information. This means the view of the world we have is becoming more myopic, and the distance between how we live our lives, and how others do, has never been greater. If you want to grow as a business, you need to see beyond your own circumstances to better understand how your decisions will impact your customers, as well as the opportunities that exist in the market to solve a problem for them.

Thirdly, build your team wisely—and this includes your consultants or advisors. The best talent I’ve ever worked with have had the most unlikely resumes. They haven’t spent 20 years in a creative agency or advisory firm, but their lived experience, diversity of perspective and willingness to explore different ideas makes them ideally placed to see ways forward others can’t. I understand people feel safer working with big brands, but if you want genuine out-of-the-box thinking, you won’t get it from institutions.

Your greatest challenge?

Getting the buy-in needed from key decision-makers to make meaningful change. Often one or two decision-makers can see why the change is necessary and have a strong vision, but getting their entire board to back it with the resources it needs and the trust in the process can be very challenging. When you have trust and resources, both of which should be earned through a rigorous process, you can then do incredible things.

Most proud of?

My sense of humour. It’s dark, and self-deprecating, and I’m most proud of my ability to make people laugh when they’re going through things that are tough. This is especially valuable when dealing with the inevitable rollercoaster of running a business.

Advice for future female leaders?

Trust yourself, listen to yourself and don’t compare yourself to anyone. It’s your journey and you know yourself better than anyone else. I believe (thanks to the wisdom of others) that there are three things to pay attention to in life:

  1. what makes you feel jealous, because jealously reveals what you truly desire,
  2. what makes you feel afraid, because it’s what will challenge and stretch you, and
  3. what makes you lose all sense of time, because when you look up and hours have passed, then you know you’re doing something you truly love.

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Keeva Stratton, Founder & Brand Strategist, Quip Brands

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