News & Views

In the hot seat with Kathleen Williams-Nelson

by Sol Welch
20th December 2019
In the hot seat with Kathleen Williams-Nelson, post image

Kathleen Williams-Nelson, Founder of PopLab Marketing, joins us ‘in the hot seat’ where she provides insights from her vast industry experience, shares a piece of advice for budding female entrepreneurs as well as key trends spotted as we move into 2020.

What does PopLab Marketing do?

PopLab is a pop culture marketing consultancy that that focuses on helping brands integrate their brands into the things that bring us joy like film, television, music, fashion and retail.

How did you decide to start your own company?

After a long tenure at a large global PR firm, I became frustrated with the time I was spending navigating roadblocks one often runs into with multiple offices operating on separate P&Ls. I found myself spending too much time internally fighting for budget in an effort to get really effective programs off the ground for our clients. Ironically, Ieaving my role inside the agency world allowed me to work closer with brands. Now I consult for small and large agencies, as well as work directly with my own clients.

How do you see experiential and entertainment marketing changing and evolving as we move into 2020?

I work with many DTC start-ups that have a great product and story but limited marketing budgets so I am always looking to find impactful and innovative opportunities. Two years ago, I realised that there was no one combining storytelling and retail at scale and it was a big opportunity for these brands. The idea of experiential retail gives small brands exposure in an exciting entertainment-like arena for a limited, cost-effective period of time. Fast forward and there are now several companies involved in this space, and I think in the future we will continue to see Netfilx-worthy storytelling integrated into marketing efforts to differentiate brands.

What key marketing trend do you see gaining traction as we move into 2020?

I see two trends gaining traction in the coming year. First, brand collaborations are something that consumers love and get very excited about, and brand match-making will continue to evolve and include unique and un-likely pairings. I also think the days of the big number “influencers” are waning. I am steering my clients toward partnerships with “micro-influencers”—those with a few thousand followers who are big in their small worlds. They are credible, believable and have loyal audiences who are more engaged.

Is there are way to measure a brands’ ‘fame’? And if there is, how?

Nowadays technology makes measurement so much easier.I recently started using a tool called Talkwalker that allows me to look at every place my brand is being talked about and what the sentiment is. Its addictive and helps to see what takes off and resonates! And, of course I still set up Google Alerts for each brand and its competitors and to see the natural organic discussions taking place.

How did your career start in this sector?

Kind of a funny story. I started my career in traditional PR. I was working on a consumer tech client and the person who was handling the entertainment marketing for this brand was fired for selling product on the side on Ebay. By default, I was given the entertainment marketing and product placement responsibilities and forced myself to learn the ropes.

What is an important emerging skill(s) to have working in the marketing industry?

Three things: Learn, Evolve and Listen. Often when you have been in a career for several years, you don’t take time to study what other people are doing. I ask a lot of questions, watch what gets people excited and why they decide to buy or engage with a product, and closely observe the changes taking place in pop culture and business. I am not at all afraid to admit when I don’t know enough about something.

What is the best piece of advice you were even given as a Founder?

All founders feel like imposters when we first start! By its nature, to found a company or create a new product or service as part of a start-up brings with it uncertainty and risk. The best advice I ever received was – Just Go With It! Believe in what you are doing, embrace the uncertainty and stay focused on making it happen.

What advice would you tell young women embarking on their career in the industry?

One of the things I love about Millennials and GenZ’s is that they are more open-minded about about gender-fluidity, ways or working and labels, and they care deeply about equality and inclusion. Hopefully these values will translate and I would encourage young women starting out to incorporate these beliefs as they begin hiring, designing products, and creating inclusive spaces where everyone can feel included and respected. We will see.

And your final word…

We are entering a year when tensions are sure to be a bit higher than usual and thus, the ability to connect with each other is going to be more important than ever. As marketers, I believe we have an opportunity tell stories that create shared experiences and which remind us that we are more alike than not.

You can follow Kathleen on LinkedIn here.

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