During this Northbound team Q&A, we interviewed Senior Strategist, Kate Larrabee to get to know the practitioners behind the work and what makes working at Northbound unique.
How did you arrive in the world of brand strategy?
I have an undergraduate degree in anthropology, which required some additional shaping in order to translate into a career. In search of inspiration, I discovered a book called, Brand Thinking & Other Noble Pursuits by Debbie Millman. I loved her creative perspective on brands. I wrote her a letter and a year later, it was actually Debbie who gave me my first internship in the industry at Sterling Brands in New York as a Design Strategist.
What is your role at Northbound?
I’m a Senior Brand Strategist. In more colorful terms: I’m a conceptual thinker and cultural sponge who likes to explore the impact of cultural shifts on brands and of brands on culture. My fully hyphenated title might be Senior Brand Strategist-Cultural Sponge-DesignThinker.
What are some skills today’s strategist must have that may not have been necessary to the role before?
I think skills are relevant for a period of time before you kind of have to reevaluate them, adjust, and adopt new ones. What remains constant is the ability to think creatively, to explore new territories and unpack that for clients or partners. Dynamic ways of thinking will always be in style.
What are the ingredients for a strong brand strategy?
A strong brand strategy is clear, distinct, and actionable. At least these are the first few things that come to mind! You want a strategy to make sense, to be clear and yet as we all know arriving at a place of clarity can take a lot of work! You want it to be distinct, a strategy that is not easily replicated by others and unique to you. And you want it to be actionable, something that can function in the world, a strategy that can come to life and live off the page.
What’s surprising about the world of brand strategy that a lot of people don’t know?
What I love about this work is how much perspective I gain into how the world is changing. I love to work across a range of industries and see how thinking is evolving. And then also, how thinking within one industry, in one country is very different or very similar to another. I like the comparative and contrasting aspects of the work. It leads me to think about what’s now and next, what implications will arise from change.
What drew you to Northbound?
Northbound found me and it has been the best kind of “out of the blue” connection. I love the people, the culture, and the freedom I have to explore new things here. Whatever I might want to investigate, there is room for it.
What is unique about working at Northbound?
At the moment, I think what sets Northbound apart is its expertise with verbal strategy, there are more than a few linguistic specialists on the team. I’m often hearing a playful turn of phrase or delightful metaphor that sparks new thinking.
What are you most excited about with the work you’re doing at Northbound?
Northbound at its center is about finding north, about helping brands get aligned with their purpose and that kind of work is very fulfilling.