Industry Interview: Katarina Terentieva

If you’re a marketer on TikTok, you know Katarina Terentieva. Known fondly as "The Internet’s Creative Director," Katarina is a force to be reckoned with — not only is she an accomplished content creator, she is also the Co-Founder and CCO of creative agency Louder and is in the process of launching her own DTC brand! Our Brand Marketing Lead, Maria Beer, had the pleasure of chatting with Katarina to get her take on creative direction and consistency when it comes to multi-channel campaigns, and even got some tips + tricks for holiday. Here’s an inside look into their conversation.

MB: Let's start at the beginning — when working on creative direction for a multi-channel campaign, what’s your step 1? Walk me through your process:

KT: In my work, I’m most often working with startups — so my step one is to understand the founder. Why did they start the company? How do their values tie into the brand? It’s important that I understand what drives the brand in their own words, not the sales-driven language that's on their website and socials. This step is dually helpful in the sense that it also gives me insight into what their pain points are. Today, not only do people want to feel emotionally connected to a brand, they want to feel connected to the people behind the brand. Understanding the founder and their vision is the first step towards pulling back that curtain.

The other key initial step is understanding the target audience — as helpful as it is to understand the founder, the campaigns we work on are audience-first — our goal is to create resonance and impact with their target consumers. There's a lot of in-depth research and Q&A that goes into figuring out who those customers are beyond demographics — in order to really sell to people in a way that they enjoy being sold to, you have to understand how they behave. We want a client’s target audience to see this campaign and think, ‘this was made just for me’.

A great example of understanding the target consumer is a cereal brand called Off Limits who collaborated with Chamberlain Coffee to create cold brew-infused cereal. They wanted to make a cereal for adults — what do adults want to be in the morning? Caffeinated! So, they decided to infuse their cereal with cold brew so that the milk that's left at the bottom became a cold brew latte — a genius move made for a specific person to think, ‘wow, this was made for me.’

MB: Such good advice! I'm curious, does your creative approach differ from channel to channel? Do you have questions you ask specific to each channel or are you leaning on that foundation of audience-first across each?

KT: It always comes back to audience, however, with different channels the target audience will differ — sometimes drastically, so it’s important to be wary of that. Different channels also lend themselves to different strategies. A great example of audience consideration specific to a certain channel was Poppi’s #Soda’sBack campaign — they featured influencers’ and customers’ UGC and social comments on billboards and put them in Atlanta, GA. Really bold move of them as Atlanta is home to Coca-Cola — but it definitely got attention! In this example their target audience went beyond their typical consumer — targeting Coca-Cola executives and media that would find this move buzzworthy.

MB: Such a good example — we featured that campaign in a previous newsletter edition! Speaking of audience experience, I'd love to know, when working on creative direction for a multi-channel campaign, what do you think is more important: creative cohesion across channels or creative differentiation across channels? Any tips on cohesive cross-channel creative?

KT: Absolutely! Cohesive creative and messaging is so important. A lack of cohesion drives confusion, and negatively affects the consumer's end desire to buy a product. It can also water down a brand's identity and how they're trying to build brand equity in the market.

Though it's incredibly important, it’s not easy. When working on a team it’s key to have a lot of internal sync between everybody who's touched a project to zoom out and ask, ‘do our deliverables align with the concept?’ If the answer is ‘no’, ditch it, re-cut it, or come up with a different concept. In terms of tips to maintain cohesion across a campaign, ensuring that every piece contributes to solving the same problem and is speaking to the same audience is integral.

An example of this is a campaign I worked on with an environmental organization called Lonely Whale. They wanted to create a really cool experiential campaign that would resonate with Gen Z at Art Basel in Miami — with the core purpose of raising awareness around the negative environmental impacts of thin film plastic. We ended up coming up with the idea of a ‘filmless film festival’ — a large experiential event involving celebrity endorsements, educational components, media buy-ins and sponsors — but the key was ensuring that it all tied back to the original purpose and concept. If an idea didn’t tie back to that, it was thrown out. Ultimately, this was a lot of filtering by our team, but it was so pivotal for a cohesive experience.

MB: That sounds like an amazing project! We’ve talked about your creative approach with clients, but you are in the process of launching your own brand (exciting!) — how does your approach differ with your own product, if at all?

KT: Great question! When it comes to creative direction there’s definitely more freedom as a brand founder. However, it comes with its own set of challenges. Namely, I'm very emotionally invested because it's my brand, my baby. This can prove difficult to make decisions because I have to think from an emotionally neutral perspective in order to make the best business moves — because the end goal is the same.

I will say, building my own brand has provided me with a new perspective on clients — I'm better equipped to support them since I'm also in their shoes.

MB: Super valuable to have that dual-sided experience — and so excited for your launch! With both your clients and your brand, you have a lot going on — any creative or organization tools you can’t live without?

This is a cliche one but Slack. Any type of messaging component, project management software in general is super helpful — team communication is key.

Project management software that really aligns with the types of projects that you're accepting is also hugely important, I’ve worked in places that use and ClickUp which are great — but the Google Suite can also be all you need for client communication and organization.

MB: Love Slack — can’t live without it. We've been talking about multi-channel campaigns, the holiday season may have more than any other, and the Breef Community is in full holiday planning mode — any holiday marketing tips — how to stand out with creative or general insight?

KT: Ooooh holiday marketing. Two things I’d say:

First, for creative, push beyond the stereotypical — there are, of course, so many holiday cliches we see across campaign creative, working to interpret holiday in a way that isn’t standard is key. One campaign I saw recently that I thought pushed past the ‘holiday standard’ really well was Dunkin’s collaboration with Ice Spice and Ben Affleck — a really interesting way to sell a very popular holiday flavor; Pumpkin Spice. They took a celebrity who has a primarily Gen Z audience and then handed the reigns of creativity to Ben Affleck allowing him to run with the script, creating a bridge between two generations — who both love the same brand.

Second, holiday is a great time to test products that you feel are a risk to launch at any other point of the year — with consumers shopping for gifts, they're more likely to experiment with the types of products that they buy. We see this a lot in the beauty industry, e.g. limited edition sets that come out during the holiday. This approach is super smart, especially if your audience has been asking for something that you're wary about releasing as a part of your permanent product suite. Packaging a product into a limited edition set for a specific period of time allows you to tap into the POV of your consumer before a full launch.

Industry Interview: Katarina Terentieva