Especially in this day and age, with a 24-hour news cycle, and seemingly endless content, it’s so challenging to create a true connection to people, or evoke a feeling that won’t be cast aside almost immediately. That’s where strategy has the opportunity to play a real role; it allows us, as marketers, to establish value with an audience by finding ways to transcend more short-lived moments in time.
Ghanian born, marketing dynamo Chanelle Doryumu tackles the noise of the digital age with creativity and a keen point of view. From balancing artistic freedom with business savvy, to navigating workplace intimidation, Chanelle opens up her home to us and shares secrets to her success as a brand strategist.
Name: Chanelle Doryumu
Location: New York, NY
Profession: Director of Brand Strategy at Blackbird, a new Marketing & Business Innovation agency
Why did you choose to be a strategist?
For a while I thought about pursuing a career in art or design, but having strict African parents who wanted me to get a broader education so I didn’t pigeon-hole myself, I ended up going to school for communications. Once there, I realized I also really loved sociology – I loved digging into why people make certain decisions, or why they gravitate towards certain groups/associations. After graduation, I again considered doing something creative, but then found that advertising allowed me to combine my more business-oriented side with creativity. Brand strategy allowed me to consider all the factors in someone’s universe, and identify how one might go about speaking to them in a language they can understand and relate to.
How did you get started? What were three key steps you took?
First step: I sent out about 100 resumes before I landed my first job. But from there on, it was really about working incredibly hard at any task I was given. It sounds trite, I know! But that hard work had 2 distinct benefits: 1. It allowed me to learn an insane amount in a short period of time, and 2. It ensured that whenever my name came up, people would have a positive association. The business I’m in is about talent, yes, but also about how you translate that talent into opportunities – I wouldn’t have gotten some of the opportunities, or been referred to the people who hired me, taught me, or brought my career to the place it is today, if I hadn’t first established that foundation of trust, where people felt comfortable recommending me to colleagues. Last step would probably be, I was (and am) unapologetically myself at work. I think that being true to myself has helped because it brings an authenticity and personality to everything I do, and colors my work with that same personality.
What’s an average day like?
There is no average day – which also sounds a bit cliche…but honestly, right now, it’s consulting with senior level clients about how to best solve challenges – from both a brand and a business level. That might be helping them to identify key stakeholders across their organization to include in the process, running creative brand workshops, doing consumer research to build audience personas, coming up with creative tactics for how to best bring a brand idea to life…the list goes on.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I like to think I am pretty tapped in to what’s going on in culture – I read a lot of articles across a variety of pubs, read industry pubs to stay abreast of the innovation happening in my direct field, but also follow a lot of really amazing interesting people on Instagram that I’ve either met through my women’s club (The Wing), or found by delving into the internet rabbit hole. I love seeing cool sh*t that people are doing and finding ways to integrate it into my own life.
Why does brand strategy matter?
Especially in this day and age, with a 24-hour news cycle, and seemingly endless content, it’s so challenging to create a true connection to people, or evoke a feeling that won’t be cast aside almost immediately. That’s where strategy has the opportunity to play a real role; it allows us, as marketers, to establish value with an audience by finding ways to transcend more short-lived moments in time. Creating a clear brand point of view – and consistently communicating that point of view through the messages you share, the way you engage with your audience, the experiences you create, etc. is what builds real value that goes beyond the product you’re selling. Without it, you’re stuck throwing stuff against a wall and hoping it works, which may succeed every now and again, but isn’t necessarily going to establish any equity.
Ups and downs you sometimes face on the job?
Oh, well, in this field, the hours can sometimes be a bit much. Luckily at my current job, there’s such a respect for people and people’s time, that nothing feels unwarranted. Everyone is there and working hard because we feel we have a true stake in it, and because we believe in the mission. Also, being taken seriously, and establishing presence in a room of senior clients when you’re a young-ish black female is never easy. But any time I’ve found myself particularly intimidated, I just lie to myself and tell myself I’m the smartest person in the room. And recognize I’m there for a reason. And I’m offering a perspective they may not have considered, which is hugely valuable in itself.
Biggest challenge so far?
Learning to go easy on myself. I set super high expectations for my work, and am constantly criticizing my performance. I’ve had to learn to let that go a bit and be more confident in what I’m delivering.
Your greatest achievement so far?
Establishing strong relationships with past coworkers and clients – I can’t undersell how much that means. I’ll never forget the number of nice notes and emails I received when I left my role at Grey. Sometimes the work gets tiring and meetings get frustrating, but feeling like I’ve added real value is worth it.
What is one thing an aspiring strategist can do today to get started?
Have a point of view. And don’t compromise it.
What might be next for you?
Well I’m fairly new in my current role, so hopefully growing the strategy group here and continuing to see the business thrive! Also, on a personal note, I’m getting married next year which is probably the most exciting thing ever.
Let’s Talk Hair
What are your top 5 go-to hair tips?
1. GET IT TRIMMED, FOR GOD’S SAKE. If you don’t you’ll regret it forever. My mom won’t let me forget how long my hair USED to be, but now isn’t because when I moved here, I was poor and couldn’t afford to get regular trims.
2. Keep it natural – I’ve never had a perm, though at times I was dying for one, and I’m so glad I didn’t. It may be right for some, but not for me.
4. Don’t be afraid to change it up. I had never done anything too drastic with my hair, and still don’t, but more recently I’ve been experimenting with braids and weaves and LOVE it.
5. Do what you want, style-wise. Some people might not get it, or might say “I liked it better this way”, but in the immortal words of Solange and every Black woman ever, “don’t touch my hair”.
Do you have any interesting or fun facts about yourself or journey you’d like to share with readers?
I recently moved from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side and am looking for a support group, if you know of anybody.