Nana Grace Kwapong
Meet Gabriela Trejo, Brand Strategist
Creative without strategy is called ‘art.' Creative with strategy is called ‘advertising.’
To say that Gabriela Trejo lives and breathes advertising is an understatement. This creative genius has an extensive history in the field, starting with creative design and art direction to working in branding. She currently works as a Brand Strategist at Carmichael Lynch, on brands such as U.S. Bank, Subaru, and Jack Link's. She was previously a Brand Planning Analyst with the agency. Gabriela graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a Master of Business Administration, Marketing concentration. During the program, she interned as a Vertical & Digital Marketing Intern at Capella University and worked as an MBA Marketing Research Consultant for Minnesota Public Radio. She also taught many of us the art of making simple yet beautiful presentations.
Before her MBA stint, Gabriela worked as a Senior Art Director at Arrechedera Claverol, a Senior Art Director at Leo Burnett, and a Senior Art Director and an Assistant Art Director at Lowe and Partners Worldwide. She also worked as a Freelance Translator for PüR Project at P&G. Gabriela earned her Bachelor of Arts from Universidad Iberoamericana, Ciudad de Mexico. She volunteered as a Creative Mentor/Art Buddy with Art Buddies and is trilingual, speaking Spanish, English, and German fluently.
What does a typical day in your role look like?
Well, I guess that’s the beauty of advertising: There is no typical day. Things change constantly, and we need to be ready to react in the best possible way. I like to start my day early (or early-ish by ad agency standards) and have time to have coffee while I skim through news and trends. I subscribe to different newsletters (Iconoculture, Warc, PFSK, The Futures Co., etc.) that help me stay on top of what’s new.
What are you passionate about?
I’ve always been passionate about people because there’s always so much to learn from everybody’s stories and experiences. An old boss of mine (from my times as a creative) used to say that I was always “interviewing” people. It may or may not be true, I don’t know, but I do genuinely care about the stories behind everybody around me. I love asking questions about their childhood, their family, traditions, etc. I especially love talking to people from different backgrounds than mine.
What do you find most challenging about your job/career?
The most challenging part of my job is probably to find the right insights that will help inspire great creative ideas that will then help connect the client’s business goals with consumers’ needs. A good insight can sometimes sound very obvious, but finding that sweet spot requires a lot of work and intuition. In my case also, of course, I do this in a language other than mine, in a culture other than mine, which makes it more challenging but also way more fun.
What do you find most enriching about your job/career?
I think the best part about working in advertising is that it allows you to have a lot of fun with what you do. I’ve met some of the smartest most talented people in this industry; some of them have also become important friends in my life. From my current role, I would say that looking at the final creative and knowing that you helped “planting the seed” that resulted in a great idea is very rewarding.
How did you find yourself in your current career?
Well, my career path has been far from traditional. I’m a graphic designer and worked as an art director for a long time in Mexico City. Three years ago, I decided to move to Minnesota and go back to school to get my MBA—I know, weird combination, right? I originally left the creative world thinking that the only position that would make me go back to advertising would be something in the strategy team but was looking to find something in marketing. Looking for a job as an international student who needs a work visa is tough. I soon realized that ad agencies were some of the few companies that were looking to hire based on talent and that recognized diversity for what it brings to the table and not for the sake of a number. I was lucky enough to find Carmichael Lynch, one of the best agencies in town that were interested in my background and open to hiring despite visa issues. I had to go a few steps back in my career and start over from the bottom since my experience in advertising was not on the strategy part of it. Admittedly to my surprise, I found the sweet spot for me on the Brand Planning team: the perfect combination of creative and marketing. I started as an intern, then became a brand-planning analyst and have recently been promoted to brand strategist. It’s been a rocky path, but I absolutely love what I do… (Phew! That was long!)
Words of advice for anyone who wants to pursue this career?
Stay curious. Ask questions. Network. Talk to people on the field, even if they’re not in the exact position you’re interested in. Look for internships, get your foot in the door, work hard, the rest will follow.
To learn about the amazing work Gabriela is doing and has done, check out her LinkedIn profile.
Thanks for reading!