7 Lessons In Strategy and Storytelling From Zehner’s New Creative Director

November 18, 2020

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Meet Zehner’s new creative director, Sue Tran. Sue began designing at eleven, taught herself coding at thirteen, and managed teams at The New York Times by the time she was twenty-three. Since then, she’s led branded content for powerhouse media brands The New Yorker and Refinery29, where she most recently served as Associate Creative Director.

While at Refinery29, Tran worked to position the brand to reflect better and serve its influential audience of millennial and Gen Z women. She explains, “I was specifically interested in working with underrepresented voices, whether through a mission-based editorial or by wrapping a beautiful storytelling experience around a shoppable product.”

Sue’s love for leveraging strategy and story led her to Zehner. While the people were what sealed the deal, it was Zehner’s work with small and independent brands that attracted Sue in the first place. Sue notes that you have the same online and digital audience when you work in branded content at a media company. She says, “I wanted to join an agency to work with brands in different regions and directly impact cultures other than my own.”

Here, Sue shares her insights about culture, storytelling, and strategy.

Find the Commonalities

When you look at food and fashion as verticals, you don’t necessarily see their overlap. But fashion and food are two important vehicles for how people express who they are and how they share both of those things is beautiful. And both of those things are intrinsically tied to culture, how people express viewpoints of the world, and how they express themselves to the world.

Strategy + Creative

The best brand and creative lives at the intersection of strategy and storytelling. You have to find the overlap of why we’re telling this story and then find the strategic platforms that best serve it.

Cultural Impact of Brands

Brands are naturally a part of culture. We influence culture through our purchasing decisions, and Zehner puts a great spin on story and shopability where reasons to buy are at the forefront. That’s important to consumers as Gen Z and millennials continue to purchase with intent that eCommerce and storytelling presence will be even more significant.

Infuse Context

When the first direct to consumer brands started rolling in, it felt like a formula for bringing them to market. Many exciting brands live at that same intersection of needs but are also infusing their founders’ stories and heritage.

Know Your Consumer

The most important thing is knowing your consumer. I always consider the consumer the director because they are the ones we’re talking to. We want to speak with them, not to them.

Driven by Insights

The best ideas come from either qualitative or quantitative insights and data. If you don’t know that problem or whitespace, you’re creating something out of nothing.

Explore Creativity

Always explore your curiosity. There’s a lot more value in being a generalist than a specialist.

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