November 12, 2019
Vintage fashion. Poster design. Mid-century modern furniture. ’90s indie rock bands. Collectible Japanese toy figurines. And the Mets.
Jaime Klein Daley’s voracious curiosity has manifested itself in a unique and diverse set of interests and propelled a career across a wide swath of branding experience, from advertising and design to innovation and digital development. Along the way, she’s helped reshape heritage brands like McCormick Spice Company, built brand platforms for retailers Sephora and Petco, and launched the first line of adaptive clothing from a mainstream fashion brand (Tommy Hilfiger).
Jaime recently joined CBX to lead our New York strategy team. An East Coast native and mother of two young collectors-in-training, she sat down with us to answer five questions.
So, why CBX?
In a word, creativity. There’s been, in our industry, a big move away from everyone owning creativity. In other roles where I’ve been a strategist, I never felt there was visibility into the whole picture. Disciplines have been “process-ized” and forced into step-repeat exercises, and I find that my talents are best served when I’m thinking creatively about business and brand problems without having to have the word “creative” in my title.
Our industry has a nasty habit of taking an either-or approach. When we build organizations around solving specific problems, we start developing biases on how the world should work. For instance, disruption and digital business transformation is crucial as a complement, not an alternative to, other fundamental brand-building activities. I’d argue that our culture is more visually driven than ever because of technology, not despite it. It means we need to think about the fundamentals of brands in a deeper way.
What do you mean when you say “the fundamentals”?
Understanding people and how they engage with culture, and how brands can play a massive part in that. It means doing our homework on semiotics, category norms, visual equities, and tone of voice, and creating a point of view on those things. In order to be truly disruptive, brands need not just to know how to create paths-to-purchase (which are crucial) but also how to identify and disrupt the visual codes that threaten to hold them back. The things we notice, but don’t notice we’re noticing, shape our lives. If every year you create a new norm — which we see even in the world of new D2C brands — then everything starts to look and feel the same and lacks a deep-dive understanding of what’s happening in culture.
But when you do your homework, you’re better prepared to do the things we’re asked to do as marketers: position a brand, differentiate it, and translate those brand beliefs into behaviors. It doesn’t take long, but it requires discipline and a strategic mind-set to bring brands to life, and people often skip a step. My goal is to help make the invisible visible for our partners, guiding them through the prism, seeing the opportunities.
But what about the digital ethos, about making technology invisible to focus on the experience? How does that sit with what you just said?
Seamless and invisible are different things. We work so hard in the new digital world to remove and eliminate all the pain points we possibly can along the customer journey. Sometimes the sandpaper becomes too grainy. We take out all the sticky points that make the brand interesting. You need to create a little tension — create that itch — so that the brand stands out in some way, stays in your mind. Our job might be putting a little of the itch back in. If you follow the mantra that everything communicates, then your brand is communicating in places you might not realize.
There are a lot of strategy people who are incredibly sensitive to the world around them: they are “noticers,” and there are sentient signals everywhere. I was taught that the ultimate goal is to make the familiar new, and the new familiar. That’s my favorite saying, because if you have something you need to shake up, you have to think about that kind of transformation as well. If it’s too new, it won’t survive, because we’re human beings, and most of us don’t love significant change. Whenever you’re innovating, you have to keep one foot in the familiar so that people feel safe, and our job is about finding that balance.
Did you always know this was your calling?
I went to college planning to become an advertising major — I loved how graphic design and posters and packages communicated, especially in the ’50s. My first internship was in an ad agency and I was at loose ends because I wasn’t sure what role would be right for me. And then someone told me I should be a planner because they deal with the why’s behind the work, why we make the decisions we do. That’s what I wanted, to identify problems and propose solutions — I wanted to figure stuff out.
You’ve become something of a spokesperson for women in leadership in our industry — an industry that, frankly, hasn’t been at the forefront of the equality movement. Can you talk a bit about what you see coming?
CBX is the most female-forward place I’ve been in a long time. The influence of women here is valued. Ultimately, the world that we’re in here, the world of design, is incredibly subjective. So, where women may have an opportunity is in managing and navigating that ambiguity, and being comfortable in expressing a point of view. This game that we’re in, it’s all about persuasion. When I was in the world of digital advertising, it was a lot of men saying, “Here’s the data and it equals answers,” and there wasn’t a lot of room for strength of judgment.
We need to add the power of what we know. The next frontier in our industry isn’t sexism, it’s ageism, and there’s something really nice to be said for the value of experience, especially in the world that we’re living in, in such a visual world. Ultimately, that perspective can help you separate the trends from the fads, separate what’s iconic from what’s changeable.