Nadezhda Sultanova: Brand strategy is a constant discovery (video-interview)

If brand strategy is that part of the creative process that brings back the people in focus through the marketing figures and business goals, then brand strategists are the special breed of mediators of human truths. That is why they are often great interlocutors. We are happy to launch our video interviews with one of our favorite strategic heroes - Nadezhda Sultanova. She is an insight explorer and brand strategist behind dozens of successful projects of Saatchi & Saatchi Sofia and BrandWorks, a person with diverse interests, strong positive charge and sense of humour, who would though link criminal psychology, Tarot and brand strategy for real. Enjoy!

*text from the video*

What are you up to these days?

These days I mostly dream about the mountains. We were in the mountains last weekend, which is an unusual activity for me. “The Cold” lives in the mountains and I don't like visiting “The Cold”. But I was wrong. There are many more wonderful things living in there. And basically, what I’m doing these days is dreaming of going back. Everything else is a bit mechanical, but the dream of the mountains.

photo: Tihomir Zlatev

What is a brand strategy and why did you decide to do it?

Basically, what we do and how we usually explain it to our clients is that we take a brand, we dig into its soul, it starts walking with us and we help it find its unique voice. And finally, we send it to people, in whose lives it will make sense and where it will be able to grow. This is basically what we do. But by the way, hundreds of other things are also happening, because brand strategy is a relatively new discipline. There are, of course, many things to step on, but there is also a lot of room for experimentation, a lot of room for research.

What is typical for the brand strategy, which is also the answer to the question why I do it, is that the more you know, the more areas you have

data on, the better for your brand strategy. And I like that it's a constant discovery, an endless horizon with a lot of potential.

Where do strategy and creativity meet?

In an ideal world, strategy and creativity go hand in hand, or at least they hold hands early in a project, because strategy provides a framework. I think that the creative mind works much better in a framework. I am not talking about limitations, but about focus, about some clear idea of ​​the outcome from all the effort.

This is the great responsibility of the strategist and the thing I put my best effort on - how do you translate all the data you gathered during the research phase to the creative team. How do you synthesize it in one sentence that would unlock their ideas? This is a very subtle moment.

I notice a lot of creatives with strategic thinking, consciously or not, they think strategically. So, strategy and creativity are not as far apart as they may seem. On the contrary. And quite great and long-term things happen when there is a strategy.

A great part of your work is to understand people. How do Bulgarian people surprise, disappoint and impress you?

When it comes to the Bulgarians - surprise, disappoint and impress are a single emotion, not three separate things. I don't want to talk about the Bulgarians as not being one of them, but more or less I’ve lived in a bubble before I started working as a strategist. Now I have the opportunity to travel and talk to different people, with whom I have never had the opportunity to do so before. And to talk with them on a very friendly basis. People like to be heard, whether the topic is cheese, or fresh water, or whatever.

And I really want to share with you my impressions on the young Bulgarians. We had the opportunity to do a project with young people - high school students, teenagers. Which is the holy grail of research projects, because it is a very difficult demographics. We managed to do it, we did it. And what I really liked was that young people turn out to be very focused, up to date with what is going on around them, much more so than I was, when I was their age. Now, it is true that they will also experience disappointment and see that things are not exactly as they seem, but to a much lesser extent then us, I think. They are greatly intelligent, cool, focused young people. And I give them my future absolutely unreservedly.

How would you define the Bulgarian ad-people?

The people I know, and I enjoy working with are very erudite, fun, have a very broad view of the world and are very brave in what they want to do. And I think that's the way I want to look at the Bulgarian ad-people.

Would you share with us something nice you discovered recently?

Hmm… a vaccine for COVID-19, but it wasn’t me who discovered it…

I found out that Jamie Oliver is writing his last book based on data. He collected data on the weekly consumption of the average Briton, took the seven top ingredients and made countless recipes with them, which he now puts together in a book. So, his next book is based on data. Which I find funny, but this is just my sense of humour.

* * *