An Innate Curiosity: Trine Keller-Andreasen from F&B

Work is not about what you are, but what you do.

Strategic Planner, Trine Keller-Andreasen 

Tell us a bit about yourself, what do you do?

I’m a Dane currently living in Gothenburg, and have been for almost a year. Came here after a quick and dirty visit back home in Copenhagen after having immigrated to New York for 2-3 years. I wasn’t really ready for Copenhagen at that point, and Sweden has a more humane approach to the concept of life, more mountains and of course Forsman & Bodenfors. I work as a strategic planner – we don’t really believe in fancy titles so even with more than 12 years in the industry, Planner as title fits just right. Work is not about what you are, but what you do.

 

What did you do before your current role and what led you to where you are now?

Before my current role I was a part of the fine family at Huge in Brooklyn, New York, also as a planner, but with a title. I originally came to New York working at a Danish agency with offices both in Copenhagen and New York. Prior to that I mostly spent my time as partner at an agency called Very (now Belong), and was part of a journey from 3-4 people in one room, to 3 Nordic offices. It was here I got my first title as planner, and it just stuck from then on. Although, when you’re a part of something, you wear more than one hat.

How I ended up at Forsman was a combination of despair of not being able to find a professional match in mindset in Copenhagen and bunch of “the worst I can get is a no” attitude. I sent a note to who seemed as the most senior planner at Forsman on a cold Friday morning in December, probably the worst time of the week to send such a cold canvas note, but if they were looking for someone, I was indeed looking for someone as well. Turned out to be the right time to send that note.

 

How would you define the role of a strategist in your agency?

What we do is look for reason and use that reason to help convey a message that builds long lasting emotional connections. We’re also more holistic in our approach – everyone get their hands dirty.

It’s not a singled out discipline creating creative briefs that are passed on in a rushed 1-hour meeting. Approaches, directions and strategies best made through a collaborative process. Strategies appear and evolve through dialogue with the whole team, creating common consensus, making sure nothing gets lost in translation. Planners might lead some parts of the process, creative other, but we live by our collaborative process. This forces not just planners to think creatively, but creative to think strategically and not just tactically. That’s what makes the best creatives, I believe. We might go in circles sometimes, but to me that only makes us all more confident in the direction we then choose to move in. We’re a team and that seems to be working.

 

How have you seen the role of a strategist been evolving since you first began?

I’ve experienced it in different countries and regions, so the change I’ve seen is very different, but overall change for the better. As people are growing more accepting to “alternative” fields such as Behavioral Economics and Psychology both personally and professionally, it’s only allowed for Strategy and Planning to grow more stronger, as more and more are bringing this thinking into their work.

The discipline has proved it self over and over again, and in the shifting times we’re operating in, we’re more and more needed. And we’re not the only ones to think so either.

In Denmark for example, it’s still much more a nice to have discipline, wrapped into an account role at the same time. In Sweden it’s more established than Denmark, whereas in the US we’re expected to be at the table. What I love to see is the breadth that I feel Strategy & Planning is getting. Hopefully the discipline will grow stronger in Scandinavia over the years.

In your opinion, what are the greatest barriers an aspiring planner/strategist encounters when trying to start their career?

I would say mental barriers to begin with. Stop thinking you have to follow the books, and read how you should be a planner. It’s something an innate curiosity should lead you too. And don’t think that there’s only one journey to becoming a planner. We’ve unfortunately built a society where young people today feel they have to have it all figured out by the age of 19. I personally would rather hire a Psychology major, than someone who aced through Business School, as it’s imperative that we understand people, and why people act the way they do. I personally majored in French and Math in high school, started out applying for Art History degree, got in but decided not to go, went to art school for 4 months, applied for design school as my dream was to design furniture, got in and had 3 weeks of different classes until I had 2 days of marketing, and I knew what I wanted to work with. So I dropped out, and luckily enough, the marketing degree at another school, started the following Monday and had a spare seat. Then took a bachelor in Economics Business Administration, and topped it off with a master in Strategic Innovation.

For aspiring women it’s the fear of taking a seat at the table. Go beyond the fear of saying something wrong and speak up. If you don’t speak for yourself, someone else will. Learn to say no, so you don’t work yourself to death. No one thanks you when you’re lying down.

And don’t worry about how people think about you – always respect everyone no matter rank, but don’t be afraid to be who you are. If someone has a problem with it, think whether or not this place is the right one for you. Just because you don’t fit it, doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you.

In your time, what have you noticed are the key skills and traits that separate great strategists from the mediocre?

To me a good planner is genuinely curious, has a sense for human behavior and is a great observer. They all go hand in hand. If you have this, I believe, you are more likely to go further in you research, go beyond the first couple of data points observations, where others might stop at the first and second discovery and use that as an insight.

Additionally, often times the lack of wanting to collaborate and spar, but that counts for all disciplines I’d assume.

 

How do you avoid getting stuck in a cultural bubble and stay informed on the needs and desires of everyday consumers?

It depends on workload I would say. Basically by observing and analyzing everything I encounter. I watch a lot of flow TV, take walks with my dog, hang out at my cabin in Denmark at every chance I get and talk to the neighbors, listen to an automated playlist on Spotify, go to the gym, travel to lesser popular places, eat at diners over fancy eateries, read the news (both the ones I agree with and not), grocery shop, cook, observe social media and hang out and talk to regular people i.e. people who don’t work in the industry. I love everyday-stories about regular people.