A creative approach to transition

Brandi Webb is the Director of Brand and Ecommerce at Beauty Industry Group and has a passion for storytelling and photography. In this interview, BUZZVALVE’s content writer Priyanka Dass speaks with Brandi about the creative industry, her transitions into different professions, and the unique lessons she learnt along the way. We discuss collaborations, decision making, passion projects, and how the creative industry is evolving.
A creative approach to transition

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Priyanka Dass (PD): Can you share what a day in the life of a Director of Brand and Ecommerce looks like? Is it all brainstorming sessions, work critiques, and high fives or maybe there are some not-so-fun parts about being a creative director?

Brandi Webb (BW): Yes, every day is very different. I block out days to get on a schedule where there are no meetings on Mondays and Fridays, so that I can do some of that hard work and heavy lifting that needs to be done. There'll be days where you're approving creative and working with different agencies. And then there's other vendors that we're working with. We're also in the process of redoing our website and are working with a web developer and a web designer. I rely heavily on my calendar so that I know what's going on. The brand that I work for now, they've been around for six or seven years. It's a small team with only three full-time employees and we are under the umbrella of other companies. It’s a lot of fun, a lot of collaboration. Every day is absolutely different.

PD: What is your favourite and least favourite part of your job as the Director of Brand?

BW: Well, my favorite part would be seeing the brand grow. I'm pretty competitive, so I love to see our finances grow week over week, but I also love the creative aspect of developing new products and seeing how they’ve evolved from when they started to when they launch, and working with our creative partners. I have a creative background and that's what I was doing prior to this position — I was the creative director, and I love seeing where a business starts. When you dive in and analyse your customers and your clients, and you see where you started to where you end up, it's crazy. Especially during this pandemic, everyone has had to pivot and change. I lived in Vegas in 2008 when the market crashed, and that taught me a lot. Now that we have more technology and more advancements, we were able to pivot and did quite well. So I think that's the thing — in this role you can never take no for an answer, you have to find a way. If you believe what you're doing is best for the business, you just continue to push and show people that this is going to work. And it's been pretty successful so far.

PD: You started off as a graphic designer and now you are a successful Director of Brand and Ecommerce. I am sure this transition involved a lot of difficult decisions, especially when it came to choosing the companies that are a right fit for you.

BW: I'm from a small farming community in Illinois — about 3700 people. I joined the Air Force out of high school, as a journalist. So that's really where I got my first introduction into photography and graphic design. When I left the military, back then you couldn't be a photographer because that wasn't a job that you could do. So I just leaned into graphic design, did that for a lot of years, and then moved into client services roles. So I've kind of gone back and forth between those two. 

In 2014, I quit the company that I was working for to run my own photography business. So I got to travel extensively, work with some amazing brands and I think it's been really organic — it's been something that I wanted to do. You always make mistakes, and things happen, but you learn from that and move on when the opportunity presents itself. I love the business side of running a business. I love to see it grow. And having experienced both sides, you just look at things differently. You look at the creative differently; you look at how the business is run differently. If you do anything in your career, whether you're a writer or in finance, I really think that everyone should have some sort of graphic design skills because that has helped me even when I wasn't in those positions. Everyone's like, “Oh Brandy knows how to do this” and that's led to other things and other roles. And it led to where I am today.

PD: Can you share some factors that come into play when it comes to deciding whether to work with a certain company?

BW: You don't want to work with someone just for money because initially money is great, but then eventually it creates resentment. You want to make sure it aligns with your ethics and your morals and beliefs. Things just really align and it almost feels like this was always meant to happen. At the beginning, you don't know why, but eventually, that comes to light.

PD: You've worked with several reputed brands over the last ten years. Do you have a project that stands out as being the most unique and impactful one? With a wider experience and skill set now, would you have done the project any differently to make it even better?

BW: I think that's a hard question because there are so many factors and so many things that go into it. I look at each of these opportunities as a learning experience. With technology and things changing so quickly, of course, I would want to go back 10 years and redo whatever project because things are different. But, like I said, that gives you the experience that you need in order to perform and to progress in your career. I like all of those experiences as long as I look at it as an opportunity. And the funny thing is, it's kind of like fashion, it always comes and goes. So, typically, within a 10-year period, those projects would come back around — there'll be a relaunch and rebrand. So I don't think there's anything specifically that I can think of that I would absolutely change. Because the technology and everything that we're doing now is so different. 

PD: As creators, we all aspire to work on that one project that marks our careers. It's something that we all think about, I guess. So, what would that project be for you?

BW: Honestly, I think it would be a personal project. I don't really think it would be a corporate project. For me, it would be a personal storytelling project. 

PD: We talked about your work transition over the years. Did that process enable you to grow and change as a person?

BW: It was interesting. My husband and I have been married for 16 years. When we got married, I had the mindset that I needed a steady job. I was risk averse. I was like, I need to be paid every two weeks and I need all of the structure. 

In 2010, I worked for a startup and that was at the very beginning when they were starting to do paid media. That job really changed how I view things. I was more willing to take risks that I would never have done before. I thought, if they can do it, I can do it. That sparked my entrepreneurial spirit. My husband says that I'm a little too spontaneous now, but everything has been fine so far, so what's really gonna happen? 

At the end of the day, and at the end of our lives, we don't want to look back and say, “I wish I had done this”. You don't want to have that type of response, because you can't go back. Time is really the only commodity that you're losing more and more every day. So try to make every day better than the last.

PD: Travel and creativity go hand-in-hand. And from what I've noticed, storytelling and travelling is such an integral part of what you do. How important are both to your creative process?

BW: With travel and photography, you just look at things differently. With this pandemic, not being able to travel anywhere has been pretty difficult and I've definitely gone into a creative cocoon. I haven't really done too many personal things, like photo shoots or anything for myself in the last two years. And that's going to change now that things are opening back up. I've traveled and lived in Europe, but I went to Sri Lanka in 2018 for the first time. I was amazed that people have nothing, but they're so happy. And I think especially being in the United States, it's about more and more — I’ve got to have bigger, I’ve got to have better. And this is not important. Because, at the end of the day, they're going home, and they're not happy. So for me, it's like what makes me happy? What can I do to make a difference, make a change? Get out of the cycle?

PD: With all the diverse creative roles out there, I believe creatives should not limit themselves but try to increase their skill set and wear multiple hats. I've noticed it’s something that you do, too. What is your take on that?

BW: I absolutely believe in that. Prior to this position, I managed a whole team of creatives. My senior copywriter once shared she wants to be a creative director. I told her, you need to learn all these graphic design programs, because it'll only help you in the future. 

I always wanted to be a photographer in the military. That was back in the days of film photography. Everything is digital now. I was on a set one time, and I was watching the photographer.  She wasn't giving direction to the models, she wasn't what I thought a photographer would do. And I thought, you know what, I can do that again. So my friend was in film school, and we went and grabbed coffee for 30 minutes. And he told me, this is what you need to buy, this is what you need to do. Then I just did that and hit the ground running and never looked back. 

On the outside and on social media, it looks like everyone has it together. In reality, everyone's really just trying to figure it out. And you don't know unless you try. If you see something you want to do, you have to try it.

PD: When you are working with all these different clients, there are times when you might have to ​work on a campaign that supported something you didn't? How did you deal with it?

BW: I think, for the most part, I've been able to work on things that I truly believe in. I think what you put out in the universe is what you get back. So I feel I've been pretty aligned with most companies and brands that I've been able to work with. Where things haven't fit my personal ethos, those are the times that you just have to trust your gut and know that this is not for you and it's time to move on. You just have to always stay true to yourself. And I really think that in this environment in 2021 and everything that's happening with the pandemic, most people are hyper aware. We've been in quarantine or in our houses for the last year and a half. So the things that brands would get away with five years ago, even two years ago, it's not happening now. 

Luckily, the brand that I work for is women-owned, and we're a small team of all women, and that's super important for me — to make sure that we're giving those opportunities that I didn't see when I started my career 20+ years ago. I have two daughters, and I want to build a better future for them. You don't want to continue that same cycle that we're seeing in the media, and all of those different things that are happening. So, I really just try to find those companies or find those things that align with my core beliefs. Because, at the end of the day, when you're looking at yourself in the mirror, no amount of money is worth doing something that you don't personally believe in.

PD: As a Director of Brand and Ecommerce, do you feel like you have arrived exactly where you always wanted to be, or a few years later, you might let your creative curiosity navigate you?

BW: I'm always looking to try and do new things. One of my goals for this year is to learn how to use power tools. Because everyone's at home, they're building things and painting things. I grew up watching my dad do that and I've never personally done it. I have a saying, “You didn't wake up to be mediocre”. So I feel like I always want to be learning and experiencing new things and trying new things. I might not be successful at it, but I'm going to try it. I don't think it's, “Oh, you've arrived now that you've reached this position”. I always think there's room to grow. Five years ago, I wouldn't think that I would be back in Salt Lake City, but here we are. You just have to keep learning, keep doing, and try to make things better. 

PD: There's this other set of people who don't want to try anything new, and it scares them to get out of their comfort zone or try a new role. But it's pretty exciting to keep pushing for something new.

BW: Yeah, I've tried to love the typical white picket fence, staying someplace for 30 years, but I just don't have it in me. My parents live in the same house that I grew up in. My dad retired from the post office. I have four sisters, and two of them work for the post office. It just wasn't the life I wanted for myself. I grew up in a small town with two channels, no access to any of that stuff. Since the fourth grade, I’ve wanted to live in New York City. I don't even know how I knew what New York was, but somehow I did. And eventually I moved there; I made it there. For some people that's great and fine, but for a large majority, it's not. What's the worst thing that can happen? Someone will say no, but you can't go through life worrying about someone telling you no.

PD: You work with people who are creatives and there is this generation that grew up with technology and accesses the world through screens. So I was wondering how you see this new generation of creatives that are going to be in your position one day.

BW: I think they're more willing to take risks now. They're also not willing to put up with things that they don't agree with. So they will quit and leave if something doesn't align with them. I knew one woman who was more interested in illustrating than graphic design, and she's brilliant at it. She said I really want to pursue this. I told her to go for it, that there's nothing holding her back and that it's something that she should do now. Especially with the pandemic, this whole concept of you have to work in an office to be productive is out of the window. Back then being a digital nomad was weird, right? Who are those people who are traveling around? And now, it's what we've been doing for the last year and a half. 

PD: Things have changed a lot with networking. Now we have access to platforms like LinkedIn, which is good. But especially in the creative industry, personal branding matters. You have to have a persona that people can see and decide if they like or don't like. How does networking work within the industry nowadays?

BW: I think it's about those personal connections. I miss old-fashioned networking — that's how I built my business. When I moved to New York City, I would go to networking events three times a week, and I was constantly networking. But I found those fake people who always go away. I also found my people and the people that I most connected with, and those are the ones that I have continued to stay in contact with and they have brought me other clients depending on where they moved to. It's really about that authentic connection. If you're going to reach out to someone, the old thing used to be to grab a cup of coffee, which obviously now we can't. Before you could connect with someone in person, now things just take longer. So send out that message, but make sure it's authentic. Make sure that you're connecting with that person.

Any brand that I'm connected to, I'll first go and vet them and see if they have anything that doesn't really align with what we're doing now. That's one thing that I always tell people when they're coming out of college. Obviously, they've gone to college, they have all these party photos. You’ve got to get rid of that, that's not professional and it's not what someone is looking for. Employers want to make sure that you're going to take them seriously. Time is the true commodity that we have. You don't want to waste anyone's time and they're not willing to. If I'm giving someone my time, I'm never gonna get that back so I need to get something out of it.

PD: At every transition point in my career, I’ve found myself at a crossroads wondering if it was really the right decision for me. I am sure each one of us feels that way. Do you have any words for someone trying to figure out the right fit for their creative careers?

BW: I would say trust your gut and meditate on it. There's been times in my career where I've definitely thought that this is such a great opportunity for a great career move. And I knew deep down that I probably shouldn't do that, but I did it anyway. In the end, my gut was right. So I would say always trust your gut. If it doesn't feel right, there will be other opportunities. 

I really believe in manifesting. It's like really honing in on what you're looking for, and making sure you're writing it down. It's one thing to just have it in your head but I think the act of writing it down and reaffirming definitely helps bring it to fruition. 

Also I always tell people, get a website. Start putting your work out there, make sure that you know that everything aligns and then things will happen and fall into place. You can't expect to always get yeses, but also don't take those noes personally.

PD: What do you think about authenticity, especially in the creative industry? 

BW: The BLM movement happened in the United States last year and the company that I now work for has a Diversity Committee, and I'm the co-chairman of that. I've been pretty outspoken about how I believe that traditionally in the beauty industry everything is over polished, over photoshopped, and overdone. When I was the creative director, I always said we needed diversity. During the pandemic, I took a lot of photographs, and so I personally don't photoshop the people that I photograph. You have to show real women and real people in your products; they have to be relatable.
Beauty is supposed to be approachable and people think that sometimes it's out of reach. In today's society and with social media, Instagram, Tiktok and Snapchat, you will get called out for unreal standards. You have to make sure that you're showing and representing real people that use your products. It's not the advertising world of even two years ago. 

Brandi is our first interview guest and I would like to thank her for generously taking out the time to answer my questions. Her thoughts on taking risks, expanding skill sets and being authentic really challenged me. You can find out more about Brandi and connect with her on LinkedIn or her website.

About the Author
Priyanka began her career as a creative content writer. With over eight years of content marketing experience, she works on our content strategy.
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