An Interview with Sarah Curds

Director of Andragogy

You’ve had an interesting career so far Sarah, working with some brilliant agencies and clients – what’s been the highlight of your career so far?

I feel lucky to have had many career highlights from designing UX journeys for Disney to launching my own business (twice). The most stand out for me was actually a pretty big learning experience that I got to share with colleagues, clients and journalists. 

Back in 2011, I was one of 20 people hand-picked from our UK, Europe and US offices by Digitas (part of Publicis Media) to join an intensive, tailor-made 4-day boot camp at Hyper Island's school in Karlskrona, Sweden. We joined a group of industry journalists as well as our clients from Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson and Virgin Atlantic to collaborate and ideate on how we could transform the traditional advertising agency model into one which could adapt to survive. 

I found it incredibly inspiring. Together we came up with some amazing ideas on how to improve the agency model but what's truly stayed with me is the knowledge that both agencies and clients can achieve far more together with greater levels of transparency and by working in partnership. 

Anyone who’s interested can read more about our boot camp here.

Why should gamification be on marketers’ radar and what benefits can it bring to their campaigns?

Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to breathe life into your content and your brand. Gamification is the next step in how you can enable people to truly engage with your content so they become a part of (or feel ownership of) that story or experience in a compelling way. 

When McDonald’s and Hasbro came together to create a fast-food Monopoly game, people were actively involved while eating in the restaurant. It added a layer of competition to family mealtime with the chance to win food, a car, a holiday. 

Gamification isn't always games, it's applying game-based thinking to your brand or business. By adding gaming techniques and concepts to your marketing mix you can come up with ingenious ways to turn what might be a passive audience into an engaged, goal-directed one. 

When people are having fun interacting with their favourite brands then everyone wins ;)  

At Andragogy you don’t follow the traditional business model – it’s more about like-minded businesses collaborating to achieve an end goal. Do you think Covid will make organisations think differently about how they work and do business going forward?

I feel for the businesses who are really struggling due to the restrictions. Many businesses simply don't have a choice about whether to change how they work or do business going forward - adaption is necessary to their survival. 

I like that many businesses and brands are becoming kinder to both their people and their customers, finding new ways to support them as they work from home or buy online. 

Sometimes it takes a crisis, personal or societal, to show us a way out of our fixed thinking about how things ‘should’ be. Now is a time to rethink and reimagine how our businesses can work. We can use this time to consider which parts of normal we feel are worth returning to. 

Why is innovation so important in marketing and how do you encourage your team and colleagues to innovate?

I think its no exaggeration when people say a lack of innovation can cause business failure. There are so many examples of this happening: Independent booksellers went bust when they couldn't compete on price with larger businesses when the Net Book Agreement ended; Nokia was crushed by Apple and Android because it underestimated how important the transition to smartphones would be. 

Audiences change (and are created) constantly, their needs and wants evolve as they get older and they experience new things. So marketers need to stay in touch with those changes and implement new methods, ideas and strategies that will work as the business pivots to meet them. 

We all have the ability within us to be creative and generate new ideas. Some of the best ideas are made when we come together. We host collaborative knowledge shares and tutorials for our students. They gain as much learning from each other as they do from us. It’s common for learners to finish a session with new ideas to take back to the business or their clients. 

Where do you personally seek your inspiration from? 

My role is so varied, no day is the same, so I tend to ‘snack’ on what’s available. I’m a big fan of research and data so when I feel the need, I make time to read research from McKinsey, Deloitte and others. 

There are so many inspiring people out there. I subscribe to Paul Boag’s Boagworld blog. I’ve been following him since he first started blogging on user research and UX practice. Now he’s expanded into digital marketing he’s become even more relevant. 

I highly recommend Manning, Charbit and Krot’s life-changing book Invisible Power: Insight Principles at work to everyone. This book was recommended to me by a friend to help my professional growth as a leader but the understanding it’s given me about how the mind works continues to help me in every aspect of my life. It’s helped me to tap into a wealth of creativity, insight and compassion I didn’t know I had.

Sarah is speaking at Inspiring Minds: Gamification, Growth & Generation Next on Nov 18. Join us.