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Inteview image for Elizabeth Donovan

Elizabeth
Donovan

Ueno

Ueno is a creative agency that designs and builds beautiful brands, products, and marketing experiences. Founded in 2014, Ueno now has more than 65 full-time employees and four offices in Iceland, San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles. Clients include Google, Verizon, Airbnb, Apple, Chubb, Dropbox, Facebook, Fitbit, Lonely Planet, Medium, Red Bull, Reuters, Samsung, Globo, Slack, Uber, and Visa. Learn more at Ueno.co.

What led you into marketing?

In college I majored in Writing, Literature and Publishing with a minor in Journalism – I really had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew that I had strong communication skills and liked being creative. I landed my first internship at a small PR agency in Boston where my highly-respected role included picking up the CEO’s dry cleaning and driving his dog to the vet. After a few more internships I was able to get more hands-on with PR and marketing, and then I was on my way.

Internships were really fundamental in my choice to pursue a marketing career because I was able to test the waters in a few different types of companies and roles.

What does a typical day look like?

There isn’t a typical day for me. As an agency, we move quickly and there’s always something new to work on, which I love. I manage all external agency communications for Ueno, so I spend a lot of time developing and posting content on our social channels, blog, and newsletter to share who we are and what we do with the world.

I also get to chat with lots of different marketers on the client side to coordinate on promotion for whatever it is we’re building with them (a website, an app, a video, an e-commerce experience, etc.) so it’s really fascinating to learn about different marketing plans from both enterprise companies and tiny startups.

And part of my day always involves chasing my colleagues about speaking events, writing articles, and other PR-things that I keep in motion. Everyone is super busy so I’ve become quite adept at catching up with moving targets.

What’s your setup?

I can’t live without my big display screen… it’s pretty crazy that Apple doesn’t make them anymore!

These sushi erasers magically appeared on my desk one day, and I decided to keep them.

I try to keep my homescreen somewhat organized so I can find things easily. There’s my kiddo in the background. Looks like I forgot to turn off notifications on YouTube, whoops.

Here are a few more “professional” images of our office, work, and team:

NY office:

Ueno team:

And some images of Ueno's work here:

What are your go-to marketing tools or blogs?

I have Slack, Gmail, Dropbox, and Google Docs open all day. My staple marketing-specific tools are Mailchimp for sending our newsletter and other marketing emails and Hubspot for lead tracking, comms, and organization. I also love Asana for keeping track of projects and tasks.

What’s your favorite growth hack of all time?

There are a few well-known examples I automatically think about when it comes to growth hacking. For example: Airbnb's bot that responded to housing posts on Craigslist, Dropbox offering extra free storage for referrals, Uber offering new customers $20 in free rides.

The interesting thing about these tactics is that they all started as someone’s random idea to get a lot for a little budget. So it all goes back to being creative and using whatever you’ve got to start the engine, and not being afraid to just try it.

What company do you admire for their brand?

I’m a big fan of Casper’s branding, created by Red Antler and Yan-Can. I have seen especially amusing Casper ads on the subway, which I always appreciate to help pass the time on my commute.

I think Casper’s branding is very effective in its consistency across different touch points – from the out-of-home ads, to the digital experience, to the packaging. I was very impressed with the user guide that came with the mattress – it’s like a little keepsake booklet filled with illustrations in their distinct style.

We hear a lot of brand noise every day through every part of our lives, so being distinct and consistent makes a brand more memorable. Authenticity is important too – nobody trusts a brand that jumps on any convenient bandwagon that rolls by.

If you had to give a marketing course, what would you teach?

I would probably focus on my biggest strengths: how to develop marketing plans, cross-discipline collaboration, organization, and networking. But I’m no expert!

What’s the most exciting opportunity you’ve seen to grow your business this year?

We are planning our first-ever conference, Uenoland, in Brooklyn on May 2–4. This is the first time I’ve been at the helm of such a large event (we’ll have 16 speakers and 300 attendees) so I’ve been learning a lot and enjoying the ride. I see it as a big opportunity for Ueno because it’s something we’ve never done before, and as a company we try to push ourselves to keep learning and expand our capabilities.

What marketing challenges do you face at your company?

Because we are a company that provides creative and marketing services to our clients, we don’t always prioritize our own brand and marketing efforts with the same gusto. I’m always trying to convince my colleagues that spending time developing our own brand is just as valuable as the work with our clients. I think this healthy tension just goes with the territory. :)

What do you think most marketers get wrong?

Some people mistakenly assume that you need a big budget and formal plan to get anywhere with marketing. Some of the most effective campaigns and projects I’ve worked on have been completely bootstrapped, with little-to-no budget or master plan, but a lot of creativity and hard work. Marketers need to be okay with trying something new, and figuring it out along the way.

Any advice for ambitious marketers?

Meet as many people as you can, and cultivate relationships along the way. Most of the opportunities I’ve had in my career have come from building relationships with mentors, bosses, and colleagues who have become close friends.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

Uenoland! ueno.land

It's a "conference" for creative people of all kinds, with 16 speakers and performers who are all creators of something different – furniture designers, musicians, artists, journalists, and more. It’s all happening on May 2–4 at the beautiful A/D/O in Brooklyn, NY.

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