27 minutes | Nov 4th 2020

KAO President, Karen Frank on Launching Brands During Covid & Balancing Intuition and Data [Episode 26]

As President of Kao USA, Karen has overall responsibility for the Japanese consumer product giant’s operations in the Americas and Europe. An 11-year veteran of Kao, Karen previously filled dual roles as General Manager, US Sales, and Marketing and Europe Innovation for the Mass Channel.


Paul Dyer, CEO at Lippe Taylor and Shop PR, spoke with Karen about what she’s learned throughout her career of consumer marketing and how she’s had to pivot in the midst of 2020. In the interview, Karen talks about why having a brand that really speaks to the consumer is more important than ever before. She also discusses what newly minted professional communicators can bring to the game, as well as the risks of not taking a stand on important issues.


A few takeaways from this wide-ranging conversation are below.


Launch a brand any time as long as it connects to the consumer. Kao went against convention by launching the MyKirei line in the middle of the upheaval caused by COVID. MyKirei didn’t get buried as an irrelevant introduction because it combines performance with purpose. By incorporating environmental sustainability and a concern for the greater good, MyKirei managed to stand out even in a world consumed by a global health crisis and was a success, despite launching during covid.


New college graduates have in-demand 21st Century communications DNA. If product marketers understandably are nervous about launching products during COVID, 2020s, it’s understandable that graduates are feeling despondent about the future of communications. This doesn’t have to be the case because by virtue of their upbringing as the first truly digital-from-birth generation, today’s grads have unmatched insight into the communications standards & platforms of the day. By leveraging that, they can launch satisfying and successful careers despite the shaky economy.


Balance respect for intuition with knowledge derived from data. Beyond a doubt, Big Data gets more headlines these days than insight derived from sources such as personal intuition. But that may be more due to the newness of data as a key tool for communicators rather than to any real weakness of intuition. In reality, hunches have a role to play in providing a backstop to the results of analyzing data. That is if the data says something that should make you say, “Wow!” and instead, you say, “Meh,” the data may be misleading.


Produced by Simpler Media

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