Finding Her Marketing Niche

Brianna Smith

Brianna Smith, RWU Class of 2016

Major:  Marketing
Minor:  Music

Curiosity kills the cat. At least, that’s what the famous proverb tells us. But for Brianna Smith ’16, a creative strategist with Digital Surgeons, her curiosity helps companies achieve successful marketing results.

Her abilities to research, analyze and ask “why?” are what allow her to redesign websites for the outdoor equipment company Camelbak, craft strategic Instagram posts for the popular lip balm Eos and create engaging and dynamic marketing campaigns for Jarlsberg, known for its specialty cheese made in Norway.

“Strategy is not research, strategy is not management and it’s not marketing,” Smith said. Strategy is, to quote my favorite strategist Mark Pollard, ‘An informed decision on how to win.’ To be informed requires data and insights and to make a decision requires creativity and intuition.”

On any given day, Smith uses data, insights, creativity and intuition to make informed decisions that help her clients either better market to their target audience, bring in a new group of users or make the consumer’s experience much more engaging. Through interviews, focus groups and analytics data, Smith and her strategy team get to know their clients and their consumers, enabling them to design a marketing strategy that works best for each company. 

However, this wasn’t always the career path Smith envisioned for herself. An avid music lover, guitar player and singer, she had initially dreamed of turning her hobby into a career by becoming a tour manager. But as she dove deeper into the marketing curriculum at Roger Williams University, she uncovered a natural ability to analyze and a passion for curiosity that led her down the path of marketing research instead.

“Marketing is such an umbrella term and I was able to find what I truly loved through all the different types of marketing classes that they have at RWU,” Smith said. “The skills I learned from those classes really started to evolve me into more of a marketer than a music manager. The marketing department really helped me find my niche.”

Courses such as Advertising Campaigns and Qualitative Marketing Research played a crucial role in giving Smith the skills necessary to perform her day-to-day responsibilities.

The Advertising Campaigns Practicum allowed Smith and her classmates to apply their research skills to create a complete marketing and advertising campaign for a real-world company to compete in the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC). Her Qualitative Analysis course allowed Smith to partner with the Community Partnerships Center to help a local community organization make strategic decisions through data collection and analysis.

More than just the technical skills, these courses also gave her soft skills she uses every day such as talking to people, reading body language, asking the right questions and confidently presenting and pitching projects to clients as big as The New York Times.

Smith’s courses piqued her interest in research, but it was working in internships that helped her land her current job. The internships weren’t focused on research, but instead focused on other areas of marketing, like public relations and sales. They, in turn, showed her what she didn’t want for her career and helped to solidify her love for research and data.

“After my internships I knew I didn’t want to do this line of music, I didn’t want to get into PR, I didn’t want to do sales, I didn’t want to sit at a cubicle all day,” Smith said. “They were more of an experience, teaching me what I don’t want and helping me find the thing that I did love sooner.”

Taking the leap from music manager to marketing researcher may not have been without its challenges but now Smith comes to work every day excited to work with new clients and create innovative marketing strategies. Exploring the different marketing courses and types of internships allowed her to find a job that turned her curiosity into a full-time job.

For her fellow Hawks, she offered this advice: “Be open-minded. It’s okay to try something out and say, ‘I don’t like this.’ Don’t be afraid to follow what you truly love and what your gut is telling you. Be true to what you want and what’s the right fit for you.”