Strategy, Culture & Philanthropy: D&G's Kristen Knape

A strategist - no matter the level - needs to show more than a data dump.

Kristen Knape
Associate Head of Strategy David & Goliath

Tell us a bit about yourself, what do you do?

Associate Head of Strategy and Director of Philanthropy. I'm part strategy, part culture, and part good doer. 


What did you do before your current role and what led you to where you are now?

My first real job was at an advertising agency in Marketplace Planning (before the US knew what to call the Strategy discipline). That first job taught me the importance of culture, and I still do my best to contribute to a positive environment. I've been lucky enough to parlay that into philanthropic programs at D&G.


How would you define the role of a strategist in your agency?

We are sandbox creators. This is in two forms: 1) We create the strategic box in which creatives work and clients agree to - helping to create alignment from the start. 2) We fuel inspiration for how our creatives could play - via insights, culture and truths.


How have you seen the role of a strategist been evolving since you first began?

Strategy is truly a value-add discipline. Meaning if we're not adding value to our clients and teams, we'll become obsolete. This is why we've seen strategy change over time. As media consumption, the cultural landscape and brand preferences change, so do we. It's our job to reflect these shifts and bring them to life in a way that encourages our work to adjust accordingly.


In your opinion, what are the greatest barriers an aspiring planner/strategist encounters when trying to start their career?

A strategist - no matter the level - needs to show more than a data dump. They need to explain the significance of the insights and data they encounter. Otherwise they're just researchers. I encourage junior level planners to speak up and include the "so what" in the work they do. If they do that, they overcome all sorts of barriers.


In your time, what have you noticed are the key skills and traits that separate great strategists from the mediocre?

Maybe it's because we're working faster than ever before but I've seen a shift away from all-knowing strategists with buttoned-up briefs to strategists who come in with multiple ways in. They're prepared with brand and consumer insights to see what lights up creatives faces and gets them talking. In the end, everyone believes in the value of the strategy because it was co-created together.


How do you avoid getting stuck in a cultural bubble and stay informed on the needs and desires of everyday consumers?

There's so much to learn and know to grow. We can’t do it all ourselves. We understand which people on the team are subject matter experts and we lean into that. Then we come together and see where connections emerge. It's a good way to keep focus while creating a sense of pride of our unique expertise.