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How Agency Life Prepared Me for a Career at Klarna


Klarna’s head of UK consumer marketing, AJ Coyne, reflects on what it’s like to become the person asking for the logo to be bigger

How Agency Life Prepared Me for a Career at Klarna
The transition from agency to in-house and vice versa is one that many marketers are all too familiar with, and one could argue that in order to fully understand the profession, you need to experience life at both sides of the table. 

Whilst there is a huge overlap between agency and in-house life, in terms of shared knowledge and common responsibilities, there are some major differences between the two. I feel that grasping these differences has been crucial in my career, by revealing where my strengths lie and how I can best apply my skills, but also by providing me with a robust view of the marketing function and teaching me lessons I would otherwise never have been exposed to. 

Something that is true for most marketing professionals, regardless of their position of client or consultant, is the pursuit of world-class creativity that delivers results. From an agency perspective, when dealing with leading global brands, I have found that fear is the biggest barrier to achieving this. Clients have been less willing to take risks when presented with ideas that haven’t been produced internally, by “their” team.

This frustrated me, as a firm believer that creativity should be every brand's number one differentiator and the secret weapon driving growth. Creativity, I felt, should be non-negotiable, so I sought a role where this would be possible.

My advice to those on the agency side is to persevere with the “big ideas”. For some clients, brilliant creativity that piques curiosity will be the easiest thing to say yes to, and those are the moments that make it all worthwhile. Don’t forget, there is always the option to try your hand at an in-house role if the urge strikes.

I am fortunate to have joined Klarna as head of marketing in the UK. Klarna is a brand with creativity in its DNA. We take pride in doing things differently, challenging the status quo and in looking at new ways to deliver better results. At the same time, as a bank, we never lose sight of our aim to build trust among Klarna customers. 

We’re fortunate at Klarna to have built a distinctive brand and uniquely Klarna smoooth world. This requires the world’s best when it comes to craftsmanship. As such, we have built a community of creative makers trusted to help build and evolve our world. This is a product of the combined efforts of the Klarna brand studio, and a network of relevant partners that span creative agencies, production houses, artists, designers, stylists and fashion houses.  

We have built great brand awareness and resonance in the UK, where Klarna is undeniably resonating with consumers, but the major task ahead is to establish a standalone, beloved brand. Our vision is to become the world’s favourite way to shop. A few months in, I feel like that goal is well underway. It’s impossible to get it right every single time, but my hope is that I can bring together the best of both sides of the table, always prioritise creative swag, and importantly, have fun doing it. Ultimately, I will feel that we have succeeded when Klarna is added to the Oxford dictionary. If anyone reading this has authority over that decision, please get in touch!

My background in adland is pivotal in helping me to achieve this - coming up with creative solutions, and making a positive cultural contribution. Some of the lessons I have taken with me to my current role include:
- Build envious creative partnerships, be transparent and truly integrate those partners with your team.
- Press print if something is 80% ready. Don’t waste time trying to make something perfect - nothing is ever truly perfect. Go live when it’s great.
- Don’t overwhelm yourself with doing too much at once. Focus, deliver and move on. 

Since switching over to in-house life, yes, I am now the person asking to make the logo bigger. In fact, I’ve asked twice. And with over 200 LinkedIn requests from sales people, I have never felt more popular. But I can say that beyond that, not much has changed. I continue to learn daily, but critically I now have the ability to say “yes”. For any brand or agency wondering, I can confirm there is no magic bullet, other than creative thinking and brilliant people, passionate about finding solutions to all obstacles. Surround yourself with them, not with people who are too fearful and looking for reasons to say “no”. 
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