Catherine Sadler: At the Intersection of Uniqueness and Relevance

Paradigm Shifters is a series of interviews with a select group of women and men from eclectic walks of life. It will highlight unspoken, real-life insights on how they have been able to turn weakness into strength. A naked soul point of view of how their breakdowns were really a preparation for breakthroughs. They are your quintessential paradigm shifters; internal shifts converted into genuine change.

Everything I have ever done has been focused on this underlying theme of shifting the paradigm because, "What we think determines what we feel and what we feel determines what we do." Hence, why Empowered by You takes lingerie, which has traditionally been seen merely as a tool of seduction and redirected that energy as a tool of empowerment.

I hope from these stories you will look at your own situations, struggles and accomplishments through a different lens. At the very least you will be more equipped with real life tools to change your own paradigm. At the end of the day, we are our own Alchemist turning the silver we were born with into the gold we are destined to become.


Catherine Sadler - Chief Executive Officer, SADLER + BRAND

What influence did your mother have in your life?

I am the daughter of a blacklisted writer. Obviously, that was extremely formative in so many ways. As a result, she was unable to get work in the United States. She was a single parent at a time when that was quite unusual and she had two very small children. Her only recourse was to leave the country to create a better life. So, I was brought up in London and didn't return permanently to the United States until I was a young adult. Growing up in London under those circumstances was extremely challenging, as you can imagine. Everyone seemed to come from a traditional, nuclear family yet I had a single mother. I went to a Church of England school, yet I was Jewish. I was different, a foreigner, an outsider. And on top of that, financially things were tough. So I was faced with many sobering realities from the time I was very young. On the other hand, it engendered in me some critical attributes that have been a positive companion to me throughout my life. It gave me a tremendous appreciation for diversity, a true curiosity about other cultures and it gave me a tenaciousness and an ability to deal with adversity with a great deal of resilience. While other people are oftentimes rendered immobile by challenges, I believe in my case my childhood fortified me and gave me the ability to lean in and meet challenges head-on with creativity, resourcefulness and determination.

You worked with unbelievable brands and held amazing titles before starting your own agency. What made you make that jump?

I love working on the brand side, but in my last corporate position there came a moment when I realized that there just wasn't the vision and the leadership in place to make the critical changes necessary to allow the brand to achieve its full potential at a time when the customer and the market were so rapidly evolving. It was then that I realized it was time to go. I felt my best work there was behind me. I always want to be passionately engaged, making a difference and being true to what I believe and so to remain would have been inauthentic.

You're known for integrated marketing campaigns. Walk me through what's necessary to have a successful campaign and what exactly integrated marketing entails.

Today, people are seeking relevance and meaning in their brands -- perhaps more than ever before. Unfortunately, too many brands are chasing that shiny new object, be it the latest blogger, most recent trend or new tech fad, in order to be "relevant". However, rather than helping to drive acquisition and growth, it's resulted in the creation of a generic retail landscape, a sea of sameness. I believe with all my heart that the brands that are going to succeed in the future are the ones that get back to the business of being brands. Too many have lost the plot -- to create a differentiated position in the marketplace, with a proprietary point of view, offering and experience. Not something that lacks distinction to the point that if you covered the label, you couldn't even distinguish one brand from another. And then to drive traffic you have to sell at a discount, eroding the brand even more. For me, customer acquisition and retention pivots on uniqueness and relevancy. That's what integrated marketing is about -- integrating the brand into people's lives in surprising, exciting ways that actually drive desire and loyalty. Not just syndicating a "campaign" via a comprehensive multi-channel marketing initiative. That's just the how versus the what. It's about creating compelling discovery and engagement between the brand and its customers by delivering something meaningful through a healthy mix of innovation, aspiration and authenticity.

Give me an example of one you've created.

Mad Men is a perfect example of a successful integrated marketing campaign. On one hand, there was AMC, an entertainment company, launching a new entertainment property called Mad Men, needing to create significant brand awareness and aspiring to establish themselves as a "fashion" brand versus yet another series -- without any direct consumer contact. On the other, we had an iconic fashion brand, Banana Republic, with a huge customer base and major presence on every high street in America but needed to reach new customers and up our cool factor. What we had in common was the desire to reach more people and cement our brands in the zeitgeist. Here's the paradigm shift -- the traditional play would have been to run spots on AMC -- or conventional product placement -- or to create a promotion such as "win a part on the show by purchasing X". Instead the power came from creating true connections -- that really broke through and exponentially grew each brand's reach and appeal. Suddenly we were combining broadcast and retail in a new, disruptive way. Most critically, we were able to create something that provided our customers with product that was exciting, exclusive and beyond cool -- a limited edition product collection designed by the show's own costume designer. The result: AMC achieved their goals of establishing Mad Men as an iconic fashion brand, leveraging the significant power of our direct-to-consumer marketing muscle while Banana Republic was successfully integrated into pop culture through its real connection to an award winning show, extended its marketing into broadcast without investing in a media buy, and delighted customers with exclusive, covetable product that they could not get anywhere else. Talk about a win/win! Together we were exponentially stronger than solo. We had customer and business objectives in mind and succeeded in achieving both. That's the secret sauce of great integrated marketing.

What is the one lesson you've learned from all of your marketing experience that you take to brands?

Ultimately I think it's to have a proprietary point of view and to stick to your knitting. To establish who you are as a brand, to articulate your own DNA and to navigate from that core in a true, confident and consistent way. Who are you? What makes you special? Why should people even care? At the end of the day, the answers to those questions create clarity -- a beacon of light -- that informs all decisions and separates you from the rest.

What is your breakdown to breakthrough moment?

At the very beginning of my career, I graduated with a degree in English Literature and Language and I assumed that I would follow in my mother's footsteps. I was very proud of myself when I landed my first position in the editorial department of a book publisher, but what I soon discovered was that I was actually quite miserable. I felt extremely isolated and yearned for more. I intuitively started to question everything around me. I started hanging out in all different areas of the business. I hung out in the production department asking about typefaces and paper stocks, I hung out in the promotion department asking about distribution strategy, then I was off to the publicity department asking about how they ensure a book's success once it's finally delivered.

During that time it occurred to me that all this had a name -- marketing! And what I really loved was not just content but the entire process from content right through syndication. That was the moment when I recognized that I needed to make a detour. The rest is history.

What are you most excited about with your agency?

What's exciting is getting back to basics. One of the great things about being entrepreneurial is you have to be scrappy and get back to the business of marketing. Something in that is liberating creatively. Just being more in the trenches and working across brands at different stages of their development and in different sectors is extremely fulfilling and stimulating for me.

What would you wish for your legacy to be?

On a personal level, I'm committed to being an inspiration and mentor to others, particularly women. Certainly, I've always hoped to be a catalyst for helping unleash other's potential. I think my ultimate aspiration would be for people to say that I was a true visionary who worked from a place of style and substance.

If your life were a book, what was the title for 2015 and what do you want the title for 2016 to be?

Definitely last year's title was A Tale of Two Cities because I had just completed five years of being bicoastal, which was extremely challenging. For 2016, I'd have to say To Thine Own Self Be True. For me, at this point in my career and life, it's about maintaining my integrity and my authenticity in everything that I do.