Photo by Christine Fradenburg
Christine Fradenburg on brands, change, photography and pets.
Teak Partners: get to know the people behind the brands that inspire us.
Christine Fradenburg is the Senior Director of Brand Marketing for SmugMug and Flickr. Teak and SmugMug have partnered for four years to build dozens of campaigns that speak to photographers all over the world. Christine is gem! If she’s not making us laugh, her cute puppy is putting a smile on our face. Enjoy our conversation as she shares some thoughts on branding. -Eli
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a born, raised, and still live-in-the San Francisco Bay Area native. In my day job, I’m the Sr. Director of Brand Marketing for two amazing and beloved brands: SmugMug and Flickr. Before, after, and in-between, I’m a mom to four-legged fur-kids and two-legged human kids, a wife, a sous chef, a housekeeper, a chauffeur, a teacher, a Disney fanatic, and a pop culture aficionado. I’ve been lucky to have worked for some incredible brands throughout my career in various marketing disciplines: Sanrio/Hello Kitty, eBay, Shutterfly, and Electronic Arts. On the side, I’m also on the Board of Directors for a two-week summer program, Nakayoshi Gakko, focused on providing a fun and educational experience about Japanese culture and tradition to rising 1st through 8th graders. It is a lot of work, but so rewarding to see how much fun our students have each year. As a Japanese-American, it is important to me to not only celebrate but share my cultural heritage with my kids and others who are interested in learning more about it.
Tell us some of your go-to content at the moment? What are you reading/listening to/watching now?
I love reading books, but I’m terrible at reading anything but fiction. If it feels too much like a textbook, I get flashbacks to when I was in school and my brain says, “Nah, let’s go take a nap instead.” So, when it comes to what I’m reading or listening to or watching right now, my favorite go-to content is, in my opinion, bite sized. I really enjoy my Harvard Business Review subscription (yes, magazines FTW!), podcasts (in particular Freakonomics Radio with Stephen J. Dubner), and most recently, MasterClass. To me, inspiration can come from anywhere so these mediums allow me some flexibility to pick and choose what I want to read/listen/watch but I’m appreciative that they also push content to me to discover.
Photo by Christine Fradenburg
What’s the best advice you’ve received that you actually use?
Hmm…the best advice that I’ve received… I’d have to say there are two pieces of advice that I received early in my career that I apply to this day in everything that I do. The first is that the only constant in life is change. There’s always something new to be discovered or discussed and considered–whether it is about a campaign that you worked on (what could we have done better?) or the market opportunity/mindset (are there environmental changes which could now affect someone’s purchasing behavior?) or even your own internal team dynamics (did someone new join the team who might have a fresh perspective?). You need to be aware and be able to flex, adapt, and grow.
The second piece of advice, which really isn’t advice but I’ve adapted it in my daily thinking, stemmed from a conversation I had with a data scientist when I was at eBay. I thought I was being such a hot shot asking her for all sorts of data about a specific audience because I was thinking about a new direct marketing push/pull campaign to drive activation. I sat down during a meeting with her and outlined my request–so incredibly proud of myself for asking for complex queries and predictive analysis. She patiently listened as I blabbed on and on about the data parameters and then looked at me and simply asked, “But, what are you going to do with that information?” It was her way of asking me what problem I was trying to solve. I froze and quickly realized that I didn’t actually know. I thought if I had the data first, I could develop a strategy around it. But we all know it is the opposite: Identify what problem you’re trying to solve first then get your insight and develop your approach.
Photo by Christine Fradenburg
Tell us about a brand you admire and why.
Oh boy. Asking someone who works in brand marketing to name a brand they admire is like asking a kid with a sweet tooth to pick only one candy from the candy store. Sheer torture.
Aside from the awesome brands that I get to work on right now (SmugMug and Flickr), I’d have to choose Target. The evolution of Target as a company and as a brand has been incredible to watch. And, the affinity and equity that they’ve built and been able to sustain all of these years is equally impressive. They’ve developed an identity that not only allows them to connect with mass appeal but they’ve also figured out how to elevate their brand to allow for more private label/premium opportunities (e.g. unexpected collabs, launches, etc…). They are authentic and have a focus on doing what’s right–even if it is hard. Their commitments to their employees, their customers, and the communities they’re in can be felt in all aspects of their business and that translates to a solid foundation for their brand.
What’s your favorite non-famous app in your phone?
My favorite (I believe to be) non-famous app on my phone is Bingo Journey. It is my go-to at night when I’m relaxing and it has just enough game mechanic hooks to incentivize me to return daily (yep, I contribute to their DAU & MAU numbers). I’ve only paid a few times (to the chagrin of my husband) but I mostly play without the need to pay. My son knows exactly what I’m doing when the app starts up and the music starts playing.
What is the current topic/hobby/subject that you are obsessed with?
I’m obsessed with my new toy: Leica Q. Working for a SaaS company focused on photographers and photography has not been good for my own passion for photography in that I’m exposed to some amazing equipment and industry insight that I didn’t have as much time for before. I feel like Veruca Salt (“I WANT IT ALL!”). I hadn’t heard of Leica before working here but after some very generous co-workers allowed me to play with their cameras, I was hooked. So when the opportunity came up to purchase another co-worker’s used Leica Q (he was ready to upgrade), I jumped at the chance and I haven’t been able to put it down. It goes with me everywhere and I think I take more photos with it now than my iPhone 13 Pro Max.
What’s something that’s brought you joy recently at your work?
I swear that Teak did not pay me to answer this in this way, but I’m currently obsessed with our latest brand campaign for SmugMug dubbed “This Lens” concepted by them. We challenged Teak with helping us identify strategies to drive growth through increased awareness of our brand and they delivered a brilliant campaign concept focused on the power of photography–specifically the camera lens. The campaign isn’t about just what’s in the image or the photographer, but how together, the camera, the photographer, the image captured, has a deeper meaning and intent and how we, SmugMug, want you to see that. As a brand marketer, this spoke to me on so many levels and I instantly saw the extensions and opportunities to go beyond the expected and how it tied so beautifully into our company’s purpose of building a better world through the power of photography. How can you not be more excited to share incredible stories with the world?!?
What’s something that’s brought you joy recently outside of work?
There is such joy in little things and I think the COVID-19 pandemic really highlighted how important some of those little things are. For me, what’s brought me immense joy recently has been venturing out to see a movie in the theaters again. Yes, I know I’m overpaying for the tickets, the popcorn, and increased risks, but sitting there in the dark with said overpriced popcorn, smuggled in bag of Sour Patch Kids, and way-too-large soda (which will probably make me need to go to the bathroom part way through the movie anyway) is completely worth it to me. For 90-120 glorious minutes, I’m transported to a completely different world–away from my messy living room, kids complaining about how they’d rather be playing video games, or dogs deciding that THIS is the right time to go outside and bark at the <insert critter> in the backyard. Going to the theater is one of my new happy places.