Interview | 13 Nov 2023

Leadership Lessons with... Joon Rajkovic, Brand & Marketing Director and Founder of Beautiful World

Posted in Business, Industry news, Interview, Client,

In this month's featured interview, we had the privilege of speaking with Joon, a Brand and Marketing Director and the Founder of Beautiful World Collective, a brand and business strategic consultancy specialising in creative brands. Joon provides valuable insights into the role of a Senior Brand and Marketing leader and shares the story behind the creation of Beautiful World Collective.

Take a look.

What do you see as the key role of a Senior Brand and Marketing leader?

It is a broad remit that can span the full breadth of the marketing mix (depending on the organisation, their size and structure), but essentially, I have always seen my role as both guardian of a brand across every facet of the customer journey (both internal and external, and including the final products themselves), but also a champion for the voice of the consumer. That has to be the starting point for all marketing – really understanding your target market, who they are, how they live, their behaviours, what they care about, what they want - and then bringing your offerings to them in a way that is relevant to them, true to your brand, and distinctive from the competition.

Every company will have different commercial and broader business objectives, so my role is focused on steering all brand and marketing activity to meet those objectives – though always through the lens of brand guardian and champion for that target consumer.

Beyond that, leading in any capacity is about making sure teams know what we’re trying to achieve, and creating a culture where they feel inspired, valued and supported enough to do their best work while developing in their own individual careers.

What is the story behind Beautiful World Collective? How did it become what it is today?

I founded the Beautiful World Collective consultancy where we focus on brand and business strategy specifically for independent creative brands. I have always had a passion for high-end and luxury design-led brands – whether that’s fashion, jewellery, homeware or hospitality. The consultancy started organically as I would often get requests from founders and designers in my personal network for advice on developing their brands and growing their businesses, so it seemed there was a genuine need for this kind of advisory tailored specifically for them. We’ve since broadened our offer to investors and commercial leaders in this space as this felt like a missing link.

I found there is often a disconnect between the creative side of a brand and the commercial – as if excelling with one diminishes the other. But the most successful brands in the world are the ones who accept these are two sides of the same coin that must be balanced for a business to succeed long term.

Anchoring creativity with a solid commercial foundation is at the heart of what I do – right the way through my career and it’s also what I bring to all my clients. Hence, it’s at the very core of Beautiful World Collective – equipping creative leaders with the knowledge and resources for their businesses to thrive so they can continue sharing their talents for many years to come.

How do you see the field evolving over the next 5-10 years? Do you think there will be any changes in relation to the growing public awareness of environment and social issues?

This industry has evolved so much in the 20+ years I’ve been part of it - with some shifts that have been monumental and continuous (largely driven by tech), and some that are just marketing froth (e.g. the metaverse).

I think the purpose vs. plain old profit debate is interesting, particularly in challenging economic times. Consumer awareness of environmental and social issues is high, but so is distrust of corporations – we all know so many businesses that talk about their values and then the reality of how they treat their employees or produce their products contradict their promises. The interesting part is that these companies are still wildly successful, so consumers are still buying their products, even if they would not admit to it among their friends.

I would really love to believe that, as younger generations enter the work force and older ways of thinking are challenged, things start to truly change for the better. Not just woolly annual pledges but, for example, concrete plans to clean up supply chains and make them fully transparent, or leadership fast track programs that have a specific recruitment target for women or people of colour or those from less advantaged backgrounds.

Of course, businesses are designed to be profitable – but I believe they also have a responsibility to not destroy the world and some can even make it a better place to live. I feel fortunate to have worked with some incredible companies who genuinely do want to make a difference and are leading the change – and they also continue to be increasingly commercially successful. So, it is possible – for us to be more conscious of our choices, limit our impact and take action steps to make things better. No matter how small and where we start, collectively we can make a difference. That belief is the seed of all change. I hope it grows in the coming years.

Working as a senior consultant, how do you ensure that your strategies stay relevant to the latest industry trends, consumer behaviours and emerging marketing technologies for your clients?

I’ve been consulting for the past year since I returned to the UK after several years leading global brands client-side internationally. I thought it would be the best and quickest way to rebuild my UK network – and exactly as you mention – ensure I could stay tapped into industry trends and emerging tech. I used to consult many years ago in my early London agency days, and the skills I developed during that time were invaluable, they are now hard-wired into how I approach work.

Consulting forces you to build a strong network across the industry, while you have to keep learning, finding solutions for different client challenges in different sectors and markets. It is fast-paced and you have to deliver value for your client from day one, there is no “settling in” period. So, staying on top of trends, consumer behaviours and emerging tech is a natural part of that process.

Keeping hold of that always-learning mindset from consulting is what I will always carry with me as I move back into my next client-side leadership role.

What advice do you have for individuals looking to become a Brand and Marketing leader? Are there any specific skills or experiences that are particularly valuable in this field?

Educate yourself - adopting that always-learning mindset is crucial, and not just the trends and emerging tech, but also about brands generally – why are some successful over the long term and others not? Study brands - love them, hate them, dissect them. Have a genuine interest in consumers, cultures and what is going on in the world. And if you can get some formal brand, marketing and leadership training under your belt, do it. If there are parts of marketing you’re not so comfortable with, be humble and seek out experts in those areas. Build your network of mentors and peers and continue learning from and with them.

See the big picture, but don’t neglect the detail - It doesn’t work to have one or the other. A great strategy and plan can fall flat with poor execution; equally the most beautiful, award-winning campaign can be rather pointless if it didn’t meet the strategic business objectives. So, if you’re leading marketing teams, you need to be able to recognise and redirect those potential issues before they happen.

Have a plan - On a very practical career note, understand where your passions and strengths are, what types of industries or businesses you want to work for and then start taking steps in that direction, so you are consciously cultivating a career path that is leading where you actually want to go. If you are lucky enough to choose, then each role you take should be helping you build a bank of knowledge, skills, experiences, and contacts that will support your next move.

Help those around you - be someone who others want to work with, help people climb who are further down the ladder than you. Speak up for those who are less able to. Keep your work in perspective. And enjoy it! It’s a fun, rewarding career and I love it.