As part of an ongoing series highlighting young talent in the industry, Branding in Asia presents “One Under 30” – a special feature that focuses on up-and-coming talent in the ad world, one person at a time.
This week we talk to Mary Knickrehm, a native of Omaha, Nebraska, the 24-year-old who has settled into life in Singapore as the Founder & Director of 402 Marketing Collective.
Over the course of our conversation, she talks about how she got her first break in the industry, what she loves about the work, what she doesn’t like about it, and more.
Name: Mary Knickrehm
Agency: 402 Marketing Collective
Position: Founder & Director
Hometown: Omaha, Nebraska
Current Location: Singapore
How did you get your first break in the industry?
I landed into the digital marketing space in 2016 when I moved to Singapore to intern Style Theory. At the time, the company had just started operations and the team was the two co-founders and a group of interns. Funny enough, as an 18 going on 19-year-old I was the most senior marketing person in the organization.
Clearly, I did not know anything at that point, so naturally, we had to test things and learn quickly. After my internship, I ended up working at Style Theory full time for a year leading their digital marketing efforts. In 2017 I left my role at Style Theory to finish my bachelor’s degree at SMU.
After graduation, I already had a handful of clients from freelancing gigs, so I took that and started my own agency – 402 Marketing Collective. We’ve mostly specialized in performance marketing since opening shop in 2020 but recently did our first big creative campaign for Rémy Martin, “A Toast to Ambition”.
What is your personal mantra?
Put people first.
They always remember when you do.
From what person, place or thing have you drawn your greatest creative inspiration?
I think my experience at Style Theory shaped me tremendously. Working in a startup environment really taught me how to not only carefully identify and define problems but also think through them and create effective solutions.
When I first started working there, we literally started with a budget of $300/month. Naturally, we had to get creative to make every dollar, every message, every effort count – and we did. In just a year, Style Theory had grown so significantly, that there was a waitlist of over 10,000 women to subscribe.
Thankfully, they raised their Series A funding to support their growth (and have since raised $15M in their Series B round) – they are now the largest circular fashion platform in Southeast Asia.
Whether I’m working with small businesses or global brands, I always look for solutions that can have the largest possible impact with the resources we have available and make sure it counts. When you force yourself to be crafty, you can stay focused on what really matters. It’s not sexy, but the “think big, start small” philosophy has never failed.
What do you love about the job?
When things go well (haha). Kidding – but seriously the thing I love most about the work that we do is seeing the impact it has on real people – both clients and consumers.
We recently ran a campaign spotlighting local musicians for Rémy Martin. As part of the campaign, we curated a playlist of music by up-and-coming hip-hop, rap and R&B artists in Singapore.
“Whether I’m working with small businesses or global brands, I always look for solutions that can have the largest possible impact with the resources we have available and make sure it counts.”
One of the featured artists reached out to me to share that before the campaign came out, he was considering giving up on his music, but being recognized by a global brand like Rémy Martin reinvigorated his ambition to keep going. That was an incredible feeling.
What about your job are you not so crazy about?
Honestly, the management aspect. I think I’ve succeeded as a marketer because I love marketing. But as an agency owner, it’s not just about being a great marketer. It’s also about accounting, hiring, cash flow, and internal processes – These are things that are necessary to run a business, but not necessarily things I enjoy.
What is some work you’ve done that you’re most proud of?
“A Toast to Ambition” for Rémy Martin. This was our first creative campaign as an agency and a first for me personally. It is an extension of Rémy Martin’s global #TEAMUPFOREXCELLENCE initiative – the primary requirement of the brief was to integrate Singaporean musicians into the campaign.
To be honest, when I first got the brief I scratched my head – Singapore isn’t exactly known for its music scene. There are a few big-name artists in Singapore that most people have heard of (and many brands have worked with) but when we really started to dive deep, we discovered so many incredibly talented, independent artists that are under the radar.
Talent like that deserves to be heard, so we put these artists front and center in the campaign to celebrate the people, passion and perseverance that drives their pursuit of excellence in their craft.
Ultimately, I am really proud of the approach we took. We really looked beyond simply “what can this campaign do for the brand?”, and instead looked at how we could take this opportunity to really showcase and support local musicians while still achieving the brand’s objectives. The response to the campaign was incredible – particularly from the music community in Singapore.
I am also proud that as a team we just went for it. When the opportunity presented itself, it was totally unexpected. We didn’t have to pitch the idea and take this on, but I am so glad we took a leap of faith and did. Our whole heart and soul went into this, and I think it definitely shows in the work.
If you had to choose another career what would it be?
That’s a tough one. I would probably say Gemologist/Jewelry Designer. In the agency world, you’re in the business of making other people (clients) money and keeping them happy (I enjoy this challenge very much, otherwise I wouldn’t be in this business. But I will admit, it can be a stressful endeavor).
In the jewelry world, you’re in the business of getting other people to spend their money and making them happy. Plus, I’m like a goldfish – I love sparkly things.