November 16, 2018

Interview: Amanda Yogendran

Over the course of our careers in digital branding, we’re lucky to cross paths with one or two lights shining as brightly as Amanda Yogendran’s. Having moved to NYC a few years ago to join the team at BBMG, she’s bringing impact-focused brand strategy to the masses, so naturally we tracked her down to ask a few questions about how she’s able to keep it up, make an impact, and find time for herself.

Harc: When you were just a tiny little 8-year-old, what did you want to do when you grew up?

Amanda Yogendran: 8-year old Amanda dreamed of being a news anchor because it was one of the few jobs I could see as a kid. I wanted to reach people in their homes and tell them all the important stories that were going on in the world. Now that I think of it, as a brand strategist I get to do very similar work, I’m just on TV less.

Harc: Jeez, I wanted to be on TV so hard. As a brand strategist, there are binders full of potential spaces to apply your skillset to– when do you remember first deciding to get into the impact sector? What was behind that decision?

AY: I started my career in the non-profit space, working on issues that I was passionate about like gender and food justice. Somewhere along the way I realized the importance of doing cross-sector work so I made it a point to work across the private and public sector. I get to bring what I learn from each but still work on issues I care about.

Harc: That’s so rad. Your team consistently pulls off such beautiful work, and the heartbeat of each project is always so obvious. How do you keep so much skin (or heart) in the game?

AY: Wow, thank you! I think the driving force in our work is really understanding the human we’re serving and getting the client to see the world through their eyes. Whether it’s a young woman trying to manage her birth control, or an elderly person trying to access community services, they are at the center of every strategy and design decision. I think as agencies it’s easy to get stuck in our own process, but brands are just another way humans tell stories and find belonging. When you tap into core human truths, the work speaks for itself.

It also helps when you work with crazy talented, hard working people.

Harc: Remember the movie Love & Basketball? That’s basically all I can think of whenever I use the term ‘skin in the game’.

AY: You’d be surprised how often I think of that movie.

Harc: Annnnyyyway. I’m curious about how you build inclusion into your day-to-day strategy work. Is it something you think about often?

AY: I think about inclusion constantly. For a long time brands have gotten away with doing business as usual but get credit for some sort of kick-back or CSR initiative that exists in a silo. Companies can make philanthropic contributions to their communities, OR they can pay their employees a living wage so that they can live, work and contribute to their own communities.

Real inclusion requires a fundamental shift in our business models, and on a daily-to-day as strategist I focus on breaking down the silos between ‘the do good, kick-back programs’ and those core business decisions. What makes me hopeful is rising generation of consumers that are getting smarter, and whose expectations of brands are higher than ever.

Harc: As an expat living in NYC, I imagine you’re aware of your own inclusion in some gnarly new ways. How do you stay potentiated, amidst all that’s happening here in NYC?

AY: Well, it’s definitely an interesting time to be a Canadian in the US, especially a first-generation immigrant Canadian. What I’ve witnessed in this administration is that even though truth doesn’t matter, words do. They’ve intentionally used divisive narratives to exclude communities and create categories of us vs. them. It’s been a lesson for me to not get hung up on my ‘outsider-ness’ because even if you are born and raised in the US, your American identity is being questioned. In NYC, in response to hateful and divisive discourse, I’m seeing a lot of momentum and pushback from young people and communities who are eager to write a new American narrative – one that stands for inclusion and unity.

It’s like the whole country is having an identity crisis, I just hope we come out of it having found ourselves.

Amanda brings social innovation and entrepreneurship experience to BBMG where global brands like PepsiCo and Nestle and iconic non-profits like Acumen Fund and Ford Foundation have benefitted from her expertise. Prior to BBMG Amanda worked with social ventures in Cape Town, London, New York, Vancouver, Nairobi and rural Sri Lanka. She was strategy lead at The Goodforks, where she helped grow the market for high-quality food working with growers, catchers, and producers to bring their products to the world. Amanda earned an MSc in Population and Development from The London School of Economics.

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