B&T’s Industry Profiles: Imagination’s Carrie Arnold

B&T’s Industry Profiles: Imagination’s Carrie Arnold
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Groove is certainly In The Heart for Carrie Arnold, who is the business director, experience design at Imagination. Not only did she used to be a PA for Lady Miss Kier (of Dee-lite fame) she says she would love Kate Moss, Blondie and David Bowie at her last supper, and wants to sex up Barangaroo with a new precinct. B&T sat down to get the goss…

Which company or brand would you like to get your mitts on to transform and why?

I would love the opportunity to partner with Sydney’s local communities to develop a new kind of precinct experience for Barangaroo. It’s a really well designed development, however I do believe there is a great opportunity to bring it to life through fun, inspiring and useful experiences.

How would you go about it?

Give people something that adds value to their lives. I’d take a cue from Google’s Made with Code project for the White House, where they give girls from across the country to bring 56 holiday trees to life with code. What if you could support people from different walks of life to code, not only to code, but also to make and interact with inspiring immersive digital experiences? So what would this bring to our city? An iconic monument that’s enables people to learn new skills, to unify and entertain many different community groups from: students, technology start-ups, brands, educators and tourists.

What does your role as business director, experience design, entail?

My focus is to support our clients to create destinations that have a value to the people that will use them, whilst meeting commercial success for the people that own them. We do this through bringing spaces to life through technology, content and entertainment – to create truly inspiring places.

It’s our role to design intuitive connected experiences that enhance and transform the spaces where we work, shop, play and live, turning them into more vibrant, inviting and engaging places.

What’s been the most interesting brief you’ve worked on and who was it for?

In my previous role at Imagination I spent a considerable amount of time out in Detroit with Ford. Between 2008-2010 was a challenging time for both the auto industry and Detroit. As the global financial downturn hit the city hard, I learnt an important lesson: that if these brands fail, the implications to the communities that need to survive from these brands would be devastating. So, it’s our role to help make these organisations succeed. This has driven me to do the best by the clients that I work with, to help them create products and services that don’t just meet commercial ends but also helps the communities that they engage with.

What has been the most challenging?

Over the course of my career I’ve worked on some transformative technology programs, including MyFord Touch In-car interface, Nike + Kinect Training and Burberry World. Embedding game changing technologies is inherently challenging. When embarking on developing new technology experiences the first question to ask is – “is your organisation operationally ready?” There are two sides to ensure the operational success of any technology initiative. Firstly, internally you need the right talent and capabilities, and then, you need to embed a digital mind-set. The reason why Nike and Burberry were able to create game changing digital services was because it was central to their business strategy. From there they then built up the internal capabilities to then deliver on these strategies. It’s a journey to digital maturity – but by applying these conditions you will be setting yourself up for success.

What do you think are the most exciting things happening in the brand experience sector at the moment?

One trend that I believe will open up a wealth of rich opportunities to retailers, corporations and consumer brands alike is the convergence economy. The places we go to are increasingly becoming more multi-functional: hospitality is incorporating retail, workspaces are opening up in our cities precincts, and retailers are encouraging start-ups to share space and skills. What if it were a place where you go to see products and then go home and buy on-line, where retail is for theatre not about transactions? You could then leverage strategic brand partnerships with consumer brands that don’t have bricks and mortar – helping both businesses reach out to new consumer groups.

What gets your goat?

I’m an optimist in ambition and realist at heart, so l like to see the positive even out of the most difficult situations. I try to be as open minded, curious and tolerant as possible. Anything that’s in opposition to these things – you could say ‘gets my goat’.

Who do you look up to?

It’s an even split between Mariella Frostrop and Kristy Young – both extraordinary broadcasters and journalists with sharp intellect. However, what I most admire about them both is their ability to imaginatively empathise with their subjects, and also that they look at themselves with great honesty. These are great skills to have in business.

Do you have a mentor, or do you mentor anyone?

Yes, I’m a firm believer in mentoring. We all need a helping hand. My own mentor, Gwendolyn Parkin, has been a great guide in helping me make some pivotal career decisions. She has a great mix of understanding people and business, with an inspiring background: an MBA from Harvard Business School, an outstanding track record at Boston Consulting Group and marketing roles for American start-up People Express. It was her influence that encouraged me to start my own mentorship consultancy, Future Present: helping creative businesses make their ideas happen. Through this I’ve worked with some inspirational start-ups, including Hirsch & Mann, a physical technology company – whose sister company Technology Will Save Us is changing the technology agenda in education.

What would be your ultimate role?

In terms of role, Imagination has always suited me. This is my third time back. This is mainly because it’s such a creative organisation, full of big ideas and, most importantly, we have the talent to make those ideas a reality. However, I do have some personal ambitions. From my 15-year career working with global FTSE 100 brands I would like to apply what I’ve learned to start-ups, to then, vice versa, help global organisations learn from leaner businesses. I would love to transform retail experiences. One of my heroes, who is spearheading the way, is Alannah Weston – creative director Selfridges. As we search and shop on-line we need more theatrical, engaging experiences in-store. I studied Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art in London, so culture is in my blood. I would relish the opportunity to support our cities to use creativity and culture to meet commercial goals.

What celebrities do you most admire?

Alain de Botton – mainly because I wish I had come up with the ideas for both The School of Life and Living Architecture. I also admire his ability to make philosophy accessible, simple but not simplistic. However I would get Blondie, David Bowie and Kate Moss over for dinner – as they would be more fun! Sorry Alain.

What’s your favourite TV programme?

Absolutely Fabulous. I have attributes of every character rolled into one.

One thing no one knows about you?

I used to be the personal assistant to Lady Miss Kier, from 90’s NYC house group Dee-lite, best known for their seminal dance track Groove Is In The Heart. I’m sure you Gen X’ers have shuffled around the dance floor to some of her tracks.

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