We had the opportunity to speak with Monik Ladha, brand strategist at The Richards Group, about the opportunities that can arise after catastrophe and the power of transformation.
Can you tell us about your current role and responsibilities?
I’m a brand strategist at The Richards Group, so I live at the intersection of consumer behavior and economics. It’s an ever-shifting quest to understand why people choose to entertain, consider, and eventually support a brand or product through their words and/or wallets. And then, of course, helping businesses figure out how they can evolve to meet those realities. It’s a fun thing.
I’d say my main responsibility is to ask “why” and constantly be on the hunt for new perspectives. Constantly making a concerted effort to better understand a particular (business) problem or situation, gaining additional perspective while layering in my own, and finding ways to share those learnings clearly and effectively.
What drew you to work at this agency, and what opportunities does it provide to foster your professional growth?
Functionally, the people. I had experience in a past life working alongside a few folks from TRG and built some great relationships with them. The thinking was sound, the work product solid, the discussions engaging. That’s what put TRG on my radar five or six years ago.
Philosophically, the current inflection point for the agency. There’s no doubt the events of October 2020 were lifechanging for the agency—a lot of massive changes in a short amount of time. But what these “chaotic” or “catastrophic” moments often bring are material opportunities to reframe, rethink, reimagine, and restore. It’s an opportunity to make transformative, long-lasting change that, with some good thinking, execution, and luck, is for the better.
This inflection point also mirrors what we’re seeing at an individual and societal level, too, after arguably the most significant year of the century to date. We’re in this moment of “unsetting” at a macro level, and the agency is running parallel to that. It really is an interesting time.
The agency as a whole has been in the headspace of asking “why” for almost a year now. After hearing what several folks were feeling and thinking about the agency’s future and its potential and learning about the changes that had been made and are on the horizon, it seemed like an interesting opportunity to me. Being a part of an organization’s transformation is a gift. I’m happy to be a part of it here.
Are there any unused skills you have that you'd love to incorporate into your professional work?
I’d say it’s less about unused skills and more about learning, understanding, and incorporating new ways of thinking and doing into my work. Collaborating with new people, learning from them, putting new ways of approaching a problem to work. Not staying stagnant. Being intentional about making time to have the “meandering conversations” that tend to lead to something curious.
I suppose if there were a way to incorporate cooking into this job, I’d love to do that. That’d be a fun convergence of interests for me. Haven’t met a Dutch oven I don’t like.
Joining such a massive industry can be overwhelming. How do you stay informed and ahead of the curve?
I’m not 100% new to the industry, so from that standpoint it doesn’t necessarily feel overwhelming. In fact, it’s refreshing to be back in the industry after four years and with a different set of learnings/skills in my toolbelt. I’m excited about that.
Staying informed and ahead of the curve is an incredible feat, especially today with the amount of information – good, bad, real, fake, etc. – that we have access to in our pockets and at our fingertips. Filtering through all of that is a task in and of itself.
But I do my best to absorb information whenever I can. A lot of reading, listening, watching, observing, conversing, note-taking—the usual for someone in this field, I’d wager. I have a few colleagues who’d probably say I text too many links or go on too many tangents on any given day. I’m the person with six different browser windows with 30 tabs each open at any point in time. When iOS started tracking links in iMessage, I celebrated.
So being an information sponge in a functional sense helps me stay informed, but also finding time to walk around, check out things in town (I’m new to Denver, CO), cook or eat something new, go to shows or events, take pictures of random things. It creates a dynamic platform from which to build and think on. Getting out for a run is probably my favorite part of the day. That’s my time to focus without the laptop under my hands.
But taking all these inputs and connecting the dots, finding correlations to things I’m thinking about or working on, often in the most unsuspecting places/sources—that’s the fun part. And it generally leads to some great insights, conversations, and work for our clients and ourselves.
What areas in the industry do you believe could use an overhaul?
That’s a big question. Most imminently, the industry has work to do in how we address accessibility, transparency, diversity, inclusion, and equity to name a few. The marketplace at large has a similar challenge, but the agency world has some deep-rooted realities that it needs to come to terms with. That’s a big undertaking for sure, but a 100% necessary one.
Agencies enjoy the fortunate circumstance of being tasked with, first and foremost, seeing and being aware of what’s around the corner—in all senses. If put to work in the right way, we can help shape how businesses evolve over the next five to 10 years as they adjust to the new set of workplace dynamics and expectations that have been bubbling up over the last decade or so but came out full steam in 2020. Again, the unsetting or reckoning of things big and small has been nipping (or biting) at our heels for some time.
I would argue that that might be our greatest responsibility right now: to help ourselves, our clients, and the larger marketplace truly understand the value of the positive changes that need to happen. It is what will help underscore our sustainability.
Where do you hope this role will take you down the line?
Somewhere, I’m sure. A wise, green fellow once said, “Always in motion is the future,” so I think I’ll take his advice, sit tight, and see where this goes. Needless to say, I’m optimistic.