Tricia Clarke-Stone ’98 is smart, stylish, and successful—ambitious, driven, and determined. Soon after graduation, she landed an entry-level sales job at Emmis Communications, where she made cold calls asking businesses to buy radio ads. Through guts and guile, she dramatically exceeded her sales goal, and she’s been doing it ever since.
Today, Clarke-Stone has risen to the top of the Big Apple marketing/advertising pyramid as co-founder and CEO of Narrative (previously the co-president of Global Grind), both collaborations with business magnate Russell Simmons. Narrative is a story-led marketing, entertainment and technology agency that designs experiences, campaigns, and products for brands across platforms.
"I want to create an agency for the future," Clarke-Stone said in a 2015 USA Today article, "The woman who used VR to sell the Stephen Curry basketball shoe."
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Indispensable to that task is technology, she says, from leveraging social media campaigns to harnessing virtual reality.
"Tech helps put people inside the story, and if we get the hearts, we get the eyeballs," she says, staying model-cool inside Narrative's 21-person midtown offices despite a broken air-conditioning system. "Tech is critical to this new ad ecosystem."
Her team recently used VR to help Under Armour launch its new Stephen Curry basketball shoe. The company invited journalists and bloggers to a Bay Area event where they experienced key parts of Curry's hoops life through Google Cardboard, the inexpensive paper holder that turns any smartphone into VR goggles.
The Narrative team put together a series of short films that showcased Curry's formative moments as a child, college player and professional with the newly crowned NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors.
"VR is the perfect platform for an immersive brand experience," Clarke-Stone says with a smile. "The shoe sold out."
And this past winter holiday period, Narrative was at it again, taking virtual reality to J.C. Penney's taking shoppers on an immersive ride to the North Pole dubbed “Twas The Flight Before Christmas."
According to a 2016 Forbes piece, the initiative was in place in four malls (one each in New York, Ohio, Arizona and Virginia), in a bid to grab consumer attention during the busiest shopping period of the year. It consisted of an Oculus Rift-based campaign where individual viewers could interact with reindeers and snowmen, as well as Santa himself, while a large screen was also set up for the rest of the audience drifting through the mall to enjoy.
“It was a really unique opportunity to take a legacy brick and mortar retailer and leverage technology in an authentic way and not just for the sake of it,” Clarke-Stone told the Forbes reporter. “We wanted to show a level of innovation being injected into the J.C. Penney brand, in tune with what consumers are looking for and how they want to engage. During the holidays, it’s all about driving traffic, so we thought what better way than by activating something in malls where shoppers are just a few steps away from the store location.”
Guess what? Clarke-Stone knew she had “found her calling” while taking the Skidmore business course, MB 107, in which her group formulated a plan to increase FOX-TV profits, presented it to real-life execs, and “aced it.”