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A hybrid pool of skills intent on understanding the future: Meet Lesley Salem – the new Insight and Innovation director at Brand Genetics

Maslow once said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you start to treat everything as if it were a nail”.

Well, fortunately, the newest Brand Genetics recruit Lesley Salem has a tool for almost every possible situation. 

Her 25 years in insight and innovation have seen her excel on both client and agency side, as well as 6 years working independently with her own freelance business, Cultivation.

“As a child, it was a family joke that, at breakfast, I would ask what we were going to be eating for lunch. I’ve always had one foot in the future and a fascination with “What Next.”

Starting out as part of Unilever’s Graduate Marketing program, Lesley cut her teeth with managing Impulse bodyspray in the UK before progressing to lead the European Innovation program. Along the way, she also set up The Youth Board, a unit designed to better connect Unilever with the trendsetter-scene and youth tribes. 

Continuing to champion new ways of working, including “co-creating before it became a thing”, Lesley made her next move to agency Headlight Vision – where her passion for cultural tracking and emerging trends continued to grow.

“I discovered how trends could be tracked, years ahead of becoming mainstream, how they travelled and evolved region to region and that, despite disruptive forces, there are some fundamental psychological drivers that remain enduring.”

Thus, began a highly successful career that saw her spend time at The Body Shop and FutureBrand before a spell as an independent consultant.

“At the time I was criticised by some for jumping from job to job too quickly and having a meandering career path, but on reflection, I believe it’s been this hybrid pool of skills that developed my specialism in Insight and Innovation”

What unites this diverse journey is a love of disruptive methodologies – “unbound by traditional research” – especially when it comes to the challenges of youth and child research.  From Winnebago road trips around Europe at FutureBrand to establishing “Sprout”, a kids’ research unit at Spinach, Lesley continues to break new ground, wherever she goes. 

Lesley joins us at Brand Genetics, off the back of 2 years at Razor where she specialised in younger audiences and innovation, drawn by the cultural and skill diversity of our team, alongside a shared belief in storytelling.

“When we are working on projects, there are multiple perspectives and inputs to bring to the table, but all derived from a human-first start-point.  Culturally, BG is experimental and always embracing new ways to update and add to our diverse toolbox.  Personally, I’m really excited by the way we can use tech to further observe and immerse ourselves in people’s worlds, in a way that is natural and without a research bias.”

Asked about what she is excited about in 2019 it is clear Lesley continues to tackle the future head-on.

“Personalisation is the trend that excites me the most.  We’ve been talking about customisation since the ’90s but the way that personalisation keeps evolving is staggering. The impact for organisations is huge and challenging and is forcing our clients to rethink the way they operate, sell and fulfil customers’ needs.”

With boundless energy and bottomless positivity, it is clear that the same passion and drive that started her on this journey burns as bright as ever.

Welcome to the team, Lesley.

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