Kate Cronin | The Innovator 25 North America 2022

Kate Cronin

Chief Brand Officer

Cambridge, MA

“Innovation can come from anywhere. It’s important to embrace other’s point of view and get diverse perspectives.”

Hired by Moderna in 2021 after 17 years at Ogilvy, Kate Cronin has ushered in a new era of comms for the pharmaceutical giant, including a first-ever large-scale activation at the 2022 US Open. Partnering with Billie Jean King, Cronin orchestrated Moderna showing up at the tournament in ways more typically associated with traditional sports sponsors like breweries and sports shoe companies, on digital billboards within Arthur Ashe Stadium. A video featuring King aired on the stadium jumbotron, announcements throughout the night highlighted Moderna’s leadership in mRNA vaccines, and every attendee received a Moderna-branded flag. The activation shows how, as chief brand officer, Cronin is changing Moderna's communications so that the brand meets consumers where they are at – in this case, at the start of Covid booster shot season. 
Subsequent market research and surveys showed Moderna was, indeed, at the right place at the right time:  the US Open activation led to increases in brand favorability, recall and preference.

How do you define innovation?
The creation of something new and unique that generates value for your customers and/or society.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
I'm very impressed with Apple's 'The Greatest' campaign. It represents a window into how technology creates accessibility for people with disabilities. It is also very moving, with Muhammad Ali's words put to a soundtrack. It's incredibly joyful and upbeat.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
I've seen really innovative work across all industries. The use of AI in innovative marketing (e.g. Heinz) also takes it to a new level. Companies that tap into a moment in time or a crisis are also pretty innovative, including 'Bring Home the Bud' and 'Corona Extra Lime'. Innovation comes from a channel-agnostic place and grows from there.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
At this moment, I'm feeling most innovative. We have done some incredibly cool things at Moderna. I'm using generative AI on a daily basis, our creative work is innovative working with our partner TBWA, and I'm inspired by the impact and potential of our mRNA technology.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
Our scientists at Moderna are incredibly innovative, constantly evolving our technology to prevent and beat diseases from Covid to cancer to rare diseases. They problem solve on a daily basis. I've learned that curiosity is a highly underrated quality.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
I get inspiration from nature. Skiing, swimming, hiking or anything outdoors tends to open up my mind and give me the inspiration I need to ideate.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Innovation can come from anywhere. It's important to embrace others' points of view and get diverse perspectives. I often say read something completely different or to go an event you wouldn't normally go to. It can be the seed of inspiration needed to innovate.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
I enjoy renovating and restoring old homes. I like to see the potential in an old home and then bring back its original beauty.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
I always enjoyed 'How I Built This', which taps into innovators and entrepreneurs and their stories. I also loved Barbie and will stream great shows like Only Murders in the Building, which is truly delightful to watch.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
We have employee resource groups for a range people from LGBTQ, working parents, people with disabilities and their allies, Hispanics, Blacks and many others. We often tap into these folks to get their insights and ideas and ensure that our work resonates with the right audiences.