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Kaitlyn Barclay, CEO of Scout Lab — Interview Series

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Kaitlyn Barclay, CEO of Scout Lab

In a digitalized world that’s frequently neglectful of vital issues, there shines a bright light that has the power to elevate important subject matter into a much wider spectrum. As it turns out, Scout Lab—a creative communications agency based in New York—is one of the keystone torchbearers that’s currently making impactful contributions to the medium — not only for the sake of projecting its technical capabilities as a firm, but to also usher humanity towards even greater horizons. To learn a bit more about the work that the team is carrying out, I decided to reach out to Scout Lab CEO Kaitlyn Barclay.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Kaitlyn. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers? Who are you, and what position do you hold at Scout Lab?

Kaitlyn: I’m the CEO and Co-Founder of Scout Lab, a New York-based creative communications agency that works with companies like Adidas, Wix, Venmo, as well as challenger brands in human and planetary health. Prior to Scout Lab, I lived in San Francisco, worked in tech by day, and was an aerialist by night. After my last startup was acquired by ClassPass, I found myself leading acquisition marketing at Levi Strauss. In 2016, hungry to start something of my own again, I decided to move to New York City to search for my next thing. 

It all fell into place when I met my co-founder, Willow Hill. Over the past eight years we’ve built a team of 10, and have been able to work with culture-shifting brands around the world. 

While on the subject of Scout Lab — could you please tell us a bit more about it? When was the company founded, and what inspired you to dip your toes into the world of creative communications?

Kaitlyn: My co-founder Willow and I met serendipitously in New York City after two major inflection points in our careers. The first being that we had both just come off of scaling tech startups from the ground up. I had been on the founding team of a tech startup that was acquired by ClassPass, and Willow was the first brand hire at Airbnb, scaling them from one to 27 million reservations.

The second was the 2016 election.

It was a devastating moment, but it was also galvanizing. We saw storytelling at the highest level weaponized to spread hate, and win. Willow and I wanted to use our marketing expertise to make an impact, and so we started Scout Lab to support purpose-driven challenger brands that aimed to advance humanity forward.

So tell us, what sorts of services do you provide for your clients? You speak of establishing brands that have the power to “advance humanity forward.”  Could you tell us a bit about the process behind this?

Kaitlyn: We work on a lot of integrated brand campaigns, where we get to tell a brand’s story in clever and cross-platform ways. Video games are an epic convergence of tech and immersive storytelling, so they’re a great medium to make a point, like we’ve done in Yachtleship.

Our clients range from venture backed start-ups to public companies, and they come to us for branding, PR, and brand campaigns. We have the great fortune to work with visionaries who are genuinely nice people.

Scout Lab specializes in human and planetary health. We started in 2016 as an agency focused on purpose-driven work. As the term “purpose-driven” was cannibalized over the years, we realized that our definition of purposeful work centered around supporting both humanity and the planet’s wellbeing. So that became our new focus.

It’s evident that, as a professional firm, you put global conservation at the forefront of your work, too. In your own words, why do you think conservation is important, and how do you think Scout Lab can rectify the lack of awareness in the media?

Kaitlyn: 

All global human rights issues are intersectional to the problematic relationship humans have with their natural world. The idea that we are here to dominate the planet puts us at odds with our own self-preservation, and yet that’s exactly what most western cultures espouse. 

There’s interesting research on ecolinguistics, or how our language impacts our relationship with ecology. A 2017 study published by the Association for Psychological Sciences found that nature-themed words were disappearing from books, movie scripts, and most dramatically, song lyrics. Researchers analyzed the lyrics of 6,000 songs and found a 63% decline in the number of nature-themed words. It’s fair to say that as we lose our connection to nature, it’s less likely to be our inspiration for pop culture and music. It’s seen as both a symptom and a cause of behavioral trends of humans living in a way that threatens our natural world.

As a professional in the creative field, it’s important to me that we have an area of expertise in planetary health. It feels good to wake up and support companies that are making conservation mainstream.

Of course, as a gaming outfit, we’re definitely keen to hear more about the browser piece that you guys have recently brought to the table! Yachtleship — tell us a bit about that.

Kaitlyn: Yachtleship is a Battleship-style single-player game that pokes fun at the Cannes Lions award ceremony, and the homogenous group of holding companies that win Lions. Cannes is known for its yacht parties, so we swapped battleships for yachts and associated each one with a holding company. The captains in Yachtleship are the CEOs of the holding companies, and you’ll notice they all look the same. To play, you send killer whales to attack your opponents’ yachts, which is intended to imitate reality. The goal was to poke fun at our industry, and draw attention to the insular and political nature of the Cannes Lions award. 

And do you believe that video games, in general, should be making more of an effort to raise awareness about real-world problems?

Kaitlyn: Absolutely. Anyone who creates entertainment across any medium, especially marketed to young people, should be thoughtful about the underlying value system.

The world of gaming presents such a massive opportunity to uplevel the values instilled in storytelling, especially as the technology that enables gameplay improves. VR and AR shatter the boundary between reality and digital escapism. Cloud gaming will democratize access, making high-fidelity experiences available on any device. We’re in an era where hyper-realistic graphics and interactive streaming redefine engagement. It's a digital renaissance where gaming isn't just play—it's a deeply integrated social and cultural phenomenon. Video game creators should be conscious of the values they’re propagating.

What’s next for Scout Lab, if you don’t mind me asking? Do you have any plans to evolve your platform over the coming months or years? If so, could you share a few details or important dates with us?

Kaitlyn: We currently represent clients in the abortion care space that have a lot at stake this Supreme Court decision season. That is really gratifying and purposeful work. Also, nerve-wracking. We’re also working on some exciting creative projects with brands that have created solutions in mental health and planetary health which are launching at the end of this summer.

Not to mention, the election is coming up, so we’ll be busy supporting our advocacy clients to get the word out about what’s at stake. Perhaps another video game campaign is up our sleeve.

Is there a preferred way of staying up to date with Scout Lab? Are there any social channels or newsletters that we should know about?

Kaitlyn: You can follow us on Instagram @scoutlabco, or head to our website to sign up for our newsletter. We’re always posting about our latest and greatest work. Folks can get in touch with me at [email protected]

Any final words for our readers?

Kaitlyn: If you don’t see yourself in the video games you play, build them yourself. There’s so much opportunity to expand the values, representation and diversity of stories within the industry..

A study by IGDA revealed that games featuring diverse characters and storylines attract a broader audience, increasing engagement and sales. I hope everyone who’s interested in building in the space knows that they’re invited.

Amazing. Thanks for your time, Kaitlyn!

 

To stay up to date with Scout Lab and its ongoing efforts to broaden its reach in creative development and marketing, be sure to check in with the team over on their official social handle here. Alternatively, you can visit the team website for additional information here.

Jord is acting Team Leader at gaming.net. If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.