Our talk with Dan Golden of Be Found Online brings us to discuss how brands can diversify through multiple channels. The full transcript for Talk Experiential episode #22 How Brands Diversify Through Multiple Channels is followed below.
#22 How Brands Diversify Through Multiple Channels
Dan Golden on episode #22 of Talk Experiential.
JOEY: Welcome back to another Talk Experiential podcast. We got Dan Golden from greater Chicago running a pretty cool company in Chicago. How you doing?
DAN: Doing well. Happy Friday.
JOEY: Happy Friday. Happy Friday.
DAN: Unless this gets published on, like, a Tuesday, in which case, happy Tuesday.
JOEY: You know, it could be a Tuesday, or a Friday, you know — hopefully it’ll be published soon.
DAN: All right, sounds good.
JOEY: Well, cool, Dan. Why don’t you tell us about yourself?
DAN: Tell us about Dan?
JOEY: Tell me about Dan.
DAN: President and Chief Search Artist of Be Found Online. I wrote a great digital agency. We’ve got offices in Chicago, London, opening one in Florida soon, Singapore, Belize. But Chicago’s the hub and we’ve been at it for about 10 years. We do everything other than build websites when it comes to digital.
My lens, I think, on experiential marketing, I think, has really changed over the last decade, as I went from being that digital whippersnapper, or the search marketer who scored everything that couldn’t be measured at the same level that we grew up tracking digital advertising. And I’ve been converted.
You know, as we think about what customers care about and what is an impression — I think that’s one question we’re often tackling. Like, what’s the value of an impression in search, an online video, if you don’t — if you’re not listening to it. Viewability. There’s so many different questions, trying to quantify the value of a brand impression and interaction, and that’s where I think the experiential comes in. Even if it’s one touchpoint. The value of that experience or depth of that experience is certainly at another level than did you see a banner ad.
JOEY: Right. I’m sure you’ve seen it over the years, too, just doing digital marketing and almost bring it into a digital world, too, right? You know, just how people click around. Instead of just clicking on a banner ad, click on something that they like that kind of hits their focal point and whatnot.
Regarding growing your business, digital marketing — how have you seen the landscape change over the years?
DAN: It’s noisier, and I think marketers say the same thing every year, and it’s true every year. The multitude of channels and the battle that we all have for attention. The complexity of having a strategy that spans Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google, display networks, content marketing, native ads. It’s like playing whack-a-mole and to have a cohesive strategy and a cohesive customer experience, as we’re targeting across all these different channels, it’s gotten harder to wrangle that stuff in and truly be an expert in each one of them, right?
As an agency owner, we’ve kind of grown horizontally as we offer more services, because we grew up in search and search is still a critical channel for every client we work with, but that’s one of those things and why I’m a believer in experiential and offline experiences that —
You know, I grew up in the demand capture business, and we could squeeze as much out of that sponge as possible, and that was kind of our secret sauce, why we grew so fast, is getting really good at capturing and converting demand. We work with a lot of brands where I’m like there’s a limit to how much you can get out of search and capturing these demands. You have to actually create demand and experiences and remind people about the brand even if it isn’t a direct response message. I’ve truly learned the value of all the other touch points. Even the ones I know nothing about.
JOEY: Right. Obviously you’ve built a pretty cool company. I mean, you guys are international now. Worldwide. Over the years, when you said it gets — it’s noisier — talk a little bit real quick regarding the demand capture, reminding people —
I know with marketing, just to get someone excited about it — or, at least, really remembering your brand, you need at least five to 12 touchpoints at some level to actually build that trust. What are the kind of things you’re seeing some of these brands are having to do these days to fight the noise?
DAN: One of the challenges is you have to be relevant to each platform. You can certainly take one subject or type of content or content theme or campaign, whatever you want to call it, but you can’t just spray and pray. Like, it — your creative on Instagram has to very much fit that format.
I think we’re years passed the old let’s just take our TV spots and run them on YouTube, right? That stuff doesn’t work either. You need to think about different formats, you need to tell a story in six seconds or convince someone to continue watching in three seconds. So, the formats are very different. Even if it’s one cohesive message you’re trying to convey as a brand, there’s still, you know, the challenge of telling that story in a bunch of different platforms. When you think about mobile consumption and mobile attention span relative to desktop and some of those more interactive experiences, it’s all about these tiny little moments and pockets of attention that brands need to capitalize on, and it differs across platforms.
JOEY: Right, platforms and clients too, right?
DAN: Yeah. In terms of growing our business, I’ve always gone where the food is. We haven’t built our own technology or spent three years working on something we hoped to offer. It’s all very demand driven, and as these platforms have popped up over the years — you know, a few years back, there were no Pinterest experts in my team. We had an opportunity, there was a beta on — you know, as their platform is coming together and I heard from some folks on the team, like, well, how can we sell this, we’ve never done it? I’m like nobody’s done it and our clients haven’t done it and no other agencies have done it, and we’re —
Like, believe in yourself that you can figure this stuff out, and test and learn quick, and you can become an expert. Right now, we’re doing a ton on voice search and the conversational experience between brands and their customers, and how do you personalize a brand experience at scale. This stuff is moving so quickly — I mean, that’s the fun in all of that, is figuring out what’s next and just having the confidence that — certainly, there’s plenty of things that agencies need to do and stay within their wheelhouse, to not say yes to everything, and I’ve always been committed to not doing things that we suck at and faking it, which is why we always like to have partners or partners like you if we need a client that needed an experiential campaign, but yeah, it’s move quick and figure stuff out. The clients we work best with are not afraid to fail here and there as you’re trying out new channels. That’s kind of having that risk tolerance — I think it’s key to being successful.
JOEY: I love it. You’re literally taking the entrepreneur approach, one, and you kind of have to, in — I feel like digital or a growing agency, you have to stay on top of where consumers are going, or consumers are even on a B2B level. What are people using. Because you can’t be stagnant. I see a lot of agencies, even big ones, that go down the same line and don’t even understand what Snapchat is.
We had a meeting with a potential client — we had a digital client partner — we were launching a brand here in Denver, and they couldn’t even explain the GPS tracking location for the filters. It’s definitely interesting and to your point, too, one, no one else is doing it, so let’s just learn it and provide it. Typically you’re going to have success on that.
DAN: Yeah, and there’s always a balance between chasing — I mean, I call a lot of things bright shiny objects, right? You have to balance chasing after those things and getting ahead of what’s next with driving revenue tomorrow.
You can’t gamble with 50% of your budget, but you probably should be gambling and testing out with 10% of your budget, you know? It’s easy to say that, and I also empathize with the position a lot of our clients are in, right? When you’re answering to the CFO and you’ve got quarterly revenue targets you have to hit, you can’t divert all your attention to shiny objects, but at the same time, you have to be pushing the needle and trying new things.
If you rest on your laurels, those channels dry up, right?
DAN: We work with a lot of clients that come to us and they’re either too dependent on Google or they built their brand through Facebook and costs are going up and they need to diversify and have new channels. Most brands we work with have a winner or a couple of channels that work really well for them, and that’s scary, right?
If you’re relying on one channel or platform or even just two channels and platforms — like, Google and Facebook change the rules like that. You have to be ready to pivot on a dime. You don’t want to be starting your testing when the ball drops. You want to have some emerging channels to shift to in a more practical way or less risky way versus starting from scratch when you’re up against the wire.
JOEY: You brought up a good point. I do see brands — seeing them focus on one channel and building their entire everything on that one channel and then they’re like yeah — your target market’s on this channel and it’s a huge lift — how do you approach those type of clients that are single-minded focused and you’re like dude, you guys need to find other ways to get in?
DAN: Yeah, I mean, it’s that. It usually helps to say the word dude, to kind of break things down, to be like you have to. It’s great that you’ve had this success on — there’s some amazing brands that have not spent a whole lot of media and built their brands on Instagram, and that’s awesome, and I don’t — you know, I don’t want to take away from that, because it’s hard, and there’s plenty of brands that try and do that and aren’t successful, but you got to be thinking about what’s next and where there’s scale, right? And a lot of that happens beyond the digital world, whether it’s experiential marketing or even TV.
There’s brands where I see — again, as the digital agency guy, where it’s like you need to create some bigger demand if you want to scale at the rate your investors need you to. If you really want to go after scale, some of these other channels definitely make sense.
JOEY: That’s good. Digital marketing, obviously, is something that’s a need. Especially in experiential marketing, when we do a physical program, we have to tie it into digital, because it’s stupid if you don’t. I’m just real about it. We hand out naked juice or some type of product — you can’t just hand it to them and they be excited about it. Why don’t you extend that engagement? I guess on a digital side, do you focus more on a consumer level or B2B?
DAN: The answer’s yes. We do both. I mean, we have some — I think a lot of the digital marketing tactics are very portable. Certainly there’s audience targeting and there’s a very different approach between B2C and B2B, but when you think about it from a platform and time and consumption standpoint, you’ve got a CMO that spends 30 minutes a month on LinkedIn and 30 hours a month on Facebook, right?
LinkedIn is a much more targeted platform, but there isn’t as much time spent, so there’s — I think there’s a big crossover between B2B and B2C, and a lot of the same — it’s a lot of the same channels and tactics, it’s just targeting and the creative approach which is different.
JOEY: Talking about BFO and how you’ve grown it — what’s your role? Is it a sales kind of role?
DAN: Chief Executive and —
JOEY: I know it’s everything.
DAN: A bit of everything, so —
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DAN: Over the last couple of years, my role has solidified a little bit more. And it’s more to be the external face of BFO. Doing podcasts like these, getting out there, talking to folks, talking to other agencies and finding out what’s next in the marketplace, right? What we need to be offering in the years to come and who we need to be partnering with for marketing channels that fall outside our wheelhouse.
It’s a fun role and certainly I’m not too detached from what’s going on here, but promoted some folks that are running a lot of the day to day and doing a great job and freeing myself and my cofounder Steve up to get out there and find new opportunities and represent the brand.
JOEY: Then it goes back to experiential marketing in a way. Now you’re actually experiencing — we’ve met before. Well, no, I’ve known you for a while, because you’re the bright orange guy online. You just stick out like a sore thumb.
DAN: In a good way.
JOEY: I mean, we went out in Chicago and what were you wearing? Like, cat pants?
DAN: Oh, the cat pants? Yes. The epic — well, the story was my cat — cat rest his soul — cat pants was our original BFO mascot, and some folks at the office were reminiscing about cat pants and ordered me these wonderful spandex cat pants that showed up on my desk about a month later. I think they had forgot they had ordered it, because I’m pretty sure they were here drinking late one night, but yes. Let me tell you, they’re comfortable. Spandex cat pants from China? Highly recommended. Just saying.
JOEY: Look, we were playing shuffle — what was it? Shuffleboard or something?
DAN: Yeah, yeah.
JOEY: They looked great. I mean, they looked comfortable, I guess. I wouldn’t say great. You definitely stuck out like a sore thumb. I mean, you’re almost experiential marketing in itself. You kind of are out there.
DAN: It is.
JOEY: In a good way.
DAN: In a good way. I mean, you have to break through, right? From an agency standpoint, we’re all data driven, we all — there’s so many clichés that are common, repeated. To break through and — I hate to say it, but an orange jacket — and I love orange, so it’s not disingenuous.
JOEY: Me too.
DAN: But little things like that that help a brand stick out are — it works. There’s a positive ROI to it. The experiential marketing campaign I’ve always wanted to do for BFO — I would call it the worst experiential marketing campaign ever, because a lot of the work we do is not sexy. We’ve got a team that is really good at math and they play with spreadsheets and machine learning algorithms and segmentation of campaigns. A lot of the stuff we do to host people is the boring, hard work that a lot of brands can’t do in-house or a lot of agencies can’t do in-house.
My thought is to get a group of our analysts, to put some desks at a street festival or at Lollapalooza, Burning Man — I wouldn’t do that, but — take it out of context, and just have them do a day of work optimizing client campaigns at an outdoor event and have it be the BFO experience.
The actual experience itself, I think, would be awful, and henceforth it would be the worst experiential marketing campaign ever, right? Someone walking by, they’re like why the hell are these people working here? But the tagline at the end, because this would all be great video content, is BFO, we do the hard work to make you money while you’re out having fun.
That’s really what we do. That’s our brand promise. A lot of clients rely on us to be watching the clock and looking at the campaigns and spend and moving all the levers while they’re focusing on their business.
That’s my digital marketing experiential campaign that would, in some cases be the worst, but I think the angle could really tell our story in terms of what we do day in and day out.
JOEY: I think it’s awesome. It sounds pretty cool. Kind of going back to experiences, you can bring an experience to a digital world. You know, it’s really — as you know, it’s evoking an emotion. Like oh, that’s stupid, but — well, they wouldn’t think it’s stupid, because they would just think it’s interesting, I think.
Like, oh, okay, I can rely on them while I have fun and trust them, you know?
DAN: Yeah. I think someone who saw the video would get it. I think someone who saw — like, why are these guys sitting at a desk in the middle of the street while we’re all out here drunk — they wouldn’t get it but that’s fine. I don’t think I’ve ever closed any business at a street festival so —
JOEY: Right. So, you live near Wrigley’s Field. You’re blocks from there, aren’t you?
DAN: I’m blocks from there. It’s a hop and a skip. It’s a great example. The park at Wrigley, they built this new outdoor — it’s got a field, there’s these fountains that my kids trounce around in. There’s a big screen. They do movies during the day, and it was called The Park at Wrigley, and about a month ago they finally branded it. It’s Gallagher Way. Gallagher is an insurance company, and I had never heard of them, and I was so — when it was announced we’re like there’s no way. We’re all going to call it the park. Nobody’s going to call it — a month later, we’re all like let’s go to Gallagher Way.
It is commonplace and I was noticing the other day that my brand recognition of Gallagher and what they do has gone up exponentially. As a marketer, when you see marketing working on you, it’s like — you’re like they got me. But it does — I mean, planting seeds, it works.
I have another fun example. I was with some friends. We went on the Bourbon Trail around Kentucky, checking out a bunch of different distilleries, and one of my good friends — he’s a sax player out of Nashville — Evan Cobb, you should get his latest album, Hot Chicken. Good stuff. He really wanted to go to Woodford Reserve. That was high on his list. We were there and they were playing Kind of Blue, Miles Davis, the quintessential jazz album most people have heard even if you’re not into it and he was like whoa, they’re playing jazz here? And we asked one of the people working here and she’s like oh, yeah, well, we’ve really been targeting the jazz listening audience, and it was at that point when he was like it worked. I’m totally their demographic, they’ve been targeting me and that has to be why I really wanted to go to Woodford. He didn’t even drink it all that much.
As a marketer, I know we’re always tough to sell to, but it’s funny when you kind of realize those moments, when you make those connections. Why did I think about this, or why is this brand in my consideration set and sure enough, there’s been touch points along the way that weren’t the last click that you clicked on before you bought something.
JOEY: What you guys do is — I almost think it’s an experiential marketing, just because you are evoking an emotion. First off, how the hell are you going to get someone to click on a button? That’s a feat in itself. And then especially —
DAN: Not only click on a button, but click on a button after providing your information that you know someone is going to call you back and try and sell you shit. It’s the art of persuasion. The brand experience of building trust and providing the carrot on the other end of that lead form. All of that stuff matters.
As B2B marketers, when marketing for B2B clients or agencies, there’s — I kind of have to wear two hats. I’m wearing one right now. The direct marketer that wants leads, performance, accountability for every dollar that’s being spent, but at the same time when you’re asking for that lead or requested proposal, whatever that is, I want someone to have seen positive content. We win awards. There’s all sorts of good news and stuff that isn’t a direct call to action. Once people have seen that multiple times in the back of their mind, it has built up that trust.
I think a lot of what we do in the digital world — there’s certainly conversion, but you’re building trust, so when you’re finally asked for that form or asked for the sale or asked to give a demo — whatever that call to action is — you’ve built trust in the brand and you do that through a landing page experience, through content marketing to talk about — it can’t all be direct response, right?
If you’re saying — I — and there’s plenty of agencies and brands out there where every piece of content at the end of the day is trying to sell me something, and it’s really easy to see through that, and consumers are becoming smarter, and on all of these digital platforms there’s a barrage of content. When we started doing Facebook ads, there was a 100x increase in the number of brands and content marketers. There’s so much out there. It’s a battle for attention. Brands have to be a lot more respectful of their customer and prospect’s time. You got to give out value and all of that stuff adds up over time when you’re finally ready to try and make the sale.
JOEY: I was just at Outdoor Retailer — it moved from Utah to Denver, so I was just here this week and I was talking to some folks about — a brand almost is a person now. Especially how one, there’s so much out there, and they almost have to take a stance. I mean, the one that I can think of is WeWork. They are now not allowing their internal employees to expense meat, and it’s interesting, right? Some people are like that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard and they’re going to be pissed off about it, but the other side is their target market is millennials and they’re helping the earth and kind of going down that route.
It’s definitely interesting how brands are taking a whole different approach on what they stand for. It can be either good or bad, right, for the brand?
DAN: Yeah, right. It’s risky. There’s some brands that do an amazing job of taking some of those calculated risks, even if they’re taking a polarizing position. Ben and Jerry’s, courageous brand in a lot of ways, but I also know they’re very calculated in the stances that they take.
I can’t say I’m really going out on a limb, but I started Employers for VTO. We closed our office on election day in 2016. I’m actually joining forces with ElectionDay.org this year, and I’m trying to get every one of our clients and partners and vendors to close on Election Day and make it a national holiday.
JOEY: Very cool.
DAN: Yeah, if it’s not going to — I’m not going to repeat all the stats, but most people that don’t vote do it because they’re too busy at work. Number one, right? That’s one easy thing companies can do to help take a stand, help people get engaged civically. Yeah, I mean, I think brands —
You got to be careful it’s not green washing or we did one charity event and then we’re going to promote the heck out of it for the next three months. It’s really easy, I think, for people to see through what’s not genuine or what’s — I would say lame — attempts at using philanthropy to drum up business, but people, and especially millennials, want to work with brands that share their values. I think there’s a lot of opportunities — and there’s ROI on that. I’m actually working on a couple different studies to try and quantify that and really figure out how running a conscious business — there’s a lot of ways it pays dividends, but from a marketing standpoint, how do you tell your brand story in a way people care about and believe in?
JOEY: Absolutely. That’s really interesting. I think, too, just back to your Election Day — you know, it just helps change as well. You know, get people involved in caring about something. Bringing your values to something you care about. For me, I care about a lot out there, but if my thing is — if I can’t change it, I’m not going to be so pushy over it. Me, myself.
Reality is reality. Where things are at. But if you can kind of help push that, I think that’s better.
Really quick, I wanted to ask you about Shaq and the Super Bowl.
DAN: I did give you a preview of my favorite experiential marketing — I guess being on this side of the fence. But yeah, I was at the — this was not the good Super Bowl, it was the one the Seahawks lost to the Patriots, whenever that was. A few years back. 2015, maybe.
Yeah, I got hooked up to the Budweiser Whatever, Whenever experience, and they took over a parking lot in downtown Phoenix and there were boats and there were — they put sand all over the whole thing. I could tell this was a whole — it’s very obviously a branded event. It was kind of Budweiser everything, but free beer, free food, all that stuff was pretty cool.
My favorite part of this whole thing was there was a big throne and there were a bunch of paint easels set up around the throne, and people were sort of stepping up. I missed it by one step. Not that I could actually paint, but I’m five feet away from the throne and there’s — the easel’s lined up there. Out of the blue, from behind a curtain, Shaq walks out and sits down five feet away from me in this throne and for a good 20 seconds we caught eyes, made eye contact, he was looking into my eyes, and he was doing a dance with his pecs while staring into my eyes. Shaq. Five feet away. Doing a pec dance.
That’s a brand experience that I will not forget. After that he did a DJ set, and in addition to being a very large human, he was actually a great DJ as well. That’s my favorite experiential marketing campaign, and let me tell you, man, that guy’s mesmerizing. He might have actually been trying to hypnotize me, and it might have worked.
JOEY: It might have worked. Now do you drink Budweiser every day? Not every day, but is that your choice?
DAN: Not every day. I still tell — on a hot summer day — and I could — I could drink nice beer. I like ales and dark lager and da da-da da-da — Busch Light is still my favorite beer on a hot day. It was my poison in college and something about it — that’s my cheap beer of choice.
JOEY: It affects an emotion that you had a long time ago, so you want to continue that.
JOEY: Through college. Well, very cool. It was good catching up. Thanks for jumping on here. I hope to see you soon. Hopefully in the next month or so, I’ll be out in Chicago.
DAN: Let’s make it happen.
JOEY: Sounds good.
DAN: All right.
JOEY: Thanks for joining.
DAN: Thank you. Cheers, everybody.
JOEY: Cheers. Bye.
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