Our talk with Mike Brant of Mile Zero brings us to discuss how to take sponsorships from billboards to live events and festivals. The full transcript for Talk Experiential episode #25 Sponsorships: From Billboards to Events is followed below.
#25 Sponsorships: From Billboards to Events
Mike Brant on episode #25 of Talk Experiential.
JOEY: Welcome back to a Talk Experiential podcast. We’ve got Mike Bryant from Mile Zero; founder and CEO. Thanks for joining.
MIKE: Absolutely. Thanks for having me, Joey. I appreciate it.
JOEY: Yeah, well we just recently worked together at the Taste of Colorado here in Denver. It’s interesting how kind of similar backgrounds and similar people we know throughout the years. So, it’s a small knit industry.
MIKE: Yeah. No, absolutely, and even connecting on this podcast. I mean it’s funny that we did a deal together at the Taste and now we’re sitting here chatting. [0:00:35.7]
MIKE: Small world.
JOEY: Right? What a small world. Well, I’d love to dive in. The conversation’s going to be around sponsorship. You have a huge sponsorship background. I’d love to hear about your background.
MIKE: Yeah, absolutely. So, like I’d mentioned before, I got my start in baseball. I started in minor league baseball. That’s where I wanted to kind of cut my teeth and start on the sale side of professional baseball and I worked for a team called the Normal Cornbelters out in Normal, Illinois during grad school and started work there, got a job with the Royals and started to do some corporate sponsorship with the Royals and realized it was not really the path I wanted to take. Alternately, I wanted to get to the Sox or the Cubs – being a Chicago boy – but alternately, in professional sports you go where the jobs are at. And, ultimately, I wanted to stay home – that’s where my wife and my family’s at – and I had an opportunity to come out with a company called Red Frog Events in Chicago and was able to kind of cut my teeth there and really help from a sponsorship prospective build their business from the ground up. I got in when Red Frog was kind of a tiny little company and it was starting to really grow and blossom and [0:01:40.9]was in full swing at that point and a few years later we launched Firefly Music Festival on the east coast and the opportunity to sell sponsorships for that festival for a handful of years.
And as I grew with my time at Red Frog, I said, “I really want to do this for myself and really help people in this industry – the festival industry and the event space – from a sponsorship prospective and really help them build their business, and that’s kind of where the idea of Mile Zero grew.
I was able to connect with a few event producers in the Midwest and they really – they had nobody doing it and there was really a hole from their sponsorship prospective and had a lot going on and was able to kind of dive in and utilize the contacts and the folks I’d met along the way at Red Frog and Firefly and really tap into the relationships that I’d built over the last four to five years and helped a group that I was working with in the Midwest with their festivals and it kind of just spiraled from there and a lot of it now has just been word of mouth, folks that I’ve done work with or clients that I’ve done work with have referred us to their event folks or friends or people in the industry and that’s kind of how we grew Mile Zero and that’s kind of where we’re at today.
JOEY: Awesome. Well, congrats.
MIKE: Thank you.
JOEY: That’s pretty neat to be able to go from these bigger programs and I feel we’ve actually stacked a few things. We never worked together at Red Frog but we did a bunch with the Firefly Music Festival.
MIKE: Yep; yeah, absolutely, and even knowing Natalie on the marketing side. A lot of folks that we’ve come across – our paths have crossed, definitely, and now they’re obviously crossing on another level, which is pretty cool, too, from a sponsorship prospective.
JOEY: Yeah, absolutely. So, it looks like you guys work with festivals all across the country. How many festivals and events are you guys working with?
MIKE: I mean it kind of ranges. I’d say at our peak right now we’re probably at 15 properties, across the country. We really started in core music festivals. That’s kind of where we started the business and helping the standard music festival where – 2-3 day music festival with a camping element and kind of started to kind of spin off to these ‘Taste of’ festivals and other areas that we found that really need help, that have a huge [0:03:48.9] or a huge attendance, like the Taste of Colorado, for example. We’ve got 500,000 people and there’s a huge opportunity from a sponsorship prospective there and I think we’re starting to identify some underserved industries where the potential for sponsorship is really great but no one’s really identified it and I think that’s kind the route we’re taking as a company, is identifying those events or festivals that we really can make a splash in, from a sponsorship perspective.
JOEY: Awesome. Just with your experience, you’ve been in it for quite a while and you’ve seen different brands, wanting to activate different things – What are you seeing right now with brands and what their kind of goals – Have things changed over the years of what they’re looking for and what they’re wanting? I’d love to get your thoughts on that.
MIKE: Yeah, absolutely. I think, back in the day, it used to be as easy as just a sign up on a billboard or a banner at an event or a festival, and now it’s certainly changing. People want to be engaged. They want something that they’re excited about. They come to the festival and there’s music, there’s food, there’s other activities that go on and a sponsorship is just their layer on top of that event and I think brands are realizing, “Wow, we’ve got to do something more creative to engage these folks and to really bring them to our space,” as opposed to just throwing up a sign on the main stage or a logo on the main stage.
These brands are investing a lot of money in these really cool experiential activations that have a sampling component and then it’s a drive to retail. We just worked with a brand called Kevita Kombucha. It had a two story activation where you can go and you could sample a flight of kombucha – three different flavors – and then go up and watch music from their second platform, on top of the activation. So, things like that. I think people are really resonating with the millennials and the groups that are really coming to these festivals and those brands, I think, are realizing that it needs to be more engaging, from an experience standpoint.
JOEY: Right. Well, and especially this day and age, just with technology out there, how do you get in front of millennials? I think millennials – I don’t know if you see it but millennials have been a huge target for brands. How do you get in front of them? They kind of have the biggest bucket of opportunity, so that’s why a lot of brands are looking to target those. I know brands like Verizon has literally changed their logo –
JOEY: – and their whole focus on millennials, but for sponsorship, I guess do you guys see the bigger activations or a bigger type of presence they’re wanting, compared to a 10X10 booth at these festivals?
MIKE: Yeah, absolutely. I think those are the most success for the brands that are investing some dollars on the activation piece of things, and not just popping up a 10×10. Those are obviously successful for certain brands, but brands that are willing to invest a little bit of money to bring something that’s really cool and unique to the festival, and then on top of that, not only activate onsite, but from start to finish and telling that full story because there’s still – Ideally you want to capture somebody that’s pre-festival, during the ticketing process, onsite post festival, and keep those people’s engagement and attention throughout the course of the span of the sponsorship and I think brands that do that do it well, from a social perspective, from a marketing perspective, and really build a whole campaign around what they’re actually doing on-site and doing a really good sponsorship from that perspective, I think, is really important.
JOEY: Right, absolutely. Very cool. What’s some big events are you guys working on right now?
MIKE: So we just wrapped, obviously, the Taste of Colorado this past Labor Day weekend, we’re starting to, obviously, gear up now for 2019, which is crazy that we’re not even in October yet, but we’re certainly in our sales cycle for that festival. We’ve got a few festivals in Vegas, in the craft beer side, that we’ll be activating here in the next couple months. And then again, just rolling over some new clients that we’re in the process of talking to, we’re excited to roll out some new properties and some new clients that we’ll be on boarding here in the next couple months and I think from our prospective we’re obviously hitting the ground running from a sponsorship prospective, but now is a time where events and festivals are starting to reach out to companies like us and say, “Hey, look, we know this is the time we should be really hitting sponsors. Let’s have a conversation to really start that process.”
So, that’s kind of been our focus, from year to year. We obviously start or current sale cycle with the clients we have and now we’re starting to talk to new potential clients, starting to onboard those folks as the coming months progress here.
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Perfect. So, I guess that’s great topic that you brought up is right now, usually – Right now is almost – I wouldn’t say behind the ball for next year but a lot of brands are looking for next year, 2019.
JOEY: You can’t just throw this together. You might have a spot or whatnot but experiential marketing, anything physical takes a lot of time and effort to put together, but I guess, do you have any tips for these brands looking for festivals to be at that you’ve kind of seen that might be beneficial for them?
MIKE: From a brand prospective?
JOEY: Yeah, from a brand prospective.
MIKE: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of – I think it probably has to come from a couple different angles: Who you’re really to target from a demographic perspective and then boil it down from, “Are we looking to target people at music festivals, are we looking at craft and food festivals, are we looking at 5k sporting events?”
It kind of just depends on what their goals are, from a marketing perspective. And I think when a brand starts to realize, “Okay, this is the budget we have, this is who we’re trying to target, and this what our activation looks like. Now, let’s go out and find those events,” and that’s – Really, where our core focus is obviously client driven and supporting the events and festivals we work with but, ultimately, we want to be a resource for those brands and those agencies that are looking for properties, like the ones we represent and educate those folks too and say, “Look, we’ve got a slew of different things going on that might fit what you’re trying to do. Let’s have that conversation because we want to be a resource for your brand or the agency looking for these types of events and festivals,” and I think we’ve had some good success with that, saying, “Hey, look, we’ve got the food festival, we’ve got some music festivals, we’ve some food festivals, tell us what you’re looking to do and we’ll make some really concise decisions on where we think you guys should be from a brand prospective and your overall goals from a marketing perspective.”
JOEY: Right. No, very cool. And I know that – So, you guys do a little bit more than just the sponsorship. You guys work with the event management. You guys are pretty much event management for like – Let’s just talk about Taste of Colorado, for instance. You guys kind of put the whole show on?
MIKE: Yeah, so we don’t just sell in a sponsorship and say, “Here you go guys. Activate it,” we’re truly soup to nuts, from start to finish. We’ll sell in a sponsorship and then we’ll obviously activate it onsite. And then another part of our business, too, is event operations and that’s ultimately, from our prospective, we want to start getting into our own events and start producing our own festivals and really working with brands to say, “Look, we know what kind of brands are looking for, from an event prospective, let’s start build some things around that and really make an experience that really ties into what some of these brands are looking for, from an event prospective.”
But yeah, obviously, from my time at Red Frog and what we’ve done at these other events, we’re not afraid to get on a forklift and set up tents and tables and chairs. I think it also is helpful to have that event experience than coming onsite and realizing this is what takes to help get a sponsor setup or this is a really high traffic spot, from an event prospective; this is where we should be putting this brand or this activation based on the flow of the festival or where we really think this is going to be a success for the brand. So, I think having that understanding from the event perspective is also helpful when obviously selling in these event partnerships, as well.
JOEY: Yeah. No, absolutely. That experience is definitely key. This is kind of a random question but – Like I said, you’ve done this quite a while. What’s the coolest activation you’ve seen? It doesn’t have to be the one that you’ve done? Kind of a broad question.
MIKE: Man, that’s a tough one.
JOEY: I know it’s tough.
MIKE: That’s such a loaded question. No, we’ve obviously worked with a lot of cool brands, a lot of cool activations – I think one of the most fun ones I think that I had that opportunity to work on was with Garnier Fructis at Firefly, a handful of years ago. They set up this really cool activation where you could go take a shower in the campgrounds and then you’d come and they’d style your hair, they’d have all the sorts of products, and it was basically like this beauty bar. But it was this 40×40 foot tent where when you’re at a festival for three or four days and you’re sweating and you’re not really showering because you’re camping for three days in 95 degree weather, it’s pretty cool to be able to say, “Hey, look at Garnier. They got all this free product, they’re going to help me do my hair up for the rest of the festival and kind of refresh you for the next couple days.”
So, I think not only from an attendee prospective, the experience is great, but from a brand prospective, I think that was a really good sponsorship because you’re not just putting a logo on a t-shirt or handing out a bandana, you’re really engaging the consumer, the participant at the festival. You’re offering something that’s really beneficial and really, ultimately, I still use Garnier Fructis, no joke, at our home, just from that partnership. We had so much free product and now that’s all my wife buys.
So, I think that’s just kind of a good example of a really good start to finish partnership where they had a great activation, a great engagement from a consumer standpoint and I think that really this can allow people at Firefly or across the board, now I use Garnier Fructis because I had such a good experience with that brand on-site.
JOEY: Yeah, very cool. Regarding experiential marketing, I’ve seen a lot of – Even just the last year or two, I’ve seen a lot more companies taking their ad spend from to digital and taking it to a physical level. Have you seen a jump here the last couple of years of more people wanting to be able to be at these events and be at their target market?
MIKE: Yeah, absolutely. And I think – And maybe I’m wrong but I think a lot of the reason is just we’re so – We don’t have enough time in a day and our attention is all over the place with emails and Instagram and Facebook and social media and I think actually engaging someone onsite – They’re there for a reason, right? They either want to see music or they’ve paid a fee to get into a festival and I think brands are realizing, “Wow, this is a really captive audience.
If we could do something that ties into the festival in a really organic way, let’s talk to these people on the ground and give them something or call to action then drive back to – like I said – retail or social media then, on the backend. I think people get to site or at an event and they’re all over the place: they want to see everything and engage with people, and from a sponsorship prospective, I think that’s been really beneficial for a lot of brands is to maybe get a product in somebody’s hands or a coupon or just engage them and educate them and educate them about a new product or maybe something that they’re pushing for the following year or that current year, even.
So, yeah, that’s certainly our core business, really, is setting up these activations and allowing folks to come onsite and set up these cool experiences and then obviously on the backend, tying it into other assets with digital and social and marketing and that sort of thing. But, the onsite piece, I think, has been super important for a lot of these brands in the last – I’d say – four to five years.
JOEY: Yeah. No, absolutely, and I think it’s just going to continue because it’s just – The digital side is just going to continue to be almost too much for you.
JOEY: Being able to just get that captive audience, like you mentioned, just have a spark in their mind, “Man, I’m going to remember this forever,” but then have a brand attached to it that’s meaningful and kind of focus on them, I think that’s huge.
JOEY: Regarding Taste of Colorado, there’s a lot of vendors too, right? I got a chance to walk around there. It’s an interesting type of activation just because there’s some – I don’t know, it’s different type of just mom and pop shops that kind of jump in.
I think their goal more is just for daily revenue, I assume, right, compared to a brand like Boss Coffee, that we did. They want to push – Boss Coffee, we wanted to do two things: we wanted to get people to try a new product that no one’s tried before and then also a social media aspect, whether post it or like their page.
I guess with – just with the vendors, I guess what we do is not cheap, right? Even being a sponsor isn’t cheap but it can really differentiate where you’re going and figure out exactly where your target is. So, I guess, I don’t know; do you have any thoughts on that, on how are these mom and pop shops are doing, compared to a bigger brand?
MIKE: Yeah and absolutely, I think there’s maybe that misconception too of what a vendor and what a sponsor are.
MIKE: I think people say, “Well, we want to be a vendor,” but I think those two names are kind of interchangeable when I think they’re a little different when you kind of look at it from what your point was. I kind of call those mom and pop shops or the folks that want to sell their trinkets or maybe beef jerky or whatever they’re doing from something crafty or what have you, those vendors have a place in the marketplace at the Taste of Colorado and I think they’re a little bit different than a Boss Coffee or a sponsor that’s setting up a large activation or sampling a product.
I think there’s two differentiations where a mom and pop might just be paying a couple hundred bucks to set up a 10×10 and showcase whatever they’re offering is and make a profit on that at the Taste of Colorado or a Boss Coffee or a Kevita or a Frito Lay, where they’re pushing something from a marketing perspective, where it’s a little bit larger, where we’ve got this new product that we’re really launching and we’ve got a whole marketing campaign around it and brands like Boss or Kevita have identified Denver as a market and said, “Okay, now we want to be at the Taste of Colorado,” these are the folks we want to talk to because ultimately we’re looking to enter this market in a big way and now we’re able to talk to all these folks onsite, we’re allowing them to try the product, and now, hey, all of a sudden you’re going to go to King Soopers or a store and it’s going to be all over the shelves, and hopefully those folks now try that.
So, I think there’s a little bit of a differentiator between what a true vendor is and what a sponsor is. There’s obviously some gray lines and everyone’s kind of looking to get the word out about their brand or their name or their product, but ultimately, I think from a sponsorship perspective it’s a little bit of a deeper level where they’re really activating around this entire activation, it’s not just, “All right, we’re going to set up a tent and let’s sample some product.” We’re going to try, like you said, to get some – drive traffic to Facebook or increase our presence on social or we’ve got a new product that we’re offering. So, I think there’s a little bit of differentiator there, between those two.
JOEY: Well, awesome. Well, Mike, it was awesome having you on and it was a real pleasure working with you. You guys put on a great event and I hope we can do some more and hopefully have you on another podcast and meet you in Chicago, hopefully soon.
MIKE: Yeah, absolutely, Joey. I appreciate the time, man. It’s great to connect. I’m excited as our first podcast and it was with you and Talk Experiential, so we’re excited that you had us on. And, absolutely, we’re excited to keep chatting and hopefully we can do this again sometime.
JOEY: Awesome. Thanks so much, man.
MIKE: Cool. All right, Joe, we’ll talk soon.
JOEY: Take care.
MIKE: All right, bye.
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Our talk with Taylor Justin of Coca-Cola brings us to discuss how to drive innovations in trends. The full transcript for Talk Experiential episode #24 Using Trends and Insights to Build Actionable Data-Driven Results is followed below.
#24 How to Drive Innovations in Trends
Taylor Justin on episode #24 of Talk Experiential.
JOEY: Welcome back to another podcast with Talk Experiential. I am Joey Kercher, your host. We have Taylor Justin from Chicago, Illinois. She is the market development manager for Coca-Cola in downtown Chicago. Thanks for joining.
TAYLOR: Thank you for having me, Joey.
JOEY: Yeah. We’ve been talking for a little bit so I’m pretty excited to get you on here. How’s the weather out there? Is it starting to get chilly in Chicagoland?
TAYLOR: It is but, it’s like – I don’t know; I personally enjoy this type of weather. I’m an Ohio girl so I’m used to the cold. I will say that there’s a difference between Chicago’s cold and the rest of everywhere else that gets cold weather, but you know, it’s not too bad. We’ve had some – We’re going to have some peak spike days so, for the most part, I’m enjoying it.
JOEY: Right? Well, good. Well, good, it’s always a fun place to visit.
JOEY: Well, cool. Why don’t you tell us a little about your background and we can kind of dive into some of the work you’re doing with Coke.
TAYLOR: Yeah, so as you mentioned in my intro, I am market development manager with Coca-Cola, in the downtown region of Chicago. Primarily, I manage and go some of the most affluent accounts in the city. Northwestern Hospital is one of my biggest accounts: a very reputable and well known hospital in this state, as well as The Rehabilitation Center, which is a part of the Northwestern campus, also very well known in the healthcare sector. I manage a host of business professional accounts that have their food service in well known facilities such as the Aon Building, Prudential, as well as NBC Tower.
And then finally, I retain the business, also, for a host of what we deem quick service and full service restaurants in the downtown area, so the RPMs of the world, really well known restaurant groups like Let Us Entertain You, and a host of other really fantastic restaurants in the area that I’ve been able to build really long term partnerships with, since managing this part of the city.
JOEY: Gotcha; very cool. So, it sounds like you work with – We were talking a little bit earlier before regarding kind of an on-premise focus for Coke – and I assume it’s multiple brands for Coca Cola?
TAYLOR: Definitely. So, it’s always interesting to have the conversation about what falls under the Coke umbrella, because people still think that we still classic Coke.
JOEY: Right [0:02:41.3].
TAYLOR: That’s it; nothing else that I’m pushing out here. But, no, there’s a host of brands that people know and love and might be surprised about that falls under the Coke umbrella.
So, some of my favorites are Smartwater -that’s under the coke family – the Minute Maid line of juices is under Coca-Cola, Honest Tea is a Coca-Cola Brand – I remember I met a guy who seems like he was very anti-corporation and when I told him that we have Honest Tea under our portfolio and he – it seemed like everything just left his body. He was just so unhappy. And I’m like, “You know, it’s kind of one of those things.”
But, what’s great about these brands and the business that Coke has is that they’re a beverage company and that’s all that they do, and so they beauty of the brands is that they don’t fall into one another, like most people don’t realize that all of these different brands – many of them being their favorites – fall into the Coke umbrella because they act separately.
Internally, we have different ways of looking at it but even we have different teams that operate some of our well known brands differently because they target different consumers and because of that, they’re all not going to be treated the same. So, that’s what’s pretty cool about having all those brands that I’m able to sell, is that even though they’re all under one family – I get to sell them all – that they still manage to reach people differently as well.
JOEY: Right, gotcha; very cool. Well, and I know that, yeah, these big companies: Coke, Pepsi – it’s a lot of different brands under one and they’re almost m&a shops, when you really look at it, from a big picture. So, you focus on certain hospitals and hotels and things like that?
JOEY: Awesome. And, from that side, you were talking about immediate consumption type of product. This is obviously a form of marketing and obviously a channel – We were talking about this earlier: this is a channel that Coke sees very valuable to continue through at these locations. Let’s talk a little bit about what your goals and strategies are, offering Coke product, whether it’s through merchandizing or through activations.
TAYLOR: Yeah. So, with these accounts, one of the things that I really try to focus on is who’s consuming these beverages? So, immediate consumption is essentially like a single serving of something. So, when you think about your fountain machines or if you go to your favorite restaurant, you’re most likely just getting one or perhaps two of a single beverage. So, it’s just for you to have right at that moment and probably not going to share, versus if you – Our other channels being large and small store, which are mostly related to convenience and grocery stores.
So, with this immediate consumption channel, what I strategically like to do within my accounts is to really figure out what the market is moving towards and the trend, especially on the beverage side is all about innovation. The market is very competitive for beverages. Companies like Coca-Cola as well as the competition were major players in the game, but there’s a lot of smaller brands that are coming in and finding and seizing opportunity as well.
I think with this channel in particular and just with big brands in general, people are starting to not necessarily get tired but they do want a little bit more excitement and a lot of that comes from some of these smaller brands who thought about the market that wasn’t being tapped into, whether that be through the way they market the products, how the bottle looks – the packaging and things like that – and they’re able to capture that audience. So, for me, it’s really about trying to make sure that our brands can hold their own against that and figure out how to keep our space within these accounts, and again, continue to grow the brand.
Probably the best example of what I just kind of laid out is this whole sparkling water war that I feel like everyone is doing right now. Under the Coke family, we have Smartwater and Smartwater has a sparkling but we also have Dasani. Dasani has a line of sparking waters that recently came into the market, maybe this time last year or it’s been about two years. I feel like that was a product that was very late to the market, especially for such a big company like Coke, and even the competition because Le Croix had been in the market for some time and completely swept the competition and a big name like Coca- Cola, one of the things that I have to really strategically do is leverage that name of Coca-Cola, leverage the name of Dasani to try to push that product in against a brand like La Croix, who’s really been holding it down in the sparkling water category for so long. So, it’s really for me figuring out how to drive the innovation and being proactive and determining what the trend is.
So, there’s a couple that are out there – it’s so competitive out there – but you know, a big name, a heritage name, does carry its weight but sometimes if something’s been around as well and people get used to a certain taste, even if it’s a heritage brand, sometimes it can be a little bit harder to push that in.
JOEY: Right, got it. So, through this channel, this immediate consumption channel – you’re mentioning a little bit about driving innovation – what kind of things are you doing, I guess on a merchandising level? Is it product placement? Is it being able to educate consumers? Because obviously, this day and age, consumers are smarter and they understand what they want, they know what’s in it – What are some of the ideas or ways that you are kind of pushing that innovation to get them to do that immediate consumption?
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TAYLOR: Definitely. So, Joey, what I like to do, especially if it’s a really good partner that’s just kind of willing to bring in any and everything, is to see how I can leverage the brand in a way for their shoppers or their consumers to get a taste of it. So, we will do or I’ll host sampling events during peak consumption hours, which mostly is lunch for a lot of these places.
So, generally it’ll be maybe an hour and a half to two hour sampling, just showcasing off the new products, and again, really focusing on the beverage category that’s really important for our business and then being proactive. For example, it might be something like energy, and so we’ll have a two hour showcase of our Monster Energy line and really focus on, depending on the account – for example, if it’s the hospital, then focusing on the zero sugar zero carb line of the product so that we’re kind of addressing a two in one there. We’re showing that, “Hey, this is an energy product. It’s going to provide this alertness, these type of vitamins, but also showcasing that we understand that this is a healthcare facility. So, this won’t have as much sugar as what you might assume has an energy beverage or it won’t have as much carbs in it.” So, really focusing on the channel and making sure that I host events that are going to make sense for that audience.
So, that’s a part of it and then, secondly, like you said, merchandising, so, getting the product, especially if it’s new, right in the customer’s face. And so, one of the biggest products that I do this with is with Smartwater or just our water category, in general, because I think out of any craving that a person might have, water is a necessity, especially a water that they really like. So, it’s a matter of having this water right in their face, so placing it strategically at eye level – One of the things that we do with Smartwater a lot, too, is to make sure that it’s ambient because there is a trend with having room temperature water versus a water that’s been chilled. Some people’s bodies are sensitive, I think there’s some studies that are related to that, and so we try to have as much ambient water on the floor as well, and place it by stations – if we are in one of our food service accounts – placing it strategically by stations so that people can have the idea of paring it with a meal or that they grab it upon the consumption of grabbing their food.
So, we always want to make sure that when we’re marketing the products, that we have it go with food. That’s always been a big initiative for Coke, just speaking to the brand itself, I’m not sure how it is with other brands but we’ve always been a brand to pair with food. You can see it one of the recent commercials that I see a lot is people are enjoying Coke or Coke Zero, Diet Coke, or something like that with different types of cultural foods. So, whether it’s with barbeque, whether it’s with tacos, whether it’s with soul food, we always pair our beverages with food.
So, again, relaying that same message into a retail space by pairing the products by food stations and ambient places so it immediately catches the person’s eye so that they’re like, “Wow, I’m grabbing this cheeseburger; of course I’ve got to have a classic Coke to go with it.”
TAYLOR: And then, lastly, having it as an impulse purchase as well and placing it in stations next to gum, chips, kind of grab and go areas like that. So, again, kind of focusing back on entry points, by food stations and then of course by the check out.
JOEY: Yeah, very cool. No, that’s interesting. It’s so crazy how water has just – It’s just water, right?
JOEY: But there’s so many ideas around it. I just started drinking sparkling water probably two years ago and I started out with a different brand: La Croix, started out. Now, I actually have two on my desk. Really, at the moment it’s – I like this –
TAYLOR: Oh, Perrier?
JOEY: Yeah, I have this Perrier and then I have this spring water.
JOEY: But when you think about it though, it’s like – Well, for me, instead of having some type of sugar, I want to have something that I still get the same effects of drinking a soda –
TAYLOR: Definitely. Definitely. It’s the carbonation.
TAYLOR: It’s the carbonation.
TAYLOR: Because I have the same craving. I really want something – I’m not a sweets person and I’ve never been a heavy pop drinker. My go-to, if I’m going to have a pop is Sprite because it’s very light, but if I’m just craving and I’m like, “Man, I really want something,” I will go for a sparkling water and get a flavored one and it’s weird how – I think it’s more of a psychological thing –
TAYLOR: – but it’s just really good. The satisfaction is there.
JOEY: Yeah. Well, you know, it’s interesting. People don’t realize marketing – There’s so many different avenues with marketing. I mean, just marketing water, like what we were talking about, it’s marketing to the right consumer and everyone’s different and people get – drinking a certain water gets a certain emotion that they get attached to it and especially with Coca-Cola, it’s definitely one of the biggest soda companies in the world. I wouldn’t say, sorry, soda – Would you consider drink – Drink companies in the world.
So, I guess, let me veer for a second. I know that you work at hospitals and hotels and different locations. Do you have to change your approach, depending on what type of on-premise it is?
TAYLOR: Definitely because the product can be used in different ways, so immediate consumption at a fine dining restaurant in downtown Chicago is going to definitely be different than me selling it into the hospital. SO, the approach, generally, with that is aesthetic and it’s generally less of a product – less product options. So, kind of touching on aesthetics – and this relates to hotels as well – Hotels are very competitive when it comes to food and beverage and I think mostly it’s because of how the hotels are changing, in terms of their operation.
So, I manage – I don’t know, I might have 15 hotels that fall under my management alone and all of them are different, in terms of their operations. Some may not have in-room dining or a mini-bar, some do. Some have gift shops, some don’t; some have restaurants and lobbies where you can hang out in all day and have grab and go sections and then some just have cute rooftop bars that people go to after 5 o’clock. And so the whole approach is different and what it comes down to, especially within those channels and the restaurant channels is that it’s an aesthetic thing.
So, they want to know, “Is this going to look cute on a table when someone is having a big banquet wedding or some type of awards ceremony? Is this going to make a lot of noise?” So, I think what’s interesting with the Coke company and the products that they have is that they kind of consider those things. So, there’s a certain package that we have that are in the classic glass Coke bottle, which are very nostalgic, they’re smaller in portion size as well, and so that business or that product in general for the business does very well and most of it is sold at, again, the fine dining restaurants and the hotels and the lodging accounts because aesthetically it’s more pleasing and it’s smaller. So, probably on the operational end for them, it might be a little bit more profitable as well. But, just from, if you can imagine a waiter or a waitress coming over and them setting that on a the table at a five start Michelin rated restaurant, that’s much more appropriate than them setting down a 20 ounce plastic bottle.
JOEY: Right. Right.
TAYLOR: So, that has a lot to do with it, as well, but packaging plays a huge part in that conversation too, because with the water category – we talked about it earlier – my water does very well in my hospitals and my business professional offices because you think about the grabbing, the going, it’s in plastic, they can drop it, it’s not going to burst or anything, but in my hotels or my restaurants, it’s harder to get a plastic bottle on a white linen table because it doesn’t look as chic. But, for them to sit a glass bottle on the table that maybe the competition is able to provide, that looks a lot nicer. So, I feel like that’s the biggest hurdle and the biggest challenge between those differentiated accounts, from my experience, it really comes down to the aesthetics of the packaging and the presentation: how you’re going to be able to offer that to the in consumer, is what it mostly comes down to.
JOEY: Right, right. No, that makes complete sense, regarding the packaging. And, really, if you think about it, the brand is the packaging; it’s not really what’s in the product because water is water. I mean there’s obviously different tastes and things like that, different things you can do it, but it is amazing – There is a marketing strategy for it.
TAYLOR: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Because I can’t – It wouldn’t make any sense for me and vice versa, it wouldn’t make any sense for me to sell 8 ounce glass bottles to customers at a hospital. That’s not their consumer and that’s not the package that they would want. Not even 12 ounce. They’re the perfect customers for 20 ounce just because you think about the time spent at a hospital, so they’re probably consuming beverages a lot quicker than the average person because they are sitting in a place all day, the beverages are probably a little bit more – or excuse me, we call it sparkling – more sparkling versus still, which would be like water and juices and stuff because they’re just more attentive in the space and they’re trying to stay alert, maybe within the ER or for whatever type of activity has brought them there.
So, the consumption is different amongst all those channels and so adjusting to it, when I first started, was very interesting because I’m like, “You know this brand. I’m sure you buy this brand for your home. I know that you drink Dasani plastic bottles at home or barbeque, bring them into your restaurant,” and it’s like, “No.” After learning and really getting to know the customer and understanding their in consumer, it’s like at the end of the day, that doesn’t match with their aesthetic over all, so they wouldn’t be obliged to bring it in because they’re in, “I can’t really move it. It wouldn’t look right being here,” no matter how much it costs, in their favor or not.
JOEY: Right, absolutely. No, this is exciting. This is great stuff. It’s interesting just how marketing there’s so many different channels and different ways to get to your consumer and how you can do things. So, I really appreciate you jumping on here and hopefully we can do a follow up at some point down the road.
TAYLOR: Yeah, I would love that. That would be awesome.
JOEY: Yeah, and hopefully we can meet up at some point, too. I’ll hopefully be in Chicago at some point.
TAYLOR: Yeah, yeah, that would be dope.
JOEY: Awesome. Well, thanks so much for joining the podcast.
TAYLOR: Thank you, Joey, I appreciate it.
JOEY: No problem. If you like what we’re doing with Talk Experiential podcast, please make sure you five star it and review it. Also, please share it on Facebook and Twitter or any other social media outlets. Please, tell your friends who you think that will get value out of our podcasts. Your support will help continue the success of Talk Experiential.
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Our talk with Brett Hyman of NVE Experience Agency brings us to discuss how agencies can make the shift in becoming provocateurs of culture.The full transcript for Talk Experiential episode #23 Using Trends and Insights to Build Actionable Data-Driven Results is followed below.
#23 Using Trends and Insights to Build Actionable Data-Driven Results
Brett Hyman on episode #23 of Talk Experiential.
JOEY: Welcome back to the next Talk Experiential podcast. I’ve got a great guest, Brett Hyman, from Beverly Hills, California. He owns NVE Experience Agency. Thanks for joining.
BRETT: Hey, yes, great to meet you. Thanks for having me.
JOEY: Yeah, no, it’s awesome. We have a little weather here. We’ve had our first freeze here in Denver. I’m sure it’s pretty nice out there for you.
BRETT: Well, you know, it’s a little bit colder than normal. I think it’s 71 degrees and sunny, instead of 72, but we’ll get through it, if we can, here in Beverly Hills.
JOEY: Right? Oh man. We’d love to learn about your background and what is NVE Experience Agency and how you started it.
BRETT: Well, I started the agency in a few different incarnations. Immediately after graduating college, I had decided to venture into L.A.’s night life business, which is not necessarily what my mother or father wanted to hear after going to a four year university. However, it was definitely a great exposure to the hospitality nightlife marketing and promotional world in Los Angeles.
And so, the first version of NVE was actually called Night Vision Entertainment and we built a large scale nightlife company here in L.A that developed very big marketing efforts for all the top nightlife companies here in L.A., in Vegas, ultimately expanding to New York and Miami, as well. But, being in L.A.’s nightlife business is the networking super highway. You meet amazingly connected CEOs and agents and heads of studios. So, we really jumped right in from doing that to starting to do premiers and all different types of large scale production.
So, phase two of Night Vision was developing a production arm, and that was all the nuts and bolts of event production: lighting, sound, stage décor, operations, staffing, catering, and everything in between in order to help produce different types of events such as premiers, private parties, celebrity events, all different types of music launches, video game launches, all the awards show events, etcetera, etcetera. And then about five years ago was when I really shifted from the ‘what’ to the ‘why.’ We knew what the product was, in terms of event production, but we started to ask, “What is the context? What are the goals? What are the objectives that our clients would like us to achieve?” and that’s when we transformed what was known as Night Vision Entertainment into NVE Experience Agency, and layered on a full blown marketing agency service along with the event production service.
And now, that’s how really NVE operates, as these two somewhat distinct businesses and experiential marketing agency and an event production company, merged and fused together into one holistic brand influenced agency. That’s what we are.
JOEY: Very cool. No, it sounds like a pretty exciting experience, starting out just doing your nightlife to – I like how you put it, you switched it from the ‘what’ to the ‘why,’ because once you start learning why we’re doing this and what the clients are for, it sounds like it’s a little bit more engaging and you get to the right target market.
BRETT: Well, we got to a place where many brands started coming to us, especially because we were in L.A., and they were like, “Our boss told us to throw this elaborate party,” and we would start to ask what was the objective? And sometimes – For a long time, that gold standard was PR. It was, “We want PR for our brand or for our product or for our service,” and then things started shifting. People started to realize that they wanted a social and a different influence online, posting content, etcetera. Other people are starting to ask us to help create better word of mouth buzz, and as we started to understand the ‘why,’ we realized we should probably start there so we could better engineer the precise vehicle we would use, in order to achieve that objective. Maybe it’s not always the ultimate rager party or red carpet that is the solution to achieve that objective. And, we simultaneously brought in our understanding of the marketing – the experiential vehicle – as well as the portfolio of offerings we could have, beyond just a red carpet event, we expanded into trade shows, corporate meetings, corporate hospitality, destination management, traditional red carpet events, mobile tours, and things like that.
JOEY: Oh, very cool. So, it sounds like you guys kind of do the full gauntlet, a full service agency, anything from a physical side to tying it into a digital piece.
BRETT: Yeah, definitely.
JOEY: Awesome. Very cool.
JOEY: What are some of the – Do you have any big ones that you’ve been working on or ones that you’re able to talk about?
BRETT: You know, we work with a really large variety of brands across a very big portfolio of industries. We definitely have our foot in the entertainment business because we’re right here in L.A., however, we expanded our offices to New York about three years ago and do a lot of work in fashion and beauty as well and music there, particularly with groups like Pandora or Billboard.
And then, simultaneously, we work with Amazon Studios, here in L.A., Anheuser Busch, we have a tremendous amount of work with Diageo, which owns a massive amount of liquor companies and liquor brands, so we really do pride ourselves on kind of running the gamut of different types of industries. And also, that helps inform us and give us better perspective so we can have better ideas. And even working in tech does help us influence how we’re going to deal with a music event. Working in the gaming business and video games does help us understand what we’re going to do across a wider entertainment portfolio of brands. So, having that background is really exciting for us and very valuable to many of our different clients.
JOEY: Right and I’m sure every client is different, too, of how you have to approach them, from a tech company to a drink type of company. I’m sure just with that type of experience that you have to figure out exactly what they’re looking for and figure out their story.
JOEY: And with what you’re doing, experiential marketing – I guess, let’s talk about just general experiential marketing. I mean, obviously, it sounds like you guys are growing. What are you seeing with brands? Are you seeing a lot more people – a lot more companies trying to get out of the mess of online and trying to get more in experiential or how are you seeing it?
BRETT: Yeah. I think that a couple things have happened that have super charged the power of experiential marketing in the past few years, and in no particular order. First and foremost, brands are looking for effective marketing vehicles to align their product with the values of their consumers and their target demographic consumer, right?
So, for a long time you had things like the television commercial, the radio ad, the print media ad, and magazine, and those were always an attempt for brands to find their consumer, align with them on a cultural level, and then try to tell a story that made them ultimately want to act, feel, or do something about a product. It’s the reason why brands would buy a Super Bowl ad or it’s the reason why a fashion brand might buy an ad in Vogue, right? They would look to that. They know that their demographic is culturally there.
However, all of those forms of marketing have become substantially less effective. Between ad blockers online, the DVR ability to skip television ads, and the slow and imminent death of print media in a lot of ways, there aren’t a lot of avenues anymore for brands to find their demographic and align with them and at least authentically. We can definitely explode pop-up ads in their face whenever we want, but that’s probably not going to move the needle on a cultural level.
Experiential simultaneously has experienced a whole lot of tools that actually supercharges effectiveness. We can now actually capture data through brand experiences, we can harness that data and understand it and analyze it, and we can do a really amazing job of quantifying the effectiveness of a brand experience. So, first we can know a lot more about the people attending and what that experience is influencing. And, on a secondary level, we can amplify that brand narrative to exponentially larger audiences that may not even be in the same country as the event’s location.
So, those two big changes in the market forces behind marketing allow experiential to become a extremely potent form of marketing that simultaneously can be measured and quantified and justified probably above a lot of other forms of marketing. So, NVE’s real goal is to look at how that industry is changing and bring in resources and perspectives that will allow us to harness that power and utilize it to help our brands propel forward.
JOEY: Right. No, that’s great. I mean I like what you were saying about being able to really capture the right data so you’re going to learn more, because I think people don’t understand, too, creating these experiences are on the fly, on the go, but also it’s learning how people are going to actually engage with it. But, being able to learn through these, you’re going to be able to actually grow it faster, so I think that’s pretty awesome.
JOEY: One of the notes that I saw here – I know the concept of an agency versus doing this in-house. I guess let’s talk a little bit around there, kind of like – Agencies, obviously, have a bad rap, right?
JOEY: We’re expensive – But, kind of your words, how do you take those type of questions of which direction a brand should go?
BRETT: Well, so I have a lot of perspective on this and, first and foremost, what we do and what even the concept of quote unquote in-house management of experiential is – they’re just two different products. We are out there investing in enormous amounts of R&D and I mean actual physical R&D like what tools can we create or find or embrace that will create better experiences for our clients and simultaneously being out there – NVE being out there, being exposed to a wide variety of brands and their activations and what works and what doesn’t work, allow us to just have such a broad and diverse perspective on what types of programs are out there and can be created and how to best make them both efficient and effective.
I’m not saying it’s impossible to do it in-house, I’m saying it sure is hard and it really does require you to actually build a functional in-house agency. And when people – If they appoint an internal person or even an internal 10 people as the in-house quote unquote agency, I don’t know if they’re doing all of the extra work that needs to be done to deliver world class experiential programming, because there’s just only so much bandwidth that that number of people can do, whereas here, we meet weekly, across many different departments to discuss how to make our programs more effective, more streamlined, what new technologies are out there, and then share that information across our portfolio of clientele to help them all achieve success.
So, can it be done in-house? Absolutely. People can definitely [0:12:51.3] execute in house but what we can bring to the table, I think, is – the proof is 100% in the pudding when you see the just actual work product that comes out of us working from an ideation perspective and an execution perspective.
JOEY: Right, well and why not let the experts do it, especially if you’re working with all these other brands. It makes more sense. And I think, too, one thing that is obviously challenging is, like I said, is it’s a lot of moving parts on a physical level but it’s not cheap, you know? Not a start up can usually spend hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars on a program but making sure that it’s the right audience and the right type of brand to get out there is key.
So, here’s another question. How do you build a better experience for someone? There’s a lot – Experiential marketing is growing, especially if you go to a festival or an event. You’re competing against other brands. Let’s talk through some of the ideas. How are you going to grab someone’s attention to love someone’s brand and be [0:13:59.8] for the future?
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BRETT: Well, we look at the idea of creating – breaking through the noise of these very noisy cultural temples in a lot of – through a few different prisms. But, the primary lens that we think makes an experiential program effective begins with are you authentically, culturally aligning with this consumer with demographic? The old model of experiential and many of the legacy agencies – when they are asked, “Hey, bring us to South by Southwest,” or, “Bring us to Coachella,” they kind of just Google, “What is Coachella?” and start building programs.
BRETT: NVE has a very deep cultural insights process where we understand what that demographic is, and we develop a way to synthesize a narrative that will align with them and resonate with them and then we build the program around that. I think that going to some of these big cultural temples is like showing up at the World Series with an amateur team. And, for us, we very much pride ourselves on the ability to understand and have empathy across a very wide variety of cultural pillars, whether it’s cultural pillars within tech, or within sports, within the gaming industry or music and fashion and the entertainment business, and helping potentially even spot trends before they’re happening and align brands with those top tier influence creators. And the issue of that is, is that it requires a tremendous amount of trust from our brand partners and our clients.
We need them to trust because they may not be as culturally aware what’s going on in the micro level in the sneaker business, for example, which has all of these highly captive subcultures that are engaging with everything from a new Yeezy to everything – the new Jordans that Nike might release. So, we ask our brands to trust us. It’s not an easy endeavor but we provide them with a lot of insight and analysis behind who their demographic is and how we can better align them within that area and we hope that they will trust us to do that. That’s how you break through the noise; it’s not just showing up and doing what other people are doing or other people have done. It’s understanding who that subculture audience is.
JOEY: Right, and learning who that client is and then going deeper, sounds so key.
JOEY: Let’s go to another topic and sorry I’m just asking a lot of questions here. It’s very interesting.
JOEY: So, let’s talk about just culture right now, where everything’s at. I mean just this weekend, we had a lot going on – it’s October 9th – from the Kavanaugh case to sports. One particular that I’m thinking around is Nike, how they’re taking a risk. They’ve taken a risk on taking a stand. I’d love to hear your thoughts through that. Do you think what they did was a good move or did you feel like it almost kind of shut down half the country from taking their stand?
BRETT: Yeah, I have a very, very specific perspective on branding. And just talking about branding, I believe that it is critically important that the consumer understands what a brand stands for. If Nike had not taken that stand, I’d love to know what would have been negative for them. I don’t know if their – A lot of people – There’s been a hundred stories about did Nike write off a big percentage of their consumer or of the country or whatever. I don’t believe it’s half the country. I don’t even know if it’s honestly 5% of the country but I think the narrative should be, “Did Nike embrace 70% of the world? Did Nike embrace their consumer in a way that is more positive?”
And to be honest, that’s the narrative that – And that’s the truth of what did happen. Nike and Adidas and Under Armour and some of these extraordinary athletic brands, they’re battling over a very captive audience of people. I don’t think they’re as concerned with the person who buys one pair of Nikes a year and decides to also fundamentally disagree with the idea that they believe in, free speech or right to expression. They are interested in the people that are watching Colin Kaepernick and do want to know where Nike stands and do want to know where Adidas stands and Nike came to the table first and took a stand and said, “We want to make sure you know where we stand,” and to bring it kind of home.
Post the Kavanaugh hearings or during the Kavanaugh hearings – I think it was maybe last Monday, before his confirmation – Bumble took out a full page in I believe New York Times, might have been Wall Street Journal, but turns out a full page, beautiful ad that just says, “Believe women,” And what does that do to Bumble? Well, it might isolate some people that obviously are supporters of a more conservative supreme court justice getting nominated but simultaneously, it most definitely solidified and clarified where they stand on the issue and they embraced that very important audience that is probably much more loyal and probably, as net promoters, worth of a hell of a lot more money to them than people that they’re isolating.
So, I think it’s not just about – I don’t think it’s about isolating a portion of your demographic as it is important is it to embrace a big portion of your demographic. So, I highly – I agree wholeheartedly with those messages and the idea that we really want to know where our brands stand and it’s because not of the fringe people but because of the people that are in the middle that these brands are fighting over. And you can take the Pepsi example that happened last year where they had that Kendall Jenner commercial where she gave the Pepsi to the policeman in the middle of a riot and it was very racially insensitive, you knew where they stood too, right? And that, of course, was the complete opposite of Coca-Cola’s messaging which is very sincerely and authentically about inclusivity. So, you can see when it also can work against you, but in the instance of these other people, I don’t think it did.
JOEY: Yeah, and I guess I’m bringing this up, too, because I think it’s something that’s more accepting in our culture and I think brands are almost becoming almost a human, in a way. I don’t feel like five years ago brands would pick a hard stand on – depending on what it is but – a hard stand on exactly what they’re kind of focusing on. But, if you could get away from the noise of what you believe in – I think it’s wonderful, what they’re doing, as a brand. It’s obviously, “Okay, these guys are doing something that no one is doing,” and like you said, taking a captive audience. And the people that aren’t buying shoes are the ones that are probably complaining, as well.
BRETT: Well, one big area that we are focused on as well is how that kind of translates for us is we’re not out telling brands to be political. We are telling brands that they need to be better patrons of culture. That’s our phrase here at NVE, which means if they are going to embrace culture and these cultural elements that are deeply important to their demographics and to their consumers, then somebody needs to help guide them to ensure how can they be better patrons of that culture.
We met with several people that we think are doing very interesting stuff, across various industries, across music and fashion and art. We call them provokers here at NVE and we can talk about the difference between a provoker and what some people may deem an influencer and there’s a big difference. But, one universal phrase that we’re hearing is – Back in the days of Michelangelo and Picasso, you had kings and queens and major religions that were artists’ patrons, right? The aristocracy would support art in a huge way. They would become these major patrons. Well, we don’t have that anymore. What we have now is brands and brands have to act as the patrons and it’s in everyone’s best interest because the brands want to align more authentically with consumers and simultaneously, consumers want their provokers of culture to continue to make and create. So, NVE spends a lot of time with our clients helping them become better patrons of culture and navigating that and we do that by acting as less of an executor and as a counselor , and that’s one of our big narratives, which is the difference between just an executor and an agency. So, we help them a lot with that.
JOEY: Very cool. I’m glad we connected, I’m glad I’ve got you on our podcast. I know that we’re kind of running out of time. I know we could talk for hours, here.
JOEY: I’d love to meet you in person at some point and have you on another podcast.
BRETT: Yeah, absolutely. I appreciate it and you bet I can talk experiential for many hours and it’s really because experiential is intercepting with so many aspects and so many vehicles of marketing, from influencer marketing to digital marketing to the ad world and we have to basically become experts in all these ancillary extensions of the experiential world, which is fine, I love it, but it’s why it’s gone from being a single book of experiential to encyclopedias and volumes of information about how our entire industry will function.
JOEY: Yeah. No, absolutely. And, especially, I think people don’t realize it’s having that experience over lots of brands and over years and years of doing this and really trying to connect your clients with audiences. I think that’s pretty amazing and it’s pretty cool what you’ve built. Congrats.
BRETT: Well, I appreciate it. We have a whole lot more to do and we’re excited. I think we already have a tremendous amount of things mapped out for 2019, including we talk a lot about how we think about the measurement and quantification of experiential and us and a professor at Harvard Business School think we’ve solved the equation, mathematically, on how to better measure and quantify experiential marketing, so we’re coming out with just a lot of great stuff in 2019 that supports all the aspects of how experiential influences culture, how we can better harness the power of creators and influencers, how we can measure the results from a data and analytics perspective, how we can integrate interactive technologies into experiences, and so much more. So, stay tuned for all that.
JOEY: Will do. Well, we’ll have another podcast for that too, at some point. So, well thanks, man. I appreciate all your time.
BRETT: Thank you. Absolutely.
JOEY: Take care. If you like what we’re doing with Talk Experiential podcast, please make sure you five star it and review it. Also, please share on Facebook and Twitter or any other social media outlets. Please, tell your friends who you think will get value out of our podcast. Your support will help continue the success of Talk Experiential.
Find the list of full Talk Experiential episodes here.
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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Our talk with Dusti Reimer brings us to discuss how marketing is taking a chance on the future. The full transcript for Talk Experiential episode #21 One Night Stand Business VS Meaningful Relationships is followed below.
#21 One Night Stand Business VS Meaningful Relationships
Dusti Reimer on episode #21 of Talk Experiential.
All right. Welcome back to another Talk Experiential podcast. I have another wonderful guest which goes way back to college in Grand Junction, Dusti, Dusti Reimer.
How’s it going?
Great. How are you?
Oh, doing good.
It’s good to catch up.
It’s great. No, it’s been, what — we caught up about, what, a month ago, and then we haven’t talked since — I don’t know — 13 years ago, or even seen each other.
We follow up on social media.
Right, so we’re always close.
Yeah, exactly. You know?
So, yeah. But actually physically talking to each other, I think we sat by each other on graduation, and I think that was pretty much one of the last times I physically saw you, and 13 years ago —
Well, and you knew my wife better, too.
Yeah. I’ve loved watching your business and your career just blossom, and so you’ve always been somebody who’s been very inspirational to me as I watch from the sidelines and cheer you on.
Aw. Well, thank you, Dusti. Same goes to you. This is why I wanted you on this podcast, because from our last conversation, you have definitely an interesting perspective and background working with a few different folks. I think we got the same degree, right, marketing and business, or communications?
I actually went more the communications and advertising side.
But I think, kind of like everybody nowadays, it’s kind of really mixed together, so even though I focused more on that part of it, I really had to take a sidestep and learn a lot more on the marketing side of things, and I’ve actually found that I like data. I just really avoided it — this is me being lazy — I really avoided it because I thought I was really bad at math and I didn’t want to take the math classes which were required to get the marketing degree, so that’s full disclosure. I really was afraid of it in college, for some reason. I just didn’t think I had it in me, but now I realize that I actually do. So, I’m still learning.
No. Well, we all are. If I don’t learn every day, I feel like it’s not a good day. I think that’s the fun part of this industry. But why don’t you tell me about your background and some of the things that you’ve been doing in Grand Junction?
Yeah. So, obviously after graduation, I think everybody just went off on their own paths, and I had always had this real strong love for non-profits. I never imagined working in a private or a public sector. And so, I worked for the American Cancer Society, I ended up working for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, I had volunteered with March of Dimes — like I said, I just felt like I had loved community engagement. I loved giving back. I just really never thought of anything else.
And so, my husband is a power lineman, and we agreed that wherever he would get his job, we would go, because I could help any community with whatever they had a need of, and so we ended up in Winter Park for a little bit, and then we went to the Vail Valley. We lived there for about eight years total before we migrated back to Grand Junction for quality of life and the ability to be able to purchase a house and raise kids, which is great. We’re not originally from Grand Junction. We’re actually from Iowa, in a very small town in the Midwest. So, we moved around the state a lot. We did some time in Steamboat, and so we’re very familiar with the resort communities and skiing, and we love that. We’re a very outdoor, active family.
And I took a break from working after we had our first child, and then our second came rather quickly, so they’re about 18 months apart, and so I really wanted to focus on that. That and daycare is really — they said it’s about a college tuition right now for daycare, so there’s money-saving costs that go into that.
But I ended up getting back into the workforce out of frustration. So, I was looking at putting our oldest in ski lessons, and I got on a website for a ski resort locally here and was unbelievably frustrated with their websites. It was awful. And out of that frustration and the confusion, I thought, “I can do this better,” and out of just sheer thinking, “Maybe there’s a position that I can volunteer with, or maybe I can do something,” I got on their website to see if they were hiring, and they were actually hiring a marketing manager. And kind of out of spite and out of anger of seeing what they had going on there, I applied for it and went through the interview process. And I didn’t get the marketing manager position, but I actually was given another position to help with their group sales and advertising and events, and to help be a marketing manager’s assistant.
So, it was kind of an interesting transition for somebody who went from swearing they’d never work in a for-profit business to jumping in to saying, “I can help this. I can make this better.” And so, I had a couple of really good years of traveling on the ski circuit and doing media, and I ended up actually kind of stepping into that position for a little bit during a huge launch of construction for the resort and learned a lot. But during the process of getting back into it, especially in a regional sense, I learned that there was a lot of old mindsets and a lot of old traditions of things that people just don’t want to let go of. And so, it’s really interesting, I’m learning how to kind of bridge the gap between rack cards and social media.
It’s amazing that people even think about those. I look at them, and I’ll look and browse for three seconds — no, I’ll just walk by it, because it’s too much.
Yeah. And I don’t want to put that down, because I’m sure there’s still somebody there, but I remember in one of our marketing conversations as we were talking about spending a large sum of our marketing dollars on it, I said, “When was the last time that you woke up at 3:00 in the morning, got in your car, drove down to your local visitors’ center or the hotel, and picked up all your rack cards to do research for your vacation?” I’m like, “You don’t do that anymore.” So, we had to work through what has worked in the past isn’t really going to help us move into the future. It really wasn’t an easy transition, but eventually we finally walked through the processes of why maybe that isn’t working. And a lot of people like to see that return of income, the ROI. They like to see the data numbers, and that wasn’t really providing a good, substantial backup for it, too. So, we ended up moving away from it and investing that money in better avenues of reaching our preferred clientele, which had a great return. So, it was really fun, and you gotta stand up for something, so I was really maintaining firm on, “Let’s not spend $40,000 in rack cards, and maybe use that for something beneficial.” So, yeah.
So, you worked at Powderhorn for a couple of years, moved around, the whole thing there. Now you have your own firm working with some clients as well up there?
I do. So, the surprise birth of our third child — I shouldn’t say surprise. I mean, obviously I knew I was pregnant for nine months — we had him and decided that probably driving 45 minutes each way in the snow for a 60-hour work week probably wasn’t going to be the best decision for our family, and so I left Powderhorn and created my own PR and marketing company. And so, we’ve got three clients that take up a lot of my time right now, and it’s perfect for our family and where we’re growing and what we’re doing, and we’re really well connected, and there’s a lot of other really good companies here, startups that if I don’t feel that I’m going to be the best fit for them that I can refer them off to other people.
So, the idea is really to keep the business in the best interests of the business owners and their markets in mind. I don’t really look to take on people with things that they’re looking for that I don’t believe I can be of beneficial help to them. I always looked at the job of being a marketing manager as one where we get to have a lot of fun with what we get to do. We get to create, and we get to see all this visual stuff, but at the same time, if we don’t take our job seriously that we can help these people grow, and that if we do our jobs well that they get to have a livelihood, then you really shouldn’t be in it, because I’ve seen time and time again great people step into a position maybe they’re not really ready for, and it’s like watching the Titanic sink over a year. You just slowly watch it going down, because they’re not really sure what they’re doing, and these businesses are just suffering for it. So, I really want to make sure that when I step in there that I’m really going to be able to perform to help them out.
Yeah. So, what caught my eye when we talked last time was, I guess, just learning how to market and then how to just get out there, and I guess just staying up with technology. I know that you are part of a couple groups that are interested in learning more on how to market yourself, how to use other ways — instead of a rack card — to promote a business. I guess, what do you tell these business owners that you’re working with that an ad in the paper might not get the most ROI? Sometimes it’s the works, and you’re going to still probably get some hits, but you can easily just go into Google ads or do a Facebook post. I mean, just a Facebook post would probably get more views than sometimes a newspaper would. But, yeah, I’d like to learn how you approach these clients. How do you get them to step out of the box and take a chance on the future?
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You know, we’re getting constantly bombarded, whether it’s on social media or e-mail, or we still TV, pop-up ads, retargeted marketing, it’s just left and right, and same thing with apps. You just watch things grow and fade out. I remember when blogs were coming up and people were just — I think that was back in the MySpace time, where everybody had a blog and that it was the cool thing, and then everybody started to become influencers.
And then there was this shift to the apps, and then Facebook, and you had to have a Facebook page, and then it just morphed after that into Instagram and Twitter and Snapchat, and every other app that showed up there, and so most people are just constantly trying to be relevant with new technology, even if it’s not to the benefit of the organization.
We talked about how people are just always trying to get on the new technology, and they’re not sure how to utilize it well. But the other thing is, they don’t even know if it’s going to benefit their target market, and we have to go back to the basics with your organization or whatever product it is. It’s like, “Who are you trying to reach? When you created this product, or when you created your organization, what was your goal? Who were you trying to reach, and is that still what you’re trying to do?” Because maybe being on Snapchat and trying to recruit a veteran isn’t going to link up. You’ve got to realize, “Why are you doing this? Are you doing this just to say that you have the technology, or are you doing it to spend relevant time recruiting new people?”
And I think asking the “why,” we lost that, there. We’re so into getting the new technology, like, “Oh, did you see the new thing out there?” “No, I didn’t. I have to have that.” And we somewhere along the way got so swept up in the new stuff that we forgot to say, “Well, is it really relevant to what we’re doing?”, and I think that’s okay. Not everybody needs to have everything. I think you just need to realize what is going to help your target market and grow your business, and when people remember that they’re specifically targeting or creating something for this group of people, you don’t need to try and cast that wide net. Just be specific.
And it’s okay to be specific, and it’s okay, as you watch other people walk by you, that you’re not grabbing them right away, because you want to hook, and you want to make sure that your group is being taken care of by you. It’s not just about, “Can they see us, and can we hook them, and can we get that one-night stand business?” We want meaningful relationship. We want this to go somewhere. We’re thinking long-term dating. We want to meet your parents. We want to have a family. We want to be in it to win it with you forever. We’re not just looking for a hook, and so that’s the thing that we’re trying to really establish with our clients that we have is that we’re in it for the long term. We’re in it for the three to five-year, really make a difference. People are finally hearing about us. We have been steady. We have been their rock, and we know beyond a shadow of a doubt what our products are and what we’re doing with them.
No, absolutely. Well, and that’s how you have to run an agency, I think, is just being very transparent. I think, too, as a business owner — I mean, I’m a business owner with a couple other companies as well, and luckily, I’ve gotten a lot of experience with marketing, but I remember back in the day. It’s like, “How the hell do you market my product?” And when I work with clients, I really try to put myself in their shoes, because at the end of the day, we’re here to help solve a problem for them.
And I think as startups, just businesses, I think the scary thing is marketing. Marketing can be overwhelming, because you see these commercials on TV, you’re like, “Oh, I want one of those. Oh, that’s 50 grand and I don’t have that budget,” and them not understanding, like, “Well, is that really going to hit your target market?”
Say you have a product that’s — we’re starting to work with this Japanese company; it’s a cold brew called Boss Coffee, and I’m literally just saying that because I have one, and I’m drinking it, and it’s awesome. It’s not a plug.
I love coffee. We are aficionados, here, so I really love it (ph).
Great, I’ll send you some. But, anyway, we work with products. For a product like this, TV’s not going to do crap for them. This needs to get into people’s hands. People need to try it for themselves. It needs to be authentic and transparent. If they like it, they’re going to probably buy it. And if they like it, let’s build a platform for them to get a coupon, or receive some type of e-mail to actually remember that, “Okay, hey, I need to buy this, because I really liked this.” And the way we work is, we like to touch that emotion. “Man, I like that coffee, and it just triggered something in my head to really like this brand.” That’s a better way than just doing a commercial or an ad.
But, yeah, I think it’s, one, really trying to figure out what your product is and really understanding your consumers, your target market. Like you mentioned earlier, you can’t just put — working with veterans and Snapchat, like, “Oh, we’ll just do all platforms.” No, you find one that your demographic’s going to be on and stick to it.
I think also, marketing, it can be a lot of market research and learning. You’re not going to just land the perfect campaign the first time. And you mentioned earlier, too, and I’d like to quickly talk about that, regarding metrics, because data and metrics, I think that’s one of the biggest things, because first, you’ve got to be able to measure what you’re doing in some way, but also you’ve got to be able to adapt to what the market’s saying.
I almost like to do — if we’re going to do anything on the digital side, I like to do A/B testing. Let’s do two different ads and two different angles and see, what do people like, because literally, people’s minds change on a daily basis just with the outside world coming in, and, “Oh, the President did this,” or “Someone did this,” and “Me Movement.” There’s a lot of things that come at you. So, it’s interesting to be able to create some type of research and adapt to the next thing, but I’d like to learn how you use data to help your clients grow.
Yes. So, it started with Powderhorn and looking into their data and their reach, and where people were coming from, and again, just getting really specific. These are people we were treating as family and friends. We really never looked at them so much as clients as they were really — it’s that small-town resort, where these people are coming, and they’re coming often, and we’re seeing them and we’re building these relationships. Where are they from? In talking to them, why are they coming? They’d always tell us why they loved it, because it’s a gem. It’s the family resort. If you want to get back to the pureness of it, of skiing and the simplicity of it, it’s such a beautiful place to do that with your family. You really aren’t going to find a more affordable place to just enjoy the mountains. And so, digging into our demographics and finding where people were coming from, and talking with them, I really found that I enjoyed it and that we had a valuable treasure trove of information that we’d never used before.
And so, in taking on Jet Boat Colorado, they’re a new jet boat thrill ride here in Colorado right off of De Beque, and they’re one of only four boats in the United States that are operating jet boat tours, and it’s the only one on the Colorado River. And the thing that’s really cool about this is we get to start from scratch, and like you said, you just start out and you just do what you feel like your intuition is telling you to do. Do you think you’re going to be able to reach people on TV? Are you going to do e-mail blasts? Are you going to just drive your boat up and down the river as many times as you can, holding signs, waving? You’re just doing whatever you can to see whatever’s going to stick and hit the wall just to begin with.
And then, after its first year, we got to dig into some of the data, and he ended up having people from all across the country and in four different countries of the world take rides on his jet boat tour, because there’s nothing else like it. And so, being able to utilize that information and then move on into the next year, his goal was to double the rides that he had done previously, and we were able to do that because we had found a pretty solid demographic that were utilizing his services.
It’s not like a raft trip where you kind of have to be physically in shape, or you have to commit to either half a day or a full day. I mean, this is the benefit. Kids that weigh at least 40 pounds all the way up to people that are 100 years old can experience the river and thrills, and you can just fly down that river going 40 miles an hour. And then in the middle of it, he’ll spin. He’s able to spin this boat, and they do whips and spins and high-speed jet boat turns all in this shallow water, water you’re like, “No way is this boat going anywhere. I can see rocks. I can touch rocks with my feet, almost. I can hear it touching on the bottom.” But, I mean, he can maneuver this boat because it’s a specifically special type of boat, and that actually appeals to a really wide demographic of people.
But again, that’s great that we cast that net. We can get from here to here, but when you start targeting in on your specific markets, you’re able to build that love, and when people spread that word of mouth for you, that’s golden marketing. That’s the idea. When they have that experience, they have that emotion, you just have this gem. You have something that you can’t fake that they have as true and genuine, and when they light up telling other people about it, that’s a buzz you can’t recreate. That’s what you want. That’s the golden ticket right there.
Exactly. Well, you nailed it right there. We hire brand ambassadors to represent brands, but having your own brand ambassadors that literally just really love your product and they’ll do anything to share it, like, “Oh, crap, guys. You guys have to try it, because I had this wonderful experience. I think you should do it, and it’ll go viral, almost,” viral or just people enjoying it, and I think that’s obviously where you want to get to in this very crowded world and trying to figure out where that is.
I think also just the interesting part of managing a ski resort, one, Powderhorn’s awesome, and it’s such a neat little place. It’s almost like a dream of mine, like, “I want to work for a ski resort.” I’m sure it’s obviously interesting, working with different consumers and how do you get people to come up the hill, because it’s close, but I’m sure people are like, “Oh, that’s too far,” even though 30 minutes is nothing.
Right. Or the challenge of the nice day versus, “Oh, it looks cloudy up there.” It’s really funny. We live in our valley. If people aren’t familiar with the Grand Valley, the demographics of the whole area and the landscape of the area is so unique and so diverse that really, from one end of the Grand Valley to the other, you can snowmobile and ski in the morning, and then drive down and mountain bike and raft in the afternoon. I mean, that’s literally where you can come and do everything that you want to do outdoors and in one day, and it’s really amazing.
So, sometimes the challenge is really like getting your locals to come up and say, “I’m going to not mountain bike today. I’m going to go ski,” and it’s always fun. It’s just a different mindset, and I think maybe just because we’re so spoiled, we get that choice.
So, where other people are like, “I bought that season pass. I am driving up. I am going. Gotta get seven days in.”
Oh, I know. We’re about to run out of time here, but I wanted to also just quickly plug, I know that you are still planning on doing this event next year in Junction. Is that still happening?
Yes, yes. So, we created the Experience Education Foundation this last month. It’s what I’ve been working on. So, the Western Slope is this really rich, dynamic region filled with all kinds of businesses that touch every place in the world. If you look at the ski resort industry, to agriculture, to even the wine areas, there’s a lot of diversity that happens on the Western Slope of Colorado, and we’re very fortunate.
At the same time, though, we’ve learned through our different groups and talking and communicating with people that we really feel that we’re lagging behind in some of the educational techniques, leadership with communications and marketing, so we’ve come together. A group of us are organizing a marketing and communications and leadership conference in the spring of 2019. A lot of organizations have typically the ability to send maybe one person every year off to a conference, and what we’d like to do is bring the conference here to Grand Junction where it’s a centrally located area so that everybody can come and be raised to the same level.
I’m a big believer that your weakest link is how strong you can be, and I feel that a lot of us keep chasing after the same things that have already been done, but we have this strong desire to create new, but we’re not entirely sure how that happens. And so, I’d love to be able to create this opportunity for everybody to come together and be inspired to create the new so that we can all experience it and learn from it. I love being able to set the bar higher for everybody, and that just challenges us all to be better, and it creates a better working environment, better living environment, more creativity for all of us.
Well, I’m excited. I think that’s a great idea too. I’m just excited that you’re taking the lead on this to be able to educate people and be able to bring a learning experience, and just open people’s minds. I appreciate meeting people and knowing you, that you’re always curious. “So, why are you doing this,” or how to make something happen. So, I think that’s great, and I’m excited to see how I can help in any way with it as well.
Oh, yeah, I’m so excited for you to come over and help me.
Yeah, I know. I need to get down there.
I know. You do. You really took off on the experiential marketing before it really became experiential marketing. The last few years, really, you were on the cutting edge of it, when everything has shifted now to really be about the experience, and you were like this trendsetter. You were ahead of it before anybody else was, and so, like I said, I’m just always in awe of you and what you’re doing, and so I’m just always cheering you on.
And I know there’s so many people that would love to hear from you. I know I would. I’m always looking for people I can learn from, because I know I am not the smartest out there. I’ll be the first person to tell you that I’m very humble about that. But I love learning from other people, and I love bringing people together, because it’s just such a beautiful thing when everybody comes together and learns, and listens, and talks it through, and so it’s great. It may not be pretty, but you know what they say, sexy sells, ugly goes viral.
Well, thanks so much for the kind words. I say the same thing, too. I don’t feel like I’m smart. I’m curious, and I think it’s just like I’m not satisfied with just the norm. I think that’s just how I grew up, too. It’s like, “Well, I don’t believe you,” and then you run a staffing company, and then you don’t believe anybody. You’re like, “Yeah, I don’t believe you. So, how do you actually really believe you and get you to believe in something?”
Yeah, it’s lessons learned. It really is.
Exactly. Well, awesome. Well, I’d love to have you on again, and I say that to a lot of guests, but I know that you have a lot of knowledge and are excited to stay in touch. And good luck with everything up in Grand Junction.
Thanks, and same with you. And, yeah, I’d love to come back, and I will definitely be touching base with you on dates that we should hopefully have finalized here. By the next three weeks, we’ll have it hopefully ready to launch.
Perfect. It sounds good. We’ll share it on our podcast. Once it’s launched, it’ll probably be on our notes page. Well, thanks again, Dusti.
Have a great rest of your day.
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