The Wednesday Stack: Immediate Experiences with Long Tails

“I don’t want the first question to be, is it a digital or an analog approach,” said Kelly Watkins. She thinks the marketing industry is hung up right now on which tactics are prospering and which are failing.

Watkins is VP of global marketing at Slack, the workflow and collaboration platform (full disclosure: used by the editorial team here at DMN). She was speaking on a panel at an event hosted by Slack in NYC yesterday; a panel which was unanimous on the proposition that what matters is the customer experience, whether it be digital, offline, or an inextricable blend of the two.

But of course: “Every medium is digital nowadays.” Nicolas Van Erum, managing partner at creative agency Sid Lee was making the point that even the most traditional media — radio, increasingly TV, and even out-of-office media like billboards, deliver content digitally. The starting point for marketers, then, shouldn’t be the channel  it should be the customer, and the best way to reach them.

This has proved especially true for Birchbox, the multi-brand, subscription-based beauty product vendor. Birchbox has a subtle understanding of its customer, described by CCO Amanda Tolleson as “the casual beauty consumer.” Birchbox isn’t targeting women (or men) obsessed with beauty and budgeting large expenditures on beauty products. Instead, it found a “really wide space” filled with consumers who appreciated curation, ease-of-access, and simple customization. Birchbox delivers customized boxes of samples, based on the customer’s profile; customers buy full-size versions of what they like. Plus there’s free shipping, loyalty points, beauty advice, and so on.

The relevance of all this is that the kind of experience a Birchbox customer appreciates is offline; something that’s “not just transactional.” Tolleson admits to mistakes. Birchbox has appeared at big beauty expos: “They’re not our customers,” she said. The booth traffic was good, but the people attending those shows were consumers who were obsessed with beauty; not the casual purchasers Birchbox sought. Birchbox thrives with events based on other activities — family activities, for example — with the beauty products on the sidelines.

(The business does have two permanent stores in New York and Paris, but has also had success with pop-ups, especially featuring the hugely popular “Build Your Own Birchbox” service.)

Are things so different for Slack’s B2B marketing strategy? Not really — and not least because Slack is B2B with a twist. As Watkins made clear, the big sell for software like Slack’s is less to the IT team than to the end users. Slack is the kind of software which actually has “fans.” As Watkins observed, “It’s a different era today. [Customers develop] long-lasting relationships with brands.” No longer is the relationship — again — purely transactional; “It’s signalling something about who I am as a person, and what I care about.”

And where there are fans, there are opportunities to engage them with real-world experiences. For example, the “Best Monday Ever” pop-ups, where Slack teams with local partners to improve the beginning of the working week with treats like free coffee or bagels, massages, Lyft rides, and fun activities. an These are events which are manifested physically, said Watkins, but scaled digitally: “The long tail of these efforts really natters,” she said.

That’s where digital comes in (as it always does). When it comes to customer experiences, it’s the digital component adds reach to the personal touch. Van Erum described the global events Sid Lee worked on for Stella Artois, presenting the Belgian beer brand as something associated with fine dining experiences. Partnering with Cirque du Soleil, the events touched hundreds consumers worldwide.

But an audience numbering tens of thousands was reached through social amplification; in this case, a series of taste-inspired music videos by The Roots. However, it’s not just about the quality of the end content, Van Erum warned.  Posting a classy video and hoping it will reach people is not enough. “It’s about how you manufacture it, and how you use it.” All in an environment which is less and less controlled by brands.


Meanwhile, CTV advertising is booming. 

That’s according to a study by Tru Optik, released earlier this week, which found a 750 percent growth rate of data-driven OTT ad-targeting within the last year. Tru Optik, a vendor that brings automation to OTT and CTV advertising, released information that suggests advertisers are relying less on demographic data (the information that TV panels are designed to measure, such as age and gender) and leaning more toward granular audience-based data. It seems obvious that TV viewing data would inform ad-targeting on all forms of OTT, but why is it seemingly the talk of the industry now? 

DMN’s Editor-in-Chief spoke to seasoned media experts at LiveRamp’s RampUp 2018 summit in San Francisco about just that — why now? Jim Nail, of Forrester, said the tech has been around for a while, but at networks and media companies “the light bulbs are starting to go off. They’re starting to question old habits, old frameworks, and old processes, which have been set in stone for 50 years.”  Nick Ciccone


Finally, an intriguing LinkedIn enhancement flies over the virtual transom: Deals for Sales Navigator.

It’s a move which LinkedIn describes in a release as part of a “journey to win the hearts and minds of the entire sales org.” Deals loads CRM pipeline data into a single, simple dashboard interface, allowing reps to edit their entire pipeline in one place. Perhaps more interesting though, for marketers as well as sales professionals, is a feature within Deals called Buyer’s Circle. 

This surfaces CRM opportunity role information relating to decision makers, influencers, etc, involved in a purchase. It also allows users to select anyone with a LinkedIn profile, drag them to a role within the opportunity, and automatically update the CRM records. Can I hear an “ABM!”?

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