Exploring the Marketing Landscape with Mitch Joel


It goes without saying the marketing landscape has dramatically changed over the past year. 

The disappearance of conferences (a go-to channel for B2B companies) has been a game-changer, forcing marketers to embrace virtual events, high-quality content, newsletters, and social media.

Who better to provide perspective on marketing today and where it’s heading (as well as how business is transforming) than Mitch Joel, an entrepreneur, investor, author, and trusted advisor.

In this episode of Marketing Spark, Mitch and I discuss:

- The domination of the advertising landscape by Google and Facebook

- The growing importance of storytelling

- How and when in-person conferences will return

- The future of LinkedIn and Clubhouse.

By Mark Evans and welcome to markets mark the podcast and for the insight marketers and entrepreneurs and the trenches mean twenty five minutes more less. It goes with those saying the marketing landscape has dramatically changed over the past year. The disappearance of conferences, a go to channel for beauty companies, has been a game changer for some marketers to embrace virtual events, high quoting content, news letters and social media. WHO Better to provide perspective on marketing today and where it's heading, as well as how business is transforming the mix dual entrepreneur, investor, author and trust your devisor? Welcome to markets park. Get to hear from you. Market Nice to, quote unquote, see you. I get to see your face because of the power of club house. Normally not much, but good to see you. Likewise, it's been a long time, especially in these covid times in which we're living, where seeing people as a real treat. Let's start by exploring the state of digital marketing. As I said during the introduction, it's been a year of change, experimentation and adapting to the new landscape. A loaded question, but what's been your take on marketing over the past twelve months. You know, I don't know if it's so much twelve months as it is in general. And I want to separate the idea of marketing and advertising, because it's an easy trope to get into. So let's focus on the advertising side of it and then maybe you can remind me and we can pull it back in or bat or zoom out to the broader world of digital marketing. But from an advertising perspective it's been pretty you know, I want to use the word's sad. It's somewhat sad. We lived in a world, and you were there early on, as I was, where it felt like we would see a million flowers blossom and suddenly we are in this world that Professor Scott Galloway so rightfully called to these unregulated monopolies. It's a place where if you are playing with two players, namely facebook and Google, and we could discuss the debate the other ones because they have merit, but that'll basically cover you. That'll basically get you the eyeballs and attention you need and because of their data and the accumulation of the platforms that fall within both of those major brands, what you have is a world where the publishers also maintain so much data and information that they know exactly, based off of keywords, intent, connections, etc. How much a keyword or key phrase or target audience is to any brand. They know more about the actual acquisition of a customer in the lifetime value of the customer then probably the brand that's trying to do any semblance of advertising, and that creates a massive financial opportunity for the publishers. It provides the brands with a really good insight into how they can target or retarget their advertising in their messaging, but it doesn't provide a lot of flexibility. And with that there's also the question of brand safety. What we've really seen in the past twelve months is a bit of a red herring. In one instance. Brands have never been safe on social media. Their content has constantly been surrounded by however you want to describe the content. Is it political? Is it too left, is it to right, is it to center, or do we want our brands associated around these types of content, comments, user generated content, etc. But when it became the big banner that brands were floating everywhere brand safety, brand safety, we're going to be pulling back our advertising from facebook and Google. I felt like it's a bit of a red herring, only because it fell at a time when the pandemic was really kicking off and getting hot and crazy and heavy for the world, and I felt like it was a good diversion from the reality that brands were probably going to start retracting marketing and advertising budgets, they were probably going to start of laying people off and making pretty ugly announcements. But if they could yell very loudly about brand safety, it could push the owners back onto the platforms again, namely facebook and Google in this...

...instance, and I found that very frustrating from my own perspective. On the other hand, brands have never been more empowered, as you and I have known talked about for over a decade, to build their own platforms, to get more engaged in their newsletters, to get more engaged in their own content careertion and to think about things differently. So you have a tale of two cities, as we always have in these situations. You have a you have the agnostic world of technology that is neither good nor bad, it just is, and you have many flare ups of issues and challenges that make it somewhat challenging for big brands to play and effectively and really troublesome for the smaller brands to even get on board. which, again, if you look at the smaller brands, then you can go down the larger view of digital marketing and look at an amazing opportunities and things like, for example, shopify, another, you know, Canadian success story that I'm sure both of us are really proud of, but that enables and empowers anybody to become an entrepreneur. That has massive implications across the landscape as well, because now you have younger startups who are thinking about building their own platform. They're engaged in the market place, they're adding APPS on to it, they're trying to build that DTC that direct a consumer relationship and that creates a very fortuitous time. But as they move up into the scale of time to advertise on Google and facebook, it can be very, very limiting. And again, what happens while it lays? It lays a path for new startups like clear bank, for example, again another Canadian company. I'm being very pro Canadian today, but how do they think about venture? Well, the vast majority to new businesses are coming in and looking for venture for marketing. Want to build a business like clear bank, which essentially doesn't take ownership, but off firs alone against specifically targeted advertising and facebook and Google with the premium on top of it. That takes away from removing issues from the overall cap of the company and what they're looking at and provides a new venture and venue to advertise and connect. So I can go down a million tropes here. If you want mark well, ask a simple question. You don't get a simple answer. I guess is the easy way to describe what there's a lot of different ways we can go here. There are three words. They came to mind when you were answering that question. One was flexibility, the other was creativity and the other was innovation. Flexibility when it comes to advertising channels, because you're absolutely right about the fact that there are two big players in town and really, when it comes digital marketing, you either go with option a or option be. Last year, when a lot of brands jumped off facebook, they said they know would longer advertise on the platform. You had to believe it was more, you know, show than go that eventually they just couldn't resist the power and size of the facebook platform and they eventually, many of them came back. Now, a lot of them didn't publicize the fact that they'd come back, but it was it was what it was, and the same thing goes for Google. Google has so much data you have to be everywhere, and that is just the advertising landscape. The other thing comes down to creativity, and I am interested in, as a creative, getting your take on this. The fact that brands have to be so careful these days. You know, putting yourself out there, taking chances, embracing risk, doing things that may push the boundaries can put you offside pretty quickly, particularly in a world where we increase when you see the world in black or white and wondering what your take is of the creative landscape when it comes to marketing. You know, creatively, I really think we are seeing a high level of innovation, only because, again, I zoom out and look beyond banner advertising and retargeting, but the ability to tell a story in a compelling way that attracts an audience, and audience to potentially being a customer, first time customers. My friend Avanash...

Kaushak, who's this analytics guru and ai person, a google like to say a customers be someone who buys for you twice. So first on customer and then a real customer, someone's bought from you twice. And I see this every single day and I love that level of creativity. And where am I seeing it? While I am seeing it in places like in my newsletters, I am seeing it in the extension from the newsletter, which may or may not be attached to it. Again, I'll point to the shop offy blog as an example. It's really hard to find a more aggregated, unique from diverse voices area to understand how to be an entrepreneur in modern times. Beyond the shop offy blog, which sounds crazy to say, but they've done an excellent job at really pushing it forward. When I think about a company like hub spot, for example, very recently acquiring, I think they acquired the hustle, to me these are strong indicators of excellent thinking around creativity. You could extend it into physical creative and think about what Patagonia has done with their movies and their youtube channels. Complex very large media company. They launched this thing called complex land, which is I mean, I don't not explain it is it a video game? Is it an online learning? You go into this experience and you can shop and meet different vendors and go attend content speeches. There has been a complete explosion of the ability to really build a brand in a creative way. You could even look at platforms like Cameo, which allows anybody to go in and get a celebrity to give a shout out to a friend for a birthday or whatever it might be. You could look at something like master class as another great example of creative ways to build a brand and tell your story. I'll even go as far as I've a nerdy well, you know Mark Nosey. I have a many nerdy things, but one of my nerdy things is I've been trying to do another podcast. My main podcast is called six pixels of separation and I've been doing it, I think it's the longest running business podcast in the world, close to fifteen years. But I have another one that I've been doing for about five or six years, which is a monthly show called grow of the no trouble podcast, where I'm trying to slowly build the largest oral history of Bass players, because I love Bass and I used to be a player, but now I just love the music. And in that journey I met this fantastic company called Scotts Bass lessons, which seems like, Oh, so you know. Scott Teaching Bass lessons, online learning great. Scott probably has the largest online instructional for any instrument in the world. Guitars, drums, you name it, beyond I mean not including things like maybe Berkeley College of music and things like that. And his if you look at his his creativity as content, it's astounding. Even if he's retargeting you and adds, and by the way, I don't recommend typing an electric bass because you will be unless you really want to be. You will be retargeted from Scott non stop. But the what he does is he's not retargeting you with ads or promost to sign up or anything like that. It's always content and it's really good content. He'll do a video called the three times Jaco past stories when beast mode, Jaco Pastorius is a very famous electric bass player. He will take a very famous bass that some player used and do a history of that actual instrument with interviews. The content and creativity of what he's doing in seven, eight fifteen minute videos. That are essentially retargeted ads, is super compelling and so I'm a massive believer that you can do very, very compelling things with creativity beyond the idea of it being just great copy and and a great picture of photo to go along with it. Now, where do I go from there? We covered a lot of areas. We could talk about bass playing and in online education. One of the things that you mentioned that obviously capture my attention is storytelling, because I've been a longtime storyteller as a journalist and a blogger and doing videos and...

...newsletters, and there is a lot of talk about storytelling. If you did a search on Google, you yet, I don't hundred million results like within less than a second. Curious about what is actual brand storytelling when you really boil it down to and I think a lot of people struggle with this, is that storytelling and concept makes sense, storytelling in the real world, actually doing it is a whole other thing completely. So maybe you can define what good brand storytelling is and provide some examples of how it happens. You've already mentioned Patagonia as one example, and there's brands like airbnb and go pro that also do a great job. Give us your take on storytelling and and maybe even include why I go out of company struggle with it. Well, I'll simplify, which is you live in a world, I live in a world, everybody listening lives in a world where you, as a brand or individual, can create content in text images, audio and video instantly. And what I mean by when I say for free is the distribution channel is primarily free. I mean there's there's there's modalities to that that we can discuss us. Now, you can do that also in long form or short form. Now, in the world we look, we're recording this on clubhouse. You can do it in the world where it's prerecorded and edited or, like this, live. And so when we talk about what do we mean by brand storytelling, I believe it's simply that, as a brand, you need to sit down and define who amongst US wants to tell a story about our brand, our business, our story in text images, audio, video, long form, short form, live, prerecorded. What's the right mix for us? What makes sense? So if you look to me being a market of one, or me being the best example for me to use, because I know it's so well, I would argue that my output is text, long form, audio long form. That's the core of what I do. I write long articles, blog posts, things like that, and then I do my hourly podcast every week and my other podcast, and that's my main thing. That doesn't mean I don't do three weekly national radio hits. It doesn't mean I don't tweet, it doesn't mean I don't post pictures of my walks on instagram. It just means at the core, that's what I do. And by leveraging that understanding of what you do and creating a path for it, an editorial calendar. How are we going to put this out? What does this look like? You start going down the path where you're no longer limited to the constraints of an ad and you're thinking about your brand as a story, as a publishing entity. So when I was running my agency, which I did for over fifty the years of my business partners, it was called twist image. That's where we started. Six pixels of separation, the blog. That's where we started six pixels of separation the podcast. From that that's what led to speaking events, which I still do a lot of. That's what led to my book deal. So had two books that I put out, but we looked at it at a metal perspective. We said, okay, we are an agency twist image. It became mirrorm in the end, so let's call it Mirrum for consistency. mirrorm manages two other brands. We also manage this thing that we called six pixels of separation, which was our content container for all of those things, the blog, of the podcast, the speaking etc. And we're also managing this brand called Mitch Joel. And I'm not going to talk about myself in the third person like certain athletes do, but that was the attitude we brought to it. What are we doing to improve and place this brand of Mitch Joel and the Storyteller, the face of it, the voice of it, into the Zeitgeist? And so to me that that's a construct of how we create a storytelling environment. Now when we take it to the next level, what I think is really interesting about digital marketing and technology is we have the split of storytelling brand building against direct response advertising. And if I said to you, mark like mark, what do you think would be the proper split for a start up or an established business in terms of the storytelling brand side versus the direct response advertising engine. You would probably logically say fifty with that's what makes sense, but it's not.

It over indexes in a massive way towards direct response, by by a bunch of ads on Google and facebook and target them. That's a better way to get sales and customer acquisition. But if you forego that brand, that storytelling, those components of it, you know, woe was you. It doesn't create the longevity you need, and so what happens in the current world is the brands that are struggling are the ones that aren't paying enough attention to the brandon storytelling component. And what happens on the other side is because they're putting that eighty percent, let's say, on direct response and advertising, is it becomes a more expensive game of customer acquisition, which speaks exactly to what we had before in the large multinational media universe of you know, it's eight o'clock on Thursday on MBC and if you're not advertising on Musty TV, the nation doesn't know you exist. And that became this game of spending and spending against these numbers, which is what we're essentially seeing on the direct response advertising side, with the one caveat being you can tweak it a little bit, you can see if it's actually converting, and that's the drug of it, and that's why I think so many brands haven't been focused on storytelling, because it's almost too easy to do the direct response side of it. Just to jump around a little bit match, because I know there's a lot of ground I want to cover. You have done in the past a lot of public speaking. I suspect that you've probably done your fair share of virtual speaking over the last twelve months trying to get your thoughts and you're probably going to speculate as much as anybody these days about the state of in person events and speaking. You have any sense from the people that you talked to the bookings that you might be getting about when that might come back? And I would put this into context that in Canada were far behind the vaccination curve than the US, so my perspective is a bit different than what might be happening stuff of the border. How do you feel what's going to happen with you when it comes in person speaking this year? I don't know. You know, similar to you, I don't think it's going to work for me unless I have both vaccinations and things are reasonable here. I'm a family person, I'm a parent, happily, and we've got young kids in Canada. Like you said, it's a bit different in that in the states everything's open but the schools are closed. In Canada everything's closed but the schools are open, and we could have a debate about whether that's good or bad. But I want my kids in school and anything that I do that might have to have them removed from school from multiple weeks due to quarantine and things like that or off the table for me. So my my reaction is right now in the states it looks like there are some small and local events that are going forward. I've seen even evidence of large events that are happening. Are Those international events? Probably not. Are they great ideas? That's, you know, not for me to judge or decide on. Have my own perspective, but I don't think it's a Germains of the conversation. But I can't see myself getting on a plane in particularly leaving the country, until I'm fully vaxed and I met the mercy of governments and decisions about boarders and how that works. That being said, my perspective about what's going to happen is different, usually than most of my peers. Most of my peers are in this head space of virtual, hybrid or physical events, and I think that that's the wrong perspective. What's happened, then, it's actually relevant to what we're talking about in relation to marketing, is the world shutdown, let's call it mid March of last year, and every single business went into survival mode. And I believe that there are three says here. So that's the first SIS. Survival mode. Everything went virtual, we're all on zoom. That's life. In August of last year, I think we shifted from survival mode into sustain mode. This is going to be a longer haul. We don't know. There's a lot of uncertainty. Second waves, third waves. So how do we sustain? And I think when we talkd about sustain at a corporate level, it becomes...

...two directions. Direction one is how do we as a company engage our employees if we have to sustain this, as we have been and as we will for a little bit while longer, or maybe much longer. To is how do we engage our customers? And I think the reaction from that is going to be because we're still in sustain mode, by the way. The Third S is strive. Strive is where we probably we were in December January of last year. I think that sustained mode is going to create a different model, and so my gut tells me, my brain a little bit too, that there's going to be three paths. Path one is the CFO speaks the CEO and goes. Look, we didn't do that three hundred person event down in Boston. We did it online and we had one fifteen hundred people come in or Fifteenzero people join. Now we have this content, we can keep reusing this content, pushing this content out there. Why would we ever go physical if we could reach a larger base in a virtual world? So I do think that there is this push towards much more virtual only types of events. I put events in air quotes. The next one is going back to this idea of how do we gage to our employees, how do we gage our customers? I think slowly what they're going to realize, because part of the workforce will remain remote, some people will have moved and changed around. They're going to do a lot more what I'll call local and smaller events, so more regionalized events with a higher level of frequency. Instead, even that big, big event will do two or three in different parts of the country or in different countries and keep it really, really tight and small. This way they're not falling off side in terms of insurance and worried about gatherings that are too large and making people slowly, comfortably edge into this. And then the third one is what I typically do, which is I fly somewhere and I speak to an audience of any size, from five to fifteen thousand people, and I think those are going to be exceptionally popular. I think there's going to there is a pent up demand that people who complain though I got another conference in Las Vegas, are going to be like, how do I get on that plane faster than before? And so what I think is happening is too many people are thinking will which one will it be? In my answer is it will be all three, and so if you are a good speaker and a prepared speaker, you suddenly have two new paths that you may not have had before in any mix up. So for me that you new paths would be virtual only, and the more local, small regional ones on top of what I was typically doing. So I really believe if you're an event planner, if you're in the speaking business, if you're a professional speaker in your well positioned what could happen is you could be busier than ever and have more and more opportunities to speak and grow that business. And this tends to be my overall feeling in general about digital which is this forced innovation that happened for businesses to survive, and that first phase and then shift in to sustain have probably created a myriad of new business models and opportunities for businesses to pursue, and my hope is that as we come out of this, and I'm you know, I think we're all seeing some light here at the end of this tunnel, that they will sustain those and really push them into the drive mode. You know, you have restaurants that were doing zoom lessons. They're suddenly in the online education space and that might be an entirely brilliant new part of business. So I get really excited when I think about what happened through this. You know, what I call this great compression of time to be very opportunistic when it comes to how businesses can grow and expand beyond it. It would be remiss if I didn't ask you about Linkedin and clubhouse. Over the past year I've doubled down on Linkedin. It has been a tremendous medium to connect with people. Have probably talked to more than a hundred people, probably a hundred fifty people directly as a result of linkedin connections, and it's really done my business a lot of good and my brand awareness is is through the roof clubhouse. I'm I'm a bivalent, to be honest with you.

I'm not quite sure, although I'm sure you have a different perspective, because you're quite active and it looks like you've brought your tribe with you. Give me some perspective on the way that Linkedin is a vault and and what you think of clubhouse is potential, because I think that's kind of like the big wild card right now for a lot of individuals in terms of people who are influencers and brands. Yeah, it's an interesting question too, because we're talking about this in the middle of this other thing that's sitting out there, which is rumors, that discord, which I would say is the grandfather of what we're seeing here on clubhouse in terms of social audio, is potentially being sold to Microsoft for ten billion dollars. This room you never know anything like this, but Microsoft clearly owns linkedin and so the connections there are very curious and interesting to me. If Microsoft wanted some kind of clubhouse competitor or asset, this would be in interesting in the integration of it into a linkedin coupled with the fact that they own office, could be a very compelling asset for them to have in that portfolio of companies. Linkedin is a challenge for me because I was in there so early and I basically allowed or connected with everybody thinking that will let's just use this as my open space and any time my blog or podcast I'll just pump it in there and that I'll push it out the thousands and thousands of people. Well, now you've passed forward well over a decade and it's a hot mess for me. So my feed is not clean, it's not clear. It's very problematic for me. I get a lot of inbox spam from people wanting to have fifteen minutes phone call with me to sell me some SASS service that I've no interest in. So my linkedin experience isn't as powerful as yours is. I'll caveat that now by saying that my peers, people like you and other friends and interest in general, anecdote and usage, are loving it more and more every day and I can see why. It is a great place to be that professional and to share content and have it be really relegated to business. And when I looked look at linkedin now, it feels like this weird hybrid of like business, to point out, Fast Company, wired magazine in one which, if that's the space you walk occupying, a lot of us do, it's really, really compelling. In terms of clubhouse, it's a bit of a different thing and it's I think it. I think it's what you bring to clubhouse. Like I have many thoughts about what clubhouse is which stand outside of what it satiates for me. So what a clubhouse say? CLUBHOUSE satiate for me? Well, I do three national or international radio hits every Monday morning, one after the other, and I find it really hard to be, quote unquote, hot on the mic and really good live, like out of the box, especially on a Monday morning, and I don't really practice the rest of the week. To be live, but now I do so when you contacted me for this podcast. My desire to do it here is it's forcing me to act and be who I am, but who I am when it's live in front of an audience, and that provides me a place to practice. So clubhouse for me is a place to get my reps it. The next thing I love about it is that it's live and I do love the energy of lives. So how often have I thought I'd love to do one of my shows and a beautiful theater with a great audience then after we all get to hang out. Be so much fun? But I get nervous and I would never pull the trigger on that because I worry that nobody would show up. But now I can do that and I've done it multiple times and we're doing it again here on clubhouse, which I really, really like. That ability to create the live interaction and bring people and have questions and I just like that energy. So there's that. And then the third is it's the business that I'm in. My job is I help people deco the future. I look at what's happening, where's the world going work? What can I play with? And so when clubhouse came along. I recognize that the discord platform wasn't for me because I'm not while I understand the gaming world, I'm not much of a Gamer. This felt like the Non Gamer version of that. I...

...was slow to adopt it. I mean, I was given an invite on the think October, but it's only been really a couple months that I've come on here to be active and I I like that part of it. I like bringing that energy to it, that I can have these different types of conversations. I've also met some really incredible people here. I find the platform much more diverse in terms of gender and terms of race, in terms of where I live, in terms of how I think, and I welcome those voices. It's nice to see rooms that have that diverse or diversity. I worry that it's going to get more and more homogeneous as it grows and I worried that the tech infrastructure beneath it will will push it in another direction. But I'm hopeful that I can still find those different rooms that add to my ability to learn more and more about not just diversity but my desire to understand others better. And I've learned a lot over the past couple years. I mean I used to be the person who said, Oh, I'm not racist, I've got friends from all though. I wrote fur the hour, the alternative weekly, for years. I was, I've been a all true. But the other part is the systemic part. In the sytemic part is me being able to acknowledge that, as as someone who I self declare as male, Pale and stale, right in the middle aged white guy with a ton of privilege, that I've had that privilege, that the system is set up so that I do have a certain level of privilege that I that I took advantage of, of course, and so my perspective changes and it's changed the law because the conversations that happen here in clubhouse. So that's the third part of it. Your reason might be really different. You might be I just want to hang out in cool tech rooms and meet interesting people and speak to other marketers. Fantastic. So that's what makes the social network powerful, is finding what your reason for being here would be. We've covered a lot of ground in thirty minutes and I want to thank everybody for listening to another episode of marking spark. If you enjoyed the conversation, leave a review and subscribe by I botify favorite PODCAST APP.

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