Originally aired on October 26, 2020 @ 5:00 PM - 5:30 PM EDT
Join Rick Wootten for a conversation with marketing leaders to understand more about marketing and the people who are shaping this discipline. What advice do they have for up-and-coming brands? How do they navigate the challenges associated with an increasingly noisy world? What's their superpower?
Learn from the experts on how to build great and enduring brands, engender trust and advocacy, and drive adoption and use of new products and technologies.
Welcome everyone to the show Marketing Matters. This is the show where I get to interview some of the brightest minds in marketing. On today's show I've got Rick Mathieson. He's the author of the on -demand brand and Marketing Unbound. He's also an award-winning creative director and he's consulted at a number of great brands. And of course, you know, I've also known Rick for a very long time, you know, almost 150 years in dog years probably at this point. And he's, of course, the other co-host of the Rick and Rick podcast where we discuss everything in marketing, technology, culture, just whatever else piques our interest. So welcome to the show, Rick. Hey, thanks for having me. Great to talk to you on video this time. I know, this is great. Maybe we'll have to do this on our show too. I think so. Cool. You know, you and I have known each other for a long time. I was joking with somebody and saying it was back in the dark ages of the Internet. And it really was because it was before Firefox, Safari, Chrome, like these things that these browsers that people are very accustomed with really didn't even exist back then. I mean, Google was nascent. I mean, it was crazy how long it's been. And in that time, you know, we've both been fortunate, but especially you to work in some great projects and work, you know, to revamp some great brands. And so, so, you know, one of the, one of the first things I always like to ask people on the show is, you know, kind of give me your origin story. You know, any great superhero has an origin story, what's your origin story and how'd you get to where you are? Jeez, my origin story. Well, you know, I'll have to reveal my secret identity if I do that. Origin story. So, you know, it's funny. I, I, my origin story is probably, probably starts in like second grade. I started writing and drawing comic books, speaking of origin stories in my second grade class and, and set up a comic book store in the back of our classroom where I sold them. And I made like 10 bucks a week from it which, you know, back in the 1800s was a good amount of money. It was a, it was an education. It helped me understand what, you know, creating content that people like to consume and marketing it. So that was really my, my sort of my origin. From there, you know, in college, I was a journalism student and sort of started to mix the two when I started my career. You know, as you know, worked on a lot of marketing campaigns, advertising campaigns, and just about every medium. But increasingly, it is about creating content and I've been doing a lot of that over the last few years and, and having a blast doing it. That's great. You know, I, I don't know if I knew that, that you did that with comic books. My, geez, it must have been sixth grade. My friend Nate and I, and his friend Ryan, we, we did our own comic book and we did that for, for just one year. And I think I, I might have one of them around still. I think he's got a couple of them. We tried to sell them, nobody would buy them. So you, you definitely did better than we did. But we had a hell of a lot of fun, you know, creating comic books back then. How did I not know that you'd done that as well? I'm not surprised at all. But, you know, I will tell you that that was definitely realizing I would be the writer and not the artist for, for comic books. So I was, I was the inker. You know, we, we had one guy that was really good at the writing. We had another guy that, Nate, who was really good with the drawing and, and my contribution was definitely the ink. So that's how we rolled. Cool. Now, was it a superhero comic or was it? Oh yes. Oh no. Always, always the superhero comic. We always, we always ran to that sort of thing. Yeah, me too. Me too. So, you know, I know, like I said, I've known you for a while and over the years you've done some really cool projects. And, you know, one of the ones I was thinking about earlier today was the projection mapping you did for one of your clients. And I think, I think you even had Train, the band Train perform at, you know, this this great marketing activation. You know, how do you come up with stuff like that? Like what are these crazy, you know, activations you've done in the past? You know, it's, it's crazy because for that particular activation, it was for a client called LoopNet. It's owned by CoStar. It's in the commercial real estate space. And it's interesting because we, their value proposition was if you're not advertising your commercial property on LoopNet, then, you know, no one's going to see your, your property. And so the word invisible came to mind and we created a full campaign to market this particular offering, but it kept, the word invisible kept sticking in my head. And I saw this, it was a YouTube video from Europe where someone had placed sort of those flexible LED screens on one side of a Mercedes. I think it was one of their sort of eco-friendly automobiles. And they had created a video where the car was going past the camera and the LED was actually a camera on the other side of the car was capturing what was on the other side of the car. And so the effect was on the LED screen, you were seeing what was on the other side of the car. It kind of created that effect, like in the movie Predator, where it's kind of a cloaking device. You kind of saw through this car and it was a really cool effect. And for some reason it popped into my head. So it was, it was one of those things where you go to a client and you're presenting the work and then it's kind of like, one more idea. Now we knew this was going to be just outrageously expensive. We thought the client would probably say no, but we'd like to show the way we think to clients. We knew this was going to cost well over a million dollars just for what we proposed. And I said, what if we created a effect where we used 3D projection mapping to make it appear as if a building vanishes right before your very eyes. So the idea of being cameras on the other side of the building, capturing what's beyond it, projecting that on the front of the building so that it looks like the building sort of vanishes. It wasn't the way it actually worked out. We had to fake a lot more, but the client listened and he goes, great. How much will it cost? It's probably a million dollars. Great. I want to do it twice. So it was one of those things where it, you know, the client was game. And we ended up doing that in Los Angeles for a big launch for that particular client. Made a, I think it was an 11 story building. I mean, it looked like it disappeared. Right at a key moment, we flash, I don't know, 40,000 lumens of light at people. And then all of a sudden the projection mapping on this building showed, or at least faked, what was on the other side of it. And I kid you not, it looked like it vanished. It was spectacular. Exceeded our expectations. And then as part of that, you mentioned train. We had the band Train play at this particular launch. It was all happening over their shoulders. It was just a lot of fun. But to answer your question, so coming up with things like that, it's just paying attention. It's, you know, you and I talk a lot about things. You give me ideas, you know, all the time. And it's just paying attention to what's going on, not just in marketing and advertising, but in, you know, popular culture at large, and just kind of connecting the dots between different, you know, for different possibilities. Are you with me? When you have an activation like that, you know, it's going to be a fairly costly one. Yeah. How do you, how do you approach a client with that? How do you, how do you show them ahead of time, some sort of an ROI that gets them excited enough to do it? Yeah. That particular client, that is unusual that it's like, okay, we'll just drop a couple million on this particular launch. It was one of those things where we knew this particular client had an eye for, you know, the splashy, and they were entering, or they were kind of the 800 pound gorilla in their space, and they had competitors starting to come onto the scene, and they really wanted to cement their positioning, be the category leader in every, you know, first in mind for everyone in the category. And so they knew they were going to have this big launch event, and it was one of those things where, you know, it, you couldn't necessarily project out an ROI, but what was interesting was, you know, we knew it would make a splash. We knew we would get industry press for it, which we did. We knew it would be viral. We created a follow-up email the next morning saying, you know, sending a video of the effect out to people who had attended the event, and, you know, gave them, you know, said, hey, share this on social media, and we'll, you know, if you do, we'll give you a great prize. I think it was a sign, it was a guitar signed by the members of Train. Well, of course, everybody posted it, and, you know, they were put into a drawing for that particular prize. What was interesting was a year later, the CEO went and did a follow-up, and as it turned out, the event more than paid for itself. I think it was 80% of everyone who attended the event went on to purchase this particular solution, and it's not a one-off. It's not a, you know, piece of software or anything. It's an ongoing, you know, income generator. So he thought, did the follow-up, and it was, it more than paid for itself in just one year's time. Now, so when you look back, is that, is that kind of your, your favorite project? Is there one that you had that maybe it was a little more impactful? Well, for sure. I have been lucky to work on accounts and clients where we've been able to make a sizable impact on it, meaningful impact on their business. That was one instance of it. It's not, you know, I, you know I love really cool digital technologies and especially the application of digital and physical sort of, you know, combining the two and not needing any kind of consumer device or whatnot. But it, you know, even, even for accounts where it's just content marketing, thought leadership, things like that, that are moving the needle for clients, we get a big kick out of those as well. One particular project that, I don't know, this could, this could be one of my favorite because it happened to have been with you. The SonicWall video game that we created, I forget what year that was, but we'd created a, you had, we were in a meeting and you said that you would like to, you know, do some kind of cool add-on to a campaign that you were launching, if I remember correctly. And that was an instance where you wanted to do something viral. I think we talked about some video or whatnot. And I had it in my head, the particular elements of your value proposition about network security had me thinking about a video game. And, and that eventually became a video game that was, you know, sort of using the TSA style conveyor belt for deep packet inspection, you know, viewing things as they were going through this conveyor belt and letting the right things in and stopping the wrong things and that conveyor belt going faster and faster. And then multiple conveyor belts. That might be one of my favorite. And I seem to remember you saying that the, the, within the first few months, it was not meant to be a money generator at all, but the leads generated from that particular online game generated a million dollars or something within the first three months of, of its being live. So I don't know. I always liked that one. And we, you and I were covered in the wall street journal from that, if I remember correctly, as a piece of branded entertainment for the B2B space. So I really liked that, that particular execution or activation. Yeah. I didn't know you were going to say that one, but I'm glad that you did. That was, that was definitely on the top of my list as well. That was, that was, that was literally the son of what was the company I was with at the time. And we were launching into the enterprise. We'd had a really strong SMB play for a long time, but we wanted to go up market and we wanted to do it in a way that we can garner some attention. So we had a whole, you know, everything you would expect a company to have with, you know, advertising, microsites, the whole thing. And then we were like, you know, what can we do though, that would really grab attention? And that's where we approached you with that idea. And, you know, that I, that the concept of taking a digital security thing and then describing the solution in a physical security way was just kind of fun. And, and surprisingly how much, how much people really enjoyed it. And if I remember right, I think in the first year it, it turned an ROI of, you know, $3 million or something like that, closed business. And I don't remember what we spent, but it wasn't that much. So, you know, there was a huge... Dang it. So charge to mark, just kidding. So let's have a little fun with this. So, you know, everybody always talks about, you know, the, their favorite, but what about your, your least favorite? What, what, give me a campaign that like bond and that you're like, wow, you know, I wish I could erase that from history. Oh, I'm sure I've had a campaign somewhere along the way that I, I think, God, I, I would rather forget that one. When it comes to mind, it was a mixture of online and direct marketing that it just didn't quite work out or the way that I was hoping. But what immediately comes to mind when you said that was it was just a particular one execution for a client early on. It was one of my first jobs, if I remember correctly, there was a piece of copy for a, it was a management consulting firm. And I want to say that I meant to put something like in the copy, you know, there are six sessions, six hours each, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Well, we got the, the copy back and in the margins, it said, yeah, you wish it points. And I had accidentally written, there are six sex sessions, six hours each. So that was embarrassing, but fortunately the, the client was a great sport about it. Yeah. You know, I, I, I know I've told you this story before I'm going to leave out the name of who the painter is, but early in my career, we built a virtual museum. This is back in the nineties, by the way, we built a virtual museum in a shockwave for this particular artist. And I wasn't a huge fan of their work. And, you know, being, you know, somebody with a design background and all that, I have my own tastes and this was not part of my taste. And so back then you didn't really have blogs, you didn't have forums, you didn't have that sort of thing. So every day we would update a webpage. I guess it wasn't every day, I guess it was every two or three days, but particularly on Mondays of this artist coming in and saying what his experiences were that weekend and how you'd worked on this piece of art or that piece of art. And so I, he, he was talking about how he'd been to Monterey and it was beautiful and it was such a great experience. And of course I put suck instead of such and published it to the web for everybody to see. About a half hour later, one of the, one of the writers came running over and said, you transcribed that wrong. You've got to fix it. Like, well, I guess subconsciously it kind of slipped through. That's right. That's right. You know, and, and, and thus ended Rick's early days with Banksy, right? I love his work though. He constantly is on the edge. Yeah. Also the thing with the McDonald's fries or something, the painting that cut itself up into pieces or something. Oh, that was, that was, that was fantastic. So he was selling this piece of art. It was a beautiful piece of art in this nice frame. And it was weird because that's not, you know, he's not really commercial artist, right? And so the whole thing was weird. And I forget what it went for. It seems like it was over a million, whatever it was, it was a ridiculous amount of money and original Bansky. And once the auction ended, the artwork started to move its way down and there was an embedded shredder in the bottom of the frame and it started shredding it. It actually, I guess, malfunctioned. It was supposed to shred the whole thing, but it got down about halfway, maybe a little, little less and then clogged. And so, you know, half the picture shredded and half the other picture isn't shredded. And it's almost a better metaphor for the whole experience than anything. And, and his whole thing was, you know, trying to point out consumerization and, you know, and all that. I just thought it was incredibly clever. Yeah. I bet he was not happy with what McDonald's did in social media. I guess they, if I remember correctly, they did a play on it where it showed them becoming French fries or something. The pieces of the picture sticking out were French fries with points for McDonald's, but I'm sure Bansky wasn't happy if his message was against the consumerization of art. Yeah. So, so let's talk a little bit about, uh, learnings for other marketers, you know, um, since COVID happened, you, you and I've talked about this since COVID happened, everybody's marketing plans went out the window. I mean, you know, everything you, you thought you were going to do with events or in person or, you know, even physical mailers, just they're all gone. And so a lot of marketers had to go back to the table and start over and, you know, whether it's March, April, May, whatever it is. And so, um, you know, you, you've been working with a number of clients, so you probably had some learnings as you've gone through this. What advice, like what learnings have you had and what advice can you give people? Yeah. Every event. So I've worked on a number of major launches since COVID hit and lockdowns and travel restrictions and whatnot. Uh, and so, you know, obviously every, like with everyone else, everything's gone virtual. Uh, and early on, it was a launch, not too far into everything. Uh, you know, it was a little tougher, um, working on one right now where things are smoothed out quite a bit. Um, the, the big things that, you know, I would say if just in particular with events is to make sure that you're looking for platforms that, uh, that will enable full video functionality, like we're having right now with the zoom, but also enable full, um, interaction. And they build it, ask questions at scale, uh, larger, you know, organizations that, uh, you know, they're in, they're not a lot of great, um, platforms out there for that. Uh, one that, uh, I was looking at, I think I've mentioned to you, um, it was symposium. In fact, we featured on, on our podcast, uh, symposium has a solution for that. Uh, that's worth checking out. If you are working on any kind of big, uh, virtual event for folks, um, it enables folks to have essentially, you could run comic-con on this platform and allow people to go to the different tracks and the different sort of sessions, uh, and have full, you know, raise the hand, uh, capability and video on, you know, question the person posing questions and, uh, really have that kind of full interactivity that comes close or much closer, as close as we can to that real world, uh, you know, live experience. And, uh, I think there's value in that. I think that, you know, so event, the event space isn't going to be back to where it was anytime soon, if ever. Um, I think that many more will be virtual or have larger virtual components of it in the future. And, uh, I don't think that's a bad thing. I think it's a good thing. Yeah, no, I, I, I agree with you. I think, I think the world as we know it, know it has changed for foreseeable future. I do think there is a kind of natural equilibrium. We'll come back and we, we are human beings. We'd like to interact with people in person. So I do see us getting back to a world where we interact. Um, but I don't, I don't think that's going to be quick. I think that's going to take some time, maybe years, but we'll have to see how that goes. Um, what kind of trends are you seeing? What, what do you think anything's different now? I mean, clearly the events. Yeah. Yeah. You know, I think that, uh, you and I have talked about this. I think that what we've seen is sort of eight years of, uh, progress in the digital space in eight months. And, uh, I think that, uh, you know, we've seen trends that were already in place just accelerate significantly. And, uh, I think that the, the brands that are able to sort of make the most of that, uh, I think are going to do quite well, uh, not just in, you know, sort of in the post COVID age. Um, I think that in the, in this period of time, I think that being as relevant as possible to your customers and consumers in general, or your, your, our audience, um, I think is key. You know, we saw early on all those really great, I thought they're really great, uh, commercials. We saw a lot of zoom based commercials, um, and, uh, sort of that empathy was built by brands and, uh, people quickly got tired of that. And I see why it was kind of overdone. Um, we're in a phase now where I think it really is just be relevant, relevant, relevant. It's weird. This has all happened before, you know, there's nothing new under the sun. Um, I was reading saying this Smith, Smithsonian or something recently, uh, they had a piece where, um, in Europe, you often see, you know, sort of the, um, the stone buildings or whatnot, uh, walls or whatnot. And you see these little windows closed up. And, uh, I always thought they're sort of decorative. Um, it turns out that those were wine windows. So back during the middle ages, when plague would come through, uh, wine merchants would open these windows up in the wall and they would, you know, people would come in and they'd, uh, hold out a tray where the customer could place their money to take that end and disinfect it. I don't know what that was vinegar or whatnot. And, uh, and then on that tray would outcome a glass of wine, um, to the, uh, the customer. And, uh, so, you know, zero touch is the Midas touch right now. And I think that is probably the biggest brand, just biggest, uh, uh, movement in terms of brand from not just the communication space and brand, you know, um, sort of, um, uh, um, value proposition, but all the way out to the customer. I think the more that brands can be zero touch, I think that that's probably the most important trend to come out of all of this. And again, all trends that were happening anyway, uh, Bapus, buy online, pick up at store that was already happening. Now it's just gone crazy. Um, most, you know, people who have ever bought clothes online, you know, have done so in the last eight months. So, um, or at least a sizable, probably more than half probably. Um, and so I think brands need to be thinking that way. How do I deliver all the way out to the customer, uh, with as little touch or ideally zero touch, uh, way. Yeah, no, you know, that, that totally makes sense. I, I was thinking back there's a, there's definitely a few companies, particularly in the food industry that I've seen do this. Well, I think Burger King is one of the ones, you and I have a love affair of Burger King. We talk about it all the time on our show, uh, but Burger King, you know, actually has all the food on the trays. And so there there's never, you know, kind of a human interaction there, which I think is, is clever. Um, I've been to a couple of restaurants recently, you know, here in the South Bay, uh, indoor dining has started opening up, which is, seems like such a bizarre thing these days. It's how quickly did we get used to not having indoor dining? Um, and you know, we're, I'm seeing a lot of really good behaviors with how restaurants are handling people and making sure that the food is safe and everything else. And, um, it's, it's pretty neat. I mean, a lot of restaurants here are still doing the temperature check before they even let you in the door. Oh, wow. Which again is still, still pretty, um, you know, uh, progressive, you know, it's, it's still a good way to, to maintain it. So I think we're going to see that for a while. It'd be interesting to see how airport, the airport travel experience changes. I mean, not just travel. It sounds like, it sounds like the, the planes themselves are cleaner than ever. You wonder, you know, these air filters, they say now you can fly anywhere and you wonder why the hell I didn't have that all along. Uh, but my understanding is, you know, think about an airport. Uh, I think that, uh, the technologies, they're going to see some interesting transformations coming up. I, I haven't, you've traveled recently or, or no, you. Yeah, no, I traveled a couple of weeks ago. It was, uh, it was, it was definitely, I don't know if you remember after September 11th, the first time you traveled after that, I won't say it was to the same extreme, but you know, it was, it was definitely, uh, an eyeopening experience. You know, there's a lot of anxiety going into it. And at least here in the San Jose airport, um, you know, I walked in, there was, there, I mean, it was a ghost town. There was hardly anybody in the airport getting through security lines, although there was like extra layers of, you know, protection. Um, it was still not a lot of people. You got through fairly quickly and the planes were more than half empty. So, you know, it was just a very different experience. Everybody's wearing masks and people wearing face shields. Like, you know, it's, uh, it's just a very different experience and it smelled clean. Like, you know, how many times can you say you've walked on a plane that you know, smelled clean. It was like, right. There's definitely the smell of disinfectant in the air. And it was, it was, uh, it was reassuring, you know, that that's, that smell now has become a reassuring smell. Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting. I think that, you know, generation from now, it's like in the way that the, uh, uh, depression era children grew up with certain attributes. I think that, uh, that our generation or future generations are going to wonder why we are so interested in putting on masks when we're sick, you know, uh, just to protect everyone around us. Like, why do they keep doing that? Oh, they were back in the, you know, shaking hands, right. And shaking hands is like a sign of respect. It's, you know, but, but that's kind of gone away. Right. I mean, nobody wants to shake anybody's hands anymore. And so it will be interesting to see how that happens long-term. Does that, does that persevere? And then, you know, a generation from now, are they thinking, God, you guys are so paranoid. Why, why are you doing that? Yeah. Why do you always take the Purell out after you want, you know, shake someone's hand? Have you seen how dirty their hands are? I don't want to take something from, uh, that'll probably be what happens. I don't know. You know, it was funny right after, you know, the, the outbreak of COVID of course, first all the toilet paper disappeared and then all the Purell and, um, Lysol wipes. I still can hardly find the Lysol wipes, but, um, you know, all that stuff was gone. Now you, I mean, literally can't go by a street corner and there's not a little thing dispensing hand sanitizer everywhere. I mean, we have to be the most sanitized, you know, world we've ever been before. Now, now the interesting thing is, is wondering, you know, if you remember, we used to have an antibacterial soap and they decided that was bad. It was bad for us. It was bad for the environment and killed all of our microbes. But then are we kind of doing the same thing again? Like, aren't we, you know, basically killing all the microbes on our, our, our skin. And, you know, so it'd be, it'd be interesting to see where this kind of, you know, pendulum swings back at some point, you know, do we start washing our hands in dirt or, you know, microbes again. We'll be, you know, open to all kinds of things just because we've been so sanitized and, uh, you know, hold up at home for, for months on end. Uh, you know, I don't know the, the soap, you know, I, my understanding is that if it's alcohol-based you're good, uh, but not to use anything that's antibacterial just because that is going to create more of a problem down the line than anything else. So, uh, I think that, that, that stuff's here to stay. And like I said, I think future generations are going to just look at us and go, why should we just keep you guys hermetically sealed, you know, containers just so nobody breathes on you or something. All right. So I like to wrap up these shows with, uh, you know, kind of a speed run of questions and, uh, you know, so I'm going to ask you some fun ones, but don't worry, you're just going to be judged on your answers. And so, you know, nothing to worry there. Uh, so let's, let's start on the fun one. I already know the answer to this one. Coke or Pepsi? Oh, come on. Coke Zero. Coke Zero. I knew it. I knew that one. Ford or Chevy? Well, right now with the Bronco, I got to say Ford, probably. I'm really looking forward to, uh, to checking that out. That's true. That's true. That's a good one. And then Marvel or DC. Again, I already know this one. Yes. DC. One of the rare kids. Their movies notwithstanding, I am a DC fan. That's right. Well, although I hear a lot of the animation on their, their, their streaming service is pretty solid. It is actually much better than their movies. Apple or Microsoft? Apple. Cool. Great. Thank you. Yes. Thank you. That was fun.