Cloudflare TV

Marketing Matters

Presented by Rick Wootten, Dave Steer
Originally aired on 

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.


Transcript (Beta)

Welcome to Marketing Matters. This is the show where I get the fun of interviewing some of the brightest minds in marketing.

On today's show, I'm going to be interviewing Dave Steer, who ironically was the host of this show until recently.

And so this is a bit of a fun role reversal.

Welcome to the show, Dave. Thanks, Rick.

I'm excited to see what you've done with my show. I see that you've tricked it out.

Your background is full of paintings and whatnot. We didn't have that when I was running the show.

So you must have gotten a bigger production budget is what I'm saying.

Absolutely. I found a quarter in the cushions and we're going.

So, you know, this is a big switch from last time. You know, I was on the receiving end of the questions you were asking.

You know, how does it feel to be in the hot seat here?

It's really hot. You know, I'm in San Francisco right now where, you know, we're currently experiencing a heat wave.

So it feels very hot physically.

So if I start schvitzing, it's either because you're asking me, you know, just really difficult questions and I'm on the hot seat and I don't know how to answer them or literally there is a zombie apocalypse going on outside and it's very, very hot.

Probably a little bit of both. That's awesome. Yeah. You know, have you ever watched one of those shows where, you know, like between seasons or even mid seasons, they'll actually swap out an actor or an actress and then you come back and watch the next episode and things are a little bit off, but you can't quite put your finger on it.

I think that's what this is. I mean, we look so much alike that, you know, people are going to get confused if we don't tell them that, you know, we switched the post.

I know. Have we really thought about it? What we should have done is put our names underneath so that the audience, because, you know, this is a very highly rated show on Cloudflare TV.

And so the following, we need to make sure that people are not confused.

It's our customer first mentality.

That's true. So, you know, one of the things I loved about the show was one of the questions that you asked.

So I'm going to, of course, have to ask you of it.

And that was basically every great superhero has an origin story. Why don't you talk to us a little bit about your origin story and how you got into marketing and specifically product marketing?

Yeah, sure thing. Well, before I talk about my origin story, I'd like to first say thanks for having me on.

I think I'm your first guest, which is quite an honor.

Secondly, speaking of origin story, happy birthday to Cloudflare.

From what I understand, today is the first day of birthday week where you celebrate Cloudflare's birthday.

You launch a bunch of new products.

And so I just wanted to say I'm honored to be on Cloudflare TV during such an important week.

And I know that you have a great roster of guests all week long.

Well, thanks so much. That's awesome. As for my origin story, you know, so I'm a really big storytelling nut.

When I think about like why I chose this as a profession, really at the core of it, outside of like marketing, being very creative, you get to use both sides of your brain, get to do really interesting things.

At the center of it is the ability to tell stories. And for me, that was a thing that I just loved to do ever since I was a little kid.

I remember being at the dinner table with my parents and my brother and my sister, where we ate with each other every night and we tell each other stories about what happened every day.

I distantly remember when I was growing up, and I'm going to age myself a little bit, where my mom took me out of school to see the latest Star Wars.

I think it was Return of the Jedi come out.

And so for me, storytelling was imprinted in sort of my DNA.

The, you know, the idea of a protagonist and antagonist and a hero who's going to take their hero's journey, where they're going to, you know, leave their cave and go out on an adventure and learn something new about themselves and then come back.

And so it's always been really core of the way I think. And when it was time, you know, for me to think about what my career was going to be like, I knew that storytelling was going to be a big part of it.

And so I got started in PR, actually.

And so there's nothing like trying to tell stories to the most cynical audience, the press, pretty much on the planet.

And as a little guppy in a big PR agency, I would spend days and nights trying to figure out how to work with clients and figure out what was it about them that was interesting enough for the press to pay attention to me versus the thousands of other PR people that were going after them.

And so I got my start in PR. From there, I sort of graduated up and graduated sideways and started working on brand marketing for some pretty big platforms.

And then the final thing that I'll say is over time, I really got the sense that, you know, within the marketing mix, working as close as I could to product was sort of the most fulfilling thing for two reasons.

One, you know, the opportunity to use customer insights and influence where the product was going was really fascinating.

And number two, you typically when you think of a product marketer, those are the people who are in charge of sort of the messaging strategy.

And that's all about storytelling.

And so that's why I chose that. And I've been in it sort of ever since.

You know, it's interesting, you're kind of talking about the storytelling coming up through PR.

And it's always fascinating to see the trends in marketing change over time.

At one time, you know, the folks that are the CMO and leading marketing, they'd come up through traditional advertising agencies and such.

But then as the needs of marketing kind of changed, became you know, a little more about connecting with the end user folks, you know, came up through other other disciplines, some of them, you know, through PR, some of them through, you know, writing, things like that.

And then, you know, there's also a certain group where they come up through analytics and, you know, in that whole world.

And it surprises me the number of CMOs that I run into that will have a science background, you know, a guy I worked with years ago, Steve Franzese, he actually has a science degree, that's his major discipline.

And then, you know, he took a lot of what he learned from that, and he applied it to marketing.

And so it is absolutely amazing what, you know, what somebody can accomplish when they kind of bring those, the learning from one discipline into it, and then make it that much stronger.

And then, you know, it's also interesting, the change of the need of the marketing function over time, you know, as it's become closer to sales, it's become, you know, more of that storytelling, more of that analytics.

So it is interesting, I think we're going to keep seeing this, we're going to see more and more senior leaders in marketing that have come from other places in the organization.

So for sure, you know, I think one of the interesting things is marketing, like pretty much every other function, but I'll pick on the one that you and I know so well, is, you know, it's a discipline that's undergoing a tremendous amount of change.

It used to be way back in the old days, you know, 10 years ago, that, you know, the way that you got customer insights was to, you know, you know, hit the road and do qualitative focus groups.

And you sit on the other end of the double-pane glass while you were eating your M&Ms, there was some moderator in a room who was asking customers a bunch of questions, and you do that in three cities, and then you get together, and you'd be like, okay, what sort of insights do we have?

And now, you know, I think of it as, you know, there's just so many ways to listen to the customer there, and really being able to figure out which ways are the most effective, and be able to navigate that.

And so I bring that up because I think the weaving together of left brain and right brain storytelling and analytics is going to be one of the things that makes the difference between sort of a good marketer and a great marketer going forward.

Yeah, I'd agree with that.

So if you could travel back in time, and, you know, you could go talk to young Dave, or you're pretty young, so let's say younger Dave, you know, what would you, what advice would you give?

What would you tell him that you wish you knew?

So if I went back to talk to young Dave, I would say always start with the customer, number one, two, and three, like just like the customer is your lifeblood, and getting insights about what the customer wants and needs, finding different ways to do it, but always, always go back to the customer.

I think that understanding the customer and being able to be the customer advocate is the source of strength for any marketer.

And when I've seen myself effectively in my career, and not effective, or my team's effective, or not effective, it's all come down to, you know, did you prioritize really understanding what the customer wants and needs.

And so if I was to go back in time, I'd probably go back in time and whisper in my ear and say, you know what, you can probably shave a lot of years by understanding this and always doing this.

Number one, number two, I think I'd whisper in my ear, and I'd say, one of the great things about marketing is the ability to experiment and learn, you know, and to do it as often as you possibly can.

Unlike other functions, marketing can move really quickly. You know, we don't need to build widgets.

I mean, sometimes we need to build widgets. But there is a lot that you can do very quickly to get validated learnings, and then apply those validated learnings back to the business.

And so I think one of the things that I would tell a young Dave is like, you know, don't be afraid to fail.

But the most important thing to do is, you know, experiment and experiment often, you know, there's nothing that beats a smart, well run test.

And so those are the two pieces of advice I'd give, you know, again, understand the customer and experiment, experiment, experiment.

Yeah, I forget who had the famous quote, but it's something along the lines of, fail early, fail often.

Maybe it was Facebook or something like that.

And I love the quote, because it's, it's really how you look in the world of responsive marketing in the world of being agile.

It's the way to go, you have to try different things at small scale to figure out what's going to work.

And then, you know, when you find the thing that that is going to scale, you scale it, you scale as quickly as possible.

And I think that's one of the, you mentioned this earlier, one of the things I love about this job, in particular, like what we do is, it's that it's one of those rare places where you can be both left brain and right brain, and engage on both sides, because you come up with something really creative to try out.

But then you test it in your monitor, you make sure it works and delivers the results that you want.

And if not, you go back and come up with something different.

And so that that analysis and creativity, they have to go hand to hand.

I just think that's one of my favorite things about the job.

Yeah, you know, the I think a big part of that is being curious. I think about like the people who are the most effective in this in this profession, are people who have got like innate curiosity.

They love asking questions, and then they love asking another like follow up questions after that.

You know, it's the adage of, I think it's the five whys, or the four whys.

But it's like, something happens.

And then you ask, why did that happen? And then somebody gives you the answer.

And you say, Okay, well, why did that happen? And over time, four or five of those, you really get to true insights.

And so I think one of the reasons why I love marketing and not to be an overly big, enthusiastic pitchman for this profession, but you know, the show is called Marketing Matters.

And so I want to explain that, which is, um, you know, curiosity is one of the most important qualities that you can sort of have.

And I think it's a virtue when you have it. Great.

So, so you recently started a new gig, which is why you're on the, I normally say the camera, but it's why you're on the other side.

Why don't you talk to me about this?

Like, you know, what's the new gig? What's your next adventure?

What are you doing? Yeah, so I'm working at a company called LogDNA. And LogDNA is a company that basically takes logs.

So if you're a developer, or you work in a company with a sort of DevOps mindset, or DevOps culture, you live and die by your logs.

The logs are sort of the black box of what's going on with your application.

And so LogDNA is sort of the backbone of all of that. It's a platform that enables developers or DevOps oriented teams to see exactly what's going on with their applications.

They can troubleshoot them, they can debug them, and whatnot.

And so I, and so I lead the marketing team over there. We've got an amazing team full of great, upbeat, passionate folks who are just trying to deliver value to the sort of end user.

But I've got to tell you one interesting story.

So I've been there for about three weeks, and I'm still in my mind, I don't know if you knew this, but before LogDNA, I worked at a company called Cloudflare.

And yes, I have the t-shirts to prove it.

And I have that t-shirt, but mine are a little bit more worn.

Anyways, there's a person on my team who's got a Cloudflare t -shirt.

And he was wearing it during one of our first meetings. And I was like, I can't, am I still at Cloudflare?

Am I at LogDNA? That's funny. It was really funny. LogDNA is great.

The, really what we're trying to do is make it super easy for developers to use their logs and understand what's going on with their applications.

And a big part of that is to build their brands and make sure that people know about them and we sort of delight them.

Excellent. So, so I want to have a little bit of fun with this.

So, you know, usually when you're, when you're being interviewed, they're like, you know, what's, what's, you know, the best campaign you ran, you know, you know, you know, teach people what, what, you know, they need to do.

I want to go the other way. What's the worst campaign that you've done that were just the most hilarious.

It can just be funny if you want, where you'll learn something, right?

Like what, what's, cause that's really where people get the true advice from.

Yeah, totally. I think that's great. There are two that are top of mind.

I'm going to say one that is like the worst campaign and there's nothing to learn.

And then the worst campaign, because it was the hardest and I learned a ton.

So one of the unfortunate things about being in marketing is sometimes you just get really random low level campaigns that some CEO or some person had this wild idea and they're like, Hey marketer, go do it.

And so I was working for a company, I think as a consultant, they shall go nameless.

And someone had this crazy idea of creating a viral video, celebrating moms.

And, you know, let's just say whenever somebody comes to you as a marketer and says, create a viral video, you know, that it's probably a bad idea.

You know, that's not the way it works.

You don't say like, I'm going to create a viral video today. Right.

But you know, I was, I was not really in a position to say no. And I said, okay, fine.

Let's see if we can tell a really interesting story celebrating moms everywhere.

I think we called it super mom. And it tanked. It was terrible. It was, we tried really hard on the creative, but, you know, we, we didn't go to the audience and understand what they wanted and needed and break out in an interesting way.

So I say that story because there was very little to learn from it, except for there's this, you know, unfortunate thing that happens to some marketers where you have to pick up an idea from somewhere and you got to run with it and do your best.

And so that bombed. You know, in that particular case, sir, because I, I, I've done many a failed campaigns because I do a lot of campaigns.

I like, I really believe in this idea of fail and fail often.

But I have also tried to do the viral videos and, you know, sometimes it doesn't catch on and it's, it ends up being a bomb.

So I think the key, the key learning from that could be something like, don't try and manufacture something, you know, do something and hold to its true essence.

And it's, it's going to work that way. It's not going to work when you're trying to fake it.

And I'll give you an example. My, my son and his friends love playing like wrestling in the backyard on the trampoline.

And so they started a YouTube channel years ago called Big Time Backyard Wrestling.

And with no promotion, no anything else, just them having fun in the backyard doing ridiculous things.

I think they've got a video that's over a million views. They get, they get another one that's like 200 ,000 views and they have tens of thousands of subscribers.

And it was, they were being genuine and they were, they were going out with their thing, right?

It was their voice. It was their, you know, versus a lot of companies will go out trying to be viral and it just doesn't work.

No, you can't, you can't start the conversation with, I'm going to create something viral.

You have to start it with a key insight or an authentic way that you want to express yourself, just like your, your kid did, which by the way, he's going to have a long career ahead of him because he's going to be able to say that that was part of his origin story, you know, which is great.

I think, I think one of the most interesting campaigns that I worked on was at Facebook, where my job was in part how to build trust in the brand to sort of a policymaker audience.

Which again, back into the theory of like, how do you, how do you tell stories and how do you communicate to really cynical audiences?

Well, you have to start by being truly authentic.

And, and so I ran this program with, with a variety of partners called Stop Bullying, Speak Up.

It was actually a formerly a Cartoon Network show. And, you know, we launched this campaign with CNN.

We ended up doing an Anderson Cooper town hall on it.

We had a Cartoon Network component. We partnered up with the Lady Gaga Born This Way Foundation.

And, and what we did was we ended up creating this app that you could use on Facebook that enabled you to take a pledge that you would do certain things to, you know, when you see bullying, speak up about it.

And, and we, we made it serious, but we made it fun and engaging at the same time.

We got a lot of people that sort of engage with it.

And when I think back, I, you know, through my career, that was one of the most interesting campaigns because it involved a lot of creativity, a lot of like, Hey, if we do this, wouldn't it be interesting to do that?

And then from this over to that, at one point we took this app and we enabled people to see by states who was on the leaderboard.

So which states have the most people taking the Stop Bullying, Speak Up pledge.

And so from that functionality with the campaign, we were able to reach out to sort of leading policymakers in those states and have them compete with each other.

So you had, you know, the people from Maryland compete with the people from Massachusetts to see who can be the most Stop Bullying, Speak Up state.

And so that was a ton of fun with a lot of creativity.

That's great. And that probably went viral. And that went viral.

That's awesome. You know, so, so another, another fun one is a lot of people have strong opinions of marketing.

And so sometimes it makes it difficult for us to describe to people what we do.

You know, a lot of times I get things like, Oh, you just, you're one of those people that are trying to trick me into buying a product, or, you know, you know, I just ignore banner ads or, you know, whatever it is.

So, so when you're at a party, when you're, when you're, you know, introducing yourself to someone, how do you describe what you do?

Yeah, so like when I'm chattering away, with a cocktail in one hand, and I'm chattering with somebody and they asked me what I do.

You know, so the first thing I try to understand is like, where did they come to the marketing conversation from, you know, I remember I started a job once, and I had to sit down with my partner, product manager, and he had never worked with a marketer and he goes, Oh, you're the person who writes blog posts.

And I go, well, you know, I do, and I can help you with blog posts, but marketing is, is different.

It's, it's, it's sort of bigger and broader.

I really, you know, I really try to explain marketing from the perspective of we're a function that helps customers find value, you know, whatever the offering is.

And in order to do that, we start with understanding who the customer is, what they value, and how do we deliver we as the company or the organization, how do we deliver that value better than anybody else that's out there.

That's a really good starting point and explaining what marketing does, because it gets it out from the Oh, you write blog posts, or you do the Super Bowl ads, or you do banner ads, and into a much more sort of holistic, strategic way of thinking about the function.

Marketing when it's done, right, in those terms can be influential in what products are built.

So that as you know, you're delivering those insights, and you're delivering products that that give people value, then as you try to make people aware of it, it's easier, you know, because you're building something that is inherently valuable to the people that you're trying to reach.

And so, you know, about five minutes into the cocktail conversation, when I can see my audience, you know, going a little bit blind and saying, is this guy ever gonna stop, I usually stop at that point, and then go along with whatever she or he thinks.

That's funny. That's awesome. Yeah, I was in college, I was studying graphic design.

And I, I remember a conversation with my girlfriend at the time, and she's like, you know, my family thinks it's a bad idea that I date you because all graphic designers do is they do caricatures on the boardwalk, they don't really have a real job.

So I don't know, people, people have funny views of what we do in marketing, which is kind of fun.

I find I find one of the best ways to do that.

And again, if I like, I loved your question, if you were to go back and speak to young Dave, what would you say?

Yeah, one of the things that I'd say is, is spend less time in a PowerPoint deck or Google slide, running around a company trying to explain what you do, and actually just go do it.

Nothing beats showing people what marketing is by doing marketing, you know, and that can take many different forms.

It can be a campaign that you've launched, or new messaging you've created, or you spoke to my customer, and you type up your customer notes and send it to everybody.

Like just do the work, enjoy the craft, and then people will go, oh, that's, that's what it is.

I spent way too long in many parts of my career, you know, trying to synthesize it in a deck going on little internal roadshows.

It's just best to show, but show it in action. Yeah, I remember, you know, this is several years ago, when I was running the global marketing team for, for Seagate, and people would say, oh, you're the web guy.

It's like, no, I run all of, you know, the, and then eventually I was like, you know what, like if, if I've, if I've earned the name web guy, I'm just gonna take it.

Like it's a compliment.

You can call me whatever you want. I'm just gonna go do it. Yeah, I love it.

You know, so if I could make a book recommendation to all of the viewers of this show, there's a, and I know you know this book, because I've read it with you.

There's a book called The Laka Who Wouldn't Stop Screaming, and you know, for people who don't know what a laka is, a laka is like a potato pancake, but you, you know, eat it during Hanukkah, and, and, but people tend to misunderstand what the laka actually is.

So some people say it's a hash brown, and the laka will go, no, I'm not a hash brown.

I'm something completely different. And so the story takes you through different ways of trying to envision what a laka is.

And I've always thought marketing is sort of like the laka, and the laka who wouldn't stop screaming book, you know?

Yeah. And so, and so for all you viewers out there, definitely give that a read.

It's a fun read, and, and then make the connection with marketing, and drop me a line if it makes sense.

And I give it a plus one. It's Rick endorsed.

That's right. So hey, you know, six months ago, the world was very different than it is today, particularly for a marketer.

You know, this COVID thing came through, and you know, I think there's a saying about, you know, man makes plans, and man makes plans, and God laughs.

That's kind of what happened to marketing this year.

You know, everything blew up, you know, all the marketing plans we had just went out the window, or the majority of them.

And so we had to, to, you know, adapt.

You know, you've been through this, you know, what advice do you have for people?

You know, what do you think that we've seen working and not?

And, you know, what do you think people should be thinking about? Yeah, I was, you know, I've been through with you.

I remember working feverishly with you and the rest of the leadership team, you know, at the end of 2019, on our 2020 plans.

And then we get to 2020.

And we're like, we got to throw these plans out the window and, you know, hit reset.

I think, I think a lot of that, and a lot of what I've seen, and what I've seen work in other places, as well as sort of going back to first principles, I think that on its surface, certain things were happening, like there weren't events.

So if there are no events, and you need to, as the marketer, work with your sales team to drive pipeline and interest, how else are you going to engage with other people?

And so tactically, you know, what we did at Cloudflare was, I think we started with a question, again, like, how do you provide value to the outside world?

You know, and then with, with that, you know, sort of question and answer, you get to like contents to be created that engages with people.

And so when I look at other brands, like Cloudflare has done it really well.

Cloudflare TV is a really great example of it. And when I look at other brands who have sort of made this transition, they really made the transition by, you know, sort of going back to those first principles of how to provide value.

I think the other thing that I should say is, the interesting thing for marketing is, it's not just COVID and shelter in place.

We're, we are communicating in a world right now of, you know, social unrest, environmental unrest, you know, the world is a very different place today.

And so how you communicate with your end audience needs to be empathetic and mindful of what they're going through.

There's a lot of economic uncertainty, but there's a lot of social uncertainty at the same time.

So brands that keep that in mind and start with that are doing very well.

Yeah. Yeah, that's true. So, so kind of related to that, you know, how do you, how do you think marketing will be affected long-term from this?

You know, as we go back to work or not, I mean, we may end up working remote as a more general practice.

What do you, what do you see for the marketing world? Gosh, I think we're going to go through a renaissance after this.

I really do. I think we're going to take a look at how we spent our money and we're going to go, wow, we spent a lot of money on that.

There are so many more effective ways to do our job.

So I'm just like, I'm a, you know, me very well, Rick, I'm a very optimistic, you know, person sometimes to a default or to a fault.

The I think we're going to go through an amazing time of creativity and understanding how to do our core function really well.

Yeah, I agree with that, but I don't think things are going to return back to the same.

I think it would be close, but better. Yeah, I think, I think there's going to be a long -term effect on how we market, how we go to market.

And, you know, I read an article, I wish, I wish I could remember the source like here and they basically were talking about how in the first few weeks of, you know, the shelter in place, the digital marketing that moved from physical marketing, digital had progressed more than it has in the last five years.

And so, you know, it's definitely had a good and sometimes not so good effect and it's going to be interesting to see where it goes.

All right. So I got, I got, you know, in the spirit of firing off some questions and getting answers, I want to wrap up with that and we'll lead right out through them.

Coke or Pepsi? Coke. Pepsi's too sweet.

There you go. Yeah. And these are like, people are going to judge you based on these answers.

So keep that in mind. Fire away, I say, Pepsi lovers. How about Ford or Chevy?

Tesla. Nice. Good answer. Good answer. You know, in the Midwest, that would not have flown.

No, no, no, no. I'm not doing well with a certain demographic at this point.

Marvel or DC? DC. Screw up on it. So you're more of a Batman kind of guy than you are, you know, Spider-Man.

Yeah, totally. That's awesome.

Apple or Microsoft? Apple. If somebody actually asked me that this weekend when I was trying to decide if I was going to get a Apple Watch or a Garmin, they're like, you're a Mac guy.

You're an Apple guy. You got the Garmin, you'll love it.

Go with the Garmin. I'll tell you why afterwards. Xbox, PlayStation, PC or Nintendo?

PlayStation, because one of my first clients was Sony Computer Entertainment America, the makers of the PlayStation.

Yeah, OG. Yeah, I was a big PlayStation guy.

I recently kind of switched over to Xbox. And thus ends our stream.

Thank you for joining us.

Thank you for having me on.