Cloudflare TV

Marketing Matters

Presented by Rick Wootten, Bobby Guhasarkar
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)

All right, we're live. Welcome to Marketing Matters. This is the show where I get to interview some of the brightest minds in marketing.

And on today's show, I'll be interviewing Bobby Guhasarkar.

I think I got that right. Bobby's our VP of marketing and messaging here at Cloudflare.

He joined us. I don't know. How long has it been now, three months, four months?

No, it's been a little more. It's about the beginning of October.

So about six months now. Yeah, two quarters. Exactly.

But previous to being here, Bobby was the CEO, CMO at Lumio. And then prior to Lumio, he was with heading up, you know, product marketing at Cisco and at Rubin Networks.

And if I'm working with Bobby, I can tell you he's got a he's got a passion for marketing and especially for driving results.

He's a he's a lot of fun to work with.

So welcome to the show, Bobby. Hey, thanks, Rick. It's a delight to be here.

You've had awesome guests in the past. So I am honored and delighted to be another guest on the show.

Thanks for having me. Absolutely. And, you know, so I took the show from somebody else.

So I always like to give credit where credit is due.

And one of the first questions he always asked was a question about tell us your history.

But he always did it framed up as, you know, every great comic book character, whether it's a hero, a villain, just a bit character.

They always have a backstory and the backstory informs how they got to where they are and why they're in that position.

So so give us your backstory. What's what's your history and how did you end up in a job like this?

Yeah, you know, I mean, I come to marketing from having been in sales.

Right. And so my my background, I mean, going even further back, I started out as an IT guy.

And so I was a customer, you know, and from being a customer, I went into sales and into vendor sales.

And then I never thought about a career in marketing at all.

I never thought about marketing at all, period.

And it was all very organic, you know, being in sales. I the favorite part of my job in sales was to convince people to buy what we made.

And so it was actually one of my managers that said to me, hey, man, like there's a full time job in this, you know, doing that for for the masses.

And you should consider that.

And I was like, well, what's that? They're like, oh, it's called marketing.

And I was like, oh, OK. So I totally fell into it. And and I'm glad I did.

I mean, I'm glad I had the opportunity to be in sales before because it's sort of I think gives me a sense of full funnel and kind of why we do what we do.

And, you know, when you when you think about the entirety of a campaign and executing the campaign.

So I feel like I feel like it's a it's a background that sort of helped me help me be a better marketer.

Yeah. You know, it is interesting how often you see, you know, the heads of marketing come from different places.

I was thinking back over this, you know, one of the shows actually I did a little bit ago.

And, you know, I worked for a guy who was a scientist who became a CMO.

I worked for another one that was an engineer like yourself, the product marketer later on.

And then, you know, got into marketing. I worked for another one who came over from a CIO position and wanted the creativity and, you know, became a CMO.

You know, and then and then there's me. You know, I I've come up through, you know, I started out as a graphic designer.

I got heavy into the tech side, you know, kind of dabbled a little bit with I.T., but, you know, mostly on the marketing tech side.

And then, you know, came back over to demand generation.

It's interesting how how people kind of have that very fluid nature, right, that draw, you know, and there's definitely an overlap.

I know right now we're working on a program with our own sales team to create a career path for BDRs to be able to come up into marketing because, you know, they work so closely with us on the demand side that that there's a there's kind of a nice transition.

And to your point, I think the coming, you know, having that sales experience and the product marketing experience and all that kind of combined together, you have empathy for the other roles and you can understand what they're going to need and kind of have that in your back pocket.

So that's a that's a that's a great way to come across.

Yeah, I think I think also I think one thing that's I think I'm very grateful for, as I'm sure you are, is like I think tech in general has allowed people to try new things.

You know, one of the one of the I think the the the thing about doing marketing and tech versus doing it in other areas or disciplines or industries is that, you know, like you look at a lot of the people that do marketing for CPG, you know, in many ways, it's a lot more defined and sort of and there's just kind of a path, I think, in tech.

You know, we've been open.

We've been open to people that have different backgrounds and that are interested and that have different skills.

So I think that's been a good thing, obviously, for me as well, just to have a chance to do something that I love more and more and more.

Right. As opposed to staying staying in in something else. Yeah, that's cool.

So so coming from that, you know, you know, there's various people have different opinions of marketing, right?

You know, either we we sell things that don't exist to some people, we're trying to trick people or, you know, some people compare us to Steve Jobs and we're gods, right?

And, you know, everything in between.

So when when you try and talk to somebody about, you know, what you do for a living, how do you how do you describe that to them?

Interesting. It's a great question, because I think there's a difference between marketing and advertising.

And I think it speaks to the crux of sort of the point you're bringing up.

So when I think of marketing, I think of it as, you know, being incredibly crisp and precise about the value that you're bringing to a customer for their problem.

And that in no way means that you're bamboozling them or that you're trying to appeal to them about something that is false or something that doesn't exist.


I think that, you know, oftentimes, especially in tech, we even use words like, you know, oh, that's just marketing, meaning that that is false or that is a false claim or that is hype or something like that.

And I fundamentally don't agree with that at all.

I think great marketing is about highlighting and promoting and showcasing what is really amazing about the product or service that companies built.

And if that's done well, it's just going to make people come closer to evaluating that product.

And you'll never leave people with a kind of a disappointment of like, you know, oh, like there was this claim, but then the reality was different.

I don't think that's good marketing at all. I will say that, you know, I think, I mean, at a risk of alienating our advertising colleagues, I'll say that I think that some advertising can certainly and certainly has bled that way where, you know, you've got a claim that is being made that is that may not necessarily be what the actuality of the product is.

And so I always sort of distinguish between those two.

And I always say to people, you know, being a great marketer is about it's about being compelling, about what's real.

And if a customer sees that and a customer values that, then you've done your job as a marketer, as opposed to the builder of the product or as opposed to the salesperson or whatever.

Yeah, I was on a panel, this is a couple of years ago, and it was about how to connect sales and marketing.

That was the basis of the panel.

And, you know, one of one of the questions that was asked to a salesperson on on the panel was, how do you how do you describe sales to people?

And he said that basically what his job is, is to broker the exchange of value for people.

And, you know, the the value of the products that he's selling versus the value of whether it's the dollar or whatever, that they're they're exchanging for it.

And so then, of course, it came to me afterwards.

I was like, well, how do you how do you describe it?

And I said, well, I'm going to build off of his because I thought that was really clever.

Yeah, my job is to articulate that value of what we provide so that we can then go make the exchange of money for it.

And I think that's an important part.

And to your point, you know, let's let's go back away as we go back to the 50s and 60s or even before.

I think advertising was about something different than it is today.

And there's a specific reason for that. In that time, they were looking for that sale.

They're looking for that one sale. All right. Yeah.

And so, you know, if you think of the Mad Men TV show and, you know, kind of how they did it, yeah, there was some inflation of, you know, what this thing did or didn't do.

And, you know, yeah, you you buy this and it can make it rain type of thing.

Yeah. But I think, you know, somewhere in the last 20 years or so, it changed dramatically because we started really focusing on this idea of ongoing.

And certainly there are companies in the past that have done this.

So I'm not saying it never was done before, but we've really moved generally every company to that idea of long term customers.

And how do you sustain a relationship with that customer and get them to rebuy over and over again?

And the most important thing there is trust.

And so you can't start a relationship with false advertising or something that exaggerates or whatever.

You have to you have to almost under promise and over deliver and create that satisfaction and that that, you know, moment of discovery for them or else they're not going to stick around because there's other options.

So, you know, it's interesting. I think there's a happy middle.

So I think on the one side of advertising and we're talking about marketing is, you know, really communicating the value.

The other side of marketing that's done poorly, especially in tech companies, is what I would call training, which really gets sent out as marketing.

Which which it isn't either. Right.

So just just explaining what you have built. Good, bad and the ugly. That's not marketing either.

But oftentimes a lot of companies, particularly B2B tech companies, do that.

So I do think that when you're doing marketing, you're in the middle and you are highlighting the things that you are doing well.

And you may not be equally highlighting the things that you're not doing well.

So there isn't there is an art there.

And and I think that that's sort of the art between or the perfect middle between advertising and training.

Yeah, that's a that's a that's a really fair point.

So so when you think back over your career, I bet you've worked on some some really cool stuff over the years.

You know, once you once you share one of those, what is one of the projects or campaigns you worked on?

You're the most proud of.

Do you think? Yeah. You know, what's stellar? Yeah, look, I was going to say, I think that the the the work that I remember oftentimes is the work that had the most camaraderie in the team and and sort of fond, fondly remember the act of creating with the team.

And of course, the results are, you know, the results are what the results are.

And you just have to give your all into into the campaign, into the effort.

And then, you know, you'll see. But I mean, I'll tell you, like the one of the things that I feel really good about is a couple of years ago, we did sort of an all in effort around product announcement and brand advertising and including out of home.

And then what we did at the booth and then what we did kind of pre and post event around the RSA conference, which is a security conference that's held every sort of spring in in in San Francisco.

And so the thing that I was really proud of is that, you know, we as marketers always want to do sort of the whole the whole package and do the things before and after and make sure that we tie the in-person to the digital, you know, make sure that all of our messaging is crisp and exactly tuned to what we want to say.

And it's rare that we get a chance to do that, because most of the time our work is in the greenfield type of situation.

Many of the times we're sort of coming into a situation.

There are campaigns running. There are different messages that are running.

And so it's rare you get to do that in this situation. You know, we were able to, you know, create a brand new message for the brand, create some some some assets that were really humorous and tied to, you know, what we were trying to go after, had some money to spend on out of home, was able to, you know, influence the booth experience so that, you know, what people saw as they came out of the airport.

And then when they came to the booth, they got the proof behind the claim that was on the on the on the billboard.

So that was that was certainly one that I I look back fondly and kind of think about that as both an opportunity where the team really work really well together, as well as what we're able to do kind of end to end.

So so was it the kind of the end to end component, you know, trying to have something completely integrated that that made that?

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. It's it's in the end component.

I mean, it's because, you know, rarely do you get a chance to sort of influence the whole piece.

Right. And and and execute on the whole piece together.

So that was that was definitely it. That was definitely one of them.

Another one really quickly is I like humorous campaigns. And I don't think that enough of them are done in B2B, particularly tech.

And so about 10 years ago, we when we were running up against BYOD as the big thing that people are dealing with, we kind of ran straight up against BYOD and, you know, made some campaigns and commercials around how to deal with that and all the jokes and everything else with the IT organization.

That was a fun, fun experience as well. Yeah.

You know, I agree with you. So so, you know, I've got this this podcast I do with a creative director I've been friends with forever.

And we're on our fourth year, if you can believe that, that we've been doing this.

Wow. That's awesome. It's crazy.

Anyways, and over the last couple of years, we always we always do like an end of the season show where we kind of wrap up and look at the trends and then the following episode or two, we'll do projections for the year.

And the one thing we always notice is how there are so many common themes from year to year as it relates to ads.

And to your point, there have been years where there have been a ton of silly, fun commercials.

And then the next year, all of a sudden there's, you know, a lot of social awareness advertising that happens.

And then, you know, a year or so ago, we saw a ton of political ads from the brands, not just, you know, ads from from politicians.

And then, you know, we we've kind of been in this phase now for the last year of feel good ads, which is which actually I like as much as the humorous ones, you know, although I do tend to say that when Rick and I wrap up our yearly thing, I almost always my favorite one is one of the funny ones.

I just I just, you know, yeah, I just I'm really drawn. Well, what's your what's your recent funniest commercial that you remember?

You know, you know, still one of the ones I keep going back to is the Pringles.

The stackers where, you know, they take, you know, this one, you know, and they stack it up and make different things.

And, you know, they kind of make jokes about it.

And there was one where, you know, that they're making fun of Alexa, but they don't say Alexa and it doesn't look like an Alexa.

Yeah. But, you know, while that while they're doing their thing with the chips, you know, she's like, I wish I had arms.

I wish I had hands so that I could eat those. Like, cool. Like party music.

You know, just really light hearted, fun. Totally. You have one to see.

Yeah. Well, I was going to say the smart park from Hyundai. I don't know if you've seen that one.

I haven't. No. Yes. This was run during the Super Bowl. And it was around the fact that Hyundai Sonata's now you can essentially like use use the key fob to have them pull in and out of a parking spot.

And then so they turn that into an ad in which they use a New England accent and they call it smart park.

Right. And and it was like a John Krasinski and like Rachel Dratch and like a few new actors like that.

And I love that because it's also just an illustration of what marketing value is to the to the product creation process, because, you know, guarantee that when the engineers were trying to come up with, you know, the key fob to sort of, you know, get the car in and out.

No one thought about it as smart park.

Right. But then to bring it out like that is is so unique and so memorable. And, you know, people now think of that Sonata as the car with smart park.

Right. So like branding, naming, humor and fun as a way to introduce the product is just it's just awesome.

It's an awesome example. Yeah. You know, I my my buddy makes fun of me for this one still.

So we were doing the Super Bowl commercials for for this last year.

And there was a Tide commercial with somebody who had this this T-shirt with an actor on it.

And, you know, and basically the the the sweatshirt super smelly and dirty and all that, and his mom washes it.

And, you know, anyways. And so this this and the commercial is pretty funny.

But the funny part was I had no idea who was on the sweatshirt until the very last cut of the the commercial.

And it was Jason Alexander.

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And yeah, I went through the whole commercial without realizing who it was, because it wasn't funny.

It wasn't funny.

And then at the end, it's like, oh, my God, that's hilarious. Why would he possibly have George's stanza on his shirt?

You know, you know, Tide has a I was I was just trying to find it.

There was a I guess it was probably the it may have been twenty nineteen.

I thought it was twenty twenty. They had the the Super Bowl commercials with Tide and they had the the sheriff from Stranger Things and he kept showing up in other commercials.

Right. And so you would think that it was a different commercial.

And then all of a sudden they would switch. And it was like, oh, my God, this is a Tide commercial.

Everybody's got on super clean clothes and all that.

And I thought that was it wasn't funny, but it was super clever. It was clever.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. For every commercial I saw after that, I was waiting to see if it was another Tide commercial.

So let me let me ask you this, because I've often thought about this as a marketer in in tech and B2B for 20 plus years.

So like the examples that you and I just gave an example that you and I get excited about are consumer products, right?

And consumer examples, right? Do you think that there is a opportunity in tech enterprise marketing to do clever, to spend.

A portion of the budget on clever and and and and brand, because you don't see it like clearly you don't see it nearly as much.

Right. Yeah. And the bulk of the the bulk of our spend may be rightfully, maybe scientifically, maybe wrongfully, whatever you want to say, oftentimes goes towards demand generation.


Because because we say, hey, there's an opportunity to go meet the customer or impress the customer on on their value.

Let's just go do that. Let's go do that.

Because we can measure that. And it's going to spend it's a good use of spend.

But do you think that there's an opportunity for for for enterprise B2B for this kind of stuff?

I do. I absolutely do. And I've seen companies do this in the past.

Here's my belief on this. And this is free formed in the middle of this conversation.

So not well thought through. But how I typically see this is established companies who are trying to retain relevancy will do comedic advertising and companies who are upstarts, who don't have an established brand and don't have an established what they stand for in the marketplace.

You know, the the the what and the why those don't tend to do that because they're very focused on making sure people know who they are and what they're about.

Yeah. That said, I mean, you you can I can probably point to a few that have done it.

I mean, Webvan had some comedic ones way back when.

Of course, they didn't make it. But like GoDaddy, if you remember GoDaddy for quite a while, had that.

Absolutely. That's how they broke in.

So I do think I do think there's an opportunity there if it's done right, if either the value prop of what they're trying to sell is so evident that it's just brand A or brand B, or if they're a little more established and they don't have to worry about carrying the load of here's what our product does and here's who we are.

Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting because I recently been seeing a campaign from Okta.

And so it's a it's a character who's a who's an IT person.

And, you know, and the character sort of, you know, doing the normal IT things.

And, you know, no disrespect to my colleagues, but the campaign seems a little maybe derivative or repetitive from kind of things that we may have seen before.

But then the recent started doing some radio and podcast advertising.

Yeah. And that was a lot more interesting and evocative. And, you know, only a 30 second spot, only audio.

And instead of trying to explain just even the letter or the letters in the word Okta, literally spelling it out and things like that.

So I don't know. Like, I do think I do. I've always I've often thought, like. The more differentiated the product, the less advertising spend there usually is.

The less differentiated the product, the more advertising spend there usually is.


Right. So, you know, maybe we'll get to the point in tech where there's 100 companies making it and then we'll spend money on advertising the way that you do in potato chips.

You know, and it could be. I mean, today you've got you've got a few of them up there.

If you remember, for quite a while, Cisco had the human network advertising that they were doing.

They were buying Super Bowl ads. They were doing everything good.

And, you know, arguably it must have been successful because, you know, they're still around and they're still doing great.

I saw a little bit with Juniper.

This is maybe 10 or 12 years ago, again, in the network security space.

And then certainly, you know, with the telcos for B2B on the B2B side, they do a ton of advertising.

Yes. AT&T AT&T AT&T does them all the time on TV.

It's actually actually that's a great example. They're targeting SMBs there. It's humor and it's an it's a it's a small business owner that's looking very sarcastically to the camera that says and she says, network security.

Yeah, that's my passion.

Right. And then she kind of rolls her eyes. Right. And it's a few of these lines like that.

And then and then, of course, the punch line is, you know, you're a small business owner.

None of this stuff is meaningful to you. Let us do it for you.

We're AT&T. Right. And it's cool. Yeah. Yeah, that's that's actually awesome.

I would love to see us go that direction. Yeah. So so talk to me a little bit about this.

So I think, you know, we've all had somebody in our lives that has been influential and it kind of, you know, helped you up your game over time.

You know, I got lucky.

I worked with some some great minds and, you know, I've been fortunate enough to have hired some smart people that I've learned from.

You know, who's who's been the biggest influence in your professional life?

Who's who's helped drive you forward?

Well, so I think. My colleagues are oftentimes the biggest influences on me because I'm a very sort of collaborative type of person, and I work best when I'm working with folks on something.

So I look back last 20, 25 years.

My colleagues, my direct colleagues in that role have always been sort of the one of the big influences on me.

But, you know, another person, a specific person is my last boss, kind of two jobs ago.

And, you know, he was the CMO at OpenDNS and then ran marketing at Cisco.

And then now he's the COO of a company called Iterable, a marketing tech company.

And his name is Jeff Samuels. And Jeff, Jeff was a big influence on me, continues to be influence on me for many reasons, not the least of which is to not take myself so seriously and to focus on what you can do, be passionate about the work, hire great teams and take it easy on yourself.

Don't be so so hard on yourself to be so highly performant all the time.

And I think it's great advice.

And he's a very, he's in particular, he's a very good listener and he understands how to get the best out of people.

And I learned a lot from him and continue to learn a lot from him in terms of approach.

One of the things that he taught me also is to think about the year and not about the week of the month.

And so when you think about your team in the span of the year, and things like, you know, take time off every three or four months, you know, for folks on the team so that they're great the whole year, not just for that quarter in which they're delivering, but then they're sort of burned out for a month or two.

Right. Really great advice.

And once you think, once you start thinking about the year, then you can really say, oh, my gosh, you can really get a lot done if everybody's, you know, sort of really on all cylinders the whole year.

Yeah. You know, I early in my career, I worked with this guy, Tony Montanino, and he asked me a question that to this day, I still ask myself as often as possible.

And it's are you are you the manager that you would work for?

Right. And, you know, just that moment of self -reflection of looking back and it's like, am I being too hard on the team?

Am I pushing them too hard?

Am I giving them clear enough direction? Would I want to work for me?

Like, yeah, but it was always just such a great question. Yeah. So we got we got about 30 seconds left.

I want to get through some of these fun questions.

Good. We're going to rapid fire through these A or B. Right. So Coke or Pepsi?

Neither. Neither. What do you drink? Gin and tonic. All right. Cats or dogs?

Dogs, for sure. I'm allergic to cats. Yeah, me too. By the way, exactly. Pizza or tacos?

Pizza, but from Italy. All right. And then more most last question here.

Most importantly, what movie are you looking forward to see when we're done with this COVID thing?

Oh, that's easy. That's easy. That's Top Gun. Whenever he gets.

Excellent. Excellent. All right, Bobby. Hey, thanks for your time. It was great having you on the show.

Same here. Thanks very much, Rick.