Fueled by increased legalization across the world, the cannabis market is projected to grow from $10.3 billion in 2018 to $39.4 billion by 2023. As James Higdon wrote for Politico, 2019 could be marijuana’s biggest year yet as “a green tide in Congress” shows signs that pot could be legal across the U.S. soon. New use cases for medical marijuana and products infused with cannabidiol (or CBD, which is non-psychoactive) have also aided in acceptance of the drug.
This all points to huge opportunities for cannabis companies to market themselves to new audiences.
“It isn’t often that you see an entirely new market emerge on the scene,” said Tim Calkins, Clinical Professor of Marketing at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. “Cannabis will become a market dominated by strong, vibrant brands.”
Still, there are issues. In some states, cannabis is only legal in certain jurisdictions. And major social networks have prohibited advertising cannabis products. Even the first TV ad for a cannabis product, launched in 2015 by cannabis marketing agency Cannabrand, got pulled at the last minute and never aired.
Forced to tread lightly and work around these restrictions, cannabis marketers have gotten creative, providing case studies for launching innovative social strategies under pressure.
Here’s how they’re making it work and striking gold – or green – in this new Wild Wild West of marketing.
Educate, Don’t Sell
As cannabis gradually becomes legalized and socially accepted, many consumers are still in a learning curve about its benefits. This means the door is open for brands to educate audiences about their products. In fact, one study found that consumers are 131% more likely to buy after reading educational content.
“There are more new customers in the cannabis space than in any other space in recent history around product consumption,” said Danny Keith, founder of Cannabis Club TV, the first broadcasting network devoted to the cannabis industry. “Without education of product, customers are ignorant and the lack of … education is a white-hot space.”
Take Apothecanna, a company that creates cannabis-infused body care products for pain and stress relief. The brand’s Facebook page provides a running stream of health and wellness articles from third-party sites. Some are about the healing powers of cannabis, while others offer home remedies, to which Apothecanna adds their own cannabis-infused suggestions.
Try massaging Calming Oil into temples, chest, and pulse points. Breathe in the aroma for an immediate peaceful, easy feeling.
A post shared by Vital Leaf (@vital_leaf) on Nov 27, 2018 at 11:03am PST
Cannabis brands can also use education to shift the narrative from the “stoner culture” stereotype to one that’s focused on lifestyle and wellness.
“Stay away from counterculture, cartoons, jokes and anything that puts a negative connotation on cannabis consumers in not only their branding and marketing strategies, but also on their social media pages,” said Cannabrand founder Olivia Mannix. “You need to be educating people, you need to be informing people, you need to be on a political level and advocating for the industry … and that all trickles back to marketing.”
Partner with Influencers
If cannabis brands feel they have their hands tied on social media, they can tap influencers to speak for them. As Mannix wrote for Adweek, “the secret to marijuana marketing lies with influencers” because they’re not under the same restrictions as companies and advertisers.
Cannabis edibles brand Kiva Confections, for example, had its Instagram page shut down eight times in three years. So it turned to influencer marketing – especially to reach consumers in states that aren’t weed-friendly yet.
Vaporizer brand Firefly also launched its Fueled by Firefly campaigns, wherein the company collaborates with artists to create high-quality social content. They tapped photographer Noah Kalina to build a photo series that showed Firefly products being used in beautiful, natural landscapes.
“Our Fueled by Firefly events and artists series reflect our unconventional product and culture and we hope to connect to our audience through this authentic journey,” Firefly CMO Baran Dilaver told The Drum. “We have an ongoing photography series at a few magazines like Cannabis Now, and we continue to organize unique events.”
This strategy isn’t foolproof, as influencers may be wary of working with cannabis brands and at risk of getting shut down themselves. Still, influencer analytics platform Traackr found that influencer marketing is on the rise in this industry, with edibles companies like Incredibles and Wana Brands increasing their use of influencers by 32% from 2017 to 2018.
Launch Your Own Events
Cannabis companies can skip the digital loopholes altogether by hosting in-person events.
In 2017, Los Angeles dispensary Alternative Herbal Health Services partnered with Netflix to promote the streaming service’s new weed-infused comedy, “Disjointed.” They transformed the store into a pop-up marijuana dispensary featuring strains inspired by a range of Netflix shows, including “Disjointed,” “Orange Is the New Black,” and “BoJack Horseman.”
Dosist, a cannabis company focused on health and healing, recently hosted a 10-day wellness retreat in Toronto, featuring workshops from the city’s fellow health and wellness brands. The goal was to help garner support for making Dosist legal in Canada, which bans access to concentrates.
dosist is currently not available in Canada, but that didn't stop us from hosting a 10 day interactive wellness…
Seattle-based edibles brand The Goodship Co. even hosts its own lecture series, The Goodship Academy of Higher Education. While the talks don’t often have to do with marijuana, speakers and attendees are encouraged to consume it before the events begin. “This allows us to look at the world through a difference lens, and we think that it is a fun and enlightening experiment to partner altered states with big ideas,” the website states. Last year’s lectures included “Beyond Good and Evil: The Future of Cybercrime” and “Prehistoric Sex and the Future of Modern Romance.”
“Higher Ed is the idea of getting people together, not unlike a TED Talk, to have conversations about heady topics,” said Goodship founder Jody Hall. “It’s unfortunate, but there’s still a lot of stigma around marijuana … [We’re trying to] push that dialog around pot’s potential, explore how it’s affecting our culture, our senses and our lives.”
Go High, Not Low
To distance themselves from stoner culture and appeal to mainstream or millennials audiences, some cannabis companies have built sleek, and fashion-forward brands.
A post shared by · BEBOE · (@beboefamily) on Nov 11, 2018 at 3:41pm PST
“The company’s disposable vaporizers … come in only one color – rose gold – and would not look out of place poking from the breast pocket of a Saint Laurent suit,” Alex Williams wrote for The Times. “The packaging, too, is Instagram-worthy: white boxes festooned with elegant line drawings by [co-founder, artist Scott Campbell].”
The Gold Rush Turns Green
We’ve only seen the beginning of cannabis marketing. As marijuana legalization spreads across the US and the globe, restrictions may loosen on digital advertising. And new audiences will be drawn to cannabis products, opening doors for brands to get even more creative with their strategies.
Until then, however, cannabis companies will continue to pioneer new strategies in the Wild Wild West of marijuana marketing – finding innovative ways to educate consumers, reach niche communities, and brush off that stoner stereotype with sophisticated branding.
Create Happy Customers
It’s about more than what you’re selling. Build a brand your customers will love.
In our social media-driven world, your online presence can have lasting impacts on your business, career, and everyday life. So, how do you build and manage an effective personal brand on social media that keeps you moving in the right direction?
We posed this question and others to social media practitioners in a recent #SprinklrChat Twitter conversation. Participants shared their tips for establishing a personal brand and described what motivates and inspires their posts. Here were some of the most interesting takeaways from the chat.
LinkedIn is Important, and Deserves More Attention
Across the board, chat participants expressed a desire to get more active on LinkedIn. The network has evolved from job board, to networking site, to newsroom. Users have many reasons for logging in, posting updates, and building new connections.
A2: Post more on LinkedIn! Building my LinkedIn presence has been a New Years resolution of mine for a few years running, but I never really got the ball rolling. I want to get more invested in the professional world/news in 2019! #SprinklrChatpic.twitter.com/rtbz6i7nZ0
#SprinklrChat A7:As a recruiter, and for most functional searches, I stick with LI. Will say, that over the past couple of years, the lines have been blended between personal and professional channels. In truth, each individual owns, what they want and how they want to share.
But be careful what you post! People are interested in LinkedIn content that provides value, so keep things positive and professional for the best results.
A5: I've been seeing more & more questionable content shared by my Linkedin network It's one thing to share personal stories and lessons from your career, but in my opinion, Linkedin is not the place to share tales from your love life or your life problems. #SprinklrChatpic.twitter.com/4LsAyrybPZ
A5: How personal is too personal on any social channel? One of my personal values is INTEGRITY which means that all aspects of my life should be appropriate and aligned to each other. As @zachmerrill5 proposed, it's more about intention of content. #SprinklrChat
A6: Be consistent, be authentic, and be interesting! Posting frequently is key to becoming friends with most platform algorithms Pair that with interesting and genuine content, and your followers are sure to go up! #SprinklrChat
Your personal brand on social media is (or should be) an extension of who you are in the real world, but each network may show a different part of the overall picture. Certain profiles might be more business-friendly, while others are more personal. This doesn’t mean that any profile is more or less “real” than another, just that the messaging is tailored for different audiences.
Using a scale of 1-10, we asked participants how comfortable they would be if recruiters used their profiles as a resume. The answers varied quite a bit, though most acknowledged the unique roles of each platform in their personal branding.
A7: 6 out of 10. LinkedIn and Twitter are 100% professional but Facebook and Instagram are personal profiles (and have privacy set accordingly!!) #SprinklrChat
A7: 10. My LinkedIn and Twitter show my professional interests, thought leadership, and expertise. My Instagram shows my personal interests, hobbies, and passions. All three complement my resume to showcase who I am as a person professionally and personally. #SprinklrChat
A7: I’d say around a 3. While I having nothing to hide on my personal social accounts, I mostly use them for vacation photos so it doesn’t accurately portray my professional interests. One of my New Years resolutions is to blend both for my personal brand! #SprinklrChatpic.twitter.com/BgJWzqKUme
Building a Cohesive Strategy for Your Personal Brand
We all have different reasons for maintaining our social media accounts. Think about your goals and how your online persona(s) can help you reach them. Who do you want to get seen by, and what do you want people to see?
Even if you have different objectives for each account, they should all be accurate representations of who you are. Think of a few words to describe your personal brand, and make sure those traits are expressed across your entire presence. Remember, authenticity rules!
Help your brand shine
Learn how to connect with customers authentically and effectively.
This week, Sprinklr’s Senior Director of Social Strategy Suzie McCarthy presented to the Digital Marketing Intensive class at Cornell Tech, a graduate education program that fuses technology with business and creative thinking. The students were eager to learn more about Sprinklr’s platform and what it takes to create an enterprise-focused digital strategy.
Suzie McCarthy takes the podium at a Digital Marketing Intensive class at Cornell Tech.
Suzie chatted through everything from her role to branding to AI – here are the top 5 takeaways.
1. One of the biggest marketing challenges for brands is cutting through the noise. Brands not only have to compete with other brands, they also have to compete with influencers and grab the attention of a consumer on a number of different social media platforms. And, even after getting a consumer’s attention, they are expected to provide a personalized message.
According to Suzie, “If you’re a brand, how do you make sure what you’re putting out there connects with the right people? How do you find that connection and make sense of that data? We are in a very distracted world. Think about that from a brand perspective. You need to have a reason to engage with me (the consumer). There’s a lot of competition.”
2. Brands need to be seen as human. Many students applauded Wendy’s for serving up a good time on Twitter. And, they thought it was great that Tom’s showed empathy for important causes with their end gun violence campaign. Suzie’s take: “when we’re talking about human emotions, empathy is a huge one.”
3. Employee advocacy is a huge brand asset. During Suzie’s demo of Sprinklr, she showed the advocacy dashboard, which helps brands engage their own employees on social and equip them with the best content to share. From recruiting to promoting PR and events, employee advocacy can help departments across the company.
4. There’s a major difference between listening and monitoring. If a brand is only monitoring mentions of itself on social channels, it could completely miss a massive amount of relevant chatter. The result: lost opportunities to connect with a new audience and build strong customer relationships. Suzie gave the example of Nike, which stopped listening to only mentions of its brand name and started listening to mentions of running. This allowed the company to tap into a broader customer customer base. “That’s the big shift in marketing that you’re seeing happening,” said Suzie.
5. Machine learning isn’t replacing humans in social media management. Machine learning helps make social media and marketing professionals more efficient, but it doesn’t replace them. You still need a human to determine how to use the data that machine learning can feed you. And, although using machine learning for sentiment analysis is helpful in social media – for example, seeing if the majority of people responded positively to an advertisement – no sentiment analysis is foolproof.
Students in this Digital Marketing class universally believed that social is important for creating brand value. Suzie stresses that this isn’t the case at all companies, but it’s changing:
“I struggle less and less with trying to make my case for things like influencer marketing and social strategy. Not that long ago though, it was a really hard sell,” she explained. “It still is at some brands. It’s really hard to get people to agree to a system, and understand an idea that is not quite hard science. But, smart brands are seeing communities on social media and realizing that there’s an opportunity to engage with people they could never reach before.”
Want to learn more about Sprinklr?
You don’t have to be a student to learn enterprise strategy
The only reason I watch the Super Bowl is for the ads. As a Boston-born Pats fan, I’m slightly ashamed to admit this. But facts are facts – when it comes to Super Bowl Sunday, my priorities are ads, food, and football (in that order). Luckily, I’m not the only one who would rather see a cool Tide ad than a touchdown.
The Super Bowl is the place for brands to be seen by over 100 million TV viewers and even more observers on Twitter. To track the Twitter buzz around Super Bowl ads, Sprinklr measured and analyzed the response to purpose-driven advertisements vs. ads with standard brand messages during the game. For this data analysis, Sprinklr applied the World Advertising Research Center’s (WARC) definition of brand purpose. According to WARC, “Purpose is a reason for a brand to exist beyond making a profit. It combines the ambitions and beliefs that motivate the organization and the changes that it wants to make in the world.”
This analysis provided a great opportunity to collaborate with our strategic partner Twitter and the 3% Movement, a company founded to promote the role of women in creative leadership at ad agencies. The organization derives its name from a 2008 finding that only 3 percent of creative directors at top ad agencies were women.
Check out #3PercentSB on Twitter to see a real-time feed of ad reactions. And below, we’ve laid out the top 6 Sprinklr findings, which are based on Twitter data pulled from 5:30pm ET until 10:15pm ET on February 3rd (full methodology):
1) Microsoft had the most talked about purpose-driven ad overall, while Bumble produced the most talked about purpose-driven ad during the first half of the game. Microsoft drove 57% of the share of voice for most talked about purpose-driven ads on Twitter. With the message, “When everybody plays, we all win,” the Microsoft commercial features children with disabilities who talk about how Microsoft’s new Xbox Adaptive Controller helps them play video games.
Verizon, Google, Budweiser, and Bumble round out the top 5 most talked about purpose-driven ads on Twitter during the Super Bowl, according to Sprinklr’s social listening analysis.
2) Non purpose-driven ads such as Bud Light and Doritos were the most talked about on Twitter, while purpose-driven ads such as Microsoft and Verizon produced consistently positive sentiment. 87.6% of Tweets about purpose-driven ads were positive compared to 74% of non-purpose driven ads.
Beyond Bud Light, the top 5 most talked about non purpose-driven ads were released by Doritos, Pepsi, Avocados from Mexico, and Hyundai.
4) During the Super Bowl, 52.85% of Tweets about purpose-driven ads were from women. This supports the 3% Movement’s findings that women not only watch equally on Super Bowl Sunday, but they buy and share socially in greater numbers than men.
5) The top three Super Bowl commercials with the most positive mentions on Twitter were Microsoft, Avocados from Mexico and Bud Light. Microsoft’s #WeAllWin ad had the highest positive sentiment on Twitter out of any commercial during the Super Bowl, with nearly double the amount of positive Tweets than the next runner up – Avocados from Mexico.
6) The most talked about emojis and hashtags during the Super Bowl were classics. People stuck to standard emojis such as the football, TV, and yellow heart winning the top three spots. Not surprisingly, Tweets of the goat emoji were popular throughout the game. The most used hashtags on Twitter were #sblIII, #superbowl and #superbowlliii.
“This data is a powerful demonstration of the unique opportunity marketers have when they tap into these powerful conversations happening on Twitter,” said Ryan Oliver, Senior Director of Brand Strategy, US & Canada at Twitter. “Twitter’s audience continues to shape our culture, providing the best place for brands to authentically connect with people, in the moments they’re most receptive.”
The Big Game Power of Sprinklr
Sprinklr works with more than 1,000 big brands, including a few that ran advertisements during the Super Bowl. These brands rely on Sprinklr to help them listen to and engage with mentions of their brand. And because consumers want answers immediately, brands rely on Sprinklr to help them quickly route Twitter mentions or Direct Messages to the appropriate social media manager for a rapid response. During the game (and other important events), brands can watch real-time social media data on the big screen using Sprinklr Display. And, when it’s all over, they can use Sprinklr’s campaign reporting capabilities to recap their ad success.
Instagram may have launched as a photo-sharing app, but the introduction of video in 2013 has helped skyrocket its popularity and success. It’s easy to see why: People across the globe can share their experiences with family, friends, and audiences with the tap of a button. Brands also have more opportunities than ever before to engage customers with video by incorporating them into ads, carousel posts, and Stories. It’s no surprise, then, that the number of videos produced each day has increased by 4X each year.
Now, it’s even easier for brands to publish video on Instagram.
With video publishing, brands can more easily create and manage cross-platform campaigns, access Instagram video analytics, learn about their audiences, and optimize their strategies right in the Sprinklr suite.
The Social Suite That Does It All
Sprinklr’s mission is to help the world’s most valuable brands create happy customers. As an official Instagram Partner, we’ve long empowered brands to launch and manage Instagram campaigns through our all-in-one social suite. Just look at Sonos, which reached 19 million people and saw a 19X return on ad spend through its Instagram and Facebook video ad campaign.
Now, we’re making it easier than ever before for brands to engage their social communities and create meaningful customer experiences on Instagram – all in one, integrated platform.
As the Sales Director for Latin America, Sebastian Bezzo brings a global perspective to Sprinklr’s growth process. His main goal right now is developing the Latin American market, with a focus on countries including Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Chile, and Mexico.
Heading up a rapidly expanding global market is a monumental task, but to Sebastian, it’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay, it’s exciting! Embodying the Sprinklr core values (one of which is, “It’s okay”) is one of the many reasons he was nominated by his peers as the subject of our next Sprinklr Spotlight profile.
Sebastian poses with Eduardo Apolinario and Latin American clients from Brazil, Argentina and Peru during the Web Summit 2018 in Lisbon, Portugal.
Read through to learn what motivates Sebastian in the field and on the field (you’ll see what we mean).
Rebecca: How did you end up at Sprinklr, and what were you doing before this?
Sebastian: I was the global account manager for LinkedIn, and it was a fantastic experience. Then, Sprinklr Latin America asked if I could develop this particular market. I love startups, and it was a chance to build a new role offering an intelligent solution promoting the famous “digital transformation.”
Rebecca: What is your favorite thing about working at Sprinklr?
Sebastian: By far, my local team. We all work hard to build brand awareness in our region together. I’m proud to work with this team and see our great results.
Rebecca: What are some of the unique challenges you face serving all of Latin America?
Sebastian: Understanding local needs, different markets, languages, priorities, and digital maturity levels is all so important. We have to adapt our message for each market and each person. For example, Argentina has 31 million active social media users, Brazil has 122 million, and Mexico falls almost exactly in the middle. Trends like this require us to approach each country in a unique way.
I work with companies across a wide range of industries, which poses its own challenges. Then there are also different client areas like customer care, marketing, research, e-commerce, human resources – and more – to stay on top of.
Rebecca: How do you address those challenges of meeting local needs in different markets?
Sebastian: Traveling a lot and studying trends in each country help me understand the different markets. For example, in Argentina, 70% of the population is active on social media, while in Brazil, only 58% of the population is active on social. So in Latin America, you have different social media adoption levels, different languages, and some companies in particular have different processes. It’s important to plan each step in advance for each company with a clear sequence of events.
Rebecca: What’s different about working at Sprinklr, as opposed to other places you’ve worked before?
Sebastian: Here, you have the ability to participate in decisions and improve processes. We’re able to adapt processes based on our Latin American region, for example. You get to learn and develop new skills, and take on new roles and responsibilities that grow your career.
Rebecca: What do you do in your spare time, when you’re not at work?
Sebastian: I am crazy about sports, especially soccer, tennis, and volleyball. As a good Argentinian, I watch all matches of my soccer team, Independiente. I also swim and run as much as I can. And I love to travel around the world to discover new cultures, places, and delicious food.
Rebecca: What tips do you have for people who want to find more work-life balance?
Sebastian: A clear schedule and optimizing each minute. Set priorities for the week and remember that work is only a means to an end. If you work hard during business hours, you should have enough time to enjoy your life with family and friends. I try to apply this every week in my own schedule.
Rebecca: What’s the most important takeaway you’ve learned in your current role?
Sebastian: It’s important to adapt the message for each audience, because you’ll be working together to develop the digital transformation that works for them. We’re not just selling a solution, platform, or a service. We work with each customer to approach digital transformation together as a team, helping each other. It’s a challenge, but we are happy to do this in Sprinklr Latin America.
“A Christmas Story” is many things: a holiday tradition, a wholesome slice of mid-century middle Americana, and the film that launched a million attempts to utter fragile just like Ralphie’s father (do we ever get his name?).
The 1983 release is also an insightful, if a bit tongue-in-cheek (err, light pole), look into the outsized role that marketing plays in our day-to-day lives. Let’s take a completely unnecessary look at what it can teach us!
Presentation is Everything, and the Right Message Always Lands
The crux of the film – Ralphie’s desire for a Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle – is illustrated early when he gazes at the treasured firearm in the window of a department store. The gun is displayed prominently and packaged with style, and we immediately recognize the branding’s power over our young hero.
Later, in his essay (or “theme” – a delightfully dated detail) about what he wants for Christmas, Ralphie recycles advertising copy in an endearing, kid-like stream of consciousness: “What I want is a Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.”
He knows these terms because he’s read and heard them repeatedly. Red Ryder has succeeded in its targeting (heh) efforts, and one youngster, presumably among many, is under its spell.
As the movie makes clear, a powerful story can help a brand generate consumer excitement despite – or thanks to – parental protests that a product will cause its owner to shoot his or her eye out. Instagram is today’s version of the department store window, and bite-sized captions are the new packaging copy, but it’s still essential for brands to master those elements today.
The Timeless Importance of Authenticity
While it centers on a charmingly antiquated scenario, another memorable moment in “A Christmas Story” could offer a lesson for contemporary brands of all stripes. Ralphie listens to his favorite radio show – “Little Orphan Annie” – with intense focus that’s heightened because his special decoder pen arrived in the mail earlier that day.
At last, he’ll be able to decode Annie’s nightly message. Ralphie realizes with dismay, however, that the top-secret missive is simply, “Drink more Ovaltine.” Even at his young age, he recognizes he’s been duped. “A crummy commercial?!” he blurts, indignantly.
While the fictional, 40’s-era marketing team at Ovaltine was smart to hitch itself to a show as popular as “Little Orphan Annie,” Ralphie’s reaction shows they took their branded content efforts too far, and produced something inauthentic that may have lost them a fan.
Today, as brands and entertainment entities continue to push the limits of product placement, they’d be wise to remember that even the youngest observers recognize a shameless ad when they see (or hear) one.
Provide a Proper Range of Options
All Christmas Story acolytes remember the scene in which poor Ralphie makes a few big mistakes while trying to help his father mend a blown out tire (including say the big one, the “f, dash, dash, dash”). While it’s a great sequence, the preceding scene is more helpful when it comes to drawing marketing insights.
Shopping for a Christmas tree, the family is helped by an enthusiastic salesman who shows them everything from massive furs to wimpy little shrubs. He has a spirited negotiation session with Ralphie’s father who, in a masterful strategic move, tells his wife he’s considering a plastic tree.
The two men eventually agree on a price, in part thanks to the timber slinger’s offer to throw in some rope and tie it to the car.
While Ralphie’s father may have come out slightly ahead, the salesman was able to bag the commission because he highlighted a broad set of inventory. eCommerce retailers take note: a wide selection can make all the difference when it comes to turning a potential customer into an actual one.
Know Your Entire Audience
Then, of course, there’s the lamp. Aside from emitting the “soft glow of electric sex,” the iconic leggy light reflects the importance of knowing one’s audience. While we never learn exactly why Ralphie’s dad actually received the “major award,” we do know that a nuclear family in 1940s isn’t the ideal recipient of such a racy prize.
Sure, the father beams with pride and admiration, and Ralphie is doubtless intrigued, but Ralphie’s mother isn’t the least bit thrilled about it (and with good reason).
With a bit more research, the mysterious organization responsible for the major award might have sent something that wouldn’t wind up broken on the floor under extremely suspicious circumstances.
Taking Timeless Lessons to Heart
Towards the end of “A Christmas Story” there’s another head-scratcher of a gift: the famous pink bunny suit that Ralphie receives from his Aunt. Our protagonist doesn’t hide his disgust as he mopes his way down the stairs in the costume, much to his mother’s delight.
As Ralphie’s voiceover puts it, “Aunt Clara had for years labored under the delusion that I was not only perpetually four years old, but also a girl.”
It’s a completely different context, but his complaint calls to mind the way we talk about receiving targeted ads that are way off the mark. It’s a timeless dynamic that underscores the importance of reaching the right audience with the right information.
Fortunately for brands – to say nothing of the Aunt Claras of the world – there are far more tools for hitting the mark than there were in the 40s. Given how connected and empowered today’s customers, companies would be wise to do everything they can to sharpen their messages, remain authentic, and reach people with the products they want – major awards or otherwise.
1. Tell us about your role and how you got here. What inspired you to be part of a Marketing Technology company- Sprinklr?
I was actually Sprinklr’s first customer – way back in 2011 – so I’ve known this crew for a long time. It was a very natural move for me to go from Seattle at Microsoft to Sprinklr in NYC for both personal and professional reasons.
As a true geek, I actually started my career at Microsoft in Microsoft Research. I love playing with new, forward-thinking technology. Choosing a new career path at Sprinklr gives me the exciting opportunity to use Sprinklr’s social suite in many creative ways. The platform has nearly an unlimited number of use cases across sales, marketing and care. In marketing alone, 2019 is going to be a huge opportunity for us to highlight how Sprinklr forms the foundation of a large company’s marketing program.
2. What are your predictions on the “Role of CMOs” and the closing gap between Sales-Marketing functions?
We recently published a study on CMOs and they told us they face three major challenges:
1) They are increasingly being held accountable for business growth.
2) They are finding it impossible to grow a business without control of the customer experience, so they have to drive strong cross-company collaboration.
3) CMOs are now frequently leading Digital Transformation efforts across the organization.
As “Revenue Marketers,” CMOs must have a very tight relationship with sales so that effort can be correctly attributed and then investments correctly assessed.
At Sprinklr, our Inside Sales team is within my marketing team. The core output of the marketing team is pipeline. Marketing is never out of alignment with Sales at Sprinklr, because we are all working towards the same goal — driving growth. I believe that all CMOs should implement this kind of end-to-end visibility in their business. I’m running marketing on Sprinklr, and using our team as a proof-point for success.
3. As a leader in MarTech, what message would you give to other CMOs?
Run now, while there’s still time. Kidding! But, one question I frequently get from marketers is framed around technical capability, particularly along the lines of “I’m not technical, and think all this tech is taking out the human component. What if I don’t want to be technical?”
My reaction to that question is to explain that it’s normal to feel that way, but you should probably get out of marketing quickly if you don’t want to change because like or not — marketing is becoming a technical discipline.
This is so exciting for me, because my creative side and technical side are now coming together. I finally get to use both sides of my personality to be an effective marketer.
4. How is your role at Sprinklr different from the one you had as CMO of Microsoft?
As CMO for Microsoft U.S. I had the time of my life. I was there for 7+ years and I got to build out a brand-new MarTech stack from scratch.
At Sprinklr I’ve been able to take a lot of hard-earned lessons from my Microsoft journey and apply them to Sprinklr immediately – so we’re moving a LOT faster.
The two key differences in the role at Sprinklr is that I’ve been able to integrate Inside Sales into Marketing – that’s been a game changer – and I’ve also had a bit of a religious conversion on “the MarTech stack.” Specifically, when we compose these stacks of point solutions we’re not only piling on the licensing dollars, but we are also creating all these other costs in the form of lost employee productivity and lower customer satisfaction due to all the broken flows.
So, when I got to Sprinklr I threw out the MarTech stack and we just use Sprinklr for all of our marketing, end-to-end. We use Sprinklr’s single platform for all of our marketing, social and care needs. The hardest part was getting rid of the marketing automation engine. But, that’s now rebuilt inside Sprinklr. The ability to collaborate across the org against a single customer record – all within Sprinklr – is literally magical.
5. What was the most impactful lesson you had learned from 2018? How do you plan to implement the lesson in 2019?
My biggest lesson in 2018 is that tigers are not necessarily as friendly as they look. I’m never getting that hand back, but I like the pirate look of the hook. Kidding again – but I’ve absolutely learned to take calculated risks!
My other lesson is that we are drastically underestimating the change that the world has gone through over the last decade with the simultaneous shift to social, messaging and smartphones.
We are now at a point where e-mail and landing pages and other artifacts of the last century need to be abandoned in favor of conversations and 1:1 interaction.
It’s not so much that the future is social or the future is messaging – it’s that the future is human and customers expect to have a personal relationship with the brands to which they give their loyalty.
I’m not sure that many people realize that the old broadcast world is for all intents and purposes dead. We need to rapidly adopt a conversational approach to customer interaction. Among many implications is that many more employees of the enterprise will now be involved in the front office – this is all the parts of the business that interact with a customer. Sales, marketing and customer care. All of these business units need to be collaborating on a single customer record. Sprinklr is implementing these learnings in our social account-based marketing strategy, and I really think we’ve got something unique that very few other marketers are doing.
6. How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?
I start every morning by saluting my robot overlords – last joke I promise! In all honesty, I focus on working with the world’s most sophisticated marketing platform and building the world’s most innovative B2B marketing team.
We have embedded artificial intelligence and machine learning into almost every aspect of Sprinklr. AI is increasing the productivity of our social media community managers — who we call experience managers — by 65 to 100 percent. AI is enabling Sprinklr to optimize our media spend in real time across channels and increase our speed of response for customer care.
I know we’re still in our infancy for AI, so the next decade will be an amazing time to be in this industry – we’ll all look back in 10 years and wonder how we even did our jobs before AI came along.
Social networks exploded, in large part, because they empowered individuals to interact with large groups of people at once. Recently, however, more and more users are harnessing social platforms for one-on-one conversations – especially with brands.
It may be hard to believe, but the top four messaging apps (Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber) have surpassed social networks in global popularity.
The shift has massive implications for how brands communicate with their customers. Business Insider calculated that “chatbots have the ability to replace 36% of sales representatives in the United States alone” and Adweek reported that “there are 1.3 billion people and 60 million businesses using Messenger today.”
Pair those stats with a recent Facebook study that found that “over 50% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a business they can message” and it’s clear just how important chat is becoming.
In 2019, the most innovative brands will use chat – especially automated chat – in order to meet the ever-evolving needs of their customers. Let’s look at how they might do it.
Conversation Starters: Keep Your Customers Engaged
It’s time to think beyond the boundaries of website-based chat functions, email, and the dreaded customer service phone number. Notifications and alerts via messaging channels are the new frontier in ecommerce marketing (consider that people are engaging with Facebook Messenger 619% more than email).
Brands that properly leverage messaging apps can drive more engagement, higher open rates, and better CTR. Providing personalized responses through human (or human-like) discussions is a surefire way to improve a customer’s experience with a brand.
Doing so is a matter of optimizing your virtual assistant to speak your audience’s language and deliver customized content.
Nike’s Jordan brand, for example, developed a “Breakfast Club” conversation platform to enhance its communications with elite athletes, positioning the brand as a trustworthy source of training and performance advice. At 6:23 am, each user gets a personalized message from their Breakfast Club trainer that prompts them to begin their customized daily training program.
The content is exclusive to this platform and was produced and optimized for mobile viewing within a Conversational UI. The bot ultimately generated open rates of 87%, far outpacing the typical 15-20% the brand drove through email campaigns.
Commerce on the Run
In today’s fast paced world, the shopping experience often takes place on the go. 63% of millennials shop online with their mobile devices. This dynamic reflects the importance of a virtual assistant that can quickly and accurately connect shoppers with brands via their preferred messaging apps.
Take Live Nation, which seeks to be available everywhere their customers are, and was eager to test new messaging channels as a means to drive sales. The global entertainment company provided a “notify me” option that triggers automatic messaging alerts to customers their favorite artists release tour dates or other news. The strategy drove a nearly 400% increase in users via this channel, and saw 17% of subscribers make a purchase related to the alerts.
Conversation marketing can also be instrumental in minimizing the abandoned shopping cart phenomenon. Baymard Institute reports that nearly 70% of online shopping carts are abandoned. Many companies attempt to re-engage with these users via email to continue their purchase. This approach, however, is quickly becoming antiquated as inboxes are flooded with brand messaging on a daily basis.
Virtual assistants within Facebook Messenger help companies reach consumers who may have been considering a purchase. Fashion powerhouse Michael Kors, for example, automatically re-engages with a user when there is a drop-off from the Messenger conversation by sending a message to seamlessly continue the user’s journey.
Some of the world’s most iconic brands are incorporating this technology to extend the reach of their marketing campaigns. Tiffany & Co. just launched an automated, interactive holiday gift guide within Facebook Messenger as part of its “The Holidays Made by Tiffany” marketing campaign. The retailer incorporated smart solutions into its Facebook Messenger, prompting users to take a quiz designed to suggest perfect gift based on its intended recipient.
Once an item is selected, the “drop a hint” function takes customer service to the next level, allowing visitors to seamlessly hint to a gift they would like for themselves. In this case, virtual assistants not only streamline customer service processes, but create a fun and interactive shopping experience during the busiest time of year.
High Customer Service Made Automatic
Automation has emerged as a crucial tool for brands to provide fast, relevant customer service. Optimized conversation automation synchronizes seamlessly with any company’s care team to help ease the burden of an abundance of requests.
When Simon Property Group was looking to scale concierge service across 216 properties across the U.S., it sought to find new, efficient ways to engage a vast breadth of users. As the largest retail real investment trust in the country, the brand knew it couldn’t handle the volume of inbound traffic with human agents alone. It needed an automated solution. Simon launched a virtual assistant for each retail center on Facebook Messenger and Amazon Alexa, all powered from a single platform to efficiently handle the influx of requests, enabling the company to instantly connect an unlimited number of customers to any of its locations.
Any strong customer service team, however, understands that automation cannot handle every care request. To achieve just the right balance between technology and human interaction, brands can easily manage the handoff from a virtual assistant to a live agent when necessary. A personalized commerce experience adeptly leverages the latest messaging technologies with a strong human customer service team to drive revenue, while reducing customer care costs.
Consumers shopping trends are changing. We’re living in an instant generation. Their habits incorporate a mix of live shopping with on-the-go mobile purchases. In either setting, they expect a high level of customer service. To thrive in this high tech, fast moving environment, brands have to be prepared to provide an exciting, engaging experience in every setting and communications channel 24/7. Through the integration of conversational platforms, this balance can be achieved.