Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

Carl Klevbo, lead analyst at MyTelescope, explains how and why share of search has emerged as an accessible way to measure brand awareness and forecast market dynamics. We discuss the origins of share of search, its benefits over conventional research methods, and the correlation between brands’ share of search and market share. Carl provides examples of share of search in action and how the MyTelescope SaaS platform is supporting agency strategists and account planners.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Carl Klevbo: The actual search isn’t what impacts the share of market. It’s what the search represents. So, an increase in share of search means that there’s an increase in demand in the market for your brand, and that, in turn, increases your share of market.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on marketing and advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye, a strategy-led, full-service, creative agency growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. Brand managers often face challenges when trying to accurately calculate the total market size and their brand’s share of that market. Determining these figures usually requires access to reliable, typically syndicated market research data, which can be expensive to obtain, especially for smaller challenger brands and those in unmeasured markets. For advertisers, figuring out the appropriate level of investment in media to effectively reach target audiences and influence market share is a similarly complex task, requiring knowledge of the competitive landscape and consumers’ behavior within the appropriate category. Brands on a growth trajectory can seek to capture excess share of voice, essentially outspending their competitors relative to their market size. But what if you don’t know a brand’s market size and don’t have access to syndicated data? Over the past three years, research has found significant positive correlations between the share of branded search terms and brands’ share of market. A study published last year by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising found the correlation between share of search and share of market across 30 case studies and 12 categories was an average of 83 percent. Today’s guest is an experienced digital marketer who’s been instrumental in promoting and operationalizing share of search, not just as a proxy for share of market, but also for forecasting market dynamics. Carl Klevbo is the lead analyst on the founding team at MyTelescope, a platform that uses share of search data to help brands and agencies understand the emotional and behavioral impacts of their marketing strategies. Carl has over a decade of professional experience in marketing and research, and to discuss how MyTelescope supports strategists and planners working with share of search data, Carl is joining us today from Stockholm in Sweden. Carl, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Carl Klevbo: Hello, Adrian. Thank you so much for having me on.

Adrian Tennant: Carl, could you start by explaining what share of search, or SOS for short, is?

Carl Klevbo: Absolutely. So, in its simplest form, share of search is simply the searches for your brand’s name versus the sum of your competitors’ brands’ names. And this might sound quite trivial if you’re hearing this for the first time. So why is this important? So let’s look at what somebody taking time out of their day to search for our brand reveals to us. First of all, it means that a potential customer is actually aware of your brand. So, it helps you understand awareness. Secondly, it reveals that they’re actually interested in us. And this is a super important distinction because, as David Ogilvy, the father of advertising once said, “You cannot bore people into buying your product. You can only interest them in buying it.” And what David Ogilvy says here is actually backed up by our research and the IPA’s research that shows that if you raise interest and you subsequently raise the branded searches, that has a very strong correlation to increasing your sales. Essentially, it’s a way of knowing if you’re creating more people who are aware and considering buying from your brand in relation to your competitors.

Adrian Tennant: Got it. And I just want to be clear: what’s the equation again? 

Carl Klevbo: So the equation of shared search is the volume of searches for your brand’s name versus the total sum of the volume of searches for your competitors’ brands.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. How does share of search help planners and strategists understand consumer demand and market dynamics?

Carl Klevbo: Well, first of all, it gives us a very reliable and also available way of tracking our brand building, which frankly, a lot of marketers have been missing. And it allows us to show, first and foremost, how our actions are actually contributing to future sales. And if we’re winning or losing in our category, and when we lack a metric like that, which quite a lot of us do, our budgets are the first to be cut as soon as times are tough. And unfortunately, we can see that all around us right now.

Adrian Tennant: I mentioned in the intro that we’ve been looking at this kind of data for about the past three years. So, Carl, how did share of search as a metric originate?

Carl Klevbo: Yeah, like so many, many great discoveries, as soon as it becomes viral, everybody claims to have used it before. And that’s also the case for us at MyTelescope as well. We had actually started playing around with this metric to show demand for our clients’ brands versus competitors because we thought it made sense, but we were almost too hesitant, and frankly embarrassed, to show the source to our customers because it seemed a little bit too simple and a little bit too good to be true. And that was the case for many out there. And since you’re asking for the metric, a data point isn’t really a metric until you can unify the industry and the organization around it. And that first happened when the effectiveness godfather, Les Binet, along with James Hankins, published their research, proving that there was actually a very significant correlation between share of search and market share. And since then, share of search has become more and more of a standard as marketing associations like the IPA in England and the Swedish Advertisers Association have rallied behind it along with a host of global organizations, both on the agency and on the client side.

Adrian Tennant: Well, you mentioned that it’s a very accessible metric, so let’s just remind ourselves of the ways in which share of search differs from traditional market research methods and metrics.

Carl Klevbo: Absolutely. So before I get started, I just want to say that traditional market research is great, but there’s no controversial secret that it does have its flaws, that many people find it quite expensive, slow-moving, and that it doesn’t always reflect sales all too well. And forgive me, I’m going to quote David Ogilvy again here, who actually identified this problem already back in the 60s or 70s. And he said that “The trouble with market research is that people don’t think what they feel, they don’t say what they think, and they don’t do what they say.” And what that entails is that if you ask somebody what they are going to do in the future, they might not be honest, and they might not do what they said they would do, even if they were honest. And if you look at share of search analysis, on the other hand, you aren’t actually creating any new data like you would in a survey. You’re simply observing and analyzing existing behavior. And many people forget that search is essentially the world’s biggest source of behavioral data. Now, if we compare this to a survey where you force somebody to have an opinion regarding a brand, which we know most people don’t, at least not on a conscious level, and you combine that with the fact that it’s a primary behavioral data source, along with its strong connection to sales, it makes for a very solid data point to use to represent your brand and to get a realistic idea of the effects of your brand building efforts on real behavior and changing real behavior might sound sinister, but essentially that is the end goal of any marketer that you want to create some form of change in behavior that could be sales, for example.

Adrian Tennant: Many people listening will have already wrapped up their planning for fiscal year ‘24, but can share of search be used to predict future market trends?

Carl Klevbo: So I absolutely love this question, and it’s a fascinating topic within the share of search community. And if you look at a purchase cycle, the majority of people instinctively start with a search on Google when they’re considering making a purchase. And Google themselves recently released a study showing that the majority of people search even if the end purchase is at a physical store. And we can see this within our search data as well, in what we call the predictive lag that exists. And that is the time between an initial increase in searches for a brand with the subsequent increase in sales that the brand gets. So, for some car brands, we can see that searches actually predict market share movements up to six to nine months in advance. So, that example is how searches can predict sales. But another great case is that during COVID, we could actually predict in what cities COVID-19 would spike based on search data. Because what do you do the moment you start to feel something strange going on in your body? I mean, personally, I immediately go to Google, and I Google the symptoms until I get scared enough to do something. And what we saw in our data was exactly that it would start with an increase in searches for COVID symptoms in a city. And then, the reporting of official new cases would happen a week or so after that. So, by looking at Google data, we could predict actual, people going to the hospital.

Adrian Tennant: Could you briefly explain the relationship between three metrics: a brand’s share of market, or SOM, its share of voice, or SOV, and its share of search? 

Carl Klevbo: Yeah, absolutely. So share a voice or how much do you put into to media spend correlates extremely well to your share of search. And as we discussed earlier, your share of search, in turn, correlates to share of market. So what you’re left with is kind of a funnel. And that’s exactly what I recommend to our clients to do so you put your share of voice next to your share of search, which is the effects of your marketing next to your share of market, which is how well that has converted. And if you look at that, and then you see that we raised our share of voice, but it doesn’t lead to an increase in share of search, then you know ahead of time that you’re spending too little or on the wrong things because you’re not raising the demand for your brand. However, if you do raise your share of voice and it does raise your share of search, but it doesn’t raise your share of market, then what does that mean? Well, it means that you’re successfully creating demand with your share of voice, but you have an issue with the conversion of that due to either price or distribution. And, we have a case like that, that we can cover later on actually for one of our clients.

Adrian Tennant: Does a change in share of search affect share of market?

Carl Klevbo: So yes and no. The actual search isn’t what impacts the share of market. It’s what the search represents. So, an increase in share of search means that there’s an increase in demand in the market for your brand and that, in turn, increases your share of market.

Adrian Tennant: Carl, you’re a lead analyst and on the founding team of MyTelescope, which is a share of search tool that enables brands to understand the impact of their marketing. So, what was your professional journey before joining MyTelescope, and how did it lead you to share of search?

Carl Klevbo: Yeah, so I grew up abroad and moved around a lot. And I think from this, I learned to study human behavior, of the people around me for basically what was, you know, survival reasons. But when I was 18, I got the chance to continue doing this, but in the world of marketing, where I started with essentially serving coffee at this point, but this quickly led to assisting PR and marketing projects, and then a research role, which in turn snowballed into meeting and helping the founders of what is now MyTelescope. Research multiple data sets and methodologies in order to find a new way to prove the business effects of brand building. And this was something I did while I was studying economics. And got a chance to work with a bunch of different market research tools. So I was working with everything from, you know, brand surveys, telephone interviews, modeling brand indexes, analyzing social listening data, and then finally to share of search. And, uh, yeah, ever since Les Binet came out with this research, things have grown exponentially from there. And now I manage training agencies and brands worldwide on this concept, running continuous analysis projects, and then I’ve also got him to be a part of the Share of Search Council.

Adrian Tennant: Well, we’ll talk about those in a moment, but I’m curious: what are the common challenges faced when interpreting share of search data? And how does MyTelescope help overcome them? 

Carl Klevbo: Yeah. So, the mistake that many people make is that they’ll start their journey with Google Trends. And what they’ll be left with is a lot of manual work and data that is sort of all over the place without any real way of explaining it. And first off, at MyTelescope, we make sure to have the best quality data which currently is the search volume data that you can get from Google itself. Secondly, we’ve built a platform that really automates your setup and tracking as much as possible and brings you tools to track your campaigns, et cetera. So it’s really built for strategists and planners rather than SEO experts as many other tools are. So, really, what you get is a nice, fully automated dashboard with you and your competitors’ brands, what has driven your success, and an AI summary of what has happened for your brand and category.

Adrian Tennant: From a strategist or an account planner’s perspective, what are the features that MyTelescope provides that are probably most helpful or practical?

Carl Klevbo: So I think the most practical part is that a lot of strategists and planners don’t have that much time to spend on manually going through a ton of data. And I think the first thing that the platform does is that it serves the insight in a very, very easy to take in way. Secondly, it also allows you to see what is driving the effects of your brand. So, when you see an increase in branded searches for your brand, you can also explain why that happened. And if you’re lucky, you can actually see actual keywords relating to your campaigns. And, finally we do have the event plotter. So basically, you can put in all the campaigns you’ve had over the year, and you can then get a summary of the effects that those have created for your brand. 

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message. 

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Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Carl Klevbo, Lead Analyst at MyTelescope. Can you explain the process of collecting and analyzing share of search data using MyTelescope?

Carl Klevbo: Yeah, so basically, when you type in your brand, the system will then scrape the web for search keywords. So what people have searched for in combination with your brand name, and we deliver that to you so that you can then select which ones represent your brands, and then that will be visualized in a graph where you can follow how your brand Is coming along.

Adrian Tennant: We love practical examples on IN CLEAR FOCUS. So Carl, could you share some use cases that illustrate how brands and agencies are using MyTelescope to inform their marketing strategies?

Carl Klevbo: Absolutely. So we have a ton of great cases, but one that I really like is the biggest premium retailer in Southeast Asia called MapActive. And they had the challenge of managing hundreds of brands like New Balance and Foot Locker, etc., in multiple markets. And it just wasn’t realistic to conduct brand tracking surveys, you know, for each brand and market, because they’re just so global, but they still needed a metric to hold their brand building accountable for driving growth. And they had heard of share of search and adopted MyTelescope for all of their brands and markets. And they tracked their top-level activities and saw if they raised their branded searches. And they saw that those campaigns were also the ones that were driving their sales. So, first of all, they use it as an effect metric. But they also used it to track the purchase funnels. And when they were analyzing the relationship between the branded searches for one of their sneakers, they saw that for one of the brands, they did create an uptick in brand searches, but it didn’t create an increase in sales. And they started asking like, “Why is this?” And what they found was that there had actually been a specific issue with that shoe in the store, resulting in it not converting into sales. So they could see: “We spent this much, we did create a lift in brand searches, so we did create an effect with our marketing, but we had an issue with the conversion later on.” So yeah, they were very happy to be able to use MyTelescope in that case.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. I really liked how Mats Georgson interpreted the data you shared, highlighting the ways in which Ukrainian customers ordered products from Zara in Poland when stores in their own country closed due to the war. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? 

Carl Klevbo: Yeah, so I think this is just such a great example, both because it shows the value of tracking branded search, but it also shows the long term effects of marketing. And I was given this case by our amazing team of developers in the Ukraine. So I just want to give a shout out to them. And they reported that when the Russian invasion began, all of these Zara stores shut down, essentially both online and in real life. And all of Zara’s marketing was stopped. So what happens when a brand shuts down all marketing? Does it die out instantly, or what happens? Well, what we did see was that there was an immediate drop in demand for Zara as the war started, but then something strange happened. Slowly but surely, the branded search started returning, and eventually it reached basically the same level as it was before the war. And it turns out that Zara had done such a good job of creating a strong brand that, regardless of the war, customers were still trying to find ways to get their products. So they had actually found a loophole where they were buying it from neighboring countries, such as Poland. And I think this is just such a great example because you can see that through the branded searches, that if you do actually build a strong brand, the effects will continue being top of mind and driving sales long after marketing is done. 

Adrian Tennant: Well, of course, here in the States, Nike recently appointed a new Chief Marketing Officer, and you published an article showing how MyTelescope provides some context around what she’s walking into. 

Carl Klevbo: Yeah. So I did see that news, and it made me a little bit curious as to why they would change CMO. Of course, he’s been there for a long while, so it’s, of course due eventually. But I set up an analysis against the biggest sportswear brands out there. So Adidas and Puma. And what I actually saw was that Nike, over the last 12 months, had actually dropped in share of search by 20%. So regardless of the reason why they changed CMO, the new CMO is walking into a tough situation, so it’ll be interesting to see how she tackles that.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. Spending more on advertising than competitors relative to a brand’s market is defined as Excess Share of Voice, or ESOV. Does this show up in share of search data?

Carl Klevbo: Yeah, absolutely. So we see an extremely strong correlation between excess share of voice reflecting in creating excess share of search, which we talked about earlier, leads to excess share of market. So that’s a way to look at it. But what I think is also super interesting when you talk about share of voice is that it has had its flaws. I might say that most share voice data doesn’t reflect the entirety of what is being spent because it often neglects what is being spent in some of the digital campaigns as well as PR campaigns. So when you have a metric that correlates very well with share of voice, like share of search, you’ll sometimes see a bump in share of search that can’t be explained by share of voice. So, on paper, they haven’t increased their spend. But you can see something happening in your share of search. So sometimes you’ll see that, that actually captures things that have gone unnoticed by share of voice tracking. or it can just be that a brand has had some organic spread beyond what is actually controlled by the marketers.

Adrian Tennant: MyTelescope has users around the world, so I’m curious, Carl, are you seeing share of search vary across different categories, countries, or languages?

Carl Klevbo: Yeah, so we have the possibility to really look into any country around the world with the exception of a handful of countries. In general, people are people, so we don’t really see any differences in the correlation between branded search and sales around the world. What we do see is a difference in different categories, and that relates to the purchase cycle of different categories. An example of this might be comparing the purchase cycle of a car to a shampoo bottle. In the category for cars, we’ll see that the lag time between searches increasing due to a brand campaign, for example, and the sales increasing might be six to nine months. just because it takes a longer time to buy a car or to consider which one you’re going to buy. But for a shampoo bottle, for example, it might be instant or the next week.

Adrian Tennant: We’ve talked quite a bit about demand-building versus demand-harvesting media and creative on IN CLEAR FOCUS this last year. Based on what you’re seeing, it sounds like there are some differences in share of search data between those broad-reach brand-building media campaigns and more targeted, performance-oriented advertising, where, as you say, the purchase cycle is typically going to be shorter, is that right?

Carl Klevbo: Absolutely. Yeah. and I have to say, I love talking about marketing as demand building and demand harvesting contrary to brand building versus performance, because when you talk about it like that, it just implies how both work together and need each other to work. And what we see in share of search, what best boosts it is, in fact, brand building, broad reach media campaigns that have the biggest impact on creating share of search. So it’s definitely a demand-building metric rather than a demand-harvesting metric.

Adrian Tennant: what has been your most interesting or surprising finding while working with share of search data? 

Carl Klevbo: I think one of the interesting things that you can see with share of search data and with any effect metric that isn’t just a vanity metric is that quite a few campaigns don’t actually impact brands all too much. Peter Field right now is doing this great work called The Cost of Dull, basically talking about the extreme amount of waste that goes into media on advertisements that aren’t actually that interesting. And so that is definitely something we can see in our data as well, that there are definitely some campaigns that create no spike in interest for the brand at all.

Adrian Tennant: We’ve talked a lot about attention over the past couple of years, but creative effectiveness is still super important.

Carl Klevbo: Absolutely. And I think it’s about being creative, but also creating an interest in the brand and creating a behavioral change. And it can be a small one, like just typing in the brand’s name, but I think there’s no better way to predict a change in behavior than with behavioral data like search.

Adrian Tennant: AI is integrated into the latest version of MyTelescope. Carl, what role do you foresee AI playing in enhancing the capabilities of share of search analysis going forward?

Carl Klevbo: Yeah. So I think the role of AI in share of search really comes down to the fact that there’s just so much data. There are 90,000 searches, every minute, I believe. So, there’s just so much data out there, for you to start digging into, but our time is limited. So, having an AI that can scan this data and bring automated analysis based on it, I think would be a complete game changer.

Adrian Tennant: Carl, do you have any plans to integrate Amazon search query performance data in MyTelescope?

Carl Klevbo: Yeah, we are actually agnostic to the source of search data that we bring into the analysis. We see that Amazon search data plays a role further down the funnel than Google search data does, but that when somebody is actually searching on Amazon, they are very ready to buy. So we are definitely looking to implement that in the future along with social search such as TikTok.

Adrian Tennant: Forty percent of Gen Z start searches on TikTok these days, rather than Google. So interesting to hear that you have TikTok in your sights. 

Carl Klevbo: Absolutely. No, I believe that there is a lot of potential, and I think there are a lot of misunderstandings in regard to social search. I believe that social search, like TikTok, is very much an inspirational phase of your search. And once you have a brand or a product that you’ve been made aware of via the social search, then you’ll go into Google to understand, “Where can I buy this? What’s the price? Can I learn more about the brand?”And then eventually, when the time’s right, you might actually go straight to Amazon and search and purchase it there.

Adrian Tennant: Carl, does share of search work for all categories, and is it equally useful in B2C as well as B2B?

Carl Klevbo: So, great question. We get this question quite a lot, and it was actually one of the big questions that we were asking ourselves when we first started looking into this. And what we’ve seen in our studies is that even though there’s a small amount of people who do search, those represent the broader public and the searches do correlate well with sales, even in those cases. So that’s on the FMCG side. We’ve tested that out on all types of different cases that we never thought would work, such as ice cream, pasta, chips, chocolate, beverages – so a number of weird ones! And in regards to B2B, we see that in the same way there; the way people search for B2B brands correlates well with their sales, but the search might be at a different stage in the purchase journey than it would for a B2C brand. And an example of this might be that within a B2B sales, I might be approached by a seller, and I might not actually search for that company until the last stage where I’m actually considering buying from them, and I’m doing my due diligence. But in the end, there’s almost always somebody who searches, as long as your brand is somewhat known. 

Adrian Tennant: You’ve been instrumental in establishing the Share of Search Council. You referenced it earlier. Could you tell us a bit about what that is and what its mission is? 

Carl Klevbo: Yeah, so the goal of the Share of Search Council is really to be an independent organization to further the research and the development of the metric. And we want to keep that separate from MyTelescope because of course, we have a commercial goal as well. But, the Council consists of both people who have been instrumental in the creation of the metric, such as Les Binet, but also CMOs and agency members actively using the metric operationally. And we’ll occasionally get together to discuss best practices and how we can further the use of this within the marketing industry. 

Adrian Tennant: What advice do you have for listeners who are intrigued by the potential of share of search and want to learn more about its applications in brand planning and strategy? Are there any webinars, papers, or podcasts that you would want to recommend?

Carl Klevbo: So I would definitely recommend listening to Les Binet’s talks on share of search on YouTube. And I’ve tried to do it justice here, but there’s nobody who does it as eloquently as Les. After that, of course, you are more than welcome to look at our LinkedIn and YouTube channel, where we host webinars on how to use share of search more operationally. And we also post daily insights, which allow us to, you know, stay up to date with how brands and trends are actually performing. Another person that I’d recommend actually, if you’re looking at share of search from an SEO perspective, is Andrew Holland, who’s been talking a lot about, share of search from the SEO’s perspective.

Adrian Tennant: Great. Thank you. Are there any upcoming features or events from MyTelescope that we should be looking out for? 

Carl Klevbo: Absolutely. So, if you are interested in trying share of search out for your business, I would definitely check out our newest updated version of MyTelescope. And, in this newest version, we are training now a sophisticated AI to basically feed you insights on your brand and market based on real time primary data. And apart from that, you can always follow us on LinkedIn and social channels where we’ll be posting about upcoming webinars. So, yeah, look there to stay updated. 

Adrian Tennant: Carl, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners are interested in learning more about MyTelescope, what’s the best way to do so? 

Carl Klevbo: So the best way to learn about MyTelescope is to follow us on LinkedIn, MyTelescope, and you can also visit us at, where we have a bunch of resources on the concept of share of search. We have our share of search tool that you can trial for free. And we have a bunch of insights that we publish almost daily on brands and trends that are current right now.

Adrian Tennant: Carl, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS

Carl Klevbo: Thank you so much for having me, Adrian.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, Carl Klevbo, Lead Analyst at MyTelescope. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation, along with links to the resources we discussed, on the Bigeye website at – just select ‘Podcast’ from the menu. Thanks for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

Guest Jim Kraus is the President of the Buyer Persona Institute. In this episode, Jim explains the concept of Buyer Personas and unpacks the significance of buying insights for high-consideration purchase decisions. Jim walks listeners through the qualitative research process originated by the Buyer Persona Institute, known as the Five Rings of Insight, and describes case studies illustrating how profiles and Buyer Personas can make B2C and B2B marketing more effective. ​

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS,

Jim Kraus: A lot of times when you say Buyer Personas, people associate them with fictional avatars of an individual or a role that’s involved in the decision process. And those are fine. A Buyer Persona to us is really developing deep buying insights about a particular buying decision.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on marketing and advertising produced weekly by Bigeye, a strategy-led, full-service creative agency growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. Consumers and business-to-business buyers often conduct extensive research before making a purchase decision, especially for high-consideration items. The internet enables all buyers to compare options, read reviews, and seek recommendations. While B2B buying is often characterized as being rational and ROI-focused, the truth is that B2B buyers and consumers are influenced by emotional factors such as trust in the brand and perceived value. Unlike relatively linear paths to purchase for consumer transactions, however, the B2B buying process is more formal and often requires a series of approvals, RFPs, and contractual agreements. Research published by Gartner found that the typical buying group for a complex business-to-business solution involves six to ten decision-makers on average, and more than three-quarters of the customers Gartner surveyed described these B2B purchases as very complex or difficult. So, whether targeting consumers or business buyers, it makes sense to understand the rational and emotional factors influencing purchase decisions. Our guest today is an expert on this topic. Jim Kraus is president of the Buyer Persona Institute, developers of the framework that is the industry standard for understanding consumers and business-to-business buyers of medium to high-consideration products, services, and solutions. Jim has over three decades of professional experience in market research and intelligence at organizations including Prudential and IBM. Jim is also Vice President and Principal of KS&R, a leading market research firm based out of the US. Jim is currently collaborating on a new edition of the book, Buyer Personas,” with the institute’s founder, Adele Revella. To discuss how Buyer Personas can transform the way companies approach markets and contribute to more effective marketing, Jim is joining us today from his home base of Chatham, New Jersey. Jim, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Jim Kraus: Thanks, Adrian. Happy to be here.

Adrian Tennant: Jim, could you start by telling us a bit about your career in market research and how it led you to Buyer Personas?

Jim Kraus: Sure. So, I’ve been doing market research, both consumer and business-to-business research, for several decades. I won’t confess how many, but it’s kind of a passion of mine really to understand markets, to understand customers, and understand buyers, and what really makes them tick. And one of the things that led me to Buyer Personas over the last couple of years is really a desire to focus on research that has a profound impact on helping marketers better influence their prospective buyers. So this is just a natural fit in terms of where my interests are, and was really looking for a methodology and the ability to operationalize that methodology to really deliver those types of insights. So that’s what led me here.

Adrian Tennant: How did the opportunity to lead the Buyer Persona Institute come about?

Jim Kraus: I’m a principal with KS&R, which is a full-service market research firm. And I had crossed paths with Adele Revella, who is the founder of Buyer Persona Institute, about 15 years ago. She and I had crossed paths on a number of occasions, working with different organizations around research, buying insights, and capacity, and it turns out that a couple of years ago, she was looking to retire. She and I got to talking. We’d always gotten along. We see the world very similarly from a buying insight perspective and what marketers really need. One thing led to another, and KS&R ended up acquiring Buyer Persona Institute early in 2022. and I’ve been leading us since then.

Adrian Tennant: Jim, what are Buyer Personas, and why do marketers need them?

Jim Kraus: Yeah, so seems like a simple question, but it’s actually a big question. So, let me answer it a few different ways or break it into parts. I mean, one of the things that we focus on is Buyer Personas, as they relate to what I’ll call high-consideration buying decisions. And a high-consideration buying decision is simply a decision that is one where you’re probably going to have multiple decision influencers involved in it, whether it’s a consumer or a business decision. There’s probably going to be some risk associated with it, right? There’s a lot at stake in that buying decision. It’s going to be the type of decision where you’re going to be looking at multiple options. It’s not going to be something that you’re sole sourcing. It’s probably a buying decision you haven’t made either ever, or you haven’t made in a while, so you’re going to be a bit anxious about it, right? Because there’s going to be a lot of information coming at you, and you’re going to be trying to make heads or tails of it as a buyer, trying to figure out, “How do I even evaluate what is my best option?”, or “Who do I even consider?” So, we focus Buyer Personas on those types of buying decisions. And the reason that’s important as far as what a Buyer Persona is, is that a Buyer Persona to us is really developing deep buying insights about a particular buying decision. A lot of times when you say Buyer Personas, people associate them with fictional avatars of an individual or a role that’s involved in the decision process. And those are fine. Those give you some insights that are helpful. What we look to do is to try to develop insights about a specific buying decision an organization or a consumer is actually making because when I mentioned the high consideration buying decision, the only way to really influence a buyer in those types of decisions is to have a great deal of empathy and understanding about what it is they’re trying to achieve, what are their concerns, what are all the information sources and steps they’re taking in their process. So, for us, a Buyer Persona is deep insights about a specific buying decision.

Adrian Tennant: What distinguishes the Buyer Persona Institute’s approach to developing Buyer Personas, say, from others in the industry?

Jim Kraus: Yeah, I think two fundamental things, right? One is what I just mentioned. It’s understanding buying decisions, and we can talk a little bit more about what types of buying insights do you need for your Buyer Personas. That’s pretty important, but let me just say for now the first one is understanding the buying decision. The second, I think, the major thing is our approach to actually developing Buyer Personas. We interview recent buyers, people who have made the exact same buying decision that you’re trying to influence, no matter what kind of solution you have, right? So those are the two major things. The first thing’s important for the reasons I mentioned. The second one’s important because you’re really trying to get fact-based, objective insights. You want to eliminate all the guesswork in your marketing and sales. And the only way to do that is to talk to recent buyers because they are the experts. There’s nobody else that are the experts. They’re the ones that have just gone through that buying decision. They can tell you everything that you need to know.

Adrian Tennant: And just to clarify, by talking to buyers, you mean qualitative interviews, is that correct?

Jim Kraus: Correct. Let me just define recent buyers first and then talk about the qualitative. And you’re correct in what you said there. A recent buyer is somebody who’s made the exact same buying decision you’re trying to influence. So, it’s not your current customers, although some may be. What you’re trying to do is develop a Buyer Persona that is representative of your target market, right? You’re trying to develop something that you can look at, and you say those insights are not just reflective of our customer base, right? Who have inherent biases, good, bad, and otherwise. You want it to be reflective of deals that you’ve never seen, maybe some that you’ve participated in at once, maybe some that you’ve participated in and lost. So what we mean by recent buyers is finding buyers that have been involved in that buying decision over typically the last 12 months. So, if you’re a provider of CRM software, I’ll use that as one example, you want to go find buyers that have evaluated, gone through a buying decision, and made a purchase decision for CRM Software. And those are the folks that you want to interview. And it is a qualitative approach that we use. It’s a little different than a typical qualitative interview. Some who are involved in research may have heard the term “discussion guide” before. It’s not a rigid discussion guide where we’re asking, “Hey, we got to get through these 20 questions.” We interview as a journalist would. We’re trying to understand the buyer’s story from the moment they had an initial need, or there was a trigger for this buying decision, what was the thing that got them actually moving away from the status quo, all the way until the time they make a final decision. And we are looking for that behind-the-scenes story of everything that happened. All the key elements of that particular buying journey, if you will. So, the interviewers that we use really act like journalists. And they ask a lot of questions, they probe. It’s usually that second and third “Tell me a little more about that” that gets you the real nuggets that are useful.

Adrian Tennant: So, can you walk us through the process BPI recommends to create Buyer Personas?

Jim Kraus: So the first thing we had just talked about is doing the recent buyer interviews, finding those recent buyers. Once you do the interviews, the key thing is you want to look across the interviews that you did, that you completed, and you want to mine those interviews for five key areas of insight. Now, we call them the five rings of insight. You can call them what you’d like. It was just an easy way for us to put a name on it. What’s important is what each one is and why each one is important to marketing. So, the first area you want to identify, we call it Priority Initiatives. And these are triggers. These are literally the things that got buyers to say, “Hey, we need to do something different, right? The status quo is not working anymore.” Whatever that status quo is, it could be they’re doing nothing, they could be using something that’s not working anymore, or it’s becoming outdated, or what have you. You want to know what all those triggers are. And the reason that’s so important is that when you’re involved with these buyers as a marketer earlier on in the buying decision, when they’re first just trying to figure out “Who do I even consider?” you want to know what those things are so that you can talk to them, interact with them, give them experiences so that when they look at you, they’re like, “Hey, this company really understands me. Maybe I should give them a closer look.” Right? So, priority initiatives are triggers. Really important in the early stages of the buying decision. The second area of insight that you want to understand is what we call success factors. These are the outcomes that buyers want from their investment at the end of the day. They’re going to make a change. They’re going to buy something different. What is it that they need to be able to look at six months, a year, two years down the line and say, “Hey, we made that investment, and we achieved X, Y, Z.” You want to know what those success factors are, right? So that when you’re developing messaging, when you’re developing thought leadership, when you’re figuring out how do we structure case studies and what kind of value do customers really want to see, gosh, wouldn’t it be great to know what the success factors that they care about are? I mean, it’s just incredibly powerful. So that’s the second area. The third area we call perceived barriers. This happens to be my favorite if I had to pick a favorite. These are the fears and concerns that buyers have. So, if you’re involved in a high-consideration buying decision, I can guarantee you that buyers are going to be anxious. This is something they haven’t bought a lot, maybe they’ve never bought it. It probably is for a decent dollar amount. It doesn’t have to be, but probably is. There are downside implications if you make the wrong choice, right? So, perceived barriers are all the things that they’re concerned about. They’re the things that get certain providers eliminated from contention, So the reason it’s so important to understand those is because you don’t wanna be surprised by those. You wanna know what those are upfront so that you can proactively address them. The other beauty of understanding what those are is those are great places to differentiate yourself because when we do the interviews, we categorize these types of insights as perceived barriers, which means that providers are getting eliminated, either A, from just being considered, or B, being eliminated as buyers are winnowing down their options. So, you can look at it as a negative insight, but we kind of look at it as a really positive one, because you can spin that to your advantage. The fourth area is decision criteria. The way to think about it is, think about when you’re getting more into the middle, later stages of the buying decision. When buyers have already kind of said, “Hey, we want to do something, we have a pretty good idea, the providers really want to take a look at, now we’re really getting into the nitty-gritty.” Like, what are the actual questions that they’re starting to ask these providers as they go through the buying journey. I can guarantee you some of their questions they knew up front, some of them are going to evolve as they get smarter and they get further in. You want to know what those questions are. A lot of these end up being very technical questions. They can be questions about your industry experience, your technical capabilities, what features you have, your service and support. And these questions are all ones that you can now get yourself prepared for. Because now you know in advance. It’s like getting the answers for the test, right? You can be prepared to address all these. We usually have more decision criteria than any other area of insight because of that. The fifth and final area is Buyer’s Journey. And Buyer’s Journey is all the typical steps that someone would take in this particular buying decision. Who are the key influencers in that decision? And what are the information sources they use and trust? And this has obvious value to a marketer, right? “Where should I be? Who should I be talking to? How do I interact with them? In what forms?” right? “Where do I need to make sure that I’ve got a plan for these different things that they’re going to be doing in their buyer’s journey?” So, those five areas of insight are incredibly powerful. You can literally develop entire marketing strategies and tactics just by using those insights. They’re the foundation of the house, so to speak.

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. Well, you’ve walked us through the methodology. I’m curious about two things. First of all, what does a deliverable look like from Buyer Persona Institute?

Jim Kraus: One is the insights I just mentioned, right? So when you do the analysis and you develop insights in each one of those five areas. The second thing is buyer quotes. So one of the things that we highly recommend is when you’re developing these buying insights, you don’t just list out, “Here’s my six priority initiatives,” and “Here’s my seven success factors.” You want to include a lot of buyer quotes from the interviews that substantiate those. And the reason that’s so powerful is because, number one, it lends instant credibility to the findings. Our favorite meetings are readout meetings of Personas because regardless of who the audience is, they start paying attention very quickly because they realize that these are their prospective buyers. And you get incredible value from hearing how they think about your solution, how they talk about it, how they talk about you and your competitors. You get a lot of competitive insights as well. So the other reason it’s so important is not only the credibility but because of the reasons I just mentioned. If you’re somebody that’s really developing content, messaging, positioning, anything that is marketing communications, it gives you that really deep understanding and that empathy for the buyer. And I can guarantee you that what you actually develop is going to be different than if you just looked at the insights themselves. So those are terribly important. The third part of it, which I haven’t talked about yet, is what we call a Buyer Persona profile. And it’s kind of the cover page to the persona. What that is, it just basically says who are the decision-makers. that we identified in the interviews. What are their overall priorities? What information sources? Maybe a little bit about their education. That is a nice piece to put in front of your Buyer Persona because it just gets your audience, you know, whoever’s using this, just gets them familiar with who the buyer is, right? As an individual, as a role. And then you get into the buying insight. So those are typically the three key components of a Buyer Persona.

Adrian Tennant: In what kinds of ways do Buyer Persona Institute insights translate into actionable strategies for marketers?

Jim Kraus: There are a couple of different ways that we recommend as far as how you use these insights. Number one is, one of the really powerful things to do is look across these five areas of insight. And a typical study will have 35 to 40 insights. Put them in a spreadsheet and just do some analysis on them. Take a look at them and say, “Where are some patterns emerging here?” And I can guarantee you, you will see patterns. Oftentimes, when we do this, we’ll find anywhere from 5, 6, 7 key themes that represent “This is what really matters to buyers the most,” right? It’s the type of thing that if you’re a product marketer, those are the things you want to put on your bulletin board and keep looking at every day, right? This is what buyers really care about. So, from a practical standpoint, that’s a great way to take all these insights and really hone them down. Another great exercise to do is not just do that, but also when you identify those themes, let’s just say there’s six themes for the sake of argument here. You want to take all your capabilities as an organization, your solution, product, service, whatever it is, and your organization’s capabilities. Get a couple of people in the room that know your solution really well. If you have people who know your competitors’ capabilities really well, and just go one by one on each insight and do an objective assessment of what capabilities you have versus all these things that buyers want and need. Go one by one. And it’s a great exercise to figure out, “Where can we differentiate? Where are we on par with competition? Where are we behind?” The reason that’s really powerful is because now you don’t just know the themes. Now you’re going to know where should we focus, right? Because maybe there are three themes that we can really play well in. And we’re going to actually map capabilities, so we’ll develop proof points for all of them as well. The last thing I’ll mention is as far as how our clients and people that do these Buyer Personas, for themselves, which you can definitely do. Lots of different ways. They use them too, for messaging, of course. They use them to either write new or to update all their case studies. Aligning them to the key things that buyers want. It’s amazing how you take a fresh look at your case studies, and you’re like, “Wow, we’re talking about things that buyers don’t really care about.” Right? So we can make some adjustments on those. They use them for new thought leadership ideas. focusing on, again, going back to some of these major themes “This is what we really want to develop content on.” They use them to develop campaigns, and campaign ideation as well. We have some that use them to change taglines. We have some that use them to,Figure out some of the assets and some of the ways they want to present themselves at conferences. So, there are all kinds of creative ways you can use them. It really, for us, for our clients, it really depends on the organization and what market levers they really want to pull. 

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message. 

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Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Jim Kraus, President of the Buyer Persona Institute. Jim, are there any differences between Buyer Personas representing consumers and those reflecting business-to-business customers?

Jim Kraus: For us, there is not, only because we focus on high-consideration buying decisions. An example of a high-consideration buying decision for a consumer might be you’re looking for the next place you’re going to a vacation resort, right? Or you’re figuring out where are we going to send our child to school? Or we’re buying an automobile, right? These are all things that are still high-consideration decisions. The Buyer Persona wouldn’t change at all. I mean, you do it the same way, get the same areas of insight, et cetera. The only difference really for us would be that some people associate Buyer Personas with consumers more as that kind of that fictional avatar where you’re just describing overall attitudes of this particular Buyer Persona. Psychographics, priorities, lifestyle, things like that. But for us, with the Buyer Personas we’re talking about, buying decision-based, there is fundamentally no difference in how you do them.

Adrian Tennant: Jim, I mentioned Gartner’s research in the introduction, which indicates that the typical buying group for a complex business-to-business solution involves six to ten decision-makers. How many Buyer Personas do you recommend in this kind of scenario?

Jim Kraus: My answer may surprise you, but much, much fewer than 10. I’ve heard 12 to 16. You know, Gartner’s study, I know, is referenced quite a bit. But the bottom line is, within the pipes of buying decisions we’re talking about, it’s likely going to be more than one, and it may be many. Here’s the beauty of it. This buyer approach to Buyer Persona – one of the great benefits of it is it’s going to simplify your marketing. It’s going to make it more powerful, and it’s going to simplify it. Why? Because once you get into a buying decision, you don’t want to have tailored marketing to every one of those influencers. In fact, Gartner has research that shows that’s going to hurt you, not help you. it makes a longer sales cycle. It makes buyers more anxious. It makes it more likely for the deal to result in a no-decision. Once you get into a buying committee where you may have an RFP and certain requirements, they’re doing meetings, etc. They’re all coalescing around that buying decision. Let’s say there are three different roles that are involved in a buying decision. Go talk to all three get all their perspectives, right? You’re focused on the buying decision. And what’s going to happen is you’re going to come out with a Buyer Persona that is super, super relevant for that buying decision, and not have to worry that, “Hey, IT thinks this way,” or “The business folks think that way.” You want to capture all of it because, at the end of the day, as a buying committee that is making this decision together, all of those things are going to be important, right? So why complicate your world? Simplify it. So that’s one of the actual benefits. So, to answer your question, we recommend one Buyer Persona per buying decision you’re trying to influence. That could be a product or service. The only thing I will add to that is I often recommend, or we’ll do for clients that want to work with us, to do a segmented study. And all we mean by that is, that the best example probably is company size, right? So let’s say you sell a solution that maybe really small companies can use and really large enterprises can use. And you say, “You know what? We just know the buying decision is going to be a bit different here. There are going to be some similarities, but some things are going to be different. We really do need to know what those are.” It doesn’t mean you need to do two Buyer Personas. Do one Buyer Persona. Just make sure you do enough interviews with the smaller companies and with the larger companies. And what you can do is when you analyze the interviews across, you can identify where there are commonalities and where their differences are. And you just point those out in the Buyer Persona. So, as an example, let’s say success factors are one of the areas of insight. If we did a segmented study, And we found seven or eight different success factors, there’s a good chance that five of them will be the same, but we may find a couple that are really pertinent for the larger guys and maybe one or two that are more pertinent for the smaller guys. Include that in your Buyer Persona and just acknowledge the fact that this is an insight that is specific to this particular enterprise-size segment. You can still have one Buyer Persona. I can promise you’re going to find more commonalities than differences most of the time, but that’s something you can definitely do and still use a simplified approach but still get the comprehensive view that you want.

Adrian Tennant: Do you have some case studies you could share that illustrate some of the benefits of following the Buyer Persona Institute’s methods?

Jim Kraus: Yeah, we do have some on our website,, if anybody wants to go to those, feel free to read them. But, mostly what I can say from an overall standpoint is with the different marketing levers that people pull using these Buyer Personas, the places that we usually see the most impact on performance is more qualified leads. It’s not always more leads, it’s more qualified leads because what’s happening is, you know, ICP – Ideal Customer Profile – gets thrown around a lot. You’re going to be attracting those folks more because now, when you start interacting with them in some marketing or sales capacity, you’re going to be much more aligned to what’s really important to them and where you can compete really, really well. So what’s going to happen is not only are you going to get more leads, the leads are going to be more ones that kind of are in your wheelhouse. The other place that we see improvements is on close rates. And really, when you get into perceived barriers, all the fears and concerns buyers have, and all the decision criteria that they care about, if you really start aligning yourself to those, now you’re going to see yourself closing more business, right? Because not only are you drawing them in, they start to see you as a trusted advisor. They start to see you as somebody that really understands their requirements. So those are the two major places, and there’s lots of different ways that clients, different levers that they pull. So those case studies, if anybody wants to go look, take a look, you’ll see different ways that clients use these Personas to achieve those results.

Adrian Tennant: Jim, in your experience, what is the most underestimated aspect of Buyer Personas or potential use cases that marketers often overlook?

Jim Kraus: I think the biggest challenge that I see is really definitional, right? So Buyer Personas means something to everybody, and it means nothing, right? So the way I define the way we’re talking about Buyer Persona has a really specific meaning and real specific impact. What I would say is when somebody says Buyer Personas, don’t jump to the conclusion that they are not worthwhile. Which might be a lot of traditional history you’ve used them, or don’t jump to the conclusion that “Hey, this will give us a good idea about where we go find them,” because it has something about information sources. It says something about their overall priorities. You can do better than that because all that’s going to do is help you say, “Hey, maybe we can find them, and maybe we can talk about something that we know that they care about.” But it’s really not going to help you all that much influencing their buying decision. It’s just not. There’s just too much information coming at people too quickly. If you don’t align with buyers really quickly, you’re going to lose them, right? It’s going to be into the abyss. It’s going to be like the white noise, right? Like you want them to, when they come to you or they take a look at what you’re putting out there, you immediately connect with them. To me, it’s just expecting more from your Buyer Personas, right? If your Buyer Personas aren’t delivering this, then rethink how you’re doing them.

Adrian Tennant: Excellent advice. Well, Jim, you’re currently working with Adele Revella on a second edition of “Buyer Personas.” What new insights can readers expect, and how do these reflect changes in the market since the first edition came out in 2015?

Jim Kraus: Yeah, so we’re really excited about this second edition. It should be out mid-next year, and we’re spending more time in a couple of areas. So it’s not a wholesale rewrite, like the fundamental core of what we’re doing is still there. It’s more of we’re giving more examples and instances about why a buying decision-based Buyer Persona is so important. I think one of the things that we want to make sure is we spend enough time in the book so that light switch goes on, you go, “Oh, okay, now I get it. Now I see it. I can picture how if we do this, that will lead to that.” So we’re spending a little bit more time upfront in the book on that, which I’m really excited about. We’re spending a little more time on how do you develop Buyer Personas, best practices. So we have a lot of folks that do this themselves. We offer a master class ourselves DIY-ers. We’re spending more time to give more information to readers about how do they actually do a Buyer Persona. And then the last thing we’re doing is, we’re adding additional ways that you can leverage the insights for impact. So what I would say is, you know, it’s a great refresh of everything Adele and I have learned over the last 10 or 15 years to make this methodology even more impactful and to enable people that want to do this themselves, give them more, you know, more weapons, so to speak, to be able to do that successfully.

Adrian Tennant: And what’s on the horizon? Are there any upcoming projects or collaborations that you’re particularly excited about?

Jim Kraus: The biggest one for me, quite honestly, is we have done a ton of work over the last 10 or 15 years in the B2B tech industry, and we continue to do it. The approach that we’ve been talking about today is just perfect for that type. One of the things I’m really excited about is really getting this methodology used in other industries that could so benefit from it, and they just don’t have awareness of it yet. You know, one example of that is health care, working with medical device companies, whether it’s B2B or B2C, there’s a lot of different medical procedures, for example, that are definitely high consideration buying decisions, as far as there’s certain types of outcomes that patients want, and there’s different ways to go about that, and different providers. So that’s one thing we’re really excited about, is going into some different industries and showcasing how it can be used. We actually just finished a Buyer Persona for MRI machines a couple of months ago, and it was fantastic. We didn’t do it for a specific client, we did it on our own just to prove, to show the level of insights you can get in a healthcare environment. That’s one of the big pushes we’re going to be spending next year or two is trying to get in some other markets where these types of insights can be incredibly valuable.

Adrian Tennant: That makes a ton of sense. Jim, to what extent do you foresee the uses of artificial intelligence and machine learning influencing the ways Buyer Personas are developed and utilized by marketers?

Jim Kraus: We’re doing some experiments right now with artificial intelligence. The jury’s still out on them as far as how they can be used to enhance Buyer Personas. And again, the Buyer Personas, as we’ve been talking about today with the buying decision and the five areas of insight. Right now, where we’re netting out is they can definitely help supplement some of that. They do not take the place of talking to recent buyers. First of all, AI applications aren’t sourced, so you don’t even know where the data is really coming from. That presents a challenge when you’re trying to present something to your internal stakeholders that is credible, versus actually talking to buyers where there’s no argument there. The other thing we’re finding is the insights are really scarce. They’re really high level or surfacy, or they’re everything in the kitchen sink. Where we’ll do a study, and we’ll find seven key insights for success factors, and I’ll see an AI application pump out 15 of them. And I look at it, and I’m like, “Well, I know it’s not those 15, because we just did the work to actually talk to buyers that went through this buying decision.” So, we’ll see. We’ll see how things develop over time. I think the biggest place we see near-term opportunity for AI is one is it is helping with buyer profiles. Those are the characteristics of the people involved in the buying decision. It helps supplement that, again with an asterisk being, I don’t like not being able to source stuff, that’s just a market researcher in me, but it could help supplement there. The other place that we’re more excited about AI is the ability to analyze the data. So, like when we do these interviews, let’s say we do a Buyer Persona study, and we talk to 10 to 20 buyers, we always record them, we transcribe them. We’re experimenting with ways to take those transcripts and put them into some different Gen AI tools and help analyze those results a lot more quickly and put them into the five areas of insight. So I see that as being from a practical standpoint, I know that Gen AI can help there. So that’s the place that we’re really excited about it.

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners are interested in learning more about you, KS&R, and Buyer Persona Institute, what’s the best way to connect with you?

Jim Kraus: Two places. One is, I think I mentioned earlier, visit us at Pretty easy to remember. We have a lot of resources on there. we’re trying to put out thought leadership around buying insights in general, not just quote-unquote Personas. We also have templates there that could be useful for folks as far as what a Buyer Persona looks like. We have a master class there, where if you’re trying to learn exactly how to do that, you can take that class. So that’s a great resource to go to. The other place is if anybody wants to Link in to me, Jim Kraus on LinkedIn, we have a Buyer Persona newsletter. We’re always trying to put out content and interact with people that want to interact with us. So that’s another great place if you want to connect or follow me there.

Adrian Tennant: That’s great. Jim, thank you very much for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Jim Kraus: Thanks Adrian, and I enjoyed it.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, Jim Kraus, President of the Bayer Persona Institute. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation, along with links to the resources we discussed, on the Bigeye website at Just select podcast from the menu. Thanks for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

Award-winning creative strategist Alex Santiago discusses his experiences with the 4A’s Multicultural Advertising Internship Program, becoming a creative director at Publix Supermarkets, and establishing his own agency. Alex’s approach to strategy focuses on human connections, captured in his book, “Stop Asking For Logos,” which offers insights for entrepreneurs and creative professionals seeking to navigate the complexities of integrated marketing with empathy and clarity.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS: 

Alex Santiago: I was a translator everywhere that I’ve been because I was a marketing-educated person who shifted to mass comm, portfolio school, copywriting, creative direction. So, the book being now welcomed by designers has been a happy notion that I’m embracing. I’ll be happy to be a translator, right?

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on marketing and advertising produced weekly by Bigeye, a strategy-led full-service creative agency growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. How do you define creative strategy? Maybe your answer would reflect one of these quotes from ad industry luminaries. “Creative without strategy is called art. Creative with strategy is called advertising.” That nugget is attributed to Jeff Richards. Well, how about this variation on the theme from Jeroen Madse? “Strategy without creativity is called planning. Creativity without strategy is called art. But advertising that combines both is called magic.” But for me, this feels a bit more practical: “Strategy is the art of asking the right questions and moving culture in your favor, paired with the science of testing your ideas and refining them over time.” These thoughts on strategy were written by our guest today, Alex Santiago, an award-winning creative strategist, director, coach, copywriter, and public speaker focused on branding and integrated marketing. He’s worked as part of well-known consumer brands’ in-house creative teams, as well as for some of the best-known and respected advertising agencies in the Southeast. As you’ll hear today, Alex is also an entrepreneur, having established his own businesses, including the responsive branding boutique and consultancy Social Mosaic Communications. Today, Alex is channeling his creative and business acumen as well as his passion for education as head of membership for the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College. Alex is also the author of the book, Stop Asking for Logos, published earlier this year, which aims to help small business ideas become big global brands. To discuss his almost two decades of advertising and marketing experience, which he describes as “working with global giants, up-and-comers, and everyone else in between,” Alex is joining us today from Lakeland, Florida. Alex, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Alex Santiago: Thank you so much for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Well, Alex, you were born and raised in Puerto Rico. What age were you when you moved to the US?

Alex Santiago: I was 14 years old when I moved to the US, actually. 

Adrian Tennant: And what was the adjustment to life in the US like for you?

Alex Santiago: It was not easy, to be honest with you. I understood English, but I didn’t speak the language. So, I was in ESL classes, and it was definitely a rough transition for me. 

Adrian Tennant: When did you first have the idea that a creative career might be in your future?

Alex Santiago: A career probably wasn’t the vision necessarily. That happened much later in my journey. I just loved entertainment, and I really wanted to pursue a music career originally. That was my original creative, I guess; making a living makes more sense than a career. But, I would say high school is when I started really understanding that marketing was an option for making a living, 

Adrian Tennant: Tell me a little bit more about your music experiences at school.

Alex Santiago: I was very musical since I was a kid; I was a dancer since I was 11 years old. By the time I moved to Central Florida, I was in 11th grade. I discovered a rich community of musicians, and I was, and still consider myself, a percussionist, first and foremost. But I just was always singing. I was always singing in the hallways, I was always singing in my classrooms, and I went to Kathleen High School here in Lakeland, Florida, and the number of musicians was just unbelievable. So I found myself writing a lot of poetry, singing a whole bunch, kind of defaulted to that singer-songwriter kind of space with these folks, and it was incredible. And I found a music scene here of artists who were actually touring and playing out in all different venues. And that’s where the DIY-ness of my whole life kind of started because it’s kind of interesting; in the music scene here, we are known for throwing these crazy parking lot shows at our local Pep Boys parking lot. And that’s kind of like what we are known for. So, long story short: no one shows up to local shows, right? You’re 16, 17 years old, you’re doing your own music in a time when the internet was very young and going to a show was going to Tampa, going to Orlando, right? Going to a local music show wasn’t necessarily an option, So I realized, I’m like, “Well, if I can promote, if I can, I need to promote this thing.” And I started taking marketing classes in high school. And this is a testament to representation. So, my high school happened to have a Puerto Rican marketing teacher. She kind of encouraged me to come in and take the class. And that’s where my world just kind of collided because then being in the class understanding, the basics of what marketing is, I kind of took that on, you know, I took the ownership of “If I need people to come out to see us, I’m going to have to be the promoter.” And at the time, the only thing that was free was the internet, right? So, very much whatever was accessible to us at the time, you know, things like LiveJournal, a lot of community-centric things were being born. So that’s really what started that. So, by the time that college came around, I was aware of marketing as a job opportunity, not a career, as a job opportunity. And then growing up with MTV, growing up hearing about labels and hearing about A& R and things like that very much piqued my intrigue at a young age.

Adrian Tennant: Alex, in what kinds of ways has your interest in music influenced your approach to creative strategy do you think?

Alex Santiago: It has the most direct through line, actually. One of the concepts that I’ve wanted to work on is the notion of a portfolio looking at your greatest hits. I remember my portfolio professor, Kobe, talking about your portfolio being a smile, right? Where it was, you have strong opener, and then you kind of like bury your weaker work, and then you close with a strong one. And that, to me, what it actually reminded me of was an album. Albums are very much the same thing, right? It’s this story that you tell, and what kind of journey do you take the listener? So for me, it’s both conceptual as well as in practice, because in the early 2000s, we talked about MySpace timelines, just so I can talk about community-centric, conversation-centric, Kind of the shift of advertising, you know, US bands and musicians were using it very much as it was the only thing that was free to us, But we had direct access to, to kids, Like I used to say that my job at the time was earning people’s trust with a keyboard. And sure enough, I ended up as a copywriter; my whole job was to make sure that when I spoke with people, if it was a random message, if it was a comment, people understood that I was a real person. So very much this world of making sure that people on the other side knew I was a human being, understanding that I found things that were alike and connection points, I understood very early on that that was going to be the future of communications. So that had a direct impact on how I would think about building campaigns. I would think about what we now call personalization and also what branded communities essentially became. So, when I speak about audiences versus customers, for example, which is a very hard transition, I notice, especially because at the same time as I was, you know, taking marketing classes, I was working for Publix already, as a teenager in the stores, and then ended up as a 19-year-old in corporate, so I used to have a lot of great conversations with our VP about the future of marketing and advertising that I remember fondly. And at the time, I remember when I think Pepsi was the first brand on Twitter to hit a million followers. and then Whole Foods had a hundred thousand, and there were brands early on who understood that this was an extension of their store experiences. So for me, it was all about, “Okay, you have an audience that you’re earning an audience,” right? Like that’s really like, as an artist, you have an opportunity on stage that you busted your behind for, for a long time to get on that stage, or you had to produce the show yourself. You’re lucky if the people got there after you talk to them. And after you tell them you were coming. You have two songs, right, to get them to stick around, and then you have a 20-minute set to get them to care. So when I tell you it was a direct line, everything that I’ve done has a direct connection to what I was doing. And what I discovered later on was my superpower, which was really deconstructing what successful people were doing. Successful meaning the nationals, right? There were a lot of bands from Central Florida that became very, very popular nationwide at the time. I was just like, “What are they doing?” So I was just very much writing down mental notes, real notes, deconstructing what they were up to, how they were using these platforms, how they were connecting with people. Because I’m a fan, too, right? So primary research was very much how was I feeling? How were they making me feel? And then, how many people around me were feeling the same way?

Adrian Tennant: Well, you gave us a little preview there of your work with Publix, which we’ll get onto in a moment, but you studied at the University of South Florida, graduating from the Zimmerman School of Advertising in Mass Communications. Now, during your time at USF in 2010, you were selected for the multicultural advertising intern program or MAIP, for short. The program was created by the American Association of Advertising Agencies over 40 years ago with the aim of enhancing workforce diversity in the industry. Now, we’ve had Reema Elghossain, former VP of Talent, Equity, and Inclusion at the 4A’s Foundation, as a guest on this podcast in the past. So, Alex, what was your MAIP experience like?

Alex Santiago: So I will say MAIP absolutely changed my life. And it was an incredible, incredible experience. My experience with MAIP, getting into MAIP was very, very dramatic just because I found out five days before the deadline. And I went through the process, and the next thing I knew, “You’re a finalist!” And what was incredible at the time was that I already had found the MAIP community through social media. So we were kind of like, that 2010 class was one of the earlier, not the earliest, but one of the earlier classes that were very much kind of social media first if you will. So, we were tracking the MAIP hashtag – #MAIP 2010, the MAIP 2010 hashtag was developed. All of us have found each other before we were even accepted. So we had this beautiful connection the whole time. And it was the first time that I really had this, like, diverse community. People who looked like me, right? Like, that was something that didn’t exist prior to that. So, it was absolutely incredible.

Adrian Tennant: Now, Alex, in what ways did MAIP influence the course of your career?

Alex Santiago: Oh man, you know, twofold. Yes, I ended up head-first in the ad industry. And McCann Eriksson, at the time, was going through a huge shift because I got to see the peaks and the valleys of the ad industry on my first day. Because as soon as we walked through the office, they had just recently lost Microsoft as a client. So, on our first day, we’re like, way overdressed, wearing our oversized suits and, and everyone, you know, all of us were not in the same… There were definitely people who were like, this is their second internship. This was the first time that I was in this context. And we’re seeing people walking out with boxes. So I got to experience what a layoff essentially looks like. So that was a very interesting backdrop, right? Like getting started in that context, you know, our biggest client just left. I got to experience a global pitch, so now you have an intern you know, seeing a global ECD bringing together McCann Mexico, McCann Hong Kong, McCann New York. I remember, like, sitting in this war room, just looking at decks all over the walls; it was unbelievable. 

Adrian Tennant: Well, I know you’re too modest to mention it, but in 2022, you were named the 4A’s MAIP Coach of the Year. So Alex, did it feel like coming full circle in some way?

Alex Santiago: Oh man, that was, what a moment. That was happening 12 years after I was in MAIP and a decade after I have been coaching this whole time. That’s the way that I was able to give back. So when I got back to Florida, I had a very rude awakening, right? Because now I’m going from the high of like, San Francisco. I just pitched HP Computers with all these award-winning creatives. I’m in New York City, meeting all these people. And then I’m back in Tampa Bay, and like, no one cares! So I think like that giving back was the only thing that I could control. So how I got started helping give back was by doing talks for the following year. So I became a bit of a campus spokesperson, and I also joined my AAF Adfed ad club. So it was very eye-opening. And I became the event and diversity chair, and as a diversity chair of my ad club, then I created a couple of events to speak about these programs and literally give back to communities, people who look like me, which obviously very, very few people, but I was able to bring MAIP, and I brought up MAIP speakers – so we got to Zoom in, some folks and also the Marcus Graham project. So we did two events, and I was able to do that at the time. And because of that, I stayed connected with the folks up there, right, in communications. And we were connected on LinkedIn. So there was already a community, digital communities already existed, obviously. So I stayed plugged in, and then the mentorship program, was part of MAIP. You always get a mentor in the agency or the city that you’re in. And my mentor was very important to me in San Francisco. And I was like, “I can be that person, you know, can I do it from here?” So I had been doing it for Central Florida for almost a decade long. And then that helped, that directly shaped how I saw generations change, generations coming up, and then I saw the evolution from MAIP going from having mentors into coaching. So any and all opportunities that I would have to go back to New York and do a conference to continue coaching, I took it. So I’m just kind of like the guy who never left, you know, 

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message. 

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Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Alex Santiago, an award-winning creative strategist, director, coach, copywriter, and the author of the book, “Stop Asking for Logos.” I remember that when you and I first met, you were a creative director at Publix Supermarkets, working in-house at the corporate office in Lakeland. Now, for any listeners unfamiliar with Publix, it was founded back in 1930 by George W. Jenkins in Winter Haven, Florida. It’s the largest employee-owned company in the United States with over 250,000 staff and more than 1,300 stores located primarily across the southeast. So, Alex, what are some of the most valuable lessons you learned about the role of branding and consumer marketing from your experiences with Publix?

Alex Santiago: So, something that will add context to this is that I started at Publix as a 14-year-old in the front end, so I actually had a longer journey before I got to creative director. I got to corporate at 19, and that first journey, I really,  – my true degree, I would say – my true four years of college was those four years at corporate. My job there as a creative director came after in 2015, I joined as a senior copywriter and helped the creative group build a digital team, which then transformed into an omnichannel team. I was in charge of the e-commerce, as well as content creation, social engagement. And then the big, big five years of my life was Club Publix, which is their loyalty and personalization program. What I learned on the creative direction path was really more about leadership and managing up, meaning how to help leadership make better decisions, which has a direct line to helping entrepreneurs find their way. You know, it’s really hard. Publix is 90 years old. So, my experiences as a very young man inside of those halls was very, very different. You know, a creative director for a company that big at 30 years old, I know it’s not normal. But, some folks took a big chance on me, and I was able to bring change in positive ways, but change is really hard. And I think that’s something that I had to learn the hard way. But, I would say that, that time as a creative director, it helped me more as a person, and the person that I wanted to be. So this was the first time that at scale, right? Like, I don’t think people realize how massive Publix actually is. 

Adrian Tennant: Well, Alex, I mentioned in the introduction that you’re also the author of the book, “Stop Asking for Logos,” which you published earlier this year. First of all, what prompted you to write the book?

Alex Santiago: The first reason was because I heard people tell me for so many years that I should write a book and that I should teach. You hear something so much that you kind of start believing it. So that’s like my honest, honest answer. So that was the real reason. The business reason was that my original intention was to help entrepreneurs, help small and medium-sized businesses, build brands, And we couldn’t communicate, right? You had this, like, insanely passionate person in me, driven by business but speaking all creative things. And I kept losing people, right? Like, they had no idea what I was talking about, But at the same time, being that I was running my own business, I had this empathy of, this person is trying to keep the lights on, right? Like, this is life or death for them; they don’t necessarily think about the importance of having conversations about what a brand means. So, I thought, “Well, if I can help business minds understand this space, it might be a little bit easier for me to have these conversations because they’re speaking my language.” I already spoke theirs, but they just couldn’t comprehend mine. So, the original point of the book was to introduce this concept of brand filters and how it was going to be the future of communications. But in the process of writing the book, the sassy name kind of came out because I wrote it for entrepreneurs. I was like, “Okay, what is the thing that we hear every single time that somebody comes to us like, “Hey, do you make logos?” And then you have to go back and that’s what creates friction because then you have to be like, “We do, but that’s not what branding is.” So then that turns people off right away because then you’re like, “Oh, here comes a lecture that I don’t want to hear because I’m a business person and I’m successful, and I don’t need this,” right? So, the “Stop Asking For Logos” was born out of an Instagram story. It was just a day that I was just super angry, and I literally said, “Stop asking for logos!” But I’m like, I have my own personal filters into like what goes into my platforms. Which is what content strategy essentially is. And I’m like, “If I’m gonna say something that bold, you better be useful.” So then I said, “Stop asking for logos. Here’s what you should do instead.” And then I just did like a gut feeling just like, here are five things you should do before you talk to me. You know? So instead of coming out angry, it just came back very much like that educator hand-holding kind of thing. And it just blew up in my social platforms, so many people were like, “Oh my God, thank you so much.” “Oh my God, this is so useful.” And I realized I was like, “Oh, I think I found the in. I think I found my way into the book. So that shifted the whole book around. And then now you see as it exists now and you have your copy, thank you so much for picking it up, so the shape in which it looks today is because of that social media experiments in empathy. 

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. Well, you make a big, bold statement in the book, quote, “I believe filters are the future of brand communications,” end quote. So Alex, can you unpack this for us?

Alex Santiago: Yes. So, I know that is a bold statement. There are two premises The first premise is humanizing brands. So we have been hearing in culture. Humanize your brand for so many years. Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why.” Everybody was talking about “Start with Why,” but nobody was asking the why of the Why! Like what has happened in culture? So, everyone wanted to humanize their brand. Then everybody wanted to have a purpose statement. But nobody was living it. So, what I realized was that these customs words were just too heady, So, when somebody says like, “Oh I want to humanize my brand,” they actually don’t understand how to go from that, the words, that notion, into actual practice, into tactics, Like it doesn’t magically happen like that, that chunk of humanize your brand to like, how does that look like on the other side? So I thought that there was something missing in the translation of how do you humanize a brand? So that’s the first premise. The second premise is communications versus conversations. The most successful brands are the brands that have understood since the early 2000s how to have conversations. Like we hear about ambassadors and we hear about all of these wonderful marketing words, but what it really means is empowering people to have conversations. So I saw kind of like what can happen when you give too much chaos kind of happens, right? So I realized that if you could have a filter between the brand and folks, you would have a better product on the other side for the masses: conversations versus communications on the other. Filters were kind of like, my solution. 

Adrian Tennant: “Stop Asking for Logos” also has an accompanying workbook for which your wife Charity is credited as co-author. Alex, what was Charity’s role?

Alex Santiago: So my wife has a Master’s in instructional design and technology, and she has been part of all of my projects. So, she is my silent partner in the business, in Social Mosaic Communications, meaning that she’s always involved. I didn’t realize that instructional design was so, so close to marketing and advertising until she was going through her Master’s and she started showing up talking about audiences and writing scripts. Long story short, I believe that advertising’s role nowadays is to hold hands, right? It’s to guide people, not just the traditional, get your attention and try something. So my wife has been incredibly important because a lot of my campaigns because they’re built differently and because they are designed to be multi-steps. So when I finally put the book together, you know, I always had this vision of, I want this business owner to actually sit down with a pen. And that’s why it’s so short. And that’s why it’s so compact. Because I just wanted to give them this opportunity to just pull their thoughts down. And then, she took every single section that I had developed. And then reimagined it as proper training so that it was even more digestible. So she was an incredibly huge part of making sure that this experience is completely foolproof.

Adrian Tennant: “Stop Asking for Logos” and the accompanying workbook have been out for a few months now. Alex, what kind of reactions have you had from readers, and has anything surprised you?

Alex Santiago: Yes, actually. The most surprising thing has been who’s levitated towards it. Because they were not in my target audience, but obviously, it makes sense why it’s connecting with them. And it has been designers. So I wanted business people to be able to speak creative essentially. What I didn’t think about was that traditionally speaking, most designers aren’t trained in business. So what has ended up happening is that this is now, it’s a translator. So it’s been really interesting how many designers are like, “Oh my God, thank you so much!” because they’re going through the same pain points. But they may not have that business education that I have or the business experience that I have. My thing is that I was a translator in every way that I’ve been because I was a marketing-educated person who shifted to mass comm portfolio school, copywriting, creative direction. So the book being now welcomed by designers has been a happy notion that I’m embracing. I’ll be happy to be a translator, right?

Adrian Tennant: Well, as your coaching and volunteering work demonstrates, you have a passion for education and providing opportunities for diverse populations. Alex, how are you applying creative strategy in your role as Head of Membership for the Polk Museum of Art?

Alex Santiago: I wanted to leverage my journey. I love giving back, and that museum, the Polk Museum here in town, is a place that is very important for our family, especially the last three years when I was on my own. And I thought that it was a great way to both give back with my expertise and then be part of the community in a more direct way. It’s very exciting. And I’m sure that, at some point, I’ll be sharing some big new happenings going over there. 

Adrian Tennant: Alex, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners are interested in learning more about you and your work, what’s the best way to get in touch with you?

Alex Santiago: So the best way it’s always going to be online, it’s going to be social media. I’m @Sosaic on all platforms, S-O-S-A-I-C. That’s always going to be the easiest way. I’m also at You’ll see the red glasses over there. So yeah, online is usually going to be the easiest thing. is my personal website. I have a contact sheet there. So, if that’s easier for you, you can definitely check that out. 

Adrian Tennant: Marvellous. And we’ll include a link to the “Stop Asking for Logos” webpage in the description and transcript for this episode.

Alex Santiago: Thank you so much.

Adrian Tennant: Alex, thank you very much for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Alex Santiago: Thank you so much for having me. 

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, Alex Santiago, award-winning creative strategist and author of “Stop Asking for Logos.” As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation, along with links to the resources we discussed, on the Bigeye website at Just select ‘Podcast’ from the menu. Thanks for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye

Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

Marketing Week columnist and brand strategist Helen Edwards is the author of “From Marginal To Mainstream.” Helen discusses why marginal behaviors, practiced by small population segments, differ from trends and how they can drive product innovation and category growth. Helen also offers strategies for identifying behaviors that have mainstream potential. Listeners receive a 25 percent discount on “From Marginal To Mainstream” at use promo code BIGEYE25 at checkout.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: ​Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS: 

Helen Edwards: A marginal behavior starts with people and how they’re choosing to live their lives. And if you go to the margins and look to behaviors around that category, it can force you to just think differently rather than just landing in the same thing.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on marketing and advertising produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency growing brands for clients globally. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. Businesses and brands are constantly seeking new ways to achieve sustainable long-term growth. In today’s episode, we’re going to explore one intriguing approach to growth, Which is to tap into consumers’ marginal behaviors, those that currently exist on the fringes, but have the potential to reshape categories. But how can you discern which consumer behaviors will remain niche and which will catapult into mainstream acceptance? Well, as you’ll hear, it’s not just about identifying those behaviors. It’s about understanding their trajectory and the underlying forces that propel them forward. The Bigeye Book Club selection for September was “From Marginal To Mainstream: Why Tomorrow’s Brand Growth Will Come From The Fringes – And How To Get There First. The book’s author is Helen Edwards, a leading authority on marketing And the cofounder of the branding agency Passionbrand, working with clients including Johnson and Johnson, MetLife, BBC Worldwide, and Avon, among many others. Helen’s first book was Creating Passion Brands,” also published by Kogan Page, and today, she’s an award-winning columnist for Marketing Week and a keynote speaker, most recently on the stage of the Festival of Marketing in London. Helen is also an adjunct professor of marketing at the London Business School and sits on the board of the UK Effies, an award program that recognizes and celebrates the most effective marketing campaigns, ideas, and strategies. To discuss how marketers can seize opportunities before they become obvious to all, Helen is joining us today from London, England. Helen, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Helen Edwards: Thank you. Thank you for inviting me.

Adrian Tennant: Your book, “From Marginal To Mainstream,” focuses on the concept of marginal behaviors. I gave an overview in the intro, but could you explain how you define marginal behaviors and why they’re crucial for marketers to understand?

Helen Edwards: In the end, we developed our own definition of it, but what we decided was a marginal behavior should be practiced by less than 3% of the population. A minority behavior would be between 3 and 12%, and then you’re getting into the mainstream. But you can’t always know those percentages exactly, of course. But perhaps more importantly, a marginal behavior is a life choice first, not a consumption choice first, and also not linked to religion or politics. Now, why I think it’s really important for businesses, in particular, and marketers within the business to think about marginal behaviors is because of their potential for innovation and getting ahead, I think, of the consumer. I think businesses succeed when they get ahead of the consumer. And this is a way of thinking about consumers – of looking at potential new consumers – in a way that gets ahead of the consumer and, therefore, ahead of your competition. And it’s got relevance directly for innovation, but I also think for storytelling, how we communicate about our existing brands, for example.

Adrian Tennant: How do you differentiate between a fleeting trend and a marginal behavior that has the potential to go mainstream?

Helen Edwards: I think there’s probably overlap, and I’m not in the business of introducing new terminology just for the sake of it. But for me, it was important not to call this trends because I think very often a trend is often thought of as consumption-first or very much within the realm of consumption. How can we get into this trend so that we can benefit in our business? Whereas a marginal behavior starts with people and how they choose to live their lives. And in the early days, for marginal behavior, it’s a pretty inconvenient thing to do. Whereas a trend is often consumption first, like, I don’t know, metallic eye makeup or something, or it’s more sort of easy come, easy go, like rollerblading, for example. But this is about, “I wanna live my life this way, and I’m gonna do it even if it’s a bit difficult for me.”

Adrian Tennant: You kick off your book by discussing the rise of plant-based foods. Can you explain how it transitioned from the fringes to the mainstream?

Helen Edwards: Yeah. Well, it’s interesting actually because the rise of plant-based foods, the rise of veganism was probably the thing that inspired me to write the book. It’s something that I’ve been observing and thought, “This is kind of interesting. How did that happen? Could there be other marginal behaviors that could go mainstream, and how could we understand them?” So, you know, veganism itself, certainly in Western countries, has been around since just after the war. So in 1944, Donald Watson, a nondairy vegetarian – it didn’t even have a name then – started what he wanted to be a movement, basically, based on his and a few others. There were less than 10 of them. Their lifestyle choice, their decision to be a nondairy vegetarian, and it was based on their commitment to animal welfare. And they wanted to start a movement and get together and try and persuade everybody else they should also be nondairy vegetarians. They didn’t even have a name, so they called it vegan because the rationale, apparently, is that it’s the beginning and the end of vegetarian. So that was the reason for the name. Then, what was interesting about veganism was that nothing happened at all for about 60 years. So, despite Donald Watson and his team wanting to start a movement – it’s not always easy to start a movement, and it wasn’t easy for them. Nothing happened for about 60 years. It really only took off in about 2017, and there are lots of reasons why it took off. There were a combination of things that meant that veganism moved from that highly marginal choice to something a bit more mainstream.And probably the most important one is the likes of Donald Watson didn’t give up on it. You know, there were people who were committed to a vegan lifestyle, and they didn’t stop because it was so important to them. So it wasn’t a trend. It wasn’t a fad. I think probably the biggest thing was the understanding about diet changed. So, you know, in those early days, a lot of people felt that they couldn’t be a vegan because we needed meat products in our diet just to stay healthy. And I think a lot of understanding about diet changed. Then you’ve got companies beginning to kind of normalize being a vegan. Oatly is a brilliant example of that. Vegetarian and vegan options became easier. You could be a vegan some of the time. It became more dilute. And then other issues like global warming and the impact to meet production on greenhouse gases begin to push things along a bit. So the research on the story of veganism, if you like, told us a lot about what it takes for a marginal behavior to become mainstream and what you might look for if you’re looking at other marginal behaviors.

Adrian Tennant: Helen, how did you select the marginal to mainstream or M2M behaviors you identified in the book?

Helen Edwards: Well, to be honest, when I started writing the book, and I’ve said a couple of times, there was team of us who were on it. It takes quite a lot of work. It was all a bit vague, to be honest. I had in my head the idea about marginal to mainstream and veganism. I wanted to see, “Are there other behaviors out there that we would call marginal? Can we understand more about what propels marginal behaviors into the mainstream?” So we were running sort of 2 parallel pieces of research at the same time. And I, in fact, hired a a TV documentary researcher and gave her a brief saying, “This is what a marginal behavior is. Can you find any more?” And so she went out looking for marginal behaviors and interviewing people who took part in them. And in fact, every chapter now has a little piece from her about a particular marginal behavior and often has a direct interview with the people she met. But, you know, we found 47 in total. They’re listed in the book, actually, right at the end of the book. There’s a table with them all on, from polyphasic sleeping to free birthing to uniform wardrobe. And that was only in the Western world, actually. We ran out of time. We ran out of money. We didn’t have enough time to look in other cultures as well. And obviously, not all of those are gonna become mainstream, but that is how we started. So we started with the definition, and then we went out to look for more. And that that was how we did it.

Adrian Tennant: Another behavior you write about is no soaping. How can reframing change perceptions about this and other behaviors?

Helen Edwards: Yeah. No soaping is a good one, isn’t it? It’s interesting. So no soaping is obviously not using traditional sort of detergents on your body and on your hair, basically. I did a live session on the book at one point, and we asked a live audience about no soaping. I work with a research company, and we produced a scale. So we put twenty behaviors through a model that the research company had developed through quali-quant research, and then we produced a scale of the top twenty. Now, what was interesting about no soaping was it wasn’t in our top 20. If I was gonna do it again, which I may well, I’ll put it in. So we use it as a live example and we did a live scale with it. We said to people we described we said, “We’re gonna talk about no soaping,” and you immediately get “Oh, that’s disgusting!” But it was only when I then said, “Oh, yeah. But let me just tell you the reason why people do it. The reason why people do it is because our skin and hair microbiome is just as important as our gut microbiome, and we know a lot about our gut microbiome. And actually using a lot of detergents on our skin and hair is not the optimum way to look after our skin and hair microbiome.” And then everyone goes, “Oh, okay.” And so what happened then with no soaping is when we did a rough and ready piece of research with an audience, it actually appeared about halfway up the scale as one of those behaviors that would have potential. But it’s got potential when people understand a little bit more about it.

Adrian Tennant: Could you give us an overview of the eight M2M beacons?

Helen Edwards: Yeah. And I’m sorry, there are eight of them. That’s quite a lot. So basically, one of the key things that I wanted to do was to give people a way to read these behaviors better. Because I don’t know about you, but whenever I see a trends presentation, you look at all of these trends, you’re going, “Well, how am I supposed to know which one of those actually really is gonna take off, and how could I analyze it in the context of my own category?” And so the idea for the beacons was to give people a way to understand the potential of a behavior better. So these eight beacons, and we called them beacons because they’re not all equal. They’re like signs, signals, clues, and motifs, a lens through which you could look at a behavior and understand its potential better. And there are 8 of them, which is not ideal – I realize this! It would be better if there were a kind of rule of three to this, but there are eight. And I think if you use all eight, you then end up with a pretty deep understanding of the potential of that behavior. So I’m gonna I’ll run through them quickly. The first 2 really important beacons actually are intensity and resistance. So intensity is the degree to which the people who are doing it now feel very strongly about it and their commitment to it, if you like. So, if you think about Donald Watson and his commitment to animal welfare and his choice about that, his intense commitment and the people around him were important. Now, the reason intensity is important from the few is because without intensity, you won’t get traction. So if you haven’t got a small group of people who are really committed to it, who are willing to make their lives pretty inconvenient and perhaps more expensive to choose this particular behavior, then you won’t get traction. It will just disappear and go. It will be more like a trend. It’s like, “Oh, I’ve done that,” or “It’s too difficult, I’m not gonna do it.” So intensity is the commitment of the few. Resistance is the rejection of the mainstream. Now, of course, it wouldn’t be marginal if there weren’t a mainstream of people sort of going, “Well, that’s not for me.” But what’s important is you need to understand what’s going on underneath that initial resistance. Basically, you need to know what type of resistance you’ve got. So, intensity number 1, resistance number 2. Misalignment is number 3, and that’s to understand whether or not what’s going on here is a misalignment between why the intense few believe this is a good thing to do. And very often, they think they would like more people to do it because they believe in their lifestyle choice. Sometimes, what we see is their reason to do it is misaligned with the mainstream’s reason not to do it. So, if I give you an example, this also happened in veganism. So, for the intense few, the reason to do it was animal welfare. The reason not to do it was the belief that I need animal products in order to stay alive, to be healthy. So, in a sense, what you’ve got is the two parties just talking across each other. And you’re never gonna get past that. You must do this because it’s horrible to animals. I can’t do it because I need animals. Homeopathy is a similar example, actually, which is that you’ve got the scientific community saying, “It doesn’t work,” and then you got the homeopathic community going “It does work!” They just sort of talk across each other instead of perhaps acknowledging that there’s a role for homeopathy rather than going head to head with clinical solutions. So misalignment is where the mainstream and the intense few are talking across each other, and there’s no meeting there, if you see what I mean. So we’ve got intensity, resistance, misalignment. Reframing is a way to get around misalignment, actually, and that’s where marketers and agencies themselves have got agency because this is where we can use our ingenuity, our imagination to reframe, to basically put a different perspective to what people are seeing. So, I talked about homeopathy, whereas, at the moment, it tends to go head to head with the clinical world of medicine. The clinical world going, “It’s not proven, it doesn’t work.” Homeopaths going, “It does work.” Whereas, in fact, maybe a way to reframe homeopathy is to say where homeopathy’s power lies is as a placebo releaser in a sense. It works as a new human therapy, and it works really well. But that might work. It might not. But thinking about how to reframe to come across that misalignment is where marketers can apply their skills.

Adrian Tennant: I think we’re at four beacons, so let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.

Scott Smith: As the world around us is showing, it’s always hard to know what the future will bring. Susan Cox-Smith: But you can be better prepared for the uncertainties of tomorrow. Hi, I’m Susan Cox Smith. Scott Smith: And I’m Scott Smith. We’re the authors of a new book, “Future Cultures: How to Build a Future-Ready Organization Through Leadership.”Susan Cox-Smith: Our book offers proven strategies to fundamentally rewire your culture to become more fluid, agile, and prepared to handle whatever tomorrow brings. Scott Smith: From future-proofing your brand to adapting the experience of your team or workforce, “Future Cultures” includes practical design tools and foresight techniques that will bring your focus clearly into the future.Susan Cox-Smith: As an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, you can get 25 percent off a print or electronic version of Future Cultures using the exclusive promo code BIGEYE25. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders, and when you order directly from the publisher, shipping is always free to the US and the UK. Scott Smith: To order your copy of “Future Cultures,” go to the publisher’s website at That’s Kogan with a ‘K.’ Susan Cox-Smith: Thank you. Scott Smith: Thank you.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Helen Edwards, an award-winning expert on brand positioning and brand strategy and the author of the Bigeye Book Club selection, “From Marginal To Mainstream.” Helen, we just discussed the first four of those marginal-to-mainstream beacons. Could you take us through the remaining four?

Helen Edwards: So after reframing, we have vectors. So vectors are basically if you can see a subculture where this particular behavior is part of that bigger subculture. So, punks, for example, part of being a punk was also to be a vegan. Now, what happens is the subculture works almost like a vector into the mainstream. So punk kids would introduce their families to the notion of veganism because it was part of punk culture or being a hippie and meditation. So vectors are like subcultures that sort of bring that behavior or could into the mainstream. Accelerators are things from the external environment that could give this behavior a shove, and you need to look out for them. So legislation changes, natural events, new information, new science. Reversal is rare but worth looking for. It’s when the reason not to do it becomes the reason to do it is like a switchback. And when you get that switchback, it’s really powerful, and I think we did see that in veganism, actually. You know, there was a reason not to do it. “I need animal products to stay alive.” Actually, then science told us almost the complete opposite – that it would be better to eat plant-based food for our health. Exercise for its own sake is another classic one of them, and people just didn’t exercise for its own sake. You know, jog, go to gyms and stuff. They didn’t need to because work and being alive did it for them. So by the time you’d gone and done what was probably a manual job and then hand-washed your clothes or mowed the lawn without an electric lawnmower in the fifties and the early sixties, you didn’t need to do any exercise. You needed to rest, then there was a switch back. Work became more sedentary. We got labor-saving devices. So then you did need to exercise because you weren’t getting it anywhere else. So that was like a reversal. It’s like a switchback, and that’s when something really shifts fast. So, it’s one that’s really worth looking at. And the last beacon is dilution, and that’s usually as a behavior is becoming more mainstream. A marketer or a brand can find ways to bring bits of it or light versions of it to the more mainstream population. So, again, we’ve we’ve seen this in veganism. Now, you don’t have to choose to be a vegan for your entire time. You can be a vegan for one meal, or you can choose the vegan option on a particular day. It’s a way to dilute something to make it easier for the mainstream to take part in it because they kinda want to, but they don’t want to go all the way to the intense few. So that’s eight: intensity, resistance, misalignment, reframing, vectors, accelerators, reversal, and dilution. If you take a behavior and you refract it through each of those beacons, it gives you a very sort of methodical way to analyze it and understand its potential, and that was my intention with them.

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. Are there any marginal behaviors that didn’t make it into the book, but you saw on the horizon and maybe still have a good chance of becoming mainstream?

Helen Edwards: Oh, it’s an interesting one, actually. I think there probably are some that we just didn’t get to because they weren’t in our sort of immediate cultural environment. And by that, I mean we just didn’t have the resources or the time to go looking in particular in Asia, Africa, the other continents, and other cultures, and I would very much like to have done that and may well still do it. So I’m sure there are, actually. I think because these behaviors are lifestyle choices, as I said, we found 47 of them, and they’re all in the book. I don’t think we’re gonna see lots coming in and out each year. I think what we will see is the status of various ones of them changing over time. So because they are life choices, you wouldn’t expect nuance to keep coming in and out each year, but I think we’ll see the status of them changing, and that’s what I’m kind of interested in. If there were one that I think I don’t even know whether it’s marginal – it might be minority even – is I think there is a behavior which, at the moment in my head, I’m calling “Living for longevity,” which is doing lots of things. It’s a lifestyle choice, which is specifically not to live for a long time, but to live well for a long time. And there are trends within it. So I think a trend within it, for example, is cold water swimming or cold water bath things that people buy. There are things within it that I think are more like trends, but I think that overall choice of, “I wanna live my life in a way that means I can live for as long as is natural to me, but in the best possible health.” I think that’s one. Whether it’s marginal, it might actually be minority. I don’t know. Is one that we didn’t include, but probably should have and could have.

Adrian Tennant: From Marginal To Mainstream” was published at the beginning of this year. What are some common misconceptions or challenges you’ve encountered when discussing marginal behaviors with brands or marketers?

Helen Edwards: It would be, “Why is this different from trends? Aren’t you just talking about trends?” And I’m really not. If I were, I’d be the first to admit, “Yeah. You’re right to find an angle on trends.” I think this is very different, and I stand by that. I think the other thing is the slightly counterintuitive not coming in through consumption. You know, we, as marketers and businesses, are all about “What can I sell? What’s going on in consumption?” Whereas what we’re saying is “Come away from consumption. Think about people and how they want to live their lives, and then come back to how we could help them do that better.”  I think also the other thing is it’s a way of thinking that we can use very flexibly. So I think when I’ve talked to businesses about it a bit, some of them have gone, “Oh, but I’m not in beauty, so that’s not really relevant to me,” on, say, no, soaping, for example. Whereas I think you’ve got to think very simply because there are three ways that you could use marginal thinking. The first one is literally to inspire innovation. So you come straight down the line at it. You are in beauty, and you probably ought to be thinking about, you know, using fewer detergents. I think Head and Shoulders just have. I’m pretty sure they’ve just launched something actually that is around this area. So you could come straight down the line at it. The other thing is to think obliquely about it. So, for example, if you take something like Wicca, which is modern-day witchcraft, I think the way to think about that is what is this telling us about a really important audience and how they’re thinking and feeling? So it tends to be young women who are quite interested, not always, but quite interested in Wicca. And rather than think, “Oh, I’m in fashion or I’m in beauty. Maybe I should be producing kind of witchy, spelly-type stuff.” I think the way to think about something like Wicca is what is it telling us about this audience? Well, it’s telling us quite a lot about what they value about things like spiritualism, empowerment, togetherness, storytelling, and rituals. Now, if you think about that, you could take that into many categories and think about “How could we respond to that?” So I think the second thing is to think flexibly about a marginal behavior and what it’s telling you about a future audience. I think the other way you can use marginal behaviors is literally to inspire new thinking. You know, there are some categories we all work in that just feel so stuck, where the whole category makes the argument around the same thing. And if you go to the margins and look to marginal behaviors around that category, it can force you to just think differently rather than just landing in the same things like in laundry before Unilever broke through with the kind of “Dirt Is Good,” and made it about parenting. It’s always been about white and whiteness. And, you know, for example, I do quite a lot of work in pain in analgesics. It’s always about getting rid of the pain fast so you can get on with your day. Well, you know, there are people on the margins who are embracing pain in their life as a rite of passage. What could that tell us about maybe having a different conversation about pain and breaking away from our competition? So, I think it’s about thinking flexibly about how marginal behaviors could help us in the business.

Adrian Tennant: Helen, your career successfully combines the business and academic worlds of marketing, consulting with your agency Passionbrand, teaching at the London Business School, and writing regularly for Marketing Week, for whom you’ve recently launched a mini MBA in management. What kinds of material are you teaching in the mini MBA?

Helen Edwards: Well, I think the first thing to say is that I actually don’t teach at all on the mini MBA in management; I’m the sort of host and the guide because the teaching part of it is done by subject area experts. So very like a regular MBA. What the mini MBA in management is, it sort of parallels, if you like, those core courses that everybody has to do. So everyone has to do finance and accounting and organizational behavior and innovation and negotiation and strategy. And basically, what the team did at the mini MBA management is scoured the globe to find the best subject area experts, the best professor in that particular area, and ask them to produce a condensed version of the core elements that you would teach to an MBA student. And they’re the people who teach. Now, what I do is I make the links because it’s primarily marketers who are doing it. I’m there to draw the links together, so to say, “Listen: you’ve heard about best practice decision analysis and and the models and the ways of doing it. Now, how would we apply that in marketing? Let’s think about this for a minute.” And similarly, when it comes to analyzing financial data, “Okay, you’ve learned the fundamentals of how to analyze financial reporting. How should we be using that in marketing?” So that’s the role that I play, basically.

Adrian Tennant: In what ways do you foresee artificial intelligence-based tools supporting quantitative and qualitative research in the context of brand marketing?

Helen Edwards: Yeah. This is an interesting one, isn’t it? It’s using generative AI to get your answers really rather than people. I mean, I think we’re in the very early days of this, and it’s one to watch, actually, definitely, and I would expect it to get better. I was very recently reading a piece from Kantar actually where they’ve done an experiment where they’ve done the same questionnaire, if you like, on an actual sample and a synthetic sample to look at the difference. And there were some weird biases in the synthetic example, which is what you’d expect. But I don’t think we should be rubbishing it at all. I think it’s got value. It’s just like any research; it’s knowing what its downsides are. I mean, you know, any research that we do, whether it’s quantitative or qualitative, isn’t some sort of truth. You know? It’s what we get on that day with that sample. I think using synthetic audiences or AI-based research will have its own advantages and disadvantages that we should be aware of, but I think it will become a very useful tool.

Adrian Tennant: “From Marginal To Mainstream” is a great place to start, but what advice would you give to marketers and brands looking to stay ahead of the curve?

Helen Edwards: Well, I think I’m gonna be obvious here, which is to say, I think this is not easy. And I think our job is to stay ahead of not just the competition but also consumers. That is what marketers and businesses need to do to succeed. If all we do is just do what consumers tell us to, rather than staying ahead of where they’re going and serving them better and adding value to where they wanna go with their lives. What we have to do. Now how do we do that? Well, this is about seeing what’s coming and avoiding being on catch-up. And I suppose I would say that thinking about marginal behaviors and integrating marginal behavioral analysis into your innovation plans, into your approach to marketing, is a way of doing that. So, it’s not easy to stay ahead of the curve. We generally do it by thinking about trends if you like, or we look for a disruptive innovation from our innovation teams. What I’m saying is don’t stop doing those things. They’re great as well. But think about marginal behaviors because I think they’ve got something to offer, too.

Adrian Tennant: Helen, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about you, your consulting, teaching, or writing, what’s the best way to do so?

Helen Edwards: I think definitely on LinkedIn. So, of all the social media platforms, I’m probably the most active on LinkedIn. So please do reach out to me on LinkedIn, and I will always respond.

Adrian Tennant: And if you’d like a copy of Helen’s book, “From Marginal To Mainstream,” you can save 25 percent when you order directly from the publisher at using the promo code BIGEYE25 at checkout. Helen, thank you very much for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Helen Edwards: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you, Adrian.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, Helen Edwards, the cofounder of Passionbrand and author of “From Marginal To Mainstream.” As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation along with links to the resources we discussed on the Bigeye website at, just select ‘podcast’ from the menu. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

Scott Smith and Susan Cox-Smith of strategic foresight consultancy Changeist are co-authors of “Future Cultures: How To Build A Future-Ready Organization Through Leadership.” Scott and Susan explain the practice of applied futures and how to be better prepared for a range of potential futures by embracing creative thinking and innovative methodologies. Listeners receive a 25 percent discount on “Future Cultures” at by using the promo code BIGEYE25 at checkout.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: ​Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS: 

Scott Smith: You have to be able to maintain an awareness of what’s changing in the environment around you. And, you know, having a language for talking about future possibilities is really important.

Susan Cox-Smith: There are lots of futures cohorts who aim to thoughtfully consider how their own privilege or bias impacts decision-making for those who don’t have a voice about how certain futures may impact them.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on marketing and advertising produced weekly by Bigeye, a strategy-led full-service creative agency growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us.  Today, the world is still grappling with the aftershocks of COVID-19, finding ourselves in an era marked by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, or VUCA. This landscape has challenged just about every type of business, upending supply chains and demanding swift, often radical, operational adaptations. But we saw that some companies were better prepared than others to introduce consumer-facing innovations in response to the pandemic. This brings us to scenario planning, a strategic method that originated within military operations and was later embraced by corporations, most notably by Royal Dutch Shell in the 1970s. It’s about constructing detailed what-if scenarios to prepare for potential futures. Over the past couple of decades, this practice has matured into applied futures, an approach offering a broader, more collaborative examination of various factors: social, technological, environmental, economic and political in strategic planning. Now, why does this matter? Well, in a world where the unexpected has become the norm, Applied Futures offers a way for organizations not just to anticipate changes, but to actively shape their own futures. making strategic decisions with an eye on the horizon, readying businesses to pivot and adapt in the face of unforeseen challenges. Today’s guests are the co-founders of Changeist, a multidisciplinary consulting group, helping organizations identify, make sense of, structure, and tell stories about what’s next. Scott Smith has over 25 years of experience in Applied Foresight and Futures. He is Managing Partner of Changeist and has advised organizations including UNICEF, Comcast, JPMorgan Chase, and AXA, among many others. Scott is a regular media contributor on futures-based innovation, writing for Wired, Quartz, The Wall Street Journal, and The Atlantic. Scott’s also the author of the book, “How To Future: Leading And Sense-Making In An Age Of Hyper Change,” published in 2020. Susan Cox-Smith is the co-founder and partner of Changeist. She’s a researcher, writer, and producer guiding the development of new collaborative concepts, and her passion is seeking to enrich public engagement with possible futures. Named one of Forbes’s leading female futurists in 2022, she co-authored this month’s Bigeye Book Club selection with Scott. Their new book is “Future Cultures: How To Build A Future-Ready Organization Through Leadership.” To discuss how businesses and brands can be more innovative by building a futures culture, Scott and Susan are joining us today from their home base of Barcelona, Spain. Scott and Susan, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Scott Smith Happy to be here. 

Susan Cox-Smith: Thank you. It’s lovely to be here.

Adrian Tennant: Before we discuss your new book, I’m curious: what originally drew each of you to the field of applied futures and strategic foresight? Let’s start with you, Scott.

Scott Smith: The short answer is I’ve spent 30 years making my way laterally towards the place that I belonged in the sense of I found a field of work that functions similar to how I think. The long answer is I spent about 20 years working in different kinds of forecasting and strategy, mainly in the technology industry, both in the US and internationally. And most of that involved needing to imagine how people might use future technologies. I was working mostly on internet and interactive, sort of digital in the early days and since nothing existed in that way, we had to imagine how people might use something and look for historical analogs. And so I found myself in the practice of building where there was nothing, and developing a kind of structured understanding of what might be possible and the factors that drove it. And eventually found out that there was a field that had this name. And I didn’t have to be orphaned, and so I made my way over to the strategic foresight field and got a business card that said Futurist given to me. And the rest is history, or the future, one or the other.

Adrian Tennant: Susan, how did you become interested in this area?

Susan Cox-Smith: Well, I married a Futurist. My background is actually in design, and I slowly but surely was lured away from the design side into a lateral move into futures in that, we have complementary skills. And so, as a partnership, it’s really worked quite well, and I learn from him every day.

Scott Smith: Likewise. 

Susan Cox-Smith: It was inevitable, I think, that I would get interested in fatures.

Adrian Tennant: Well, you both co-founded Changeist to provide applied futures and strategic foresight to organizations. Can you give us an idea of the disciplines you operate in and the kinds of projects that Changeist typically undertakes?

Scott Smith: We are a very broad church, and we work with a very diverse toolset. One of the things that drove us to set Changeist up in – what was it, 2007? – was some prior experience with the fusion of different disciplines being crossed over with futures work, with strategic foresight, to kind of use the professional or academic term. And that disciplinary blend seemed really effective, interesting, compelling, but there weren’t a lot of places doing that at the time. There weren’t a lot of agencies or places you could go for that level of experimentation. And what we brought together was some of it was my prior work in more traditional strategy, design research, marketing, communications, all those areas with, you know, Susan’s work in design. And, combined both the more rigorous research, and sensemaking and mapping, and kind of analysis areas with the more creative work around narratives, developing scenarios, developing material artifacts, immersions, experiences that would actually bring possible futures home to people in a more direct way. And then all of that led us into capacity-building and education. We started being asked to teach what we did, and that seemed both like a great way to educate smart clients and also to learn a lot more about our own practice and understand it through the kind of eyes and brains of other people. And so we started teaching about a decade ago as well. And so some of that work is more dense on the front end around research, where we’re brought in by often big organizations, sometimes brands, but more often these days, governments, large organizations that have a kind of big risk exposure, if you will. They’re facing a lot of uncertainty, and we will help them surface and structure the kind of insights that they need to start making sense of the future and then transition that into ways of communicating that possibility and creating context by bringing all those pieces together that can help different audiences understand what’s possible, whether that’s something visual, something experiential like objects, rich ways of delivering research that aren’t locked in PowerPoint. All of those different areas, I think. 

Susan Cox-Smith: I would just say that I think we fit very nicely in that space between academic futures and the trendy, agency-type futurists. which is, I think, why we’re typically respected with those organizations that need something less dense than, say, a big fat report and much more robust than, say, just a trend report or, “These are ten things you need to be thinking about next year.”

Adrian Tennant: Scott, your first book was entitled How to Future, published by Kogan Page, in which you illustrate that futuring – a verb – isn’t about trying to predict the future, which is probably a common misconception. Instead, it’s actually about stimulating creative thinking about a range of possible futures. So, can you expand on that idea for us?

Scott Smith: Well, as you’ve already seen, like the grasping for terminology can be challenging because there are so many different entryways and terms that are used around this work. And the idea of making it active and talking about futuring really, it was the best way we could describe the necessity to not just look at this as an arm’s length, more scientific management discipline that only gets taken out of the closet every five years, but really reflects the fact that it’s a kind of embodied, ongoing, way of thinking and acting. So we brought about the use of the verb to describe that, and this work is really, I guess it’s misunderstood as you say, people think about it as being, “Well, give us a prediction about the future.” And then you’re really only locked into one high probability narrow issue that truly misses the forest for one tree. And so much of this is about surfacing issues from different perspectives and helping organizations broadly, but people specifically within organizations, understand them. What could be happening in the future? What forces are around today that actually may point towards that and feed it? How do we all understand them differently? How can we actually synchronize that understanding in useful ways and think about what’s important, what these issues’ impacts might be, and also, what drives them? Why are things happening? This helps us find the different uncertainties and risks that are out there. The knowns, the unknowns. And put those different futures and different kinds of pathways in context with each other. So, it’s almost an anti-prediction. You’re actually trying to understand how different forces might come together to drive some kind of change that’s consequential. So that you can come back to the present and act differently now, not hang out there in the kind of blue sky future, just thinking cool thoughts and making cool images, but to do something different in the present to steer you towards a preferred future. You can see it’s not an elevator pitch! But it’s also a kind of systemic way of thinking about what’s possible.

Adrian Tennant: In your first book, you introduce sensing and scanning. Could you explain these skills and the difference between signals, trends and drivers? 

Scott Smith: What I was just describing to you is a way of, at least for me, it’s like mentally mapping a terrain. You’re going somewhere that you have a blank map with nothing on it, or you have very little on it. There’s not much data, if any, about the future. So you have to begin to develop an understanding of what’s on that terrain. What’s on the landscape, how it’s moving, and what it means. So, this kind of comes in a couple of different ways. One is a more of structured practice we call scanning or horizon scanning, which is a hundred-year-old practice that started with militaries around the world. But it really is that looking at the horizon line to see what’s coming. But you also need some categories for that. You need to be able to give things properties. What’s near, what’s far, what’s big, and what’s small? That’s where language like signals and trends and drivers come in. Signal is a kind of a single indicator of change that may or may not be consequential. It’s the thing you notice, the shift in behavior, the new announcement, the interesting data point that’s a little bit out of the norm. It’s the thing that makes your little voice in your head go, “Huh, that’s interesting.” But you can’t just leave it and let it go. So, multiple signals sort of form evidence of what we would call a trend, which is really just a pattern of change over time. Not a trend, as in what’s trending right now on social media or what’s trendy. But where can we sort of see multiple examples of something happening that we can describe as something shifting over time. So a change in behavior or a shift in economics or business or a technology trend. And then drivers or driving forces are kind of interchangeable terms. They are the high-level, bigger issues that persist over longer periods of time: eras of technology or systems of government or things like climate change are a massive driving force that touches almost everything. It’s not going to go away next year. It’s not going to go out of fashion. It’s here for the long term, and it drives other trends as a bigger force. Demography is another one that’s really important. So that’s kind of in a nutshell the levels of like small blips to big, long-running phenomena.

Adrian Tennant:How To Future” provides several tools to encourage collaborative futuring. Now, Susan, you and Scott lead educational workshops to teach strategic foresight skills. So, for anyone new to applied futures, what are a couple of tools or frameworks that you found consistently useful and applicable to a broad range of situations?

Susan Cox-Smith: I think the first is horizon scanning, just using that and bringing it to your work every single day, you know, paying attention to what’s going on, but it has to be effective horizon scanning. It can’t just be doom-scrolling. And it takes a while for people to really understand what they’re looking for or what they’re not expecting or how sometimes a little light bulb just goes off and says, “Wow, I never thought that would happen.” So that might be a signal of something. So I’d say that’s the number one, like very first tool or process that everyone should become better at because it will assist in the entire concept of futuring, of thinking about the future, because once you start to see these little markers get put down, as Scott said, you know, you can get a clearer picture of what that landscape is moving forward. My favorite tool, though, is actually Impact Wheels, Implications Wheels, or Future Wheels. They’re all the same tool with different names. But what it does is it helps further populate the landscape by taking one of those trends, a signal of change, and then saying, “Well, what happens next?” or “Where do we go from here?” or “What would be a reaction to this?” And you can go out into first order, second order, third order, implications that help guide and, you know, we talk about mapping and how to future, and this is one of the ways that we use to fill in that map of what could potentially happen, and they’re not tied together in any way so you can explore both positive and negative implications and they can all go off in their own different directions. So, it’s an incredibly useful tool, actually, if you’ve got an important question that you want to explore so that you’re guiding yourself through potential scenarios. 

Adrian Tennant: Well, you mentioned the Covid-19 pandemic. “How to Future” was published in 2020, which was a particularly turbulent year by anyone’s definition. Your new book, “Future Cultures” was published just last month. Scott, what prompted you to write this new book and in what ways does it differ from your first book?

Scott Smith: I can remember when we pitched “How To Future” in 2019, telling the publisher, the editors at Kogan Page, “2020 is going to be a big year,” and that was purely on the perspective of it’s an end of a decade, a round number, elections coming, Brexit was going to be really sort of kicking into gear. We had no idea, obviously we could have had an idea, but we had no true idea that the COVID pandemic was coming. It tripped us up a little bit. And that the book got slowed down and stalled in production. We literally had a team from the World Health Organization asking us for the book as a field manual to sort out this crisis. And we couldn’t get it to them in time because it got caught up with the lockdown. But along the way, we kind of were reminded by and kind of reinforced the experience of understanding how even trying to teach or skill someone as an individual in being better at understanding, acting on, designing around the future, building strategies for it that doesn’t change the broader organization culture around that person. They can go to a workshop and learn these skills, but then they’re the one person who thinks differently and wants to act differently than the rest of the organization. So, you’re almost creating another quarantine for those people with those skills, and what’s really important is that you start to change the way the culture operates far more broadly in the organization, not by having that one person or a handful of people kind of fight the brave fight of the future but by making the culture of the organization more amenable to what that team can do. So we open up with a kind of anecdote that’s a true story of one of our workshop participants waiting till everyone else had cleared the room and then coming up afterward and saying, “This is fantastic. I’ve never been allowed to think like this before, but what do I do when I go back to the office on Monday morning? And my boss says, ‘Stop that, you know, you’re creating disruptions. You’re bringing lots of what ifs into the office!'” And so that really drove home this need to help those people set the table for their colleagues and help change the way the conversation happens. So if How To Future was more of a kind of, as I said, field guide or scout guide to tactics, for practice, Future Cultures is a much kind of higher level approach that’s almost designed for the stakeholder, the manager, to help them better understand what it is they’re asking for and to get a better return on their investment in future skills, on a kind of broad basis, rather than just equipping a specialist team and then maybe leaving them on their own.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message. 

Scott Smith: As the world around us is showing, it’s always hard to know what the future will bring. Susan Cox-Smith: But you can be better prepared for the uncertainties of tomorrow. Hi, I’m Susan Cox Smith. Scott Smith: And I’m Scott Smith. We’re the authors of a new book, “Future Cultures: How to Build a Future-Ready Organization Through Leadership.”Susan Cox-Smith: Our book offers proven strategies to fundamentally rewire your culture to become more fluid, agile, and prepared to handle whatever tomorrow brings. Scott Smith: From future-proofing your brand to adapting the experience of your team or workforce, “Future Cultures” includes practical design tools and foresight techniques that will bring your focus clearly into the future.Susan Cox-Smith: As an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, you can get 25 percent off a print or electronic version of Future Cultures using the exclusive promo code BIGEYE25. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders, and when you order directly from the publisher, shipping is always free to the US and the UK. Scott Smith: To order your copy of “Future Cultures,” go to the publisher’s website at That’s Kogan with a ‘K.’ Susan Cox-Smith: Thank you. Scott Smith: Thank you.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Scott Smith and Susan Cox-Smith, co-founders of the multidisciplinary consulting group Changeist, and the authors of the new book, “Future Cultures, How to Build a Future Ready Organization Through Leadership.” Scott, you use a novel acronym in the book, so what makes people within an organization HAPI – that is H-A-P-I?

Scott Smith: It’s a double-edged acronym that we arrived at purely by accident. If we’d been trying to think of something that cute, it wouldn’t have come up. But, in the sort of process of putting the book together, one of the things we thought was really important was to start with people in the way that we think and work as individuals. And what are the kind of characteristics that lend themselves towards a more kind of anticipatory posture. So H A P I stood for Highly Anticipatory Potential  Individuals – kind of a mouthful! But we had been thinking about that for a number of years and trying to identify and maybe index or kind of score in some way what may make people more inclined to, or ready to, be comfortable with the kind of ambiguous circumstances of the future. And we went back and interviewed some people we have the kind of highest respect for in this field, who we think represent the gold standard of practice in some ways. One of them was our colleague Jeanette Quek at the Center for Strategic Futures in Singapore; Noah Rafford, who had been at Dubai Future Foundation; a lot of people who had deep experience, and we started looking for common attributes that we could also understand and get on board with ourselves. And so if you look at LinkedIn, for example, and when people are hiring for foresight jobs, they’re looking for statistics degrees, or engineering degree, a PhD in science. Great. But that actually may work against you in the sense that it makes you very good at one thing, but what really helps people function in these environments is a kind of a menu of different characteristics like curiosity: how sort of self-driven are you to discover new things? Are you really interested in sort of finding out about new topics? Do you want to dive into what makes things tick? All these sound obvious in retrospect when you say them, an awareness and kind of sort of tuned-in-ness to the world and kind of things that are going on outside of your direct field of interest. Are you the kind of person that not only scans lots of different sources and looks through different media, listens to different things, reads different books, but also are you that person that sits in a train station or an airport and just kind of sits quietly and watches with your headphones off? Do you pay attention to what’s happening around you and sense the environment? Do you look up and down when you walk? So that kind of awareness of the world is really important. Empathy and the ability to take perspective from someone else’s point of view and understand others’ roles and how they may be impacted by things. Thinking about what Susan was just talking about a minute ago, what are the impacts that follow on from things? If I do this, what happens next? Some people are just wired better to think this way, not in a kind of biological sense, but it’s just how they may have been raised or their personal characteristics. And I think the last one is kind of an ease with uncertainty and your ability to just go with operating in turbulent and unknown environments. And, of course, many of us are getting an unexpected baptism in that by world events. But you also see people who are happier or more accustomed to and comfortable with that ambiguity. And I think it’s something that you can build. It’s a capacity you can build, and some of us are, because of our life experience, maybe more attuned and kind of used to those levels of environmental risk, maybe because of our own kind of personal characteristics. We wanted to identify those and describe them as a way of helping people look for individuals that may not have all, but some of those, and then be able to build teams in complementary ways. How do I start to build a team that has an overall profile of those characteristics?

Adrian Tennant: In “Future Cultures,” you’ve developed a visual canvas called the Future Culture Planning Map. Scott, could you explain how it can help leaders think about the steps they might take to build out a strong futures practice?

Scott Smith: Both in terms of the kind of case study interviews that we did and also our own experience kind of told us that so often organizations, they often don’t start with a kind of strategy to build a futures capability. It starts through somebody has a need for some kind of forward-looking report or a study or, you know, some other kind of purpose. And that kind of builds this sort of reactive, responsive way of dealing with things. When you could take a more strategic view of the organization and begin to think about “What would I change across the organization?” in different places, looking for certain kinds of people, or adopting certain kinds of tools for knowledge management, or changing the rules and norms of the organization. If you only attack those individually, you’re disconnected, and you end up with little tactics instead of a full strategy. So the map came about both as a way of creating a layered view of the organization that we could use to understand it, but also then it became a kind of tool for mapping initiatives that can help you build a more overarching strategy rather than these kind of point approaches.

Susan Cox-Smith: And we’re big believers in having public spaces that kind of set out, you know, “Here’s what we’re doing,” or “Here’s what we want you to think about.” So, you know, by actually having a physical map somewhere that people can walk up to and look at, it kind of can work as like an employee handbook to think about the future because it’s a way of getting those tactics and plans, in front of people’s faces rather than in a report or an email. And so that you can see when things start to move and what actions are being taken and clearly sometimes, people can say, “Oh, I can contribute to that. I know how to do that.” Or “I know someone who’s good at that.” So, as I say, we’re just really big on making sure that there’s a lot of visibility around these types of efforts because so often the people who work in strategic foresight or futures are totally separated from the rest of the organization and there is no awareness that they even exist.

Scott Smith: We’ve colored the map in a way as a sort of afterthought that if you put this on your wall, in your office, you know, on your cube, people will see it, come up and say, “What is that? What’s going on?” “We’re actually trying to put together a strategy. What, do you have ideas?” so it becomes a kind of watering hole, a sort of focal point to do what futures is supposed to do, which is draw together different strategic conversations and get people thinking about what they want to happen next. So it’s sort of doing what it says on the tin in a way.

Adrian Tennant: Susan, you were responsible for the case studies in the book. Could you share an example of an organization that has developed a strong futures culture?

Susan Cox-Smith: Yeah. One of my favorite interviews that we did was with two people from BBC R&D. So they are specifically tasked with developing new technologies, new ideas. And, two people on the team really wanted to start applying a more futures-focused kind of infrastructure to the work that they did. So it’s pre-work before you do R and D. You do some future-scaping, as we sometimes call it. And they did a very good job of seeking out and finding other people in the organization who were also interested in applying these types of tools and processes to their own work. And they built like just a little group, and the great thing about R& D is that they’ve always been very transparent and visible with the work that they do. So this is another example of kind of being visible, and people knowing what you’re working on and what you’re trying to do. And so they sought out others to join with them. And so now they’ve got a network within the organization. And they actually were asked to design an artifact for – was it 100 years of the BBC? And they had 100 objects. And theirs was the 100th object, but it was from the future. And they worked with schoolchildren in Britain to decide and develop what this artifact would actually be and what it would represent. So, you know, I think they have very clearly and visibly applied like all these steps. They do horizon scanning. They do sensing. They do storytelling. They make prototypes and artifacts. And then they assess their work. So, they very much follow our How To Future process, and it’s kind of taken on a life of its own, and we’re a little bit proud.

Adrian Tennant: Scott, in your experience, in what kinds of ways can strong futures cultures impact day-to-day operations or processes within organizations?

Scott Smith: So this is a challenging one in part because people are always looking for immediate impact, and you’re talking about something that is, by definition, long-term. So then you have to think about how can this aggregate up to a level that isn’t just, you know, a report dropping every day, but useful insights that are to hand for people every day. Organizations clearly need to set a direction and go and they can’t constantly be steering in different ways, but you have to be able to maintain an awareness of what’s changing in the environment around you. And you know, having a way, for example, to a place and a language for talking about future possibility is really important. We have a whole chapter on language, and how you can adapt language for the future. Going back to COVID as an example, think about how quickly we brought into our own vocabulary 20 or 30 different terms that none of us knew before January of 2020. And suddenly we’re talking about ‘R numbers’ and you know, personal protective devices, and all these things. So, learning how to use language, enabling conversations, creating venues for explicit discussion about future possibility, and framing opportunities. So basically it’s building a muscle memory. How do you go through these different kind of, capabilities and bring them into your day-to-day work? So it’s not something that only happens once every five years over in the annex in another department.

Adrian Tennant: Susan, if brand marketers, advertising planners, or strategists listening to this are interested in incorporating a futures-focused approach in their work, what advice do you have for them?

Susan Cox-Smith: One thing we often have to talk to people about, particularly in the fast-moving world of advertising and brands is that you shouldn’t mistake the temporary, the superficial, or the near for the long-term. So, you know, this is an industry that works very much on tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. But it is incredibly useful, you know, particularly for brands, I think, to be able to have a long-term view. I think that it’s useful to seek out subject matter experts and help let them contribute information that leads to better world-building and can create more robust scenarios because they encompass a wider view.

Adrian Tennant: Scott, do you have any resources that you’d recommend for individuals wanting to build their literacy in applied futures?

Scott Smith: Well, obviously, I know of two good books, that I guess, I mean, they were written and in part to put things in a very kind of plain language. But I think, you know – sort of skipping the books about big top trends because those will probably be obsolete next year – one of the things I found really useful is to dig more deeply into kind of resources that help us understand how we think about futures as individuals and as a kind of culture. Andy Clark’s got a great book called Surfing Uncertainty. He’s a cognitive scientist who really lays out some interesting thinking around the way our cognitive processes deal with the future. Vaughn Tan, who’s a researcher on risk and uncertainty, has a book called Uncertainty Mindset that starts out looking at how restaurants’ R&D works, but also really drills into that as a great example of working in an uncertain environment successfully on a day-to-day basis. It’s a fascinating read and he’s blogged a lot about it. There’s a great book called The Manual of Design Fiction if you want to look at kind of new practices around creating objects and media and materials from the future that was written by Near Future Laboratory that I highly recommend. And very visual, very interesting. We tend to not think about things like science fiction because it sort of gets in your head and makes it harder to think clearly. And we’ve also shared resources on the different book websites as well that people can download and use as well.

Adrian Tennant: What do you find the most exciting thing about the current state of applied futures or how the field is evolving? 

Susan Cox-Smith: I think we’re finally starting to see useful diversity, intersectionality, and inclusivity in futures work. There are lots of little shoots of futurist cohorts who aim to thoughtfully consider how their own privilege or bias impacts decision-making, for those who don’t have a voice about how certain futures may impact them.

Adrian Tennant: And Scott, what’s interesting you right now?

Scott Smith: I think that this kind of explosion of approaches continues that’s been going on for the past decade. We are always kind of looking at how new tools and ideas and experiences can be brought into the kind of futures tent. And so I’m really, really interested and have been for a while in different modes of storytelling, how different storytelling devices can be applied to help people better understand and have empathy with different futures.

Adrian Tennant: What’s next for Changeist?

Susan Cox-Smith: We actually depart for Adelaide, Australia, for a month to do a research fellowship there. So we’re looking forward to having a break where we can just work on one topic and not be shooting all over the place. But we’re actually trying to create some new dimensions of our work, being more creative, finding new ways to develop and present our work.

Adrian Tennant: Susan, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners are interested in learning more about your work with Changeist, what’s the best way to connect with you?

Susan Cox-Smith: LinkedIn is probably the best social media source right now. But we’re still on Instagram and Twitter and some of the others. And we also have a newly updated website, and that’s just

Adrian Tennant: And Scott, I understand you have some resources accompanying Future Cultures. Where can folks access them?

Scott Smith: So there’s a website for the book. It’s FutureCulturesBooks – with an S – dot com. That’s plural, all one word, slash resources, and that map that we were talking about a minute ago, as well as some examples of how to use it wisely are available there. We’ll put other links, other bits of research, and resources up there, ’cause we love kind of sharing what motivates us.

Adrian Tennant: We’ll also include a link in the description for this episode to purchase a copy of Future Cultures directly from the publisher, Kogan Page. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can receive a 25 percent discount. Just use the promo code BIGEYE25 at the checkout. Scott and Susan, thank you both for being our guests this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Scott Smith: It’s been a pleasure, thank you. 

Susan Cox-Smith: Lovely. Thank you.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guests this week, Scott Smith and Susan Cox-Smith, co-founders of Changeist, and the authors of “Future Cultures.” As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation, along with links to the resources we discussed, on the Bigeye website at Just select ‘Podcast’ from the menu. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

Seasoned marketing executive and serial entrepreneur Mark Stouse discusses the importance of analytics and having a single source of truth for informed business decision-making. Mark explains how his platform,, aids businesses in tracking progress and making strategic decisions supported by artificial intelligence. Mark also reflects on the critical differences between being data-driven and analytics-led, sharing leadership insights from his forthcoming book.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Mark Stouse: Data alone can’t forecast anything. It is a raw material. It is like crude oil, It has to be distilled into insights that create value, that make better decisions. And the refinery for data is analytics.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on marketing and advertising produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. Earlier this year, MarketingWeek reported on a study that found the average tenure of Chief Marketing Officers working at the top 100 advertisers in the US had fallen to the lowest level in a decade: 39 months, or just 3.3 years. Another study found that the average tenure for CMOs at B2B businesses is longer, at 53 months or 4.4 years. B2C marketing is perceived as more dynamic, putting CMOs under pressure to keep up with rapidly evolving consumer preferences, whereas CMOs in B2B organizations are more likely to be responsible for the go-to-market strategy – or GTM for short – which includes marketing, sales, product, and customer success functions. Our guest today is Mark Stouse, who, over the past two decades, has held senior marketing positions, including CMO and Chief Commercial Officer at large technology companies Hewlett-Packard, BMC Software, and Honeywell. Today, Mark is the Chairman and CEO of, a company he founded, which is on a mission to revolutionize marketing analytics by providing advanced, AI-driven solutions. To discuss how ProofAnalytics quantifies marketing’s impact on a brand’s overall performance and to share his unique perspectives on the evolving landscape of marketing leadership, Mark is joining us today from his home in Paradise Valley, Arizona. Mark, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Mark Stouse: Hey, thank you so much. I’ve really been looking forward to this conversation.

Adrian Tennant: Me too. Mark, as I mentioned in the introduction, you’ve held senior marketing leadership positions in large enterprises, including Honeywell and BMC. Today, you’re the founder and CEO of a software-as-a-service firm, Proof Analytics. So, what prompted you to make the leap into entrepreneurship and establish Proof Analytics?

Mark Stouse: Proof is actually my second entrepreneurial venture. My first one was when I was quite young, and it was in the 1990s in a completely different area. It was in defense technology. After I successfully exited that, I kind of really wanted to go back to my roots, which were marketing and communications and things like that. And so I was hired by Compaq as a senior director and then rapidly rose through that, particularly after the merger with HP. And it was about that time all the pressure was really mounting on marketing to prove its value. Mark Hurd came in in 2005 as the CEO of HP and really shook it up. And he was a very sales-focused CEO and very operations-focused CEO. And so he had no problem getting in our face, and it was not pleasant. And so I rapidly got to a point, as did I think a lot of my colleagues, where we realized that, you know, we had to like get out of there or something, or in my case, it had to do something to fix the problem. And that’s how I’m wired, for good, or maybe occasionally for not so good, right? That’s the way that I am. Actually, in the very early days, I remember I found my old high school and college math [books]and started to get myself reacquainted with some of the principles. And, of course, one of them is regression. And that sort of led to a rapidly escalating interest and a lot of executive support, not only at HP, but then at BMC, and ultimately probably the reason why I was hired as CMO At Honeywell Aerospace. So there was kind of this 15-year arc of going from being a marketing leader – that was probably, in many respects, just like any other marketing leader – to being one of a very rare, short list of marketing leaders, particularly in B2B, who was actively using analytics to lead decision making. When you do all that, and you get to the top of it, at that time anyway, you were doing it by brute force, right? And, so we started running into not just mathematical challenges that we had to get over and all that kind of stuff, but operational issues. You know, you start to really find out what the real issues are that are inhibiting your relevance and your effectiveness, and, on a broad basis, I think this is true for analytics in general, data science in general. Inside of businesses, the operational latency that exists, in other words, how much time passes between when the insight to make the decision is needed and when it actually arrives. That could be like, actually, way too long most of the time. It could be months later, in many cases. So you’re fighting that fight; you’re fighting the scalability fight. You know, how do I implement more models, test more things, and help more people make better decisions? When at the end of the day, all of this is being done by human beings, and there are only so many people hours in the day and all that kind of stuff. The understandability piece. If you hand an average business team a data science output from one of these models, they’ll look at it and go, “What the hell am I supposed to do with this?” It’s not actionable. It’s not understandable to them. And there’s a whole bunch of stuff underneath each one of these comments. And then the cost, right? The cost is probably the easiest thing to understand. At Honeywell, nobody ever complained. The output was so significant that I never heard a single leader complain about the fact that we were spending $8 or $9 million a year just on analytics in go-to-market, and we were having to spend that kind of money, a ridiculous sum because we were having to do it by brute force. We had to over-hire data analysts in order to get the latency down on the recalculations of all these models so that we would be relevant. And so it was kind of like in for a penny in for a pound. And it clearly worked, and it clearly made things a lot better, but you did not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the number of companies in the world, like Honeywell, who are willing to spend that kind of money on analytics – particularly for just one or two functions – that’s a pretty, pretty short list, probably. So, you know, coming out of the software industry before Honeywell, I was just sitting there going,  “Man, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that automation is the wave of the future here.” And it’s not about lights-out automation. It’s not about taking the human data analysts or data scientists out of the equation entirely. That’s a fiction. It’s a total fiction and will remain a total fiction for quite some years to come. But by using AI, using automation, you can significantly accelerate the latency of modeling itself. The recalculation of modeling and the delivery of insights, you can reduce costs dramatically. You can increase scalability, but from a cost side perspective and from an absolute value side perspective, immensely. You can build screens that are not just really beautiful versions of data science output. You can actually interpret those kinds of data science results into stuff that real people understand and can make good decisions about. And so that’s why we built Proof. 

Adrian Tennant: Mark, you’ve described proof analytics as being like a GPS. How so?

Mark Stouse: Most problems that we face, most decisions that we face in this life, and certainly in business, are really navigation questions. You know, “Where am I?” Well, most people know that. “Where do I need to go?” Okay. “What’s the best, most effective, most efficient way to get there?” So when you’re using your GPS on your phone, you plug in your destination, and what does it do? It gives you three choices. Three routes. You pick one. Each one of those is actually a forecast. It’s an optimized forecast for each route. And that’s why the times, for example, the ETA on each one, varies slightly and all this kind of stuff. And so, that’s exactly what Proof does. Proof is tracking your progress on all the stuff that you’re doing, that you control in the context of all the stuff that’s in that model that represents all the things that you don’t control that is important to that everyone has pretty well figured out is really important to the outcome. This can be stuff like competitor action, macroeconomic realities, you know, can literally be anything that’s relevant, and you’re cruising along, and all of a sudden, it’s running forecasts in Proof. So it’s maintaining the forecast in your GPS, right? But then, all of a sudden, it starts to show that reality is intruding, and maybe reality and the forecast are not syncing up anymore. Proof gives you that really fast, on an on-demand basis, based on the cadence of your business. And so you’re always up to date is what it really means. And you can see things deteriorating or getting far better in real-time. And you can make certain decisions. This would be roughly equivalent to re-routing yourself on a GPS. Or hey, this, this street that you were on, it was great. It was the best way forward, but there was an accident a mile ahead. Traffic is piling up, and it’s no longer the best way to go. And if you stay here, you’re going to be an hour late. And if you reroute, go here, go there, go here, go there, you’ll be there in eight minutes, right? That is, in essence, exactly what Proof enables businesses to do.

Adrian Tennant: You’ve explained what types of problems ProofAnalytics aims to solve, but I understand it’s available in two different versions. Could you just explain the differences between them?

Mark Stouse: Sure, the original version was built on AWS, so completely neutral, agnostic platform. It is wide open to anyone using anything, and it is priced by the number of data sets that are in your library in Proof. So it’s, I think it’s like $500 a year per data set. The other version is on Salesforce. It is part of a larger product, which is really a go-to-market ERP. It’s called an MRM tool: Marketing Resource Management tool. It is a very popular category. A lot of action in that category. If you’re a heavy Salesforce user and you want an MRM, we are absolutely totally the way to go. So we end up being in that situation, a big part of platform fights between, say, Salesforce and Adobe. That would be a pretty normal one, where we are really part of the Salesforce strategy to win a particular account. And one of the ways we do this is that in addition to all the classic ERP kind of functionality – so planning and budgeting and compliance and approvals and asset management and all this kind of stuff, right? – we have our analytics fully integrated. And so it’s a complete closed-loop system where the results of the analytics come back around and inform the next planning and budgeting cycle. It’s really been cool to see the reaction to it. So that’s the main difference.

Adrian Tennant: Mark, are your customers typically marketing consumer brands, or would you say there’s a higher proportion of business-to-business marketers using the platform?

Mark Stouse: It’s both, for sure. I think that if there is a skew, it is towards B2B. And that could just as easily be a function of me and where I have tended to move the business, so to speak because I’m heavy B2B in my own career. But no, it’s both. The math doesn’t care. You know, the math has no concept of B2B or B2C!

Adrian Tennant: What kind of ROI or other business effects do your customers typically see from deploying Proof Analytics?

Mark Stouse: ROI is certainly one of them, right? But one thing you have to really say about ROI is that ROI is something that is only known about the past. The cool thing about multivariable linear and nonlinear regression is that it gives you a historical analysis without a doubt, right? It says, look, here’s a stack rank, everything that you did and everything that you didn’t control and its relative weight, against this particular outcome that is your dependent variable and time lags, which is a key part of this whole thing. All that is there. Then, [it] forecasts forward, not on an extrapolation, but on a real computed forecast, what the ongoing potential ROI of something might be. And where this becomes really important is that it saves you from spending a lot of money in places that aren’t giving you anything and won’t be giving you much in the future either. So, this is a form of optimization. And it allows you to just constantly – constantly means different things to different people, by the way – but regularly, routinely, it allows you to reoptimize your spend against a particular outcome net of stuff that’s going on in the environment. So a real-life example: Right now, out there in the marketplace, number one, it is a cardinal rule of thumb in data science that two-thirds of any model is externalities. We live in a probabilistic world. We are seeking to surf waves that we don’t control. And anyone who thinks that it’s mainly about them has got some rethinking to do. So we’re helping people focus on what those external factors are and figure out, okay, so the volatility in the marketplace, the cost of money. The rapid changing, flipping around in different areas, your competitor actions, all this kind of stuff. These are creating a headwind of this kind of power, and it is lessening the effectiveness of whatever it is that you’re doing. So now you have some choices to make that are not just marketing or go-to-market choices. They’re actually business choices. So we can then model, or more accurately, our customers can model in the tool, you know, scenarios, right? What is it going to take to make progress despite these headwinds? What is it going to take to overcome these headwinds and make net new progress, regardless of the headwinds? And then that becomes a business decision. Do we have the money to spend on that? If we do have the money, is that the best way that we want to spend it? What’s the opportunity cost of that? What is going to have to suffer, if you will, from a funding perspective? If anything, in order to fund this go-to-market effort, that’s going to be strong enough to punch through the conditions in the marketplace. There’s just all kinds of stuff like that. And then, we don’t really get into this very often cause we’re a scale-up, and so we have to stay focused, but ProofAnalytics is an agnostic platform, so there’s nothing about it that says we are marketing or go-to-market only type software, right? So we have customers that figure this out and start running computed forecasts and regression analytics and all that kind of stuff, a whole bunch of different things having nothing to do with go-to-market.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message. 

Robert Rose: Hello, everybody, I’m Robert Rose, the author of Content Marketing Strategy: Harness the power of your brand’s voice.” I draw from real-world examples from leading brands like Salesforce and Amazon, and my new book offers a practical guide to streamlining your content marketing. I cover everything from assembling a team to goal-setting to content creation, measuring business outcomes: the whole gamut of content marketing strategy. And as an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, well, you get 25 percent off on a print or electronic version of “Content Marketing Strategy” by using the exclusive promo code BIGEYE25, that’s BIGEYE25. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders, and when you order directly from the publisher, shipping is always free – because they’re kind that way – to the US and the UK. So, to order your copy of Content Marketing Strategy,” head on over to the publisher’s website – the wonderful folks at That’s Kogan – K O G A N – Thank you so much.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Mark Stouse, the founder, Chairman, and CEO of ProofAnalytics. ai, an AI-driven platform that enables businesses to measure and optimize their marketing investments. I opened this podcast with some stats reflecting the average tenure of Chief Marketing Officers. Now, Mark, in a video you posted on LinkedIn, you made the point that great marketing drives revenue, margin, and cash flow, so what are the key skills or competencies you believe modern CMOs need to have – or at least focus on developing – to lead the marketing function successfully and gain the trust of other members of the C-suite?

Mark Stouse: I think that right there is the question, right? Everything else hangs off that question. I think that what we’re seeing today in marketing and sales and other go-to-market functions is something that most professions go through at some point in their history. And that is, it becomes urgently necessary for the leaders in that profession to become more and more T-shaped. Now, what does that mean? That’s a classic recruiter’s term, HR term. What does that really mean? It means that right now, the average functional specialist, no matter how exalted in rank, is an ‘I’-shaped person. That means, you know, they think about it function first; they talk in functional language, jargon, and things like that. Even with people who don’t understand that jargon, they tend to be fairly provincial within the context of the. profession that they’re in. Some of them have realized that maybe they don’t need to show up that way quite as much. And so they have adopted a veneer of being T-shaped. They throw around certain business words and all this kind of stuff. And they play a business person on TV, so to speak, right? But to be truly T-shaped means that you know a lot about the business of the business, and you understand what’s really important and what really needs to happen for the business, and you are looking at your function, whatever your specialization is, through the lens of that horizontal part of the T, right? All that contextual understanding about the business. And you are not looking at the top of the T through the limbs of the ‘I”, the vertical part of the T. That stops happening. Some hallmarks of this would be a CFO is a business leader who happens to specialize in finance. A CIO today – it didn’t used to be this way, but today – he or she is a business leader who happens to specialize in enterprise IT. And so when they are sitting around the table with the C-suite, they can talk about their area using entirely business terms and business concepts and business impacts. Zero functional jargon at all. They can then also turn around and talk to their functional brethren and sisters about what’s going on in the business and what needs to happen in the business using a mixture of business terms and functional terms. So they are the middleware layer; they are the translation layer between these two groups, which actually probably have never been further apart in perspective than they are today. And so, T-shaped leadership has never been more important. It’s always been important. But it’s never been more important than it is right now.

Adrian Tennant: I’ve read that you believe there’s a significant difference between being data-driven and being analytics-led. Can you unpack this for us?

Mark Stouse: Sure. I think we all understand at least part of the popularity of the phrase “data-driven.” I mean, the alliteration alone makes it very attractive, right? It rolls off the tongue. It was an instant signal that you could make to people that says, “I’m a modern leader,” right? “I’m sophisticated,” or whatever. The problem is – and I think that this is just the stone-cold reality intruding on the beauty of language, right? – so, first and foremost, data is always and only about the past. Period, no exceptions. The fact that it’s measured means it’s already happened or whatever that was. It’s already happened. That’s how it got measured, right? Data alone can’t forecast anything. You can extrapolate off data. But as we have seen, that is a fool’s errand, and particularly in times of great volatility, you can get caught out easily with that. So that’s not a good idea. It is a raw material. It is like crude oil, right? It has to be distilled into something of utility and value. That in this case, data has to be distilled into insights that create value, that make better decisions. And the refinery for data is analytics. Analytics is not about siloed data. Analytics is about the relationships that exist or don’t exist between all kinds of things that ultimately produce given outcomes. If you operate on a data-driven basis, the analog here would be that you are driving a car forward but only looking in the review mirror the entire time. That’s probably not going to work out super well. Analytics-led says the past is kind of interesting. It fuels our understanding of the future, done correctly. And so, analytics are like the headlights that shine far out in front of your car as you’re moving along the highway at night, And, as we’ve all seen, we’ve all experienced this as drivers, right? I mean, there’s a limit to your headlights; they kind of hit a wall at some point. But it’s usually a pretty good distance ahead of your car. And that’s the equivalent of the forecast. Any forecast will lose accuracy and fidelity if you stretch it far enough out. It’s the way that time works. It’s another law of gravity kind of thing, but, like the headlights on your car, it’s renewing on a rolling basis, literally. Because let’s say that your headlights extend 50 yards ahead of your car. And you’re driving along, right? And so your ability to see what’s coming is constantly being revealed 50 yards ahead of your car, right? It doesn’t mean that if you went back two miles, you could see what you can see right now, but it does mean that given where you are right now, you’ve always got a jump, if you will, of around 50 yards to, make decisions, make adjustments, whatever. That’s why being analytics-led is so crucial and why being data-driven is a bust.

Adrian Tennant: Going back to the C-suite for a second, establishing the value of marketing spend as an investment rather than a cost has traditionally been challenging because the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, which accountants have to know and follow, usually classify marketing expenses as a cost. However, a recent study from the UK-based Institute of Practitioners in Advertising reveals that nearly 90 percent of investment analysts now see marketing as an investment in future growth, similar to technology R&D, where investments are capitalized and then amortized over time. So Mark, I’m curious: do you think there’s potential here for CMOs to make the case for rewriting or at least reinterpreting those accounting rules?

Mark Stouse: Yes. I’m actually on a committee that’s just starting right now with the Association of National Advertisers, the ANA, that’s all about that. It’s all about brand valuation. But certainly, the goal is to co-create a model in concert with finance people and accounting people that brings new insight, very similar to what you were just describing, into the mix and say, “Hey, we’re probably not talking about a situation where all of go-to-market spend ends up in CapEx suddenly after decades of OpEx assignment. But it’s totally legit to begin to put some of – maybe even more than 50 percent – of go-to-market spend into CapEx, capitalize it, and then spend it out over however many years.” So I’ve had this conversation with probably four or five CFOs, in the context of a larger conversation, and all of them have been very open to it. Very interested in it. Go-to-market – which is, collectively, marketing, sales, product, and customer success functions – it’s a lot of money being spent there. If it’s a publicly traded company, there’s a lot of EPS impact up and down on that money. And legitimately, putting a lot of it into CapEx is going to significantly benefit the company while acknowledging the fact that time lag alone makes it an incredibly compelling case for the fact that a lot of this go-to-market investment needs to be recognized outside of the current quarter.

Adrian Tennant: Great. Mark, you mentioned you’re working with the ANA, and of course, you’re also a regular contributor to LinkedIn, where you’ve shared recently that you’re now in the process of writing a book. So could you tell us a little bit more about that?

Mark Stouse: Yeah, you want to talk about a journey into all kinds of things, right? I think you learn a lot about yourself when you sit down to write a book. And I’m – among other things – I’m really a professional writer. My first job was as a reporter at a newspaper, and my second job was as a reporter for Newsweek. So, I’m not exactly a slacker in the writing department, but there is a definite difference between writing even longish short form and writing a book. This book is not – we don’t want it to be a tome. It’s not meant to be a monument to me, and it’s certainly not meant to be something that gets published, and no one reads. But I want it to be something that helps people. If it’s just sitting there, it’s no good to anybody. So we have capped it at 150, 160 pages, somewhere in there. And, you know, it is a lot harder to write a short book than a long book. There are so many paradoxes in the whole process that I can’t even begin to cover them all here. We are writing about a lot of what we’ve just talked about. There’s a go-to-market revolution that’s just starting right now. It’s being led by the C-suites and a lot of Fortune 1000 companies. I’ve interviewed a lot of CEOs and CFOs. I may have, at the moment, anyway, the clearest understanding of where they are in their heads on this, as a group, of anyone. It’s quite a tall statement to make, but I think that’s probably a defensible statement. It’s going to be, I think, a really good book. We’re going to talk about T-shaped. leadership, which is really where it’s all at. What enables that? What are the connectors that take the top part of the T and connect it to the bottom part of your T, your team’s T, and your company’s T? What does that look like? One of them has to be analytics, right? There’s got to be a single source of truth. And it’s not a data visualization page. This is all about relationships and dynamism. There are causes and effects. There’s a lag time between causes and effects. What does that mean? How does that increase our risk, right? All that kind of stuff is part of it. Fluency in multiple languages. I don’t mean French and German and Spanish and Chinese. You have got to be able to talk about your specialization. You have got to be able to read financials and really understand them, understand what they mean, be able to discuss them, be able to connect the dots between what you do and those financial outcomes. The people who can do that will be very highly in demand over the next, say 10 to 20 years, and so I just think that is really where the action is.

Adrian Tennant: Well, it certainly sounds like it’s going to be a tight 160 pages. That’s a lot of information right there, Mark! Do you have a working title for your book?

Mark Stouse: Right now, the working title is GTM Revolution. Something tells me that probably won’t be the actual title. You know, publishers have the final say on all that. And I’m sure they’ll do a good job.

Adrian Tennant: I’m sure there will. Mark, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners are interested in learning more about, what’s the best way to get in touch with you?

Mark Stouse: You can always use email, although that’s probably the least desirable. That’s Probably the best way, actually, is I’m extremely active on LinkedIn, as you’ve alluded to, so very easy to find, and either send me a private message on LinkedIn or comment under one of my comments and just say, “Hey, we’d love to talk to you, can you contact me by private message?” And I’ll do that, and we’ll set something up. That’s probably the best way to do it right there.

Adrian Tennant: Perfect. And any idea when we might see the publication of your book?

Mark Stouse: Well, so right now, the kind of the word on the street is that it’s going to be in May. Hopefully, it is in time for poolside reading or beach reading! But I’ve learned that there are many machinations in the publishing business that are utterly outside of my control as the author. And so, that’s what we’re guiding towards right now. But we’ll see.

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. Mark, thank you very much for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Mark Stouse: Thank you so much. I really enjoyed it.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, Mark Stouse, the founder and CEO of As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation, along with links to the resources we discussed, on the Bigeye website at Just select ‘podcast’ from the menu. Thanks for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

The first episode of our 13th season examines connected packaging with Jenny Stanley of Appetite Creative. Jenny explains how smart packaging bridges the gap between physical and digital commerce, enabling CPG brands to engage with consumers in innovative ways. We discuss how connected packaging provides invaluable data to improve marketing strategies and supply chain processes. Plus, new creative possibilities for brands and smart packaging’s role in sustainability messaging.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS: 

Jenny Stanley: There are fantastic opportunities for connected packaging to really help brands talk about their sustainability goals, talk about what they’re doing. Consumers demand more information, and this is the best way to be able to communicate with them.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on marketing and advertising produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us for the first episode of our thirteenth season. In recent episodes, we’ve talked about the cookieless future of digital advertising and the shift away from third-party and second-party to first-party customer data. CPG brands and retailers seek to learn more about their customers’ shopping behaviors across online and brick-and-mortar stores, serving up information that’s both relevant and timely during the shopper journey. Connected packaging integrates digital technologies into conventional packaging systems to bridge the gap between physical and digital environments. Typically using features such as QR codes, RFID tags, or NFC chips, connected packaging and experiences enable customers to interact with product details in a number of imaginative ways on their smartphones or other devices. The collected data can yield fresh insights for brand marketing teams into consumers’ habits and preferences and allow manufacturers to monitor and improve supply chain processes. Connected, or smart packaging as it’s also sometimes called, is a rapidly growing industry, with the market expected to reach $63 billion annually by 2030. One agency that’s consistently delivering innovative solutions in the connected packaging space is Appetite Creative. With offices in the UK, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates, their award-winning team has worked with clients including Apple, Disney, Starbucks, Pepsi, Samsung, Chanel, BMW, Mercedes Benz, and Porsche, to name just a few. Appetite Creative’s founder and managing director is Jenny Stanley, who, prior to establishing the agency in 2015, held senior positions in digital media sales at companies including Microsoft, uTarget, MediaMind, and Adform. To discuss some of the ways that connected packaging can help collect first-party data while offering new creative possibilities for brands, Jenny is joining us today from her home base of Madrid, Spain. Jenny, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Jenny Stanley: Thank you. Thank you very much for having me. It’s great to be here. Thanks a lot, Adrian.

Adrian Tennant: As I mentioned in the introduction, prior to establishing Appetite Creative, you held senior positions at leading digital media firms. So, what were the roots of your interest in connected packaging, and what motivated you to set up Appetite Creative?

Jenny Stanley: Oh, so many answers to that. but yes, I was very much in digital media. on the creative side and always trying to push the boundaries to the innovation. How can we make this more exciting? I was at Microsoft when we launched the advertising, which was super boring banners, and my job was always trying to make it more exciting. So, when I started seeing that actually physical items that are in people’s homes, such as your carton of cereal, which, you know, probably depends on how fast you eat your cereals in your home between one, two, three weeks. That brand is present on that breakfast table every single morning. I thought there was a huge opportunity to be able to turn that packaging and product into a media channel. And, really, that’s where it came from.

Adrian Tennant: Well, today, as the Managing Director of Appetite Creative, you’ve grown your agency’s portfolio with a really impressive roster of clients. We’ll get into some of the details in a moment, but can you explain what Appetite Creative does and what problems you’re most often being sought to solve for clients today?

Jenny Stanley: Yeah, definitely. Appetite Creative is a technology company that is focused on connected experiences and connected packaging. And what does that mean? That really means that we are helping brands to connect with their consumers in real-time and in a way that they want to be connected with. And if you ask yourself, how many brands websites have I gone and visited this week? Or this month, or perhaps even this year, it’s definitely going to be, I would hazard a guess, less than five brands. So, if brands want to connect with you, how are they able to do so? And our job is to do that through packaging. And what do we solve for the brand? Well, we really help the brand to understand who’s actually buying their product because most FMCG brands, in particular, don’t know who buys their products. It’s sold through a retailer, and of course, the retailer doesn’t normally give or divulge that type of information. So we help them to understand who’s buying our product. Is it males? Is it females? Are they 18? Are they 50 years old? What do they think of our product? There’s a massive feedback opportunity here for brands to be able to ask people, “What did you think of that flavor?” And “Do you like the cherry flavor?” And “Did you know we’ve got pineapple?” And “What do you think? Would you like an avocado or a lychee-flavored milk next?” And actually, the ability to be able to harness that feedback and then push that into product innovation is there as well. So that’s just one element of connected packaging, but going back to what is it that we do in a nutshell, it’s connect the brand with its consumers and open that two-way channel for communication.

Adrian Tennant: Appetite Creative recently published a handy e-book that contains practical examples of connected packaging. Jenny, could you give us an overview of some of the categories you and your team have worked in and maybe one example that listeners might not immediately think would lend itself to a smart packaging treatment?

Jenny Stanley: Yes, most definitely I can. There are just so many use cases for connected packaging. So, I’m going to try and cover some of the main ones. There’s the marketing and I think I’ve touched on that a little bit already in some of the examples that I’ve given. Marketing, being able to launch a competition, wanting to collect the names and email addresses and preferences from your consumers, but there’s a lot more to connected packaging as well. And so, there’s a lot of fakes of products that are in-market at the moment. I think most industry verticals suffer from that, even food, but of course, there’s the electronics and the luxury and all those different industry verticals as well. And so, actually with secure or authenticated QR codes, you have the possibility to be able to ensure that the product that you purchase is actually the genuine product. So that is another really great use of connected packaging. The other is, actually, to open up the market to people who, perhaps, are sometimes sidelined. So, for example, people who have impaired vision. The ability to scan a QR code and perhaps hear the ingredients in that particular product is really, really basic, but a great way to ensure that you’re involving all your audience groups. It might also just be the ability to be able to, and this is good for me, just to be able to scan it and magnify it because a lot of those small prints on those packaging is, is really hard to read. I don’t wear glasses, but when I look at some of those ingredient lists, I feel I need some sort of magnifier. And again, scanning that QR code, I don’t need the audio, but just being able to magnify that and zoom in a little bit is really, really useful for me. So that’s another way. Loyalty programs. So ways to be able to reward people for purchases that they’ve made. Very easily done through QR codes. No need to have an e-com, no need to upload receipts. Really, really easy way to be able to do that. So again, being able to bring, marketing opportunities there as well. And then, we haven’t talked about legislation. And there’s a whole big, opening there in terms of where connected packaging really helps in terms of legislation, in terms of being able to give you the ingredients and everything else that you might want to know about that in your own native language. even if you’re not the English speaker or the language speaker that you purchased that product in, the ability to be able to actually see that information in another language.

Adrian Tennant: Wow, that’s a lot of use cases. A follow-up to that, what are some of your favorite, most imaginative use cases that you feel best illustrate connected packaging’s potential for brand building or loyalty?

Jenny Stanley: So, so, so many examples. So when people say your favorite, I’m like, “Ooh, what’s my favorite today?” So there are so many examples. One of my favorites, just because it was super fun, is using augmented reality and being able to turn yourself into different characters. And this is something we actually did for a juice company. And they had their own characters, and it’s for kids, and it was a back-to-school campaign. So the idea is you scan the QR code, you see some introductory about the brands, and then there are the different characters, and you could just slide through the different filters that obviously appeared on your face and, very much like Snapchat, they augmented reality. So it’s not static, it’s a moving image that moves when you open your mouth and you blink your eyes, all that kind of stuff. And it just was crazy because you could see that people were re-scanning that 8 to 10 times. So, you know, they obviously loved it and were then sharing it with their friends, or showing their mum, their dad, their sisters, whoever. And so it was just really fun. A really great way to be able to engage. On the other side, I’ve seen some fantastic connected packaging examples that are not around entertainment as such, but much more focused on sustainability. And that’s another use case that I’ve not talked about yet, but, you know, the ability to be able to pass on your sustainability credentials or talk about the packaging that might be more sustainable or have something to talk about in terms of that sustainability. And this particular one actually was about planting trees. So instead of a loyalty program where you get some monetary reward back for yourself, then actually you were able to plant a tree. So every 10 products that were purchased, you would scan the QR code, and you would get an electronic stamp on your loyalty card, so to speak, but then actually, a tree was planted. And it was really a great campaign because it was doing something great for the world. And, of course, it did something great for the brand as well. And I can see a huge move towards this. I wouldn’t say sustainability is a trend. It’s much more than that, but I can see a huge move to that. We’ve got a recent, Juicy Caribs, in Guadalupe actually, and really interestingly, they wanted to align with one of their charities, a children’s charity. So again, the consumer scans the QR code. They learn about the juice brand. They learn about the flavors. They collect all the information from the consumer, but also we had a game that we created for them. And every time you play the game, there is a donation made to that children’s charity as well. So some really nice examples there. One is super fun, and the other comes back to a little bit more kind of connected packaging for good use as well.

Adrian Tennant: You’re talking to us today from your home in Europe, which arguably led the world’s approach to data privacy with its introduction of GDPR. So those pop-ups we all see asking that we enable cookies are a direct result of that. Well, now the EU has the digital product passport. Jenny, for listeners who are unfamiliar, could you just explain what the DPP is and what it might mean for anyone involved in designing or fabricating product packaging?

Jenny Stanley: Yeah, definitely, so the DPP, the Digital Product Passport, is an initiative that is all part of the eco-design for sustainable product regulations. So it’s all about eco-design. It’s all about sustainability, and it’s a key action under the EU Circular Economy Action Plan. So basically, it’s a tool that is the passport for that particular product, which is to give information about that product’s environmental sustainability. So it’s a digital record of the product’s sustainability, and to give information about the life cycle, and that should be from design to end of life. It’s not in effect at the moment; it’s thought to be implemented in 2027. But again, as you say, that’s something that’s going to affect designers. It’s going to affect people who are looking at the packaging, and it means that it’s something that you’re going to have to prepare for to ensure that, obviously, the digital passport will be able to report on those things, but also report things in a way that you want them to be reflected for your brand. 

Adrian Tennant: In addition to the DPP, Europe is also leading the way in sustainability reporting with a directive making it mandatory for large enterprises to report on their environmental activities from January 1st of next year. The accounting giant Deloitte reportedly believes that this will impact American firms that do significant business in Europe, just as GDPR has. But, as we’ve seen in global surveys from Kantar and Ipsos, as well as Bigeye’s US-focused studies, a significant proportion of consumers do want more sustainable choices. So, Jenny, how do you see connected packaging aligning with brand sustainability goals in the light of the EU’s directives?

Jenny Stanley: I mean, there’s so much happening in this space that almost hard to keep up with it. So, of course, the DPP, which we talked about, but, you know, it wasn’t that long ago that single-use plastics were banned. And we all know that we’ve got to pay for plastic bags in supermarkets, certainly in the EU, but I don’t know about the States. if you do want a plastic bag. And you’re absolutely right. There are huge studies to show that consumers really do want to know where things have come from. In fact, a recent study said 70 percent of people would pay a small amount more for a brand that was doing something good for the environment versus their current or normal choice. So I think there are some really big opportunities here for connected packaging to be able to put their sustainability messages, credentials, and efforts in the forefront. If consumers are very interested in making the right choice for the planet, then as a brand, you need to ensure that you are doing the right thing. And then of course, communicating that to your consumers. A recent campaign we did for Don Simon was around their new packaging. Their new packaging has removed the aluminium from their milk and their juice cartons. And if you look at it as a standard carton, to me as a consumer, it just looks like a normal carton. The interesting part is that we needed to tell the consumers that, actually, there’s been an awful lot of work going into this packaging to remove this aluminium layer, and it’s so much better for the environment. So how do we do that? Of course, we did it through a QR code. So when the consumer scans the QR code on that packaging, we actually tell them all about it through a series of fun, short mini-games. We talk to them about how the carton has been sourced, how it is not bleached, it’s natural, and how it has no aluminium in there, what that means for them, and what that means for the consumer. And obviously, that helps to align that brand, Don Simon, with better packaging, better for the planet, and a host of other things that are in there also encourages those consumers to share this on social media as well. So not only is it great for the brands to be able to interact with the consumer that they already have, that’s already purchased that product and has scanned and interacted with them, but also this is really helping the brands to tell the story to other people as well. And that being shared on social, of course, that’s opening up that brand awareness. So there are fantastic opportunities for connected packaging to really help brands talk about their sustainability goals and talk about what they’re doing; consumers demand more information, and this is the best way to be able to communicate with them.

Adrian Tennant: Consumer trust has become a real issue in marketing. How does connected packaging help brands collect data in privacy-compliant ways that consumers can trust?

Jenny Stanley: Yes, I definitely think marketing has done some damage to itself in the past with the tracking and all these different types of things that we don’t need to go into, but I’m sure we’re all aware of. Connected packaging, done in the right way, really offers that ability to have this two-way conversation. It’s not just we’ll have everything from “Thank you, Mr. Consumer, and off we go,” but it’s actually being able to have this two-way dialogue to share information about the packaging. There’s no other way that example I just shared, with Don Simon and their aluminum-free packaging, there’s no other way that they would’ve really been able to engage the consumers on that basis to share on social media but still, you know, by a regular TV ad or something like that, it just, just wouldn’t happen. So this is a way to really be able to have one-to-one interactions and one-to-one conversations. And that then obviously builds trust. It’s all got to be, of course, privacy compliant in the same way that any advertising, if it is going to be collecting personally identifiable information, must have the consumer’s permission. This aligns with that; there’s obviously no way around that. But it does mean that there is this opportunity to be able to collect data, both person identifiable and non-personal identifiable, that really helps the brands to be able to understand who their consumers are. And I think being able to have this at a much better level. TV is very generalistic; with the connected packaging, you can change the conversation based on the product that they’ve scanned, the flavor that they’ve scanned, the size that they’ve scanned, where they are in their purchase journey, where they are geographically, the language that they want. This is a personalized conversation. This is content which is much better curated, therefore builds better trust, and therefore, comes to a scenario when the consumer actually feels happy to be able to share that, which, of course, is the ultimate goal, not only collect the information but then have consumers to share that, brand or that message on their social media, to other people as well. So, really, I think connected packaging does that in a fantastic way.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message. 

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Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Jenny Stanley, the managing director of Appetite Creative and an expert on connected packaging and experiences. You’ve given us plenty of examples that really illustrate how connected packaging can bridge that gap between the physical and digital worlds. So, Jenny, I’m curious: what kind of analytics solutions do you develop alongside your creative applications to help clients measure the performance of these projects?

Jenny Stanley: Yes, it all comes back to data at the end of the day. And in order to understand how the experience is working, of course, we need to understand all of the data behind that. So, our backend dashboard is called the QR Connect Platform. And that allows brands to be able to generate their QR codes. It allows them to generate all of their serialized or unique alphanumeric codes, whatever they might need. But on the other side, of course, it collects all of that information. So we’re able to see how many people have scanned the QR code when they scanned the QR code. that really helps brands to understand, you know, is this a product that’s being consumed in the morning, in the afternoon? is there a particular pattern in the times and days that people scan the QR codes? We also obviously record all the information in terms of what happens in that experience, so, what did people interact with most? If there were several videos, which video did they watch most? All of that type of information. And then the collection of any data or questions that are asked. So when do you consume this product? How often do you consume this product? What’s your favorite flavor? What do you think about this particular flavor? What do you think of the packaging? Did you know that it didn’t have aluminium in it before you bought it? Did that help you in your purchase decision? Whatever it might be in terms of those types of questions, of course, we can harness that and collect all of that data as well. And then on top of that, of course, you’ve got any personally identifiable data that consumers might want to give away, which would be, you know, their email address, their telephone number, their name, which, of course, means for marketing they have the opportunity to follow back up on that as well. But it does really come back to the data. And that’s where you see so many brands now changing into always-on QR code initiatives. So, for example, in the summer of last year, Coca-Cola announced that they were going to put QR codes on every single product they produce, something like 1.8 billion units per day or something crazy. Why? Because they want to have that consumer behavior. They want to be able to understand what consumers are doing and what they think. Similarly, Pepsi just released a statement saying that they, in the last 18 months, have increased their CRM first-party data by 50 percent. So, you know, brands are really starting to wake up to the data and the power of the data that they can actually collect through connected packaging.

Adrian Tennant: Well, in addition to that data reporting, you also have an AI-powered analytics tool that enables your clients to ask anything about their data via a chatbot. So Jenny, more broadly, how do you envision the role of AI and other emerging technologies in shaping the future of smart packaging?

Jenny Stanley: So AI is everywhere. It’s absolutely everywhere. And there are so many interesting applications for it. You talk about the chatbot. The chatbot’s a fantastic way to be able to, again, have that one-to-one interaction with the brand and the consumer. So they can ask questions, you know, does this have gluten in it? Are the ingredients sourced from a sustainable place? Tell me where they’re from. All of these different types of questions, but also questions, even in healthcare types of scenarios, you know, how many of these should I take in a 12-hour period? Or something like that. So it’s really, really interesting to be able to have that. And then, of course, on the back-end, being able to understand actually, what are the questions that people are asking? Where are the gaps in data? What is it that people and your consumers want to know? AI is only at the beginning. We’ve only really scratched the surface, and we all know that there’s so much more future. In terms of smart packaging, I think there are some fantastic advances that we’re going to be able to see in terms of identifying things like preference behaviors, and for marketeers, I think there is fantastic innovations that are going to be coming up to help, shape how they do their marketing in the future. But also, there’s just some fun stuff that we’re doing now with AI and using AI to create images and backgrounds for brands as a campaign. I don’t know if you’ve seen the Chupa Chup campaign – it’s in the Middle East at the moment, is about people just putting in a very quick phrase and getting back a fun, multi-colored, image and then sharing that on social media. So, there’s this whole range of things from entertainment all the way back to big data and data analytics and predictions. So AI has just begun to really kind of move us forward in so many different ways.

Adrian Tennant: Jenny, are there any examples of recent campaigns where you saw results that maybe you weren’t expecting?

Jenny Stanley: Ooh, yes, quite a few, but one that I really love actually is for a milk brand, a Swiss milk brand, it’s called Emmi. And they have a whole line which is lactose-free products, and when they first came to us – we’ve been working with them for a couple of years – but when they first came to us, they wanted us to create a connected packaging experience, that would have lots of nice, prizes and that would collect CRM data. So, we created some games that highlighted different things in the game. So there was a new range that was 60 percent less sugar. So we had a balance game, which was talking about healthy diet, healthy balanced lifestyles. But then they also wanted to have all of this information about lactose-free and lactose-free recipes. And it was really, really aimed at people who were lactose-free. I actually said, “Don’t you think we should include a question at the beginning, which is, ‘Are you lactose intolerant?’” And, they were kind of a bit dismissive and went, “Yeah, okay, then fine.” So we included that as part of it, and we had great interactions; there’s all the information. People were spending over two minutes on the games. But the most interesting thing, going back to a question that we weren’t expecting, was that actually over 80 percent of those people were not lactose intolerant at all, and so everything that was positioned for these people who can’t actually ingest lactose and lactose intolerant people, actually was completely wrong The reason people were purchasing this product is because it was plant-based and therefore they believed that to be healthier for them. So, this was a major turning point. So the next campaigns that we did with Emmi were all about a Healthy lifestyle, doing lots of yoga, being able to change your lifestyle, and start your day in a good way with any good day. And so a big, big difference. Just ask the question and find out what your consumers are all about. So it was a really great moment where connected packaging could do a lot more than just collect data.

Adrian Tennant: Mmm. really unexpected consumer insights. I know you recently attended London Packaging Week. What were some key takeaways or trends you observed?

Jenny Stanley: Yeah, so it was really interesting for me to see that firstly, when I was speaking to people, they knew what Connected Packaging was, and having done this connected packaging education for eight or nine years, it was fantastic to find that not only do people know what it was, but actually there were categories in the awards that were focused on connected packaging. So this was really, really exciting for me. Of course, the other was the massive focus on sustainability, and the push towards, better packaging choices, and education around packaging choices as well. in terms of being able to understand, plastic versus carton, carton versus paper, cetera. So there was this real, focus on the right choices, for packaging as well. So they were my two main things, I think. people understand connected packaging and the advantages that it brings them. and secondly, really focusing on the type of materials, that they were using.

Adrian Tennant: I mentioned earlier that the connected packaging market is estimated to be worth north of $60 billion annually by 2030. What’s contributing most to the sector’s growth would you say?

Jenny Stanley: It’s a combination, I think, of all the things that we’ve just mentioned. So, the wake up from brands to realize the potential that their packaging really has and to turn their packaging into a media channel and a communication channel between their consumers. The removal of third-party cookies and the introduction of the GDPR laws means that collecting first-party data has become harder than ever for brands, to understand who their consumers are and to be able to connect with them. So that’s, that’s a big one. But then, the legislation that’s changing, so you know, the movements to saying that you must have so much more information on your product packaging means that the QR code really is the easiest way to be able to deliver that, and so of course that’s pushing, but then also there is the increase in inflation everywhere and I think that’s having an effect on two things. One, the increased costs, and therefore the increase of fakes on the market. So a way to be able to authenticate and protect your brand against fake, non-genuine products, is also pushing that hugely. And then lastly, again, that increase in inflation means that your consumers are more disloyal, so to speak, and are looking for offers and are looking for cheaper options. So, if you can use those QR codes to be able to create a loyalty program, then again, there’s a massive push there to be able to retain those consumers. So, I think there isn’t one answer that’s kind of pushing that, but all of these things combined is really contributing to the massive growth in this sector.

Adrian Tennant: Jenny, what’s next for Appetite Creative?

Jenny Stanley: So we’ve got so many different things happening, and we’re always working with the newest technology. So the AI that I touched on is something that we’re going to be exploring so much more as well, not just in the data point, but also in that entertainment side. So that’s definitely a big one for us. We’ve got a lot of work going on in serialized QR codes. So, being able to create lots of different programs from the identification of single units. Instead of being able to do SKU or SKU-level data, we’re able to actually produce data not only on a batch level but also on an individualized product level. And then lastly, again, keeping with that sustainability theme, we’re doing so much work at the moment with deposit return schemes, reusable schemes, and how QR codes and our data tracking systems can really support companies who want to make some big changes in markets. So, lots of big things happening, and it’s a really, really exciting time.

Adrian Tennant: It certainly sounds like it is. If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners are interested in learning more about connected packaging and Appetite Creative, what’s the best way to connect with you?

Jenny Stanley: Well, of course, you can get me on LinkedIn, Jenny Stanley. You can download our e-book, which you mentioned a little bit earlier, which you can find on our website,

Adrian Tennant: And we’ll include a link to the e-book on connected packaging in the transcript for this episode. Jenny, thank you very much for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Jenny Stanley: Thanks very much to you.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, Jenny Stanley, the founder and managing director of the connected packaging and experiences agency Appetite Creative. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation, along with links to the resources we discussed, on the Bigeye website at Just select ‘podcast’ from the menu. Thanks for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

Marking the final episode of this season, Bigeye insights intern Miguel Zarzuela hosts the podcast, examining the complexities of US Hispanic identity. Miguel explores the history of Hispanic Heritage Month and engages in lively conversation with special guests Dr. Antoinette Perez, Andrea Diaz, and Romulo Zuzunaga. Hear how to avoid common stereotypes and misconceptions, and learn how brands can authentically market to and connect with the diverse US Hispanic community.

Episode Transcript

Miguel Zarzuela: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Dr. Antoinette Perez: I do believe that brands need to consider the label of a Hispanic or a Latino is including a lot of different people.

Romulo Zuzunaga: You’re Hispanic. You must like rice and beans or Chias or what about if I’m from Uruguay, Argentina? I like drinking mate, or I like desserts, or I like barbecues.

Andrea Diaz: It’s the immediate thought that brands have when they want to target Hispanic people. They’re like, “Oh, you’re Mexican.”

Miguel Zarzuela: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS: fresh perspectives on marketing and advertising produced weekly by Bigeye, a strategy-led full-service creative agency growing brand for clients globally. Hola Todos. I’m Miguel Zarzuela, and it’s an absolute pleasure to be your host for today’s IN CLEAR FOCUS  special episode celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. Thank you for joining us. My journey into the world of advertising and public relations began at the University of Central Florida. Currently, I have the privilege of serving as an inside intern at Bigeye agency. But let me take you on a little journey of my own, one that’s as diverse as the tapestry of Hispanic cultures we’re here to celebrate today. I was born in the beautiful Dominican Republic, and my family relocated to Puerto Rico when I was just 3 weeks old. Later in life, I had the incredible opportunity to call Mexico my home, spending a decade in the vibrant cities of Manzanillo and Guadalajara. Now, I find myself in Orlando, where I have lived for over a decade. This rich tapestry of experience has shaped me into a multicultural millennial – and it’s precisely this background that fuels my passion for exploring the complexities of Hispanic identity. Today, we’re going to dive into a conversation about how we define and measure Hispanic identity in the United States. So let’s embark on this journey together and celebrate the vibrant, diverse, and ever-evolving Hispanic heritage. 


Hispanic Heritage Month is an annual celebration of the history of culture of the US Latino and Hispanic communities. Hispanic Heritage Month 2023 started on Friday, September 15th, and ended last Sunday. The event commemorates how those communities have influenced and contributed to American society at large. When did this commemoration start? 


On September 17, 1968, Congress passed public law 9048, officially authorizing and requesting the president to issue an annual proclamation declaring September 15 And 16 to mark the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Week and call upon the people of the United States, especially the educational community, to observe such week with appropriate ceremonies and activities. But why does it start on 15th? September 15 was chosen as the kickoff Because it coincides with the Independence Day celebration of five Central American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Those five nations declared their independence from Spain on September 15, 1821. Mexico, which also declared its independence from Spain, was on September 16, 1810. Today, I have the pleasure of having a conversation with Doctor Antoinette Perez, Andrea Diaz, and Romulo Zuzanaga.

Andrea Diaz: I’m Andrea Diaz. I’m 25. I was born here in New York, but I lived all my life in Peru because my parents are Peruvian. I moved here to the US 2 years ago, so my first language is Spanish. I’m currently a social media specialist at Bigeye.

Romulo Zuzunaga: My name is Romulo Zuzunaga. I’m 25 years old, also. I’m from South America, Peru. I moved here when I was 23. My family is from I moved to Orlando 2 years ago. The same as Andrea. My first language is Spanish. I grew up learning how to speak English, but all my culture is Latino. I study communications and journalism. Right now, I manage a restaurant here in Lake Nona.

Dr. Antoinette Perez: I am doctor Elba Antoinette Perez. I am a physician in private practice on the island of Puerto Rico. I am also the principal investigator for medical research for major pharma – Novo Nordisk, Merck, just to mention a few. And here I am trying to represent as best as I can our Latino community.

Miguel Zarzuela: Did you know the history of Hispanic Heritage Month?

Dr. Antoinette Perez: Actually, I was unaware that there was a Hispanic Heritage Month. So, no, I don’t know the history. I was happy to know that something is beginning. Very aware of the black history or heritage periods, but not with the Latino ones. I did not know.

Andrea Diaz: I don’t think I know the deep history. I know why they celebrate it.

Romulo Zuzunaga:Yeah. I made my research. As I told you, I have a journalist. It started in 1960 something I remember, 68 or 69. Why? Of course, it’s about the Latinos that moved here or the Latinos that come back here to the land, but I don’t know the actual story.

Miguel Zarzuela: Do you identify as Hispanic or Latino?

Dr. Antoinette Perez: That is a great question. For us in the Caribbean, they’re synonyms. So I do identify as both: as a Latina, and I identify as a Hispanic, and I identify as a Caribbean – Islander.

Andrea Diaz: I Prefer to say Hispanic just because I think when you say Latino, it involves just a group of people that come from Latin America. I prefer to say Hispanic just because that can help people know that I speak Spanish. So they can also know what type of language I speak, not only where I come from.

Romulo Zuzunaga: You know what? That’s a great question because Latino comes from the language, the Latin. So it’s French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish also. So I will say more Hispanic because in Latin America, Most of the people right here, we speak Spanish. So Hispanic first, then Latino, of course.

Miguel Zarzuela: How have you seen brands celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?

Andrea Diaz: I think I’ve seen a bunch of social media posts. I don’t know if probably I should follow different type of accounts that celebrate it more. I really thought it was going to be, like, a big thing, but I also noticed that brands probably post something about this month, only this month, which that’s something that I don’t think they should do. I think they should do like whole year. Like they should include this type of when they’re thinking about strategies. I’ve seen a bunch. I’ve seen, for example, Starbucks. I’ve seen Florida Christophos, I’ve seen Walmart.

Romulo Zuzunaga: Yeah. Not too many, but that’s funny because I was talking to Andrea last night because I needed some product for my hair. So I opened the Target app, and I type in Spanish, like, and there was a post about this Latino man. That was nice. I mean, I didn’t know that if you ask me for brands, I didn’t know that Target could be one of the brands that the supermarket big brands that takes care of this. Well, I was unaware that they were celebrating heritage month, but I have become aware of some brands tailoring to Hispanics or to the Latino community. And I think that what they are using is interesting, not necessarily targeted to a single population because saying Hispanics is like saying English speakers. I mean, Australians speak English. British do too, and things that are targeted to Americans not necessarily are including them. But, yes, I’ve seen a couple of things.

Miguel Zarzuela: What do you find important for brands to consider when creating advertising campaigns focused on Hispanics?

Dr. Antoinette Perez: I do believe that brands need to consider the label of a Hispanic or a Latino is including a lot of different people. A Mexican cannot be considered to be the same person as a Puerto Rican, as a Dominican or as a Cuban, there are subdivisions within the Hispanic community and within the Latino community. Never forget that, you know, Hispanic comes from, and we are totally different from people from Spain. So, you know, I do believe that sometimes they fail to see that.

Andrea Diaz: I think we need to consider the fact that when you target Hispanic people, you’re also targeting cultures. So there’s a different way to talk to people that speak Spanish than people who speak in English. It’s just like the type of language or the type that people communicate in Spanish is totally different. And you also need to keep in mind that it’s just a bunch of cultures. And I think that’s a big mistake that brands can make. That is like, oh, let’s just target Hispanic people. No. You’re also targeting, like, cultures

Romulo Zuzunaga: Also, there’s, like, stereotypes. For example, I manage a restaurant, but I’m also server sometimes. So for white people, every single people that speak Spanish must be Mexican Or must be from El Salvador. So believe it or not, that is the way the big companies thinks about They’re Latinos or Hispanics targets. For example, I’m Latina, but I don’t eat tortillas. I’m Latina, but I don’t eat rice and beans. And that is a huge mistake.

Miguel Zarzuela: For those who are not familiar with the difference between Hispanic and Latino, Hispanic is generally accepted as a narrower term that includes people only from Spanish-speaking Latin America, including those countries or territories of the Caribbean or foreign Spain itself. With this understanding, a Brazilian can be Latino and non-Hispanic, A Spaniard could be Hispanic and non-Latino, and a Colombian could use both terms. However, this is also an imperfect categorization as there are many indigenous People from Spanish-speaking countries who do not identify with Spanish culture and do not speak the dominant language. One way to count Hispanics is by self-identification. Meaning, if you say you are Spanish, you are counted as such. This is the approach we take at Bigeye in our consumer surveys and it’s also used by organizations like Pew Research Center and Gallup. One key aspect is that Hispanic is considered an ethnicity, not a race, according to the US Census Bureau. So what is a Latino? In general, Latino is understood as shorthand for the Spanish word Latinamericano, and refers to almost anyone born in or with ancestors from Latin America and living in the US, including Brazilians. Latino does not include speakers of Romanse language from Europe, such as Italians or Spaniards. To simplify matters, the 2010 US Census listed both terms together and specifically mentioned the Spanish-speaking countries or territory of the Caribbean but excluded non-Spanish-speaking countries. In day-to-day life, many Latin American immigrants and descendants simply prefer to stay in their countries of origin directly. Can you think of any notable examples of Hispanic representation in the media that you feel do Hispanic culture justice, that truly celebrates the culture?

Dr. Antoinette Perez: We do have a couple of actors, especially in movies, that have done a great job portraying that a Latino can do the job and can be a good actor. The news media, A lot of the Latinos who have jumped to the American market like Jorge Ramos, they are in newscasts, and they’re doing a great job portraying our culture and how versatile we can be.

Andrea Diaz: This Presentation of J-Lo and Shakira in the Super Bowl. You don’t see a lot of things in that presentation, but it is also the it’s only like the dance, like the music, like people dancing. I feel like that’s just a great way to see how Hispanic or Latin people are. And, like, in a big event like the Super Bowl, it was just I think that’s why it’s probably one of the best Performances in the Super Bowl.

Romulo Zuzunaga: That’s a great answer, Andrea. Also, I mean, I listen to music every time, and I don’t know the number of these stations, but when was this? Like, 6 months ago, my friends and I, we went to a concert that was from Iheard Radio. So they bring all these Latino artists like Zion Lennox, De La Ghetto, like, a lot of Latinos.

Miguel Zarzuela: What are some common misconceptions or stereotypes that companies should avoid when targeting Hispanic consumers?

Dr. Antoinette Perez: Oh, definitely; the first one is that we are not in a party mode all the time. I think that there is progress in trying not to portray Hispanics or Latinos as having a lower intellectual ability or a lower academic preparation. There are a lot of professionals, and that can be validated by the amount of Hispanic last names that you are seeing. Even in Congress, you can see it in government. You can see it in hospitals. You can see it among the professionals. We have a lot of Hernandez and Vasquez and Melendez and Perez going around, and not all Hispanics or Latinos migrate into the United States because they are struggling in their countries. They migrate for the same reasons other people migrate. It’s just for maybe growth, professional growth.

Andrea Diaz: I think like Romulo said before, it’s the immediate product that brands have when they want to target Hispanic people. They’re like, “Oh, you’re Mexican.” Like, “We can talk about tacos. We can talk about mariachis”, and they all will understand that, which is wrong. There’s a lot of cultures and different cultures when it comes to Hispanic, Latin people. So I think that’s a wrong or a bad thought that normally brands have when they want to speak to this type of people. It’s like, We’re not all in the same bag. Like, of course, we speak Spanish or, like, we are from Latin America, but it doesn’t mean you can talk to us, like, in the same way because we’re from different countries at the end of the day.

Romulo Zuzunaga: Yeah. I think the Same, Minh. Well, I was telling you about the okay. You’re Latino, so or you’re Hispanic. You must like rice and beans or tortillas, or What about if I’m from Uruguay, Argentina? I like drinking mate, or I like desserts, or I like parrillas, like barbecues.

Miguel Zarzuela: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.

Robert Rose: Hello, everybody, I’m Robert Rose, the author of Content Marketing Strategy: Harness the power of your brand’s voice.” I draw from real-world examples from leading brands like Salesforce and Amazon, and my new book offers a practical guide to streamlining your content marketing. I cover everything from assembling a team to goal-setting to content creation, measuring business outcomes: the whole gamut of content marketing strategy. And as an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, well, you get 25 percent off on a print or electronic version of “Content Marketing Strategy” by using the exclusive promo code BIGEYE25, that’s BIGEYE25. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders, and when you order directly from the publisher, shipping is always free – because they’re kind that way – to the US and the UK. So, to order your copy of Content Marketing Strategy,” head on over to the publisher’s website – the wonderful folks at That’s Kogan – K O G A N – Thank you so much.

Miguel Zarzuela: Welcome back. You’re listening to a special episode of In Clear Focus inspired by Hispanic Heritage Month. I’m Miguel Zarzuela, and I’m talking with Antoinette Perez, Andrea Diaz, And Ramulo Zuzunaga. Numbering almost 66.5 million, Hispanics now represent one-fifth of the total US population. They are also one of the fastest-growing segments. Multicultural Americans currently account for 44% of the US population and by 2028, almost 47% of the US population will be multicultural. Hispanics are the largest multicultural group of all with significant growth here in Orlando, Tampa, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. 


Miguel Zarzuela: So, what are your thoughts on Latin music’s recent surge in popularity?

Dr. Antoinette Perez: I am amazed. We have always had very good Latinos singing in both languages. We have always had representation in music with Latinos and good music, what puzzles me is that it took people like, Bad Bunny with, you know, very, very outrageous lyrics or someone like Jennifer Lopez dressing in skimpy clothes to catch the attention of the rest. So it bothers me a little bit as a professional and as a woman that that is what catches the eye, I sometimes feel that to be a Latina immediately means that you’re gonna have long hair, a big behind, and a lot of makeup, and a lot of jewelry on you, and that is a misrepresentation of the majority of Latino woman and Hispanic women. So it is puzzling. It just for me, it just shows you what people want to see and what they want probably the Hispanic community to identify itself with, which is whatever is trending in the United States. Witness to that is that everyone is doing a collaboration with a rapper. I guess it is what it is, and I wish it were another way so they could reach more of what a Hispanic really is. Our demographic is bigger than that.

Andrea Diaz: I think it’s great. And I can say it because now that I live here in the US, I feel like I’m not too far from home, which, for example, in Peru, I used to listen a lot of Reeton, Like, in general, just like Spanish music. And now that I’m here, when I go to a club or when I hang out with my friends, It’s not crazy to hear Spanish music. It’s just normal. And you can hear, like, American people saying like, oh, can you put the bunny? Can you put this type of music? Can you put so I don’t feel like too far from home because I feel like it’s this type of music is normal here now, And before, it wasn’t.

Romulo Zuzunaga: Yeah. I think they are doing great. These guys from Colombia was always like a country where the musicians are really good. Colombia is doing great. Puerto Rico is doing great. Dominican Republic is doing great. And as Andres said, you can go to a trip, to a car, you can be at the supermarket, and Bad Bunny is, like, the Background music.

Miguel Zarzuela: How assimilated into mainstream American culture will you say you are?

Andrea Diaz: I think I’m You’re very far. I think I always in my head say that I need to Maintain my roots. Probably the only thing that I’m trying to include in my culture from the American culture is probably the type of routine when it comes to work. But other than that, I feel like I always try to have this Latin balance. I don’t think Americans are used to this type of balance that in my head I have, but it’s like, yeah, I can work a lot, But I also need a lot of personal time, a lot of fun times. I need to see my family. I need to see my friends. And if I don’t do it during a week, I feel, like, weird. I think I’m far from American culture. I don’t think I’m even trying to leave my culture that I grew up and try to have the American culture in my life.

Romulo Zuzunaga: Yeah. Same. I think that we’re far from it, Not because we’re looking for it, but it’s something we grew up with. I mean, I don’t see myself, I don’t know, going to a house of my friends. Their parents offer me some food, and I’ll say, no. I don’t like it. No. I have to take a seat. And even if I don’t like it, I need to eat it. So that’s A small but very significant example about the Hispanic or Latino culture. We know a lot of American friends that they were born here, they don’t Speak a word in Spanish. And if you offer your something in your house with your parents in front of them, they will say no. Take care of our guests. So I don’t see myself doing that. I think I would fire away of that. I think the American culture has a lot of good things that Latinos doesn’t have. But, yes, I’m not looking right now.

Dr. Antoinette Perez: Well, I think I’m pretty much assimilated into American culture. I Not only lived there in my youth, so my children studied there. I travel constantly. I have the blessing or curse of having the opportunity to sit with different demographics. I have the same conversation on the flip side. When I come to Puerto Rico and I have to go into briefings with my meetings with other doctors or people in the health care industry, I will get the same thing like, oh, those gringos, and I have to sit and explain. It’s not the same someone who’s from the south of the United States, someone who’s from the East Coast, someone who’s from the Dakotas, someone who’s from the west. And I am totally all the time explaining that the United States may be 1 country, but it is many countries inside of a country with many people that come from many demographics because it’s a country made out of immigrants. So I do think that we have more or less the same thing as the Hispanics. It is a huge task to try to, like, put everyone under the same roof because there are differences.

Miguel Zarzuela: And what parts of your culture do you hold on to?

Dr. Antoinette Perez: That’s a very, very good one, and I will come clean that I probably am not the common Hispanic. When you are an islander, you get mixed a lot, so I hold on to different things of different cultures. For some things, I feel Puerto Rican. For many other things, I feel Dominican, and you would not believe for how many things I feel as an American. So holding onto a culture is it’s complicated. It has a lot of things going on. Probably, you hold on to the food to identify yourself, what you like a lot, and brings you back home through taste. It is a tough from your heritage.

Andrea Diaz: I Feel like the part of the family. Romulo and I, we grew up in Peru, which the family is probably the most important thing. And now that we moved here and had to leave our family in another country makes us value more that part of the culture. That’s the only way to say it. Family is probably the most important thing in our culture.

Romulo Zuzunaga: About Latinos responding, I think we keep it fine, and every single Latino can answer you this. We don’t wait till the 25th or December for opening the gift. We open it the night before. We stay the night before. We like to having a great dinner with our family. That’s a small example.

Miguel Zarzuela: What are some generational differences you see within your family in terms of how closely people identify with Hispanic culture?

Dr. Antoinette Perez: It gets blurrier and blurrier the younger the generations get. I personally believe it’s a result of globalization, probably, but, definitely, there is a change. There was more identification with the heritage with my parents. It was a little less with me. It was probably a little less with my children and with my nephews. Nowadays, the younger ones, You can see almost a disconnect because it is so global. Definitely, there are generational differences. The younger generations don’t really, really identify into a lot of what we would say identifies with our culture.

Andrea Diaz: A good example is Hispanic culture or Latin culture, it’s very rare to move from your house When you’re young, like probably before you get married, it’s not normal. Like for your parents is like, oh, you live in the house. Instead for, like, American people, it’s just normal that you leave your house at 17 because you’re probably going to college. So I feel like with my family was really a big thing when I moved from a house before I got married. Because my parents, they got married and they immediately left the houses. So they were waiting to leave their house because they needed to get married first. So that’s a huge thing that I think with the generations is just changing. Probably, no. It was, like, probably one day my kids will do something different, but I think that was a huge, huge thing that I felt Because my parents were, like, you’re leaving the house, and you’re not married yet. What are you gonna do? And, I don’t know, for me, it was just, like, normal, But it’s just a big change.

Romulo Zuzunaga: I mean, the older generations, most of them are very conservative about that. For example, we moved here first, then we saw how life is, and then we decided to get married. So it’s different. It’s something that didn’t happen in the past. Some people first need to get married, and then they will check how it goes. Probably, they will divorce next year, but 1st, they needed to take that risk that we’re not taking now. We feel a bit of more freedom probably. But, yeah, it is what it is. Now it’s different. Probably our kids or our grandkids will do something else. Who knows? Maybe they will have a kid first, then they will move. We don’t know. But, yeah, that’s something that is very, very strange for some people. For example, I know friends because they are friends that Our transgender, for example, we respect them. We love them. And for their families, it’s very hard to get the idea That my daughter is dating a boy who is transgender, but it’s like it is like this. I mean, older generations are very conservative body something that is getting better with time.

Miguel Zarzuela: And how do you navigate these differences?

Dr. Antoinette Perez: It’s really hard. It’s really hard. Just to give you an example, I I do see young people as patients, and I have staff in my office who is young. And many times, I sit and I have these conversations, and I find out who’s trending in music or fashion or movies, and I do go see them, hear them constantly, my generation, which is stuck in the middle between the older grandparents and the younger ones. I won’t say we struggle. We just have to do the homework and figure out where each generation is standing.

Andrea Diaz: I think talking to people, like trying to understand how People’s lives are just different from yours and times are different too. So you need to also continue to change. Like Now we’re like that. But as we said, like, probably one day I have kids, they’re gonna do something different and I’m gonna be probably like forty or something, and I need to just understand how that works for them. That is gonna be different for them. So I need to understand that. I need to understand how just people live their life differently, and it’s just a way to change.

Romulo Zuzunaga: I think I’m pretty sure the same. I mean, it’s about the way you think is how you can manage those differences.

Miguel Zarzuela: Andrea Diaz, Romulo Zuzunaga, Dr. Antoinette Perez, thank you for being our guests on IN CLEAR FOCUS. Gracias a mis invitados, Dr. Antoinette Perez, Andrea Diaz, y Romulo Zuzunaga. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of this conversation along with links to the resources we discuss on the Bigeye website at Just select ‘podcasts’ from the menu. Thanks for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Miguel Zarzuela. Hasta luego. Adios.

Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

This week’s guest is programmatic media expert Lewis Rothkopf, CRO at Pairzon. Without relying on third-party cookies, Pairzon’s customer data platform facilitates precise audience targeting for omnichannel, DTC, and physical retailers. Lewis explains the importance of first-party data and how Pairzon’s platform tracks consumer actions after ad exposure. We also discuss the role that machine learning and AI play in Pairzon, illustrated by real-world examples and case studies.  

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of In Clear Focus, 

Lewis Rothkopf: We’re able to tell marketers literally how many consumers saw your ad and then went into the store and bought something and what did they buy and how much did it cost, and critically, what was your return on ad spend What did it cost you to get this consumer to go into the store and buy something?

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on marketing and advertising, produced weekly by BigEye, a strategy-led, full-service creative agency growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. In digital marketing, third-party cookies have long been the backbone of online advertising. These small text files stored on users’ devices have for years been tracking our behaviors with the intention of serving up more relevant and timely ads. As we’ve reported over the past couple of years, the landscape has been changing. With mounting privacy concerns and evolving regulations both here in the US and internationally, the days of third-party cookies are numbered. This shift has been reshaping programmatic advertising, which previously relied on cookies for targeting, retargeting, measuring campaign performance, and much more. The industry is now moving toward first-party data, that is, information about customers collected directly by retailers and brands, which it’s hoped will lead to a more privacy-conscious approach to targeted marketing. To explore what this transition means for marketers working for retailers and direct-to-consumer brands, our guest this week is Lewis Rothkopf, an expert in digital marketing with approaching 25 years of experience. Having held senior leadership roles at organizations including DoubleClick, MediaMath, BrightRoll, and Pubmatic, Lewis has witnessed the digital ad industry’s evolution firsthand. Now, as the chief revenue officer at Pairzon, he’s championing the move away from third-party cookies. To discuss how Pairzon is helping its clients change their approach to retail and DTC brand marketing, Lewis is joining us today from his home base of New York City. Lewis, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Lewis Rothkopf: Thank you, Adrian. It’s great to be here with you.

Adrian Tennant: Well, Lewis, as I mentioned in the introduction, you’ve been at the forefront of digital media, working at many of the companies that created the programmatic ecosystem. So, how did you first enter the industry?

Lewis Rothkopf: It’s a funny story for me. I’m not sure if it’ll be a funny story for your listeners or yourself, but I’ll tell it anyhow. I graduated college with a degree in communications in 1999, going all the way back to the time when dinosaurs roamed the earth! And I was a communication major, I was focusing on advertising management. I learned how to buy full-page ads in magazines and how to advertise in newspapers. And this notion of the internet, really wasn’t much of a thing until my latter years of school. And so I graduated in 1999. Once again, for folks who’ve watched the industry, it was really the birth and the explosion of online advertising, and I got this phone call from a recruiter who said they saw my resume on And they were interested in seeing if I could come to work for them in an entry-level job. And I said, “Well, does it pay at least $30,000 a year? Because I have this apartment that I have to pay for. I just moved in.” And they said, “Yeah, I think we can take care of that for you.” And then, you know, same old story, one thing just led to another, and I’ve wound up in this industry for the past 24 years, coming up on a quarter century.

Adrian Tennant: Lewis, what have been some of the most dramatic changes you’ve witnessed in marketing technology during that period?

Lewis Rothkopf: A few things. So, you know, marketing and advertising, in particular, have really increased their use of automation and augmented or artificial intelligence and efficiency tools to make the business more accountable and to drive better results. And the challenge is that for all the changes that have taken place in the industry over the last 20 years, a lot still has not changed, and that’s a problem, right? We still have advertisers that are running ads and not knowing how or where or why their ads are performing. In many cases, they’re still measuring performance by old, outdated proxy metrics like click-through rate or cost-per-click and not looking at the actual impact that their advertising is having on their sales. That has to get better. And, having spent a very long time in this industry, it’s frustrating to me personally that we haven’t seemed to get to the place yet where marketers are only evaluating success based upon actual real-world metrics that matter. But the smart ones are doing it, and they’re doing it really well.

Adrian Tennant: Today, you’re the Chief Revenue Officer of Pairzon. Could you tell us briefly what Pairzon is and what your role as CRO entails?

Lewis Rothkopf: Yeah. So Pairzon is a company that is focused on building artificial intelligence-enriched marketing data platforms that help marketers understand who their best consumers for conversion are and whether their advertising is having a result on in-store sales. So it’s historically been very difficult. You mentioned third-party cookies a moment ago. Very difficult to, you know, recall an ad, to close the loop. A marketer runs a campaign on Publisher XYZ. Consumers see that campaign, and then what? Do they go to a store? Do they buy online? Very difficult to track online performance in an offline context. It’s also difficult to understand which of your customers are most likely to convert based on their previous shopping behavior. So, we do both of those things for marketers. We predict which of their consumers are likely to convert, and we use those predictions to help focus audiences and advertising targeting. And we close the loop from online advertising to in-store purchase or in-store action by virtue of having the transaction logs from the POS ingested into our platform, the algorithms are run against it, and we’re able to tell marketers literally how many consumers saw your ad and then went into the store and bought something and what did they buy and how much did it cost and critically, what was your return on ad spend for that campaign that you ran? What did it cost you to get this consumer to go into the store and buy something?

Adrian Tennant: Well, given your extensive background in digital advertising, what attracted you to Pairzon?

Lewis Rothkopf: You look at the last couple of decades I’ve been in the space, I’ve worked for some fantastic companies that have solved some really important problems, but the challenge of understanding offline behavior based on online advertising and understanding what consumers are doing when they put down their phone or turn off their computer, has really been bedeviling the space since the beginning. And there are sort of probabilistic solutions that you can use – like you can measure the geolocation of a user and see if maybe they saw the ads that are coming to the store. The problem with methods like that is they’re inherently probabilistic, right? So we know that a user went to this location after seeing an ad, but what if this location is a mall, right? Or what if it’s a strip mall? So you’re still unable to connect those dots with 100 percent certainty, and we’ve created this platform where you can do just that, where you are able to connect those dots and understand down to the individual purchase level, down to the individual SKU level, what is my marketing doing and how is it converting offline?

Adrian Tennant: Let’s explore what Pairzon is In more detail. First of all, what problems is it designed to solve, specifically?

Lewis Rothkopf: Yeah, so first and foremost, we predict the consumers that are most likely to convert. So, I’ll take a moment on that. When we work with a client, they connect their transaction logs to our platform. We then ingest those logs and make certain determinations as to which consumers are most likely to convert based upon their prior shopping behavior with that particular store. And here’s where the notion of first-party data and third-party data, third-party cookies really comes into play. All of the data that we leverage to help make these determinations is a hundred percent first-party data, right? There are no third-party segments that are being purchased here. There are no third-party cookies that are necessary. We take the data from the marketer’s own POS system. We analyze it, predict which audiences are likely to convert, and then we pump those audiences directly into the media execution platform of the marketer’s choice, whether it’s Google or Meta or TikTok or so forth. And we do that over an established API connection. What we’re not is a demand-side platform. We don’t buy media. We don’t get into the media buying process. We’re not in the supply chain. We simply create the audiences based upon our expertise, and then those audiences again are pushed into the media platform for however the advertiser wishes to advertise, wherever they wish to advertise. Our role in that process is to create the audiences and help the marketer activate them. Now, once the campaign is over or while the campaign is running, you’ve got to see if it’s working or not. And so we’re able to provide real-time insights into how these campaigns are performing, campaigns with our audiences. Would you like to A/B test and use our audiences for part of the campaign and some different audiences that you generated elsewhere for another part? Absolutely, you can do that. We don’t presume to tell marketers how to advertise or where to advertise. We just tell them what’s working. And that gets to the second part of our value, which is to understand offline conversions. I talked about this a little bit a moment ago, but I’ll expand on it a bit. If you want to know the impact that your online advertising is having on offline behavior. And it doesn’t just have to be purchases, right? You could be in a doctor’s office. Or you could be an auto repair chain. But you’re looking to understand what is happening once the consumer hears the ad, are they going into the store? And then what are they buying when they go into the store? That’s incredibly powerful. I mentioned some others of these platforms will use proxy methods like geolocation to understand did the consumer go to the store? Which is well and good, but you know, a big part of the challenge here is understanding, well, what did they buy and how much of them did they buy? And what items did they buy alongside one another? So now we have some more intelligence we can use to make recommendations to marketers about where they should be merchandising specific items basically in-store and how they should be recommending additional items for purchase with consumers that are on their online property. We do all that, and we do it with a pretty straightforward and easy-to-use user interface. And our goal is to really be a critical – but invisible to the consumer – part of the marketing process.

Adrian Tennant: One of the terms that we come across sometimes in this kind of space is a CDP or a customer data platform. So, first of all, for anyone listening who’s unfamiliar with the term CDP, can you just explain to us what it is?

Lewis Rothkopf: Yeah, so a custom data platform very simply is a platform that houses all of a marketer’s user data, first-party data, as well as information about how their consumers interact with them online and offline. It’s interesting that Pairzon can function and does function for many of our clients as the CDP. In other cases, though, marketers have existing CDPs that they’ve had in place for years, and there’s a sort of big monolithic effort internally to get them changed out. And so we work alongside the CDP so we can plug into not only those advertising platforms I mentioned a moment ago but also into any marketing automation tools like a CDP that clients are accessing today. The value that we add at that point is predictive analytics and the closed-loop marketing.

Adrian Tennant: Got it. You’ve indicated that the platform is designed for omnichannel retailers, but also for brands that sell direct-to-consumer. Pairzon has a specific approach to pairing in-store transactions with customers’ online identities. Lewis, can you explain how this process works and how it benefits your clients?

Lewis Rothkopf: Absolutely. So, certainly, if we are working with a customer who is online only, if they’re direct to consumer only, they don’t have physical locations, then understanding the effect of their online advertising on offline behavior is irrelevant because they don’t have offline behavior. We are still able to help those that are DTC or online only with all of the tools we’re able to provide around conversions and predicting which audiences are most likely to convert. The same as we would be able to do if those conversions were taking place offline. It’s actually a little bit easier even for marketers to understand the impact their online advertising is having on their online behavior. Where it gets tricky though, and where we add value to these DTC marketers, is in that predictive analytics step, right? So, understanding here’s the behavior from these anonymous users that has taken place over my properties over the past 12 months, and based upon what we’ve seen, here are the audience recommendations that we’re going to make. And we actually break the audiences out into whichever marketing methodology the marketer wishes to use. So, we have media mix modeling built into the platform. We have RFM: the recency, frequency, and monetary value, built into the platform so that marketers can see directly, where are my customers? Where are my consumers who are really good at the top of the spectrum? They come into the store, they go online frequently, and they purchase frequently. And when they do purchase, they tend to spend a lot of money. All the way down to the other tiers to has not bought online in a long time, has not visited the website, doesn’t respond to emails. And so here’s an opportunity to essentially reactivate those consumers and move them up in the model. We do all that regardless of whether the purchase takes place online or offline. And again, that’s where you get into this notion of first versus third-party data. the data that we analyze and give the marketers to execute is based 100 percent on what they know. We’re not buying third-party segments from some data syndicate. We’re simply helping marketers take the data they already have and put it to use. 

Adrian Tennant: How does Pairzon ensure the accuracy and reliability of that paired data?

Lewis Rothkopf: So, let’s go back to the offline example for a moment. You are in a store, and you are at that store to purchase a pair of socks. And you purchase those socks, and at checkout, they say, “Hey, are you a member of our loyalty program? “And, the consumer will say, “Yes I am.” And we would then be able to use that loyalty card data to tie the purchase from anonymous user 12345 at the store to anonymous user 12345, who was exposed to the advertising online. Now, what if they say, “No, I’m not a member of your loyalty program,” or what if the store doesn’t have a loyalty program? And that’s okay too because we’re able to say to that consumer in the moment, “Can we have your email address so that we can send you some discounts, and so we can send you marketing materials?” or “Can we have your phone number so we can send you SMS, sale opportunities?” and so forth. And if they say “Yes,” then great! Now we once again have that bit of personal data, which is hashed – hash data is simply put, email address gets changed into a long string of numbers and letters that are otherwise unidentifiable without having that same hash to decode it. That bit of personal data, which is hashed, is used by the media execution platforms like Meta, like TikTok, to tie that consumer’s offline interaction into information they already have on that consumer. So you do have this one-to-one match, this one-to-one pairing of user and, you know, offline and online. The same takes place if you’re an online-only merchant, right? You still have consumers who are likely logging in and signing up for email lists. I think it’s relatively rare that you would do a complete checkout as a guest and not provide any personal information because, after all, you have to have the product you purchased delivered either electronically to your email address or physically to your postal address. Now, in the cases where the consumer just does not provide any information, they are a completely blank slate, they’re not telling us anything or the marketer is not collecting anything, then we can’t do anything. We need to understand who the individual user is so that we can pair it with the user on the internet. if we don’t have that information, there’s nothing we or anybody else can do.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message. 

Robert Rose: Hello, everybody, I’m Robert Rose, the author of Content Marketing Strategy: Harness the power of your brand’s voice.” I draw from real-world examples from leading brands like Salesforce and Amazon, and my new book offers a practical guide to streamlining your content marketing. I cover everything from assembling a team to goal-setting to content creation, measuring business outcomes: the whole gamut of content marketing strategy. And as an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, well, you get 25 percent off on a print or electronic version of “Content Marketing Strategy” by using the exclusive promo code BIGEYE25, that’s BIGEYE25. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders, and when you order directly from the publisher, shipping is always free – because they’re kind that way – to the US and the UK. So, to order your copy of Content Marketing Strategy,” head on over to the publisher’s website – the wonderful folks at That’s Kogan – K O G A N – Thank you so much.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Lewis Rothkopf, Chief Revenue Officer for Pairzon, an AI-driven customer data platform that pairs in-store transactions with online identities, enabling retailers and DTC brands to optimize marketing campaigns across digital and brick-and-mortar environments. Well, on this podcast, we track developments in artificial intelligence, especially use cases that support marketing and advertising functions. So Lewis, how does Pairzon leverage AI?

Lewis Rothkopf: We make use of the incredible amount of data that marketers are generating from both their online and in-store purchases, but also their online advertising So, you know, you talked about omnichannel and the need to make sure that we’re covering our bases at all points in the funnel. There’s a lot of data that is generated from that process, way more than any analyst would be able to crunch on their own. And in fact, we had a conversation with a prospective customer a few weeks ago. And we kind of did our 90-second elevator pitch before getting into the demo. And the person we were pitching said, “This is a dream come true, you know, what you are describing, we have literally a team of analysts doing manually using Excel documents, and it’s just wildly inefficient.” Of course, it is. And so, using the incredible power of machine learning and artificial intelligence, we’re able to take all that data, do the crunching in real time, and then provide the company with actionable insights that they can use to improve their campaigns in real time. There’s nothing worse than running a marketing campaign, getting your results six weeks after it ended, and finding out that people really don’t like blue banners. And so being able to provide those insights and those learnings while the campaigns are in flight is incredibly powerful. On the flip side, with the AI in process, you’re able to understand which of those consumers is most likely to convert based upon the information that you have from them, that the AI is able to analyze and crunch and make available. So let’s say you are a consumer who has bought white socks, gosh, every week for the last 20 years of your life. I don’t know why you would do that, but hey, let’s let’s just pretend! And then let’s say that you wake up one morning and you say, “I’ve wasted 20 years buying white socks. I’m going to stop buying socks altogether. I’m just going to go sockless from now on.” Now, if we kept you in the purchase category in the audience segment of “guy who buys white socks every week,” we would continue to send you advertising messages that are targeted to an existing strong customer. But now you’re no longer in that audience. You no longer meet the criteria of somebody who buys white socks every week. So, in real-time, it is a living, breathing audience that the AI will add or subtract based upon the behavior of the consumer. So they see, “Okay, Mr. White sock guy, he came in every day for 20 years, but now he’s not coming in at all – let’s move him into the lowest tier and, identify him as somebody who we have an opportunity to reactivate, but is not somebody we can any longer count on, for being a white sock aficionado.”

Adrian Tennant: Got it. Well, beyond targeted marketing, what other reasons or use cases might retailers or brands have for considering Pezon in their Martech stack?

Lewis Rothkopf: You have got to know what’s going on, right? You, as a marketer, as a CMO, have to know with certainty what is happening to your advertising after it leaves the advertising agency and makes its way into the consumer’s eyeball or ear. if you don’t know that, your marketing is really likely to be ineffective or at least inefficient and suboptimal. And we talked a lot to your point about marketers and retailers and stores, but this applies to anybody who is selling anything or is driving any sort of results online. To use a quick example, let’s say that the local government wants to increase education about the new ‘flu vaccine that came out, and so they want to understand who is the audience we should send this to. That’s relatively easy, but then what happened when we actually ran this campaign? What did people do? When they got the information, did they search for a pharmacy they could get their shot at? Did they do some research on what the shots are made of? Or did they go into a physical pharmacy and interact and got the shot in the arm? That’s a sort of example that doesn’t exist in our business today, but easily could as one that is possible and has nothing to do with what you’re buying in stores or online. It simply allows marketers and advertisers to understand whether their campaign is changing behavior in the right way or the wrong way.

Adrian Tennant: Does Pairzon potentially replace existing tools, or is it additive to a stack?

Lewis Rothkopf: We are more than happy to be your CDP. We have all the functionality of the CDP. We have customers who are using us today as the CDP, but as I mentioned at the top, we would not restrict, and we don’t restrict ourselves to those who are looking to buy or replace a CDP. What we do is complementary to that of a CDP for our customers who already have one in place. It’s the predictive analytics and being able to tell and show here are the people who are most likely to convert that supplements the data warehousing that a CDP and a marketing automation platform typically make available to customers.

Adrian Tennant: As I mentioned in the introduction, one of the objectives of removing cookies from the ecosystem was really around privacy concerns. How does Pairzon address concerns related to data privacy and compliance, especially with the European regulations, GDPR, and California’s CPRA?

Lewis Rothkopf: Yeah, so we do everything that we can to not ever see unhashed, personally identifiable information. So when a transfer is made from the marketer’s database, their POS transactions, to our platform for ingesting, and then we take that data and we push it out to the ad execution platforms, the social platforms, that data is hashed. And so, we then ensure that anything we have in the platform is protected. We are able to operate both as a SaaS platform, we also have customers that use us on-premises, and this is really good for those companies that have specific data privacy concerns. Those that maybe are banks, those that deal with sensitive personal data, so they don’t have to worry at all about their data leaving their home, their office, and going into the cloud somewhere. They’re able to run it all on their existing infrastructure, and we still do for them all the things that we do when you purchase on the SaaS platform.

Adrian Tennant: What does the onboarding process look like for a new retailer or DTC brand integrating Pairzon into their MarTech stack?

Lewis Rothkopf: So the first thing we need is your transaction logs from the past year. Two years are even better. One year is fine when we’re training the AI on what is the makeup of this marketer’s audience? What are they buying? How frequently do they come into the store? What items do they tend to be buying together? And so now we’ve got this model that we’ve made of the consumer behavior from Adrian’s store. We then work with the marketer to incorporate the CDP with our platform if they are using a CDP. If they’re not using the CDP, we become their CDP. We have relationships and integrations in place with POS providers so that when we integrate a marketer’s transaction logs into our platform, We’re not building the wheel from scratch. We already have integrations into many of these platforms. So that is a completely transparent process to the marketer. And that’s really it, because on the other side, we have these direct integrations into the media execution platforms, the social networks, and so forth, as well as SMS providers and email service providers. So it’s not the first time we’re doing any of this, and it makes the integration process go very smoothly. Like any other integration, testing and troubleshooting are probably the most important parts of ensuring that we’re ready to go live, but it really is a very straightforward and simple process. And where it gets exciting is, now that we’ve got all this historical data and we start to see some new real-time data streaming in, well, now we’re able to take those understandings and assumptions, validate them against data that’s coming in the door, and then operate in real time to shift audiences, to shift consumers in and out, and even to recommend products to be sold together next to each other, in-store and online, based upon what we know of past behavior at that market or shop, as well as the real-time information coming in on their active transactions.

Adrian Tennant: As teams are getting used to using the platform, what kinds of support resources does Pairzon provide?

Lewis Rothkopf: So we have the customer success team that’s responsible for exactly that, ensuring that they know our customers’ businesses inside and out, ensuring a smooth integration and a smooth launch process. And then being this customer data marketing expert who sits alongside our customers and helps them get the most value out of the platform. Our platform is like a gym membership: If you buy it but don’t show up and don’t use it, you’re not going to get stronger. We think about it the same way. You have to actually make use of the data so that it becomes beneficial to your process and to your sales. it’s not a set-it-and-forget-it type tool. You take the actionable insights that come out of it, and you work with them. And our team works with our customers to understand, “Great, so I see that everybody likes the purple banner because when they see the purple banner they go into the store and they buy $100 worth of merchandise. Have you thought of maybe changing all of your banners to purple because maybe that would increase sales even more and increase your return on ad spend?? Those sorts of insights are commonplace when you are spending all day, every day, living in the system, you know, helping dozens of customers and finding those points of similarity between how multiple customers execute, using the data that we make available to them and build audiences based upon what we predict as being, they’re most likely to buy.

Adrian Tennant: Lewis, I know you’re ramping up operations here in North America, but what kind of ROI or other business effects do existing clients in other markets typically see from deploying Pairzon?

Lewis Rothkopf: Yeah, so where we get credit or not, where we do a good job or not – and fortunately, we do – is the return on ad spend (ROAS). So that’s a really important metric for marketers to understand. How much was I making off of each ad that I was running before working with Pairzon, and how much am I making now? And, you know, everybody likes to give the most exciting examples, and so I’m happy to share case studies or other examples with your listeners if they like. We have one campaign with one marketer that had a 20x increase in return on ad spend simply by using our audiences, and they did run it as a test. We’re happy to go into head-to-heads with our competitors. They were initially running audiences that were generated by another partner. We said to them, “Don’t get rid of that other partner entirely. Go ahead and put us in for, call it, 40 to 50 percent of the advertising to your audiences.” And once they did, they saw a 20x increase in ROAS simply from targeting consumers in these audiences that are most likely to convert. When you buy audiences from a third party, right, using third-party data, well, now you’re getting the benefit of knowing with a reasonably high likelihood that this consumer is in-market for a luxury auto, or this consumer likes to buy chocolate chip cookies at the grocery store. And that’s going to get you some ROI improvement. That’s going to get you a little bit better return on ad spend because you’re now targeting those users who ostensibly are most likely to be good customers of yours. But it’s not exact. If there’s a lot of probabilistic room in the margins there for consumers to be placed in segments in which they really don’t belong. That tends to happen when you’re buying third-party data, perhaps when somebody is buying that data from another third party versus using your own data. I mean, you literally have nothing to lose because you are targeting your audiences. And so the ROI they tend to see is quite strong. We also are a humble company in what we do, and we try very hard to make our products one of the least significant cost components of what they do as part of their marketing stack. We want to make it easy to work with people and they’ve seen exactly that in the markets in which we’ve served thus far. And we do have a couple of pilots going here in North America. North America, as you know, is a tough market to crack but it’s exactly where we want to be, and we are growing, and we believe that as more and more marketers see our solution and see – most importantly – the impact that our solution has on their real-world sales, we think we’re going to take a good chunk of market share here. At least, that’s what we hope. We’ll see!

Adrian Tennant: Well, we love examples here on IN CLEAR FOCUS. So I’m curious: after implementing Pairzon, have any retail clients completely changed their marketing, sales, or customer service strategies that you know of?

Lewis Rothkopf: They’ve changed their audiences in several cases to run exclusively on the audiences we generate for them. And again, I can’t stress enough how important it is for marketers to evaluate the differences between first and third-party data. First-party data is the most precious and unique thing they have, and so why would you trust some other third party to make data decisions, to make audience segmentation decisions based upon some probabilistic algorithm, versus, “No, no, no, like – I know Adrian like he’s one of my consumers, and I know what he did online, and I know what he did in the store, and so I know with deterministic certainty that I’m doing the right thing with this right consumer and the right advertising on the right media property,” and so forth.

Adrian Tennant: Lewis, are there any upcoming features or new tools in the product roadmap that you’re particularly excited about?

Lewis Rothkopf: So we’re always adding. Part of being a small early-stage company is that we can be incredibly scrappy and agile. I’ll share my favorite feature in the platform. So in the Pairzon user interface, you have a complete view of your business – you’re using your data. So purchases and ROAS and ROI and all the way down to the individual SKU level. What is happening with this product? What is happening with this product online? What’s happening in stores? We have a really cool feature in the platform. It’s new, and it visually represents which products are linked to one another in terms of being bought alongside each other. So we see that folks who buy white socks in-store almost always buy white T-shirts as well. And so maybe it makes sense to put the white socks next to the white T-shirts in the store display. And maybe it makes sense to recommend the white T-shirts when somebody buys the white socks or when they add them to their cart. I love that. It’s a very cool visual representation of what are the relationships between this product and that product. And what are the actionable takeaways that we can glean from that information? I love it, but I love all of our platforms. So, obviously, I’m biased.

Adrian Tennant: Well, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners are interested in learning more about the Pairzon platform, what’s the best way to get in touch with you?

Lewis Rothkopf: I’d love for them to email me directly. It’s Lewis – L, E, W, I, S at Pairzon – P, A, I, R, Z, O, N dot com. They can also go to our website, which has some really good information, and they can view some blog posts we’ve made. We’re happy to share case studies so that marketers who’ve listened to this know that they’re walking into an organization that understands their concerns, understands the challenges that they have as marketers, has solved these problems, and has addressed these challenges for dozens of marketers already.

Adrian Tennant: Well, Lewis, I’m off to buy some white socks and some white T-shirts!

Lewis Rothkopf: Good man!

Adrian Tennant: Thank you very much for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Lewis Rothkopf: It’s been my pleasure. Thank you so much, Adrian.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, Lewis Rothkopf, Chief Revenue Officer for Pairzon. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation, along with links to the resources we discussed, on the BigEye website at – just select “Podcast” from the menu. Thanks for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Consumer Journey Mapping Market Intelligence Podcast

Robert Rose is the author of Content Marketing Strategy,” October’s Bigeye Book Club selection. In this episode, Robert explains why coordinated communication and well-managed operations are key to establishing a successful content marketing strategy. We discuss the value of thinking like a media company, team structure, and outsourcing. Listeners receive a 25 percent discount on “Content Marketing Strategy” at by using the promo code BIGEYE25 at checkout.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS: 

Robert Rose: When we go into businesses, the experiences that they have ideas to create or the creativity of the idea that they want to manage, those are all usually amazing. There’s no shortage of creative people in businesses. What the shortage is is the collaboration and communication to take all that amazing creativity and actually make something useful out of it.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on marketing and advertising produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led full-service creative agency growing brands for clients globally. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. Over the past decade, content marketing has undergone a transformative evolution, shifting from a peripheral tactic to a central strategy for businesses across industries. In the early 2010s, most digital content marketing was limited to blog posts and social media updates, primarily aimed at driving short-term engagement and boosting SEO. But brands began to recognize the value of delivering high-quality content across multiple platforms, and in 2014, The Lego Movie debuted, making it the first example of a feature-length major studio film that doubles as branded content marketing. Of course, this year, Barbie broke box office records and is currently the highest-grossing film of 2023 in America. Our Bigeye Book Club selection for October is Content Marketing Strategy: Harness The Power Of Your Brand’s Voice.” Drawing from real-world examples from leading brands like Salesforce and Amazon, the book offers a practical guide to streamlining content marketing. It covers everything from assembling a team and goal setting to developing content and measuring the business outcomes. The book’s author is Robert Rose, a consultant, keynote speaker, and one of the world’s most recognized experts in content strategy and marketing. He’s the Chief strategy advisor for the Content Marketing Institute and the founder and chief strategy officer of The Content Advisory, a consulting firm that helps businesses design a pragmatic approach to creating, managing, and measuring enterprise content. Robert has advised hundreds of enterprises, including McDonald’s, SAP, NASA, Hilton, CVS Health, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and has co-written three best-selling books on the topic of content marketing. To discuss his new book, “Content Marketing Strategy,” I’m delighted that Robert is joining us today from Los Angeles, California. Robert, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS! 

Robert Rose: Oh, thank you so much for having me – what a delight.

Adrian Tennant: Well, Robert, let’s start with definitions. What is content marketing strategy? 

Robert Rose: Well, thank you for asking. I mean, what a great place to start. You know, definitions are always sort of… at heart, too formal, but we did indeed attempt to write one for the book. So it’s a marketing discipline – it is a discipline within the practice of marketing more broadly, but the key is that it’s a sum of all of the activities. So content marketing strategy is a discipline, a sum of all of the things that we do, the activities that enable a business to consistently communicate in a way that creates tangible value for target audiences. It’s basically what enables a brand to have not just a voice but actually something worth listening to.

Adrian Tennant: In 2011, you co-wrote one of the first books on content marketing entitled “Managing Content Marketing.” Well, it’s been 12 years since its publication. What prompted you to write “Content Marketing Strategy”

Robert Rose: Yeah, 2011 – I mean, feels forever ago, of course, and when Joe and I – Joe Pulizzi, my colleague and my good friend for so many years – when we wrote that book, we wanted to write then the owner’s manual, it were, of content marketing, the approach, the process of content marketing, because at that point we realized that there was something going on in the world of digital and how social media and search were truly changing things that started to really disrupt the entire industry of marketing. And over the last decade, what I’ve noticed is that, you know, in all the work that we’ve done for so many brands across the planet and so many different workshops and trainings and events that we’ve had, there’s been no shortage of books on content marketing. Let’s just be clear: There’s a lot of really good work, a lot of really good books that have been written, but most of them, if not all of them, have been written either about the first two words: so either “content” or “marketing.” So the books were really how to get good at content, how to write better, how to create better videos, how to create more engaging, more compelling content, how to create better customer experiences, or marketing, which was about measurement, of course, the process of marketing, how to interact with content and marketing and make it all work together in a broader strategy. But what hasn’t been written, really, since Joe and I attempted to do it so many years ago was a book on strategy, a book on the activities, the things that teams and individuals need to do in order to make content marketing actually work for their business, whether it’s a business of two or whether it’s a business of, you know, 10,000. And so that’s what I really wanted to do. I wanted to create sort of an orientation or a view on all of the different activities that I’ve observed over the last 10 years that businesses do when they’re successful and actually make content marketing work. So that was the real impetus for the book. 

Adrian Tennant: Well, you and I have something in common. We both started our careers working in TV. you started in marketing at Showtime Networks, and in your book, you write about marketing teams needing to think more like media companies but also reflect that this advice is often misinterpreted. Why is that, do you think?

Robert Rose: You know, content marketing was something that was going on and has been going on organically as well as by design. what we’ve noticed is that there are companies out there that sort of consciously do content marketing, you know, they read the books, they look at the thought leaders, they look at the best practices, they look at their competitors, and they actually design something purposely. And then there are, of course, companies that don’t, right? There are companies that just sort of fall into it. and if you ask them, they would say, “Oh, we just need to find better ways to engage audiences because it makes our business better.” So they’re unconsciously doing content marketing. Both of them are correct. Both of them are actually practicing the practice, but where companies fail, the biggest sort of pothole that companies fall into is when they look at content marketing, like “We’re going to market ourselves like a media company. In other words, we’re going to adopt some of the same processes that media companies, you know, whether it’s television or publishing, et cetera, are adopting as part of their marketing strategy.” And that’s the wrong way to look at it. What the goal really is is to operate as a media company. In other words, to treat content as the strategic asset and to engage with audiences and look at them as the customers that they are. It’s a different viewpoint for the entire business, not just optimizing one campaign with great content and marketing ourselves like a movie or marketing ourselves like a TV show, but rather how do we build in the infrastructure and the operation of a media company into our business? That’s where you see real success happening.

Adrian Tennant: Do you have an example of a brand that you think is getting it right in this regard?

Robert Rose: The brand that comes leaping to mind for me of one that gets it completely right in this space, and we talk a little bit about them in the book, is Cleveland Clinic, the hospital network here in the US, and based in, of course, Cleveland. But they’re not just a Cleveland hospital, they’re a complete medical network with hospitals and medical centers all over the country. And what they’ve done is they’ve actually built an entire media company, it’s almost a division of the entire business. At this point, Amanda Todorovic runs that program, you know, she started out with three people and the social media team, and they were literally just trying to get social media up and running. But now she’s just north of a hundred people, and that includes everything from data scientists to designers, to writers, to journalists, to subject matter experts, to a complete staff of people who operate their main content properties, which for them is their giant digital publication called Health Essentials, and then they also maintain an expertise site, called their Health Library, where you can go look up diseases and challenges and those sorts of things. They even have an ad sales team. I mean, they are monetizing both of those properties to the extent that they’re selling advertising. And so they are really truly a marketing department that operates like a media company, and, by the way, creates a marketing department that operates at a profit because they get revenue from the things that they do, but more importantly, they still do all the marketing for the hospital. They still do the signs in the hospital, and they update the website, and they send out emails, and they do all the things for marketing, but they also have this operation that actually creates value for the business.

Adrian Tennant: In “Content Marketing Strategy,” you write, and I quote, “Most businesses think about how they can change content to fit marketing’s purpose, instead of how they might change marketing to fit content’s purpose,” end quote. Robert, can you unpack this for us? 

Robert Rose: I can. You know, it gets right to what we were just talking about, right? Which is not acting like a media company but actually becoming a media company with your marketing. And, if there is a through line or a theme or an underlying foundational idea of the entire book, it is that what I have observed over the last 10 years is that marketing itself, you know, we used to say that, “Well, at some point content marketing just gets subsumed into the marketing strategy and then it just sort of becomes a thing within marketing.” And I actually now, perhaps because my ambitions are a little bigger, but also because of what we’ve just seen over the last, you know, five, seven, 10 years, Is that it’s actually the other way around. It’s actually it looks very much like marketing itself is getting fundamentally changed into what we would call content marketing. So what I observe out there is that the businesses that struggle with this are basically saying, “Well, how do we actually continually focus on the content to fit our new marketing, you know, strategy,” right? So we’re going to launch a blog, or we’re going to launch this thing or social media or whatever we’re going to do instead of saying, “Hey, how do we make content a strategic function in our business? How do we make ourselves the best content producer, the best media operation in our industry, and use that to change how the business operates?” And that’s basically changing marketing to fit a new content purpose. And that’s the real shift that we start to see for those companies that are actually succeeding with this. It’s making content a strategic function in the business, much like you would marketing or sales or legal or comms or really any other part of the business. Content is probably the thing that every single …  it’s the biggest expense. It’s the biggest activity that any business does. And it’s the one activity that we don’t have a real functional strategy around.

Adrian Tennant: Yes, I think you note in your introduction to the book that we don’t really see content marketing mentioned in the pages of Ad Age or Adweek.

Robert Rose: That’s right. Yeah, that’s right. I mean, you do, of course, you see their whole Creativity, I think they call it, the section, is basically a Hollywood-style credits of the last ad campaign that, you know, such and such brand did, or other brand did. And it’s lovely, and it’s wonderful that they note that, but it’s basically, what’s the best TV advert that’s running online right now. And instead what you don’t see is how is a brand like Lego or Nike or Cleveland Clinic, or really any of the other ones, how are they using content across multi-channel strategies to create a media brand for themselves. And there are plenty of brands out there doing it, but it just doesn’t get highlighted very often because it feels so overwhelming and big and complicated, and it feels sort of like, “Well, isn’t that the entirety of marketing?” Yeah, it kind of is these days!

Adrian Tennant: In “Content Marketing Strategy,” you trace the origins of what we now know as the marketing mix and the four P’s – namely Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. And you know that today, most marketers are concerned primarily with that fourth P – Promotion. Robert, why is that, do you think? And what does it mean for how brands approach content marketing strategy?

Robert Rose: Yeah, so I am a marketing geek going way back. You know, I’ve been doing this for 30 years now, and I am a student of marketing. I am a fanboy of marketing. I really cut my teeth on some of the basics, going all the way back to the Forties and Fifties and really learning about the origins of the practice of the marketing idea. And, of course, the four P’s were a core component of that. And it used to be all the way up really until digital, I would argue, that marketing and especially the practice of marketing in most larger businesses really took on the role of product, price, place, and promotion. They really determined what the product features, benefits, and the things that would make up the product would be. And they figured out what the distribution strategy was going to be. And they figured out where the pricing should be for a particular product, whether that’s retail or wholesale or distributors-based or whatever it is. And promotion was really, at that point, the packaging and making sure that you were putting in the right television ad, radio ad, print ad strategy, the paid media strategy because that was kind of it. And that was the idea of promotion. What happened was, digital really fundamentally shifted all of that. Product, place, and price really started to get enveloped into other parts of the business. You know, the whole idea of product marketing versus product management really took a big disruptive shift. There’s a whole book that could be written on that, just alone. But really, what happened was, because of so many channels with digital, and because marketing teams became responsible for the entirety of the customer’s journey from awareness all the way through to loyalty, and upsell, and cross-sell, and back around again. Well, the idea of promotion became just huge. It just became a big job. And so that has really fundamentally become the job of marketing these days. And as a result of that, content becomes the center of the universe for those marketers, right? Because everything about promotion is about, “How do I communicate my value in a way that engages audiences to become buyers?”

Adrian Tennant: You provide readers with several practical frameworks in “Content Marketing Strategy,” so let’s explore one of them: the three pillars. Robert, can you explain what this is and how it describes the strategy of content marketing? 

Robert Rose: Yeah. Ultimately, the idea here is that, like the four P’s, I wanted a way to sort of categorize the broader activities that we have to account for when we think about a content marketing strategy. So very much like the four P’s categorize the activities of what marketers did for years and years, these three pillars, I think, are a way to start to think about how do we categorize the content marketing strategy that we need to create for our business. Again, if you’re a business of… Three people, or if you’re a business of, you know, 10,000 people. And so the first one is all about content as communication, right? It is coordination. It is the communication and how we do that. Ninety percent of content strategy has nothing to do with content; it is everything about how we communicate and collaborate together. So coordinated communication for how we organize ourselves: Team charters, the governance structures, workflow, all those kinds of things is a core pillar of that. Then all the way on the other side, the third pillar, if you will, would be the experiences themselves, right? The containers of content, whether that’s websites, emails, PDF files, videos, television, whatever those containers are, those experiences are something that we have to account for and manage much like we do products. These days, our website, our blog, and our email newsletter are every bit as important as the products we put into the marketplace. And so those experiences have to have a set of activities around them as well. And then bridging those two, the sort of pillar in the middle, if you will, that bridges the idea of coordinated communication and the experiences that we create is something I call operations, which is how do you create the new operations with technology, with the idea of the skill sets, the workflows, the things, the processes that move fluidly content through an organization so that it can be managed effectively? And so there are five core activities that make up the other categories of activities within those three pillars. But getting those three things right is really the core of any great content marketing strategy. And then, not surprisingly, maybe is that that’s how we organize the book. The book is organized across that idea so that each one of those things can be used as pressure points. So you can say, “Ah, we’re strong here. We’re weak here. We need to shore up this. We do this really great. So we don’t want to break that,” those kinds of things.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message. 

Robert Rose: Hello, everybody, I’m Robert Rose, the author of Content Marketing Strategy: Harness the power of your brand’s voice.” I draw from real-world examples from leading brands like Salesforce and Amazon, and my new book offers a practical guide to streamlining your content marketing. I cover everything from assembling a team to goal-setting to content creation, measuring business outcomes: the whole gamut of content marketing strategy. And as an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, well, you get 25 percent off on a print or electronic version of “Content Marketing Strategy” by using the exclusive promo code BIGEYE25, that’s BIGEYE25. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders, and when you order directly from the publisher, shipping is always free – because they’re kind that way – to the US and the UK. So, to order your copy of Content Marketing Strategy,” head on over to the publisher’s website – the wonderful folks at That’s Kogan – K O G A N – Thank you so much.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Robert Rose, the founder and chief strategy officer of The Content Advisory and the author of October’s Bigeye Book Club selection, Content Marketing Strategy: Harness the power of your brand’s voice.” At The Content Advisory, you and your team consult with companies and brands on optimizing their content marketing, helping them with everything from creative ideation to technology selection. What is the single biggest challenge clients typically face, would you say? 

Robert Rose: In most businesses, content is everybody’s job and nobody’s strategy. Content for most businesses simply just kind of happens, right? If you go ask anybody, any senior leader in any business, you go, “How do you get content done?” They go, “I don’t know. I give it to John or Mary, and then they just kind of get it done.” It’s just sort of a magic black box that ideas go into, and somehow, some way, content gets out the other side of it. And so it’s that coordinated process, it’s actually making it a strategic operation in the business that is the biggest challenge that we solve for companies. It’s not that people aren’t creative. When we go into businesses, the experiences that they have ideas to create or the creativity of the idea that they want to manage, those are all usually amazing. There’s no shortage of creative people in businesses. What the shortage is, is the collaboration and communication to take all that amazing creativity and actually make something useful out of it.

Adrian Tennant: In “Content Marketing Strategy,” you provide links to several resources, including an organizational self-assessment and a sample team purpose charter. Were these resources developed in response to the kinds of questions clients typically ask you during consulting engagements?

Robert Rose: Yes, some of them were. I’ve created a website called, so funny how that works out, and paid a lot of money for that URL, by the way, so I hope it’s useful! And basically, what I wanted to do was do two things. One was to do exactly what you just said, which was to take the questions that we were getting from clients and some of the deliverables that we would feed back to them, for how to organize their ideas in sort of a worksheet or a template or a sample that they could actually see it in context. and so that’s one thing. And then the second thing was, I am a big fan of writing it down. As I like to say, “There’s always magic in the telling.” And so, when you write things down, and you categorize ideas, you get them out of your head, and big jobs seem less overwhelming. And so thinking through some worksheets or simply just frameworks where we can start to draw on the wall helps us really get ourselves organized. So much of this is about working together, and so much of it is about organizing communication, which is just not visual by definition, so trying to put some level of visualization to that was really my main goal, which was to give something useful to help people organize their thoughts and creativity in a way that helped them figure this stuff out.

Adrian Tennant: I love the inclusion of the frameworks in the book. And in the fourth chapter of “Content Marketing Strategy,” you introduce readers to one that you’ve dubbed the Content Marketing Operating Model, also stating that a content marketing team’s job is not to be good at content, but to help the business be good at content. So could you explain a little bit about how that operating model supports this?

Robert Rose: Sure, you know, it gets back to what we were talking about earlier in the show, which is this idea that communication and coordinating our communication is the biggest challenge for most organizations. So many times when a company says, “Okay, we’re going to start doing content marketing, we’re going to start doing that, right? We’re going to get a team together, and they’re going to start doing that.” Well, what ends up happening is, is that the team gets together, and the business goes great. “You’re now our internal agency. You’re now our internal team to support the content production idea.” And they go, “Yay!” And everybody cheers, and everybody goes … And then all of a sudden, it just goes to hell in a handbasket. Because the entire business starts throwing requests in, all of their requests are considered valid. The content team has an incredibly hard time keeping up so much so that they can’t even do their own ideas that they want, you know, that then the CEO is saying, “Well, why don’t we have a blog yet?” And the team is saying, “Well, because we’re too busy creating sales enablement assets for the sales team. And the demand generation team is demanding all these other kinds of things from us. And we can’t keep up with it.” That’s madness. And so we said the key here is getting a purpose and an operational charter for the team from the very beginning so that you understand how that team is going to be measured and managed to what their expectations of production will be so that we ensure that we have the right skill sets and the right people doing the job. And so that we don’t neglect another process somewhere else. And so I created this four-quadrant idea to say, okay, given two axes, right? One is, are you internally focused or externally focused? In other words, are you creating content that will be shopped internally for their own nefarious purposes, like sales enablement or demand generation? And they’ll feed that content out. Or are you externally focused and where you’re focused on building an audience through a blog or a magazine or an email newsletter or a podcast or something like that, where you’re building content directly for audiences? And then the other axis, which is at the bottom, is are you providing one single service, like literally just content creation and production and design, or are you offering multiple services to the business? Everything from SEO to persona development to translation and localization, you know, what parts of the content process are you responsible for? And then plotting yourself against those two axes. Are you all the way in the lower left-hand corner? Great. It’s not wrong to be an internal agency, but we just need to acknowledge it as a business and manage the requests accordingly. But if we start cross-functioning, right? In other words, if we start demanding that yes, you’re both an internal agency and you’re responsible for the blog, but we haven’t given you the resources, the budgets, or the measurement strategy to be able to deal with, well, you’re just destined for failure. So the self-assessment is really to say, where are you today? Again, whether you’re a team of one or a team of 40, where are you today? And where do you want to evolve to tomorrow? And then draw a line. And that starts to give you a visualization, if you will, of what kind of skills you need to develop, what kind of measurement strategies you need to develop, and what kind of operational workflows need to be developed in order to maintain that scalability.

Adrian Tennant: Now, if a brand doesn’t have all the resources it needs to execute its content marketing strategy in-house, in what kinds of ways do you see external agency partners being able to contribute most effectively?

Robert Rose: That’s a great question. And you know, one of the benefits of doing the self-assessment is to identify where external help may be really useful. In other words, if we discover that our team is really skilled at creating content and supplying it to the internal teams, however, what we’re not good at is SEO, and what we’re not good at is persona development, and yet that is still an expectation of our output, well then, okay, that’s a place where we could go get external help. Or, we could say, and this is more common than you might think, “We’re really good at managing the workflow, we’re really good at working the process, we’re really good at making sure that all the cats are herded, but what we’re not good is very creative content creation, we’re just not terribly good writers, we’re not terribly good content designers, etc. And so, we go for external help on that.” To the extent possible, my recommendation is always in-source strategy and outsource execution where you need to because in-sourcing strategy … nobody’s ever going to care about this or have the subject matter expertise theoretically that you do for your particular business. But what you can successfully, or more successfully, I would say, outsource is the execution of some of those things. Design, the words, the persona development, the research, you know, some of the executional pieces of it. And that, I think, is, a great place and sort of a way to pull the levers of which decisions can be outsourced versus not.

Adrian Tennant: Chapter 5 of “Content Marketing Strategy” discusses one of my favorite topics: Audiences. Your background in entertainment marketing is evident here, so could you briefly explain the key difference between audiences and customers and why it matters?

Robert Rose: Yeah. You’ve hit upon, probably just as you were just mentioning, one of my favorite topics and chapters of the book, which is that this gets to the idea that we talked about at the beginning where we need to operate as a media company, not just act like one. And the key is that today, modern marketing, modern business, all audiences are customers, but not all customers buy our classic products and services. And what I mean by that is that engaging audiences and building an audience asset, people who want to hear from us and subscribe to our ideas, and engage with our brand, may never actually purchase our product. They may only ever recommend it. And the interesting thing there is that one of my favorite examples of this is Red Bull. So Red Bull, at one point, did the research, and what they discovered was is that a great amount of their business came from people who either dislike the drink or have never tried the drink, but yet will still recommend it to their friends to drink, because they’ve gotten value out of the content. That’s the power of having an engaged audience these days – is that people will recommend your brand or your product before they’ve tried it or if they’ve tried it and didn’t like it. And so that has all kinds of implications when it comes to things like B2B marketing or B2C marketing, where creating an engaged audience can be an asset to your business – from referrals to the data that you can get the insight about – that adds wealth to your business – to even direct revenue, think about the Cleveland Clinic for a moment, you know, – all of those kinds of things can add wealth to a business. But they aren’t traditionally customers of our classic products and services. And of course, it’s just a redefinition of how we define customers. And so, Peter Drucker, 60 years ago, said the entire purpose of a business is to create a customer. I agree with that wholeheartedly. My only quibble, I guess, these days is we just have to redefine what “customer” really is. And media companies understand that. Media companies really understand what a customer is. It’s an audience member. And I think about examples like Amazon, for example. Amazon Streaming Services, Amazon Prime Video, is the most unprofitable business you could think of. I mean, if you looked at it as a standalone business, you would go, “Put that thing out of its misery!” Because it’s awful. They spend billions of dollars on content and make low billions of dollars in return from their subscription fees. But of course, the purpose isn’t that; it’s to engage their audience, who have a much higher preponderance of becoming Amazon Prime members who spend twice as much on products and services at Therefore, it is totally a marketing loss leader for them, Amazon Prime content, to get Prime members who will ultimately spend twice as much, and that is just a classic view of what a new customer looks like. It’s an audience.

Adrian Tennant: We can’t talk about content marketing strategy without acknowledging the role that artificial intelligence is already playing in generating content, including copy, imagery, video assets, and, yes, even music. So Robert, did you use AI to assist you in the process of planning and writing “Content Marketing Strategy” and how do you think AI should be used in content creation?

Robert Rose: I love that question. The answer is, for the book, no – with some very small exceptions. So, I actually use AI quite a bit in my work, in my writing. My philosophy on it is that generative AI, as it stands today, as we sit here in 2023, is best at what I call constructed content, not created content. In other words, constructed content is that stuff that we have to construct: the abstract for the white paper, the transcript of the podcast, the meeting notes, the abstract of our webinar – that’s constructed content, the stuff that we just have to create that’s sort of like making the donuts. You just have to do it every day. Created content is that content which is loved before we even finished it, right? It is our passion, what we want to write about, our thought leadership, our original ideas, our creativity – that. So, I think AI is great at the former and not good at all. And quite frankly, I don’t want it to be good at all at the latter because I want to do that. That’s what I’d love to do. So, for the book, as an example of that, I did use AI to give me, I had come up with a title and a subtitle for the book. The title was sort of like a foregone conclusion. That was going to be the title of the book because I wanted it very on the nose, and I wanted it very straightforward. And I really wanted that URL. And the subtitle, though, “Harnessing the power of your brand’s voice” was up for grabs. And so I had written maybe five or six different subtitles of that. And I used AI to say, “Look at these and see if you can come up with something better.” And actually, the AI came up with the word “harness,” and I thought, “That’s a better word!” I had “capture,” I had “get your arms around,” those sorts of things, those sorts of words. And AI came up with the word “harness,” and I went, “That’s a better word.” So, I ended up using the suggestion of AI for the subtitle of the book, but that’s the only thing that AI had a role in playing for the book. But that’s overall my approach to AI is that there is value to be gotten there. creating content is the least interesting thing that generative AI does. 

Adrian Tennant: Great! Robert, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about you, The Content Advisory or your new book, “Content Marketing Strategy,” what are the best ways to do so?

Robert Rose: So our little website for consulting and for sort of our daily, weekly thinking, basically our blog, is, which, of course, is the Dad Jeans of domains. And so yeah, – you can get all of our content there. There’s the brand new, the book website, as well as a place to get coaching and other assets. We’re going to do some events there, we’re going to do some online classes, we’ve got some big plans for that coming up for the New Year. And, also I’d love to connect with everybody on social media. I’m a big user of LinkedIn, so would be happy to, of course, connect with everybody on LinkedIn. And the book is available through your favorite online bookstore and available in some printed formats in your favorite offline bookstore.

Adrian Tennant: And if you’d like a copy of “Content Marketing Strategy,” you can save 25 percent when you order directly from the publisher, Kogan Page. Just use the exclusive promo code BIGEYE25 at the checkout. And we’ll also include a link in the transcript for this episode. Robert, thank you very much for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS!.

Robert Rose: Oh, thank you so much for having me. This has been fun.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, Robert Rose, the author of October’s Bigeye Book Club Selection, “Content Marketing Strategy.” As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation, along with links to the resources we discussed, on the Bigeye website at  – just select ‘podcast’ from the menu. Thanks again for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.