In Clear Focus: Out of Home Advertising

In Clear Focus this week: out of home advertising. Industry experts Heather Osburn and Jarrod Glick from Outfront Media share their observations about the reasons why out of home continues to see market growth compared to other traditional channels. We learn how digital technology connects out of home boards with consumers’ smartphone screens, and hear how an art director’s experience with dating apps inspired a much-loved campaign for an Orlando animal shelter.

In Clear Focus: Out of Home Advertising

In Clear Focus this week: out of home advertising. Industry experts Heather Osburn and Jarrod Glick from Outfront Media share their observations about the reasons why out of home continues to see market growth compared to other traditional channels.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello. I’m your host Adrian Tennant, VP of insights at Bigeye, an audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency. Bigeye is based in Orlando, Florida, but serves clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for choosing to spend time with us today. In today’s show, we’re focused on out of home or OOH advertising. Out of home is also known as outdoor advertising, out of home media or simply outdoor media. So let’s start with a definition. Out of home advertising typically reaches consumers when they’re on the go, in public places, in transit, waiting, or in commercial locations such as shopping centers. There are various out of home advertising formats, but probably the best known are billboards. According to the Out of Home Advertising Association of America, the industry’s trade association, this type of advertising can trace its lineage right back to the earliest civilizations. Going back thousands of years, the Egyptians employed tall stone obelisks to publicize laws and treaties, definitely outdoor media! In 1450 Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type printing in Germany, which led to advertising in the form of the handbill. The lithographic process was perfected in 1796 also in Germany by Alois Senefelder, which in turn gave rise to the illustrated poster. In 1835 the first large format posters appeared in New York advertising circuses and the first billboard was leased in 1867. Advertising has certainly changed over the centuries, but out of home is still a very prominent format for commercial communications today. If you live in a major metro area, you can see that many billboards are now like massive TV screens displaying messages that change frequently. Digital technology has also had an impact on the ways that billboards and other out of home can interact with consumer smartphones and other smart devices via Wifi and Bluetooth. Today it’s my pleasure to welcome two guests that live and breathe this type of media. We’re joined in the studio today by Heather Osborn, marketing manager at Outfront Media based in Orlando and Jarrod Glick, art director also with Outfront Media. Welcome to you both. Glad to have you here.

Heather Osburn: Thank you so much.

Jarrod Glick: Thanks for having us.

Adrian Tennant: Could you tell us a little about your roles with Outfront Media? Let’s start with you, Heather.

Heather Osburn: Hi, I’m the local marketing manager here in the Orlando market. I market Outfront Media on a local and sometimes regional and national level promoting our larger than life canvases, promoting our technology, our location, ACE platform, and creativity.

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. Jarrod?

Jarrod Glick: I’m the Art Director for Outfront Studios in the Orlando market as well and my job is pretty much to work on campaigns from concept to completion.

Adrian Tennant: So I understand that locally, Outfront Media reaches 98% of the market every week. I guess that most people are probably very familiar with billboards, but what other formats does out of home cover?

Heather Osburn: out of home is any canvas that exists outside of your home. So correct, digital and static billboards, but out of home also includes advertising within transit, like subway, commuter rail, and buses, walls. We have some beautiful walls in the state of Florida down in Miami, over a hundred feet high, bus shelters, airports, lifestyle centers, bike share, iconic locations like Times square or Sunset Boulevard, and we also consider mobile to be out of home at this point. So 68% of mobile use is done on the go. There’s a confluence between out of home screens, these giant canvases you see when you’re out and about and the screen that you hold in your hand.

Adrian Tennant: Now, traditional channels such as broadcast TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines are either static or actually declining in terms of the revenues that they attract from advertisers, yet out of home continues to see market growth. Why do you think that is?

Heather Osburn: Well, to start, our audience is growing. People are spending more time than ever outside their home, migrating to cities. This increases opportunities to connect brands with audiences when and where it matters most. Outfront is investing in the future, which means investment in technology. We’re deploying dynamic digital at scale and providing new creative opportunities. And in a digitally saturated world, there is new value placed on these giant in real life canvases. They’re trustworthy, impactful, and brand building. And these ads aren’t skippable but they’re also not intrusive in a way some digital advertising can be.

Adrian Tennant: Are there rules or regulations specifically covering what can or can’t be advertised out of home?

Heather Osburn: Yes, there are restrictions on outdoor advertising of certain products, services, and content and they may be imposed at the federal, state and local level. Some regulations as well as contracts with landlords, municipalities, and transit franchise partners. I mean the company has an internal copy approval policy to where the company reserves the right to reject copy or remove copy in certain circumstances. And as far as those rules and restrictions I mentioned at first, a good example of that might be not allowing an alcohol advertiser within so many feet of a school, something like that.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. So who regulates the industry?

Heather Osburn: We have multiple industry organizations that set best practice regulations including the Out of Home Advertising Association of America, also known as OAAA and Geopath, who provides ratings for out of home advertising via audience location, measurement insights, and marketing research innovation.

Adrian Tennant: I’ve lived here a while. So Outfront Media was previously known as CBS outdoor. What prompted the change of name?

Heather Osburn: So, right. We were previously under the CBS umbrella and in late 2014 Outfront split from CBS and became its own standalone company. The company went public as a wholly independent company, traded under the stock symbol, OUT. The name change to Outfront captured our identity and focused on innovative technology and creativity for our clients to take business to the next level.

Adrian Tennant: Alright. I mentioned in the introduction that out of home has become more digital. What does the application of technology in outdoor media mean for advertisers?

Heather Osburn: These are great advancements that allow for more opportunity in regard to a digital bulletin this can be as simple as day-parting your campaign. For example, a restaurant would have the ability to tease a breakfast or a lunch special to commuters making their way into work in the morning and then dinner options as they head home in the evening. At this point, even a static canvas is digitally enabled due to mobile, out of home being the best primer for all things digital, including social, mobile and search. We have about one in four Americans posting and an out of home ad to Instagram and massive digital deployment, which means more screens, more creative capabilities for advertisers, including dynamic campaigns with new sets of data feeds. We have these wonderful things called live boards in some of our bigger cities in New York and Miami and they can be used independently or they can be used together. So this is wonderful technology from a digital perspective where some of them are set up like triptychs and you can have motion video working across all three together. They can run independently, they can switch back and forth from that. They’re targeting people in these transit locations where they’re a captive audience. These advertisers are making the right choice as to who they’re trying to target and when they’re trying to target them.

Adrian Tennant: I mean audiences are a very significant part of our focus here at Bigeye but creative is super important. So, Jarrod, you’re the art director, can you describe some of the most effective or impactful examples of work that you’ve created with Outfront Media? I spend a lot of time on I-4 traveling between Orlando and the attractions area. You better talk to me about those rockets that I see by ChampionGate every day.

Jarrod Glick: That’s one of my favorite jobs I’ve worked on since I started with the Outfront Studios. That was about five months from concept to execution. The AE and I met with Visit Space Coast and they had put out a survey that asks one really simple question and that was how did you hear about us? And when 34% of the people responded, “We saw your billboards,” they knew it was time to invest a little bit more in out of home, so we decided we didn’t want to just create a billboard for them. We wanted to create a landmark. So we have this… It’s almost hard to describe. It’s a 30-foot rocket, which is a styrofoam prop. It’s built out of foam and steel. It has actual LED lights in the bottom that light up at night for the boosters. And I guess our goal for this was to… We wanted people to not say, “Hey, take the exit at ChampionsGate.” We want them to now say, “Take the exit at that big rocket.” 

Adrian Tennant: Jarrod, I understand the client for that project is The Space Coast Office of Tourism, but I’m kind of intrigued, how did you get that rocket in place?

Jarrod Glick: This was just an amazing collaboration between our creative team, our operations department, which were just incredible. They spent so much time measuring and measuring. We didn’t just measure twice. We measured a hundred times. They were in direct communications with this incredible prop manufacturer out of Canada and it just started with CAD drawings all the way… My sketch, which was horrible, I’m not going to lie, to some amazing card drawings to client approval and then literally down to the most micro portion of these billboards that you can imagine. They came to us one day and said, “We don’t think it’s going to work.” There was a 16th of an inch under one screw that they said would eventually start… The whole thing would start leaning forward. So we just kept adjusting and adjusting. And then otherwise… My favorite part of this was once it was done and it was approved and they had it on the truck and it was coming from Toronto and it got held up in customs. And I love this story because it literally looked like four missiles on the back of an 18-wheeler and they drove it in. It was in Toronto, I guess coming into the United States and they pulled it over. They held the driver for about 12 hours and we had to x-ray him. I love that that happened because I can tell that story.

Adrian Tennant: Super realistic looking and I can attest to that if you’re ever driving on I-4 from Tampa, so traveling eastbound and you are at Champion’s Gate, you will see this massive rocket and its boosters on a billboard, three dimensional, very arresting. The traffic’s usually pretty slow through there, so you get plenty of opportunities to look at it and enjoy it. So talking of which, since we are talking about spending a lot of time in static traffic on I-4, you’re currently running a campaign for Orange County Animal Services, I can only describe it as kind of like the concept of something like online dating for pets. What was the insight that sort of inspired that creative direction?

Jarrod Glick: This one has been… It’s a very personal one to me. We’ve been working on this for quite a few months now and when Orange County Animal Services came to us and asked for a billboard, just letting people know that they were out there, we did our research and when we learned that they have… That they rescue 51 animals a day every single day of the year on average. We knew we wanted to go a little bigger than just a static billboard. So they have these amazing… This great photographer on staff that takes these very personal, beautiful photos that really capture the attention, that really captures each one of these animals. And honestly, not that long ago I was online dating and I had all these photos of me and I’m picking the right photograph and I’m trying to write the right copy. So I thought these guys should have that… Sort of that same advantage to really speak to their audience.

Adrian Tennant: Right. I love it. I have to say as I’m often in static traffic. I appreciate the fact that those billboards are changing out and the messaging is different every day. That I really enjoy it.

Jarrod Glick: To that, I keep thinking we’re going to run out of ideas and we have written, I think 40 of them now, but we have this… It’s not just me doing this. I have a team of probably about eight to 10 designers. We brainstorm once a week. I keep thinking eventually we’ll just be able to go back and run some of the old ones, but we haven’t had to yet. Like they just they… We crack up we have a great time and it’s my favorite part of the job.

Adrian Tennant: Right. And of course, for the listeners, we’re going to provide links to some of these examples so you can see these for yourselves. So Heather, what excites you most about out of home advertising?

Heather Osburn: First of all, let me tell you, when you were saying static, you’re in a lot of static traffic, that’s actually what we call dwell time. So that’s allowing you to see those out of home messages while you’re in traffic, enjoying this out of home messages. What excites me most about out of home, 2019 has been a really amazing year for out of home. We are finally getting the respect the medium has deserved. There was a nice write-up on AdAge, we’re part of the 2019 predictions and what really excites me the most are the creative opportunities that come with out of home. Pretty much anything that you can think of we can make happen. 

Adrian Tennant: So Jarrod, what excites you the most?

Jarrod Glick: You know, we have some really cool stuff going on right now. We have a bus shelter that has a breathing man for Netflix’s Altered Carbon. It’s a little bit creepy. It’s kind of looks like a guy is sort of in a bag and as you’re just standing there it starts to breathe really fast gives you a bit of a fright. And then we have built this seven-story Amazon Echo in Times Square, which is the largest prop ever built in Times Square. It’s so realistic all the way to the little blue lights that circle around the top. Amazon leaned on our communications director to handle the PR for this which secured about 600 million impressions.

Adrian Tennant: Wow. That’s a lot.

Heather Osburn: It’s very exciting for us and exciting time for brands.

Adrian Tennant: So what does the future of out of home look like? What innovations do you see coming?

Heather Osburn: Many of them are already here. We have integration with augmented reality and social influencer to more precise audience targeting and we expect those to grow. Jarrod, from a creative standpoint…

Jarrod Glick: I have seen some really cool stuff with the augmented reality. We have these giant canvases out of the world. We have these small screens in our pockets and it’s just such a fun way to put them together. We’ve done some really cool stuff with Dogology, with Hims, I believe was kind of a fun campaign that we did in Times Square. So I’m really excited about the AR stuff coming down.

Adrian Tennant: So for anyone listening that wants to learn more about the creative possibilities out of home advertising offers, what resources can you recommend?

Jarrod Glick: You can check out our work at Outfront Studios on Instagram and we also have an Outfront Studios Behance page as well.

Adrian Tennant: Perfect. Well, it’s been a real pleasure. Some of the things that stood out to me from our conversation. Today’s out of home advertising can be really creative in concept and execution. The digital boards offer the ability to day-part with dynamic creative and integrate external data sources such as local weather or traffic information. I loved the story about the physical three-dimensional rocket advertising the Space Coast because it illustrates how an advertisement can become something of an iconic landmark. And of course, since Bigeye is an audience-focused agency, it’s interesting to learn how insights can fuel the creative process for out of home and how consumer behaviors can be tapped to marry Outfront Media physical boards with a mobile experience. So thank you to our guests, Heather Osbourn, marketing manager and Jarrod Glick, art director both with Outfront Media here in Orlando. If you would like to learn more about the history of out of home advertising, you might want to check out a video available on YouTube called The Past is Prologue filmed at Duke University and featuring a lot of visual examples as well as new interactive applications. We’ll include a link in this episode’s transcript. You’ve been listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising produced by Bigeye. If you have questions or comments about the content of today’s show, please email us at info@bigeyeagency.com and if you have ideas for topics that you’d like us to cover, please let us know. To ensure you don’t miss an episode, subscribe to IN CLEAR FOCUS on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud, or your favorite podcast player. And if you like what we’re doing, please rate the show and leave a review. It really helps. You’ll also find a transcript on today’s show on our website at bigeyeagency.com under insights. For IN CLEAR FOCUS, I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Thank you for listening and until next week, goodbye.

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In Clear Focus: The US Pet Food Industry

In Clear Focus this week: industry innovations in pet food, packaging, and pet product marketing. Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, editor-in-chief of Petfood Industry magazine, explains what’s new and notable in the world of pet care. In this episode, we learn about emerging trends in pet food packaging, the use of insect-based protein as an ingredient, and the kind of online content that engages pet owners the most. We also hear why highly personalized diets for pets, based on DNA testing, might soon be available.

In Clear Focus: The Petfood Industry

In Clear Focus this week: industry innovations in pet food, packaging, and pet product marketing. Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, editor-in-chief of Petfood Industry magazine, explains what’s new and notable in the world of pet care. In this episode, we learn about emerging trends in pet food packaging, the use of insect-based protein as an ingredient, and the kind of online content that engages pet owners the most.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising. Produced weekly by Bigeye. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, Bigeye is based in Orlando, Florida, but serves clients across the United States and beyond. Bigeye’s pet marketing services, promote pet-related products and services through strategically targeted communications to engage with owners and veterinarians. Thank you for choosing to spend time with us today. If you’ve been listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS since our first episode, you’ll know that earlier this year, Bigeye undertook a national study into the behaviors and attitudes of pet owners. As a pet care marketing agency, we were interested in the findings that suggested new behaviors among younger pet owners, especially with regards to the kinds of foods they choose for their pets and how they’re most likely to seek recommendations. In today’s show, we’re joined by a guest who is truly immersed in the topic of pet food and a professional observer of pet food marketing. Debbie Phillips-Donaldson is editor-in-chief of the magazine Pet Food Industry. Debbie directs all content for the magazine plus the website, petfoodindustry.com, e-Newsletters, Petfood Forum conferences, and related media and publications. Debbie has been in the industry and with Watt Global Media, the parent company of Petfood Industry since 2006. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Debbie.

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. Can you help us understand the industry and its economics? Who are the biggest players in the US pet food industry right now?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Well, the industry overall, globally and in the US is very top-heavy. So you have some very large companies dominating the market. Close to 50% market share combined, and then a lot of middle-sized companies and then a lot of smaller and newer companies, which happens to be where a lot of the innovation comes in honestly. Not that the other companies aren’t innovating, but not to the degree I would say as these smaller companies. So anyway, in the United States, Nestle, and Mars – that’s Purina and Mars Petcare – are by far the biggest, and then followed by JM Smucker, which has brands such as Big Heart and Rachel Ray and then Hill’s Pet Nutrition, and then Diamond Pet Food, and Blue Buffalo. Blue Buffalo might be overtaking one or two of those other ones, they’re now part of General Mills and continuing to grow. We actually have a resource on our website called the top pet food companies database and it’s global, and we track the revenue of companies from around the world and we update that once a year. That’s where I’m getting that information from.

Adrian Tennant: That sounds like it’s a great resource. Thank you for sharing. Are there any new or challenger brands that you see having an impact on the industry?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Well, I can’t really point to any specific brands. What I would do instead is talk about some categories, and these probably aren’t a surprise to you or any of the listeners. There’s all the quote-unquote newer formats. So traditionally pet food’s been dry kibble or wet canned pet food. But in the last several years, probably more five to 10 years, formats like raw, freeze-dried, fresh, egg, all of those have definitely caught the attention of pet owners and retailers and they’re some small parts of the market, but they’re growing pretty quickly. And I would also point to customized diets. Usually offered via subscription or direct to consumer models. That’s a new and upcoming category. Again, still small, but it seems like every time you turn around there’s a new company out there. And then you know, just the companies that are really innovating based on new types of ingredients and nutrition information. So one, for example, based on genomics or the microbiome. And you have products based around things like insect protein, which is not yet legal to use in the United States, but it’s definitely being studied and being tracked to become legal. And then you have culture products, there’s a brand out there called Wild Earth that bases its products on Koji, which is some kind of cultured fungus thing. I’m not describing it well, but it’s called Wild Earth and if you look it up, it’s a very interesting new concept.

Adrian Tennant: Wow. This whole area of pet food ingredients is really interesting. How has US consumer concerns about sustainable farming methods or organic produce kind of influenced how pet food ingredients are being sourced now?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: It’s definitely influenced by that. Not a lot of data on it and what I do know, it’s still a small part of the market, but it’s just like with every other product category, consumers are starting to care a lot more with their food, or the pet food about where the ingredients come from, how it’s produced, how the animals producing are treated. For example, one claim that is tracked is made in the USA, which is sort of related and that’s very attractive. It’s about 30% of dog and cat food buyers in the US say that’s a draw for them. And organic, even though it’s not, the sales numbers don’t show it about six to 8% say that’s attractive to them. Locally sourced and humane or ethically raised. And they come in about three to 4%. And this is based on a consumer survey for package backs by the way.

Adrian Tennant: Great. Now I can’t leave it, you mentioned insect protein. What’s that about?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: It’s a very interesting and growing part of at least as a focus and attention. Even though in the Western world most people think of eating insects as yucky, there are places all around the world where people, it’s part of their staple diet. South America, the Middle East, Asia, Africa. I mean, it’s really not a foreign concept everywhere. In the Western world, it’s starting to be looked at very carefully because insects can be raised at a scale to be processed and everything and they’re much more environmentally friendly in terms of how much land use, which is negligible compared to say livestock, traditional livestock. Use much less water, much less processing energy, et cetera, et cetera. Right now it’s not affordable at a scaled level because it’s still fairly new. Although in Europe it’s a little bit more advanced than here because it has been approved for use in a lot of different species. I think with all the innovation and development happening, it’s starting to become more … If you are in a place like Germany for example, there’s a large pet trade show every two years called Interzoo, and I’ve seen complete pet diets available that have insect protein. Here in the US, it’s okay to use in treats. And so you will see treats with cricket meal protein, the company that’s making that is called Jiminy’s. And they actually have developed the food and they’re trying to get it approved to sell in the different states. 

Adrian Tennant: Fascinating. In the human food world, certainly lab-based or plant-based foods from Beyond Meat, the Impossible Burger for sure have captured the headlines, and I think the imagination of investors, it seems. Is there a similar kind of movement towards lab-based proteins in the pet food industry?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Very, very nascent. I’ve heard of one company for example called Beyond Animal that’s doing some, it does some cultural work with a probiotic and now they’re looking at something to do with mouse cells, and it’s very early on in the development, but that’s their end goal. I mean, dogs are technically omnivores. Some people say they are carnivores, but they’re really omnivores and so there actually are some vegan dog foods or vegetarian dog foods that are on the market that are safe. Cats have to have meat as a source because they just have a different physiology and they can’t force some essential amino acids from plants. They have to have it from meat sources. So none of that’s really been studied in terms of using all non-meat for pets overall, and especially it probably wouldn’t work for cats, I’m assuming. I don’t know that, but it’s not been studied at all.

Adrian Tennant: Interesting. Now you mentioned the lack of studies in this area. Cannabidiol or CBD – is that being embraced by large manufacturers or does that remain a niche only being exploited by smaller independent brands?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Well, if any large manufacturers are using it, they’re probably not talking about it yet, because it’s really not legal. I mean technically it’s not legal for humans, and it’s definitely not legal for pets. Even though you will see if you go to a pet trade show, you will see hundreds of products having CBD and including edibles like treats especially. But I think it’s because the FDA just hasn’t caught up yet. I have started hearing that some companies are getting warning letters for marketing products with CBD and claims around it. The sort of approved way to use them for pets is with supplements because there is a separate process, regulatory process and certification process with supplements that some companies are pursuing with CBD. But I’m sure companies are looking at it because it has so much interest and play in the market. But at this point, the large manufacturers, why would they take that risk? They would get all the attention from regulators that they took that kind of risk. I don’t think they’re doing it. Except probably studying it behind the scenes and waiting to see if the regulations catch up.

Adrian Tennant: Interesting point. We have been tracking CBD quite closely in this podcast and in our publications. We found in the 2019 US pet industry study, that 17% of our respondents were already administering CBD products to their pets, and 42% who are not currently using CBD are very open to its use. So it seems like there is some, more than consumer interest, but consumer demand there. So it’ll be interesting to see when the FDA and the FTC line up on what is and isn’t allowed.

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Exactly. Yeah. Again, I think there’s so many out on the market that probably just couldn’t even keep up with it if they had an interest to try to crack down on people. That’s my guess. I know that there’s some things happening behind the scenes of trying to, the FDA especially trying to come to terms with it, but I don’t know where that process is. Regulatory bodies don’t tend to move very quickly.

Adrian Tennant: Now your publication reported that 34% of cats and 19% of dogs were a reported obese in 2018. How is the industry tackling this problem?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Honestly, and I probably will get myself in trouble saying this, but probably not as well or to the extent it should. There’s a lot of brands have weight control formulas of course, and for several years now regulations have mandated that pet foods will have calorie counts, but the problem is that the way that they’re posed, they don’t necessarily translate with pets the way they might when you see it on a human food package. And so it’s difficult for consumers to understand it. I mean, I don’t even understand to be quite honest. You have to do some math. And the thing about pets too is that they may be even more individual than we as humans are, and they can’t really tell you what’s working and what isn’t. So that is an issue and there actually is a very robust movement underway. Again, it’s within a regulatory body, so it’s not moving fast. But there is a movement to update pet food labels to make them more user-friendly for consumers. And I think that’s part of it, the calorie count aspect… the number of pets that are overweight or obese are coming from veterinarians, what they see in their practice. And if you combine overweight with the obesity, it’s over 50% for both cats and dogs. But when they survey pet owners to ask do you think your pet is overweight or obese, it’s much lower. It’s like 20%. So there’s a very big, they call it the fat gap. It’s a big misunderstanding about what the pet should look like and be at a healthy weight. What a healthy weight is. Or it’s a deniability. I think that’s part of the problem is that it’s really difficult for anyone to tackle this if you have this perception that’s just so off base. And it’s something that I think that the pet food industry could do more about probably concerted effort with veterinarians, but it hasn’t happened yet. It’s just not there yet.

Adrian Tennant: So how far away are we from having personalized pet diets, maybe based on DNA testing, to maintain an optimal weight?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Pretty close, I think. Probably similarly close as to what it is in humans and my guess is five to 10 years at most. I mean some of the companies that are doing the subscription direct to consumer models are doing what they’re saying are customized and personalized diets, they’re not specifically … There’s one for example called Nom Nom Now, but from what I understand, a pet owner registers, they answer some questions about their pet and then they would get a recommendation for a diet. But it’s probably one of four or five that the company offers. They are, however, doing all kinds of research behind the scenes to get to the point of recommending and selling a very specific diet for a specific pet. They have a separate group of parents that they’ve incentivized to provide even more information plus the DNA samples of this test and they’re taking that and doing just all kinds of interesting things to learn more about not only pets, about pets in general, and their microbiome and genomes and everything. It’s fascinating stuff. And I don’t understand most of it because I’m not really a scientist, I’ve spoken to the scientists behind this and spoken at one of our conferences this past year and it’s really fascinating. And I’m sure they’re not the only ones doing it. I mean I know there’s some research evidence on the universities too, so I think it’s pretty close, much closer than you might imagine.

Adrian Tennant: And that service you mentioned, that’s a subscription or direct to consumer model, is that correct?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Yes.

Adrian Tennant: Do you think that’s where most innovation is happening kind of in the direct to consumer world right now?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: That’s one area I would say yes, because honestly if you look at the products themselves, you know there’s really not a whole lot of truly innovative new pet foods out there. We talked about some of the newer formats, but those aren’t really all that new. So I think the whole personalized, even if at this point is just a, hey, tell us about your pet and do one of our diets that seems most appropriate for it. I think that is an area of innovation. But you know, we live in a world of Amazon, and Chewy.com. Maybe people like the subscription model and the direct to consumer. I think it’s very convenient. If you have a big dog, it’s really hard to go out and buy a huge bag of dog food and lug it home. Having it delivered right to your door helps a lot. So, I mean that’s a big growing distribution area too.

Adrian Tennant: What’s missing? You have a unique perspective into the pet food industry. Where do you see untapped opportunities for new product development?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: That’s probably the million-dollar question that everyone in the industry is asking. And I’m sure there’s lots of very smart people doing research and work at looking at that. From what I know, I definitely think that the whole microbiome and genome thing offers all kinds of promise. And that’s true for people too. You know, it’s just fascinating what they’re learning every day or every year about what our microbiome, how much it influences every part of our body and anatomy. That’s one. I think the whole ingredients, you mentioned and asked about the cultured meat, lab-grown meat, we talked about insect protein. I mean I think that’s really where a lot of the new stuff is coming on because it ties into the sustainability issue, which is becoming more important to consumers and I think they’re getting to a point where they’re willing to pay more for things they think are more sustainable and that means ingredients that can come from sources that don’t take as much land or water to raise.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. Let’s change gears a little bit. What are some of the most novel pet food packaging solutions that you’ve seen? 

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: You know Tetra Pak, which is not really new, but it’s somewhat newer to the petfood industry. So it’s the carton type things and you’re seeing more and more of those being used for different kinds of products. Often wet products, but also treats. You see at least one of the bigger categories and growing categories, I should say bigger growth categories in the industry, is toppers and mixers and things so that you can spice up your dog’s normal kibble or feel like you’re doing a little bit more for your dog or cat if you add something to their regular diet. And a lot of those liquid ones especially come in different kinds of packages like Tetra Pak. We’re also seen for canned products and things like that instead of being cans, you’re seeing a lot more of the smaller plastic containers that are a little bit more unique and interesting and a little bit more convenient to use and also to store. In cans if you don’t use the whole one at once. That’s where I’m seeing it. I’m sure there are other things out there being looked at that I’m not aware of.

Adrian Tennant: I did not know that we had pet condiments. So toppers are condiments on pet food, is that correct?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Essentially. I mean that’s one way to look at it. They’re usually, sometimes they actually can be complete and balanced meals, but they’re usually not. They’re usually, it’s sort of like a treat only instead of you feeding separately out of your hand, you would pour it on top of their food. Yeah, it’s a rising category.

Adrian Tennant: So what are some of the biggest changes that you’ve observed in the way that pet food is either retailed or marketed in the last decade or so?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Well, definitely online, of course. I mean that’s having a huge impact on every aspect of our lives and every kind of product that we buy, and it’s certainly true in pet food too. And in fact in the US, according to sources like Packaged Facts, online growth is what’s keeping the industry growing, overall. Because the other channels, if you look at sales just you know, breaking down by channel, the other ones are flat to declining, and so online growth is really fueling it. Then the other thing I would say is that just in general, and again this is true, I think in a lot of categories, human food and everything is that you seeing all kinds of shifting and blurring of channel lines. So in pet food or pet products, it used to be that the more premium, higher-end products were sold in pet stores. And then you had in your more mass outlets, grocery stores and discount stores and things, you had the lower price things and stuff. I mean that’s really no longer true. There’s this phenomenon that’s been called mass premiumization in pet food where companies have figured out how to take a lot of those higher-end ingredients and different more specialized label claims like natural and grain-free, et cetera, and sell them at a price point that works at a grocery store or Walmart. And it’s changed things dramatically. And that’s even aside from what’s happening online, you know. So of course that also plays into product development for the industry and how brands segment their different product lines.

Adrian Tennant: So I’m interested to know more about your role as editor in chief of Petfood Industry Magazine. How did you come to be in your current position?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Well, I’m a journalist by education and training and I have a background in both publishing and business publishing. I used to work in a previous life years ago for some consumer pet magazines. And then before I came to Watt, I was with an association that was geared toward business. And so it just kind of was a nice marriage of those two things.

Adrian Tennant: So what’s the most outrageous, amusing or just extraordinary pet food industry story that you’ve covered?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: There’s been a lot over 13 years. I’m not sure I’d know where to start. Some of the ones I said I probably would get in trouble talking about publicly. But I think one thing that’s interesting to mention is like I was saying, business to business media, but we do get readers, consumers reading our content because it’s online. We do use social media. A lot of our content you have to register to use, but it’s free. So we will get consumers reading and commenting on our content. So what’s interesting to me is that there are certain types of articles or topics that we know are always going to get a huge reaction. So for example, raw pet food. Not so much, we report on recalls and things like that, but if someone writes a blog post or a column about here’s why raw pet food is … You need to be careful with it. It just blows up. It’s unbelievable. And I mentioned earlier the fact that some people believe dogs are carnivores and they’re really physiologically omnivores. And we have a guest blogger who one of his very first blogs, it was a couple years ago, said your dog is not a wolf and that got by far, the most traffic we’ve ever received for any piece of content. And the most comments. I mean the comments just went on for days and miles. And a lot of the consumers, you know, you can usually kind of tell if it’s someone from the industry or not. It’s just to me, very interesting. And sometimes amusing, but you know, people feel very passionate about the pets and about certain ways to feed them. Some people have very strong beliefs about, I believe this is the best way to feed my dog or dogs in general. And they are not afraid to express that passion.

Adrian Tennant: I mean, exactly. In our 2019 US pet industry study, 95% of respondents said that they consider a pet a part of their family. So not too surprising to see that passion and the engagement that you’ve received online. So it sounds like you see a lot of press releases. How can PR professionals capture your attention as the editor in chief?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Well I would yes, I receive dozens a day to be quite honest. And I’ve gotten on some lists that are not at all relevant, but I also get on a lot of lists that are not relevant specifically to us. I would just say, and I don’t know how much time PR professionals have to devote to this, but spend some time to target your list. We are very focused on pet food and treats so we don’t cover all the pet products. And I get press releases about every single pet product you can think of. Every book about pets that comes out and most of them are just delete, delete, delete. Plus we’re not a consumer. Even though as I just said, we do get consumers who are in our content army and our target audience is business to business and if you know, someone would bother to even look at the name of our website or magazine, Petfood Industry is pretty clear, at least to me. So you know, just spend some time to target who you’re sending these press releases out to.

Adrian Tennant: So it’s been very enlightening. Thank you so much for your time today, Debbie. If listeners want more information about your publication, where can they find you?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Petfoodindustry.com is our website. We also do have a group page on LinkedIn called, if you just search under groups for pet food industry community. We have a page on Facebook, which I believe is again, using the search for “petfood industry” and the same on Twitter.

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. Thank you very much indeed. It’s been a pleasure having you on Debbie, thank you so much for your time.

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Thank you.

Adrian Tennant: Some of the things that stood out to me from the conversation with Debbie. Firstly we heard about the development of insect-based pet foods already available in Europe and possibly coming to the US soon. We learned about new formats in pet food packaging, especially the re-imagination of what’s possible with Tetra Paks. And high tech personalized diets for your pet based on DNA testing possibly here within five to 10 years. And finally what engages audiences the most? Controversy around pets and raw foods. Thank you to our guest this week, Debbie Phillips Donaldson, editor-in-chief of Petfood Industry magazine. You’ve been listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising produced by Bigeye. If you have questions or comments about the content of today’s show or have ideas for topics that you’d like us to cover, please email us at info@bigeyeagency.com. You’ll also find a transcript of today’s show on our website at bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” To make sure you never miss an episode, subscribe to IN CLEAR FOCUS on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud, TuneIn, Stitcher, and other top podcast players. And if you like what you hear, please give us a rating. For IN CLEAR FOCUS, I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Thank you for listening and until next week, goodbye.

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In Clear Focus: Audio Branding and the Spoken Word

In Clear Focus this week: audio branding and the rising popularity of spoken word audio entertainment. Twenty-two percent of the US population now listens to an average of seven different podcasts each week, but what lies behind the growing numbers of podcasts and listeners? Voice artist Jodi Krangle believes the medium itself may hold the answer. In this episode, we hear why Jodi considers audio branding the hidden gem of marketing, and how she launched her own podcast.  

You can listen and subscribe to Jodi’s new podcast about audio branding at: http://audiobranding.buzzsprout.com/

In Clear Focus: Audio Branding and the Spoken Word

In Clear Focus this week: audio branding and the rising popularity of spoken word audio entertainment. Twenty-two percent of the US population now listens to an average of seven different podcasts each week, but what lies behind the growing numbers of podcasts and listeners? Voice artist Jodi Krangle believes the medium itself may hold the answer.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant:     You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising. Produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, Bigeye is based in Orlando, Florida, but serves clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for choosing to spend time with us today. In today’s show, we’re going to talk about an aspect of marketing that’s getting a lot more attention as a consequence of the fragmented media environment and use of digital devices for entertainment. While all marketers are likely familiar with visual branding – the use of images, colors, logos, and typefaces – it’s also possible to create a palette of sounds and music that align perfectly with a brand’s attributes. Now, while jingles immediately come to mind, audio branding – also referred to as sonic branding – can be more than a catchy tune heard on a TV or radio ad. We’re talking about the use of auditory elements to reinforce a brand identity, just as you might use certain colors or words. These auditory elements can extend beyond advertisements and be incorporated within digital apps or interfaces – think of sounds associated with a smart speaker, when a computer starts up, or for different controls in a car. And there’s another aspect of audio branding that is maybe less obvious than music, but no less important. A couple of weeks ago, National Public Radio released their Spoken Word Audio Report. This study, conducted by Edison Research, found that the share of time spent listening to spoken word audio in the US has increased 20 percent since 2014 – while time spent with music across the same time period decreased 5 percent. This shift is led by a dramatic increase in spoken word audio consumption on mobile devices, especially among those aged between 13 and 34. About half of the US population – 51 percent – have listened to a podcast at some point, but 22 percent of the population listen weekly for an average of six hours, 37 minutes – to about seven different shows each week. So it’s in this context that we’re joined today by a guest who has a unique perspective on the business of audio branding for advertising and the growth of spoken word audio. Jodi Krangle has been a voice actor since 2007 and has worked with clients from major brands all over the world in industries including healthcare, charities and nonprofits, and the hospitality and travel market. But it was quite a journey to get there – from selling computers at a time when not many women were doing that, to teaching herself about the Internet and the world it opened up. In 1995, Jodi created an award-winning songwriting resource website called The Muse’s Muse, and began a business of her own, doing SEO and Internet marketing. When Jodi switched to voice-overs, she was well prepared for the new world of online promotions and getting her own work. Jodi is also a singer: in 2015, she put out her own album of jazz, blues and traditional tunes. And over the years, and doing what she does, she’s learned a lot about sound and how it influences people. Fittingly, Jodi is about to launch a new podcast called, “Audio Branding: The Hidden Gem of Marketing.” Now, since this is a podcast, we’re going to take advantage of the medium and listen first to some of Jodi’s work. 

[Audio: Jodi’s commercial demo]

Adrian Tennant:     I love that! Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Jodi.

Jodi Krangle:       Thanks!

Adrian Tennant:     Quite a bit of variety in that clip reel.

Jodi Krangle:       Thank you.

Adrian Tennant:     What percentage of your work is coming from traditional TV gigs, like voiceover narration for spots and shows versus newer formats such as streaming audio ads?

Jodi Krangle:       You know, it’s, you’d think that it would be skewing towards online a lot more. AndI’m seeing the trend going that way, but I’m still sort of seeing television and I’m still seeing a lot of corporate narration but for internal presentations or for their own website or for their own YouTube channel. So yeah, I guess that’s online. So yeah. It’s, I’d say it’s it’s probably 50/50 right now, but I can see it going really skewed in the other direction. Streaming media particularly, you know, like Pandora and iHeartRadio and that kind of stuff.

Adrian Tennant:     Now you say on your website that, and I’m quoting, “The voice you use for your commercial campaign can either make you sound world-class or have your listeners fleeing,” end quote.

Jodi Krangle:       Uh-Huh.

Adrian Tennant:     Explain why that is. Why is the voice so important?

Jodi Krangle:       Well, I think it has a lot to do with audio branding. So it depends on what your brand is and what kind of voice would fit with that. If your message is different than the voice sounds, people are going to be put off by that and they’re not going to maybe realize why. I don’t necessarily think this is a conscious thing with a lot of people. But if you hear something that is so different from the branding you’re expecting in the voice or the music or even the sounds within a certain advertisement, for some reason it’s going to rub you the wrong way. And you may not even understand why, but you won’t want to listen to it again.

Adrian Tennant:    So you’re saying it’s kind of working at a subconscious level?

Jodi Krangle:       I do think that, yeah.

Adrian Tennant:    So in a previous life I was in network TV production and I regularly had to direct voice artists at sound facilities back in the UK, in London’s Soho district. Now, in those days, voice artists, they had to be at the studio in person. So everyone working on a TV spot really worked in close proximity to each other, collaborating on edits to the script, revising timings based on picture edits, that kind of thing. Jodi, tell us, how does the process typically work today?

Jodi Krangle:       Well I know that in the UK there are people who hire off of the demo a lot more often than they do in North America. So these days, a lot of what I end up doing is auditioning. So once you’re chosen for a project, you know, it really depends. It depends on if you were dealing with the end client or if you are one person in a chain from an ad agency. It really all depends. But generally there’s a lot of emails exchanged. There’s a script passed along. Pricing is figured out, whether that’s through my agent or through me. And then the script is sent my way. I have a look. If there’s anything that I have questions on, I’ll send those questions through. We’ll decide on a day and time. And typically I work out of my own five-by-four booth here and I have things like ISDN and SourceConnect and ipDTL so that I can remotely connect with anyone around the world.

Adrian Tennant:     Now, do you typically speak to a picture edit or do you prefer to record without seeing the contents, so an editor then marries your sound to the picture later? Do you have a preference for the process?

Jodi Krangle:       I really like working what’s called, “wild.” So I guess that’s without having the picture in front of me in the moment, I can watch that video previously to getting in the booth and recording. But seeing it at the same time, hmmm, it’s a little distracting. And in the case of some of my jobs, it can actually make it impossible for me to speak. And I say that because I’ve had to do some really moving commercials PSAs, calls to action for charities and that kind of stuff that are just heartbreaking. And if I watched that video both like while I was doing the job, I’d never be able to complete a sentence. There’s just no way.

Adrian Tennant:     Well, that’s interesting. You know, you work out of a home-based studio these days, which I know is where you’re joining us from today. What are some of the things that you enjoy most about working from home, if I can put it that way?

Jodi Krangle:       Well, I really like the idea of not having to drive anywhere and spend half my day in the car, getting from one place to another.

Adrian Tennant:     Right!

Jodi Krangle:       It just means that I’m more efficient with my time. It means that I can book a session, you know, one after the other instead of having to drive to some other place and leave a buffer of say, two hours. I can go from, you know, with a buffer of a half an hour, I can do more jobs on a day. And that doesn’t always happen. I’m not always going to have five jobs in the same day, but it certainly does make for more efficient working.

Adrian Tennant:     Right. what are some of the challenges about a home-based studio as opposed to say, working in a dedicated facility?

Jodi Krangle:       I think it depends on what type of a worker you are. If you are able to buckle down and get your, your work done in your own space without needing prompting, then I think it can be less of a challenge. If you’re someone who needs someone looking over your shoulder, waiting for you to complete something to get it done, then you may not like the whole home environment thing. I’m lucky enough that I’ve been either telecommuting or self-employed since probably 1999. So I’m a little used to this now,

Adrian Tennant:     Right. I mean, some of us like the interaction with work colleagues in a physical environment and clearly…

Jodi Krangle:       Yeah. And it can get lonely. Yeah. It can definitely get lonely. I’m sitting here talking in a padded room. I mean like that’s what I do all day long, so…

Adrian Tennant:     A little bit of cabin fever there, perhaps?

Jodi Krangle:       Yeah.

Adrian Tennant:     Okay. Well, look, I want to play some more examples of your work and then I want to interrogate you about some of these jobs.

Jodi Krangle:       Okay, sure.

[Audio: Jodi’s TV narration demo]

Adrian Tennant:     Again, a lot of variety in those clips. Jodi, tell us, how do you modulate your performance to match all those different types of content?

Jodi Krangle:       I think you kind of need to put your head into the space of where that is happening and what the pictures are going to be. I think you really have to have a good imagination. That’s really key here. Acting is learned. You know, like some people have an innate talent for it and all the power to them. I think a lot of people need to learn it. It’s like a muscle. You need to exercise and a lot of that muscle is exercised by your imagination just by being able to put yourself in a situation that would warrant using that voice. And I think that music helps a lot with that too. As a musician myself, I know that a particular piece of music can get me into the tone that I need to use for a particular spot really quickly. So that has a lot to do with it.

Adrian Tennant:     Jodi, I know that you are also an accomplished singer. You’ve put out your own album and how does that sort of musical background play into your role now as a voice actor?

Jodi Krangle:       It really helps with the musicality of a script and the beats of a script, I guess. So every script that I look at really has notes and beats. You know, you don’t want to be too samey throughout your speaking, but at the same time you don’t want to be too sing-songy, you still want to sound like a real person. So it can, it can be a challenge and it does take coaching. But the musicality of it really helps a lot. I can recognize the downturns and the upturns and where a certain thing should be more staccato or where it should flow. And a lot of those are musical terms and emotions, I guess. So it helps a lot. Yeah.

Adrian Tennant:     I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody describe a script, almost like reading a music score. That’s really fascinating. So I hate to ask this one, but you know, I’m going to, so can you, can you recall a situation, Jodi, when things didn’t quite go to plan?

Jodi Krangle:       Yeah, I totally can. In the very beginning of my career, I was doing a PSA for a company that was asking for donations for a particular program that they had and they were asking me to work to video and it was one of my first jobs and I had never worked to video before and wow, that was definitely a learning experience. And it took a lot longer for everyone concerned than it should have. I mean, nowadays a session, if it goes longer than 20 minutes, it’s usually, you know, that’s 20 minutes. It’s usually 20 minutes to an hour. It depends on how many takes the client wants. Then of course, you give the client what they want, but generally it lasts around 20 minutes for a commercial script. And this probably lasted almost four hours.

Adrian Tennant:     Whoa!

Jodi Krangle:       It was, it was really painful. And I mean for everyone concerned, you know – that’s kind of the first traumatic experience that I had working to video.

Adrian Tennant:     Okay. Now was that working remotely or is that working in a facility in those days?

Jodi Krangle:       That was actually in a studio. Yeah. I was face-to-face with these people and not giving them what they wanted. And that was, that was hard.

Adrian Tennant:     And I do remember the feeling of being on a time crunch and literally time is money and all of those people are there by the hour and you’re paying for them and there’s probably another client waiting to come in right behind you… Oh yes. I can relate!

Jodi Krangle:       It’s hard, yeah. I mean I’ve had experience since, because I’ve done some in-show TV narration and that’s kind of a similar deal, but it’s a lighter atmosphere, I guess, maybe? This was, this was pretty, pretty deep dark. So yeah, it was hard. It was really hard. I mean this business is a complete learning experience from start to finish. Like if there’s just, there’s always something new.

Adrian Tennant:     Well that’s why we love being in the creative industries, right? Because there is always something new,

Jodi Krangle:       Exactly, yes!

Adrian Tennant:     Now I don’t want to go all meta here, but for our more technically-minded listeners can you tell us what equipment you have in your studio?

Jodi Krangle:       My equipment’s pretty simple. I have a five-by-four sound-treated booth and I say sound-treated, not soundproof because soundproof would cost a lot more money and I would need like six-foot concrete all around me to really be soundproof. But it does a great job. It, it produces a nice dead sound so that the person on the other end gets audio that’s clean and they can add whatever color they want to put to it. That’s kind of the point. And I’m using a Sennheiser 416 shotgun mic, which is fantastic for the voice industry because it lets the voice pop a little bit. It’s typically used in film on booms, but many years ago, I guess the promo people in voiceover decided it was a great alternative and started using it and the rest is history. And yeah, it’s just a great mic and it’s a workhorse too. I mean, I could drop this and it would be totally fine. Not that I want to, but yeah!

Adrian Tennant:     I think if listeners have ever seen a film shoot and somebody is holding something oblong, that looks a little bit like a blimp – typically, that mic is inside of that blimp, correct?

Jodi Krangle:       Uh-Huh. Yeah. And other than that, I just have an audio interface. It’s a Motu Microbook. And it’s a pretty simple little interface. I’m actually using PC here, so no Mac stuff.

Adrian Tennant:     No Mac stuff? Oh my gosh. And you’re in the creative industries with no Mac? Tsk tsk!

Jodi Krangle:       You know what? I, like I said, I sold computers when the 386SX was new. And that’s quite a number of years ago. And I remember DOS, so I am so used to PCs that I just can’t consider using anything else.

Adrian Tennant:     I started this show introduction with some statistics from the new NPR/Edison Research study. Talking really about the growth in podcasting, which is really about spoken word. How do you, how do you feel about that growth?

Jodi Krangle:       I think it’s fantastic. Podcasting is not quite like radio because it’s a little more personal. It’s what I love about it and it’s a very creative medium where you can pretty much say anything you want to say. And you know, the only censorship you’re likely to get is people tuning out if they don’t like it. Right? You can’t make something for everyone, but it is a very personal type of way to reach an audience. Even more personal than radio and radio unfortunately, isn’t all that personal anymore. So I think people are just trying to fill that void.

Adrian Tennant:     Yeah. I noticed one of the stats suggested that those people who are listening to podcasts on a regular basis, weekly, I think I subscribed to six podcasts, but actually listen, listen to seven different shows each week. And did that, that number seems sort of in line with your own experience as a podcast listener?

Jodi Krangle:       Yeah, actually it seems pretty similar. I listen to a lot of podcasts that are voice-over-specific and I’m maybe atypical in the fact that I listen on my desktop computer instead of on my phone. Because I don’t tend to be traveling in my car long distances all that often. So I listen at home on my computer and doesn’t mean I don’t listen, but I’m not listening in the way that most listeners seem to be these days.

Adrian Tennant:     Right. And certainly one of the through-lines for that report was that it is actually the obviously use of mobile devices, which seems to be really powering this, this renewed interest in the spoken word for sure.

Jodi Krangle:       Yeah.

Adrian Tennant:     So I also, I also mentioned at the top of the show that you’re about to launch a new podcast of your own called, “Audio Branding: The Hidden Gem of Marketing.”

Jodi Krangle:       I am. Yeah.

Adrian Tennant:     What motivated you to do that?

Jodi Krangle:       I wanted to talk about how audio influences us because that’s what I do every day. It just, it makes more sense to talk about what I know. So yeah, I just thought it was an interesting topic and I’ve come across quite a lot of very interesting examples of this in my own research and it’s really interesting and it’s amazing how much money big companies are spending on this kind of thing too. You’d be really surprised.

Adrian Tennant:     So, you know, the name of our show is IN CLEAR FOCUS. What does having a clear focus mean to you?

Jodi Krangle:       That is a very good question. I almost think of it as having a goal in mind, knowing where you want to be in a certain amount of time and following that path. Not to say that that past can’t change. But knowing what you want I like to equate this to just life in general, knowing what you want in life because if you don’t have some kind of clear focus on what that is, you don’t know what you’re working towards.

Adrian Tennant:     Well said. Jodi, if listeners would like to know more about you and your work, where can they find you?

Jodi Krangle:       They can find me on my website that’s at voiceoversandvocals.com or just JodiKrangle.com will get you there too and if they’re interested in the music then JodiKrangleMusic.com is where the CD is. Well, CD… Album, no one listens to CDs anymore.

Adrian Tennant:     Jodi, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. I know you are literally a very busy lady and time is money to you, so we appreciate your sharing your insights into the industry. We really appreciate it. Thank you.

Jodi Krangle:       Thanks so much for inviting me. I appreciate it.


Adrian Tennant:     Thank you. So, three things that stood out to me from the conversation with Jodi: it was really interesting to hear Jodi express the idea that, for her, podcasts offer a more personal form of media. I also found it interesting that Jodi was able to talk about the emotional power of the human voice as a kind of counterpoint for very emotionally-engaging visuals, perhaps even distressing visuals. And uniquely, Jodi’s approach to a spoken word script as a music score and being able to perform and adjust her expression accordingly. Thank you to our guest, voice artist Jodi Krangle. You’ve been listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising, produced by Bigeye. If you have questions or comments about the content of today’s show, or have ideas for topics that you’d like us to cover, please email us at info@bigeyeagency.com. Don’t forget to check out Jodi’s podcast – and you’ll find a link to that in the transcript of today’s show on our website at Bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” To make sure you never miss an episode, subscribe to IN CLEAR FOCUS on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud, TuneIn, Stitcher, and other top podcast players. And if you like what you hear, please give us a rating. For IN CLEAR FOCUS, I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Thank you for listening. And until next week, goodbye.

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In Clear Focus: CBD Manufacturing and the US Retail Landscape

In Clear Focus this week: the US market for cannabidiol. Michael Law of contract manufacturer Eagle Labs shares his observations about the opportunities and potential pitfalls for anyone introducing new CBD products to this booming market. With a background in traditional CPG sales and marketing, Michael offers practical guidance for CBD brands and retailers to maximize results. 

In Clear Focus listeners can exclusively take advantage of a special discount code to receive 50% off a purchase from Eagle Labs’ new line of CBD products: go to IMPIRICA.co and enter the code BIGEYE at the checkout.

In Clear Focus: CBD Manufacturing and the US Retail Landscape

In Clear Focus this week: the US market for cannabidiol. Michael Law of contract manufacturer Eagle Labs shares his observations about the opportunities and potential pitfalls for anyone introducing new CBD products to this booming market. With a background in traditional CPG sales and marketing, Michael offers practical tips for CBD brands and retailers to maximize results.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant:     You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of insights at Bigeye, an audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency. Bigeye is based in Orlando, Florida, but serves clients across the United States and beyond. We provide audience research, strategy, branding, creative, media, and analytics services. Thank you for choosing to spend time with us today. A couple of weeks ago we talked about the legal considerations surrounding CBD product marketing. On this week’s show, we’re focusing on CBD product manufacturing. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a chemical compound from the cannabis plant. It’s used in products like oils and edibles to impart a feeling of relaxation and calm. Unlike THC, its cousin, CBD is not psychoactive. Today, CBD is available in tinctures and pills intended to relieve conditions such as anxiety and arthritis pain, and you’ll see it as an ingredient in a growing range of consumer categories from food and beverages to beauty products and apparel. As a CBD marketing agency, Bigeye enjoys working with the entrepreneurial innovators in this space. And today it’s my pleasure to welcome a guest with a unique perspective on the rapidly growing market for CBD products. Michael Law is the Chief Commercial Officer of Eagle Labs, based in Saint Petersburg, here in Florida. Eagle Labs manufactures high-quality, rigorously-tested nutritional supplements and skincare products. The company provides formulation and manufacturing services for private label lines. Under Michael’s direction, Eagle Labs has quickly become a leader in the CBD category, not only manufacturing products on behalf of its clients, but also developing its own CBD product range. The company also offers packaging, design, consulting, and fulfillment services. And Eagle Labs is a Food and Drug Administration-registered facility. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Michael.

Michael Law:        Thank you Adrian. It’s great to be here.

Adrian Tennant:     I gave a summary overview of CBD at the top of the show, but could you give us a bit more of a detailed explanation of what CBD is and how it’s produced?

Michael Law:        Yes, absolutely. And to be clear, there’s a lot of confusion around what CBD is and isn’t. I’ll give you a layman’s explanation of what CBD is. CBD is really a naturally occurring compound as I think you said at the beginning of the podcast. It’s found in industrial hemp plants. It’s important to differentiate between the industrial hemp plant and marijuana. These plants are cousins, but industrial hemp is really what the Farm Bill, the federal Farm Bill approved for cultivation, transport, research, and sale. CBD can support a sense of peace and wellness in humans and animals, as it interacts with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system. It’s not intoxicating and that’s one of the biggest myths about CBD, so you can add it to your everyday routine without experiencing a high. A lot of consumers are also concerned about safety and we’ll talk more about what Eagle Labs is doing to ensure the safety of our products. But there has been a report from the World Health Organization that stated that in humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential. So they haven’t found any evidence of public health issues or problems associated with the use of pure CBD. So I mean, at the outset, I think it’s important to know that CBD has a very strong safety profile and that it is very distinct from marijuana in that it will not make you high. And it is federally legal.

Adrian Tennant:     Right, by some estimates, the US market for CBD will be worth anything between 16 and 22 billion dollars annually within just a couple of years. Why is the market for CBD products growing so rapidly?

Michael Law:        The reason that it’s growing so rapidly is that consumers are using the product and they’re experiencing the effects that they’re seeking. So the repeat purchase levels are very high. There’s a lot of online communication that’s happening where people are sharing their stories with each other. We get a lot of testimonials, even video testimonials from people that have tried our products are just indicating that the product has exceeded their expectations in terms of the benefits that they’re seeking either for themselves or for their pets. We believe that the category is probably in the one to two billion dollar range right now. Most of the category is not what we would call measured by agencies like AC Nielsen or IRI – syndicated data providers – because so much of the volume is done in eCommerce or in unmeasured channels like natural [food] stores, where there often isn’t syndicated data or reporting. The category’s much bigger than most people believe it is today because so much of it is unmeasured. Retailers have really not fully gotten into CBD in the way that they will as soon as it is regulated.

Adrian Tennant:     Michael, that’s really interesting. Just taking the pain-relieving CBD products as an example, do you see them as additive or will they eventually cannibalize sales of traditional pharmaceuticals?

Michael Law:        Yeah, that’s a really good question. I mean, anecdotally, as somebody who’s relatively new to this category… My background is with traditional consumer packaged goods companies like Johnson and Johnson. I’ve sold or marketed products in virtually every aisle in a drug store. But speaking to people anecdotally – I mean, I talk to  every person I sit beside on a flight, every person I have an Uber ride with or meet at a meeting if they’re not in the industry – and ask them if they’ve heard of CBD and if they have what their experience has been. In the anecdotal stories from people who have reduced the use of OTC products or drug products in favor of more natural solutions like CBD is just overwhelming. Again, one of the things that is really exciting to me about this category is the growth potential. The safety profile, as I said, from the World Health Organization and their research is very strong. We need the FDA to come out with a regulatory perspective on their recommendations for dosing and indicated use. I do believe personally that you will see some cannibalization from traditional OTC medications from pharmaceutical products as consumers try products like CBD.

Adrian Tennant:     And I think we should just clarify for listeners that are not familiar with the jargon, OTC stands for “over-the-counter,” correct?

Michael Law:        Yes. Over-the-counter. It’s basically means that it’s available for self-service, like in a pharmacy section.

Adrian Tennant:     Now, I know that Eagle Labs is very quality-focused. So it seems like a good time to segue to that. Can you tell us a little bit about how Eagle Lab’s services and the business fits into this broader CBD landscape?

Michael Law:        Absolutely. Yeah. So Eagle Labs had been making skincare and nutritional products for private label clients, large national retail clients, for about 10 years. The company was owned by a chemist with 40 years of experience formulating and Eagle Labs was purchased by an entrepreneurial pair of brothers that wanted to get into the CBD category, but in a way that would ensure that their finished goods would be nothing but the highest quality. So they’ve purchased a very good quality manufacturer with the chemist, as I said, with a lot of experience and then they set about ensuring that their manufacturing processes were going to be ahead of any potential regulations. Our batch records, for example, are over 20 pages long for both the cosmetic products that we manufacturer, anything that might be a nutritional supplement with a CBD. There’s extreme rigor. We qualify any new raw material vendor with three separate batch tests. We get certificates of analysis to ensure that the potency of the raw material for CBD is accurate, and that the safety is also assured that there’s no heavy metals, there’s no bacteria, there’s no pesticides, and so on. So very rigorous on testing anything that comes into our facility. Any new raw materials that come in are quarantined until they’re tested, then they’re moved into the area where they can be used for manufacturing. As we’re manufacturing – actually filling the tincture bottles, for example – we’re testing from the top of the mixer, the middle and the bottom to ensure that we’ve got a consistent level of CBD across the entire batch. And then when we get to the finished goods stage, we send out our samples from our finished goods to third-party labs for final testing. And we get what’s called a certificate of analysis or a C-of-A that shows the potency. So if it’s a 500 milligram bottle, we want to make sure that it’s got 500 milligrams in it and, that it doesn’t have any pesticides, any heavy metals or bacteria in it. So, I would say a very, very strong focus on quality as you mentioned. And in fact, we believe that it’s in our best interest and our customer’s best interest to actually be ahead of what we think the FDA will decide in terms of manufacturing regulations. So we’re moving towards OTC qualification, which would essentially mean we could make a drug in our facility and we would have the processes for making drugs. I think when the FDA does regulate, , there will be a lot of smaller manufacturers that either haven’t or aren’t willing to make those kinds of investments in quality that will disappear.

Adrian Tennant:     So what does a typical Eagle Labs client look like? Are they primarily startups or more established brands?

Michael Law:        Yeah, so great question. The foundation of Eagle Labs was really working with eCommerce clients that were good at eCommerce but didn’t have the capabilities to do manufacturing and fulfillment. We also own a fulfillment company – it’s called Full Stack Fulfillment with fulfillment centers in Florida, Utah and the UK. So we can really be a turnkey provider for anybody that wants to create a brand as we can obviously manufacture for them in a high-quality environment, put out a great finished goods product, we can fulfill it through our fulfillment centers. So we’re meeting with large companies that are already in the CBD business that may be looking for either alternate sources of supply or unique sources of supply in product forms that we can make that they aren’t currently available from their current contract manufacturers. And we’re also having a lot of discussions with retailers regarding creating their own private brands in most health and beauty care and OTC categories. The store brands have about 25 to 30 percent of the market share and believe there’s no reason that a store brands won’t achieve that level of market share if not higher within this category as well. So we’ve been talking to a lot of retailers about about that opportunity and I think a lot of retailers are still kind of sitting on the sidelines. It won’t be long before they’ll be ready to push go on strategies where they’ll have their own brand name in the store on CBD products.

Adrian Tennant:     Right. So it sounds like you’ve helped a lot of brands, or are in the process of helping a lot of brands develop their products. But Eagle Labs has also launched its own CBD line, which I believe you call IMPIRICA. Why did you decide to do that?

Michael Law:        We felt that there was an opportunity in the marketplace, as I mentioned a little bit earlier and a lot of consumers are sitting on the sidelines because they don’t trust the brands that they’re seeing today. But there’s a huge percentage that are very interested. Our research has shown that the reason they’re not trying it yet is they’re concerned about the safety of the product and whether or not they’re going to get a what’s on the label in the bottle and that it’s actually going to be safe and not have things like the heavy metals, or the pesticides, or the bacteria. So our brand positioning is all built around that consumer insight. Our brand positioning is the number one most-tested CBD brand. So as you said at the outset, this is going to be a massive category, upwards of 15 to 20 billion dollars. We feel there’s an opportunity for a brand that is focused on driving consumer trust. And so that, that’s the essence of our positioning.

Adrian Tennant:     It’s obviously great to hear that consumer insights are powering your brand development process. Thinking about your own experience of CBD product marketing, what has been the biggest learning from launching the IMPIRICA line?

Michael Law:        I think that, um, with IMPIRICA there’s an opportunity for many brands in CBD. I would say within the soft drink category, if you ask somebody to name a soft drink, they’d probably say a Pepsi or Coke. If you ask somebody to name a CBD brand or let’s say a wine brand, if you walk into a wine store, you’re going to see a massive assortment of different wines. I think that’s probably the path that the CBD category will take. There will be a lot of small brands, there’ll be a few large brands that will emerge, but there will be a lot of small brands that have either unique positioning, unique benefits, or unique consumer followings. One of the things that has been really interesting about this category, because I’ve worked in a lot of categories where a brand loyalty wasn’t that high and promotion was used as a tactic to drive consumers switching. And what we’ve seen is that consumers that try and brand the repeat purchase if they’re satisfied and many are satisfied, most are satisfied in this category. The repeat purchase levels are very high. So for our eCommerce customers that have their own brands, we don’t see many returns at all. And we see very high repeat purchase levels.

Adrian Tennant:     Now you mentioned that you’re working with several retailers on private label. What advice do you generally have for clients who are considering entering the CBD market with a new product?

Michael Law:        So let’s talk about retailers first. If you’re a retailer and you want to be in the CBD business, I would say be in the CBD business. Have a significant amount of assortment. My advice is that you should have all CBD products in one central location. If you move them into their various subcategories, I think it’s going to be hard for the consumer to know that you’re in the category. My recommendation would be to have all of the CBD products in one location. You can have secondary locations, for example, in the , pain relief aisle for the appropriate products. But I would still have a home location that is, has got everything together. That way you’re concentrating, um, the opportunity for education. I think that you should have in store signage and pamphlets and other forms of consumer education that are, are going to address the most frequently asked questions that consumers might have either on a new brand or on the category itself. I think having it all in one location allows the opportunity to have an in store educator nearby. There are some great best practices from smaller natural food stores and health food stores where there’s an in-aisle educator that comes right to you immediately when you enter the aisle. They come right to you and ask if they can answer any questions for you on the category that also retailers are going to be very concerned about shrink. Shrink is a term for loss – product that leaves the store without being paid for. Retailers, if they have an in-aisle educator, they’re going to have eyes on the product and they can ensure that they keep shrink to a minimum. Some of the larger retailers that are now entering the category have gotten very limited assortment and they’re putting everything in a lockup case similar to what you may see in some retailers for expensive razor blades where you actually have to get somebody from the store to come and unlock the case for you to access the products.

I think that retailers like that will sell some product, but they’re not optimizing the opportunity. I think the profit potential in this category is massive and I think it would be worthwhile investing in in-store educators in high volume stores so that you can have a broad assortment and have somebody that can drive consumer education and that’ll help drive conversion. Because once you get that consumer, once they make their first purchase at a given retail location, that product then becomes the destination where they go or that that retailer becomes the destination where they go for that product.

Adrian Tennant:     Right. And you mentioned that Eagle Labs manufactures skincare products. Are there any special CBD cosmetic marketing considerations?

Michael Law:        Absolutely. There are a lot of opportunities. Because the category hasn’t been regulated yet, it’s difficult to make claims. I think consumers are doing their own research. Consumers are looking at CBD as a potential product that’s got anti-inflammatory benefits. So there are a wide range of skincare benefits. Hemp seed oil, which is not CBD but it’s from the same plants just from pressing the seeds has got a lot of skincare benefits as a moisturizer. There’s a couple of key paths within CBD: one is the more medical side where you’re looking to help consumers with a health and wellness issue. And then there’s the cosmetic side as you said, where there may be a lot of skincare benefits that they can come from having CBD as an ingredient.

Adrian Tennant:     So what excites you most about working with CBD products?

Michael Law:        That’s a really easy one. I think the growth potential. So if I’ve got a two-pronged answer, I would say the growth potential and the reported health claims from consumers and the potential for a regulated category that is going to uncover significant  consumer health benefits from CBD at the right levels and the right level of quality. So the first is just I’ve worked in a lot of categories that were static, they didn’t have any growth and that’s when you see traditional consumer packaged goods categories that are struggling for growth, you see a disproportionate focus on promotion and that’s when you get the massive amount of coupons and free-standing inserts in the Sunday papers and all kinds of discounts and shelf tags. This category doesn’t really need that. There’s so much growth potential and I’ve never worked in a category that has the potential to grow five to ten times in the next three, four years. Let’s say that there’s a lot of research that says it will be 20 billion [dollars] – if it’s half of that, that’s still a massive amount of growth. And then on the other side, as I mentioned, the health benefits, the reported health benefits that consumers are conveying anecdotally and through the repeat purchases are just phenomenal and so I’m excited for the research to catch up with where consumers already perceive the benefits and I think that will really unlock the next level of growth in this category.

Adrian Tennant:     That’s great. Thank you, Michael. For more information about Eagle Labs, how can our listeners find you?

Michael Law:        I can be reached by email at Michael.Law@EagleLabsInc.com. You can see our brand website at IMPIRICA.co and for any of your listeners that are interested, I’m happy to offer a special discount of 50% off your first purchase if you use the code BIGEYE at the checkout.

Adrian Tennant:     That’s great. I know our listeners are going to be really excited about that. Thank you very much, Michael. 

Michael Law:        Real pleasure. Thank you. 


Adrian Tennant:     Three things that stood out to me during the conversation with Michael… Firstly, he believes that retailers would do better to have all products containing CBD in one aisle location rather than having them scattered throughout the store. In the various subcategories we heard from Michael that consumer satisfaction with CBD is high and the brand loyalty is correspondingly higher in this category compared with OTC products. And finally, I think Michael underlined the importance of working with CBD marketing experts who know how to get products stocked by retailers and avoid a promotion or sales discounting strategy. Thank you to our guest, Michael Law of Eagle Labs contract manufacturing in SaintPetersburg, Florida. You’ve been listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising, produced by Bigeye. If you have questions or comments about the content of today’s show, please email us at info@bigeyeagency.com, and if you have ideas for topics that you’d like us to cover, please let us know. You’ll also find a transcript of today’s show on our website at Bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” For IN CLEAR FOCUS, I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Thank you for listening. And until next week, goodbye.

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In Clear Focus: Insights-Led Marketing Strategy

In Clear Focus this week: Bigeye’s senior strategist Dana Cassell joins host Adrian Tennant to discuss the role that strategy plays within a marketing and communications agency. Dana offers case studies highlighting how consumer insights and audience research can be applied to differentiate brands from their competition, plus practical tips and career advice for anyone seeking to enter the advertising industry.

In Clear Focus: Insights-Led Marketing Strategy

In Clear Focus this week: Bigeye’s senior strategist Dana Cassell joins host Adrian Tennant to discuss the role that strategy plays within a marketing and communications agency. Dana shares case studies highlighting how consumer insights and audience research can be applied to differentiate brands from their competition, plus practical tips and career advice for anyone seeking to enter the advertising industry.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant:     You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising produced by Bigeye. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of insights at Bigeye. For those of you who don’t know us, Bigeye is an audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency. We’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Providing audience research, branding, creative, media, and analytics services. Thank you for choosing to spend time with us today. For this episode, it’s my pleasure to be joined by Dana Cassell, Bigeye’s senior strategist. Dana has been with Bigeye almost a decade and focuses on consumer behavior, interpreting the results of findings from primary and secondary research. Dana synthesizes data into actionable insights that help Bigeye’s clients build strategically differentiated brands. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Dana.

Dana Cassell:       Thank you. Glad to be here.

Adrian Tennant:     What does your role as senior strategist at Bigeye look like? Describe a day in the life, if you will.

Dana Cassell:       I love that question, “What does a day in the life look like?” I spend a lot of time on-site with clients in a discovery meeting. So, generally at the beginning of an engagement with a client, we have an on-site day where we have the leadership team in the room and our team in the room. And the first half of that discovery is a strategic discovery and we’re working on things like a SWOT analysis, key messages, understanding of the target current state of affairs. So I’m generally leading that conversation. I like to think of myself as a client advocate, so I’m basically trying to get myself up to speed and understand where they are in the business, what they’re trying to do. So I do a lot of that and I like a lot of that. I’m also on calls with clients a lot catching up on those types of items. And then the kind of other half of what I do is staring at the computer screen, blinking cursor by myself because I do a lot of documentation. So if we have a strategic engagement, I’m going to be documenting that entire discovery process and setting forth the strategic plan to move forward. So I’m either kind of with everybody or by myself. I like both of those pieces.

Adrian Tennant:     So what are some of the most common challenges you see clients facing today?

Dana Cassell:       I think differentiation is a challenge. In the, in the global economy, you know, there’s just not really a new idea anymore. So a lot of our clients have a solid product, they have a great internal organization and they’ve just either lost market share or other newer competitors have come on the scene and they’re having trouble differentiating. We also see a lot of lack of understanding of the audience. So maybe an organization, a client might have known their audience 10 years ago. They did a lot of research, they had a better understanding and they’ve just grown and changed since then. So they just haven’t, not a modern understanding of their audience. So I think that’s a challenge a lot of people see. Another one I see is our clients having trouble getting to a place where they can be more strategic rather than reactive. And that’s generally in my assessment, kind of – it’s like a legacy problem. So the organization just runs a certain way and the marketing team can’t catch up and get far enough ahead that they have time to breathe and be strategic. So it’s like the weight of the organization is forcing them to be reactive. It’s not that they’re not strategic thinkers, they are, they just don’t have permission internally to push pause on being reactive and move into a more strategic place. And I think often we help in those engagements because we can come into the room with the C-suite and make the case for why reactivity is not the best marketing strategy.

Adrian Tennant:     So that being said, if you’re a new challenger brand, I’m looking to gain market share in a category with an established brand leader, how can strategy help?

Dana Cassell:       I think the audience understanding and insight is, is a key piece of that game. There are industries where the leading brand is taking their position for granted and they don’t really have deepened relationships with their consumers. And that’s always an area of opportunity. I think we’ll probably also talk, I’m hoping we’ll talk about direct-to-consumer today. That’s another great example of ways that challenger brands are gaining market share sort of by a really deep specific understanding of their audience and an extremely clear focus. So I think new challengers that really get the audience have a singular focus and do that thing well, have a great opportunity to gain some market share.

Adrian Tennant:     Great answer. Strategy can seem a bit abstract. What do tangible deliverables from strategy planning typically look like?

Dana Cassell:       That’s a great question. So target market analysis is often one that we’ll deliver and this is related to audience and audience insights. So we’ll work with a client to understand primary, secondary, tertiary audiences. We’ll develop brand personas, key messages for those targets, where we find them in media, what their consumer behaviors like. So we kind of blowout a big profile of those target markets. So that kind of analysis is a real actionable deliverable. Often key messages is a piece of that. So I really like the kind of four-by-four model where we have four things that we like to say about the brand over and over maybe four words long that everybody in the organization can get behind. These are like little memorable key nuggets about a brand that we can work into. Public relations interviews we can use in social content we might use in our email signature. I love helping a brand kind of come up with these key messages that are like part of their identity, something everybody can understand and start to be a driver for a brand. So I often like to work in key messages. We’ll also make key messages as part of that target market strategy. So what are the key messages that resonate most with each message, each segment of that target market? Sometimes a platform analysis is a good one too. So we’ll have clients that are involved in a variety of social media and this is something I love to do as a strategist. So we’ll get a client that is doing a lot of social media and none of it beautifully. And I get the opportunity to kind of go in and consume all of that data, all that content they’ve been putting out over the years and understand what’s been working and resonating. I love looking at the data behind social platforms and coming back and being able to say, “the good news is you’ve been doing too much and we have an opportunity to narrow your focus and then really do what you’re doing well.” So platform analysis as a tangible deliverable. And then content planning is another one that happens often we’ll see organizations that are they know strategically what they need to be doing, but then the tactics of how to execute that strategy. So often one of my strategic deliverables will be a plan for creating and deploying content. So strategic recommendations on what types of categories are going to work best on their different platforms. So what should their blog focus over the next year be? What should their outbound marketing focuses be? So that content planning roadmap, that happens a lot too.

Adrian Tennant:     I’m really interested to know how you get up to speed on a new client industry. Have you got a particular process that you’d like to share with us?

Dana Cassell:       Sure. I’m just an avid consumer of that brand. I just try to think of myself as obsessed, kind of brand obsessed, and I’ll just literally sit at my computer and absorb everything I can find about them online. And then I do that for any brand that thinks they’re a competitor or any brand that they think is a competitor. And then also aspirational brands. So this is a question I love to ask clients. What are brands that you think are similar to yours that are killing it? And it might not be in their same market and might not be in their same service, but a brand that it’s like, I really like the way they do business, so then I’ll go absorb everything I can about those brands. And if they don’t have an idea of who those are, I probably have an idea of who this might be for them. So I like doing that. And then I’m also a data nerd at heart, which I would encourage anybody who wants to be a strategist to become a data nerd at heart. I love to go look at whatever data they want to give us. So one of my favorite places to start is with good old Google Analytics to understand what’s happening on their digital platforms. Sales data. I don’t know, I just, I like to… Annual reports, gosh, I love annual reports. Am I the only one maybe?

Adrian Tennant:     I think you might be, Dana.

Dana Cassell:       I love a good annual report. So I just consume all of the data, you know, and then I do a lot of listening so I love to read and then I love to hear from them. That’s kinda how I get up to speed. I also like to read things like job descriptions to learn how the brand thinks about the people they want working with them. So that’s a little hacks to learn how the brand thinks about themselves.

Adrian Tennant:     Some really good strategic tips there, I liked them. Thank you. Dana, what brands do you most admire – and why?

Dana Cassell:       This is a great question. I love this. I feel like I can answer in lots of different ways. So I like to think of Southwest Airlines and Publix as the same brand in my head and they’re kind of big ones and obvious ones that a lot of people love. So it’s maybe a bit of a cliche answer, but the things that I love about them are, I believe them and I believe in authenticity and transparency. I just don’t think there’s a way in 2019, 2020 to live in a non-transparent way for long. So these are brands that I think have been being super transparent for a long time. They have people who are happy to work there, which I think is a real key to long-term success is internal culture. So I think they’re doing that really well. And I also think they are trying to be exactly who they are. So they’re in a growth mindset as a brand. Neither of them are giving up market share anywhere, but they’re also not trying to be something that they’re not. So I love that about them. They’re authentic, they have happy customers, they know who they are and they’re living into that identity. So I really liked that about those brands.

Adrian Tennant:     I should just explain for any listeners that are not based in the Southeast of the United States, Publix Supermarkets, the leading supermarket for sure in our region, privately held, and a Fortune 100 company.

Dana Cassell:       Right. And originally a Floridian brand, now found widely across the Southeast and likely in a Northern market near you soon because like I said, they have a growth mindset.

Adrian Tennant:     That’s meant to be a secret, I think. Not really, worst-kept secret now.

Dana Cassell:       I love the Grocery Wars. Honestly, what’s happening in the grocery stores is great. We were talking about this for banking yesterday, following the way that grocery stores are moving Northern brands to the South, Southern brands to the North, and then expansion into the Midwest is a great case study for any industry that is looking to gain market share in a volatile environment. Because grocery is about loyalty. It’s grossly about consumer behavior. And it’s just a really fascinating idea to watch how grocery stores move into markets where they’re, they’re not, they’re markets of origin. I love groceries.

Adrian Tennant:     Excellent. So what do you think about the success of direct-to-consumer brands, such as Dollar Shave Club, StitchFix, Casper, Warby Parker, Barkbox… there are many, many, many to choose from. What do you think about them?

Dana Cassell:       I love it. This why, I love it. So it’s not, it’s not dissimilar from the Southwest and Publix idea. These brands are singularly focused on doing one thing really well. Warby Parker is going to deliver glasses that you’ll love, that you have control over the experience. I love that Casper mattresses, it’s a focused effort. They know who they are, they know what they’re going to do well and they’re not going to do anything beyond that until they can do it well. So that’s not to say that DTC can’t expand and grow their service line. They can, but they’re doing it in a way that feels authentic to the brand. And also all of these brands that you’re mentioning are obsessed with consumer experience and I think that’s been the key to their success. So the whole idea that there’s this user-generated content library of people unboxing mattresses, this is like watching paint dry! I mean unboxing a mattress theoretically couldn’t be a more boring thing! This has taken over the Internet. I think it’s amazing, but they’ve created a user experience that is engaging people in a category I don’t think anybody would have predicted. So I love that they also have streamlined billing. I think this is really important, now in our mobile environment, in our Apple pay environment, that the billing process is smooth and simple and transparent and these brands are doing that really well. They’re also giving people choice and control. So any sort of subscription direct-to-consumer brand that cannot be customized or that you feel like you’re going to lose control of your credit card or you’re going to be billed in a month. “I didn’t know I was going to be built. Oh, you know, I’m frustrated.” It doesn’t last. You know, that will work for a few months until somebody realizes that charges recurring and then they’re not only quitting, they’re also not a brand advocate. So what I love about these brands that you mentioned, Dollar Shave Club, you’re getting an email every month that says, “Hey, your box is about to ship. Do you wanna make any changes? Do you need this box?” And if you don’t skip a month or skip three months, they’re giving control to the consumer. And I think that’s just building trust and loyalty.

Adrian Tennant:     So these are all great lessons that we can learn from DTC brands.

Dana Cassell:       Yeah. And simplify, you know, they’re all, that’s what I was starting with the idea of being focused, knowing who you are, knowing what you’re doing. If the business is complicated and you’re on the inside, imagine how that feels from the outside.

Adrian Tennant:     That’s a great point. Well, let’s change gears. Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get to where you are today?

Dana Cassell:       Hmm. Okay. So, um, I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and I don’t know when this started, but I think I always wanted to be an advertising because I really can’t remember a time that I didn’t. I have this four-H project from third grade, I’m left-handed. And it was called living in a right-handed world and it was an advocacy base about the challenges of being left-handed. Scissors can openers, it’s a right handed world. So I had this presentation that I loved and it was just this like little piece, understanding the way that it feels to be in the world and being a consumer of right-handed things as a left-handed person. And I look back and think that might’ve been my first piece of consumer research. So I think I was kind of always into it. And then I was looking for universities that had advertising as a field of study and I was not impressed with an advertising school that would send their materials in a white envelope that laid on my dining room table with all the other college envelopes. And then SMU – that’s Southern Methodist in Dallas – sent me their piece and it was what I wanted it to be. It was shiny and brilliant and well done. And it looked totally different when we threw it on the table. And my parents had drawn this radius on the map of two-hour flights and Dallas was right on the edge of the two-hour flight line. So I thought we should do it. So I went to school in Dallas at the Timberland Institute and had a wonderful time there. They have a relationship with The Richards Group, which was amazing as a student. And then graduate school in Austin studying consumer behavior where I had the opportunity to work on a team that was rebranding the university. They ask a few grad students in the ad program to help rebrand the university. And we came up with that tagline, “What starts here changes the world,” which was first recorded by Walter Cronkite, which was just an amazing experience and still can be found on football sometimes today. My dad calls when he hears it. So that was neat and I was able to document that process as my thesis. So that was a really fun experience and just kind of confirmed my love of advertising and branding. And then I always worked then, so that was 2004 when I graduated. It was kind of the boom of monetizing the dotcom. So I worked for a local newspaper as they were trying to figure out how to make money on their dotcom and got some really cool opportunities to collaborate with sales and technology and really start to understand the data that drives websites and how you can translate that data into sales and also leverage audience understanding and the use of a website to target advertising. So that was a very cool time to be in that world and it wasn’t as big then as it is now. So I was in analytics and I got a crash course in analytics, loved that and then moved into strategy after that. I think strategy and digital analytics are very closely linked. It’s a just a great place to start when you don’t know where else to start. So that’s been kind of my journey. I’ve been in analytics and consumer behavior and strategy since then.

Adrian Tennant:     So as you know, we have a very active intern program at Bigeye. What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue a career in brand planning or strategy?

Dana Cassell:       I think to have a growth mindset is really important because it’s always changing. The entire field is always changing. And to be somebody who is interested in learning every day and as much as there are common elements among our clients for strategic difficulty, everything is unique. Every client need and strategy is new. So to be able to grow and change except what you don’t know and go figure out what you need to know, I think that’s really important. So growth mindset, obsession with data. I’ve said it a few times. It’s my experience that some people, and there are even some holdovers in academics, that advertising is a creative endeavor and that means it’s an artistic endeavor and that that’s sort of like not congruent with data analysis, math. And I think that’s totally inaccurate. And I think data is creative and I think it’s really, really important to understand. And I think our creative team here would tell you that a data-driven creative approach is central to our philosophy. So obsession with data, growth mindset. Also, I think a solid business background. A lot of what I end up doing could be business consulting work. And I love that. You know, I love the Bigeye wants to get their hands in that. It’s not like, Oh, that’s not proper advertising. We’re not interested. Marketing and operations are closely linked, although I will say every day of my life, great marketing can’t fix operational challenges. We have to get the operations intact. By being able to understand that as a strategist is really important. So I think a little bit of business background is helpful and to enjoy problem solving. I’m a gameplayer. I love solving problems, doing puzzles, riddles. If somebody tell me a “knock, knock” joke and doesn’t give me time to try to figure it out, it makes me crazy. It’s like holding in a sneeze. So, you know, I think being a problem solver as another piece of that.

Adrian Tennant:     So again, thinking about our interns at Bigeye, what kinds of resources would you point them towards to help them?

Dana Cassell:       People. I was thinking about this. I had an amazing copywriter professor in undergrad who wrote the GI Joe “Real American Hero” jingle and also, “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” So he was a really neat professor who inspired me and gave me a different way to think about advertising. And I can think about my first boss that gave me permission to understand the Internet and the way that it worked and how that impacted advertising. That was a lot, that was a lot. There was a time where being on social media at work was not a thing, you know, and so to have offices that understood that while it didn’t seem like the right thing to do at might be. And then I can also think about people in the industry who inspired me to think differently about strategy. So I really think the best resources that I’ve had have been people and that is also like a life strategy of my own to find someone who’s a step ahead of me that I really admire. Look, aspirational brand – I do it in my personal life and understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it and just seek their wisdom. So yeah – people.

Adrian Tennant:     Excellent. You’re so on-brand – your own brand!

Dana Cassell:       Thank you!

Adrian Tennant:     So what is one common myth about working in advertising that really needs to be debunked?

Dana Cassell:       Yeah, so I think this one is that it’s super cut-throat, and every man for themselves, and unbelievably competitive, and it can’t be trusted. I think there’s this idea that it’s kind of all one big kind of battlefield in a way. I have not experienced that in 18 years of working in the industry. Obviously, there are some places that feel that way, but for me the best work I’ve ever done has been highly collaborative, very team-oriented. I have a personal philosophy that it’s very hard for me to work with people if I don’t have a connection. You know, I like to have a personal connection with the people I’m making these big decisions for brands with. So I have never been in an environment in advertising and done great work and that be the case. So I find advertising very collaborative, friendly, helpful – you know, the best work happens when there’s somebody from research, planning, creative, digital, everybody at the table working together.

Adrian Tennant:     That’s great. So what have you read or listened to recently that really inspired you?

Dana Cassell:       I’m an avid podcast consumer, so I listen all the time and I have this wide variety of podcasts I listen to. But I think something recently that inspired me was Tal Ben-Shahar on “Armchair Expert,” which is Dax Shepherd’s podcast. So Dax is married to Kristen Bell and he, I mean in his own right, was Crosby on “Parenthood.” He’s done lots of wonderful things, but he has this really interesting background in anthropology and psychology. And so he has this podcast about a year-and-a-half old and Tal Ben-Shahar was on recently. So he is a PhD-educated, Harvard-educated lecturer and just intellectual thought-leader. And he famously held the record for having the two largest classes in the history of Harvard at one point. And they’re all on positive psychology and happiness and leadership. And I love this because it’s data-driven approach because it’s a PhD style of learning and it’s about the impact of positivity on life and on the bottom line. So I really love this about him and I just found his time with Dax really inspiring because he just talks a lot about organizational leadership. And it’s like a data-driven approach to happiness, which I think there’s so much in the zeitgeist about positive affirmation. I love all of that, but I also love that there’s like data behind this idea of the power of happiness for economic success, like corporate kind of branding success. I don’t know. I really liked him.

Adrian Tennant:     Excellent. Well, I’ll make sure that we include a link to that podcast in the show notes. (NOTE: the podcast Dana referred to can be accessed directly at: https://armchairexpertpod.com/pods/tal-ben-shahar)

Dana Cassell:       Okay. I can’t be held responsible for everything Dax says, okay?

Adrian Tennant:     Understood.

Dana Cassell:       Okay.

Adrian Tennant:     So finally, Dana, what does having a CLEAR FOCUS mean to you?

Dana Cassell:       Having a CLEAR FOCUS to me means knowing who you are because I don’t think it’s a given that we all know where we’re going next. I think it’s really important that if we know who we are, we can figure out where we’re headed.

Adrian Tennant:     Deep…

Dana Cassell:       Maybe?


Adrian Tennant:     Dana, it’s been a real pleasure. Thank you to our guest, Dana Cassell, senior strategist at Bigeye. You’ve been listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising. Produced by Bigeye. If you have questions about the content of today’s show, please contact us at info@bigeyeagency.com. You’ll also find a transcript of today’s show on our website at bigeyeagency.com. I’m Adrian Tennant. Thank you for listening. Until next time, goodbye.

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