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Podcast: Data, Psychology, Manipulation, and Mojo in Marketing w/ Doug Kessler

NetWise Dec 1, 2021 5:40:19 PM

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Show Notes:

Oh look, we wrangled another guest into the Data Basement! Adam and Mark had the pleasure of talking with Doug Kessler recently. Doug is the Creative Director and Co-Founder of Velocity Partners and Board Member at CLEAR Global. He's a displaced Yank who started his career at Ogilvy & Mather, New York but left to kill it in the B2B advertising world. And that's exactly what he's been doing.
 
A few highlights from the conversation:
  • There has to be trust in advertising. Is data acquired fairly? There are only about 5% of creeps who misuse data.
  • There's a lot of misinformation attached to data. Once you get behind the scenes, the people you find are well intentioned and want the best outcomes.
  • Having data makes your ad experience more relevant.
  • Even the waiter at the diner profiles you when he says, "Hey Bob, how's the family? Do you want the usual today"?
  • Kerpelman's Marketing Utopia - You only have to see things you are interested in when you're interested in seeing them.
  • Every generation reacts to data collection differently. Grandma is way more skeptical than your sister in college.
  • Data is people talking to you telling you what they want and like. It's malpractice to not listen.
  • People feel comfortable with first party data. Third party data creeps people out.
  • Content marketing can look like an ad in disguise if not done properly but has dissolved into the mainstream of B2B marketing.
  • If you make good content, the rest of it doesn't matter. The first Dollar Shave ad several years back is a good example (see link below).
  • Stand up and believe in something instead of pushing your product features. Stand out. Find your mojo.
  • Don't sell people, enchant them.
  • More B2B folks could use B2C background to understand the emotional side of branding.
  • Resonate with people who are like you because they care about the same things.
  • It's refreshing if you can speak to your audience with confidence, attitude and energy.
  • Quote from Doug's lazy middle school teacher: "Good job but too many examples." 😥😪. If she could only see Doug now.

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Transcript:

Adam Kerpelman:

And it's more like saving memories and stuff. I think you could probably tell from my background, there's all kinds of stuff going on here. My wife just feels uncomfortable in my office. She's like, "This is so much clutter."

Mark Richardson:

And Doug, you got a guitar there. I love good Zoom rooms. I think that's the place to hoard stuff and fronting.

Adam Kerpelman:

I think the key in the end is an awareness that there is a point at which it is junk, and to tread that line. I do call occasionally, and it's usually, I can't remember where that came from and we're moving or something like that. And like, "This can go now-"

Doug Kessler:

Calls are great. Calls are-

Adam Kerpelman:

"... now, if I can't even remember where it came from."

Doug Kessler:

Yeah, absolutely. When you pick it up. And I think meaning drains away from objects. It's fresh. "We just got back from Italy, and look at it. So, it's something like ..." And it's fresh. It's full of meaning. And the meaning literally drains out of it. And one day you pick it up eight years later, it's like, "What the hell is this thing?" Then it's junk.

Adam Kerpelman:

Hey everybody. It's the Data-driven Marketer, sponsored by NetWise. I'm Adam.

Mark Richardson:

I'm Mark.

Doug Kessler:

Welcome from Doug.

Adam Kerpelman:

Welcome back for another hang in the data basement. Thanks for joining us, and special thanks to our guest this week, Doug Kessler, who is creative director and co-founder of Velocity Partners. This is the point where I'll just throw it to you, Doug, to give us a little bit about your background and how you ended up at Velocity and in marketing, et cetera.

Doug Kessler:

Wait. You're making me do my own intro. Is that what you're saying? All right, lazy guy. I'll do my own intro. So, I started at ... I was an ad guy in junior high. I knew I had to be an ad guy. I was really into advertising. Really weird. I even did a paper on the use of water in menthol cigarette ads, and it was the coolest project. So, right out of college, went to Ogilvy New York, Madison Avenue. It was the whole scene. I loved it. And then got the B2B bug weirdly. I felt a little bit silly doing consumer marketing. I was on Dove, and they said, it's a beauty bar. It's not soap. And I just thought, "Oh, really?"

Doug Kessler:

I just couldn't really do consumer marketing. And so, we had the AT&T account, learned about computers, like, "This is cool." And I became B2B, never looked back, and ended up moving to London, and with Stan Woods, started Velocity, which is all B2B tech and got in early on the content marketing boom, and rode that. So, we've had a really fun ride and now got all sorts of clients that we absolutely love across the piece in B2B tech.

Adam Kerpelman:

So, that was way better than, than what would've been my mechanical bio read.

Doug Kessler:

All right. Okay.

Adam Kerpelman:

Although in the course of the read, I might have been able to refer to one of my ... I was doing my due diligence before we started chatting, looking at your LinkedIn profile. And I liked that your first couple jobs, you just list your position as suit.

Doug Kessler:

I was at. At Ogilvy, I was a suit, as an account, and it was an ill-fitting suit in every sense of the word.

Mark Richardson:

What did you find as your main ... Besides the squishiness of branding in B2C, what was it that really helped you or made you think, "I need to pivot to the B2B space?"

Doug Kessler:

You know what? A part of it was, I felt a little bit dirty about manipulating people. I got on a fabric softener account, also Lever Brothers brothers. And the strategy boiled down to, "Be a good mother. Use this fabric softener." And I thought, "Oh man, you're manipulating women who already feel like some sensitivities about whether they're a good mom, and you're going to use that to sell this junk, which you don't even need it. It's fabric softener. It's so disposable." So, I just didn't feel good. Actually, I was a little bit naive. I think I was harsher than I might have been, but I just didn't feel right about it. So, I prefer to convince somebody to do something.

Adam Kerpelman:

Yeah. I think we actually talk about it frequently here, because it's something that comes up in the data space. I have my own ... The company that we work for here that sponsors the podcast ultimately helps with B2B audience targeting. And in the B2B space, I feel way better about the idea of, "Here are the things you can do with the data." And that's interesting, and the target getting, because in business, everybody wants to be better at business, and they want to grow their business, and everybody wants to make money at their job. So, it's a very different playing field than the idea of pulling consumer targeting information that starts to get weird and political and sometimes very sketchy if you don't follow the right rules.

Adam Kerpelman:

So, we are very specifically focused on B2B with our company. So, it's very clean in that way. You can keep it compliant, you can follow the rules, and you can feel good about what you're doing and enabling in the data space without the creepiness of what has become the political discourse around tracking and all that kind of stuff.

Doug Kessler:

It's funny you say that, because I never do ... I look at all the Facebook blow up things, and I never really think that's the same business I'm in, but you're right. In a way, we are using data this way, I suppose. So, obviously, I want more relevance. If you're going to advertise to me, I want you to know who I am. I don't want the junk that has nothing to do with me. I guess that applies my consumer life too, but it's just, "Were they fair and open about how they got it?" I just want that trust.

Mark Richardson:

It's so weird how we have this connotation of marketers and advertisers as like, 1984 big brother, "We're watching your every move, your every decision," et cetera. And then you actually talk to the marketers, and we're all really good, empathetic-

Doug Kessler:

Nice people.

Mark Richardson:

... creative people. We're nice, empathetic for the most part, and inspiring storytellers. I felt like you had a great piece about work demanding creativity in the search for meaning piece that you wrote, which is really, really cool. Highly recommend folks, check that out. We'll link it in the show notes. Sorry. And yeah, I find it so fascinating that there's all this just weird universe of misinformation, propaganda, all that that's attached to data and the controversies that's erupted. But you get behind the scenes, and the people that are activating the systems are generally really well-intended and want the best outcomes like you talk about in that piece.

Doug Kessler:

It is funny, because I think a lot of us object to what they're doing. They're collecting this data, and why they're doing it is like, "Oh, that's all right. Yeah. Advertise to me. That's not so bad." I know once you've got the data, there are some other horrible uses for it." And so, clearly we have to be on guard that way. But yeah. What's weird is that I'm long enough in this profession that the equivalent for me when I got into advertising was psychology. That was this big dark thing. Like, "They're using psychology." There was a book called the Hidden Persuaders. It was really big.

Doug Kessler:

And it was like, "They're intentionally using psychology to make us buy things." It was this big uproar. I read the book, and I'm thinking, "Of course, they're using psychology. Why wouldn't anyone use psychology?" It was just such a silly-

Mark Richardson:

Yeah. It's almost like academic. We're either talking about it or we're doing something with it, and people get mad when you do something with it, and like, "Oh, you've got all this information. You know my psychographics. You know this and that, my whole cookie trail." And we're like, "Wait, in a way, that's good. In a way, that makes the ad experience more relevant." But it does have that dark potential under belly that we're always suspicious of.

Adam Kerpelman:

It's also just not any different than things ... Not to immediately jump down too deep a philosophical rabbit hole, but that's what we're here for.

Doug Kessler:

Go for [crosstalk 00:08:24].

Adam Kerpelman:

It's not any different than what you do in person, right?

Doug Kessler:

Yeah, exactly.

Adam Kerpelman:

But when we move into the digital sphere and we can quantify things, everything feels weird. But if I meet somebody at a networking event, I make a bunch of instant judgments to try to talk about whatever. And the reason people like graphic t-shirts is because it keeps me from having to make a judgment. I can just immediately go, "Spray stain, huh?" Now we got a thing," and it's like, "I didn't have to track you. You told me," but now we have a thing we can talk about. And then it turns into the stories. And especially if you're at a networking event, it becomes the story of why we should connect professionally. And everybody's happy.

Doug Kessler:

You go over to shop-

Adam Kerpelman:

Nobody goes, "You just tracked my interest in Bruce Springsteen by looking at my shirt. Gross."

Doug Kessler:

That's right. You go into your local shop, and if he forgets you and doesn't know, it's, "Hey Doug, how's it going?" And knows what you want buy. You expect that. And I think the data world has [crosstalk 00:09:19]

Mark Richardson:

The usual. Give me the usual, right?

Doug Kessler:

Yeah, exactly. We haven't made the case back in the world. It's like, "First of all, it's not your fucking data. You're on my website. It's my fucking data. You visit here, and it's my job to figure out what you want. That's what I do here." And I know there are plenty of moral lines that are crossed along the way, but some of this is like, "Come on, grow up. This is how business works.

Adam Kerpelman:

Well, you're allowed to guess and be right, but you're not allowed to use tools that would help you. It makes it feel casino rules or something.

Doug Kessler:

That's right. You're not supposed to be wrong either. People aren't going to like the post-cookie era before they solve it when all the ads are utterly irrelevant. It's like, "Why are you showing me dog food? I don't have a dog." That will annoy people. People will remember what blind marketing was like.

Mark Richardson:

Yeah. It's like I'm searching for men's leather jacket, and I'm getting red women's shoes. It's like, "Okay, I'm in the clothing space." "Yeah. Yeah. You're right. I'm in market for clothing, but I want you to do better. I think you can do better."

Doug Kessler:

Well, that's the funny thing, because in the early days, it was like, "I looked at a blue dress, and now it all shows me the blue dresses following me around the internet." And even my mom knows how that works now. And now it's like, "Why aren't you showing me the blue dress?

Adam Kerpelman:

It's funny watching generation to generation. I remember there was a period where with my parents, they were totally comfortable with the idea that our address was in the Whitepages, but they were creeped out by Google Maps. And I think of that constantly, it's generation after generation, I think. I have, my youngest sister is 11 years younger than me, and when I ask her about issues of tracking and stuff, she is closer to expecting what I think is the marketing utopia that we talk about on the podcast sometimes, which is ultimately, I only ever have to see things that I would be interested in when I would be interested in them, and that's it.

Adam Kerpelman:

I don't have to have the experience of watching the next generation reruns and being subjected to all of these geriatric pharmaceutical ads that, "Hey, somebody out there needs that stuff," but I'm not there yet, and they don't know that. So, it's almost funny when you sit there and go, "Who do they think is watching this right now?"

Mark Richardson:

It's almost like [crosstalk 00:11:50].

Doug Kessler:

Right. It's always that. And it's funny that people are worried about the things they generally shouldn't be and are not at all worried about the things they should be panicking about. But I don't want to give marketers a free pass. There's been some bad stuff and some just sleazy stuff that's unnecessarily sleazy with data. And marketers have ruined it for people by doing that. So, really, if we'd all been straight, had integrity from the start, we'd probably be in a better place.

Mark Richardson:

It's usually [crosstalk 00:12:22]-

Adam Kerpelman:

[crosstalk 00:12:22] knock it off.

Mark Richardson:

... a small percentage. As with any community, I find it's that 5% of assholes that are just a part of any ... And we can cuss on here, I think.

Doug Kessler:

For sure.

Mark Richardson:

But you're going to have any good thing, whether it's a sports team, you're going to have a bad apple in the bunch. There's going to be somebody who's just more in it for themselves and less in it for the team. And I think you find that across industries, cross-

Adam Kerpelman:

Wikipedia.

Mark Richardson:

Wikipedia.

Adam Kerpelman:

Wikipedia's a great example of a place in the digital sphere where if you get the percentages right, you can keep the general pool clean, but you need that offset. You need to offset the 5% nefarious. You need at least 25% engaged in squashing the nefarious, I think.

Doug Kessler:

The funny thing is it's usually not so much black hats and white hats and bad guys and good guys. This is all evolving. This is new. And so, where the lines are isn't always that clear. And we've had clients say to us ... And I always say, "Well, where do you get that data?" And like, "Oh, I just scrape it off Facebook. It's really cool." They don't know, no, you can't do that. So, it's still early days. And so it's not like there's a clear, clear moral line. We're all trying to find it. And for the most part, everybody knows this thing runs on trust. We really don't want to betray that trust.

Doug Kessler:

You're right there are the jerks out there who don't care, hit and run, but most brands have something to lose, and they want to get it right.

Mark Richardson:

Yeah, they do. And I feel like a lot of that ... Now, we're in such a ... There's so many niches, there's so many specialized ways to attack the storytelling. Now, you've got your agencies. There's blockers put in place to make sure the budgets are being run properly. You've got your agency managers who are checking out privacy and all of the different components of targeting and addressability in your storytelling. I think that it's easy to get swallowed up in the nefarious behavior out there and lose sight of all the good content marketing and the good data collection that's going out there and helping people succeed in delivering great customer experiences or great products.

Doug Kessler:

At some point, it's professionalism. I think of data. It's not numbers. This is people talking to you. They're telling you what they want. They're telling you what they like, and it's malpractice not to listen, and to reflect what you learned in your subsequent activities. It just feels like basic professionalism to me.

Adam Kerpelman:

It's the thing that's actually come up with a number of our guests, that idea of if I could plaster on the wall in the office, it would just be data is people. Remembering that it's easy you to look at those analytics dashboards and stuff and forget that ultimately that data, whether explicit or implicit, it's people telling you what they want or how they feel about your brand or all that stuff. And so, that really ties together the whole idea that we call ... The podcast is called The Data-Driven Marketer, but that almost feels like a sneaky way to pull in the people that we're trying to remind of that humanity.

Adam Kerpelman:

Because what we end up talking about and most interested in talking about here is the aspect of, what it really is, is the collision of that data science software and the part of marketing that you just can never squash out. It's the equivalent of where engineering hits a product. And you have that thing of the user experience people are always there with the engineers clashing and the engineers are saying, "Well, the easiest way to do it would be this." And the UX people are going, "Yeah, but that's a crap way to do it, and people won't like it." Marketing and data science, it's the same thing.

Adam Kerpelman:

We have all kinds of interesting tools, but ultimately you're still trying to tell this human story. And so, you can learn things from the tools and you can have that guide your story, but you still end up with this thing at the end where you can't hire it completely for data. You've got to go back storytelling element and find the things that resonate on a human level with people. And that's not always mechanical, right?

Doug Kessler:

Yeah, absolutely. And sometimes a lot of the data tools are about optimizing. You start from a starting point and you get better and better and better. But it's like, "Well, what's that starting point?" You can't optimize from the ground up. You got to have an idea somewhere. You got to have the thought. And so, there surely still has to be this sense of empathy in it somewhere. I sometimes think some marketing ops flows are like, content is this colorless, odorless, liquid you pour into the machine and it'll work. But, no. They don't move from logic node in the nurture flow to that one, unless you do something to them. Unless you talk to them and make them listen and change their mind.

Doug Kessler:

Otherwise, they're staying right there. It's going to bounce off. And so, I always think it's a bit like multiplication. You got to have the great plumbing, but it's times great persuading is these great results. And if either one of those is zero, the result's going to be zero too.

Mark Richardson:

There's a great ... I don't know if you've read Robert Cialdini's book, Persuasion.

Doug Kessler:

Persuasion, yeah.

Mark Richardson:

Persuasion, right? He talks about the Hare Krishnas at the airport. It's like they give you the little flower, and there's this-

Doug Kessler:

Oh yeah, that's right.

Mark Richardson:

... expected reciprocity that, "Okay, you've given me this tiny, little flower. Now I need to sit and engage with you in conversation," right?

Doug Kessler:

Yeah. You give me a flower, I give you the rest of my life.

Mark Richardson:

Right.

Adam Kerpelman:

Right.

Doug Kessler:

"Thank you."

Adam Kerpelman:

We have a few of those conversations.

Mark Richardson:

And so, we think about, it's like I'm volunteering in a way the fact that I'm sharing with you my personality, my taste in music, my taste in art, my taste in photography. These are all things I'm volunteering to the internet, and we have the same now expectation of, if you're going to advertise to me, then I want you to show me a mirror, hold a mirror up to my behaviors, and tell me the story of your product through the lens that I've given you. I feel like that's-

Doug Kessler:

I guess it's first party data. We all probably feel comfortable with. It's like, I'm on your site. And Spotify's great for me, because it knows me. And I expect that. It's the third party stuff that starts getting people creeped out. And I have seen some models where it's like, I'm the consumer. I will hold my data and I will release it to you on as needed basis, but almost like I'll say if I want this website to know stuff about me in what it wants to know. And I like that idea of that control shifting, and I think that's got to happen really, because at some point the balance has to be struck.

Adam Kerpelman:

So, is that flower content marketing? Hard to [crosstalk 00:19:46] from the previous point.

Doug Kessler:

In the early days, it was. I think in the early days when content marketing was new, it was this massive advantage. Like, "Wait, you're giving me this e-book, man, just for me?" It's like, "Wow." And it's like, "Wow, it's full of advice. It's good for making my job better. I like you. I'll give you my time." And over time, I guess we're talking about marketers ruin everything. And in this way, content marketing, now it looks more like an ad transaction often, which is it's just an ad in other clothes. But those who do it right, great content brands, yeah, it is that flower.

Doug Kessler:

It's like, "Here, here. I want to help you. I'm going to add value here." If you like that flower ... It's not just a sentiment it, but if it helps you out, then you'll give me some more time. You earn it.

Adam Kerpelman:

Well, it's funny that we're here doing a sponsored podcast, because ultimately I frequently think of the idea of the Ovaltine radio hour or whatever it was. All of TV, everyone is really familiar with content marketing in a sense that's all of broadcast everything. Because until you evolve to the product placement aspect of things, we're really just trying to make some stuff, so that people will buy add to time on our network. Right?

Doug Kessler:

Right.

Adam Kerpelman:

It's just evolved in that space where everyone has the capacity to make that stuff now, to publish books that look just as good as the books from the fancy publishers, to make podcasts and sound like radio shows, videos, et cetera. And so, there's this emergent thing, but same thing I feel like I'm saying often. It's not really anything different. But I'm curious from your perspective, living and working through that evolution, is there a distinction for you that's clear between I guess content marketing and marketing content maybe would be the way to say it?

Doug Kessler:

Yeah. You know what? In a way, content marketing has dissolved into the mainstream of B2B marketing, for sure. It's just, imagine content-free marketing. It doesn't stack up. And for the beginning of content marketing, there was this apartheid of like, "We're not promotional. We are helpful. And that's what this is. And if you're going to promote, you're an ad, and you sit over there, and it's not part of this." I feel like, look, if you believe in your products and services, an ad is also a help to your audience. You're telling them something they ought to know.

Doug Kessler:

It's a continuum. And the amount of promotional content in any content, you dial up, you dial down, but it's the same thing. We're still in the same thing. And if your ads aren't helping someone do their job and you don't believe in your products, well, you got bigger problems than the line between content and promotion. For me, if you really believe in your stuff, it's all fair game, as long as it works.

Mark Richardson:

It's really interesting. I think that's a great way to segue this piece that I really love that is about searching for meaning in marketing. And you talked about your journey from a very large ad agency to starting your own company. And I think probably the autonomy, if I were to intuit, you probably enjoy a lot more autonomy now, but you probably have ... You're trading that off for headaches in a different direction. But it's interesting, the search for meaning in a field of ostensibly widgets ... You've got all these different products. A product is a product. To some people, a product is a lifestyle or a solution or a miracle for other people.

Mark Richardson:

And for me, the thing I always enjoy ... I started off this marketing journey in SEO, and the competition aspect really always gets me going. I'm a sports guy. I love out-ranking a competitor, beating them in search, things like that. For B2B, it's a little different. There's certainly rankings to conquer and auctions and all that fun stuff, but I feel like it's less about cannibalizing someone else's opportunity and really creating a sense of placement. Like finding, "Hey, how can we work together to achieve shared goals?" It's not about ... I don't know. Maybe that's not the right way to think about it, but ...

Doug Kessler:

It's not a zero-sum. I know what you mean. In some markets, it is cutthroat zero-sum, "I'm going to win. You're going to lose." In a lot of art clients, they're inventing something new. So, they're selling a new way of doing something. And it's less about head to head competition with someone doing the exact same thing. It's often about a substitute the way you're doing it now. Status quo and inertia tend to be the big obstacles. And for a lot of our clients, some note they're in a night fight on the street with one other vendor or two. But a lot of them, it's much more evangelize something to break the inertia and make people want to change and do something differently.

Adam Kerpelman:

Well, and one of the principle that always has served me the best throughout my career and evolution of all of this stuff is the algorithms and all that stuff. When you talk about SEO, sure, there are optimizations that you can apply. But in the end, they're still just trying to find the best answer for the query that somebody put into a search engine. And providing the best answer in the most friendly format, just making good content has never gone away as the thing that will actually win and be evergreen, because the algorithm is still going to be solving for good content.

Adam Kerpelman:

And it's really one of the things that Mark and I connected on early on, and Mark has gone further down the rabbit hole on the technical side, but we still come back to the same thing, which is, we just make good content. All the rest of it doesn't matter. And I think I can think of a lot of really specific use cases, things like that first Dollar Shave Club ad that really knocked it out of the park. That made that whole company. And all they were doing was standing out, because they had a creative ad that was easy to make for the creative founders.

Adam Kerpelman:

Or then I think about all the Nike Spike Lee ads and stuff. Nike was just one of the first brands that I was very aware of that was very clearly not selling shoes. It was just like, yeah, the shoes are there and stuff is happening, but then people end up talking about the ads, because the stuff is-

Mark Richardson:

It' selling cool-

Adam Kerpelman:

... compelling enough, and-

Mark Richardson:

It's cool factor.

Adam Kerpelman:

Right. And that ends up punching through all the other competitors who were there going, "Our shoes helped you jump the highest." Like-

Doug Kessler:

I know. I can't believe how ... It's so clear when you see that some real mojo and proper brand just leaps out. In Nike's world, like most consumer brand, they get this. Whether they're good at it or not, it's another thing, but they're in that game. Whereas in B2B, they don't ... Yet a lot of brands don't know they're in that game. And they'll think, "Oh, Nike can do that, because they're Nike." It's like, "No, they're Nike, because they did that. That's what made them Nike. And you can be the Nike of supply chain management or whatever it is if you just want to stand up and believe in something instead of hammering home your features."

Doug Kessler:

And just playing mojo can leap out of B2B markets, because people converge on the conventions of B2B so fast. It's like, "Let's all talk like this in any given market." And so anyone who says, "No, I don't want to talk like that," will really stand out.

Mark Richardson:

I love that. A lot of that goes to ... I keep coming back to Enchantment. Guy Kawasaki talks about, "Don't sell me, but enchant me." And full disclosure. This is my first time working in a purely B2B context. So, I come at this with a very B2C mindset. And so, it's really-

Doug Kessler:

That's a good thing. I wish more B2B folks had B2C mindsets. I think we're missing a trick and not getting the emotional side of brand. People go too far. The whole Simon Sinek, start with why and the meaning of a brand. And people will take that too far. Like, "We're saving the world one purchase order at a time." It's like, "No, you're not." So, you just took it too far. Like, can't you stand for something that's real? If it's about procurement, it's about waste. We hate waste. We just hate waste everywhere we see it, and that's why we do what we do. There's some reality there. There's some meaning in mojo, and it's not bullshit. So, it's finding that, that we love.

Doug Kessler:

That's what I love with our client work. It's like, what's the real thing going on here? Why does this matter? And if you can tap that, you get all sorts of different kinds of content. It's not just convince, convince, convince all the time. It's also, resonate with people who are like you, because they care about the same things. It's a different brief and it's way more fun.

Adam Kerpelman:

Well, like we've been talking about, there are humans at the end of that chain, even if it's B2B. And so yeah, consumers, you're trying to influence them directly, so they buy your product. B2B, like you said, it's this weird game of, there are humans there. And you're right. I do think a lot of times we forget about that part and the strength of, but what's the actual story? Because you could even have a subpar product, but if people believe in the story, and they get on board, and then you get that momentum going ... Like you said, the really interesting thing in B2B is how fast you can see the shift of ...

Adam Kerpelman:

I think with the internet, consumers are starting to react faster in that way. The shift of culture. It seems like the cycles, and every time Duran Duran gets popular again for six months, it's tightening up. It's faster every cycle. But in B2B, like you said, I think best way to track it is to see how quickly buzz terms start showing up in your webinars and meetings and stuff. It's somebody says the term "synergy," and somebody else likes it, and suddenly everybody's saying it. Now everybody's double clicking on things to drill down. And you can just browse TikTok endlessly for people making jokes about all the corporate lingo.

Adam Kerpelman:

But it really is an articulation of the quick flow of memes through ... And I mean memes from a academic standpoint, not stupid images with text. But you really can track the flow of memes through a business scenario and in the data, which, which ends up really interesting. But then I think people still don't apply that idea of, can we get our version of money? It's got to be the shoes, and then watch that flow through the B2B ecosystem. It's still a lot of, can we get people familiar with the idea of inbound marketing?

Doug Kessler:

Yeah, that's right.

Adam Kerpelman:

Does it feel if you have a cool mascot that everyone recognizes? Because that could work too.

Doug Kessler:

Exactly.

Mark Richardson:

With your clients, do you find that it's generally them coming to you saying, "Hey, we need to differentiate. We need to clarify our voice. Help us clarify our voice?" Or are you are the ones taking a look and auditing the space, saying, "Guys, you're saying the same thing everybody else is saying. We need you to differentiate?" How does that flow of information typically work at your company?

Doug Kessler:

A lot of our clients come to us for voice and differentiation, and we built the agency on that. We do our own marketing in a different way. And the people who resonate with that are like-minded marketers. So, we already are going to start a better place. So, a lot are coming, saying, "Help us stand out and help us find the voice and clarify the story." And sometimes it's like, "Help us grow." It's not as specific as that. And we would say, "Part of the problem here is your story's not very clear," or "Your voice is like everyone else's, and you've got an opportunity here."

Doug Kessler:

So, it can go either way, whether they've already identified voice and differentiation and mojo, we call it, as the thing missing, or we're the ones to mention mojo as the big differentiator. And in software markets, they converge quickly around features, and it's harder and harder to really leap out with the product itself. And so, mojo can be a massive differentiator. It can really be the difference. Someone who just talks with confidence, and attitude, and energy, and they love what they're doing, and they're playful, it's just refreshing. You want to do business with people like that.

Mark Richardson:

Totally.

Adam Kerpelman:

So, as happens with the best episodes of this, I have a bunch of notes left of things that I could have brought up along the way and wanted to, but the conversation didn't go there. So, we'll have to have you back for sure. We're almost out of time. The one I do want to hit though is to double all the way back to the beginning. What about water in menthol ads?

Mark Richardson:

Yes, I had that too.

Doug Kessler:

I noticed as a kid that menthol cigarettes ... Back then it was print advertising. You were allowed to advertise cigarettes. And so, every magazine was full of cigarette ads. The menthol ones always had men and women in front of water all the time. So, clearly, they're trying to signal coolness. And I noticed it in one ad, then another, then another. It's like, "Wait a second. This is a strategy. This is happening." So, cross brands. And I collected 30 examples. Took me a lot of time, and I'm still bitter about this. The teacher said, "Good job. Too many examples. Too many examples."

Adam Kerpelman:

Too much data.

Doug Kessler:

The whole point was, "This is not just one brand doing this or once. This is a thing." I still am angry about it, and I never got to have my say. There's like, "I got a good grade, but too many ... Flipping is a problem for you or something? Come on. I worked hard." Everyone had glassy .... It was in a little slip. It was beautiful.

Mark Richardson:

I remember those. Oh no, those were-

Adam Kerpelman:

Well, I hadn't thought of it, but I can really clearly imagine all the billboards and print ads and just bikini clad women floating in a-

Doug Kessler:

Splashing.

Adam Kerpelman:

... in a tube in a pool.

Doug Kessler:

Well, actually there was a lot of orgasm imagery too, but I didn't go there, thinking, "I'm in junior high. I'm going to get in trouble." But there was a ton of climax and [crosstalk 00:34:56] cigarette. There was a lot of that going on too.

Mark Richardson:

That's the thing. It's subliminal, and that's the thing I realize is, you're like, "These are all subliminal, emotional appeals." To borrow a buzzword, it's ubiquitous.

Doug Kessler:

Yeah. Well, that's what everyone was alarmed about when I was getting into the business was like, they're hiding messages like sex in these ads. Like that's not hidden. That's right out front. That's like looking for obscure references to aquatic mammals in Moby-Dick. It's there. It's right in your face, but sometimes there are these little tropes you think, "Wait, why is that repeating? Why is that always happening there?" And I think you're right. It is quite an intentional subliminal thing.

Adam Kerpelman:

Well, and one of the reasons I wanted to bring it up is it also made me think of an early paper in my career of dissecting the stuff that was for an aesthetics class in college, the philosophy of art basically. And the paper I was writing was trying to dissect the difference between fine art and say the graphic design in an ad that you might see. And I was treading on the same topics was, the art is existing for the art's sake, and there's a lot of layers, and same subliminal stuff. But it's all just for the point of, "Here is this art," whereas the ad and the graphic design is deploying the same things.

Adam Kerpelman:

But like you said, you start seeing these tropes and these memes and these things that are ... It's almost a more advanced type of manipulation than just creating fine art where you go, "Oh, that's beautiful." And I could look at it for hours, because I don't know why. And the ad, it's a little ... But then also, it creates the space to discount it, because you look at it and go, "Oh, I know what you're up to."

Doug Kessler:

I know. Nobody said that about Michelangelo's David. "Oh, I know what you're up to. You're just trying to impress me with his strength and power." It's like you're making me feel something, but you're not making me feel something, so I buy your stuff.

Mark Richardson:

We didn't have the skepticism of the profit motive in the Renaissance. People, they had plague to focus on their-

Adam Kerpelman:

I was going to say it was the patronage motive or whatever.

Doug Kessler:

They sold that. They sold that Madici was a good guy, and was going to go to heaven. There was something on sale going on.

Mark Richardson:

That's true. I'll buy that. You convinced me, Doug. You convinced me.

Doug Kessler:

All right. Mark, I need to know your punk band name in college. What was the name of the punk band?

Mark Richardson:

You're going to love this. Crash Everest.

Doug Kessler:

Nice. How long did it take you to do that name? Was that a three [crosstalk 00:37:39] band argument?

Mark Richardson:

It was our bassist. Chris Jones, who works for Coroner, he's brilliant and he thought of it off the spot. It was this-

Doug Kessler:

Crash Everest.

Mark Richardson:

Yeah.

Doug Kessler:

It's good. It's good.

Adam Kerpelman:

And then I did most of your graphic design.

Doug Kessler:

Crash Everest into Spotify. Am I going to get any music or is this still back on cassette tapes or something?

Mark Richardson:

You know what? I will mail you a CD.

Doug Kessler:

Oh, wow. All right. [crosstalk 00:38:04] Spotify.

Adam Kerpelman:

I don't know how proud I am of the graphic design.

Mark Richardson:

That is a promise from me to you, Doug. I will-

Doug Kessler:

All right.

Adam Kerpelman:

It's something.

Mark Richardson:

We have thousands, and I won't mail you thousands. I promise.

Doug Kessler:

You should put it on Spotify though.

Adam Kerpelman:

That's another great example of evolution of the evolution of this stuff.

Mark Richardson:

Yeah, we will [crosstalk 00:38:22] on Spotify.

Adam Kerpelman:

You have thousands, because that was probably the minimum print order at the time.

Mark Richardson:

Exactly.

Adam Kerpelman:

I have so many boxes of t-shirts, where it's like, "I have 250 of these, because that's the least I could order."

Doug Kessler:

That's why I love digital.

Mark Richardson:

I do too. If we had Teespring, oh my God, dude. Can you imagine if the Crash Everest-

Adam Kerpelman:

So much more fun-

Mark Richardson:

... Shopify and Teespring-

Adam Kerpelman:

So much more swag fun.

Mark Richardson:

... dude? Come on.

Adam Kerpelman:

Yeah, totally.

Doug Kessler:

Is there a Crash Everest t-shirt going out there somewhere? Do you have one? You never made a t-shirt.

Mark Richardson:

Did we make a t-shirt?

Adam Kerpelman:

I don't think so. I think [crosstalk 00:38:52] advanced as we got. Stuff to give away in gigs was-

Mark Richardson:

Thank you.

Doug Kessler:

My brother and I were in bands, and he was in more than me, but all of us spent a lot more time naming the band than practicing, which is why nobody knows any of the bands.

Adam Kerpelman:

Well, that's why we are here in marketing.

Doug Kessler:

Yeah.

Adam Kerpelman:

And my wife is the professional musician who's like, "I can't keep myself from the doing it, but I would rather not." She doesn't care about the names or the whatevers. She's like, "I just want to make music. Why do I have to do all that shit?"

Doug Kessler:

She'll probably make it through, because The Beatles is probably the worst band name in history, and it didn't hold them back.

Mark Richardson:

And all they did was change one letter, and that was the marketing. That's that-

Doug Kessler:

[inaudible 00:39:34], but boy, they made it happen.

Mark Richardson:

What part of London are you in? Speaking of The Beatles, I love London and ...

Doug Kessler:

It's in Barnes. It's the Southwest. There's a little bulge in the river down here. There's no tube station in the middle. So, it acts like a little village. It's only six miles from Piccadilly Circus, but we got the river and the park, and it's really nice out here.

Mark Richardson:

That's awesome. I spent a summer in Regent's Park. Stayed at Regent's college-

Doug Kessler:

Oh, wow. Cool.

Mark Richardson:

... back in ... Yeah.

Doug Kessler:

It's a good city.

Mark Richardson:

Okay, cool. Well, let's land this plane. Thank you so much for joining us, Doug. This was great.

Doug Kessler:

Sure. My pleasure. I enjoyed it.

Adam Kerpelman:

[crosstalk 00:40:11]. Like I said, plenty more notes. So, we'll have to have you back to-

Doug Kessler:

Cool.

Adam Kerpelman:

... dive in further down some of those philosophical aesthetic rabbit holes, et cetera.

Doug Kessler:

Sounds great.

Adam Kerpelman:

Otherwise, thanks also to our listeners. Like, subscribe, whatever buttons exist, wherever you're listening to this, because we put it everywhere. And this has been another Data-Driven Marketer, sponsored by NetWise. I'm Adam.

Mark Richardson:

I'm Mark.

Doug Kessler:

And I'm Doug.

Adam Kerpelman:

Take it easy everybody.