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Talking Startup Culture, Marketing, and Work Ethic With the Woman who Defines “Brand Tech”

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Emma Cookson is a partner at brandtech group You & Mr. Jones, a new group comprised of tech & tech-enabled companies that help startups and Fortune 500 brands harness the power of technology to do their marketing better, faster & cheaper. As the former head of ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH), Emma was named as one of Business Insider’s 30 Most Powerful Women in Advertising before joining You & Mr. Jones.  She’s been a long-time supporter of UGC marketing and strongly associates with the Pixlee mission. We talked to Emma for her perspective on startup culture, brandtech marketing, and why new frontiers in marketing are eclipsing the old standards of agency marketing.

Kyle Wong: You & Mr. Jones has some strong opinions about shifts in the marketing landscape. Can you share your perspectives on what shifts you’re seeing in marketing today?

Emma Cookson: There have been so many shifts in the industry but one of the most significant is the move away from the old top-down model previously used by brands to a more ‘bottom-up’ or peer-to-peer one.   Nowadays brands are built and shaped much more in a ‘people-powered’ model that taps into the talents and influence that friends, acquaintances and ‘regular people’ can exert on our decisions – especially on social media of course, but more widely too.

Brand-building typically used to focus on how a brand’s message could be communicated to consumers. But now, brands also prioritize what consumers are saying to other consumers. No longer a distant authority, social media has allowed for dramatically enhanced conversation between brands and their customers. 

Additionally, marketing, of course, used to be targeted almost exclusively en-masse. But the fragmentation and two-way nature of digital channels means most marketing now is segmented, detailed and personalized – by context, by person, by phase in the buying cycle, etc.   All of this driven by detailed and rich data of course – and resulting in the need for an exponentially-higher volume of great content.

UGC and other tech marketing tools have been used by brands to implement strategies in this new world – helping connect with consumers powerfully to drive traffic and sales. 

And finally, there is a huge trend towards the importance of values-based marketing.

Compared to just five or ten years ago, purpose-driven marketing has become a primary focus for brands. Conveying a brand’s positive global contribution is as important as the product or service they offer.

But, at the end of the day, the fundamentals are exactly the same. Marketers are still trying to understand their consumers and how to work out how to provide them with the best and most differentiated customer experience. 

KW: What is your advice for marketers who know all those fundamentals that haven’t changed, but are trying to use the old playbook in the new world, which we know isn’t working? How do you articulate the need to use different channels and new methodology; bringing the same concepts into a new world?

EC: The old model limited the number of ways marketers could reach out to customers and prospects.  Marketers had a limited set of tools in their toolbox. And (possibly stretching this metaphor a bit far……) the tools were typically blunt but powerful:  mass reach, high impact, heavy and lumbering to wield, not very sharply focused.  

Conversely, today marketers face an almost infinite set of possible ways to solve any marketing problem.   A bottomless, limitless toolbox – including lots of surgically precise, highly specialized and highly technical tools.  It’s difficult for brand leaders even to keep up with and be aware of the possibilities of what they could do, what marketing tools they could deploy – let alone rigorously assess the pros and cons of each option. 

That’s why I get very passionate when I’m talking with any of the companies in the You & Mr. Jones group about the need to communicate simply and clearly what we do and why it’s so great for today’s brands’ needs.

No matter how sophisticated or complex the technology or the processes or the systems that are behind any brandtech marketing platform, it’s challenging to get traction unless you’ve got that top-line simplicity of brand-customer communication.

KW: What makes you excited about Pixlee as a company helping brands and tech opportunity?

Emma: It’s very exciting for brands to be able to harness the power of real people’s content, comments, and stories about them. 

It’s always been the case that authenticity is what consumers trust more than any official view from a company: there is unparalleled power in seeing trusted feedback, comments, recommendations from ‘people like me’ and  people who don’t have a commercial agenda that biases their pov. 

Pixlee being able to find that content and make it accessible is a gem for any brand.

KW: Since you’ve been on the side of creating content, and you understand how difficult and challenging that is. Can you paint today’s model in the agency and how that content goes from idea to creation? What kind of steps are involved?

EC: So typically, if one’s deploying a traditional professional creative/content agency, then you go through a pretty long-winded and complex process to generate that content. Many people input into briefs and offer direction.  Then there’s a pass off process, where creatives ideate and they have to report to seniors and get approvals. Then the content has to be presented to clients, input taken, adaptations made – before another hand-off to specialist production folks (a combination of internal and external folks) who oversee the content actually getting made, being edited, etc.  And then there are often iterations again of the produced work, with maybe some consumer testing along the way.

Normally, especially in an old-world scenario, there’s a lot of people, steps, and money as a result of content creation – and project-management / client management of the whole enterprise throughout too. This is much less complex if you can utilize a simple asset, but still, it tends to be a multifaceted process – and there’s a lot of potential for dilution, confusion, and waste along the way.

KW: Is there anything else that you’d like to tell marketers working in this evolving space for brandtech?

 Everybody knows that this authentic customer content perspective is a powerful asset. As a result, you’re seeing a growing industry branching into many different sectors. So the fact that Pixlee makes it so much easier for people to deploy a technology to harness this power means that the company is really well-positioned.

We’re thrilled to share insights from our advisors and network with our readers. Have questions for Emma? Leave them in the comments below!

 

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