You need to learn the rules of the playground first-hand

A few weeks ago, I was invited to give a talk to a large financial services firm that was having an off-site for one of their divisions.  The audience was a group of 60+ marketers that had gathered for a three-day meeting on a variety of topics.  I was there to talk about innovation and how a company could leverage digital as a key driver.  During the Q&A that followed, one of the marketers in the audience asked about keeping up with all the new digital platforms that are launching.  In particular, she wanted to know how important it is for marketers to have first-hand experience with things like Snapchat, ApplePay, etc.  Do marketers really need to try out everything new thing that comes on the market?

Well, the short answer is yes.

The thing is that marketing has changed quite a bit over the last decade.  If you think about the traditional marketing toolbox of a few years ago, just about everyone watched TV, read magazines, and drove by billboards.  So when we were making choices in the marketing mix, we were deciding between tools that we had first-hand experience with.  We knew the rules of the medium and could focus on the creative.

But today marketers are faced with more choices than ever before.  And for the first time ever, we are being forced to decide if a channel is right for our brand when we might not know what the channel is.  That is why marketers need to be prolific when it comes to experimenting with new platforms.  You need to download the new app that people are talking about.  You need to write a post on Medium or LinkedIn Pulse.  You need to support the latest project on Kickstarter.  And you need to buy that new FitBit, Nest, or Gear.  The goal is learning the rules of the playground first-hand.  You have to push yourself to experiment with everything that is new so you know what the boundaries are.  How do people behave on the platform?  What is appropriate and what is seen as shilling?

Before you can ever make that decision as a marketer, you have to be able to make the decision as a consumer.  And that means putting yourself out there and learn first-hand what all these new shiny objects are about.

Join our Roundtable on the Future of Digital Marketing

Future of Digital Marketing

This week I am taking part in a fun experiment with a new startup called Roundtable.    Roundtable describes itself in the following way:

At Roundtable we’re all about empowering meaningful conversations – between thought leaders, between friends, and between curated communities of strangers.

It is a really neat concept and one I became interested in after reading a Roundtable on Startup Funding that was hosted a few weeks ago.  I decided to jump at the chance to have Rockfish host a Roundtable on the Future of Digital Marketing.  After all, we call ourselves a “Digital Innovation Partner” so it is a topic that is at the heart of what we do.  My goal was to bring together Marketers, Venture Capitalists and Startups to discuss and debate on where Digital Marketing will go in the next few years.  We were able to pull together a really world-class group of digital thought leaders including:

  • Chris Erb, VP of Brand Marketing for EA SPORTS
  • Chris Fralic, Managing Partner at First Round Capital
  • Jason Falls, author of “No Bullshit Social Media”
  • Jon Steinberg, President of BuzzFeed
  • Pete Blackshaw, Global Head of Digital and Social Marketing for Nestle

What is really neat about Roundtable is that anyone can join in the commentary with this great group of all-stars. So please take the time to head over to our Roundtable this week and share your thoughts on the Future of Digital Marketing.

Digital Marketing for Startups [presentation]

On behalf of Rockfish Brand Ventures, I was invited to give a presentation to the CEO’s and Founders of CincyTech’s portfolio companies on digital marketing.

Five themes of Brand Manager 2.0 [presentation]

Over the past year, I have written several times about a trend I call “Brand Manager 2.0″  Whether it’s becoming a Marketing Technopologist or facilitating conversations with consumers, Brand Manager 2.0 is about evolving as marketers to the changing landscape around us. I put the together the below presentation to talk more about this trend of Brand Manager 2.0 and to showcase examples of companies and brands who are doing it well.

Startup School gives an insider’s view into Facebook, Quora & others [video]

This past Saturday, Y Combinator hosted their 5th Annual Startup School at Stanford.  Featuring speakers such as Mark Zuckerberg, Reid Hoffman and Andrew Mason, the all day event was a first hand account of the ups and downs of creating a new company.  Thankfully for those of us that couldn’t attend in person, the entire event was streamed on  While all of the videos are a great watch for anyone in the world of digital marketing, I found the afternoon to be particularly interesting.  The below video captures a two hour block that included:

  • Ron Conway, Partner – SV Angels (starts at 0:01:10)
  • Adam D’Angelo, Founder – Quora (starts at 0:40:00)
  • Dalton Caldwell, Founder – Picplz & Founder – Imeem (starts at 1:08:00)

I found Dalton’s talk on why music start-ups are so difficult to be particularly interesting given how many companies are launched to revolutionize the entertainment industry.  D’Angelo’s was also a great peak into what might just be the hottest start-up at the moment.  And of course, Conway’s insight is always interesting given that he’s the world’s leading Angel investor.