CMA Connect Podcast: The Artistry of Analytics with RightMetric's CEO, Charlie Grinnell

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January 5, 2022

The CMA Connect podcast is the voice of Canada's marketing community. The Canadian Marketing Association has empowering discussions with industry leaders about the rapidly changing world of marketing, and asks the questions no one else is asking.

Our CEO Charlie Grinnell was a guest on this episode, and in part 2 they discuss how data can be used to uncover content opportunities and inform strategies that break through the noise across digital platforms. There's also a brief conversation about brand purpose. If you haven't listened to part 1 with guest-host Jeff Greenspoon, they started by exploring our obsession with data-backed insights and how they can help create both efficient and effective marketing.

You can listen to the CMA Connect podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Below, find a full transcript of the episode.

Charlie Grinnell: I think TikTok is here to stay. I think it's the real deal. I think it truly is challenging this duopoly of Facebook/Google. The attention is there. I think it's one of those things that a lot of people, their assumption to be like, "Oh, that's where young kids are," but we're seeing on our side, from a usage perspective and a content consumption perspective, we're seeing hashtags that trend with an older audience blowing up and generating billions of views. I think TikTok, with the way that they've set everything up, it's not going anywhere.

Jeff Greenspoon: Welcome to CMA Connect the voice of the Canadian marketing community. Join us as we have frank discussions with industry leaders about the rapidly changing world of marketing and ask the questions that no one else is asking. I'm Jeff Greenspoon, president of Global Solutions and the CEO of Canada at Dentsu international, and a member of the board of directors here at the CMA. Today, I'm proud to be your guest host for our episode and I'm joined by our guest, Charlie Grinnell, CEO at RightMetric. We're going to be discussing how to overcome digital growth challenges in today's climate and beyond.

Jeff Greenspoon: Let's go back to the art and the science if you will. Let's talk a little bit more about the art than the science. I think we've been talking a lot about the science and data. One thing I think the industry is talking about right now is we've come to a point of tech agnostic status for a lot of brands. If you look at the platforms that power experiences, whether they be the Adobe stack, the Salesforce stack, the Google stack, the Amazon stack, every brand has one. They're using it to the best of their abilities from a technology perspective.

Jeff Greenspoon: The differentiator and where likely we've stopped investing as much as we should be is in creativity and in how do we use either enough assets to fuel a personalized campaign to talk to everyone, not everyone, but also the fact that ideas are what drive resonance and salience. Oftentimes we think about data fueling channel decisions and media decisions and targeting, but not enough about the creative that we need to build and the production of that creative that needs to happen. How do you think about the art, the creativity, and the need to reinvest into the magic that is the content on top of those technologies stacks?

Charlie Grinnell: I'm really passionate about this topic specifically. As I said, at the beginning, I got my start on the art side. I was a video nerd. That was my thing. I loved making videos and shooting photos and whatever. I have a couple of things. Number one, I actually have an example of how I deployed this in my old life when I worked at Red Bull.

Charlie Grinnell: We actually came up with a video concept called Raw 100 when I worked at Red Bull. At the time we were challenged with... It was our annual business planning. We were challenged with coming up with a repeatable content format that could be used across different audience groups. It had to work for mountain biking. It had to work for music. It had to be a format that was kind of like agnostic and could be repurposed but would be not branded necessarily Red Bull.

Charlie Grinnell: This is 2014, so we didn't have as much access to data as we did today. What we actually did was... Coworker and I spent some time cruising around websites, looking at the top-performing videos. We'd go to a mountain biking website and filter their top-performing videos. Then we'd go to a snowboard website, do the same thing. At a music website and do the same thing and just doing that and looking and being like, "Oh, that's interesting." You notice that all of these lists of content actually have raw style content performing really, really well. That was just an anomaly that we noticed. It wasn't this blatant thing. It was like, oh yeah, there are a few videos there with no music and natural sounds and, oh, there's one there too, and one there too. We were like, what if we just took that as a format?

Charlie Grinnell: The idea with Raw 100 was a hundred-second-long video, no music, only natural sounds, and no slow motion. Had to be all real-time. We deployed that and five years later, the series... There's been, I don't know, 30 or 40 videos produced. It's done over a hundred million views. All of that started with this insight of what can we learn from performance data there to inform content? That was the one example, which is amazing. I encourage anybody listening to type in Raw 100 into a Google. You'll see some videos from Red Bull, but what was really cool was other brands started creating their own version of that.

Charlie Grinnell: What started as a marketing thing for us, you had competitor brands being like, "Well, here's ours." They just took the format. I remember sitting there thinking, jokes on you. We came up with that from a marketing thing, but you're using it now, which is amazing. That would be that piece of it.

Charlie Grinnell: The second thing that I would go into and using data-backed insight to help guide and inform creativity and steer it is when we think about content at brands, it's usually a huge line item for brands. It's expensive to create content. I think what's so cool about the world that we're in now is there's so much data being churned out on the back end of content that you can look at, whether that's engagement rate, watch time, video views, shares, all these different things. There's such an opportunity there to use that type of data, to put through different models, to be able to get an understanding of what's working and what's not working.

Charlie Grinnell: This is something that we actually spent a lot of time on. We've developed something called our content opportunity quadrants. We look at it just like that. The idea is to inform creative teams. "Hey, here's what we're seeing, just in terms of people consuming content. Here's what's performing really, really well." Then we also look at the density in terms of competition. There's a lot of content like this, where there's not a lot of content like this. When you lay that on a quadrant graph, in that top left you can get things that over-perform and aren't very competitive.

Charlie Grinnell: From a creative and a content perspective, that's the golden opportunity. That's like the golden ticket for Charlie Brown and Willie Wonka to be able to go, "Wow, this is something that the audience clearly likes and is consuming." There aren't a lot of these. It's not exactly telling the creative exactly what to do, but it's like, "Here's a topic or here's a theme and maybe here are a few examples." I think this idea of using insight to inform content creation or creative is only going to get more and more important. Like I said, it's a big line item for marketers on their P&L. The second thing is it's more competitive than it ever has been before so your content has to be great. You have to look before you leap.

Jeff Greenspoon: Yeah. I think that's bang-on. The one other place that I'd love your perspective on is brand purpose. We always say to our clients, if you know what you believe, you know how to behave. Have a belief, have a purpose, have a thought, and then move forward from there. How do you see the insights and the formats that are available and the investment into content in the market today merging in with brand purpose? Do you see brands really leaning into what they believe and taking a stance so that not only does the content resonate but also the purpose of that content and the purpose of that brand? Or do you think this is just a trend that people are talking about a lot right now versus something that's going to last forever, the importance of brand purpose and content?

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. I think it's a really good question and something that came to mind... Typically, I'd throwback to... Patagonia did a really great job of taking a stand into... "We're boycotting Facebook and Facebook ads and we're not doing that." That obviously was a hit to their business. I think they've openly said that it was a hit to their business. Just this week, Lush announced that it's quitting Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat. I just did a post on LinkedIn about this. It's actually their second time of, and I'm using air quotes here, quitting social media. Back in 2019, they said, "Hey, we're done with this." They did, and then COVID hit and they realized, if our stores are closed and we're not on the internet, not on the social platforms where people are, we can't really talk to our consumers. They ended up coming back.

Charlie Grinnell: Now, again, what they've said is, "Hey, you know what? We're actually going to stop. We're going to keep the handles, I think," but they're not going to actively publish on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or Snapchat. They're going to focus on growing YouTube, using Twitter for customer care, Pinterest for inspirational content. Then I guess email newsletter campaigns. The capitalist brain in me was like, "How much is that going to cost them?" They're big business and that's no small thing.

Charlie Grinnell: What some of the estimates in the articles that I said was that it's going to cost them about 10 million pounds in the short term, which is no small chunk of change. Then when you look at it, it was actually less than 1% of their total sales. Right now I think is a great case study for all of us to be watching as marketers to go, okay, Lush is taking a huge stand here and it is from a channel selection, but also by quitting Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, that's reducing the type of content that they can create because on YouTube, they're probably going to create that longer form on Twitter. Like I said, it's going to be customer care, and Pinterest is just going to be like boards.

Charlie Grinnell: They're really narrowing their focusing to align with their purpose, which I think is fascinating from a financial perspective, they're willing to take the 10 million pound loss. I think they have that luxury as a business. Some businesses clearly can't, but I think it's going to be fascinating to look back in 6, 12, 18 months to see if this can stand the test of time. I think that brand purpose, it can be impactful. I think Patagonia's business since they took that stand has been fine. We're not sitting here talking about how Patagonia's going out of business or going bankrupt. I think we'll probably see the same with Lush because it is such a small percentage of their business, the sales that are going away, that 1%. Now that said, will this be a huge rallying cry that's going to double their business because they're taking a stand? I don't necessarily know.

Jeff Greenspoon: Yeah. Let's talk about that 12, 18 months, or let's even go at 36 months because I think this is a fascinating topic to discuss. We do a survey every year called our CMO survey. We ask CMOs what's on their minds and 42% of global CMOs that we talked to said that they're still unsure of what consumer behaviors are going to be around 12, 24 months from now versus what's going to return to pre-pandemic levels. You're a trend spotter. You're always looking for what's new, what's next. What are either some of the channels or the trends that you see coming that are going to be massive maybe two, three years from now?

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Full disclosure, I get this wrong all the time.

Jeff Greenspoon: That's the beauty of being a trend spotter. You're allowed to get it wrong.

Charlie Grinnell: Then when you get it right, you look like a genius. I think one of the things... I actually just talked about this on my podcast with a guy by the name of Vic Campbell. He used to work at Facebook and Instagram. We were actually talking all about TikTok. I think TikTok is here to stay. I think it's the real deal. I think it truly is challenging this duopoly of Facebook/Google. The attention is there. I think it's one of those things that a lot of people... Their assumption would be like, "Oh, that's where young kids are," but we're seeing on our side... From a usage perspective and a content consumption perspective, we're seeing hashtags that trend with an older audience blowing up and generating billions of views. I think TikTok, with the way they've set everything up, in two years from now, it's not going anywhere. What they've built there is really, really special.

Jeff Greenspoon: Just on TikTok, think about their Shopify partnership. They've had already 23 billion in gross merchandise volume through TikTok shopping. It's not only people that are just there to consume content. It's a real commerce opportunity for brands.

Charlie Grinnell: Totally. Think about TikTok's algorithm. I was talking about this where I'm like, I don't remember a time where I had to do so little to get a great experience out of a digital app. With Instagram, Facebook, we had to be like, yes, I went to this high school, here's my gender, here's my friends and it's based on the social graph. Whereas TikTok is an algorithm based on consumption. You can sit there with your phone and watch a video over and over again. What they serve you up is actually such a great experience with almost no user input. That's amazing. Think about that from an entertainment perspective, but take it a step deeper from a commerce perspective. When that's tied together...

Charlie Grinnell: You hit the nail in the head. I was just about to bring up that Shopify partnership. That's just the beginning. As more and more people are spending time there, what's stopping Shopify from being the checkout system for PayPal, for sorry, TikTok and brands just being like, "Yeah, I have my Shopify store that's run through TikTok." This idea of algorithmic commerce just happens. Yeah, I think that's a full separate episode in its entirety.

Charlie Grinnell: I think another one that I'll talk about that really caught me by surprise is actually Snap and Snapchat. I just did a post about this on LinkedIn too, that since the pandemic, their stock is up 450% since the pandemic started. I was a major skeptic of Snap when it came out, full disclosure. I look back at some of my posts. I was like, "This is going nowhere, it's overhyped. Facebook's going to kill them. Instagram stole stories." I think what's been really fascinating is they've been chugging along and growing their business and building more and more tools. There is a decent chunk of people that spend time on there that's important to brands. I definitely think Snap is one that will continue to innovate.

Charlie Grinnell: Then I think the last one that I would say is actually Pinterest. Our team has done a ton of research into Pinterest of how it's this hidden traffic driver hiding in plain sight. I can speak to when I was at Aritzia, we didn't actually do that much on Pinterest, but it drove a ton of traffic for us. I think it's different in that traditional social. You put something in a feed and then it goes away. Whereas Pinterest, you put up a pin and who knows? That pin might drive you a ton of traffic in six months from now, but you don't really know. It's a different way of looking at things. A lot of the research that we've done looking into the outdoor industry, athletic industry, obviously fashion industry, home industry, Pinterest is a beast in terms of driving traffic for brands specifically when it comes to e-commerce. I think that it's something that's often overlooked because it's not Facebook, Google, Pinterest, or Facebook, Google, TikTok.

Jeff Greenspoon: Yeah. Now I have to ask this because we're on a podcast right now. What about the audio revolution? We're seeing I think more people wanting to maybe not be by a screen because we're on calls, on video calls all day long. What's your perspective on podcasting, on the audio revolution, and really how radio is having its moment once again, by just a little bit different this time?

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. I'm super bullish on podcasting. Like I said, I have my own podcast. We're seeing more and more brands starting to create audio experiences. I think to your point, being able to unplug from a screen and still consume something is going to be a big deal moving forward. I think one of the things actually that I thought was really, really interesting was when Facebook rebranded to Meta, everyone was talking about the big barrier right now is access. How are we going to access that from a hardware perspective? A lot of people are like, "There was Google Glass and there was Snapchat Spectacles. Now there's those new Ray-Bans." I think they're called Facebook Story. I don't know what they're called, but they're the Ray-Bans with the camera.

Charlie Grinnell: Scott Galloway actually pointed out, and I thought this was a really interesting prediction, that who's going to be the company that nails that access to the metaverse is Apple with AirPods because it's the most popular consumer electronic, period, maybe next to the iPhone, the amount of units that they've sold. Where I'm going with that is, that's why I think podcasting is even more valuable because if these plastic audio devices in our ears are going to be the gateway to the metaverse, then podcasting and audio is a key piece of that. We're already seeing this explosion of podcasts out there. You're seeing the Joe Rogan Spotify deal a couple of years ago, we're starting to see this. If that is the gateway and the access into the metaverse and we've thought a lot about, "Hey, it's going to be a visual thing, but it might be a sound thing," that's a really interesting proposition.

Jeff Greenspoon: Very interesting proposition. I never thought about the audio way into the metaverse, which is something that a lot of people are talking about right now. If you think about Google Glass, a great example, technology was right. The cultural fit was wrong at the time. If you get something that's on culture and you can build the technology around it, it becomes a very different conversation.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Jeff Greenspoon: I want to pivot a little bit because you've been on both sides of the fence. You've been an agency and provider side, you've been brand-sided, a variety of different brands. A lot of people that are listening to this podcast right now are on both sides of those fences. I'd love your perspective as brands and agencies for that matter are starting to navigate this complex world or get into an even more complex world, how do you see the partnerships between agencies and clients, brand marketers, performance agencies, brand agencies? What does that partnership look like? What does great look like? What are some of the tips and tricks that you've seen on the best agency, client relationships in the digital economy?

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. The thing that comes to mind, almost like any relationship is communication. Whether it's with your spouse or your friends or whatever, I think communication is really, really big. Speaking from my past experience, the best relationships that I've been in on either side have been when there's that level of deep trust and pretty quickly. Going that the open kimono style really quickly and getting into there and really bringing people into your business. When I was on the brand side, anytime we worked with an agency, I would go out of my way to spend a disproportionate amount of time upfront so that they had everything and more that they needed. Probably some times where they were like, "Okay, Charlie enough. I got it."I wanted to make sure that I was over communicating because I wanted to give them all the context and nuance in my brain that was relevant to the conversations that are having internally.

Charlie Grinnell: On the flip side of that, when I worked on the agency side, you'd go through and you'd work through everything. Then someone would say, "Oh yeah. By the way, this," and you're like, "That was a critical piece of information that I needed to know." I think that over communication, and that deep trust... To your point earlier, breaking down those silos. If you're spending on an agency, it's because you don't necessarily have that person internally, but most agencies I think would want to be more embedded in the org to have greater visibility into think and vice versa. That's better for the brand for their agency to be in lockstep with them. I don't think it's necessarily a groundbreaking thing. I think it's more of just a mentality and comfort shift. Instead of thinking us versus them, it's like, when you sign on and work with an agency, yes, there is that client relationship, but it's also like, I'm going to be super candid with you about stuff. You're bolted onto our team now whether you like it or not.

Jeff Greenspoon: Yeah. That's great. All right, Charlie, before we let you go some quick hits. It's the holiday season. We're coming up to the end of the year. Sometimes the finance is saying you got this budget, you got to use it before the end of the year. What would you advise clients? If you were to do one or two extra pushes between now and the holidays, where would you go, where would you focus your money and what would those quick hits for the holiday be?

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, quick hit. I would test something on TikTok. Again, I think it's the wild west there. There's a lot of attention there. I think the brands that are going to be bold on that platform and test things are going to see success. You might fail, but even if you fail, you're going to learn. At least there's a bunch of eyeballs there. I think TikTok would be the big one for me. I think going back to everything we just talked about, about how that's going to impact commerce in the future, I think as we head into 2022, TikTok is already taken over the entertainment side. I think they're really going to focus on probably that commerce side. Running tests there and getting your feet wet in that platform is how I'd be thinking about it.

Jeff Greenspoon: Awesome. Well Charlie, thank you very much. Charlie Grinnell, the CEO of RightMetric, everyone. What an amazing conversation. Really thinking about new channels, new innovation, how you use data-backed insights to make decisions, and hopefully some great insights to take into the holidays and the next few years. Charlie, thanks very much and we'll see you soon.

Charlie Grinnell: Thanks for having me, Jeff. Great to see you.

Jeff Greenspoon: Thanks for tuning into CMA Connect. Looking for more ways to stay connected with the CMA? Visit us at thecma.ca and sign up for a My CMA account to get all the latest marketing news and trends.

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