What's Working In Marketing™: Creating Emotional Connections with Eric Toda, Global Head of Social Media Strategy & Operations at Facebook

Brand & Positioning Strategy
September 15, 2020
Marketing & Advertising

What's Working in Marketing™ is a podcast where we uncover what’s working across the digital landscape by tapping into the world’s best data-backed research and through candid conversations with industry experts. Join us if you're ready to learn what's working when it comes to your marketing efforts.

On this episode, we spoke with Eric Toda, Global Head of Social Media Strategy & Operations at Facebook. Eric shares his point of view on the characteristics of the best CMOs, the lessons learned balancing brand with technology, and how important it is for brands to deeply understand their customers.

You can listen to What's Working in Marketing™ – A Podcast by RightMetric wherever you get your podcasts — including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Tune In, iHeartRadio, and Pocket Casts.

Here's a full transcript of my conversation with Eric:

Charlie Grinnell: On this episode, I'm joined by Eric Toda, former Head of Marketing at Hill City, and Global Head of Social Marketing at Airbnb. Thanks so much for joining me today, Eric.

Eric Toda: Thanks for having me, Charlie. It's good to be here.

Charlie Grinnell: So I started following you online long before we actually met, and it was because you had worked at some amazing brands over your career, such as Facebook, Nike, and Snapchat, to name a few. I want to go back to the beginning. That's how I typically start these interviews, is going back to the beginning and getting an understanding of, how did you get your start into marketing, and how has it progressed kind of throughout your career?

Eric Toda: Yeah. My foray into marketing is accidental. It's accidental, and I always say it's because a lot of people coming from college into marketing, it's very calculated. They study marketing courses or economic courses, business courses, then they go into an ad agency, and then after spending years in an ad agency learning how the marketing world works, they go into client-side brands. Right? And that's normally their trajectory that you've seen in a more traditional sense, and I love that trajectory. I think that defined the industry for the past five decades.

Eric Toda: I like to say that because my foray into the industry was accidental. I was a pre-law major. I had every intention to become an estate and probate lawyer, so people that do wills, trusts, all that really, really exciting stuff.

Charlie Grinnell: Very exciting.

Eric Toda: Very exciting stuff. I didn't know why I was going into that field. I just knew that I was really good at studying, really good at reading and taking tests. And so I triple majored in social science, criminal justice and psychology at San Francisco State University.

Eric Toda: I graduated top of my class and I applied to law school. Got into law school, and I realized that mid-way through starting the process to go to law school that this wasn't the route for me. Like this, it wasn't giving me the type of energy that I was hoping for.

Eric Toda: Luckily for me, my girlfriend at the time, she told me that, maybe you shouldn't be a lawyer. Maybe you should work in tech. And at the time, tech was just kind of coming back from 1.0, right. You started to have some little social media companies, like MySpace and Friendster start to pop up. Facebook was just still colleges, and she was like, maybe you should work for a tech company.

Eric Toda: And so I decided to step away from law school and test the job market. I tested the job market, I think in truly the best time in the entire, in the entire world and that was in 2008 in the middle of the economic recession of the US, and I applied to like 200 jobs from like Pete Pappy to the mayors' office, to every odd job I could possibly find.

Charlie Grinnell: 200?

Eric Toda: 200.

Charlie Grinnell: Wow.

Eric Toda: And yeah, 200 because like I really needed to find a job. I had too much pride to take money from my parents and I had these three degrees that meant nothing if I didn't go to law school. And so I was like, I need to find a job man.

Eric Toda: And crazy, the crazy thing about that is like every single company that I applied to, was like, no sorry, we're not hiring right now. But the one, the one company, I swear to you it's so crazy, the one that company that reached out and said, yes, so let's have a chat, was a company called Facebook.

Eric Toda: And this was in 2008 and...

Charlie Grinnell: Crazy

Eric Toda: I started telling people. I was like, I was like Facebook's reaching out. Like Facebook's reaching out. Like, I think I'm going to apply and all my friends, all my friends were like, don't go to Facebook. Facebook is too tiny, its ride is over. MySpace is bigger than it, Friendster is bigger than it. Yahoo is trying to buy it, like it's over.

Eric Toda: My parents were like, this is a terrible decision. You should have went to law school.

Charlie Grinnell: As typical parents say.

Eric Toda: But I... as typical parents say, especially like my mom is an immigrant. So she's like, she's all about like postgraduate degrees.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Eric Toda: I told her and I told them, I was like listen, I have no other options. I had no options right now. I have to, like I have to see where this goes, and listen, if it does fail, I'll go, I'll try law school again. But my only goal right now is to get a job so I could save up money because I want to buy a wedding ring, and I remember telling that to like 20 people. I was like, I want to buy a wedding ring and all that stuff.

Eric Toda: Obviously, Facebook didn't, didn't go away. It became bigger, it's exceeded. It's defeated almost every single threat that came at it. And ultimately I married my girlfriend and she's now my wife. And actually today is our nine-year wedding anniversary.

Charlie Grinnell: Well happy anniversary.

Eric Toda: Yeah, but that was the first. So but that was the first foray into marketing because the job that I took was on the advertising scene. I was literally copying and pasting lines of code to put ads live from Microsoft, from Nike, from Amazon, and there were little banners.

Eric Toda: And nothing was automated. So, if you ever saw an ad on Facebook in 2008, 2009 me and like 10 other people put it there. We put it there.

Charlie Grinnell: Manually.

Eric Toda: Very manually and I loved it. I thought it was the greatest job ever because I was working with brands, and because you had a sales team out in the market they were asking me, are the ads working, what can they be doing better and we're launching new products like literally every single day. Can you help articulate to these brands, what these new products mean to those brands and how they can use them?

Eric Toda: A job like this never existed by it fully became like a creative job in which I was talking to brands about being on Facebook, having a page, having presence, using ads, using organic and really creating that notion of social media it was even a term.

Eric Toda: And that was fantastic to me because I wasn't at an agency, I wasn't at a brand. It was something different and I started to fall in love with the notion of working with brands, and working for a brand, and working in marketing to the point where towards my fourth year, third year of Facebook, I was asked to be on a team that would run its own specific marketing campaign to celebrate a big user milestone.

Eric Toda: I got to work with the big agencies, I got to help with the media plan, I got to work on a brief, I got to set up everything, and I saw what it was like to be a client. And I fell deeper in love with marketing then.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: To the point where I knew that I wanted to find more experiences like that and ultimately that's what led me to Nike, but I think looking at, looking back on my origin story, it's by accident. It was totally by accident, it was totally by opportunity, and I was truly just driven because I wanted to buy a wedding ring for my girlfriend.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, I mean, it's such a great story. I find it's... you're not the first person who has told me that they have got into marketing by accident, and I find that like that is the trend that I'm starting to see as something like, I just kind of ended up here.

Eric Toda: Yes.

Charlie Grinnell: And this way. So it's interesting to hear you say that and I think that spot that you were in at Facebook during that period of time is so unique, and I can understand how impactful or influential that has probably been on your entire career because like you were literally in the engine room, so to speak, powering the thing that was going to become kind of make social media this great big thing, so...

Charlie Grinnell: I understand how that probably has shaped your view on things as a marketer, as a business person, that sort of thing?

Eric Toda: I think it's interesting, right? I think like a lot of people ask me like where I got my training from because the way I look at marketing is very different from your traditional marketer.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: They look at things in a very structured processed way, get your insight, build your brief, talk to the agency and then set it live. For me, that timeline of doing all those things is so much more condensed because I grew up in a time through social media and through Facebook, to where one person can do all of those things.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: And so from every company I've ever been a part of, I've always carried with me this like scrappy data driven, but still a marketer, still very emotive, still very romantic in the story telling, but with numbers and with process and with speed that traditional marketers, if they're not used to this like they would see this as very different.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: From a marketing person, but I think that's the new wave. I honestly think that's the new wave. I've seen more marketers like me than I have what I just described.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: And that's because people are creating, people are creating, their coming up from different backgrounds. They don't have traditional background and I love that because I think that I think those non-traditional backgrounds are actually more divers people and that's something that I deeply care about that's something that drives their creativity. And I think it's interesting the way it's evolving.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, I completely agree. I think that, that segues is nicely into my next question is, this unique perspective that you had in that you've sat kind of on the tech side of things. I'm using their quotes here, but tech side.

Charlie Grinnell: With Facebook, Snapchat but then very much on like the brands side with the Nike, the Airbnbs, the Hill City, what have you learnt and you kind of alluded to it a little earlier, what have you learnt when it comes to striking a balance of like grand focused marketing and performance focused marketing because there is definitely kind of two camps out there?

Eric Toda: Yeah, there are definitely two camps out there, and one of the things I bring with me everywhere I go is that I don't think those two camps sit separately. I always believe that those two camps sit next to each other.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: I think that they, that they help each other. They're more symbiotic than you can believe. I think there is a notion. If I'm a performance person, I think there is a notion that the brands could be fluffy, it could be wasteful, it could be unmeasured.

Eric Toda: I think from a brand person point of view, performance and growth could be seen as too data driven, to robotic, too automated. I don't, I personally, my own personal belief, I don't believe them either.

Eric Toda: I believe that brand and performance can go hand in hand, and operate symbiotically throughout a consumer journey.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: Like I think that, I think that they are created for different points in the consumer journey and they should never ever deviate from a higher, a higher level brand understanding of how you introduce the brand to you.

Eric Toda: Meaning, if I am Nike and I'm just speaking to you about a brand campaign about the new Jordan shoes, by the time you see a performance in growth ad, you should still see a trickle down of that narrative. You should still see a trickle down of that creative. You shouldn't see something completely different from the website stories and like looks like some crazy [inaudible 00:11:51] of the shoe. No, no, no.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: You should be seeing, you should be seeing an integrated point of view that just carries on the storyline and just brings you along to that conversation.

Eric Toda: So I think that what I've learned is that I don't think it's separate things. I've always believed that they were one of a kind.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: And they always work together, and I think you're seeing a lot of CMOs come from a background like that where they have been on the more of the digital media and social side where that's just always the case. And I think that the more CMOs that are pushing that point of view forward, the more you're going to see performance and growth become one.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's makes a ton of sense and it's definitely something that we're seeing is the analogy that I have used in the past with clients has been the CMO almost being like the conductor of the orchestra, so to speak, right?

Charlie Grinnell: And then you have your creative folks, your data folks, your brand folks, but the band as a whole, or the orchestra as a whole sounds great when the CMO is able to make all those different things come together and produce a great sound. And so do you, can you talk a little bit about like what are the skills sets needed to be able to bring people together like that, right, because it is a few different backgrounds that have to come together to pull that all off?

Eric Toda: Yeah, now listen, what I'm going to tell you is answering from my perspective. I'm no expert at it. Like, my career has only been a little bit over 10 years long, but...

Charlie Grinnell: You've worked at some really cool places with some smart people.

Eric Toda: I have, I have, but I've seen... I think the biggest thing for me and I learned this really early on in my career, is the way you bring people together is to understand what they do every single day because you develop a level of empathy of what they deal with what they're stressed out about, their struggles, the wins that they've had, to know every single organization what they do, what they provide to the business allows you to see the entire puzzle. And it's your job to put the puzzle together.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: I think too often you have leaders that come in that have preconceived notion of what the specific organizations do, what they don't do, et cetera, and because of that you get silo work, you get people now working with each other, et cetera. And I think that's a pretty old school point of view. I try my best to understand literally every single person's job, be able to try to do their job so that I know what it's like to sit where they sit, to do what they do.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: Because I was thought really early like you should be able, as a leader you should be able to do what your lowest level employee can do, just as good as they can.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: That should be something you strive for. What you shouldn't strive for is how high you can go and the bonuses you can get, but you should strive for being able to do what your most entry level person does, and do it just as good as them.

Eric Toda: And I always found that so interesting because it's so contrarian to like, I don't know, the past 60 years of business, but it does starts to define what servant leadership looks like.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Eric Toda: Of you serving the team, and so I think that the best leaders understand what every single person on the team does, in their organization does so that you can put the puzzle together.

Charlie Grinnell: Interesting. So it's like that empathetic nature is what enables those pieces to come together?

Eric Toda: Yeah, and I think you come into an organization with yeah, with definite biases because of like the expertise that you grew up in. Right, like you know when I led marketing, when I found the CMO, so he's like yeah, I'm a digital first, social first CMO, right. I'm not a brand first, TV first, radio first, print first CMO.

Eric Toda: And so but the thing is, is that, that doesn't mean that Hill City didn't run print. We still made a magazine. It didn't mean Hill City didn't run Out Of Home. We still made Out Of Home. The difference is, is I didn't make those first. I made those as connection point to our digital platform.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: How did I make sure our QR codes, our social feeds, et cetera resembled what Out Of Home was showing so that it does seem interconnect.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: Versus, versus another type of CMO would say, we're going to make this campaign, it's going to go on TV during prime time, everything is locked in, good. Oh, wait, we should probably give the assets to the social team. And you can actually pinpoint every single Fortune 500 company that does that.

Charlie Grinnell: Totally, totally.

Eric Toda: And then you could pinpoint the type of CMO that sits in that seat and you can actually see that come to life. You could see, oh, yeah. It looks like the social team got the assets probably last night.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Eric Toda: Yeah, exactly.

Charlie Grinnell: Let's put the 30 second spot on Facebook, why not?

Eric Toda: Yeah, yeah. So it's different, right? I think that the more that you have social first, digital first CMOs come into, come into the leadership positions, or I also argue this, or as the social position becomes more of an executive position which it is.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: It is very much becoming that. Like a head of comms or a head of brands, you're starting to see maturity and how business operates that organization to make them integrated and make them a part of that conversation way earlier than before.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. I absolute agree. I want to talk a little bit about the topic of the episode as emotional connections through digital platforms. So building emotional connections we're talking like brand 101, right? In order for a brand to build an emotional connection, they have to understand their consumers deeply, right?

Charlie Grinnell: How can brand, what can brands do to gain understanding of what's going on in the world of consumers? Is there an approach that you recommend or something that you've done in the past that you thought was really, really useful?

Eric Toda: I think one of the, one of the unsaid and underused partnerships any brand can have over social is one with their customer service team. And the reason why I say this is because many brand teams work with influencers, right? Like you give them products, they post it and everyone's happy.

Eric Toda: But influencers doesn't care about the products really. Like they got it for free. It was wonderful but if the product breaks, if the product doesn't workout for them, it's free. Like why, like I'm not going to tell anybody, that's fine.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: When it comes to an actual customer that spent their hard earned money buying that product and if it does, if that product doesn't work out for them, they're going to have way more of a vested interest in making sure you know that.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: And it's your job not to just solve that problem but help, but to take feedback in so that it doesn't happen anymore, that you take that feedback in so then you can address problems before they even occur, or ask them like what do you like to do? Maybe I could suggest a new product for you, or maybe we could create a product for you. That's what we did at Hill City and I think the partnership between a brand team and a customer service team is so underused that the brands that do understand it right, and I think Airbnb has done an incredible job at this even like long after I left, but they truly understand the two-way conversation of a brand speaking to you and a brand speaking with you, right.

Eric Toda: They speak with you. They understand every single host and guest's desires, needs, wants, problems, et cetera. So when they do output creative, it's more empathetic, it's more resemblance of the actual guest and host experience, versus a brand that doesn't do that creates friction.

Eric Toda: And so I think that you create emotional connections over digital by just using social in a way that truly has differentiated social media from literally any type of media ever before that in that it's being social, and that goes right back to the partnership between a brand team and a customer service team.

Charlie Grinnell: Interesting. Yeah, I think about how when I was working in the apparel space how there a lot of businesses aren't setup like that, and the one that I was working at had... there was, there was a decent line of communication there but it was something that worked to grow stronger, and I think what I think with social as a whole, it just in general is social started out as this one little piece of marketing, but now social touches HR for hiring employment brand, it touches customer service. You have people who are customer service folks who are used to sending emails and answering the phone, and are now being expected to use emojis via DM on Instagram or whatever it is, right.

Charlie Grinnell: And so it's interesting to see how social has just kind of like infected the entire organization and has become a skill that doesn't just sit within marketing. It's almost like okay, can you use Microsoft Word? Great. Can you use like, can you use your computer? Great. Now, can you communicate on social? Great, that's like another kind of skill that is being required.

Eric Toda: Oh, for sure. I think it's just, it's a mindset, right. It's like it's not just about what can we output to the consumer base to incentivize them to buy, but instead what leverage do we have to actually go and market, to understand who they are, to take in feedback, build product with them, and create that dialogue where eventually that actually creates loyalty.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: I think that, I think that before social media, everybody loved, everybody loves Zappos, everybody loved it because you can, you just, they understood you. If something was wrong with the product, without question they would take it back and return it for you, right. And that built a ton of loyalty.

Eric Toda: I think Table Six today is doing that, but it's also being able to respond, being able to understand what the people want and being able to act like have them ask questions and you answer them in a timely manner, no matter time of the day or night it is, right. I think that still boils to now. That is the same type of transaction as me going and saying the shoe didn't work out, can I return it? They say, yeah no questions asked.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: And so I think, I think emotive, emotional connection builds that loyalty, and it builds that what I like to call like that irrational love for a brand.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Eric Toda: The things that, the thing that drives loyalty way past logic to where people line up to buy pairs of Air Maxes.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: To where people, to where people line up to buy the iPhone when really like if you think about it, there are other phones that are better than that.

Eric Toda: Right, and so I think that I think being able to, being able to drive that type of loyalty and love through just a two-way conversation is something that is a brand lover, even though it doesn't feel very traditional like a brand lover.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well it's so funny you bring up, bring that up. I am admittedly an irrationally, irresponsible Apple brand lover. Like they can...

Charlie Grinnell: Produce whatever, and I'm just like I know this is bad, but take my money. I don't even know why I want it, but just take it.

Eric Toda: And it's because, it's because you fell in love with everything they stand for, the value of the brand, the aesthetic, all that stuff. But also just like the experience.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: Of the brand. And what I'm really describing is you experiencing the brand. It's like, it's like customer services isn't just like something that happens, but instead it's like that's definitely a brand experience.

Charlie Grinnell Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: And if you go into an Outlook store and you love like the aesthetics, the smell, like the service, you like the products, but then you go online and you tweeted them and they tweeted you like something crazy, that's a disruption in the experience, right?

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Eric Toda: Therefore, everything has to be on brand, everything has to be premium and I think that's what customer service or things like customer service are such an extension of the brand that is, a brand team cannot live them, and shouldn't live with them.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: And shouldn't, I mean, shouldn't not live them.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, there can't be that disconnect.

Eric Toda: Totally.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, there has to be that consistency across the board. I completely agree. I want to, I want to talk a little bit about a buzz word in marketing and I want to get your own thoughts on it.

Eric Toda: Okay.

Charlie Grinnell: And the one that comes to word that I feel like anytime it gets said, I just like groan a little bit, and but I'd love to get your take. The word, authenticity.

Eric Toda: Oh, God.

Charlie Grinnell: Like I feel like that's a word that has been thrown around in marketing about authentic experiences and I think it definitely is a buzz word, but how can, like what is authenticity mean and how can brands use tech to kind of create that, right? Because I think traditionally authenticity is like, we're authentic, we're having a conversation together, when you insert maybe a tech barrier that becomes more difficult or it's not as authentic. But I want to just get your thoughts on that because I think you probably have an interesting take on this.

Eric Toda: I mean, yeah. I think authenticity is such a BS word now. It's like, it's like a slang term for not being weird, or not being, like not being real, right?

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Eric Toda It's like, I think that's definitely a slang term for that. I think authenticity is also a scapegoat for doing things a certain way, right. I think that brands should present themselves in a manner that represents their values as a company. Actually as a brand, as a company, meaning the employees, the consumers, et cetera.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: And one that elevates everything around it and if I want to think about like the true purpose of the word authentic, it's not about creation. It's not about creation. It's about curation. It's like how are, and like this is very social media, but like curation of a brand is not creating content to put on your Instagram feed, it's getting all the people that tags you and elevating them as your content.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: To me that's, I guess, in the original definition of the word, that's authentic because that is not the brand, it's not the brand. That's not the employees, but that is just real people that loves the product and those people are more important, I believe, than the brand itself because they create the brand.

Eric Toda: Their experiences with the company that creates the advocacy. It's their word of mouth that will get more people in through referrals, right. And so I think as authentic as a buzz word for brands to do things that are just different from what they're used to doing, but nine times out of 10, they just do. They do it in a way that just doesn't feel right.

Eric Toda: And it's like, it's like a lot of times brands are like, oh yeah, this is going to be, this is going to be a very authentic spot and then it's about like people having like a serious conversation about something. And it just feels like when your parents talk to you about like bad grades or something like puberty. It's just like, you're like, oh, this is so uncomfortable, like I don't know why this conversation is happening.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Eric Toda: That is not authentic thinking. That's not authentic to me at all, it's very embarrassing.

Charlie Grinnell: Well no, I mean, I agree with that and I want to, I want to kind of continue down this train of thought about brands.

Charlie Grinnell: Do you have any good or bad examples of brands that have done a really good or bad job of creating emotional connections through digital platforms?

Eric Toda: I think that many of DTC brands that you see today, the Casper, the Ways, the Warby Parker's, et cetera, all of those companies are built on the back of emotive and digital connections through social media.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: It's like and this is before any of them had stores, right. I think that so they've always had to build that emotional appeal in very crowded market places, and I think that what they've done really well is, they made the experience very seamless to get what you want.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: But they have also created content brands out of each other. I think that what you expect from them isn't just a service. They are transactions to get a product and that you go to them for inspiration, you go to them, sometimes you go to them when like a world event happens and you're like, oh something just happened. I'm going to go to Away's twitter feed because I want to see what statement they just made because they are normally pretty on top of things.

Eric Toda: Think about that for a second. Just think about that. It's so crazy to me that in 2020 we would, something, some economics or world event would happen, and the first thing you think about is you go to a suitcase's brand twitter feed.

Eric Toda: If you want to talk about an emotional connection, they have established an emotional connection where that's who you think about. You don't think about, oh, I'm going to turn on this news channel first, I want to do that. Like no, I want to go see, and many people do this, I want to go see what's on Twitter because my brands, the people that I follow are likely making statements.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: And sometimes, more times than not, that's where people are getting their news. And it's just crazy to me that that is the level emotional, and loyalty, and connection that consumers have with these brands because of the experiences they've built for them online.

Eric Toda: They have made it so easy for them to get the product, they made it so easy for them to advocate on behalf of the brand, and in exchange the brand has likely elevated their voice, the brand has likely rewarded them in someway, shape or form, made them feel as if they're part of a community, or introduced them to a community. And because of that, you now so quickly have built this irrational love for these brands that if something happens in the world, you go to their Twitter feed.

Eric Toda: Like oh, yes something happened in the world, I'm going to go to my shoemakers' Twitter feed right now because I want to see what they're saying. Or I want to go to my mattress, my favorite mattress company. Like I want to see what they are saying about like the world at large right now.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Well I even think about it almost being like our Town Square where it's okay, something in the world happens and I'm going to go to Twitter because like I want to see who is saying what, right?

Eric Toda: Yeah.

Charlie Grinnell: Surprising delay, that's like, it's like I'm going to go there because maybe they haven't said anything yet, but I want to be there because when Casper says something or when Away says something, or when Wendy's or whatever brand, right. Like I want to see what they're going to say there. So that's like, that's a really interesting concept.

Eric Toda: It's super interesting, right, and it's like a form of entertainment.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: It's so much informative entertainment and I think it's just, it's so crazy because I think, think about this. Like, let's say like this is back in the '80s like you would never think like, oh wow, like this crazy world event is happening with the Olympics, and I want to go see what X is saying right now on newspaper.

Eric Toda: Like what are they saying right now, like I demand them to say something. We demand brands to say something now. Like we demand it, not just for entertainment purposes but because we want to know if they are on our side or not.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Eric Toda: And I think that's such an interesting, it's such an interesting, interesting dynamic that didn't exist before because I could tell you, right now 80, '70s and '80s, '90s or forever as long as brands have existed, do you really think in the 1930s people really cared what Wrigley's had to say?

Charlie Grinnell: No.

Eric Toda: No, no, but people do now.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Eric Toda: I'll tell you that.

Charlie Grinnell: Oh, yeah.

Eric Toda: People do now, people do now.

Charlie Grinnell: Well yeah, it's interesting. It's this idea of the personification of brand, right and...

Eric Toda: Exactly.

Charlie Grinnell: If the brand is the person, okay, if I am a person and I feel this way about something, I want to see how you feel about it and how that brand feels about, and, and, and, and I think it was so funny when you started going through all the different decades there. I immediately all I thought was like typical crisis comms, stay quiet.

Eric Toda: Yeah.

Charlie Grinnell: Or like that's want most brands have done but now it's like you get in trouble for not having a stance.

Charlie Grinnell: You ignore it, right, and I think that has created a ton of discomfort but also necessary discomfort and like generally good for the Commonwealth, I think as a whole in terms of like humanity. It's really interesting how that has progressed over time and I think based on the current events, now whether it's the COVID thing, Black Lives Matter, so there's so many different things now that are happening in the world that are forcing these brands to be personified more so than ever before.

Eric Toda: Traditionally you would always think of a brand to function in very certain ways, right. You have your advertising.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: You have your media where you buy like print and like ad space, and then you have like user feedback. There's kind of like those three little parts. Because of social media you then now have like a digital team, like a website team, right.

Eric Toda: And now splitting off further from that it's like ongoing, ongoing brand communications. Like what is, what is the brand now doing in culture that's representative of the values that makes sure that we are always on the forefront. It's kind of like a newsroom essentially.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: It's like how are we staying up to conversation, what's happening around the brand, and essentially what that is, it's like that's just ongoing brand building. That's totally what it is. The voice of a brand is now a part of the product and if the voice does not represent the community at large, the values of the community at large, the community will then demand the product is then revisited and changed.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: And so I think that concept as a whole is evolving in such a way and at such a pace that it's pushing brands that are a hundred years old to move at the speed of a news cycle, or a news organization which is super interesting to me.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, no, I completely agree. I think about that. Well there's two things that come to mind. The first one is what you said about news rooms. I always used to say this when I was still working on the social side of things is, the internet doesn't have an off button. I always used to say that to my parents actually because it would be like, I'd have to do something and they'd like, aren't you done work? And I'm like the internet doesn't turn off. So there's that.

Charlie Grinnell: And then the second thing that what you just said about brands I can't help but think about the phrase, get good or get gone. Like this is just going to be like a correction of like, if you haven't been, if this change is happening and this is how consumers are behaving, this is what consumers want, adapt or die. Get good or get gone.

Charlie Grinnell: Those are just the things that come to my mind as we continue to kind of go through this shift and I think that like I said a little earlier, with COVID, with Black Lives Matter, those are going to be accelerant to this. It's going to expose the brands that aren't prepared for this, and already has exposed some brands that aren't prepared for it.

Eric Toda: Yes, I recently wrote an article that what COVID-19 really exposed for a marketing team is how underfunded their social teams are. And the reason why I say that, is because at the beginning of the pandemic marketing teams just shut down, pulled all the money from their advertising upfront deals, and they shut down Out Of Home, they shut down print, they shut down TV, and marketing teams were actually like laid off, right.

Eric Toda: The one team that wasn't laid off and the one team that continued to have pressure put on them was the social team.

Eric Toda: And guess what. Odds are, odds are the brand and marketing team, even the executive leadership team didn't consider that like a necessity, and so that was their only channel all along.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: Here's the thing too. With nothing else going on, all these executives, all these teams, all they did was just play on their phones and just tweet, and nitpick the social media strategy. And one of the things that I saw really, what was really interesting was that I started to see job postings for heads of social, I started to see job postings for Heads of Social.

Charlie Grinnell: Interesting.

Eric Toda: Across brands, and before, even when I was their Head of Social. So when I was their head of social, like the requirements were like 10 or plus years of experience, et cetera, et cetera. I saw these job posting and they were like 10 or 15 years experience. They were looking for, they were looking, they were looking for seasoned executives to run social because they realize, we've understaffed, we've under leadership, we've underfunded these teams.

Eric Toda: And now more than ever we now understand the true value that they're bringing forward, but as the brand's communication's engine that I think the pandemic really accelerated the digital transformation for so many brands were they're just like, oh wait. We actually need someone that could go hand to hand in a board meeting. We don't need some college intern anymore. We need someone, we need the executive presence and so I think that happened.

Eric Toda: And then the second part that happened is, obviously the racial injustices that's happening in America today where not only did they, like not only did they learn to understand that their social teams were underfunded, maybe immature, but now these brands are being demanded upon to make very mature statement on behalf of an entire community, that if you get it wrong, if you literally get it wrong-

Charlie Grinnell: Stakes are high.

Eric Toda: That you will be, you will be squired and the thing there is, is that these conversations always should have been had like six months ago, eight months ago, a year ago. And I think that's one of the things that's been so interesting to me is that I think you're going to see a rise in the executive presence of heads of social. Like a head of comms, like a head of brands because they control so much now that when the world stops, you now know the only team that keeps going is going to be your social team.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, no, I think. I think the one that comes to my mind there is how difficult it's going to be for brands to find that person that you just described.

Charlie Grinnell: Like you were probably one of the few who I would actually think of who comes to mind where I'm like, Toda would be the guy to like go and do that. But I mean, there is this. It is this like this breadth of knowledge needed as well as the depth of knowledge needed in conversation using tech, but tech in a way that's deployed in different areas of the business, playing translator with different levels of the org. Like it's not an easy thing and, but I think, but to your point though, this has accelerated the need for it. It's just it hadn't been as clear before to the majority I think of others, right. You and I get it?

Eric Toda: Yeah.

Charlie Grinnell: Because we've worked in social, we've been in social.

Eric Toda: 100%.

Charlie Grinnell: We get it, but I think that now so many other people see it as clearly which I think is...

Eric Toda: Yeah, it could be because actually I think they needed a proof of concept. I think they needed to see it for themselves. I think they needed it to fail.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: To be able to see what they needed, right? Because before, before I think it was just a head of social, or a head of digital just advocating. Like, hey we need more resources. I need, I need better resources. I need to be able to pay like for real experienced people and that. And then I was like, you know you're making tweets.

Charlie Grinnell: This digital thing.

Eric Toda: That's not a real thing. You're making these Tik Tok videos but I think, I think what this, with everything over the past like six months and it's just accelerated the need for the maturity. And you're right, it is extremely hard to find these people and the reason why it's hard to find these people is because, that level of misunderstanding of what head of social should do and the experience and the maturity that it takes to be in that role now has really made heads of social look elsewhere to find elevated executive experience.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: Take a look at like all your Head of Comms, right. They have been Comms people for their entire career. But Comms is a very, is a very longstanding tradition and a very longstanding industry. Social is not.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: I think that changes now because I think that you're going to have heads of social stay in social roles. You're going to have them, right? I think I look at Head of Social for Apple, John Solomon. He's only been in social roles, right. And I think like he will continue, like he will likely, I think, like to continue in those roles because I think like it shows trajectory but it also shows maturity.

Eric Toda: It shows just the depth of knowledge like you said. And to find these people have to pluck them back from VP of Marketing roles, or VP of brand roles to say, listen we need executive presence in the head of social role. Please come back because we need like a real, real head of social.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Eric Toda: Not just one that, not just one that we just took of the street. And so that's what I think really changes throughout all of this.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, I think it makes a ton of sense organizationally. I just wonder, I can't help but wonder how traditional CMO or VP of Marketing who would usually have a Head of Social under them on their org, feel about that.

Charlie Grinnell: Some of them might be like, yes awesome. Like I need a partner at the table when I'm talking with boards or whoever it is. But also I can't help but think that some of them might be, well no. Like I need to be in control of this and I need to keep this kind of under me. So what are your thoughts on that?

Eric Toda: I mean, that's, that's... I mean, welcome to my life. I mean, that's kind of like, that's kind of the interesting thing, right. It's like that stuff's part the gray area of the evolving nature of social. I think, I think you're going to have, and more so than not you're going to have CMOs understand what their not good at.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: Understand like they have gaps in knowledge and bring an experienced Head of Social to the table to work with the executive team. And luckily for me, that's what I had at Airbnb.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Eric Toda: Like Jonathan Mildenhall, fantastic CMO, brought me along in those calls. So he didn't because he was like, Eric, what should we do on social, right. I think you're, I think you're having a lot of those conversations now that are bringing heads of social up in the extremest level, to the executive level so that they can help navigate a company.

Eric Toda: To those other CMOs that are just like, no I need to control everything, you know the reality is, is that, that could work for a certain amount of time, right?

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Eric Toda: Another pandemic hits, everything shuts down and they're left on their own to run their social feed, let's see how you fair.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Eric Toda: Let's see how you swim, right? I think that not, I think we need to be more self aware as an industry to say like, if you're not good at something, hire the people that could fill the whole.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: You're only as good as your team. And so I haven't, I haven't worked with any CMOs that have done that.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: Have been like, no, no, I own everything. A lot of times they really have done it, it's like they've really held the door open for me to.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: That's really expressed my knowledge. But I do know friends that are heads of social that have been pushed down by that.

Eric Toda: And so for them that change is coming. I think that CMOs are now become even more self aware of how important it is to be active on social, how important it is to be involved but also hire the experts because I think you see, like this was a great witness test for every single brand out there, just to see, just to see how good your social strategy was over the past four months.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Yeah, well and the one thing that I think about is, the market is the market, right? So like the market doesn't care. The market is going to continue to change that way and though I think those CMOs who are going to be more strategic and have a better approach, are going to be the ones that rise to the top. And the ones that are going to try and control everything are the ones that are probably going to struggle because of how fast things are changing, and the new normal and that sort of thing.

Eric Toda: Yeah for sure.

Charlie Grinnell: So I want to switch gears a little bit here. What are you most excited about when it comes to marketing right now? There're so many different things happening, what gets you excited?

Eric Toda: Oh, man.

Charlie Grinnell: When you're like, this is, this what I'm excited for when it comes to marketing in 2020 and beyond?

Eric Toda: It's hard for me to answer that because I think that my answer four months ago would have been different than my answer now. Like, I think four months ago, I would have said that I'm really excited for more experiences to come from brands.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Eric Toda: Meaning less traditional advertising, more digital experiences, more, more brand leverage throughout Twitch or through our live streaming services. Like things like that, that like I were really interesting, that really expand the brand through more scales through digital.

Eric Toda: I think that still exist. I think that still exist just to an extent, but what I, but again like I think what you and I are talking about, the most excited thing that I'm most, that I'm most amped about is to see the new found energy in roles that I've held before.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: Like a head of social role, like again, it made me so proud. It made me so proud to see job descriptions open for heads of social roles with 10 to 15 years.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: Because that shows that there is an investment going towards them, and when you have someone in that role that has experience, you start to see brands become visual negative. You start to see brands then create experiences over digital platforms like a Twitch or news streaming services.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: And you start to see brands transform versus brands being so traditional and then digital. And so what makes me most excited really is the resurgence of creativity through social, through the new platforms that are coming up like the Tik Toks, the Twitches of the world, but also just the maturity of how brands can now be social first.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: Like because I think that this pandemic has really put the emphasis on what it means to be a social first brand versus, oh now, we stopped everything. Like we need to start, we need to start putting out tweets.

Eric Toda: And it was funny to watch, man. It was to watch. I felt bad for them, for my friends that were in social roles, but that's why I wrote that article, and had we, it was just like listen, I see you. I know what you're going through, but you should, but all of those people should know, and what I want to encourage them to do is stay in, stay in those roles. Stay in the social roles because help is coming.

Eric Toda: A lot of like, a lot of my friend have had conversations with me about taking a step back from their VP of Brand and VP of Marketing roles to go back into social because I think that the level of expertise and our experience, and just honestly just some of the fun that we had doing it, versus other things, I think that I think there's going to be a lot more creativity to come.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. No, well said and I agree. I want to ask another, you kind of alluded to an answer for this, but I want to ask it to you in a different way. What's the biggest piece of advice that you have for marketers that they should be keeping top of mind right now?

Eric Toda: I think the biggest thing is that they need to understand there isn't a ladder. The ladder doesn't exist anymore. I think that there's this, there's this weird, not weird, there's this... there's this misconception that you need to pay, do a certain, take a certain path, to have certain jobs and continue on a war path towards CMO.

Eric Toda: And I tell them this that it's, I've been in a CMO role after coming from a head of social role, and it was a great role. It was a fantastic role and I loved being a CMO, but you have all the time in the world to become a CMO. You really do. I was in a rush to do it because I believed that there was a ladder and I needed to achieve it. But there was so much more that I wanted to achieve at Airbnb as the head of social.

Eric Toda: There's more than, more than I wanted to achieve as the head of social for another brand, and continue to see how I, how me and some others can push the industry forward just so that we can become an executive role like the head of comms or the head of brand.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: And so my suggestion to these, to people coming out is, go for the heads of social. Like go for the social roles because those are the roles that are going to be absolutely necessary in the future because social is going to be such a catch all. Like streaming services I've heard are social roles. Like media on streaming services which I think is ridiculous but whatever.

Eric Toda: But I think those types of channels are never going to go away, and so to be TV experts in this versus being an expert in radio or and expert in print, I think will serve you really well and we need your energy. We need your creativity and who knows maybe one day I'll come back and join you guys because it was, it was one of my favorite roles, and I think that repriving it would bring me a lot of happiness because... because I think that to do something that millions of people see, engage with is a once in a career type feeling.

Charlie Grinnell: Absolutely. Yeah, I mean it makes me think back to my time at Red Bull, the same type of thing where...

Eric Toda: Yeah, exactly.

Charlie Grinnell: You know when something you put out is seen by millions and millions of people, you're like wow, that's really cool. And it does kind of make you... Well because I think about the... that idea of like the rat race, like the corporate ladder and whatever, and then there're times where like we would, we would do an activation or create a piece of content and it would go big, and I would be like, that was awesome.

Eric Toda: Yes.

Charlie Grinnell: Like that's why we do it. It's like those people got excited about something that we were able to create that resonated with them in a different way, shape, or form. So that definitely hits home for me as well.

Eric Toda: Right.

Charlie Grinnell: And as we start to wind down this episode, I always ask this. How do you stay on top, like up to date and on top of business and marketing? Who are you following, what are you reading, what are you listing to?

Eric Toda: Yeah, I mean, I try to follow as many CMOs as I can. Some of them are not as active as others. Like a lot of them have families so it's just, so they're not, none of them are very active but I also try to just stay in contact with peers that are in similar roles to mine, that has had similar careers paths as mine.

Eric Toda: I think one of the best networks possible to get marketing, and to understand marketing, and to understand like the future of marketing is LinkedIn.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.

Eric Toda: I think that, that's honestly that's one of the best networks to get information. I think Twitter's okay with that, but people are really thoughtful on LinkedIn.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: And you just have to find, like you have to be part of the groups, right. Like you have to be part of like the AdWeek group, or the Forbes group, et cetera.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: And those people they cultivate information sharing, and then you find the people who are like active, like super active. Well like yourself, man. I think, I think you're a good follow, you're a solid follow.

Charlie Grinnell: I appreciate that.

Eric Toda: You always ask like really provocative questions. You always ask questions that are topical which I always appreciate. I think there's too much of that, but you get marketers to think, and I think that having the discourse and the conversation is what pushes our industry forward.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: And so I think LinkedIn is probably one of the best resources that you can possibly have as an aspiring marketing or as a marketer somewhere in their career-

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, well said. I completely agree. What's the best place for people to find you online?

Eric Toda: All my handles are the same, @Toda, ask me questions, I just, I just did an experiment in which I gave people my phone number to text me, underestimated how many people would actually text me.

Charlie Grinnell: How many people texted you?

Eric Toda: Too many, man.

Charlie Grinnell: Like over 10, over 20, over 50?

Eric Toda: Over a hundred people.

Charlie Grinnell: Over a hundred?

Eric Toda: Yeah. Yeah over a hundred people. You could still find the post. Here's the thing, I will get to all of you. I will get to all of you, I promise. I encourage you to text me now, and the reason why I want you to text me is because I want to help. I want to help. I want to, I think mentoring is way too formal with like Zoom calls and stuff like that.

Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Toda: Even though this is on a Zoom call, but if you want to find me, @Toda. Pick me up on the socials or text me at 415 498 1191, text me your questions.

Charlie Grinnell: Love it. Well thank you so much for joining me today. I always learn something when I talk to you and I really appreciate it, and I'm sure our audience will as well. So thank you.

Eric Toda: No, thank you, Charlie. I appreciate it.

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