What's Working in Marketing™: How Marketing Can Break Down Silos Using Different Language with John Huntinghouse, VP of Marketing at TAB Bank
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 John Huntinghouse, VP of Marketing at TAB Bank. We talk about how marketing can break down silos in the corporate environment with some relatively basic principles he's discovered over the course of his career. John initially transitioned into marketing as a full-time blogger from a completely different career path, but he has some entrepreneurial roots that really tied into his ability to grow as a business marketing leader. He explains how marketers get stuck in this common communication bubble that stifles the transfer of information internally, and gives suggestions that will help you align with your delivery with other departments in the business. As digital marketing grows and changes, so does this bubble, so please listen for some very important perspective.
Here's a full transcript of our conversation with John:
Charlie Grinnell: Welcome to What's Working in Marketing™, a podcast for marketers that uncovers what's working across the digital landscape by tapping into the world's best data-backed research, and through candid conversations with industry experts. I'm your host, Charlie Grinnell.
Charlie Grinnell: On this episode, I'm joined by John Huntinghouse, VP of Marketing at TAB Bank. John, thanks so much for joining me today.
John Huntinghouse: Well, thanks for the invite. I'm super excited to be here.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, likewise.
Charlie Grinnell: So I usually open these episodes by going back to the beginning of people's career. I feel like that's a great way to frame up context about the subject that we're talking about and give our listeners an understanding of your frame of thinking. So can you just share a bit of background of, how did you get into marketing, how did that progress and how has that shaped you into where you're at today?
John Huntinghouse: Yeah. I mean, it's always a good origin story, right? Like as how you come into marketing. But yeah, mine's very nontraditional route as to how I came into marketing. I actually came from, I used to be a cardiovascular genetic researcher and so that was what I did in a former life, right. Very different than marketing.
Charlie Grinnell: Casual.
John Huntinghouse: Yeah. Yeah. I know.
Charlie Grinnell: Supernatural transition.
John Huntinghouse: Yeah. I mean, every, everybody was like, "What? You're doing what now?" But yeah, I did CV research and then I actually went from a CV research to a full-time blogger, which is like the most like random transition in the world. So I got my start in marketing as a full-time blogger. We'll probably go into this a little bit more as we go through the podcast, but I think one of my sensitivities to business metrics and stuff like that is because I was a full-time blogger I had to combine both the marketing data that we're looking at, in terms of engagements and website and everything. But then I also had to tie that back into the business because the business had to grow, right? Because I was running a business at the same time.
John Huntinghouse: I did that for quite a few years and then ended up getting recruited to work at a local NBC affiliate news station here. I ran their social media. I was their director of social media. That wasn't necessarily the best fit for me and vice versa. And then I ended up going into the agency route after that. And so loved my time in the agency. And it was great, worked with some really smart people. And I feel like during that time at the news station, as well as the agency, that's really where I started to hone in the craft, right. Like really start to refine and articulate the things that I had experienced as a marketer, and really trying to understand and add a level of depth and rigor to the metrics that we were running.
John Huntinghouse: And really a lot of that comes from stemming from a CV research background. You turn it in an abstract, your first draft on that and when it gets peer-reviewed, I mean, it gets torn into pieces. And honing in on your numbers, understanding what the metrics mean, how it ties into the overall focus and hypothesis that you're running through. I think taking that rigor from my research life and bringing that into marketing, it's really been one of the things that's, for me in my career, differentiated things. And then ultimately came here to TAB Bank, expand my scope from the director of digital marketing into VP of marketing, and running all of marketing over here at TAB Bank. And in a nutshell, I mean, I could go into details, but in a nutshell, that's how I got to where I am.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Well, what's so funny. I feel like every marketer says I have a nontraditional background, and I think that's true, but I've never heard cardiovascular researcher before. I feel like that is definitely a different one. I think that takes the cake.
John Huntinghouse: Yeah. Well, it's weird. It's funny because when I first started and made that transition people, either prior to a meeting or prior to doing a brand deal or something like that, people would do research on me just to learn more about who I am. And every everything online was all my papers that I published from the academic side, from CV research. And they're like, "Is this the same person? There's no way there's two John Huntinghouse's." Like, everything I find online it's very different the person that I feel like I'm meeting with right now, so it was a little weird.
Charlie Grinnell: That's awesome. That's awesome. Well, I want to dive into the topic at hand. You and I have had conversations around insights, communicating metrics, and one of the things that really, I think, spurred my desire to have you on this podcast, for this episode specifically, was that LinkedIn post that you published all around sharing metrics and how marketing is actually speaking a different language than other areas of the business. Let's dive into that a little bit deeper and explain what bubble that marketers tend to get stuck in, and why and how that relates to the other areas of the business.
John Huntinghouse: Yeah. I mean, marketers are just like any department, right? Marketers have their department-specific metrics they have a tendency to look at and focus on. The problem is, is as you speak with other departments, and especially as you're talking to C-suite or upper management, a lot of those metrics while they're useful for the marketers, from the management standpoint, they just don't know what to do with that information. It's like, okay, that's great. Our website traffic is increasing, or that our conversions are increasing, but ultimately the metrics that they're looking at is they're looking at the overall health and growth of the company. The problem is, is when we're just stuck in our own marketing bubble, and when we're not communicating effectively as to how that pertains to those bottom-line numbers, upper management, just like, they don't know what to do with that.
John Huntinghouse: And so marketers, when we're trying to have influence, when we're trying to have a seat at the table, traditionally we don't get that seat at the table because, A, we don't understand the language that's being spoken and they clearly don't understand our language. And one of the things that spurred that was having a conversation with a friend of mine and he was just incredibly frustrated. And I tried to shed a little bit of light, a little different perspective for him. And it was like, "Look, if you want to help them understand, you need to do the work for them. They're not going to be able to just come in and make that tie. Because they don't understand the marketing metrics. And so you need to find a way to tie those marketing metrics into the metrics that the upper management and C-suite are looking at." Because that's what they're, ultimately they're reporting on that to a board or to whoever.
John Huntinghouse: And if they can't explain the numbers and the metrics you're giving to them in that context, they're just not going to do it at all. Yeah. And so ultimately, I think that's where we run into this trap is like, we got so stuck in our own marketing metrics, which is fine, they're useful and need to understand them. But when we are communicating to other departments, and especially as we're communicating to upper management, we really need to be able to tie that language, their metrics, into the metrics that we're looking at.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Completely agree. I think one of the things that comes to mind for me is, it's like that internal sales aspect, right? Like to your point, if you're going to try and influence the organization to whether that's fighting for more marketing budget, or investing in a new initiative or channel, or a partnership or something like that, you're going to need to sell it. And you can't sell to someone if you don't speak their language. That's, I think, what comes to mind is your opportunity for influence goes to zero if you do not speak the same language.
John Huntinghouse: Yeah. I mean, because they just don't get it. Right. And vice versa. You could flip the other way, right? Like if you have someone from IT, who's telling us like, "Hey, listen, we need to make this change that's going to affect marketing." And they're speaking and they're using numbers and metrics that we're not familiar with because they're IT specific metrics, I really don't understand why this is important. Because I want to. We're all on the same team here, but I just don't get why it's important. And conversely, that's what happens when we're speaking in our marketing bubble. They want to understand, they just don't. We need to find a way to bridge that gap.
Charlie Grinnell: I think that's like some of the best marketers that I've worked with, and I'd be curious to get your take on this, is ones that can act as translators between the business. So they know, hey, we're doing this from a marketing perspective, here's how we're reporting on it from metrics but also, here's why we're doing it. And that is why is related back to an overarching business objective. So we're trying to grow our brand awareness. We're trying to grow our user acquisition. We're trying to grow our attention, whatever that is, and tying those two things back. What do you think about that?
John Huntinghouse: Ultimately like when you're trying to communicate and you realize you're not doing an effective job on this, and this is something that I've done myself. I run into the same problem. Where I get frustrated, I present data that I think is very clearly articulated. I think it's good and then it gets dismissed out of hand. It's really easy for me just to rail on them and just say like, "They just don't get it, you know?" But the reality is, yeah you need to bring in other people, or have other people help you better understand how to communicate it. I mean, it really is, that's what it is. It's just learning to, as you're progressing in your career and as you're trying to have influence with other departments in the business, you need to be able to communicate in a way that they understand.
John Huntinghouse: And if you naturally aren't able to do that, and for me, I was so entrenched in the marketing world and I still am. I still run into our marketing buzzwords and our marketing lingo and I have to deconstruct that. Our bank president who probably gets marketing better than most CEOs and presidents, occasionally, he'll just look at me and be like, "You're going to have to rephrase that." And it's like, "Oh yeah, sorry. I'm going a little bit too off on the deep end here. Let me rephrase that." So I agree, getting other people either externally or internally.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
John Huntinghouse: There's a lot of internal stakeholders that can help you bridge that gap to better communicate what's going on.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. It's an interesting point that you raise there. It comes back to this simple principle of alignment of language, right? To your point, that common phrase, marketers ruin everything, including like definitions of things, alignment of language is like, you had such a great word for this, then someone decided to add it or morph it, or now it's something else. And we're like, "Wait is that the same thing or different?" And there is this obfuscation that happens, and so.
John Huntinghouse: It is like one of my biggest pet peeves that marketers do this. And it's like, I can't stand it. It's like, listen, if it's fundamentally different than cool, then let's go with it. But it's so hard to communicate because we're changing the terminology all the time when we're really essentially talking about the exact same thing. But anyway, we can have a whole nother podcast episode.
Charlie Grinnell: Alignment of language I feel like is a big topic. And it's funny though because that's something that I talk a lot about in strategy conversations is aligning language, and the importance of aligning language. Even aligning on the definition of an objective, a strategy and a tactic. Like even just those three things, having that alignment of language, but it's the same thing with metrics and communicating that with the business. Being able to communicate learnings to them and vice versa. Interpret what you're hearing back from them. The other thing that you said that was interesting that stuck out of my mind is the need for education. Now, when you say education, is that a two way street? So obviously marketing needs to educate themselves, but at the same time, what is marketing doing to help educate the broader business? I was wondering if you could expand on that.
John Huntinghouse: Yeah. I mean just to use a very nascent example, which is for us here at TAB Inc. When I first came on board, the person who originally hired me ended up leaving three months after I started.
Charlie Grinnell: Wow.
John Huntinghouse: And then we had a realignment as to where marketing went into. And this is honestly probably one of the best things that's happened for me in my career. The person now that I now report to, he's an accountant by trade.
Charlie Grinnell: Interesting.
John Huntinghouse: And he'll self admit this. He's not a marketer. And when we first were meeting, we couldn't have come from two different worlds. Right?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
John Huntinghouse: Me coming from a marketing standpoint and him coming from an accounting standpoint. But one of the things that has really been well it's A, education on my part. He's helped me a lot to really dig deeper into how does a CFO or how does an accountant look at the numbers, look at what we're looking at, and really understand the metrics that I need to start to focus on? But to his credit, he's also really started to gain an understanding of how marketing works. And on some of the things that we can and clearly articulate and work well, and some of the things that we can't. And so then on the ones that we can't, that gets in a little bit more of a nebulous area, that we don't have direct attribution or that attribution's a little messy. Like understanding, when it comes to branding and how we're looking, whether or not our brand efforts are effective or not, him coming and meeting us and finding this co-education between the two.
John Huntinghouse: And I realized that I'm really fortunate here at TAB because I had someone that was willing to do that, and other people don't. I know plenty of examples from personal friends of mine, who they report to a boss who could care less. They're just like, "Whatever, I don't get it." And just throw them back. But when you have both upper management who's reaching down and trying to meet you and really hammer out, like, what is important, what's not important? From my perspective, this is what I'm seeing. Now you try to explain why I'm wrong. Where I'm missing the mark. And vice versa. Having that back and forth, I think is just really, really crucial in terms of, honestly, for businesses to hone in their metrics in terms of focusing on what's most important.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Well, the thing that immediately, I thought of, as you were explaining that is this phrase that a really good friend of mine used where he said, "Marketing is art for the sake of commerce, commerce being the keyword." And it's like, I've gone back in previous roles when I worked on the brand side as to like, what are we trying to do here? Like yeah, we're trying to do this. I think a lot of times marketers almost get like too lost in the sauce, so to speak. Is the phrase that I love using. They get lost in the sauce of like, we're doing this activation and here's this strategy we rolled out and we're going to do all this thing and this new feature and blah, blah, blah. And they're so excited about that. And they get lost in the sauce instead of realizing like, why are we doing this? And what does this actually contribute to, from a business perspective?
Charlie Grinnell: And so yeah, that commerce being the keyword and that's why it's necessary to have those conversations and that constant ongoing dialogue with people who are maybe sitting more on the finance side or the high-level business stewardship, I guess.
John Huntinghouse: It's true. And a lot of times that happens because, and I don't know why this happens so often, but oftentimes upper management, they just don't communicate the whole picture. Right?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
John Huntinghouse: They become a filter in and of themselves. The more that they're able to give marketers, and then the more that someone like a VP of marketing, or a director of marketing can lay out to the people who are reporting to them the full picture, the better that they understand. It's like, you know what? I'm working on this and we have some awesome results here, but it really has nothing to do with our overall strategy or like the overall goals. Therefore, now I start to understand.
John Huntinghouse: And I always use my daughter, my oldest daughter who's 13. And she is like, I mean, she's probably helped me refine this better than anyone. Because if I tell her to do something without a reason she calls it immediately. Like she just calls it out. She's like, "Dad, you are just making crap up right now. Just stop. There's no reason that I can or cannot do that." But if I'm able to tell her, just help her understand why I'm asking her to do something, all of a sudden she actually is really good at getting it. It's like, I understand it, I'm willing to follow suit with that.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. There's a reason.
John Huntinghouse: Yeah.
Charlie Grinnell: But what a concept, there's a reason.
John Huntinghouse: I know. Right? I know.
Charlie Grinnell: It sounds so simple. And like, yeah, I immediately think of like-
John Huntinghouse: It's hard. Yeah. Go ahead.
Charlie Grinnell: Like love it or hate it, the Simon Sinek book, Start With Why. Like some people love it, some people hate it, but it's true. It all does go back to starting with why. And I'm lucky he got that title of that book. What a title.
John Huntinghouse: I know seriously.
Charlie Grinnell: So we've kind of talked about the challenge or the problem, so to speak, or what causes it. I want to switch gears here and talk about what's the best way to improve this? To marketers who are listening that are going, okay, hey everything that you have just been talking about resonates with me. I've felt that pain or I've observed that pain. What can they do to seek new ways to improve their communication approach and insights, whether that's across a team of people or a specific executive? What would you say that they should be keeping in mind?
John Huntinghouse: There's a million different ways you can approach this, but first and foremost, if you do not understand what your boss is looking at, if you don't understand their dashboard, that's where you have to start. You have to understand the framework, where you're reporting to. For me, they just gave me access to it. Right? They're like, "Hey, this is exactly what I'm looking at. This is what I'm trying to make sense of." Once I started to do that and at the agency level, it was remarkable. I mean, the biggest problems that agencies run into is that they lack context. They don't have clear, perfect visibility in terms of internal focus and strategies of what the company really wants to do overall. And the more clear, and the more transparent that could become, the better you and the agency works because they start to gain context a little bit.
John Huntinghouse: The same thing happens internally within a business, it's like, when I don't clearly understand what the intent is, I love the concept of commander's intent because what it is, it's like, listen, we know we're going to build out this plan and almost guarantee you that there's going to be parts of this plan that gets blown up. But you need to understand the overall intent in our case would be overall goals, overall strategy, what we're trying to understand. And the best way to do that is to look at, what are the dashboards, what are the metrics that your bosses are working on? And when you can see clearly without them filtering it, and just go to them, just like, listen, I want to align all of our activities to what you're doing so that, like I really want to make your job easier.
John Huntinghouse: But when you do that, it is step number one, right. Like everything else, I feel like comes second. But as you gain clearer understanding and aligning yourselves better to where the business is, what direction they're trying to go to, the better that process tends to go. And so if you don't have clear visibility into what your boss is being judged on, you should get that. Every boss that I know of is more than willing to say that. It's like, listen, this is what I have to report on. So if you can help me improve my numbers, just like marketers are trying to improve their own numbers, the better alignment you can create.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Well, the thing that it sounds like is key there is this causal linkage between the two, right? So it's like much like you as the VP of marketing has your team under you, who are responsible for things that need to ladder up to what you're responsible for, you then need to ladder up to what CFO or CEO. And it's all having those things that link from top to bottom and having them causely link. So that makes a ton of sense. Is there an example that you have? Can you think of an instance where you or your team had a, maybe a unique or powerful thing to share with the company, a successful campaign, that sort of thing? But you, maybe weren't able to tell it well to the rest of the organization and maybe it was it related to language? Do you have any examples of that? Because thinking back on my career, I probably do where I'm like, this is amazing. And everyone, it falls on like dead airs, deaf ears and like crickets.
John Huntinghouse: It was probably the stressful part. But basically, I had a situation where working with the client and we had the data, we were gearing up for a massive Black Friday event and we clearly had a year's worth of data that showed us the direction that we needed to go. And I was pretty adamant on this for our strategies in terms of communication and what we need to go high level, it really was just a more direct approach. Whereas they were just like, well, this seems so off-brand. We need something more brand-friendly, uplifting, and fun, you know? And my pushback is like, it won't work, you know? And I was trying to show them the metrics and the numbers throughout the year that clearly, to me, clearly demonstrated that this was going to work.
John Huntinghouse: And so we went back and forth and they're like, "Yeah." But they didn't get it. They didn't understand the information I was trying to say. Long story short, this actually ended up working out. But what happened was we kept on going back and forth and I just felt so strongly. I was like, the data on here is so clear to me. But they gave us an ultimatum. It's like, cool, we'll do it your way but if it doesn't work, we're going to let you go as a client. And it was like, like my job would've been fine but we had two people in the creative side, that was completely dependent upon this client. If that client leaves those two people get let go. So I was stressing out. I was just like, oh man, this is nutty. And in this case it worked out. But what I realized was through that experience, I did a really, really poor job. It shouldn't have been just an ultimatum. The reason they did an ultimatum is because they didn't understand, but they also wanted just to move forward. And so, whatever, you do whatever, but you still-
Charlie Grinnell: It's going to be your butt on the line.
John Huntinghouse: Yeah. Like, we don't understand what you're doing. So if this doesn't work, like this is on you. And it was clear as day to me that I did a really, really poor job at really communicating why I felt so passionately about what the data was saying. You asking that question, A, it was so stressful. Like Black Friday comes, I'm refreshing it in three minutes. I'm looking at the customers as I come in, but it worked out. It was undone, it was unnecessary had I just communicated correctly. And had I communicated that they would've clearly seen what I saw and they would've been fine with it. And they would've been on board
Charlie Grinnell: Clear communication and structured communication. That's something that I feel like I'm good at talking, but I'm constantly always having to figure out the writing portion and clearly communicate. And now what I've tried to start doing is writing things out, is a way that good writing is clear thinking, I think is like a phrase. And so, yeah, that's interesting that you bring that up. I want to switch gears here a bit, just to talk about marketing more general here. What are you most excited about when it comes to marketing? I feel like there's been a lot that's happened in marketing over the last little bit. We've had different platforms roll-up. There's obviously been changes in privacy with iOS 14.5, cookies going away. There's no shortage of shiny objects across the board. What gets you fired up as a marketer? What are you excited for as we head into another year here?
John Huntinghouse: Honestly, just generally speaking, 30,000-foot views. I actually love diving into creating new processes, creating and doing new product launches, like all of this. Because the messiness that comes along with it, I think actually builds marketing muscles. It helps you refine, it helps you articulate what you're really trying to get to. But the one thing that, especially with some of the shifts that we're seeing, some of the shifts that we're already seeing, being consumer-focused, really the customers really owning the platforms. And it's not really the brands just communicating to the customers. The customers really control this journey. But one of the things that I think that we're looking at, and maybe there isn't, some of the top brands are doing this, but like, I think some of the mid tiers to bottom tiers, or I mean, smaller mom and pop shops aren't really focusing on, is this share from this pre-purchase phase to the post-purchase and the purchase stage of the marketing game.
John Huntinghouse: Like I really think there's a massive opportunity for marketing to really get outside of just like getting customers through the door. Because that really is only one part of it, but really focusing on the retention and that customer journey and customer experience there, could really, both experiences from that we're experiencing as well as other clients that I've had. When marketers only focus on up to acquisition, that really is only a third of the game. You're just getting them to buy your product. But if you want to see massive marketing for growth, and we've seen this at TAB, improving that customer journey and finding ways to build these growth loops, if you will, or create a flywheel within your customer base, really is an awesome opportunity to see big large growth, right?
John Huntinghouse: You get your 15, 20% year-over-year growth, which is awesome. But when you're trying to grow, we've ended up growing up our pipeline from 20 million, two years ago, to 200 million.
Charlie Grinnell: Wow.
John Huntinghouse: And so, how do you do that? Very few companies really have the resources to just do that only through acquisition. It's too expensive to do that. But when you're broadening out your strategies to include the purchase and the post-purchase customer journey, I think it becomes really, really powerful. And I really do think that marketing, and it's marketing's unique voice, is the voice of the customer. Really understanding where they are, what their needs are. And then as we're talking about alignment, I think marketing's superpower is being able to create alignment between the customers and where they're at, and where they're moving with the business. And helping direct them. It's like, okay, yeah, this is where our customers are moving. It's a dynamic area and we need to follow where the customers are going.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. It's funny thinking back to, just as you were talking through that, thinking about, yeah, typically you'd hear marketing's job as to bring customers in the door, and that was it. The last decade probably is like, yeah, bring customers in the door. And it's almost thinking like, okay, that was high school, elementary school, high school. And like now university is going to be like, okay, what can you do to retain those customers? And I wonder if it's almost been with the shift of business model. Because I feel like, and maybe this is just me and, and my privyness to it, but I feel like over the last five years probably, there's been a lot of talk, within the marketing world, around business models, recurring revenue models, SaaS, these types of businesses.
Charlie Grinnell: And as part of that shift in model, you're starting to see like, oh, now that you're shifting to recurring, it's not just getting people in the door, it's keeping them in the door and like, what are you doing? And keeping them in the door is a whole, opens a whole nother can of worms, so to speak. Because it's a different set of problems that you're trying to solve for. And it's a different set of solution that you have to come up with. It doubles, triples the work sometimes. And so, yeah, huh, that's really interesting. I feel like that's like a bold prediction. Like a John Huntinghouse 2022 prediction is like focusing on diving deeper into retention and conversion.
John Huntinghouse: Yeah. Especially, obviously, you kind of see that in a tech world, but I mean, it's funny. There is this battle in the marketing world, especially with some large brands versus some performance-driven type marketers. I mean, this is like my school of thought. But there is another school of thought that retention doesn't matter at all. That retention, basically that you can't control retention. And it's funny because me personally, like completely, this is slightly off-topic, but-
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, yeah, fire away.
John Huntinghouse: But it really is. One of my goals is to create this unifying marketing theory. And it really is tying in marketing rules that govern the large, massive brands, like the Nikes, Amazons, Googles of the world, as well as like the mom and pop shops or the one-off e-commerce.
John Huntinghouse: In a lot of ways I feel like it's like dealing with Einstein's laws of physics and dealing with, when you're looking on a smaller scale you have these two competing forces, physics, and Einstein trying to combine those two. I still feel like we see something very similar in marketing and it's like we have these two like governing laws that run into each other with brand and performance marketing. But I really do feel like there's an opportunity to, how do we bring these, like our version of quantum mechanics and tying that into these large brand laws and theories?
Charlie Grinnell: It's so funny, there probably hasn't been a podcast episode that I've recorded where brand and performance as like two sides of the fence don't come up and the pendulum that swings back and forth between the two. So, yeah, that's hilarious. I think the retention piece, I feel like we're just scratching the surface. We have some best-in-class brands that do that across different industries, just with the continued maturity of digital. And as it continues to mature, as a function. Plus, as the world becomes more and more digital, I think we're just scratching the surface. If we think back what, the iPhone came out in 2007, 2008, whatever time it is, okay, we're 15 years in, we have a teenager. Imagine what that's going to be when they're a 30-year-old or a 50-year-old, or that sort of thing.
Charlie Grinnell: So interesting to think about. This is a completely random question. Are there any brands out there that you admire from a marketing perspective? Like for me, Apple can do no wrong for me. I'm that a guy that Apple rolls out a product that is completely irrational and I'm just like, take my money. Or another one would be Yeti Coolers. I think what Yeti's done, they took a category and a product that wasn't sexy and made it super sexy. So I really appreciate that. But are there any brands for you, like when you think about like marketing and what pops up to you?
John Huntinghouse: I'm in the same boat with Apple. I really do like Nike, I like a lot of the work that they're doing. It's not low-key. I mean, they're spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year, but I think what Progressive is doing is awesome. It's world-class software.
Charlie Grinnell: Progressive Insurance.
John Huntinghouse: Yeah. Progressive Insurance.
Charlie Grinnell: Okay. [crosstalk 00:30:41].
John Huntinghouse: I mean their long term pitcher of what they're trying to do with their brand characters, specifically just to highlight one component of this. I mean, they are creating MCU version of, or the insurance version of the MCU. Marvel Cinematic Universe. So like what Marvel did in building into the Avengers is what Progressive is doing. And so their brand play is not a one-year, one or two-year brand play.
John Huntinghouse: I mean, it's a decade. Like these are like decades to the making. Building up these different characters like Flo and Dr. Rick and like all of these. I relate a lot to Dr. Rick, because it's like completely on point for me. And then they're creating these separate verticals of these brand characters in these different worlds. But ultimately they're going to be bringing them together. And it's like, I think it's like a genius play from, so as we're talking about brand marketing, I think it's, it's really awesome to see a large brand do a long-term play. I don't think people talk about Progressive enough. I mean, people do, but they fall under the radar a little bit. But I think both their creativity, as well as their, just their performance side is actually really, really on the point.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. That is not what I thought you were going to say. And I'm like, now I want to go away and dig into that. I guess as you were saying that it does me make sense. When you think about insurance, if you can retain those people, high customer lifetime value, I think about like my parents or the insurance that I have for my homeowner's insurance, it's like, yeah, once you sign with one person, chances are of you switching is pretty tough. And so that's why you can deploy a strategy like that, where you're like, yeah, we are thinking about this in decades as opposed to this campaign, this season.
John Huntinghouse: Yeah. And I just like, honestly, just, I mean, all things put aside, I actually just love the entertainment value.
Charlie Grinnell: Oh yeah.
John Huntinghouse: I think, and I really do think B2B brands, I don't know why B2B brands have a tendency to suck a lot more than B2C brands, but I think there is something to be learned there. And having this long-term play, I mean, they're really driven on a lot of the performance part of it, but I do think there's something to be learned from some of these brands, like Apple or like Progressive.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, totally. Couple of final questions here. I always say this, I didn't go to university for marketing, I actually dropped out of university entirely. And I've been able to learn a ton from reading and reading articles, reading books, listening to podcasts. So I always ask everybody, how do you stay up to date on business and marketing? Who are you following? What are you reading? Who are you listening to?
John Huntinghouse: Yeah. I mean, it's a good question. And I do a lot. I did both, right, from an education standpoint. But from a marketing standpoint, yeah I'm the same way. I did my MBA and I did a little bit of marketing, but it really is, most of it it's just been learning through my own experiences and then following other people, who've done a really good job at this. But like when you're looking from like a high level, like business slash high-level marketing standpoint, people like Scott Galloway, Brian Balfour, Andrew Chen.
John Huntinghouse: I think are amazing at what they do. They have a really long track record in terms of building out that high-level stuff. And when you're trying to look more granular, or there's individuals like Susan Winograd and like Dennis Yu and John Mooner who really can get into the details and really get into the nuts and bolts, especially on the performance side.
Charlie Grinnell: Totally.
John Huntinghouse: I learned a ton. Dennis has helped me like personally a lot. Like, he's like my mentor of his frameworks and his action plans. Really helped me to refine. I knew a lot through just trial and error, but then I was able to take that trial and error and refine it a lot through the work that Susan and Dennis and John all have put together.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. It's funny. John Loomer's blog is something that I read a ton of back in the day. I'm obviously a huge Galloway fan as well. Last, like deep question here, really deep, hard question. We're leaving the heavy hitters till the end. If you had one piece of advice for someone working in marketing today that they should be keeping in mind as they move ahead in their career, what would it be?
John Huntinghouse: Two fronts. I would say from a career standpoint, the number one thing that I actually think a lot of people generally don't do very well, marketers as well. And I teach a lot of students, I've taught over 500 students with different courses. And it's like the number one thing that I try to get to them, own your career. Don't put your career in the hands of other people. As nice as your boss is, learn to push the boundaries. And really understand negotiations. We don't ever talk about negotiations because it's not necessarily per se like a marketing skill set. But when you understand, a lot of times people are like, "Hey, go ask for a raise." And so they'll just go in there and just ask for a raise without any planning, without any thinking about it.
Charlie Grinnell: The evidence.
John Huntinghouse: It's like, listen. Yeah. Like you need to have leverage if you want to negotiate a salary. And I give them the examples that I do all the time of like how in two years I was able to double my salary. How do you do that? Well, you do that by having leverage. Like A, performing. You have to perform.
Charlie Grinnell: You got to do the job.
John Huntinghouse: You have to be. But doing the job by itself is not good enough. Right?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
John Huntinghouse: Because oftentimes people feel like they can find other people that can also do that. But when you can use another company or another offer or something else as leverage, it's one of the things that I just feel like too many people put their own careers and livelihoods in the hands of other people.
John Huntinghouse: And learning, and I'm not just saying, to hold your company hostage or anything like that. But also, just be aware of like, if you never ask, you'll get that 3% raise. They'll give you your annual 3% raise, but if you never push it, no one else is going to push on your behalf. And so learning to have a good relationship with your boss so that you can open it up and have those discussions and just say, "Hey, this is where I'm at. These are my needs." But that's more on the career side of just owning it. The other thing really is get firsthand experience from your customers. Learn just to talk to them. Like get outside of your own mold. Like in the world of digital, where we have so much data and we have so many interactions that we can see on dashboards and stuff, learning just to have conversations with your customers and having interviews with them, and just talking through what they're doing, what they're seeing and their perspective.
John Huntinghouse: And it's not even the answers to your questions that are insightful. Almost always the insightful information come randomly as they're talking about the questions you ask, they happen to go off on a tangent, or like they bring in other contexts that you didn't think of. It really helps you become empathetic in terms of like what they're seeing and gets outside of your own blind spots and biases that you have as a marketer.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, for sure. That first point, absolutely agree. Second point, it reminds me of, we recorded another episode with a woman by the name of Caitlin Bergoin, and she's the CEO of a company called Customer Camp. And her whole phrase is, or her whole thesis is, whoever gets closest to the customer wins.
John Huntinghouse: Yep.
Charlie Grinnell: And bang on. So, okay, for real last question this time. This is actually the most important one. Obviously, I follow you on LinkedIn and have the pleasure of being able to interview you on here. But for those listening, if they have questions, where's the best place for them to get ahold of you?
John Huntinghouse: Yeah. I mean, LinkedIn is probably the one that I'm, that's easiest and it's like my jam. That's where I publish most of my stuff. I publish a few things on Twitter and stuff, but not very well. If people want to get inside my head a little bit, yeah, LinkedIn is by far the best place, and there's not too many John Huntinghouse's out there. So just search John Huntinghouse and you'll find me. If it's another Huntinghouse, it's most likely my brother. So there's not a lot of Huntinghouse's in the world. But yeah, you could just find me on LinkedIn. It'd probably be the best place.
Charlie Grinnell: Awesome. Well, John, thank you much for taking the time today. I really appreciate it. I'm sure everybody listening to this episode feels the same way, and have a good one and stay safe my friend.
John Huntinghouse: Sounds good. Thank you.
Charlie Grinnell: For show notes, other episodes and more content, check out rightmetric.co. If you enjoyed the show, please subscribe and leave a review wherever you listen to your podcasts. Thanks for listening.
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