My Social Life Podcast: Why Your Marketing Needs Both Creativity and Data with RightMetric's CEO Charlie Grinnell
The My Social Life Podcast is where you can hear the real stories behind the people on social media. From influencers to social media managers, learn more about people doing interesting things in the social space.
Our CEO Charlie Grinnell was a recent guest on this episode where they discussed various topics including his unconventional career path into marketing, his experience working at large consumer brands, and the massive potential of marketing intelligence and how it can provide marketing leaders with quick answers to hard questions to inform faster and more reliable decision making.
You can listen to the My Social Life Podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Below, find a full transcript of the episode.
Jacob Kelly: What's going on, everybody? Welcome back to My Social Life. This is the podcast where you can get the real stories behind the people on social media. I'm your host, Jacob Kelly. As always today's podcast is powered by TruFan. And today we are joined by Charlie Grinnell, and Charlie is the CEO and co-founder of RightMetric, a digital marketing research firm based in Vancouver that provides audience and competitive insights to brands. Before that, he spent time as the global social media manager for Red Bull and head of social media at Aritzia. And I'm very excited to have him here on the podcast today to learn about his story and chat about all things social media and data. Charlie, welcome to the podcast.
Charlie Grinnell: Hey, thank you very much for having me.
Jacob Kelly: My pleasure. And where I want to start, I want to go all the way back to the beginning. So, did you grow up in Vancouver? Is that where you're raised?
Charlie Grinnell: Born and raised, yeah. Absolutely.
Jacob Kelly: So, what was life like in Vancouver growing up, and what were some of your interests? Because, obviously, at that time, social media was probably not a career goal as a kid growing up, so what were your interests?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. I mean, being from Vancouver, I think anybody would naturally say the outdoors. So, I grew up doing a lot of those outdoor activities, hiking, mountain biking, skiing, that sort of thing. I also really liked team sports, so I played a lot of soccer growing up. And then, later on in high school, I ended up playing football. So, yeah, kind of a mixed bag, Vancouver. Whether it's raining or not, you're outside, you got your Gore-Tex on, and you head outside and you get after it.
Jacob Kelly: West Vancouver Secondary, right?
Charlie Grinnell: Correct.
Jacob Kelly: So, talk to me about football because you ended up getting a football scholarship, right?
Charlie Grinnell: I did. Yeah. Once upon a time, way back when. So, I actually started playing football pretty late in the grand scheme of things. I only started in the 10th grade. And yeah, I became apparently pretty good at it pretty quickly, which was surprising at the time. I ended up taking a football scholarship to UBC because I wanted to stay in Vancouver, and that was ultimately cut short, actually, by a car accident that I was in where I had a back injury and wasn't able to continue my studies or playing ball. So, yeah, it was a whirlwind. My football career started really quickly and ended really quickly at the same time.
Jacob Kelly: And so, before we move on, just on football still, when did... So, I used to host the REDBLACKS podcast, so this is a mix of my two worlds here for a minute. What point did playing CIS football become a possibility? You said you were naturally good at it. So, once you realized you were good, were you like, "I'm going to try and get a scholarship," but did it just happen?
Charlie Grinnell: It just happened. So, I started playing in the 10th grade, and then, I going into grade 11... And grade 11 I started as a, I guess, younger person on the senior team. Right? Because the teams here in British Columbia are nine, 10, and then 11, 12. So, when I was on the senior team, I was in grade 11, but I was able to be a starter on the offensive line. And that summer I ended up going to a camp at SFU and I had never been to football camp. I had done soccer camps growing up, but, again, football was fairly new, I was pretty interested. My high school coach had been telling me, "Hey, there's potential here for you to go to the next level." I didn't really know what that meant at the time.
Charlie Grinnell: So, I went to this camp and it was a summer camp. I ended up winning the most valuable lineman there. And the head coach at SFU at the time came to me and knocked on my door because we were staying in the dorms there, you stay there for a week, and he was like, "I want to talk to you and your parents." And I was like, "Okay, this is weird." And he sat me down, and I hadn't even started my grade 12 year yet, and he was like, "We want offer you a scholarship. "And so, that's when things started to shift in terms of the football side of things, because, again, I wasn't necessarily pursuing a scholarship. I was all new to this. I was just playing. And after that conversation with SFU, then universities were starting to send recruiting packages and recruiters to my games and stuff to our schools, so I would be getting mail at the school from the University of Western Ontario and McMaster and all these kinds of schools across Canada.
Charlie Grinnell: And so, yeah, I just fell into it. And I ultimately ended up choosing UBC because my high school offensive line coach at the time, this guy named Bob Beverage, he was the offensive line coach at UBC, and he would also coach us. And so, he was the first person who really taught me the game itself, and so I had that loyalty there where I wanted to go stay in Vancouver, obviously, because I liked Vancouver. I thought UBC was a really good mix of both academics and athletics. And then, on top of that, he was arguably one of the guys who made me the player that I was, so that's why I ended up choosing that path.
Jacob Kelly: And what are some of the lessons football taught you in the three, four years that you would had played?
Charlie Grinnell: So, I didn't even play three or four years. That's the thing. I was there for not even a month in my first year. That's how quick the car accident happened. In terms of the lessons, I think, I think the obvious one would be teamwork. Right? In football, there's such a focus on... We used to always say, and again, in British Columbia, we play American rules in high school. Whereas, I believe, in the rest of Canada, they play Canadian rules. But our high school coach used to say, "Just do your one 11th," and that's essentially 11 players on the field all have to do their specific thing to be able to be successful. So, teamwork is the cliche side of it.
Charlie Grinnell: I think the big thing for me that I took away from it was actually developing a mental toughness. And so, this idea of staying neutral, not getting too high and not getting too low. And I think the big thing with that is, and how that's transitioned into business, is nothing is ever as good as it seems or as bad as it seems. And I think that neutrality is something that I've learned through football. I was typically one of the guys who... I wasn't really a big rah rah guy in football. I wasn't really like, "Hey, let's yell and scream and get fired up," like what you probably see on Instagram or in typical football pump-up films. I think, for me, I was very cerebral in my approach to the game in that it was like, "Okay, if I played offensive line, I need to take this guy and move him over there. Cool. Let's go do that." I didn't need to get smacked in the face or get angry or whatever. I just viewed it as, "I need to move this thing over there so that we can get the ball into the end zone."
Jacob Kelly: And with the car accident that you said end up cutting your football career short, I've heard you credit the 1996 Mazda B series pickup truck you were driving and saving your life.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Jacob Kelly: I'm curious, does your outlook on life as a whole change after that day?
Charlie Grinnell: Absolutely. So, funny story. I'm impressed that you've done your research. I think I was actually in two car accidents on the same day a year apart. So, the 96 Mazda B3000 pickup that you're referring to, that was on October 5th, 2007. On October 5th, 2008 was when I was in another car accident, which was the one that ultimately took me out of school and took me out of playing football. And that was also in a Mazda B4000 pickup truck, because we replaced the one that had been crashed the year before. Now, what I should say is, for the record, none of those accidents were my fault, so I gotta cover my bases there. It's not because I'm a poor driver. It was just the wrong place, wrong time. I didn't drive on October 5th for a few years after. That's always the question I get.
Charlie Grinnell: In terms of my life changing, Absolutely. I was 18 and I had a serious back injury that required surgery, and I went from being this persona of a varsity athlete. My whole plan was to go to UBC, study pol-sci, maybe economics, and then maybe go to law school if could figure out a way to get in there. And you spend, from grade 10, 11, 12, building this persona or personal brand that you're an athlete, and that was ripped away in an instant. And I had a lot of time to think because I dropped out of school, I wasn't playing football, and I was pretty much sitting at home waiting for my surgery. And that really gave me a lot of perspective and a lot of time to think. And I think what it made me realize is no matter how much you plan, everything can change in an instant. And yeah, I learned that lesson at 18.
Charlie Grinnell: And so, absolutely I was, I was sitting there, I was angry, I was scared, I was upset. But at the same time, I used it as an opportunity, like, "Hey, I get a restart." So, were there other things that I wanted to get into from that? And yeah. I always say now that car accident was the best and worst thing that happened to me at the exact same time.
Jacob Kelly: And I think shortly thereafter, did you know right away that you can no longer play football ever again? Or was there some hope that you had that you could still get back? Working in football, I've seen guys take major injuries and do everything like where they shouldn't be playing again, but they're doing whatever they can to get back out there, even though medically not a good idea. Was there ever a part of you that was still clinging on to playing football, or did you pretty much have the realization quickly that you weren't playing football anymore?
Charlie Grinnell: So, actually, I did try and come back, but basically, it got to the point when... I had lower back surgery. There's the key piece of context. And so, with that, having lower back surgery, it's a serious injury, it's invasive surgery, and you lose a lot of things. You lose flexibility when you have back surgery like that. And once you've had back problems, they could continue, and I was playing center, so it's a position that's pretty hard on the body. And so, yeah, basically, I did the surgery, did a ton of rehab at a place here in Vancouver called Level 10 Fitness, tried my best to get back to where I was, and I just hit a plateau where they weren't going to tell me that, "You can't play," but they're like, "Hey, it's not if you get injured, it's when again." And so, at that point I was like, "If I can't be performing at the same level that I was before, and there's risk here," that's something that I had to take into consideration.
Charlie Grinnell: And then, much later in life, I saw a lot of friends of mine who had been playing. They had gone on to play in the CFL and played their college years. And there was that conversation around head injuries and that sort of thing, and I've watched friends of mine struggle with concussions and that sort of thing, as well. So, I think later on, I was like, "Huh, I'm happy where the cards fell," because like I said, again, playing center you're smashing every play. And even if you try and keep your head out of it, you still can get hit in the head. And people who are playing football today, yeah, hats off to you, no pun intended there. I love the game. I really enjoyed it. I had a ton of fun. But now thinking about it and seeing the potential for head injuries, I think I value my brain much more than I value going out and banging for a little while.
Jacob Kelly: And you mentioned the extensive rehab process, and I'm curious if you remember the first recovery day. Because in my research process, I learned that you were a blog respondent for a blog called Grouse Park Sessions, and there was one of the blogs was Chuck's recovery day one. And it was... Yeah. I have it written down here. It says, "As I'm writing this, I'm in the middle of a crisis. I dropped my phone on the ground. Nobody's home. I can't pick it up. And someone keeps calling me. I'm sorry that I can't answer right now." Why were you so open to sharing that process online at that time?
Charlie Grinnell: You're like the Nardwuar of business interviews. Your research goes deep. I like this. So, first of all, I don't even remember writing that, but thank you for bringing that up. Yeah. I think that's where I made the switch from the academic side into the digital side, was Grouse mountain here in Vancouver, they started a blog about their terrain parks. This is way back. Yeah, 2009, when blogs were just starting up. And one of the reasons why I was able to get the job, I think, because I was like, "Hey, I'm super interested in this stuff. I have a ton of time, and I just need something to focus on." And it was one of the things that I could focus on and they were just like, "Yeah, write about whatever you want." And so, I was very, very open about, "Hey, I've just had a serious injury. I love skiing and snowboarding and the freestyle and free ride scene," that was starting to emerge.
Charlie Grinnell: So, yeah, taking me back to that first day, there were times where, yeah, I couldn't pick up my phone. I literally couldn't reach it. No one was home. Or there was a time where I fell going up the stairs. So, I just tripped going up a stair, and the stitches in my back that had closed the surgical wound had ripped open and I needed help to get up. So, I don't know. It was a lot. You're super vulnerable at that time. And hearing that, not even remember writing that, that's probably, what? 11 years ago, 12 years ago? Yeah. I can empathize the headspace that I was in during that time going through that.
Jacob Kelly: And I think an important lesson, people listening, is just not to take things we have for granted. Like easy mobility is something I think a lot of people take for granted and something you don't realize how important it is until you don't have it anymore.
Charlie Grinnell: Absolutely. You don't know what you got until it's gone. That's a such a cliche thing, but I just think that that is something that I learned very, very quickly. Right? Because arguably, I've had a leg up on life, make no bones about it. I grew up in an upper White middle-class family. I'm a straight male, and I haven't been discriminated against in my life. And I've had everything handed to me, so to speak, and I haven't had to go through a lot of the challenges or discrimination or you name it, the list goes on and on and on. And so, I think that accident was a big turning point for me to realize just how fortunate I am and how lucky I am. And I think that that's one of the biggest drivers for me today is I just know that there are people in Canada and around the world that would kill to be able to trade places with me, and I use that as something that drives me.
Jacob Kelly: And it was after the accident, I believe, where you visited a Future Shop and purchased your first camera. Right?
Charlie Grinnell: Yep. Absolutely.
Jacob Kelly: Do you remember what camera that was?
Charlie Grinnell: It was, it was a Canon HV30, and it recorded to HDV tapes. Yeah. I actually, I fought with my dad a whole bunch because he didn't want me to buy it, and I was like, "No, I'm doing this." And yeah, bought it, and I was still couch-ridden, so to speak. And I just started to watch YouTube videos and learn how to make the camera do what I wanted it to do. So, learning how to edit, learning how to record things, learning how to frame things up, learning how to color correct, learning all the different technical aspects was something that I was really interested in learning because I didn't feel like I needed to learn, "Here's how you make a story," like that film school stuff. That really wasn't for me. I just wanted to know the technical aspect of how this camera works, and then once I know how it works, I can do what I need it to do.
Jacob Kelly: It's a kind of a two-pronged question based on that answer, is one, why did you want to buy the camera so bad? You said you were fighting with your dad, so I'm curious why you wanted it so badly. And two, why did you think to go to YouTube? Because naturally, today in 2020, that's something everybody thinks of, but in 2008, 2009, we would have bought that camera, that probably wasn't a common practice was to go to YouTube to learn how to do things. So, I'm curious as to why you did that.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. So, the first piece with, with my dad, I was definitely feeling the societal pressure of, "You go to university, you get a degree, you become a lawyer, a doctor," like whatever. Right? And so, I was always interested in the camera side of things and photography and videography, but for whatever reason, that wasn't really presented to me as a potential career path. And so, yeah, once I had this time to pause and think about what I want to do with my life and realize how things change, that's where I was like, "You know what? I'm going to use this as an opportunity to explore this thing that I've always wanted to explore." which was video production.
Charlie Grinnell: So, the reason why my dad and I were fighting was my grandfather gave me some money when I retired high school... Or sorry. Retired. When I graduated from high school. And he gave me 1,000 bucks as like a graduation present. And I wanted to use that 1,000 bucks to buy this camera. The camera was, I think it was about $900 at the time. And my dad was like, "You're throwing that money away. You're throwing that gift away." And we got into a big battle with it, and I ended up sneaking out of the house and going to Future Shop, getting a friend to drive me because I couldn't drive because I was on a certain medication. And also, I couldn't get myself out of the house. So, I had a friend drive me there, hobbled in there, got the thing, came home. Yeah. So, that was really the backstory about the argument with my dad.
Charlie Grinnell: In terms of YouTube and, and watching YouTube videos and reading blogs, that's just really what I had. I wasn't going to film school. And so, I started Googling things, and I stumbled upon certain camera blogs and I was following certain people who were creating cool stuff, watching behind the scenes videos, and just really trying to spend the 10,000 hours obsessing over this stuff and learning everything there was to learn. And then, also, messing around. I have old video footage of me filming things across the room or me filming the cat, like practicing something. And that's something that it was my way of being able to learn by doing, so to speak. So, I think the reason why I went to Google was it was it's what I had access to.
Jacob Kelly: And so, I'm curious at the time when you buy that camera, is your intent to try and make it into a business, or is it something more so you're looking... It's like a passion of yours that you want to just pursue further and see where it goes?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. I think it was more the latter at the beginning. I just wanted to make cool videos with my friends, and that sounds pretty dumb, but I had some friends of mine who were pretty talented athletes and some of them were starting to pick up sponsors and that sort of thing. And as I got more into that world, I started to realize, "Oh, okay, there are companies out there that do this, and that's pretty cool. And they make really awesome stuff." And that was the first time where I was like, "Oh, well, I could do this." And that's just how it all started. As I was going through it and filming things, it just all came together and it just snowballed, really.
Jacob Kelly: And I know you used to freelance as Grinnell Media Group, but I'm just personally curious when I drew my research, I found a Vimeo, I wasn't sure if it was yours or not, so I was wondering if you could verify if you were Blue Magic BD on Vimeo.
Charlie Grinnell: Oh man. Once upon a time. Yeah. Whoa. Nardwuar. You are Nardwuar. This is crazy. I'm impressed that you found that name. I think I used that name for four or five months way back in the day before I had to start a real company and charging clients for things.
Jacob Kelly: And so, I want to talk briefly about your time in video production because you worked for some notable companies, Arc'teryx, Poor Boyz Productions, but your first job with video, I believe, was Alterna Films. Right?
Charlie Grinnell: Correct. Yeah.
Jacob Kelly: And so, how are you feeling at that point, then, where you bought this camera at Future Shop, just as something to experiment with and pursue that interest. But now you have a job where people are paying you to do it as like a full-time thing? How do you feel when you get that job?
Charlie Grinnell: Pretty weird, to be honest. It was just a blur. There was this... How do I say this? There was like this fear was driving me. And what I mean by that is, well, first, fear is a powerful emotion. Right? When people are scared, it's a great motivator. People can do crazy things when they're scared, or if you're able to channel it, you can do other things. With me, think about this, I grew up in a wealthy neighborhood, all of my friends and classmates that I graduated with ended up going to some of the best universities on the continent. And I went to a great university, and then I dropped out. So, there was this fear... And I battled with my parents. My parents wanted me to go back to school because they were like, "Hey, you have this opportunity. You don't want to throw it away." And I just realized like, once everything changed, I didn't want to be there.
Charlie Grinnell: And so, I think this fear of letting them down is really what drove me to pursue the career aspect of things, whether it was film or digital later on. It was just one of those things that I didn't want my mom to think back or look back and be like, "Oh yeah, once upon a time he went to UBC, and now he's not doing anything." So, in terms of how I was feeling when I got in there, I was super excited. For me, I got to film some really talented athletes work on some really cool projects, learn from some really smart people. And yeah, it was great. It was like, not necessarily a dream come true, but it was just something that was very, very enjoyable for me, and it made me realize that at least in business or digital or creative, you don't necessarily need to go to university to be successful.
Jacob Kelly: And then, Poor Boyz Productions, is that the production company based out of California?
Charlie Grinnell: Correct.
Jacob Kelly: They're pretty notable. Aren't they?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. I mean, in the free ski industry, I mean, they're one of the big dogs in terms of making a movie every year. And so, yeah, I grew up watching their movies, and then next thing you know, I'm there shooting and helping edit the movies, which was pretty surreal, to be honest. So, yeah, that one was really cool because I grew up watching those films as a skier, and yeah, it was really cool to be able to be the one shaping what the next movie was.
Jacob Kelly: You end up switching from Poor Boyz to Arc'teryx, and I'm curious as to why the switch at that point, because with Poor Boyz being such a notable production company and it's right up your alley with the action sports, why'd you make the switch?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Good question. So, the first piece was around travel, so with Poor Boyz, I was traveling a lot. Arc'teryx is based here in Vancouver. And in the second piece was I wanted to learn more about the marketing side of things. So, while at Arc'teryx, I was still producing and editing video, the video's purpose was for marketing. And so, whereas with Poor Boyz, I was just making... We were doing event recap videos, we were making a ski film every year. We had some kind of contracting stuff on the side, but I thought it was important to transition both personally and professionally, personally to reduce the travel, and professionally just to get more of that corporate experience. So, that's what led me to that.
Jacob Kelly: And on the freelance side, so you're freelancing like throughout this whole time, and the client, people always throw it at you when they bring up Grinnell Media Group is Nike and NBC Sports. And I'm curious like, one, how do you land clients like that, but two, are there any other clients that you work with on a freelance basis that you're really proud of?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. So, how we landed clients like that or how I landed clients like that was really those companies, NBC Sports and Nike, at the time were making a big push into action sports, so that was really the capacity in which we were working, is they needed to work with video production companies and people who had connections in those spaces, knew how to shoot that stuff, were able to get out into the backcountry safely or all that sort of thing. So, that was really how I landed those things.
Charlie Grinnell: In terms of other clients, I did some freelance work for a company called Recon Instruments. I believe that they sold their tech to Intel. And basically, their whole thing was like a heads up display for ski goggles that would give you your speed, the temperature, that sort of thing. Like Google Glass, or I believe there was a company called North, which just got acquired by Google, but this is way back then. So, we did some pretty cool one-off video projects for that and some corporate stuff. It was just something where as I was transitioning into the corporate environment, I still had that hunger or that fear that I wasn't going to be successful, so I was making sure that I was taking on a bunch of different things and putting eggs in different baskets, so to speak.
Jacob Kelly: And then, after Arc'teryx is when you would have spent time with Invoker, which is the agency that launched HootSuite, and was that to further learn more about the social media side? Because I have a... I don't remember if it was an article or where I found this, but it was, you realized you really wanted to learn more about the social and marketing side was your videos were getting put online, but you wanted to learn more about the distribution side because they weren't being distributed properly. So, was the move to Invoker to learn more about the distribution side?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. So, Invoke is the agency. Invoker is actually Ryan Holmes' Twitter and Instagram handle, and Ryan Holmes is one of the founders. So, yeah, that was exactly it. Bang on. So, I guess what I realized was as I started to work on the corporate side at Arc'teryx, I knew how to do production, I knew how to sketch something out, I knew how to film it, I knew how to edit it, and then I knew how to export it and give it to someone for it to be distributed. What I always thought was, wouldn't it be interesting or could I make my skillset more valuable if I understood both production deeply and distribution deeply?
Charlie Grinnell: And so, pre-internet, distribution would be like, "Okay, yeah, you need to build relationships with the TV people and the movie people and the DVD people
Jacob Kelly: And at the same time too you took a bunch of courses, so I believe it was three different schools about kind of the digital world, right?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, absolutely. So here goes back to the insecurity. I never got a degree. I never went back. And so what I will say is I'm very passionate about education. I just think education in its current form is broken. And so, the area that I wanted to specialize in, internet and digital and marketing, you can't go get a bachelor of digital or you can't go get a bachelor of internet because by the time you do your four years, it's obsolete. And so for me, the way I kind of looked at it was these micro certifications. So being able to go to these universities, SFU, UBC, and Syracuse University, and doing these kind of almost like bootcamp style condensed programs where I could get specific knowledge, it's an accredited institution. It looks legit on a resume, and I was able to kind of cherry pick the different areas that I wanted to learn about.
Charlie Grinnell: And so that's kind of why I did that was because I was insecure that I didn't have a degree. And as I was moving more on the corporate side of things, when you're making your resume, if you don't have a degree, that's a bit of a problem. Or at least I thought it was a problem. And so that's what led me down that path. I think what's funny now, what we're seeing today, even just like this year with education is that we're seeing companies like Google step into the mix, and they're doing these, they're starting to offer these micro certifications. We're seeing the rise of these digital skills schools ala BrainStation. And so with that, I think education is about to be radically disrupted. I think we're seeing that COVID has been an accelerant of that, but it's been a long time coming. So what's funny is, as we're seeing these models start to change, I kind of did that just for myself 10 years ago, but it was more so out of insecurity, not because I just thought it was the right thing to do.
Jacob Kelly: And then it was around that time too, that you took the jump from the agency world into working with Red Bull, right?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. So big change. Red Bull's a brand that I'd always wanted to work at. They were kind of the world leaders in content marketing, so to speak and me being at the time 21, 22, being a guy, being interested in sports and pop culture and that sort of thing, that's exactly, I fit perfectly into their target demographic of who they're marketing to. So yeah, that was a big turning point for me in my career was joining the team at Red Bull in Toronto.
Jacob Kelly: And can you kind of dive a little deeper as to why you think they were the leaders in content marketing at that time?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. I think as to why I think it was just their approach to marketing, right? So, historically marketing has been very much, "Hey, we need to put this product in front of somebody and then they'll buy it." Whereas Red Bull at the end of the day sells an energy drink. The stuff that they were doing from a marketing perspective was all about building a brand and they were doing that through content marketing. And so, this idea of we're going to have people spend time with our brand, whether they buy the product from us or not, I thought was just a gangster business strategy. And yeah, they obviously were doing well on the product side of things too, with their business growing and those two things coming together, the strong brand with the product and distribution that they were doing on the cans side of the business, like getting cans into stores and that sort of thing was really interesting.
Charlie Grinnell: And so I wanted to work there because they were putting out incredible work. Whether it's Felix Baumgartner has jumped from the edge of space, Red Bull Stratos, or different niche projects around specific athletes in action sports, or they had their F1 teams, the list goes on and on and on. And they were just involved in everything. And I just thought, "Hey, what a cool organization to be a part of, learn from some really smart people and help me up-level my skills."
Jacob Kelly: Personally, I understand why content marketing is an important thing, but for someone listening that might not understand why you'd want to spend all of that money and time and resources to doing things that don't directly promote your product, can you kind of explain why that is important?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, it's a good question. I mean, I think the first thing that comes to mind is my brain goes to a marketing funnel, right? And a marketing funnel, my brain also then transitions into like dating someone. So the analogy I'll use is like on the first date, you're not going to get married. And so you need to go through this process of warming someone up, getting to know them, providing them with value, whether that's entertainment value, educational value, informational value. And so I think what Red Bull did a really great job of, and the power of content marketing and not just Red Bull, there are many companies that do this today, is this idea of playing the long game. And in order, if you're ever going to convert someone or sell something to someone, gone are the days where you're able to kind of be a vacuum salesman, knock on the door and be like, "Hey, here's this thing. You want to buy it," right?
Charlie Grinnell: You have to provide them with some sort of value upfront for a period of time. Now that period of time can differ depending on the product or the industry or that sort of thing. But content marketing is such a great way for brands to be able to provide value. And again, I think that value word is fairly buzzwordy. So when I say like entertainment, making people laugh, making people feel emotion, education, help teach them a new skill, teaching them a new thing that they could use in their day to day. So I think that content marketing serves that purpose. Obviously many brands again are doing this, but I think that they wouldn't have been doing it for the last decade or more if it wasn't working.
Jacob Kelly: And then talk to me about the adjustment of going from producer to distributor and from Vancouver to Toronto, when you took the job with Red Bull.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. So producer to distributor was an interesting leap. I think that it actually made the distribution more seamless because we were able to get better assets from the producers. So what I mean by that is I understood the technical things that needed to happen for the way that videos were being exported. "Hey, I want a square video or a vertical video," well before people even really were thinking about that, or, "Hey, I want you to edit it in this way." We've seen in some of the data that we can look at that the first three seconds of the video on Facebook or Instagram matter because people are scrolling with their thumbs. So let's not use quick cuts in the first three seconds of a video because that's not going to entice people to stop scrolling. Let's not use boring establishing shots.
Charlie Grinnell: Let's get right into the action, like that sort of stuff. Let's use text overlays and subtitles because a lot of people consume video in silence or on the go. And so, yeah, I think that jump of going from the production side of things, to the distribution side of things, I really played translator. That was really where my bread and butter was. And I think that again, I just happened to be right place, right time. I think I was early. And yeah, I started to break things down and make it a little bit more seamless transitioning from those two things. In terms of moving to Toronto, I love Toronto. At the time, leaving Vancouver was hard, friends and family here. At the same time, Toronto is an incredible city. I was so lucky to move there when I did, that was back in what, 2013?
Charlie Grinnell: And so being able to live there during that time, living downtown, working for a cool brand like Red Bull, the sports teams were just starting to get good. And so it was kind of the full package. I view Toronto as like Canada's New York. So I just, it holds a dear place in my heart. I really love it every time I go back there. I was there for almost three years. Yeah. I consider it a second home because it's kind of where I really took a big step in my career. And yeah, I love it very much.
Jacob Kelly: And then after three years is when you would've made the jump from Toronto all the way to Salzburg, Austria to be the global social media manager for Red Bull. So talk to me about what that looks like, like how it differs from what you were doing in Toronto and even just the, again, another adjustment, but to a whole new country this time.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Big change. On the personal side of things, moving to Salzburg was wild. It was actually a lot like Vancouver. And what I mean by that is like the landscape, right? So Salzburg is right on the Alps there, it's very green, there's mountains, there's tons of lakes around. So, with mountains and water, that's very similar to Vancouver. Obviously a much smaller town, a lot of history there with The Sound of Music and Mozart and that sort of thing. And so, yeah, it was really, really cool to move there personally, just living in another country. I never thought that I would get the opportunity to live outside of Canada. And the reason for that is because I didn't have a degree. So I always thought, I was never going to get a foreign work visa because of the fact that I didn't go to school.
Charlie Grinnell: I was able to get a foreign work visa there, which was awesome. And yeah, on the professional side of things, huge change. When we're in Canada, we were responsible for shaping how Red Bull comes to life digitally in Canada. That's a big job as it is. The role that you play when you go to the global level is much different. It's a lot more strategic and it's a lot more almost business support in a way. So what I mean by that is my three main pillars of my role there were strategy, education, and project support.
Charlie Grinnell: So strategy is just what it sounds like, how are we bringing all of our initiatives to life via social, via our channels, our global channels. The next one education, how are we helping all the different teams around the world, in all the different countries, understand that strategy, deploy that strategy in a way that makes sense to their local market. And then the last piece is that project support. So when we have key moments around the world, myself and my team would get involved with how can we help up-level this? Can we help this with resources, whether it's budget or people or ideas. And so, yeah, it very much went from executing in Canada, doing the thing to helping all of the countries do the thing and add value where we could to make them even better.
Jacob Kelly: So are you managing like the @RedBull account at that time? Or were you more so from like a higher level on the day-to-day management side?
Charlie Grinnell: No, I wasn't on the day-to-day management side, we had a team that was doing that. So yeah, there were people publishing to that account in LA, there's, people publishing with that account in Salzburg and there were people publishing to that account in Singapore.
Jacob Kelly: So from your perspective, like a management perspective of all of that, how do you balance one, just a team and across the country, but also servicing an audience across the country because culturally things in the United States are very different from some place like Japan. How do you balance that?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. So, I mean, I think the big thing to point out is like the team that I was on in Austria, the social team, the global social team, and there was, I believe like 25 or 30 of us, if I think back, and that's just the global team. And then, around the world, there were a number of other local teams, right? Each country would have their own local digital team that was managing their accounts. So I think how do you address that niche and localization. So, and I think we've seen not just Red Bull, but a ton of other companies of the same size do this and try to figure this out by localizing by country. So, you'd have Red Bull Japan, Red Bull Canada, Red Bull France, Red Bull UK, but then also niching down by vertical.
Charlie Grinnell: So again, Red Bull Bike, Red Bull Snow, Red Bull Music, that sort of thing. And yeah, we've seen other brands do this too. Nike Running, Nike Japan, right? There's all these different accounts out there. And many brands are taking this approach and niching down. And yeah, I think there's a lot of work that goes into figuring out that hierarchy. Right? Like what does @Nike become when Nike is so broad, right? There's so many brands out there that have this like they're in so many different audiences and yeah. It's about figuring out that hierarchy of, okay, what is the high level brand, the top of that pyramid look like from an account perspective? And then how are we niching down and building audiences across specific channels, focused on a specific topic or theme or that sort of thing?
Jacob Kelly: And so with niching down, like with using regular Nike as the example, they have the bandwidth and the resources to create separate accounts and give them the love and attention they need for each specific vertical. But how do you do that if you're a smaller company with a small team, how do you deploy that mindset of niching down across social media, but not to the same scale as a Red Bull or Nike?
Charlie Grinnell: So my short answer is, I don't know, because I, and I know that's probably not an answer, but to your point, niching down takes time. Right? You can't just start an account. You can't just be like, "Oh yeah, we're going to start an account over there." Okay, what's the strategy for the account? What's the purpose of the account? How are we creating content for the account? Who's running the account? There's so many different operational pieces that go into that. So, my expertise is not in small business, quite frankly. So, any small business that's looking to diversify, what I would say is do your research before to understand where you could niche down and then be realistic about your bandwidth. That's kind of what I would say there, but yeah.
Charlie Grinnell: Make no mistake about it. Niching down requires investment, right? Because you're essentially being like, "Okay, we had one account. Now we have three." Great. You've just tripled the work. And yeah, there are some efficiencies that you can get via cross posting and cross promoting and that sort of thing. Absolutely. But yeah, you're essentially doubling the workload, which means if you want the output to double, you're going to need to figure out how you're going to adjust the input as well, to be able to maintain that output.
Jacob Kelly: One thing I must say, I do appreciate you saying the short answer to that question is I don't know, because I feel like a lot of people don't have the humility to be able to say that when asked the question. So I just want to give my appreciation to show to you for answering with that.
Charlie Grinnell: No worries. I mean, I'm not here to talk about things that I don't know about. And so, yeah. I haven't really worked in a small business. That's not my area of expertise. And so I think it would be wrong for me to say otherwise.
Jacob Kelly: And then I've heard you say too that Red Bull, you learned a ton working at Red Bull. I mean, obviously such a big brand. What are some of the key takeaways you had from your three, four years with Red Bull?
Charlie Grinnell: Oh man, that's a really good question. I think the first thing that comes to mind is you just, it's a different way of thinking and that push to always do more be better, I think that it's kind of instilled in you. And so I think a lot of the people that I was able to work with, not only were they really, really smart and experts in what they do, whether it was social or websites or content, or partnerships or whatever, it was really the work ethic and the tenacity of them getting after it every day. And so, always wanting more and always wanting to be better. There were things that we would do that would be really, really great. And we were always like, "Okay, but how can we be better?"
Charlie Grinnell: And so I think that's a trait or a characteristic that I've been able to kind of take away and you're a product of your environment, right? So at the time I was super young, I say, super young, I'm 30 now. I was 23 when I started working there, and that's really what helped shape my career so to speak seven years ago was being in that environment. So I think that's the first piece. I think the second piece is learning great strategy and learning how to build great strategy and thinking holistically about things. When you have an organization of that size, whether you're at the country level or whether you're at the global level, there's so many different things to take into account because it's such a large organization. And I think that being in that environment has really been able to serve me well and given me a lot of context that other marketers don't necessarily see.
Charlie Grinnell: And I guess the third piece that I would say, it's kind of related to that is just the scale, right? Operating on the scale. I think back when I was there, again, I left there in 2016, sorry, 2017, we had 400 social accounts with over a hundred million followers I think at the time. And the amount of people that could publish on a Red Bull account around the world was almost a thousand. And so the scale of that, what are you doing from a governance perspective? How are you putting certain rules in place so that people can't go rogue? How are you maintaining security? How are you maintaining some sort of a strategy once you grow this beast to kind of be the thing that it is?
Charlie Grinnell: And so again, that was something that I really, really took away because doing it at that level is very, very difficult. So then, when you're coming back to brands where, "Hey, yeah, we have five accounts," or "We have one main account across all the, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, whatever," it allows you to think more clearly and focus on what matters.
Jacob Kelly: And with starting at Red Bull in 2013 and finishing around 2017, I'm curious to kind contextualize this question, I think one thing a lot of people do that needs to be fixed is a lot of people, once they have an opinion, they cling to it and they don't change it. But I'm curious, what opinions did you form from either a social or a strategy perspective of Red Bull that you've since changed your stance on in the last three, four years?
Charlie Grinnell: Quite frankly, that I don't know shit. And what I mean by that is everything will change in an instant. And I think that's just the nature of social. And you're only as good as your last at bat. And so what I mean by that is with social or with digital, you're really at the mercy of audience behavior, you're at the mercy of how platforms are changing. You're at the mercy of different trends, like pop culture trends, or specific industry trends and anybody who says they have it figured out, or this is the way to do it is lying because things are changing so fast and there's always a better way to do it. And things are always going to kind of continue to adapt. And so I think that's the biggest thing that I learned is just because you think something works in one place that it's going to work in another, that is absolutely not the case.
Charlie Grinnell: And I've made that, I've learned that by working with clients now at RightMetric, and even when I was leaving Red Bull and going to work at Aritzia, there were things that we would do at Red Bull that would work for the audiences that we were going after, that we tried them at Aritzia and they did not work at all. And so, right? Like just because something works somewhere doesn't mean it's going to work somewhere else.
Charlie Grinnell: And so, yeah, I think that's the biggest thing that I learned is your gut is only going to get you so far. I think it's important. I've talked a lot about this before on my own podcast about marketing, the best marketing is a balance between art and science. And if you can use the scientific side using data and insights to inform the gut side or your intuition, this idea of informing intuition, that's really where you have a sweet spot is. Don't dismiss things that you know about marketing to be true. That's totally fair. But how are you using data and insights to validate or verify or steer you directionally in a direction that you want to go for your business?
Jacob Kelly: And when you're talking about how, when you change, when you went from Red Bull to Aritzia, things that worked for Red Bull didn't work for Aritzia. Talk to me about that specific transition, where you're going from one industry to a completely different one. I'm sure the tone of voice, the audience's completely different. Was that a difficult hurdle for you to overcome after spending four years with Red Bull and then jumping to Aritzia?
Charlie Grinnell: Absolutely. And it was by design. I think a great way to learn or test your skills is go into an industry that you don't know anything about. I make no bones about it. I don't know much about women's fashion, but what I did know a lot about was distribution, social media and digital. And so when I joined the team at Aritzia, there are a couple of things that were really important to me. One, I'd worked primarily at Red Bull, which at the time is a fairly male dominated industry, right? Sports and that sort of thing is male dominated. So I thought it was important to get experience working at a brand that was going after or targeting women. I also really enjoyed working with a ton of incredible women while I was at Aritzia and I wanted experience working with more women.
Charlie Grinnell: I really enjoy working with women. And so, yeah, that was kind of the shift there. In terms of like, what did I learn and how did it change? Just little tactical things. I'll give an example. We've talked a lot on this podcast about how video is a big deal on the internet. And I was in the right place, the right time because I could do video. Well, when I got to Aritzia and we started to post video, it didn't really work very well, and it was very difficult and expensive for us to produce and it didn't perform the best. So that's something where I was like, "Huh, I thought that was a universal truth." And maybe we weren't doing it the right way, but in the way that we were bringing it to life, it wasn't seeing the type of performance that we needed to be able to see to justify the cost.
Charlie Grinnell: So, we just found more efficient ways of going around it. So that was something that surprised me. Another thing would be, I'll give an example, like posting links on Facebook, right? Many people probably listening to this will be like, "Yeah, that's a no-no, don't post organic links on Facebook. You might as well be aiming for page seven of Google where you can hide the body." And so, but posting links on Facebook did pretty well for us. So there are things where, again, why I said what I learned back then was that I didn't know shit, is that, yeah. Every day something can change or you'll learn something. And just because it was like that today, doesn't mean it's going to be like that tomorrow.
Jacob Kelly: And then when working with one brand over time, like how do you go back and test the previous findings you think you had? So maybe for example, just, this is a terrible example, but in like 2014, we'll say posting links on Red Bull Facebook would be a terrible idea, but maybe in 2020, that's a good idea. How often do you think brands should be going back and retesting things out they found a year or two years prior?
Charlie Grinnell: Always. I think that's the thing is like, you need to have a culture of testing things and you should always be running tests, but make sure that you run tests strategically. And so when I say strategically, what I mean is be able to run a test in a way that you can isolate it so that you can actually get something that's valid in terms of the results. You're not skewing or necessarily biasing the results, again, without going too deep into the weeds. That's how you kind of structure things. And then, yeah, I think having that culture of like, "Hey, we don't know everything, but we're going to test this and here's why we're going to test this. We have an informed hypothesis." And so those are cultural things. You need to have that top down, right?
Charlie Grinnell: And I think a lot of marketers are, there's kind of been this pendulum, right? The pendulum of it's brand, do it to build brand and it's kind of more loose. And then on the other side, you have performance where it's like, do not spend a dollar unless you can make $3. And I think it's that balance. It's like, how are we strategically testing things? And being able to measure things in a way that is going to help us continue to iterate on whatever successful marketing looks like at our company.
Jacob Kelly: And I want to jump to RightMetric. So I know I kind of mentioned it briefly in the intro, but can you kind of give a quick 30 second rundown on what RightMetric is?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, absolutely. So as you alluded to in the beginning, we're a subscription-based marketing intelligence firm. So basically what we do is we provide marketing leaders with insights, whether it's audience insights or competitive insights and those insights help them drive great digital strategy. Why we exist and kind of how we came to be is we want it to be able to provide that at a fraction of the cost of traditional consulting, other market research tools and that sort of thing. How we really got started was actually a lot of both mine and my co-founder's time on the brand side. And what we found, we were sitting on the brand side was we always really had access to our own data. So, when I was working at Aritzia or when I was working at Red Bull, I could see our Google Analytics.
Charlie Grinnell: I could look at our social data. I could look at all of our email data, all the different areas where we're already reaching people. But what was really hard was understanding the broader audience that we were going after, who weren't already coming to our digital ecosystem and understanding were there things that our competitors were doing that we were missing out on. And so the analogy that I use is it's almost we kind of had one eye covered, right? We could see inside of our four walls, but that other eye, if we were able to uncover that other eye and see outside of our four walls, we'd have access to a greater source of information, both internal and external. And by having access to both of those, that would allow us to make a better strategic decision for our business. And so, as we started to kind of dig into this challenge or this problem, we realized that it takes a ton of different tools. To be able to have a holistic look at something you need 20 or 30 different tools to be able to look at everything that matters to marketing.
Charlie Grinnell: And all of those tools are really, really expensive. And all of those tools need people to run them and do insights and generate insights, and then package those insights, visualize them and make them easy to digest. And so with RightMetric, that's really what we're trying to build is this competitive and audience insight firm that is able to just kind of package things up in the form of cheat sheets so that marketers can just get the information that they need and then be able to move swiftly and build and refine great strategy.
Jacob Kelly: And you said that the idea came from just you and Evan, just noticing a need you had personally within the work that you did, but I'm curious as to, when did you, how long did you have the idea for RightMetric before actually starting it? Because a lot of people get good ideas, but not everyone acts on them. Actually starting it because a lot of people get good ideas, but not everyone acts on them. How long did it take you to finally act on it?
Charlie Grinnell: Good question. Probably about a year and a half, two years to finally act on it. We had been talking about starting something. We had been keeping a list of different tools that we thought were cool that could be brought into our mix. When I ended up quitting my job that was March of 2018. And for all of 2018, we were more or less freelancing. We were just trying to focus on we're freelancing we need to pay our bills. How can we pay our bills and then continue to hypothesize and work on this idea that we have?
Charlie Grinnell: End of 2018 is really when we started honing in on marketing intelligence, we had been approached to do some custom research projects for various brands. And as we started to do that and deliver those projects that's where we really started to feel like we were onto something.
Charlie Grinnell: And it was definitely like a long time coming, but March 2018, September we've been in business for two and a half years. But I think the types of brands that we've been able to work with to date, the type of insight that we're able to provide them shows that we're fishing in the right pond, so to speak.
Jacob Kelly: And exactly how did the platform work. From my understanding I'm going to try and explain how I think it works and you just correct me where I get this wrong.
Charlie Grinnell: Sure.
Jacob Kelly: From my understanding is that you work with 30 different data tools and partners and essentially, you pull all the data from all these other platforms, but then you put it into one place and organize it. Is that kind of how it works?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. We organize it and we do insights on top of it and then we deliver it in the form of reports. And that's how it is today, what we're working on and where it could go tomorrow it could come to life in a variety of different ways, whether it's a web app that you log into or something like that.
Charlie Grinnell: But basically, if you're looking to understand what winning digital strategies are happening in the automotive space, instead of having to go to 30 different tools and or only looking at social media. It's important to understand what are brands doing across the digital ecosystem in automotive and what's working well for them and what's not and what can I learn from that? That's very time consuming. And we take that on and handle that and then offer the insights related to that on a fractional basis.
Jacob Kelly: And then you present it you said to the cheat sheet, so is there like a dashboard people walk into? Do you have your own platform or do you more so it's kind of send them by email like how does that work?
Charlie Grinnell: Right now it's via email, but in Q4 actually which we're about to kick off in a few days here that's where we're going to start working on the dashboard side of it as well as an insights library that'll be searchable. And a lot of the stuff we do actually is in the form of case studies and like data storytelling, so to speak.
Charlie Grinnell: Being able to dig into things that a brand are doing tactically, but then being able to tell the story, weaving all those different data points together across platforms to show and uncover what is their entire strategy and is it working or not?
Jacob Kelly: And are you able to automate the quantitative side of the reporting or is it a lot of it manual work still?
Charlie Grinnell: It's a bit of both. We obviously have some automation because we're a small team there's seven of us. And we do have automation on our side, but also there are things that just computers can't do. And we need smart analysts to be able to pull meaning from this data, write insights that are actionable and understand the challenges that marketers are facing. We kind of operate on this hybridized model. It's really a productized service.
Jacob Kelly: And I'm curious and kind of with that in mind about scaling the company because when interpreting data like you and I could look at the same data and interpret it differently. How do you go about growing the team while trying to figure out how they interpret data and doing it in a way that'd be similar to you so when they're presenting to a client, you're getting a similar result if you were interpreting that data and presenting it to the client.
Charlie Grinnell: What we've worked on over the past couple of years is a proprietary methodology of how we look at things and why we look at things and there are guide rails. It's not just, "Hey, hire an analyst and whatever they say goes." We have different ways of winning digital strategies. What success actually looks like that are grounded in quantifiable metrics. Where the analysts come in is more on the qualitative side.
Charlie Grinnell: I'll give an example about like video content, if we're looking at the performance of video content. Yes, absolutely it's like what's the engagement around the video? What's the view time? What's the video views, all those different pieces. What a computer can't necessarily see is what are the topic? Let's say there's 10,000 videos about a topic in one space and we pull all that in. Let's say yoga for example.
Charlie Grinnell: We pull in the top 10,000 videos related to yoga on YouTube, great. We can see benchmarks. We can see the quantitative aspect of things. What a computer can't tell you is are most of them how to videos, are most of them gear halls, are most of them confessional type videos, are most of them are blogs That's where you need a human to look at things right now, because there aren't tools out there on the market that can do that.
Charlie Grinnell: But that stuff is really valuable because understanding a topic or a theme or the way a video is produced or edited or shot is very important insight for a marketer to understand when they're briefing into their creative team or their agency, what kind of video content should be made and how it should be made based on the quantitative performance of the best content in that space. Does that make sense?
Jacob Kelly: I think so. You pull these insights. For example, you use a yoga example from like 10,000 yoga videos across the internet, but how important than it is it about the additional interests of the consumer? Because if somebody likes yoga they're not going to be going to yoga 24 hours a day, they have additional interests. How are you pulling insights from the other interest of the consumer?
Charlie Grinnell: We can see all that stuff too. Understanding that people who watch yoga videos also watch videos let's say for example of car racing or gardening or cooking, all of the different tools that we use have access to see other adjacent behaviors, interests, affinities, that sort of thing. And what we're doing is pulling that altogether, weighting that and rightsizing it, and then benchmarking that and understanding how other brands are looking at this and interpreting this as well.
Jacob Kelly: And then how do I then incorporate that information into an SOC. Sticking with this yoga example. Say I'm a yoga, I sell yoga mats and I learned about these additional interests of my consumer. How do I incorporate them because I don't want to take away from my product and what I'm doing, how do I incorporate these other interests?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. There's a ton of different ways that you can incorporate them. It could be, "Hey, we're going to start a new content series with pre COVID. Hey, we're going to throw an event about this. Hey, we're going to do a partnership with an adjacent brand that doesn't compete with us." There's so many ways that you can bring it to life across the marketing mix. Again, it depends on the business and the objectives and where the business is trying to go. But it's really informing all of those different aspects of marketing.
Charlie Grinnell: What it's also informing is where you should focus. By understanding, we used video content as an example. Let's say again, for example, video wasn't the good place to spend your time as a yoga person, everyone was reading blogs instead, we would be able to tell you that as well. It does go up a level and kind of help you understand how should you structure your team? Where should you allocate your team's time and budget? Do you need to hire an agency in a specific area because you're missing out on a massive opportunity?
Charlie Grinnell: And kind of using it as a compass of where you should focus and where the best opportunities in your industry. And then once we show you, "Okay, here are the best opportunities and here's what the leaders in those industries are doing." Then our case studies are able to show you, "Okay, here are the tactical elements. We literally deconstruct everything that they've done and here's what you can do to emulate this."
Jacob Kelly: And your team clearly has a deep understanding of the data they're presenting to each client. And I heard you say previously that, a lot of clients or some clients in the past, I've asked you to then activate the insights that you and your team provide, but you find it important to remain an unbiased third party and I'm curious why that is?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. I think it's a really good question. What really comes to mind with that is that I think it's important to be a political and unbiased. And what I mean by that is there are so many people out there telling marketers what they should be doing. And whether it's agencies, whether it's consultants, you name it. Whether it's a board, a board member, an advisor, whoever.
Charlie Grinnell: With us, we found it really, really important to not do any of the execution because we think that strategy and execution should be separate like church and state. And again, what I mean by that is we don't have an advertising arm. We don't do websites. We don't design websites, we don't do creative. We don't run activations.
Charlie Grinnell: When we're telling you what we're seeing, we're giving it to you in an unbiased way. Because if I was someone who also had an arm of our company that bought ads, I'd be able to say, "Hey, we've looked at all the data and it looks like you need to buy more ads. Oh, and by the way, we sell ads. So we can just do that for you."
Charlie Grinnell: And I just don't actually think that's right because I obviously have a hidden agenda there. And the analogy that I give is think about a marketing leader as a head of state. Think about a marketing leader as like the president of the United States, not this current president, a president. And then how the intelligence community comes in and briefs the president on what's happening.
Charlie Grinnell: They're not necessarily doing the stuff that they say they're giving the president the facts. They're going, "Hey, based on our assessment and based on what we've seen, here's everything that we've gathered. Here's what I think you need to know to make an uninformed decision. And if you want our advice we are giving our recommendation. But at the end of the day, that decision is up to you."
Charlie Grinnell: The reason that the intelligence community is able to be so credible in what they're doing is because they're apolitical, they're unbiased. Their whole job is to surface the truth and so we view our role in the same way. When we look at a landscape our job is to surface the truth to marketers. And when we're surfacing that truth that puts them in a better position to make a decision that's going to positively impact their business.
Jacob Kelly: Do you ever worry when a client asks you to activate on your insights. That when you kind of turn them down on that is that a worry of them churning when you do that or are you able to. The way you just explained it to me to most clients understand that and kind of do it themselves?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. It's just not what we do. To me that that integrity of being unbiased is critical to what we do. And we've walked away from tons of money before to activate on something because it's just not what we do. And I don't necessarily think it really relates to people churning from us because at the end of the day you're going to want to know this information, whether you're executing it yourself or you have an agency executing it for you.
Charlie Grinnell: Or even if you don't execute knowledge is power. There's a lot of insights to have there that are going to impact, that has potential impact on your business across the entire business not just in marketing. I don't necessarily worry about it when people are asking us to activate and I'm also very forward with that when we talk to clients we don't do that. And a lot of clients that we work with have relationships with their agency and we're not trying to play there. We're not an agency. We're a subscription based intelligence firm and that could be transitioning into a SAS product in the near future here.
Charlie Grinnell: For us, we're not looking to have that kind of relationship with them. We're looking to give them information to help them feel more confident in their strategies, reduce the stress and uncertainty around marketing and help them in their career take the next step, so to speak by being well-informed and inspired.
Jacob Kelly: And talk to me a little bit more than when you say that you could be transitioning to a SaaS product very soon is kind of the vision for it to have a dashboard people can log into. Instead of sending them the reports they can just log in and have a dashboard of everything right there. And then you can almost sell that as a lower version of the product with the regular product being the insights that your team provides on top of the data?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah maybe. I don't want to get into solution mode, but just know that I think if right now we're delivering things via report, there is absolutely always going to be an opportunity in the future to optimize the delivery method. Different people like to receive information in different ways. We've always done it via reports because that's what we've heard our clients really enjoy.
Charlie Grinnell: Is there more lightweight ways that we can deliver it and how we can make sure that people are able to get the information and digest it as fast as possible is something that we feel really important as well. That's something that we've seen in the market is there's a lot of smart research shops out there. There's a ton of insights. There's best practices. There's so many things out there to read.
Charlie Grinnell: And we're always trying to make our stuff as digestible as possible so that people will consume it because if they're consuming it in theory that's going to enable them to make better decisions.
Jacob Kelly: And then talk to me about growing it now from an employee side, but from a client side. What are some of the marketing tactics your team is deploying to grow the business right now?
Charlie Grinnell: The first one is we have a podcast it's called Measure What Matters – A Podcast for Marketers, where I'm on there interviewing a lot of really smart marketers about the lessons they've learned throughout working in marketing. We're actually just about to start up an email newsletter. If you go to our website rightmetric.co you can subscribe to our newsletter.
Charlie Grinnell: And basically what we're going to be doing with our newsletter is we're going to be giving away a lot of case studies. A lot of the deep research work that our team is doing we're going to start putting those in the form of email newsletters so that you can get something in your inbox on a regular basis and learn from the strategies and tactics of some of the best digital companies across different industries.
Charlie Grinnell: I go on podcasts like this and I'm mostly be big on LinkedIn trying to do a bit more on Twitter, but mostly LinkedIn and we've been very conservative in terms of our growth. We're not a company that's yelling from the rooftops. I use that intelligence analogy with you before and I'll kind of use it again here. We view ourselves almost as like seal team six, those who know about us know and those who don't that's okay.
Charlie Grinnell: We've worked on a lot of things that are very public that a lot of people probably wouldn't know that we've actually worked on. And we're just trying to slowly build something that is really, really valuable for marketers. And our focus has been very much on the product and the value side of things and then the marketing stuff will come after that.
Jacob Kelly: And then how did your team adapt to COVID? Were you guys remote already or did you have an office in Vancouver and then had to adapt?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. We had an office in Vancouver, but we were office optional. Evan and I, my co-founder were very huge fans of Basecamp, actually the founders of Basecamp, DHH and Jason Fried. We actually use Basecamp to run our company. With COVID, we got rid of our office, but it was funny because really the office was only used for our all hands meetings when we'd get everybody together. And then client meetings, but a lot of our clients don't want to meet in person and we decided to go fully remote.
Charlie Grinnell: Our team is primarily based here in British Columbia. Evan's actually in Victoria, the rest of us are in the Greater Vancouver area, but we work with clients all over the world. We work with clients in Europe, and in the U.S. and in Canada. It hasn't really impacted us too much from a day to day perspective other than we're like everybody else spending a ton of time on Zoom and Google Hangouts.
Jacob Kelly: And I believe you said you envision a potential future for the company where the data and the insights your team is able to provide are used for more than just marketing. Can you kind of explain what you mean by that?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. It's funny you bring that up. When we first started out, we were operating on the hypothesis that the internet is eating the world. Software and the internet is starting to eat the world. It's challenging human systems that have been in place for hundreds of years, whether it's democratic systems or insurance, taxis, food delivery, like there's so many different things that the internet and software has disrupted.
Charlie Grinnell: And as the world was getting swallowed up by this stuff we figured, "Hey, there's going to be so many data points spat out the other end that we could count and pull meaning from." And when we were first starting the company, we were actually toying with, "There's all this internet data. How are we going to package it up and merchandise it and build solutions with it."
Charlie Grinnell: And we toyed with other areas such as investing, or product, or that sort of thing. We ended up landing on marketing because Evan and I are marketers first and foremost. Now that said, who knows what the future holds. There's so many different things that can be learned from this data to help make decisions. Again, whether it's investing or product decisions really any business decision. There's a lot that can be learned as people spend more and more time in their day-to-day life doing things online, which they never did before.
Charlie Grinnell: There could be an opportunity there in the future. We're really focused right now on building a solution for marketers. If once we get to that point where we feel comfortable that we have a great solution for marketers and we're looking for something else, maybe we'll look at that. Maybe not, but there definitely is something there if that's what you're asking.
Jacob Kelly: Do you think that another potential future for the company is launching another brand on top of it. Just based off all the insights and data you collect you'll understand consumers at a very, very detailed amount. Do you think that you could then leverage those insights to launch another brand or does that then factor into how you don't act on data you want to remain apolitical, so you won't do that?
Charlie Grinnell: No, for sure it's a good point. I've actually had a few people say, "Hey, have you ever done trend analysis to be able to understand. Could I launch a direct to consumer business and here I want to look at this." Yeah, that could be a model in the future. I don't think necessarily it's something that Evan and I have talked about or really necessarily get excited about, but I've had other friends of mine come at me and be like, "Whoa, you're able to see a lot and that could help you inform a new business." And I'm like, "Yeah, that's great. I'm just also trying to get this business to go." It's a matter of managing what you've bitten off and chewing it before you go in for another bite, right?
Jacob Kelly: And you mentioned earlier how it's a balance between the science and the creative. And I've heard you, what side do you kind of land more on because you have this, you have a creative background, but you're so into data now. Do you have a side you kind of personally skewed to or you try and stay right down the middle?
Charlie Grinnell: I stay right down the middle because I think that it's super important. I would say like holistically, I try and stay right down the middle. Now depending on the challenge at hand, you can flex into more areas. I think the thing that I'm always trying to preach to people is creativity can't be like be replicated. Be creative absolutely, but I think what can inform that creativity or help make that creativity even better is when you're able to get insight or inspiration from the scientific side via data and insights.
Charlie Grinnell: And I think by pulling those two things together that's where the best stuff happens. By no means am I saying, "Hey, you shouldn't be creative. You should just look at the data and do exactly what the data says and vice versa." I'm not saying, "Hey, you should just do what your gut thinks and don't look at anything." I think those are both two pieces of bad advice.
Charlie Grinnell: I think the critical thing is being able to balance both of those things because that's going to be able to get you to the best place possible. And there are so many different examples of this. I think about a video series that I came up with my colleagues at Red Bull called Raw 100, I actually wrote an article on LinkedIn about this, where I kind of unpacked the whole thing.
Charlie Grinnell: And basically it was a video format, I believe now it's done over a hundred million views across all platforms. And it started with us being really interested in a topic and a community it was mountain biking. And we had a hypothesis we think this is going to work. And then what we ended up doing was we went and looked at some of the data around it now this is back in 2013.
Charlie Grinnell: I wasn't as rigorous as I would be today, so keep that in mind, but we still looked. And by having that hypothesis, that gut instinct, that creative aspect and then combining it with the stuff that we could see through a scientific perspective by looking at data we were able to come up with a format that was super, super successful.
Jacob Kelly: Do you think kind of as a whole marketers have over index to some degree to being too much basing their decisions off of data. I was talking with a marketer recently and she was saying that we're kind of coming out of this performance marketing era and now we're starting to see a slight shift back to community building. Do you think as a whole we were over indexed and data driven and now we're kind of coming back to that middle?
Charlie Grinnell: Yes. And I think I completely agree. The one thing that comes to mind is this buzzword of data driven decision making or that phrase there's so many different ways that you can phrase it. It's a buzzword absolutely. I think a lot of people, the analogy that I use is it's like sex in high school. Everybody thinks everybody else is doing it in reality very few people are doing it and the ones that are doing it aren't doing a good job of it.
Charlie Grinnell: And please excuse me for the crude analogy, but I think it hits the nail on the head that everyone talks about it and yet there are so many companies in this world that talk the talk, but they don't actually walk the walk when it comes to using data to inform decisions. Now that said, I completely agree with what you said when you were talking to that other person about how performance marketing is very much like X equals five or X equals 10. Like $1 in $3 out it's dealing in absolutes and exacts, whereas I think the balance is using it to inform.
Charlie Grinnell: Now informing doesn't mean find the exact answer informing means directional. And that's I think the big shift is the pendulum swung super hard to the performance side where it's like, "Do not do this unless you can get an exact answer." Whereas now I think it should be like, "Do not do this because that's not the right direction, but here are the other directions that you could go and here's the way that the data backs that up." Does that make sense?
Jacob Kelly: And then what about social listening? Where do you land on social listening versus talking to customers on a one-to-one basis? I just watched a talk Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, I believe. And he was talking about how important is just to talk to your customers. And do you think that will rely on social listening more so than trying to speak to their customers on a one-to-one basis?
Charlie Grinnell: I think both are important is what I'll say first and foremost, you need a mix of everything. What I was saying about balance just doing social listening isn't going to get you all the answers you need. Just talking to your customers isn't going to give you all the answers you need. Just watching click streams on your own site isn't going to get you the answers you need.
Charlie Grinnell: You need to look at all of it, zoom out a little bit and start to see what are some of the high level patterns. Are there things that we're starting to see over and over again? Are there similarities? Are there differences and how can we use those to our advantage?
Charlie Grinnell: I think one of the things that's funny with social listening that you have to keep in mind is don't listen to what people say, watch what people do. I'll give an example. Remember when the Facebook boycott thing happened, not the advertising boycott. After Cambridge Analytica people were like, "See you later Facebook, I'll never be on there."
Jacob Kelly: Yep.
Charlie Grinnell: Well, last time I checked Facebook still here. And last time I checked and I looked at the data a ton of people are using Facebook every day. Now I'm not necessarily saying it's as big and as powerful as it once was, but I guarantee there are people who are like, "See you later Facebook," but then still go on Facebook or still use Facebook in their life in some way, shape or form.
Charlie Grinnell: People talk the talk, but again, they won't walk the walk. And I think that's a really important thing when you're trying to understand your customer or a topic or something related to that. Yes, listen to what they say, listen to what they say in person, in an interview. Listen to what they say online about you, but also watch what they do and be aware that there is probably going to be a large gap in those things. And that gap is going to be where the true insight is and what you can learn and how you can start running micro tests to see if you can influence them to do what you want to do.
Jacob Kelly: Best is when people post about not using Facebook on Facebook.
Charlie Grinnell: Or Instagram.
Jacob Kelly: Yeah.
Charlie Grinnell: "See you later Facebook, catch me on Instagram." And I'm just like, "Oh my goodness, have you updated your app recently to see the bottom that says Instagram by Facebook or from Facebook?" Like, "Aaah."
Jacob Kelly: Where do you land on with data privacy?
Charlie Grinnell: Really good question. I think for me this is actually very topical because what's that Netflix documentary that just came out that everyone's talking about social dilemma.
Jacob Kelly: Yes, yes.
Charlie Grinnell: You heard about that.
Jacob Kelly: Yeah.
Charlie Grinnell: I think this ties well into that. Maybe we can chat about that for a sec here. Privacy is important. I think that we know their brands taking a stand for privacy. Apple, I think is the one that comes to mind of the big guys who are really like leaning into that privacy narrative. I think of myself personally as a consumer. I know I'm being tracked online and I'm okay with that. I've chosen convenience over privacy by owning an iPhone, by having Facebook accounts, by searching for things on Google. That's the trade-off that I've made is I've chosen convenience over privacy. Now, the layers of that privacy, and I'm not a privacy expert, but for me, my personal belief is I think that I wouldn't feel comfortable with a company knowing exactly everything about me individually. I think anonymized and aggregated data is okay.
Charlie Grinnell: What I mean by that is being able to understand, "Okay, men in Vancouver who are between the ages of 25 and 35, who like the Canucks and don't like, I don't know, David's Tea," let's say for the sake of example. I like David's Tea for the record, but let's just say I would technically fall into that. I don't think it should be, "Oh, this is Charlie, and Charlie does that." But these are the types of affinities, traits, interests, behaviors that they have.
Charlie Grinnell: To me, that's okay, because at the end of the day, if we're going to be on these platforms, there's a cost to running the platforms. And if we're going to see ads, I'd like to at least see ads that I'm interested in. And so, yeah, I think I probably have a skewed view because I've been working in the industry. Whereas I think going back to that comment about the social dilemma, there are so many people who are outraged about how the data is being used and what's being tracked. And I absolutely agree that I think they have a case but, I think, I don't necessarily know what the solution is because again, what people say versus what people do, we seem to be continuing to use the thing that we talk so passionately about hating.
Charlie Grinnell: And so, I don't know. I think that's controversial in terms of an answer, but for me, where I draw the line is when we work with companies as RightMetric, we're not giving them a list of people of, "Hey, here's exactly all the people and here's what they do." We're saying anonymized and aggregated at a high level here are the things that we can see, and here are some ideas of how you could be successful in getting your brand in front of that audience.
Jacob Kelly: Do you think that in the coming even years, decades, we're going to see people take a step back on the amount of data they've made public to this point? Is it going to become a movement, like a data privacy movement is going to start to grow?
Charlie Grinnell: I don't know. I hope so. And maybe this is a bit abstract, but stay with me and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. I look at it similar to other things that the world is facing; climate change, cigarettes, COVID, right? Just getting everybody to go in the same direction when they know something is bad as really, really difficult.
Charlie Grinnell: And do we really think that if we can't stop climate change or people smoking cigarettes, or even get people to wear masks about COVID, are we really going to be able to get everybody rowing in the right direction when it comes to data privacy? Is that really that high on the list? I don't know. I don't know what the answer is, but that's where my brain goes. And maybe that's a sociological answer.
Charlie Grinnell: But I think that yeah, I think about how many things are there that we, as humanity, are facing that we seem to not even be able to get a handle with, and then we're talking about data privacy? I'm like really? We can't even slow down our carbon footprint that much. Are we going to get annoyed with brands knowing who we are, what we do? And I don't mean to downplay it. I'm just like, it is an important issue, but I'm like, there's three, four, five other important issues that I laid out that we seem to still be struggling with.
Jacob Kelly: I think I'm in a similar boat. I think it's going to be interesting to see as it becomes an issue is it going to start to become a marketing tactic for brands? I think it was Twitter. I can't remember where I saw this. Someone was talking about it would be interesting if you could have brands remove all targeting for a social network if you pay a subscription for it. For example, say Facebook went $10 a month ...
Charlie Grinnell: With Twitter, yeah.
Jacob Kelly: If Twitter went $10 a month and you didn't have to pay for any, and then they wouldn't track you, but if you want to use it for free, they could track you. I think that could be an interesting thing that we see.
Charlie Grinnell: For sure, and I would do that. I would for sure do that. If I could pay for it, I would. I'd pay for a ton of things. And I think there is value on this platform that's why we all use it. Yes, you know, as social dilemma highlights, there are ways that it's engineered to be addictive. But at the same time, there is value there. The value is engineered in a way to be addictive, but I'm a news junkie. I love Twitter. I'd happily pay for Twitter because that's the best place for me to find out what's happening in the world. And so, what's the alternative?
Jacob Kelly: Speaking of paying for social networks, I want to throw this. This is just like a theory I haven't thought too, too much about, so I'm still trying to figure out what my opinion is on it. But I think it was The Hustle who said they're creating their own social network that's kind of like LinkedIn with no fluff, and it's going to cost a subscription. Do you think we're going to see more micro-social media sites that have a paywall, but it's more of exactly what you want?
Charlie Grinnell: Yes. In a word. I think that again, this goes back to the previous comment that we made about niching down. There's so much stuff out there on the Internet, and by niching down, we've seen it with newsletters. We've seen it with Facebook groups and closed communities. We've seen it with WhatsApp groups. I'm sure there are other platforms that I'm not even privy to that I'm not even mentioning, but like even on the big ones members-only groups. And I think that that's something that's going to continue to rise. We like being able to see stuff that we're interested in. And if that's a way that things are able to be filtered out and you're able to create a greater experience, that is a value, and people will pay for it.
Jacob Kelly: These niche communities then, do they make life easier or more difficult for marketers? Does spreading people out everywhere make it harder to reach everyone, or does by having them join these niche communities already do a little bit of the targeting for you upfront?
Charlie Grinnell: I think it's both. I think it's easier to your point about bringing people together who are interested in the topic. I think it makes it harder because marketers haven't necessarily thought in that way, like how are we going to get into these communities? I think it actually ties back to the point that we made earlier talking about the value of content marketing, right?
Charlie Grinnell: If you're a brand and you're providing super valuable content, and then you're trying to figure out a way to get into a community or get in front of a community, that's a great way that you can do it by using content marketing to provide value upfront before you even try to sell to them. I think it is all tied together.
Charlie Grinnell: I don't know how many brands do this very well. It kind of reminds me of Reddit, right? If you're a brand and you're on Reddit, you get roasted. And so you have to go about it the right way and make sure that everything that you're doing or contributing to that has nothing to do with sales. Otherwise, people will call you out. And so that's kind of why I'm like yeah if you're just constantly providing value, there is a way for marketers to be able to get in there and get their brand in front of a group of people who they want to target.
Jacob Kelly: And speaking of going on Reddit as a brand, using it in an inauthentic way, and getting roasted. I know one of your guilty pleasures is marketing fails, and I'm curious if you could share any of your favorites.
Charlie Grinnell: Oh, marketing fails. My personal fails or ...?
Jacob Kelly: No, in general, because I've heard you say somewhere else that it's a guilty pleasure thing. People sidestep when it comes to their marketing or anything, so anything that comes to mind.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. I think, Oh man, I just love reading about different things that go wrong or things that get posted that shouldn't have been posted or people taking over accounts. And maybe my guilty pleasure ... The big ones, I think, are when people think they're logged into their own account but, then they're not, and they tweet something or, they share something and they're like, Oh, or they double tap and like something as a big brand that maybe they shouldn't be liking.
Charlie Grinnell: I think the reason why I find that so amusing is because I've lived that life where I've had big accounts logged in on my phone and when you make a mistake, you're like, shit. But you're also like, hey, we're all human. Is it really the end of the world?
Charlie Grinnell: I'm just trying to think of an example that comes to mind of a marketing fail. A lot of the tone-deaf stuff, I think what was that like Kendall Jenner, and Pepsi, right? The ad of her protesting and it's like, oh, woof. That was not great, but I love that because I'm like, I would've killed to be a fly on the wall in the meeting where they're like yeah, this is a good idea. And the fact that no one stood up and was like, "Hey, I don't think this is going to go too well for us." And I don't know, just things like that I just love because I think there's a lot of learning to be done there.
Charlie Grinnell: The way that you learn in life is by making mistakes right? And so that's maybe why I love it when other people make mistakes because I'm like sweet. I can learn something without having to make that mistake. Now that sounds awful and super self-serving, but I'm also like it's efficient because I won't make that mistake, hopefully, knock on wood.
Jacob Kelly: Yeah. I think that's something people forget about social media's marketing, in general, is companies are just a collection of people. Sometimes you think of Pepsi or Coca Cola or whatever is a big brand. But at the end of the day, it's just a group of people in a room, and that's how you get what they put out.
Charlie Grinnell: For sure, and I think the other thing is that keep in mind, it's people and with social, right? Social started as this small piece of marketing, but now it's customer service, it's product development, it's sales, it's HR, it's employment brand. There are so many different layers of social media. And I think what's fascinating is that social media managers have had to diversify their skillsets to be able to work in so many different areas of the business but tie it all together in a way that makes sense.
Charlie Grinnell: I think especially after the Black Lives Matter movement and Facebook boycotting, and a lot of the controversy or causes that have come to life, that's kind of shined the light, so to speak, on holy crow, social media touches everything that we do. It's not just this one little marketing channel. I wouldn't be surprised to see social get more of a seat at the table at the C-suite level.
Charlie Grinnell: I wouldn't be surprised if yeah, in the future, there are brands who are going to have a VP of marketing and then a VP of social media who are at the same level or a chief marketing officer and a chief social media officer just because it appears that we're on the track that social is kind of outgrowing marketing, so to speak. It's becoming its own beast that supports the business and contributes to the business across everything, which means that it needs its own seat at the table at the highest level to be able to help make and inform the decisions.
Jacob Kelly: I couldn't agree more. I think one thing I learned early in my career is sometimes how social is forgotten. But sometimes, social would be the priority.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. I think it is one of those things where you can see which companies are social. Oh yeah, we're doing this thing, and oh, by the way, give the same thing to social, and they'll post it. Right? Or you can see the brands that think about things social first and then bring them to life across other areas of their marketing mix. Whether it's in-person activations, whether it's events, whether it's all the different pieces that play into it, and it's quite obvious.
Jacob Kelly: I've heard you in the past describe your specific journey is unconventional. I'm curious what your advice would be for kids right now who aren't sure what they want to do with their lives, or they think they're heading down an unconventional path.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, it's a good question. I think the thing that comes to mind is not caving in to societal pressure. I think that's one of the biggest things that I've learned as I've kind of gotten into this is I felt that I didn't fit a certain mold; go to university, get your degree and go then work in your industry. I always knew that I wanted to work in business and marketing, I just wasn't good at math. Unfortunately, to get into business school, you need to do calculus and that wasn't going to work for me, which is incredibly ironic now that I own a data and insights company.
Charlie Grinnell: But I think that not caving into those societal pressures and understanding that there are other ways to go around it. You don't have to follow the exact same path as other people to get to the same destination. That's something that I've kind of always used. If you ever talked to my mom or my girlfriend or past colleagues of mine, I do things a different way. And I did them the way that they worked and made sense for me. I think having that confidence to know that just because it worked one way for one person doesn't mean you have to do it that way. I think that would be the first piece.
Charlie Grinnell: The second piece that's kind of related to that is just really around, not necessarily caring what it looks like on the outside. Right? I was so worried about how people were going to look at me, or even my mom. I've said this to my mom before right? She was in the mom group with all the moms who had kids my age. "Oh, well, what's Charlie up to?" "Oh, well, he dropped out of school." Whereas all the other moms are like one's at McGill, one's at Western Ontario, one's at Harvard, one's at Rice University in Texas. Like they're all doing these amazing things. And it's like, "Oh, well, what's Charlie doing?" "Oh, he dropped out of UBC, and now he's on our couch and he's dinking around with cameras in the living room."
Charlie Grinnell: I was always so concerned about what other people would think about what I was doing. I think on one hand that was actually positive because that emotion, that fear is what drove me. But on the other side of it, don't let it distract you, and don't let it interfere with what you want and what you want to go after.
Jacob Kelly: How often do you reflect on your journey from being an 18-year-old Charlie just kind of in the living room with the camera, to everything you've done up to where you are now.
Charlie Grinnell: Every day. I think the main thing that comes to mind is I joke about this where we meet with people, we talk to people, we work with these awesome companies. And I think back to like, wow, this is amazing. There are people that I get to work with such smart people and how did I string together all the different pieces to be able to get to this moment? I'm constantly thinking about wow, it's crazy this journey that I've been on and the things that I've been able to learn, and the people that I've been able to meet. And so yeah, it's something that is literally top of mind every day. I'm constantly thinking back to like, what if I wasn't in that car accident? What would I be doing right now? Or what if I was in the car accident and I didn't go down this path? Maybe I started my own landscaping company or something like, what would life be like? You always think of what if's right?
Charlie Grinnell: I feel like most people are like that. The grass is always greener on the other side, so people are always like, oh, what if I did that? I'm definitely one of those people, too. But at the same time, I really love what I'm doing right now. And I know that it's because I've taken this path that is super unconventional, but it seems to have worked out so far. I think the last thing that I would say about that is there's a huge aspect of luck. You know, I was 20-years-old in 2010 looking to get into marketing, right?
Charlie Grinnell: That's like being an inventor in the industrial revolution. I look back at the era and the age that I was where things started to happen. And then being able to have like a video skillset and being interested in the Internet. All of those pieces came together, which kind of acted as like a lubricant, so to speak, to move me forward. Yeah, there are other pieces that ... I think about that even today. I'm 30 and it's 2020 and I work in digital and the Internet.
Charlie Grinnell: The Internet, when we zoom out a little bit, we're still in the infancy of things. Yes, it's been around for a while for us, but being able to think about, okay, when you and I have grandchildren being able to be like, yeah, I remember signing up for Facebook. Right? It's like, yeah. I remember when we got a color TV, it was crazy. You know? That's kind of the way that I think about it, as well.
Jacob Kelly: That's interesting. And I appreciate you taking the time to be on the show. Before I let you go, I want to ask you the same standard set of questions that I ask everybody at the end of the podcast. I used to call it rapid fire, but people told me it wasn't really a rapid fire type thing.
Charlie Grinnell: Well, do you want me to go fast or slow?
Jacob Kelly: I mean, I'll leave that up to you. Cause I used to start calling it the Q&A, but then I realized, this is a podcast and the whole thing's a Q&A. That makes no sense. I don't really have a name for these questions, but the first one is; You're going to dinner. You can take three people and it could be anybody dead or alive. Who do you take to dinner?
Charlie Grinnell: Michelle Obama, Scott Galloway, and my mom.
Jacob Kelly: I love it. You've met Michelle Obama, though. Correct?
Charlie Grinnell: I have met Michelle Obama and she wouldn't have been on my list before I met her, actually.
Jacob Kelly: Why is that?
Charlie Grinnell: I just, she's not someone who struck me as someone that I would want to meet. And then as soon as I met her, I became obsessed with her and reading her book and all that sort of stuff. Yeah, after meeting her, she just had this incredible presence. It was pulling from two sides. She was out of this world, and so normal and motherly at the exact same time. It was weird. I haven't really met anybody else who had that kind of energy.
Jacob Kelly: Interesting. What is some of the best advice you've ever gotten?
Charlie Grinnell: Oh, best advice. Stay neutral. There's this guy that I follow named Trevor Moawad. He's a mental conditioning coach for Russell Wilson. I saw him speak at Summit in LA last year. He talked about the power of neutral thinking and how are you training your mind to be the best of what you can be? He talks about this idea of staying neutral, not getting too high and not getting too low and not verbalizing the negative things, keeping them inside. He's not saying be overly positive. He's saying minimize the negative side of things. And by minimizing the negative side of things, you're giving yourself a better chance at being successful and being in control mentally of what you're trying to accomplish.
Jacob Kelly: What is one thing about you people wouldn't expect?
Charlie Grinnell: Hmm. I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility to be really, really good at what I do because I feel guilty about some of the opportunities that I've had. What I mean by that, like what I said earlier, I was raised in an upper white middle-class family. I'm a straight male. I haven't had to deal with discrimination. I haven't had to deal with people judging me or giving me a harder time. I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility to make the most of the opportunity that I was given, because I know that if I didn't, I would be wasting it. I haven't really said that a lot publicly, but I think it's really, really important to me. And it's one of the things that drive me.
Jacob Kelly: Well, I appreciate you sharing it here.
Charlie Grinnell: No worries.
Jacob Kelly: What is one thing that's so important everybody needs to know?
Charlie Grinnell: So important that everybody needs to know? I think I said it earlier. Nothing is ever as good as it seems or as bad as it seems. I think we tend to sensationalize things in extremes, and you know, it's tied to staying neutral. I think that we always seem to think things are really, really good, or really, really bad. Also, I think that we think that we control those things or impact those things or influence those things more than we actually do.
Charlie Grinnell: If something good happens to you, we tend to over index in the amount of attribution or credit that we give ourselves for being great. And I think the same thing when we do something bad. We always tend to bring it onto ourselves. And so just understanding that nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems. And there's also a big piece of that that has nothing to do with you.
Jacob Kelly: For the final question, I like to flip the script a little bit. Instead of me asking the question, it's you asking the question, but it's not to me. Pretend you have this crystal ball. You can ask the crystal ball any question. You'll get the 100% honest answer. What is one question you want to know the answer to?
Charlie Grinnell: This is going to be really deep. When will I die?
Jacob Kelly: You'd want to know the answer to that?
Charlie Grinnell: Yep.
Jacob Kelly: Interesting. I've heard people come on here and debate asking that, but then not because then they said that that would stress them out too much.
Charlie Grinnell: I just want to know the facts. I want to know, because I think by knowing what that date is, that would allow me to adjust my priorities. Life is short, and by knowing when you die, there is the option to change different things to maybe extend that or avoid that. Or you're making sure that you're spending the time that you have doing exactly what you want to do.
Charlie Grinnell: That's a really deep, personal ending, but yeah, that's a huge question that maybe some people would be scared to ask. But I would just love to know. Right? It's almost like the unknown that I feel would cause more anxiety or stress. Once you know, you know.
Jacob Kelly: Yeah. That's a fair point.
Charlie Grinnell: You can start to rationalize it and compartmentalize it. I don't know.
Jacob Kelly: Absolutely. And I mean, this last question always gets deep, but it's one of my favorite ask.
Charlie Grinnell: Well, yeah. I feel like that was a good conversation talking about so many different things. There I am at the end just ruining it with a super deep answer or question.
Jacob Kelly: No, you didn't ruin it. I think it'd be weird if I asked that question in the middle, of that. But no, I appreciate you taking the time to be on this podcast. I know before we were talking about we couldn't talk for two hours, but we're pretty close, so I want to thank you. I want to give you the floor. Where can people find you? Plug anything and everything you got right now.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, so the best place to find me is on LinkedIn. That's where I'm most reachable. I'm also on Twitter @CharlieGrinnell. All one word. We have a podcast Measure What Matters – A Podcast for Marketers. It's on all the different podcasts playlist, go check it out. You can hear my sweet voice playing a little bit of role reversal and sitting in Jacob's seat talking to really smart marketers.
Charlie Grinnell: And we're also just about to start our newsletter. There's going to be a bunch of really awesome stuff in there. You can subscribe by going to our website, rightmetric.co, rightmetric.co. Yeah, I'm available anytime, anywhere hit me up. I love talking to people. I love answering questions and you can find me through any of those platforms.
Jacob Kelly: Amazing. Well, I want to thank you once again for taking time to be in this podcast. I want to thank everybody for listening. Whether you've listened the entire way through, or you only listened to bits and pieces, I really appreciate you taking the time to check this out.
Jacob Kelly: Everyone do me a big favor, go and connect with Charlie on LinkedIn. Go and follow him on Twitter. Make sure you subscribe to RightMetric’s podcast and newsletter. And if you'd like to follow me, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram at @JacobKelly. Feel free to come and say hello. My DMs are always open. If you'd like to follow the podcast, you can find us on Instagram and at My Social Life podcast or YouTube by searching on My Social Life.
Jacob Kelly: As always, today's podcast is powered by True Fan. Thank you once again for listening, everybody. We'll talk soon.
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