What's Working In Marketing™: The Foundational Elements of Marketing Strategy with Conner Galway, President at Junction Consulting
What's Working in Marketing™ is a podcast where we uncover what’s working across the digital landscape by tapping into the world’s best data-backed research and through candid conversations with industry experts. Join us if you're ready to learn what's working when it comes to your marketing efforts.
On this episode, we spoke with Conner Galway who is the President of Junction, a firm that helps brands build digital competencies from the inside out through strategy, training and consulting. Conner shares his approach to building strategies, how data and insights play into the strategic process, and his tips for keeping up with marketing in 2020 and beyond.
Here's a full transcript of my conversation with Conner:
Charlie Grinnell: On today's episode, we're talking with Conner Galway, President at Junction Consulting. Thanks so much for joining us today.
Conner Galway: Hey, thanks for having me. Good to be here.
Charlie Grinnell: You and I have known each other for a long time. I've always found you to be a really great advisor in things that I've been doing. Would you be able to just give some more context about who you are, what you do and what you at the gang at Junction are working on?
Conner Galway: First of all, thank you for that. That's awesome. I'm stoked to be on. You're right. We have been talking about this forever, and good for you for getting this rolling. I'm excited for you.
Conner Galway: Yeah, a little bit of background. At Junction, we're a consulting firm. We work directly with businesses who want to figure out strategy, training, and help them to solve hard problems. I guess to rewind a little bit, the most common question I get from people is how do you get into digital consulting? How is this a thing? I started getting interested in the internet in the early early days of this phase of the internet, say, 2007, 2008 while I was in business school. At those times, really all we had was MySpace, Blogger and this Twitter thing came along. I looked around and I thought, "This is interesting. This is something that I feel I should get my hands on," and so I started a Twitter account for my business school. I think it was probably the 100,000th Twitter account in the world. I had no idea what I was doing. I think my first personal tweet was "This thing is dumb and will never last."
Charlie Grinnell: Accurate.
Conner Galway: Then fast forward a little bit. Still in school. Some friends of mine looked around, and we said, "The Olympics are coming to Vancouver. When the Olympics come to Vancouver, the entire world is going to be looking at us. Everybody is going to be here in our city, and we're relatively entrepreneurial. We think that we're relatively smart. If we don't take advantage of this opportunity, we're nuts." We thought of everything from t-shirts to hot dog stands. Any dumb idea that a couple of 23, 24-year-olds can come up with.
Conner Galway: What we landed on creating a website for betting on hockey. Because if you remember at the time, this was during the internet poker craze. Everybody was betting on everything. This was the hot button issue, but you couldn't bet on Olympic hockey because it's amateur sports. However, the European sites, they were all spreading lines on the Olympics. We thought if we could just create a website that had all of the best information, we had reverse engineered content marketing before this was really a thing. Had all the best information. We drove search engines. We drove advertising to the site.
Conner Galway: We went into the Olympics with this idea to build this site. Your typical startup, working until four o'clock in the morning. At the end of the Olympics went back and went, "Wow." We were able to get somewhere in the neighbourhood of a quarter million people to our website. Beyond that, we would put up predictions. We would put up games and stories. We talked about games. I would watch as I would hit publish, all the European sites would start to update their own sites based on our information. When we got to the end of the Olympics, we looked around at each other. We were like, "Whoa. We're just a couple of guys sitting in a coffee shop on Granville Street making predictions based on which Russian team was stumbling out of the Roxy that night, and we were able to get people from all over the world to pay attention to this website. Why isn't every business doing this? Not sitting under the Roxy, but why isn't every business investing in content on the internet and building community and using search engines?
Conner Galway: We decided we'd start an agency, which ended up being one of the least informed decisions that I've ever made because I didn't know. I didn't know what an RFP was. I didn't know how to write a proposal. I figured that this internet thing was going to be a big deal and people were going to need help, so we started an agency. Then about five years later, we even built websites and ran campaigns and that sort of thing for clients.
Conner Galway: The turning point for us and why we're a consultancy now was we realized that the internet and marketing in general had changed so much. We had all of these agencies out there, all of these smart people doing all this work, but brands had effectively outsourced silos to a variety of different agencies and contractors, but they didn't really have control of where they were going. Nobody was driving the bus. They weren't really strategically making choices. Their customers online weren't directly connected to the businesses.
Conner Galway: We said, "If we're really successful at what we're doing, we're actually going to end up being part of the problem," so we totally changed our perspective. We pivoted our business model and became consulting, our core idea being that we're trying to build control from the inside out inside organizations. We're trying to build strategies, build training and help organizations to drive that bus, to understand where they're going. We've been consultants now for about four years. I love it. I love my work now more than ever.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. That natural progression from following Russian hockey players outside of the Roxy into strategy seems super natural.
Conner Galway: Obvious, yeah. (laughing)
Charlie Grinnell: You've never told me that story that in-depth. It’s the first time hearing that. That's amazing. I knew bits and pieces of it, but hearing it in that detail is awesome. You talk a lot about strategy now. I know that's a big focus of what you write about. By the way, for those listening out there, Conner writes something every week called The Brief, which you should definitely check out. I think the URL is brief.wearejunction.com. Is that right, Conner?
Conner Galway: That's right, thank you.
Charlie Grinnell: Check it out. It's great. He writes a ton about strategy there. I definitely read that every single week to get your take on things. Strategy is one of those words, and we've talked about this before, that my personal opinion is that it's been misused in business and marketing. It's become one of those buzzwords. I'm going to ask a fairly open ended question here. I'm just curious to get your take on it. What is strategy to you? That's the first thing I'm going to ask you. Then I want to dive into your approach and how you build strategies. First, what is strategy in your mind and how do you guys at Junction approach that?
Conner Galway: You're right. We've applied the word "strategy" to just about everything. We have an influencer marketing strategy. We have a content strategy. We have an Instagram story strategy.
Charlie Grinnell: I have a lunch strategy by the way. (laughing)
Conner Galway: I would love to see that deck, Charlie. (laughing)
Charlie Grinnell: If you want, I'll send you the deck. It's coming. (laughing)
Conner Galway: Beautiful. When we think about what is a strategy, a strategy is not a tactic. It's not a thing that we do. It's not an individual choice. A strategy is a framework. A strategy is one big hard decision that we make that makes all of the other decisions easier. An easy way to think about it, the difference between strategy and tactics is that when the markets change, when platforms go away, when advertising opportunities come up or go down, your strategy should always be constant. Your strategy should apply whether you're using online offline. Your strategy should be just as relevant today as it will be in a couple of years.
Conner Galway: There's one brand here in BC that I think has actually done a great job of it, and I love to think about them as an example, who is Destination BC. They're our tourism marketing organization. It was, I want to say, about six or seven years ago that they pivoted their strategy. They were doing a good job of doing what destination marketing organizations do with buying ads and that sort of thing, but they saw the opportunity to instead flip them to distributed storytelling, meaning they want to equip all the operators, all of the smaller destination organizations, they wanted them to create really amazing digital experiences and have them tell stories. That's when they launched this idea of #ExploreBC, which now has four million and some uses. That's when they started equipping their operators to be doing a better job of what they were always doing.
Conner Galway: It's paid off. They won marketer of the year for a couple of different awards, and BC has been doing better than ever. Their strategy of distributed storytelling, that doesn't change if MySpace comes back or Instagram introduces stories or whatever. Their strategy is something that makes all of the other decisions easier. Does that make sense?
Charlie Grinnell: That makes a ton of sense. I think we both know that the team over there with Marsha Walden, Maya Lange, Jacqueline Simpson, etc., everyone over there, it's been amazing. Being from BC, when they first started to pivot that strategy and take off, at the time I was living in Toronto and watching from a distance. I was like, "Yeah, that's home!" I was fired up. Even though you could just start to see more and more businesses start to tap into that resource they had created by pivoting that strategy. I think that's a super great example. We'll talk a little bit later about what they've done recently because I know you and I have both shared that stuff and talked about that.
Charlie Grinnell: Digging a bit deeper into strategy, how do you approach strategy? Just to give some context here, the way that I typically learn things is I break them down into building blocks. How would you break down approaching building a strategy? I think right now this is super timely for people who are having to look at all the pieces, so to speak, right now, given the current situation that we're in, given the current situation that we're in and potentially reorganize the pieces and rebuild. What are those pieces and how should people be thinking about strategy?
Conner Galway: Really, all a strategy is is a way to solve a problem or take advantage of an opportunity. If we are starting the strategic process the place of "Well, Facebook is a thing. We should be on there." That's not really a problem or an opportunity. That's a channel. If instead we look inside the business and say, "Well, is the problem that our focus is too narrow and we're not reaching the audience that we think we could potentially reach? Or our opportunity is that we just launched our products in a new country. Our opportunity is to connect with that new audience."
Conner Galway: Starting from what is the actual business problem or opportunity that we're trying to solve is the absolutely most important part of the strategic process. Then once we've done that, then we just start to ask questions. Who has done this well in the past? How have other people solved this same problem, and what can we learn from them? What data is out there that we can use to help inform the way we're going to solve this problem?
Conner Galway: Then ultimately, what we're going to do is we're going to come up with a series of hypotheses or series of guesses really, of ways that we can potentially solve the problem to position ourselves and then start testing. I think the best advice that I could give to somebody who's either new to strategy or struggling with strategy is just to be curious, to not think that we need to be Don Draper who comes up with this magical tagline that's going to sell a million cigarettes on the spot. Instead, we need to approach from a place of curiosity and ask questions and then test and research.
Charlie Grinnell: It's funny you mention that Don Draper, that whole “Mad Man” aspect. Do you feel that has changed? Obviously it’s changed, but is it dead? Is there still a place for that? I think some of the conversations that we have a lot internally at our company is this balance between brand and performance and talking about that pendulum of brand and performance. How does that play into all of this?
Conner Galway: I mean, I love a good Super Bowl ad. I'm a huge football fan, go 49ers. I will watch the space between the plays almost as intently as I'll watch the game itself. Yeah, I think creativity is alive and well. I think there's some really truly brilliant amazing people out there doing awesome creative work.
Conner Galway: I think the fundamental difference is we don't have to go in blind anymore. I can't even imagine and respect to the people who are listening and have been doing this and putting in the work, but I can't even imagine buying a billboard six months in advance, shipping the creative, physically mailing the creative four months in advance and then just sitting back and hoping that it resonates for the audience. Now, once we do all the strategy and we have the concept, we can put an ad out and start to get feedback in half an hour. I think that creative absolutely is one of the most important parts of marketing, of advertising, but I think now it's creativity with insight, creativity with feedback and having the humility to learn from the feedback that we're getting.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. I couldn't agree with you more. The phrase that we use internally at RightMetric is called informed intuition or informing intuition.
Conner Galway: I love that.
Charlie Grinnell: With marketers, if there are people who have been working in marketing for years and years and years, you can't discount the knowledge that they have about a brand or a market or an industry, but I think to your point, things are changing faster than ever before. It's how can you use data and analytics and insights to help inform you and help you push your creativity to accomplish the overarching business objective, which is what you talked a little bit about earlier. That's really interesting.
Conner Galway: Yeah. I want to underscore something important. I think we're of the generation that came up with Mad Men and Mad Men to romanticize the agency and advertising in general. I think as great as the show is, it's perpetuated this myth or this misunderstanding of marketing that I see in just about industry. It's this idea that marketing is advertising. That marketing is push-based messaging. What's happened and what's really interesting is that as digital and social have become more prevalent and now they're everywhere. Digital and social, especially in this current moment, is literally everything. Now it's super confusing because it's like, is social media marketing? But it's also customer service. Is our website marketing? But it's also public relations and investor relations. It's also pricing.
Conner Galway: What I think people need to do is flip open their marketing 101 textbook and remember those “four P’s”. Marketing is the entire business. Marketing is how should we position the product? How should we price? Where do we sell it? Marketing is investing in community. It's connecting with our stakeholders. Marketing, it's all of these things. When we think of it through the lens of Don Draper, it's really easy to forget how important the function is inside the organization, which is why I love your question about the strategy. We're solving big business problems, and if the only lever we have to pull is paid media, then we're handcuffing ourselves.
Charlie Grinnell: Totally. I think that's something that I've always, in my previous roles on the brand side at different companies, was sitting on the social team or the digital marketing team. When this first all came about, meaning digital, it was an area that was a piece of marketing. Whereas now, I think what we've seen as the internet has swallowed the world, we've seen that it's actually almost... It touches every single aspect of the business, which is interesting from an organizational perspective. It's interesting how you get people to work cross-functionally. There's a bunch of different challenges that need to be worked out in various aspects of the business.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, I completely agree. I think it's one of those things that's going to continue to evolve as new platforms come online. It's challenging a lot of the structures that have been put in place. How you used to design a marketing org five years ago was very different than how you and I would sit down and design a marketing org today. Yeah, I think it's something that we're seeing a lot about too. Probably a lot of people are going to reevaluate that as they come out of the current COVID stuff. That's the first time I said COVID if we're playing a drinking game. Sorry.
Charlie Grinnell: One more question here about strategy, which I think is always really interesting. Do you have any examples of good or bad strategies that you've seen brands use? Not to put you on the spot, but I know that you do a great job of rounding stuff up in The Brief, so you're always someone I always look to see like, who's doing it well?
Conner Galway: Yeah. I'll go to another local example here, just because I'm a huge fan of this company. It probably comes as no surprise to you. I think from a strategic perspective, there are few brands in the world as well-positioned as Lululemon. Lululemon, I'm sure that your listeners have heard of the company. They started as a yoga apparel company. When you really dig into it, what you understand is they've always strategically been positioned as a company that exists to equip and enable people to, in their words, live happier, healthier, more active lives. I think it's just such a great example of strategy because what it equips them to do is sell yoga pants. You can sell yoga mats. Then you can sell shorts. You can sell online classes. You can get into products and experiences. You can host a half marathon here in Vancouver.
Conner Galway: I think strategically it's been fascinating to watch them as a brand just almost, and I'm sure it's not effortless inside them, but almost effortlessly flow from one positioning to another, one tact to another, always investing in community, investing in their stakeholders. Strategically, they always return back to that center of they're equipping people rather than just selling products.
Charlie Grinnell: I completely agree. I think that's a great example. We've both done work for them in the past. I think what's been so cool, especially again, given the recent developments with this pandemic, is seeing them double down on community. That's such a powerful thing. What's so amazing is they've been saying the same thing the whole time. This isn't like all of a sudden, "Oh, we're pivoting our strategy into community." They've been invested in this from the very beginning.
Charlie Grinnell: Now I think what's really cool is as this world is going to go through this trying time, they had the foresight to position themselves in this way, and I think they're going to be reaping the benefits from it for a long time after.
Conner Galway: 100%. Just to color around what you were saying there, brand strategy when done well should seem obvious. They are positioned as a community organization, as a company that has great stakeholders and takes care of their stakeholders. When they rolled out the fact that they had this fund to support their ambassadors, it was unsurprising. It was amazing, and kudos to them for doing that. They were one of the first brands to step up and do it. The fact that they continued to pay their employees. Yeah, that's a thing that lululemon would do. Because their brand strategy is so strong, that you come to expect that from them.
Conner Galway: To use a cliché example, when your package shows up from Amazon in two days or a day or half an hour, you're like, "Yeah, that's a thing that Amazon does." I like to use Amazon as an example because people think brand is a flashy video. Brand is your background at Red Bull is working with influencers and that sort of thing. People would say Amazon has kind of an ugly website. They don't really invest in brand. I disagree. I think that they've done such a phenomenal job of communicating what their brand is, that we just understand it. We just know that they're the everything store. We're going to get the best price on it, and it's going to show up quickly. lululemon becomes a bit of a cliché example because everybody looks to them as such a great... They throw a great party. They have great social media. They have a great community. Amazon is just as strong a brand, maybe even stronger. They're 100 times the size of lululemon but in a very different way.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. I think that's such a great point. What first came to mind when you said that and I haven't thought about it that way, but just hearing that right now, Amazon, it's so strong that you don't even realize it's happening. You don't even realize how much you rely on it. It's just this thing that you do, and it becomes a habit. From a brand perspective, that would be a marketer's dream, is if people start to use your product or service, your brand's product or service, in their day-to-day life as a habit. That is, I feel like, marketing touchdown.
Conner Galway: The best brand wins of all time are Kleenex, Google. To use your brand as a verb, there's no better compliment.
Charlie Grinnell: That's true. I totally agree. Okay, cool. That's all really interesting. Thank you for that, because I feel like strategy is something that definitely our audience is thinking about top of mind now. I want to pivot things here a little bit and talk about how can marketers keep up in 2020 and beyond. I know that your team does a lot of training for marketers. You teach at BrainStation. You write The Brief. You do a lot of webinars, that sort of thing. What is you and your team seeing is a common skill gap that you think marketers need to improve? What are the types of questions that you're seeing when you go in? What are the types of things where you have to dig in deeper and go, "Okay, this is a theme that I'm seeing."
Conner Galway: I have a couple of thoughts on that. One is I think a macro trend that I think that's been accelerated by the current pandemic. It's that when times are really good, when are in these aggressive bull markets, everybody wants specialists. Everybody wants people who don't have skill gaps, who are absolute experts at buying Google ads or will create the best Instagram story in the world for you.
Conner Galway: What we're seeing is now that's not what organizations need. What people need is generalists. They need people that can come in and translate and understand and get into the dirt in a variety of different things, take their gloves off and be like, "Let's go. Let's solve this problem." It means that the decks might not be perfect. Every wrinkle might not be ironed out, but what people really need is people with well-rounded skills, knowledge, experience. More than anything, just the ability to get things done.
Conner Galway: I know it's really hard to take an online course for that. I'm not giving you something that's specific, but if I was to coach somebody on a way to get better at that and just to get better as a marketer in general, I would say that empathy is the biggest missing gap. What I mean by empathy is I think that, especially over the course of digital, we've become very focused on skills. We've become focused on this idea that we can get a better ROAS or better ROI by just tweaking these things or A-B testing that thing. What we've forgotten to do is actually see our product or our service or our brand through the eyes of the customer or the guest visitor, whatever we're going to call this person.
Conner Galway: Empathy means in real tactical terms, sometimes just getting out of the office and talking to people. It definitely means collecting data. It means researching. At the end of the day, you can have all the spreadsheets in the world, we as marketers and as strategists need to be able to put ourselves in that person's shoes and understand. Maybe Conner thinks this is a dumb idea. Maybe Conner would hate that video or that logo or whatever it is that we're coming up, but maybe that person loves it. Maybe that's exactly what they need, and that means that it's the right strategy.
Charlie Grinnell: Super interesting. I think what I would add to that is I talk about this with our clients all the time. What we do is yes, in some aspects, you can get to, "Yeah, what is that ROAS” or focusing on that performance base number, but to your point and what we discussed earlier about that idea of informed intuition, many times it isn't going to be X = 10, however there are ways that you can use analytics/data/insights to steer you directionally to then go and be creative and do something great. I think this is something that I've talked with a few other people about is like has data given marketers this, maybe I'm afraid of failure. Whereas before in the past, we were okay with, "Yeah, we're going to come up with this cool campaign, and maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. Obviously we're trying to check all the boxes and make sure we're doing the right thing." Has data gotten us frozen to that point where we're like, "I'm over-relying on it."
Charlie Grinnell: I think with what we're always trying to do, is we're trying to go, "Hey, use this as context and direction because that's just, we think it's smart.” It's a balance of art and science. You need to have both because both are important. I'd love to hear your take on that, what you think about that.
Conner Galway: That's why I'm not worried about the robots taking our jobs. I think we're in a reasonably well-protected industry in just marketing in general and strategy. We're at the point now where there's so much good data and such good reliable data out there, that we'd be irresponsible not to be collecting as much of it as possible. Then once we have that, that doesn't do anything. It's like it's just a bunch of inputs.
Conner Galway: Then it's the role of the human, the beautiful part of it, to say, "Okay, why does this matter?" We have an internal mantra that we use when we go through the research stage of all of our projects. It's always, as we're going through data, as we're writing our reports, it's always, "So what?" We'll write out a section and immediately go back and ask, why does this actually matter? And then for who? If we can answer those two questions, and you can just look at a ream of data and just ask, "So what? For who?" It's this amazing knife that slices right through it, and then we're able to actually start to come up with some things that we can put into action.
Charlie Grinnell: For sure. That's something that we've discussed a lot internally is data for the sake of data is useless. I think that that's another thing. Data gets thrown around, but how do you turn that into insight, and then how do you use that insight to drive action. Action is the key thing. What are you doing with it? I think that's something that has been tough for marketers and has probably made analytics and data... Everybody has been talking about data and analytics for the last five years. Over the last five to ten years, we've seen an explosion in data. This is great. You see these headlines of "Data is the new oil," and that sort of thing. Absolutely, and oil is valuable, but you need to refine oil to create gas to put it in the car. That's the analogy. Data is great. It's a big piece of it, but it's also how you are interpreting this data, just to your point, and then how are you taking those interpretations and driving action from those.
Conner Galway: I think that my favorite part of my job is that I get to be the antagonist. People, they bring us in or they bring me in or somebody else from my office to help solve a problem that they have. They think that they're a room full of smart people. Lots of times what ends up happening is they give us all of their information, ideas. They're like, "Now go away and come up with this brilliant solution to our problem." I just get to look at all these things they've been working on and ask the simple question, "So what and for who?" It's amazing how often I get blank stares.
Charlie Grinnell: Of course.
Conner Galway: The marketing person or the executive or the VP and the C Suite certainly isn't used to hearing those questions. The C-Suite will be like, "Here is our strategy. We went away on a retreat at Lake Louise, where we can expense all of the things that we did over the weekend. We can come back, and we have this piece of paper." I look at it. I go, "That's great, man. So what?" It's amazing how often people can't answer that question.
Conner Galway: I think this applies to anything. We got a million views on a YouTube video. So what? We're launching a new product in a new category. So what? It doesn't have to be an argument. It should be really simple, but I just think so many of us haven't bothered to think that through. Once we do, oh my goodness, this whole job becomes so much easier because then we understand why we're doing what we're doing, and we're not just throwing a bunch of tactics at the wall.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, I think that makes a ton of sense and what I love about what we do as well. We're looking outside of these four walls, outside of a business's four walls to give them that context. It's always very interesting to be like, "Okay, you have these assumptions? Cool. Did you know that this is happening? Did you know the truth of what's happening outside? Now that you know that, how are you going to change your strategy and adapt your strategy?" It's fascinating to see the different types of reactions because some people think they're doing a great job. Others know they may have work to do. Yeah, it's always just such an eye-opening experience. I think that goes hand-in-hand with everything you just mentioned there.
Conner Galway: Obviously I have a lot of respect for the clients who work with companies like yours, specifically with RightMetric because it takes a real amount of courage to be able to have somebody hold the mirror up against them and be like, "Here's the real facts. Here's what's actually happening." Sometimes you get exposed. Kudos to them, because those are the ones who are actually going to have the insights they need to make smart choices. Everyone else is just kind of throwing things up and hoping that they catch.
Charlie Grinnell: I appreciate you saying that. When we started, that was the goal. When I sat on the brand side, I'd go, "I think we're doing well," because I'd be able to see our own stuff. I'd be like, "I think we're doing pretty good." Then there would maybe be the Nielsen Report that comes out and it's like, "Oh yeah, you have this much market share." Whatever it was, and I always was like, "Okay, I think so," but I always felt like there was something missing that would give me more of a complete picture to be like “Okay, yes, I actually feel good strategically about pursuing this direction.” How it comes to life, that’s for the team to figure out what it looks like creatively or the messaging or whatever it is, but I was always looking for that piece of information that would just steer me in the right direction. Gut check myself. Am I going on the right track? Does this make sense? How am I building a really solid thesis? I do appreciate you saying that.
Charlie Grinnell: Let's talk a little bit more here about how marketers can ensure that they're not falling behind. We know that with marketing it's just going to continue to change and evolve. What advice do you give to marketers to stay on top of this stuff? What should they be thinking given that we're at the beginning of this really weird time in history? What should they be keeping top of mind to make sure that they're not left behind or in a situation that they don't want to be in?
Conner Galway: This is a common theme bit of advice that I give. I do a lot of speaking at universities, and I teach at a school here in Vancouver called BrainStation. I always tell people it's about curiosity. Again, that might sound like another deflecting answer, but if you're curious you're going to see that TikTok just started to be popular. So, you're going to download the app. You're going to scroll through. You're going to find out who Charli D'amelio is. You're going to find out why she's so popular and what it is that's making this thing explode.
Conner Galway: If you're curious, you're going to sign up for a variety of different newsletters. I love email newsletters. If you're curious, you're going to read them, not because you think any one of them is going to give you that silver bullet answer, but because you want to dig in and understand why is this happening. What is this thing? How is it that we shifted so seamlessly from text-based social to photo-based and video-based to now I think we're in a time where we're conversation-based again. Connections. We don't care so much about news feeds. We care much more about the groups that we're in. House Party’s and so on right now.
Conner Galway: The flip side of that is we can just end up in rabbit holes and not actually learning anything. It's just laying a practice to our learning and understanding that this is our business. This is as much a part of our work as filling out reports and timecards and that sort of thing. Actually setting aside real-time for that curiosity and then allowing that curiosity to take us to YouTube or newsletters or websites or whatever.
Conner Galway: Yeah, I can put together a list of sources that I love. I love The Hustle. I love reading all the Vox sites. I love listening to the Pivot podcast. At the end of the day, the right sources are going to be the right sources for you. If we just apply curiosity to everything we're doing, the whole world becomes easier, and it becomes less intimidating.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, for sure. That's actually what I was instantly going to ask you. What are you subscribed to? I think about all the different sources. That's something that I get asked a ton about. I think one of the things that we haven't really talked about yet is this idea of just being well-read. I think that's tied to curiosity. I think when I first started, I dropped out of university. I ended up getting into video production. Then I made the transition into marketing. This was pre-BrainStation. I ended up taking a certificate course through SFU, which was three months. A course is a course. You can only learn so much. I just started obsessing and reading different things. I think being well-read is something that I found has been really, really helpful in staying on top of things. It's part of the job. To me, if you want to work in marketing in today's day and age and continue to have an understanding of what's going on, you're going to do a ton of reading.
Conner Galway: 100%.
Charlie Grinnell: To think understanding what those sources are, you listed a bunch that I also read. The only one that I would add is I use TechMeme every day, which is the news aggregator. Yeah, I think that's something that I can't underscore that enough when I talk to people in marketing. Just having an understanding and just devour articles. You need to be reading.
Conner Galway: Here's a super inconvenient answer that is also to be widely read.
Charlie Grinnell: Yes. More reading.
Conner Galway: Yeah, more reading. Not just reading. It's also what do you watch? What do you listen to?
Charlie Grinnell: Podcasts, whatever.
Conner Galway: Yeah, are you, and this sort of goes back to my idea of empathy. Are you able to actually see the world through the lens of another perspective? It's one of the reasons why I love the movie Parasite so much. It was one of the first times that we collectively as a North American media, we looked at the world not at the Korean culture, but through the eyes of Korean culture. I'm a big fan of a lot of things that are coming out of Korea right now. I walked away from that movie feeling like we all had a bit of a paradigm shift for the first time in a lot of us who maybe haven't spent a lot of time in that part of the world.
Conner Galway: I was like, how can we apply that to other things? We read books. We watch movies. We listen to music that has us see the world through the eyes of people who we're not necessarily familiar with.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, I need to see that movie.
Conner Galway: Dude, you absolutely have to.
Charlie Grinnell: It's a Friday today, so I'm definitely going to have to add that to my list and try and crush that this weekend.
Conner Galway: It's so good. The only thing about it is you can't have your phone near you. It's all subtitles. I have so much respect for the fact that it's gotten as popular as it is because you watch the way people watch movies now. We're on at least two devices while the movie is playing the background. Parasite, you have to be present. I think that might be one of the reasons why it's so popular. For the first time, people are actually sitting there and watching the movie.
Charlie Grinnell: That makes a ton of sense. It's on my list, don't worry.
Conner Galway: Absolutely, do it.
Charlie Grinnell: Let's talk a little bit about, I mean, I feel like we have to address the elephant in the room, COVID pandemic, for those of you playing the drinking game that we didn't announce that is now happening. I said it a second time. We're obviously in the middle, we're in the start of a big shift in consumer behavior. Besides being curious as marketers, what else do you think this means for them of where they go from here?
Conner Galway: I think we're going to question everything. I think that we're going to question whether that commercial lease that we've been paying for is actually a good use of money. We're going to question whether we need to be buying bus stop ads. We're also going to question are we doing a good job with our digital properties and social? It's going to be a really amazing opportunity for us to reset. This period sucks. It's really bad for a lot of businesses. Obviously from a public health perspective, it's tragic. There's some really interesting things that are going to come out of this. One of them is that we're going to have an opportunity to look with fresh eyes at everything we've done. How we conduct business, who our customers are, how we positioned our products.
Conner Galway: I think that as much as we make fun right now the fact that everyone is going live on Instagram and everybody seems to be an influencer, we're going to see more at-home workouts. Things like Peloton are going to really take hold. These are all shifts that aren't new. These are things that started a while ago, but I think this period is really going to solidify them, and they're not going to go away. This idea of the fact that we are going to be more connected through digital, not just liking an Instagram post, but actually connecting with people through digital. I think that's going to stick around.
Conner Galway: I think we're a lot more services are going to be conducted online. If you're a lawyer, you're an accountant, a doctor. I think a lot more of those things are just going to accelerate the digital adoption of those. Then we're going to travel for business a lot less. I think it's a phenomenal opportunity to reset and re-evaluate everything that we're doing.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. What you said about accelerating some trends that we were seeing is something... I think about when Instagram released shoppable tags, everyone was like, "This is how we're going to shop. This is the future." Some businesses rolled it out. I guarantee it probably didn't take over their sales. There were still other sales channels. Now, I think what's really interesting is some of these things that we're seeing, these behaviors that we were starting to see, people were starting to dabble in, are probably going to grow, and we'll probably continue to see that as more data comes in.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, that's something that our team has been thinking about and trying to track, identifying what are the things that we can look at from three months ago and now as we're four weeks into this in North America, and as we continue to go through this, what are the things that we can start to identify now, that there are some things that will probably go back to normal, but there are other things where it's like, "Oh yeah, we're past the point of no return." There are things that will continue to stick, so to speak.
Conner Galway: I mean, we're definitely going to see things go back to a, quote, new normal. Some things will return, but I think a lot in times like this of Ray Dalio, author of the book Principles, one of the most famous investors of all time. He has this idea, look for what is this another one of? There isn't really another one of these, but the closest recent example that we have is the Great Recession. I've been doing a lot of reading and thinking and studying. What happens during the recession? What happens post 9/11, Iraq War, or we can go way back to the Spanish Flu. If we look specifically at the recession period, we had, yes, nobody was staying in hotels, and then hotels came back. Marriott is still a thing. Wyndham is still a thing, but now we have Airbnb. Nobody was spending $500 on Luxottica glasses at the time. Luxottica being the big company that makes 80% of designer glasses. Nobody was spending $500 on glasses, and so you would say there's no market there, but Warby Parker came along.
Conner Galway: All of these things that had previously seemed that are impossible or this is just not how we do business, I think we're going to have an opportunity to re-evaluate those things and say, "Okay, why?" Is there a way that we can satisfy that need differently? Anybody would have said to the Airbnb crew, "Here's all the risks. [inaudible 00:43:43] This is a horrible business idea." They also would have said, "Nobody is going to do that, and there isn't really a business there. Plus, nobody is travelling and nobody is going to spend money," but they did it.
Conner Galway: I guess the question is right now, what are those areas where we're all saying, "People aren't moving around so you can't provide that service. You can't provide that value. How can we provide that in a different way that three months ago seemed impossible."
Conner Galway: He's a super-smart guy.
Charlie Grinnell: Wicked smart guy. He wrote a Medium post. I believe it's called Fire in a Crowded Forest. It's a few years old. He talks about how he was navigating MetaLab's existence back in that timeframe. I think it was 2009, 2010, 2011, whatever it was. One of the ways that he ends that article which I think I've been keeping top of mind as a business owner, but also trying to explain to people is, it's like a forest fire right now. It sucks. There's no nice way to sugar coat that or make it land a little softer. It absolutely sucks right now for a lot of businesses, and a lot of people are being impacted in every aspect of their life, but there will be, like every forest fire, there will be a new normal for well-positioned saplings and things to grow out of this. I think that's something that you can think about as a positive to take out of this whole thing.
Charlie Grinnell: Some people would tell me, "Yeah, that's great and easy for you, and totally fair," but I think it's just something to think about as well.
Conner Galway: You're dead right about the fact that there will be a lot of great things. I brought it up too. A lot of great things will come out of this, but I think what's important to remember is brands like Sears and Chrysler and Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns and all of these seemingly untouchable brands that are gone. For me, thinking of this time period of time, there's two sides of it. There's the opportunity for creativity and to do all these interesting things that otherwise might have been stuck in red tape. We can innovate and do the Airbnb things. There's also a real reality that a lot of us, as in businesses, aren't going to be around. I think it's not just a fun opportunity. It's a necessity right now. It's one of those periods where we don't have the choice. We have to figure out how people are getting their value and how we continue to deliver that value or else we're just not going to be there to offer that anymore.
Charlie Grinnell: It's adapt or die.
Conner Galway: Yes, true.
Charlie Grinnell: I mean, that sounds morbid, but yeah, it is adapt or die. I mean, I think me being the optimist, I feel like that's what separates humans from other species is that we do adapt.
Conner Galway: The smart ones.
Charlie Grinnell: The smart ones, yeah, I guess without going too much down a rabbit hole there.
Conner Galway: I'll crawl outside that of course by being like there are going to be a lot of really smart, really well-positioned businesses that just aren't able to. That are unfortunately get scooped up in all of this and shot out the other side. If I put my optimist hat on, my hope is the smart, ambitious, creative entrepreneurs and business people, they'll have another round. They'll get another crack at this thing.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, that's good. I think that's a segue into my next question here. What are you most excited about? We've touched on this a little bit, but instead of going from that negative, what is the positives out of this that you really think that people should be thinking about?
Conner Galway: You know what I'm really excited about right now? It's that brands are having an opportunity to prove it. You know what I mean? For the last decade or so or likely longer, but I've been in this for a decade, there's been all kinds of nice words said about the value of brand and investing in community and we love our stakeholders and brand equity. Now, for a lot of businesses, the rugs have been pulled out from under their feet, and they're not able to run their businesses the way they were before. We're really founding out who believes in the value of brand equity. Who actually is there to show up for their community. There are some amazing brands. They're doing a phenomenal job of that, even some surprising ones that are coming out of left field that you might not have thought of as being brands who really believe in the power of community.
Conner Galway: I'm taking a quote completely out of context, but I love it for this. It was a Berkshire Hathaway quote that when the tide goes out, we find out who was without pants.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Warren Buffett. “When the tide goes out, only then do you see who's been swimming naked?”
Conner Galway: Yes. You're probably much more accurate there than I am. What we're finding out right now, is they look at balance sheets and financial statements. You and I look at how the brand shows up, what the brand is doing. We're finding out for some brands there wasn't really a community there in the first place. Yeah, they paid a lot of money for influencers. Yeah, they bought all the right ads and built up all the right followers, but the moment the tide goes out, people just don't care. For other brands, I'm going to shout out a friend here, a friend who built a little bowl shop, a little restaurant down in my neighbourhood by my office. Her name is Katie Ruddell. She started a company called Kokomo. There's very few industries are harder hit than dine-in and walk-up restaurants right now. Her community is rallying. People are buying bowls. They're buying gift cards. They're talking about them on social. They're finding ways to support them because they have a real community that loves what they do.
Conner Galway: I brought up examples like these big billion-dollar brands, but I think sometimes it's even these smaller businesses that really have this great relationship with their communities, and they've been investing in them, giving without expectation to their communities. That's starting to pay off. They're starting to see the returns on those investments right now. That's what I'm really excited about.
Charlie Grinnell: Awesome. Well, we've covered so much in the last hour here. Where can people get ahold of you online?
Conner Galway: The Brief, that's my favorite thing that we do. I put a lot of time and effort and creativity into it. I love when people sign up for The Brief. I reply to every email that comes through. Go to Brief.WeAreJunction.com. Read a couple. Send me your feedback. Send me ideas, things you want to have answered or covered. I love that.
Conner Galway: Then on the socials, we're @HeyJunction. I'm @Conner_G. Back in 2000-whatever, I thought the underscore was a good idea. Still kicking myself. But I'm @Conner_G everywhere. And WeAreJunction.com.
Charlie Grinnell: Sounds good. Well, thank you so much again for taking the time. I really appreciate it. I'm sure I'll see you in real life soon.
Conner Galway: Thanks, buddy. This was a pleasure.
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