The Top of Mind podcast interviews marketers, creatives, and leaders who are shaping the culture around us and share how they do work that matters.
Our CEO Charlie Grinnell was a recent guest on this episode where he discussed various topics including how brands like RedBull and Lululemon develop their marketing strategy, why he believes marketing is a combination of art and commerce, how a video idea generated over 100M views, and much more.
Stewart Hillhouse: Welcome to Top of Mind. A show where we speak with top marketers, creators and leaders who are shaping the culture around us. I'm Stewart Hillhouse and I believe that through great marketing, you can earn the privilege of occupying a tiny sliver of your customers already overflowing brain. Join me today, as we learn what it takes to become Top of Mind. There's a popular marketing and branding quote that goes like this, "When others zig, you need to zag." My interpretation of this is in order to stand out, you need to do the opposite of your competition. It's a clever maxim, but is it true? And if so, how do you know what qualifies as a zig versus zag?
Stewart Hillhouse: My guest today is going to help us to understand how marketers can predict where the puck is going to be by the help of market data that advertisers in the '60s could have only dreamt to have their hands on. My guest today is an experienced brand marketer and the CEO of RightMetric. I'm pleased to welcome Charlie Grinnell to Top of Mind. Charlie, welcome to the show.
Charlie Grinnell: Hey, thank you very much for having me. It's great to be here.
Stewart Hillhouse: I know I set you up for like something specific about defining what a zig is versus a zag. Have you heard that quote and do you agree with it?
Charlie Grinnell: I have not, but I agree with it actually in some instances, but I think it brings up a hot topic of this idolatry of innovation within marketing. I think from my perspective and we can get into this in the conversation if you'd like is, I think a lot of marketers, there's so many different shiny objects out there. And a lot of us are drawn to innovation as a business concept of that's what's going to take us further and further and further. And I actually wrote an article on Forbes about this, which we could link to in the show notes that unpacks this and it uses various business examples over the years, Apple being one of them, Instagram ripping off stories from Snapchat, being second to market.
Charlie Grinnell: A lot of that, we're seeing in marketing today, is where there's this idolatry of innovation, but when we look at things historically, it's not actually the best business strategy out there. And there's a great book that I read and that illuminated this for me. It called Will and Vision: How Latecomers Come to Dominate Markets. That's the book, and basically, these two guys sat down and looked across 60 different industries with thousands of companies. And what they found after doing 10 years of research on this thing is the early bird gets the worm, but often the second mouse gets the cheese. That's the key takeaway from it. So yeah, your quote does ring true to me. I think there is space to zig when others zag, but at the same time, there's a lot of data and insights suggesting otherwise.
Stewart Hillhouse: Oh, man, marketers are so good at coming up with sayings that are ... They might not be true, but they sound too good to be true. Maybe we should spend more time actually doing the work instead of coming up with clever maxims, but whatever.
Charlie Grinnell: Totally fair. Totally fair.
Stewart Hillhouse: So you previously have worked with some really well-known consumer brands like Red Bull, Arc'teryx, and Aritzia just to name a few. Is there a project that you worked on that stands out in your mind as one of your favorites?
Charlie Grinnell: Absolutely actually. I'll talk about my time at Red Bull specifically. We came up with a video series called Raw 100. And so this is back in ... What era this had been? 2014. And so in 2014, I was working at Red Bull Canada and basically every year tasked with creating a business plan. What are we going to do for the upcoming year. And one of the things that we were tasked with doing was can we come up with repeatable, scalable, serialized content formats. So we're sitting there, jamming on ideas. And this is specifically to action sports. I'm an action sports guy, so I grew up loving mountain biking, skiing, skateboarding, snowboarding, all that.
Charlie Grinnell: And so when I was working at Red Bull, we were doing a lot of work in that space. And so we had noticed, my colleagues and I, noticed that within the action sports video space, a lot of the videos we were seeing tended to have a ton of slow motion, really awful dubstep music and they were really, really long. These long videos, it was just unnecessary like a mountain biker going through a turn taking 30 seconds to go through a turn and you're like, "Yeah, okay, it's cool, but move on." And so anyway, we came up with this content format called Raw 100. And the idea was to pretty much do the opposite of what we were seeing out there, zigging when others were zagging.
Charlie Grinnell: And so as we started to explore into ... We started joking like, "What if we just do the opposite? Instead of having these long videos with slow motion and music, what if we made 100-second long videos, no slow motion, no music, that's the thing and we go with this raw concept." And so we had that as a hypothesis and so what we did was we actually went out and did our own research. So we went to the top action sports websites and looked at all the top-performing videos. And what we noticed was we spotted this anomaly that these more raw style videos were performing better.
Charlie Grinnell: So we ended up kind of using that to validate it and we said, "Hey, let's go and try this." And so in 2014, we created five of these videos. And I remember we got one back from one of the filmmakers and we published it, distributed it. And it went huge. It did a few million views. We're like, "Huh? That's interesting." And then we got the next one and it did really well and the next one. It's snowballed now and so I just checked the data a little while ago, the format is still around, it's done over 100 million views on all platforms. So this concept has done over 100 million views.
Charlie Grinnell: And the other thing is that other brands were starting to do their version of a Raw 100. So here's this marketing concept or this content format that we came up with, attached a name to and then organically other filmmakers and brands were like, "We're going to do a Raw 100. We're going to do that format and call it that," and it almost started to create like take on a brand of its own. And so that's one that I think I'm especially proud of because it literally came out of nothing. It obviously generated a ton of views, but I think that the thing that I'm most proud of it is it's stood the test of time. That was back in 2014.
Charlie Grinnell: And if we think about where the internet was in 2014, where the internet is today, the fact that those are still getting views and that format was still relevant for that period of time was something that I was just really proud of. Because I think in the content or internet world, a lot of content is like, "Hey, it has it's 15 seconds and then it's off your screen and never again." So that's definitely one that comes to mind.
Stewart Hillhouse: I like what you mentioned there about making it timeless, right? By not using slow-mo and not using 2014 dubstep, which I remember is just everywhere, you made a timeless and that content continues to perform.
Charlie Grinnell: And I think, you know what? It's funny looking back at that. It seems really smart and strategic now, but that's not what we were thinking of it being timeless. So it was one of those things we're just like, "Let's just do the opposite." And it wasn't even a ... And it was it goes back to that quote like, "Zigging when everyone else is zagging." So it seemed to work out, but that's definitely the big one that I'm proud of where I'm like, "Yeah, we came up with this thing and it did over 100 million views."
Stewart Hillhouse: Very cool. Thanks for sharing that. For those who have never worked at a global company like Red Bull, how do these large consumer brands think and strategize their marketing? I know it's a loaded question.
Charlie Grinnell: It's a broad question. I think it depends, right? It depends on the business. And so I think for me, full disclosure, I dropped out of university. I always knew I wanted to be in marketing, but I dropped out of university and I ended up never going back. And so as I got into business and started working more and more in marketing, I was fascinated on the mechanics and the why like, "Why are we doing things? What is the purpose here?" And without getting to hokey pokey about Simon Sinek and like, "It starts with why," yeah, of course, it starts with why, but I think for my perspective, when thinking about how these big brands strategize, it comes down to three things, objectives, strategy, tactics and how those three things are linked together.
Charlie Grinnell: And from the top down, you need to have objectives or goals, "Where are you trying to go? What are you trying to do? Are you trying to grow your sales? Are you trying to launch a new product? Are you trying to grow your brand in a new space? What is it right?" So I think that's first and foremost, without objectives and having that North Star, as a marketer, you're hooked because you need to build out your strategy and your tactics to ladder up to that objective. So I think I've been very fortunate in the brands that I've been able to work with, have always had really clear objectives and goals and then it's my responsibility and my colleagues responsibility, who I work with to come up with, "Okay, what are the strategic choices that we're going to make and what are the tactical elements associated with each of those choices that are contextually linked or causally linked back to those strategies and those objectives?"
Charlie Grinnell: And so I think having that framework in my mind is something that I was able to learn pretty early on and it was more out of necessity, just like, "Hey, I dropped out of university. How does this stuff work? Because now I'm working in it and I need to know and this idea of objective strategy tactic, that framework and the linkages between them, is something that I found to be very, very useful. And it's the way that that some of the world's best brands plan their marketing."
Stewart Hillhouse: Can you recall what the objective might have been for the Raw 100?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, well, Raw 100 back then, it was create a content format that was repeatable, serialized and broad enough because Red Bull was in so many different playgrounds or networks.
Stewart Hillhouse: So that's the strategy, sorry, or the objective?
Charlie Grinnell: That would be the objective. So for them, it was like the high-level objective was, "How are we creating formats that retain people?" so get more people to redbull.com, get more people to follow us on social and create something that makes them want to come back and continue to consume our content. So that was-
Stewart Hillhouse: That's the serialized?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. If we think about that as an example, that's the high-level objective. The strategy was, "Okay, let's create a serialized video format." The tactic was like, "We're going to call it Raw 100. It's going to be distributed on these channels. It's 100 seconds long." And so you can see that like the tactical piece layers all the way up to contribute to that objective, right? And so you could take that in ecommerce. I think about I worked at Aritzia, "How are we increasing dress sales in this part of the year, in this area? Well, some of the tactics we could use, we could run a social media contest around that. We could do paid ads to that, targeting those types of consumers with those products."
Charlie Grinnell: And basically, what you're trying to do is show the nitty-gritty things that you're doing day to day are laddering up and contributing to where the business is trying to go at the macrolevel. Every company does it differently. You could talk about how Nike is structured, how Red Bull is structured, how Lululemon is structured. Every company has it differently. So there's really two models, centralized or decentralized. So centralized would be, "Hey," at the headquarters, we're giving high-level directive of, "Here's what we're trying to do and then maybe each country regionalizes that, right?" So they take that objective and they're like, "Yeah, this is how this comes to life in our region."
Charlie Grinnell: And the flip side of that, a decentralized model would be like, "We are," I don't know, I'll just use a company, "We are Lululemon," say. Lululemon in Canada versus Lululemon in the US versus Lululemon in this country, yeah, they might have high level objectives, but they don't necessarily have to follow that. And so I think there are those two models and those companies that I listed, those aren't necessarily their models. It's just more like, "If you think about big orgs, it just depends on how they're structured and how they do things.
Stewart Hillhouse: So the trend recently has been direct-to-consumer brands, swallowing up market opportunities because for a bunch of reasons. They can move faster. They can raise a lot of money because they're going after very specific targeted niches and then they can use these acquisition channels like paid and social to really capture the market share of very nascent and small opportunities that a larger brand might not be able to move the ship fast enough to capture new opportunities, so this idea of small brands just being able to take advantage of cool opportunities as they come up. How are some of these larger brands thinking about their positioning as more and more direct-to-consumer brands can just get started with very little infrastructure or brands necessary?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, I think it's a good question. And again, I think every brand has a different take on this. From what I've seen, this rise of DTC has forced those big brands to get agile or get gone, I guess is what I would say. When little challengers are coming in like that and creating or providing a customer with an experience, that becomes the normal. It happens with little brands, it happens with big brands. So the one example I'll give is think about the consumer expectation that a company like Amazon has set, right? Free shipping, sometimes same day like that side of thing. That experience, as a customer, we now expect across when we buy something on the internet.
Charlie Grinnell: And so whether it's a little brand doing that or a big brand doing that, it comes down to that experience. And so I think that what we've seen with the pandemic and this rapid acceleration of digital across-the-board ecommerce, whatever you want to call it, I think we're seeing that whether brands were in their phase of digital transformation or thought they were digitally savvy, it's completely different, right? There might have been a brand back in March of 2020 who thought that they were really digitally savvy and had it all figured out. And now they might be completely different because they've had to dive deeper and the level of sophistication needed has increased, consumer expectations have increased.
Charlie Grinnell: And so yeah, it's forced them to adapt or die or adapt or lose significant market share or whatever you want to call it. So I think it's just been this rapid acceleration. I would say it's not necessarily just little brands who are doing it. They're big companies who are changing that as well.
Stewart Hillhouse: This might be a specific question that is the million dollar question, but I'd like to hear your opinion on what can you do? So it doesn't matter what size you are, but what can you do to hedge these risks associated with someone else encroaching? Are there any moats that you think are especially useful right now and moving forward?
Charlie Grinnell: So I think there's two things that come to mind and that's a really great question. Two things that come to mind for me, the first one, the analogy that I'll use is when a building is now built, excuse me, when a building's built and an earthquake happens, it can sway and move, so that doesn't come crumbling down. How are you doing with your business? How are you making your business, yes, agile kind of what I just said but also flexible and able to withstand an earthquake? So whether that means how your team is structured, whether that means how you run your finances, cash on hand, how you budget things, don't necessarily lock your budgets into things that might change.
Charlie Grinnell: So I think that that flexibility is really key. The agility one I touched on, I think that goes hand in hand with flexibility. If you have access to move your budgets around or have your team set up in a certain way that is going to allow you to change. So I think that's really the first one that would come to mind. And it's not sexy. I don't think it's like the sexy thing because it's very much operational behind the scenes, but it's not sexy, but you need to do it. So that's the first one. The second one I think would be, in terms of a moat, is how can you kind of use these rented platforms?
Charlie Grinnell: Yes, there are large groups of people on Facebook, Instagram or whatever, and how can you start to build your own owned audience, right? So if you're killing it on Instagram, how are you taking that attention on Instagram and making sure people sign up to your email list where you have true ownership of that? How are you bringing people to your site? How are you getting them to sign up for a loyalty program? Something like that is use these platforms to help you grow your business and tap into them. It's a balance, right? You do need those types of third party platforms, but in terms of like, you should be striving to build your own platform, like I said, whether it's a loyalty platform, your website, gated content.
Charlie Grinnell: There's so many different ways that you can structure that. And I think by doing those two things, having that flexibility, agility and then focusing on using those channels to slowly bring people closer to you, those are two things that come to mind for me.
Stewart Hillhouse: And then you get to own the whole consumer relation, rather than making it a third party. Like you said, you're paying your drug dealer to get access to these people ...
Charlie Grinnell: Totally.
Stewart Hillhouse: ... and if they want to up the prices or stop serving them the ads you like to show them, owning that audience and the relationship is not just a distribution strategy, but it also allows you to start setting expectations around delivery times ...
Charlie Grinnell: For sure.
Stewart Hillhouse: ... and how you message them and the whole funnel really.
Charlie Grinnell: Well, the thing that I think comes to mind is back in the day when it was like, remember, you'd feel like, "Hey, like my Facebook page," and everyone was all about like, "How many likes you have on your Facebook page?" and then all of a sudden, organic reach fell off a cliff and it's like, "Wait a second, for the last few years, I've been telling people to like my Facebook page and now when I post something of the 100,000 people who liked my page, only 2% of those 100,000 are seeing it?" "Oh, if you want to reach those people, you can pay to reach those people." And you're like, "Wait, what?" So yeah, having that level of control and how are you bringing your customers into an environment or an ecosystem that you can control, but I think there is definitely ... There's both an art and a science to it.
Charlie Grinnell: How are you creating an experience like that of bringing people into your ecosystem that they don't feel as spammy or abusive or whatever you want to call it, right? There has to be a good reason as to, "Okay, yeah, I follow you on Instagram. Maybe I've purchased something from you before. Why should I follow your email newsletter? Why should I subscribe?" or, "You want me to install an app? Man, we're talking about some valuable real estate. You want an app on my phone? Why should I install the app and what do I get for that?" So I think there's all those other questions that unearth themselves as you start to go down that, but yeah, it's a long-term strategy that brands need to be thinking about.
Stewart Hillhouse: So more recently, you've taken a real deep dive into the world of market data and understanding. Because a lot of the things we talked about, yes, they're very wishy washy and we can talk about all these strategies and give examples using the biggest Fortune 50 companies in the world. But having consumer data, both internal data, knowing how your operations work, you touched on that, but then also being able to understand outside data of where are these trends are moving and how you can be ahead of it, what got you interested in pursuing the data side of marketing? Where did that come from?
Charlie Grinnell: Really good question. So I can go back to the beginning. So the way I go into marketing was actually video production, believe it or not. So I was making video content and working on the brand side. And I was making product videos, brand videos, athlete videos, event recap videos. And when you're slaving away over a video, you want to make sure that people see it. And so at the time, I was making these videos and I was like, "Oh, I want to learn the distribution. So if I'm going to go through the time and effort concepting, shooting, editing, color grading, doing motion graphics and then putting that on the internet, people better see it."
Charlie Grinnell: And so once I realized there were these two sides of production and distribution, that's what led me into wanting to get more into the marketing thing. So that was phase one. So I was like, "Okay, I need to learn more about marketing. How are things shared, blah, blah, blah? What are the mechanics? What are best practices for posting things? What can I learn from an editing perspective to make things better for mobile like discovery? How can I get thumbs to stop scrolling?" that sort of thing. So once I had a good understanding of that, you'd release a video, you do all that stuff and then you go, "Was this good or not? How did this do?"
Charlie Grinnell: And that was where the data piece started for me was like, "What is good and is this successful? And so I think the way that I look at data, I think first and foremost, I got a C-minus in math in high school. I am not a math guy. To anybody listening out there, no, it was bad. I think a lot of people equate data to math, whereas when I think about data and marketing, it's really just the quantification of someone behaving a certain way, someone taking an action or doing something. So when you think about it like that, I don't know, at least in my brain, that makes a lot of sense. And so I was going, "Okay, if I'm making this video and I'm wanting to get it in front of people, what data points can I use to understand what people are doing in the way that they watch this video? So how long are they watching for? Are they liking it? Are they sharing it? Are they commenting on all the different things?"
Charlie Grinnell: And so that was the gateway into the analytic side of things, and then, as I started to learn more and more about strategy and getting more involved in strategy, I just realized that there was a need to learn this stuff because without the numbers behind you, you're just guessing, right? And there's this phrase, I don't know whose original quote it was, but I heard it from a friend of mine and they say, "Without data, you're guessing, and if you're guessing, you're either lucky or you're wrong." And then the add on to that is that eventually, everyone's luck runs out.
Charlie Grinnell: And so it's true. So I think that's kind of what got me into it. I think now that said, what I want to balance all that out with is I am a big believer and that the best marketing is a balance between art and science. And so by no means am I sitting over here saying, "Data only. I don't care about your intuition. I don't care about your gut feeling. I don't care about your personal experience. The data guides. The way I think the best marketing is art for the sake of commerce, commerce being the keyword and it's a really good balance of brand and performance. You have to balance both." And I think what we've seen in marketing over the last few years, with more and more digital tools becoming available, we've seen this rise in everything being counted in performance marketing. So the pendulum was swung over on the performance side.
Charlie Grinnell: If we can't count it, we're not doing it pretty much. And then you have that balance of like, now it's swinging back to be, "Yes, we need to track things, but we also need to create a brand and do that and I think you need both." I'm very bullish on that hybridized approach and sitting right in the middle. And the phrase that we use it RightMetric internally is informed intuition. How can we use insights that are data backed to help inform creativity and help enrich that gut instinct or gut feeling that someone working on a brand might have to help them create something. It's the same thing in that Raw 100 example. We had a pretty good idea, but unless we went away and looked, we wouldn't have really been able to go, "Oh, wow. There actually is an opportunity here and we feel good about it, but also there's data that shows that. Amazing. Let's try it.
Stewart Hillhouse: That pendulum, the back and forth between brand marketing and now performance marketing is tangible.
Charlie Grinnell: Totally.
Stewart Hillhouse: You can see it in just job postings on marketing job boards.
Charlie Grinnell: Totally.
Stewart Hillhouse: It's like everyone's hiring performance and growth marketers right now because they want to get their data in place, knowing that if they don't have the right metrics and they don't have the right conversion, they're just shooting themselves in the foot.
Charlie Grinnell: Exactly. Right because I think that's the thing. If I love this definition, marketing is art for the sake of commerce, commerce being the key word. That's really what it is. It's like at the end of the day, we're a business and we're trying to make money. And that might piss off some people who work in marketing right now, but that's the name of the game if you're a creative working in marketing. I was there. I was a creative person sitting in marketing. Yeah, if you want to go make an art project, [inaudible 00:24:54] is right down the street, go for it, but to sit, to have a role in that organized at the end of the day, you're most likely in a for profit entity where you're looking to spend all this money and have you on the payroll for a reason.
Stewart Hillhouse: So of your clients who use your data sources and the product that they're helping them with, without giving out their secret sauce or the names, how are they using this informed intuition on a day-to-day basis to create marketing that really moves the needle?
Charlie Grinnell: So I think it's a really good question and there are a ton of different use cases. So the first thing I'll talk about maybe is why or how we came to the idea of building the insight library which is our main product. And so one of the things that we've noticed over the past decade is the main technology story you could say has been business people, specifically marketers using data to make decisions, right? That's been like the last 10 years, is data-driven decision making. You read the headlines, "Data is the new oil," all that sort of thing. I think the other disclaimer I'll put out there is we're an insights company. So we have access to datasets, but we have a team of researchers who use data sets to create data-backed case studies and pull out insights. And those insights are housed within a library.
Charlie Grinnell: So we interact with data every day, but we are primarily not a data company. So I'll put that out there. But basically, if the last decade has been using data to make decisions using your own data, that's great, but a lot of it has been using your own data which is only really half the picture, right? So I'll give an example. When I was at Aritzia, I could see all of our data. I knew stuff related to our website, our social, our email, all the different marketing channels. But let's say for the sake of example, we grew our traffic 20% over last month. Is that good or not? I don't know what if the category grew 150%, we only grew 20. All of a sudden, 20% growth, isn't that great? Maybe or what does Zahra or J. Crew or Club Monaco, what are those brands doing?
Charlie Grinnell: And so that was this hypothesis that we were like, "Huh?" We feel like as marketers we're covering one eye. And if we could just uncover that other eye, have clear visibility into what's happening in our four walls and have clear visibility into what's happening outside of our four walls, both with our direct competitors or competitive set and other inspirational leaders, maybe in an adjacent industry or maybe in a completely different industry, there are probably things that we could learn from that. And we, as strategists, would be better armed because we have a more complete picture of what's happening.
Charlie Grinnell: So that was the hypothesis of where we started. And so yeah, so how our customers use our research, it's a mixed bag. Some of that is for benchmarking, right? Seeing what direct competitors are doing well and are there things that they could learn and steal tactically or steal strategically? It could be innovation. So, "Hey, wow. This brand just did this crazy campaign and I've always looked up to them. We could do something similar. They're in a completely different industry, but we could take ... That's what they did for their product. What if we do that and use it for inspiration?"
Charlie Grinnell: Another one can be just for best practices, right? So digital, there's so many different areas of digital that require such deep subject matter expertise. And by being able to tactically unpack everything and see step by step exactly what best in class looks like, that's really valuable. You can use that to teach. You can use that to just get better at your craft. So yeah, I think the use cases definitely vary, but a lot of it just comes down to that context. And there's a quote that we love. It's from this woman named Marisa Thalberg, she's the CMO at Lowe's and she says, "When it comes to insights, you need to look within your industry for information and outside of your industry for inspiration."
Charlie Grinnell: And that's something that we talk about a lot is you need these insights for both. You need information and you need inspiration." And again, it just goes back to as a strategist. How are you arming yourself with as much information or inspiration as possible to be able to make the best decision for your business?
Stewart Hillhouse: I love that that quote of having those benchmarks internally, being information like, "How much do we need to grow without just setting these arbitrary goals?" And then yeah, the inspiration of like, "Okay, then how can we do that without looking exactly like our competitors?" Because you can get inspiration from anywhere and I love the idea of-
Charlie Grinnell: Totally.
Stewart Hillhouse: One that I'm really riffing on right now is how much better musicians are at content marketing than content marketers are. They will tease their new album months in advance. They'll live stream them in the recording session. They'll put together clips of them recording the music video weeks before. Then the week of, they'll leak it to their audience or leak it to the PR like a magazine or something like that. And then they push it for a week. And then they release remixes and acoustic versions and collaboration and ...
Charlie Grinnell: Totally.
Stewart Hillhouse: ... like all these things, just with the outcome of you listening to their song three times on Spotify. They're putting that much effort per song. So that's the perfect example to me of how much work content marketers could be doing, but unless you have information and benchmarks and you just say, "Well, let's just get a TikTok going because we want an extra 10,000 clicks this week," that doesn't mean anything unless you have the information for benchmarking and then inspiration elsewhere.
Charlie Grinnell: I think the thing that I think about is our insights can act as both a compass and a map. A compass in at a high level, what areas of marketing are you focusing on and then a map is like, "Here's the turn by turn directions of us deconstructing exactly what that best in class thing was that we backed with data to show that it was actually best in class," and yeah, those two pieces are really valuable for whether you're a CMO or whether you're a digital marketing specialist. Both of those people can find a ton of value from that. And so yeah, I think it's something that we think just surfaces only just being scratched.
Charlie Grinnell: I think this concept of looking outside your four walls, I've been in a lot of meetings where, we'll show something and people will just go, "Oh, you can see that?" and then you go, "Yeah," and then they go, "Oh, hmm?" And they're sitting there pondering thinking. And I usually go, "Well, now that you know that you can see that, doesn't that change your whole approach of strategy, right?"
Stewart Hillhouse: What kind of metric specifically are most eye-opening for people?
Charlie Grinnell: Whether you're looking at competitor's web traffic, what competitors are spending on ads, where are they spending on ads, what type of ads they're running. What's their ads budget? How do they get traffic to their website, what kind of emails are they sending. How is that content in the email designed. Are they running paid search, yes or no? Literally, it's endless, right? And that's what we pride ourselves on is we've gone out and assembled a data stack that gives us holistic visibility into the digital ecosystem. And so we can actually see if we look at a brand ... When we're looking at a brand's activities from a marketing perspective, we can see all of it. "So yeah, they're spending ads. Did that result in increased traffic and did that traffic, did they see an increase in email signups?"
Charlie Grinnell: And you can start to quantify it, so when we're saying, "Hey, this is how this brand did this? Here's how it did really well," it's not I, Charlie, believe that it's doing very well. It's data backed. It's like, "No, they did this and it really works." And so I think that's the difference because I think we see a lot of marketing content out there where it's like, "Here are the best practices. And it's like, I think this," and it's like, "No, no. Let's get rid of the thinking part. Let's just see what actually performed, what actually moved the needle. So that's how we approach things.
Stewart Hillhouse: I'm going to put you on the spot here a little bit. So if you were starting a brand from scratch, you lost your whole audience, you lost all your money, but you had all the knowledge you currently still have. First question is, what category would you choose? You can keep it high level. And then the second question is, what would be your must-have data that you would start measuring from day one, so that you could then understand the health of your business?
Charlie Grinnell: Whoa. So I think this will probably be surprising, but I fantasize about having a business that isn't like that digital or that technical. And maybe this is something that I saw on Twitter sweaty startup or on the hustle or something is I would love to buy a landscaping company or a laundromat or start one of those types of businesses that is traditionally pretty old or outdated and apply the digital knowledge that I have now. So a laundromat, "How can we make it so that there's a loyalty app? You know that if people are coming to the laundromat, they're coming back and forth. So how are we building a loyalty app and incentivizing them to come more often and spend more often? And how can we learn what else would be useful?" If you have a laundromat, you have all your washing machines and your dryers. There's probably other things that we could put in there that could be useful, that could be profit centers for us. I don't know.
Charlie Grinnell: Obviously, the low-hanging fruit would be you put a vending machine in there, but there are other things probably that we could learn from our customers and watching what they do and asking them and saying, "When you come to the laundromat, you have time to kill, you have an hour to kill? What else are you doing? Are you running to get groceries? Is there things that we could just build in here that I can learn from you and then I can incentivize you digitally to do that?" Or other things that are super simple, where it's like, I used to just put coins in. Could you make it so that each washer/dryer takes Apple Pay or Android Pay or tap with your credit card? Just modernizing businesses like that.
Charlie Grinnell: And I think about the same thing with landscaping, "How do you do it so that it's, it's on a subscription and maybe you incentivize people and maybe you do videos from certain things, "Hey, we just came up with this new thing. If you want it on your next thing, just click here and it'll automatically be added to your account. We'll do it to your yard"? Just things like that. It's, again, not sexy, but it's taking the principles that we see from eCommerce and very digitally savvy brands and applying them to other industries and other businesses. So that's I think how I would think about something today. I always talk about with my cofounder that I'm like, "I just want to own a power washing business or a landscaping business or a laundromat." And he's like, "You're a crazy person, dude."
Stewart Hillhouse: A dog washing place.
Charlie Grinnell: Something like that. So that's the first part. I think the second part in terms of specific metrics and what I want to know, that would be dependent on what do I build, right? So let's say I build a mobile app. Well, I'm going to be looking at, obviously, app installs. I'm going to want to reward people into that, so I'm looking at like, "How much does it cost to get someone to install the app? How often are they using the app? How can I incentivize them to use the app more?" Just things like that, "Are they subscribed to our email list?" So I think without building out too much further. You can't really build up the things that you're going to count until you figure out what are the things that you're going to build. That's how I would think about that though. Maybe one day I'll be able to do that. That'd be really fun.
Stewart Hillhouse: Just putting you on the spot there, you seem to have it pretty well thought.
Charlie Grinnell: Actually I've talked about laundromat, but when I was like, "Okay, how would I digitize this?" and our conversation just prompted all that. So thank you for getting that out of me. Now that I've said I'm like, "Huh? Maybe I should do that."
Stewart Hillhouse: I love it. I love it. My friends used to live above a laundromat and it was the warmest apartment ever because all the exhausts and vents were running under their floorboards. It was so hot-
Charlie Grinnell: I hope it smells good. I love the smell of the dryer ... The place would smell awesome too totally.
Stewart Hillhouse: Spring Breeze all year long.
Charlie Grinnell: Exactly.
Stewart Hillhouse: Awesome, Charlie. Last question for you here. You have your pulse on bunch of industries all around, global but also local and tons of different verticals. What are some trends that you're really excited about the you're keeping an eye on, both maybe for when you launch your laundromat or just in general stuff that gets you excited?
Charlie Grinnell: I think it's a good question. I think the things that probably come to mind that I'm keeping a close eye on, I think the big one that everyone's talking about is the rollout of iOS 14 and the whole Cookie thing. So that's fundamentally changing the way that advertisers are approaching things. My take on that is a lot of people are like, "Oh, we're screwed and we're not going to be able to do this." And I think the way that I was interpreting that was just because there's a change about tracking doesn't mean that people still aren't spending time in the same places, right?
Charlie Grinnell: And so I had people being like, "Okay, now that this is happening, what do we do?" I love this quote from Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett's partner, "Fish where the fish are," the fish are still in the same ponds, everybody. Now, you're not allowed to use the super fancy spiffy rod with the 10 hooks. You can only use one hook. And so they're still there. So I think we haven't seen this massive migration of attention. So I think it's just going to force people to ... It's going to separate the good from the great. So that's one that I'm constantly watching. And our team is actually working on a bunch of research around that as well seeing, "What are the shifts that we've seen in terms of things like ad creative, our budget shifting, all that sort of stuff?" And so we'll be releasing some research on that in the future here.
Charlie Grinnell: I think the other one and this is probably a no surprise is like TikTok is here to stay. I think when TikTok first came out, everyone was like, "Oh, this is the best thing since sliced bread," I was definitely one of the skeptics because if we think about like Facebook and Google on the top of the jungle gym and a brand, another incumbent trying to climb the jungle gym, they pretty much just boot you in the face and you fall to the ground." And so I was like, "Huh? It's interesting to see that TikTok has been able to climb to the top of the jungle gym alongside them and sustain there."
Charlie Grinnell: And so I think why I'm excited about it is it obviously got popular with a specific subset of people with a specific content type, but as that platform matures, as the people who use it mature, I think there's going to be more and more tools available for brands to plug in eCommerce. It'll be a much more flexible marketing tool. And so I think that's really, really exciting, because arguably in the last five years, there hasn't really been that. Yeah, Snapchat had their thing, but then Instagram ripped off Stories and Snapchat is still doing fine. They're out there. They're doing their thing, but there hasn't really been one that's shot to the level of Facebook, Google-style, YouTube-size like TikTok. So I think that's something that's really, really interesting.
Stewart Hillhouse: And it opens up like a totally different creative style, right?
Charlie Grinnell: Totally.
Stewart Hillhouse: Facebook Ads, there's a formula now that works for Facebook Ads. There's a formula that works for Google Search. TikTok is actually ... Those, those two examples I just gave are very performance based, where TikTok is super brand based. So it'll be interesting as that pendulum swings back like you were mentioning.
Charlie Grinnell: I think also to your point, though, I think we could start to see some of that transferring. So that content style of TikTok, how many times you go on Instagram is just a video ripped off at TikTok, spat out onto Instagram, right? And then all of a sudden, you put some money behind that and you get that in front of some people, right? So yeah, you're starting to see this transferring of these formats across platforms. And yeah, I think it's interesting. It's exciting because like I said, to my point, we haven't really had true innovation that's stuck in the last five, six, seven years. I'm just trying to think back to something else that it was like, "Oh, yeah. This is now a thing that you legitimately need to dedicate a serious amount of time to and think about. So yeah, it's exciting.
Stewart Hillhouse: Right on, man. I really appreciate you taking the time and explaining. Where can people go to find more examples of these insights that you're pulling?
Charlie Grinnell: So really good question. So we're actually about to launch a free resource at the end of the month. Basically, we have our insights library and a paid membership up until this point. In the last week of June, we're launching a free version. So anybody can go there. We have a ton of content sitting there across industries, across different marketing channels. So the best way to get notified is just go to our website, rightmetric.co, not dot-com, rightmetric.co. At the very top, you can subscribe to our newsletter. As soon as it's live, we'll be sending an email to everybody saying, "Hey, it's live. You can create your free. And yeah, to start with, there will be dozens and dozens of free case studies for marketers to look at. In terms of where to find me, I'm mostly focused on Twitter and LinkedIn. So on Twitter, I'm @CharlieGrinnell, G-R-I-N-E-L-L, and on LinkedIn, I'm posting there constantly. So those are the two best places to get ahold of me.
Stewart Hillhouse: Awesome. Charlie, thanks so much for sharing.
Charlie Grinnell: Hey, thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.