CMOs on Social Platforms, App vs Web, and the New Marketing Media Mix

Becky Doles


Mobile first CMOS

This year we are bringing together groups of CMOs who are winning in the mobile economy for our global CMO Connect series. These selected CMOs are leading their organizations with clear vision and innovation and are ready to share their insights with other CMOs and marketers who are looking to stay ahead of the curve.

In our latest CMO Connect conversation, we hosted a discussion with four leading CMOs to share insights on where mobile lives within their organization, how they foster mobile talent and expertise among their staff, integrate and embrace new and changing technology platforms, optimize their media spend and ultimately build deeper relationships with their connected consumers.

ICYMI — the full transcript is now available below

CMO of Belkin, Keep, Sling TV, Refinery 29

On Mobile Apps Versus Mobile Web

Peter: So, we’re going to start a little bit broad as we talk about major social platforms in play here and we’ll narrow things as we go throughout the conversation. I want to kick it off by talking about mobile apps versus mobile web. Obviously, we’re not going to dive into debating about which one will win, which one will die. Really, we’re seeing if these two technologies are converging all the time. They eventually see the difference between a native app and web experience. But, the question is what are we going to do with that right now. How do we think about these social platforms and maybe if you’re more focused on the native side you can speak to how you think about those native platforms, about Apple and Google and what it means to invest in those platforms.

Kieren: With our brands there is the marketing side, but the experience and history of our brand also happens within the native environment, so you think of Wemo … the object and center to that is the experience, so obviously, we’re big believers in the native experience today. Over time, I think we can talk about it being immersed and seamless together, that’s definitely where it’s going to go, but the richer experience we can deliver today is paramount to how we create and architect the user experience. That’s a whole other experience itself. You know, people ask “how are you grading your experience?” People are asking a lot for an Apple watch how you know what and I say the best thing to do is take the telescope, invert it and look forward and that gives you a good sense of how we should be thinking about in that environment.

Peter: You guys obviously dabble in the retail side, how are you guys are thinking about a mix of app versus web? Would you guys use each and would they have relationships with each other?

Courtney: Yeah, absolutely. In design when we are looking at wire frames, designs for email, whatever it is, we first and foremost do that for mobile. Then say, OK, it seems to be working on the TV screen and actually we have a watch app as well. Then we say how do we make it work and it gets easier as you get to a desktop, which is great. But, desktop is still really relevant because even though 80% of our audience is mobile, we see as we actually transact and sell products, we see 50% coming from desktop and 50% from mobile. So we still need to have that wonderful desktop experience as well, but again always mobile first. Everything. I don’t want to see anything unless it’s first designed in the hardest place and then it just gets easier as you get bigger.

Peter: How do you deliver content today, how do you think about them happening in native environments, what the role of the web might be in the future?

Glenn: More than 60% of our subscribers have at first linked with us through mobile phone. We don’t think about how to devise one approach over another other than knowing our consumers are spending their time. I think TV, and not just Sling TV, but all TV becomes an app in the future in great part because it aligns with the temporary lifestyles that are inherently mobile. In content, we’re a content service, not just for traditional, but also for online video and all that.

[bctt tweet=”TV becomes an app in the future in great part because it aligns with the temporary lifestyles that are inherently mobile.” — @glennse #CMOConnect” username=”tune”]

Patrick: I’m probably looking at it from a little bit of a different angle. At Refinery 29 we are publishing articles and producing videos and trying to get our audience to watch and so we were thinking beyond when we launched our app was that mobile apps within media originally. People who are really using, say, the New York Times App; it’s a smaller population but they’re heavy heavy users. What we found is when we experimented we tried to create individual experiences as opposed to trying to just mirror the exact same experience on the website. So we launched an app recently called This AM about three months ago which really is just trying to just deliver this burst of all the information you need to know every morning, and it’s been incredibly successful. But it’s a strategy that is a little bit different than our overall goals.

[bctt tweet=”We create individual experiences as opposed to trying to just mirror the exact same experience on the website.” – @patrickyee #CMOconnect” username=”tune”]

On Social Platforms

Peter: That takes us to the next layer. We kind of talked about the high level platform of web and native but then we have these social platforms; these contradicts that reach right through the middle of it all. We think about the Facebook operating system and how you’re accessing the world through these portals. These portals are also curated content and you think about how they’re going to be the best delivery mechanisms of content over time. How you think about your relationship with these platforms, what’s the path forward, and the strategy?

Patrick: It’s very difficult, at least within the media world, to think about mobile without also talking about social. I say that because the industry now is way past 50% and heading towards 60%-70% and that mobile traffic is three to four times more than leads from social and desktop traffic. So take it one step further, that social traffic also is more likely to maybe larger than Facebook and any other platform so it’s not hard to very quickly say mobile equals social equals Facebook. I think what’s been really interesting in our world is the role that Facebook has been playing has just changed so much over the past two years.

It really moved from what I would call a ‘media discovery channel’ where for the most part people are going to Facebook to find really interesting content and then to click out to a fantastic destination. Facebook is actually starting to compete with us for user attention, because they want to keep users within their platform and that’s really been an evolution that Refinery 29 has seen where we’ve really evolved from being what I would call sort of a ‘simple site operator’ three or four years ago, into a producer of content for multiple platforms. So a lot of our strategy and approach on mobile is just thinking: how different segments on each platform and they can vary greatly.

In a platform like Pinterest where for the most part our audience is over thirty five and accessing our feeds between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m., it’s a very different experience than maybe on Snapchat Discovery … So it’s really catapulted us into a direction where we’ve had to think about how mobile is really made in social and honing in on exactly those methods.

Courtney: Yes so we definitely use social obviously to try and track it as much as possible and we tailor as much as possible to each platform. I’m sort of stating the obvious.

Peter: Is this paid social advertising?

Courtney: Most of it is organic; we put a lot of effort into organic and obviously we put paid in when we need to … We may post on Instagram on a Monday morning is very different than what we’ve been pinning on Sunday night because Sunday night for us is a really great time to reach people through Pinterest. So we absolutely tailor what we’re posting to the different social sites and then our engagement and what we’re saying. With Instagram our team was, I’d say, reluctant in the beginning because Instagram doesn’t click anywhere. But I’m a big believer in trying new mediums early and seeking out new avenues. So really trying to use new platforms and again we have tons of content, we have great products from thousands of brands so that gives us flexibility in what use.

Kieren: For us we use the platforms — obviously there’s Facebook and everything else but Facebook aside, there a couple things; the platforms for us are very much about the conversation. It’s very much about education. The other part about it too is that they need to be able to mirror the experiences that have so we do tailor it and customize it. Courtney was just talking about the difference between a Sunday night Pinterest versus a Monday morning Instagram and so far we see varying types of traffic across those platforms and so if you can tell that story visually and you’re really connecting in a way that is quite quickly and doesn’t have to have the person dive into another place to read about it; that’s a big win for us. So we are spending a lot of time creating assets so that assets are optimized for those experiences.

Peter: I’m interested in your synopsis about that. You’re delivering content as television through the app experience and do you think all these other platforms are vying for that attention or that view time.

Glenn: You know as consumers lives are more and more mobile and more and more social. We don’t see it as competitive because there is so much content … that’s really quite differentiating between the content that one might find and short-form delivery platforms like Youtube. I do think you’ll see this differentiation between premium content, user-generated, and short form.

Peter: That makes sense. I think that leaves all of us sort of pondering what is content on Snapchat. You think about Snapchat Discover, you have some brands that create some premium content, and sort of thinking about display on a mobile device. It still certainly has a different flavor than the kind of thing that you’re talking about. I want to circle back here.  Patrick you guys have had a channel in the Snapchat world, how have you guys thought about approaching it as something that really can throw your audience and your business?

Patrick: It’s been a remarkable experience. So we joined Snapchat Discovery in October of 2015 and some obvious advantages of that platform, first huge and massive circulation so in the area of one hundred and fifty million daily active users. We’re really excited about that but we’re also really excited about reaching a segment that we just really haven’t been talking to which is twelve to twenty four year olds. Twelve to twenty four year olds are using Snapchat and Facebook so it’s really exciting for us from a business standpoint. It’s a really attractive platform because there is built in mobilization but from an operation standpoint it’s very challenging.

What we ended up doing was putting together a team of nine folks from our content team as well as members of our marketing, as well as members from social … So it was the first time we set up a dedicated team from our organization almost like a SWAT team to focus our platform and that was probably one of the best developments for Discovery because it really forces our company to think about how we stand out and how to tackle social platforms directly which can be much more effective than having a lot of people ‘kind of’ involved and instead having a smaller amount of people dedicated to the platform.

[bctt tweet=”Refinery29 put together a 9 person SWAT team to focus just on content for Snapchat discovery – #CMOConnect” username=”tune”]

On Engaging Customers

Peter: One of the things we talk about was how soon it starts to become full circle as we move beyond simply becoming a customer and maybe to an engaged consumer and spending lots of time taking in our content, then mobile starts to take on a whole a new life. We start to have this conversation with that customer. Some of those conversations are maybe not the most pleasant ones. Often times the airlines are getting blown up through Twitter, maybe something is happening with Wi-Fi or whatever might be happening. How connected maybe because of mobile, or a being a part of mobile, how connected are you to this customer success side of things and that customer dialogue, and how do you think that relates to your target audience?

Kieren: So for us it’s quite interesting you think about the products we by for instance with Linksys you buy a router but 80% of our investment of income is on software whereas others’ in on mobile. So for instance in Linksys we’ve got a Linksys model Wi-Fi app that lets you manage your router. It’s a wonderful experience. Sharing passwords, we share guest passwords via SMS. Those type of experiences are a great way to engage with users and help them get the most out of that platform. So upfront is about the experience with the brand and how to get the most out of it and then on the marketing side customer care is a big part of our success story in social media and we’re doing a majority of our customer care activities through Twitter. Today we’re doing about ten thousand success resolutions on Twitter alone per month.

Peter: Do you have tools you are using for that?

Kieren: We are using the Salesforce Marketing Cloud platform and it’s very, very successful for us. So we have the customer’s journeys mapped out. Different areas of engagement have be utilized but all in all the voice of the customer is central to what we are doing.

Peter: Can you tell us about your experience and especially about how it relates to your marketing spend.

Courtney: We charge the whole team with being on top of emails and being in the loop on customer feedback.  We want everybody to hear what the great things about us are and what are the issues. We try to have a 100% response rate always so even if a customer emails us and says “my order hasn’t arrived yet” technically we don’t have a place in sending orders, but we try to respond and help them find the answer they’re looking for. But we obviously are also engaging in social, you know I think Twitter is obviously where a lot of people go to send complaints and we are watching that. Then one thing we didn’t talk about is email. So for us email is really powerful. You know we’ve been predicting and devising emails for years in fact it’s such a huge part of our business.

So as I talked about the design for mobile it’s because we see now that customers are opening on their mobile devices but they are also engaging through their email. Email is really interesting and I’ll share a story that we had talked about earlier. We definitely push the envelope when it comes to our subject lines, our push notifications in app. We have times when we may have pushed things a little too far and we got a lot of feedback from our customers that they didn’t appreciate our subject line. It was definitely edgy but that’s what you have to do and at least we knew they were listening-

Peter: I’m so curious about the subject line…

Courtney: It was “Plug in your phone loser we’re going shopping,” which is a Mean Girl’s reference, so we had a big discussion with our marketing team ‘should we do this, we’re calling our audience losers…’ but we decided to do it and then we heard about it. “Why did you call me a loser”? blah blah blah. A huge amount of ‘oh my gosh’. So we then had this, you know, ten o’clock on a Thursday night or whenever it was and we’re having this hot debate internally about what we do. We just really upset our audience so we decided to send an apology which then produced three times the response from our customers.

Different people saying “you have a sense of humor why don’t they get that”? So it was really interesting as a team effort and really the company was online trying to help us because we were trying to respond to every email we got. You know, we can’t make everyone happy and we can’t win every time but hearing that from our customers was really exciting; both good and bad. We continue to try and push the envelope. Definitely hearing from our customers I think we saved a lot of them. If we hadn’t responded- we saved a lot of them by actually talking to them and having people come clean. We’re not hiding behind a digital wall, we’re trying to engage with them. We explained what the reference was and so many people said “Ohhhhhh OK, OK, got it. I’m going to watch the movie”.

Kieren: There’s one platform we haven’t talked about today and it’s so so important today by virtue of its size but also how it’s being utilized from a mobile standpoint and that’s Amazon. It’s pretty incredible; the amount of sales that are coming through Amazon, it’s nearly 70% of all sales come through Amazon. So with our three brands, Amazon is a huge partner so we think mobile first across the board and we over index a lot of things we do. Coming from a content standpoint, because the content on Amazon is content that people view then they can buy products, so that for us also a marketing and media play. So that for us is very popular.

On the Future of Mobile Connectivity

Peter: There’s a lot of folks who are still trying to get into mobile that are trying to think about ‘how do I build a team’ and investing in social platforms so I want to finish by just going down the row here talking about you and your positions as a CMO and how you thought about approaching the medium and what advice you would have for other CMOs as they’re thinking about pledges, about teams, about hiring, about anything you think is useful that you can talk upon.

Glenn: We really are looking into Sling TV as an app and I think it’s important to look at not just any one point in time but to look at the trends because I mentioned earlier, consumers are telling us how they want us to market to them. How they want us to communicate with them. So if you just look at it through a five year perspective you see the need to invest more and more in this becomes more critical for us. So what I would recommend is to stay on top of trends. To do a lot if testing. To understand the analytics and if you pay attention in that way, your investment dollars will follow the appropriate approach.

Kieren: As Courtney mentioned, being mobile first is the way to go. You have to crack that nut first and again mobile used to mean the physical distance from where you live. Mobile in the home is a huge part of that experience. The past year we’ve got an team for each brand, the marketing team now is responsible for all those consumer touch points. The part we lack is the biggest way for us to engage with their guests and that’s the mobile app. That’s huge so again I think that’s so so important within an organization.

If I could leave one public service announcement; it might be self-serving because of Linksys, but really this is sincere and Glenn just talked about 5G coming out and Apple has just talked about 4K video; the amount of Wi-Fi that is consumed with these devices is huge. People don’t realize that out into that experience are routers. So please, go get a new one. No I’m being sincere, it’s incredible. People don’t realize that we go in and look at your home, look at any devices that are connected to the network. People think they’ve got two. Most homes have about thirteen different devices connected to their network. Just something to think about.

[bctt tweet=”PSA: Get a new router. Think about all the home devices that are connected via wifi – @kieranhannon #CMOConnect” username=”tune”]

Courtney: I think just briefly we try to create an environment where people are not afraid to try something. We try to move fast and test a goal and create an environment where that’s OK. It’s OK to fail. It’s OK to break something and it’s really great when we succeed. We really encourage people to be curious. Our audience is millennials and targeting and creating services that’s right for them and they’re changing all the time. So encouraging our team to be really curious about what’s happening. Being on Snapchat all the time I know you aren’t messing around, you’re doing research for our brand. You know, really encouraging whatever it is you’re reading, researching, watching, and going to events. Just encouraging that risk taking and curiosity is a big part of our culture.

[bctt tweet=”Encouraging risk taking and curiosity is a big part of our culture.” — @courtneyharwood #CMOConnect” username=”tune”]

Patrick: I’m going to talk just a little bit about Facebook. Peter mentioned that you know there’s a lot of conversation happening right now around distribution and curation. One of the big effects that we have been seeing is Facebook is really deciding now not only what we see but how many people see it. So as we backtrack a couple of years ago, or even five years ago the mentality within media was we’re really creating a brand. So you’ll open up a magazine, you read one article and there’s a lot of thought that goes into that. You take that and translate it into a website; a similar experience, we’re trying to curate experiences. Whether they’re homepages, landing pages or articles and what’s happening because Facebook is increasing in distribution is that they’re also increasing in curation. Which means our ability to actually select what people are seeing, is increasingly less and less effective.

One of the things that’s happened over the past year and half is media companies have increasingly been focusing on content. It’s very top of the pile, it’s very high reach; that are very conversational, because that’s what’s working in Facebook. The challenge with general conversations are: they’re not very interesting. They’re conversations like “check out this type of skateboard” or even conversations like “How’s the weather”? And those types of conversations don’t have a lot of impact. So my recommendation and when I think about what has really contributed to Refinery’s success is; we’ve done a really good job of not trying to be very little to a lot of people. We’ve done a great job trying to super relevant to very specific audiences, segments of audiences, as opposed to trying to speak to everyone at the same time.

[bctt tweet=”The challenge with general conversations are: they’re not very interesting.” – @patrickyee #CMOConnect” username=”tune”]


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Becky Doles

Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.

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