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Are you dependent on technology? Rely on it to get you through the day? Suffer from shiny object syndrome? What would marketers do without technology? The hope is that technology helps marketers connect with customers in a more personable way. In reality, it’s killing marketing’s impact.
Today, my guest is Mark Schaefer, author of Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins. Mark shares how marketing should create amazing experiences at specific moments to help customers authentically connect with brands.
Some of the highlights of the show include:
Eric: Technology can be a sneaky son of a gun, almost a double-edged sword, if you will. On the positive side, just think of the processes we’ve streamlined, think of the productivity we’ve been able to achieve because of technology. But I think there’s also a dark side to technology especially because people become codependent on technology. I’m raising my hand because I’m included. The iPhone tells me every week about how much screen time I have. I think it comes at a cost. I think we become desensitized to a lot of things. We over-rely on technology for things that we should be thinking about instead. I see this with marketers. We have an array of shiny objects that we can go to. We’ve got AI, chatbots, marketing automation, and all these tools that we can use to make, I guess, ourselves, better marketers? The hope is that we’ll be able to achieve more, to be better at our jobs, to connect with our customers at a more personable way. Well, that’s the hope. Is that reality?
That’s the topic of this week’s Actionable Marketing Podcast. I have just the guest to talk about it. He’s the incomparable, Mark Schaefer. He’s the author of Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins. He’s also an accomplished keynote speaker. We break all these down because in Mark’s eyes, marketing needs to become more human. Marketing should be about creating amazing experiences at peak moments. Somewhere along the line, technology has gotten in the way and we’re leveraging it in the wrong way. We’re interrupting. We’re using it in a way that is not helping our customers connect with our brands in a way that feels well, that feels human, that feels authentic. It’s killing our marketing productivity.
We’re going to break it all down. He’s got tons of research. He talks about the main insights in the book. It’s a fantastic conversation. I’m excited to introduce you to Mark. My name is Eric Piela. I’m the host of the Actionable Marketing Podcast and the Brand and Buzz Manager here at CoSchedule. It’s going to be a goodie. Buckle up, because it is time to get amped.
Welcome to another episode of the Actionable Marketing Podcast. I am super pumped. I’m always pumped. You guys know me. This is a really fun episode. I’ve been listening to this gentleman for years on The Marketing Companion Podcast. Now, I get to have him on our podcast here at CoSchedule. Mark Schaefer, author of the Marketing Rebellion. Welcome to the podcast.
Mark: I am delighted to be here. Thanks for having me.
Eric: Absolutely. This is going to be a great show. This book, there’s just so many truthbombs that are packed into one book. I know, as I talk with all authors, I say this that there’s so much time, energy, and passion that goes into writing these books and then seeing them into book launch. A lot of times, these podcasts are a good opportunity for you to really kind of share that story and hit some of those highlights. Again, I think, if anything, I’m going to evangelize the book to our listeners. I think it’s a great mindset, as every one that listens is a marketer, mostly, on this show. Tons of different mindshifts in the marketing that we’ll talk about today.
Mark: Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed the book.
Eric: Absolutely. Mark, first of all, this is really fun. I know you’re a podcast host yourself. Hopefully, you’re not quietly judging me on my podcast hosting skills.
Mark: I’m lurking here. Just judging your every word.
Eric: Well, that’s fun. On our show, I like to begin, Mark, I’m assuming unless they’ve been living under a rock, they may not know who you are, they may not know a little bit about your background. If you could, give us a quick rundown of the Mark Schaefer marketing journey for us.
Mark: I think there are probably lots of people who don’t know who I am, but thank you for that. I’ve been in marketing for more than 35 years now. I spent most of my career working for a Fortune 100 company and started my own business about 10 years ago. If you can kind of imagine what that world was like 10 years ago, social media was getting really hot. I got really interested in that, sort of immersed myself in the social media space, and started blogging. The blogging led to books, the books led to speaking and consulting, so that’s kind of where I am today.
Marketing Rebellion is my 7th book. I don’t really have a plan to write books, but I write a book when I get really curious about something. When there’s something going on in the world that I don’t understand and I get obsessed with it, I try to figure it out and when I figure it out, it becomes a book.
Eric: I love it. It’s as simple as that, everyone. It’s extremely well. All of your books are extremely well thought out. I love whenever I have authors on this show to allow you the opening opportunity to say, “Hey, if you had to summarize what this book is about—what Marketing Rebellion is all about—what would it be?” We’ll peel that on a little bit more to get to some of the nooks and crannies inside this book.
Mark: The book is a wake up call. The problem that I saw happening this time is that many marketers feel like they’re falling behind. They feel like they’re stuck and maybe don’t even know why. As I became immersed in research about where customers are today, what their expectations are today, it occurred to me that many of us in marketing, including me, we’re sort of asleep. We were counting on some of our traditional strategies and the fact is, they really don’t work anymore. Two-thirds of our marketing is occurring without us. The customer is incontrol. Things like advertising, loyalty, and the sales funnel are sort of in decline or in some businesses they’re gone.
To win today, in this world with a hyper empowered consumer, it really requires a mindset shift. There was a point where I was writing this book and I literally had to pause and think about, “I don’t know what it means to be a marketer anymore.” There’s been such a shift and this world is so unfamiliar that we’ve got to figure out that the customers are the marketers today. The two-thirds of marketing is going on without us, that slice of the pie is growing. We really don’t have a choice, but to think about how do we join that conversation. We can’t buy our way in like we did in the old days. How do we get invited to that two-thirds where the customer is the marketer? That’s really where the action is today.
That’s what the book is about. It’s really a blueprint, a framework. It’s not Mark Schaefer’s view of the world. As you know, there’s a lot of research reference in the book. There’s a lot of great studies and data. There’s a lot of inspirational case studies to show how companies are marketing in a new way today.
Eric: Yeah. That two-thirds, that research point, maybe that was a McKinsey research, I think, you pulled on from that one. That’s one of those stats where, as a marketer, we know over time that we were slowly losing control of our brand story, of our voice, and this idea of creating this customer journey. I think, when you hear a number like two-thirds, it kind of does that, “Holy crap! Okay. What do we do?”
Funny thing is a couple weeks ago, we had a guest that talked about the customer journey, and how it’s really no longer, it’s really completely shifted. With this whole idea of our customers owning a big part of this interaction, I guess, the biggest question that I have is, what do we do, Mark? What do we focus our energies on knowing that this is the reality of today? How do we shift our focus?
Mark: What I propose in the book is that the biggest single shift we can start thinking about is that most businesses today, I believe, are too obsessed with technology. They’re over automating things that should not be automated. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a great role for technology in our world. There’re always will be a role for technology but what’s happening is that we’re over relying on technology and dashboards. That’s not really where the action is today. We need to get out and talk to customers. We need to have a very human-centered approach to marketing.
Let me just give you an example. This is an example that I had in the book where my lease was up on an automobile. I got four different emails from four different people at this dealership with offers to renew this lease. Someone called the internet manager and told me, “Well, look. Your sales rep is Shane. Follow Shane’s email stream and that’s what you should look at.” I said, “Alright.” I made an appointment with Shane over email, showed up on a Tuesday morning, literally, the only day I was going to be in town the entire month, and Shane wasn’t there. I go to the frontdesk and I said, “I’ve been waiting for 30 minutes. Where’s Shane?” She said, “Shane’s off today. This is his day off.” I said, “I just got an email from him last night confirming our appointment.” She said, “Oh, that’s automated. He didn’t even know that went out.”
Finally, I got to the sales manager. I presented the offer that had been sent to me by Shane with a very specific car that I was suppose to start a contract on that day. The sales manager had never seen the offer before and the car I had agreed to lease wasn’t even on the lot. I said, “By the way, how many appointments would someone like Shane get in a day?” He said, “Oh, maybe two at the most.” I said, “Are you telling me that someone that has two appointments in a day can’t handle that himself without an automated system?”
Now, in this example, we see a company over relying on technology and automation, and that was the beginning of customer experience that was so poor that it just went downhill from there that literally, I will never go back to that dealership again. I’ve been a customer for 25 years, and I will never go back to that dealership again. It started because of this completely impersonal connection through technology. Now, there’s lots of ways we can use technology to remove barriers and get closer to our customers, and that’s what we need to be focusing on.
Eric: Yeah. That overealigns technology. It’s definitely something I think we’ve all been on. We all have that version of that story we can relate to. I think it goes back to what your book indicates which is The Most Human Company Wins. I think, what are these authentic experiences and what are the customer experiences that are really going to resonate and stick with the consumer as an extension of your brand.
You talked about how marketing needs to become more human. You talked about how what marketing is really about is kind of creating these amazing experiences and peak moments. I felt some parallels to Talk Triggers, one of Jay Baer’s new books and I think that’s definitely something that’s resonating. Again, if I’m putting myself in the shoes of the listener, it’s easy to get caught up with technology, what should they be refocusing their energy on? This isn’t really what I’ve been used to doing, if I’m being honest, this isn’t my job description to kind of breakdown the customer experience, but is that really what marketers look like moving forward, in your opinion?
Mark: I think what we need to do, the first step is to look at our businesses and remember what it’s like to be a customer. If we’re doing things in our businesses that customers hate, stop it. Just stop it right now. That’s a good place to start. Then go out, talk to customers, and find out what they love and try to do more of that.
There’s a lot of hype out there about humanizing your brand. What do I mean by this, “The Most Human Company Wins?” Today, increasingly, the company brand is the personal brand. Marketing is about building emotions. It’s about building emotional connections. It’s hard to create an emotional connection to an ad, or a logo, or to a branded content, whatever that even means anymore, but we can create connections to people.
An example might be, Tesla, has only been around as a company for 10 years but it has a higher market value than Ford Motor Company. I think a lot of that is because people sort of can emotionally connect with Elon Musk. Though he’s not a perfect person, he’s an engineer. He thinks like an engineer, he talks like an engineer, sometimes he swears like an engineer, but he’s a real person. He’s someone that we can admire for his vision, his journey, someone we can connect to emotionally, and maybe even love as a person. Who’s the person that we love at Ford? Or at Chevy? Or at AT&T? Or at your cable company? It’s hard to build that connection which is what marketing is all about. It’s about elevating people and getting them to see your face, hear your voice, hear your passion.
What are some practical things that we can do? One of the things that was very powerful to me, as I was researching this book, is that many of the companies I feature in the book told me, “Everything changed when we brought people together. When we brought our customers together, our potential customers, they got to meet us. We were able to build this connection that eventually resulted in more human business relationships.”
You talked about this idea of experiential marketing. This is a very hot idea today. How can we demonstrate what we do? How can we show what we do? How can we create an experience that is worthy of people giving us their attention and maybe even worthy of them sharing the story. Today, the customer is the marketer, the customer is the marketing department. You have to think about how do we earn our way into those conversations. Something like experiential marketing, something like word-of-mouth marketing, you referenced Jay Baer’s book, Talk Triggers, certainly, that is a valid companion piece to my book. I talk a little bit about word-of-mouth marketing in my book. His book sort of does a good job of exploding that out in a bigger way, but the theme in all of these ideas is the same and that is, “People don’t see our ads. If they see them, they don’t believe them. Trust in businesses. Advertising companies has declined for 10 years. People trust people. They trust each other. They trust technical experts, business leaders, entrepreneurs, their friends, even these people we call influencers, or seen as trusted experts, and friends.” How do we get our stories to spread in new ways?
Eric: Hey. It’s halftime. What a fun conversation with Mark Schaefer, author of the Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins. Lot of good stuff that’s challenging my usage of technology, my thought process around what it means to be a marketer in today’s day and age. Good stuff.
While we’re on a break, I want to ask a quick favor. If you enjoy the Actionable Marketing Podcast, if you’re a fan, if you love this episode, I would love for you to give me a rating and review on iTunes. Before you do so, if you take a screenshot of that before you hit submit, send that to podcast at coschedule.com. I will hook you up with nice little CoSchedule swag pack as I thank you for being a listener, and I thank you for taking your time to write a review. I’d really much appreciate it. Alright, that’s all I got. Let’s jump back to our fun conversation with Mark.
You’ve got some really amazing stats in here. One of these was content about a brand created by a consumer in their authentic voice received 600% more engagement than those that are created by the brand themselves. We always kind of knew that, of course, that’s why we try to do customer testimonials. We’ve kind of dipped our toe in some of these stuff like, “Okay, don’t believe us, but believe our customers who are speaking in our behalf.” I think we’ve kind of done those things. Are we talking like a real dramatic shift? How do we provide opportunities for our customers to do this storytelling and marketing for us?
Mark: I think it is a dramatic shift, Eric. I think the part that is going to be the most difficult is that as an industry, marketing has sort of been in this inexorable search for the marketing easy button. We want to reduce people. We want to automate. We want to put everything on a dashboard. We don’t want to have meetings with customers. We’d rather do social listening. We’d rather not have a human voice in our company. We’d rather use personas and do automated messaging. Our social media presence for most companies has become soulless. We’ve just taken out the social out of social media. Now, the customers are in charge. All this stuff that we’re doing that’s automated and based on technology is exactly opposite of what they want. This is going to be hard for businesses to accept.
Now, here’s where I have a great amount of hope and enthusiasm. Many of the companies I feature in my book are case studies are relatively new businesses. They’re young people who didn’t grow up with the burden of all the old ways we did marketing. They look at the things we’re doing like spamming people, robocalls, filling mailbox, landfills with direct mail pieces, and they’re saying, “Are you kidding me? Who would do that?”
The ideas in the book, I think, are being embraced naturally by the digital natives because they know how to connect. They put a great value on connecting in an authentic way, but for many traditional companies, it’s going to be very very difficult to make this transition. I think there’s going to be organizational hurdles. There’s going to be cultural hurdles, for sure. There’s going to be leadership hurdles, and there’s going to be measurement hurdles because some of the things we’ve talked about today, they’re not as easy to measure. Sometimes, they’re impossible to measure. Something like word-of-mouth marketing, or creating some experience where your customers go away and talk about you.
It takes a long time to show that these things work. It’s not going to fit easily on a dashboard.There’s a certain comfort in a measurement and having a dashboard that you can show the leaders of your company. It’s going to take some courage. It’s going to take some forward thinking leadership by established companies to make these changes.
Eric: Yeah. I was smiling. We marketers, we do have a way of just kind of ruining every medium. Don’t we? I love that you end it with some hope on the horizon for all of us. It’s interesting you talked about Elon Musk. You talked about people wanting to connect, wanting to feel this passion and authenticity. I think a lot of times, as marketers, we try to do that, but maybe we don’t have the right figurehead. How do we create opportunities to really find those places of authenticity?
One of the things you brought up in the book which was interesting, I think you said, again, I apologize if I’m misquoting you, “Meaning is the new marketing.” Which means consumers are looking for brands that are representing values and it’s probably indicative of the millennial generation that’s basically in full force right now out there. I sell marketing software to help marketers get organized, help with their content, and social. I’m trying to think, “How can I bring social meaning?” Is this something that every organization can do? Is it easier in the B2C market when we’re focusing on consumers? Or is this really a plausible thing for all types of companies, Mark?
Mark: I’m glad you asked that question. That’s a very important question. There’s actually a lot of confusion about this issue. Let me start at a very high level and talk about why it’s important for people to at least recognize what’s going on. This idea that you talked about, meaning is marketing, meaning is money today. You’re right, there are new expectations from especially younger consumers, but this is a trend that extends across every demographic. People want to know what you stay in for, what do you do, how do you treat your employees. This can certainly impact their view of whether they’re going to buy your product or not.
Now, one of the research pieces I presented in the book was something that was published in Harvard Business Review a few years ago where they analyzed a lot of traditional marketing methods and how was it connected to loyalty. What they found that today, almost nothing delivers loyalty except shared meaning or shared values, which means if you take a stand, it doesn’t have to necessarily be political, but it could be with something with the environment, it could be something going on in your community, that this is really the only way to connect in a way that drives very strong loyalty. Loyalty to the point where people will defend you and even pay more for your product. Now, that’s level number one.
Here’s level number two. Does it have to be political? No, it doesn’t have to be political. It can be unifying. It can be uplifting. It could simply be showing up in your community and doing something positive, like going to cleanup trash on Earth Day or going to volunteer at Habitat for Humanity. People in your community can see you representing your company and bringing your employees along. You don’t have to make a big statement. Just showup. Let people see what you believe in. That’s level two.
Here’s level three, which gets to your basic question. Does every company need to do this? The answer to that is absolutely not. This is one of the things that’s sort of dangerous right now because I’m seeing a lot of blog post out there demanding that every company take a stand and everybody take a political view. You know what, Eric, sometimes, I just want a hamburger because it tastes good. Sometimes, I just want to get my car washed, and I don’t care what the political stand is.
If someone said, “Look, this is the most environmentally-sensitive car wash in your state,” that might make a difference. Usually, I get my carwash because my car’s dirty and the place is closed. It’s not necessarily for everybody, especially taking some sort of view that’s divisive or polarizing can be dangerous. The most famous example, of course, is the Nike association with the quarterback Colin Kaepernick here in America, many of your listeners will know that. If Colin Kaepernick was a quarterback that wouldn’t stand for the national anthem, some people thought he was a hero and a civil rights activities. Some people thought that he was a traitor to the country. Nike started a campaign featuring him. They weigh in the numbers, they did the research. It was very polarizing and they took a big risk. There’s not a lot of companies like Nike that could do that. It’s not for everybody, but it also doesn’t have to be polarizing. You can do something that’s uplifting, unifying, and even fun in your community.
Eric: Yeah. I think for me, that was the biggest wakeup call. I hate to throw numbers if I don’t know specifically, around 50% said that they—it wasn’t that they didn’t agree, but silence, not expressing an opinion on an issue might be just as detrimental as them not doing business with you than if you did in a way that maybe it wasn’t agreeing with them. That was like, “Okay, we just won’t comment on that,” which is a lot of the companies do.
Like I said, I sell organizational marketing software. I’m not here to talk about what Alabama just agreed upon when it comes to abortion. That’s, “Whoa! I’m not going to touch any of that stuff.” But what it does do, I think marketers like say, “Hey, we need to be in touch because these are the potential things that consumers are now looking to….” That shows you how far it’s gotten away from, “You’re looking at my ad by my product.” They are truly looking to connect and want to know what your brand stands for. I love your advise about, “Hey, maybe not everyone needs to focus on this.” But at the same time, I think it’s a really good conversation that all marketers should have with ownership.
Mark: Yeah. Think about even with what you’re doing with this podcast. Number one, you’re saying, “Look, we feel your pain. We know that marketing’s going through a lot of changes. It can be overwhelming. We’re going to help you by talking to thought leaders in our industry. We’re going to get actionable advice to help you.” It’s not just some personality. It’s a real person that works with this company who’s in the trenches and can see what’s going on. I think, even having this podcast, is a great demonstration of sort of showing what you value, and getting down in the trenches, helping your customers with real problems in a very human way because you’re putting a voice and a personality to the company. I think it’s a great start.
Eric: That’s awesome. Mark, as we wrap up the interview, I like to end it with, if there was one thing that you could share, one piece of actionable advice, as we’re matching towards this new marketing rebellion, for the marketers who are listening on the podcast today, they’re kind of swimming around with all these ideas. If you could say, “I’m going to grab your shoulders and I’m going to point you in this direction.” What is the first thing that they should start to do to really start to get in touch with where you believe marketing is shifting towards? What can […] try and do?
Mark: We already talked about this idea of looking at what you’re doing in your company and remembering what it’s like to be a customer. If you’re doing things that people hate. Stop doing that. That’s number one. Number two, almost every talk I give and every class I teach, I end with these words that I think the killer app, as we go forward into the future, no matter what comes at us, is three words, “Be more human in everything that we do.” In every text message, every email, every meeting, in every customer service engagement. How do we show our faces, our smiles, our heart, and our passion? Instead of using stack photos in your website, why not use your real people? Why not use pictures of your customers? Just think about how every single way we can connect in a way that’s a little more personalized, a little more human because in the end, Eric, the most human company will win.
Eric: I love that advice, Mark. I know our listeners, if they’re not, they should be thinking about how do I get my hands on a copy of this book. I think, as marketers, it’s our duty to stay on top of what’s changing our industry. We should always be learning. We should always be growing. I think this book really gets at the heart of what we are trying to do and the impact we’re trying to make. I think, it really changes the lens on how we should be thinking about marketing, especially in an environment where technologies are around us, we want to leverage them, we’re trying to hit that easy button like you said, Mark. I think, I recommend that they go and read this. Where can they go to learn more about it, Mark? Where can they go to just get a copy? Whatever direction you’d like to give them, now’s the time to do so.
Mark: Marketing Rebellion is the name of the book. It’s available in paper, in hardback, in electronic, on Kindle, and as an audio book narrated by me. It’s actually on sale right now on Amazon. It’s a great bargain, I think, it’s $17.99. You get two years of my life everyone for $17.99. To find out more about me, you can go to businessesgrow.com. You can find my blog there, my podcast, my books, and lots of other cool free resources.
Eric: That’s awesome. I appreciate you sharing those two years of your life a little bit that on our podcast today, Mark. You’ve been a fantastic guest. I know our listeners will appreciate your insights. Go run, get the book everybody. Mark, thank you so much. Have a great rest of the week, sir.
Mark: Thank you, Eric.
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