Building a Commerce Brand with Thu Bang of EyePromise

Episode 13 March 07, 2024 00:52:00
Building a Commerce Brand with Thu Bang of EyePromise
The Loop Marketing Podcast
Building a Commerce Brand with Thu Bang of EyePromise

Mar 07 2024 | 00:52:00


Hosted By

Elise Stieferman

Show Notes

Welcome back to The Loop Marketing Podcast. In today’s episode, you’ll hear from Thu Bang, Sr. Director of Marketing at EyePromise, and Ryan Green, SVP of Marketing and Innovation at Coegi, as they discuss key strategies and skills needed for building a commerce brand.

Topics of Discussion:

  1. The essential skill sets that make great marketers stand out.

  2. The critical role of brand building in commercialization.

  3. Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) strategies, including selling on Amazon.

  4. How an agency partner can elevate your marketing efforts.

  5. The unique advantages of influencer marketing for commerce brands.

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About Coegi

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Episode Transcript

Ryan Green: So welcome to the Loop Podcast. I'm Ryan Green, your host, and I'm excited to have Thu bang with us, the Senior Director of Marketing at Eyepromise. Thanks for coming to our new office in Clayton. Thu Bang: It’s exciting. Congratulations. Ryan: Thank you. Appreciate it. Love to just kind of start with your background. I think our viewers would love to hear your experience. You've been in the industry for a while here in St. Louis. Tell me about your background and your journey to Eyepromise. Thu: Sure. So I've been in marketing for about 15 years. I started out with Johnson and Johnson Vision Care based out of Florida. So, this is actually my second tour in Vision Care working at Eyepromise, but I was there for about five years. Came back to St. Louis, which is where I grew up, spent about eight years at Energizer in a variety of different roles and capacities, and then for the past two years, I've been at Eyepromise. So, second tour, if you will. I've worked in medical device, I've worked in CPG, now I'm working in ocular nutrition, but my roots are actually in research. So I started out as a scientist working in early stage drug development and then decided after spending lots of days in a lab that I would be really challenged if 50 years went by – and I worked in very early stage drug development – So the thought of spending 50 years in research and not actually helping people was too much for me. So I went to grad school and then have spent the last 15 years growing up in marketing. Ryan: It's always really interesting, the path that people take to get into marketing and it's usually not a linear one. There's some stops along the way. How do you think your experience with being in a research lab, not seeing the light for days at a time, how does that inform the way that you think about biomedical devices? As you got into ocular, how does the science inform what you do from the marketing side? Thu: So a couple of things on that. One, off the beaten path, it was great from the standpoint that those skill sets, that critical thinking, that analytical horsepower that I had a chance to work and hone, really has served me well in my marketing career path. If I think about today, what do I think are the best marketers, what are some of those skill sets and what are those competencies that great marketers bring to the table? It's things like having balanced, creative, and analytical horsepower. Being able to think with a big picture orientation, but also being able to think through the details, like having attention to detail, and then being both brand and commercially minded as a marketer because both aspects are really important. So when I think about those skill sets that I learned way back when in my research days, I love that I've been able to utilize that not only in kind of like the day to day marketing, but even thinking through, you know at J&J (Johnson and Johnson Vision Care) I worked on the Acuvue contact lens brand, and so we worked with R&D and there were clinical studies that we had to work through and so I was able to have a different level conversation with R&D because of my background. Then I take it to the marketing side of things, like I can read a study and I read beyond the abstract, I can read it cover to cover and I can pull out things that I think are maybe meaningful and relevant to consumers that may not have necessarily serve as kind of the big aha in the research. So it's served me well in a lot of different ways, but I genuinely do believe, today more so than ever, to be a good marketer, you need to be able to think critically and analytically and be comfortable in data. Ryan: Traditionally, a lot of marketing came in from a creative side, probably from more of a right brained mentality and I absolutely agree. You need somebody that's very balanced to be both a generalist and a specialist at the same time, to be able to dive into minutiae, but then be able to pull back out and say, what does this mean for brand? What does this mean for the consumer sentiment and the interaction that they're having? Interesting that you kind of talked about brand versus commercialization. That seems to be a really hot topic right now within the trades. Thu: Is it really? Ryan: It is. How much do you focus on brand building with the pressure of quarterly earnings reports and VC’s that want their money back? How do you look at that dichotomy of how important –how do you value a brand? How do you quantify the brand experience, what the value that has for the business versus sales and what's happening today and what happened this month and the pressure reporting back to that? How do you achieve that balance? Thu: It's definitely a balance, I think depending on the size of the company.Having worked at really large companies and now working at a smaller company, being public versus private, there's a lot of different dynamics that play into how you need to consider both of those aspects. But they're both important, right? You got to have both. You can't have a brand that doesn't bring in revenue and if you have revenue and you don't have a brand, it's easier for competition to take you down. The brand, I think helps provide long term, like focusing on brand and building your brand, provides long term longevity. It gives you a path in the future and it also, I think helps justify the price that consumers pay. There's a lot of work, right? There's a ton of work about brand valuation and there's lots of lists that come out every single year about how much a brand is worth. So, not all companies, again, a company the size of Eyepromise, is going to have the resources to figure out what that means. But intuitively, even within a small company, I think we appreciate that we have a brand and we have a brand that we need to continue to grow, we need to continue to expand awareness for and we partner with agencies like Coegi in order to do that. But there is, there's the reality of the quarterly meetings and those expectations are real as well. So it's finding the balance in both of that and also having mutual understanding across the organization that both are important. Ryan: There's a spreadsheet imperative, certainly, but the value of the brand, while not being as tangible, is something that can come up in price, right? Thu: Oh 100% Ryan: Certainly, in how you price your product. The emotional appeal, and even net promoter score probably has something to do with the way that somebody feels about the brand and the product. Even if you go into the stock market and you take a look at Nike and you take a look at how much it should be valued and how much it's actually trading for, the gap is how much their brand is valued, right? How much that swoosh is really worth. Thu: Isn’t that amazing? I get so excited looking at things like that because, again, there's lots of ways to calculate it, there's lots of algorithms, and lots of agencies who publish lists about valuation of different brands. But at the end of the day, if nothing else, it's a testament that brands matter. Ryan: But the value of a brand is probably more important today than it ever has been, is how crowded the marketplace is. Whether you're Johnson and Johnson or you're a niche player, like I promise, being able to showcase the value of the brand, being able to quantify it as much as you can so that you can talk to the CFO and be able to have a marketing conversation with them, to be able to talk to your chief medical officer and be able to have a conversation with them about what their research and what is doing towards the brands, is Incredibly important. Thu: And you also think about, and you, we, our business, we go to market in a number of different channels. So we have eye doctors and we have our DTC efforts with Amazon and Walmart and we sell on our own website and then we have sports and we have professional and collegiate teams. So, within all of that, as we continue to expand our footprint, the fact that we have an established brand, the fact that we've been around for 20 years and we are the number one most recommended ocular nutrition brand amongst optometrists, plays in sports. So for instance, when we were at the PJ golf show last week, folks would come into our booth, they would have a conversation with us, and the fact that we're an established brand that in a different space played really well. So to your point about brands being important, it's important in how you exist today, but it's also important as you think about how you extend your brand in the future. Ryan: And having those core thousand fans, right, is something that it's talked about quite a bit on the Internet. You don't need to have a million followers, you need to have 1000 people that will react and be your superfans, right. And you have that with the relationship that you have with optometrists and that can cascade into the relationship you have with professional athletes who trust those optometrists. Then that cascades to the consumer and I think you can really see that as you look at what your D2C efforts look like. Maybe this is a good time to talk about what you're doing with Amazon, right? Because I think that you're doing an amazing job with that channel. That's one of several channels that you all focus on. Can you talk about your relationship with Amazon, how you view your product and positioning there, and some of the tips and tricks that people that are watching this may want to learn from your success there? Thu: Well, so I want to say that we started selling on Amazon, It was prior to me joining. I've been with the company for two years, so I want to say it was maybe five or six years ago. I think like a lot of companies who start by selling on Amazon, I think you put it up there and then you think that everyone will come. Ryan: Suddenly you're in the largest marketplace in the world. Thu: Yeah, all boats will rise. You just stick it out there. I think we've gone up that learning curve over the last couple of years, but we've certainly hit our stride. We brought on a dedicated resource to focus on Amazon growth. He had demonstrated success in other categories, specifically on Amazon. He's been here also for two years. Over the past two years we've grown 10% and then 19% respectively. So we continue to post very strong results in that channel. And I think some of it is simple things like getting the basics right, like having a plus content, having solid imagery, having solid descriptions, making sure, my lens kind of seeing across all of the channels is to make sure that there's cohesion and consistencies across the different channels in which we compete. Because it's very plausible that consumers are also patients who see their eye doctors who may talk about ocular nutrition. They may talk about it, but they may not necessarily purchase it in the doctor's office, but they may go home and do some research on it, and they may think about it and end up in an Amazon marketplace. So my lens is making sure that there's consistency and integration across those Channels. Within Amazon, specifically resourcing for it, getting the basics right again. So A+ content, reviews, having the right assortment– Ryan: Reviews are incredibly important. Thu: They are. I think the other thing alongside that is staying on top of it. Having a dedicated resource allowed us the ability to have somebody who was just on top, who lived in it, lived in it day in and day out. So knowing the algorithm, knowing what the algorithm rewards, reviews is a huge piece of that. Solid steady sales records are a huge piece of that. Ryan: Knowing competition is bidding on you or dupes are coming in. So many things that do need human eyeballs. We need that dedication and need somebody who's really grinding it out there. Thu: Well, and even with that, I think when I think about the marketing cycle, and I'll park DTC for a minute, you go through the marketing planning process. You landed, you get into the year and you may pivot a little bit here or there, but Amazon's so dynamic and you have to have a different mentality in DTC and specifically in Amazon. So to your point, staying on top of it and having a test and learn mentality throughout that process helps you understand where are there incremental pockets for growth? How do you capitalize on the fact that your competition is down? They go down for some reason and you're able to swoop in because you're on top of it. Then last but not least, certainly a shout out to the Coegi team, having an agency partner who has demonstrated success in the Amazon ecosystem is really important because when you have a dedicated resource, from a brand perspective, you have somebody who lives it and breathes it. But by the same token, you need kind of that outside perspective and that outside partner who has your back, who also has connective tissue into the ever changing digital landscape, knows what's coming down the pike, knows when there's new things, knows the… what is it? Advantage plus shopping tactics that Coegi brought for like huge, you know, incremental source of revenue for the Amazon business last year that I don't think we would have known to think about testing until you guys brought it forward. Ryan: I think one of the things that make great agency brand partnerships in the D2C and ecommerce space is replicating what is successful in one channel and being able to bring those to multiple channels. Some things we were able to augment and help you dedicate a resource with, but our goal was how can we take the success that you had here and replicate those in so many different new emerging channels? Whether it's with advantage plus shopping… Thu: Social commerce, you know, you guys– Ryan: As we're looking at retail media, right. Thu: Yeah. Ryan: For smaller businesses, you gotta make some smart bets on what that next one is going to be. We could recommend 40 different places at this point. What's going to drive sales immediately? But what's also going to expand that audience as we move from that optometrist to professional sports to broader consumers, right? Choosing the channel that next layer, the onion, is going to be focused on, I think that's really been exciting to see that collaborative process. Thu: Yeah, I mean, we did that this past year. We had success with Amazon. We were focused on Gulf, so we tried to take that model or pieces of that model and apply it to other channels, and we had success within that as well. So it's super nice to be able to replicate success across a number of different channels. Ryan: One of the tactics that we decided on was going into influencer, right? That was new for you all and we wanted to have both a brand and commercial experience with that. One of the first influencers we talked to was let's play through, who had a really nice placement in his top product, In his annual buying guide right at Black Friday, where it felt very natural because he's going through a variety of products. He's been able to recommend Eyepromise as the top supplement. But then golf there. Describe the impact that let's play through and that influencer activation had both for uplifting the brand and for the business. I think one of the goals we had in particular with golf, which is an opportunity and a challenge, is you guys are a premium product. We looked at golf as an audience that would be willing to buy a premium product. They also have a lot of premium products that they're being advertised to at the same time. They got the Rolex and they got Mercedes, and now, uplifting Eyepromise into that, you don't have Mercedes budget, from my understanding Thu: A little bit less Ryan: A little bit less aspirations. But talk about what we did with influencer there and how you think it affected the business? Thu: Sure. So if you recall, we had an integrated media plan, right? So the influencer was a piece of a plan that had to work really hard. It had to drive awareness for a category that dedicated golfers largely didn't know, for a problem they largely didn't know they had, and a brand that could be that solution. So the campaign had to work really hard and the influencer component was a piece of it and its role was primarily engagement. Then we wanted there to be a conversion component, which, again, is a little bit challenging. With a company of our size and a marketing budget of our size, we had to be creative in how we engaged influencers. So, for us, and the Coegi team did a great job with the entire campaign but then specifically with influencers, we worked really hard to get to an influencer that we felt could be an extension of the brand, if you will. We went with a micro influencer versus a regular influencer, which I think was a great fit for us for a number of different reasons. One, certainly budgets are a consideration, but then put that aside for a second. For us, we wanted an influencer who had fit with our brand, so there was brand congruency, but then also had an authentic voice and was willing to work with us because we had tall tasks for him to achieve. So, he was really flexible in that and he also had to, I think a comment that you had made earlier, he had a strong following across our targeted social media platforms, but they were super engaged. So higher quality, if you will, on less scale, but higher quality, which is what we were looking for. Ryan: It's not followers, it's the engagement with those followers, right? I was kind of the guinea pig on the target audience, since I'm– Thu: Yes, you are a little bit like a dedicated golfer. Ryan: Yes. I said certain aspects of the profile and Gabe actually had turned me on to the Garmin watch, which I have on right now. Thu: Oh! Do you really? Ryan: Yeah. Thu: Was it in the annual buying guide? Ryan: So this was not only in the annual buying guide, it was right before Eyepromise's placement. I'm like, well, there's two products that I use right there from Gabe. He came up when I was researching this and then fit it on the annual buying guide. So I was like, that literally shows how perfect at least this audience of one was to the target. Thu: Yeah. Again, he was part of a larger campaign that had to work really hard. But that component, in terms of driving engagement, we had an offer because it's Black Friday,. Consumer mindsets during Black Friday are very geared towards discounts and how do I get the best offer? So, including that, we had a fairly strong pull through. We had I think if I remember correctly, specific to that influencer, the results were in line with benchmarks. The conversion was higher than we anticipated. So it was good. It was supposed to be. Earlier in the campaign. Ryan: It was. Thu: So it was supposed to, from a flight perspective, it was supposed to be kind of like, right at the top with all the other awareness tactics that we executed on and credit to the Coegi team, we wanted to get it right. So it just didn't work out, timing wise, with activating it at the outset because we didn't find the right influencers. So when we were able to execute, we were very conversion focused, if you recall. Gabe was great at flexing to add an approach offer, including us in his annual buying guide. So it wasn't the way it was planned on paper, but it worked out overall pretty well, because at the time, towards the back end of the campaign, we were very focused on conversion. He helped fill the funnel during a time frame where people are very much in buying mode and he was able to complement those larger efforts. Ryan: You have to be nimble and flexible in this industry. So being able to flex to that, is something that I'm glad we were able to do for you. That kind of takes us to our next topic, and we started talking about this, the client agency relationship, something I'm obsessed with, as agency executives should be. It's my job. What aspects do you think are most important in any client agency relationship? What things do you look for when you're looking at partners and what are some call outs that you could tell the audience of? Maybe red flags for partnerships that haven't worked too. Thu: Agency client relationships. I really have been fortunate in working with a number of great agencies, some of the world's largest agencies over my tenure. Like, if I think about those relationships, and I would certainly include our relationship with Coegi as part of that, I think they're founded on mutual respect and an agreement that rewards on both sides of that. Honestly, really and truly. Then all the things that come underneath that open communication, holding each other accountable. I'm sure, and I've never worked on the agency side, I've always worked on the brand side. It's tough, I'm sure, to be on the agency side and not always know the conversations that are happening on the other side. Then all of a sudden you get handed down some decision or you're told we're taking a hard left. I hope I've done a good job in working with Coegi and working with other agency partners over the years in being transparent. I think the more that on the brand side, we can do that and be true partners, the more agencies are positioned, the better positioned agencies are to help us through whatever the challenges are. When I think about looking at new agencies, I think all of the, I guess I'll say normal stuff, if you will. So when we went through the process, just to provide a little bit of context, you may or may not remember this. When I joined, we had a digital strategist on the team, but he had come from an agency, had been with us for maybe three to five years, something like that. Space is really dynamic, like the digital land. Ryan: Three to five years is 30 to 50 years. Thu: Yeah, it's a lifetime. So we were very technical. We didn't have that connective tissue and weren't wired into what's happening in this landscape? How are things changing? Things like algorithm changes, whether they be Google, whether they be Amazon, they're meaningful if you don't know about them and can't plan for them and aren't in front of them. So we decided we were going to partner with a digital media agency. When I think of the normal stuff that I would look at, it obviously needs to have a full digital offering, if you will be able to bring all of that to bear, because as we grow and scale, I want to be able to tap into different things. So full service digital media agency. For us, it was important for the agency to be able to have demonstrated success in healthcare products. If it was supplements, awesome. But it wasn't. I knew that was going to be challenging. Ryan: Not too many supplement focused agencies that I know of. Thu: Well demonstrated success with supplements specifically. That was a plus. Demonstrated success in DTC, demonstrated success with Amazon. Then as we went through the process, it became more about the intangibles, the team, the communication, the collaboration. Like, is it a good fit? I think of all of those things as the normal things, but it is a process and a journey and I think it's important to kind of go through that process. Then afterwards, to continue to hold each other accountable by taking that time out. How are we doing as an agency partner? What could be better? And that's on both sides. I remember working with agency partners, and I'm sure we've done this to you, but I remember being in a business supplier review and the agency, us talking about hours in a certain area just being astronomical, and they're like, well, you guys have 15 rounds of edits. So when you have 15 rounds of edits and we budget for two, having a dialogue around, how do we consolidate that? How do we streamline that? Whether that's through one voice feedback or what are those mechanisms that we put in place so that we're doing right, you guys are doing right, and we're holding each other accountable. Ryan: Accountability and trust are incredibly important, right? That's the bedrock of any strong relationship, period. But certainly an agency client relationship, I think sometimes agency folks don't always know the best way to hold the client accountable. It feels like. Thu: Are you telling me something? Ryan: No, I'm not. No, I'm not. We can bring Zoe in here, maybe she can, but I'm not on the day-to-day, so there's no hidden agenda. Thu: That would be great. Ryan: If there is, and it’s just happenstance, I promise. But because of the client agency relationship, a lot of times the client is ordering the agency to do a task. Like, that's the normal workflow. But you're saying, and a lot of clients say, well, we need to be held accountable too. What's the best way for your agency account folks to have tough conversations and to hold the client accountable to either the business goals that they set out? Or sometimes probably, the person who's calling the shots isn't always the person that we're talking to either, right? The silent client is something I've been talking about a little bit more recently on trying to figure out what the board of directors that we're never going to talk to Is actually thinking and what they care about, right? And this came up pretty directly with Solo Stove. With Snoop Dogg's thing, right, where their marketing team thought that they had hit it out of the park, but somebody else didn’t. Sometimes there's even a disconnect, I think, between internally, too. So that makes it really hard for the agency to navigate. So I'm again asking, like, three questions in one. So I'll start with the first question. How do agencies also hold their clients accountable appropriately? Thu: I mean, where I've seen it happen best is it happens up front. So we're proactively having those conversations and setting up those expectations up front. Then in instances where I've worked with agencies, where we tether it to an agreement. Ryan: Like in the contract. Thu: Yeah, in the contract, it holds water. But then. I think setting it up front is the easiest way to do it because it's clean. But even when it doesn't happen there, I would hope that I have a strong enough relationship with any agency partner that if things were going off the rails and things were not going well, that the agency director, the account director, would feel comfortable in having that conversation with me. If it's a good client partner relationship, you should be able to have that conversation. I know I've had that conversation before. Ryan: I've had the conversation with you once or twice. Thu: Yeah. When I think about good partnerships, trust and mutual respect, part of that is being able to call somebody to the carpet, because at the end of the day, we oftentimes the person that you talk to, you talk about the silent. Ryan: The silent client. Thu: The silent client. Like, there's always a silent client, right? There's always a silent client. So the things that the silent client. Wow, that's a mouthful. Ryan: It was supposed to have alliteration and rhyming. Thu: It does, but it's a tongue twister too, today for me apparently. What the silent client says isn't in our control. So, again, when you have a strong agency partnership, you should be able to have some of that dialogue that at the end of the day, sometimes… Ryan: It's out of our control. Thu: It's out of our control. Ryan: Sometimes it's out of the business's control, too. There's something that happens in the environment with consumers or something. A PR disaster happens or you go viral on something that you weren't expecting, right? Thu: Yeah. Tons of brand instances like that. Ryan: I was listening to a podcast talking about the Stanley Cup.. Thu: That’s actually the brand that came to mind. Ryan: This is a very general podcast and the Atlantic was talking about it. This isn't a marketing podcast and they were saying that a lot of that was luck. It was not necessarily this marketing brilliance, but this tidal wave happens that you don't expect to. Thu: I think that's why it was great. It was organic, it was authentic. Ryan: Yes and a lot of our success and failures as marketers is because of the market, not necessarily because of what we do. We don't own our brand. The consumers own the brand more so today than they ever have. So we can try to steer the brand in certain ways and we do have more agency over the aspects of the brand, but we don't own the brand anymore, right? It's not just the silent client. It's also the loud consumer who can.. Thu: I mean they vote with reviews. The consumer carries a lot more weight today than they ever have. Ryan: They have the same voice, the same 140 characters that the brand account does, and a lot of times mean a lot more, too. Thu: Yeah. Part of me thinks of my market research hat and my research days, and that's the end of one. Why does that matter? But when I take myself out of my marketing hat, I think about just me, the consumer, who's looking for something. I look at reviews and if there's an overly negative review and they detail that out, it is. It's an end of one. But it carries more weight than you would think of if you think about it through an academic lens, if you will. Ryan: You need 20 good reviews to negate one bad review. Someone is saying out there, right, those are funny numbers. Thu: Actually I think it's like 50. Ryan: Yeah. So it's important to have every interaction, every touch point, and that's advertising touch points, that's… Thu: Customer service touch points. Ryan: That's the website, that is the product itself. Word of mouth that happens, that is completely out of our control. Thu: I have control issues, though. I say that because at the end of the day, and I truly believe this, every interaction that a consumer has with our brand either builds it or detracts from it. So to your point, there's some of it that is out of my control. But to the degree that as marketers we can control or plan for, that's our job. Ryan: This is a linchpin year, in my opinion, for a lot that's happening in digital marketing. This is the year that the cookieless future that we've been pontificating about for the last five years is actually coming to fruition. There's a major election, I hear, in the United States, that seems to be dominating a lot of attention. There's the Olympics that everybody likes to talk about, CPMs going up, and we have a point of view on that. If you reach out to your account director, you're happy to send over, but there's a lot that's happening within ecommerce in particular as well. Love to hear what you're focused on at Eyepromise, as it pertains to this year and beyond, to ensure that you're maintaining as much control over all of those touch points that you're talking about. Where do you see the landscape changing? Thu: I mean, beyond what we're doing at Eyepromise, although, right, you always have to have an eye towards that and be thinking about how and when that kind of folds into your business. Certainly AI is going to continue to be a thing. I think it's going to find application in every corner of business, how it manifests in marketing and with agencies. I think we're going to spend 24 figuring out because I think like a lot of pendulums, right, you think it's going to swing really hard and people are like, we don't need people anymore. That'll swing back. We'll figure that piece out. Ryan: It's already swinging back a little bit. Thu: Yeah. Ryan: You can sniff out a piece that's pretty AI content heavy versus what's maybe slightly AI inspired but has legitimate copy with it. I mean, I see it at least pretty obviously and I'm seeing a lot more comments calling out, hey, did you just put this into the board? Or didn't Claude write this for you? You're seeing that kickback happen a little faster than I would have expected. Thu: I think it's because consumers, and it's the same thing with influencers, while we didn't have the budget to go after big influencers, I think consumers want authenticity. I think they want human interaction so if an interaction with a brand is the brand's voice to the consumer, they don't want it to be computer generated. Ryan: That's correct. Thu: It's one thing to… Ryan: Unless they're computers that you're interacting with, right? Like you're buying a computer. Maybe that's one thing. Thu: Maybe. But I mean, at the end of the day, do I think we're going to get to a point where AI can fully reflect the brand, the tone, the inflection, the emotive aspects that make humans unique? No, I don't think AI will get there, but I do think AI will continue to be huge. Let's see here. Second, probably social commerce. We did that. We did a fair bit of that. We had success with that. I think a lot of brands, I mean I think the social media platforms are figuring out how to monetize their platforms and that inventory. Especially with the demographics that tend to be on those platforms and their buying power increasing and all of that stuff. I think it creates a perfect ecosystem for brands to come into play. So we did that last year. I think we're going to do some of that again this year. I think it's going to continue to become an area of growth. Ryan: Going back to the AI piece a little bit, it's funny that that was a headline for the past six months when artificial intelligence has been behind a number of digital marketing efforts since Coegi’s existence. Programmatic buying is artificial intelligence. Paid search is artificial intelligence. I mean, it is, right? Thu: Yeah, I can see that. Ryan: The computers are machine learning, maybe, right? But there was certainly optimization that was happening on its own to try to move a campaign towards a goal. Thu: Right. Ryan: That's learning, right? Maybe it wasn't generalized artificial intelligence. Thu: Right. I think it's just more, It's gone mainstream. It's gone mainstream, but in going mainstream, I don't think we figured out how to truly harness it yet. Certainly at a mainstream level. But then how does it come to life in the supply chain? How does it come to life in lots and lots of different capacities? Ryan: Yeah, it's something that we're going to have to continue to keep our eye on and very focused and lean into. Thu: Can I ask you a question? Ryan: Of course. We can have another hour of you asking me questions. Thu: How does Coegi think about it? Have you guys given thought to, how does AI beyond kind of the way it comes to life for you today in programmatic and all of that, like mainstream AI? Do you see that playing a larger role? Maybe in 2024, or maybe 2025? Ryan: I think it already is. But I don't think it needs to be an AI product. It needs to just start to infuse into the work that we do when we write content. We're definitely using AI to help us with research, to help edit, to help with copywriting. In fact, we're starting to build out little AI chatbots that could represent our client. Thu: There could be a chatbot that was Thu? Ryan: There could be a Thu chatbot. We could create you if you would allow us to. I think it'd be a fun experiment to talk through so that we could get a reaction to a new idea, or the way that we phrase an email, or the way that we interact with you to help train our staff to be able to have more meaningful conversations. Right? Or to create a chatbot of me so that you could start to… Thu: Like, my chatbot would talk to your chatbot? Ryan: I don't want to necessarily get there yet. We're investing in technology that will allow, because prompt engineering is really important. This podcast I was listening to said that AI is like having a thousand interns. Thu: That's interesting. Ryan: Having a thousand interns is very powerful, but you got to tell an intern pretty specifically what you need them to do. So I've had a lot more success with having deeper prompt engineering with really playing with the prompts to make sure that they know that the AI knows exactly what persona that I'm looking for, what tone, how I want the output to look. Does it need to be in lists? Then to really focus, tell me what sources you use for this. Dive deeper into this subject, right? So having ongoing conversation, we're starting to be able to share those prompts throughout teams so that we're using all of the same prompts when we find ones that are actually going deeper and not just giving the surface level Wikipedia type response. Thu: That's super cool. Ryan: So those are a number of ways that we're using it, but I don't want it to be a product on its own. We're not going to be an agency that suddenly has an AI consulting arm like a couple of agencies that did a week after. Thu: Really? Ryan: I'm like, how can you be an expert in this agency that's going to go unnamed, that you suddenly feel like you can charge $500 an hour for consulting on a product that was a week old? That's silly, right? Thu: That’s Bananas. Ryan: It is bananas, but it's something that will get infused. But to your point, there's nothing today in particular with regulated industries. You guys are half somewhat regulated. Coegi works with a lot of regulated industries. We have to be real careful what we upload into that. We have to be very sensitive with our consumers data, our clients data, their clients data. So it's not game time ready for that by any means. There will be a human element. Thu: I think there will always be a human element. I think about all of the hype around robots replacing people in various capacities. In the last 5-10 years. Ryan: We’ve been talking about that for a while. Yeah. Thu: You know, whether it was like, pharmacists are going to be done because we're going to have robots there and Lowe's and home depot are going to have robots do everything. Ryan: Even Amazon does have interactions with robots or assembly lines with cars. Thu: Which has been around for a really long time as well. Ryan: Yeah, 40 years probably. Another place where I do think that there's tangible benefit is in a lot of the manual, low value tasks that are more data entry and there's a number of that. We're managing several hundred clients concurrently, right? So we need to make sure that our naming conventions are straight, that invoicing and billing is going out. So there is a manual entry of each campaign on there. I think there's automation that can happen with that. Nobody likes doing those tasks. Thu: Somebody likes doing those tasks. There are people who like doing those tasks. Ryan: There's better value probably out there. To wrap up. Thank you for coming on. I know you said your voice sounds deep. I think you sounded great. So we'd love to have you back whenever you want and we can part two this later in the year. Thu: Mid year. Ryan: Yeah. Thu: At Topgolf. Ryan: At Topgolf, we can definitely bring at least the mobile video camera. I'm happy to do that. Thu: I don't want my swing to be taped. Ryan: You don't? Thu: No. Ryan: Even just to be released internally at Eyepromise? Thu: No. Ryan. No. I think I've shared with you, when I went to grad school, I was a scientist and so I was like, well, everyone in business has to golf. Like, that's part of being in business. I need to get some. Ryan: You need to golf? Yeah. Thu: I quit after lesson two. I bought a six pack and after the second lesson was like, you can keep the money. I'm done. This is terrible. Ryan: It's all in the hips. You've watched Happy Gomorrah before. It's all in the hips. Thu: Well, my husband can golf. When he talks about it, it is fascinating to me, kind of, in that swing, the sequence of things that need to happen across your body in order for you to hit the ball, strike the ball in the way that you want to. I mean, it's like contortionist type stuff. Ryan: It is a little bit, I think, compared a little bit to pitching a baseball. Baseball starts with the wind up that really centers the legs. Then there's rotation and then there's arm movement and an accuracy component of timing of when to release. So there's several functions that are happening in the sequence in order. Thu: I think what's different to me about golf is, in pitching, which I think, you know, I'm a youth baseball mom. There's a lot of youth baseball in my life. I have pitchers. Ryan: You love the Cardinals. You don't have the Cardinals hat on today. But we're not quite in cardinal season yet. Thu: Not quite and I'm hoping that before we get into the season, we have one more acquisition. Ryan: That would be nice. Thu: That would be lovely. Ryan: Another 15 minutes, we can talk about the cardinals. Yes. Thu: But in pitching versus that swing. In pitching, there's a sequence of events that needs to happen almost from, like, the bottom up, if you will, but it's kind of full body. To me, there's more separation versus in the swing. There's a lot of connectivity, like in a very small kind of a smaller range, if you will, which is why it, to me, is so much more impressive. Ryan: The golf swing definitely starts with the ground. It does much more than you would think and the long hitters and even the kind of golf workouts that I do now, there's a lot. Thu: Oh you do golf workouts? [Laughter] Ryan: Yeah, I know. If you come to Lifetime Fitness, you can see me doing my deadlift, trying to pull from the ground up. Legs probably have like 60% of the swing. Your back and twist and abs do too, in core, but strong legs are probably primary. It is. I'll show you some mechanics. Thu: At Top Gulf in July when we do part two. Ryan: Yeah and you're moving the weight from your left foot to the right and then back to the left. So you're almost like pushing down. Thu: Really? Ryan: Yeah, if you want to really… Thu: See this is why I quit. This is why I quit and on that note it’s a wrap. Ryan: I don't know if this will make it in, but Thu thank you so much. This has been fantastic. We could talk for hours, which I knew was going to happen. Thu: Thank you for having me. Yeah, happy to do it and I'm excited to do it again. Ryan: We'll do it soon. Thank you. Thu: Thank you. Ryan: Bye

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