July 25, 2017

Are You Grateful for Digital, Ben Plomion?

Ben Plomion

Over the past few months, I’ve asked several marketing leaders if they’re grateful for digital. This time, I thought it would be interesting to get the perspective of a hands-on CMO. Ben Plomion of GumGum is one of the smartest guys in the industry – creative, strategic, and a thought leader to boot. Since he’s been steeped in digital for the majority of his career, I knew he’d have some strong feelings on the topic. And he did.

Ben Plomion, are you grateful for digital?
"It’s hard to imagine functioning in our daily lives without digital devices. Think about your behavior on an airplane: the second it lands, you’re reaching for your phone. The British artist Banksy looks at smartphones as sort of a modern prison. We’re so attached to them, they literally become our universe.

As marketers, we fall into the same trap consumers do. We can’t see beyond digital. We think about mobile, programmatic and social day and night, and we forget that there’s a whole world outside of digital. While digital provides valuable opportunities to deliver services to current and new clients, there are thousands of moments each day when we’re not on digital – when we’re driving, flying, exchanging ideas with friends.

The world is not strictly digital, and it’s dangerous to forget that.
I keep this in mind when I think about the marketing mix. The CMO is responsible for providing experiences to potential and current customers. In my company, they engage with us across so many channels. They may come to our website and interact with our content, but they’ll also engage with us outside of digital, whether that’s at conferences or specific meetings.

As a marketer, I need to look at how they engage with us and ensure that we are positioned everywhere. We can’t focus exclusively on digital. We need engagement across all channels.

Part of the reason that we can’t focus solely on digital is that we’re doing the same things everyone else in the B2B space is doing. We have advanced capabilities, but it’s still hard to shine through because everyone is doing something similar - even if the creatives are very different.

That’s why we look at digital as just one way to get our message across. Consumers are bombarded with digital messages all day – in their inboxes, their social media feeds, in their mobile apps – everywhere they go online. So, how else can we get their attention?

Thinking outside the screen
Four years ago, I had an “a-ha moment.” I realized that when I was on a plane, I enjoyed magazines and books because I couldn’t use wifi. As a result of that realization, I worked with my team to create and publish a magazine called Programmatic Minds. At launch, it was the third largest print publication for marketers.

We created the magazine because we realized that, like me, most senior marketers didn’t have time to engage on LinkedIn or email – or they were just too overloaded to even notice our messages. But they spent time with the print magazine. They took it on planes; they read it in their downtime. They really engaged with it.

While digital is still important, print can still capture the attention of our audiences. It shines through the clutter. We began customizing the magazine with the names and faces of CMOs we were trying to target as customers. We sent copies via FedEx to the CMO, and we’d get their attention – because everyone else was limiting their outreach to digital.

In one case, we struggled to reach the CMO of T-Mobile. Digital had failed utterly, so we researched the CMO and learned that, among other things, he was a huge comic book enthusiast. So we pulled together a creative team of editors, writers, illustrators, and letterers who spent months making a comic book called T-Man and Gums.

When the comic book was complete, we shipped 100 copies to T-Mobile and its agencies of record. Within hours, the CMO reached out on Twitter to praise the work. Within a few days, a meeting was set. The tactic was definitely a risk, but it sparked a meaningful conversation that eventually led to T-Mobile becoming a client.

We took on a series of projects to reach our target CMOS, and very often, these projects were not digitally-based – but they did incorporate digital. Even the comic book was created with an online experience and accompanied by a targeted email. The question for us is always how do we bring the digital piece alive in analog, and vice/versa.

Analog gets through the clutter
We’re always thinking about consumer touch points. How do we find them? Where do they go? How do we touch them with digital and analog?

In our world, print is so unexpected. No one expects a company like GumGum to send a print mailer! There’s a huge element of surprise in that, and yet it’s a perfect fit for our brand. We’re a very visual company, so the amazing visual experience of a large print piece dovetails perfectly with our values. There’s an elegance to print too: email is cheap. Display is cheap. A magazine is comparatively opulent.

For our audience, there’s also an element of nostalgia. Print mailers hearken back to a time before digital, when we weren’t constantly distracted, and when we weren’t expected to respond immediately, 24/7.

I am grateful for digital because it allows me to do things I couldn’t do before – like know what the weather and water temperature will be for the next three hours, or open a bank account without setting foot in a bank. As a marketer, it makes my life easier, but it also saddles me with the power and responsibility to learn so many new tactics, and to be accountable for every single thing.

Ultimately, the key for us is to remember that digital is not everything. It’s a necessity, but we need to get out and 'see the world' beyond digital. There’s plenty more to try and experience out there."

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