How Brands can Beat the Marketing Rebellion: Mark Schaefer

How Brands can Beat the Marketing Rebellion: Mark Schaefer


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About Mark Schaefer

Mark Schaefer is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, educator, business consultant, and author. His blog {grow} is hailed as one of the top marketing blogs in the world.

Mark has worked in global sales, PR, and marketing positions for more than 30 years and provides consulting services as Executive Director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions.

He has advanced degrees in marketing and organizational development; holds seven patents; and is a faculty member of the graduate studies program at Rutgers University.

Mark has authored several books. His most recent, Marketing Rebellion, has quickly become a reference for the marketer of today.

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Follow Mark on Twitter@markwschaefer

Buy Marketing Rebellion at:

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Follow Worthix on Twitter: @worthix

Follow Mary Drumond on LinkedIn
Follow Mary Drumond on Twitter@drumondmary


Introduction: (00:05) Mark Schaefer is a globally recognized keynote speaker, educator, business consultant and author. His blog, Grow, is hailed as one of the top marketing blogs in the world. Mark has worked in global sales, PR and marketing positions for more than 30 years and provides consulting services as Executive Director of Schaefer marketing solutions. He has advanced degrees in marketing and organizational development, holds seven patents and is a faculty member of the graduate studies program at the Rutgers University. Mark Schaefer has authored several books. His most recent, Marketing Rebellion, has quickly become a reference for the marketer of today.

Mary Drumond: (01:23) I am joined by Mark Schaefer, who is an author and a keynote speaker, and I’ve had the pleasure to see him on stage. And it’s wonderful and it’s super entertaining and you’re super charming and funny. Mark. Yeah. That was me introducing you.

Mark Schaefer: (01:38) Oh, can’t beat that. I’ll take it. Thank you.

MD: (01:45) Thank you for being on today. Really appreciate it. But you can probably talk about yourself a little bit better than I can. So if you can just give our listeners just the quick rundown a little bit about what you do, what you’re passionate about, how you try to change the world in your own way.

MS: (01:59) Well, I think at the heart of whatever I do, I’m a teacher. I do teach at Rutgers University, but whether I’m blogging or podcasting or standing up on a stage, I look for teachable moments. I’m at a great place in my life and my career where I can sort of send the elevator back down and help people. And you know, I think what I’m known for, what I hope I’m known for, is that I’m honest. I don’t have an agenda. I’m not selling a course. I’m not selling a point of view. I just try to see how is the world really working today and let’s run our businesses based on what is, not what we would wish it to be or what the gurus are hyping it to be. Let’s just look at things in a very practical way. We’re all kind of in it together. Let’s help each other move forward.

MD: (03:00) How many books have you written so far?

MS: (03:01) I have written eight. Eight books, yeah.

MD: (03:04) Wow. And has every one of these books somehow marked, with a practical view, the reality of the moment?

MS: (03:12) Yeah, I think so. You know, my first book was about Twitter. I hated Twitter at first. I thought it was the dumbest thing I’d ever seen. And the first tweet I ever received was, “it’s 4:00 AM,” confirming that this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. And it took me about six months to really figure out that Twitter is the most human driven channel. And a lot of people don’t see that in the books at the time, this would have been 2010. They’re all focused on the technology and the hashtags and all this stuff. And what I realized was there’s this human pulse to Twitter that’s really essential to understanding it. So I wrote the Tao of Twitter. And then my second book was the first book ever on influencer marketing. Now this was 2012 before that was even a term, nobody even knew what that was. But I could see how the trends were coming together, how the power was shifting from Madison Avenue and Wall Street and newspapers and book publishers and companies, to people to mainstream. And this was an amazing force. And so I predicted that influencer marketing, within two years, was going to be a mainstream marketing channel. And it was. So I think each of my books has sort of been a commentary on what’s happening. Now, another example is content code. You know, everybody was drinking the content marketing Koolaid, and the world had been changing dramatically and what was working in content marketing was something that wasn’t working a year ago or two years ago. We’re getting overwhelmed with content. Content was no longer a novelty, and yet most of the gurus out there were hyping more and more and more and more and more. Let’s do more videos. Let’s do more podcasts without really any strategic thinking behind it.

MD: (05:09) Yeah, that’s one thing you’ve really harp on, right, on being strategic with your marketing efforts, right?

MS: (05:13) Yes, right. I mean it’s, I think this is the biggest problem in marketing today that marketers flock to whatever’s popular, until they ruin it. It’s almost lemming-like, they just follow the latest trend right off the cliff. And the key to marketing is not about content and it’s not about social media and it’s not about engagement. It’s about, how do you maneuver? Maneuver is the most important word in marketing. A lot of your marketing strategy is dictated to you based on where you stand in your marketplace and what are the terms of competition and how many competitors do you have? Are you established or are you a disruptor? Are the barriers to entry easy or difficult? And so you look at these different factors and you say, okay, here’s what I’ve got to do because everything else is sort of used up and here’s how I can maneuver. And people just aren’t thinking that way. They’re just so desperate for the easy answer and the silver bullet that they jump into whatever the latest blog post says without thinking.

MD: (06:20) Right. You started off blogging, didn’t you?

MS: (06:23) Yes, that’s right.

MD: (06:24) And your blog, it’s just got a very authentic feel. I remember when I signed up for your newsletter, it was very straightforward. It was not, like you said, there was no hidden agenda. I don’t feel, I could be wrong, I hope I’m not wrong, I don’t feel like I’m going to end up in some drip campaign…

MS: (06:43) No, never.

MD: (06:43) … in a couple of months gonna try to sell me something. But that authenticity is what makes it appealing. It’s refreshing to just see authentic marketing. So what I want to try to do now is take this concept of authentic marketing and apply it to our conversation of today, which is about your newest book, which is Marketing Rebellion. Now I know for a fact that this book has flown off the shelves and every single marketer I know has read it, has devoured it. So I imagine that it is becoming a trend, a movement of people realizing that consumers are rebelling against the way that marketing is doing business in this day and age.

MS: (07:31) That’s true. And it’s, it’s been very rewarding. It’s a risky book. There was a time, Mary, last year when I was immersed in the research for the book, and I literally paused and thought, Oh my gosh, I don’t know what it means to be a marketer anymore. It gets back to presenting the world as it really is and how consumers have moved away from us in a dramatic way. And most marketers are asleep and they don’t really see what’s happening. And I thought, Oh my gosh, do I have the courage to tell this story because people aren’t going to like it. It basically says, most of what you’re doing today isn’t working and it’s not just the Mark Schaefer point of view. I mean, this is big research from McKinsey and Deloitte and Accenture and Pew and Harvard, and it’s saying conclusively advertising doesn’t really work anymore. That loyalty is in decline. 87% of our customers shop around, on average. Just a dramatic change from 20 or 25 years ago. And that truly the customers are the marketers. Two thirds of our marketing is occurring without us. That demands an entirely new mindset. We’ve got to think about, okay, I mean some of this stuff that we’re doing, advertising and PR and webinars, I mean some of that’s working, but most of it isn’t. Most of it requires that we think alright, the customers are telling a story. People don’t see ads like they used to. They don’t trust ads like they used to. People trust people, they trust each other. How do we enter that narrative? How do we help our customers tell our story? And we don’t have a choice because that’s the way the world is moving. And to be effective today, you’ve got to adopt this new mindset and I hope I show it in my book through lots of very interesting and, I think, inspirational case studies. There’s dozens and dozens of ideas for businesses of every size. And you know, I love being on this podcast because it all gets down to customer experience. When you really get down to the heart of what the book is about, when I get into some of the practical applications, customer experience is the first thing I talk about.

MD: (10:23) Well, it’s because it really is taking the consumer and building your marketing strategy around them, not the other way around. It must be a painful exercise for marketers to kind of accept that, number one, they’re no longer in control of their marketing and I’m saying they as if I weren’t included in this, it’s hilarious.

MS: (10:46) Of course not, we are the enlightened ones.

MD: (10:49) You know, I was thinking about this while reading your book and I was like, you know what I think I’m so cool because ah, I’m a millennial and I’m marketing towards millennials, so I think I’ve got it all, right? At some point, I am not going to be the cool generation anymore.

MS: (11:05) It’s happening now.

MD: (11:05) At some point I’m gonna be the outdated generation and my kids aren’t going to think I’m cool and be like, Oh mom, get off our new social media channel or whatever. You know, what am I going to do when that day comes around? When it no longer comes naturally to me, when everything I’ve learned, when all of my experience, when all my professional baggage no longer counts, what am I going to do?

MS: (11:29) Well let me just kind of answer that in in three little snippets. First of all, the feedback on the book has not really been the backlash I expected. The feedback on the book has been, yes, I’ve seen this happening, I’ve known it all along. I just couldn’t put a name to it. Thank you. I feel empowered to go and really do what I need to do. Number two, don’t be so hard on yourself, Mary, because the thing that really inspires me right now and a lot of the case studies in this book are driven by younger people and I think the third point is, you know, you’re talking about, Oh, my experience is not gonna matter in the future. Experience matters if you don’t build the world around your experience. That is dangerous. Experience matters if you connect the dots. If you lead in a way that’s humble and says, look, you’ve got to continue to grow. You’ve got to continue to learn. I’m humble every day. I try to learn from the young people coming up into the business. They’re teaching me a new way to do business, a new way to do marketing and I think it’s amazing. If I can continue to use my experience to connect the dots and say, Hey, I kind of have this clear view of what’s worked before and what might work in the future and I can sort of add to this dialogue and I’m going to be okay, but if I approach it saying, I’ve been in business for 30 years and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, then you’re going to become obsolete.

MD: (12:58) You’re absolutely right. Backing up a little bit into something that you said a couple minutes ago, which is about how the marketing gurus are sometimes dictating or at least trying to dictate the way that the market is going to go, and I feel this a lot where people are trying to force certain channels of engagement, right? It’s interesting because in your book you talk about ads and about how the generations that are coming up hate ads, and the truth is there was a time where ads were almost entertainment. I can’t remember the last time I was entertained by an ad and I was like, yes, I’m going to watch this ad because I want to and not because this is the price that I’m paying to have access to that content. I’m paying with my time because I want to access that content. I can’t remember because it’s not even part of my adult reality. You know?

MS: (13:58) It’s funny, somehow I was on YouTube the other day checking something out and one of the little things that they’re trying to pitch me on the side to continue to stay on their site was something like the the 10 funniest ads of all time. I said, Oh well whatever. So I click on that. All of those ads were at least 10 years old. So I think there is kind of something to what you say. Now, I do think that there is a place for advertising and there will always be a place for advertising if it’s an authentic, true story told well, that’s relevant to people. If you can pay to access their precious attention, there’s a place for that. The problem is increasingly there’s no place to do this. It’s creating an absolute crisis in the advertising industry. My newest podcast on The Marketing Companion is all about that because I thought it was so poignant, Mary, that at the recent Cannes lions festival, the big creative advertising festival in France, one of the major things there is all the big brands were begging and pleading Netflix to start running ads. Because there’s no place to put ads. Yeah, people are watching Amazon Prime. They’re listening to Spotify, no ads. They’re listening to audio books, no ads. They’re watching Netflix, no ads. There are no ads in the new streams. One third of Americans have ad blockers on their smartphones, so Netflix has most recently made a statement said, Nope, we’re not going to do it. There’s research that showed that they were going to lose, you know, something around like 23% of their subscribers if they started to use ads and it’s desperate, and as marketers, we can’t wallow in that. We’ve got to adjust and think about, all right, let’s be resourceful. Let’s see what do our customers really want? What are these constant human needs that are out there that we can really respond to? We gotta get out of this technology. We gotta get out from behind our dashboards, get out there and really talk to customers and get to know them and hear them and align our marketing in ways that are helpful and meaningful and supportive of what our customers really want.

MD: (16:18) How do you think that this is going to unfold? Let’s look at a utopian scenario where marketers read your book and they’re like, yes, this is it. We’re gonna do this. And they change the way they’re doing things. It goes to straight to the heart of marketing and things start changing. To be quite honest, innovation and change is unavoidable, so it’s going to happen whether it’s down forcefully or whether it’s done deliberately, right? I mean, in your mind, how do you see this marketing rebellion unfolding in its entirety?

MS: (16:54) It’s really reliant on one thing and that is the culture of the company. That’s why I love some of these new companies. I mean, my favorite company right now that’s featured in the book is Glossier. This is the fastest growing cosmetic company out there. It started on a blog.

MD: (17:15) It did.

MS: (17:16) It was built from social media on up, and if you want to study a beautiful case study of how to market in this new consumer world of the marketing rebellion, read that case study in my book about about Glossier and study that company. Now let’s compare that to another company that I’m working with right now, and I won’t name the company, but it’s a big traditional clothing brand. They have 100% built the brand and built the company on TV ads. TV ads, and coupons, and that’s been it. And they just don’t know what to do because their market share is slipping away and they’re being disrupted by all these young companies. I was talking to the CMO the other day and he said, Mark, I just don’t understand it. These companies, they’re selling clothes. It’s the same cloth made in the same kind of factories that we make our stuff in and they’re getting all this market share and they’re selling their shirts for $70. And we’re selling ours for 20 how is this possible? What am I missing? Well, they’re missing everything. Because nobody is seeing their ads and they’re becoming irrelevant and as I said, look at their website. They’re not buying a product. They’re buying a story. This is a company that stepped out. They’re creating their clothing in a new way, in an environmentally sensitive way. There’s another company in the book I profile called Everlane. They’re all about supply chain transparency. They tell you exactly how much they pay for the materials and the labor, and you can look at the factories where they’re making this stuff and people believe in this. They’re buying purpose, they’re buying meaning, they’re buying a story, and the ads are irrelevant. They don’t even see the ads anymore. Now the CMO of this company, he gets it. He understands me. He has a sense of urgency, but can he turn that ship around? I don’t know. You know, we’re just starting. I’m going to have a meeting with his executive team to try to explain, here’s where the world is today and here’s where the opportunities are. Are they going to be able to change the culture? It has to start at the top, it has to start the very top. It has to be sponsored throughout the whole organization and that’s very hard to do. So the new companies coming up, Mary, they get it. It’s going to happen. They look at the old ways we used to do marketing, robo calls and direct mail and spam, and they think, why would you do that to somebody? We’re not going to do that. And they’re right and the old companies, they’re just going to have to change or they’re going to become obsolete, but it’s not going to be easy.

MD: (20:02) Do you think that big brands are going to be a thing in the past?

MS: (20:07) Well, as I was doing research for the book, I met with this researcher from a company in New York who was talking about how marketing almost needs to be artisanal today. It has to be relevant and organic and local. People don’t want spam emails with your name slapped on the top. They want something that they can see is really making an impact in their lives and their families and their communities. And someone asked this researcher, can these big brands change? And she said, I don’t know. They’re certainly not designed for that and they haven’t been built for that. And you look at the response of a company like Proctor and Gamble, which has probably the most to lose from these trends, as a company built almost entirely on advertising. They’re the biggest advertiser in the world. They have so much to lose on these trends and they are losing, their brands are in severe decline. And what they’re doing is they’re buying up some of these smaller brands.

MD: (21:10) That’s what I was going to say. Maybe just changing up the portfolio.

MS: (21:15) Yeah, they’re changing the portfolio. They’re buying some of these artisanal products that have a story. People don’t care really about a slogan anymore, or an ad. They care about people. They care about someone like Emily Weiss who founded Glossier, they care about the fellow who founded Everlane. He’s leading this because this change is in his DNA. And you know, who’s the person that you love at Ford motor company? Who’s the person that you love at Proctor and Gamble? I don’t know. I can’t name one person at Proctor and Gamble. I can name Emily.

MD: (21:52) But you’re absolutely right because I’ve been a strong believer in this for a long time, which is that people don’t want to follow companies. People don’t admire companies. They admire people. They admire visionaries, they admire entrepreneurs. It’s always another person. Because that’s what we do as humans, right? We look up to other humans. Like you said, I don’t know if these big brands are going to survive. When I look into the future, I see the big brands being maybe collectives of smaller brands, and I just hope that they’re able to preserve the authenticity of these brands, which is what created the appeal in the first place.

MS: (22:29) Well, I’ll tell you a funny story. This, this just happened. Again, I don’t think it’d be appropriate to name the company, but this gigantic gigantic company bought this little Mexican brand. A hot, hot brand, and it’s sort of a family name and a craft-like brand, and the way they built this little brand in America is the personal relationships they had with the distributors, with the distribution network. When this big company bought this brand, the first thing they did was crushed that distribution network and say, you’re coming into our network, you’re going to be on our trucks. And the guy I was talking to who used to be the marketing manager from that brands that they just, they’re not seeing it. That the value is in that human connection. The friendships that they’ve had on these distribution routes all these years ,in one swoop, by integrating them into a bigger brand, they’re destroying the brand, in one fell swoop because they’re completely missing this idea that you’re talking about, it’s about the human connection, not how efficient you are with your advertising buy.

MD: (23:43) Yeah. And not only that, these big brands are all about efficiency and sometimes they overlook the exact thing that made that product so special to begin with.

MD: (24:21) So I’m, I’m originally from Brazil. People who listen to this podcast know this very well by now. And there is something that we eat a lot in Brazil, which is called Pão de Queijo, which is Brazilian cheese bread and it’s made with the tapioca starch and a specially cured type of cheese. And it’s delicious and it’s amazing and everybody should go and buy some and and try some. But there’s a really strong brand in Brazil that was very traditional and they were purchased by, I’m gonna say, General Mills. And the very first thing that General Mills did when they bought the brand was they replaced the cheese for artificial cheese flavor.

MS: (25:03) Oh my gosh.

MD: (25:05) And they destroyed almost a century of reputation that this brand had in like a year. And General Mills doesn’t care. It’s just one more name in their portfolio. It’s just one more market share, whatever. You know what they did as soon as sales started declining? The first thing they did was to get rid of it, to get rid of the brand. Guess who bought it?

MS: (25:32) Hopefully a local company.

MD: (25:33) The founding family. The founding family bought it back, switched it up, fixed the damn recipe, and got it back out there and it started selling again.

MS: (25:44) Sure, of course it would.

MD: (25:45) But they almost destroyed the reputation of a brand that took so long to solidify in the market. You know, so that’s one thing that big brands do and it seems almost unfathomable. How, how can you make such a basic mistake?

MS: (26:00) I think it gets back to a lot of the things we’ve talked about and your observation that the new marketing is about these human relationships. In the book. I say that the companies and the brands of the past were built on advertising impressions. The brands and companies of the future will be built on human impressions. And in my case study of the Mexican brand in the US or your case study with the cheese bread in Brazil, it’s the same thing. Where these big companies are going back to these tried and true tactics that are completely out of touch with the consumer reality. And obviously the answer to this question, Mary, is they should have read my book.

MD: (26:43) Absolutely. Now, before we had to have a final observation, final question, which is, okay, so if consumers are already controlling two thirds of marketing to begin with and we’re looking at a future where that might even increase.

MS: (26:58) Yeah, I think it will.

MD: (26:59) Is word of mouth advertising the future?

MS: (27:04) It’s part of the future. Well I’ll tell you, Mary, it’s such an interesting question and such a big question and we’ll have to do an entire new episode just on that question, I’m afraid. But here’s the thing about word of mouth marketing. It’s such a conundrum. We know it works. We know it works. We trust our friends, we trust even these people called influencers because they’re our friends. They’re people that we trust and we know and maybe they’re an expert in food or they’re expert in fashion or cosmetics and we love them and we trust them and we’re gonna listen to them and we buy what they say. We know that this human referral engine works. Now why isn’t this the main part of our marketing? And here’s the big reason. It’s really hard to measure. It’s so…

MD: (28:04) So organic, isn’t it?

MS: (28:06) It’s so elegant to measure a click through rate. It’s so elegant to have the number of mentions on our social media dashboard. But none of that stuff really moves the needle today. I won’t say never, but not like it used to.

MD: (28:23) I agree.

MS: (28:23) And yet, these relationships and this organic human advocacy, that’s the two thirds. That’s where we need to be and that’s why I said it’s going to be so hard for a lot of these companies to change because it’s going to take a different mindset. It’s going to take courage, an extraordinary leadership to admit, these things, they’re not working like they used to. Yep. They’re easy to measure and we’ve got a nice, beautiful dashboard. That’s like a security blanket for us, but we are going to have to experiment and move into some of these other areas that are more difficult to measure because we don’t have a choice. That’s the way the world is moving. I mean, I’ve been very, very involved in in the word of mouth marketing world for the last couple of years and it’s amazing to me that more companies aren’t really looking at that as a strategy.

MD: (29:18) There’s some companies that do it so well. You know, I mean my most recent contact with a brand that I was like, what, you guys are amazing and I was blown away, blown away.

MS: (29:29) Tell me. Tell me who was it!

MD: (29:30) Do you know what brand of sunglasses called Gooder?

MS: (29:34) Nope.

MD: (29:35) This podcast is more word of mouth advertising for them. Clearly. So my sister went to Colorado and she went for a run and she didn’t have sunglasses and somebody said, buy these cheap sunglasses for $25, they’re amazing. They’re super lightweight. The lenses are polarized. They’re cool, they’re trendy and they’re cheap and she’s like win-win. Right? Got the sunglasses. Was blown away but like four pairs, cause they were $25 each Proceeded to call me and say you have to buy these sunglasses.

MS: (30:10) There you go.

MD: (30:11) She was so convincing that I went on there and I bought two pairs, went to the Lake house with my family for my birthday a couple of weeks ago. My entire family on the spot went onto the website, ordered the glasses and now they’re all over my family’s social media. All my coworkers bought them. And now all these people that listen to this podcast are definitely going to go and buy sunglasses on Gooder because it’s a really good product. Everything about the experience with the brand is just cool. I mean, they’re Flamingo branded and then when you buy the glasses, you get a confirmation from their Chief Flamingo Officer thanking you for your order. It’s just everything about it just seems so cool and relaxed and easygoing and not overpriced, you know?

MS: (31:00) So let’s, let’s break this down as a little case study. So here’s what was constant in a great word of mouth marketing campaign like this. Number one, it was authentic. Alright, it was true. Your sister told you about this and it was true. Number two, it’s interesting. Wait a minute, you’re telling me they’re great and they’re cheap and they’re cool? Number three, it’s relevant cause you are an outdoor person going to the lake. My mother probably couldn’t care less about that. But this story is relevant to you and your lifestyle. So a great brand story is authentic, interesting and relevant. Air. A.I.R. so that’s where we need to focus, not on coupons and ads that people are gonna forget. That’s how you get into the two thirds by having a story that’s authentic, interesting and relevant. And what you just described is a great case study and a core idea about marketing success in the future.

MD: (32:04) That’s so amazing because now we don’t even have to read your book and we already got all your corporate secrets.

MS: (32:08) Nah, you do. You do.

MD: (32:13) Mark, thank you so much. I could continue this conversation forever, but what a great conversation. Can you tell people how to find more, how to learn more, where to buy the book?

MS: (32:24) Yeah. The book is available in paperback, hardback, Kindle ebook and also audio. I narrate that myself and a lot of people love that version. It’s available really everywhere, but, uh, I think all the different versions are available on Amazon. You can find me at I figured no one could remember how to spell Schaefer, but maybe they could remember businesses grow,. You can find my blog, which has always been named one of the top marketing blogs in the world. My podcast is in the top 1% of business podcasts. It’s called The Marketing Companion. You can find all my social media channels there and my books, and I’d love to hear from your listeners.

MD: (33:13) I’m sure that they would love to have direct access to you and thank you for being so accessible and so easy to talk to. I know that this is something that’s really important to you, which is just talk to people, right, approach you and engage with you. So to our listeners, Mark is very approachable, great on social media too, so…

MS: (33:29) Thank you, Mary.

MD: (33:29) Well, you have a great day. Thank you so much.

MS: (33:34) You’re welcome.

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Mary Drumond

Mary Drumond

Mary Drumond is Chief Marketing Officer at Worthix, the world's first cognitive dialogue technology, and host of the Voices of Customer Experience Podcast. Originally a passion project, the podcast runs weekly and features some of the most influential CX thought-leaders, practitioners and academia on challenges, development and the evolution of CX.



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