UnMarketing: Marketing Done Right

Episode 11. Today, we are speaking with the always outspoken, quick-witted, and stingingly influential Scott Stratten. Scott is an expert in viral, social, and authentic marketing, which he calls “UnMarketing.” Author of four incredibly engaging books on marketing, with a new one in the pipe, he holds serious sway in the Twitter-verse with over 185,000 people following his daily rantings, and was named one of the top five social media influencers in the world by Forbes.

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Grab a coffee and take it all in.

 


 

[Michael Chase]
How did you get your start into this crazy world? Then how did you get into the world of “UnMarketing?”

[Scott Stratten]
Back in the old days when I graduated college and was employable, I was the national sales training manager for a packaging company and I realized that, we’re going through that, that people are always teaching people how to sell and market in an interruptive way. The more messages we can blast out, and again this is 16, 17 years ago, and it really hit a pinnacle when I was in a friend’s office and the phone rings and he picks it up and somebody was cold calling him on the other side of the line. He starts berating the guy, “Get a real job.” He hangs up and I’m like, “I know, right.” He’s like, “Yeah, okay man, I got to go. I got to go do my calls for the day.” I looked at him like, “Jeff, you just berated a guy on the phone for doing a cold call and now you have to go do them?” He’s like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but I have something that people need.” So he was justifying. It was hypocritical marketing to me. It was like, there’s got to be a better way. I don’t want to blast messages that are everywhere, so UnMarketing came up as the opposite of that. I actually came up with the name UnMarketing because I thought it would look good on a bookshelf one day.

[Michael Chase]
I think it does. The term “UnMarketing,” what’s the essence of it?

[Scott Stratten]
Really, UnMarketing is not feeling directly marketed to. I always found that if you position yourself as a trusted expert in a certain field and give knowledge and it builds trust, that people will come to you. We call it the hierarchy of buying. The bottom of the hierarchy is people searching, wandering aimlessly for you. Back in the day it was Yellow Pages, and same as today. You never search something online if you already know somebody. How do I know, like, and trust you? Well, I get to trust you because I read your stuff. I get to know you and I get to like you. Then I’m like, I would like to work with this person.

[Michael Chase]
I know you and I know you’re a student of watching them. You’re also the king of the rant because you see them doing the wrong thing and you want to point them out.

[Scott Stratten]
One of the things about, the great thing about our show and the books and everything else is you actually don’t want your brand to appear in them. Most people want to be parts of case studies, but our case studies aren’t good. They’re actually really bad. We thought we needed a voice for that, though, that we got to stand up and say “No, it’s not right. Why would you do that? It doesn’t make any sense.” At the end of the day, UnMarketing, don’t tell anybody this, it’s really more consumer advocacy than marketing. It’s really saying standing up for people and saying a company can’t do that, because before if you got wronged by a brand, what were you going to do? You write them a sternly written letter? Now, the power’s shifted back to the consumer. If I don’t get what I paid for, I’m going to let people know.

Now there’s a flip side to that and what I don’t like, where I get angry sometimes, which is consumers will use a term we call social extortion, which is if you don’t do what I say, I’m going to Tweet about you. I just don’t want us to abuse that.

[Michael Chase]
When you’re picking and looking at these brands and what they’re doing out there… Have you ever started into a rant and maybe pushed it too far?

[Scott Stratten]
One of the most important things to understand is I’ve never tried to be first with something. Because in this day and age of social media immediacy that everybody wants to be the first and be the source, so they write a blog post and they want to be the one that CNN links to and everything else. But we don’t need to be first right now. We need to be right first. You need to make sure you check. We need journalism back in this world. We need people to vet stories and vet sources and confirmations. This is not being braggy – our show and what we do, we can shut a business down.

Here’s an example, somebody on Twitter a few years ago sent us a picture on Martin Luther King Jr. Day of a store in Duluth, Minnesota with a sign and it said, “Everything black 25% off in the store.” You’re like hot diggity. That’s amazing. Of course, we see that and we’re like giddy up. This is what we talk about. Then I realized we need to make sure this is real. We found the original photographer to give them credit for the photo. Then we did some real sleuthing, some real PhD level journalism, and we phoned the store to find out, is this true. We call them. I said, “Do you have a 25% off everything black sale for MLK Day?” She’s like, “Yep, until 9!” I hung up the phone. I’m like good. And then we wrote the blog post. And the blog post went viral and it went nuts. But if I didn’t check that, you can’t take that back. The retraction, the apology, never catches up with the viral. We make sure it’s justified.

[Michael Chase]
What out there in your opinion, let’s call it a brand or an ad campaign or something that’s going on, do you see as truly awesome?

[Scott Stratten]
We can’t go one month, I swear one month, without hearing a great story about WestJet. I don’t mean their campaigns. I don’t mean their stuff they do every Christmas, which is brilliant by the way, but as stories. We just shared a story last week of the WestJet pilot buying pizza for everybody who was delayed on an Air Canada flight. Think about that for a second. That’s amazing to me. I’m sure he didn’t think twice about it. That’s how they hire. I’ve always said to market better you need to hire better. I was on a WestJet flight a few years ago and one of the executives from WestJet, we were flying out of Calgary when one of the executives got on and introduced himself to the flight attendant. He says, “Hi, I’m Mr. Whatever. I’m the VP of this for WestJet and I’ll be helping you with the service today on the flight.” He walked up and he was the one doing the drink cart. The chapter I’m reading is about how great WestJet is in our book and I’m just like “is this, did you plan…?” We edited the chapter to add in what just happened. It’s not a fluke. He didn’t get up there and say I’m the VP, I’m going to be doing drink service. If you want to Tweet #WestJetRules. It’s like the random act of kindness, but it’s a random act of brand kindness.

I want to give you the contrast to that. It’s this hierarchy, so if WestJet is a great company, which they are, and I’m going to fly to Phoenix, am I going to take the WestJet connecting flight with Delta in the States to get to Phoenix because I love the company or will I take the direct Air Canada flight? My answer is I take the direct flight. So that awesomeness sometimes only goes up so far because now it’s like practicality or convenience. We rant and we rave about brands. We don’t want to buy from here or these people are terrible, but we’ll still do it. That’s what I don’t like about today, the other side of it, is sometimes the false sense of outrage that we get. I love outrage. It’s part of our brand, but then be real. Then don’t give them your money. Then don’t do that. That’s how you vote with your dollar.

[Michael Chase]
You and “UnAlison,” who is your, as you put it, your more endearing half, have built this great “UnPodcast.” As brands look to build platforms like podcasts, anything you can give them as a how-to-do-it?

[Scott Stratten]
Well, I think first they shouldn’t do a show that has a subtitle “the business show for the fed up,” because we have that cornered. I think the problem is, I always call it the context of content. Why would we do it? What’s the point? Is our audience right for that context? Podcasting is a very polarizing term on its own. We either listen to podcasts or we don’t. From episode one, we came out with full HD-3 camera shoot, audio producers, studio, sound room, everything, because we wanted the first episode to look like we’ve done it forever, that we are pros, because you can’t get that back. If it’s like well, it’s show one, let’s see how this goes and then you may invest later on, you get one chance for that first brand impression. If you’re trying to attract Fortune 500 clients, I’m not sure your basement cuts it.

And do you have something to talk about? Nobody needs to hear the CFO for six weeks in a row talk about that annual report unless the show is going to other people in that industry. But you have to be as passionate about the topic as the listeners can be. You have to be ready for the feedback as well, because podcasting audiences are really intimate. They’re really connected. You’re in your earbuds. They’re working out, they’re walking the dog, they’re driving to work. You’re right in there and sometimes their feedback is also really personal. The first comment ever on this show was, because the first show was actually 59 minutes long. We just talked until we were done. The first comment on the post, it’s still there, episode one, it says, “59 minutes? I haven’t actually listened yet, but 59 minutes? Come on.” I’m like, that’s your …

The problem is your CFO gets on there and starts talking and he doesn’t have the best talking voice, somebody’s going to Tweet that that guy should never talk into a microphone. You’ve got to know how to handle that because these people, especially the executives you bring in to be interviewed, they’re not used to getting negative feedback. They’re used to speaking at a conference to employees and they’ll say a joke and everybody will laugh, except you pay them. That’s why most shows have guests. How are you?

[Michael Chase]
I’m still smitten with QR Codes Kill Kittens. Now, that was my best Dr. Seuss there. What right now in your mind is the current abuser of the world like the QR code was?

[Scott Stratten]
Live video, bar none, streaming live video on Facebook. Here’s the thing. It’s whatever Facebook gives their edge rank algorithm boost to. So three years ago it was photos. Every brand came out now with their words on photos and Facebook’s like oh, you’re killing it. Okay, now you can only have 25% words on the photo. They’re like, we’ll just shrink the words. Then they’d shrink the words on the photos. And then it was video. They’re like, we’ve got to do video. We’re running around like Jack frickin’ Russell Terriers on Red Bull like, “new content!” We’re running and running and running because whatever Facebook said is good, not one thought of is the content good. Does it make sense for the medium we’re using it in?

And now it’s live freaking video. And I see it all … This, gone live, this person’s gone live, this brand’s gone live, and you’re not that interesting. I’m not that interesting and I think I’m fascinating and I’m not that interesting for live video. I honestly believe some of the most important parts of video is sound, that if it doesn’t sound right the video will never look right because I’ll be too distracted by it. That’s a whole part. Most of the live streaming cameras and stuff have terrible sound where you got to put the camera far back so it’s away from the sound source. It hurts your brand more than it helps.

[Michael Chase]
You guys are building a little bit of a content empire yourselves. UnMarketing, UnSelling, I know you’re building a documentary right now on speaking and the fear of speaking, which I love as a topic.

[Scott Stratten]
We just signed the contract for UnBranding, yeah.

[Michael Chase]
Where’s the world of “un” going?

[Scott Stratten]
For us, I think the show, doing the show is something I’m so passionate about, that Alison and I get to sit there and talk and talk about what we love to talk about. I don’t work, but I don’t have this endless growth urge. When we’re not on stage, we’re not doing this show, we’re at home with the kids. That’s where UnMarketing’s going, nowhere, where it is now.

[Michael Chase]
Getting off the treadmill can be a good thing.

[Scott Stratten]
But that’s what I mean. Look, if we didn’t want to like what we do, we’d work for somebody then.

[Michael Chase]
What do you think is the one thing brands can do to change the way they engage with people?

[Scott Stratten]
Well, I think the need to feel that you have to be everywhere all the time. Most brands can’t do it. I don’t think you need an Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and everything else. Find out where your customers are and where are they talking about you and do you want to be part of that conversation. Don’t give a person a Twitter account and give them no autonomy and every answer is a stock answer. Just call this number, just call this number. You know how annoying that is? You ever gone to a store to return something and you get to the front and they’re like wrong line, it’s actually over there? That’s what you’re doing to somebody with your brand on Facebook or Twitter. I’ve had airlines rebook me and pick a new seat through Twitter DMs. I’ve had entire meals fixed and delivered to us through a Facebook message. You can do it. It’s just whether or not you want to invest the time. Is it truly a service channel? Then make it one.

 

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