Required Reading: Using Content to Reduce Friction

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Increasingly, marketers are being encouraged to pay more attention to data and metrics to strengthen their customer relationships, but in his new book Friction: Passion Brands in the Age of Disruption, author Jeff Rosenblum argues that might not always be the best idea. Associate Editor Oren Smilansky caught up with Rosenblum to learn more about the advantages of trying to see the full picture. 

CRM magazine: You write in the book that “the marketing industry is headed in the wrong direction, and the reason lies in one of the great plagues of the modern business world: metrics.” Why do you feel this way? 

Jeff Rosenblum: To be clear, I love metrics and use them every single day. Unfortunately, I think we are over-relying on micro metrics, and we’re missing the macro story. A personal example: There’s a clothing retailer I purchase probably 75 percent of my clothing from. I think it’s nice, I think it’s fair-priced, I think they’re easy to purchase from. But now I’m part of their CRM initiative. Specifically, I get emails from them almost every single day. And on Monday, they offer me 20 percent off; on Tuesday, they offer me 30 percent off; on Wednesday, they offer me 25 percent off. If they look at the metrics from their email channel, it might be one of their top-producing channels because people are very likely to click and convert through the bottom-of-the-funnel techniques. The issue is, for me and lots of other people, that I am now scared to make a purchase from this company, because God forbid I should go to their website or into their store and miss one of these sales being promoted through email.

So what are companies missing when they focus on micro metrics? 

There’s a bigger story about the brand, an interconnectivity that’s needed across all of our different touch points that produces much more complex metrics than people are typically using. When people focus only on the bottom of the funnel—a sales technique—or on the last click—a data approach—they’re missing the big story. What’s important is that companies create content and experiences that empower people. They can’t just rely upon interruptions and conversion techniques. 

In what ways has the funnel changed? How would you suggest companies change their approach to it? 

We can now activate against the middle of the funnel, meaning how interested people are in the product. Historically, that’s a hard place for companies to activate, because [it has been] a very small creative canvas—they would have 30-second TV ads, full-page print ads, maybe 300-pixel banner ads. But now companies can create immersive experiences that help the audience understand what makes the brand different and better. Those are mid-funnel tools. 

I think your audience is interested in some lower-funnel tools: CRM tools and sales tools and tools that turn people into loyalists and evangelists. Well, the most effective and efficient way to do that is to attack the middle of the funnel. If you create great content and experiences, you’re not asking those bottom-of-the-funnel tools to work quite as hard as they used to. Those bottom-of-the-funnel tools are still very powerful, but we’re probably asking them to do too much.

Can you tell me about a company that is taking this approach?

One of my favorite examples is Yeti. Yeti makes coolers. They keep your beer, your soda, and your sandwiches cold. It’s technology that has been around for decades. But what they’ve done is to focus on empowerment, on removing friction. The real powerful thing is the content they’ve created. Most interactions with a digital ad last about 1.6 seconds in total. Yeti has created a series of videos. Each video is about eight minutes long; it has produced dozens of them. They tell incredible stories about people going on adventures in the great outdoors. And at no point do they talk about the Yeti coolers, or features and functionality. In many ways, actually, the cooler is invisible. In one, you don’t see the brand until at the end of a big kayaking race—a man is passed out cold, sleeping in the grass with a Yeti hat on his head. And the point is that people need to be empowered, and they also need to be inspired. So by [experiencing] this immersive content, the audience understands what Yeti stands for. And what Yeti stands for is bigger and bolder adventures. And what’s amazing is how effective this has been.

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