Episode 8 - Rex Briggs, CEO, Marketing Evolution – Obsessions: Fast Cars, Bright Shoes and More
Rex Briggs, CEO, Marketing Evolution - Obsessions: Fast Cars, Bright Shoes and More
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Susan Bratton: Welcome to Dishy Mix. I’m your host, Susan Bratton, and thank you so much for either streaming or downloading the show today. I want to let you know you can also subscribe to Dishy Mix in iTunes. On today’s show we have Rex Briggs. Rex is the CEO of a beautifully named company, Marketing Evolution. We’ll talk about how he came up with that name, and learn a little bit about the business, but mostly about the man. Rex has been in the in the industry since probably ’95, and he is really an expert in media effectiveness and measurement. And we’ll talk a bit about that, and what’s going on in the world of media measurement, but Rex has some great stories to share with us today. You’re going to hear on today’s show about twins and race cars and road trips, what it’s like to write a book, something called ‘the momentum effect’, Bill Gates’ security issues and problems. We’re going to find out ‘what sticks?’ We’re going to talk a little bit about Rex’s obsessions and we’ll get into what he likes about the Wii.
Rex Briggs: Race cars… I have a Porsche 911 Turbo, which I’ve convinced my wife is actually a family car, so, because it can seat four, and then my fun car for the weekend is a Ferrari 550 Maranello… At first we thought we were only having one, and that was our goal; you know, “one and done” was the way it was set before, and when the doctor said, “Oh, now there’s two in there,” she looked at me like a deer caught in the headlights and actually crushed my hand… The reporter who called me up afterwards said, and included in the article, that he thought it was the best advertising book in over a decade, and I said, “Wow, that’s really… that’s humbling. And thank you.” He said, “Well, you know, a lot of the books haven’t been very good.” [laughs]… And I think it’s a lot more fun because you can see the gaps between where things are at today and what they could be if you achieved that change, and how much better those things are, and to generate that evolution, or in some cases ‘revolution’, is just, I think, naturally exciting… I think I might get in more trouble with my road trips though. I have a feeling that you bring comedians and musicians around, in a fast car; yeah you might find, you might be finding trouble, which I think would be fun, and that’s why I think that’s only a fantasy, because my wife would kill me…
Susan Bratton: Welcome, Rex. Are you there?
Rex Briggs: How ya doin’?
Susan Bratton: I’m great. Hey thanks for taking time out. It took us quite awhile to get you scheduled. You are a world traveler, aren’t you?
Rex Briggs: Oh, yes, my favorite spot is in an airplane
Susan Bratton: Is it really your favorite spot? Or are you just saying that?
Rex Briggs: Oh, no. But I find myself there quite often, so I figured out how to be productive.
Susan Bratton: Well, Adidas gave you some fabulous red running shoes, because you recently did some research for them that was very, very interesting. Are you still wearing those bright red Adidas running shoes?
Rex Briggs: Oh, I love loud and obnoxious shoes.
Susan Bratton: You do?
Rex Briggs: Yeah. I mean I don’t get to wear them many times when I’m going to client meetings, but yeah, in the office. Right now I have bright yellow and green on and of course the Adidas black and red… those are actually racing shoes; they’re designed and co-logoed with Adidas and Goodyear, so they’re designed for racecars.
Susan Bratton: Well let’s talk about racecars, because that’s one of your passions, right?
Rex Briggs: Back before I had to pour the money into a growing company, I could pour my money into other things which were a lot more fun, like four-wheel cars, so yeah, the racecars… I have a Porsche 911 Turbo, which I’ve convinced my wife is actually a family car, so… because it can seat four, and then my fun car for the weekend is a Ferrari 550 Maranello, which I got in the good days of business.
Susan Bratton: What is a Ferrari 550 Maranello?
Rex Briggs: It is a 12-cylinder front-engine two-seater, beefed. It goes 0 to 60 in 4.1 seconds, and has almost 500 foot-pounds of torque and 486 horsepower. It’s just a monster, but it’s a so much fun! There’s nothing, for me, more relaxing than driving… having to have that complete concentration, to be able to drive really, really fast on a racetrack, because it gets your mind and your body all completely engaged with this adrenaline and keeping yourself on the edge of… edge of sanity, really, I guess.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, time changes when you’re on a racetrack. Do you only drive that car on the racetrack?
Rex Briggs: No, I mean… there was a group of folks out there that go on road trips up to Tahoe, and there’s some winding roads that aren’t very well-traveled. But if I’m going to go really fast, I guess I deal too much with statistics in my day job, that I’m not willing to take too much of a risk with kids on open roads with other people there. So I prefer, if I’m going to drive 120 mph, I’d like everyone going in the same direction, with an ambulance standing by and flag people at the corner. That just seems a much more sane way of being insane.
Susan Bratton: And where do you go? Do you go out to Sears Point, or what do you do?
Rex Briggs: Oh, yeah. Sears Point is great. And Thunder Hill, which is north of Sacramento, and where I first got hooked was at Laguna Seca, at the Skip Barber Three-day Racing School, with some buddies of mine.
Susan Bratton: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I did a… I don’t think it was Skip Barber, but it was somebody’s racing school. This was back in the 80’s, out at Phoenix International Raceway.
Rex Briggs: Ah, you have to come back out again, and I… You know, I was sitting there with these guys who talked, who… you know, my client up at Microsoft talked me into, “Hey, come on down. Lets’ all go to this race school over the holidays,” and I’m sitting there and it happens to be in December, and it was freezing cold. It was like 40… I think it was 47 degrees outside…
Susan Bratton: Oh, by the way, all the New Yorkers are laughing at you right now.
Rex Briggs: Oh, for calling that ‘freezing cold’… BUT! You know, if you’re freezing cold and you’re sitting in an open-wheeled car and having rain fall onto your bear knuckles… because when you’re in New York and it’s cold outside, you put a jacket on, you put a hat on, you’ve got gloves on. And I’m sitting out there with pretty much a light jacket and no gloves in this cold freezing rain, saying, “This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. I’m getting soaking wet. Why am I here spending $1000 a day for this? This is… Why am I here?” And then, then I took one lap around, and it was the best experience. I’m like, “You know what? That justifies the expense many times over, just from that one experience alone.” So I was hooked from there on forward.
Susan Bratton: So you live up in the Sacramento area… What’s the name of the town in which you live?
Rex Briggs: El Dorado Hills.
Susan Bratton: El Dorado Hills. So are you in a hillside suburban area, or what’s your house like?
Rex Briggs: Yea, an upscale suburban area, so great for families, great schools, and close to Tahoe. You have mountain biking, river rafting, the lake nearby, pretty… Intel has a big office out here, one exit down, and so it’s a pretty kind of high-tech upscale area. But yeah this is suburban existence. No, it’s not Manhattan, which is where I keep an apartment and where our other office is.
Susan Bratton: Oh, you keep an apartment there!
Rex Briggs: Yeah, yeah. I’m back and forth between those offices so often it’s just really convenient, and I… You know, I actually love cities. I’d love to live in a city, but having a family and a wife that came from the country, this is a good sort of compromise, in terms of shuttling back and forth between our offices.
Susan Bratton: Well, when Carmel, your wife, got pregnant and you found out it was twins, that was just about the time she said, “Uhm, we’re moving back by my parents.” Isn’t that what happened?
Rex Briggs: Yeah, families change things, right?
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Rex Briggs: But yeah, I remember that moment when she found out though, because at first we thought we were only having one, and that was our goal; you know, “one and done” was the way it was set before, and when the doctor said, “Oh, now there’s two in there,” she looked at me like a deer caught in the headlights and actually crushed my hand.
Susan Bratton: Oohhh.
Rex Briggs: And then you know, now it’s the best thing ever, but I remember that moment of fear, of how were we going to survive that? And family certainly was a big part of…
Susan Bratton: How do you feel like you’re doing as a dad? Your boys are five now… what are their names?
Rex Briggs: Caleb and Jared. You know it’s interesting…I love playing with them so much, but it’s fascinating to see what concepts they struggle with. On the one hand, they saw me on TV and they said, “Why are you on the TV instead of Dora?” And I said, “Well you know, when you get to work really hard at something, sometimes you get to be an expert on things and they ask for your opinion.” And Caleb turned to me and said, “You’re not an expert. Jared’s an expert.” I’m thinking, “Uhm… okay, thanks; I’ve just been shot down by a four-year-old.”
Susan Bratton: [laughs] Why were you on TV?
Rex Briggs: Oh, it had to do with some of the advertising return on investment and accountability work that we had been doing.
Susan Bratton: And what show were you on?
Rex Briggs: I was on… I think that time I was on one of the CNBC money shows. I forget exactly which one.
Susan Bratton: Nice. And so did you have to go into a studio to do that, or what? Did they come to your house? Or work?
Rex Briggs: They, with Sacramento close and the capitol here they have remote studio hookups, so I usually go down there or… actually that time it was, I was down in LA, so I was down in their LA studio, then they… it was recorded, so I got to see it when I got home.
Susan Bratton: I’ve known you for, I don’t know… ten or twelve years, and one of the things that I noticed was that you started out as this kind of shy, smart but kind of shy guy, and your work required you to do a fair amount of public speaking. And every time I would see you -- and you spoke a lot, and I spoke a lot, so I saw you speak a lot – you got like, not incrementally better, but orders of magnitude better, over this certain period, like ’97, ’98, where you went from being just a research dude that talked about the numbers, and did it in a nice way but pretty average speaker to getting off the stage and going in the audience! And very evangelical. Now what did you do to get yourself from the research guy that talks the numbers to the guy that gets you to BELIEVE!? [laughs]
Rex Briggs: Yeah, you know I was thinking back to when we probably first met, or the first speaking thing that we did together, and I was like 23 then, so I was thinking, “Why am I standing in front of all these people who are… every one of them is older than me, and I’m telling them how they ought to be spending their money and what they ought to be doing to understand the changing market landscape?” I mean I was just humbled by even having that responsibility. I mean I had the advantage of I have the data, and they didn’t. But it was still a very awkward thing to be telling these [indistinct] at a meeting, or the heads of Unilever…
Susan Bratton: Right, you used to have to go to all those WPP meetings.
Rex Briggs: Yeah, and I’m a kid at 23 saying… So I think I was very shy because it just felt weird, and still sometimes does, but… And I remember when you had me speak at Excite at Home; I guess it was just ‘At Home’ back then.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, I remember that.
Rex Briggs: And I was up on stage and you were doing questions, and I’d get random questions sometimes, like I remember you shot down somebody who’d asked me the question of whether I was seeing anyone, and you said, “He’s married! Moving on…”
Susan Bratton: Wow.
Rex Briggs: It was a weird time for that question part. So I think part of it was just getting over the fact that this was just a crazy industry, and now I just have a lot more fun with it.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, but what did you do? How did you get the courage, and did you… did you practice? Did you videotape yourself at your home? Did you take a class? Did you read books? Did you just say, “I’m going to be good at this”? What did you do?
Rex Briggs: Well I was actually, in college I was a national champion, state champion, in debate. So I did a lot of public speaking before. And I think in the early parts of the data it had a lot to do with, I was really very shy and humbled and didn’t want to go too far beyond the data because I didn’t feel I had the life experience to… I didn’t feel like I had the ‘permission’ to really go that far, and engage people. And as I found more and more of what people were doing with the information, or what they weren’t doing with the information, I really realized that many of their businesses needed to evolve. They needed to change the way they were thinking about things, and the only way to help accomplish that was to adopt a more, sort of an evangelist model, which is to get them to stop and think about what they’re doing, and engage them more deeply about what they were doing, and that just takes a different presentation style altogether.
Susan Bratton: And so you just changed it.
Rex Briggs: I did. I did.
Susan Bratton: I noticed that about you. You look at something… you see something that you want, and you figure out intellectually and rationally what that person or that company, or how that system works, and then you decide to do it and you just start doing it. One of the things I think that’s interesting about you is that you have the ability to apply knowledge, not just understand it. Lots of us have an ability to figure things out or understand them, but then to actually integrate them… You integrate change in the blink of an eye. That's what it seems like to me.
Rex Briggs: Well thank you. That’s nice for you to say. And it really is the core focus of what we try to bring into the culture of marketing evolution and what I’ve tried to do. Just in my own life, because I think professionally, if you know what needs to be done, or if you have the access to the information, I mean analysis paralysis is the worst enemy of any successful business. And so sometimes it’s actually frustrating, to have the data and to have the information, and to see an organization not capable of taking advantage of it, even if the person who hired you and you’re working with understands it and wants to do it, to be stymied by politics or organizational poor structure, or whatever the gaps are, and so I think for me that that’s the fingernails on the chalkboard, you know the thing that gets you crazy and says, “Okay, we got to change this. We just… There is money to be made for these companies and for these people by making this change. Let’s remove the barriers, knock the room and get it done.”
Susan Bratton: So did you, I’m sure you apply this thing you do, this way of learning and then doing very rapidly; did you apply that to writing a book? And how did you… why did you decide to write the book? What were your true motivations? And were any of those fulfilled or did it turn out to be totally different?
Rex Briggs: I sort of got suckered into writing the book. I’m glad I did it, but at first the idea was I had published a lot of individual articles and I’d given a lot of speeches, and three was this great body of knowledge and there was a number of people saying, “You really need to write this down in a book; you really need to do a book.” And it was actually, ultimately my co-author Greg Stewart, who said, “Look, I’ll make this easy. I’ll go out and get the agent. I’ll go out and work on the book proposal part. I’ll even get a ghostwriter and you just have to tell the stories, and we’ll just get it done. But this is just too big of an opportunity and too great of ideas not to do it.” And so that sounded pretty doable, manageable. As it turned out, the ideas and concepts were too complicated to really have a ghostwriter do, and so I had to write it myself, and so I’m so glad that I did it, but I would not have signed up to do it had I known how much work it was. So it’s like one of those things where I think a lot of people have the idea and they want to write a book, and a lot of people have great ideas to write a book. It’s a lot of work.
Susan Bratton: How long did it take you?
Rex Briggs: Four months of just intensive, basically every single weekend, I would take either a three-day or a four-day weekend and lock myself in the apartment in New York, and just crank on it from the crack of dawn until my eyes became so blurry I couldn’t see any more, at midnight or one or two in the morning.
Susan Bratton: So Ad Age named it the ‘Number One book of 2006’. Did that make a difference, and do you feel like the project was successful and worth that much effort?
Rex Briggs: Oh, wow, yeah! I mean that became the immediate and amazing validation. The reporter who called me up afterwards said, and included in the article, that he thought it was the best advertising book in over a decade, and I said, “Wow, that’s really… that’s humbling. And thank you.” He said, “Well, you know, a lot of the books haven’t been very good.”
Susan Bratton: [laughs] Who is that? Who said that?
Rex Briggs: Jack Neff. And then his publisher, Jonas Blum, had followed up with very similar type of comments about how much they enjoyed the book and what a buzz and discussion it created among the group there. Yeah, I mean that became just a huge, huge validation, and I think as we reflect a lot more on it, it’s just a really different approach to accountability. It’s really stopping, thinking about that rear-view mirror mentality of ‘was our campaign successful?’ and really getting people to think about ‘what do we do about it?’ What does it mean for the future? How do we improve and grow our results? And I think that’s what people are responding to when they respond to marketing evolution or the book specifically. It’s that desire to stop wallowing in the past and really get n with things and make it a better business.
Susan Bratton: So did you have any financial success from it?
Rex Briggs: Yeah, I mean, certainly from a Marketing Evolution standpoint, as a company; it encapsulates a lot of our work, and so we’ve certainly gotten a lot of calls and CMOs and CEOs wanting to really engage and figure out how they do what we described in the book as our company. And from my standpoint, the book, I guess I think the most interesting reward is when you get a random person coming out of college say, “Oh, I just graduated. This was required reading at my university.”
Susan Bratton: Nice.
Rex Briggs: That’s so cool.
Susan Bratton: It makes you feel good, and old. Right?
Rex Briggs: Yeah. And then some of your old friends who pick it up and read it. One of the nicest blog things that I got forwarded was Jim Nill, who was a Forrester analyst and ex-agency guy and went over to be the CMO of Symphony, who just said, called me up and said, “Wow, this book was just so great. I just really enjoyed it.” And he blogged about it, and that… when there’s people that you really respect that read it and got something out it, that means a lot.
Susan Bratton: Well we’re going to take a short break and thank our sponsors. And I’m truly appreciative to have such great brands sponsoring Dishy Mix. It’s a testament to people like you, Rex, that we can have this great fun and they want to be involved, so if you’ll stay tuned we’ll be right back with Rex Briggs, the CEO of Marketing Evolution, to hear more about what’s happening with him.
Susan Bratton: We’re back, and I’m your host, Susan Bratton. Thanks for staying with us for the second half of our interview with Rex Briggs, the CEO of a company called Marketing Evolution. Rex, I wanted to ask you more kind of personal things. One of the things that I want to know is if you weren’t running Marketing Evolution and doing marketing effectiveness work, what do you think might have been a different or alternative career for you? What else are you good at?
Rex Briggs: Oh, that’s an interesting one. I think I was naturally born to do what I’m doing, which is the focus on change. I mean I can tell you there are other things that after, later on in my life and career that I might very well do, but I think that I’d have to have been a ‘change agent’. I almost went into politics and into government. I went to Georgetown for a brief period of time, thinking that I wanted to go into the Foreign Service, and I don’t know that I could have achieved much change. I feel like marketers are more open to change than government, so maybe I picked the right place.
Susan Bratton: No kidding. So a change agent… so you actually like it when things are in flux, right?
Rex Briggs: Oh, yeah, yeah, I mean because there’s so much opportunity that way, to really… and I think it’s a lot more fun because you can see the gap between where things are at today and what they could be if you achieved that change and how much better those things are and to generate that evolution, or in some cases ‘revolution’ is just I think naturally exciting.
Susan Bratton: So do you have any kind of secret dreams of jobs of jobs? You know, if you didn’t go to work in the government and you weren’t a change agent, what else might you do? Any secret dreams?
Rex Briggs: Well you know I think it would be fun to have a comedy club on the side. I think we’re so serious in business, and so oftentimes I know I myself get intensely focused n the business problem and how we solve it, and I just think it’s good to laugh sometimes. And I just love to see the way that a standup comic works his routine or her routine to get that down, adjust the timing right, the laughs right, and just I think that’s an amazing art to watch, and a lot of fun.
Susan Bratton: So would you want to get up on the stage and do the comedy, or do you just want to own the club and be, and hang out with the comedians?
Rex Briggs: Well the safe part of me says, “Hey, just own the club and hang out with the comedians. That would be a blast. That would be great.” I think it would be fun to try it. I actually… I mean I, every now and then you just look at the absurdity of traveling through airports or you watch your own kids and you just think, “Gosh, this is really funny.” And think it would be fun to put a little standup routine around. My favorite show right now is Last Comic Standing, just watching how they’re trying to do that, and so yeah, I think it would be fun to try that.
Susan Bratton: Well what do you think? Should we get together? Who else do you think in our industry might be a really good standup comic?
Rex Briggs: Oh I think you could do it.
Susan Bratton: Oh, my God, that, no way! I could never do it! I’d be the emcee.
Rex Briggs: Okay, well then we just got to kind of get the band together then.
Susan Bratton: [laughs] No way!
So what about if you could shirk all your responsibilities and you didn’t have to own a comedy club; you didn’t have to run a marketing effectiveness organization. If I could give you a month and $25 thousand, what would you do with the time and the money?
Rex Briggs: I think I would do a road trip. You know I read Kerouac’s On the Road and I think that that was an interesting book, an interesting look at the world, and it would be fun to reverse that. Instead of being the hitchhiker, you know, to have no anchor, to be the person with the car, and to bring really interesting exciting people to their different gigs. So maybe you get a nice four-seater, maybe the 612 Ferrari, that they have and just take a musician to a few of their different gigs, bring a writer with you. A friend of mine does a little bit of writing for Cosmo. He’s funny; he’d be hilarious to have around, and maybe a comic and just kind of rotate people through and do this road trip and just experience the world and experience the people that we sometimes, I think, in marketing even though the consumer is at the center of what we do, I think we don’t see them as people. We don’t see the life and the depths are there. I think that that’s just… I think that’d be fun.
Susan Bratton: Well that’s what my show’s all about. It’s all about seeing the life and the depth of the people in our industry, so you and I are… You want to ride, [laughing] you want to drive them around in a Ferrari and I want to interview them on a podcast, but we’re both trying to get to the same thing.
Rex Briggs: I think I might get in more trouble with my road trips though. I have a feeling that you bring comedians and musicians around, in a fast car… yeah you might find, you might be finding trouble, which I think would be fun, and that’s why I think that’s only a fantasy, because my wife would kill me.
Susan Bratton: Would she really? She wouldn’t let you…
Rex Briggs: Well she might go along for part of the trip actually.
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Rex Briggs: But I think when I got pulled over driving too fast, and some illegal substance was found on the comedian or something, she might be less understanding than I would hope.
Susan Bratton: [laughs] Okay. Well I understand that, and I was thinking when you were talking about picking up musicians, I wanted t know what kind of music you’re listening to right now.
Rex Briggs: You know I’ve actually… I switch around a lot. I mean the work music that I like, like when I’m working on something, I just want something background, I love Miles Davis, or I like Moby, the electronic guy, to go to the other side. And then sometimes when I’m driving really fast and I want to just have sort of this intensity-type thing, then it’s something heavier, like Offspring, and then every now and again I feel nostalgic, and I find myself… oh this is so horrible to admit, but going back to The Cure and New Order, and things that I remember from high school.
Susan Bratton: Well it’s funny. I did an interview with… oh gosh, I’m going to forget his name. He’s the chief creative officer for AKQA out of London, and I’m just trying too hard to think of his name, but he’s apparently a Cure addict and he likes to ride his motorbikes all over England and listen to The Cure, so it’s not as embarrassing as you think. [laughs]
Rex Briggs: I’m in good company then.
Susan Bratton: You are, apparently. Ha, it’s probably just your age. I know it’s funny. I couldn’t stand to listen to The Beatles for about 20 years. Like I just couldn’t listen to any Beatles song. And then I got that way about kind of the 80’s music; I just didn’t want to hear any of it.
Rex Briggs: Well my wife can’t… my wife is the one who has moved on with her music, so she loves hip-hop.
Susan Bratton: Oh, yeah, aha.
Rex Briggs: So she’s up there listening to Fizzy Spin and I’m trying to put in New Order, and she’s like, “Give up the past, and move on.” So it’s just a, yeah a different orientation to music.
Susan Bratton: I think I’m really lucky in that. With my husband there’s only one band that I won’t listen to that he likes and that’s Rush. And I defy you to find a woman, one female who listens to Rush. That is guy music.
Rex Briggs: Well the Canadian… yeah, it sort of is, but the Canadians you might find a few more of because back when they had the Canadian content, the ‘CanCon laws’, basically every third song seemed to be “and another song from Rush”, because they just didn’t have enough Canadian musicians.
Susan Bratton: Got it, yeah.
Rex Briggs: So you may find some up there. You just have to look harder. Get up to Saskatchewan; search around for it…
Susan Bratton: Well they’re woodsy too.
Rex Briggs: Find another one, bring ‘em back, and prove that there is another woman that likes Rush.
Susan Bratton: [laughing] So you also like to play with your Wii, I’ve heard. You’re a Wii man, [Scots accent] ‘a Wii man’!
Rex Briggs: A Wii man. Watch how you say the word, so you…
Susan Bratton: [laughs]
Rex Briggs: Yeah, you know it’s great. We actually almost did a ROMO-study for Marketing Evolution for Nintendo.
Susan Bratton: Now describe… say what ‘ROMO’ means first.
Rex Briggs: ‘Return on marketing objective. That’s our big cross-media study where you figure out the TV, the magazine, the Internet, in-store, marketing promotion, how that all works together and how to optimize it.
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Rex Briggs: They just couldn’t quite come up with the budget. We were not quite willing to cut our costs to make it work. But it was fascinating because they really didn’t see what a success this was going to be. Neither did we. We didn’t start the research. But playing the game, it’s just amazing when you think about the ability… I love the boxing one because just by a twisting of the wrist and a flick of the wrist, the way that you just become sweaty playing this game, and it just is so much more active. And I particularly enjoy seeing my 4 ½ -year-old pretty much beat me already. So yeah it’s a lot of fun. It’s amazing how far games have come from the old Atari 2600, which was really the first main system that I had.
Susan Bratton: You know I had Jack Myers on; you probably know Jack, right?
Rex Briggs: Yeah.
Susan Bratton: I had Jack Myers on a couple weeks ago on Dishy Mix and he’s out promoting his new book about virtual worlds, and his concept is that your children are not going to… there is no way marketers can market to Caleb and Jared the way that they marketed to us because they’re going to grow up in these virtual worlds, a that it’s all about kind of creating fantasy that appeals to the children of your children’s generation. And then I was thinking about how that really hooks into the momentum effect and some of the stuff you discovered about social networking.
Rex Briggs: Oh, yeah, it’s a different ballgame. What was fascinating in the early days of the Internet was… I was working at Yankelovich when I did the first study of who was using the Internet; I guess that was ’94, and the theory that I developed in ’95 was that we go through three distinct stages. The first one would be really the Internet used as a utilitarian tool, SearchNet, things like where you’d go on… and Veronica, if you remember that one, and other ones where you’d pull down information from libraries and so on.
Susan Bratton: Sure. Oh yeah.
Rex Briggs: Then we go on to the medium phase, where it would become similar to a magazine, where it was used as a way of gathering, more than just information, it was the way that you might use a magazine. And then it would move to an environment. And I think we’re right now in that area where it truly is moving into an environment and it’s hard to fully get your head around the way that works, but when you look at places like MySpace or even further, the virtual worlds, you can see the way that people… it doesn’t all have to be online like the virtual world concept per se, because a lot of the kids are creating the zone environment which is both happening within their mobile phone and within their computers and it’s also happening as they stand right next to each other texting back and forth to each other, and that becomes this hook into this new environment part. And the way that brands and information… you know what we found in the momentum effect was just how powerful it was when you figured out how to harness the way that people are actually using and sharing information and sharing the environment.
Susan Bratton: So tell me, tell us, all of us who are listening to you, what you best piece of advice is for marketers and agencies and publishers to leverage the power of social networking.
Rex Briggs: Oh the most important piece of advice is to stop focusing on yourself, and getting people to come to your website or to your custom community, and figure out how do you empower your brand to be taken outside of your environment, carried outside your environment by the consumer, not so that they bring somebody back to you, but so that it stands alone on its own, so that… in many ways, if you think about the Adidas one, those racing shoes, those red and black shoes that you saw me wear earlier, when I go out and drive with my buddies I wear those and they think they’re cool and we post pictures up on places like MySpace, and any of my friends or family that know that I’m into cars see me and see me talking about the cars and you know why I enjoy racing and so forth, and they see those shoes as my screensaver, the background wallpaper, and they see the pictures of me with those shoes on that and if they’re familiar with Adidas and familiar just a little bit, they make the connection of, “Wow, Adidas has legitimacy in this area, in delivering this product,” and that can create that benefit for the brand. They don’t click over to the Adidas website. They don’t go to it and become a custom community friend of Adidas, but they still get the benefit of the Adidas brand because Adidas figured out how to enable me to take their brand into my own personal space and to share that brand experience.
Susan Bratton: That’s fantastic advice. It is absolutely the way we go and it’s interesting that viral and word-of-mouth began, and mashups, began to pave the way for marketers to be willing to be more open to having their brand manipulated by their customers.
Rex Briggs: It’s hard to give up control and that’s the scary part because in what the early stuff that we were measuring, that was viral, like Shave Everywhere from Philips, which is a great, great…
Susan Bratton: Love, love, love… Oh they have a new one out! Did you see it yet?
Rex Briggs: Our New York office has, because they measure a lot of their stuff, so yeah.
Susan Bratton: So go to www.ShaveEverywhere.com. They have a new… they just launched it; that’s done by Tribal DDB, and I was just over talking to Matt and Richard at the new York office and it was the night that they were launching it and it’s fabulous.
Rex Briggs: Yeah, you know but what’s interesting about the first version, if you think about the measurement part of the philosophy was that “we have this great content, it’s funny, it’s edgy; we don’t have enough money to buy TV ads, so this is how we’re going to launch this brand.” But the key to it was, “How do we get people to pass it along to others and how do we get people to come and experience it here?” And when you think about that ‘come and experience it here’ part, I think what that’s giving way to is “how do we get them to take this out of here and bring it to there?” wherever ‘there’ is, wherever ‘there’… in their own environment. And that’s the hard part, I think in the leap, is to make that shift because you give up a larger degree of control when people can take it outside of your environment and put it anywhere they want.
Susan Bratton: Well we’ll see how we do with all this, what happens with virtual worlds and with social networking. It’s to me, right now, one of the most exciting times in the industry.
Rex Briggs: Absolutely.
Susan Bratton: I don’t know why; it just seems like it’s really taking off again and the consumer web services arena is just fun, fun, fun! Isn’t it?
Rex Briggs: Yeah, yeah, and I feel like there is a greater sense of focus from marketers in understanding how it works.
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Rex Briggs: In the first wave of the Internet it was just, “Hey we just need the press release. We just need to be doing something. We just need to be spending.” And it was almost kind of like ‘dumb money’ in a way. I think for this round it feels like it’s smarter money, and there really are innovators who are trying to figure it out, rather than just imitators who are just trying to copy and I like that. Well certainly for my company, it’s -- we do a lot of the measurements -- of course we like that. Intellectually I like it as well, too because I think that the marketers will get more out of it.
Susan Bratton: Who do you think are some of the most innovative marketers in the business today?
Rex Briggs: Well I mean P&G consistently is a very, very smart company about how they go about innovating. J&J is doing… has set up a venture capital innovation fund, so they’re very smart about that as well. The really, the innovative ones I think fall into two different groups. One group is ones that are systematically innovative, and in many ways you can talk about… the Philips example you just gave, and we do a lot of work with Philips and so I see them being systematically innovative. Or P&G and J&J, the examples I just gave. And then you have the other innovators, which are just sort of… they just kind of go to their core emotional, what they believe is important for their brand, and have the innovation emanate from that. And that tends to be a lot more hit-or-miss. But a lot of headlines are written about when that hits. It’s just that they’re not very good at ever replicating that success. And so I think, you know, in some ways I think that… I sometimes wonder if certain brands like the Nike’s the Apple’s or… that aren’t as, whether or not they have a long-term systematic innovation formula or whether or not they’ve, you now, they have a good run and then that run will dry up at some point because they don’t have a systematic innovation approach.
Susan Bratton: I get what you’re saying about that. Yeah. Yeah, a lot of those brands, I don’t feel like they let people close enough for… they don’t let outsiders in close enough to figure it out.
Rex Briggs: Yeah. Well in one story that I heard was that you know we talked about the iPod being this huge, huge success, and the researcher who worked on Apple told me, “You know, that actually was an accidental success.” I said, “Really? Tell me more!” And she said, “Well the research and the focus, there was very little research done; it was almost… the focus was on iTunes, and someone said, ‘oh, shouldn’t we give people another way of playing music besides just on the computer?’” And according to this person, the story went, that Steve Jobs’ response was, Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sure. Whatever.” But that wasn’t the focus. The focus was iTunes, and how to make iTunes make money and grow. And as that really began to take off and people really began to gravitate towards iPods, the headlines were all about, “Gee, look…” Patting ourselves on the back, “Look how smart we are. We did this great thing.” But that wasn’t like a systematically-identified opportunity; it was an opportunity that someone accidentally came up, and then they were really smart about it, and they jumped on it, and they built it, and they really nurtured it, to develop it into a great, great revenue stream.
Susan Bratton: And now the iPhone… are you going to buy one?
Rex Briggs: I don’t know. I’m actually going to wait a little bit, at least to a second generation, just because I’ve had… I’ve been burned a few times being the earliest adopter on handheld devices.
Susan Bratton: I’ve been burned every time, and I don’t care. I want one.
Rex Briggs: Oh, you love the fire! You love pain. Good for you.
Susan Bratton: [laughing] Oh, I do! I do! I do! I do! I want one! And I hate that you can’t figure out how to even buy one yet, you know.
Rex Briggs: Yeah.
Susan Bratton: Oh, it’s painful! But yeah, I’ll let you know all my horror stories, so… Well we are out of time. Rex, it’s been fun to get to talk to you this way. We’re always talking business and it’s so nice to get to know more about you. I know our listeners appreciated that you’ve shared your personal side with them.
Rex Briggs: Great talking with you, Susan.
Susan Bratton: All right. Well we’ll have you back in a year or so and see what you’re up to. And I want to thank all of you listening today to… I appreciate your attention, and there’ll be transcripts of this show on www.PersonalLifeMedia.com, and you can send an email to me at any time. I’m [email protected], and subscribe. We’d love to have you listen every week. I’m always getting’ good people for ya. So have a great day and I’ll see you next week.
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