Typetalks presents: digital marketing maverick David Berkowitz

Today we talk to the other David Berkowitz. The one who isn’t serving six life sentences in a New York correctional facility. Instead, this David Berkowitz makes a killing in marketing and digital media.

He’s written over 500 articles, spoken at more than 300 events, developed marketing strategies for Fortune 500 brands, and guest lectured at universities like Yale, Rutgers, and MIT. Now he’s the chief strategy officer at marketing technology firm Sysomos.

Our conversation pokes at David’s big brand experience for insights that we can apply to startups and smaller businesses.

EJ: Everyone in the office is wondering, so I have to ask you about your infamous name. When you founded the Serial Marketer: The cutting edge of Marketing, was that an intentional play on words?

David: [laughs] It was in every way an intentional play on that. One of the executives of the WCG group once introduced me as “serial marketer (not killer).” And it stuck with me when I was trying to choose a name for my consultancy and rebrand my blog.

I didn’t want to go into this taking myself too seriously by saying “Okay, I’m launching the next new digital transformation agency of the future.” And I didn’t want to check my personality at the door, so I was like “This is me, this is who I am.” And it wound up being the right brand.

EJ: A big part of Sysomos is visual recognition and search. How does this apply to marketers?

David: Right now, any kind of social media monitoring overwhelmingly looks at the textual web. So you look at hashtags, you look at descriptions, you look at titles.

Now we’re in the midst of this breakthrough period of visual recognition where, even if someone doesn’t use a hashtag or other type of tag, marketers will be able to identify their own brands or certain objects or scenes. So going beyond text just exponentially multiplies the kind of data that marketers will be able to access.

EJ: What are some of the tools that smaller or medium-sized businesses should be using to get insights from their data?

David: The biggest issue for a small business is figuring out what to prioritize. Especially when you have that triage between (1) pitching business, (2) doing operations, and (3) finding that seemingly 1% of time to actually do your job working for your clients and customers.

One of my favorites tools is Social Rank. They’re in the business, a lot like Sysomos in many ways, of packaging data together and looking at trends to lead you to insights. They specialize in understanding your Twitter and Instagram followers. So, you can use it to discover your most influential followers, your followers’ favorite emojis, and it also helps you realize which topics you should be talking more about. And the basic version is free, which is nice.

EJ: What should marketers be talking about when they connect through these channels?

David: It’s really about meeting people where they are and trying to understand what your audience cares about. Don’t just hit them over the head with product update information.

Speaking personally, I might care a lot about politics, but I should really stick to marketing because it’s what my audience is interested in. So it’s the classic disconnect. It doesn’t matter what you think. It matters what your target audience thinks. So I shouldn’t all of a sudden try to become some political firebrand, because my audience just isn’t going to care.

EJ: You’ve made the distinction between storytelling and storymaking. What’s this about, and how does it play into a brand marketing strategy?

David: Storytelling became all the rage several years ago, and it was a hot topic at marketing conferences, with people harking back to the days of the caveman where storytelling originated. But it was a very broadcast form of marketing. It was all about having a storyteller tell a story, and having other people repeat this story.

Storymaking is really about co-creation and collaboration. And there are so many great marketers doing that, like Betabrand, a fashion company doing this as part of their DNA.

Ask yourself: What are the stories your target audience is telling? What are your customers talking about? How do you build that in? In terms of your marketing, there are just so many opportunities to tap into your customer stories. Build on those.

→ Ready to build the brand of the future? Here’s nearly everything you need to know about brand awareness.

EJ: Let’s take a step out from there. Imagine you’ve decided to move away from the big brands to join a startup. The product’s doing well, the brand is attractive, and now the company is ready to scale up. You’ve got $10,000 to put toward brand awareness and/or lead generation. What do you do? Where do you invest?

David: Of course, a lot of it depends on the company structure and what they’ve been doing so far. But as much as possible, I’d use it to build on that storymaking theme, and use it to sit down with our own customers to create testimonials or use cases. Sit people together for coffee to learn about a target market.

These kind of more grassroots things–to learn from your customers and build on them–will give you a lot more mileage than simply trying to run more ads on Facebook. Not that you should stop doing things like that when they work. But especially when you have those tight budgets, tap into your own customer base, learn from them, and build that into your own brand story.

EJ: What are some of the trends that digital marketers need to understand that maybe they’re neglecting?

David: Figuring out where artificial intelligence and marketing automation can apply to what you’re doing is really important. Everything is being branded with AI these days. So trying to sort through what’s real and what’s not is going to be difficult.

The other area that’s really fascinating to me is immersive media, which encompasses where augmented and virtual reality are heading. So, just imagining something and it appears right before your eyes. It’ll seem real, it’ll feel real, it’ll smell real. This has major implications for marketing.

EJ: How many years are we from seeing AR/VR/AI implemented as the norm in marketing departments?

David: I think it’s all just escalated so fast, that there’s going to be really immediate applications in the next year or two. It’s something that people will expect.

For instance, if location matters to your business, people will start shifting expectations from seeing static images to seeing 360-degree images. So little things like that will start permeating our experience. Not everyone’s going to be designing something for Oculus Rift or Playstation VR in the next 3 years. But there are some more practical applications that will become widespread really quickly.


And what about you? Are you ready for the future of content marketing? See how conversational interfaces are already invading blog articles.