Building Awareness For Your Brand with James Royer
James Royer has worked at the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Kansas City Chiefs and now he has moved on to the brand side as the Director of Digital Marketing at Merrell.
On this episode we discuss brand storytelling and what differentiates brands who try and build a community vs. brands who try to build a consumer base. Building fans of your brand and expanding your storytelling capabilities are the major corner stones for brand growth.
James covers his beliefs on following the data and the importance of tweaking, evolving and growing your digital strategy.
is the director of digital marketing at merrell. James Royer joins us on the business. Social. James, thanks so much for the time, man. It's a pleasure being here. Good talking to you again. Yeah, you as well. Um, I always kick things off at the top with a random question. And on Twitter you're known for highlighting terrible sales emails, so I'd love to hear off the top of your head, uh, the best and the worst cold sales email you've ever gotten. Oh, um, wow. That's, that's put me in a spot right away. Um, when it comes to the, like the funny, the funniest one was in guide do I was going to do it and he went through the process of actually sending me, he sent me a, the complete collection of the far side comic books from way back and he's in, he knew I was
going to make fun of it and he waited for it, but then he plays it up. He plays up perfectly. So I just gave him a lot of props for kind of going the extra mile, kind of knowing, you know, kind of knowing what was good, what was going to happen there. And um, he played along with it really well and it was a really good sport with it. So, um, and I, he'd do that. You're potentially gonna call him out. He's still went forward knowing oh yeah. Part of the strategy. Got It. Calculated effort. Yeah, it was very calculated and I think, you know, I think this is in the sales world, there's just a lot of like Comcast conquesting out there and you know, hey, I want to, I want to get this, I want to get this big name. Cause it's a big name and you see a lot of that.
But there's some really good ones that come across too. And I, it's, people will ask me like, what are, what are the good ones? And I'll save them and I'll, and I'll talk to those people. You know, if they, if they have a really good pitch and say, hey, what's worthwhile understanding? But yeah, there's some, there's some ones, it's just, you know, obviously you get the ones where in fact you had been hung on once, uh, and your show, um, recently. And Ben and I know each other pretty well and there was one that that was directed to Ben and I took a screenshot and I put it up as is, and Ben responded right away saying, I think that was meant for me. So that's so funny. Yeah. Yeah. I mean especially so you spent, um, time at the Kennedy city chiefs as well prior to Maryland.
Yeah, I think a lot of, I can only imagine how many brands, agencies, software platforms, sales platforms want to work with NFL teams. Um, I guess I just say to say it, I mean from a sales perspective, like what breaks through? Cause I mean, I even, for me at an agency, I get bombarded with so many dear Sarah Madams or Hey David, are you looking at a new HR provider or sales, uh, you know, CMS platform. Um, but have you seen it? Have you, have you kind of seen some of this psychology or what kind of breaks through the noise in a more healthy way? Well, it's funny, interesting you would use the word psychology because there is a, there is a playbook out there that says, Hey, do this or use this wording. And you see that consistently across the board. So one of the things that almost as a turnoff is when you see that that playbook, it was copy worker forbade them over and over again and say that's not applicable.
I think the people that do the best job of it will say, Hey, I know you're busy. Here's what we're about and here's how we think we can benefit you without being pretentious about it. Saying, Hey, you guys are, you get the ones that sometimes say, well, I've done an audit on your website. I think you guys are missing out on this part. And that's tough. That's not really what we're looking for. We kind of know already know what our limitations and um, and what we're doing. Well, it's more about, hey, this is what we do and this is what the service we provide. And you know, sometimes it's even here's how we've helped other companies and if that's simple, just laying it out like that and saying, here's, so we are, and it's the same way that you, you'd make it make an introduction if you're at a cocktail party, you know, hey, this is who I am and, and, um, nice to meet you.
And then kind of then, then you start the conversation. Yeah. You want to walk up to a person to say, Hey, I did odd on your face. You have some wrinkles around your eyes. I sell this cream that can help you with that. Like that's a pretty tough way to open a conversation. Yeah. That's a great, that's great. That's great. Yeah. You don't want to do that. Yeah. Um, all right. Anyways, back to you. So can you give the listeners a quick 62nd elevator pitch on what is it you do as director of digital marketing at Meryl? Yeah, I oversee all of our, um, digital marketing efforts. Um, and that's the paid media side. It's also in social media and utilizing, um, our content strategy. So really it comes down to how are we distributing that content across all the different platforms to kind of utilize that in a way that helps build up our, um, both our brand awareness and e-commerce.
We have a, a phrase we use here that's called, um, sales overnight, brand overtime. And how do we balance the both of those? And, um, I oversee the brand marketing side of things. So we're really interested in how we overlook the build the Merrill brand. Uh, we do have a separate e-commerce team that's kind of part of our parent company. It's part in care parent company. It's called Wolverine worldwide. Um, they kind of oversee a lot of different areas, um, with the different brands within that portfolio. Um, and we have somebody that's dedicated to the marijuana, Isabelle, but just I'm where I'm interfacing with them on a regular basis, say, hey, this is what we want to align our marketing efforts around. Uh, we got this big, big product launch coming in. This is the assets we're going to utilize. How do we want to coordinate that with you so that we are being very, um, cognizant of the customer journey and really understanding where the customer is and you know, who we're targeting for this product and using that to elevate the brand as well.
So, um, you know, one of the interesting things about, um, you know, working for, you know, a company like this is that, um, we do have very different KPIs and objectives, um, that e-commerce has some different objectives than what we have as a brand and we have to kind of bring those to the table and work together to kind of collectively, um, uh, meet those objectives. So yeah, that's kind of what we do, what we do from a marital standpoint. Uh, the brand itself, what is it, what's a, it's missed, I know it focuses on a hiking gear and things like that, that kind of community, but what's your core demo? What do you guys kind of known best for? Yeah, we're, we're, we, we are one of the premier, um, hiking boots in the market. We are very active in the outdoor industry and that's uh, um, people who want to get outside and just, um, enjoy the, uh, we kind of say it this way.
The, the profound, um, uh, power of the trail, um, and when people leave in the trail is here. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. In fact, um, there was some customer insights that we found. Uh, nick was actually published, uh, externally, but we've kinda adapted the phrases that a lot of people are saying that hike is the new yoga. So how do you get people out there to really enjoy the trail? Because there's all these benefits to it. And as a brand, we've been around since 1981. We make products across hiking, trail, running, uh, uh, outdoor life. Um, even some work products, you know, you, uh, with work boots and steel toes and things like that. But we also are very big believers in that the trail belongs everybody and we want to be one of those brands that help bring people together. We obviously live in a very, um, uh, climate, um, pled socially, politically, that is very, um, diverse of um, and divisive and we want to bring that inclusion to the, to the trail and safe.
What are you talking about? I have no idea what you're talking about. Yeah, no, definitely. Um, so I wanna I'll, I'll jump around here. I want to jump into a little bit, uh, your time with the chiefs. You know, what you're doing at Merrill, but just to like, as a social media guy like myself, I want to get your thoughts on Instagram hottie likes. As you probably saw, uh, Brazil, Canada, there are some test countries where they're hiding likes on posts and from the PR angle, their Instagram is saying it's more about user safety and making sure people don't put their self worth and things like that into the number of likes they're getting. Um, from your standpoint, what's your overall opinion on if Instagram went global and turned the lights off all together publicly? What is kind of your first take on that?
Yeah, I mean, I think if you really look at it from the individual, it guys separate into an individual user versus a corporate user. And I think the, the interesting thing is that from an individual perspective, I kind of, I think that resonates would be what they've said. Um, in terms of, hey, really, it's not about likes, but if you can get in and get into the influencer market, um, you know, and you look at the followings, and this was true with the tree. It's true that most people, that a lot of those followers aren't real. Um, or you know, they're, they're, they're set up by certain accounts and, and you know, you look at those likes and what does likes really, what does it really mean? And I think there's even a study that was, comes on ad week this morning that talked about how, um, advertisers are losing billions of dollars based upon this kind of, this scale of what we perceive is really the audience.
But it's certainly not really the audience. So it's kids kinda helping. I like it from that perspective. I think from the brand perspective, it's what we're always trying to do. And you know, this is a social media marketer is what's that social proof? Um, how do we, how do we show that, hey, this is, this is something that's worth their time and energy. Um, beyond just capturing attention. Obviously the user sees something, Hey, this has a lot of likes on it. What does that mean? But even in, even in, even in the, uh, this side of things and on the business side, you know, we, we're looking at a, a, a brand recently in this book they're following is, is, is much smaller, but some of numbers were, you know, they get 100,000 of likes. I'm like, how are they doing that? Um, is that a paid cycle?
Is that a, and you really can't, you really can't tell. So you are looking at from that perspective. So, um, it'll be interesting to see, um, you know, we kind of talk about, we can con talk about influencers and how that plays into a marketing strategy. We take it a little different approach with Maryland that we use ambassadors. Um, we don't necessarily have influencers right, where they're looking at their followers, salads. We're looking for people who are athletically living their lives in the outdoors and we're [inaudible] and people who are inspiring others to, to, like I said, go out on the trail experience, experience that power that's, that's out there. Um, and just enjoying nature. And you know, you don't have to be somebody who is, um, going to be on the podium all the time and these, you know, racist. But we do have those people as, as ambassadors who are on the podium and from a performance brand that's, you need that.
But it's also the people who are just are running the trails on a regular basis. So, um, when you look at that perspective too, like we don't, we don't buy into necessarily to that anyway from an influencer perspective. Like, Hey, you get so many likes. We're asking them to say, hey, live the life that you're living and we'll use that content. We're happy when you guys post on our behalf. Um, and in showcase, you know, there you wearing our product, but, um, we're not looking for the, you guys to individ directly sell for us. I mean, I guess I don't wanna get too off topic of my producer and, uh, you know, office knows I have hot takes on this. I mean, is it followers a vanity metric as well? Would you on, on personalized feeds? Would you hide followers? Is it, isn't it views of vanity metric on Youtube?
If you're a youtube bloggers? So we hire, I guess I'm just concerned as a social media marketer, as all data technically could be tied to that exact type of, you know, health statement. Um, and where, where does it start? Should it start? Like that's, I guess my question to you is like, do you have thoughts on if it is that slippery slope? Yeah, I guess I've had it throughout my career. I'd never been wanting to look at, hey, we got this many likes on a post and there's that telling of the entire story. I'm really trying to figure out how is this post impacting what we're trying to do from a, from a you, whether it be at be objective or that's that's a key KPI or, or is this, how is this contributing to our overall business? And I guess I, you can look at likes, it's kind of like this measure of saying how does this perform against other posts?
Um, but it's really always been about reach to meeting way. So what's that reach look like? And especially as the algorithm started shifting and changing where you're not getting as the same kind of reach guy became much more valuable to me and said, okay, is this post resonating? Um, and obviously, you know, engagements will drive that. Um, I think that maybe in, is there an interaction rate, user growth rate, healthy, those things you're looking at? Yeah, exactly. Is that interaction rate, um, enough to say, okay, well this post is doing well because of that. So, and I think that becomes more pronounced as we get, as we get further along in this, the metro maturation of social media platforms and the shifting algorithms. So, um, you know, I've never been one to look at likes and I'm not one to advocate for that. I want to know too, how does it affect my business? And I think that's going to be the one of the biggest shifts is that discipline that you trying to employ in the sports world. And I kinda got into in a mirror, it's like now you really have to be laser focused with that because now there's much more, much more directly at stake yet. And that regard. Yeah.
Uh, one thing I love that Instagram is doing and I've already been a victim of spending a bunch of money on the platform is Instagram shopping, which is definitely in your world. Now. This obviously got rolled out to I think the top 20 or 25 brands and talked to Dave Sethi on a previous podcast about this and kind of was geeking out about it. Um, but yeah, I bought a, I bought a pair of Nike's I think, uh, a couple of days ago. Could just scroll on Instagram and easy to click shop now and as the consumer's a little scary, cause I think more money will be out of my pocket. But as a, as a marketer and somebody in your shoes, I'm sure you're looking at that in a big, big way and seeing how, how much of a, the Instagram platform itself can drive revenue.
Yeah. It's been a very powerful platform. But I like where your conversation with Seth, um, from, from Instagram was about, hey, the organic reach is still pretty powerful on her Instagram. So we know that works. We also know that it works from a paid perspective as well. Um, and you know, we, we have really gone into that level of, okay, how do we position our products within our feed? Um, whether if it's organic side or even with the paid side and being really strategic about how we approach that. Um, and yeah, definitely. I think that's, um, we've asked for that ability to turn that on. Um, has been with those other brands. We're obviously not, uh, the same as, you know, these top 20 brands. But we said, hey, we're interested. We want to go all in, in this area. So how do we play in the space and how do you can, can you, can you get us, you know, it further in line, um, than where we are right now.
So, and they've been receptive to that. So I think we're gonna see more of that goes. Um, but we're already seeing the impact even of tagging products and then posts and seeing the power of that. And, and um, you know, we can get, just takes you off site, right or directly to your ecommerce platform. It can do that or it can go over them kind of within their platform where they kind of see different products and then kind of short serve up and they're always tweaking that as well. So we're watching how they're tweaking that simply. Um, but we have found, you know, it was actually one of the questions we had here or when I came on board is do we put products in our feed knowing that we're advertising in a person, you know, scrolling through their feed doesn't necessarily know when they see a post.
Like is this an advertisement, there's this organic and um, so how do we position products and feed? And we had a long discussion about it. It's actually something we said, hey, let's try it. Well, let's try it with elevator talk product photography, uh, meaning that it's going to look, we're going to position on the right way. Whereas when we are marketing, maybe it's on a white background or it's a little less, more less textured and, and then, uh, kind of knowing there's a difference there and how we want to utilize that and the copy is going to be a little different and it's going to be more like introducing you to the product and not really talking about product benefits, whereas lower in the lower and the process and that kind of thing that we really try to convert the sale. That's about, I'm really talking about product attributes and what it's important to use for.
So it's different that regard, but we found that the organic reach on those posts is, is phenomenal. In fact, 11 of our top 15 posts of all time now our product shots. That's awesome. So, so yeah, I mean this isn't, I go back to why, why do people fall follow Merrill on Instagram? Um, and you would assume you obviously have that outdoor community, but you have people that are actually interested in new products and new releases and they want to kind of be first to, to know about some of those things. So I guess let me ask you that at the top, like who is the community, what is the demographic that you're marketing towards and how do you tweak your, a strategy based on that? Yeah, great question. Um, so I mean it could print and I break that down to several parts. So, uh, start off with kind of who we are, who our current big audiences.
We, we know, we tend to be older. Um, one of our challenges, I'll take a step back and say it this way, is as a brand we have, we, we do brand health tracker studies, you know, every six months can I try to understand how we're doing this area. We've suffered from lower awareness, you know, but both among the general population and even within the outdoor industry. So there's a lot of Eritrean that grow there. And I use this anecdotal. So a year ago when I was announcing I was coming to Merrill, I heard one of two responses. Oh, I know Merrill, I have a pair. I love them. Or WHO's Maryland? Yeah. So the people who they're known or you don't, there's no in between. And when you do know us, you, we have a high affinity score. So we know that people who really like us don't want really like us.
So now our challenge from a marketing perspective and a branding perspective is how do we get in front of more people in Houston to the Merrill Lynch Merrill brand is about, and get them in part of that, both, both within the general population and within the outdoor industry. So the outdoor industry tends to be a little more older. Um, you know, and we, we are, we're going to talk to that core audience, but we're also talking to, and how we really break our segmentation down in our paid strategy is how do we talk to this aspirational audiences and that skews younger and how do we introduce them to the brand and interest in the products that are really, you know, we're making products for four different audiences and, um, and where do we want to get that product in front of them. So that's kind of really been a focus of our strategy and how we, how we segment that and how we really break that down.
So, um, when we do post on Instagram, we are thinking about those different audiences, what's gonna resonate with them and how do we position that? And then what other platforms, so you know, what do we post on snapchat from a paid perspective? Um, what do we post on reddit and in other, other platforms? And how do we tell our stories? Cause I have, I've, I've taught social in general. I truly believe that people don't like to be overly sold to, I'll use the analogy nobody likes when someone knocks on their door, the solicitor or calls you in the middle of the day. Hey James, how you doing? You've ever heard about this product? Like you're annoying me. But I do think when it comes to product and people that are fans of a product
in that affinity, it's a little bit different. You kinda can change your, your marketing approach because you have these ambassadors, you have these people that really love your product and they want to hear about that new thing. So I think it's not, it's kind of unlike unlike other marketing where you kind of wanna do upper funnel and you kind of want to make sure you're building a community. But if the followers are already there on the product, it seems like you can go a little more product heavy and be okay.
Okay. Yeah, it's, it's, it. I was trying to just a little minute, mid a mix of both. So we want the aspirational audience really is that top of funnel where we're introducing them to, we're doing that through, um, through stories. We, we, we, we work with some phenomenal filmmakers and producers who were just telling some very full, meaningful, meaningful stories that just demonstrate people living the outdoor life. And the, and one comes to mind specifically is a guy named will Robinson. Um, now not from the movie, um, that, uh, he goes by the moniker Akuna hikes and he was a veteran that was suffering from PTSD and he's decided that I'm gonna go for, you know, go, go for some hikes. And then you kind of started feeling like, Hey, this is, this feels, I'm trying to feel like myself again here. So we decided to, um, uh, do the Pacific coast trail and, and through like that.
And then last year he did the Appalachian trail. And, um, and we highlight very therapeutic about getting out in nature wherever that is. It's, it's a legitimate energy. Yeah. Yeah. He's, he's just found, he, you know, this is, this has been his healing is going on these and these hikes, we documented his story and it just resonated. Um, and it just kind of elevated and that's a great way to talk to people and say, Hey, this is who we're about as a Merrill. And obviously we know a lot of research about you're in the industry, you know, about, you know, what a brand stand for, what are their causes I support and what is the purpose for being? And I think those things that we're trying to really resonate with that storytelling, which does resonate the upper funnel, but then we can start, yeah, you're right.
We can start talking to our consumer, our core consumers a little differently once we get into the mid funnel and how we position products and in how we, and how we tell stories from that perspective. And it's very nuanced. And I think that's been one of the big unlocks for us as a brand is as we're growing here and we've been growing our ecommerce and, and becoming a direct to consumer brand is how do we, how do we take that content that's created and curse that up? So we're talking different audiences and different parts of their journey.
Um, I, I use Nike as an example from a marketing standpoint because they often, especially with their amazing commercials, they don't sell their product. I mean, this is storytelling like you said. So what you mentioned about the, the story about the man with PTSD and how hiking and kind of was able to unlock something for them. Uh, you don't have to show the Merrill product 4,000 times in that video to make sure you're kind of telling the story of the brand and, and getting that brand awareness like you said. Um, I'll get into more general questions, but to get a little more granular real quick, what do you deal with low awareness, um, both maybe in the industry and like overall, like you mentioned from a paid media perspective, are you targeting audiences that may like a Patagonia or north face or other like maybe higher awareness products that try to like say, hey, we're here to add more ops in? Like how, how do you guys Kinda approach that?
Yeah, that's a, that's a really good question. I think within the outdoor industry you're trying to target people who, um, you know, really have that high affinity for they, they know they don't have benefits already. They're already doing that. They're outdoors. Yeah. So that's a little different. Targeting them versus people in Gender, population, [inaudible] and population. You're also talking them much, much more about, um, somebody has product attributes or sometimes styling is gonna is going to be a big influence on them. I mean you talk about buying some from Nike, you know, that's, that's one of the big reasons why people, you know, see I see some like, Hey, I like to style that and yeah. And they'll, they'll, they'll buy off of that too. So it's, it's a lot of different, a lot of different ways to answer that question and you want to get in our secret sauce.
But um, but I mean that's, that's, that's one of those elements that, um, if you know who you're talking to and you know where they're at and kind of the process, you can be a little more strategic with it. Yeah. 100%. All right, so want to kind of talk, uh, top line marketing, cause like you said, working in sports and now at the brand level, I think you can add a lot of knowledge to the audience. Um, I like you asking this question a lot from a core belief standpoint. How do you approach marketing? Oh, if you're asking me on the Merrill brand, you're asking Paul Knight, right? Our personal side as well, I think. I think overall, and I think they're very aligned. I mean, I think if, if you draw it up the way we're drawing it up, Merrill, I like the way I approach it is we're going to tell meaningful stories that gonna it's gonna elevate the brand.
Um, and like you say, we're not going to be overly, you look at our stories that are on our youtube channel and you're not going to see a lot of product in them. Um, those meaningful stories. But it's really about, um, you know, celebrating, um, the store, the people who are out there and showcasing, you know, their, their diversity and in what they're bringing to the trail and how they're inspiring other people. And you see that a lot of brands doing that. Um, you know, I think about the, uh, the Budweiser example of Dwayne Wade. I mean, that was just a powerful video because it's inspiring people. It's, it's not, he's not drinking a beer in the, obviously in the, in, in, in that spot. That's kind of what we're kind of approach, we're taking a little bit too, is that, hey, we're, we're going to do about this, is that aspirational?
Like, Hey, it's, it's inspiring to be outdoors and who doesn't like to be, you know, whether it's on the beach or, you know, San Diego or, you know, you're in the rocky mountains or you, you know, you're hiking, uh, in, in, in, you know, the white mountains in New Hampshire. How are you talking, you know, how are you positioning that, that story? And then we kind of go from there and say, okay, how do then we, how do we then introduce product and how do we talk about product and what's the way we want to do that in a seamless way that's like tasteful. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And you know, you, you use the word authenticity and I think that's overused a lot of times our, in our marketing world, um, but we really try to showcase things and it comes down to even the pictures we select, um, we have to, is that we always look at is that stage, is that look staged?
You know, does that, does that feel right for us? Um, are they showing activity? Um, it cause there's kind of just sitting there, you know, you know, looking around and that's a big difference for us. So, um, yeah, so I think that's how we kind of how we're approaching it and then we kind of dictate when you get that product in introducing there, then when, where we push that product and how do we do that. And, and Ken's kind of like marrying that, um, marrying it together with our ECOMMERCE team is how we're, they're positioning that as well. Yeah. So that we're very consistent as a brand and, and hopefully, you know, as we grow this globally, um, we are a global brand and we have a lot of different, um, partners around the world that we work with. And, and, uh, and I think that's been the message that we've been really talking to them about too, is that, hey, we're not trying to create content from a US perspective.
We're really trying to create content that resonates for anybody across the globe. And we've even gone to Peru and the Faroe Islands. And do some of our shoots, uh, the Faroe Islands is in the northern Northern Atlantic. Um, and just to demonstrate the, hey, this looks different for different people on the surface, but really it's not. So, yeah. Um, this is pretty tough to say because you started at Merrill recently was able to Kinda, um, develop your, your plan from scratch. But if you are starting from scratch, a new company, a new brand, a new product from a marketing standpoint, what are some of the first things you look out or start white boarding out when you are faced with that type of situation? Yeah, I think customer insights, what, you know, what, what do people really want? And I think if we're going to be really be consumer led as a brand or as a marketer, you really have to dive into what are they looking for, what's the reason for being interested in this product and in, and how do we wrap our heads around that until this story?
Uh, one of the things we do here at Merrill too is that we let the story for its own path. Um, meaning that we don't try to go and try to manufacture this story. Uh, like you use his example will Robinson, we didn't go out looking for him. Yeah. And it was actually somebody else that we're, that's already ambassadors said, hey, you guys should look at this guy cause he's, he's pretty cool. She never been the person. In fact, they were, they actually met for the first time back in March here in our offices. Um, cause for six to the fact that you guys took it serious to build a community to, for that stuff to happen organically. If all you're doing is selling, selling, selling, there's no community. There's no, Hey, by the way, you should check this guy out. Exactly. It seems like you guys did a good job building.
Yeah. Yep. Uh, from a customer insights standpoint. So let me ask you this. We know what Merrill is about for the Kansas City chiefs when you were there. Um, what's the reason they followed you, what they want to see? What was that customer insight like on Sozo? Oh, I mean, that's, I think you have to start with tailgating in barbecue. Um, the fans there in Kansas City are amazing. They really are. Just have a deep affinity for that team and, um, and organization and, uh, you know, even being there when the royals won the world series, um, you can just see that they just loved their sports teams. Um, and it's deeply ingrained and I think they have like this a lot of ways, that underdog mentality, um, you know, they, they, they, they, they, they accept the terms fly over country or cow town or, um, and they say, hey, that's, yeah, let's take that.
We, yeah, we are in the middle and we kind of use this in a, in, in a video that was, um, really eloquent, eloquently crafted, um, say hey, that, um, real nowhere, nowhere in the middle of everything. And that's Kinda that embodiment of, of who people are and the Kansas City market. It's like, Hey, yeah, you're wearing a little different. And, but we're, we, we're, we're true to our core and in the tree chiefs and the royals and, and even the Kansas Jayhawks, they embody that. And that's really who they are. And they love their sports teams. I run to support them. Um, you know, it is obviously a small market compared to let other markets, but you know, the, uh,
that it's like focusing on making sure the team is embodying what the city is all about. It's kind of where you start because then you can speak so well to that.
It's a encore core base. Yeah. I think that's where, you know, I think it's a great point because I think you see some teams miss the mark in that regard. It's like who, who, who are we, who is our, who is our audience? And then sometimes you kind of miss out on that and that was, you know, being ready. The Tampa Bay lightning too. That was another area that um, you know, working with the leadership team there, um, from Thailand Wiki to, to, to the on down. I mean that's what you were always trying to grasp it. Who are we, you know, what's, what's unique about this area?
They ask yourself that question every quarter. I mean, it just kind of based on your brand, right? I mean, Patrick about Holmes who are we changes a little bit when he's MVB candidate because now it's like, oh, we're maybe a Superbowl winning team coming up. Like that's who we are type deal. Absolutely. Yeah. I love Patrick Mahamas by the way. Um, all right. So from an influencer marketing standpoint, we talked about likes and you know, I think a big reason why Instagram may be going this way. They're kind of pushing the PR message, but also from a business standpoint, I think they much rather have these brands spend directly with Facebook and Instagram on the backend of advertising, then give money directly to influencers. So there's gotta be something to that too. Um, but what have you seen in your career thus far from an influencer standpoint? What works and what doesn't and what your recommendation would be to people out there? Uh, because I think it's an important marketing strategy to pull that lever for any brand, but you have to make sure you do it with precision.
Yeah. It, I think, you know, it might kind of start with influencer marketing really kind of took shape with kind of a unique approach. And that was with Tampa Bay. Um, one of the things that we talked about, you know, being a hockey team in a nontraditional hockey market and your biggest competitor is really the beach. Um, there's so many things to do and you start hockey season in October, it's like that's the prime, that's when the best weather is in that area. How do you get people excited about hockey? And one of the things that we tackled and said, how do we do this? Because we had just a phenomenal end game experience. Like going to the game is just, you don't have to be a sports fan. You just didn't have fun. Um, in hockey too. Just what a great environment to watch live hockey.
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And at the time we were, we're, we're kind of rebuilding the brand and, and going through that process I'd be like, how do we really build this thing back up and build it the right way? And, uh, we said, hey, let's, let's, let's invite people to the game who have a social media following, but we want people who are authentic, but we just want them to share their experience of the game and help them speak to other audiences. And it started off with just like local TV personalities and, um, you know, some other people that we had some Olympians down there that, you know, they'll do year round and said, hey, that's what you guys come out. And then all of a sudden we started getting calls saying, Hey, I'm an agent for this actor and that, you know, this TV show, hey they, they heard about this program, can they maybe at this?
And we're like, sure. And then you started having, um, you know, Major League baseball players down there for spring training and said, hey, we want going, I want to be the social captain. How do I do that? And so it really started this groundswell of activity to really get started, helped us reach out to new people and say, by the way, is a peak inside of what's going on? This is a cool place to be. And obviously the lighting now or on a, um, they provided value. I think what's important about that providing value as well rather than, hey, can you do something for us? Hey, we happen to have this program or we have this campaign, we would love for you to be a part of it. So you're, you're giving something rather than always asking him. Yes. Yeah, exactly. I think it's, they're excited to do it.
You're excited to have them there and you give them a really good experience. And then basically then as that kind of grows, um, and I think I've used that, that kind of mentality as I've gone forward now I don't need to have, you know, people with a big following now and it gets Kansas City, it's a little different because you have guys like Paul Rudd and uh, David Kepner and, and Jason [inaudible] and even Kevin Richardson from battery boys and they're all, they're all from Europe, you know, they're all like, hey, we're, we're, we're Kansas state chiefs fans, we're all so I think what NFL teams don't think enough about is like your roster. That's your influence too. Like that's a huge part of your distribution and reach or your actual players on the field that have their own following and own distribution too. Yeah, that's a great point.
Cause we, I was talking to a colleague in the NFL before I had left, he was like, hi. He goes, we are actually emphasi view because you guys have personalities like Travis Kelsey and Chris Jones. And they are just so much fun. They're such larger than life personalities. We wish we had that. And um, yeah, absolutely. I think that, that, that is a big, a big way that we were able to utilize that. Uh, Chris Jones, like, you know, just a great guy. Um, there was one time we asked him say, Hey Chris, can you, uh, would you be willing to put, put a video out of your honor on your platform to say, hey, we want to get the crowd riled up for this game. Tell them, arrive early. You know, it's a big game for us. We, you know, it's, you know, it's big, but can you help us?
He goes, can you guys shoot it? And we were like, yeah, where you're at. He goes, well, I left the, I left the facility about 10 minutes ago, but I'll turn around and come back in so you guys can shoot it. That's awesome. And you know, that's kind of things that he was willing to do and, and put his personality out there. And, and, and when you do have that little stuff matters, man. Oh, absolutely. And that, that stuff is, is the stuff that annually, what he gets, he, he swayed, break him, connect with his fans. But it's also helped to support what he's about. Any way, like, hey, let's, let's bump this crowd up.
I love it. All right, so I've got some rapid fire questions for you. You're here towards the end of the program. Um, what's a common mistake that you see other marketers making on social or digital? [inaudible]
making it too complex. Um, yeah. [inaudible] you make a really complex either, right? It obviously in your guys' wheelhouse, but you make a graphic that um, sometimes just communicates too much, you know, four different call to actions. Yeah, yeah. Or yeah, like, Hey, do this and this and, or just making it simple and making something that can stand on its own. You know, I tend to talk as we talk about even here at Merrill, like sometimes you don't have to, this, you will sell itself. You know, you put that out there, people are going to be excited about it. Um, and sometimes just, just simplifying is for one of the best ways to go and not, not overly complicated.
Thanks. Love it. What brands come to mind that are doing it right on social right now that you either follow or just are inspired by the way that they market? Oh yeah. Yeah.
I think there's a lot of d to c first brands aisle out. There you go download our line of like Casper or two. You know, they keep an, even in our industry, the Allbirds and raw fees and, and Casper, you know, there's some of our content is just hilarious. Um, and I mean I, I look at that and saying, okay, well the videos they do where they take customer comments and they have their employees read them and they kind of react to them. It is so entertaining. It feels that you have to, you're looking at content, but the fact of does it inform, does it inter educate as an entertain that does all three. Um, and it does it so well and it just does it in such a fun way that's like, hey, this is great. The how they, how they really approach it approached going into, um, customer acquisition to build their audiences.
It's, it's been a really good learning for us and literally for any marketer is how do these DTC brands are really operating? How were you, how they did that, how they use the social platforms to, to really build your audience. And now how they're even shifting. And I, I'm read reports now that they're Shit Lee shifting into connected TV as their, as a programmatic ad buys. So it's kind of like the advertising agency or worlds coming kind of full circle. You're kind of strayed away from TV now you're going back to TV, but it's gotta be different than what you saw in the past. And um, in terms of TV marketing and you really have to be engaging really quickly and be, can be really targeted with it. Are you guys, I'm super roundabout. Are you guys involved in podcast advertising at all? Yeah, we actually work with some podcasts and that's another market I think people forget about.
I've seen some amazing just ROI on that. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. It's, it's such a deep immersion with the brand too, if you do it the right way. Um, you know, I think about one that was, I think they discontinued it. That was about a year and a half ago as Gatorade and it was stories of all their athletes like Serena and Peyton manning and cal Schwarber. They told their stories, but they didn't talk about Gary and all the through the process, but the Gatorade was sponsoring it. It was such a great, I think that's one of the best examples of, of advertising you can get into his is his positioning your product in that way
and you stick a Joe Rogan or a Tim Ferriss, their audience respects them so much and it looks at them as such an influence in their daily lives that they, them coming out and saying, I trust this product. Uh, I think it goes a long, a long way because there's something about, this is kind of weird, but there's something about somebody talking in your head if you have headphones on and you're what you're listening to someone speak like you and I are now, it definitely is a more intimate experience. I feel like that you end up getting a connection more so than maybe just following somebody on social or whatever. So yeah,
this feels very, very Meta right now. I'm talking about podcasts as we're on a podcast. Sorry. All right. So, um, what is the one social or marketing tool that you could not live without? Uh, let's see you there. Um, you talked about analytics platform. Are you talking like just that platform, right?
Anything, whether it's more of a, um, a platform that can help you with your day to day workflow or it's analytical or it's, um,
nice rain. Yeah, we use a, the Delmondo product, which is, I was going over to can viva and that's just to help. Rob's is really getting sites, especially in the realm of, um, when I say, uh, understanding how our video contents performing across all channels is, see that avenue they want to play at place helps. It saves a lot of time. Um, I was always a big fan of, you know, I don't just about cast subset this too, but crowdtangle and I, we had that in the NFL. That was pretty powerful. Now we don't have access to anything where they don't give it or give out to Sydney brands either. So I've been knocking on the door for, for [inaudible]
look someone out for you. Just shoot me an email. I got your back. I'll send you some screenshots from a business perspective with Meryl specifically, what social platforms seem to be working the best right now in terms of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, snapchat, Youtube. Um, can you kind of rank in order of what, what you're really seeing? Good, good.
Yeah. I think number one right now is Instagram. We're, we're, we're really heavily on that and we're probably probably put more intention and thought into what that looks like. Cause as we argue, I mean, you said it yourself and, and um, you're all getting organic reach is, is some, a lot of times tweeted three to four times higher than what it is on Facebook right now. Um, and, but Facebook has that, you know, it's still gonna rank up there because it still has that potential. They really get that virality. I just know that, um, the virality is as much going to be, um, [inaudible] you're still really, really, really achieve that virality, um, without paid behind it as well. So we've had an example of on one video when I first got here and he just took off and it just stunned everybody and it has a high level of virality.
And then we put some pay behind it to keep it going. And then, then it kind of kept going. But there's another video we just did, um, called the running pastor. It's, but I talked to the Faroe Islands about a pastor who, um, who's a big runner and that's kind of how he deals with, um, all the pressures of his job. And he's running in these crazy environments where, you know, the vertical inclines are incredible. Um, and, um, we put that video out and it did, did pretty well. We got a little going, okay, let's put that, put the boosts behind it, and then they got going and then also just took off after that. So I think you're gonna still see that from that perspective. And, and I think that's still critical. Uh, but I think with our video content storytelling and how we approach it, um, youtube is his critic is up there as well. Um, and, and knowing that
a more original content or more like pre-roll on original content, original content. Yeah. Yeah. That's awesome. Um, and then I always ask this, but in our industry, Fomo is a major thing. It's everything moves so quickly. Um, what's the one thing that you recommend all social media marketers like you and I read, follow to stay involved with, to make sure you keep your thumb on the pulse?
Oh, I think you could answer that other than ads, James Royer, you're on Twitter, you know. Well, yeah. You know, I was thinking they're a little bit soon ago. Um, you know, you mentioned that the podcast was like, you know, you know, a Rogan and uh, [inaudible] and you know, you didn't mention Berkeley, so I don't know. I presume? Um, uh, yeah, so I, I think, um, I think you have to be, I don't know, there's one source and I think again, you asked that question a lot of times in my career. I think it's, it's you have to be a constant learner. Have that mindset. Where am I going to learn today? Because sometimes these reports can come from different places and obviously the most their branded reports you have taken with a grain of salt, but you have to look for, it looks like the truth inside there.
What's the insight that I can take from that? And I think that's been the mindset I've had really for years because I think you've asked me that question five years ago, six years ago, I might say certain things and I said, you know, but that doesn't resonate with me as much as it did back then. But now it's getting deeper and deeper. How do we really had a really good go after that? So, and I don't think it's just one source. I think I really have to study the industry as a whole study what brands are doing, study what puts being reported about the brands, um, and understanding who's doing it well and how do you measure that? Um, somebody you can't tell from the surface be kind of know that hey, they're nailing it I think yeah, to
like what you said about Casper, just like following other brands and saying, that's interesting what they're doing. I wonder if that's working. Let me dig more into that at, let me Ab test that for our brand. And I think the more you're actually in this space, I think a lot of a lot of marketers are, they don't have a solid social media strategy because they don't use social media. Like it's pretty important to, to be on those platforms. So you could, you could see those opportunities. Um, any advice from your standpoint, anybody's striving to be a director of marketing at a brand like yourself? You obviously had some success, um, and professional sports and then moving onto an awesome brand job. Um, any advice to kind of get to that senior level?
I think just continue to work. I mean work at it. I mean that's um, I think every day is a chance to, to test an into, to grow yourself. And I think, um, that's what he's been in my kind of focus. You know, there's some times where it's like, hey, if things weren't going as well, um, you know, I think yeah, I think back to maybe use that example is being in Kansas City. Um, we had built up a really strong, you know, following engagement. We are the number one team and engagement among all NFL teams in wherever the chiefs. Um, but Instagram wasn't doing as well and I was just throwing things at the, at the wall. So how do we, how do we do this? How do we crack this one? And, and then we started find this cadence. I'm like, oh my gosh, this is working, this is working, this is working.
And we grew that to, I think we were number seven overall. Um, and it was just a big difference there. But those learnings I'm still applying today. Yeah. And I think it's really about, um, you know, one is understanding how do you, how do you, how do you look at this from an objective standpoint? What are those KPIs you're trying to get to? But how do you continue to test and tweak that and, and, and take some opportunities to, to learn different areas inside the business. I mean, I think there's a post 'em in the, in the social media where all these, at least in the social media, sports, social media world, you know, said, hey, you know, social media is not this, you know, running a social media cause not this, this and this and this. But it's all these things. And I think that's what you have to understand from a social media perspective and digital perspective is that you can't just be an ecommerce expert.
You can't just be a social media expert. You can't just be a content. You're trying to bring all these things to be together and say, how does this work and how do you leverage these opportunities to, um, to build that up. So how do you continue to be an expert in that area? That's great, but build you your areas. And I had a, you know, I, we had a really good, really smart coach in Tampa Bay and who, one of his big things was, you know, he talked about how he coached players and he's like, I want to build to people's strengths. Um, you'd say, I want people to know this is what they're really good at because I want them to be really good at that. I want them to, and then when you do that, and he has master's degree in sports psychology, um, and he was saying, when you do that, what happens is they automatically want to get better at that area. Then they want to get better other areas as well. And I, I was like great leadership and coaching mentality as met. Like how do you now, like when you start really knowing what you're good at and what in that area and build up around that, that's where I think you really grow.
All right. I'm excited for this next question. Um, after leaving the Kansas City chiefs, uh, NFL three 65, obviously you get your Sundays back potentially here. Um,
what's the one thing that you don't miss about, uh, professional sports marketing? I just got asked by their colleague at me two weeks ago. He's like, so what are you gonna you're gonna Miss Training Camp? And I'm like, yeah, exactly. No training camp. Yes. Sundays you missed Sundays. Yeah, I think you're always gonna Miss Sundays and game days. And just the excitement of being in the stadium. And even in Kansas City, I think one of my favorite activities was always walking from our offices. We should stadium, which I actually had to walk to the parking lot. So the stadium is about a quarter, half mile somewhere in there. And I just keep seeing people outdoors. And even the worst of weathers and Kansas City people were still out there and throwing footballs around and campfires and you know, in, in smoking, smoking, uh, you know, they're briskets and things like that.
It's just incredible environment. You're always gonna miss that. But I think the, the part you don't miss the most is the, some of that. And I think the off season too, sometimes that that's an absolute grind in this space. You have to have the respect of tip your hat to yeah, I think, you know, I was looking at um, a hockey team recently and I'm like, Hey, you know, I like their personal content out. I'm like, this is the hardest time of year to talk about hockey because your, all your players, if they're from Canada have gone off some war in the woods, you have no access to them, um, in somewhere, you know, up in Saskatchewan or wherever else they're at. And uh, you know, all your European players or European players are back home and you have nobody around. You have nothing you can do to create retail content.
And so you have to be really creative. And sometimes that, that'd be that, that tends to be a grind. And I think even in the NFL, when you have those down periods, like how do you talk about the team when you have those teachers now you have fellows obviously spaced out a little more with, you know, drafted pre agency and mini capitol. Some a sports team like took a vacation for either a day or a week. I thought they'd, I did it tweet for, I forget who it was. I know the eagles did that after they won the super bowl. The Eagles. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But it's kind of funny. I feel like there's some times where, hey, we don't have a ton of content. The post over the next $40, we'll see you. We'll see you in a few. [inaudible]. Um, all right, well then finally, if you could recommend anyone in your network that you think would provide value or drop some good knowledge for my listeners on the podcast, um, who would that person be?
Anybody come to mind and your network? Yeah, actually I think there's two people that I think would be really, really interesting to talk to. One is he's pretty quiet. He's kind of those quiet leaders in the, on the, in the NFL. Um, and that's captain Olson from the Seahawks. He is one of those. He's, he's done this for a long time. He teaches it to be a top of his game and, and just a really good guy. But, um, and I think he has one of those voices in the NFL that, um, just resonates, um, that when you hear him talk, um, he, you know, he's really thought through things in how he approaches, approaches it in, in, and obviously even had some good things to say about STM when you asked about us to him or something. I think I remember you saying something, so, yeah, absolutely.
Awesome. Yeah. I think, you know, even look in the NFL circles, give you a bonus couple bonus ones here too, but um, you know, the, you know him as well as I do, but a Santa and Alyssa Santa Merchant and list 11 on the NFL, a team. Yeah. They were just great resources to work with our regular basis. And they were, they, they got it. Um, they understood things from league perspective. I think their team perspective, you always see that a lot, lot. Yeah. And I think that was how they were so good at, you know, really, um, uh, working with the teams and, and, and really navigating a very, kind of a interesting time in social media on the NFL. And I was, you know, working with them. And even today obviously, um, the other one was kind of odd, kind of a wild card here for you.
Um, Kinda name of Jason Herrera. So Jason, um, uh, had been at Walmart for years working in there and I won't even get this right, but basically using applied behavioral sciences to how the, how it impacts the, the user behavior, um, in, in purchase process. And, and he is just a really, really neat guy. I've had chance to meet him a couple of times and cause every time I go to target or a Walmart, I was spending $190. So now when I go on for a spatulas though. Oh, absolutely. Yeah. You think about those, those guys or you're trying to get from two and a half percent, a two and three quarters percent and that's billions of dollars for Walmart and you know, how, how do they really utilize that? And he's come from a, you know, very interesting background. So he's really, it's interesting to listen to. Awesome. I'll have to hit you up for some intros on that. I appreciate it. So definitely, um, once again, directly
director of marketing, uh, sorry, director of digital marketing at barrel. James Royer. Thanks so much for all the knowledge you drop man and I really appreciate the time.