Audience First Marketing And A Culture Of Learning With Lauren Weinberg, CMO At Square

Lauren Weinberg is a proud boy mom, a loving dog mom—and currently—the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Square, driving the brand’s global marketing and communications strategy. She started her career by measuring media metrics, then entered B2B media and eventually moved over to the consumer side of marketing strategy. Lauren spent some time running her own consulting business, then landed at Square, where she has been for the past six years. Previously, she held leadership roles at Yahoo!, MTV, and AOL. Lauren sees marketing at Square as the growth engine, and her team is responsible for the brand, the perceptions, and acquiring new customers.

In this episode, Lauren and I discuss Square’s business model, how it has dimensionalized and expanded over the years, the impact of data on Square’s marketing efforts, and the incrementalism and principled risks that marketing organizations need to take to be competitive. Square started in 2009 with the purpose of enabling any individual or business to participate and thrive in the economy with the little white card reader. Now, 14 years later, they have a full ecosystem of software and hardware that allows companies of all sizes to run their entire operation through Square. With such a diverse audience, Square thrives on implementing an audience-first marketing perspective. By focusing on key audiences and tailoring messaging for each, Square can drive discoverability and cultivate relationships with a variety of different demographics and businesses in all sectors and scales. Square is very data-driven and informed, so everything they do and plans for is tied back to the overall strategy, metrics of success, and business results. Their category is competitive, so they have to be responsive and adapt quickly while also being smart with their risk-taking. Lauren tells us taking small incremental risks gives them space to break through and try new things. Thankfully, experimenting and learning from failures is in Square’s DNA, which serves them well in being innovative. Lauren’s marketing teams measure their success on how much revenue they bring in from the new customers they acquire. She tells us it’s a blessing and a curse to be in the spotlight with their contributions so directly linked to the business’s success, but she thrives on the challenge.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • The benefits and challenges of implementing “audience first” marketing
  • How incrementalism, principled risks, and a culture of learning drive innovation at Square
  • Laurens take on marketing cuts in light of an oncoming recession

Key Highlights:

  • [01:30] A cross-country pandemic move
  • [05:00] Where Lauren got her start and how she ended up at Square
  • [09:00] What is Square today
  • [10:30] How does Lauren think about marketing role in driving growth
  • [12:00] What has Lauren learned at Square over the past six years?
  • [13:20] How is Lauren using data to inform her marketing efforts?
  • [15:40] Data in understanding long-term investments
  • [16:48] Marketing mix modleing
  • [19:05] Educating a variety of audiences
  • [21:40] Audience first marketing
  • [24:30] Marketing cuts in light of an oncoming recession
  • [27:50] Benefits of constant communication and transparent decision making
  • [30:00] The impact of her first job and being a boy mom
  • [32:30] Advocate for yourself and trust your intuition
  • [34:30] Generative Ai and unlocking TikTok
  • [36:00] Trends and subcultures to watch
  • [38:45] Returning to a beginners mindset

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Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth opportunities. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies but is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine companies.

Differentiation And Design Ops With Amrita Mathur, VP Of Marketing At Superside

When Amrita Mathur joined Superside as their first marketing hire in 2019, there was no product, no platform, and no recurring revenue. She is no stranger to being called in when companies are at a strategic inflection point with their growth strategy, so she did what she spent a career in B2B marketing learning how to do: implement a marketing-led growth strategy that translated into $8 million in subscription revenue in the first year and 400% year-over-year growth since then. Amrita is passionate about community, but she denotes an important difference between community building and a sense of community. For her, it’s about a sense of goodwill and feeling like you have someone in your corner. Now as VP of Marketing, with that sense of community top of mind, she and her team are revolutionizing design at scale for ambitious brands like Amazon, Meta, Shopify, and Coinbase.

In this episode, Alan and Amrita discuss her journey from developer to Marketing VP, the moves that played a key role in taking Superside from $0 to $55 million in annual recurring revenue in just four years, and the importance of Design and Creative Ops in running an efficient and effective team. Superside is a fully managed design subscription company that serves marketing and creative teams to help them un-bottleneck their design challenges and empower them to get creative work done in a fast and efficient manner. Unlike an agency, freelance marketplace, or internal team, Superside acts as a point solution for key problems inside a company. They optimize for efficiency, speed, and scale, which allows them to cater to companies that are pivoting and changing rapidly. Amrita says an understanding of the importance of Design and Creative Ops helps Superside be an extremely efficient and effective partner. When it comes to Superside’s rapid and sustained growth, Amrita tells us they did make smart moves but also attributes some of their good fortune to good timing. One key move was figuring out their differentiation early. With marketing, the problem is well-defined, but the solutions are messy, so from the start, Superside dove deep into their best use cases and what value they would provide in that space. Another key move was the founder’s investment in marketing from day one to intentionally “build an efficient machine” for lean operations.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • What is the Superside use case?
  • How Amrita took Superside from $0 to $55 million in ARR in four years
  • The benefits of a marketing-first mindset

Key Highlights:

  • [02:05] An appreciation for “community”
  • [07:30] Path to becoming CMO of Superside
  • [10:20] What is Superside?
  • [14:00] ARR increased from $0 to $55 million in four years.
  • [18:30] No convincing is needed when the higher-ups get
  • [20:00] What are “moon shoots,” and what is an example of a win?
  • [28:10] The nexus of design, creativity, and operation
  • [31:50] A crazy (and impressive) designer to design operations ratio
  • [36:00] Being a chameleon isn’t such a bad thing.
  • [39:00] Advice for her younger self
  • [40:05] Be aware of dilution in marketing.
  • [42:40] Misconceptions around mass amounts of data

Thank you to our sponsor:

PartnerHero: to waive set-up fees, go to and mention “Marketing Today” during onboarding!

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Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth opportunities. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies but is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine companies.

How Two Renowned Studios Collaborated To Launch The Elder Scrolls Online’s New Expansion

Two powerhouse creative agencies, Ayzenberg Group and The Mill, leveraged their collaborative expertise to support The Elder Scrolls® Online and ZeniMax Online Studios as they launched the new Chapter in the iconic MMORPG. Both agencies collaborated closely with ZeniMax Online Studio’s Marketing and Art Departments, which heavily supported the development of the creative direction and vision throughout the project. Ayzenberg Group’s extensive experience marketing previous The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) titles—such as Elsweyr, Blackwood, High Isle, and Greymoor—and conducting project management of the integrated campaign provided a solid foundation for the group’s new challenges.

Among those challenges were capturing the essence of the game and translating it for fans and new audiences.

The latest trailer for ESO’s most recent iteration, Necrom, reflects the game’s ethos as well as the new possibilities presented in this edition.

Behind The Scenes Of The Elder Scrolls Online: Shadow Over Morrowind – Cinematic Announcement Trailer

The Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom is an interconnected story that will unfold across multiple content releases. The Shadow Over Morrowind storyline centers around the Daedric Prince of Knowledge, Hermaeus Mora, and the secrets he guards against mortals and the Daedra. Unknown forces threaten to reveal these secrets, potentially placing the nature of reality itself at risk. Players will undertake quests, uncover clues, and solve puzzles to avert a catastrophic event.

We spoke with Robert Sethi, a director with The Mill, about the experience of collaborating with Ayzenberg Group on the creation of ZeniMax Online Studio’s Shadow Over Morrowind cinematic trailer.

What drew you to the project, and how was it working with the Ayzenberg Group?

[Before starting the project], I knew the style of work at Ayzenberg, which I think is really collaborative and transparent. They have a really cool way of sharing their creative ownership, and everyone is involved—it’s very similar to how we like to work.

Then, of course, The Elder Scrolls Online is a cool IP with a strong legacy. I think one of the main things [that drew me to the project] was the brief that we got with four different worlds… If you really wanted to pare down where the passion for making this film came from, it was the cosmic horror aspect and the mystery of it. That’s what engaged us.

Behind The Scenes: The Creative Collaboration

We caught up with Paul Wallace, Director of Brand Creative Integration at Ayzenberg, to chat about the development of the trailer for the latest expansion.

You had the opportunity to craft a new creative vision for the Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) CG trailer – how did you and the team go about that?

It is a huge privilege to be trusted by our clients, Bethesda and ZeniMax Online Studios, to honor the long legacy of ESO cinematics while being able to evolve where the franchise’s creative marketing is going.

The Ayzenberg team began crafting this new vision by defining an entire palette of creative possibilities. We cut tone films to articulate the editorial rhythm. We explored how sound design could become a character. We built a design toolkit of visual and narrative devices that would embody the themes of the story while pushing its technique into an expressionistic territory. And we wrote lots of scripts that explored the emotional depth of each character and what their journey through Tamriel could be.

Would you talk about the creative partnership and how it impacted development?

Evolving the ESO vision also meant finding a new creative partner, which we found in The Mill. The Mill’s incredible dedication to photo-real visuals, epic action, and emotional storytelling allowed us to honor the high bar set by past cinematics while realizing this vision of where the franchise could go.

How did the Ayzenberg team ensure that this vision was expressed throughout the project?

We worked in lockstep at every stage of the process, empowering The Mill to do what they do best and supporting them with Ayzenberg’s greatest strengths: A deep understanding of the audience, dedication to emotional storytelling, and a focus on editorial craft. For instance, before MoCap facial scanning occurred, Ayzenberg wrote a detailed account of the main character’s internal world and emotional journey so that every detail could play out during the actress’s performance.

How did this cinematic fit into the larger integrated campaign for the entire Necrom Chapter?

Before beginning this CG film with The Mill, I had been working with the visual identity team at Ayzenberg to develop a complementary campaign arc told through key art. Together, we designed the Morrowind setting with a huge exploration-based vista, the epic reveal of the new character class alongside Hermaeus Mora, and some other pieces of art you’ll see later in the year, which I don’t want to spoil!

We did the same for the packing art, designing a Standard Edition rooted in Morrowind and Necrom, and a Collector’s Edition based in Apocrypha – which would later become the journey our new class takes through the CG film. Tying this all together lets us tell an interwoven story across CG, key art, pack art, and animation – creating a campaign-wide “red thread” that, we hope, is a treat for fans to experience throughout the year.

What impressed you most about The Mill as a creative partner?

So much impresses me about The Mill as a creative partner. The thing that impresses me the most is their passion. They poured their hearts into every aspect of this film.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome along the way?

Our biggest challenge was always time itself. Since part of the process this year was finding a new creative partner, we lost precious months of production. We refused to scale back creatively, so everything had to be done incredibly efficiently.

What was most exciting for you creatively about this newest chapter of ESO?

ESO’s latest chapter presented our creative team with a rich tapestry of themes, from buried secrets to cosmic horror. Personally, I absolutely love cosmic horror as a conceptual playground for storytelling.

These themes also allowed us to craft many thematically tied narrative devices, such as spatial misdirection, visual metaphor, and psychedelic, shifting environments. This marriage of form and content allowed us to be expressionistic while remaining rooted in an emotional story.

The Production: Managing Complexity And Vision

We spoke with Ayzenberg Executive Producer/Director of Production Jonathan Clark, about his perspective on how teams collaborated to manage the complexity of the project.

What were some elements of the production that were the most complex?

With a project of this size and profile, one of the most complex elements of the production was creating/establishing a schedule for delivery on an accelerated timeline that worked for both the production process and our clients. Finding the best path forward for production and a creative review with our internal team, our production partner, and our client stakeholders took significant planning.

There are a lot of moving parts and dependencies when you are working on something of this size and complexity. Landing a schedule that integrates everything seamlessly and still allows some flexibility for the inevitable small changes or challenges that happen on any creative endeavor with a significant number of people involved is essential to the success of the project.

How did the team come together to develop a unique solution?

Our creative, account, and production teams focused on communication and process. Though these are obvious pillars of the success of any project, they are even more essential for one of this size, type, and complexity. Every project presents a unique set of challenges. The Ayzenberg team worked diligently with our partners at The Mill to better understand their workflow’s “how and why” and this project’s many production components and dependencies. We also shared our own preferred creative and production process and landed on a path that worked for everyone involved. The result was better and more well-informed communications both internally and with our clients—and a fantastic final result!

Launching The Creative Vision: Honoring The Elder Scrolls Legacy

Matt Bretz, Chief Creative Officer at Ayzenberg, shared some history of the agency’s relationship with Bethesda and the significance of this Elder Scrolls evolution.

You’ve been working with Bethesda for a long time. Is there anything different about how you approached this release? Have there been any consistencies over those projects?

I’m proud to have started with The Elder Scrolls at its launch almost ten years ago and at another agency. Back then, we made gameplay trailers. While social and digital marketing was just beginning to be “a thing,” we enjoyed the luxury of simply making the best trailer our creative minds would empower us to make.

We’d hand it off to a media team, cross our fingers, and find out how the game had sold months later. To be fair, the Bethesda marketing team was always ahead of the agency on driving measurably impactful integrated advertising. But cut to 2023’s launch campaign for The Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom and YES! A ton has changed about the way that we’ve approached this announce trailer.

We have all sorts of data that represent the voice of the core ESO fans about what they love and want, and we get to start by listening to that. So, bringing the new class to life became a critical part of the trailer. Taking players back to beloved Morrowind is also important. And we knew that players of the DLC for Skyrim—an audience adjacent to the ESO core—were deeply intrigued by Hermaeus Mora and Apocrypha, so they have been featured heavily in the game and the marketing.

Perhaps more to the point, in 2023, we are much more purposeful than we were when I began working on ESO about how the announce trailer fits into an integrated array of story-driven assets on multiple platforms where we know that potential ESO players live. All these assets are different because they are optimized for the strength of each platform.

But with the ESO team, we work to create a “red thread” that we can find anywhere we look in this year-long marketing tapestry that tells us, “This is Shadow Over Morrowind!” Rather than a cinematics’ typical linear adventure, we set out to mash worlds, characters, and emotions more like a movie trailer.

All that being said, ZOS (ZeniMax Online Studios) was handing us a precious baton, and we needed to do a number of things that you can always count on from an ESO cinematic. Deliver technically on the bleeding edge of CGI capabilities. Maintain the brand’s essential classy fantasy—fans want to feel they could step into this world—not be distracted by commenting on it. And tell an emotionally engaging story that teases the rollercoaster ride that you will experience 10X as a player of Shadow Over Morrowind.

How does the way the team managed this project reflect the Ayzenberg ethos of Listen, Create, Share?

Many advertising agencies think about disruption first. At Ayzenberg, we start by listening. Listening to clients. Listening to fans. Listening to each other as a team while we develop a viewpoint. Disruption is a very powerful tool. Sometimes it’s the right one. But we have many other tools in our toolbox, and by listening first and frequently, we determine the right time to use each.

Listening is pretty subtle, so we’re best known for how we create based on listening. We always remind ourselves to anchor what we hear as we create. And when we’re ready, we have another set of tools to share what we’ve created. So that we provoke a response in our audience that we can listen to again. Adapt and create based on what we hear. Share again, etc.

Can you give an example?

For the making of this ESO cinematic, we listened to, as usual, the most thorough of briefings from ZeniMax Online Studios on the game. We used proprietary and third-party tools to listen to the fans. And it shaped the story look and feel of our cinematic trailer.

We are just at the beginning of our first cycle of sharing this asset, and what we are hearing is, thankfully, mostly good. The creative team is hard at work on assets further along in the year, and every day, we check in on what questions fans have based on the cinematic trailer. What parts were they most moved by? The next big moment for us in this virtuous cycle will be ZOS opening the first two dungeons of the game. Can’t wait to listen to that! And share more of our creations soon.

Parting Shots

Following the Scribes of Fate DLC in March, the Necrom Chapter launched on PC/Mac on June 5, 2023, and on June 20, 2023, for Xbox and PlayStation consoles.

The game features 30 hours of all-new story content. Players will be able to journey into two extraordinary new zones in Eastern Morrowind with two new companions and a playable new class: the Arcanist.

Learn more on ESO’s official website here.

Bringing Your Brand Purpose To Life With Raj Pudipeddi, CMO Of Align Tech, Makers Of Invisalign

Raj Pudipeddi currently serves as the Chief Product and Marketing Officer for Align Technology, makers of Invisalign, and its Managing Director for the Asia Pacific region. Through his dual roles, Raj has global responsibility for product, marketing, strategy, and clinical teams, as well as for the market development and commercial execution of all Align Technology products and services in the Asia Pacific region. Raj is an engineer by training who spent nearly 22 years at Procter & Gamble after he received his MBA. Today, he considers himself an “accidental marketer” who gets his joy out of serving the business and believes that ordinary people can deliver extraordinary outcomes when they are empowered to do so.

In this episode, Raj and I discuss the first steps he took when he arrived at Align Technology and how he has transformed the organization to deliver on the brand purpose. Align Technology encompasses several brands (Align Tech, Invisalign, Itero, and Exocad) that combine to provide end-to-end service, from generating interest to helping doctors model and use their products. They operate in a two-sided market by serving consumers and doctors, but a common purpose of “transforming smiles and changing lives” brings the two together. Align Technology is creating a whole new market and modernizing a discipline that has been stationary for hundreds of years. By ensuring the seamless integration of their products, Align Technology is able to increase throughput, drive demand in the general population, and match it in the doctor’s office.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How seamless integrations are increasing throughput and driving demand
  • How Align is creating a new market and modernizing a stationary discipline
  • Where Raj learned his leadership style

Key Highlights:

  • [01:50] Poker pro
  • [02:45] From engineering to CMO
  • [04:50] What brought Raj to Align?
  • [06:30] The huge market opportunity
  • [08:00] Wire-crossed lovers
  • [09:15] The complexity of the system
  • [11:40] Where did Raj start when he got to Align?
  • [13:40] How does purpose make a difference?
  • [11:25] The power of a smile
  • [20:40] Lessons learned
  • [23:30] How Align is keeping the brand authentic
  • [25:00] The transformation needed to bring the vision to life
  • [26:45] Consumer marketing vs. doctor marketing
  • [29:45] Being a market maker
  • [31:45] Personalization and seamless integration to create demand
  • [33:00] Modernizing a stationary discipline
  • [34:50] Measuring the effectiveness of marketing
  • [37:50] Learning to make people feel respected and valued
  • [41:05] Stop and smell the roses.
  • [42:55] AI doesn’t preclude thinking.
  • [44:30] Brands to watch
  • [46:15] The pace of innovation is increasing.

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Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth opportunities. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies but is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine companies.

Simply Honest Ads And In-House Creatives With Hiroki Asai, Global Head Of Marketing And Creative At Airbnb

Hiroki Asai is the Head of Global Marketing at Airbnb, overseeing all marketing efforts and in-house creative teams. Hiroki grew up as a skateboarder in the 80s, loved the design aspect of that world, and started his career as a graphic designer. Eventually, he learned how to apply what he knew about creativity and design to solve business problems. He spent 18 years at Apple and served as Vice President of Global Marketing Communications and Executive Creative Director, where he was responsible for a variety of iconic marketing campaigns for a range of products, including the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Now, Hiroki is responsible for maintaining Airbnb’s strong global brand and sharing the stories of our millions of hosts who offer unique homes and experiences to guests around the world.

In this episode, Hiroki and I discuss Airbnb’s post-pandemic rebalancing of spend between performance and brand, why he is a firm believer in the importance of in-house creative teams, and what he thinks makes a great campaign today. Hiroki is an advocate for the creation of in-house creative teams for the benefit of the company, brand, and creatives alike. He believes in-house teams offer the distinct advantages of having creatives closely connected to business challenges and maintaining a close integration between “in-bound” and “out-bound” aspects. When hiring creatives, Hiroki looks for individuals who can both take a broad perspective and execute artistic visions while understanding the larger business impact. He also touches on the importance of storytelling and differentiation in marketing, highlighting the need to shift the narrative through brand tactics rather than solely focusing on performance metrics. In his opinion, a good campaign shows truthfulness and real stories by embracing simplicity, authenticity, intelligent messaging, and shared experiences as a response to the proliferation of overproduced advertisements. To this point, Hiroki tells us how Airbnb’s newest campaigns around Rooms and The Host’s Passport were influenced by first-hand user experiences, leading to a transformation in people’s perceptions and overcoming hesitations they may have about staying with strangers.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • The benefits of in-house creative teams
  • What Hiroki looks for when he’s hiring new creative team members
  • What makes a great campaign?

Key Highlights:

  • [01:40] Hiroki’s recent travel
  • [02:50] From skateboarder to graphic designer to CMO
  • [05:30] Coming to Airbnb
  • [06:40] Hiroki’s view on in-house creative
  • [08:20] Advantages of in-house creatives
  • [09:50] What to look for when hiring an in-house creative team
  • [12:00] “The Great Rebalancing”: shifting post-pandemic marketing mix
  • [14:00] The interplay between the ethos and the product
  • [15:50] What makes a good campaign?
  • [19:50] Airbnb Rooms
  • [25:15] The Hart Family’s Airbnb experience
  • [30:20] Advice for your younger self
  • [31:05] Close the gap between design and marketing.
  • [32:45] Brands to watch
  • [33:55] Marketing shouldn’t be your differentiator.

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Post-Production Credits:

Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth opportunities. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies but is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine companies.