A Gaming Company’s Guide To Effectively Leveraging Social Media

I’m excited to announce that I’m leading the reboot of A List Games, which Ayzenberg originally launched in 2011 as a digital game publisher.

For this latest iteration of A List Games, we’ll work with indie developers and self-publishers to scale promising games in emerging categories such as free-to-play, mobile, digital distribution and games-as-service. One major advantage A List Games has over other game publishing alternatives is that it leverages Ayzenberg’s 25 years of legacy and expertise in game audience building.

As we hit the ground running, I thought it’d be important to share an overview of how game companies should approach social media platforms given their tremendous impact on reaching players.

The emergence of social media over 10 years ago radically shifted the way that game companies think about engaging with communities. Prior to the rise of Instagram, YouTube and the like, game companies would have controlled interactions with their communities. This mostly manifested through digital forums that the company funded, managed and created content for. For a gamer, the advantage of these forums was that if they got a piece of information about the game, like an upcoming feature or new release, they knew it was authentic. But beyond that, forums weren’t that effective because game companies would tightly control what content was being discussed there. This required a huge amount of manpower and money that wasn’t effective for the community or the game company.

When social media really started to take off, it was a godsend because it allowed the gaming community to self regulate. The number of places where people could talk about your game exponentially grew, allowing for game companies to have a much broader reach. Unlike the old digital forums, these new social media platforms had built-in functionality to amplify messages and create virality around games.

With so many social media platforms out there, you should be cognizant of the type of audience attracted to your game and adjust your social media strategy based on where your players go. In other words, don’t force them to go where you want them, but go where they naturally congregate. 

Social Networks


  • Purpose: Use daily to acquire new users via ads and use “Groups” to maximize organic reach
  • Audience: New and casual players
  • Content: Advertising, video

When thinking about the level of fandom and commitment to a game or brand, there’s a funnel where the least engaged but the biggest net cast of potential users is Facebook. When Facebook originally started, it enabled people to connect with each other. Come launch time, it was very good at having viral organic discoverability. It is not anymore. 

Facebook is primarily an advertising network and a very, very good advertising network. In fact, if you look at the user acquisition spending for most game companies, there probably isn’t a single company that doesn’t list it as number one for ad spend. Coupled with their sophisticated algorithms, their ability to do laser targeting based on individual customer profiles is second to none. They are absolutely a must-have in your game’s advertising paid media campaign.

In an organic sense Facebook is limited, because it suppresses a lot of the organic content that’s posted. This means your community team or social media team aren’t engaging deeply and very frequently with organic content updates to Facebook. Hence why it should be primarily used to acquire new players or help folks discover what your game is about through advertising or the use of Groups, a functionality within Facebook that has more viral capabilities.


  • Purpose: Use multiple times a day for fast community updates
  • Audience: Engaged players
  • Content: Game status updates, memes, direct communication

Home to a much more engaged audience than on Facebook, Twitter is different in that it enables you to share quick updates about changes, issues or new features around your game with your community. For example, if your live-service game goes down, your community team will immediately notify your Twitter followers about it. It’s very important that your community understands that you’re aware of what’s happening within the game, and that you communicate that to them.

Twitter has the ability to do more content marketing, although it’s not as good as some others. Twitter also has lots of content that revolves around humor, whether it’s memes or GIFs or written content.

Media Sharing Networks


  • Purpose: Use daily to tell a visual story of your game through images
  • Audience: New and lightly engaged players
  • Content: Screens/pictures and video that visualize your brand image

Good for lightly engaged and deeply engaged players, Instagram is probably the single best destination for visually setting up your game’s branding and tonality through screenshots and key art, as well as other elements that humanize your brand such as behind-the-scenes photos of you and your team.

The other important thing about Instagram is it’s a wholly owned subsidiary of Facebook, which means it has massive potential from an advertising network perspective, enabling game companies to take advantage of Facebook’s algorithms and deep targeting capabilities.


  • Purpose: Use weekly to give an insider look at your brand and team, “Snaps” are temporary
  • Audience: Hyper engaged users interested in your company
  • Content: “Day in the life” type images, lenses and filters

Snapchat is an underserved social media network that not many game companies are totally capitalizing on. They have several different product offerings that games can use to reach people who want to have a more personal relationship with, say, your development team. These players tend to be a little bit more engaged and more knowledgeable about your product and your development studio. 

I’ve seen really good success stories for community teams and for developers who are sharing the behind-the-scenes of the development studio, whether through imagery of them at work, their studio or hanging out together after work.


  • Purpose: Use weekly for long-form videos
  • Audience: New and engaged players
  • Content: New feature trailers, how-to guides

YouTube should be a primary resource for all of your trailer assets. This is the place where you can create channels featuring video-based content and customize your channels with different video series and playlists. This is critically important as I don’t think there’s a single game company who is serious that’s at least daily or weekly posting new video-based content on YouTube.

There’s a tremendous amount of functionality on YouTube, and because it’s a Google property, it actually is the second largest search engine behind Google proper. This means it has all of the sophisticated algorithmic search capabilities that Google does, but within a video format. It’s a great place to engage new players or very highly engaged players.

Discussion Forums


  • Purpose: Use weekly to replace owned forums, player moderated
  • Audience: Highly engaged power users
  • Content: Discussion topics, game betterment posts

A replacement for old digital forums, Reddit is where long threads of text-based communication and discussion topics about your game can live. The interesting thing here is very rarely does a game company own and manage their own Reddit. You mostly want Reddit to be an organic player-managed outlet for communication. That way, players feel like there’s ownership and that they can be more transparent without getting levee infractions or any of the regulatory baggage that came with old forums.

You can work with your admin on Reddit to increase the visibility of certain content that your fans want to learn more about, for example, Q&A sessions or announcements around new features or content.


  • Purpose: Use daily for community discussion and social connection
  • Audience: New and engaged players
  • Content: How-to and guild/alliance organization

Think of Discord as your social engagement and organization tool with both a voice and text component. This is where alliances or guilds will congregate and talk about what’s going on right now in the game, upcoming events and tournaments. Additionally, it’s effective for organizing people to work together in some format.

2021 Global Marketing Trends With Deloitte’s Ashley Reichheld

On this 241st episode of “Marketing Today,” I speak with Ashley Reichheld, principal at Deloitte. Reichheld discusses the findings of Deloitte’s 2021 Global Marketing Trends Report and dives deep into a few of its seven trends.

We start our conversation with Reichheld’s background of traveling. She talks about her experiences living and working in over 40 countries across six continents and how it helped her gain insight and perspective into different cultures. From there, we dive into the meat of the interview, Deloitte’s 2021 Global Marketing Trends Report. With this report, Deloitte aimed to dispel some of the uncertainty that this past year has brought to marketing.

Reichheld then discusses her favorite trend category, trust, and how “overall, trustworthy companies outperform their competitors by 2 ½ times.” For a long time, public trust in corporations and governments has been on the decline and presents both a threat and opportunity to marketing departments worldwide. Deloitte uses its metric, HX Trust ID, which measures trust drivers: humanity, transparency, capability, and reliability. By measuring these four drivers, Deloitte can predict buying tendencies and motivations for consumers and employees.  Lastly, we talk about marketing effectiveness and how to know if your efforts are working or not.

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”:

  • Ashley has lived and worked in over 40 countries, picking up an appreciation and empathy for cultural differences. 1:19
  • The level of uncertainty in 2020 fueled Deloitte’s 2021 Global Marketing Report. 2:23
  • Purpose, human experience, and fusion are the three trends that confused most people. 3:13
  • There has been a drop in confidence across the board in C-Suite executives from consumers during 2020. 4:52
  • Organizations have had to pivot to better serve their customers and that ability largely affects a customer’s continued loyalty. 6:40
  • Interpreting and acting on data is especially difficult for marketing departments because people are irrational creatures. 7:55
  • For a long time, trust in companies and the government has been on the decline and has only been exasperated by the pandemic. 8:50
  • Trust is the key to continued loyalty from both consumers and employees. 9:51
  • Deloitte uses its metric, HX Trust ID, which measures trust drivers: humanity, transparency, capability, and reliability. 10:37
  • By measuring these four drivers, Deloitte can predict buying tendencies and motivations to work for consumers and employees. 11:40
  • Deloitte’s Global Marketing Trends Report shows a direct link between employee trust and consumer trust. 12:34
  • Recent research suggests that governments and corporations can’t be both ethical and competent. 14:20
  • Being aligned around common goals and being driven by a purpose takes companies further than being driven by incentives. 15:38
  • The airlines are all dealing with the same problems, but the companies that have remained customer/employee-centric are gaining traction.16:08
  • Alan believes that the perfect storm exists when the purpose is aligned with business results. 17:28
  • Bringing in the right talent and preparing employees for C-Level positions is one of the biggest challenges in marketing today. 18:04
  • CMOs have an extensive range of responsibilities, making it hard for employees outside of marketing to transition. 19:23
  • Marketing isn’t finance, but a finance background isn’t useless in marketing. 20:44
  • The best way to measure your marketing’s effectiveness is to simply turn your marketing off for some time. 22:20
  • Because Ashley believes that we are the sum of all experiences, she can’t point to just one experience that has helped shape her. 23:04
  • If she could look back, Ashley would practice more mindfulness and take things slow. 23:49
  • Ashley has recently joined the board of The Center for Women & Enterprise to help underserved populations through these difficult times. 25:27
  • Trust, or brand promise, both represents the biggest opportunity and threat to marketers today. 26:27

Resources Mentioned:

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Connect with Marketing Today and Alan Hart:

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 opportunities around brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies, but he is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine startups.

Unlocking Brand Growth with Belvedere Vodka CEO Rodney Williams

On this 240th episode of “Marketing Today,” I speak with Rodney Williams, president and CEO of Belvedere Vodka. With a bevy of experience leading successful marketing campaigns across a plethora of industries, Williams is truly an expert when it comes to closing the gap between a product and its consumers.

To start our conversation, Williams discusses his business school experience and the nonprofit sector before he began his journey to become a marketing expert. In school at Northwestern, Williams quickly learned that “you have a strong chance of getting a good grade by joining a group with people that don’t think like you.” This experience helped him understand a simple fact of life; to truly be successful, you must be open to the perspectives of others.

We then dive into Williams’s experience working for large companies like Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble. It was his success at these companies that taught him both “the element of brand-building where you’re really fundamentally problem-solving” and not only the importance of “really tapping into what was already there.” Williams then takes us into his induction into the Wind and Spirits industry, which eventually led him to his current position at Belvedere.

To end the conversation, we discuss how “the push for social justice has opened up brands in a big way” and how “the need for brands to take a stand and stand up for values that they believe in has never been more important.” Williams touches on how the views of different cultures in the corporate business world have changed since he entered the workforce. “We’re not there yet, but we’re making progress!”

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”:

  • Before business school, Rodney ran a direct mail business in Chicago that hired disadvantaged employees. 1:53
  • Rodney has stayed in-tune with how the business world affects the communities that it is in. 3:03
  • Growing up in Evanston, Illinois, it was a natural fit for Rodney to attend Northwestern’s business school. 3:35
  • After business school, Rodney worked for J&J and Procter & Gamble in a pursuit to learn sophisticated marketing. 5:32
  • Figuring out how to get the brand in the right position where it can connect with its customers is like a game to Rodney. 6:20
  • In his time at J&J, Rodney learned the ins and outs of working in an intrapreneurial environment. 6:55
  • Over time, Rodney slowly developed into an enhance-growth guy that has been able to take companies over the top. 8:47
  • J&J required that 25% of each business under its umbrella’s revenue had to be from new products in the last three years. 9:15
  • When Rodney arrived at Band-Aid, he was able to take it from stagnant to The New York Times by using Barry Manalo’s jingle. 10:22
  • The ability to understand the essence of a brand and what it means to the consumers allows a brand to enhance its imagery. 12:26
  • A former colleague’s call about a dot-com opportunity led Rodney to quit his job and head to the West Coast. 13:04
  • Rodney’s time working with OnStar eventually led to his entrance into the Wine and Spirits industry. 14:41
  • It was the health benefits of wine that initially drew Rodney to interview with his first wine company. 15:58
  • Robert Mondavi taught Rodney the importance and value of presentation. 17:20
  • Kendall Jackson, the number 1 chardonnay over $10, presented Rodney with an opportunity to launch the biggest product in company history. 18:37
  • In 2011, more women than men graduated from high school for the first time in history and saw the gender gap begin to grow. 20:28
  • Since coming to Belvedere, Rodney has seen that vodka takes people back to experiences they have outgrown. 21:30
  • Belvedere aims to add some class and flavor to an alcohol category that has become stagnant. 22:30
  • Just before the pandemic, Belvedere ran a study that showed people in different markets around the world valued the same things in nature. 25:12
  • Being the nerd that he is, Rodney used to love reading the American Demographics magazine because social culture absolutely fascinates him. 27:05
  • A person’s lifestyle or desired lifestyle is usually reflected in the brand of alcohol that they prefer. 28:47
  • Due to the emotion attached to alcohol brands, they can build community, unlike other consumable products. 29:50
  • Nas’s background as an incredibly successful venture capitalist has allowed Hennessey to include inspirational voices in their campaign. 31:22
  • With Rodney’s vision, Belvedere has been able to connect with many demographics while also crossing borders. 34:05
  • Rodney’s time at the direct-mail business had a huge effect on who he is today because it gave him the opportunity to change lives. 35:54
  • Looking back, Rodney would have been bolder and taken more risks with the opportunities that were presented to him. 38:54
  • Since the death of George Floyd, Belvedere has supported Race Forward, an institution that seeks to rid society of institutional racism. 42:00
  • As a successful African American CEO, Rodney uses his position to support diversity and spark change. 45:23
  • Rodney believes that social media and brands have a dark side in their ability to distort the truth. 48:30

Resources Mentioned:

Subscribe to the podcast:

Connect with Marketing Today and Alan Hart:

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 opportunities around brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies, but he is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine startups.

What We’re Reading—Week Of December 21st

Dear Fashion Brands: Why Aren’t You On TikTok?


With over 800 million active users and clear youth appeal, TikTok has seen a number of verticals flock to the app. Yet with a few exceptions, fashion brands have yet to embrace the app.

Why it matters: Even the fashion brands that have gotten involved in TikTok, like Gucci and J.W. Anderson, did so coincidentally after user-generated styling challenges went viral. For other fashion brands looking to test the TikTok waters, creating content with a popular TikTok creator may be the best entry point.

What 2020 Taught Impossible Foods’ Rachel Konrad: ‘Normal’ Is Now

The Drum

Rachel Konrad, chief communications officer at Impossible Foods, says that by March 6, the brand had formed a task force and started planning strict safety protocols at its plant, lab and test kitchen. In addition, the brand improved fertility assistance benefits for all employees, made recruiting more inclusive and hosted anti-racism seminars, while its employee resource groups founded a mentorship program,

Why it matters: In March, the brand’s flagship product, the Impossible Burger, was carried in fewer than 150 grocery stores. Within six months, the product was in more than 15,000 stores. According to data from retailers, at least 75 percent of people who try Impossible become repeat customers.

The State Of OOH Advertising In 2021


As the world opens back up and more programmatic advertising solutions emerge, out-of-home advertising will see a sharp rebound.

Why it matters: A mass exodus out of large metropolitan cities presents a new, untapped opportunity for brand marketers who have consistently targeted such cities like Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

How Fashion Got Marketing Right In 2020

Vogue Business

A strong connection with customers built through incentives to shop with brands over long periods of time—as opposed to a specific moment—has become essential for survival.

Why it matters: With a neutral stance not an option this year, many fashion and beauty brands pledged to match their representation of black business owners to the black population of the US, while others acknowledged the opportunity that virtual fashion shows and gaming, respectively, represent.

Disruption, Not Regulation, Should Be Tech Companies’ Top Concern

Harvard Business Review

Research by Bain & Co conducted last year of more than 1,300 companies’ performance from 1996 to 2018 shows that tech companies are 12 percent more likely to be disrupted than companies in retail and 25 percent more likely than those in financial services.

Why it matters: The two forces driving tech companies’ ability to create value are: their ability to create a dominant platform, or their ability to reposition their core business or extend into new areas.

NerdWallet CMO Kelly Gillease On COVID-19 Lessons And 2021 Marketing Trends

As personal finance remains a critical topic of discussion amid the third wave of COVID, we spoke with Kelly Gillease, chief marketing officer at NerdWallet, to understand where the brand stands since she spoke on “Marketing Today” back in May.

Ahead, Gillease shares the lessons she gleaned from the pandemic, including how vignette-style ads were a coincidental saving grace for the company, and her 2021 trend predictions on marketing budgets, out-of-home advertising and first-party data. And perhaps most importantly, the strategy she thinks marketers underutilized most this year. 

Tell us about how and why NerdWallet embraced vignette-style ads during the pandemic?

Our key 2020 brand campaign was called Money Questions, a vignette-style ad that was not necessarily intentional. We weren’t really building it because we thought, oh, this will be really flexible to change later. I just like how it evolved because as everyone’s money questions changed a ton, we could easily change the ad. So while some of the questions in the vignette were still very relevant, some of them weren’t relevant anymore. For example, there’s someone in a restaurant thinking about what credit card points are right for eating in a restaurant with their friends. Not so relevant anymore. A lot of people were thinking about refinancing their house or getting into investing. And so we could add in vignettes for those things because we actually shot a lot of footage that we didn’t use. So it was relatively easy to edit. 

What we realized from this exercise around COVID is that vignette-style ads are really flexible for certain environments. As we went into planning for the new year, we wanted to film a spot for Q1 2021, so we shot hours of footage of people talking about different personal finance topics so that we would have the flexibility to recut or choose a different ad over the course of 2021. So that if suddenly travel comes back and everyone’s traveling, we’re prepared for that because we have footage for it, and we can update our vignette-style ad. But we’re not going out the door with that because that’s not where we are right now culturally. So I think for us, the vignette style ads really helped us to realize that we value flexibility and the better performance that comes with being more relevant in the moment.

Is there anything else NerdWallet has embraced since the pandemic, and if so, what have you and your team learned as a result?

It’s really vital for us to be nimble and responsive to what’s going on outside of NerdWallet, so a key learning that I took away from the experiences of the past year is that if there’s a really dramatic cultural event that happens, I’d like to be able to act on it really quickly as an opportunity. To that end, I’m thinking about how to have a view of future events and where it would make sense for NerdWallet to jump into a cultural conversation and what would we want to say, so that we’re not spending time working through that in the moment. Knowing if we don’t have a place in that conversation or if we have a very strong place in that conversation, and here’s what we want to say about it. But now let’s go execute on doing that and then do that as quickly as possible. In some of the things that have happened over the past year, it took us a while to figure out what being responsive meant for us. We can cut down on that time.

Is there one process or strategy that NerdWallet successfully adopted during the pandemic that it will continue to utilize in the new year?

The accidental vignette-style ad approach. We really have embraced shooting ads this way moving forward so that we can be really flexible and we can recut them and pivot in other directions quickly. Larger companies, particularly big P&G type companies that are selling a lot of consumer goods, can shoot a lot of ads quickly. We’re a mid-sized startup, so we don’t have the luxury of being able to reshoot an ad all the time. For NerdWallet, having a flexible style to adapt quickly and change mid-campaign or for a new campaign is really valuable and it gives us a lot of message optioning. We’re trying to have good check-ins ahead of all of our deadlines for campaigns to decide, are we going to move forward or are we not going to move forward? 

NerdWallet upped spending in Q2. Has the company’s budget increased, decreased, or remained the same since then?

In Q2, we upped our budget because we exceeded our Q1 benchmarks. Our CEO and my boss, Tim Chen, was like, ‘“Hey, what more can you do? This seems to be a great lever for our business.” In Q2, we committed to doing a bigger budget, then COVID hit and took some wind out of our sales. But we found that we still wanted to spend a little bit more than we’d spent in Q1 and maybe not as aggressively as we could. Knowing that many Americans’ financial concerns changed a lot with COVID, we made some adjustments to that campaign to reflect the more relevant questions. But with so many people looking for financial guidance and searches for financial help at an all-time high, we felt it was important that people knew we could be a resource for them in both good times and bad times.

So we made a decision, unlike many brand advertisers, that we didn’t want to totally turn off or substantially decrease our brand effort, but channel it in a different way. So for 2021, our brand budget is larger in part because we scaled something back in light of COVID and we’re coming back with a lot of those things. But we do plan to do more brand spending because we’re seeing a lot of opportunity there and a lot of business results from those investments. As long as we’re seeing that they’re really paying off in moving our business and brand forward, we’re going to keep investing in them.

What’s been working at NerdWallet in terms of pandemic messaging?

One thing we didn’t talk about that’s not the [vignette-style] ads is our vision is to answer all consumers’ money questions. With so many people looking for financial guidance, we felt it was really important that people knew we could be a resource for them. At the start of the pandemic, we made adjustments to the ads, but we also changed our content strategy to reflect these current needs. We offered new resources that were tailored to specific concerns people were having. So we launched a guide to COVID-19 that’s been updated daily since the start of the outbreak to reflect new developments. It did stuff like analyze the CARES Act and provide answers to all of the front burner questions people now had, like when am I going to get my stimulus check? 

Then we updated our content marketing strategy to highlight the topics that are most impactful versus doing what we originally planned. We had a whole slate of content marketing on our calendar, but we basically threw it away and we were like, all right, what does everybody really care about right now? And as a result of that, we had some of the highest engagement rates we’ve ever seen across social, email and all those places where content marketing is really important. Taking a step back and redoing that plan was really smart of our teams to do. It ended up being much more impactful.

Looking ahead, what processes should marketers implement to ensure greater flexibility amid disruption?

Expecting unexpectedness is something to think about in 2021. Being ready to capitalize on opportunities or pivot when they arise is important to build into the process too. And some risk-taking.  

The other thing is that in this kind of environment, part of it is process and part of it is perspective. Marketing can feel very tricky because the short-term payback might be down or it might be harder to see. But the long-term payback is probably like showing up at a time that’s difficult for people because being really helpful builds a lot of trust in your brand. We decided at NerdWallet that if we can get a long term payback around the marketing we’re doing now in two years, then it’s worth doing. If we think that our business is going to be fully recovered and that people are going to be back to doing what they were doing a couple of years from now, then it’s probably worth us not stopping everything in the short term and grinding to a halt, but continuing to plow on through. We’re fortunate that we’re in a good position as a profitable startup and that we don’t have to be that extreme in some of our cost-cutting.

How do you see marketing budgets changing in the new year?

It’ll be interesting to see if engaging people in person, like at Coachella or through airport billboards, will come back in 2021 or maybe the second half of the year. And whether trends like consumption of streaming media, which was up about 80 percent at one point, will persist as people get back to being out in real life again.

There’s been a lot of change in travel, rewards-based credit cards and travel adjacent marketing. On the flip side, there’s a lot of increased interest in things that aren’t related to travel, like cashback cards or getting free food delivery and having DoorDash pass or things like that. And we can all expect to see a lot of marketing related to pharmaceuticals and the vaccine. So I think that there are ebbs and flows into different areas and whether or not those areas will persist and really be a new consumer behavior or not, is the open question for me. Marketing budgets need to be able to ebb and flow into that as well.

I anticipate 2021 is going to be a different situation for a lot of the year, so continuing to think about how to either take advantage of behaviors that are coming back or new behaviors that are going to be persistent, will be important.

With people stuck at home for most of the year and a third wave of COVID-19 upon us, how does NerdWallet view out-of-home (OOH)?

We’ve run OOH advertising in the past, and it’s something we really pulled back on given the change in commutes. As offices reopen and commuting returns, OOH is going to come back. What I think about right now is that if we want OOH as part of our mix here at NerdWallet, is this a great time for us to jump on potentially cheaper inventory and lock things up for later in 2021 when other people are hesitant? To me, it’s a ‘when,’ not an ‘if.’

There has been a change to work life, but I don’t think it’s large enough that people are going to be coming back to offices in large numbers where OOH would be worth it. When they ride public transportation and are out and about a lot like before, how do we want to show for that?

How can advertisers acknowledge the pandemic in the new year without stirring fatigue?

Advertisers are probably going to look to give a nod to the new normal without necessarily speaking about COVID directly. You don’t want to be tone-deaf or pretend like nothing’s ever happened on the one hand. But on the other hand, nobody wants to hear anything else about COVID. For our ads, we’re thinking about how things are different in terms of behavior without having to dredge up the whole situation we’ve all been through.

What’s one tactic or thought process you think marketers have been underutilizing in the pandemic that will be critical in the new year?

I love this question because I got really excited about my answer to it, which is positivity and optimism. I think we’re all over 2020. It was a really tough year even for people maybe not as financially impacted and for people who didn’t lose their jobs or have a lot of struggles. No one wants to hear the word “unprecedented” ever again. We’re just over it. We’re ready to take things back and reclaim the things we love. As the new year commences and our return to normalcy happens slowly over the course of this year, having positivity and optimism about our futures, taking good things we learned from the tough times with us and saying, you know what? I learned this about myself. I learned this about consumers, or it was really good that I figured this out about my friends, my family, my job or whatever. That will be really important.

So I’m thinking about how we go into this year with those feelings of optimism and the right spirit around our futures. For other marketers, optimism is a very powerful tool versus dwelling on the past or going back to business as usual. So it’s about how you encompass that feeling.

Any thoughts on first-party data needs and challenges in 2021?

I actually think about this a lot. Given the future of third-party cookies being uncertain, I think it’s a really critical time for businesses and especially people who work in marketing those businesses to have a proactive first-party data strategy. If it wasn’t a big priority for you, you got to really start thinking about it. For us at NerdWallet, first-party data really helps us to help consumers make informed decisions about how to improve their finances and personalize things because personal finance is really personal. So the more we can do that, the better off we are.

There are legit sensitivities around personal data and we always want to be very careful about it, not only about what’s legally right, which is of course, the minimum standard we all need to comply with. But what’s ethically right for us as a business. 

We actually have privacy governance around that internally. It’s a big area for companies to be thinking about. If you put it off, 2021 is a year where you need to start getting serious about making plans to increase your first-party information because 2022 is going to be on you before you know it. And you’re not going to be able to rely on third-party cookies anymore, potentially.

Twitter Taps Beverly Jackson As Vice President, Global Brand And Consumer Marketing

This week in leadership updates, Twitter appoints Beverly Jackson to VP of global brand and consumer marketing, Swisher elevates John Haley to chief growth officer, RingCentral promotes Matthew Bishop to chief digital officer, Marriott Vacations Worldwide names Lori Gustafson executive vice president, chief brand and digital strategy officer and more.

Twitter Names Beverly Jackson Vice President, Global Brand And Consumer Marketing

Twitter has appointed Beverly Jackson as VP of global brand and consumer marketing.

Jackson is joining from Activision Blizzard, where she served as VP of franchise communication and social, working on social media and public relations campaigns for games such as Call of Duty and Crash Bandicoot.

Prior to that, she held similar roles at MGM Resorts International, Yahoo and the Recording Academy.

Swisher Elevates John Haley To Chief Growth Officer

Swisher has named John Haley chief growth officer, a newly created role for which he will oversee the company’s new corporate growth department.

Haley has been with Swisher since 2013, most recently serving as senior vice president of sales and marketing.

RingCentral Elevates Matthew Bishop To Chief Digital Officer

After joining in April, Matthew Bishop, RingCentral’s senior vice president of global operations, has been promoted to the role of chief digital officer.

Prior, he served as chief administrative officer for Core Scientific, and over 18 years at Microsoft.

Marriott Vacations Worldwide Names Lori Gustafson As Executive Vice President, Chief Brand And Digital Strategy Officer

Marriott Vacations Worldwide has appointed Lori Gustafson as EVP, chief brand and digital strategy officer.

Gustafson, a member of the company’s executive committee, previously worked for Wyndham Destinations as senior vice president of global brands and digital. Prior to that, she was corporate VP of digital, ecommerce and media at SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.

Nissan Motor Corporation Taps Yukio Ito As Corporate Vice President Of Marketing And Sales, Japan

Yukio Ito, Nissan’s corporate VP of Japan business, has been elevated to the role of VP of marketing and sales for the Japan-ASEAN region, the company announced.

Ito has been with Nissan since 2014 when he first joined as regional vice president.

FC Cincinnati Names Meg Ryan Its First Chief Marketing Officer

FC Cincinnati has announced the appointment of Meg Ryan to the newly created role of CMO.

Ryan joins FC Cincinnati from Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, where she served as vice president of marketing for the Denver Nuggets.

Prior to that, she was the Atlanta Hawks’ VP of marketing strategy.

Beyond Beer At Anheuser-Busch With Lana Buchanan

On this 238th episode of “Marketing Today,” I speak with Lana Buchanan, vice president of marketing for Beyond Beer at Anheuser-Busch. Buchanan oversees the marketing for everything that does not fall in the category of beer and, as such, has a massive portfolio full of product categories that require different marketing approaches!

We start our conversation with Buchanan’s background in the alcohol industry and the horror story that forced her to become an expert cocktail creator. Then Buchanan discusses what it’s like working with such an extensive portfolio of products and why she loves it. “With every different category, I get to think differently in terms of the consumer,” Buchanan says.

At Beyond Beer, all the separate teams have the same goal, “create an innovation that really fits the needs and the wants of the consumer in the different moments.” Buchanan then breaks down different marketing techniques that help them connect with consumers on an emotional level, because at the end of the day, “the most powerful brands are the ones that make you feel something.”

We then discuss how Buchanan’s time working on Bon Viv and her experience from traveling Europe after college helped her learn how to pivot with the changes in front of her. Lastly, Buchanan dives into the BLM movement and the importance of changing your marketing strategies with the world’s continually shifting landscape. “If you don’t evolve with the consumer, you’re going to get left behind!”

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”:

  • Lana bought a puppy during the pandemic. 1:33
  • During her time at Campari, Lana was forced to learn how to create a smattering of classic cocktails. 2:15
  • Lana currently handles everything that is not in the category of beer at Anheuser-Busch. 4:30
  • With so many categories, Lana chooses to take a consumer-first approach when handling her extensive portfolio. 5:33
  • Between categories, there are similar marketing frameworks that are used, each having its subtle differences. 6:49
  • Innovation goes beyond just the business opportunities in growing categories, and Lana must find out what factors are driving that growth. 8:28
  • Each team keeps a vision board that includes both the short and long-term goals. 10:10
  • Through small-market tests, each team does their best to see if they can connect to the consumer. 10:38
  • Small tests are still brewed in the full tanks but are strictly tested in very small regions for months at a time. 11:34
  • Next year, on top of launching big campaigns, Lana’s team will be conducting 4 or 5 small tests. 12:22
  • When it comes to marketing alcohol, connecting with the consumer at an emotional level is an incredibly important goal. 14:00
  • Knowing your target and what they want is one of the most powerful things a marketer can have. 15:42
  • Wherever a drink lies on the spectrum, they all have the same goal of connecting with the consumer. 16:32
  • Social Club is one of the projects that Lana is most proud of because it challenged the standards that have been created in its category. 17:14
  • The business dynamics have already changed 4 or 5 times this year alone because of the pandemic. 19:35
  • During her time at Bon Viv, Lana learned how to pivot a marketing plan to connect with what’s important at present. 20:20
  • With a safety-first mindset, traditional sampling has been adjusted so that consumers can have the experience. 22:41
  • Don’t be afraid to pivot when something doesn’t feel right. 23:52
  • After graduation, Lana decided to pass up on multiple job prospects to travel around Europe and get closer to her Russian background. 24:57
  • Lana looks back and wishes she had stopped to celebrate the wins more. 26:34
  • Lana recognizes the importance of the BLM movement and works to implement change in her team. 29:37
  • Too many marketers and agencies are afraid to recognize the change in the world and refuse to evolve. 30:48

Resources Mentioned:

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Connect with Marketing Today and Alan Hart:

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 opportunities around brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies, but he is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine startups.

What We’re Reading—Week Of December 7th

How Will The Influencer Sector Change In 2021?

The Drum

Ian Randolph, head of product and R&D at Tailify, believes that in 2021 consumers will begin to lose faith that tech giants are aligned with their interests and that marketers will have the confidence to shift budgets toward influencers.

Why it matters: An April 2019 survey from YouGov found that just 19 percent of users trust Facebook, while a Google study discovered that influencer marketing was five times more effective than directly measured.

Mass Exodus From The Coasts To The New Heartland Is Well Underway


Recent data shows a huge amount of Americans leaving crowded metropolitan cities for suburbs in the Midwest, Southwest and Southeast.

Why it matters: According to a report from Heartland Forward, the mass exodus can be attributed to a trend of millennials finding that many of their goals are more achievable in the New Heartland, where the cost of living is less and the same amenities as coastal cities exist but with additional benefits.

Sponsored Influencer Posts Mentioned These Video Game Brands The Most


A new analysis from CreatorIQ found 2,700 sponsored posts from 870 influencers on Instagram and YouTube that featured video game companies in September. Appearing in 426 posts from 131 creators, Twitch was the most-marketed gaming platform among influencers.

Why it matters: The increased activity around influencer marketing comes amid a surge in consumer spend on video games, which is set to reach $13.4 billion this holiday season.

PS5, Xbox Rollouts Drive 80% Jump In Ad Spending For Video Games

Marketing Dive

The release of Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X contributed to an 80 percent rise in ad spending for the video game industry in November, according to data from MediaRadar.

Why it matters: Sony spent more than $15 million to promote the PlayStation 5 in the month prior to launch, more than triple what Microsoft spent on advertising Xbox Series X and S.

How Do You Evaluate Performance During a Pandemic?

Harvard Business Review

To avoid lasting consequences for workplace diversity and crisis-specific biases, managers must figure out how to approach performance reviews and reward women who are stepping up during this time without inadvertently penalizing those who have needed to lean out.

Why it matters: While important, compassion isn’t enough. Managers must implement good processes to help block bias in their assessments. That includes defining effective criteria before making critical decisions about employees, aligning all decision makers and engaging others in being consistent and equitable.

Pantone Names 2 Colors Of The Year For 2021: Gray And Yellow


Pantone has revealed two new colors of the year for 2021—ultimate gray and a yellow hue called “illuminating.”

Why it matters: The two shades represent resilience and positivity, respectively—two things that many will seek after a tough year as they shift from a quantity to quality mindset.

Advertising Giant Dentsu Just Announced Huge Job Cuts. Insiders Are Speculating About How They’ll Play Out And The Growing Influence Of Data Agency Merkle

Business Insider

Dentsu is laying off 6,000 people, or 12.5 percent of staff outside its home country of Japan, causing worry about the growing influence of Merkle, which Dentsu acquired a majority stake in for $1.5 billion in 2016.

Why it matters: After Merkle was fully acquired, around 25 executives received both equity and senior roles at Dentsu. The reorganization has also forced out some longtime execs elsewhere at the company.

It’s Time To Stop Looking To Brands To Save Us


2019 research from Edelman found that across seven nations including the US and the UK, citizens trust brands more than they trust the government.

Why it matters: Brands have widened their influence beyond the scope of their products and services, causing people’s expectations of them to increase. But as brands fail at defending worker’s rights, halting racism and upending sexism, it’s futile for consumers to continue to place so much hope in them.

Speeding Up To Become Even More Consumer-Obsessed: An Interview With GSK’s Keith Choy


Keith Choy, the head of the Asia-Pacific unit of GlaxoSmithKline’s consumer healthcare group, considers the pandemic a chance to double down on existing digitization initiatives and strengthen end-to-end supply chains to better respond to emerging consumption trends across the 23 marketers the company serves.

Why it matters: Choy says that part of GSK’s response to the pandemic includes the development of an end-to-end consumer data management platform for which GSK needs to build out the framework, operationalize it and find the talent to support it.

HumanCo’s Next Step: The Intersection Of Helping Humanity & Driving Shareholder Value


With the wellness market valued at $4.5 trillion, HumanCo was created to focus on long-term investments in companies in which brand equity can be built around integrity 

and trust.

Why it matters: Together with CAVU Ventures, HumanCo has launched a special purpose acquisition company called HumanCo Acquisition Co on the Nasdaq to help publicly traded, high-growth consumer companies focus on advancing healthier living.

What We’re Reading—Week Of November 30th

How Web-Based AR Can Help Retailers Boost Customer Engagement And Sales


The augmented reality (AR) market is projected to be valued at more than $18.8 billion in 2020 as AR ads are seeing a 520 percent increase in intent to purchase over the next six months and a 75 percent higher memory response than non-AR ads.

Why it matters: As consumers increasingly shop online, AR can help brands fuse the digital and physical worlds, enabling them to reach new digital shoppers through virtual tours of physical storefronts, virtual product try-ons and interactive packaging.

59 Percent Of Influencers Report An Increase In Brand Interest During COVID-19


After a 41 percent drop in influencer marketing efficiency in April, the influencer marketing industry rebounded with 59 percent of influencers seeing an increase in brand interest during the pandemic.

Why it matters: Half of the marketers surveyed reported spending more money on influencer marketing during COVID-19 while 62 percent have noticed increased sales due to these partnerships.

Winners And Losers Of Black Friday 2020

Retail Dive

This year’s Black Friday sales event was marked by a roughly 22-23 percent increase over 2019, yielding between $9 billion and $13 billion in online sales. Mobile comprised $3.6 billion, a 25 percent increase. 

Why it matters: Retailers unable to cope with logistical hurdles caused by a surge in online sales and decreased foot traffic will experience greater-than-normal returns, unhappy customers due to shipping delays and shipping cost increases of up to nearly 15 percent.

2021: The Year Of Living Actually And Artificially


2021 will be the year when two conflicting trends—namely the desire for both tangible products that provide comfort and products that use artificial intelligence or virtual reality—come together.

Why it matters: It’s important that brands provide creative and safe ways for consumers to live actually and artificially at the same time.

How Marketers Can Reach Gen Z This Holiday Season

Ad Age

Accounting for 40 percent of all consumers in 2020, Gen Z has an estimated spending power of $150 billion and uses the internet to shop for apparel, footwear, at-home entertainment and food takeout and delivery. 

Why it matters: Retailers offering goods and services outside of the aforementioned industries must adapt to the digitally-savvy Gen Z by marketing on formats they heavily consume and adopting brand values that resonate with them.

Emojis, Expression & Leadership With Holler’s Travis Montaque

On this 236th episode of “Marketing Today,” I speak with Travis Montaque, the founder and CEO of Holler. This messaging technology company uses AI and content to improve consumer communication online. Holler is on the frontline of the ongoing battle to bring human emotion into the world of technology.

The conversation with Montaque begins with his time at Chick-fil-A as a teenager, starting as a cashier and eventually working his way to the role of district manager by the time he was 19-years-old. Montaque was able to make the “fastest transition from Main Street to Wall Street” that I have ever seen, leaving Chick-fil-A to work for a private equity firm at only the age of 20. Montaque then discusses the difficulties of deciding not to accept an offer with Goldman Sachs and instead start Holler and how the pursuit of passion “inspires people around you to invest with whatever they can.”

We then dive into Montaque’s efforts as a successful black entrepreneur to bring diversity into the corporate environment, but “diversity shouldn’t be the end goal, changing the current corporate culture should.” Holler is working to create a culture that is inclusive and focused on belonging. Finally, Montaque breaks down this idea of “service, not surveillance” and how big-tech needs to change how it interacts with its consumers if there is to be a relationship of trust heading into the future.

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”:

  • Travis went from working at Chick-fil-A as a teenage cashier to a private equity firm in Miami during college. 1:43
  • At an early age, Travis was able to learn valuable lessons through hard work at Chick-fil-A. 4:00
  • Travis had aspirations of working on Wall Street but ultimately felt that he couldn’t make the impact that he wanted. 4:28
  • A side data in Big Tech led Travis to leave his job at Goldman Sachs and start Holler. 5:38
  • It was a rough process to explain to his mother the switch to a job that didn’t guarantee an income, but it was worth it. 6:58
  • Holler uses AI to make consumer conversations online better by providing content that consumers want. 8:19
  • Any sticker that you have been able to add to a Venmo note has been provided by Holler. 9:41
  • Travis partnered with students in the engineering school to create the prototype, pitched to investors, and hired employees. 10:18
  • Until he had the seed money that he needed, Travis had to use inspiration to bring in the investors he was looking for. 12:40
  • Initially, focusing on expressive emojis wasn’t a thing, but evolving from the initial company brought the ability to share feelings. 14:16
  • There has been a rise in categorical messaging, spreading to just about every category you can think of. 16:06
  • Body language makes up so much of home emotions are perceived, which led to the use of emojis in Holler’s peer-to-peer communication. 17:12
  • Holler is expanding into different brands and marketing companies, allowing those companies to connect with their consumers. 18:35
  • Share rates have reached up to 21% with some companies, bringing engagement to an all-time high. 21:10
  • Travis has achieved a tremendous amount of entrepreneurial success and also happens to be a black man; unique experiences have been had. 24:18
  • There is an issue of investment pipelines in industries where institutions only get their resources from the same source. 25:45
  • Travis believes that America’s entire corporate culture needs to be changed to include diversity at the highest ranks. 28:45
  • Holler is working on expanding its perspectives to include people from all over the world. 30:20
  • There are so many issues at this moment in time that the responsibility of leaders to take care of people is more prevalent than ever. 33:03
  • People will get upset when their leaders don’t know their beliefs, but that doesn’t mean they need to know all the answers. 36:00
  • Travis’s experience as a first-generation American and watching his mother’s work ethic shaped who he is today. 37:41
  • As a younger man, Travis learned from the fundamentals that he gained from his first jobs. 39:41
  • Bringing good practices and standards into how next-gen tech companies behave towards their consumers is something that Travis supports. 42:14
  • Travis believes that the largest threat to marketing today is the inevitable end of identity. 44:19

Resources Mentioned:

Subscribe to the podcast:

Connect with Marketing Today and Alan Hart:

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 opportunities around brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies, but he is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine startups.