Why Marketers Should Study Both Silicon Valley and Madison Avenue

Posted by Kyle Denhoff on Aug 14, 2020 8:23:55 AM

Why are marketers put into one of two disciplines? You understand brand or your understand acquisition. What if you borrowed from both?

Just about every day I wake up, take my dog out, make a pot of coffee, and sit down to read. First, I read Ad Aged the witty blog from former Copy Chief George Tannenbaum. Then, I turn on Up First from the team over at NPR.

I see it as a way to educate myself. What's going on in the world around me and what can I learn from those who have more experience than me.

While I've been a marketer for about a decade. Serving small staffing firms, large healthcare networks, and sophisticated tech companies. I always read the latest from people I respect in our industry. Trying to gain another piece of knowledge that can make me better.

Through all my reading and listening I've observed a divide. 

The marketers that believe in acquisition.
Driving demand through organic search, content, landing page conversions, and performance media.

And the marketers that believe in brand.
Growing a business through creative advertising, thought-leadership, social, and communications.

The performance marketers understand how to interpret audience behaviors online and make optimizations to grow traffic, leads, and revenue. Making incremental improvements over and over again to help their business grow sustainably.

On the other hand, the marketers that believe in creative understand the nuances of culture and build solutions to connect with people and encourage action. They believe that every word matters and that creative can connect with people to help your brand build a lasting relationship that leads to sales.

Whether you work for an agency or in-house it feels like these institutions try to put you into one of these two buckets. 

Either you're someone who understands organic search behavior, conversion rates, and smart targeting look-a-like audiences. Or you're someone who can write thought provoking headlines, understands creative production, and can engage a social following.

I fail to see how businesses can gain market share without both. And how marketers today can simply ignore one or the other.

In Silicon Valley, AirBnb grew its business through a platform and content strategy, but they always remind us that we "Are Never a Stranger" no matter where we are. 

In New York, Casper will promise you "The Sleep You've Always Dreamed Of," but they don't talk about how they grew through a deliberate content strategy and referral program.

Through a belief in acquisition and brand, these companies saw significant revenue growth prior to the pandemic. From 2017 to 2018 Casper saw a 42.6% spike in revenue. And in 2018, AirBnB recorded Q3 revenue numbers exceeding $1B.

Now, while both companies are going through some difficult times today, they built a go-to market strategy that increased market share and made them mainstream brands.

Marketers can learn from both of their strategies. Creating consistent messaging and creative to leverage across all your assets. And using search, referrals, and direct response advertising to generate growth.

Below is a framework I use to put together campaigns and content strategies that take both learnings from both acquisition and brand disciplines.

  • Brand: Does this campaign or content reflect the values of my company. Am I building trust with my audience?
  • Differentiation: How is my content and messaging different than my competitors? Why am I better?
  • Cultural Context: What is my audience experiencing in the world around them? How can my efforts be helpful at this moment in time?
  • Relevance: Use keyword research to inform content strategy. Understand what your audience is searching for and create content that meets their intent.

Overall, we can learn from the masters of growth in Sillicon Valley and the masters of creative on Madison Avenue. The marketers that do, will be the ones who win over the customer. You don't have to be one or the other. Learn from both disciplines and be the marketer that can leverage brand and acquisition tactics to help your business grow.

At least that's what I'm trying to do.


Topics: brand and demand