Why a Marketing Sage is Creating a Netflix-Style Podcast Show
As marketers, we are generally practical people. (And if we’re not, say, the most naturally practical of folks, we’ve worked out our logic muscles enough because our careers depend on it.) We like data and statistics — or, at least, our jobs rely on our ability to analyze them and recognize a strong trend when we see it.
Most successful marketers are also equipped with a healthy dose of skepticism, because, let’s face it: we recognize more than anyone (except maybe salespeople) when we’re being targeted or sold to.
So, of course, we’re not typically ones to take too much stock in people who say they can predict the future — unless this future prediction is based on a lifelong passion for marketing, expertise in theory, and a career spent uncovering what makes marketers successful.
These are the foundations of Mat Sweezey’s marketing predictions. And now, he’s saying that we’re on the brink of a marketing revolution — and the brands that will emerge victorious will be those that prioritize resonance over reach.
A Modern-Day Marketing Medium
When it comes to marketing, Mat Sweezey knows what he’s talking about. Principal of Marketing Insights for Salesforce, he’s the author of the first practical guide to marketing automation, a renowned speaker, and the creator of an extremely rad podcast.
He also has a knack for predicting the trends that will captivate marketers and the industry as a whole.
How did a normal guy with a business agriculture degree become the go-to guide to the future of marketing? It all started with passion.
When you ask most children what they want to be when they grow up, you’ll likely get an answer that is exciting, fun, or heroic. An astronaut. A rock star. A firefighter. Few kids have an intrinsic love for marketing at an early age. Mat was not your typical tyke.
“I made my first ads and flyers, designed them on my first PC to advertise my babysitting and dog-walking business in my neighborhood, stuffed them in everybody’s mailboxes, made other designs, like business cards, for people, my grandfather. At 65, he started a construction company with his buddy, and they called it Old Man Construction. I made him a business card for that,” Mat explained. “It’s something that’s always fascinated me since I was a child, a very small child. I always knew I wanted to do marketing in some way, shape, or form.”
This early love led Mat down a fairly unconventional route. Never one to feel stifled by systems, Mat attended college for agriculture when a low accounting grade failed to secure a spot for him in business school. The agriculture school conveniently had a business for agriculture program that focused more on practical economics, so Mat’s Plan B ended up being a perfect fit. After graduating, he became a success in his first job selling copy machines — a job he took because he felt a strong sales background would only help him as an eventual marketer. And then? In a fashion that seems so unequivocally Mat after speaking to him, he created his own marketing campaigns to land a job in his dream field.
“I would identify my targets, basic marketing plan, right? Figure out who you want to reach,” explains Mat. “Then I would do a lot of deep research on these individuals. I would research where they went to school, I would find common connections, and then I would set a budget. My budget was anywhere between $50 and $100 at this point in time.
I used the analogy of the seed. I was 24 at the time or maybe younger than that, probably 22, and I said, ‘Plant me in your organization. I’ll grow.’ I put together a little clay pot, a Ziplock bag of soil, a packet of seeds, and a note. This was all inside of a box. On the outside of the box, I had a sticker that said, ‘Open promptly for freshness.’ That was how I got people to open it. Then it was sent directly to the CEOs of the organizations that I wanted to work for. 50% of them called me back. Not a lot of people were hiring at that point, so a lot of them were calling me back and saying, ‘Oh my God. I wish I had a place to put you. We just don’t have a place.’
Well, then finally somebody did, and so they put a sticky note on my resume, handed it to HR, and they said, ‘Hire this kid.’”
Once hired, Mat applied this same technique to the accounts he targeted. He had phenomenal success breaking into accounts by targeting execs, finding clever and stand-out ways to get their attention, then winning them over with practical, applicable ideas. He used creativity to gain attention — and then he leveraged his lifelong interests and experience to hold it. But launching a career as a marketing luminary was hardly all smooth sailing.
The “Infinite Media” Revolution is Nigh
Mat’s ability to predict the future of marketing is rooted in plenty of time and experience, but there’s one trait that stands out above the rest: Mat’s a theory expert.
“[I] started really going down those deep rabbit holes, which are media theory, consumer behavior, behavioral economics, those topics. All of that really then started to influence my viewpoints, right? I was past just these ideas of, ‘What is marketing? What is branding?’ and really going to the heart of these things such as, ‘Why do consumers act the way they do?’ and how the factors of their environment, i.e. media, and their interactions with these things change those ideas, those notions, and those behaviors.”
Mat’s come a long way from sending plants to prospective employers. He has made a career out of diving into theoretical rabbit holes, studying trends, and learning how to predict what’s next.
And according to Mat, we’re on the precipice of a full-fledged marketing revolution. He’s written another book on this revolution, in fact, which will be published in 2020.
“What sparked the revolution is what I coin ‘infinite media.’ Think about it in one really simple idea: Media environments affect all things. Just as the combination of gases create the air and can create what type of light can exist in that environment, the same applies to media. The notion of how a human conceives and perceives the world around them is completely a representation of their media environment. Our idea of what love is, of what beauty is, of what sexy is… Pick any word, anything. Our definition is completely based on the media that we’ve experienced and been exposed to from that. We don’t come up with these ideas in our head.”
In the past, only brands and media companies created media. Newspapers, magazines, and branded campaigns ruled that airspace. (If you can’t help but think of Mad Men-esque Golden Era of advertising days when I say this, know you’re not alone.)
These days, everyone can (and most people do) create their own media on social channels. The major creators of content “noise” aren’t just big companies anymore — more often than not, they’re individuals with a lot of clout or influence.
Hence, the revolution: marketers must rewrite the rules of the game in order to fit in the modern media landscape, where every person with a smartphone and an Internet connection can have a voice. So how do marketers make theirs heard?
Making Marketers’ Voices Heard Amid Infinite Media
If you’re not quite sure what your part in the marketing revolution will look like just yet, listen to Mat’s podcast, The Electronic Propaganda Society (EPS). It is, without a doubt, unlike any marketing podcast (unlike any podcast at all, really) that I’ve ever heard.
The EPS is an incredibly stylized, nine-episode miniseries that examines both the failure of marketing thus far and its future through the lens of a highly-produced audio drama. Mat has intentionally created this type of show in order to differentiate from typical branded podcasts, which he believes do not succeed at both gaining and holding listeners’ attention.
“To me, the modern podcasts that most brands create are no more effective or desired by their audience than their newsletters,” Mat explained. “We’ve just essentially created a new format of a newsletter.”
EPS resembles a Netflix original series much more than a newsletter. Entertaining, dramatic, and suspenseful, ESP beautifully combines Mat’s marketing expertise with the artistic potential audio storytelling naturally presents.
“I want brands to find better ways of engaging, just period,” Mat told me. “There are some brands that do a phenomenal job with this stuff. You guys highlighted MailChimp, and they’re crushing it. There are a lot of brands that are looking at this and finding ways to engage their audience really well in story form. It goes so far past just, ‘How do I tell a story about my product?’ to, ‘How do we tell stories that our audience wants to listen to?’ When you find that a lot of marketers really are deeply passionate about these ideas of media branding and those other things, it makes sense that we then start talking about these things in different ways and not having to put our product at the center of it.”
Mat’s ultimate prediction? The future of marketing is a reversal from its former self. In the past, attention formed the foundation of how brands motivated consumers. “Brands used creative means to steal attention away from the task at hand to get consumers to do what we wanted,” says Mat. “The future lever is context, where brands help consumers achieve their goal in the moment. Motivation is accomplished by helping and guiding, not creative force.”
This marketing guru dismisses the idea of grabbing attention in favor of keeping it. As modern marketers, we have to take a deeper look at how to create meaningful, lasting messages that keep audiences coming back and continuously learning more. The new marketing world will have far less room or patience for random stunts; rather, it will celebrate consistently revelatory brands and individuals.