Nothing can take the place of persistence. It will take time to build something great. This not only requires patience but consistency. You have to keep showing up, building relationships, and a brand.
Kieran Mathew is the Founder & CEO of Amplify, a marketing firm that helps brands thrive in the student market. Amplify delivers integrated influencer and experiential campaigns rooted in peer-to-peer communication, research, and insights.
Thank you for joining us! Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
During one of our early influencer marketing campaigns, I tried to convert on one piece of content for a brand that had no zero awareness in the target environment. Given less than 15% of consumers will convert on the first touch point, it would have been hugely beneficial to build a relationship with these prospective customers first through a more intimate journey. It wasn’t funny at the time, but I can laugh at it now thankfully.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
I began to see success when I focused deeply on doing one thing really well. As a young entrepreneur, I was highly distractible. I often chased new ideas to try and profit fast. I spread myself wide and thin which had a negative effect on my core business. Over time, I began to realize that patience and persistence are pivotal. Since focusing my efforts, ignoring shiny objects, and scaling down our service offering, we have won a lot of accounts with Fortune 500 brands and driven word of mouth growth as people actually know what we do now and why we are different. I have learned that if clients can’t communicate what we do concisely then we have no hope of growing through referrals.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our company stands out because we have our target consumers inform strategic direction making our content and experiences highly relevant and engaging. When I was getting started, I validated that students were experiencing fatigue which was a function of marketing teams sitting in boardrooms asking “How do we reach students?” without actually asking those consumers any questions. I was sitting in an office one afternoon, sharing feedback on a nationwide strategy which was predicated on a trend that had become “cringe-worthy”for youth months back. That’s when I knew something was wrong. These marketers were behind and not attune to the needs of youth.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I really believe that everything we are doing right now is exciting. Frankly, if I didn’t find it interesting or impactful, I wouldn’t take it on. What really excites me about all the projects we are working on is that we are able to employ hundreds of students throughout the process. We have been very fortunate to work with over 1000 students since inception. We are providing these students with hands-on, paid experience while they’re studying to equip them for the job market. This is a common thread throughout all our projects which is really fulfilling.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Patience is essential as is managing client expectations from day one. I have made the mistake of not informing clients of the inherent risks in doing business our way. The issue with this approach is that when challenges arise, they are unexpected and a plan to deal with them has not been established. Managing those expectations early and having a plan is essential as it will prevent further delays, more work on tight timelines, and unnecessary pain. Regarding patience, I have taken on projects in which the timelines are unreasonable, prioritizing revenue over wellbeing. This is never an intelligent decision to make as it will leave other clients feeling neglected, risk results, and harm those working on the campaign mentally and physically.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
A friend of mine and master connector, Jayson Gaignard often speaks to how entrepreneurs are “community made.” This really rings true as I have so many incredible people to thank for their support along my journey, including Jayson. One person who has added a lot of value to me is Chip Wilson, the Founder of Lululemon. I remember sharing some frustrations and fears with Chip and he said something along the lines of “In 10 years you will look back at those challenges and laugh, you will be grateful that they occurred.” This is something I often reflect on, knowing that my challenges today are really learning opportunities and that in the grand scheme of this entrepreneurial journeys, are truly insignificant.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There are hundreds of memorable marketing campaigns that have become part of the lexicon of our culture. What is your favorite marketing or branding campaign from history? Can you explain why you like that so much?
The campaign that I immediately think of is Apple’s original Macintosh ad. find the ad to be ground breaking. It so effectively articulates the company’s ‘why.’ Regardless of how many times I watch the ad, I still have any emotional response. There are very few ads in history that can illicit this. Content that triggers emotions is content that is retained by memory. It inspires sharing and a larger conversation. In my opinion, if that ad went live during the digital era, it would have become one of the most viral videos on the internet.
If you could break down a very successful campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas.
I believe that great work should be informed by data. So my blueprint starts with research. We identify the target consumer and understand what drives those people as well as the underlying benefits of using our client’s product or service. Once you know the driver, you can understand how the product makes them feel and the freedoms it affords them. Now it’s about creating a campaign which triggers to those emotions and educates the consumer on how they can get there. Let’s take the example of a bank. Suppose the target consumer for a new checking product is a student. Through research we learn that students are largely unaware of the fact they should not be paying fees on a checking account and that those fees are amounting to hundreds of dollars. We also learn that students value experiences over material goods. In turn, we create an influencer campaign which shows the journey of our partners opening a checking account, saving hundreds of dollars by not paying fees, and what that affords them. Now we work with each partner to understand what that freedom is, based on their values. One person goes to see their favourite band, another takes a vacation, while the last buys a train ticket to see their Grandmother. The content spends more time showcasing the emotional reaction of experiencing the music, vacation, and family while still educating consumers on the product. Youth consumers associate frequency of messaging with trust so we turn this into a longer content series. Our research shows that students want to learn how to save money and invest. Our series starts with an emotional hook and then provides value-based content channeled through influencers over a longer period of time. For example, this could be influencers sharing budgeting resources or guides to networking. That’s a high-level look at how I think about campaigns and how it can work in practice.
Companies like Google and Facebook have totally disrupted how companies market over the past 15 years. At the same time, consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. In your industry, where do you see the future of marketing going?
I believe that marketers will continue to invest more heavily in micro influencers and highly localized content. Our research has showed that retention of information is much higher with peer-to-peer, micro influencer messaging in contrast to mass media. In my opinion, ad recall is a much more valuable stat than impressions or reach. Simply put, if viewers are not retaining any information, why does it matter, especially given the saturation in this digital era. Localized content has a similar effect in the sense that local imagery or messaging is more intrigued due to relevancy. If someone sees their towns name, an important person in their community, or landmark, they are more likely to stop their scroll and engage with it versus seeing seeing the Empire State Building when they live in Texas.
Can you please tell us the 5 things you wish someone told you before you started? Can you please share a story or example for each.
- The first is to exercise patience. Success does not occur overnight and attempting to rush success or growth is often dangerous.
- The second is always ask why. It is important to understand what is driving decisions. It is easy to get wrapped up in an egocentric place and in that place, selfish decisions are made, often to the detriment of the business.
- The third is to be persistent. As mentioned earlier, nothing can take the place of persistence. It will take time to build something great. This not only requires patience but consistency. You have to keep showing up, building relationships, and a brand.
- The fourth is to focus on building relationships. As mentioned earlier, we are community-made, connecting with other founders and people in the marketing realm has led to invaluable personal and professional growth.
- The last is to enjoy the process and put things in perspective. The challenges which seem significant today are often non-issues in the long run, remember that, laugh and feel gratitude. It’s easy for me to be so focused on getting to the next level of growth, forgetting that the place where we are at now was just a dream less than a few years ago.
Can you share a few examples of marketing tools or marketing technology that you think can dramatically empower small business owners to become more effective marketers?
In the influencer realm, it is pivotal to ensure that partners are reaching the right target audience but also that they have non-fraudulent followings and high engagement. Additionally, tracking content distribution and measuring success can be time intensive. We use HypeAuditor and The Shelf to help us with both of these things.
What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skils?
Podcast-wise, I really enjoy the Tim Ferris show as it is full of timeless wisdom and great book recommendations. I also listen to Scott Galloway and Kara Swisher on the Pivot frequently, they do a fantastic job of sharing current events in an engaging way. Book-wise, This is Marketing by Seth Godin is fantastic, as is the Soulful Art of persuasion by Jason Harris. One of my all-time favourites is the 12 Immutable Laws of Marketing.
Who is your hero? Can you explain or share a story about why that person resonates with you?
My Grandfather is my hero. He came to Canada with my Father and Grandmother as refugees from the Biafran War in Nigeria with nothing but the clothes on their back. His story, as well as my Fathers, is one of persistence and grit, they dealt with an incredible amount of adversity but remained mindful and happy. I am very fortunate to have grown up near Toronto and I am working to take full advantage of that while remembering where I come from.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would inspire a mindfulness movement. Whether through meditation, journaling, exercise, or other tools. Cultivating mindfulness is incredibly beneficial for mental and physical health as well as compassion. It really just helps us be happier and more kind. The world could use more of both.
How can our readers follow you online?
They can find me on LinkedIn or at KieranMathew.com — thank you very much!