PPPPlanning the Next Act (Four P's #179)
My New Role in Web3 and Reflections of Agency Life
Some news to share this week that may not be a surprise to regular readers over the past few months, but I’m going ALL IN with blockchain and Web3.
This month, I (officially) join MINT as its first Chief Marketing Officer and a co-founder to help make NFTs more accessible and inclusive for brand marketers.
I'll now take some of your questions.
SOMETHING PERSONAL: Breaking News
Q. Trent Crimm, The Independent. “So what is MINT, exactly?"
Mint is an end-to-end tech platform, a white-label solution for brands, sports leagues, agencies, etc. to mint, manage, monetize, & market assets on the blockchain in a more centralized environment that THEY own. Uniquely positioned as a seamless, streamlined, simplified solution compared to some of the open sites.
Q. Will McAvoy, News Night. “So that's a lot of alliteration. Can you tell us how you came to this decision?”
While social media platforms changed the landscape 15 years ago, this new technology provides even better tools for brand-building, community engagement and creating a meaningful value exchange with consumers. I've been an advisor to Mint since last summer, but the time was right to go all-in. With Web3, the hype is warranted, even if some of the current, initial forays by brands are inconsistent and imperfect. We're learning, creating, evaluating and optimizing.
Q. Kent Brockman, Channel 6 News. “First can you please spell N-F-T. And then spell out exactly what makes MINT different?”
Our platform makes it easier for new merchants AND collectors. No cryptocurrency needed. No technical expertise required. We build on eco-friendly blockchains. A brand purpose blending inclusivity AND exclusivity. And MINT already works with leading global brands, sports leagues and teams. Case studies available upon request. Each brand has different needs, approaches, objectives, & strategies. Yet Mint is a creative-agnostic platform to support each and all of these differences.
Q. Brenda Starr, The Flash. “So where do agencies fit into this ecosystem?”
Having spent the last 13 years at agencies, I've now filled out my last timesheet. But I've also learned a ton about how different brands operate and what they need. Agencies will remain critical, and have a mutually symbiotic relationship with tech platforms. We both start by asking the same questions: What do you, as a brand marketer, want to achieve and accomplish? What assets do you have to offer your fans, consumers and collectors? Not just creative, but more broadly: access, entertainment, community, ownership, etc.
The modern marketing mix has shifted. The playbook for marketers has not changed: unlock audience insights, determine where NFTs fit in your brand strategy, drive value through content/creative, engage the community, measure, evaluate, optimize. This is a positive feedback loop, but with invested stakeholders. That's powerful as fuck."
Q. Robin Scherbatsky, Metro News 1. “So any final thoughts or words of wisdom? What now?”
We're really just getting started. A big part of this is education and understanding the opportunities. Thanks to Joseph Djenandji and Matthew Balaszi for inviting me into this MINT elite leadership team, and trusting me with the company's brand strategy, business development, operational plans, and execution. And if anyone out there is curious about Web3, NFTs, & blockchain, you're not too late. We are an engine driving change… and the future of digital marketing. It starts NOW.
SOMETHING PROFESSIONAL: Agents of Change
I joined Jellyfish over a year ago through an M&A integration of Revelation. While only spending 15 months as a part of Jellyfish (and three years in the Webedia/Fimalac family), I'm truly grateful for the work we did, the teams we built, and the relationships we made. It remains bizarre that I never met 99% of the team in person in all that time, but now I join the ranks of those who have left and started a new role during the pandemic
For those first two years, I had an extremely long leash to build and lead. Webedia's leadership — Cedric Sire, Veronique Morali, and Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière — gave me their blessing. Raphael Grandemange provided guidance and support. They empowered me, but I would not have jumped in without a great foundation already in place. Noelle Chehab, Mathieu Racine, Jackie Burns-Brisman and Lauren McGurn were pioneers. Hiring Natalie Hapgood, Josh Priddy, then Aviva Grinnell, Lauren Levinson, Zoey Washington and so many others helped push us to new heights.
Once we joined Jellyfish, Rob Pierre and Jim Hamilton also afforded flexibility within a framework to keep going and growing. Jellyfish is building a different kind of agency than any other I've been a part of, and bringing 15 companies together under one model is a herculean task. I was initially uncertain about a company named after an animal with no brain or spine, but I quickly got past that. They are building something pretty cool and unique as far as digital agencies go.
After nearly so many years managing and leading agency teams, it is too soon to put into words all that I have learned and experienced along the way. I've had a love-hate relationship with the agency model for most of that time, but I also had incredible mentors and supporters who let me grow and innovate in my own way. Eric Bacolas likes to tell people that I was hired without a job description. That's still the model in which I operate most comfortably, but there is no way I would have lasted as long as I did in this space without Sarah Hofstetter and Bryan Wiener at 360i (10 years is a lifetime in agency life).
So few of the original cadre are still working at agencies, which is telling in many ways. But so many bright luminaries remain. And we need them. We need YOU. The agency model is deeply flawed, but so critical to the success of B2C and B2B marketing and advertising. Strategists and creatives working in-house at brands cannot drive this industry by themselves. Agencies are still best set up for the visibility into how different brands and verticals work. They have better access to data, analytics, and depths of insight. They push us to be more comfortable being uncomfortable. They make us better. Brand + Agency + Tech is still the winning formula, but the balance of each will vary in each specific complex, compound relationship. Brands' marketing strategies should still be planned with creative and media tactics in unison, and those who do not are less effective, less efficient, or both.
Agencies that OVER-rely on the GAFA platforms (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple...) are going to struggle in the next decade. There is less public trust in those institutions, which have too much financial and political clout over how we all interact. Power and wealth are too centralized with each of these platforms/ publishers, and each must evolve in its own way. Consumers are changing. What we want and need is changing. How we think and act is changing. These Web 2.0 companies must co-exist with Web3 companies for the foreseeable future, learning to work together in a mutually beneficial way to deliver value and benefits to their users.
And companies like MINT can be a gateway to bridge the gaps. That's why I'm here.
SOMETHING PRACTICAL: Striking the Balance
Any time you take on a new job, there is some element of risk. All too often, risk becomes forbidding, foreboding, even fear-inducing. We're afraid that one bad choice could bankrupt us or destroy our reputations. But truly "make-or-break" moments are rare. Risk is an evolving state of uncertainty and promise, and should be embraced with with intelligence and generosity. When we choose possibility, we can make our own opportunities.
It is often said that there are only are seven types of narratives, but our culture thrives on success stories, those heroic tales where one person risks everything to vanquish a foe, prove her worthiness, and achieve her dreams. When we recall these stories, we often distill the hero’s journey into an unalterable path, forgetting that along the way, our hero faced many possibilities. The same can be said for our careers. When you imagine that a single choice defines you, you lose sight of the numerous other options out there. You amplify setbacks and let your fear of failure gain the upper hand. But if, instead, you take on multiple, smaller risks, you’ll find you can build momentum and generate unforeseen possibilities.
So which fear wins out? The fear of loss or the fear of missing out? If fear of loss outweighs our FOMO, we won’t act. But there are ways to adjust this balance of fears. First, to name your worries. Are they financial? If so, exactly how much do you stand to lose? If you fear professional or personal loss, separate any legitimate concerns from the desire to protect your ego. Then consider the bigger picture: What's the real risk in a few months, a few years, a decade? And is any of this risk truly irreversible?
I've only made four career moves in the past 22 years. But every time I've done so, it's been as much about the people as it was the company or the role, itself. Our colleagues, managers and reports will play a big role in ultimate success or failure. So hang onto them. When thinking about success, it’s tempting to credit just hard work, talent, and smarts. But, success is about a lot more than your skills. The contributions of others and the prevailing forces of history are just as crucial in getting you to the top.
Some risks – such as a mid-life career change – are undeniably large. The stakes are high. This is where the tools you’ve honed on smaller risks can be combined to unpack bigger ones. You can demystify big risks by breaking down the potential costs and opportunities involved. In other words, deconstruct and rate both your fear of loss and your fear of missing out. List out and prioritize each element. Can this opportunity fulfill your ambitions? Does it fit with your personal strengths, weaknesses, and values? What about the downsides? Humans take in a lot of information that’s never fully articulated in our conscious minds.
Risk and reward have a nonlinear and often unpredictable relationship. A lost job might result in new professional connections, knowledge gained, or the inside scoop on an investment opportunity, and these results may appear at unpredictable times. This means that as we pursue multiple options, the offshoots of our decisions grow over time. We’ll have cycles of ups and downs as the overall trajectory of our careers trend upward. Learn from failure and, when the time comes, move on in a way that will create more opportunity.
Of course, never quit before you actually quit. Give your team your maximum effort right through to your last day. Set colleagues up for success and leave them with the knowledge and information required to succeed. Remember that you'll be trading on the reputation of your former company long after you're gone. So share what you’ve learned and don’t leave a mess.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said "Do one thing every day that scares you.” With each win, you'll build momentum. With each loss, you learn. Either way, you grow.
SOMETHING POLITICAL: Rings of Truth
Did you know that Winter Olympics begin tonight. Or maybe they've already begun? Given the time differences and mixed coverage of live and tape delayed events, I honestly have no idea. And while the Olympics are staged on a platform of diplomacy and peace, there’s some bad shit going on in the world.
Then there is our domestic (in)tranquility. Specifically, the mask/vaccine in school fuss. Masks can, should, and will come off, the numbers are dropping fast, but we're just not there yet. 8x more people have COVID this week than had it when we went back to school in Sept, 2020. 3x more have it now than in Sept, 2021.
Our own school board meetings are taken over by passionate, yet grossly uneducated parents advocating for optional masking. And while everyone has a right to an opinion, all freedom can, should, will be curtailed when their freedoms and personal choices infringe on others' health or put people's safety at risk.
It's why you can't smoke in a restaurant.
It's why you can't shout fire in a crowded theater.
It's why you cannot drink... and then drive.
Immunocompromised children, transplant and cancer survivors, and unvaccinated students for other medical reasons deserve the right to attend school in person, and unmasking students at the moment inhibits their equal access to education. It is discriminatory. And it is probably illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Two years is a long time for masks. But all of our sacrifices will ensure and enable everyone else's kids to be in school. A few more weeks isn’t going to have any more “profound emotional impact” on these kids, but will make a massive difference in improving communal health. If only Patience and Social Responsibility were Olympic events…