Episode #013: Spencer Burke, VP of Growth at Braze
Mobile campaigns. We’ve all run them and probably seen mixed results over our career. Some work beautifully and exceed our expectations while others fizzle and die. So, what makes the difference between a mobile campaign that drives incredible results and one that consumers find to be lackluster? In this episode of Mobile Matters, we talk to Spencer Burke from Braze about what the keys to creating mobile campaigns that drive phenomenal results.
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Stephanie Cox: Hi this is Stephanie Cox and this is Mobile Matters.Today, I’m joined by Spencer Burke at Braze. Spencer is the V.P. of Growth at Braze and has worked in mobile since 2011. Braze is a customer engagement platform that delivers messaging experiences across push, email, apps and more. They work with brands like Microsoft's, Sephora, Lyft, and Disney. In this episode Spencer and I talked a lot about the fact that mobile is no longer a channel and it’s just how you really need to market to consumers today. Like contacts and convenience is essential to the mobile experience and the brands that are doing mobile exceptionally well and the ones that really need to step up their game. And make sure you stick around to the end, where I will give my recap and top takeaways so that you can not only think about mobile differently but implement it effectively. Welcome to the show Spencer.
So you've been doing mobile since 2011, so almost as long as I have. So, can you tell me a little bit about how you got started in mobile?
Spencer Burke: Yeah, it's kind of a funny but really simple story in a way. Before working in mobile, I had been living in London working as a management consultant. So, a standard consulting gig and in early 2011, a good friend of mine called me and he was super excited because he just moved to New York. They were starting this company and mobile was the focus. And at that time, I hadn't had a ton of exposure to it but I started to look into what was happening in the New York tech scene. Obviously as a consumer, mobile had really impacted so much of our everyday experience and I decided to take the risk, took the leap, moved out to New York joined at the time was AppBoy, what is now Braze. And that was the start.
Stephanie Cox: So you've seen probably a lot of shifts in mobile marketing in your career. So, can you tell me a little bit about what you think the biggest shift has been?
Spencer Burke: Yeah, I think the biggest thing is now it's just marketing. When we got started, mobile was this new thing, people were feeling it out. And a lot of that at the time, a lot of the folks that were doing mobile marketing or called themselves mobile marketers, were really focused on acquisition. And the interesting thing about this time period, which is so easy to take for granted now, is this was before Facebook really dominated mobile advertising. So the tactics were so much scrappier. These people were really quantitative, trying to figure out where to go get audiences, how to game the app store. And that was that the early days of marketing.
Stephanie Cox: I love that you mentioned that because I talk all the time with other people, even on the podcast, about how as marketers that have had any experience in mobile, there are so many of us that have just been ingrained to think about app downloads as like the one metric we all should care about and that is such an old metric to think about especially in today's day and age where it's changed so much. So, as you think about all the change that’s happened, how do you think about brands that are using mobile effectively, like who is the creme de la creme for you?
Spencer Burke: Yeah, there's a lot of good examples of companies using mobile in different ways. But I think for me, I really like things that kind of shake things up, that are that are new that we haven't seen before. One of the things I really loved over the summer was the promotion that Burger King ran. Did you see what they did recently?
Stephanie Cox: I have a girl crush on Burger King, right now even though technically their mascot is a male King. But, I'm loving what they're doing on mobile so talk to me a bit more about what you love from them.
Spencer Burke: Yes. I don't know how many times or how repeatable this campaign is but with Burger King did was, they used the launch of a new app that they had. And in a really clever way, used location marketing to give people one cent Whoppers. All you had to do was drive over to McDonald's, open the app there, and it gave you access to this discount. So, it went viral in this really fun way, where you see people tweeting, posting pictures about themselves getting effectively ordering a whopper. But sitting in a McDonald's parking lot or going to the drive thru. And, of course, the folks at McDonald's weren't too excited about it but it got Burger King all of this press. And how often are you hearing about a fast food company doing something really exciting in mobile? It's really almost never. And Burger King just took this by storm and had so many people talking about it and I think in terms of earned media, their team couldn’t be happier.
Stephanie Cox: No, and that's one of the reasons why I'm like really fan-girling over what they're doing right now is because it was such a really basic concept to what they did right. They ran a promotion, but they did it tied to location , and then they totally trolled McDonald's, which is what makes it even sweeter. And I mean, if you look at some of the numbers that both McDonald's and Burger King had shared previously about their app downloads. McDonald's was definitely, they put a ton of effort in 2018 on improving app downloads and made a tremendous effort. And Burger King was definitely behind the ball. But, I think one of the numbers that I read was like in the first couple of days of this promotion Burger King like drove over a million downloads, was number one on iTunes in the app stores, which is just crazy to think about because how many of us think, I'm going to download a fast food app today.
Spencer Burke: Yeah, that really struck me as well because you, in those rankings at second places, YouTube, and you have Facebook and some of the other popular games. And then there's Burger King, sitting right at the top of the app store rankings. It really was a moment and like I said, I'm not sure how how many times you can repeat that or if something like that is too gimmicky for some brands to do. But for Burger King which has this history of using their mascot, this King character, and having some fun sort of from the second place position in the fast food world was really able to capitalize on that. So yeah, I think that hits on a bigger lesson which is, mobile can't be this separate thing that just exists that, your CEO hired some consultants they told you mobile is the future, go build an app, you throw something on the App Store, and then it exists as this completely fragmented experience. It really needs to be integrated into the brand into that larger message that you're trying to communicate to your customer.
Stephanie Cox: I think that's a really great point, because I always tell people I'm on this rant in 2019 specifically that mobile is a channel, it's how you consume channels? Like we don't say desktop as a channel, right? Like mobile's not a channel, like I consume apps, and notifications, and social, and the web, and everything on my mobile device.
Spencer Burke: Yeah, and I think when we got started, we were in 2011 we were seeing the end of this kind of time period for social, right? Because 2008, 2007 you saw everyone, every marketing team was flocking toward social and it was your Facebook pages, the contest you were running on there, you are like gating to get people into your pages.
Stephanie Cox: Oh, back in the day!
Spencer Burke: Yeah, so you know you can remember this time and now you're not, it's not revolutionary to say you need someone managing your social media but at that time, that was a totally new idea. And the same thing happened with mobile in 2011, 2012. And now it's gone through that point of maturity where it's more integrated into these teams.
Stephanie Cox: Exactly! And everyone needs to be thinking kind of with a mobile-first mentality, not just having this one person that's responsible.
Spencer Burke: Yeah, it sounds like you may have some horror stories from the social days.
Stephanie Cox: Just a little bit. So we talked to Burger King, but let's talk about some of the brands that you think are also doing mobile well. So, is there anyone else that you absolutely love what they're doing or think they're taking an interesting twist or spin on it?
Spencer Burke: Yeah. There's an example I really love from from Postmates. They sort of picked up on this huge wave of convenience-based apps, that I think Uber and a lot of ways really pioneered. You should be able to open an app and wherever you are should be that simple to get a ride, to get some food, to get whatever you need. They did a campaign one Mother's Day that really sort of personally struck me, because in my family, we're not big gift exchangers but everyone loves a special moment, right? And so, they did this really basic. They had a little promotion on Mother's Day, received a push notification and a message was basically, hey it's not too late. You can still get almost anything On-Demand, just hop into the app. I had woken up on Mother's Day, read that and thought it was kind of clever, ignored it but they sent an email, explained a little bit. You know, hey here's a bunch of different gift ideas. I popped into the app and was able to find something, my mom loves chocolate cake, found a dessert place that would deliver chocolate cake and send a text to my dad and said hey, is Mom going to be home in 45 minutes and he said yes, what's going on? But yes. And was able to just order something and get sent to her and so, for me, it was just like this really kind of simple moment where the value proposition for something where it was just this absolute moment of convenience that mobile facilitates. My phone is in my pocket, didn't have anything planned, and it let me be so spontaneous and deliver this really amazing moments to my mother that I hadn't otherwise planned to do.
Stephanie Cox: Well and I love the idea that it was chocolate cake it wasn't flowers, it wasn't kind of the standard stuff, it gave you an opportunity to do something a little bit outside the box too.
Spencer Burke: Yeah. And it was kind of fun and she takes a picture sends it over to me. So, I think that's a lot of what mobile can do is, it's just having the contacts, it's having the convenience. You don't need to be there in person necessarily. I think this comes up in a lot of ways, it's just that ability to go do something. And that can be because you have a mapping app that's helping you find something, it can be hopping into Yelp to look for a recommendation, or using Postmates or Lyft to get to where you need to go.
Stephanie Cox: I know Braze works a lot of really well-known brands, and as a consumer, you see what brands are doing on mobile. Is there one thing or a couple of things honestly that you wish brands would do more of on mobile?
Spencer Burke: It's a good question I think, overall, I'm excited how much investment there's been in mobile. And for me, it's really straightforward. It's just focus on the fundamentals of good customer experience. It doesn't need to be gimmicky. It doesn't need to be over the top. You don't need to overuse humor in what you're doing. And I think a lot of people feel like, I'm sending a push notification, I don't have that much space so I need to say something really funny or clever like it's Twitter, or it's not going to resonate with people. And I think you don't need to do that, if that's not your brand or if that doesn't relate to your product. So, just focusing on the fundamentals of who your customers are, who your brand is, how you can make a great experience. I think when you do that, it all kind of just dovetails nicely into something that's really rewarding and adds value to your customers entire experience and then hopefully to their broader life.
Stephanie Cox: Well, when you mention you know being true and authentic to your brand and my immediate thought maybe it's because we were talking about Burger King earlier was Wendy's and what they do on social. They have those really specific brand voice on social media, and I've seen other brands try and copy it. And it doesn't come across in the same way because that's not who their brand is. And so, I think it's super important, to your point earlier, that everything that you do, remain true to who you are, the tone that people expect from you, and the content and, as well as, relationship that they believe that they have with you and your brand.
Spencer Burke: Yeah something we did at Braze this last year. We worked with Forrester to build this brand humanity index. And one of the things that the survey looked for was, what are the qualities in a brand that make it actually feel like a human experience and not this kind of artificial voice? And one of the things that people are looking for a genuine authentic connection. And humor or trying to mimic a voice that doesn't really work for you was something that the survey found actively made people feel like your brand was less human and more artificial. So yeah, I think there's not just that sense that we have as consumers, but some of the data that we've seen actually helps back up and support these kinds of ideas.
Stephanie Cox: And I think that's even more important when you think about how personal the mobile devices to so many of us, as consumers. I feel like myself, I'm a little more forgiving if I get a message from you via e-mail and I look at it on my desktop for work, and it doesn't feel like it's your brand. But on my mobile device if you send me a push notification or a text, and it feels off-brand, that almost feels like a violation of like the precious relationship I've given you to exist on my mobile device.
Spencer Burke: Right. There's all these studies that are scary, like how many people have their phone within 10 feet of them at all times or when they're sleeping because you're using it as your alarm listening to music before bed. And it's with you all the time, it's in your pocket, it's in your purse, it's on your nightstand. And I think with that territory, in that proximity to you, comes the feeling you've invited this brand into your world and there needs to be a certain level of respect that goes along with that.
Stephanie Cox: No, I completely agree. So, we've talked about some brands that have done some really great campaigns, so can you tell me a little bit about how you think brands should measure success for mobile. What does that look like?
Spencer Burke: Yeah, I think like we've spoken about mobile. Thinking about mobile as just as a channel is becoming a fairly narrow point of view that limits what you do over time and how it can start to influence your strategy in a broader sense. But, at the same time, for all the marketing managers out there you have your boss, or your CMO, or someone asking you for for metrics that are, that show the time that we're spending filling out push notifications, or email campaigns, or just invested in the app, you need to be able to to show that ROI. For me, I look at it in two simple business models. You're either trying to get screen time, so have people spend more time and that could be to look at ads, just to build brand recognition. That's one model. The second is, you're just trying to get people to buy something. So the Burger King, the Postmates of the world, you're trying to convince someone to come in and use the app to make a purchase. So, I think that in a simple sense, the easiest way to look at it is are you trying to get sessions, and time in the app? Or are you trying to track towards some conversion and the metrics that exist around that are more typical of the ecommerce world, so you know average order value, cart size, things like that.
Stephanie Cox: Do you often find that a lot of brands that you talk to aren't really measuring any of those things and they're still thinking about app downloads or email open rates on mobile? Like some really basic numbers and not diving in to the real meat of it that's showing you the true health of what you're doing?
Spencer Burke: When you spoke to people or if you read TechCrunch about some new app, that would always be the metric that you hear about. But I think it's too expensive to do that over a long period of time. And as Facebook and Twitter, as acquisition channels have got more saturated and some of the big apps have reached a scale where you see diminishing returns so quickly, in terms of advertising. Installs just don't get you very far, and eventually you need to pivot and start to think about engagement. And in mobile, we've kind of gotten over the hump on that in email. I still hear all the time, it's all about your audience, it's about your list size. It doesn't matter how old the list is, how healthy it is, just email as many people as possible. And oftentimes, that's coming. And that's coming from the C-suite and for you even if you're a VP, it can be a really hard battle to fight. So I think there's still some maturity that is coming, even though it is an older channel into the email space and as inboxes, especially Gmail, get smarter about that, they're starting to punish bad senders faster and more harshly.
Stephanie Cox: So talk to me a little bit about a mobile experience that you think went really right, and what was so unique about it?
Spencer Burke: I've actually recently been spending more time focusing on missed opportunities in mobile than the really good examples, because I think the really great ones are easy. And when you see it, it feels right. It's personal, you can tell it's targeted at you, the timing is great, it's creative, it matches a brand voice. What I've found is really hard is there's a big middle ground where the messaging is OK, maybe it's a little bit clever, there's a little bit of targeting but you can't really tell and the timing, the cadences, it's just fine. And you have to look at a lot of those, and you have to spend time with some of the bad examples to start to see where brands can really get it wrong. Or get it just wrong enough that, to your point, on this very personal channel, it doesn't, it just doesn't work.
Stephanie Cox: So you mentioned missed opportunities. I'd love to pick your brain on any of the ones that you wish that like this brand and could have done a better job, or I really wish they would have done X differently and it would have completely changed how I felt about this campaign they were running or this message they sent me? Are there any examples like that you want to talk about?
Spencer Burke: Yeah, we have this funny example. So at Braze, we have a Slack channel, where we just share examples of experiences that people get from our customers from non-customers from all kinds of brands. And one of them was from Macy's, and they had sent a push notification that was, I forget the exact text but it was something along the lines of like, Hey app shopper, here's say ten percent on shoes this week and get a free iPhone case when you make a purchase. And when you start to dissect that, the first thing that strikes you is all right, I'm signed to this app, you know my name but it's like hey app shopper. And you think about that and you imagine yourself, you know I'm in New York. So down the street from us and Herald Squares is a big Macy's, walking into that and just having someone greet you, like hey department store shopper! You immediately react, it seems so artificial, it seems almost robotic. You can can imagine this happening and it just doesn't work. But in a push notifications, I’m sure that got approved without any trouble. And then there's also a promotion that's connecting, shoes and iPhone cases… Like, how how does that go together? How is that relevant for me? And so, there's all these pieces when you started to look at it, that start to really break down. And the opposite end of that spectrum is, you're gonna have a good experience from a company that you know focuses on personalization, something like Netflix, where they might use your name, they're gonna talk about shows that you watch, seasons that you might be interested in. And, I think, for a company like Macy's in this example, it's like well if you don't have my name, don't just reference me based on channel or the form that I'm shopping in and make sure that the offer is actually relevant to me. Otherwise, it just cheapens the whole brand experience because it seems like they're focused more on promotion than on me as a shopper and engaging me as a customer.
Stephanie Cox: Well, and what's weird about it when you mention it, obviously I heard the app shopper but I think I was more disturbed by the shoes and iPhone case correlation than anything else. As a girl who loves shoes, I was like yay for the discount. But I was like, why would I buy an iPhone case at Macy's? Like that's not even when I know Macy's for. So it's like this weird, not only does it not make sense together but it also doesn't seem to make sense as an offer for their brand.
Spencer Burke: Yeah, I completely agree and I was trying to figure this out for several weeks and I couldn't see the connection. And I mentioned it to someone else and they sort of offhand said, well they know you have a phone because they sent you a push notification so you probably want a phone case, right? And I was like, Oh that's so scary, but probably exactly what happened.
Stephanie Cox: You know what though... now that you say that they probably know your iPhone because they knew the app that you had. So it actually is like, targeted but also weird.
Spencer Burke: That's kind of the lowest common denominator. We are sending you notification, we know you have a phone, we know the type of phone but that's all we're going to that's all we're going to use and it's an example of where personalization can go wrong. And yeah I think as we start to look at some of the traps for folks in mobile, there's been a lot written. The New York Times recently had an article about how apps can track location and share that with other third parties and things like that. And people don't really have a strong sense of the type of data that's being collected. So, if you're using that information in a way, I think it's not even about a kind of a creepiness factor. It's just a way that makes you feel like the brand doesn't know you. You're going to start to lose points with that customer and again, it's gonna feel like a less human experience.
Stephanie Cox: It's funny that you mention that because I always talk about this, like there's a thin line between creepy and cool. Like I love when brands have a ton of data on me and they use that in a really cool way, whether to provide me a more personalized experience for me with a unique experience that I can't get somewhere else. But then there's like that creep factor when like they don't use it for any of those things, and they either use it for negative purposes or share with third parties and I have no idea where any of my information goes. So, I always tell people if you're gonna collect a ton of data on consumers specifically tied to their mobile behavior, like take advantage of it. You have it, use it for the good, because most people if you provide them with like helpful relevant messaging, mobile experiences and so forth. They're going to be really appreciative of it, they're not going to be upset that they gave you this information.
Spencer Burke: Right. There's a lot of good examples of this where, a lot of music streaming apps. I think the I Heart Radio app does a good job of this. They ask me straight up for your preferences when you start using the app, like what kind of music do you like listening to, what artists you like and then use that to build a more curated listening experience for you. And Spotify does a really good job of this, building playlists for you. And in those types of cases, you're happy to give them information because they're creating a product for you. I think like you said, it's those cases where it's, you know it they have it like that the app shopper, I know you know you have my name just use it. Or if you're not going to use it, then don’t try to refer to me at all, just let me know what the promotion is or provide some other piece of helpful information.
Stephanie Cox: One of the reasons why I enjoy talking to Spencer is his lengthy mobile experience. It may seem surprising but it's actually hard to find markers with almost a decade of mobile experience. Personally, I love talking to these types of individuals cause they’ve really seen it all. The good, the bad, and the ugly of mobile. They have seen mobile evolve from the last 10 years where we are all still trying to figure it out to now where it’s really the linchpin of our marketing efforts. Now, let's get to my favorite part of the show where we take the education and apply it to your business.
There's so many great insights from my conversation with Spencer that can really help transform how you think about mobile marketing. Let's dive into my top three takeaways. First, the best mobile campaigns are often the ones that do something unexpected. Let's take a look at Burger King. They ran a promotion in December where they drove app downloads by offering anyone with the Burger King app the ability to order Whopper for a penny. If they happen to be within 600 feet of McDonald's. At its simplest form Burger King basically did an app download campaign where they ran a promotion to drive app downloads. That's the same type of promotion that tons of other brands run on a regular basis. But the reason why it was so effective at driving downloads and generating a ton of viral buzz was because they tied it to McDonald's. How many times do you see brands tie down their promotions to their biggest competitor. Personally, I thought it was absolutely brilliant. They decided to troll McDonald's with this campaign and it's likely why they drove more than a million app downloads in a short period of time. Briefly hit the number one spot in iTunes and cornered a ton of press from places like Mobile Marketer, Ad Week, Ad Agency, CNN and more and Spencer also spoke about his Postmates campaign example and how it drove him to order a chocolate cake for his mom on Mother's Day. As a mom, I would love a chocolate cake for Mother's Day sounds like a good idea to me.
Now, that campaign didn't go viral like Burger King, but it's still offered a unique perspective on something to get your mom for Mother's Day. Everyone thinks about the traditional flowers or fruit baskets. But how often do you get to actually send a chocolate cake to your mom the same day. The uniqueness of what he could send his mom is what prompted him to take action and actually make that purchase. It stood out to him because he wasn't used to seeing something like that before. Now, what can we learn from these two examples? I think the biggest idea is don't over engineer your mobile campaigns. As marketings, sometimes we get so fired up about a campaign idea and creating this really amazing experience that we overlook some of the most basic ideas that can actually be the most compelling. Burger King's decision to offer Whoppers for a penny wasn’t novel; it was a way to generate app downloads and it's not something new. A ton of restaurant brands do that very same thing everyday. What made it stand out was how they did it. They took a simple idea and implemented it in a way that we hadn't seen other brands do before. The same concept applies to Postmates, tons of brands that offer promotions for Mother's Day.But how many of them enable you to send your mom a chocolate cake that same day. So when you're thinking about your next mobile campaign, perhaps you should go back to the basics. Think about some of the types of promotions or initiatives that you no work for your brand in the past and find a creative way to utilize them that you haven't done before and you haven't seen anyone else do. This is going to allow you to bring together a method, you know that drives results with a creative way to implement it that really stands out.
Next, now I know I've said this before and I'll probably stay a couple more times again this year, but I'm really really hoping that 2019 is the year we stop thinking about mobile as a channel and start realizing that it’s really the linchpin of everything that we do from a marketing perspective today because of how content is consumed. We cannot keep thinking about mobile as a separate channel or initiative that exists in our overall strategy and it's owned by one person or small group of people in our organization. Instead everyone in marketing needs to consider themselves a mobile marketer because chances are what you're doing is consumed on a mobile device at some point. Now that begs the question of whether or not we actually need a mobile marketing expert in our organization to spearhead our mobile strategy or if we actually need to get to a place where everyone on our marketing team is an expert about how to connect with consumers and drivers also mobile. I know for me, I'd advocate that in today's world. We all need to be mobile experts.
Finally. I can not and I repeat cannot stress the importance of authenticity and personalization in mobile messaging. Think about it for a minute. As consumers we often treat our mobile phones as an extension of ourselves. They’re rarely more than a few feet away from us at any time and it's the one thing we constantly check multiple times a day and perhaps sometimes a few times an hour, if you're me. We know that 97% of text messages are read within the first three minutes. So if you're sending someone a text from a brand they're going to see that pretty quickly for the most part and they're going to have an immediate reaction to reading it and what you want them to feel when they read that message. Is that it is authentic for your brand and it's personalized to what you know about them that needs to be relevant. And that same thing applies to push notifications. If you've been collecting information about people through the text opt-in process or through your native app, then you need to utilize that information for your communications. Don't make the mistake like Macy's did and refer to everyone as “App Shoppers” when you clearly know their name. Worst case scenario if you don't know their name don't include any name in your messaging just leave it out all together. I find that approach to be a lot more appealing then coming out with a generic name to call them. And make sure whatever messages you’re sending out sound authentic for your brand and think of it as a conversation you're having with the consumer. If it's super clever, funny and it's not representative of your normal voice then don't do it. Now. Here's my mobile marketing challenge for the week, block out an hour of your time to look at the text messages and push notifications that you sent out to your consumers over the past few months. Then evaluate them for authenticity and personalization. Does each of your messages sound like your brand. I mean really sound like your brand? Have you incorporated some aspect of personalization in the majority of the messages? And that might be something as simple as name or suddenly who gets what message based on product interests. If the answer to either one of these questions is no or not really then it's time to develop a plan to quickly implement authenticity and personalization in your mobile messaging program. And by quick, I'm talking like this week or next people. When you see the immediate results for making this change you’ll understand why I believe this is so important for your business.
I'm Stephanie Cox and you've been listening to Mobile Matters. If you haven't yet be sure to subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. Until then be sure to visit lumavate.com and subscribe to get more access to thought leaders best practices and all things mobile.