Past, Present & Future of Marketing in Silicon Valley: Interview with Bryan Kramer
Recap of interview with Content Magazine
What do you think of the term Silicon Valley?
I think we’re one of the most innova tive places to live and work. When I see this most is when I venture out of San Jose or California. I think where it’s challenging is when you’re inside San Jose or inside Silicon Valley, its not really a term that anybody turns on or has a warm discussion over coffee. I also think San Jose is more of a creative hub than people realize. Three of the biggest companies in the world are headquartered here in our backyard. Google, Apple, and Intel. The list goes on, but you look at the main power of the world’s superstars and they’re here in Silicon Valley. They’re not in China. They’re not in Wyoming. They’re here.
It’s pretty interesting how the brand is developing and I think it is also interesting how San Jose and San Francisco have developed as different cities over time. Call the centrepoint wherever you want, but it is by nature closer to San Jose because of where companies are. And how is the work of an agency evolving? Agencies are starting to lose their identity because we’re not selling ads or something that’s as creatively tangible anymore. Smaller agencies with young talent, like San Jose State students, now have the ability to create skill sets needed to be able to serve this new media coming out of Silicon Valley… from Mad Men through the dot.com and now in a new media era. It will be interesting.
Maybe the new social media direction will help San Jose focus itself since there are many parts of the city. We’re a bit scattered but we can use that to our own advantage?
There’s a culture in SJ — we’re working on a campaign with IBM right now called Gen C. It stands for Generation Connect — there’s no more Gen Y. Demographics and psychographics used to be able to define who our audience is for any campaign. It’s beyond that now. Since this is probably one of the most connected cities in the country, if not the world…a majority of the people here are very comfortable being on social media so we’re becoming beta testers for all the new social tools coming out that enables us to connect almost instantly with any audience and form an authentic relationship, when done right.
Do you think big companies here use San Jose agencies or are they more likely to go with bigger fish?
Large companies like Adobe, Cisco, and Apple use internationally large agencies for brand awareness. For one-to-one and one-to-many sales or demand gen marketing initiatives, they’re using companies smaller agencies because we’re more nimble. Smaller initiatives yield sales results, which they need. We’re flexible and fluid enough to get a campaign through the door. Since agencies are starting to make headway with socially integrated campaigns, I think we are starting to see a way to integrate the new media marketing plan.
So more immediacy as you’re right inside it?
Research is being driven by social. No more focus groups which involves sitting behind glass and eating M&M’s while people are asked leading questions. Just listen to what people have to say online. You can go to Twitter and type in the word and see what everyone is saying right now on any topic. It’s all also accessible through social tools. This is how we manage the mass quantity of conversations going on and still do our day job? And this drives the right direction for any campaign. That said, it’s going to be really interesting to see where this goes in the next couple of years and I am really excited.
In this big neighborhood we call Silicon Valley, we are a beta community, we try new things. It’s the place where you can get more hands-on people who aren’t afraid to try new technology?
Exactly. I think everybody who moves here enjoys this incubator of new ideas, possibilities, and the ability to get out of our own way in order to let innovation happen at a faster speed than anywhere else.
So do you think there is a marketing identity crisis?
Yes. In five years, this city will be different. Just as new media could be called something completely different. In 5 years (and probably much less), I think all marketing will have an integrated approach for how earned, owned and paid media meeting a total convergence….where you are truly seeing everything in the world that belongs to you or your brand in one place. True 360! Where you can have insights into what people place on importance in their lives so you can address them individually. We’re already able to look at positive and negative sentiments so you are able to see in real time what people are saying right now about you or your competitors. 5 years ago, you didn’t even know half of this great information, it wasn’t like a Batphone went off and and you could hear what they were talking about. Now we have listening platforms that are quickly becoming more important than the engagement factor. Imagine what could happen to an innovative city like San Jose to build these new platforms that will escalate our economy.
It probably took quite a long time to judge the success of a campaign in the old days?
In the Mad Men days, how did you come up with your message? They weren’t listening to people on the street saying here’s what we want to do, they did as much research as they could but at the end of the day they were trying to get in the heads of the consumer and now we are actually in the heads of the consumer looking out. Now we’re actually seeing metrics because we can see clicks, we can heat map a website. It’s used all over the place for great results. Would Mad Men ever do heat-mapping?
Back then, when you did your print campaign, poster, newspaper… you had to wait to see how it sold. Now, is there a danger that you judge it too quickly and too often?
Brand awareness isn’t gone in a traditional form. Everyone is so data-centric but you want to make sure that people really understand what your brand is about and what you are trying to say. Traditional will never die, just take on new integrated forms. That won’t ever come through in sales numbers for you. That’s just what branding does.
It sounds like an exciting time to be in marketing.
I know – especially with what’s going on. I’m really excited. I am working on a book about how to create shifts in this new era. How do you focus on the one or two that will make a bigger difference rather than 20? First, embrace the complexity that’s there and accept it. Don’t be scared by it. Then hone in on the one or two things that will make 180 degrees difference.
And how do you pick those?
You hire an agency.
Interview by Gillian Claus. Photography by Daniel Garcia