As online traffic flows become untraditional, AI takes over, and the definition of ‘brand’ evolves, the quest for tech-led excellence has never been more crucial. Brands will stay brands, but how do they secure sustainable scaling on a rapidly changing digital frontier?
Right now, no brand stands out. Those set to win long-term will take the mediocre output AI produces, and make magic from it; adding a human-touch the fashion industry desperately needs to de-commoditize creative differentiation.
No one is better equipped to share successful tactics for achieving this than today’s guest, Jennifer Roebuck – CMO at Metaversal, ex-CCO of Ted Baker, and ex-CMO of Sephora UK.
As a Board Advisor at Warm Storm, a Marketing Transformation Consultant for Fossil Group, and an NED at AllBright, she’s an expert at leveraging Advocacy.
Join us in this episode of Building Brand Advocacy, where Paul speaks with Jennifer about the imminent expansion of Social Commerce in the West, future-proofing your brand by ensuring your individuality, and the 4 to-do’s of any brand looking to stand out – taking a leaf from Uniqlo, Liquid Death, and Rowing Blazers’ playbooks to catapult your brand to the big leagues.
In their role as dopamine dealers, brands and creators alike must navigate disingenuous waters to truly connect with their Advocates. Paul and Jennifer dissect this intersection of technology, humanity, and brand identity, answer whether blockchain will save us from AI-generated marketing scams, and delve into her predictions for an industry run off of selling via video.
Hello and welcome to a really lovely sunny Friday here in the UK. And I'm really excited to be joined by the amazing Jen Roebuck. Now, Jen and I, we go back quite a few years now. I think she's an entrepreneur. She was the Chief Customer Officer at Ted Baker, CMO of Feel Unique now SEPHORA UK, along with building her own businesses and is now working with some other incredible brands and just like fingers and loads of really exciting pies at the moment. And you're one of my favorite people in LinkedIn. Apparently, I get notifications sometimes when you post. So this is clearly it's up there in terms of my that the algorithm is favouring it. So I'd highly recommend everyone checks out because her content is amazing. And we actually we last did this. We did something similar before this pod was launched in COVID. We had a quick chat just when everyone was going crazy. Just being like, well, what on earth can brands do whilst you're at Ted Baker, I think so this is kind of like round two, isn't it?
Jennifer : It is, and you've expanded and it's exciting and you're ahead of the curve.
Paul: Yeah, this is it. We were talking about advocacy in 2019.
Jennifer: Exactly. So you were massively ahead of the curve. I think it's awesome.
Paul: Well, thanks a lot for getting stuck in. I mean, one of the things that makes you, I think, quite unique in this space is the fact that yes, you're a brand person, you're a marketing person. But deep down, you've got that tech DNA and you get it. Like you talked about in a recent Adweek appearance that you were born in the US, raised in Silicon Valley. I mean, what can you say about this upbringing and that impact it's had on your career up until this point?
Jennifer: Yeah, so I mean, first of all, growing up in Silicon Valley is a very surreal experience, and I don't think you realize that until you leave. But the amount of just tech kit that we had in our house, people's outlook on the world, it's a very interesting place. And so, you become really comfortable with technology, I think, really early, and you also become really comfortable with, I think, quite complex concepts in technology. And it's funny because I was actually talking to a colleague the other day about how... If you look back in time at all of these very significant technology waves that we've had that have influenced consumer businesses and brands, you had the web, the launch of the internet and how many businesses we were spun up and launched and iterated on. And then you had, obviously, mobile phones and Apple specifically. I think the app store is pretty significant. And now we have Web3, and we have cryptocurrency and blockchain and a lot of really interesting innovation there. And with every single cycle, it always starts with this like super complex, mega nerdy, intense vocabulary-oriented space that people kind of go, “Oh God, that's just doesn't feel sexy at all”. But each cycle, it rises to the top and ends up becoming a very influential force. Once it gets. Disseminated and simplified into concepts that everyday business people can kind of grasp and implement. And so I think that's really interesting. So I've always, I guess, stayed in touch with that. Because it's always been an influential force in my career and how we go to market and what things we can do to improve customer experience and brand and unit economics and things of that nature.
Paul: Not to get too deep too soon, but we're on that thread of technology. The next wave is almost definitely going to be AI with all these large language models coming out and Gen. AI basically in everything at the moment. From the context of brands, how do you think this is going to affect them in the over the next year or so and over the next five, 10 years? Are we looking at a fundamental shift or is brand still always going to be brand?
Jennifer: Well, I think brand will always be brand. You need a differentiator and almost like a classifier for people to understand what it is they're buying, right? I think there's a lot of first principles that don't go away. A brand is a collection of perceptions. That's a Byron Sharp definition of brand. If you've read the books, they're amazing. I actually love how on LinkedIn you have Byron Sharp and Mark Ritson and all these really exceptional brand professors fighting in the comments. It's pretty funny. So I do every once in a while scroll through that and go, “God, okay, this is like a window into the marketing professor's world”.
Paul: And you need to start following him.
Jennifer: Follow Mark Ritson, and then you'll notice that he'll make some claim about the effectiveness of XYZ. And then Byron Sharp will come down and go, “no, if you read my book”, and it's like, “oh, wow, this is so interesting”. These are very reputable individuals.
Paul: And like how brands grow is like one of the books that everyone should read. Brand marketing industry. And actually, I don't think that many people recently have. It used to be the, the one that every person who went and got a job at an agency would have to read is like day one, but I suspect there's an entire generation of that have yet to read it.
Jennifer: I think so. It was one of the first books I read and I actually re-read it about five or six years ago. And I'm so pleased I did, because there's so much value in there, things to take away. So I don't think brands will go away, and perceptions are important because it helps shape our decision-making as consumers, right? So it's a very useful tool. I think there are a lot of things that change, and unfortunately, I think AI will have almost like a commoditizing effect on some of the creative differentiation that brands use, which I think is really unfortunate because we've already seen a commoditized effect on things like music. And now film because of technology, right? Technology is making things more affordable, easier to access, and unfortunately, human beings end up devaluing things subconsciously, right? You don't think about the fact that you devalue music, but you're only going to spend $9 a month on Spotify. That's just where we are. I think with AI and all of the tools that brands have access to, that agencies have access to, means that that creative essence, the process in which you go to make a brand stand out, especially in fashion and beauty, which I know are your sweet spots and mine as well, makes it harder for brands to stand out and be differentiated. On the flip side, this is more like an internal organizational design piece, I think. Teams that use AI effectively, there's no question that it makes you better done your job. The future is human plus AI. I believe in that. I don't think AI replaces us. And then all of that redeployment of time onto big impact projects and big impact initiatives within a company is what AI will bring. And so there's a real economic benefit there. That if brands are savvy and they, I guess, try and, you know, especially the larger organizations, try and shift away from all this PowerPoint centric culture that companies have and use AI and deploy time into thinking and innovating and scaling. I think that that's where it really becomes a huge benefit.
Paul: Must say I agree, I think I sit in the Marc Andreessen AI optimist rather than the Elon Musk pessimist perspective that about to get to take over the world. The example I always love is the chess competitions. I don't know if you know this, but like they're, they used to have the grandmasters play an AI and then an AI beat the grandmaster. And so AI is so much better. But the only thing that can beat the AI is a combo team and actually quite an average player with an AI sidekick can beat the AI. And that's just like backs up exactly what you're saying there that the this symbiosis human plus machine just is going to augment and make everyone better, faster, smarter, more effective in the things that they do, which is mundane, and then open up so much more creativity and art and beauty and things like that.
Jennifer: Yeah, it speeds up your thinking process and helps you extract insights and make connections faster than you could before. I read a really interesting article. There were a few Stanford researchers that were kind of dissecting large language models and AI and the impact of AI on people and organizations. One of the takeaways that makes total sense when you think about it, but AI can't replace tacit knowledge and tacit knowledge comes from learning and from life. And so that combo is really interesting. And so that was one of the takeaways I've had from just what I've had time to read in terms of how it impacts us as professionals.
Paul: One of the areas that people touch on particularly when they talk about it from more of a sales perspective is that all the automation tools tends to just allow people to do a lot more bad sales prospecting and outreach and things like that. Do you think that's going to be the same for marketers who are building brands? It's just going to be a lot more bad content putting out there that isn't cutting through because they're just not prompting it in the way that someone who's really thought about it.
Jennifer: No, I don't think. I think that was a concern at the beginning, especially when you had Jasper and all these AI copywriting tools. And for everything that's like a negative force. So let's say the negative forces mediocrity and just average output. The governing force will be platform algorithms that will just effectively take that neutralized, generic output out of the system because it won't get visibility. So you're always going to have these two opposing forces. What stands out? What gets people engaged? How does somebody recognize good from average? And so the individuals and brands that continue to rise to the top and understand that will win.
Paul: So it kind of a lot of things in technology, it's a winner takes most type of thing. If you're good, you're going to be like the small minority who are just a 10% better are going to get 10 times the engagement they're going to get from everyone else.
Jennifer: Exactly. It's a power law thing, right? The best rise to the top, everything else sinks down to the bottom. I think with brands, I think you'll see consolidation and larger, more centralized forces getting scale in the market because It's very hard for any company to continuously scale without compromising. You can diversify, but effectively you end up growing through M&A. And so those large conglomerates like luxury houses, they have a massive advantage. So they can just streamline all the go-to-market that is considered commoditized and is really sort of a playbook or a templated approach. And they can put all their time and energy in the differentiation so they don't get caught up in that me too machine. And then of course you have platforms and platforms will always have algorithms and those algorithms will determine how things show up and what rises to the top. And people will game them and then they'll refine again. I mean, LinkedIn is a great example. If you don't get a comment on your content, I think it's within 60 seconds, your content goes into the content graveyard. And so a comment is a symbol of quality, not alike. Right? Impressions are kind of, I guess, a neutral stat on LinkedIn, whereas on TikTok, impressions are really important. So each platform has its own value system.
Paul: And Duel time and things like that that people are-
Jennifer: Yeah, exactly. And you have to know these platforms, unfortunately, and it's a game in itself. And the world is not a linear. Brand journey anymore, as much as brands would love that. Oh, you know, we can have our voice and our voice is our power. And then everything sort of funnels through. Not really. People are moving around and looking at a lot of different platforms simultaneously. And like Gen Alpha is on, they say Gen Alpha is on three screens. I'm like, “I'm not sure how that's possible, but a gaming device, a mobile phone and a television”. So it's definitely changing our attention spans, probably not for the better, but in Asia, it's something like there's like 15 touch points before a consumer purchases, but those touch points happen in a really compressed timeframe because of the way that platforms like WeChat have taken commerce payments content and just really blended it into one, which is what Elon Musk is trying to do with X.
Paul: So, let me play that back because a lot of things going on there. So in terms of operationally, from the brand perspective, you're saying that actually all the kind of operational pieces, the listing of products and the e-commerce and the targeting and the ads and etc, the big houses are just going to scale that out so that the humans are working on the creativity and the uniqueness of product by product and that's going to give them an edge, you believe.
Jennifer: Absolutely. I mean, if you don't have an amazing distinctive brand and you don't have distinctive product, what do you have?
Paul: Okay, I see that. I would have always thought, I thought that's the opportunity the entrepreneurs who would be cutting through on that, because it tends to be that founder let businesses always seem to disrupt. And I guess they would also be able to build and launch a brand much, much faster. So a brand which is unique and thin sliced in its own way that makes it special. And then all the other parts Shopify have got their AI, which is their sidekick as well, which they're automating a lot of those things as well. Do you not think that they may be able to maybe even have a step above someone who's working a much more of a corporate job at SDA or L'Oreal or something like that?
Jennifer: Oh, no. So I think founder run brands also have a big opportunity. I think we were talking more about the impacts on AI for brands specifically. So I think in that context, a lot of the commoditization effect of the market. Where it's hard to differentiate, it's hard to get a competitive advantage, right? Trying to have a competitive advantage on meta and media. You're talking about a level of incrementality that's absolutely minuscule. Not saying there won't be somebody who takes that and scales it, because there always is. There's always some arbitrage thing that somebody finds, right? But certainly, yeah, I mean, founders will continue to find ways of cutting through. They'll find product gaps in the market. They'll exploit new platforms that they can scale on quickly. TikTok is an amazing example of that. I mean, there's an individual who is creating a surveillance proof jacket. It has all of the pockets on the jacket, block wifi, block any, I guess, X-ray camera vision. So when you're going through airport security, et cetera, CCTV fully blocks it and he has started the creation of the jacket on TikTok, completely involving his audience from day one. On the journey of the product creation itself. And then obviously amassing a huge following for this new Leisure Wear brand, which is very interesting, right? So he's found a niche, he's exploiting the niche, he's found a platform, he's found a way of storytelling on the platform. Thereby cutting through and scaling an audience incredibly quickly. So yeah, there's absolutely those opportunities. But I mean, there's so many spaces and you would agree I mean like how many sustainable deodorant brands do we really need?
Paul: This is true. This is true. But then again, how many deodorant brands do we need? And you can walk down any aisle of a supermarket and you're going to see 20. So most of them owned by three or four of the same company. But I guess there is a market, right?
Jennifer: Yeah, it was definitely market, right? I mean, you have a category with a lot of brands equals validation and then it's a game of getting market share, of course. And you've seen it because you engage with a lot of the same founders that I do, especially in our little scene in London where one deodorant brand pops up and then there's three and then there's four and then there's Femcare and then there's menopause and then there's sleep deprivation, right? So it does come in these sort of cycles and I'm sure the venture capital community is part of that game as well.
Paul: Yeah, definitely the money will follow the trends and VCs, anything if not Lemmings. So touching on what you're saying about TikTok and I guess the new vision for X with that Chinese market, those 12 touch points, that sounds very Byron Sharp era, seven touch points before someone purchases in terms of media, 12 optimizing to the right part. In Asia, they've reached this level of social commerce is everything. Normal people are selling everything to each other. That's almost the only way that things are being sold today. And those are presumably many of those 12 touch points. I'm not sure the study you're referencing. But how do you think that that is going to transpire over the next couple of years in the West?
Jennifer: So interestingly, the same article, I'll send it to you. I can't remember who wrote it, but they're saying that the West is about six years behind Asia on average. That's how they've calculated how technology flows from East to West. I think social commerce itself is huge. It's funny because it's not a space I've ever really focused on, but I actually launched one of the first social commerce things in global digital history on YouTube. So we created the first YouTube commerce experience in 2011. And we worked with YouTube to do it, and we built it in partnership with them. And it was really interesting as an experiment. And I guess ever since then, I've always been really curious about social commerce. And I've been a big believer. We built marketplace apps in 2012 on Facebook. And I think I'm one of the first to launch Bambuser a couple years ago during COVID. And with each of those initiatives, there's a really interesting insight about the role that it plays, I think, generally in a consumer's life and in their journey. And the more I look at TikTok, and I'm on the board of a TikTok agency, it's actually an agency, an algorithmic platform rolled into one, which is really interesting. So we talk a lot about all the trends and more recently their announcement of shopping. Is pretty significant because it's probably the closest thing to the blending or blended experience that you have in Asia. And effectively social commerce is like a form of entertainment. And I also see a trend that speaks to the same, I guess, question that you're asking, which is how are humans communicating generally? So how much video adoption do we see today? With the younger generation where everything they post now is a video of themselves talking with captions. And explainer modules where I might post a document somewhere because people are reading it. If you're 25, you're posting a document with a video of yourself. That accompanies a document with you doing an explaining or explainer session, it's just their medium. It's part of how they communicate. So, if you think about people selling to people through video and social commerce being the one-to-one experience that people have in Asia, I think we're just headed in that direction. I guess the question is, is who facilitates it best? Because you still need payment functionality, right? You still need frictionless checkout and simple user experience and you need an element of trust. And this is one of the things I've actually picked up on more recently. And I know it's one of the things you wanted to discuss, which is like partly linked to the death of the influencer or perhaps the rise of the influencer and partly linked to this concept of astroturfing, which is this orchestrated brand delivery system that seeks to create trust. I have paid advocates or I have advocates who appear authentic. And there's no guardrails for what is and isn't authentic on most of these social media channels, right? I can sell anything, I can make any claim. And I think that's problematic. Because we can't live in a world where we exchange goods and services, and there's no verification of whether or not that good or service is legitimate. And or the claims are legitimate and somehow, all the advertising standards that exist on TV don't apply to social media, at least from what I've seen. I see very few things getting pulled down that are not ADA compliant. And I know that some of the claims can't be true. I use this 10 minutes a day, and in two weeks I live 10 years younger. It's just not possible, right? So you see that bubbling up and I don't know enough about how they police that in Asia or if they do, but I think there are mechanisms for trying to understand how to improve that because that'll be a really important component.
Paul: I don't know the answer to that either. It's just be fascinating to see how it evolves and how authenticity and stamps of approval will work. But I guess I mean at the heart of it. It's like if you said something on LinkedIn, I follow you on LinkedIn, I know that, and I follow your content normally. And if you were saying a thing that is incongruent to what you normally say, or if you were to advocate for a thing, a service, a restaurant, whatever it may be, I don't know whether I'd believe it. I think I'd believe it if it came from someone who I followed. So at the heart of it, there is still that human, which is that verification piece, which so many people are trying to break. Hey, it's me again. This podcast is sponsored by Duel, which is my company actually. Duel is the leading brand advocacy platform used by the top retail consumer brands, including Unilever, Charlotte Tilbury, ELEMIS, Loop and about 50 more to manage, measure and scale their advocacy, member, affiliate, creator and brand ambassador operations. The platform offers unparalleled scale for complex brands, while automating nine out of ten of the standard advocacy management activities, allowing them to focus on arming their advocates with the right tools to tell the brand story and drive social commerce. They can grow faster for less. We only work with 15 percent or so of the brands we speak to, but we try and add value in many other ways, this podcast being one of them. So if you are a brand that's interested in this, maybe a large consumer retail brand, ideally you're doing 20, 30 million dollars as a minimum and you're pretty advanced on social and you need to know what the next stage is, then please get in touch. Email me email@example.com. That is firstname.lastname@example.org or google duel.tech. Can you give us an example of how that works in astroturfing? Like an example of a scenario where someone created a rumor? I guess this is kind of fake news 2.0 sort of thing, isn't it? Like, how do they do it? Were they with legitimate accounts? Were they influencers with followers? I'd love to know how this came about.
Jennifer: I mean, I see brands, I'm reticent to name a brand because I don't want to get into hot water with anyone, but I see brands making bold claims. And then I see influencers making the bold claims on behalf of the brands. And the way it's orchestrated is as if it's real. So it's not, you know, Jen Roebuck holding a tin of health supplements. Saying, “I genuinely take these every day and this is my own personal account of how they've changed my life”. It's a whole army of people claiming that this product or service has changed their life. And has claim one, two, three, four, five. And then the brand itself is taking that content and obviously projecting it out. And then, so it's structured as an influencer campaign, of course. But these people are recruited and paid. These products are very new. And sometimes the claims, the efficacy of something takes time, especially if it's like the human body, right? Or dietary or, and you look at that and you can, there's a few I've looked up where I've gone, “Oh, I wonder when this product launched? When did it come to market?” Right? “Oh, Oh, it came to market in April, 2023. And is that all of this advertising has been thrown at me on Instagram in May, 2023”. And you can do some digging and you can find out when things were originated. There are documents on the Internet that give you that information. And so I did a little bit of digging. I didn't spend a crazy amount of time trying to verify every single brand's journey. I don't have the time to do that. It's just very clear that you can orchestrate influencer marketing to do that in the same way. So astroturfing comes from politicians and politicians will structure political campaigns in the same way with all belief system. Some people would argue that Brexit was one giant astroturf. I kind of think it is. We did not get a 300 million pound contribution to the NHS. And if anything, the NHS is actually worse than it's ever been. So, these are all claims that people make that cannot be substantiated, that are not challenged, and influencer marketing can be used for that. And I don't know if the influencers themselves, I'm sure some have integrity and some will make decisions following a values-based system. And I think probably very many will not because they will take the money. So there's just a real fine line and it's pretty nuanced, but you start to see these claims on Instagram specifically getting more and more and more grandiose, which in a normal market environment would not typically fly in my experience.
Paul: And there's definitely going to be some clamping down, which is I mean, there is already clamping down on payments and not not declaring payments, that seems to be the biggest thing that people are going to go for, which I think is at the heart of this whole thing is that you want to get the authenticity and if someone said, “Hey, I love this”, and they're actually been paid to do it, then you want to make sure that that's made clear. I mean, I believe quite passionately about this stuff. I think the authenticity of finding actual customers and getting them to talk about you is literally the only way that this can work. 90% of behaviors go to some marketplace where you can pay someone to pretend to like you, right? And pretend that this is the biggest thing exactly you're saying. But isn't that kind of all going to come out in the wash with regards to people follow they know that they're inauthentic and they do pay placements because they're going to say, “Hey, I only take this probiotic, it's the best one in the world”. The next week, they're like, “I only take this probiotic, I've been taking it for a year”. And people see it through, they smell through it. It's part of the reason why I think so much. I mean, budgets from influencer marketing have gone down because of this sort of this inauthenticity pay to play type of thing. And they need to revert back. But do you think the consumers are able to sift this out? I think it's different, obviously, taking some face some stage content and putting media behind it. I think that is very much astroturfing in that sense. I totally agree with you. But do you think when it comes to people's actual being an audience member of someone they know when both they can smell bullshit out of my way?
Jennifer: I don't know. I got to be honest, I would say sure. A segment of society, yes. But, you know as well as I know all of the scandals that have come from social media where people dare each other to do things or people eat things they shouldn't eat people I mean come on like. I hate to say this, but like lowest common denominator of X is there's a lot of gullible people who don't know or want to believe something. And I think even when you get down to product reviews. How many product reviews on Amazon do you believe?
Paul: It's a good point. It's a very good point.
Jennifer: Amazon's publishing them. I haven't done anything myself on the Amazon platform in a while, but when we were first starting, you could hire influencers to review and write positive reviews about your product. Even that's game and there may or may not be any system. And I certainly think a lot of the syndicated product reviews that were once very valuable from an SEO perspective won't be. And so those will disappear. But you know, I just think there's a real fine line here. And I also think the way that bottom-up content is consumed changes your relationship with what was somebody you might have followed. Like, how many people do you follow nowadays? I don't follow anyone. The feed serves up stuff. And a lot of these people look the same. And they're shilling products and promoting themselves. And so following as a metric, generally in marketing is one that we spend less time looking at.
Paul: Yeah, I think that that definitely makes sense because the algorithm is king man, you do sort of follow podcasts and Instagram is more follow for essentially than TikTok and things like that. But I mean, on a similar basis, you said that we've reached the death of traffic. What does that mean? And why are we at this death point of traffic in the way that content and information is sort of shared and discovered and unlocked in our daily lives?
Jennifer: Yeah, so, and I got that from a very amazing podcast I listened to called People vs Algorithms. And they talk a lot about media specifically. And the reason I'm always very interested in media is, I guess, two-fold. One, as a marketing leader, your go-to-market is hugely dependent on media. So you have to augment whatever it is you're doing, and media has to be at the center of that. Two, a lot of consumer business models are predicated on media format. The rise of direct to consumer and lifestyle oriented businesses happens to correlate with when the Facebook advertising platform got more sophisticated. It's proven. And then there was a repeatable model that for a period of time, let's say 10 years, people thought they could scale with, obviously you can scale until you can't scale. So, that is in itself a thing. I think the death of traffic, if you think about old marketing funnels and specifically digital funnels, the way that we would plan our future economic performance would be based on traffic at the top, conversion at the bottom, traffic comes from all these places. But if you're not transacting on single websites. And you are dealing with bottom-up platforms, what is traffic? And specifically, you have all of these impression-based platforms which are now signaling that reach matters more than traffic. And so if I'm discovering a brand on TikTok and then I buy on TikTok Shop, and then I go to your store next week, and then I might find you on Zalando a week later, there is no linear traffic funnel. So traffic I think its definition changes. And similarly, there are people talking about how the URL, as a tracking device, as a directional device changes, because if AI is intercepting search engines. And the way your data structure, your SEO changes, right? These are all meaningful impacts, which at an e-commerce level, okay, great. You can operationally probably equip yourselves. To navigate that. But from a strategic planning perspective, suddenly you think, okay, well, how is the consumer behaving? Speak to an average Gen Alpha. They don't go to websites at all. They open gaming consoles, they open social media apps if they're allowed, and they use apps. So this discovery piece of which traffic used to be a very significant part is radically changing.
Paul: So, and I guess that's then going to be made so much more. So as let's say I want to tell me how to run a Facebook ad campaign, I would normally I go to Google, right? And I would Google the how to and there'd normally be some great, very well SEO-optimized landing page by a company is trying to sell you something to do with what you're trying to do that. But you managed to get this this free learning. However, now I'm going to put that into ChatGPT or maybe Bards. And it's just going to tell me how to do it. And I'm not going to click on that website, I'm not going to buy their stuff. So like the motivation for like the whole SEO inbound industry is probably going to change quite dramatically. And as you said, the community, the Gen Z, Gen Alphas are googling on TikTok more than they know they're searching on TikTok far more than searching on Google. So it's all going to be about content. And then the algorithm is king. I mean, it's a pretty bleak future. Are you feeling optimistic?
Jennifer: Am I feeling optimistic? I just feel neutral about it. I just think it's a cycle and you have to adapt and understand your strategy. But going back to what we discussed at the very beginning, what does your brand do and why does anyone care about you? It kind of doesn't matter because if you can stay focused on your purpose, on your brand. And you're executing and storytelling, and you have authenticity in your product and in your position, it doesn't matter because the rest of it is just a system. That you have to understand and decode and take your brand and place it in the system. And it's a pain, of course, because the system changes. I think the thing that I feel bleak about more than anything else is the system. I don't know when we get out of like a reward system where like dopamine is the byproduct of everything. That's what like really kind of freaks me out because it seems like no matter what change comes we immediately optimize for dopamine. The creator needs to make dopamine to succeed. I mean, you only need to read about Mr. Beast. And all the testing that he goes through to get a landing page tile to perform. And the performance is coming from dopamine because I'm made me feel intrigued and curious. I need to click because I need more. I don't think that's going to change. And if anything, it's just making that. Almost like the brand is now a dopamine provider, the creator is a dopamine provider on behalf of the brand, the algorithm is all about dopamine. And so that kind of freaks me out a bit. It starts to get very disingenuous very fast.
Paul: Yeah, it becomes a race to the bottom.
Paul: So, talking of races to the bottom. Yeah, and shilling people shilling various different things. All those crypto, bros, they're now back on the job market, the millions that they were making from their brand new blockchain is that it's either no longer there or, you know, in the case of FTX, they're now looking down the barrel of a lot of jail time in a few other scenarios like that. It's a pretty dark winter when it comes to crypto these days. Why did you just spend a million dollars on a CryptoPunk?
Jennifer: Well, I didn't, but my company did. So you're right. So crypto, and I think this is a really important distinction. Crypto is crypto. Blockchain technology and Web3 is Web3. They are related and that's purely because blockchain is a payment rail. And so, and crypto is the payment tool, right? But most of crypto, I don't say most, I can't quantify this, because I don't actually follow it as closely as some, but stablecoins which are effectively the same unit as a government-backed currency are the leading crypto device. So I think that's good because that suggests that we're moving towards some kind of stability where we can focus more on what the tech brings and less on the shilling and the low value stuff that I think was taking up a lot of air time. The CryptoPunk, so going, if you move into the art world, art and contemporary art and the valuation of art. Is a total game in itself. And actually we follow the studio that I work with, Metaversal. We have a video, we interviewed somebody recently who comes from Christie's, has spent a lot of time in the art world and has become a well-respected artist in his own right, and his medium happens to be smart contracts or NFTs. And if you believe in the future of any art, just like 100 years ago, someone believed in the future of a Van Gogh. It's the same thing. So the CryptoPunk, CryptoKitties, there's very few, I guess, artifacts that any kind of art historian would look at in the digital sphere and say, that is worth X, and therefore it's an investment as opposed to a shilling. And, you know, Refik Anadol, who's currently on the sphere in Vegas, who's one of the world's most famous generative artists, sits in the same category actually. So if you follow generative art, it's a pretty huge movement and that type of Web3 product in art has actually held its value through the downturn.
Paul: A lot of brands that you know, we know, particularly in the luxury space, they are doing various different things with metaverse, there's a lot of different projects going around and they have quite lauded people celebrate them. There's lots of press. Does anyone real customers care? Or is this an echo chamber thing for the kind of like the brand elites who are like, “well done, you did a metaverse project, blockchains, all the rage”. And actually the person who would buy in the handbags or the shoes or whatever on the street just literally doesn't care.
Jennifer: No, look, I think the average person does not care about the tech whatsoever, and they shouldn't. Again, going back to one of the earlier themes we discussed. It's really important if you are going to utilize the tech and if you're going to do anything forward thinking to understand it, right? But should the external narrative at the consumer level be about the tech? No, it should not. And I do think some brands have really activated well. And have concealed the tech. So like the LVMH Trunk that was, you know, $35,000, that happened to come with a soul-bound NFT. That unlocked $35,000 worth of LVMH product. That's very interesting. And that speaks to their VIP customer. I'm sure they have a decile chart of who spends X where. I think you have brands like Adidas, who, are actually intentionally explicit. So they are marketing to the crypto bro. They want you to buy the trainer that has crypto capability and that's a positive for them. So it can be used as a segmentation tool because the crypto ecosystem, there's still a lot of value in that ecosystem. There's a certain value system that those individuals subscribe to and brands can tap into that. So it can be used from that perspective. What will happen, like most movements, the tech will become invisible in the background. You won't know you're using it. But everyone I speak to in the space, looking at all the patents that are being filed, looking at all the things behind the scenes that most people don't look at, is in three to five years, it's going to power a lot of what we use. And we just won't know. And that's okay.
Paul: Given the AI future that we were talking about with a lot of very easy for anyone to replicate anyone's voice, face, then to do nefarious things, but also just do bad marketing. That's a lot of we talk about. Astroturfing is going to become incredibly easy to do that. If you can replicate any Arnold Schwarzenegger to be promoting your gut health products, it's going to be a world where that's it. Do you think the blockchain is going to be a solution to that? Or somewhat bleak future that we might touch on?
Jennifer: I do, yeah, I think that's probably one of the best use cases for it is any kind of verification or provenance for products, for authenticity to act as like a governance tool for AI and to prevent a lot of the fake AI use-cases surfacing and obviously misleading people, but also copyright protection. And use of artifacts where there should be a commercial arrangement between parties. At the moment, platforms like Midjourney just scrape the internet and allow people to use freely, which is obviously going to be a huge problem. If you're an IP lawyer, and specifically if you're an AI IP lawyer, you're probably going to make the most money you've ever made in your entire life, because everyone is going to coalesce around that problem, I think. If you're interested in digging into that, the most recent a16z podcast talks about AI and blockchain. And how even though their world's apart in their value system, they've never needed each other more and goes through lots of use-cases, including like really terrifying ones like healthcare, where people can start making up fraudulent healthcare records if they're looking to conceal conditions they have. And misrepresenting things to employers. And so it gets pretty extensive where there will be a lot more significance placed on verification for sure.
Paul: And it used to be very much that we trusted big tech to be the single source of truth about who a person is that Twitter bluetick, you know, like anyone can create an account on Twitter, but to get a bluetick, you're you showed that you are actually that person you're you're perceiving. So you're saying that that we're going to have technical records, but is this going to be completely open open source? Yeah, who's going to fund this? How's that going to work?
Jennifer: So there's a company called Story Protocol that just raised, I think it's something like 54 million US, and they are trying to tackle what's known as remixed media, right? So remixed media is exactly that, it's taking AI, it's using Runway and any of these other tools to make films. Using remixed copyrighted material. And that's obviously a thing, how you take the entire entertainment industry and get every single IP owner in the value chain to put their materials on blockchain, right? And then for blockchain to then connect into Midjourney or Runway or whatever tool. Is there with a significant subscriber base. Is going to require a lot of behavioral change. And every industry you think about that. So I don't know, I do think people are funding it. I mean, Worldcoin has been a really interesting contentious study, but its focus is all about generating universal basic income. Because their belief is, with all this commoditization brought on by different tech, we will find ourselves in a situation where there won't be as many jobs for people. And so society needs to provide, irrespective of whether the jobs are there, because we need a balanced society, right, for obvious reasons. And so they have a universal basic income project. But the way that you get into that is you allow their system to scan your iris. Which is a big brother, actually. And so it was very contentious. If you Google that or put it into ChatGPT, you can get all the press about varying views on its legitimacy, but it has significant funding. And so there are venture capitalists, family offices, large LPs going after some of these projects and really backing them.
Paul: Wow, amazing. Yeah, it's a fascinating future. And I think that's the top of this, we said, “how your intersection between technology and brand is so fascinating”. And given that, given everything we've talked about, which brands are really exciting you for 2024? What are the ones to watch when following their content or buying their product? Who makes you feel warm and squishy?
Jennifer: It's weird you ask that because I'm not seeing anyone really stand out lately. It's funny. It's either, so if you look at fashion. Everyone's doing the same thing. I mean, even, I was recently consulting for Fossil, and they had an amazing party, part of New York Fashion Week, and I was part of the team that orchestrated that at a venue. And the venue is incredibly trendy and new. And so everyone else had their party at the same venue, right? It's just... There's an AR technique that one brand used on Instagram. The artists that created that then got inundated by 30 other brands. And next thing you know, you have fake mascara wands and other things that aren't real surfacing on social media, right? So, I almost feel like the brands that are standing out for me are the ones, again, that are just really adding value and almost looking at value, price, brand consistency. And so like Uniqlo for me is actually incredibly strong because they're so good at what they offer. That they almost don't need to play that game, which I find really interesting. It shows up, it's priced right, it's good value, you go into a store, the experience is phenomenal. The website, it does what it needs to do, it's not fancy. So I'd say Uniqlo is one to watch. I do really think Liquid Death, for me, if you're looking at just content, entertainment value, bravery, taking water, putting it in a can and then making it desirable. I mean, I'm going to commend them for that because it's pretty interesting. On the fashion side, I really think Rowing Blazers, specifically the founder of Rowing Blazers is almost creating like a new guards group. But focused on rolling up a lot of the heritage brands and really playing on his strength of heritage storytelling because that's how Rowing Blazers originated. And so I think that's a very interesting play because there's so much desire for nostalgia. And that's partly because you have Generation Z, Millennials looking at photos of women in the household in the 50s, just smoking a cigarette and vacuuming, right? These very simple tasks that you had to do. And today it's like, I have to be on TikTok and I need to be on AI and I need to get to work and I need to be on a call while I'm on the way to work and I need to side hustle. And so suddenly these very simple values and things have become incredibly desirable. So that nostalgic piece, I think will serve him really well.
Paul: Wow, that's amazing. Jen, this has been tons of fun as ever. Until next time, I really massively recommend everyone goes and follows her on LinkedIn. What do they search for for you on LinkedIn?
Jennifer: Probably JRoe. J-R-O-E.
Paul: JRoe on LinkedIn, her content's awesome. As you can tell, she thinks about this stuff all the time. And I learned something new every time I read one of her posts. So I'd highly recommend you go there. Thanks a lot for making the time.
Jennifer: Thank you so much for asking me to be on your podcast and I love it. So I will be a new loyal listener. I appreciate it.
Paul: Cheers. That was another episode of Building Brand Advocacy, the world's top brand building podcast. To find out more about building brand advocacy and how this podcast is part of a bigger plan for our brand building cookbook, then make sure to search for Building Brand Advocacy in Apple podcasts, Spotify and Google podcasts, or anywhere else that podcasts are fine. And make sure that you click subscribe so you don't miss any future episodes. Thanks to Duel for sponsoring. To find out more, go to www.duel.tech, that's D-U-E-L.T-E-C-H. And on behalf of the team here at Building Brand Advocacy, thanks for listening.