David Berkowitz is the new Chief Marketing Officer at Publicis Groupe’s MRY, a global digital marketing and technology agency with social at its core. Berkowitz’s new position ends his seven year tenure at digital marketing agency 360i and he now oversees marketing operations and strategy across the agency. The Makegood recently spoke with David about his new role, challenges in social media, and emerging technologies.
The Makegood: Congratulations on your new position! What are your new priorities at MRY?
One of the things that has excited me about joining MRY is the great work the agency is already doing with some of the world’s best known and most dynamic brands, so it makes sense that there will be plenty to do in sharing what we’re doing and how we do it. While great agencies are known for their work, the best, most enduring agencies are known for their vision and the ideas they contribute to the world, so honing and communicating that will be essential.
There’s plenty more though. I’m excited to empower hundreds of people across the agency to get their perspectives shared. Another part of my mandate is that since I’ve spent a lot of my career looking at what’s next in marketing, media, and technology, I want to make sure our agency and clients are positioned to stay ahead of the curve. Finally, to give credit where it’s due, I’m joining a strong marketing team – namely Kate Bryan and Zena Hanna, if you’ll allow the shout-out. I’ve been so thrilled to spend time learning from them, and anything I can achieve at MRY will be the results of three of us collaborating with each other, as well as with every other discipline across the agency.
The Makegood: Prior to MRY, you spent the last seven years at the digital marketing agency 360i. What inspired you to make the move?
It’s tough leaving a place I love and respect so much, let alone the place where I spent the majority of my career. I have known and followed MRY’s team for years though, and this was a unique opportunity to adapt skills I had such good fortune to hone in my previous role and apply them in a very different way at this agency. While hardly all agencies have CMOs, and fewer still have them in public facing roles, it was an especially great time to take on this role at an agency that rebranded itself earlier this year. This is an organization that wants to do even more to nurture the hundreds of potential thought leaders here. The values of the agency are so well aligned with who I am and what I want to do.
The Makegood: MRY is a creative and technology agency with social at its core and great stories to tell. What is the biggest challenge in social media and what is the best way for BtoB companies to use social media platforms?
One of the biggest challenges in social media is that too many marketers see it as a crutch for storytelling. Think of how you normally encounter stories: television, movies, books from non-fiction to comics, magazines, newspapers, or someone around the office or at a bar sharing something they think is interesting. Social media has become another outlet for storytelling, both by people and by brands, and that’s great. Yet social media also opens up new possibilities for participatory, interactive stories. It creates the potential to not just build stories but build relationships. That’s really difficult.
Yet BtoB companies are especially skilled at building relationships. They know you can’t just run an ad or feature a product on a store shelf and get people to buy it on impulse. BtoB companies are all about building relationships over the long haul, sometimes over years. Those skill sets – namely the art of taking the time to learn about customers’ needs and then finding ways to provide long-term value – translate so well to social media marketing. There are countless BtoB success stories through social media, and I expect many, many more of the best examples ahead to come from BtoB marketers.
The Makegood: David, you helped launch Startup Outlook, a guide for marketers to evaluate startups and emerging technologies. What emerging technologies will change the market and what tips do you have to stay ahead of the curve?
There are a lot of changes happening now where the impact is just starting to be felt. Crowdfunding is one great example. Most of the first generation products on sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, even the ones that get successfully funded, are duds, but then again, crowdfunding is able to unleash the potential of innovators and bring ideas to life in ways that were never before possible. There is also such tremendous potential for its impact on philanthropy and even employment, as one of my favorite organizations, Kiva, has shown.
3D printing is one truly disruptive field. It’s possible that one day, we will all have products like a Makerbot 3D printer in our homes to print physical objects on-demand. Yet that’s still a narrow vision for it. Look at Shapeways, for example, which is a marketplace for products that can be custom printed and personalized in a range of materials such as glass, sterling silver, and sandstone. Shapeways makes it just as easy to produce 10,000 of the same object as it is to produce 10,000 personalized and customized versions of a product. I can only imagine how astonished Henry Ford would be to see such a radical twist on the future that he helped create.
There are so many other examples, but these are a couple that are fascinating right now. One great tip is to follow interesting people. Whether it’s an inventor like Elon Musk or a journalist who covers a lot about what’s coming, one can follow such people through channels such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and finding a few makes it possible to go down an endless rabbit hole where there are constantly new sources and surprises that await you. Another is to keep stimulating your own intellectual curiosity. Thinking about thinking, learn about learning, read about reading. Keep priming yourself to be open to what’s new.
The Makegood: At MRY, you harness the power of analytic intelligence to create content that sparks emotion, adds value, inspires action, and changes behavior. How do you do that and what do marketers have to understand?
One way MRY does this is through what we call the Conversation Back approach. A common approach is coming up with an idea, figuring out where to communicate it, and seeing what results it generates. Instead, we like to look at it the other way around, using social media as one way to guide it. With the Conversation Back method, it starts by coming up with the quantity and quality of earned media the marketer wants to generate. Then from there it’s thinking of the best places and ways to do it. Only after that context is established does the content itself get created – the ideas that are meant to work in that context and generate that conversation.
The Makegood: You have a proven track record of seeing what’s just around the corner. How do you do it?
Perhaps the most accurate prediction I ever made was when, as a 12- or 13-year-old thinking about what I’d be when I grew up, I had a hunch that I’d wind up in a role that didn’t exist yet. This was the early 1990s. The World Wide Web did not yet exist, even if a select few then had access to the internet. When I graduated college and decided not to start a career in education but try working as a writer at a digital media startup, I wasn’t sure where it would lead. I didn’t know if it would be a successful career, and at first, it wasn’t. When I got laid off from my first job, I wound up substitute teaching for a couple months before finding my footing at eMarketer. I’ve personally dealt with a kind of uncertainty my whole career. Uncertainty leads to experimentation. It leads to taking chances. It leads to making mistakes. It leads to being open to a range of potential outcomes. To appreciate uncertainty is to appreciate possibility. Gravitating toward possibility means constantly looking at what could be next, thinking about how such a possibility could come about, and sometimes – when one is truly fortunate – acting in a way to make a desired outcome a reality. I don’t always know what’s ahead, but few things are more thrilling than possibility.
The Makegood: Thanks, David.