James Herrera is currently the Executive Director, User Experience at Meredith Xcelerated Marketing, a content-powered engagement agency. Prior to MXM, Herrera was the director of user experience at several top companies, and was also involved in digital strategy. The Makegood recently spoke with Herrera about his recent appointment at MXM.
The Makegood:Congratulations on your appointment to Executive Director, User Experience at Meredith Xcelerated Marketing. What will your role in this position be? What will your relationship with creative, strategy and technology teams be?
Thank you! I’ve very excited to be joining this group of smart and savvy marketers.
In terms of my new role, I’ll be leading the UX team in Los Angeles. While I’m a part of the broader strategy group, I will also be a fulcrum between the technology and creative teams in a very practical way – and I love that! Both teams are made up of natural problem-solvers; they just use different tools. My job is to connect their two distinct approaches through the discipline of experience design. I’m a big fan of beautiful visual design, that visceral impact of well-chosen and arranged words and images. But I’m also really into structural design, all the interconnected technology that makes a visual design that much more effective, or meaningful, or usable. It’s the perfect role for someone who appreciates both order and complexity, but wants it all to be invisible to the end user.
The Makegood:MXM’s approach to success is its “content first” approach. Why do you believe this to be a successful approach, and how does this benefit the consumer?
I’ve used this metaphor before: ten years ago, the marketing industry at large was focused on trying to “diagram its way” into a digital ecosystem. Marketers wanted to find the replicable path, and just build that. What we do at MXM is architect for a non-linear journey. It’s like a consumer is standing at one end of a rope bridge over a chasm, and the brand sits on the other side, doing its best to attract the consumer to come closer. But there aren’t any planks in the bridge. Because we don’t know exactly where they’re going to step. For instance, they may go to a website, they may talk to their neighbor, they may go right to a store. So it’s our job to have exactly the right plank appear under the consumer’s foot as he takes a step closer to that brand. Thinking about it from a content standpoint helps to have that stack of planks ready for any inevitability. We use the phases of a consumer journey to guide our decisions on content types, devices, formats, platforms, but we no longer assume that journey is linear. Instead, we think about consumer need and their emotional states; how to create the right “thing” to get them to continue taking steps toward the brand – whether it’s one, or a hundred.
The Makegood:How do you believe that a fully integrated marketing solution can be beneficial to a particular consumer? In other words, how do you create a marketing solution across several mediums that reaches your target?
All truly consumer-friendly solutions are “integrated;” some just elect to use more channels than others. It’s another way that using content as a framework helps you to make decisions about media – every brand can’t fill every channel, and frankly, they don’t need to. It’s a challenge when marketers see their peers using every new platform and technology. They get caught up in the arms race of being “first” at something. Innovation is important, but only when it improves a consumer experience. Content strategy tells us what we need to make, and where we need to distribute it, in order to be the most effective in creating an action. It automatically causes you to take the unlimited number of media, including every new and emerging one, into account.
The Makegood:What do you see for the future of MXM? What can we expect from the industry in general?
I think brands are really drawn to MXM’s approach, because it makes sense of something they’ve been wrestling with since the advent of digital technology. User experience design isn’t just about how you architect a website – it’s about responding to how a consumer navigates through their world.
The Makegood: Thank you, James.