Cracking Carbon: Making a B2B Brand a Household Name

Megan

Megan Cunningham is CEO of Magnet Media, a vertically-organized strategic studio that uses storytelling and data to drive business results. Megan feels the best way to engage customers or clients in meaningful, lasting ways is to tell stories that matter, that touch both head and heart. To accomplish this for Magnet clients, small, nimble SWAT teams (pods) pair an account strategist (head) and a creative lead (heart) along with subject matter experts familiar with a client’s industry and specialists with the capability to deliver on the desired platforms—so each team is customized to meet the client’s business objectives.

Megan believes that a company has to have a process in place in order to scale, but too much “don’t color outside the lines,” can be demoralizing. There has to be flexibility and enough “blank canvas” on the creative side that employees can feel ownership and find meaning in their work. Clients and colleagues comment that Magnet Media has cracked the code on scaling branded content.

Magnet Media has been structured with a “think, make, reach” – “We’re going to be strategic, we’re going to produce content, and we’re going to distribute it at scale in a way that’s measureable.” That process, coupled with properly-leveraged technology enables hypergrowth power. It works. Clients and colleagues comment that Magnet Media has cracked the code on scaling branded content.

Megan developed a Global Trends Report, which addresses where storytelling is going, and started as a whitepaper. When such companies as Google and Mattel found value in Megan’s insights, the report morphed into its current form of a series of 1-hour webinars and downloadable eBooks.

The first four trends Megan projects for 2019 are:

  1. A greater concentration on brand purpose and addressing the idea of the belief-driven buyer, who used to be a “fringe buyer.” Today, beliefs about what a company stands for contribute in a major way to people’s purchase decisions.
  2. Influencer marketing and next generation influencer marketing strategies—the use of brand ambassadors, customer stories, brand representation.
  3. Podcasting and smart audio is a massive trend. One of Magnet Media’s more aggressive data partners forecasted that over 50% of searches by 2020 will be voice searches.
  4. Delivering experiences and distributing content.  how it’s being distributed and measured when it comes to storytelling.

Megan was a featured speaker at the 2019 South by Southwest in Austin, TX. In her presentation, “The State of the Story: How Carbon Won the Big Game,” she discussed a win-win partnership between Carbon , a 3-D polymer printer, and Adidas shoe and clothing brand. Carbon has developed a revolutionary process for printing high-resolution 3-D polymer parts with consistent, engineering-grade mechanical properties. This technology revolutionizes product capabilities and is an integral part of Adida’s lattice-soled 4D shoe line. Working with Magnet Media, Adidas partnered with Carbon to launch the printer’s B2B brand at the Super Bowl. Carbon continues to use its associations with such companies as Adidas and protective helmet manufacturer Riddell to make its brand a household name, so that customers will associate greater value with consumer products “Powered by Carbon.”

Megan can be reached by email at: info@magnetmediafilms.com or on her company’s website at: http://www.magnetmediafilms.com/

ROB: Welcome to the Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast. I am your host, Rob Kischuk, and I am joined, live at South by Southwest, by Megan Cunningham. Megan is the CEO of Magnet Media based in New York City. Welcome to the podcast, Megan.

MEGAN: Thanks so much for having me, Rob. I appreciate it.

ROB: It’s awesome to have you here. Why don’t you start off by filling us in on Magnet Media? What do you do, what are you great at? Tell us about the company.

MEGAN: Thank you. Magnet Media is the OG of brand storytelling in a lot of ways. We were very early on to the content marketing or branded content era. We’re a strategic studio that uses data and storytelling to drive measurable business results.

So, we’re both nerdy and super emotional and craft people. [laughs] If you think of the head and the heart of marketing, we try to combine both of those in our campaigns and really think strategically about the landscape of marketing and media and where a brand should show up, and what stories they’re telling, and how they can engage their customers or clients in meaningful, lasting ways.

ROB: How do you put the head and the heart together in one organization? What have you found works to really optimize for both?

MEGAN: That’s a great question. To be honest, we’ve been at this now for nearly 20 years, and it took some trial and error early on, but I think that at this point – it’s not my words, it’s our clients and colleagues who’ve said we’ve cracked the code on scaling branded content, which is really the ultimate dream for the position that I’m sitting in.

I think we didn’t really ever know that we would have this formula, but at this point our goal from a staffing perspective is always to put the client at the center of our work. We’re always trying to think on their behalf. What opportunities are they missing? Where are they, again, showing up from a storytelling or market perspective? How can they really differentiate from other clients so that they’re not just yet another SaaS platform or yet another 3D printing company? What is it that makes this company unique?

I think in that journey, our approach from thinking about it from the head and the heart is really to put both a strategic thinker and a creative lead together on a SWAT team called a pod. We have these pods that are designed with both an account strategist and creative development executives who then bring on the specialists so that if our brands need a YouTube series or a LinkedIn campaign or they’re trying to build their brand or demand gen, whatever the business objective is, they’re then customizing who is on that campaign and storytelling effort. But then there’s consistency among both the strategist and the creative lead.

ROB: You mentioned a couple of platforms that the content would go out to. What are maybe some of the unexpected platforms that brands are getting involved in and putting out content for?

MEGAN: That’s a great question. I’ll just segue to say I’m here at South by Southwest largely to launch The State of the Story for 2019. We have this Global Trends Report, which has snowballed over the years.

It started off as a mere whitepaper that companies like Google and Mattel and others were curious about – what were we seeing in the market, where is storytelling headed? They felt like they were in some ways one step behind, chasing last year’s shiny object and trying to scale it, and then the puck would move, so to speak. So, we started coming out with this report, and it’s now a series of 1-hour webinars as well as downloadable eBooks.

The first four trends, I can answer you, are about brand purpose and really thinking about the belief-driven buyer. That’s number one.

Number two is around influencer marketing and next generation influencer marketing. Many of the companies are using brand ambassadors or thinking about their customer stories or different representatives of the brand, and not knowing exactly how to be strategic about that. So that’s what we talk about in the influencer marketing chapter.

Podcasting and smart audio is a massive trend. You’re right on point. But thinking through, again, the direction that audio plays in your branding playbook, it was exciting to see that one of our more aggressive data partners was forecasting that over 50% of searches by 2020 will be voice searches. It’s a huge transition that’s almost upon us.

Then the fourth area is around delivering experiences and distributing content. Thinking about, again, not just the creation part, but also how it’s being distributed and measured when it comes to storytelling.

ROB: Interesting. With experiences in particular, this is a festival that is filled with experiences. I think what’s fascinating is you used to design those experiences for your VIPs, and now they’re designed for amplification. The world is designed for Instagram in a way.

MEGAN: Interesting. That’s a curious way of thinking about it. I’ve never heard that before, and I think you’re totally right that there’s this mirroring of everyone wants to have an experience that’s social-worthy, so to speak, that shows up on digital channels. That’s a measure of success, as much as packing the room or having a waitlist at your party or whatever it is.

ROB: For sure. The first point you made was about brands with purpose. Do you think that here are brands that may actually not have a purpose and they’re struggling to find it? Or do they have it and not realize it? How do you see that development of that purposeful voice?

MEGAN: That’s a great question. Part of this incredible organization in the Silicon Valley called Marketers That Matter that we’re bringing to New York this week as part of our effort to collaborate with that community. This topic is top-of-mind for everyone. I just did a similar dinner with the Marketers That Matter leaders in San Francisco, and everyone was thinking through this topic of purpose.

I think purpose in 2019 is not what it’s been up till now. Many organizations that we work with, the CEO and CMO are obviously focused entirely on delivering value for their shareholders and constituents. In that effort, their focus has traditionally been on profits and topline growth and thinking through the financial metrics – whereas purpose was always, in prior years, off to the side and nice to have. Corporate philanthropy . . .

ROB: Yeah, you had a foundation, etc.

MEGAN: You got it. Corporate social responsibility. “We’re going to be sustainable, we’re going to feel good about our work,” etc. What’s happened just in the last 18 months – Edelman, I credit them for doing a fantastic job at tracking this evolution – the belief-driven buyer used to be a fringe consumer and has now become the large majority of influence over what is governing people’s purchase choices.

You’re seeing two out of three buyers thinking about values, and even at the point of purchase, checking on “Is this a company that I want to be associated with?” It’s a massive shift, and it’s happened very recently. I think the brands we all know and love showing up in congressional testimony, and in advertising there’s been – the Wall Street Journal wrote an article around consumers being “ad-lergic.”

Clearly, there’s fraud that’s rampant and not changing fast enough in the advertising industry. Not to mention all the apology ads that Uber and Wells Fargo and Facebook have done over the past year. There’s been all these cases where in response to crisis, brands lean back on, “Oh God, we need to think through our mission and our purpose and do better.”

But I think of this almost more proactively today and more central to a brand’s storytelling. That’s really the heart and soul of why you exist. That’s motivating for people to show up every day and bring their best self and bring their whole self to work. If you’re clear about what your purpose is, I think that’s really gold from a brand equity standpoint.

ROB: Certainly. It has to be really authentic, or people will call you out on that, too. Friday was International Women’s Day, and I saw this – people were saying, “If you’re going to tweet about International Women’s Day and you’re a brand, ask those brands what their family leave policy is.”

MEGAN: Wow. Calling them out on behavior. I love that.

ROB: Yeah, it’s pretty interesting. If we rewind almost 20 years, what was it that led you to start Magnet Media, and how did you start such a great company when you were 10 years old?

MEGAN: I love the second part of that question, so you could just repeat it into the mic. [laughs] No, I’m an ancient here. I’m not just an old, I’m an ancient at South by Southwest. But I love this community.

The origins of the organization are actually true to our purpose. That’s the one part of Magnet Media that hasn’t changed, is our purpose and mission, and that’s to tell stories that matter. When I was a young’un entering the media universe, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I was very fortunate to work with incredible mentors in film and television who really guided me. It was PBS and HBO and these plum jobs in documentary and working with these legendary filmmakers and producers and editors.

I had lunch with one of them one day, my mentor. One of my mentors was Larry Silk, this legendary editor, and he said, “You know, Megan, you’re really smart and you’re really creative.” I was like, “Oh, thank you.” Finally, right? I’m in this entry level position and I’m like, finally, someone’s noticed. It’s been 3 months already. [laughs]

He goes, “But the thing is, everyone else in this company is also really smart and also really creative.” I started feeling deflated. He said, “But ,the thing that makes you stand out is you’re good at computers.” [laughs] He was in his late seventies at the time and this was the late ’90s, and I thought, Oh God, if I’m the most technical person in this company and the media world that he’s in, we’re all in trouble.

But I took that as a major note, and I left television for a bit and worked in a fast-growing tech startup called Virtual Media. I was Employee #2 there. This is before New York had a startup scene. People would come and visit me for lunch and they’d say, “Uh, is this a real company?” Because it was just the two of us in this huge empty warehouse-looking office. [laughs] It seemed a little shady at the time.

But lo and behold, we drove it to $20 and $30 million and hired 50 people. I was there at the origin, so driving that company’s growth was really addictive for me. When I left 3 years later, I knew that I wanted to return to production, but it was with this mindset of there’s so much innovation and excitement happening in technology, and I don’t want to leave that behind.

ROB: Right, and you rode that wave quite well. If we look at one of the things you’re doing here, you had a session you presented called “The State of the Story: How Carbon Won the Big Game.” Tell us what you were talking about.

MEGAN: Yes, thank you. I was thrilled to be selected as a featured speaker this year. We apply and have spoken in the past at South by Southwest, and this is the first year we got that upgrade to the big room. We had an incredible dual fireside chat with Paul Francis from Adidas, sport scientist who’s brilliant, and Dara Treseder, who is the CMO of Carbon. She is a total rock star and comes from Apple and Goldman Sachs and GE, leading their innovation.

The story that we were telling was around where storytelling is headed. Specifically, Carbon and Adidas partnered on this campaign to launch a 4D shoe line – again, they’ve cracked the code on digital manufacturing as a platform – and being able to create shoes that couldn’t have been created in any other way. Using Adidas’s decades of data and Carbon’s world-class technology, they produced this shoe that was an incredible seller but also had this lattice component of it. If you have images on your site, I can share some with you that we used during the presentation.

But the focus of our conversation on the panel was really around that as a case study, because we worked with Carbon at the Super Bowl to launch their brand. It’s a B-to-B brand, yet they’re using partners like Adidas and Riddell the helmet manufacturer, to break through the clutter and become known as a household name so that “Powered by Carbon” actually has meaning.

It’s a new startup, it’s a new technology that’s doing phenomenal things, but it’s not really known outside of Silicon Valley. So that’s our goal. We use the Super Bowl as a platform to tell stories across all platforms, specifically YouTube and LinkedIn, and reach their audience at scale.

ROB: That’s a very high-pressure stage to be on. How many times – was that your first Super Bowl placement, or have you done that rodeo before?

MEGAN: We’ve worked in partnership with other companies in the past on Super Bowl campaigns. This was the first that we launched ourselves, and we had very limited time. It was a 4-week mad dash because Dara had just started last December, I think it was. She was brand new to the job.

The two of us put our heads together and really leaned heavily on our incredible teams at Carbon and Magnet to work around the clock and say, okay, let’s do a “think, make, reach” campaign. Let’s do an audience analytics driving to great distribution strategy and really tell this story in a way that people are going to want to not only seek out, but also share.

That was the whole goal. If we could get that flywheel spinning among their target and really have everyone talking about – their hashtag was Protect It All, which is what the Riddell helmet does so effectively. You’ll see in the photos, but it’s got this lattice interior, much like the Adidas midsole. It’s a material that you can’t create any other way. Their technology has made it possible.

Their end goal is obviously to improve the lives of athletes through this technology and through these world-class products, and I think that story had real resonance. We were able to deliver 5 times the number of views that we had projected on YouTube as well as 6 times the number of clicks back to their site. It was an incredible success story for a brand new B-to-B brand.

ROB: For sure. That even sounds like an interesting science unto itself. How do you go and tell a client how many impressions you’re going to give them?

MEGAN: [laughs] Now that, I’d have to kill you, Rob.

ROB: That’s your secret sauce?

MEGAN: No, but it’s a huge question. I think in general, what you’re really asking is, how do you demonstrate value and make sure that your client’s investments in these campaigns is aligned with the goals and business outcomes of the company? I think that’s increasingly challenging as we all have so many choices to make with where to put our resources.

But the short answer is, it’s really about looking at, again, the end game of what success looks like. There’s so much noise in the ecosystem around people wanting to do different things, and really interpreting and misinterpreting what marketing can do for a company.

I think that’s one of the biggest gaps right now. So many of our CMOs are spending a lot of their energy internally educating others on what marketing’s function really is because it’s become such a – forgive me for saying this, because I love the discipline of marketing, but it’s become a little bit of a junk drawer of all things that don’t belong in anyone else’s camp. We’re going to tuck that under marketing, right? It’s analytics and it’s growth strategy and it’s lead gen and brand building, and, and, and… At the end of the day, no one’s marketing budgets are growing at the same pace that their mandate is. I think that disconnect is increasingly challenging. You have to prioritize.

I think in the case of Dara Treseder and Carbon, their objective early on was “Let’s make a splash.” She’d just arrived on the scene. Let’s make a splash, make sure that the brand of Carbon is known and that their partners are getting equal billing in all of their campaigns.

But then as a fast follow, we’re now looking at demand gen and making sure that we have quality targeting in everything that we’re doing so that the stories are hitting the mark for the accounts that they want to penetrate, and the next string of partners I couldn’t be more excited about.

ROB: That’s awesome. It sounds like some of the key lessons from the session around how they did the partnership together are around some of the audience identification and research that went in upfront. What else should we take away from what was shared today onstage?

MEGAN: It sounds basic, but I think the distribution of stories is no longer this dark art. Up until now it’s like, if you don’t have a Buzzfeed level launch partner, you’re not going to be successful. If you’re not HBO and talking about Game of Thrones, you’re not going to be taking over the conversation. Everyone else is second fiddle.

I just don’t believe that to be true anymore. I think it’s about being strategic and thinking about, again, how do you leverage what is unique to you as a brand? In the case of Carbon, they had this phenomenal technology. It was very visual. But of course, they also had Adidas and Riddell. These are dominant brands in their space who are telling fascinating stories and have brand permission to show up somewhere like the Super Bowl. It’s not odd for a B-to-B brand to be there on behalf of their partners because they were instrumental in driving the 4D’s record success and the Riddell helmet’s world-class status as a breakthrough innovation.

They’re going to be doing that with other brands as well and showing up in those spaces – healthcare and in other arenas, dental, etc., where Carbon’s unique value proposition is relevant to the audience. So, they can really take over the conversation and be consistent about that messaging and around innovation and performance.

ROB: Megan, you’ve mentioned some major, major clients. That’s really awesome. If someone goes to your site for Magnet, they’ll see an impressive client roster. What are some of the other clients you’ve worked with that people would recognize? And have you always been working with those larger clients, or were you doing something different when you first got running?

MEGAN: That’s a great question. We pretty much would market anyone who would talk to us. [laughs] In the beginning it was humbling.

But no, we were really fortunate early on to have – actually, believe it or not, Apple was our first official client. I say that with all humility because, of course, they’re an extraordinary brand. But the truth is, in 2000 they were a computer company with a very paltry market share that didn’t have an iPhone and had no retail presence, and certainly wasn’t in the same business position, let’s just say, as they are today. [laughs] So it wasn’t as much of a coup when we got them.

But, at the time, I thought, these are totally fascinating, ambitious people who are incredibly demanding and committed to their job in a way that I had never seen anyone be. I love that. I share that passion for quality work and quality storytelling. They really respected what we were trying to do, which was combine the craftsmanship and the filmmakers who we brought to bear on their campaigns were these heavy-hitting artists who could tell stories in unique ways.

No brands were really doing that at the time. At the same time, we shared an equal respect for – it wasn’t called analytics at the time, but web data and thinking through the role that technology can play in helping to scale this message. How can you really form a community of live people?

At the time they had user groups around their professional applications, like Final Cut Pro and Logic. We would travel the country and try to help that scale through follow-up emails and web videos and things that – again, this is before YouTube, so there was no social network. There were no efficient ways to distribute stories. But it was an extremely unique challenge.

It’s a long-winded way of saying that I think even though Apple was our first client, it wasn’t the Apple of today. We work with a number of both challenger brands that are on fast-growing trajectories but that are fairly early stage, as well as enterprise brands.

Companies like Chase are instrumental in our business. We’ve been partners with them for 10 years. I’m also a 20-year-long small business customer of Chase, so as it turns out, I can tell them firsthand the benefits of their product because we benefit from them.

Kristin Lemkau has built this incredible marketing organization, and Jamie’s backed her from the beginning, around telling stories and thinking through how to make Chase an iconic brand that’s not just within the financial services space, but really steps out into more of a lifestyle brand that you associate with and want to be associated with due to all the good work that they do in the community and the stories that they’re telling.

ROB: You’ve grown the team quite a bit, and I’m sure even beyond that, when you’re in production mode you probably bring in additional people who aren’t even on your team to do the work. What have been some key points that have unlocked growth for you, where you learned something, you changed something, and it was an inflection point in the business?

MEGAN: God, that’s such a hard question. I think there’s been a couple of inflection points as we’ve, again, had different strategic eras.

One was the movement to structure our services around a “think, make, reach” approach. There’s a ton of – forgive me for saying this, but I’ll say “agency” startups and things that are doing different services and delivering on different value propositions, and it’s really hardtop differentiate as a service provider, aside from the commitment that you have to your clients, what else makes you unique.

I think our services from the beginning were structured under this whole “think, make, reach” approach, this horizontally integrated, “we’re going to be strategic, we’re going to produce content, and we’re going to distribute it at scale in a way that’s measureable” – that was pretty game-changing for us. People have been telling stories since cavemen and women were drawing on walls, so that’s not new. But technology has really enabled this hyper-growth power to those who are leveraging it successfully.

The core of our first inflection point was when we went from just having a great set of services to an organizational structure around “think, make, reach.” There’s a stack of the services. If you look under what is a think service at Magnet Media, there’s a list of things you can actually buy.

I think that would be a tip that I would give anyone who’s listening: naming is very important. Calling something an audit and delivering on that promise is a strategic service that we do, a content audit. Doing it the same way every time. And when you’re buying something, knowing what you’re going to get is really critical to the quality of the service. So I think that pivot to a “think, make, reach” structure and then thinking about our marketing stack, our services stack, was the biggest inflection point.

The second was what you asked about earlier, about our staffing structure. It was really only 3 years ago that we pivoted to this pod approach where you have not only a strategist and a creative on the business, but also, they’re vertically organized so that there is a subject matter expert team on my team that knows financial services. There’s another team that really knows tech.

I think that’s also set us apart because it’s not like one day we’re doing sneaker sales and the other day we’re trying to sell software for SaaS companies. I mean, we may do that over the course of all Magnet Media, but you’re working with specialists who are experts in your business and know the competitive landscape and understand how to differentiate and tell a story without having to learn everything about who you are from scratch on your dime.

ROB: What’s the range of size of the pods?

MEGAN: That’s a great question too. The pods themselves are fairly small by design so that they can stay nimble. We frankly hit a growth plateau for a bit when we were growing really quickly and then there wasn’t this nimble structure. We started to mirror the bureaucracy of our clients. It’s like, why does it take 3 days to get a proposal out? That’s pathetic. We need to be nimble and quick. Clients are buying that velocity from us.  

So the pods tend to be between three and five people at the core, and then, again, we will scale up to have 10, 15 people on a given campaign who are editors and animators and podcast hosts and things like that, makeup artists, whoever’s needed to do the “make” piece or the distribution effort.

ROB: Process so often is a key to unlocking growth. Is process something that comes naturally to you? It’s often hard to get it into a creative organization. How does that work?

MEGAN: It absolutely does not come naturally to me. [laughs] If I said otherwise, my entire team would be in the comment stream of this podcast calling me out. No, it’s really hard, actually. This is one of the biggest personal growth things, and I continue to work on this.

We have a value at Magnet Media called continuous improvement, and I’m very candid about my shortcomings. Again, I’m a student of the business. I am learning every day. We’ve been at this a very long time, but it’s changing faster than anyone can be feeling fully masterful of the art of science and marketing.

I think when it comes to process, it’s a good, better, best situation. If you focus too much on putting structure in place and repeated documentation and “don’t color outside the lines,” that can be demoralizing. People don’t feel like they have ownership or, as you mentioned, in a creative place, feel like they can do something unique or really express themselves.

So, we have to have enough flexibility and enough blank canvas for every contributor to find meaning in their work. At the same time, if everyone is doing a budget differently or a call sheet for the shoot, some of the logistical components, you’ll never get out of your own way. You’ll just be inventing all those logistics every time.

I mentioned Chase; last year we did 48 separate engagements for them alone, and they’re one of dozens of clients that we service. So, we have to have process in place in order to scale. That can only happen when you’re thoughtful about it. I rely heavily on my team to put checklists in place. I’m a huge fan of this book called The Checklist Manifesto. [laughs]

ROB: Nice.

MEGAN: It sounds stupid, but if you’re a pilot or a surgeon, those are very high-stakes decisions you have to make, and you maybe have been a pilot for 20 years and doing the same things every time you take off and land. But he refers back to the need in these critical roles to have documented checklists so that no step is skipped. And if you didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, you’re still going through that checklist and it’s in front of you. [laughs] God forbid.

ROB: Yeah, that makes plenty of sense. You started the company on your own? Or did you have co-founders?

MEGAN: Yeah, I started Magnet Media, correct, as the founder. But to say it’s on my own is really not historically accurate in the sense that the team itself has been operating like partners from the beginning. I’ve always been so fortunate to have people who treat “my company” as their company. I always refer to it as “our company” because that’s the level of investment that we expect and recruit for, and that’s the type of employee that thrives at Magnet Media. Someone who takes full ownership.

ROB: Looking ahead a little bit, you have this report – I assume you’re going to keep it going year over year, as you have. If you had to guess what you’re going to write next year, what do you think is going into it?

MEGAN: Gosh, Rob, this is not supposed to be an exposé. [laughs] That is a very difficult question.

ROB: You are allowed to be wrong. Feel free to – we’re not going to publish an episode in a year that says, “Here are all the things that Megan got wrong.”

MEGAN: My fast fails. [laughs]

ROB: We may, if you have another excellent campaign and you are open to it, meet back here again.

MEGAN: I love that.

ROB: That would be fun.

MEGAN: Let’s do it. Let’s do it as an annual event. Let’s see, I’ll tell you briefly. The State of the Story took us, this year, about 10 months’ worth of research, hundreds of hours, thousands of data points to cull through.

We also conducted original interviews for the first time with CEOs and CMOs, really about where they were deploying their resources so that we had first-hand knowledge of, “Okay, last year I did influencer marketing and it kicked butt for us. It was an experiment, and now we’re quadrupling our investment because we saw 16 times the engagement of other channels.” Those are the types of facts we’re trying to surface and use as indicators for these trends.

I always look at futurists and forecasts very skeptically, even our own, because no one knows what’s coming, of course, and media and marketing especially are being disrupted on a daily and hourly basis.

But as far as where storytelling is headed, I would say one thing that won’t change that I’m pretty confident on, that I will go on the record, is the quality of storytelling, the craftsmanship, the need to have a beginning, a middle, and an end, a set of characters – and that character can be a large piece of technology at the center of your story, if that’s what is true to your brand.

ROB: Or robots.

MEGAN: [laughs] It could be a robotic character. God forbid. No, but have those qualities that people find so compelling and so attractive, and again, want to repeat to their friends.

I was just out late last night with a colleague who sold his company to a big media company. Now he’s high up in the C Suite. The first thing that we connected over – I haven’t seen him since he sold his company and we just ran into each other, and immediately we have to cancel everything we’re doing and sit down and catch up – the first thing I said to him was all about his kids on Instagram. It had nothing to do with our professional connections.

He was home alone as a dad of four kids under 10, and they had this wild dance party. It was one of the most hysterical Instagram stories I’ve seen in my history. I went to a lunch today, and one of the colleagues I had brought to that spontaneous meetup last night was repeating the story of his Daddy dance party. [laughs] So it was not about all these critical, but also often boring facts that we know about our work life and things.

The community connection and I think that ability to be human is really what’s at the core of storytelling as a craftsmanship. That’s not going to change even if Facebook watch surpasses Netflix as a medium for distribution. That’s a technical pivot that someone needs to make, but it doesn’t change how you approach your storytelling strategy.

ROB: One compelling thing that seems core to your story – and you embody it without saying it, so I’m going to say it just so we can notice it – is you, at an inception level, tell the story of your customers. That’s the story of your session, that’s the story of your report – the story of your customers, very generously letting them be the star. You are the wise advisor.

MEGAN: Thank you. I don’t know how wise, but definitely – I mean, it’s not an act. I really do feel that privilege every day of working with the brands that we are fortunate enough to be hired by.

Obviously the landscape has changed dramatically and we’re no longer this scrappy startup where we’re begging for business every day, but it is a hard time for everyone in the industry to figure out – again, all those questions I was referring to about what success looks like and stay the course on a campaign that’s going to have ups and downs and really be in it for the long haul.

What you interpret as generosity, I interpret as integrity. I think the commitment to our clients is very real, but it’s also because they’re the ones who are taking the risk. They’re the ones who are betting on our filmmakers and writers and animators to tell their story. There’s no greater privilege, really, than to have the gift of being invited to tell someone’s story.

ROB: That’s fantastic. Megan, thank you for coming on the podcast. Thank you for sharing so much that we can all learn from. It’s been a true pleasure.

MEGAN: Thank you, Rob. I really enjoyed it. I look forward to hearing more of your episodes. Congratulations on what you’ve built.

ROB: Thank you. I’ll let you get back to the mess of Austin.

Thank you for listening. The Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast is presented by Converge. Converge helps digital marketing agencies and brands automate their reporting so they can be more profitable, accurate, and responsive. To learn more about how Converge can automate your marketing reporting, email info@convergehq.com, or visit us on the web at convergehq.com.

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