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Tradition and the Digital Age: On this episode of Track Changes, we sit down with Perry Hewitt, the former Chief Digital Officer of Harvard University (ever heard of it?) to break down the duties of her job.

Perry talks about what it’s like stepping into that role in an institution that emphasizes history and tradition. When Harvard adapts to digital, what kind of problems need to be solved? How do you measure the health of their digital properties? How do you make Harvard look good? We discuss the difference between data informed versus data driven marketing, as well as the blurring lines between product development and marketing. Perry argues that so much of the marketing now is within the product itself — so which end involves deep customer engagement and which involves building a relationship? How does education play a role, and to what end? Why does Rich regard marketing with suspicion? Lastly, Perry sums up the role of CDO by identifying three major points: Building consensus, scoping appropriately, and delivering early. We can get behind that.

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Rich Ziade Let’s talk about The Chiefs.

Paul Ford Ah The Chiefs. Chief is funny, right? There’s—there’s—she—[Well] What’s the worst chief?

RZ Chief Experience Officer maybe.

PF That’s brutal. And you know why—

RZ That’s a rough one. Oh no, no! Chief Culture Officer.

PF That’s terrible but at least it’s CCO, Chief Experience Officer is CEO.

RZ Yeah.

PF So you have to be CEXPO or you have to say, “I’m CEO but I’m the Chief Experience Officer.”

RZ Right.

PF You never wanna be in a situation in which you have to introduce yourself.

RZ Another one I love or hate, I dunno which, is Chief Revenue Officer.

PF Yeah.

RZ Which is like, oh wow! This is the only person who’s thinking about money in the whole company. That’s great!

PF That’s real.

RZ That’s really good.

PF Now there’s—there’s the other ones too, there’s the new ones. There’s Chief Product Officer.

RZ New . . . ish.

PF And Chief Technology Officer or Technical Officer.

RZ Is a little more classic.

PF It can also be CIO for Chief Information Officer.

RZ Yeah.


PF And then there’s the Chief Digital Officer.

RZ And! There’s the Chief Marketing Officer.

PF That’s right. The CDO and the CMO.

RZ Yeah and if you lay all these down, visually, it’s a grotesque Venn diagram.

PF They overlap a lot.

RZ They do. And it causes a lot of confusion and that confusion actually trickles down to many, many places.

PF And that’s the science of management. We’re done here today.

RZ Have a good week, everyone!

PF No. [Music plays alone for 18 seconds, ramps down]. Not too long ago someone came into our orbit who we are very fond of and that is Perry Hewitt. Hello Perry.

Perry Hewitt Hey, Paul. Hi, Rich.

RZ Hello.

PF And Perry has among many things [music fades out] been a Chief Digital Officer.

PH Yeah.

PF Where were you a Chief Digital Officer?

PH So back in the dark days of 2009 to 2016 I was the Chief Digital Officer at Harvard University which is a small, you know—

PF Liberal arts college.

PH Liberal arts college based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and—

PF It’s known also for being a really relaxed place where people appreciate change.

PH Yeah. No—no big deal. Yeah. You know as you’re coming up on your fourth centennial people are, you know, people are all relaxed about that.


PF It’s true. Postlight’ll be 400 hundred years old one day [laughter from others]. I wonder what we’ll be doing. Ok, so you walk in and you’re Chief Digital Officer of Harvard. What the hell do you do all day?

PH I think you try to solve important problems related to adaptation to digital in this big and crazy organization. So, the greatest privilege was, right? That you have all these amazing faculty and students and doing this incredible work. And when I arrived in 2009 it was not being shared in the way that it might’ve been to reach the greatest possible audience and indeed there was some disdain slash [/] fear about what it would mean to share that.

PF Sure.

PH So, you know, when I arrived, for example, there was a print publication called The Harvard Gazette that was put into HTML but because there weren’t enough people and not enough time, they would just sort of scrape it from the print version [mm hmm] and put up, you know, whatever stories the web developer felt like adding. So, our first project because as you guys know it’s really important to make the first small manageable promise and meet it was to turn that into a, you know, CMS backed platform, and we picked, much to IT’s delight at the time, we picked WordPress.

PF Oh look at that.

RZ What year are we?

PH 2009.

PF Oh, those were dark days for WordPress.

PH Exactly! And I was told, “This is blogging software.” You know? You know?

PF “Don’t do this, don’t do this!”

PH “This is insane!” [Rich scoffs]

PF “Who is this woman?!?”

PH “There’s a whole Microsoft suite you could be leveraging here! What—what are you doing?” And, you know, one of my pet peeves around any kind of CMS install is that people always under attend to the admin interface which I think is like the most important piece of software you develop is the piece of software where people enter the content. So that was a big investment of time.


PF [Crosstalk] It’s a hard sell.

PH Yeah.

PF It’s very nice if a CDO cares about the admin interface.

PH Yeah.

PF ‘Cause we end up in that position a lot. We have to advocate for good admin and good tools ‘cause—

RZ And they’re not comin’ in thinkin’—they’re thinkin’ about impact, [yeah] they’re not thinkin’ about maintenance and administration, right? They’re thinking about all the beautiful stuff and you kind of have to walk ‘em back, it’s like, “Well, do you need various levels of rights?” [Chuckles] It’s not he sexiest question to ask.

PF People build—they wanna build for launch. Like launch is so exciting.

RZ Yeah.

PF You’re gonna have that new thing, it’s gonna look good [yeah], and then you’ll figure it out after. Except that doesn’t actually work. You have to just assume that it will all be terrible on day two as well.

PH So I think a CDO or any kind of senior digital role what you have to think about is how are we gonna measure the ongoing health of all these digital properties? And it’s not by the launch.

PF Digitally Harvard must have four or five billion separate web properties.

PH Yeah. I think that’s conservative [all chuckle].

PF So that—did that fall under your mandate? Like what did they—

PH No.

PF What the hell on day one is that job—I mean.


PH No, there are way smarter people working in all corners of the university to do really interesting and important work. I mean, first of all, you have the A-plus researchers. You had Birkman Center, of course, back in the day, and now you’ve got this new AI think out of the Shorenstein Center. So you have tremendous people thinking and doing wonderful things digitally. This was more sort of herding cats; thinking about the main properties; and actually getting the org institution to embrace in some meaningful way.

PF Right.

PH So.

PF Yeah, you don’t wanna be in the position of telling faculty to do things.

PH Right. Right.

PF So avoid that at all costs.

PH I married into that. So I understood the pitfalls very well.

PF Oh you married faculty?

PH Exactly.

PF Yeah they don’t—faculty doesn’t take orders.

PH Yeah. So, I once made the mistake of telling my husband, you know, asking him, “What are your deliverables this summer?” And he said, “My mind is my deliverable.”

PF Ooof!

RZ Woah!

PH So, I knew what I was up against [Rich laughs] and I think, actually, all joking aside, it was a huge advantage because I didn’t understand sort of how faculty thought about things and I had come from Crimson Hexagon which was founded by Gary King who is a major political science who runs the Institute for Quantitative Social Science. So he was another wonderful lynchpin in starting my work there, and his team had built sort of a standard web platform that was used by a lot of the faculty and departmental websites. So it was a good collaboration there.

PF Alright, day zero you come in, right? You’ve got a lot of organizational change; you know what a giant college is like, or any—any of the roles that you take ‘cauze you’ve taken other roles since. How do you get started knowing that your very presence is going to annoy a lot of people?


PH I think there’s a lot of work to be done around listening and building credibility.

PF Mm hmm.

PH So, on the one hand, I embarked on that project which had the, you know, effect, the goal was to elevate the important research of faculty and students around the university, and tell that story in a more compelling way that could be measured very quantitatively.

PF So make them look good?

PH Exactly.

PF “I’m here to make you good.” So I—I wanna have with the person who’s gonna do that.

PH Mm hmm. And also really understand—I mean, you know, years of hearing my husband sort of complain about administrators did give me a competitive advantage. So, you go to meet with a faculty member and, you know what? Do them the courtesy of having read one chapter of their last book.

PF Mm hmm.

PH Ask one smart question. I’m not gonna get real far in the quantum physics but—

PF No, it’s ok.

PH There’s a place you can start and it’s by respecting the body of work.

PF Right. “I’m pretty excited about your opinions on Argentina. Now let’s talk about the website.”

PH Exactly, exactly.

PF Yeah, ok.

RZ You either come in with a mandate: “I am here to do this. I have been brought in because I am a specialist or I am a—I have the resume to do this thing, and—” and then there’s: “I’m the new Chief Digital Officer and I want to get to know all of you. And I’m not sure what the mandate is. I’m gonna make one. I’m, you know, [stammers] a set of priorities will surface out of it. Where—where were you at in that spectrum? Right? You’ve been brought it. Is it because there’s paranoia now, it’s like, “Man, we’re behind.” Like—what’s the context.


PH So one of the drivers was that the Alumni Association had done a survey and some of our alumni were perceiving us as laggards, unsurprisingly, in the digital sphere.

RZ Ok.

PH And, you know, people care a lot about alumni engagement and connection and [uh huh] in a couple years later, we knew we were gonna do a large capital campaign.

RZ Ok.

PH So that’s another big driver. So I was lucky to be able to work on both the public affairs and administration end and on the, you know, alumni relations end.

PF Oh wait, so you have to make channels to raise more money?

PH Yeah.

PF So this is—this is a big deal that you’re—

PH To engage alumni politics [all laugh] through a variety of means.

PF No but this is—you’ve got this big capital [mm hmm] campaignship coming up and it’s like why would you shut down avenues of communication if the alumni are asking?

PH And how do you meet alumni expectations? [Right. Right, right] And, you know, believe me, you’re gonna get a lot of sort of tough asks from alumni around. You know, “Why can’t you sort of real time tweet this kind of information to me?” You know, there are there a lot bespoke asks you’re gonna hear but they absolutely were an important and valued driver of meaningful digital change.

PF Yeah there’s a lot of brand loyalty [yeah] at Harvard. And, you know, some terrific alumni who are prepared to give time and talent through committees to say, “Oh, you know, Perry, you’re thinking about this the wrong way,” or, “Here are three technologists I wanna introduce you to.” And, you know, that was a tremendous leg up.

PF Sure, of course.

RZ Alright, take us into, “Ok, I understand the landscape; I understand needs.” What surfaces then?


PH There [were] two things: there were, you know, figuring out what the big, seminal and how to time sequence them—

RZ Mm hmm.

PH—and also how to build the community and generally increase digital literacy, you know, by convening the smart people, not by being the origin of all that knowledge [mm hmm] but by saying, “Oh my gosh, you would not believe how well The Kennedy School is handling x,” or, “The business school really has a lead on why.” And trying to find ways to connect and convene those people doing good work. So how do you—how do you make sure that you’re building a bank of knowledge and a community of people who are working together on this?”

PF It’s interesting, right, ‘cause a college at that scale, it’s just a giant, disparate community—

PH Mm hmm.

PF—where all these different pieces are moving in their own direction and they’re suPHosed to be. And so it’s sort of wild to hear, you know, “I’m gonna have this one sort of unified anything,” just strikes me as really, really challenging.

PH Right. I mean you over-centralize at your peril at a place like that. You absolutely do not want to think—I mean part of the strength comes from the ideas coming out of the law school [mm hmm] cross pollinating with the ideas from The Kennedy School cross pollinating with the ideas of the med school, where you can drive collaboration without, you know, too much consensus is where the best ideas come from. So my role was really about thinking about how do you collaborate in the digital sphere? Because in reality people don’t understand the difference among the different Harvards, nor should they, right?

PF Sure.

PH So how do you bring those people together in a meaningful way?

PF Yeah, it’s interesting ‘cause you can really only centralize services like email and protocols and ways that people communicate most thing just—but in that—at that scale centralization is just gonna get in your way over and over again.

PH Right. So you look at all the different they put out there like the hub and spoke model or the center of excellence model and you sort of have to—if you’re, you know, running a digital and big organization, you have to sort of think about what—what model works best for you, and be prepared to blur around the edges, right?

PF Right.


PH You know, there’s always gonna be, you know, situations that don’t perfectly match your model but the goal is overall advancement. So, Rich, when you say Project Alpha, a lot is about measurement.

RZ Hmm.

PH How do we all agree we’re making progress, right? You know, you remember the days of hits? How idiots track success, right? [Mm mm] So how do we think about—what are the—what are the metrics that really matter? For a research university?

RZ Right.

PF What metrics do matter for a research university.

RZ Ooooh! You’re gonna take that exit off the highway!

PF I wanna know!

RZ [Laughs] Ok.

PF I love metrics.

PH I would say reach and impact to the research [ok] which, you know, is primarily about the quality and somewhat about the brand which is certainly there; a digital—

PF But also a good, working platform—

PH Exactly. A good, working platform—

PF—where you can download the PDF.

PH Yeah. Where you can get to it. And I would also say about attracting students and faculty.

PF Mm hmm.

PH And I think, you know, I joke, you know, my biggest accomplishment in technology at Harvard was not necessarily the platforms I chose; the people I hired; or the solutions I implemented, it was eliminating two words from the start of every website: “Since 1636.”


PF Right [laughs boisterously].

PH Right? So how do you get the language and the messaging aligned with the things that’ll attract people. And, of course, tradition and history is hugely important at Harvard and is not to be poo-pooed. However, as a leading value proposition to a seventeen-year-old, hmm gotta think about that.

RZ I’m hearing different things here. I’m hearing execution.

PH Mm hmm.

RZ Like getting to the thing so it’s a better thing. Or on launching a thing that’s better. I’m hearing, and marketing, and signaling, I’m also hearing consensus building. That sounds like a lot. And education, and—and—

PH Right. Bringing in great speakers so that everyone can sort of listen to them; and react to them; and think about it.

RZ Right. Yeah. That’s a lot. You know, most of our clients are in business and usually it’s top-down, and usually it’s—it’s sort of mandate it will happen, you know, get in line is typically how it goes.

PH But does that work anywhere?

PF Well nothing works, right? I mean—

PH Right, yeah [Paul and Rich laugh]. It’s all messy and hopelessly broken and we’re just muddling through.

PF Everybody’s like, “Oh, we’re gonna centralize everything onto one platform,” and then five years later they say, “We need to centralize everything onto one platform.”

PH Right.

RZ That’s Postlight’s business model [music fades in], cleaning up the mess after that [all laugh].

PH Humans are messy [music plays alone for five seconds, ramps down].

PF Hey, Rich, let’s just do this ad, right now, real fast [music fades out].


RZ Oh. Yes.

PF Postlight! We do platforms and then we build products on top of them. What’s a platform?

RZ And if you care about security, by the way, we’re on top of that too [laughs].

PF We do. It’s sort of built in. You gotta be serious.

RZ Yes.

PF I mean a platform. We’re talking about APIs; we’re talking about big things that—

RZ “Act now!” [Laughs]

PF “Computers!” Anyway, this is the ad part of the podcast and Postlight is a services company. You call us and you say, “I need to solve this big, complicated technology [sprawling] problem.”

RZ Yes.

PF And that you send an email to and you’re like, “Phewf, I enjoy your podcast and um but if you actually do real work, I’d like to talk to you.” And boy, do we! [Rich laughs] We’re—people get confused. They’re like, “It’s a good podcast. What do they have a business?”

RZ Yeah.

PF We have people who listen to this podcast who know people who work here and can’t quite figure out—they’re like, “Yeah, do you listen to this podcast?” And the people who work here are like, “I work there.”

RZ [Laughing] I’ve heard about this.

PF And we’re like—and they’re like, “No, I know but do you— yeah, but nobody really works there.”

RZ Yeah.

PF No, no, there are 50 people here making software all day long. And—

RZ Designing, building, architecting.


PF They’re really good at it.

RZ They’re great at it.

PF They’re sweet and they’re serious and they’ll tell you no when you need to hear no but they’ll mostly we just try to get you what you need, to build your business and your big NGO or your finance enterprise—

RZ World thing.

PF—media company. All the thing that we do.

RZ Yes.

PF So get in touch:

RZ Yes! [Music plays alone for five seconds]

PF Actually let’s—let’s back out just a little bit [music fades out] because let’s—ok so Chief Technology Officer is usually in charge of kind of all of the infrastructure.

PH Mm hmm.

PF Chief Digital. What do you do?

PH I think everybody rolls their own, right? That’s the tricky part about, you know, I went to—

RZ [Crosstalk] I think that’s right.

PH—a couple of Chief Digital conferences and some people were very, very focused on the provost’s office and academic advancement and I had some involvement with HarvardX but it was certainly not my invention or baby or primary responsibility.

PF That’s the kind of extension school. Yeah.

PH Exactly. That’s the online, you know, learning component through edX which was founded with MIT in 2012, I believe.

PF Got it.


PH But, for me, it was much more about writing the ship in terms of frontend user experience—customer experience lens CDO, I would say.

PF Right.

PH And thinking about what are the systems and it was a lot about, you know, boring old measurement. You know, I’m a big fan of analytics and measurement and a lot was about that—about how do we—how do we decide what success looks like?

RZ Mm hmm.

PH And how do we build a culture of stakeholder engagement and management such that success isn’t, you know, person x liked the homepage?

RZ Yup.

PH You know it’s much more—I always said, you know, data informed not data driven because if you did everything data driven, you would only run stories about why Facebook and coffee, you know, would cause great heart health in your fifties and we’d get 100,000 clicks in the first ten minutes.

RZ And that’s that. Yeah.

PF But then those clicks go away.

PH Exactly.

PF They don’t—So, when you’re talking and I’m listening to you here, it’s—it’s marketing.

PH Yeah.

PF You’re—you’re talking about, “I’m gonna measure and I’m gonna improve and I’m going to figure out how to get this message out and get this message out until people hear and are able to act on it.”

PH Mm hmm.

PF Ok so these are the—this is the world. The world is both this sort of big, digital platform world but also this kind of like, “We’re gonna measure and improve and connect. “


PH I have a new acronym for you guys.

PF What’s that?

PH CDMO [Rich exhales sharply]. I know.

PF Chief Digital Marketing Officer.

PH I know. I know.

RZ Strong.

PH It’s a lot of letters.

PF So in your head that role which is, “Hey, there’s a gap in this very large institution or community or whatever between where we need to be to engage with the giant world known as digital: the internet, you know, just the larger community aspects of community. We’ve got this big gap, we need to close it.” That’s the job. The job is both sort of understanding and implementing and building out these systems but also just this sort of marketing style measurement and interaction.

RZ Is that the same job? And let me ask that question and pause it for a second and rewind back when, you know, when Excel 7 looked like it was gonna come out of beta and they were gonna start to print all those discs, then marketing kicks in and thinks about the box.

PF That’s right.

RZ And thinks about the kiosks and thinks about, you know, marketing across television and magazines and all that. It was an arm. Right? Like [mm hmm] the software’s firming up [and you hire agencies], it’s about to go up, you hire agencies.

PH And there was a hand off. It was like a relay race!

RZ Exactly.

PH You know like product is in the lane hands it right off, marketing grabs the baton and moves on. Right?

RZ Exactly.

PF So marketing comes in like once a month during the development [yes] cycle—

PH Right.


PF And then there’s that one moment where it’s—now it’s there’s.

PH Right.

RZ We’ve heard this story that, you know, Works. Microsoft Works which was Word light.

PF Yeah.

PH Mm hmm.

RZ It cut features which from a software perspective, very easy to do, to just pare down capabilities and charge 100 dollars instead of 300 dollars. So if you wanted Office, you paid 3-4-500 dollars and you paid 100 bucks for Works. That, to me, is a pure marketing product.

PF Sure.

RZ They called it Works. The pen was like a calligraphy pen which means it’s in your den.

PF Well and also to get those boxes out into the world is like a dollar fifty a box.

RZ A dollar fifty a box. And then the marketing strategy which is small business, people just taking care of—who like to write letters to their friends, it was not enterprise, right? And that was billions. That turned out to be billions [mm hmm] and that is not software, that’s just the marketing department taking it and running, right?

PH Well and there was that clean cutoff, right? I was at Lotus in the late nineties and that was what it was like. The product managers roamed the earth and, you know, came up with these products and delivered them and one day they were marketing’s problem to solve.

RZ So tell us about that a little bit.

PH So it was just a much more clear division of responsibilities [yup, right] and a division of hierarchy which was interesting to me, too. You know, marketing, you know—product management was largely male, marketing was largely female.

PF Mm hmm.


PH And it was seen as sort of the froufrou add-on at the end, once the geniuses have finished crafting their work—

RZ Mm hmm.

PH—you and marketing may now take this and spirit it out into the world.

PF Tell your little stories, ladies.

PH Exactly, exactly.

PF Yeah, yeah.

PH A lot of feel of that but I think, you know, it just got broken in the 2000s and 2010s, right? Because marketing creeps closer and closer into the product, you know? I don’t know that we have for many software packages the enterprise sales force we once had or even the same, you know, need to do these large scale marketing campaigns because once you have the product, the freemium product in people’s hands or, you know, the—the usage through, you know, network effects or viral marketing, you know, you don’t have that clean handoff.

RZ And hence the CDMO . . . bringing it together in one glorious moment of genius.

PH One hopes.

PF What’s a horrible problem that you would love to solve in the world?

RZ Oof.

PH Oh. That’s a tricky one. There are so many good problems to solve.

PF I mean we can leave aside sort of the, “I’d like world peace,” and, “And I’d like to fix hunger.” [Yeah] Like, obviously. Sure. But given your particular skill set, when you something and you’re like, “Uh, just get—let me at it.”

PH I think it’s the tyranny of crappy marketing automation.

PF Oh it’s so bad!

PH I would love to solve—

PF Let’s—we have to explain to people what this is.


PH Yeah. Right. So, these are the systems that, you know, when you, you know, fill out a form for a webinar or buy a product one time, you get delivered into a marketing automation suite, [mm hmm] and it’s generally pretty good software tools. You know? There’s Marketo and Pardot and you know—

PF I buy something at Best Buy.

PH Exactly.

PF Online. I buy a—I buy a USB hub.

PH Right.

PF Ok, cool. I got my USB hub. But the story has only just begun.

PH Right.

PF So now these systems are—are—have my data.

PH Mm hmm.

PF And they know I like USB hubs and I guess they also can go out and find all kinds of things about me.

PH Right.

PF What makes them so crappy?

PH I think that the metrics are all wrong. I’ll go back to my sort of crush on, you know, good measurement practices because the metrics then become about how many messages went out and how many times this customer’s been hit or touched which are two verbs I think should be struck from the lexicon [Paul and Rich laugh]. So, I think, we measure sometimes the very wrong things. But of course people measure outcomes, you know, how many of those people actually converted and the bottom line is, like direct mail, people would not do it unless it worked.

PF Well but they operate in that vacuum. You don’t know if anybody’s happy or sad and you could, you could do way more to understand [right] how people were receiving your message and what they were doing to—you know, when they got and opened your email and yeah, nobody bothers. They’re just like, “Can I get that click? Please?”


PH Right, “Can I get the click? Can I get the—the conversion?” And I think it’s—it’s not getting smarter as fast as it needs to. I didn’t see a lot of innovation in the space, despite all the app exchanges in 2017 or 2018 so maybe AI, you know? Like buzzword du jour but perhaps that is one of the things that will get these systems to be smarter over time.

PF Mm hmm.

PH Which is just to say, you know, like, “She clicked on it the first time but it doesn’t mean she wants it every gosh darn day.”

PF They never wanna do the work in the relationship. They want you to do all the work.

PH Have you found this with surveys? This is like [yeah]—I was on a webinar yesterday talking about the most hated things of 2018 [yeah] for me it’s surveys. You answer one survey question and you’re punishment for answering that question is ten more questions.

PF That’s right.

RZ Well I think—I think part of this is that, you know, success—two percent, even one percent hit at this volume is success. And so we complain. Like if it was really, truly universally annoying they would move away, right?

PH Right. If there was no success. Like direct mail.

RZ If there was no success. Exactly. It’s just a dead end, right?

PF You know I’ve started unsubscribing from every newsletter, though. I give up.

RZ I mean me too! But, you know, I mean this is going to sound just utterly arrogant but a lot of people don’t—my mom has add-ons to her browser, you can’t see the web window anymore. She loves them.

PH Right, just lower and lower and lower. Yeah, yeah.

PF Yeah, yeah.

RZ She has a Cap—like she has a Capital One account and she has a Capital One browser add-on that’s just at the top of the bar. And it—I don’t even know what it does. I refuse to click on it. And—and she loves it! She loves all of ‘em! And she said, “Don’t remove any of them. They’re just so great.” And sometimes there’s one that’s just like shopping buddy and if you click on it, it just shows you like five crap products that are on sale for that moment. It’s like Woot but for my mom.

PF Yeah.


RZ And she loves ‘em all! And so I think, you know, we’re smart. Unsubscribe and we, you know, we put proper filtering on stuff. Like we’re—we’re kind of—and not to say, [chuckling] my mom is a extremely intelligent person but I think many people just don’t do it.

PF I think also they just see—they’re more comfortable with everything kind of being a feed of noise and that’s what the internet is to them.

RZ So, I don’t think people mind. I think—I think the whole—I mean tell us what you think about digital and marketing and the consumer and how like half—

PF Well decrapify it for us.

RZ Yeah.

PH Right. People just want it to be better, right? I don’t mind it if it’s good, right?

PF Mm hmm.

PH I don’t mind it if it understands me but like how is it 2019 and we haven’t fixed retargeting? Right? So, you know, you go onto the Brooks Brothers website and you look at a blue blazer to buy your son for the holidays—

RZ Mm hmm.

PH—and you may or may not purchase that blazer. You may decide to get one from Old Navy, you may decide not to buy one, but for the next three months the internet is only going to show you blue blazers wherever you are.

RZ Yeah.

PF It’s wild too when it’s Amazon and they know you bought it.

PH Right!


PF But they’re just like, “No, you—you need another DVD player.”

PH Exactly. So I think when people feel like it’s really off brand or a bad experience or excessive or confusing, right? “How do I get out of this?” “How do I remove this?” And I think increasingly with the—sort of the—the revenge of the physical. You know with Amazon launching book stores and all these physical experiences coming back, there’s gonna be more messy middles for people to sort out.

RZ Mm!

PH Like, you know, who owns the experience if I walk into, you know, The Amazon Store or, you know, The Museum of Ice Cream? Or how does the physical and digital interact?

RZ Is—and I feel a theme surfacing here which is what marketing is doing to digital. Right? We’ve talked about it in terms of organizations and roles and whatnot but is marketing—I mean digital there’s a—I have a romantic view of it as this pure thing when done right it empowers people and the like. And marketing slamming into it that it’s somehow—

PF Sullies.

PH Sullies.

RZ Sullies! Thank you.

PF I mean I think what’s real is that at any scale, any serious scale, the two are gonna match up.

RZ Is that right??

PF Look at your Microsoft Works runnin’ around in that—like you just if you really wanna—

RZ It’s inevitable is what you’re saying?

PF It’s growth. I mean you’re connected to this world; you love the beautiful digital things but growth only comes when you’re telling the story out in the world in the way that people like.

PH And frankly education. We’ve eluded to that a couple times today like this idea of, you know, some people know what retargeting is, some people don’t. I think especially in B2B [business-to-business] with technology moving so quickly, there’s a responsibility to educate your consumers—

RZ Mm hmm!


PH—and not a lot of big B2B or B2C [business to consumer] companies have, you know, separate educational arms. A lot of that falls under marketing.

RZ Why educate? I mean it’s marketing—

PH Because you want your consumers to buy! And to engage with the product and use the product once they bought it, right?

PF But don’t you just want them to buy?

PH You want them to be happy! If they just buy and they’re not happy, that’s the worst outcome ever! Right?

RZ Well—

PH You want them to buy and to use and to maybe use another product.

RZ For every 20 New York Times articles talking about privacy and how your data is being shuffled around and sold, there’s one that tells you how to get away from it. Like the how-to article. I don’t think, even with all this kind of craziness and frankly it’s gotten to the point of paranoia when you think about, “Oh my God, my data’s in China and the like,” nobody’s giving out—nobody knows how to do it; nobody knows how to stop it. I don’t think anyone—like we can do it and even for us, you have to kind of dig around a little bit ‘cause we’re savvy. But for most people, they have no idea. They have no idea how to like . . . remove themselves from that sort of state. They have zero and I don’t there’s any incentive or interest to do it because that’s marketing. No?

PH I think it’s marketing if you act on the data in the right way. If you misuse the data or you get the data stolen, God forbid, you know, that’s not marketing.

RZ Fair. Fair.

PH But I do think that’s—that’s the challenge, right? Is use it in the right way. And data portability, right? I mean that’s a whole other session about how do we think about people’s owning their own data and being able to pull it in and pull it out? But [yeah] it’s interesting what data allows you to do, right? You know, people will complain their heads off when their logins go away, right? [Sure] You know, we—we were all home at Thanksgiving, right? We all did tech support for our families.

PF Right.

RZ Yup.


PH So, you know, that idea that, you know, once you lose, you know, you don’t have those cookies and that data’s not there. Like how do I login to the New York Times again? And—

RZ Right.

PH That all comes back.

PF Are we better and smarter with all this shit?

PH Who knows, man?

PF [Laughs] I know.

PH Who knows?

RZ Perry’s more—is less cynical like coming from technology and digital, I’m just much more cynical and suspicious of just marketing agenda—

PF I don’t know I—

RZ—I think about those ads like from the early 1900s in newspapers where it’s like, “If you drink this elixir, you’ll have more babies.”

PF [Crosstalk] This tonic. Yeah.

RZ Or something. Just all of that. And—

PF And you drank that tonic for years and nothing happened.

RZ Or you know smoking is minty. There was a period [chuckling] of time when smoking was minty.

PF “More doctors like Lucky Strikes.”

RZ It’s refreshing, yeah.


PH And now technology brought us Juul. So there you go.

PF Yeah. Yeah [sighs and then chuckles].

RZ So I—I always think, I mean that’s marketing. You’re gonna sell shit, that’s just how it goes.

PH But you gotta be friends with product in marketing. You cannot be this adversarial nineties [mm hmm mm hmm] mixed hierarchy relationship. It has to be a blend and that’s what I think is really important, particularly with sass products. A lot of the marketing experience is not sending some dumb email or flier [mm hmm] although we send plenty of those and sometimes they work or events but it’s within the product itself. [Yeah] So how do you make peace with product people and, you know, offer things that are meaningful extensions, you know, not, you know, just marketing fluff.

RZ You’re making a great point ‘cause there is a trend right now around sort of the deep relationship kind of experience where—and you see this in like the, you know, the Warby Parkers, the Casper Mattresses, The Birchbox where you don’t even know what you’re getting. Do you know about this Birchbox thing?

PF Sure.

RZ I bought a pair of jeans from a company called Mott and Bow . . . and one of the options they have when you pick your size is like, “Pick another size. And we’ll set up the box so you can send the size that didn’t work out back.” And it’s all taken care of [mm hmm] and that’s just more relationship driven and I think this is to your point: you have to take it beyond the blue blazer chasing you around the internet, right?

PH Right.

PF Is the future here now, 2018, as we go further and further and further—maybe this will be 2019 when it airs—that marketing is gonna be telling product what to do.

PH I think it’s gotta be a collaboration. I don’t think [ok] there’s an area in which—I think smart marketing is engaged deeply with the customer such that they know things on a quantifiable level that can be shared back with product but product, of course, is building its own relationship with the customer through design thinking or whatever processes they’re using in their product build. So I think better collaboration around that knowledge is key. I mean, who the hell knows? Maybe we’ll have CMPO. Oooh. That’s an acronym for ya [sighs and deep exhales from Rich and/or Paul].

PF Everybody needs to chill out, get in the room, and realize that product work is also marketing work.


PH Yeah, I mean people have a lot of anxiety about the grubby paws of marketing.

RZ Right, exactly, exactly.

PH Getting on these pristine products. To go back to Harvard, I had a lot to do with launching the social media accounts, hiring a bunch of smart people who really took it to the next level to really attract, engage, convert, you know, large and broad audiences and, you know, faculty, many were appropriately disdainful of, you know, reducing academic disciplines to a tweet. There were some concerns about that but then I’d get these 6pm calls at my desk that were like, “Psst. Um. You know [Rich laughs softly] I’m wondering if we could meet off campus. Like, I’ll buy a lunch, like I’ve got a book coming out.”

RZ Yeah!

PH You know? [Rich laughs] So, there was a moment which—

RZ You gotta do what you gotta do!

PH—you know faculty realizing the amount of marketing the publi—you know the publishing company was willing to put behind the book—

PF Oh sure!

PH—was like, “I gotta get my hands on—your grubby paws may be useful to me!”

PF “My three volumes on the evils of capitalism.”

PH Exactly.

PF “I need someone to help me market it.”

PH “Can you boost that for me?” Yeah.

RZ You had a steeper hill than just commercial interest, right? That usually drives things. I mean you had a very particular worldview about academia and [mm hmm] just integrity of it and—and the like versus commercial where it’s like—

PH Well it’s sort of you can do it through the lens of sort of sharing knowledge, right?

RZ Right.


PH You want your knowledge to reach the broadest possible audience [sure, sure]. You know? It’s not—not everyone’s gonna read the peer reviewed journal article.

RZ Right.

PH We hope many, many people do.

RZ Right.

PH But not everyone will. So are there ways you can not only share knowledge but reinforce locations as hubs or access to knowledge? I mean that was true as well of JStor and Ithaca and, you know, other places that worked that have really focused on, you know, connecting and educating and bringing culture to a wide range of people, digital’s part of that strategy.

PF Marketing . . . it doesn’t have to be evil [chuckles].

RZ One sentence [music fades in] piece of advice for a Chief Digital Officer.

PH Build consensus, scope appropriately, deliver early.

RZ One sentence piece of advice for the Chief Marketing Officer.

PH Respect the product.

PF Ah!!!

RZ See what she did? The Judo thing there. Perry, this was awesome.

PH You guys have been great. Thanks for having me.

RZ Thank you so much for doing this [music ramps up, plays alone for six seconds, fades out to end].