The Importance of Individuality in Marketing with Wunderkind’s Vern Tremble
Lindsay Tjepkema: Welcome to the Casted podcast. I'm Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO and co- founder of Casted, and I'm bringing you the conversations with the most innovative and forward- thinking podcasters In the B2B world. These brilliant marketers are harnessing the power of podcasting to reach their revenue goals, to rev their thought leadership engines and to amplify their voices in the marketplace. Let's dive into this week's conversation. Tell us a little bit about Wunderkind and what you do there.
Vern: Wunderkind is a performance marketing channel. What's amazing about Wunderkind, is it gives brands for the first time the ability to identify more of their customers at scale and ultimately engage and convert those customers in a way that previously was never possible. We generate revenue for our customers for some of the world's top brands, and we do that with a lot of heart and fun and empathy and individuality. I'm the senior director of marketing at Wunderkind, specifically focused on content and communications and we are, I feel really trying to revolutionize the way in which we produce content within the B2B MarTech space.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I love it. And one of the ways you're doing that is with a show. So tell us a little bit about the show, which we're going to dig way into.
Vern: Yeah, we have a fun show that we just launched a few months ago. The podcast is called Individuality Unleashed. It's available wherever you get your podcast. It's an amazing little show. We bring on tons of guests. We have conversations about what makes the brands that we work with unique, really amazing thought leadership, top of the funnel information that could really help both marketers and just the regular listener that just wants to learn more about e- commerce and more technology.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I love it. So that's a really great place to start. Tell me a little bit about how Individuality Unleashed came to be and why. What's the origin story there?
Vern: Yeah. Individuality Unleashed started off with an idea from leadership that identified that we had a hole in our content and communication strategy. We weren't using video at all really to communicate what we do to our target audience. And it's literally 2022 and video is not a good idea and we think the best way to start was with podcasts. It's super simple to, relatively speaking, super simple to set up, but it gives us the opportunity to be super topical, bring up, talk about macro trends that are relevant to our target audience and prospective customers and really get down to the nitty gritting. When we started to throw around ideas, having conversations with our chief revenue officer, shout out to Richard Jones, he came to me and said, " These are some ideas I have for titles. This is what I'm thinking that we could do." We chatted for a good half an hour to an hour, and the idea of Individuality Unleashed and settling on the name and the concept and what we're going to promote just really came naturally. We really wanted a series that one, highlighted the topics that were relevant to our core consumer, but also allowed us to have fun. We talk to analysts from Bank of America, we have conversations with founders of AI technology companies, all really geared towards understanding what drives them, what motivates them to showcase their individuality, but also leaning into what makes you successful, how do you drive success, and then what does success actually look like? All the more allowing us to also highlight what valuable takeaways other marketers, other leaders could utilize and implement in their own strategies.
Lindsay Tjepkema: So it's relating on that human level from a brand perspective.
Vern: Totally. Well said.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I'm just listening. I'm just telling you what I hear. So tell me a little bit more kind of the origin story, buy in from leadership, because it came from leadership, but at the end of the day, was it like, " Okay, Vern go make it happen?" Or who all was involved with turning this idea into even the earliest inkling of a reality?
Vern: So any idea there has to be a brainchild and that brainchild really started with leadership. As I said, starting with identifying there was a hole. Once that hole was kind of identified in my position, the task was given to me to say, " Hey, we need to do this." And we honestly had a few false starts where it's like we thinking about the concept, thinking about how we would do it, even thinking about working with outside agencies to produce this and to source talent and quickly realize... And the same is true for most brand strategy. When you rely on external resources to give you strategy and to help define what it is that you want to communicate to your audience, you've already kicked yourself in the butt at the onset. Third party agencies can come on to be a support, but you have to know what it is that you want to say and do in order to get the best results. So once we got past a few of those false starts, we say, " You know what? We know what we want to say. We know who we want to talk. In fact, we have the people we want to talk to." We have customers we started to rely on and look internally at some of our customers of course, and some of our own internal thought leaders. Some of our internal SMEs are brilliant. All of our internal SMEs are brilliant people that were completely capable of having these great thought leadership led conversations that would bring value to our audience. So once we got out of our own way, it was really just activating what this generation, when I say this generation, the Instagram, TikTok generation does so well, which is just execution and I don't want to say it to sound patronizing, not that they don't put thought into it, but not so much thought that you prevent yourself from actually executing. You got an idea, get a camera and a microphone and go. And it might be completely horrible the first time you do it. In fact, our very first episode of Individuality Unleashed, we reshot because we recorded it, it was a nice flow, this is cool, but it doesn't look good. Something needs to change. So we changed our lighting, we changed the way our background looked, reworked our talking points a couple of times, but even that first initial step to say, " Hey, let's just do it and then assess it was," enough to really just get the engine turning to make it real. Just make it real. And the only way you can make something real is just getting out of your head and actually producing.
Lindsay Tjepkema: That is such a great example of stage one of getting started, of just do it. Just get whatever you got, whether that's an iPhone or you have just access to a studio and just do the dang thing and everyone starts somewhere. And I think it's really easy to compare your beginning to someone else's middle and look at the results that another brand is getting or the traction that they're getting or the audience that they have. When you're like, " This episode that we have, we have to redo it because it's not even good enough. It doesn't look good," but you had to start somewhere and look, I mean just a few months later, look where you are now.
Vern: Exactly right. I think off topic, on topic, I love the show Bob's Burgers on Fox and I remember having seen the series come out, I love cartoons and watch animation with my kids all the time. Love Disney movie, shout out Disney. And I remember just being completely enamored and falling in love with that first episode, that pilot episode. And I love to do background research on television shows and see, " Okay, what's the genesis of this?" They were maybe one or two pilot episodes before the official episode launched. And it was crude, it was Roth, it reminded me of home videos, home movies that used to come on Adult Swim. But it was a start. It was like, " We have this idea, it's a little nebulous, but it's going to develop and mature as it goes." And you can see from that initial episode to the very first pilot episode, there was a heart and spirit to that thing that eventually ended up becoming a great hit and success. And most shows follow that same pattern. But the point I'm making is you have to start, have the idea and just do it. Do something to your point. Get your cell phone out, record yourself saying something, put it up on TikTok.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Absolutely. And it's so important. And that's part of the reason that we're doing this whole series, is to have that common start of all these origin stories so that people watching and listening can go and see Individuality Unleashed and be like, " Oh my gosh, that's how they started. Okay, I can do it too." And so there's some inspiration and some hope there. And then there's also the shared expectations of what's possible. It's not just about like, " Yeah, but if I start here then I don't know, maybe someday we'll have some followers." It's like, no. Then someday you can get to the point that your show is building brand. Your show is generating real measurable revenue. So thanks for that. Thanks for your start.
Vern: No problem.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Tell me a little bit about, again, that origin. What did the initial investment look like? And I'm not even necessarily talking about dollars, it's whatever you can share, want to share, think to share. That's also time, that's also resources. There's a cost to everything because you and whoever else was involved in this, were doing this instead of something else. So what did that initial, " All right, we're going to do this thing." What did that investment look like?
Vern: Yeah, so time is finite, as we all know, and being one person and like every other person on this planet, we only have 24 hours in the day. So any good idea that you want to see brought to life, it requires an investment in not only your own personal time, but in establishing a team. So the very first thing that I thought to do was to establish my team. Sometimes you don't necessarily have the resources to say, " I'm going to hire people to do it." You might look outwardly; you have to secure a budget that takes time. That's always not the best strategy because if you want something quickly, it's going to cost a lot of money. It's going to take a lot of time to get through procurement and legal and finance and all this stuff. And I didn't have time for that. So what I said is, " I'm going to take..." I love creating sprint teams inside of an organization, understanding people that have superpowers and adding plus ones to their job. It's a great way for team members to uplevel their knowledge and their skill base, but also a great way for us to run quickly because you have a group of people that already understand the POV, the positioning and the product. You bring them together and say like, " Hey, here's the idea. These are the things that we need accomplish. Do you have any experience in these things? If you don't, can you take a few hours to do some research and come back-
Lindsay Tjepkema: Want some?
Vern: ... want some?Come get some." And so literally did that, established the right team of people and started putting this thing together. Now when it comes to Wunderkind, we didn't have video production as a department within the organization at all. So I did have to look out externally and actually tapped one of my good friends to come in as a video director. And this guy's a jack of all trade. Shout out to Jay Sheets, he's absolutely phenomenal. Check out his website, amazing stuff. I think jaysheetsphotography. com. But Jay came in as our first video director ever for Wunderkind. And between the both of us, me giving a little direction, little guidance and him with his infinite creativity and just that teamwork coming together to say, " Hey, let's put the end..." Of course, got to shout out Richard Jones, our CRO really spearheaded and made sure that we launched this thing, came together and said like, " Let's go. Let's do it. Let's make it happen." It's a little bit of investment in resources and spend if you are serious about a thing, especially if we're at a pretty large scale up hyper- growth mode right now where we could make that investment for fidelity as far as our video content goes. So we make that investment in video director. But at the same time, if you don't necessarily have the money to do it, look inwardly, look at the resources that you currently have and figure out ways to repurpose that. And really it's that combination of the two that allows you to sprint. So combining that spend along with those internal resources really allowed us to get Individuality Unleashed off the ground.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Love it. Okay. So off the ground, good segue. It's been out in the wild for a few months now. You're no longer getting started, although it can maybe feel that way sometimes. What do things look like today and how have you advanced from those earliest days of, " We need to reshoot this episode because it doesn't even look good?"
Vern: So that's a couple ways that I can take this, but I think I'll start with first identifying what it means for Wunderkind to have a podcast. Our original thought process was, " This is going to be a great top of the funnel resource that allows us to be social proof for all of the content that we're building down funnel." Because ultimate we're a B2B MarTech company where we are ultimately trying to solve a problem and drive revenue for us. So we had to not get in our own way and realize ultimately this is what this is for. We're trying to promote our content, we're trying to promote people to sign up, book a meeting, buy our product. But at the same time we realized that while we were initially kind of taking ourselves a little seriously, not too seriously, we would have scripts written out, very much adhered to, this is what we wanted to talk about. As we started to interview more and more folks changing locations, just trying out different stuff. We have an episode where Richard is in Boulder, Colorado and we're interviewing Finish Line, we did a Jordan Klepper style Daily Show segment where at the beginning he's literally running through the mountains in Colorado, but you got to check out that-
Lindsay Tjepkema: I love it.
Vern: ...see what I'm talking about?
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yes.
Vern: But we realized we can have more fun. Of course we're going to get to the valuable content. We want to try and establish that at the onset. And I believe that we did that with some of our initial episodes. But as time goes on, you can't lose sight of what it is that you're creating. It is content to drive awareness and entertain with the goal of adding value and insight. And I think a lot of times, especially within the B2B MarTech space, we forget this major element of it, which I think goes into a whole deeper conversation that we should have. Entertainment, people should not feel like they're sitting through a lecture at 7: 00 o'clock in the morning. It should be generally entertaining while also still adding value. Now I'm not saying be fluffy or be misaligned with what your audience would like to hear or how they'd like to engage with content in general, but never losing sight that it's video, it's audio, it's fresh faces, it's smiles, sometimes it's funny, it's sometimes serious. But you have to understand the medium that you are using and how to actually wield that paintbrush to really get the most out of that canvas. That was a big learning. I think ultimately we're getting closer and closer to finding our sweet spot. But that's the fun in it. It's like we have the space and grace to play and explore. And what's really cool about it is that as we begin to roll out more episodes and as we begin to shift our strategy slightly little testing here, little shifts here and there, what we're able to do as we're promoting our content out through multiple channels, whether it's on social or on YouTube, we use Casted. We of course have it spread across Spotify and several other streaming services and that allows us to take a look back at the data and understand, " Oh, interesting, this theme and these insights along with this channel and this promotion strategy help drive X amount of visibility or clicks or SAOs or even revenue." So we give ourselves a lot of space because like I said, we're just launching this, I don't have any historical data to suggest we need to do it exactly like this. I don't care about that right now. We have channels that are already running that are already successful for us. This is an opportunity for us to, and you talked about resources, to take a little bit of the time that we were using to launch our initial strategies, shifting some of those resources in time to a discovery project like this podcast and seeing if it was worthwhile to add more resources to it over time. So really it's that discovery phase that we're in and really exploring to see if this works for us in the long term. And so far it's paying off. I think it's driving some and garnering some attention for us, which is great.
Lindsay Tjepkema: That's awesome. And I have so many questions there. First off, I love... I mean this whole thing's about the maturity curve and stage three, stage four is a really important growth because stage three is about growing the show and saying, " How do we grow our audience in the show and how do we get more listeners? How do we get more eyeballs? How do we get more people engaged in the show?" Which is important because if you have a show and nobody's paying any attention, is it really a show? And I love it so much, you have very quickly seen that as a part of the journey, not the destination-
Lindsay Tjepkema: ...because it's not about the show, it's about what the show can do for the brand and therefore the business. And so tell me a little bit about where that sits in your mind and then next where that sits in the minds of leadership. Have you always seen it that way? Did from day one you say, " We're going to do this show because it's going to grow the business, here's the path forward." Or did you start seeing it that way at some point?
Vern: That's a good question. So because of the nature of the industry that we're in, we understood what the show was from the perspective of driving engagement, it's always been, it will always be a tool. It'll be a means to an end. So especially from leadership, taking on this opportunity to produce a podcast was always seen from the perspective of this is a growth marketing activation that ultimately helps us on the commercial side of the business, or I should say the growth team, which is both at combination of marketing and sales to drive engagement at the top of the funnel to drive engagement awareness. So we've always known that. How to do that has been the discovery portion of just this exercise of assessing countless podcasts and webinars. And just really from data aside, intuitively thinking myself as a marketer, " What do I want to listen to? What do I want to see on a data if I'm at the gym working out, or if I'm just driving or writing or flying, what has me engaged?" And oftentimes we want to segment as marketers, especially within the B2B space, what we think is good content for consumers based on these nebulous kind of undefined, maybe overly defined persona types instead of inaudible types. Persona's-
Lindsay Tjepkema: I was going to say personas based on personas.
Vern: Yeah, yeah. It's like, " Sure, that's a nice way to do digital marketing, but personas aren't people," and you can't fully personalize based on just individual personas. So what's been really interesting for us is being able to say, " Hey, maybe I can just do some of that and this content because that has my attention." And at the end of the day, what is marketing? We're returning back to a golden era of marketing, how we like to call it that Wunderkind. We actually just launched our CMO State of the Union, which is an expose of 100 CMOs within the e- commerce space and the challenges that they're facing and what they're doing to drive success during this economic downturn that we're experiencing right now. But really understanding that it's not just digital and stats and information and attribution. Sometimes it's just, " Do you like it? Is it cool? Does it feel good? Does it sound good? Do I want to pay attention?" And a lot of times that has to do with being able to put aside that analytical portion of your brain and saving that for another time and really just going with your gut instinct and saying, " No, this is pretty cool. I think I like it. Maybe other people like it too." I know from an artistic perspective; most artists think that way. They don't set out to create a fabulous piece of art thinking, " Will the general public love this?" No. In fact, the most prolific artists of the last several hundred years that have been gilded in the zeitgeist of popular opinion oftentimes weren't very popular when they were-
Lindsay Tjepkema: In their time.
Vern: For sure in their time. It just wasn't happening. But it transcends time. I hate that. I'm getting so existential. I don't-
Lindsay Tjepkema: I like it.
Vern: But it's like-
Lindsay Tjepkema: I'm here for it.
Vern: But what I'm saying is it's just do it. It's cool. If you like it's fun. Don't go crazy, but just...
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, actually, I've been talking a lot about this Netflix- ization of marketing and how we are all humans. Here's a leg up that we have that we don't know we do. We're all selling to humans, we're all marketing to humans, and we're people too. And so we know, regardless of whether you get to market marketing to marketers, which I am very biased, and you and I both have the blessing and the curse of doing that, or you're selling semiconductors or mouthwash, whatever it is, they're humans. There's a human at the other end. And like you said, " Do I like it? Does it feel good? Does it seem cool? Is it fun? Does this compete on some level with the other stuff that the humans on the other end of this video or podcast could be consuming?" If you think, " Yeah," then yeah, like you said, just do it. Just try it. Be creative and then see how you can maximize the return on that creativity by really amplifying it. And like you said, using that creative energy and that art that you make to say, " How can I maximize value? How can I use it across these other channels that I already have that I know are working? How can I use it there?" And I love that. It sounds like that's where you started. Right. That's the thought process that you had from the beginning.
Vern: That's exactly right. For us, the way in which we think about content at Wunderkind, is we always think about the end, what's the CTA? What are we trying to get people to do? Whether that's being about why to lead people back to the website to take a specific action, the sales motion and sales funnel. But ultimately realizing that the content that we're creating along with the campaigns that are used to proliferate that content are all designed to do one thing, which is bring awareness to drive them to a sale. And how we do that, no matter how we do that, to your point, Lindsay, there's always a human at the other side of it. So there's always someone that is a consumer that has a choice. And if you think about behavioral economics in terms of content as opposed to just purchasing things or goods, when you think about the access to the amount of content that most people have now that all people have now should be just real talk. It's staggering. So our jobs as marketers have become infinitely more difficult because that share of eyeballs and ears is spread so thin. It's so thin. So we have to do those things: one stand out so much that everybody has to pay attention. And that's very difficult unless your Beyonce or you have to be hyper- focused on who your audience is and understanding what they want and being able to deliver that not only through the channels that they care about, but in the format and that is easily consumed and digest by them.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Absolutely. And so again, bringing it back to that emergence from stage three to stage four, it's not about the show. The show is part of it, right?
Lindsay Tjepkema: So I love that. Okay, so getting back to some of the tactics, what's it look like? Today who is the ultimate owner of the podcast and who's involved in producing the show? How does the show come to be at this point?
Vern: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Great question. So the show always starts from the ideations perspective of understanding either the macro trend that's happening out in the market, or the thought leader that has a POV that we think is valuable and relevant to our audience. I'm one of those egalitarian guys where it's a team effort. And totally for that, you're asking about who's leading the show. From a directorial perspective, I'm setting the tone and the space for us to be able to do this. Brass tacks, that's where that is. But when it comes to the creation of the show and bringing the show to life, it is truly a team effort. In order for us to do what we're doing, the way that we're doing, it requires one: someone with a strong understanding of video production and high- quality video and editing and sound and graphic design to make something that seems so novel, appears seamless and simple to do. Creating something that looks simple is oftentimes the hardest thing to do. So having someone that knows how to do that is just extremely important. Again, shout out to Jay Sheets and Quintin Harris on my team. And then another element of that, especially from the B2B MarTech space, is client advocacy. So shout out to Jules and Haitham. They are responsible for orchestrating and identifying our clients and identifying industry insiders and internal thought leaders that they feel would be perfect for the show. And then on top of that, we have our PR agency, KCSA, they, " Hey, what's up guys?" Shout out. Along with, again, more of our internal analyst that help to identify those macro trends that are happening out in the market. Additionally, our writers, again, shout out to, I got to shout out my team like, inaudible.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, I love it.
Vern: Alana and Emily, I hope I'm not forgetting anybody. I think that's everybody, Brittany. It's really all of us working together to really understand this is the content that we're creating and then connecting the dots. And so once those dots are connected, then we come back and say, " Okay, let's shoot this bad boy." And then it'll be a conversation between Richard and myself. We're both the co- host, or it'll be just myself with a client or with a thought leader or just Rich and a thought leader. Or maybe it'll be one of our internal SMEs with a client or some combination of all of that stuff. And really taking out ourselves as individual personas and realizing that the show is the show in and of itself, the show has to function, whether it's me in the seat or Richard in the seat, or whomever. But it's designed to serve a purpose. And I also can't forget that once that pillar of content is created, which is that podcast episode, we then have an incredible campaign team led by my homegirl Maddie and led by Kristen on the growth marketing side all working together to take elements of that content and splitting it up and pushing it over paid or over organic social or leveraging some of the data and the analytics that we pull and pushing it over our PR channels and pitching it to reporters. So it's really a team effort to get all of that done and actually amplified in a way in which we can actually see and render value.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I love that because you're pulling in aspects from inside the business and out and across the business, and then you're pushing two areas inside the business and out and around the business, which is-
Lindsay Tjepkema: ...simplification. I love it. And then real quick, what are you measuring? Whether it's qualitative, quantitative, anecdotally, what are you looking for?
Vern: Yeah, we're measuring qual, quant and anecdotal. So a combination of all three of those is ideal, but at the onset, it's really difficult to measure qual. And the reason why, it's like you just don't have enough. You don't have enough. So it's really important to leverage some of the anecdotal feedback that you're getting to really help guide you and guide your instincts. For example, we recently launched a podcast episode, our market outlook report, that was for Black Friday and Cyber Week. And we got some tremendous anecdotal feedback, especially over social media. So again, shout out. So organic social, it's a great opportunity for us to hear from people in real time and communicate back with them and to hear what is appealing to them. And it's a really good litmus test for in the moment communication around a topical matter, which is sometimes difficult to do if you overly produce an idea and you take too long to get it to market. These are real- time topics that are relevant to our target audience. So we want somewhat real- time responses to some of these trends that are taking place. So the anecdotal feedback is supremely helpful in the beginning when you don't necessarily have that qualitative and quantitative data to substantiate or to validate the direction that you're going.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Okay. And we've talked a lot about, I think you've given a lot of advice along the way and some win some learnings, but in summary, what advice would you give to a marketer that's looking to get to where you are and to get that kind of buy- in from leadership and achieve that level of success?
Vern: For any marketer that's interested in activating any channel, let alone a podcast, it's first understanding the need of your audience. Because as all of us know, especially when we're going to anyone asking for money, we want to be able to make a business case. So that business case really does involve saying, " How will this drive revenue ultimately for the business?" And being able to tie everything and all things back to revenue creation. It does ultimately start there. Now, where we have liberties is the innovative marketing fund human ways in which we can use those channels, in this case specifically podcast, to drive more awareness because who can you sell to if there's no one in the funnel? So if you can make the distinction between an opportunity for the sake of doing podcasts, because everybody's doing it, the trend, get on the bandwagon thing, and really being able to communicate to leadership that by activating top of the funnel channel like podcast creation will drive revenue through awareness, then you're one step closer to being able to have more fun, which is being able to do podcasts and of course bringing value to the business. That's what all of us are doing every day.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I think that's a really good place to leave it. So where can people find you and Wunderkind and Individuality Unleashed?
Vern: Yeah, absolutely. So you can find Individuality Unleashed wherever you get your podcast. You can check us out at www. wunderkind. co for more information, our podcast resources, you want to hear more from me, just look me up on LinkedIn and send me a connect. I'm happy to chat and speak with anybody and everybody about marketing.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Well, that's our show. Thank you so much for tuning in. And if you are ready to harness the power of podcasting for your brand strategy, make sure that you click the link in our show notes to subscribe to the Casted newsletter and all of our shows, and for all the latest content from our team of experts to yours. Until next time.
Individuality, entertainment, and humanness. These three characteristics are just as important to marketing as metrics and education.
In a world of e-commerce and marketing technology, Vern Tremble and his team at Wunderkind strive to provide valuable content that is both entertaining and informative.
Vern is the Senior Director of Marketing and the host of the podcast "Individuality Unleashed", which explores what makes brands unique and how to drive success.
He sits down with Lindsay to describe how Wunderkind’s podcast came to be, and the investment it takes to create something great. Listen in to hear two marketers and podcasters discuss the deeply important pieces of marketing that get put to the side from time to time: human stories, individuality, and entertainment.