What Did You Learn? Episode 4

Only a small handful of brands handled the COVID-19 pandemic well from a marketing perspective, says Gini Dietrich of Spin Sucks. But the Black Lives Matter movement? That’s a different story. More brands stepped up their game, including North Face, who Gini has been following closely during the Facebook Boycott in July.

Watch this episode of What Did You Learn to hear more about Gini’s insights from the coronavirus pandemic — as well as what she thinks will last long-term for marketers.

Ahava: Hi. I’m Ahava Leibtag. Welcome back What Did You Learn? I’m here today with my good friend Gini Dietrich, who is the founder and author of Spin Sucks. If you do not follow Gini, you must immediately. She is hilarious and also drops tons of amazing knowledge about marketing. Gini, it’s wonderful to have you.

Gini: It’s so good to see you sort of live and in person. I’ve been watching your videos through this whole pandemic, which is my life. I’ve watched them several times, but it’s nice to see you live.

Ahava: Alright, so let’s get into quarantine. I know a little bit about what you’ve been busy with, but tell me, what was the first thing you baked?

Gini: I’ve always been a baker, and I’ve always had a sourdough starter for, like, nine years. Yeah, his name is Horace. He’s very old.

Ahava: Mine is Quarantina. She’s not old.

Gini: And I’m always, I love that. I’ve always, baked or made cookie dough and then just frozen it into balls so that I could, we’ve always had that kind of stuff, but I’ve upped my game in terms of what kinds.

Ahava: Okay. Awesome. Awesome. Okay. And what about, have you learned any TikToks?

Gini: I have not, actually. I have a client that does, um, shall we say underground, scary social. And I know way too much about that stuff. And so I’ve stayed away from TikTok.

Ahava: Is that, is that a warning for all of us?

Gini: Yeah, it’s kind of scary.

Ahava: I did learn nasty bougie ratchet.

Gini: Of course you did. That has to be a video.

Ahava: And it will be, it will be. I don’t feel like I have the throwback quite right yet. You have to, like, stick your butt out.

Gini: Okay, well, practice and then.

Ahava: Okay awesome, and did you pick up a new hobby?

Gini: Not necessarily picked up a new hobby, but I’m very handy. And so, when given time and a drill, I can make things. So, I’ve made a lot. I’ve built a desk that I’m sitting at right now. I built a whole mudroom and cabinets and everything. Oh, yeah, but I have time now, so, I’m very handy.

Ahava: I am not handy at all. I’m like, if a picture has to go into the wall, I’m like, who can I call?

Gini: To be fair that’s kind of a pain in the butt. I probably would call someone too.

Ahava: When this whole thing started, now, looking back on it, unfortunately, we’ve been here for 700 days. What do you wish, at least, going on a thousand days. What do you wish you had known when this started?

Gini: I wish I had known that it wasn’t as relatable to the great recession because as a business owner, I went through the great recession and there were a ton of lessons. Don’t. They do not apply at all, like it’s all out the window. And I actually had a friend say to me, take advantage of government funding. I don’t think unless she had said that I would have. I applied for the PPG and I did the SBA and all that kind of stuff, and that’s been extremely helpful. So, I guess just knowing those that I shouldn’t try to do it myself in the beginning would have been better, because it would have saved me some time.

Ahava: Yeah, I think that’s a really great lesson. I felt the exact same way and then somebody sat me down and he was like, “You’re a business owner. You take on risks every single day. That’s what this plan is for, this plan’s for nobody knows what’s going to happen in October. Nobody knows what’s going to happen next January. Don’t be an idiot.” Right, right?

Gini: Yeah. No crystal ball.

Ahava: Yeah. Absolutely. And what do you think you’ve learned?

Gini: I’ve learned that I would be a terrible first grade teacher. I have learned that I should never work inside the home as a mom and housekeeper and cook.

Ahava: But, you could be a great handy woman.

Gini: I could be a great handy woman, I don’t think I would want to do that full time, however.

Ahava: I hear that. But what have you learned about marketing?

Gini: Like nothing. From a marketing perspective, it’s been interesting, because from that perspective, not much has changed for me. I mean, like you, I work from home, I already, right? And my team is virtual already. And so there wasn’t a big shift. But I will tell you that two years ago — and I’m so mad at myself for this — two years ago, a friend came to me and he said that they need to understand how to work remotely. Could you put together some content for it? Like, really? I mean, do people really not know how to do it? Like, get a Zoom account and Slack and you’re good? Like literally. Gosh darn it, by March, I wish I had listened to him because I would be making all sorts of money right now.

Ahava: All sorts, all sorts. Tell me, do you think any brands have done a really exceptional job?

Gini: It’s really challenging to see, because everybody is doing so poorly. It’s hard. It’s hard to pull out the good ones because you know somebody will do something really good and then everybody copies it.

Ahava: Right. And it’s hard to remember who the first mover was.

Gini: Right. And it’s the whole out of abundance of caution that it was. And then, as you know, the riots were happening. It was like people were falling all over themselves to try to be the first.

Ahava: What’s fascinating to me is that I do think marketing departments and crisis communications departments did learn something from how poorly they handled coronavirus because I do think that they handled BLM much more swiftly. Decisively.

Gini: Yes.

Ahava: The language was incredibly strong in some cases. Yes. I remember reading it and thinking “someone brave approved this.” Rather than just come out and said “We don’t tolerate racism.” And they took specific, actionable language in a lot of different brands. Of course I can’t think of them right now, but it was fascinating to me and I do think that maybe there was a learning there about “If we’re going to say something, we better contribute to the conversation. We can’t just say something to say nothing.”

Gini: And on the flip side, there have been people who have falling all over themselves to apologize for something that they may not maybe shouldn’t have had to, or that they jumped the gun on things that they didn’t necessarily need to because of it. So, I think you’re right. There is a wide swath of these are the things that were done really well and these are the things that were done really poorly.

And what can we learn in the middle with them? I’m watching really carefully right now what’s happening with the Facebook boycott for July and who’s doing it and what they’re saying. And it’s pretty interesting.

North Face I’m watching because I think they’re doing the right things and saying the right things. But at the same time, they’re a company that can get organic growth even on Facebook without having to pay for it, because they’re one of the first ones there and because they have such a big reach. So, I’m sort of watching what’s happening there and who’s going to jump on and do that boycott Facebook in July and who’s not.

Ahava: And if you were running the, if you were the CMO of a really large Fortune 500 company, how would you handle the Facebook thing? That boycott?

Gini: Oh, if I were, I would boycott for sure if I were a large Fortune 500 company. I think the challenge is when you’re not.

Ahava: Right.

Gini: That’s a big ask, and I think about myself in that position. A year ago, 90 percent of our revenue was from Facebook ads, so what would I have done? I mean, it’s not today, but I don’t know that I could have survived even 30 days with no revenue.

Ahava: What would happen if we said, we’re going to be honest with our audiences. 90 percent of our revenue comes from these Facebook ads. If we turn off completely, we will not be here in 30 days. We’re going to take 10 percent of everything we make this month, and we’re going to donate it.

Gini: I love it. I think there’s also an opportunity, perhaps to say to your audience, you know, revenue comes from Facebook ads we’d like to turn it off as part of this boycott. If we do that, here’s what we ask of you.

There's an opportunity to say to your audience, 90% of our revenue comes from Facebook ads we'd like to turn it off as part of this boycott. If we do that, here's what we ask of you. - @ginidietrich Click To Tweet

Ahava: What do you think is one thing that might actually stay with us that we’ve actually learned as a society, as a group of people, as marketers? What are we going to stick to now?

Gini: I feel like there’s been this great reset, and it’s been this nice opportunity to pause, and you and I were talking about before we start recording. But for the both of us, the way that we ran our businesses and our lives was like non-stop. You know get on a plane, go speak, get up, constantly, right? And I mean, I keep joking that I kind of like that. I’m like working 30 hours a week and I’m hanging out with my kid. And, you know, I mean, certainly it’s summer time, so that makes a difference. But I like that. And before now I would have thought that I was being lazy if I only worked 30 hours a week, and now I’m like, this is fantastic. Like I missed, I’ve been missing out on all of this because I’ve been going so hard, so fast for so long. I don’t need to do that. And I think a lot of people have come to that.

And I also think that many organizations have discovered that working remotely isn’t so bad. And people are more productive and more engaged and more loyal because they have more flexibility.

Ahava: Okay, great. And so, can you tell me six words that you use to describe this time period? Mine are: “What fresh hell is it today?”

Gini: If you hadn’t taken it, I would take that. But mine is “What is my kid watching now?”

Ahava: Yes. Yes. Okay. Well, Gini, it’s been wonderful to have you. Thank you so much.

Gini: Aw thank you.

Ahava: You’re fantastic, and we’ll talk again soon.

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