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5 Questions with Jason Falls @jasonfalls, SVP for Digital Strategy, Elasticity

I first found out about Jason Falls through DJ Waldow. Jason is one of those unapologetic, tell-it-like-it-is, digital marketing experts. His blog is a must for any digital marketing pro. And his books should be required reading for anyone guilty of all buzzword and no substance!

First, here’s Jason’s bio…

Jason Falls is a digital strategist and thinker of things, mainly Internet and marketing related. Some people have called him innovative and influential. His work has touched a number of large brands including Maker’s Mark, AT&T, Cafepress and Humana, to name a few. He has co-authored two books and is a professional public speaker. Jason focuses on digital marketing with a specific niche expertise around social media and content marketing as senior vice-president for digital strategy for Elasticity, an integrated digital marketing agency based in St. Louis. When he speaks, audiences normally learn something and laugh a little, too.

Now, let’s get to the good stuff…

Question One – Email Marketing and Marketing Automation

I loved your book The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing with DJ Waldow. My favorite tip was “remail” (buy the book to see the tip!). What are some of the most important changes you’ve seen in email marketing since writing your book?

Marketing automation’s explosion has certainly been the biggest change, though it was already beginning when the book came out. Companies are producing newsletters and content marketing pushes through email less and shifting to an outcome-driven automation process to bring customers along a storyline to a point of purchase or conversion.

It’s a smart way to use email marketing, but not always effective as different customers have different buying cycles … they don’t just fall into the timing you create for your marketing automation projects.

Question Two – Brand Authenticity

Speaking of rebels, your approach to pretty much everything seems to be a mix of humor and no frills honesty – very refreshing in today’s world of social media celebrities and hipster ridiculousness. How much does authenticity matter when talking about brands? How well does your style scale?

Authenticity is important inasmuch as the need to engage with a brand. I couldn’t care less how authentic Q-Tip is. I buy them because they help me clean out my ears. When one breaks, I get another one. No big deal.

But my car, cell phone, TV, computer, lawn care service, etc.? I want to deal with authentic and honest people — people like me or that I like — because I’m inevitably going to have to talk to them.

And my style can only scale as far in a company as you can hire people who get the voice and attitude. Not everyone can be so incredibly crass yet also charming. (Heh.)

In all seriousness, for a brand you have to have a defined voice and tone, attitude and approach. Your scalability is only limited by your ability to hire touchpoint personnel who can translate that into interactions.

Question Three – No Easy Button in Social Media Marketing

The title of your other book, No Bullshit Social Media  with Erik Deckers, really says it all. There is no shortage of bad advice out there about social media. What’s the easiest way to spot some bullshit when it comes to social media tips and advice?

The minute the advice infers that you can do anything quickly and easily or that you’ll get rich doing it, call bullshit. Good social media marketing isn’t hard, but it’s hard work.

You can’t do this successfully with the wave of a wand or the punch of a button. You have to work to build connections with people, engage regularly, provide great content, grow trust and influence … none of it happens over night and none of it comes without a significant amount of effort.

If you’re looking for an easy button, you won’t find one in marketing. Go buy a Powerball ticket and pray.

Question Four – Digital Marketing Strategy

Many companies seem to be winging it when it comes to their digital marketing strategy. Do you think it’s more important for them to keep going and succeed through trial and error or… stop, assess, and develop something more cohesive? Or can that question even be answered in the abstract?

I would never advise someone to not stop, assess and develop something cohesive … even if it were wrong to start out with. You can test and iterate over time.

But if you don’t go into marketing or communications with some sort of plan, you’re just shooting in the dark. Which is only slightly safer than hunting with Dick Cheney.

Question Five – Forcing Humor in Marketing

You describe yourself as a “fledgling humor writer.” I’ve seen lots of posts about the importance of humor in marketing. But, can humor be taught or manufactured? What is a marketing team supposed to do with that kind of advice?

Humor isn’t required for good marketing, but if you have it, you can use it to your advantage.

But you have to have someone or some group within your organization that understands the art of a setup and punchline, the role of language in a good joke and — most importantly — when you shouldn’t joke.

Humor is subjective, too, so you can just count on alienating half of your audience with any approach using humor. But if the half you want to reach is on the side that gets it, it can be gold.

Bottom line: Don’t use humor unless your brand lends itself to that tone of voice and you know you have someone on staff or via an agency partner that can compose good humor within the brand voice.

Bonus – Kittens!

How did your kids talk you into not one, but two cats??? To me, kids make some of the best salespeople.

Ironically, it was just the by-product of the situation. My mother’s cat had kittens, she had three of them obligated and had two more. She offered them up to the kids — a brother and sister cat for both my son and daughter — so we just took them.

And the cats at least are unquestionably the most ungrateful assholes I’ve ever known.




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