Elevating Marketing: Setting a Better Frame for Success
Find this episode of Breaking Through the Mayhem on these major podcast services:
Welcome to Episode 13 of the Breaking Through the Mayhem podcast, where we explore marketing and advertising in a time of constantly shifting risk and opportunity.
Brought to you by Sightly, our goal is to share the insights of industry leaders from brands, agencies, publishers, and partners as they discuss the challenges and possibilities emerging from the ever-shifting media landscape, such as real-time marketing, brand safety and purpose, influencers, cancel culture, data privacy, technology and more.
Today's guest is Albert Thompson.
Albert possesses over 20 years of extensive experience in the dynamic realm of communications, specifically in multicultural marketing across diverse demographics. For many clients, Albert has worked as an audience “segmentation specialist “ where he helps them improve brand positioning through strategic reassessment and redefinition of their Go-To-Market strategy.
Albert Thompson delves into consumer marketing's evolving landscape, stressing precision and intentionality in decision-making, favoring a meticulous approach over trends. He champions attention to detail and advocates for deep consumer behavior understanding and segmentation. Emphasizing the evolving role of a "marketer's marketer," he highlights the importance of speaking stakeholders' language. Thompson is forward-thinking by merging what he's learned from the past with upcoming trends in marketing. His goal is to grasp how things worked before and how they're evolving, allowing him to anticipate where marketing is headed next.
Excited to be back here today for their Breaking Through the Mayhem podcast we have with us. Probably one of my all time favorite people in our marketing space, Albert Thompson. We know each other for how long now, Albert? What do you think?
Well, maybe seven.
Seven years already.
Yeah, maybe six, seven, but in digital time. Like, that's a good number.
I feel bad for you, actually, that you know me that long. But you know what we've actually learned a lot about each other. Albert's one of those guys that not only is he one of the best marketers I've ever met, but he's also one of the best people. So if you get a chance to meet Albert, he's an absolute good guy and always looking to do the right thing.
So just one of my favorite people in the space. Albert, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself? You know, obviously, we're going to be talking a lot about mayhem today and what's going on in the world. And clearly, you're you're morning getting dressed might be mayhem with how big you match and how good you do.
So how long does it usually take you to get ready in the morning? I think. Let's start there and then let's jump in.
No no my mind kind of catalogs what I'm thinking, what I might want to rock. So it kind of comes. It’s not one of those things where I'm sitting there, lost.
You don't think about it prior?
Oh, yeah, Yeah. But I might just think about it in different impulses during the day. One of the amazing, we'll get into this, like thought process tracks is a lot of we talk about how a lot of people have great ideas as a transition from one activity to the next. It's kind of like that dead time finish work and get to go up, do the dishes and mind transfers.
And a lot of the epiphany, the exploration of great thought comes from that and so even with clothing once I take a break or something if I know I have to go get in to something later I’m already starting to pull it downstream what I’d want to wear why all that stuff. So by the time I step to the closet stuff just comes up.
What accessory do you have the most of?
Ooo probably jewelry at this point. Yeah like necklaces, rings, watches, sunglasses I think or eyewear that the whole accessories category. I would say I can be a little bit relentless like that. I mean look the whole idea is I want options like plug and play.
Do you keep things for a long time because the nostalgia game is back. In the trend. So are you going to go back and receive? Or do you typically reuse like what's what's your go to.
You know what it is man at some point years ago I got on this idea of a 1 to 1 like I buy stuff that looks like as part of a collection, so I don't buy what other people buy and I buy the thing that that I would probably keep indefinitely so that, you know, there's a lot of precision in thought.
You know, people will see me and one of the comments they’ll make they are like just the level of detail. And I know it kind of stuck to me. I think it's the Marine Corps mentality. The excellence is in the details. Look, we'll get into all we get in our session talk. But to me, that's the problem with marketing advertising.
People don't have any excellence in the detail. They're just doing stuff and that's why I was like, No, you just messing up the game. You kind of need to get out of the sandbox. We need people who are passionate about it to run this thing. So we got a lot of kids with high credit card limits, making decisions. Look, they're kids making decisions with a lot of money.
My thing is, you know, like be specific in particular, some intentionality. They say in what you do. But I've always treated the things I do, like as my craft. Like if you think about an artist, an artist never going to paint an ugly picture and make it horrible and try to sell it, it's their craft. So I, I treat everything like that from even how I dress to the work product I put out to the top tracks.
And I have I treat it like a craft. And I think the rule of your craft is you just never dishonored or craft. And I watch a lot of people, like, man you like just to honor your discipline, they'll like, look, find something that you're not going to do that to you. So, look, I know notice a little bit off topic with it, but that's just that's how I, you know, and that's evolved over time that that's always just been my thing because people do what they're always sizing people up. That's just what human nature does.
So that’s obviously been a big staple in your career, so you tell everyone a little bit about yourself early on for our audience and then we'll jump in.
Yeah, Yeah. I mean, look, I knew I wanted to do advertising in high school when I when I tell people that it kind of blows well, no I knew junior year, this is what I'm going to do. I think what I had to sort out layers was the entry point with the base discipline of the focus and where the money is at.
So obviously ended up focusing on marketing, specifically consumer marketing, going through college, going through grad school, just because one I knew an MBA pays more. I'm not stupid. Two, everything is about the consumer. Like that's that's the only star. That's the only North star. So most floor to watch people focus on things that have nothing to do with that. That's why you hear me say things like businesses was not one premise.
It's other people's money. You know Adam we need other people's money to do this thing. So. So you're trying to unpack why people do and buy what they buy to get their money? Because it's a business. Otherwise it's like a nonprofit or it's basically a business plan or hard drive, but it hasn't proven revenue. So my thing was focus on marketing. Always the consumer. Been in multicultural for a large part of my career, worked at three, I would say multicultural focus agency actually four, Walton Isaacson in is the fourth where I'm the managing director of digital innovation.
But I think my thing is multicultural segmentation in most of marketing is segmentation. People always say, Oh, we have a national consumer. I'm like, There's no national consumer, not for real. I mean, I might be because I go to Zara National, but other than that, most people are regional consumers.
The regions are stitched together to form a national picture. But we're in the business of segmentation that’s what marketing is breaking down segments and understanding why they buy what they buy, why product portfolios are constantly expanding and speak to segment. So that's always been my sort of discipline and background. And sort of focus. I've always been on the agency side, but I'm not an agency guy.
I'm not I'm not a digital guy, I’m not a media guy, I'm a marketers marketer. I've always said that to people. To be very clear, I speak of marketers, and I think that's why I've been successful, because marketers are the check riders. So begin to pick the check, write language, it’s hard to get checks, or at the while the checks get taken away.
So my whole thing is, is future proofing what you're trying to do by speaking the language of everybody's boss. You know, CMO's everybody's boss. The ad tech person’s boss agency boss in the brand teams’ boss. So you got to understand the boss of all bosses. And I think that's another missed notion. I think what's evolved in my career is becoming more what I call a marketing technologist and that is the idea that you're either mapping, marketing, the type of technology.
Or you’re also trying to figure out how technology is going to solve marketing challenges or like the broader business challenges. And I think that's some of the people don’t key in as well. The tech is here to accelerate the same agenda that it's always been connecting consumers with products and services in a marketplace.
So basically, you bring up a really good point. I mean, what becomes the title of that role, Marketing Technologist, and what does marketing technologist mean to you so that the you know, people can learn from what you're thinking there?
Yeah. I mean look what I think of the idea of a marketing technologist. I think people try to separate, you know, technology and an ad tech guy does this and this in my whole thing is marketing is the parent company always has, always will be. I think people get that upset on stage, like advertising’s not the parent company advertising is a derivative on a marketing.
It really starts with supply chain because you got to move products in the market. So we learned this during COVID is no products in the road being shipped. There's no marketing, there's no budgets. People are why there's no money, like there's no product in the store. What do you talk about when you start talking about marketing technologies, how this technology accelerate the agenda of marketing as a discipline in business?
And I think people just don't they just don't get that very simple notion. That is what we here for. There was an era where a lot of this technology exists and marketing was still the discipline and you still see the facet thing. This is, this was long before the saving TV advertising, you know was one of the funny things they said is like one thing that alcohol has done more than any other facet of life.
It it is brought people together, breaking down barriers to have conversation, to do commerce and business. So clearly, in that era of the late 1800s, early 1900s, a lot of the stuff didn't exist. So people just sat for a drink, pop some bourbon whiskey or something. Broke bread, came to the marketplace with it trading gold, silver metals, materials, whatever. And that was the very early days of it.
And part of the thing that I look at is like, look, human nature hasn't changed. We just got better tools to do stuff with. So how are you going to impart and use the tools to accelerate what we're still trying to accomplish and that's get people to buy our stuff?
Got it. And in terms of yourself, you've been speaking a bunch over the last year especially. What do you think has accelerated the need to hear from you over the last year for the audience? Because they could find you pretty much all over stages, even seeing you being the the lead picture for different conferences as you and I have always cracked up about.
But, you know, what do you think is accelerated the need to hear from someone like you more? And in terms of that, I mean, my my personal opinion of getting to know you is just how well you navigate what's going on around you in the mayhem that's going on in today's world. So what would be your advice out there to get out there and speak as much as you authentically do?
And how have you kind of weaved that in and what's what's led to that? And why is this crazy world that's out there led to you wanting to speak more an led to you being a voice that people want to hear from more?
Yeah, look, I think quietly people aren't stupid. The human editors make two choices. Do what they did yesterday and do what's most popular. You see a ton of that. I think the other thing is, having said that, people people still want to know the truth, even if they’re not going to execute against it. And that's that's mainly what I try.
And then I lay it out in brass tacks form that it's reachable and can move people. So a lot of it is just how crafting the narrative is not even so much that I'm saying what they haven't heard. I just try to say in a way that lands with no BS and no filter on it. But I do it in a way that adds some level back and the people like, okay, now I hear your idea for what you said.
Even when people be quoting me. When you've been around long enough to see it, see everything built, you know, because I've been a digital was 25 years so I mean I was here before Google you remember Netscape Internet it's the relic. So when you look at these things, you start to unpack the meaning of it, you know, one of my favorite philosophers I follow Jordan Peterson, is like, human nature is not about the view of things.
It's about the meaning of things. Most people make decisions in this business based on the view. Oh my gosh this is how everybody is doing it. But from a meaning perspective, your business, it actually has very little value. You just didn't stop to figure that out. Like I'm one of these people that can fight over tiny little impulses to go to the next hot thing, to make meaning of it first, to figure out if it means something for me personally or even for the brands that I represent or even for the agency at large.
A lot of people don't do that. I'm very much a rules of engagement guy. What are the rules of engagement stepping in the space? What I find is that people don't have guidelines like that themselves, they don't establish them, don't even part that to clients. It's like you can't just let people spend money. You got to establish their rules to how you play in this.
And look, that's been every business that's been legal or illegal. The other thing is, and I don't buy in to vanity measures when people start talking about what's this and this, that is like, that's not a human endeavor. It's not a human pursuit. Yeah. When I tell people like human beings, consumers are clickers, they do click, but they're not clickers.
So I watch people classify human nature down to some single point of reference when they know themselves, they aren’t a single point of reference. I think the other thing I've always imparted is like you have to treat yourself like much of the world, like digital, good, digital good being never finished. The idea that cell phone was obsolete like every two weeks now.
And you know, we got, what, an iPhone 40. You know what I'm saying? And that's why I'm carrying a relic. This is so the idea that everything exists in a state of impermanence, but people know that -
Well that’s, you know, that's the help continue to get consumers to keep paying to Apple.
The next best thing. But in terms of what you're saying, like I want to get back to that other key point. What do you think has been the reason that you're being asked to speak on some of these amazing topics? Like obviously in the last ten years, things have exploded? Yeah, everyone's talking about AI right?
Everyone's talking about brand safety, viewability, supply path, attention, right. How you set the stage for things and everyone's asking you to talk about it. So what do you think is the lead reason that you know, you feel you have the right knowledge? And I got it. You've been in this for 25 years, right? You you know a lot.
You think through the lens of the consumer. You think about who could pay you the check. Right. But now, now you lead into when you call yourself a practitioner, you obviously have to understand all that data, all the noise, all the. What's going on in this crowded space? How do you typically learn all these new things? And then how do you come to your decisions on what are the best of the best?
That would be something I think I find. I mean, maybe the audience will, but that's something I'm very interested in.
So I would probably say intellectual curiosity above all else. I'm always floored by people in this business who are intellectually curious and how things work and why. And I'm very much, you know, as I've been told, a white paper guy, and my whole ideas about unpacking it, understanding why there's relevancy here. Look, people feed into propaganda.
Look the goal of the propaganda is to get you to get you to focus on what you think other people think. And I'm like, What's wrong with the independent mind? My thing is most the independent mind is the the most successful mind look at Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, you just go down the line, Michael Bay, all of them are people who independently got outside the Matrix or whatever you want to call it, to start to look at and see look at what everyone else is looking at, but see what no one else can see.
The other thing I think I try to do better than most in the industry is I set the frame better. People are so focused on picture. That's why I hate like KPI talk, crap like that. I'm like, No, you need to set a better frame for how you measure outcomes, which KPI is an element of it, but not of the North Star of the conversation.
I think people improperly set the frame and don't even look at it, just look it into the picture. What we understand is most successful brands or entities set a very good frame. Louis Vuitton, set an amazing frame. So why we always want it, when you look at, you know, supercars, nine cars, you and I talk cars, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bugatti, McLaren, they set out an amazing frame that makes the product desirable.
Apple set the better frame than Android because they talk about the ecosystem, they ain’t talking about, they don’t get into feature set. Android people are like, I love the features and Apple people like, I love my universe. The universe is more powerful, you know? So when you start to think about why there's so much attraction in the addiction to things, it's the frame that’s better.
I think a lot of these conversations have people are improperly setting the frame, getting lost in the picture. So when I start to look at the impact of brand safety, viewability, AI, I try to set the frame for people. Because once you set the frame, then you can control a bit of the narrative. And how they think about it in the decisioning within becomes far more better.
And I think the other thing is a lot of people in these talk tracks, they circle the drain. They don't drop in. I'm like, Are you circling the drain? Because you just want to be able to reboot this conversation in six months to a year and never really land the plane? And what I've got to a places like let me give them the throughput, let me give them the cheap boat so they can actually go to their desk and do something with it.
I'm one of these people that sometimes what is useful is more meaningful, something meaningful than what is the truth. People can use useful information. They don't necessarily. The hope is what's useful is the truth. But sometimes with is useful, it has greater priority than necessarily what is the truth or what is the perceived truth. And I try to get people information that is like useful.
It is specifically executable.
In terms of that question. Like based on what you're saying, what do you think are some of the biggest false promises then in the digital marketing landscape today?
Yeah, that's a great question. I mean, I think the biggest one is probably programmatic as a discipline because when I think about programmatic, I think about, you know, like if I had to go back, the biggest problem is these programmatic philosophies that that automation is the answer in itself. Turn on the machines and the machines figure figured out.
The biggest thing is the machine is only as good as the people programing. If the people who program suck, it will suck. And look you know that as someone who runs a SAS enterprise and then has another business you know Brand Mentality that's based on SAS, you understand this idea, decisioning is everything and what people are doing is they're outsourcing this idea of agency or decisioning, you know, to machines that weren't designed to outthink human beings.
Yet even when they talk about the whole idea of AI or generative AI and it's like or AGI, whatever term we want to use, it's like, yeah, but you still have to set up the use case to break down information. And it's really about being an extension of the intellect, not replacing the intellect. So I can just do this and be hands off keys off it.
That's not the world we we sort of live in. So programmatic philosophies has done a disservice to marketing because it is still marketing is game by ambition. It's still a human endeavor. It's not a machine endeavor. KPI talk is another one I hate. What are the KPIs? And I’m like the KPI is revenue, revenue return. Business arm business to make money. Nonprofits still got to make money, but it has to even out the books at the end of the day.
So it's not a profit center. It's like what are we talking about KPI talk, set a better frame, a revenue return where there are measures in underneath it to give you an understanding are you on the trajectory or path to make money? I think the other one is like with DE&I investments, I'm like DE&I is to being low status and the problem with low status is
it's offensive, but in the low status designation of things like DE&I multicultural marketing is that this low investment, low prioritization and when you when you start to think about it, it it offends the human pursuit of all these facets doing right you know, playing and showing their marketplace. People need a diversified set of consumers, but then they act like they don't want to play in that sandbox and spend money into it.
They just want the attraction without having to work for it. So when you start to look at this stuff is like, Yeah, that's another false promise and there's a lot of them. But again, to my analogy about the late 1800s, early 1900s, and how people just sat with some burban and broke bread and came up and said, Let's do business, all of that is still the same human pursuit.
We all want people to do things with us, even at the basic level we want to date. It's all about these laws of attraction. And I think what people have done is taken the easy out as to these are the sal because the propaganda says well that's what works and everybody else does that. I'm like, Yeah, but that has nothing to do with the pursuit of the consumer.
There is just too many people in the B2B business dude. And I always tell you, is the B, E and C at the end, I'm in the C business. Lot of people out here, they're just in the B2B business.
So in terms of that, I mean, obviously it sounds like you you have a love and a passion for all of this creativity, but you also definitely have a frustration for the way that creativity is planned upfront. Yeah. And how it's brought through the whole process. So what do you what do you expect in the future that most people don't see?
Because it sounds like what you've prided yourself on is seeing the future in the way you think about things. So obviously we talk a lot about history, but you also have to blend the future with history. So what do you think it means coming next in our business.
Yeah it’s funny, you know, people would always say, you know, you are bound to be like, you know, Albert’s the kind of guy who tends to be ahead of everyone. But I made that a discipline, like to walk into the future, to synthesize the information. And then I come back and I start the clock and I tell people, even clients, you got about a year, you got two years.
So you need be before.
You better be ready. You make them all nervously optimistic.
Yeah, yeah. I'm like, two years probably. Yeah, but I'm telling you, this is coming. Like I went around the curve. I know you're busy year in meetings you're on Zoom, or something, so look around the curve, and that's one of those things like you come around the corner and your like that boat looks small and then you realize like that yacht is massive.
And then you're like, Yeah, it's bigger once I got close to it in terms of where we're coming, So you need to get ready. You need to start. Look, I'm one of these people that I'm out. Like somebody asked me, like, what do you stand for? Like, I'm trying to represent weaponized intelligence. So, like, I'm trying to not only have it contain and I'm trying to, like, make use of do something and do do, do some bigger things with it.
So I think people know, like if your going to rock with me, I'm only going to try to elevate you in the conversation story. And that's my promise to the marketplace. Like it needs elevating across a series of domains. When you asked me why I get asked to speak on a lot of topics because I'm not.
I'm trying to elevate them all because there's friction involved. This element is broken in all of it. You know, I've gone back and forth on that stuff. And I think that's the thing that people need to sort of key in on is what are those white spaces that need to be turned or fixed. So I'm looked at everything from why the why blockchain is going to matter at a human level because people haven't changed in the last 10,000 years.
I mean, there's yes, it's been evolution, it's sophistication. But at the end of the day, there's some basic environmental instincts that we still do. We just got better stuff to play with now. And I think what people think is like human nature, it's been rewired. It's so much different knowing they're not that much different from their parents. It's why we turn into our parents.
It's human nature is not really that much different. So I'm always trying to look at what's coming that's going to accelerate an agenda that's already you got, you know, I always talk about speed of information, the speed of the consumer is why people need a platform like Brand Mentality for better decisioning, because they've got to come upstream very fast.
They've got to evolve and pivot very fast and they can't hold on to legacies of an organization mentality and then fight against the consumer mentality and the expectation of who they need to be. They need to synthesize and figure out where's the throughput at their line to be successful. And the only way you can do that is sort of peek into the future and apply it to past tendencies and ask yourself, okay, what's getting sunsetted here?
Or how we just kind of evolved the same working mechanism. What we've got people, you know, I don't I don't know why I remember saying in 2005, social media is the next over medium. And people were like what are you talking about, of course I said it print radio on. It's like what are you talking about, who is this guy? And I'm like, word of mouth is the only engine.
It's how society were built. These are just tools or more word of mouth is going to be sit on catalog, catalog and document it. Of course it's going to matter when I tell people, well, community is the flagship store. It's not your flagship store, it’s the idea of community. And they’re like, Why do you say that? You know, we we've got our Manhattan store, we got our Paris store like no no no, everything is about community.
That's how we identify with the world. We show up in community, church community, work community, digital community, sneaker community, sports betting community. You get all of these communities, Jets communities, Laker communities, Kobe Bryant communities. Everything is still oriented around this idea of community. It's why it is the flagship store and will always be. But yet, when you say that people that are yeah, you're right.
And look it's it's not your Paris stores, not your London store.
You're making me you're making me want to do more, more good for my life. You know, you're going to go out there, help the community, every community, it would break out every community in different ways. I think the last thing I would be curious about here as we wrap up here through Breaking Through The Mayhem with my amazing guest, Albert Thompson, who's inspired you that that no one would know?
Like, give me give me somebody that's inspired you in your life that no one would know about. And like that, that key moment for you.
Look I would say I'm an amalgamation of a series of people, which at that point I figure out what works to me and how I carry forward. And again, I'm more of an independent mind figure. I probably had a little bit of maverick in me as you can like tell. So I'm not since this person I'm a step outside of the box just because look, I had enough of that teaching spoken in me.
So let's go through a list of them. I mean, look, I like, you know, philosophers like Jordan Peterson, like Simon Sinek. You know, I read some of the, at this point, some of the old philosophers Dossier, Nietzsche, some of their teachings. Look I look at Denzel Washington how he carries a room, it's like this probably no one mean up me my punch back to people so that Denzel related if I you know I so you know what.***
What do you think of the new equalizer?
Oh love it but there's an inner character in him. Same thing with Man On Fire that I can identify with, you know. So I mean, look, I like some of the elements of Michael B Jordan.
It’s that smooth demeanor.
You always know the mind's going. It’s that common theme.
Yeah. So if you look at it, you know, if you looked at style, you know, I'll look at a Miguel, I’ll look at a like a Lenny Kravitz, you know, I mean, some of these people who you can see who created identity, that is transcended time, maybe people didn't agree with it during the middle aware of that point.
But for me personally, I can identify with that. So I'm always looking at people.
Should I put you on the spot then on like what influencer would you not follow?
I don't think there's anything and look, people don't listen for three reasons. They are stupid. Most people aren't stupid. But then the other number one reason is arrogance. They feel like they don't have something to learn from people. I'm always willing to sit for a second to see can you speak some life into my knowledge base?
And look, even when we work with partners, I always say, How is this going to be? Or you're going to be an extension of what I already know. That's what I'm looking for. You know, it's when I work with our multicultural partners, that's what I'm looking for. I need you to be an extension of my knowledge base. If you're not, I'm not interested.
When I look at tools, I'm looking at the same thing. Is this kind of an extension of what I already know? Okay, I like that. If it's not, what's the point? Like I'm trying to stick and move. So when I've taken this approach of an amalgamation, it's not only just inspiration of people, it's enterprises, platforms, it's books. And I think that goes back to that intellectual curiosity and specifically what you're sort of feeding yourself.
So there's a series of podcast and another one's Chris Williamson, and another one, can’t remember his name but Diary of a CEO. When you start to listen to these people in some of the things they say, like even Sam Harris, who sometimes is a polarizing figure or he said one of the best things I've ever heard, it's like he's like attention is the cash value of time.
And I'm like, Yeah, I got to start looking at where I can get my attention and do I feel like I'm getting the cash value back in? If not, I don't know.
Got it. So you got to figure out what per hour per attention is worth for Albert Thompson. I think that's a great way to close this out. And Albert, obviously great to have you on.
Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Like I said at the beginning, you're a phenomenal person. Everyone should follow Albert. Go listen to them everywhere and do your best to try to dress like him, which I think is going to be difficult. Thank you all for everything. Take care, buddy.
Alright man. I appreciate you. Thank you guys.