The Rise of Human-Centric Marketing: Brand Authenticity Unveiled

Discover key insights in Episode 12 of ‘Breaking Through the Mayhem’ with Van Tran, exploring human-centric approaches in business, brand authenticity

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Uncover valuable insights in episode 12 of 'Breaking Through the Mayhem' with Van Tran, where she emphasizes the shift to human-centric approaches in business operations. Explore brand authenticity, corporate responsibility, and the evolving Customer Experience landscape. Delve into a playbook for MarTech success, discovering its impact on customer interactions, usability, and data criticality.

HostMichele Ching

GuestVan Tran

API Rising

Episode #12 // Van Tran
The Breaking Through the Mayhem podcast - Episode 12
Title: The Rise of Human-Centric Marketing: Brand Authenticity Unveiled
Other title options
Mastering CX Evolution: From Brand Values to MarTech Impact
Brand Authenticity & CX Strategy: Shaping Future Operations
Host: Michele Ching, VP Sales at Sightly
Guest: Van Tran, Founder, API Rising
Recorded on Nov 3rd, 2023
Michele Ching
Welcome to a brand new episode of the Breaking Through the Mayhem podcast. Today, we've got something truly special for you. We delve deep into the heart of innovation, leadership and marketing. Today, I'm featuring Van Tran, who is a three time marketing and operations executive with over 20 years of experience in customer experience strategy, marketing operations and business transformation.

She shepherds businesses and teams through complex marketing and operational transformation, enabling exponential growth. Welcome to the show Van Tran.

Van Tran
Thank you, Michele. I'm so happy to be here. I'm so excited to have this conversation.

Michele Ching
Me too. So what the listeners don't know is that you and I are also friends outside of this, so I'm going to try to keep it as professional as possible. But I'm just so, so grateful that you're here with us today, for Sightly’s podcast. So to just introduce you a little bit to our audience. Can you tell me a little bit about your professional and personal journey as a MarTech and RevOp leader?

Van Tran
Absolutely. And this is one where I would say, if I were to sum up my career, including the most recent API rising efforts, I think about it as a career around the theme of human centricity and a lot of times we think about marketing, Rev Ops, etc. as being customer centric in order for us to get their dollars.

But I have seen this throughout my career is that there is a marketing operations component or business operations component that is key to actually making the vision a reality. Like if you don't end up enabling your employees to deliver on the vision that you have, they're not going to be able to reach that full potential of that vision.

And so I think about it in a lot of different facets, not just from the strategy standpoint, but what’s our feasibility and ability to actually deliver on that from a technology process and operations standpoint.

Michele Ching
That makes so much sense. So what I'm really hearing you say is that we've been talking as an industry a lot about being customer centric, but that for you, as you summarize your professional journey in this space, it's really about human centricity and that human centricity is not just a marketing strategy, but it's actually good for business.

Van Tran
Absolutely. If you aren't enabling your employees, you're never going to reach that full kind of revenue potential. It's not going to be possible. And you see this time and again, right, vision not being able to become reality in so many ways. So let me just cover a little bit about how I got here. And I will say it took a little bit, right?

So we all have our journey, but I started out as a marketing manager for a museum, a nonprofit and a nonprofit where you wear every single hat. I did head of press releases and PR. I created all the advertising, I did all the graphic design, I managed the website, and most importantly, I managed that development database. So making sure that you're mining that database, building relationships, communicating with donors, etc., in order for us to get donations so that the museum can continue operating and delivering amazing experiences for people.

After that, I decided to kind of try my hand in the startup world and went to StubHub, where, by the way, many of my friends felt that I didn't deserve that role because all the guys wanted to work for StubHub, having sports tickets, etc. They were very, very jealous of my role there. But that was,

Michele Ching
Not so much a startup anymore.

Van Tran
No and at that time, this was before eBay acquired StubHub. So that was very eye opening for me because they were so focused on the numbers. I mean, you have to show growth, right, in order for someone to want to acquire you. So that was an incredible and very rigorous marketing experience for me to really cut my teeth in terms of corporate America and all of the experiences associated with startups I experienced there.

So the whole culture and everything. And then I ended up moving over to the vendor side. So Responsys was the vendor of StubHub. They recruited me. I went over to Responsys and did marketing strategy consulting. I worked with incredible brands there for a number of years. I did this internationally as well, so I worked in the U.S. with Wells Fargo, LEGO, Sanrio, Allstate, Harley-Davidson, you name it.

So many different, different brands across a lot of different verticals. And so it was very intentional in terms of thinking about accelerated growth and learning for myself what better way to learn than to work on the service side to deal with a lot of different brands, with a lot of different problems. And I did this internationally in that I moved to Sweden for a little bit and continued the consulting, working with Scandinavia and the U.K. clients as well as taking on U.S. clients while I was there.

Incredible experience. And I ended up getting recruited to Westfield. They were thinking about how they would change messaging and change the experience for consumers, for the shopping experience.

And Westfield is an incredibly large behemoth of shopping centers. It's global. So when we think about the mall, we don't always think about it being a huge brand that makes multi billion dollars. But Westfield is one of those. And I worked in the innovation lab where we really were thinking about how to change the experience of shopping malls, knowing ahead of time that the shopping experience is changing.

People are moving online. So why do we or how do we bring people into the shopping centers so we can talk about that a little bit later. But that was like an incredible role and that was going back in house because I wanted to take all my learnings, bring it in house, and then eventually decided to go back into the agency world and agency world is a bit different from a more tech consulting experience in strategy.

Incredible experience. And one that expanded my view of thinking about that whole human centric component, like I needed to deliver at scale for a lot of different brands, because my team is actually helping businesses reach their goals. So how do we do this in a way that makes sense for my employees and I don't want to burn them out.

I want to be able to deliver consistently. So it's thinking about that whole experience all the time and you want to talk about all the different layers. You're thinking about the clients' consumer goals, you're thinking about the relationship of our team to their team, and that's kind of a B2B component. I'm also thinking about the internal operations experience as well. So a lot of different ways to think about just human centricity there.

Michele Ching
I love everything that you shared in your last role. Is it right to recall? I think that's that agency group that you're working with is Omnicom.

Van Tran
Yes, that's the holding group. And I actually worked for two organizations there. So one was definitely a CRM agency, and then the other was management consulting, which I purposely sought out. And that was just an incredible experience because they wanted to get back into the technology part of it and really understand and I know like implementation of technology is a whole other beast that a lot of people overlook.

Michele Ching
Well, I think I only brought that up because what I think is really beautiful about your story that you touched on a little bit when you name that Westfield is a multibillion dollar company and that it's global, it's that when I had learned more and more about your expertise in your work, you're not thinking about how does my MarTech decisions or my RevOps strategy plans, How does it impact, you know, just my department?

You're thinking about how this impacts thousands of employees' lives and millions of consumer lives. And so when I hear the range of accounts that you got to support, I'm always blown away. But I think what I find really unique and interesting is how you were like you casually say, I had to implement these strategies at scale, but you're really truly speaking about so much more than just marketing and advertising.

You're also talking about how does that implode? How do those implementations impact employees' lives? So it really brings that human centricity theme full circle, I think. It makes me think a little bit at Sightly right? Like we talk a lot about brand mentality and what we think about when it comes to brand mentality is we see a lot of companies come to us thinking about brand mentality is almost synonymous with brand authenticity, but they think that brand authenticity is a marketing team assignment, that it's an advertising team assignment, right? It's something maybe our agencies help us develop. But what I like about what you're saying is that things like brand authenticity, brand values, even corporate social responsibility, those things are actually a business strategy, not just something we're outsourcing to our marketing agencies or departments or teams.

It makes me wonder, who do you see actually executing on that? Like what is currently working for businesses who treat things like brand authenticity and brand values as a business strategy and who's doing it well? And then what are the mistakes that you see happening?

Van Tran
Sure. Let me first just umbrella this at least for myself. I think about all of those separate things from a brand authenticity, values, corporate social responsibility under the umbrella of customer experience. So from a customer experience standpoint, or even if we want to talk about human centricity, it's a collection of different experiences that someone has with a brand.

It's the whole culmination of all of those experiences, including your sales, your support team, your in-store team, and what they see in the news in terms of what you say you stand for. I think these days consumers look at brands as an extension of how they see themselves. So you start to see this in cancel culture. You start to see this in terms of folks rallying and saying, hey, support this company because they stand for X, Y, and Z because they treat their employees well, etc..

I'll use an example and one is they worked with an automotive company thinking about innovation. This company has automobiles that are more affordable than your kind of luxury, your luxury brands. And when you think about that, you think about accessibility. This is an accessible product for me. I can buy this. It's very reliable. Well, they started to think about what does that actually means from a full experience standpoint, and they started to think about accessibility in terms of the shopping experience for people who might have kind of hearing challenges or hearing disabilities.

So how do you actually change that experience fully? So it's taking that brand promise and thinking about it from a very holistic point of view. And when you think about that, there's a whole service design component associated with it. So not only are you thinking about it from the very start of the whole digital experience, so what does that look like to then, you know, understanding the research and key pieces of information that that particular audience is going to be looking at?

But then how do you help then take that information and go to a location in continuing with the shopping experience there? How do those salespeople know that you're dealing with a very different client with very different needs? So that whole experience is covering so many things. It's making sure that they're fulfilling on their brand promise and they've said, but in a lot of different ways and you are enabling your employees to be able to be part of that all human experience or customer experience.

Michele Ching
I love that example. Oh sorry, were you not done? Keep going.

Van Tran
No, no, no, no, no. I am.

Michele Ching
I love that example. I wanted to reflect a couple of things that I learned. I took a bunch of notes is that you're sort of rebranding customer experience as human centricity, which I love. And I feel like it could be. You know, one of the main takeaways from our conversation, I love how you define that as different experiences that people have with the brand at all touchpoints.

But you're not just thinking about people as and consumer, you're also thinking about people as internal employees. I mentioned a little while ago the work that we do here at Sightly and our platform. It's called brand mentality. You know it, we love it, but what we really think about is that emotional DNA that you're talking about for this automotive brand as being accessible at all touch points of the consumer journey.

And that means also training employees on accessibility because that is actually the brand promise. So that goes into then their service design and why that's music to my ears is because that's what I feel like we preach at Sightly about the promise of brand mentality is that you can have what we find is that businesses come up with these brand promises oftentimes through the lens of marketing, and marketing is always connected to revenue at some point.

But where that gets dropped off is like they don't really have a way to take their emotional DNA, codify those brand values and integrate that into every decision that they make as a business marketing and operations combined. And then how does that then support revenue frameworks? And it sounds like that's a practice we've seen at Sightly be really effective for businesses.

It's what we're out in the market teaching other clients to do. But it sounds like you've hands on done that with this large automotive brand. And I guess I'm kind of curious, is there anyone else that you've seen might be the case? Is that something that you're seeing consistently across the board where that brand promise, the ability to execute it at all stages of, yes, consumer journey, but also business process?

Like are you seeing that be effective?

Van Tran
From a process standpoint? I mean, I could probably bring a couple of different ideas to mind here. One is a brand that I haven't worked with, but I heavily admire, and that's Patagonia. Patagonia. I think so many people have talked about Patagonia in that we know that brand is about getting outdoors, appreciating nature, etc. and what was such a big splash in the media was one year they decided they are not going to open on Black Friday when so many retailers are making their kind of large marketing dollars during that period of time.

And they decided they're going to close all of their stores because they wanted their employees to be able to get outdoors. And that is what that brand is about, and allowed their own employees to go out and live that promise. And on top of that, they decided any revenue that was made in that weekend digitally would be donated to nonprofits.

I mean, this is one where you start to think like, oh no, you're going to be losing money from this. But so many people were so behind this idea that they spent more money. And so it is just completely good business. You just do the right thing. And there's a Forbes article that quoted a survey that was done by TELUS International that talks about how there is a relationship of loyalty to brands that share similar brand values.

And this survey said nearly 90% of survey respondents said that they would stay loyal to a brand if it shares similar values to their own. And that was absolutely illustrated in the Patagonia experience. So you can see that. But I would probably say, and I hate to keep touting the Westfield story, but Westfield wanted to have a different experience for people.

So Westfield shopping purposefully thought about branding all of their shopping centers. So there is a Westfield shopping Center. I think there's 40 in the United States. There's two large shopping centers in the UK and roughly 40 in Australia as well, and they are all known as Westfield. So you know, a Westfield shopping mall from a different mall and they fully changed that experience as a destination experience.

It's not just shopping. And actually I shouldn't call it a mall because it was purposely called shopping centers. It is a center where people spend their time and they're making human connections at that point. Yes, you might be browsing the stores, but they thought about how to change that experience. For each individual. There were efforts to understand kind of traffic patterns.

So then you can understand which shopping or which brands you should curate in different locations, because we wanted to make it easier for folks to get to all the stories that they would typically go to. So though it would be a luxury weighing, there would be fast fashion, there would be a whole food court or restaurant experience, and you can have your more elevated experience versus your less elevated experience.

And then on top of it, there was wayfinding within the shopping center itself, and there were patented technology that allowed that blue dot to actually work within a large shopping multilevel experience because it wasn't available before. And Westfield worked with Google on this. So it's a pretty incredible effort that they said, this is important. We are going to invest dollars here and change the way that people think about the shopping experience and they became a family destination.

Michele Ching
That's amazing. Can you talk a little bit about how they actually discovered that information about their consumers? Did they run surveys like how? I think one thing we think about a lot at Sightly, as you know, is that clients a lot of times will have these really great customer experience ideas. But then how do they pair some of those new products or features or things actually into the moments of need as consumers are having them in real time when you just told that example for Westfield, it sounds that they were able to execute on that and that from a business process standpoint is one of the biggest challenges.

It's kind of why we created brand mentality for Sightly, but it's like one of the biggest challenges we see is that businesses struggle to keep up with the changing needs of consumers in real time. So how do they I guess how do you think about that for Westfield so that you could come up with these more dynamic experiences that were really meeting customers where they were in that moment of need?

Van Tran
Yeah, I mean, I want to say foot traffic is probably a big indicator. So we had cameras in terms of foot traffic and tracking all of that information. We didn't have a Sightly at the time. So being able to see not just behavior but more of those life moments in those key cultural moments that you can kind of integrate into how brands are connecting with their audiences.

So it was a little bit slower then, so there is a lot of research that was done. We leverage research firms, we've done our own kind of research as well, where we interviewed a lot of people, we prototyped some things. We tested it to see how people responded to those interactions as well. At one point I think we had launched a food app for folks who were in the area, for businesses who we knew they needed to go in order food and be able to pick it up very quickly.

We changed the whole service experience for pickup and that didn't necessarily continue on, mostly because there were other businesses that aggregated all of this, all of the restaurants in the area like DoorDash and Uber Eats. That just made it easier from that standpoint. But we tested that out because we wanted to make sure that it was a different experience for people.

So there was a lot of testing and learning and a very big willingness to take some risks and try that out. So we had all of that information kind of not ready at our fingertips because we had to do the kind of longer process of doing that research, building something and then testing it. If I think about how we worked with some brands, I thought that was very interesting because if you think about a shopping center, you had the relationship in terms of the actual physical location with consumers who might come to the shopping center, but you're also marketing indirectly in some way brands to these audiences.

So how do you let people know that there is a Sephora event that's happening? Like who should get that information? And how quickly can we pull sales information, inventory information into the platform that Westfield was building out to consumers who are coming to the store? And we did look at inventory. We did have all of these integrations and connections to work with the brands and allow the marketers who are managing the shopping center to very quickly deploy promotions and things that they wanted to feature.

So we were thinking about the whole ecosystem.

Michele Ching
I love the idea of a personalized curated menu and restaurant that's so smart. I also really love what you shared about getting brands on board to personalize those customer experiences without necessarily feeling salesy because you're meeting again. The customer came to shop, so how are you giving them this elevated retail experience? I'm actually seeing a lot of that now as like clients. It's interesting that you're saying that you've done this it feels like many ages ago, but brands are actually still just figuring that out right now.

And I know we'll talk about that in a little bit. But before we moved off the topic of like who's doing it, well, I was wondering, do you have any examples of brands that are essentially taking the same concept but not executing it really well? So folks who aren't following through on their brand promise, who haven't decided that brand authenticity is good business or human centricity is good business, who is? What are some of the mistakes that you’re seeing?

Van Tran
Yeah, I, I have two, one that is just a no brainer and we'll just say Kanye West is a brand, right? He's totally a brand. There's all sorts of people that follow him. Cancel Culture as a thing. And if you are not living your kind of brand authentically, if you are not taking a stand on some things, people will call you out.

Unfortunately, Kanye decided to be very vocal in terms of his thoughts and ideas and very quickly, partners like dumped those partnerships with him. So I think there was an instance where he wore a white lives matter t shirt at a Paris fashion event. **I had the same response as well. And of course, there's his support of Donald Trump.

If you think about all of the folks that have been fans, there is a huge disconnect that's happening there. And I think you saw not I think we know all sorts of different partners dropped him, including Adidas, balenciaga, a lot of like all these different brands decided to drop him. There is another brand and I feel very conflicted about this and this is Budweiser.

Budweiser had partnered with a trans influencer to kind of promote Budweiser. There was a whole backlash associated with it. And then they ended up having to pull all of the kind of efforts associated with that and that partnership. And I recently went to a diversity summit, which, Michele, you were at as well. And we were talking about this.

We were talking about Budweiser and folks and Budweiser actually making an effort and saying we want to take a stand on kind of gender, a gender point of view and being supportive of the LGBTQ community. And they did. They did in a big, big way. But they had a pull back and it hit their bottom line for sure.

And there was backlash on them pulling back. And for me, I ended up saying like, Yeah, well, they walked it back really quickly because they were concerned about their profits. But the person that I was talking to was responding to me and he said, I am not going to fault them for trying. And I think it's amazing that they tried and they have my marketing dollars or they have my like consumer dollars.

I'll go buy some Bud Light. So I thought that was very interesting as well, where it's just like we can give some brands some grace for trying as well. And you know, there might be back and forth. So I feel very conflicted about that because my whole like being very stalwart in your kind of point of view, you should take a stand and stick with it.

But I also understand there is like some real dollars behind that. So how do you do that? And I and I don't want to be part of that whole cancel culture that does exist. But that was an interesting one that made me think.

Michele Ching
That's actually one of the moments that brand mentality picked up in our platform. Obviously. And it was something that we reported on because our data does pick up moments that, of course that are like that.

And I think the case study we were really writing about was that is a cautionary tale of not having clear and codified brand values across your organization that also then connects into your marketing agency. So a quick look under the hood. If you work in the industry, right, it's like that entire execution wasn't necessarily handled by the CMO of Budweiser or even the VP of marketing from Bud Light, who unfortunately was then subsequently let go after this whole crisis.

Right. So really, I think what we're seeing is like from a business operations and MarTech operations standpoint, there was a gap in codifying brand values in a way that was also then connecting with your core consumer audience that may or may not stand with you and I think that that is one of the pieces of brand mentality where we're not at Sightly trying to say that we want to put our values into the world and what we think is right into the world.

We actually just want to empower brands to stand up with their values, to be authentic, and then see that all the way through. So I love what you're the point that you're making of, well, at least the brand tried to stand up for something, but maybe the execution wasn't great. I think from a Sightly POV, it's a call to action for brands to codify those brand values so that when they stand up for the thing that they can actually do

so in an effective way, meeting their audience where they're at, and then really making key decisions around brand positioning. Because one question one of my colleagues had asked at the time was, well, this execution, this campaign happened in May. If it happened in June, would that have been different? Because that's Pride month. Would we have shown up differently as a consumer audience?

Van Tran

Michele Ching
Right. So I think it's the really interesting take on the demand for or the need for brands to have a way to synthesize those brand values across internal marketing organization, external agencies that are executing influencer programs such as this one. And the need for us to like help brands and companies is like really figure that out so that they can stand with their brand values and then that there goes your 90% stat from earlier, right?

90% of consumers want to buy from brands that feel like they share the same values.

Van Tran
Yeah, I love that you brought up the tool itself as well, because if I'm thinking about it from an efficiency standpoint and having dealt with multiple different departments, that kind of department handoff collaboration, etc. is key to having a consistent consumer experience as well. So having a platform in which you can have a discussion with all of the other departments that might be connected with it is definitely key, but I think, not but

and, and I think the magic is how quickly Sightly does this because it's continuing to listen. You're putting in all of the kind of relevant brand components that is associated with your brand and it's listening for opportunities and moments that come up. Then you can have a very quick conversation with all parties that should be behind this, that might be involved and have a discussion about that.

And that's something that honestly was done so manually before where you're just looking at what's the cultural zeitgeist of what's going on and you're looking at trends and keywords, and then somebody is making that decision and saying, Hey, this is what our brand is about. I think there's an opportunity here. How long does that take and how many of these moments can you actually action on?

So I find that in my kind of efficiency mindset to be something that's very compelling.

Michele Ching
Well, and thank you for saying that, because I think I learned from your stories about your storytelling around career experience you've had. Is that manual piece. That's what makes me always so impressed with the stories you share, is because like, you've done this really heavy lift manually. And not only do I say manually about pairing research to action, but you pair research to action to organizational change.

Organizational change changes like turning a cruise ship. How you do that really is incredible. Honestly.

Van Tran
Yeah. And you have to be able to find the benefit for everybody involved, right? Change is hard. Change takes effort and change takes time. But on the other side of it is a kind of be a better experience for everybody. Is it going to make every department's life a little bit easier, better? Are they going to feel safe in that change?

I mean where we are the midst of gigantic change with AI right now? So how do you think about this from an operations standpoint, from an employee trust standpoint? And of course, there's all sorts of upsides from a consumer experience standpoint as well.

Michele Ching
And then bottom line, right. So then you have those massive cost savings that you can achieve or maybe an, you know, eight figure revenue uptick. So I think there's that connective thread again about human centricity being good business. So I guess that leads me to this next question around. We've talked a lot about the stories and the experiences in your career, and it makes me curious.

It feels like we're repeating some themes right then. That's great. And I think from a listener standpoint, they're like, okay, great. I have a lot of case studies for the talking points here, but I guess it makes me wonder, how has your advice or leadership with clients and businesses evolved over the last two decades? A lot has happened.

AI right. There's a lot of transformation that has happened in the last two decades. But how has that impacted how you lead clients to navigate the challenges of today?

Van Tran
Yeah, I think solving it has changed over time because technology has evolved. And honestly, I think technology and consumer savviness around data and experience is also impacting how businesses respond. So those two are two key drivers in terms of how businesses are thinking about customer experience right now. The technology allows us to scale and to decades ago we were thinking about segmentation and automation, but we also knew that segmentation automation still had a huge level of manual processing production associated with it.

It's great we talk about the right time, right message, right channel and when we say that, that implies a whole infrastructure underneath that. So that implies a central customer database and it implies you're collecting all of this information, processing that, and then understanding a consumer's preferences, thinking about ways in which they kind of discover and ex things. Well, guess what?

Most of the time at that point in time it was all someone saying, okay, if somebody likes this, then they're probably going to like this other thing as well. As you've got all that data and you're making all of the production and assets after you've done that understanding, it's not done real time at that point in time. So it's just like really segmentation and maybe hyper segmentation and then the production for that becomes a cost decision.

Like how much time are we going to spend creating different assets where every possible permutation of messaging? And then even then I think a lot of people are doing that in a very clumsy way. So you would see a newsletter with a bunch of modules and communications that had a bunch of products that just felt so random to you, or I should say, here are your picks based on blah, blah, blah.

And you know, people were savvy to that, say, okay, you've seen me like a couple of things, but it still wasn't a great experience. You people started craving that more human experience associated where you're having a conversation and somebody is bringing in their point of view into it as well from a discovery standpoint. So that also has changed now where you're dealing with more AI decisioning, I think the production of that is going to be really interesting to see with the creation of content.

So that's going to have to change in terms of that more kind of media messaging. But I think where we also need to pay attention to is that actual real human component. How are we enabling our in-store folks, our sales folks, our field people, our sales team to get real time up to date information so they can have these conversations with consumers and with their kind of prospects and clients.

And that is going to be key.

Michele Ching
I think I wrote down so many notes about everything that you just shared. One of the big takeaways that I really heard is that your advice to clients is changing with the times because the technology has changed, but what's not changed, what is still coming back is as technology advances the need for that human expertise overlay, that's not going anywhere.

Van Tran
Yeah, that is definitely not going anywhere. And so like the technology changes, but consumers are just continuing to demand more, like they're demanding so much more and you have to pay attention to that. That human aspect of it is still quite important, even with A.I., because we've seen AI fumble. And can you keep how many times have you inserted prompts into chatgbt and not gotten what you wanted back and then

you kind of give up and write your own, like more human communication they needed. So I don't think that's going away. I think the fear that folks have in terms of AI taking over from a marketing aspect is different. I think it's really about understanding how you can leverage these tools and that has been the constant and it's like, okay, how much of this can I leverage from technology?

And I still need to bring my point of view, my expertise, my very humanness and ability to discern nuance and and read the room per say becomes important.

Michele Ching
Yeah, and I love that you're saying this. I feel like it's exactly the same evidence that we've seen with our clients on brand mentality. That's exactly what they tell us. They tell us the same thing that you just said, the things that they love about our work is the fact that they do get to insert their POV through their profile, the things that they like about our AI is

It looks at those nuances and context in real time moments. And I think that your, your experience and your advice is exactly in line with what we see out in the world industry, what the industry needs now. So to kind of wrap us up because we talked about a lot, I love how we kind of continue to come back to this human centricity theme.

You're clearly a thought leader in this space. You shared a deep experience with us across the board. I wonder if we can summarize it all together. So what would Van Tran's playbook for success be? So that if I walk away from this podcast, I can actually implement some of the best practices that we talked about today.

Van Tran
Sure, I would think about it. I mean, it's three things, but most importantly, it's two things. One is what's the impact to the consumer experience or customer experience and experience makes up, I don't know, a huge percentage of how people perceive a brand. And we know experience is a collection of different things across different channels and people, etc..

The other thing is impact to user experience people who are using technology. If we're thinking about MarTech is how usable is this? What's the operational considerations that you need to list out and understand in order for your team to maximize all of the features, functionality and deliver on that vision that you have for consumer experience. So that's going to be key.

And I think in that bullet alone, that means you actually need to bring them into that process when you're decisioning on that technology. Because how many times have senior leaders decided that they know what's needed but they haven't been in product in ten, 15 years? They actually are so far removed from the pain points, they don't understand what they're trying to solve for.

So I think that's going to be a key component. I think about this as in terms of inclusive decisioning, if we think about human centricity in general. And then last because and also like a just a data nerd as well, is that oftentimes technology is moving so quickly. You're like one product that covers so many different aspects of the features and functionality that you need changes.

So you want to be able to take something out and replace it with something else fairly easily. So I'm always thinking about does it enable us to gather this information and get the data. So I think about data and extensibility. Its ability to integrate with other products is going to be key and it's ability to collect data granularly so that you can actually see the performance information and be able to get the learnings that you need to measure customer impact to measure usability.

So all of that becomes really important.

Michele Ching
Okay, Amazing. Amazing. So I feel like the Van Tran playbook for Success is thinking about that impact. A customer experience. User experience and usability and operations, and then essentially ability to look at granular data and then to scale it.

That makes so much sense. Thank you so much for that. Okay. So I guess I would say the last piece that I want to really capture. So if you're listening to this podcast and you're like, All right, I can do that, I will use these tips in my playbook, then maybe my next question, just to like help folks as they go down this path is to can you give us a couple of watch outs?

Like what are the biggest challenges or maybe opportunities that you see for companies who are doing some of these things and tackling their MarTech stack in a way that has those three features, customer experience, user experience, data and extensibility.

Van Tran
Sure, I think the implementation is key. A lot of times you've gone through what feels like a marathon of evaluating a platform or a technology or even coming up with a strategy. But when it comes time to put rubber to the road and you're doing implementation for whatever reason, so many businesses skimp on that phase. And part of it is like, Oh, I have to have two parallel systems at the same time.

They try to do this as quickly as possible. They talk about an MVP that's like a default version, and so many times the implementation goes wrong and then one year into two years into it, they're pissed that they spent all this money purchasing a robust enterprise platform that they implemented poorly. And that's not going to work for their processes, their teams or business, because they really didn't spend the time thinking about how to implement this the right way so that is definitely a watch out.

And I will say this just because I've seen this happen so many times from a migration standpoint, your professional services that's associated with that particular brand's product, is it always the end all? Like you may need to bring in a consultant that really understands your business and pushes for something that's more thoughtful versus something that's as quickly done as possible because they've done this 15,000 times, but they start to find efficiencies and you start to strip out like the really important bits of your business that needs to stay incorporated into that implementation plan.

So I think that is a watch out. The other watch out is when folks are evaluating the platform and they're not about total cost of ownership. So it's implemented, but they don't have a product or a platform specialist that can continue to maintain and optimize features and changes in terms of how that product is being used or that platform is being used.

So then you're stuck using professional services for a long time and those professional services become really expensive as well. And again, you're dealing with a professional services team that may or may not be retained and their relationship with your business and understanding your business needs might be compromised.

Michele Ching
All right. So that brings us to the end of our talk today, which means that I get to ask my favorite lightning round question. So these are just really quick ones that I think help us wrap it all together, especially as I think about, you know, why is Sightly creating brand mentality and kind of like putting this work into the world.

So our lightning Round questions to kind of bring it all together. The first one is name your favorite mission driven business and why?

Van Tran
Headspace. It's for multiple reasons. I am a big fan of meditation. I definitely believe in it, but it's also a technology company and I find that fascinating. So it has this incredible mission to make life long mental health accessible to everybody. But we all know, like our effort to care for ourselves gets interrupted and we have all sorts of excuses not to take care of ourselves and I feel like they have spent so much time trying to understand what these hurdles are and give it to you piecemeal and help you build these routines and habits into your everyday life.

I just think they do an incredible job. I remember using them back and I'm going to date myself well over a decade ago, and it was like a tiny little just somebody recording and meditation to now it being an app and something that's like an enterprise level tool. So incredible mission oriented solving from the technologies standpoint.

Michele Ching
I love it. Yeah, I just actually had the chance to meet with their chief of staff of Care services. Her name is Nicole. She's absolutely incredible. And when you hear her speak about democratizing access to mental health support, it's really powerful what they're doing. All right. Second to last question. What would you Van Tran leverage your courage for?

Van Tran
Making us more human. So building our muscle for connection, being able to see that we're interconnected, building our muscle for empathy and compassion.

Michele Ching
Aw thank you for that. All right. Well, before we close out today, is there anything else in terms of like, where can people find your work? How can they connect with you after listening to this episode?

Van Tran
Sure. In terms of how to connect with me, you can connect with me on LinkedIn. So I think if you look up Van Tran or I think it’s like LinkedIn in Tran Van is where you can find me. And I also am head of two different organizations. So I’m a co-founder at API Rising. So I think about human connection from a leadership perspective.

And then I also have consulting as well with great

Michele Ching
Awesome, right? Well, again, thank you so much for sharing your expertise and your experience with us today on the Breaking Through the Mayhem podcast. I look forward to hopefully featuring you again soon.

Van Tran
Thank you so much. It is great being on this podcast.

Michele Ching
All right. Thanks Van. See you next time.

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