“Whether it’s immersive storytelling, communication of complex spatial design, the showcasing of products in curated environments or virtual, ‘in-the-seat’ experiences, VR brings a heightened platform for translating ideas into experiences that people are engaged by.”
On Marketing Technology
MTS: Tell us about your role and how you got here. What inspired you to be part of a VR technology company?
I’ve always been attracted to organizations that are trying to cross the chasm. First, this was with Eloqua and seeing some of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with build an industry (marketing automation) from nothing. From there I moved agency side, specifically to a search engine marketing agency that became one of the biggest digital agencies in Canada, while search marketing was in its infancy.
After the agency was Precision Nutrition, an organization that Fast Company named one of the most innovative for its use of online coaching coupled with behavioral change theories.
When the offer to join Yulio was made, I saw the opportunity to join an incredibly talented team that had built a product that ignored all the hype of VR. It was practical. It was easy to use. It met a very real need in the market. To use a cliché, I saw a rocket ship being built and I wanted to grab my seat.
Today, Yulio is a VR/AR platform that empowers its clients to share their vision with the world. That translates into architects and designers sharing a vision for what could be with their clients. Retail sales associates engaging their customers with a vision for what their home might look like with new flooring, tiles, paint or furniture. We’re seeing clients use Yulio in a multitude of ways, and really the only limit is people’s imagination.
MTS: Are we at the vortex of the VR Hype Cycle? What are the transformational changes that businesses have to make to deploy VR in their strategies?
When it comes to the Hype Cycle, I would separate consumer VR from business VR. On the consumer side, we’re still in that trough of disillusionment, but slowly coming out of it.
On the business side, however, we’ve moved far past that phase of disillusionment. At Yulio, we’re seeing all of our clients use VR to accelerate their sales cycle, build stronger relationships with their clients and mitigate the type of risks that come from miscommunication or misunderstanding. For architects and designers in particular, trying to sell a vision for what could be through 2D and even 3D mediums is less than perfect. There’s still ambiguity and it takes time for clients to fully understand what they’re being presented with. Even then, once something enters build phase, there are inevitably aspects that the client won’t have anticipated. With VR, that ambiguity goes away, speeding up the decision making process and mitigating these risks of a finished product not being close enough to how it was visualized by the client.
In terms of what changes business need to make…. Just assess VR/AR the way you would anything in your organization. VR/AR is a tactic. It’s a means to execute on a larger strategy. Evaluate AR/VR against all the options available.
For example, suppose you’re a retail organization and one of your strategic objectives is to increase in-store traffic by turning your retail locations into a destination. A place people want to come to because there’s something to experience they can’t get elsewhere.
Cool. That’s your strategic objective.
Now you need to evaluate the ways you might realize that strategy. Perhaps it’s running a daily promotion where a lucky customer will win $1 million dollars every day. That would surely get people in the store.
Tesla achieved this by changing the way auto dealers look and where they’re located.
Now imagine a Tesla location where you could experience the thrill of driving one. Pair that with a seat that provides haptic feedback so you can get a sense of the unexpected acceleration of a Tesla. Now that’s an experience.
If you’re an architect, you might have a strategic objective around revenue growth or risk mitigation. We’re seeing clients use VR/AR as a tool to achieve both, as discussed above.
We believe that when you evaluate VR/AR against other available options and rank order them, VR/AR will not always but often end up at the top.
MTS: How do you see the trends in mobile marketing and social media messaging influencing the adoption of VR technologies?
Both are democratizing VR/AR.
Mobile gives people the ability to drop almost any phone into a VR headset like Google Cardboard, Google Daydream, Samsung Gear etc… and start to experience virtual reality. Augmented Reality apps like the Ikea app get people accustomed to mixing reality with virtual objects.
Social Media, especially Facebook and Snapchat, is driving the adoption of desktop based VR/AR, which in turn will make the adoption of headsets more natural. Think of Facebook. Going from 2D images in our news feeds to 360o Images/Videos helps users get accustomed to moving around a scene. The jump to doing that in a headset now becomes far more natural for them versus jumping straight to VR. Same with Snapchat and what they’re doing with AR.
While we may think of Facebook and Snapchat as sometimes being silly or a time waste, they’re having a profound impact in how we interact with content and shifting our expectations of what’s possible. That shifting expectation of what content can be, is a stepping stone to immersive VR.
MTS: What’s the scope of utilizing VR for marketing and generating relevant business leads?
The best ways to use VR for marketing and/or to drive leads will depend on the nature of a business and what it’s trying to achieve. However, in my opinion, it should now be considered in every marketing conversation. A few reasons why:
Adoption is on the rise
Right now estimates are there are around 43 million people using the technology and that figure is set to double next year and double again the following. That’s a pretty big audience you can’t ignore.
People who use it, tell others
An estimated 81% of people who try VR tell their friends about it and 71% of Gen Z – the generation following millennials who make up the next wave of serious consumers – are interested in seeing what it can deliver and will grow up with corporate leaders that are working with VR for marketing.
It adds something special which people respond to
Whether it’s immersive storytelling, communication of complex spatial design, the showcasing of products in curated environments or virtual, ‘in-the-seat’ experiences, VR brings a heightened platform for translating ideas into experiences that people are engaged by. A recent study showed 53% of people would prefer to buy from a company that uses VR over one that doesn’t.
A lot of serious organizations are getting involved.
30% of Forbes Global 2000 consumer-facing companies will experiment with augmented and virtual reality this year and many of those experiments will be with VR for marketing.
People are wired to respond.
VR has a power that goes beyond simply providing a cool experience. Humans are wired to have their behavior more directly influenced by virtual experiences as they appeal to three key areas of our brains responsible for our perceptions and reaction – neo cortex (higher-level thinking), limbic system (emotion, behavior, motivation), and reptilian brain (primitive instincts). What this means is that content and experiences communicated through VR are ‘experienced’ versus simply being ‘seen’ and this triggers the parts of the brain that more clearly influence behavior and decision making.
MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?
I’m really interested in Startups that are entering markets that are stale and dominated by century old incumbents.
- League – focused on workplace benefits and making it more about the client.
- Top Hat – focused on Education and the racket that has become text books.
- 360 Insights – focused on Channel Incentives and doing some really cool work in this space.
MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?
Pretty standard fare here:
- Google Analytics
- Visual Website Optimizer
MTS: Would you tell us about your standout digital campaign?
Within the Architecture & Design community, VR is certainly something everyone is talking about, but few firms have nailed how to use it consistently. There’s so many unknowns – What hardware to use; How to design in VR vs 2D; How to operationalize the use of VR; What kind of budgets should be allocated, etc.
We looked at the market and saw there was a significant gap in educational resources, so we put together a course that includes 5 lessons. Each lesson includes a video walkthrough and PDF resources that is meant to help educate firms on the most common questions.
We used an ABM approach to targeting, getting this in front of key accounts we’ve been talking to or hope to talk to. We also used it with existing clients as a training tool.
In terms of success, we’re measuring this based on:
- Overall feedback/Sentiment. While subjective, this is important to me. Did people like it? Was our team proud of it? We’ll use surveys of people that have completed the course, as well as just talking to people who haven’t been through it to get a sense of how they enjoyed it. So far, people seem to be loving it!
- Overall Signups. How many people signed up? Pretty standard.
- Organizational Influence. If one individual signed up for the course and then a few more, then a few more from the same organization, I consider that influence. It was good enough that someone shared it with their co-workers, that’s a sign we’re starting to build influence internally.
- Contribute to Sales. We’ll do some analysis to get a sense of whether the course had an impact on our ability to sell into an organization.
- Product Usage. For existing clients that have gone through the course, we’ll measure their usage of our software and see if there’s a lift. We believe education will lead to meaningful usage which leads to retention and growth.
MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a marketing leader?
By destroying anything that looks like a robot that could take my job. I very much take a fear-centric approach to an AI-centric world. Half-joking!
It comes down to a recognition that human behaviors are changing and being able to recognize those changes are core to being a strong marketer.
I don’t drive anywhere unless Waze is telling me how to get there. I trust Netflix to suggest content I’ll love. I can have a conversation with Google vs just using it as a ‘dumb’ search engine. Marketers have responded with more contextually relevant experiences. AI is going to change behaviors and we need to think through what those changes may be and how we’ll react. Being prepared means having a certain level of intensity and rigor in your management/operations. That means evaluating options; Thinking through the WHYS of investing into something like AI; Aligning to strategy, etc.
Typically, the things that stop us from saying “AI…. HELL YA. LET’S DO IT” and focus on “WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR OUR BUSINESS, EMPLOYEES, CUSTOMERS” is what I mean by management/operations intensity.
So two things I’m looking at to help prepare:
- How will we train AI? As a learning system, we need to think about how we’ll pump enough into the system. Who’s responsible for that? Who will own the role of ‘Chief AI Trainer’. How will we validate insights. We can’t assume AI will make us all 10x smarter. Garbage in, garbage out and we need to plan for that and the associated costs.
- How will we remain personal while personalizing? AI is going to provide the ability to create personalized/contextually relevant experiences for users. It’s going to be awesome. However, there’s a risk that in trying to personalize everything, we come across feeling less personal. I’ve been thinking through how we maximize this opportunity in-front of us while still staying true to what I love about marketing…. true connection with other humans.
By the way, I have no answers. If anyone out there does, please give me a call so we can bounce some ideas around. One last teaser….. we’re looking at the collision of AR + AI. Cool stuff coming from Yulio in the near future
This is How I Work
MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Clipboard + Blank Paper + Sharpie
I’ve found myself relying more and more on non-digital tools. Certainly, tools like Slack and Google Docs are core to my day, but I really couldn’t live without just a blank piece of paper and a thick black marker to help organize my thoughts and take notes. Malcolm Gladwell has a great article on paper in The New Yorker.
MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
This is just a pet peeve of mine, but I don’t like the term productivity hacks. I think by calling them hacks or shortcuts, we’re doing a disservice to them. I’ve yet to come across an easy shortcut or hack that works. They all take considerable effort and consistency.
I think we need to acknowledge that in the long-term, productivity tactics will have a tremendous impact. In the short-term, however, they’re just another thing on the to-do list. Checking them off that list every single day is a feat you should be proud of. Calling it a hack cheapens it.
For example, I spend 15-30 minutes each night planning the next day. I write down what the single most important thing is that I need to accomplish. Not the single most important WORK thing, just the single most important LIFE thing. During the week, that’s usually a work thing and during the weekends, that’s usually a non-work thing. By choosing 1 thing, I’m choosing to say no to a bunch of other things. Thinking that through and making those deliberate decisions to say no is what I work on each night.
If I can accomplish one big thing each day, that’s 7 big things a week, 30 a month and 365 a year. That’s a damned good year if I can do that.
MTS: What are you currently reading?
I tend to skim more than I read. I’ll average 2-3 books each week that I skim, using this type of approach. My goal is to pull out the key insights and principles from each book, documenting them on index cards, one idea/insight/principle per card. I’ll then revisit those cards a few times a month to reinforce what I’ve learned and reflect on how I’ve used those ideas/insights/principles.
I might only READ 5 books a year. Currently, there are two books I have on my nightstand that I’m reading word for word:
- Principles by Ray Dalio. I read the PDF version that Ray published on the Bridgewater Associates website years ago. Revisiting it in book form, with all the additional content, has been a great reminder of how living a principled life and making decisions in a consistent manner can make such a difference to every single day. It’s also a gorgeously designed book.
- Christmas at the Vinyl Café by Stuart McLean. I grew up with Stuart McLean. First through his books of short stories, then over the radio listening to his show on the CBC and ending in a 10-year long tradition of attending his Christmas concert to kick-off the holiday season. Sadly, he passed away earlier this year (2017) and so now, I’m kicking off the season with his book of Christmas related short stories. If you’re looking for some of the funniest, most heartwarming stories to come out of Canada (maybe anywhere?), check out Stuart McLean.
MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I’m going to cheat and use two:
“Just ask the question”
This advice came from one of my clients, an SVP at a large media company. During one meeting, she could tell that I was dancing around a topic I considered sensitive. She looked at me and very politely said “Stop it. Just as the question.”
Not necessarily direct advice, but since that moment, I’ve been very conscious of the language I use and whether I’m sugar coating or dancing around a topic. Asking the hard or blunt question has led to clarity in conversations and considerable shortened meeting time.
“Do you think you’re doing what you were born to do?”
Again, not necessarily advice, but a question my Grandfather asked me a few months before he passed away. For him, it wasn’t a question of passion. Nor was it an idealized outlook on life and how we’re all born to do something great. Rather, it was a gut check. Each day, are you doing something that you think is worth the life you were given. Being able to say yes feels incredible. Having too many days of saying no, at least for me, has led me to make some kind of change in my life to help get back to yes.
MTS: Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
MTS: Thank you Tyler! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Results driven marketer, focused on growth and acquisition. Specifically, hold expertise in SEM, SEO, Social Media, Programmatic Buying, Mobile and Email.
Previously, was a senior member of Precision Nutrition, one of the world’s fastest growing nutrition companies, who Fast Companies named as one of the most innovative companies in Health.
Was a senior member of Search Engine People, one of Canada’s largest and fastest growing digital marketing agencies, where I led the Enterprise group. Accountable to 300+ clients with an annualized budget of $75M+ across North America, the UK, Ireland, Germany, France, Australia, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Jamaica and the Caribbean.
Passion for educating and spreading the good word on digital marketing. See Experience for previous speaking engagements.
Yulio is revolutionizing the design and architectural industries by transforming flat, outdated designs into immersive visual reality experiences your clients can’t help but love. With simple, easy-to-use software and stunning visual quality, Yulio makes your clients say “yes” a whole lot faster.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.