Interview with Travis Montaque, Founder and CEO, Emogi

Travis Montaque
Travis Montaque Emogi

“We’re also allowing brands to join the conversation seamlessly – not as ads, but as branded content that is presented to users when they want to share them.”

Tell us about your role at Emogi and how you got here. What inspired you to start a Conversational Content Platform?

I serve as the Founder and CEO of Emogi a content engine for communication services that helps people have better conversations whether they’re texting on a chat app, commenting on a post, or sending a video to friends. Partnering with leading messaging platforms, Emogi’s technology redefines messaging as a new hub for brands, and sticker and GIF content creation.

Emogi actually stands for Emotion Engine, which I devised in college after witnessing a stark change in the way people were communicating. I built an app that allowed people to share news and video content with a twist. Users could respond to the news posts, and I began noticing that, even if they didn’t use any words, they would almost always share some kind of reaction to the story as an emoji. That’s when I focused on providing 12 emoji reactions for users. This caught on fire and I soon realized that helping people express themselves with this type of content was the bigger opportunity. From that point on we became Emogi, with a new mission to enrich conversations everywhere with useful content in the place where people share the most.

When we conducted user studies to understand why people use emoji, stickers and GIFs while messaging, we found the top 4 reasons were “helps me more accurately express what I’m thinking”, “makes it easy for people to understand me”, “creates a more personal connection with others”, and “simply, a better fit than words for the way I think.” We are at the heart of supporting their needs with our mission.

For the first time, we’re also allowing brands to join the conversation seamlessly – not as ads, but as branded content that is presented to users when they want to share them. Our technology, the Emotion Engine, surfaces content to people as their conversation unfolds, based off where they are, the ongoing conversation, or what they might be searching for at a particular moment as they message.

What’s the most fascinating aspect of leading a content team, and a data science team in an AI-driven era?

It’s a wonderful blend of art and science. I might start out the day working with the data science team to understand discourse and related semiotic theories that when combined with machine learning helps us make sense of expression on our platform. By understanding the connection between content, words, people, places, and time, Emogi’s Emotion Engine can deliver conversational content users will love, when they want it.

My day may then end in conversations with the creative studio team, discussing content creation strategy for a significant tentpole event like the Super Bowl, color theory for social, or making sense of the latest meme that broke out all over the internet. It’s why I love my job. I’m lucky to work with the most diverse set of brilliant minds and have varied and intellectually stimulating conversations throughout the day, on a daily basis.

Given the changing dynamic of brand safety equations, where do you see Emogi fitting into a CMO’s marketing or tech stack?

Our solution gives brands 100% brand safety, 100% viewability, and 100% SOV in targeted messaging conversations. In a landscape where CMOs are losing sleep over brand safety and fraud, we know that when a piece of branded content is shared within the Emogi platform, a potential consumer has made an active decision to share that piece of content to their network of friends and family members because they believe it is enriching their conversation. And we know that 95% of messages are opened within 3 minutes of when they were sent.

The brands we work with have complete control over the targeting strategy of where their content appears. For example, Mucinex wanted to be an active part of cold and flu conversations, so our Emotion Engine optimized content delivery in real time to consumers messaging about topics like being “tired”, “sick”, “cold”, dealing with “mucus”, “chest congestion”, and expressing sentiments like “feel better” – driving exposures and shares of the branded content.

What is the ‘State of Contextual Content technology’ in 2018?

Contextual content will hit critical mass in 2018, and is approaching its inflection point. The adoption of intelligent content experience in messaging platforms will be a table stakes feature in the years to come as users will rely on the platforms to naturally and contextually help them communicate with peers.

What does your ‘Ideal Customer’ Profile look like? Which new geographies are you currently targeting?

92% of the online population uses emoji, so when thinking about our customer we don’t need to do much work there – practically everyone texts and every one is sharing conversational content. When we think about our target audience, we think about the product teams at messaging, social, gaming, and dating apps, and any other platform that has a significant number of users communicating with each other, as we aim to help them deepen emotional expression in their apps by giving their users access to conversational content.

We also have a unique opportunity to allow global brands to reach consumers at moments that are incredibly meaningful and specific to their business. Whether a person is feeling sick, hungry, or beautiful, Emogi allows marketers to reach consumers in those moments.

What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?

In messaging, most of the innovation is coming from the larger more established platforms like WeChat, Google, Facebook, and Snapchat. However, I’ve been paying attention to Magic Leap. They have the potential to reinvent the landscape for AR/VR and their technology remains cryptic to most. I look forward to their big reveal.

Could you tell us about an outstanding digital campaign/ customer success story at Emogi? 

We recently worked with McDonald’s McCafé brand to help them join messaging conversations as a top of mind destination for coffee during morning routines.

Emogi created custom McCafé content consumers actively chose to incorporate into their daily “coffee” and “morning” conversations. Emogi’s Emotion Engine provided this content in real time to consumers that were talking about coffee, or sending morning greetings.

As a result, consumers were 70 percent more likely to share McCafé content over unbranded content during their morning routines discussing coffee. What began as a conversation about someone needing or wanting a cup of coffee became a conversation about McCafé.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?

I sit on certain boards and when I hear technology being described as “tactical” rather than strategic, I strive to shift the thinking. I prepare for an AI centric world by making AI a first-class citizen in all strategic discussions. Our intelligence capabilities drive the discussion when we think about product development, marketing, and how we monetize our business. Business leaders should not build business that are “AI savvy” but “AI innate”.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

Equip them with the technology and tools that enable them to easily integrate it into their workflows and see demonstrable benefits.

Evangelize passionately the utility and possibilities with respect to technology.

One word that best describes how you work.

Fast

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Instagram/Slack/LinkedIn/GoogleAlerts

What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

Establishing goals and non goals. Non goals are also important things that should get done but have to be selectively neglected in order to achieve the critical goals. Focusing on only 5 things maximum at a particular time when there is a lot to do helps me focus on what’s MOST important at all times and makes me more effective.

What are you currently reading? 

I’m currently reading Good to Great. I usually listen through an audiobook. I try to read books that help me understand the experience we are currently going through as a startup so that we can try to avoid easy mistakes.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

To try and fail is better than not having tried at all.

Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?

Recruit talented people and inspire them to challenge conventional thinking.

Create change agents.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Chris Cox, Facebook

Thank you, Travis! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.5

Travis Montaque is the Founder and CEO of Emogi, a content engine for communication services that helps people have better conversations whether they’re texting on a chat app, commenting on a post, or sending a video to friends. By understanding the connection between content, words, people, places, and time, Emogi’s Emotion Engine serves up relevant and expressive content at the perfect moment – resulting in deeper emotional expression for users. Partnering with leading messaging platforms, Emogi’s technology redefines messaging as a new hub for brands and content creation.

In 2016, at the age of 23, Travis was named Forbes 30 Under 30 for discovering this data-driven marketing method that provides greater emotional expression in today’s digital conversations. He is a regular speaker with recent appearances at Cannes Lions, CES, Advertising Week, SXSW, Harvard Business School, among others. Recent profiles of Travis and his company Emogi have appeared in publications like The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and The New Yorker. Travis is an inaugural member of the University of Miami Marketing Advisory Board.

emogiEmogi is a content engine for communication services that helps people have better conversations whether they’re texting on a chat app, commenting on a post, or sending a video to friends. By understanding the connection between content, words, people, places, and time, Emogi’s Emotion Engine serves up relevant and expressive content at the perfect moment – resulting in deeper emotional expression for users. Partnering with leading messaging platforms, Emogi’s technology redefines messaging as a new hub for brands and content creation.

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.

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