If you don’t have a clear understanding of who your audience is and which messaging resonates with them, you will never be truly successful.
MEDIA 7: Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself and what made you choose this career path?
GIL EYAL: I think many of us have a moment that inspires us in a way that changes our direction. For me, it was sometime around the year 2005 when I came across a book titled, “Buzzmarketing” by Mark Hughes, where he detailed a variety of marketing campaigns that leveraged the concept of getting a conversation going around a subject. At the time I was working in a job that bored me to death as an attorney and thought I would be doing it for the rest of my career.
I couldn’t get that book out of my head. Mind you there was no Facebook and there were no viral online channels you could leverage to market. This was old-school marketing and it required a level of creativity and sophistication that fascinated me. 4 years later, I was done with law and studying for my MBA at the Kellogg School of Management where reality hit hard.
No one had any interest in hiring a former attorney for marketing jobs even if they did get their MBA from a respected program. I was probably the last in my class to find an internship after my first year and I was determined to figure out things before I came back for the second. I spent the summer in two places. The first was Austin, Texas, where I worked for Dell. It was a wonderful experience, but the second half of the summer really got me going. I worked for Playdom, at the time, the largest game developer on MySpace and the fourth biggest on Facebook. I learned how meaningful leveraging creative marketing channels and methods (while paying attention to the fundamentals) were to get the company to hundreds of millions of users. More importantly, I got a front seat to a $750M exit and realized I will be in tech for the rest of my life because nothing could compete with the excitement of building something so amazing that someone is willing to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for it. I came back for my second year but I wasn’t interviewing. I was all set to figure things out in the startup world and started working with founders who needed help with marketing. Though it was early, I recognized the opportunity, that visibility and credibility generated by celebrities would provide these companies and quickly carved myself a niche.
Within 3 years, I had done over 200 deals with celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Lance Armstrong, Serena Williams, Kevin Hart, Zendaya, Lil Wayne, and more. In 2013 I decided to build technology around identifying the influential people online and that led to the birth of HYPR.
M7: What tools do you use for influencer marketing? How do you find influencers in a specific niche?
GE: I sold HYPR to Julius in April 2020. We combined our platforms to build an amazing tool that helps sift through millions of influencers based on their audience characteristics, demographics, and topics where they are influential. The tool makes discovery easy.
I don’t believe in hiring influencers just because of their audience size. When I work with celebrities or influencers, it's primarily for the credibility they can generate for the product I want to promote.
M7: What are the most promising channels for campaign management and why?
GE: I think influencer marketing is struggling to make things less manual and the solutions in the market today are limited. I think how you choose to activate influencers really varies based on the type of brand you represent. Certain brands need to vet each post and ensure they work with influencers who are perfectly on-brand. Others just need reach and conversions. The result is that one solution doesn’t fit all. The first type needs vetting tools, content approval, and time management tools while the other needs automation and performance tracking. My guess is that you won’t see one winner in the space – different solutions will prove to be the best for different customers.
M7: How do you define content personalization? Which technologies are garnering the maximum mileage in this sector?
GE: As privacy awareness is gaining more attention due to explicit violations of privacy rights by some of the largest players in the space, content personalization is becoming more challenging. Requiring users to opt-in is not as simple as it was in the early days of the internet where you just hid code in another program and assumed people won’t read your terms of service. The new regulations are a positive move in my opinion but in the short run, they definitely reduce the quality of user experience.
Companies like Target have been so focused on the personalization of marketing content that they sometimes forget it can be really creepy or even harmful. In Target’s case, there was a story of a father who found out his daughter was pregnant because Target sent her emails targeted at moms-to-be. I invested in a company called itsmydata which helps consumers protect their privacy when online stores don’t.
The result is that personalization is going to take a backseat until brands can really figure it out. Technologies that can get people to willingly opt into data sharing and content optimization will come out victorious here but I’m still not sure I have seen the proper solution.
As privacy awareness is gaining more attention due to explicit violations of privacy rights by some of the largest players in the space, content personalization is becoming more challenging.
M7: What do you believe are the top three product marketing challenges in the post COVID-19 era?
GE: 1. A change in consumer behavior. If I’m not going out, do I really need to dress nicely? Do I need to smell good? Should I be spending a lot of money on new shoes? Which products are gone for good and which are just taking a hiatus until we are all vaccinated?
2. With people spending even more time online, are marketers even more confined to the programmatic marketing channels that companies like Facebook and Google provide? If so, how do you deal with the price increases as these companies optimize their process to make sure they can squeeze as much money as possible out of marketers?
3. As companies like Hulu and Netflix demonstrate that people are willing to pay for content, often pay in order not to see your ads, how do you gain their attention? Can you afford to remain uncreative with your marketing attempts?
M7: In the era of Fake News and Malvertising, how do you stay on top of your business model?
GE: I don’t believe in hiring influencers just because of their audience size. When I work with celebrities or influencers, it's primarily for the credibility they can generate for the product I want to promote. When Michael Jordan wore his first Nike shoes, the message was broader than just reaching all of the people who were interested in him. It was about the fact that these shoes were so good that he would wear them in a professional game against the best athletes in the world and he would come out on top. I want to work with influencers and celebrities that convey an authentic and believable story of why this product is superior.
M7: What is your marketing mantra to stand out in an overly saturated MarTech space?
GE: Traditional fundamentals still apply. It doesn’t matter what kind of marketing you are doing, if you don’t have a clear understanding of who your audience is, how to reach them and which messaging resonates with them, you will never be truly successful. Influencers are just another channel but they need to be able to do more than just reach an audience. They need to be able to believably convey a message that will resonate with an audience. When you see an influencer marketing campaign fail, it’s almost always because the influencers do not do that, and not because they’re being fraudulent or have a weak following.