From Filmmaking to Digital Marketing - Chuck Griffith

It's always a funny thing when I get a chance to speak to a client or a recruiter about my customer experience (CRM + UX) expertise.  I often get questions like "how did you leave filmmaking and get into digital marketing?" or "what does CRM and film have in common?"

In short--it's about storytelling. My Teaching of Reading grad school professor once said, "We are always seeing narrative."  Those words ring extremely true for my lens on my work.  Prior to going to graduate school for education, I made a feature film called Thank You, Good Night in 2000-2002.  It was, for the most part, a failure.  A big one...one I had to learn from--I didn't consider the market.  There was no streaming service, and distribution was an expensive proposition for shipping VHS tapes at the time (DVDs were just emerging).  It was too much too soon--too much of what I wanted to say vs. what the market wanted to see.  That...and I was pretty young and naive--a lesson in ROI, value, and demand.

Photo by Bet_Noire/iStock / Getty Images

Of course, these days, the film is streaming and hardly making its money back, but I've had to live with it out there...google me and my success as a digital marketer and CRM expert is buried behind the film creeping up to the top of SEO results.  I mean, I guess it's more interesting, but it doesn't paint what I'd like to call a more renaissance man of the times.

What makes me different than many in the UX/CX/digital experience practitioner is I've really live that word in all of them...experience.

Study after study, in my research and within the industry, reveals to us users DO seek out narrative in their experiences--be it brand engagement on an iPhone, a brick-and-mortar store, a website, etc.

Thanks to buzz words like "growth hacking" and "circular design", digital experiences are catching up to journeys...like Joseph Campbell's monomyth...a hero's journey is analogous to a customer journey with a brand.  Just look at this terrific video by Free Range:    

The truth is my passion for storytelling keeps me motivated to help brands expand their impact and reach...affecting the quality of life for their customers.  Besides my passion for digital marketing, I've led teams in improving airline experiences (Emirates), helping small business owners grow (Salesforce), getting oncology medication to patients in small towns (Walgreens), empowering enterprise marketers to build better personalized programmatic journeys (Salesforce Marketing Cloud), and informing developers for better code karma (AppDynamics).  Film is now a past-time, doing it more and more helping other filmmakers get their stories out there...being Chuck Griffith, digital marketer expert, affords me to invest in film for the art rather than struggle for "what-if". (Side note: My education degree helps me everyday in facilitating workshops and applying feedback loops within a journey to foster learned customer behaviors.)

I'm more interested in the platforms emerging like marketing clouds and DMPs with Einstein or Adobe Audience for more personal and data-driven content to consumers than going through the Hollywood machine with so many unknowns.  Who knows...as platforms begin to prioritize audience data, maybe the worlds will converge to present an opportunity.  But for now, it's all storytelling and audiences just the same; besides, it always makes for a good story over drinks with clients and coworkers.  I mean, I did get to work with Mark Hamill, who insisted no crew member be allowed to mention Luke Skywalker on my set--now he's in The Last Jedi

For more about UX and Storytelling, comparing Star Wars to customer journeys, check out this great 2010 article from Smashing Magazine, "UX Storytelling for A Better User Experience".

Transforming Manual Marketing to Smarter Digital Experiences

Back in 2015, I got a chance to speak at the World Experience Strategy forum about how to elevate user experience design into customer experiences throughout an omni-channel/marketing funnel approach (an excerpt is below).

Yet, today's advertising world buzzing with "marketing automation" is evolving exponentially from the "manual" days of spreadsheets and triggered outbound marketing e-mails.  The omni-channel world is accelerating into predictive and cognitive experiences--driven by more and more data growing from the CRM gold rush of recent years.  Just take a look at Bluewolf's blog post here (Digital marketing: Is it time we grew up? Dated June 12,2017).

In the post written by Oluwatobi Demuren, there is a pressing need for companies to catch up in integrating their CRM stack to their marketing stack...if they have the latter.  The article cites Bluewolf's State of Salesforce Report 2017, "Only 3% of marketers say their CRM anticipates which leads to market to."  Much of this is because the lens of CRM tends to be optimized towards revenue projections and attribution for ROI in the current state...A CRM is only as good as the lens and the viewer looking at the data.

The same can be said about marketing clouds...So, who can bring it together?  It's your digital experience practitioner (I say "digital experience" because it's time to go beyond the "UX" mindset of a one click experience--CTAs for CTRs--and begin maturing our view holistically within the entire customer acquisition funnel. What will be said, how will it be seen, how and why will they engage, what will they tell us, how will we respond...more importantly...how will our marketing expand the conversation and not just reflect back the results we planned for in the first place?)

A key ingredient to any marketing-driven customer journey would be the same regardless of the engine behind it mapping to personas, the right messaging to those personas, and testing out against various intent-based behaviors.  However, society's Uberfication has modified consumer behavior to engage much more in real-time. If it isn't happening now, it's not happening at all...so manual media planning and campaigns are no longer feasible.  The digital experience hinges on designing and mapping journeys with machine learning to guide iteration--but it is up to those behaviorists and customer researchers to map and architect the right triggers and feedback loops in order to empower the engine to iterate in the right direction.  

This new normal for B2C and B2B marketing means it's up to yesterday's digital marketer and UX practitioner to "grow up" and learn how to harness the data in their company's CRM.  With their unique lens, they can build the meaningful customer experiences that foster engagement and relationships between them and a brand.  That's why we're in this business in the first place...just a couple years ago we had to map mental models and journeys creating "what-ifs" and hoping for the best in customer acquisition and retention.  Now, we still need to do this...but there's much more available in terms of data in CRM to help guide us to better testing of new ideas.

If we can get more brands to invest in the marketing technologies out there--marketing clouds like Salesforce, Eloqua, or Adobe...or even a Marketo/TechTarget stack, we can go from one-click experiences to programmatic "smarter" experiences bringing more meaning to our customers--three, four, five clicks...not all in just one session or from just one device.  After all, if it isn't meaningful, it isn't memorable.

If marketing maturity is the big blue ocean for digital marketing, then we better think storyframes over wireframes.