Greg Swan Interview: Getting Your Hands Dirty in a Fast-Changing Digital Age
MIMA sat down with Greg Swan, Director of Digital, Social and Innovation at Fallon, to learn how he leads his team to pioneer the future of digital. We learned a lot, but feel we barely scratched the surface on Greg’s level of curiosity and expertise in the digital space. Our biggest takeaway? The importance of being a “naturally curious and a voracious consumer.” Here’s more:
MIMA: YOU LEAD DIGITAL, SOCIAL AND INNOVATION AT FALLON – TELL US MORE ABOUT WHAT THAT MEANS.
GREG: We look for opportunities to intersect brands and people on mobile or in the physical space, and Fallon has a fantastic legacy of helping brands break through the noise. So, I lead our team to help our clients break through all of this noise on the social and digital side.
It’s an exciting time to work in marketing. Perhaps the most exciting time in the history of communications.
MIMA: THERE IS A LOT GOING ON IN THE DIGITAL SPACE. HOW DO YOU ENCOURAGE YOUR PEERS TO EMBRACE THE CHALLENGES AND FIND THOSE NUANCES WHERE BRANDS CAN ACTUALLY BREAK THROUGH?
GREG: There is so much change happening in digital right now. To be successful in this industry, you have to be always on and pay attention to what is happening with technology, social, patents, culture, and more. You also have to pay close attention to what others are doing in the space – including brands, influencers and yes, the President of the United States. The big social networks are still important, but Facebook is 15 years old – it’s not a new platform anymore. Even Snapchat is in its adolescence.
So beyond being experts on the legacy social channels, we have to be exploring the “what’s next” where we can start testing new strategies for engaging people where they are spending their time. You just can’t rest in this industry. I encourage our teams and clients to participate on Marco Polo, Monkey and TikTok, to spend that commute time streaming TED talks and podcasts, to build a website from scratch, start a podcast, and to seek out hands-on experiences in these new spaces.
Here’s an easy one: if you hear about a new app people are liking, you should download it and see what that’s all about. Why wouldn’t you?
MIMA: HOW DO YOU GET THAT HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE IN THESE PLATFORMS AND WHERE DO YOU SEEK YOUR OWN INSPIRATION FROM?
GREG: You have to be nationally curious and a voracious consumer to be a modern marketer today. There are the obvious tips, like read news, observe people and look outside the digital platforms to understand what makes them tick. I highly recommend pairing CES (Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, NV) and SXSW (South by Southwest in Austin, TX) to see what’s on the forefront of emerging uses in hardware, software and trends. And if you can’t attend, read all the coverage, stream all the keynotes, and talk to people who went to understand where the trends are headed. Essentially, you can act like a student who would study these phenomena in school using all available means of getting this knowledge. We are all lifelong students in this vocation, which means we get the chance to learn something new every day.
Being a student isn’t part of the job in interactive marketing; it is the job.
I also strongly believe in paying close attention to art, patents and culture. Artists have such a keen and creative sense about emerging technology we can look to for inspiration – or to challenge our assumptions.
Patents give us a look into where the big tech companies are moving next. By paying attention to their movement on tech (like IoT, AR, VR or machine learning), you can have a 6 to 10-month head start on everyone else when the news drops.
MIMA: WHAT KIND OF CONTENT DO YOU ENVISION FALLON OR CLIENT BRANDS WORKING ON IN THE FUTURE?
GREG: Consumer audiences have already defined what they want to hear about, and that usually has nothing to do with the brands when it comes to content. That’s why we create a message that people actually want to hear, in the medium they want to use and with content that meets their needs. And ideally, they want to share.
It sounds cliché, but it’s genuine content strategy to care madly about your consumer and cater your content to them.
From a format perspective, we need to be thinking carefully about 3D objects and how to prepare our brands and products to add a multi-dimensional layer to the standard copy/image/video buckets. Google is already integrating 3D objects into their search results, so this shift could come quicker than you think.
MIMA: WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND UP AND COMING DIGITAL MARKETERS FOCUS ON?
GREG: Build an Instagram account. Start a podcast. Buy some Google ads. Make an Alexa Skill. Write a newsletter. Get your hands really dirty. You cannot be a sideline student. Same for Facebook advertising – we have all been on Facebook, but not everyone understands the advanced targeting on the platform.
To get started and ensure you’ll follow through, consider helping a non-profit build a Facebook campaign so you can build up those targeting, messaging and media planning skills. Then do a report for them, and learn from these results.
Google, Amazon and Facebook all offer online, free classes. Now that’s a way to spend the weekend, right?
MIMA: WHAT IS THE ONE QUESTION YOU WERE HOPING WE WOULD HAVE ASKED YOU?
GREG: “Hey Greg, what do you think about email?” Yes, I would love to talk about a 50 year-old technology. Thanks for asking.
I am personally very excited and bullish on what email can deliver for a brand in 2020. If you have opted into a brand’s email and the content is great, you can earn a following and engagement not unlike what we used to get in organic social media 10 years ago. That is really exciting and a bit counterintuitive. Taking my own “getting your hands dirty” advice, I started my own weekly email newsletter more than two years ago to really learn the pace, technology and protocols.
Overall, I really do believe it’s an exciting time to work in interactive marketing, PR and advertising. The lines are blurred. The culture is changing. And the technology is blowing our minds. Let’s get excited about “what’s next” and pioneer something together.
You can sign up for Greg’s weekly newsletter here: http://bit.ly/gregswanemail
Interview and blog post by Courtney Koestler, Marketing Committee Volunteer