Barry Hott is a growth consultant with more than a decade of experience guiding brands through advertising and strategy on every social platform. After working with a who’s who of Fortune 500 companies and viral DTC brands like Harry’s and Keeps, he has branched out on his own as an Austin-based consultant. In this episode Jason picks his brain about how to get paid social to pull people into caring about your brand.
-Differences between creating ads for startups and for Fortune 500 companies
-The challenge of shifting messages between platforms
-Why internal dev is not always the best for your marketing plan
-What every business owner should factor into their 10 year plan
-How to get people to care about your brand
-What it takes to break through the noise
-Making people feel something or getting them to want to solve a problem
-Differences between DTC twitter and mega-advertising twitter
In this episode of Ecommerce Building Blocks, Jason and Barry Hott talk about why Barry is still excited about making ads even after the social media landscape has changed so much. He believes that meeting customers where they are is the #1 principal behind successful advertising no matter the medium. He and Jason talk about structuring a business to make sure this is always possible even when technology or trends change. Then they shift to Barry’s theory of getting around the brain’s ad-blockers by creating content that places attention and engagement above branding.
Barry’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/binghott/
Barry’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/binghott
➡️ Building Blocks website: bbclass.co
🍍Jason’s twitter: https://twitter.com/EggrolI
Sign up for Jason's weekly newsletter: http://news.bbclass.co
Growing DTC and startup brands.
A lot of these businesses that built their own tools and built their own infrastructure, cuz they had significant funding or they were profitable. Those are a lot of the businesses I'm seeing that are struggling to keep up now because the engineers or devs that built that have left. So they can't support it anymore.
Or there's totally new tools that are way more powerful than what they have built internally. I, some of my favorite ads, I like seeing they have ads that you can go like 15 seconds. You wouldn't know what brand this is for without like looking at the, the name of the page. And that's really impressive to me because they're focusing on the attention.
Hello everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Building Blocks podcast. Today I am joined by Barry Hott. Super excited to have this conversation today because you've been in the game for so many years, right? Yeah. How many years has it been? 20.
Yeah, no, , uh, getting up there, but no, I, I mean, I started, uh, in like 2008, not necessarily in like the DTC space, but. Uh, yeah. Doing advertising back then. Yeah.
Well, you're here now. It feels like, you know, one year in DTC world it feels like 10 years. So I think my math is still kind of right there. um,
yeah, I'm super excited to talk to you today because you know, I've been in, in a space since 2014, so you have a lot of ears ahead of me and I'm just so curious about mm-hmm.
You know, what, what gets you excited now? You know, after being in this marriage, to to the business for so long, what gets you excited?
Mm-hmm um, it's been a wild ride. Um, what gets me excited? Um, I I'm just still, like, at the end of the day, I'm still excited by ads. I think if I were to boil it down, even like when I was a, a young boy, I've always been just so interested in like TV commercials.
And I think about those TV commercials I used to see as a kid. Um, so for me, like it's really about, I, I enjoy and still get super amped up on making ads that make people feel and making ads that make people take that desired action rather than I'm not the guy who's gonna like wanna make ads that are just gonna be like ad recall, or like brand awareness. Like that's not really what gets me excited.
Right. And you work with a lot of big brands, like Fortune 500 companies. And recently you work with startups, like Harry's, Lumin, Hubble, Keeps, Cerebral bunch of big DTC names. Yeah. What, what's the biggest difference of working with these Fortune 500 companies and these still really large DTC brands.
It's a great question. The big difference is like process and people getting in the way. Right. Um, the bigger the company, the more red tape there is, I think, you know, some of this is perhaps stating the obvious, but with those big companies, you know, working with AT&T it's. It's like we're working on for something on behalf of someone on behalf of another team, on behalf of someone else and to get anything approved back then- and this was -years ago so maybe they've, they're, they're leaner and meaner now, but I doubt
- Probably not.
I'll say that
- Odds, not.
I'll say that publicly. Probably not. Um, They, you know, it, it would take forever. The example I always think about is like we had to launch a, um, a texting while driving campaign, like anti-texting while driving and they handed, they delivered us the video to use, uh, on Facebook and they gave us this landing page.
And the goal was to get people to like take this pledge. And the video started with a five second fade in, from white to the logo. And the landing page had like five qualifying steps, like pages of information before you could fill out the form. So our, you know, goal was to optimize, to get the most people, to fill out that form.
And by the time we like gave them that feedback and then they responded and said, Sorry, we can't in change. We can't trim the video and we can't improve the website. The campaign had already finished. We'd already finished the like two, three week campaign and we weren't able to fix anything. Whereas as you know, the, you know, more DTC more modern growth businesses that stuff's getting done in hours.
And sometimes, sometimes for, for, not for the better sometimes stuff's too rushed. . Uh, so that's a separate problem with,
It's a double-edged sword. You know?
I mean, I get it. I've worked with large companies. Um, you know, I worked with this large music company a few years ago and like virtually anything you wanna do, there's four people to get through.
Um, right. And then sometimes they don't communicate and then it falls back to you. So I, I get what you mean and you know, that's why we're in this line of business now, um, over the years, growth has changed at at least from the consumer's eyes. The way that we have grown businesses have changed. I wanna hear your perspective on, like, what is that thing today that helps a DTC business grow.
And how has that changed over time?
I, I think it's always been. in a way meeting the consumer where they are. Right. And that's just changed. That's always changed and it's always evolving. So it's, it's about paying attention to what that is. If you were to think about, uh, back when Instagram was acquired by Facebook and suddenly Instagram was a new ad placement, people were trying to develop the right content that could exist for Instagram rather than just Facebook ads, which, which were pretty different back then. Same thing kind of is happening now but with TikTok where brands are like, okay, let's just copy and paste our playbook from Facebook ads over to TikTok and they immediately fail.
It doesn't work. Yeah. So they have to go back to the drawing board. You have to reinvent how you're meeting your customers, where they. And what that messaging looks like for them and how you present that. Like, it's, it's a huge challenge. And the bigger problem is that agencies traditional even traditional or somewhat modern agencies and saying goes for traditional and somewhat modern startups that are from five, ten or more years ago, anything from more than five years ago, they might have built process and structured teams in a way that isn't compatible with the creative needs of 2022 creative and advertising. Right? So that's the thing right now that I'm seeing a lot of people stumbling over is they have structured roles and processes that aren't compatible with what is needed today.
And it, it, it kind of breaks down when you try and scale.
Absolutely. And it's something that I always tell business owners is you need to not just hire a bunch of marketers, but you need to hire someone who's good at ops, who's good at building infrastructures, if you really wanna scale and someone who's like keeping an eye on it and refining as you go, rather than someone who's built that system for you four years ago when we started and expect to still perform the same way. Because a lot of things changed. The way that we work changed first and foremost, the way that we advertise have changed. The speed of changes is also needed because people's attention span just aren't the same as before. And so you cannot expect to run a business on a old software, like it needs update. And unfortunately, a lot of brands don't look at that. They think you need marketing, you need product, but ops, eh, we'll fix it when it breaks.
Um, and it's a lot of reactionary actions, right. Instead of being proactive and say, I need a built road so that I don't fall into the water if I driving. Yeah. Um, and, and that's the number one thing I always tell people you gotta fix the back end.
Yeah. I mean, but also there's an interesting conundrum that I've noticed both in the past and happening now more is that a lot of these businesses that built their own tools and built their own infrastructure, cuz they had resources to right. They maybe had significant funding or they were profitable and they were like, oh let's build, uh, our own website.
Let's not use Shopify. Let's not use some established thing. Let's build our own, whatever. Let's build our own plugins or build our own tools, build our own whatever. Those are a lot of the businesses I'm seeing that are struggling to keep up now because they've built so much of their own and either the engineers or devs that built that have left. So they can't support it anymore. Or there's totally new tools that all of their competitors are using that are way more powerful than what they have built internally. Yeah. But they're so stuck on this thing that they've built and they can't - it would be such a huge lift to get off of it that they can't.
And then they're perpetually stuck . I see this happen more than not. And it's a very funny thing when I think about guiding and helping startups or businesses build and not build, cuz it's always like, well, why would I pay this other company? Why would I pay this software company to do this? Well, I, we can afford to build it ourselves for cheaper.
Yeah, well they, they can support it. Those software companies can often support it and build something bigger and better over time and get feedback from multiple businesses. So there's a weird conundrum there and I've seen it sting, uh, as these brands age.
Oh absolutely. I actually. Some something happened to me, same thing. We built a influencer seeding system.
And we built it internally, cuz I was like, I don't wanna pay 15 grand for grant. Right. We don't, we don't have money for it. Um, and so we built our own and it worked. Perfectly fine. I still don't think it's like broken by any means. Uh, and thankfully we built it on like NOCO software.
It was a very interest intricate mix of Airtable, SAP, your Shopify, and a bunch of like 80 guys posting different things. Yeah. And then, um, you know, things get expensive cuz it's based on usage too. And it's based on like upkeep and then we're like, you know what, maybe we should just go back to a software. So, so you're right.
There is chances where you just need to make sure that you're looking 10 steps ahead. Yeah, short, short term gratification doesn't always mean that it's sustainable.
And that, that 10 steps ahead. You need to be looking forward. You need to be like building like an architect and looking for structural integrity, integrity and figure out if one of these pillars fails does the whole thing collapse? Like if we lose this engineer yeah. What was it? How do we replace it? If that, you know, is, if you can't answer that question, you, you haven't built for scale, like at all.
Absolutely. So I want to focus the rest of the conversation on something that you tweeted back in April.
You had this whole thread where you outline a strategy for paid social, that puts branding on the side and focusing on hooking the customers through their experience. Yes, you know, to get around this brain's natural ad blocker, which I, I understand, but I would love to get your take on it. So give me that outline again.
And how do you really get through this ad blocker in people's
Yeah, absolutely. So a lot, if you were to read my Twitter, like over time, I think a lot of people would say like, oh, Barry is not a branding guy, Barry doesn't care about brands. I actually deeply care about brands and branding. I think it's extremely important.
And I think about the overall impact, but I also think about so much more is how difficult it is to get people to even think about or care about your brand really, and how to get people to try your brand in the first place. People are so hesitant to try net new things, and they don't want to experience new things.
For the most part, people are happy with what they, they like. So. I talk about visually, you know what I said at kind of at the top before is meeting people where they are. I'm all about making stuff that can break through the noise. And do so by looking like , I wanna be making ads and content that look like something people want to watch and want to pay attention to.
And that's a broad answer and a broad definition. Yeah. But that could be, uh, if you think about what people look at on Instagram, let's just use Instagram. People are on there to follow their friends and see what they're doing. But I think that's even less used now than, than before people are on there to see what celebrities are doing.
They're on there to follow meme accounts. Right. They follow, uh, all sorts of weird stuff. But if you are making content that doesn't look or feel like those things in the very first second in the very first moment, then you've already, you've already probably lost the game for almost everyone. Because those subconscious ad blockers, people know that they're on a platform where they're going to be seeing ads.
They don't usually care about the ads. They want to ignore them or their brain. You know, it's about dopamine hits. You don't get a dopamine hit from seeing an ad usually. Right? So if you can make an ad into something that... The goal should be making an ad that people want to watch. People wanna see it. People are excited when they see it or are curious. They feel something that's the goal. (12:24)
If you can't achieve that goal, then making it seem like that is the next best thing and doing so you cannot incorporate your logo or your heavy branding in that first moment. Nine times outta ten I would say, including the logo, including the branding actually takes people out of it. In that, in that moment, I'm happy to go, like, you know, one to three seconds with no logo or brand mention, and then get into it, then go, you know, you can go brand heavy.
I, some of my favorite ads I like seeing, uh, from like, I, I I'll say Dr. Squatch does this. They have ads that you can go like 15 seconds. You wouldn't know what brand this is for without like looking at the name of the page it's coming from. And that's really impressive to me because they're focusing on the attention, getting the attention, keeping the attention, and then doing something with that attention, which is, it doesn't matter if you care about soap or you care about Dr. Squatch or whatever. It cares about this, you, that you care about this problem that they've just presented to you, and now you wanna solve that problem. And now you're invested in it and then they can introduce Dr. Squatch. That's that, that's the whole thing for me is, um, not just about like showing your brand over and over again, that makes sense for like Coke versus Pepsi, but it's not the same when you're a smaller startup that most people have never heard of never tried and probably won't.
And they wanna associate your brand. And we're, we're talking about like brand colors and tag lines and all that stuff, but that's way down the line. Your first goal is to make sure that consumers, when they see your ad, they're associating your brand to, to the solution that for a problem that they have, that's the first thing. Yeah. Get your foot in the door.
Doesn't matter what your brand color is. You don't need to show your logo on it. You're you're not, you're literally not big enough for people to remember that after, but what they remember is this feeling of Wow something right here is solving something that I care about or something that I experience. Um, yep. The way that I look at advertising is, or walking into rooms, different platforms, represent different rooms, and there's a set of expectations that you have when you walk into a room because you're like, yeah, I've been in this room before.
I know what's gotta be in the. All right, Instagram. You're like, like you're saying, I'm seeing my friends posting, they're traveling and they're doing all these stuff. Funny memes, TikTok. I'm expecting to learn something new because I'm learning something new on TikTok every single day. So there's educational content or like behind the scenes content, um, Twitter, you know, short form announcements.
Pinterest really nice pictures in different settings. Different rooms require you to have different types of content because the worst thing that you can ever do to someone who's going to these rooms for pleasure, because of the dopamine hit is to knock them off their feet with something that interrupts their brain.
You do not want to interrupt them. You want them to ease into the, the next thing. And then you're like, yeah, this is our brand. It's not even a controversial opinion though, because everyone raves about Super Bowl ads and what the Super Bowl ads do great. You don't even know what they're selling to you until the very end.
It's so entertaining that you're tweeting about it. You're posting about it. And you don't even know what they sell until the very, very last second.
I'll be honest. I actually take, I take, I have issues with Super Bowl ads for taking too many liberties that way and not selling enough. That's a separate issue cuz they don't, they don't have to track as much as like we do in performance marketing.
Yeah. So like, you know, larger brands, they can get away with a lot of things that we just kind of get away from. But like in terms of principle, the idea of making ads entertaining should not be controversial. You know, we're not saying we can't make Super Bowl ads, but mm-hmm , we should also not just make ads that look like pure ads.
And, and I think that's really the point that we're agreeing on. Right. Um, , I, I love that. And, and I think everyone should definitely take that into consideration. There's no reason why you will have an opposing opinion to this. Like yeah. You know, I wanna make my ad look so much like an ad because it works.
No marketer will tell you that unless we're talking about like, even like, I'm talking about like even gray hat stuff, like native ads where they're selling pills. Like they still look very natural. They look like a medical study. And, and because this,
Well that's what they're trying to do is right.
They're not necessarily trying to make it look like user generated, cuz actually what they wanna make it look like is something that's more reputable. So they make it look like kind of news. It's a, that's a whole other, you know, educational, you know, angle. It's a, there's a, there's something kind of sneaky about that.
take the last few seconds or a few minutes to get your hot take. Um, everyone has a hot take what's yours?
I mean, I have all my takes are hot takes. Legally speaking.
There you go.
Um, uh, that's that's my hot take. What is my hot take? Um, that's a great question. I wasn't prepared for. Um, I think that, I mean, the, the brand take, we just did is kind of my, is kind of my hot take
. What's that thing that you feel like everyone else is doing that you're like, actually, I don't know my way is not that way.
Um, I feel that about almost everything , um, you know, I, I, I would say in terms of like, it's, it's hard to say because like, it depends on which pockets what people are talking about.
I know this isn't what you want, but like, if we were talking about like DTC Twitter, I think a lot of people would agree with a lot of. I'm saying, but if we were talking about like bigger brands that aren't on DTC Twitter, uh, those are the ones that think that what we just talked about is lunacy. Um, yeah, so I think, I mean, man, I, I'm gonna look back at this and regret not having a better hot take for you.
It's okay. It's okay. But I, I think the takeaway here is that you can't please everyone and, and everyone's, you know, tips and hacks online. It's not a blanket statement that will work for everyone. And that's really where hot takes are because hot takes are there, there's a substantial amount of people that will agree with you.
And there's a substantial amount of people that will oppose you for their own reasons. And you know, I can't say as marketers, we're always right or always wrong about something. It's just, that's a hot take it's you can't please anyone, uh, or everyone. As the very, very last question how, how did you get into your stunt driving?
Um, it was something we that's a I forget where you found that, but, um, that's something, we, we got my dad as like a, I think a 60th birthday present was like a stunt driving class, uh, like for him. And then, yeah, he like returned the favor for my graduation. Um, so it was like an intensive two day, like real stunt driving course that like real stunt professionals take.
And I did. And it was incredible. My dad said it's the most fun he's had with his clothes on and I would have to agree. Uh it's it's I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys being behind the wheel of a car, um, to learn how to be able to throw a car, drive straight at a parallel parking spot, and turn it 90 degrees to slide into it in a box, like that is incredible. Like, will I ever do that with my own car? No. No, but that's an extreme experience and I will never forget that.
Knowing that you could do it is probably just as good as knowing that you, you have done it. Like, just like, yeah, I could do it. I just don't wanna do it right now of knowing will
Um, yeah. Barry, thank you so, so much for coming on and talking to us about the growth you know, perspectives that you had over the years, um, the outline for how to get your ads to be watched? Um, I I'm sure a lot of people are curious about that and generally just a lot of the amazing content that you give out for free.
So appreciate you and thank you for coming on to the show.
Thank you. And thank you for doing this. Appreciate it.
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