Take five...with Jared Currier

Regular readers of this blog might know that it’s Jared Currier, House Party’s marketing & analytics director, who typically conducts these “Take five” interviews with members of our team. This week we’re turning the tables and putting Jared in the hot seat, before he departs House Party for business school next month.

You’ve been at House Party for five years. What’s your main takeaway from that time about what makes for effective marketing?

If I had to pick one thing that really makes the difference, it’s that any campaign should be designed, first and foremost, to drive conversations. That could mean running a word-of-mouth campaign, like what House Party does, or designing a more traditional campaign but keeping conversations in mind as a key goal. Someone seeing an ad, that’s one impression; someone seeing an ad so good that they just have to talk about it, that’s impression after impression after impression, the latter of which are even more powerful because they’re consumer-to-consumer impressions.

I was recently reading Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This, a great book on making better ads, and the author, Luke Sullivan, said that he likes to ask himself, “What is the press release of my idea?” (a question he attributes to the agency CP+B). That is, will this campaign be so interesting that people want to write about it? Talk about it? If it’s a commercial, will they seek it out on YouTube to watch it again, rather than grumble and take a bathroom break when it comes on the TV? Whatever form it takes, the marketing you put out into the world should be considered not a final product, but rather the beginning of a dialogue between you and your consumers, and between your consumers themselves.

Is that what makes House Party and similar activations successful?

Yes, that and the fact that they’re unique and memorable. Consumers are bombarded with millions of ads a day (you know, give or take), and it’s not easy for brands to catch and hold someone’s attention. We’re all too skilled at blocking out stimuli that seem irrelevant or inauthentic. I can say truthfully that I’ve never clicked on a banner ad — not necessarily because I’m not being served interesting or relevant ones, but because I don’t notice them in the first place, so I can’t even speak to the value of what they might actually be offering.

But if your friend invites you to a House Party — if you get to spend three hours learning about and trying a new product, and weeks before and after that meeting and talking with other participants on House Party's digital platform — then that’s really going to stick with you, because it’s hands-on, it’s social, it’s fun, and it’s different from the ways brands normally engage with you.

But what’s the tangible value of that sort of engagement? Or is being fun and unique enough sometimes?

Well, being fun and unique is probably more inherently valuable than people realize, given the positive, perhaps subconscious brand associations that can generate. But to me, one of the great unsung benefits of giving consumers a brand experience they’ll remember is that it becomes more than a one-off event; instead, future encounters with the brand — whether advertisements, or further trials, or word-of-mouth mentions — will act as a trigger and bring that experience to mind again. It’s like a free impression every time. And in sort of the reverse of that, once a quality experience carves out a special place in your mind for that brand, you’re much more likely to notice and pay attention to those future encounters (ads/trials/mentions) than you otherwise would have. Internally, we refer to it as “marketing receptivity,” this idea that an exceptionally impactful brand experience will make the rest of that brand’s marketing perform better, too.

What makes you most optimistic about what’s happening in word-of-mouth marketing today?

The fact that people are really taking its measurement seriously. We’ve talked about this on the blog before: word of mouth will never take its rightful place as a significant and indispensible part of any marketing budget until the industry as a whole agrees on a rigorous set of measurement practices that show, using hard data rather than just intuition and common sense, that this stuff works. Fortunately, industry leaders have recently begun to make great strides in this regard. Last year, for instance, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) released the results of its “Return on WOM” study, which showed that word of mouth drives $6 trillion in annual consumer spending, and that an earned media impression is at least five times as impactful as a paid impression, and usually far more. And here at House Party, whenever possible we report not only on standard metrics of reach, engagement and branding (like impressions or lifts in favorability), but on actual sales, too, by working with partners like Nielsen and Datalogix. It’s becoming easier and easier for marketers who believe in word of mouth to really prove that it works.

Finally, once you’re gone, what’ll you miss most about House Party?

As someone who started my career here, just out of college, I’ll miss what a great environment for learning this is. We’re on the front lines of so many important trends — experiential marketing; word-of-mouth marketing; influencer/advocacy marketing; social media and branded communities — and we get to work with leading brands across every imaginable vertical, so it really feels like I’ve been taking an extended, in-depth course on the future of marketing these past few years.