The First HypeHour Of 2021: How To Future-Proof Your Business With Virtual & Live Selling

03.26.2021 Blog
By Briagenn Adams, Content Manager

“Omnichannel” has been a buzzword in the sales and marketing industry for YEARS. By definition, it’s “a multichannel approach to sales that seeks to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience, whether they’re shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone, or in a brick-and-mortar store.” However, in all the hubbub of 2020 and 2021, “omnichannel” has evolved into “connected commerce.” In our second season of the HypeHour, we’re going to explore the ins and outs of “connected commerce” and discuss all the channels you should include in your go-to-market strategy, including virtual and live selling.

During HypeHour #8, “Connected Commerce: Future-Proof Your Business With Virtual & Live Selling,” our team of experts talked about the adapted buying journey of today and shared real-world examples of what it looks like to quickly pivot your plans and re-think your sales strategy with video solutions. In case you’re new here, the HypeHour is an ongoing livestream event that covers relevant topics, answers difficult questions, and brainstorms creative ideas, and the event on March 17 was the first one of 2021! To kick things off, we had an excellent lineup of industry thought leaders join the HypeHour to share their insights:

  • Andrew Catapano – SVP of Digital Strategy & Marketing at BDSmktg
  • Kelly Campbell – Sr. Marketing Manager at BDSmktg
  • Deena Ghazarian – Founder and CEO of Austere
  • Josh Looper – Market Development Manager at Motorola
  • Lenetta Pesotini – VP of Experiential at MAG

You can watch the livestream video above, or you can read the detailed transcription below. If you just want the highlights, here are our top five takeaways from HypeHour #8:

1)    Yesterday’s Omnichannel Is Today’s Connected Commerce

The sales and marketing industry has been obsessed with the idea of being “omnichannel” for years, but 2021 is all about “connected commerce.” Today, brands and retailers need to be there for customers on their own terms – when, how, and where they want to engage. There’s no denying that the pandemic sped up mobile adoption; experts agree the industry advanced at least 2-3 years in just 12 months alone. However, being present on every channel isn’t enough; instead, it’s all about how we connect and merge those channels to reach the one thing that matters – the customer. By definition, “connected commerce” is a seamless and personalized integration of online and in-store environments that enables customers to shop, purchase, and receive goods on their terms. And according to many top industry players like Warby Parker’s co-founder, Neil Blumenthal, “there is a convergence happening, it’s not either or – that you’re either online or offline – you need to be in both places, and they need to be seamlessly integrated.”

2)    Education Through Storytelling Is A Great Way To Sell Stuff

Austere creates technologically superior products that keep people powered and connected, such as cables, power cords, and cleaning products. Until early 2020, they were getting into a rhythm of selling in-store, but when COVID-19 happened, they had to quickly learn how to deal with supply chain problems and the explosion of the stay-at-home economy. To do so, her company focused on education through storytelling vs. pushy sales strategies. As founder Deena Ghazarian put it, nobody wakes up and thinks, “hey, I need an HDMI cable today!” Instead, her team relied on authentic digital content to help educate online consumers on the important solutions that Austere provides. Regarding the future of retail, Deena predicts that traditional brick-and-mortar will triumph, but shoppers will remain hesitant for some time. Therefore, video content and QR codes will be key to continue the education push. For people who need extra assistance, private appointments and one-on-one consultations will help consumers feel safe and connected to the brands they buy from.

3)    When Convincing & Converting Online, Passion Is The #1 Factor

As a Market Development Manager at Motorola, Josh Looper traveled the country in a van to conduct product demos in brick-and-mortar stores like Best Buy and Verizon. Then the pandemic hit. Josh immediately adjusted course and started hosting virtual trainings and livestream events to recreate that in-person experience, even from afar. According to Josh, the sophisticated Motorola products take time, learning, and engineering to develop, which in turn requires a heavy education component in order to explain their benefits to brick-and-mortar sales associates and shoppers. When it comes to the world of livestreaming, Josh says two things really matter: passion and education. When you’re trying to communicate through a screen, your passion for the product needs to translate tenfold. Regarding the importance of education, Josh says brands need to give employees time to master the subject matter. Passion is infectious, but it’s also memorable. If you marry the passion and education components together, you’re sure to leave an impression that lasts.

4)    For Better Or Worse, “Hybrid” Will Likely Be 2021’s #1 Word

2020 was teed up to be the “year of experiential,” but then COVID-19 hit along with stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines. Lenetta Pesotini, VP of MAG – a full-service experiential marketing agency based in New York City – knows in-person events like the back of her hand. However, like so many others, her industry was turned upside down and she quickly had to figure out how to pull off fun and engaging virtual events on the fly. According to Lenetta, 2020 was all about “filling a void” for consumers, so the team supplemented virtual events with things like experience kits, branded t-shirts and lanyards, and a new VirtualU solution, which allows event attendees to interact with each other online via “avatars.” Lenetta thinks the experiential landscape will continue to evolve to accommodate rapid changes, and “hybrid” will be the #1 word moving forward. Now and forever, it will be practically impossible to plan an event without a virtual component; what was once a nice-to-have is now a must-do.

5)    What Worked Before COVID-19 Might Not Work Today

As we plan for the future, marketers need to reflect on the lessons from 2020. People have been in somewhat of a standstill over the past 12+ months, so brands need to introduce something new and exciting that also has longevity. Before COVID-19, content was king; then came connection, then came entertainment. Now, that order has been flipped on its head. We need to prioritize entertainment to make up for 2020’s lack thereof, and if you don’t nail the connection aspect of event marketing then your content will inevitably fall flat. To expand on the content portion of things, brands can’t simply go back to normal keynote speakers and breakout sessions like they did pre-2020. Instead, they need to examine past projects with a microscope to reveal what worked well and what didn’t, and then carry the winning strategies through into the future. As we move forward with event planning, it’s likely that shorter sessions and more intimate interactions will prevail.

We hope you enjoyed the first HypeHour of 2021! Do you agree with everything the experts said, or do you have unique predictions of your own? We’d love to hear from you! Let us know in the comments below or on Hype Hive’s social media.

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How To Future-Proof Your Business With Virtual & Live Selling, Video Transcription:

Speaker 1:

Connected commerce… BDS presents The HypeHour, with your hosts Andrew Catapano and Kelly Campbell. Featuring special guests Deena Ghazarian, Lenetta Pesotini, and Josh Looper. Today’s topic, Connected Commerce part one. Let’s get started. Here are your hosts.

Kelly Campbell:

All right.

Andrew Catapano:

Hello, Kelly, and welcome to season deuce.

Kelly Campbell:

We are here.

Andrew Catapano:

We are here and we are back. We are kicking off season two with The HypeHour, and so excited at the first topic. It’s something that I am very passionate about, Connected Commerce and how it supports the new buying experience. Great to see you as always, Kelly, and welcome to season two.

Kelly Campbell:

Yeah. Very excited about today’s topic. We have some wonderful guests coming on, right?

Andrew Catapano:

And it’s St. Patrick’s Day. So happy St. Patrick’s Day. This is my version of green, I did the best I could, if that’s okay with you.

Kelly Campbell:

I got a little green behind me, we used to have green walls in our office, as most people would know, BDS is known for its green. So, this is also a little bit our day too.

Andrew Catapano:

We are known for our green. So happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Kelly Campbell:

You too.

Andrew Catapano:

Okay. So, this season, we’ll be exploring how the omnichannel has evolved into connected commerce. And all the channels that you should be including in your go to market strategy, starting today with virtual and live selling. We’ve got some great guests to talk about virtual and live selling. What are we going to do? We’re going to explain what connected commerce is, and what the new buying journey looks going to, or the adapted buying journey. You’re going to hear straight for some leadership and company expert, as you always do here on the HypeHour, founded, one, founded right before COVID, and he had to pivot very specifically on what she did with her go to market strategy and some of our product offerings. And I think you got the privilege of interviewing her.

Andrew Catapano:

And then we’ll dive into some deep, deep ways where can use the virtual world, and we got a really surprise guest, low energy though, he is low energy. And we got some [inaudible] surprise guests that we’re going to talk about some real-world virtual experiences that are direct to consumer video first strategies. But ultimately, as we do every day and every time in the HypeHour, we want you to leave with something. This is not just jargon and talk, we want you to get to real world things. So, I’m going to try my best as you do, Kelly, to drill it down, give some takeaways and have our audience leave with some things they can do today that’s right for their brand.

Kelly Campbell:

Absolutely.

Andrew Catapano:

Who do we have on breakout?

Kelly Campbell:

Wow, we have such the lineup today. I’m so excited about a lot of our guests. We have a range of people joining us for the Hype today. We have Deena Ghazarian, CEO and founder of Austere, very excited to have her on and her interview. And then Lenetta Pesotini, VP of Experiential at MAG, which is our experiential division. She’s just amazing, full of ideas, I cannot wait to talk to her more. And then the man, Josh Looper, he is [inaudible] so excited. So excited.

Andrew Catapano:

I am excited too Kelly. So, let’s just jump right into it. And I love the guests we have on the show, we’re going to have some fun. Connected Commerce-

Kelly Campbell:

Quick reminder, before we jump in.

Andrew Catapano:

Go, yes. Go for it.

Kelly Campbell:

Quick reminder doesn’t forget to comment in the comments area below if you have a question, if you want to know more about something, feel free to jump into the conversation. We are here to help you guys at the end of the day. So, feel free to ask away.

Andrew Catapano:

Awesome. Kelly, we’re going to jump right into it. Let’s define connected commerce. But instead of us doing it, let’s hear directly from the President of BDS marketing, Mr. Sean Ludic, who most recently in his keynote series on LinkedIn, Building the Shopper Journey for Tomorrow, he explained in really cool layman’s terms, what connected commerce means. Because as we know in 2020, we saw an abundance of channels open up, we saw new ways to connect with our audience. But let’s start the show with defining what connected commerce is from the keynote address of our President, Mr. Sean Ludic. We have that keynote.

Sean Ludic:

We have preached omnichannel for years but today my question is, is it enough? As you all know, we need to be where our customers are. We need to be there for them on their terms, when and how they want to engage. Omnichannel has evolved to be more, just being present in every channel isn’t enough, it’s how you connect and merge channels to the one thing that matters, the customer. Today, connected commerce as omnichannel 2.0. and it’s the future of retail. How do we define connected commerce? It’s a seamless and personalized integration of online and install that enables consumers to shop, purchase and receive goods on their terms, wherever, whenever, and however they want.

Sean Ludic:

Many retailers going to Warby Parker, have seen and experienced the shift firsthand. It’s a convergence of many, where the experience and path of purchase become seamless. Using that connected commerce frame of mind, we can’t ignore the massive role that mobile, and especially video, plays in all of it. There’s no denying that the pandemic sped up mobile adoption, that transformation is incredible when you think about it. But what does it mean for retail? The more mobile users they are, the more opportunities they are to innovate the way we buy and sell.

Andrew Catapano:

Awesome. Very cool, very easy layman’s terms and easy to understand. Thank you, Mr. Sean Ludic. I lost audio guys. I lost audio on Kelly, sorry about that. Kelly, if you could still hear us, everyone can still hear me?

Kelly Campbell:

All right, technical difficulties. I’m on mute.

Andrew Catapano:

That’s live. Oh, come on, Kelly.

Kelly Campbell:

Isn’t that the thing of meetings in this day and age, is that, Oops, sorry. I was on mute.”

Andrew Catapano:

Kelly, what we have to show, not to break your train of thought, but we talked before the show what the word of 2021 is going to be, we didn’t decide whether it’s hybrid or pivot. And I’m going to go with pivot, let’s pivot right back into the show. [crosstalk] I was on mute. And that’s going to go down I think in history as a top said word in companies in 2020, “Sorry, I was on mute.” I’m going on the record.

Kelly Campbell:

I think so.

Andrew Catapano:

That was the number one. Kelly, go ahead [crosstalk].

Kelly Campbell:

… got that today.

Andrew Catapano:

Well, with that, I think my biggest takeaway from Sean Ludic, and then we’re going to get in a little deeper as I get into the connected commerce piece of it, and a little bit of a breakout session where I talk about my LinkedIn article that I posted leading up to this series on connected commerce, but the coolest thing that Sean said, “Connected commerce is an integrated experience that allows transactions to happen anytime, anywhere, on any device.”

Kelly Campbell:

Yes.

Andrew Catapano:

[inaudible] that’s connected commerce. So, when we talked to our guests today, we talk about pivoting and we talk about connecting to our customers, anywhere any device, and perfecting that customer experience, I think Deena has a great story of how she started her journey, where she began and how she pivoted in order to identify and connect with that customer. Am I right?

Kelly Campbell:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, before we move on to Deena, I just want to say that Sean Ludic has a brand new LinkedIn series coming out this week and next week and going forward, super excited about it. It is all about building the shopper journey for tomorrow. So, make sure to tune in on LinkedIn to his channel for that, go follow him on LinkedIn for more insights going to what we just saw today about connected commerce. He’s talking about a lot of different trends there. So, make sure to go tune in for that.

Kelly Campbell:

But yeah, I think moving into the interview with Deana, her journey has been so interesting to follow. And we’ll sort of talk about that in a little bit. And I think the biggest thing is definitely talking about this evolution of omnichannel’s to connect to commerce, and it’s not just a matter of being in all the channels at the same time, but how do you connect them together? You have to be a lot more thoughtful going into it, and that’s a big ask. So, I think I’m excited to talk a little bit more about that today with everybody, not only Deena.

Andrew Catapano:

Have fun with it, good luck [crosstalk]-

Kelly Campbell:

Awesome. Well, today I’m super excited to share the conversation that I had with Deena Ghazarian, Founder and CEO of Austere. She actually joined us virtually previously to talk about how she grew a successful business in the midst of a pandemic, and how the buying journey has transformed especially for their brand at retail. She is a recognized expert and leader in the consumer tech space and her journey has been one that I have personally been following since she walked into our BDS office for a brainstorm session many years ago. With her 25 years of experience in manufacturing, sales and marketing, combined with her passion for a great style, Deena is building Austere into a unique brand within the consumer technology market.

Kelly Campbell:

You absolutely need to go check out Austere’s beautiful product, their aesthetic approach is evident in every aspect of the design from how it looks on the shelf, to its packaging. But in addition to serving as CEO of Austere, Deena is also a managing partner at Target Path LLC, and before founding Austere, she played an integral role in building a number of the world’s most recognizable tech brands, including Monster products and Beats by Dre. And if that wasn’t enough, long list, Deena serves on the Consumer Technology Association Board of Industry Leaders’ subcommittee for diversity and inclusion. So, without further ado, let’s watch what Deena had to say on her business journey. Here she comes. Welcome, [inaudible].

Deena Ghazarian:

Hi, Kelly.

Kelly Campbell:

Hi, how are you doing?

Deena Ghazarian:

I’m well, thank you. Thank you for having me.

Kelly Campbell:

It’s awesome to have you here. I’m so excited to talk to you more about Austere and what you guys are doing over there and just your journey and where you sort of see it going. So, first of all, just tell us about Austere, how did it come about and how has it evolved?

Deena Ghazarian:

Absolutely. So Austere is about… It took about a year to get the brand to kind of come to life. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t even something that I was thinking of doing, you had mentioned in the unbelievable introduction, thank you, Kelly, I’m going to take you with me everywhere I go from now on by the way. As a managing partner in Target Path, we would bring brands to market, that is what we would do. We would support them and help them not only with our strategy and expertise, but even doing the work in a fractional way of bringing those brands to market and interacting with some of the best retailers and distributors all over the world.

Deena Ghazarian:

And at one of the many CES shows a couple years back, a bunch of those retailers sat us down and said, there’s a hole in the market from the space that you did a lot of work in over your career, we really want you to go create a brand to help us drive it.” And I’m going to, “Really?” And then going to, “I might go ahead, I haven’t been in the space for a while and have to do some homework to even see if it’s still something relevant, could we make a difference?” I’m such a big believer in you have to understand what it is the consumer wants and desires. And if you can make something that, in general, solves a problem for them, maybe one they know about or maybe even one that they don’t, then you have something special.

Deena Ghazarian:

But without that, there’s effort that’s really kind of, in my opinion, meaningless. And I’m pretty authentic that way in the way that we talk and address and everything that I’ve ever done. So was pretty meaningful to me that if we were going to build something, had to make a difference. So, we did a lot of homework, and when I mean a lot of homework is, we talked to a lot of consumers, people who know about tech, people who don’t. We spent a lot of time with our retailers who wanted us to bring this brand to life and talking to them and their needs, and also the needs of their consumers, and that’s where we got a lot of access to talking to people live. It really did come back where the consumer was resonating that they’re willing, no matter what actually, they are willing to spend money on something that they believe is adding value to what it is they’re trying to achieve in their experience.

Deena Ghazarian:

And that actually happens even more so in tech. So, what was interesting about that conversation was, “All right, if we do something and we make something that is meaningful and valuable to you, what does that look going to?” And the number one that came through was design, and how critical design was in not only their home and what the home looked going to, and some of the…. There’s a lot of great brands that started bringing hardware to market and really gorgeous and stunning, and it was making a difference for the customer. So, they wanted to see more of that across other categories. So that to us was, “Well, if we were going to do something and leverage the best of innovation and technology, let’s collaborate with design and see what we can bring to the table that makes it even stronger in the accessory space.”

Deena Ghazarian:

And just one of the things in my background that though, yes, I’ve been in sales and tech for a good 20 plus years, I actually started in fashion. So, design has always been in my blood. Yeah, it’s always been in my blood, it’s always been something that there’s just… It’s so important to me. And when you look at the consumer today and what they were telling us, is their home and their experience in their home and the way they look was just as important to them as what they put on themselves to get dressed. And when they actually coordinate within their car, within their look, within their office space, when they would go to work. So, it really made a lot of sense that if we were going to go tell the story, we wanted to leverage design in the process, but deliver some of the best technology at the right price possible. And that’s where we started and then we went into a pandemic, and then [inaudible] everything.

Kelly Campbell:

[inaudible] that way, right?

Deena Ghazarian:

Now, I could not think that correct.

Kelly Campbell:

But it probably worked out in your favor, right?

Deena Ghazarian:

Well, we didn’t know at first. We were scared. I mean, we weren’t even a year selling. So we started shipping product in July of ’19, had product on the floor with our key partners in August and September and October as they would roll out, and then you hit March, you’re going to six months in you’re going to, “Everyone in the world is shutting down.” going to we were in the process of rolling out a key retailer in London, that all went on hold, going to there was just so much that pause, and by the way, rightfully so. And then the next thing you knew, we’re all kind of locked away at home and the consumer being the consumer was going to, “All right, I’m trying to work again, I’m staring at the same four walls every day now. By the way, that is my own home, [inaudible] difference and change it and step up.”

Deena Ghazarian:

And from there, things just changed. We were associated with essential retailers, and because we were associated with essential retailers, we became a very active part of the conversation of the consumer who was literally reinvesting, rightfully so, in their home. And since they couldn’t go on vacation, and they couldn’t spend money on other things, the home became kind of the center of the universe and we got to help tell part of that story for a better experience, which we were thrilled to do.

Kelly Campbell:

Yeah, we call it the stay-at-home economy, right. going to it just became a thing of its own and had a life of its own. So, it’s exciting to hear that you guys have been sort of part of that, building that economy at home. And I know I had those realizations working from home, all of a sudden, all the things that I had at my desk I didn’t have anymore and all of the high-speed cables that I needed, I didn’t have. So, I know we invested personally in a lot of that in our own home. So, I know a lot of other consumers have probably felt that as well [inaudible]-

Deena Ghazarian:

We did, too. But my story was probably slightly different than yours in that you were looking at your desk saying, “Oh, I don’t have this, I don’t have that. I need to invest.” Mine was my husband and I actually attempted to share an office for about, I don’t know, a week. And then I was going to, “All right, I need my own office space.” No. Boom. I think there was a lot of different stories that are comical now, but frustrating at the time [crosstalk], just to figure out, “How am I going to make life work right now with all this craziness?”

Kelly Campbell:

Yeah, absolutely. I think, so that sort of leads me to my next question, what have been some of the biggest challenges, but then also some of the successes? Can you tell us a little bit more about that for your business?

Deena Ghazarian:

I can. I would say, with China shutting down first, from a supply chain and production standpoint, it was extremely challenging. We were fortunate in that I had made some decisions for the business completely irrelevant of the pandemic, but probably more in line with the tariff challenge that had come into play before the pandemic, of kind of switching around factories and had made a decision to pull inventory sooner than I probably would have into the States, which ended up benefiting us and the consumer long term, but it wasn’t because we were smart and strategic, it was almost kind of going to luck that ended up in that position. In a good way.

Deena Ghazarian:

But I will say, these ramifications on supply chain are massive. It’s still going on, just for the average consumer to understand how the supply chain worked before, there was just this beautiful rhythm of containers going back and forth, hitting the right ports that they needed to. And when the pandemic happened, that halted, and containers ended up where they shouldn’t. So, the whole kind of logistics of what that looks going to, has really kind of messed up a lot, not just in freight and getting goods over. When it comes to production and labor and finding the people to make at the levels that were pre-pandemic, it’s been tough. So being there and being there for the consumer, which was critical to us, has really been, “Okay, the people who kind of went into business with us is who we stayed pretty true to as well.” So, we didn’t want to add a lot of people, we wanted to stay with our partners that were servicing the consumer well, so we could actually keep them in stock and make them strong to the consumer, which was really important.

Deena Ghazarian:

And if you look at what goes on in the channels, a lot of retailers are suffering massively because of the pandemic. And so, we just felt going to being a good partner was being there for them and not kind of over distributing ourselves to partner with them. I mean, we looked at things internally about freight and going to lowering some of our levels for our partners, just to make it easy for them, because everyone was in a tough position. And you could have either taken the route of me, me, me, or you could have taken the route of us, us, us. And so that’s kind of the way that we looked at it too, because that’s just as critical to the way we do business as it is to make sure that the consumer is taken care of.

Kelly Campbell:

Yeah. I love that you say that, because it really does feel going to, we all went through this together and-

Deena Ghazarian:

100%.

Kelly Campbell:

… you couldn’t come out of this worrying about just your business. So, it is your partners, it’s all of us together, we’re all invested in this, and trying to come out of it successfully together. So, I love that you said that. It’s interesting that you talk about this sort of shifting channels, and I know supply chain is sort of the behind the scenes that no one even thinks about, or the average consumer definitely doesn’t think about when they’re trying to pull that product off of the shelf. At PDS we’re seeing this shift in the channel dynamic, and it’s not just omnichannel really anymore, it’s more about being present with going to these different channels, and how you connect those together to further your business and then also the business of your partners as well. So maybe you can talk a little bit about the different channels that you currently have going on. You’ve mentioned retail, obviously supply chain, but from online to offline, how are you sort of connecting those together?

Deena Ghazarian:

Yeah. I would say that I went to market with this brand with kind of the group that brought me to the table, if that makes sense. And that catered around a regional specialist that has a sales assisted floor, generally with a salesperson, male, female, who is interested in educating the consumer on what it is they need. And that is where we generally are very successful in the brand and the storytelling and making sure that the customer is given the information they need, but not pressured to purchase. It’s still ultimately their decision, but it’s still really our job to educate, so they know what it is they need. And by the way, that’s not something we just created, if you look at what’s gone online, in regard to e-commerce, it’s exactly what the customer is looking for.

Deena Ghazarian:

That’s why the reviews are so critical. That’s why even today reviews are starting to get a bad rap because they’re not sure how authentic they are and what that looks going to. And by the way, as that as a consumer I completely respect that. So, having different avenues has been critical to our success but also being in an environment where someone could talk to why the brand is special, and the value that you’re getting out of it has definitely allowed us to succeed. I think the customer though, it’s interesting, do think, I mean, there’s been obviously a lot of retail that has changed over the last couple of years and what we were used to in regard to retailers, that just no longer there. I mean, Kelly, as you know, Fry’s has been around forever, just yesterday announced that they’re not. And let me tell you, I know that team top to bottom at that organization, they’re wonderful, amazing people, but the model just didn’t make sense anymore. But I do think the customer isn’t strictly online either.

Deena Ghazarian:

I think the balance of where they want it and how they want it that day, and it could change. So, to your point, as a brand you have to put yourself with the best education tools you can and all of those places for the consumer. So, we look at things, and again, we’re in attachment, so on top of all of that, we’re never primary, going to nobody wakes up and says, “[inaudible 00:25:14] an HDMI cable today.” We go out with the sale of the hardware. So, because of that, you have a harder story to tell. And so, content has become so critical for us, but then leveraging that content into the right training, so whatever the consumer is seeing online to help educate them is exactly the same content that we use to educate the sales team.

Deena Ghazarian:

So, it’s really that same authentic story of, “Here’s the value, here’s the technology that you’re getting from that, here’s a better look and feel that’s bringing that to the table.” And by the way, half of the functionality comes from that better design, and then if you choose to buy it, great, if not, least you’ve been educated to know why you need it and you can make the decision when you need to make the decision for you. So that’s kind of how we look at it and the way that we addressed the channels to do so.

Kelly Campbell:

That’s awesome. I mean, it’s definitely we’re seeing that too. The consumer is really at the center of it, and they just want to be able to shop wherever, whenever, however, right?

Deena Ghazarian:

Right.

Kelly Campbell:

It’s great that you say that, because we’re seeing the same thing here at BDS, which sort of leads me to the next question. How do you see the retail journey shifting in the next one to two years? Are there some big trends that you’re already starting to notice on your [inaudible] end, when it comes to retail and how that’s quickly transforming?

Deena Ghazarian:

I do. So, I would say we as a consumer, and I’m going to collectively kind of throw us all in there, I think we are going to be shopping at traditional retail will still be there, I think we’re all going to be a little hesitant, and I don’t mean from shopping, going to going into a store, but more from an experiential standpoint. And so, I do… Touching things and or getting demos, I think there’s going to be a little hesitant consumer in the stores. And I fully respect that, I’m [inaudible] I guarantee you I will be that way too. So, I do think that video content and the leveraging of QR codes and doing more of that in the store is something I’ve started to see, as well as I think the consumers finally getting used to it. And you can honestly thank restaurants for that, because the only way you get a menu is if you scan a QR code, there’s no way you’re getting handed a menu anymore [crosstalk].

Deena Ghazarian:

So [crosstalk]. Right. So, I do see that already have started in regard to the change at retail, I do see more of what I would call a [clienteling] type of experience probably starting to happen in regard to your private shopper, setting up appointments, kind of getting a little bit more, one-on-one time versus kind of this going to mass shopping experience, I see some of that starting to pop up. And customers feeling safe in that environment, and then in turn getting great one-on-one time with someone who’s educated about the experience.

Deena Ghazarian:

So, I see some of that happening as well. But then for those who are completely going to online only way to go, it is all about your content and more importantly, is it authentic in the way that you’re bringing it across? Because the consumer is not foolish, they can sniff anything that is not legit. And by the way, good for us, because that’s how it should be. It’s interesting to watch how Instagram and Tiktok influences so much, because it is so raw and so authentic. Generally, that’s where you get some of your best results.

Kelly Campbell:

Yeah, I know that I find, when I’m scrolling through my Instagram feed, that I am constantly pausing on the ones that seem real, the content that seems going to they’re telling me there’s their personal story and letting me into their lives. I think it’s really interesting that you say that, that authenticity really catches our eye because we want to feel that connection. And we know when something feels staged or inauthentic, and it’s not that real connection. So, I’ve always said that too, so it’s nice to know that you see the same thing.

Deena Ghazarian:

Yeah, and God if there was ever a time that you really want to connect to somebody, it’s right now. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, I’m sick of connecting with my three, the three other people that live in my household. And that’s crazy to say, as a mom you would think, “Oh, my children I love and adore them.” But oh, my goodness, when it’s the same people every day you need an outlet and that’s why that’s become so critical.

Kelly Campbell:

Absolutely. Well, so tell us, maybe you can give us a little sneak peek, but what is next for Austere? What can we look forward to, can you give us a little hint of what’s to come?

Deena Ghazarian:

Absolutely. We are going to stay focused on the home, it’s kind of what brought us into the space, and I think we’re going to stay true to it. I think there’s a lot of opportunity of our three categories we do business with, we break it down. Cables is kind of going to the nervous system, is what sends the information from the source to the TV or basically from anywhere in your body to the brain to be able to process, so you need cables, cables are pretty critical, and so we’re going to offer some of the better 8k as it continues to develop, gaming obviously leading a lot of that, but have longer lengths and things going to that, that are coming into play on cable. But power and clean, which are other two divisions, are probably where we’ll see the most growth. What’s interesting about power, and the consumer, was never really taught I think this well. And by the way, the reason why I feel confident in saying that is I’ve sold power for 20 years and I was never training on this. So, I can only imagine, when you start your own company, you kind of look twice and you’re going to, “Oh, my gosh. I really have to talk about this.”

Deena Ghazarian:

Surge protection, if you buy the right search protection, has a certain amount of joules, and the joules are really what absorbs the energy from a surge. So, if it’s a brownout or blackout, a lightning strike, I know lightning strikes are the most dramatic ones that everybody knows about. Those little [inaudible] that go on in your home all day long when the air conditioning kicks on, or when the heater kicks on, those are those little surges that that device is saving of your components, every time. It takes kind of that little bit of a hit in order to save the components and/or the lengthen the life for as much as you would have paid for that product. And it’s limited to the amount of joules and those joules run out. And when those joules run out, when you get those surges, if there’s nothing there to take the hit, the device potentially could heat up and/or melt and/or catch on fire.

Kelly Campbell:

We don’t want that.

Deena Ghazarian:

No. And so it’s one of those things were going to when we really started digging into power and said, “Okay, how are we going to educate on the story?” And then you really realize what’s going on? I was going to “All right, I need to change every power device in my house” Because going to how long is the one besides my bedside that’s attached to my bed that has fabric that can catch on fire going to that? How long has that one been sitting there?” Okay, if you can’t remember, I guarantee you it’s been 10 years. And most of these devices really aren’t even set up to last more than going to three. But nobody’s educated. So not only are we coming out with better products that will, design wise, will sit better in a bedroom or your kid’s room and/or a home office or kitchen, we’re really still trying to continue the education of why you need power in order to protect your products, how it extends the warranty of the goods that you buy, and then more importantly, how to keep yourself safe.

Kelly Campbell:

Yeah, make your family safe.

Deena Ghazarian:

So, there’s a lot of cool going to slim, much tighter power that you’ll see that comes out. And then on our clean product, the antibacterial solution that we make in our current goods, have been a lifesaver for the pandemic. So, we’re looking at leveraging other products such as a wipe that can be leveraged on any of your devices that is biodegradable, we’re really big into sustainability at Austere as well so we’re looking at biodegradable materials so if it gets thrown away, that it actually could dissolve itself after about 12 to 18 months, so it doesn’t impact the environment. And then we’re looking at appliance clean as well. So, you could clean with that antibacterial, the stainless-steel surfaces that are throughout everybody’s kitchen and [inaudible] glass top, table granite. So, some of those things that are just further catering to the home and the experience and doing it with beautiful looking designed product that really has the amazing functionality to back it up.

Kelly Campbell:

Wow. I’m excited for some of those products personally.

Deena Ghazarian:

Thank you. Make sure you get to test those out.

Kelly Campbell:

For sure. Definitely. Well, so many great insights today, Deena. I just can’t thank you enough for joining us. And it’s a pleasure to have you on here and just share your journey and where you’ve been and where you’re going with Austere. I can’t wait to see what comes out of the next year for you guys. Hope will be very exciting.

Deena Ghazarian:

Thanks, Kelly. Just going to say it’s been a wild ride. I tease all the time we help, so for a lot of my career, I’ve helped bring brands to market and if you were…. And when you do for a while and you’re going to, “Okay, great. I have so much experience.” And then you go into a tariff war and a pandemic, you’re going to, “All right, I’ll just set all experiences because this one is probably by far worse thing that happened to me last year. [inaudible]. So, we’re thrilled to be here still, and trying to make a difference. So, we couldn’t be more [inaudible].

Kelly Campbell:

Well, thank you so much for joining. And we’ll see you later.

Deena Ghazarian:

Thank you so much. Appreciate it, Kelly. Thanks for doing this for the industry, too. It’s fantastic.

Kelly Campbell:

No problem, We’re excited about it. So, we can’t wait to do more of these.

Deena Ghazarian:

Great. All right. Have a great day.

Kelly Campbell:

Thanks. Wow, so many wonderful things. That was great. Now, I know we’re not seeing your camera for a second, Andrew. But I can hear you, so I hope everybody else can hear you. But while we’re getting Andrew’s camera back up a little bit, one of the great things about working with Austere for that interview is that they also gave us a little gift to share with you all today. So, for all of our viewers right here, you can get 20% off Austere products, with the code DiscoverAustere, all one word, we’re going to throw it up at some point in the stream, but DiscoverAustere, will also put it in the chat in big caps as well. So just visit their website to redeem and pick a product that you going to and use the promo code there. So anyways, from there while we still get Andrew’s video back up, and I guess it’s just me now, so now you have to deal with me. I’m actually going to introduce Josh here until we can get Andrew back on the video here. There he is, he made it back.

Andrew Catapano:

Hi.

Kelly Campbell:

[inaudible].

Andrew Catapano:

Kelly, sorry about that. I was chomping at the bit as you always know I am in order to kind of talk a little bit about Deena, but can we just spend a second, though, and talk a little about what Deena just said, because I think there’s some amazing nuggets in there. And in the wake of this pandemic, I think it’s become critically obvious how savvy customers are, and how they can dictate the flow of our brand, or what company should do and conform to, right?

Kelly Campbell:

Yeah, absolutely.

Andrew Catapano:

Adapter or die, that’s the key. Adapt or die. And I tell you what, that was a TED talk on how you can pivot, how you can adapt, and how your customers can ultimately find the direction that your brand should go. And I think she’s an amazing talent and it looks to be an amazing leader. First time I’ve ever met Deena, even virtually. Let’s talk for a second though, before we bring Josh on, because I do have some tests for Josh that I’m going to put him through. But I want to talk for a second about adapting or dying and about something my mother told me. going off script here for a second. My mother told me that it was not about digital marketing, it wasn’t about video first solutions, it was about just the way we interact with people. I believe it’s important here. My mom told me, “We teach people how to treat us.”

Andrew Catapano:

And I’ve said that before in meetings and leadership calls and we’re talking about brands, we teach people how to treat us. I might just put something up if I might, and I know you’re a baker, so I know you’re going to going to this.

Kelly Campbell:

I am.

Andrew Catapano:

There is a new place out in Columbus, Ohio, which we are, go bucks, called Crumble. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it.

Kelly Campbell:

Yeah.

Andrew Catapano:

So, let we show something on my screen here, if you can see this, if you can see that what that is right there, that is the ordering system at Crumble. And when we talk about creating a seamless connected commerce version in between the physical and the digital, this is how you order. And we teach people how to treat us. So, when I go into Crumble now, I make this order, it’s very simple. I step up to the counter, and I see this. So, here’s what I see now. That’s it, right? Again, point of sale system here, nobody takes my order anymore. They take it, it comes up on the screen, it comes out in this unbelievable packaging. But what are they doing, Kelly? What are they doing?

Andrew Catapano:

They’re teaching me, I’m teaching them how to treat me and they’re teaching me how to treat them. So now when I go and leave with my handheld device, I’m used to the same experience. It’s a seamless experience. I bring my phone in, it connects to the point of sale, I can pass my order, it keeps my loyalty and then when I leave, same ordering, I just show up. Now I got to tell you, parking lot full people, just running out [crosstalk] vending boxes of cookies to people, because [inaudible] and it’s an unbelievable, unforgettable experience.

Andrew Catapano:

Why do I bring that up? Because I believe what Deena had just talked about, about adaptation, I believe, about teaching people how to treat us, so adapting to the virtual world, adapting to live selling, and someone who’s going to show us how they’ve adapted, and they’ve pivoted, is our friend Josh Looper, who is teaching people how to treat Motorola. And I think it’s an unbelievable segue into the great work that he’s doing. So, tell us a little bit about Josh, and what he can offer us, Kelly, on this show, and we’ll bring him in. I’m going to go, I’m going to test him. [inaudible] [crosstalk]-

Kelly Campbell:

I know you well.

Andrew Catapano:

… but here we go.

Kelly Campbell:

I think it’s so wonderful that we get to really showcase what our BDS’s are doing here and doing in their everyday roles. And Josh Looper is one of those that we have had our eye on for the past year, he is the national trainer and content creator for the Motorola program at BDS. And he’s really shifted from conducting in person trainings, what we always thought was never going away, to now recreating that experience online, through virtual trainings, live streams, you name it. He was also one of our employees of the year for field in 2020, and deservedly so. So, we’re going to bring him on, and I know Andrew, you’ve got a lot to ask him. So, I’m going let him [inaudible]-

Andrew Catapano:

Hey, Josh. It’s you and me buddy.

Josh Looper:

Hey, how’s it going?

Andrew Catapano:

How are you, buddy? Always good to see you, Josh. And I’m going to jump right into it because the story of 2021 is pivoting, the story that we just heard from Deena and from my own diatribe in my LinkedIn articles, and Sean is highly competitive, adapt or die. So, Josh, tell us what you were doing a year ago, and what you’re doing today? Because you’re the epitome of adaptation.

Josh Looper:

Okay, so I’ve been a modal agent for about three and a half years with Motorola, we would go to stores and train in our specific regions. What I did a year ago was one of the coolest jobs ever, I got to drive the Motorola van. It was an experiential marketing program where I drive the van around the country, stop at different locations, Best Buy’s, Verizon, things going to that, and I would get them excited about the products. It was awesome. So super cool to be able to share that excitement about each product without having to… Sorry, I got a lot of stuff coming into my ears here. So, it’s super awesome to be able to share those products, and that’s what I did, going to I drove the van around the country, got them all excited and then COVID hit. And then when COVID hit, I was going to, what am I going to do?”

Josh Looper:

They were going to send me back to my market, in a bag, oh, no. My super fun, amazing job, traveling the country seeing all the national parks is no longer here. But now they asked me to, “We need to do this pivot, we need to switch people to where we can learn online due to the pandemic.” So, what I did was, I started doing webinars, I showed them that I could do webinars and get excitement around each product through a visual version. This is basically exactly how to in a real situation. I’d have the phone, I would have it here, I’d be on a live stream just going to this, and I’d be going to, “Hey, check this thing out. You can do these cool features, like chop chop [crosstalk]”-

Andrew Catapano:

I’m going to hit you. I’m going to hit you just like I did in rehearsal.

Josh Looper:

Okay.

Andrew Catapano:

We’re going to do real world, real life scenario. I’m customer, Josh. All right, or I am an advocate in Motorola, I’m a store associate and I get hit with this question all the time. First of all, who didn’t have a Motorola Razr. Oh, brings me back, right? But now, we got the new Motorola Razr, Josh. I don’t know, man. I’m looking for a phone, and guys, this happens real time. So, if you’re listening at home, or on the go or in the car, don’t listen in the car. But just listen, don’t look at the car. But if you’re at the job, this is what happens. So, someone will call in and go, “So I’m looking at this new Motorola Razr, looks unbelievable.” But now I’m thinking, so I’ve got a traditional experience, right Josh? I’m online, looking at Amazon, looking at a direct consumer Motorola, I’m looking at thirdparty.com, who cares where I am? I’m looking at this Motorola Razr, and I go, “All right, the price point, maybe I’m a little nervous about it.”

Andrew Catapano:

The I click a button, and Josh helped me make that decision. Help me make that decision. So now I’m live, I’m live with Josh and I go on comparing phones, I got the budget, you’re comparable. Tell me why I should buy Motorola phone over somebody else, because I don’t know what to do.

Josh Looper:

Motorola has been around for almost 100 years, 1928. They made the very first cell phone call, the very first technology in this world. They’ve been creating this for a long time, they know where it comes from, what needs to be researched and developed to make something special. The Motorola Razr was an amazing piece of technology that everybody had to have. So, with this, they took around 10 years of research and development to perfect a piece of technology to make something different. So, you don’t have to just, and I’m just saying this, like the same slab of technology in your hand, you’re going to grab something special that stands out from the crowd and still gives you your daily use, okay.

Andrew Catapano:

Josh, I see it folds, I don’t mean to cut you off real time, by the way guys, this happens. I see it fold, can I see a seam there? It’s a pretty…

Josh Looper:

That’s the best part about this is the Lenovo technology and Motorola technology built in this allows you to close it and open it without having a giant seam in the middle. That takes time, and that takes education and learning and engineering to build something like that. So instead of just giving you a piece of technology, yes, it’s going to cost a little bit more for something new to the industry that no other brand can offer you. That is where this comes from. A quick view display that’s going to give you watching your TV shows, connecting with people, phone calls and text messages, all from the front without even having to open it up. You just go-

Andrew Catapano:

I have to go work overseas, I got to travel overseas, pretty straightforward.

Josh Looper:

Universally unlocked.

Andrew Catapano:

What?

Josh Looper:

Universally unlocked. Yep, you’re just working on whatever you want.

Andrew Catapano:

Josh, fantastic. That’s why you’re good at what you do. But for the people watching, that’s real, you can’t replicate that. You cannot replicate that through a traditional digital experience. So, the combination of connecting that commerce between an expert, and your.com. And then taking that experience in store, which we’ll talk about later, and experiential, which we’ll talk about later with Lenetta, that’s fantastic. Josh, because I know you’re a live streaming expert, and I know a lot of people trying to get into it, so we just did a live call there we pretended, it was fine, but that’s exactly what it looks going to. But they’re also doing a lot of live stream. Tell us a little bit about what the top three tips are and if a brand is ready to enter the world of live streaming, which is what we’re doing right now, give us a little bit the inside story buddy.

Josh Looper:

When it comes down to what… The way I look at it is not everybody’s going to know the technical side right off the bat. It’s all about having the energy and the brand passion for the product. That’s number one. If you choose somebody that has the tech, but gets up there and are like, “I just don’t… You know what, this is the phone.” You have to have somebody that’s going to energize and excite and educate the customer. And that’s first and foremost. So, guys, pick somebody on your team, find somebody new, it doesn’t matter, that has that energy and passion around your product. That is number one.

Josh Looper:

Number two, I’d say make sure that you give them the time if they’re not super educated on all of the tech side of it. Just be like, “Hey, take some time, learn the products, learn how to use the cameras, learn how to live stream using the open broadcasting software.” There’s a lot of free stuff out there, and there’s a lot of paid stuff. I use the free stuff, it’s easy and it works.

Andrew Catapano:

OBS, right? That’s what you’re using.

Josh Looper:

OBS, yep. I use OBS. Actually, right now I’m using a Panasonic Lumix camera, you can connect that to a computer using a cam link or several other even bigger things. That makes it’s easy for me to have a professional high-quality camera without breaking a budget if I needed to. Or you can make it even easier for companies like, “I’m not buying an $800 camera.” Guess what you have in your hand, almost everybody, this guy will work for everybody as a webcam. So, you’re not having to use like my webcam on my gaming computer is awful. But this is amazing. I have 108-megapixel camera, it works great. I would say that’s another thing, is making sure you have the product demo stuff ready. A backdrop, like I have my HelloMoto here, I like to use this, and just putting them in the mix and saying, “Go for it.” I’m on amazon.com sometimes with the show that I run, and I’ve actually gotten sales from me just being up there and talking about phones, “Like check it out, look what I’m doing.” Getting excited.

Andrew Catapano:

I don’t get sold very often, you’re selling me right now. I’m not just saying that, but I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, and I want to talk about that for a second. People talk about people, process, and technology, right? And that’s what you have to look at when you’re looking to do anything innovative. Look at your people, look at your process, and technology. I think what you hit the nail on the head on is, and we talked a little bit about process and of course the technology which got into, but the people. I’ll tell you one thing that I don’t tell a lot of people, as a baseball player in my younger career, my younger life, and I would look at the best teammates and I go, “Well, I’m glad you’re on our team. I’m glad you’re lucky.” I’ll say that to you, Josh, I’m glad you’re on our team, because I will tell you your passion is infectious.

Andrew Catapano:

But I think your dead-on right, if you could have the best tech the best process but with the wrong people, not going to work. And you’re out there training, you use your live streaming to train, to try to get people to do as best you can, because today you can thank your mother for that, but some of it to me, but you’re doing your best to use this livestream to train people to try to be this, right?

Josh Looper:

Yep.

Andrew Catapano:

That’s amazing.

Josh Looper:

Hundreds of people. So especially let’s say, like last week I did a webinar with Cricket Wireless people hopped on and I had to share with them and excite them about one of our phones, our Moto G Power. If they didn’t have me, they might not be… As well as we don’t have a Moto agent in every single part of the country. So, it’s not, and in some of those little, smaller towns across the country, that’s what I did with the Moto van. But guess what, the Moto vans’ gone? So how do we reach those smaller towns that have those stores, whatever carrier it is, to get them educated on our product? Because all we want is to be able to say, “Hey, just share with them this device and how it has an up to three-day battery on it. What other device is going to give you that?”

Josh Looper:

And if they don’t know, then yeah, they’re just going to like, “Well, just get this phone because it’s what you’re used to.” No, we want to educate them so that they share what could be the better product for them. And they can have the best experience out there.

Andrew Catapano:

Yeah, I got to tell you, we got to make the show longer, because I could talk to you for forever. I know we’ve got Lenetta from Experiential waiting in the wings, I do not want to miss the opportunity to give her as much time as she needs, because there’s going to be some great stuff there. But Josh, I have a couple more questions, but I do want to close it out with one, because I know you hosted… You’ve been very involved with a top tech solution, which is that kind of on demand video concierge which we just talked about that assist with the sale. Tell me a little bit about that on demand direct consumer video, just wrap it up for me with some of the biggest wins and some of the coolest things that you’ve seen.

Josh Looper:

I mean, some of the coolest things from top tech is just having that customer call in, sometimes, right now we don’t have a setup for them to have video, we have video. And we’re able to share with them, just like we were in the store but even easier because you don’t have all the different things going on the store like the rep gets busy or this. You just have your phone there, and you’re able to say, “Hey, check this out, I’m going to flip the camera.” And boom, you get to see a live demo instantly, not on a live stream. You get a personal one-on-one with someone to educate them, to be educated on the device. So that’s where it comes from me, I’ve gotten more sales from some of the things that we’ve done with live streams and tap-tech.

Josh Looper:

We’ve gotten different opportunities to just educate that consumer because they might not ever know about half the features that we have on our phone, or they might just be looking at as going to it’s not the same as what I’m used to, I’m not going to purchase that. All they need is that little bit of extra education. And that’s where I think tap tech really makes a difference is there’s people that don’t walk in the door, they don’t walk into stores anymore. And on a normal day, they would not walk in the stores. And now we get to hit those customers that want to be educated but don’t go to stores.

Andrew Catapano:

Josh, I can sit here and talk to you for an hour longer. Fantastic. And I will end it with, I am glad you’re on our team. Great work with the Moto brand, great work being innovative, an unbelievable job pivoting. With that, goodbye, Josh, and we’re going to welcome another person who has pivoted amazingly in 2020 and beyond. But let’s bring Kelly back in here, we’ll do a little introduction of our next guest. Amazing job, isn’t he?

Kelly Campbell:

So much energy, I want to bottle it up and take it with me everywhere I can go. He’s just amazing to chat with and such great insights on live streaming. I’ve even learned a few things from him. And yeah, we could chat with him all day long, I think.

Andrew Catapano:

I know we’re going to run late but for those of you who are with us, and we’ve reached an all-time high here in the live streaming, I think we’ve got some amazing numbers. But I believe you guys are all hanging on for our next guest. Please stay with us, it’s going to go a little bit over, but I’m telling you right now, she is amazing pivoter, outstanding experiential marketer, a better person. But let’s talk a little bit about what she’s doing before we bring her on, but Kelly, have that.

Kelly Campbell:

Yeah. Well, live experiences share a lot in common with virtual experiences, which is why today we have Lenetta Pesotini, who is VP of MAG, BDS’s experiential team, on to talk through the journey that she has just gone through over the past year and going into this year to develop a brand new, out of this world, virtual event solution for brands such as Microsoft, Facebook, Google, you name it, she’s done it. So, she’s just has this unique passion for events. When you talk to her, and you’ll get to see this and experience it firsthand, you’ll see her passion. I love chatting with her, I get so many ideas just in our conversations. And she just always has a pulse on what’s new and on the horizon to come out. So, the other great thing about Lenetta is she’s also a BDS annual award winner for 2020, having received what is called the Bulldog award.

Kelly Campbell:

Now this was awarded to an employee that just powered through quite a year, and every year we give it to an employee that just is like a bulldog, they push through everything, they keep going. They come out even stronger than before. So, with that, let’s bring Lenetta on, bring her in. We’re excited to have her.

Andrew Catapano:

Lenetta Pesotini, I brought the little pez dispenser for you, there it is, while you’re filled up with a lot better treats than this little guy is, so welcome. Welcome to the show.

Lenetta Pesotini:

Andrew, you couldn’t have gotten a better looking pez dispenser, you picked [inaudible], really?

Andrew Catapano:

[inaudible] shaking his head. Lenetta, I’m going to jump right in, because I want the guest to hear from you. And I just want to put my pen down, some people say, “I know you’re not a rock star.” But they go, “We’re not worthy.” The old Wayne’s world. I say that with the most sincere sincerity that I can, I have no idea how we are still talking after the year, you guys should have just had an experience, where the whole idea is the social personal connection and the ability that you guys had to pivot and to be something that is just amazing. Is absolutely short of, you won the Bulldog award but outside of that, you and your company are nothing short of amazing of what you’ve been able to do.

Andrew Catapano:

So, I’m just going to jump into it and say, you faced all that uphill battle, COVID hit, 2020 was going to be the year of experiential, of all this work teed up, all of these events, all these shows, all this everything. Slam. What did it feel like? Did you were going to pivot? How were you going to pivot? Take us through that moment and what how you power through it.

Lenetta Pesotini:

Oh, man. Andrew, have you ever been punched in the gut so hard where you like blackout for a second and you lose your breath? Yeah [crosstalk]. I was going to say I never have, but I think that finding out that COVID was hitting and changing our industry, that it was that exact moment. For a moment a shock, uncertainty, where do we go from here, but then just like getting the wind knocked out of you, you recover, you quickly recover, and you move on from there. And that’s exactly what we did at MAG. And I want to make sure that I say you guys did that amazing tee up about the Bulldog award. But in my eyes, that wasn’t just me, that was the entire team, the experiential team. Everyone was about that in 2020. So that’s what we had to [crosstalk]… Go ahead.

Andrew Catapano:

… because I’m not going to disclose anything, I know we’re a privately held company, and all that kind of stuff, but I am obviously a good friend and a partner with your leader, who’s Jonathan Margolis, and we review budgets and everything. You guys are out of the gate, already exceeding budgets and projections for 2021. Which are hands down unbelievable. How do you doing it to pivot and create memorable experiences when you just can’t be there anymore?

Lenetta Pesotini:

Yeah. Well, I think you we needed to lead into what we knew, Andrew. So, our team is really good at producing events, we’re really good at getting creative and theming and helping brands tell stories with that theme. And we’re really good at developing content, either videos or decks presentations, so we leaned into that. But then we also had to lean into what we didn’t know and set a foundation. So, like step one, how do you produce a virtual event? I’m kind of kidding, but not really, I’ve never produced a virtual before, sitting here now that I’ve produced 28 since last March. How do you work to build content that’s going to be engaging and compete with everything else that consumers or your audience has going on at home?

Lenetta Pesotini:

And how do you train your speakers to be able to deliver that content in a way where they are not seeing anyone’s reactions, and they’re not hearing their feedback, but they still need to learn that message. And if you’re doing breakouts for trainings, how are you making sure that they’re hands on and engaging and replicating that in person experience? And really two things, Andrew, I think that we did really well, to kind of set that foundation bringing us into 2021, is we acted quickly. Brands couldn’t wait to see what could be done, they had to do what they thought should be done. And we’re lucky that we had clients take that leap of faith with us.

Lenetta Pesotini:

Within a month, we were working with some of our clients, we were supposed to be doing this huge training event at the Bellagio in Vegas, and that was kind of that, “Oh, crap” moment when I got the call from [Herve], “We’re canceling that entire contract, but we’re still doing the event on a platform that we know. And we want to send the experience home to everyone.” So, within that month, we were doing experience kits, shipping out to everyone to bring the experience home to them. We were also trying to figure out how we’re filling that void. 2020 was about filling the void we’re all filling. If we’ve learned anything from 2020, it’s that people crave interaction and experience and people need people.

Lenetta Pesotini:

So how do we develop that and how do we think about that as we were thinking about the events that we’re planning, and we actually introduced our solution, Virtually You, which was bringing folks together in a world, as avatars, where it was the closest thing to an in-person experience. You could be walking past someone and stuff and have a conversation, you could see people raising their hands, you could get into those breakout rooms. And we filled the void while knowing that void that we had to fill up pretty quickly.

Andrew Catapano:

Yeah. I was happy because I did a couple of virtual events, there wasn’t a setting that said, “Add COVID pounds.” I appreciate you guys not putting that on there, otherwise my wife would have made me tick that box. So, I got to be pre-COVID Andrew through the virtual events. Kelly, I think you have a question.

Kelly Campbell:

Yeah. Well, it’s easy to reminisce about the past and about the year that you’ve had. Obviously, it turned into a banner year, but I’m more of a future forward kind of gal. So, I really want to talk about like what is this landscape look like going forward this year and even beyond? How are you guys evolving your strategies to accommodate for the rapid change in this events space, especially within this year, where we’re starting to open, already, in some places. How are you guys dealing with that and adjusting as you go along?

Lenetta Pesotini:

Yeah. Well, when you’re creating an event, we need to be tapped into what is authentically true for our audience, right? So, in a way that people can feel it, that increases the likelihood that people are going to carry it with them after that event ends. So, with that, we need to think about this past year and the habits that we’ve adopted. I mean, you could truly do anything from sitting on your couch wearing your pajamas, which I’m definitely guilty. Instant access to content, we develop this on demand mentality where you can get anything at the snap of your fingers. So, we need to lean into those habits and make sure that we’re carrying those as we start to go back to in real life, but I think the biggest thing is, you cannot stand still, or stay in your comfort zone. Things that were highly successful at the beginning of the pandemic, they now feel stale, and customers or audiences, they’re moving on, and you have to continue to innovate.

Andrew Catapano:

We haven’t decided, Lenetta, whether pivot or hybrid is going to be the most used word in 2021. But we do know that event marketers are calling out the fact that a hybrid solution will be absolutely paramount for experiential events and strategies in 2021. What do you guys currently doing to bridge that gap?

Lenetta Pesotini:

Yeah. It was funny earlier on, when you were saying that pivot was the word of 2020, or I’m mute was the word of 2020. Hybrid is definitely the word of 2021, and quite frankly I’m already sick of hearing it, but I guess I need to get over that [inaudible]. But it’s true. Right now, everyone is talking about three approaches for experiential marketing, virtual, in person, and hybrid in person. And personally, I think that that solo in person needs to be knocked out of the trail, because you could not do an in-person event without a virtual overlay right now. I think that the pandemic accelerated the experiential industry, by 10 years, virtual was always a thought, but it was never really a necessity, or people were scared to do it. But now it’s a must. You cannot plan in person without that virtual. And you said in your question, Andrew, that 68% of event marketers reported, that was the 68% reported a hybrid solution will play a key role in planning.

Lenetta Pesotini:

But what was interesting here is I was reading an article the other day, and at 86, I think it, because the numbers were flipped, 86% of people are interested in attending a blended experience. And that’s huge. And that’s a bigger number because planning an event for both in person and at home audiences is going to impact the experience overall, so your audience needs to be on board with that.

Andrew Catapano:

As you the, you know we run sister divisions of digital and experiential and I told your boss the other day, I said, “As long as there’s a digital sprinkle in all of these, we need some of that charter too, okay.” So, hybrid has got to have a total digital overlay, right?

Kelly Campbell:

Absolutely. Actually, that brings me to one of the questions that I wanted to ask you, Lenetta, which is, we’re really here to talk about connected commerce today overall, and this is just one aspect of it. So, let’s talk about how important is it for your events, whether they’re in person, virtual or both, to have those multiple marketing touch points, the digital pieces, everything like that? I know you guys are layering a lot of that in into your event strategies.

Lenetta Pesotini:

Yeah. It’s not only important, Kelly, it’s a must. When you’re planning an event, you need to bring the FOMO, and I think my parents are watching, so FOMO means fear of missing out, and-

Kelly Campbell:

Thanks for explaining that. Just in place.

Lenetta Pesotini:

But how are you getting in front of your customer before the event to get them excited, to tease it? How are you resonating with them on site to make that lasting impression? And what are you giving them to take home so that they can continue to follow the brand, post about it, etc. For example, say that you are trying to launch a new TV, and you want to get your retail sales associates excited. So, what is your teaser? Sending store kits that are branded, the-shirts, lanyards that they could wear, something for the back of their phone, so it’s in everyone’s faces. What’s that lasting experience?

Lenetta Pesotini:

Hopefully, when we get back to in person, it’s a mobile truck that is driving to every single one of those stores so they could get that hands on experience with the product before it’s even in store. And if we’re looking at a virtual spin of that, tap-a-tech, like Josh was talking about earlier, having them call in to speak to a rep live so that they could get that hands on involvement. And then whether it is the mobile truck or whether it is tap-a-tech, also getting something in front of them that they’re taking home, they are scanning a QR code, and an AI experience is allowing them to take that new TV that you’re promoting, they see it, a video’s playing about the best products, what they could do about it, the best features. And that’s when you’re developing a fan. And that excitement that you’re resonating with those [inaudible] is then going to be relayed back to the customers that they interact with.

Andrew Catapano:

Sometimes I forget we’re on a live show and then I just want a car to start working meetings with you. So, I’m going to jump to the last question. What if did a QR code that was basically the VIP after party, but it was only a digital offer when you left an in-person event? So, for an intimate VIP party, take this QR code, scan it with your phone, and it goes off in an hour, but you got to leave with it. I’m going to give that one [crosstalk]-

Lenetta Pesotini:

Great ideas right here. [crosstalk].

Andrew Catapano:

I’m going to give that one to you for free.

Kelly Campbell:

Sign me up for the test.

Lenetta Pesotini:

[inaudible]-

Kelly Campbell:

I will be there [inaudible].

Andrew Catapano:

Basically, it’s your little path, but it’s a QR code. Anyway, I’m not going to embarrass myself trying to bring experiential ideas to the master. But as I said, I’m always trying to get in there with a little bit of digital. So, let’s go to my last wrap up question for you, Lenetta, and I thank you so much for hanging out with us and giving us a little extra time out of your day. But let’s go into the results. Because we’ve already talked about, I had another question here teed up about what they are going to look like, how will it open back up, but I think he talked about them being hybrid, I think he talked about being a blend of both. So, I’d like to spend a little bit more time on the key takeaways. So, we always promise our audience with the event you’re seeing lately, what’s working, what’s not, and what takeaways can you share that you can leave with our audience here?

Lenetta Pesotini:

Yeah, absolutely. I think the biggest thing is that you need to try something new. As I said before, 2020 people are fatigued, you do not want to bring that mentality into 2021. But with that being said, you need to fill the void, not only, we talked about that for 2020 but there is a serious void for 2021 right now as well, right? As we start to see people get vaccinated and things get back to normal, we still need to deliver right now. So, introducing something new, that’s going to have longevity. What are you getting in front of your brands now? Or as a brand, what are you getting in front of your customers, your team? What habit are you creating at the beginning of 2021 that you can carry through to that in person event. So definitely introducing something new.

Lenetta Pesotini:

I think they will also need to understand the new hierarchy of attendee needs. So, what I mean by that is, if you think back to pre-COVID, planning an event, content was king, then came networking, then came entertainment. Kind of flipped on its head right now. So, like something you need to plan for is a meaningful connection, people are going to be craving that, you can’t do anything that’s going to be a Zoom call, or something that’s not meaningful and purposeful. Entertainment, I think it’s too. We over entertained in 2020 to make up for virtual, and we need to keep that energy up. And then content is third because yes, of course, the end goal is to deliver on your objectives, but if you don’t land meaningful connection and entertainment people won’t pay attention to your [inaudible]. And I think that… Oh, sorry, I have one more point. That’s okay.

Kelly Campbell:

Give us one more, Lenetta, give us one more.

Lenetta Pesotini:

With the content, even though it’s las, you need to do a reset. You need to understand how everything was being delivered in 2020 and you can’t go back to the normal keynote, breakout, rinse and repeat. You need to adapt what worked, those nuggets that worked in your revamp of 2020, and carry them through. So shorter sessions will prevail, shorter interactions will prevail.

Kelly Campbell:

Yeah.

Andrew Catapano:

I Call this out, and Lenetta, I want to thank you because I go back to something Deena said, I go back to what I post in the LinkedIn article, I go back to what we talked to, the adapter fail, we know that. We need to find discover new ways to engage our customers. And I think I love the fact that you talked about content. I love the fact that you brought up the shampoo reference, which I love, which is rather wash, rinse, repeat, that those the dough playbook is out the door and we have to find a way to reengage our customers. Again, congratulations on the Bulldog award. Thank you for staying with us over time here. And Lenetta, you know I think the world of you, but I am so proud of what you guys are doing. And I wouldn’t wish success on anybody else. Thank you.

Lenetta Pesotini:

Thank you, guys, so much. Thanks for having me.

Kelly Campbell:

Yeah. So great.

Andrew Catapano:

Kelly, fantastic. And I know we’re over time, so let’s get through the wrap up and get these get people on with their day so they can start applying some of these nuggets. Shall we?

Kelly Campbell:

Absolutely. Well, as many of you know, BDS, we launched this HypeHour in the thick of the pandemic last year, and we’re doing it all again this year with a whole new slate of conversations just like the one we had today. So, in the coming months, stay tuned for three more live streams happening this year, once a quarter. The first one is going to be about the rebirth of the store environment and what that means for retail, and then how to creatively influence sales with digital and social. And then the last one on the bucket list is creating the ultimate connection with brand advocacy and experiential. These are all the things you’re going to need in your connected commerce playbook and we’re going through all of them this year. So, I’m super excited about that.

Kelly Campbell:

Plus, we have a new spin off of the HypeHour. Yes, we do, on YouTube, called hype bytes, we will actually be chatting with industry experts, business leaders, longtime media connections, and we get the scoop on how they’re leading their businesses through this new age of retail sales and marketing. And the ideas that you get to walk away feeling just even more inspired to take action in your own business. So, keep following us on social for more updates around those and when you can tune in for our next HypeHour coming up in the late spring or early summer.

Andrew Catapano:

With that, Kelly, you know it’s always a pleasure to spend this time with you. I am completely thankful for our guests, Deena, Josh, Lenetta, and for all the hard work that the people do behind the scenes, Mitch, Rachel, Kate Kelly, everybody, thank you. I’d going to leave you with three final thoughts if I might, don’t forget from this episode, your customer dictates what you should do is a brand. Don’t forget that. Okay. It’s going to a flowing river. You can’t control it, you can only hope to shift it, all right. But it’s coming and you have to adapt or fail. That’s number two. And number three and thank you Miss Friedman for telling me this. We teach people how to treat us. Start teaching your customer how to treat you, but don’t allow someone who says, Lenetta made the statement, “My mom and my dad are on the call what FOMO means.”

Andrew Catapano:

She tells them once, she can use the word again and they’ll get it. Adapt or fail. We teach people how to treat us and our customer is the voice we need to be listening to and don’t forget to listen to it. With that, thank you all for tuning in. Kelly, always a pleasure to spend this time with you.

Kelly Campbell:

Yes.

Andrew Catapano:

Goodbye from Hype, everybody.

Kelly Campbell:

Thank you. Bye everybody.