Building a Brand for Today's Customers

Michael Katz of mParticle sits down to discuss brand building, evolving company values, and going remote.

While it might be con­ven­tion­al wis­dom to think of com­pa­ny val­ues as carved in stone, Michael Katz, CEO and Co-Founder at mPar­ti­cle, thinks that com­pa­ny val­ues have to evolve as a com­pa­ny scales.

mPar­ti­cle is an exam­ple of Michael’s ideas in action. It has helped brands to holis­ti­cal­ly man­age cus­tomer data along the entire prod­uct and cus­tomer life­cy­cle, whilst at the same time the ways that cus­tomers engage with the brand — and are tracked while doing so — have evolved due to changes in tech­nol­o­gy and con­sumer behav­ior. mPar­ti­cle offers a plat­form to help its clients deliv­er great cus­tomer expe­ri­ences and accel­er­ate growth.

Michael recent­ly stopped by The Brag­Wor­thy Cul­ture Pod­cast and we took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to hear his per­spec­tives on brand build­ing, not just for his clients, but for mPar­ti­cle itself.

Brand Building Today

Michael start­ed the con­ver­sa­tion by look­ing at how brands were built in the past. A prod­uct was cre­at­ed, often with­out polling or ask­ing con­sumers, and then a giant media blitz announced its roll­out. By con­trast, brands these days are built on the qual­i­ty of the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. These expe­ri­ences need to be:

  • Rel­e­vant — the right con­sumers are being matched with a brand. Not just cur­rent cus­tomers but the right kind of future ones.
  • Per­son­al­ized — con­sumers will feel that the brand has more details about them and are mak­ing an offer based on those details.
  • Adap­tive — know­ing that con­sumers (and their tastes) change over time, brands track those changes and change their approach accord­ing­ly so that con­sumers feel that the brands are in touch.

Recent Shift to Privacy

Some years ago, the tools that were deliv­er­ing rel­e­vant and per­son­al­ized adver­tis­ing start­ed to get on the radar of more con­sumers. They real­ized that the price of this per­son­al­iza­tion was pri­va­cy. While some con­sumers were hap­py to leave things as they were, oth­er con­sumers — and brands — changed things up.

mPar­ti­cle was pre­pared. It had fore­seen a shift to pri­va­cy some years ago, and as such, built the ear­li­est ver­sion of its plat­form with that in mind.

That’s part of what any orga­ni­za­tion has to be pre­pared for in the years ahead: changes in laws, tech­nol­o­gy and con­sumer behav­ior. The orga­ni­za­tions that adapt will suc­ceed. The ones that don’t will be left behind.

Convincing Early Adopters

It’s one thing to have a vision about how tech­nol­o­gy will shift and anoth­er to cre­ate a prod­uct to match that vision. But nei­ther will mat­ter unless you can first con­vince some peo­ple to buy that prod­uct. Thank­ful­ly, com­pa­nies like Seat­Geek, Zap­pos and Star­wood were able to see mParticle’s val­ue to their orga­ni­za­tions and came on board ear­ly on. That gave Michael the social cap­i­tal to have con­ver­sa­tions with oth­er com­pa­nies that fig­ured that if that lev­el of com­pa­ny was look­ing at mPar­ti­cle and what they had to offer, so should they.

Evolving Past Your Beginnings

Michael is proud of the work his team has put in to grow the com­pa­ny to where it is today but he says that mParticle’s com­pa­ny val­ues are its cur­rent” val­ues. They include:

  • Opti­mize to cus­tomer value
  • Suc­ceed as a team
  • Own it
  • Seek the truth (no sacred cows)
  • Find your flow
  • Place bets

The rea­son Michael refers to these as cur­rent” val­ues is because they are dif­fer­ent from when the com­pa­ny first start­ed and he expects them to change as the com­pa­ny grows. When a com­pa­ny is first grow­ing and try­ing to find prod­uct-mar­ket fit (more ask for for­give­ness than ask for per­mis­sion,” Michael says), it’s going to have a dif­fer­ent ori­en­ta­tion and ener­gy from a more estab­lished com­pa­ny that is try­ing to scale and grow. It doesn’t mean that the old val­ues weren’t good, but that what got the com­pa­ny this far, won’t get them to the next level.

Michael adds that mParticle’s val­ues are prob­a­bly shared with any num­ber of tech com­pa­nies. The dif­fer­ence is in inte­gra­tion: how well are those val­ues inte­grat­ed into com­pa­ny cul­ture? How are cer­tain behav­iors reward­ed and oth­ers pun­ished? Those actions help rein­force beliefs, and beliefs dri­ve culture.

Going Remote

Michael thinks that one of the times that cul­ture is test­ed — and rein­forced — is dur­ing a cri­sis, and that hap­pened to many orga­ni­za­tions in March 2020. mPar­ti­cle made the deci­sion in Feb­ru­ary 2020 to go remote, on their val­ue of place bets.” It felt pret­ty cer­tain that things were going to go this way as the pan­dem­ic devel­oped, so rather than fol­low a trend, it decid­ed to be one of its leaders.

As restric­tions have eased and the mar­ket has revert­ed to a busi­ness as usu­al” stance, that deci­sion to go remote has been scru­ti­nized. Michael notes that a small num­ber of high­ly vocal employ­ees were ask­ing to go back to the office. But what hap­pened was that nobody came back. 

At that point, Michael real­ized that there had been a fun­da­men­tal change, not just at mPar­ti­cle but prob­a­bly in the broad­er work­ing world. This was evi­denced by the fact that mPar­ti­cle itself was hir­ing remote­ly, which wouldn’t con­tin­ue if the plan was to revert back to office-only work.

Today, mPar­ti­cle has employ­ees in over 30 dif­fer­ent US states and has decid­ed to be ful­ly remote. This has led to a process of clos­ing all its US offices, which is going to offer sav­ings in the face of a pos­si­ble eco­nom­ic downturn.

Recession Shakeup

When we asked Michael about his thoughts about the often-dis­cussed pos­si­ble reces­sion, his answer was sim­ple: what is com­ing rep­re­sents a nat­ur­al and healthy reset in a mar­ket cycle.

He says that giv­en a very cheap cost of cap­i­tal, mon­ey was going every­where, even to com­pa­nies that had no busi­ness get­ting that mon­ey because they weren’t build­ing ser­vices and prod­ucts that were fun­da­men­tal­ly sound. These pre­tenders,” as Michael calls them, are going to be found out when a down­turn comes. Every­one else needs to be focused on the fun­da­men­tals, build­ing real busi­ness­es, so that they can sur­vive dur­ing a down­turn and thrive when an upturn comes.

Check Out the Full Episode

Learn more about Michael and his thoughts on build­ing a brand by lis­ten­ing to our full inter­view on Apple or Spo­ti­fy.

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