Podcast — Two Gals & Some Data Ft. Cheridy Bell



Plug in your earbuds to listen to "Two Gals and Some Data," the show that brings together the best of both worlds: insightful discussions on data-driven strategies and the captivating stories of remarkable leaders. Take a listen to our very own Chief Revenue Officer, Lori Paikin, as she teams up for an EXCLUSIVE interview with long time industry veteran, Cheridy Bell, Chief Operating Officer.

Lori and Cheridy dive into the changes and challenges in the marketing industry over the past decade. They both agree that the digital revolution has resulted in a cluttered digital space, making it difficult for marketers to effectively engage with their audience. Highlighting the crucial role of data science and AI, they emphasize its significance in navigating through this clutter and delivering valuable insights that drive meaningful interactions with customers.

During the podcast, Lori and Cheridy discuss the value of direct mail in today's cluttered marketing landscape. They share their personal experiences with personalized direct mail, emphasizing its lasting impact and engagement compared to digital channels. Listen as they dive deep and discuss NaviStone's innovative retargeting without cookies product, which uses direct mail in a privacy-compliant way to effectively cut through the clutter and deliver personalized direct mail to consumers.



(Podcast Transcript)

Lori: Hi, everyone, welcome to this edition of Two Gals and Some Data. I am so excited to be sitting here with one very impressive gal, NaviStone's new COO, Cheridy Bell. Let me take a quick minute and introduce you all to Cheridy. She joined NaviStone earlier this year with a wealth of experience in the marketing technology industry. Prior to joining NaviStone, she spent 12 years with Merkle, most recently as chief operating officer of global growth. Her contributions led to their rapid acceleration from $300 million to over $1 billion, including the acquisition by Dentsu. We're so happy to have you part of the NaviStone team, or as we affectionately refer to ourselves, the NaviSquad. Thanks and welcome, Cheridy.

Cheridy: Thank you, Lori.

Lori: Like you, I am a longtime veteran of the marketing industry. So my first question, of course, is about your experiences in the industry and specifically what you've seen over the decades you've worked in marketing. What would you say is the biggest change or shift you've seen, let's say in the past 10 years?

Cheridy: Sure. So when I started in this industry right out of graduate school, I had a math degree, didn't know what I was going to do with that, and somehow I found database marketing. And so I started doing marketing analytics for a credit card company and they were very advanced at that time in the marketing space. They did a lot of direct mail, and so they did a lot of analytics to sort of power those things.

Cheridy: I think what's changed in the last 10 years, digital sort of was born at the end of the '90s and then it really started to mature in the first decade of the 2000s. And I would say over the last 10 years, it's just become very cluttered. There's been a flight to digital. It was a cheap method for marketers to get their message out. They shifted budgets into digital tactics that didn't cost them a lot. I think that the results 10 years ago were probably better than they are today because they're just all competing for eyeballs at this point. And so data science and specifically AI have become an important part of how do you cut through and parse through all that data to create something meaningful.

Lori: You said a lot of things there that I want to hone in on. I started my career back in the late '80s. And I do remember in the early '90s, I think it was early, maybe mid '90s, when digital advertising became a thing, when display ads and emails were the thing and people were flocking to websites to transact. And at that time, I was really deep in audience creation for direct mail. And I remember at that time our clients started shifting all of their direct mail budgets over to digital. Right? That was the hot new thing and online transactions were very robust. And so as soon as we started seeing those dollars shift over to digital away from direct mail, we saw digital performance go down as well.

Lori: And so we just found that so fascinating because it was the first time that we saw it really wasn't about digital nor was it really about direct mail, but it was about how all of these channels really work together. And so I just love that you shared that and had that exact same experience. You talked about AI, and I think that's really important thing to talk about. I mean, for one, everybody is talking about it. I'm not surprised that you bring it up, but I also know that you are the self-proclaimed math geek, so really I was expecting you to bring it up. But talk to me a little bit about how you think about AI, how it has impacted our business, our industry up till now, and how you might see it impacting the industry moving forward.

Cheridy: I will say that AI is really the science of how do we automate human decision making. And so with it come tools, data science tools. So AI is a way to make decisions automated, but then there are tools like machine learning that is a data scientist tool. I see us using AI in marketing where there are situations where volume prohibits scale. And what I mean by that is everybody who's targeting everyone in this digital ecosystem, that's creating a lot of data. I can look at all the pages you viewed, I can look at the search terms you used to find my page, I can see what you were shopping for, what you bought, what you didn't buy that you put in your cart. All of this creates an extreme volume of data that's almost impossible to parse through as an individual data scientist. But with a tool like machine learning, it automates that process and it can run autonomously. And so it surfaces key pieces of information that then a human needs to look at.

Lori: I'm glad that you referenced machine learning because one of the first jobs that I had in the industry was working for a company called Abacus Direct. And Abacus Direct was the first cooperative database, it was a transactional based database, and our clients were all contributing their customer files to this aggregated database. So imagine how much data that was. It was every US household that had discretionary income and it included the transactional information that they had across 1,000, 1,500 different retailers, name, address, date, dollar of all of their transactions. And we took all of that data and then turned it into usable data that we could create audiences who is most likely to respond to this next offer. But back then in the '90s, we didn't call it AI. We called it machine learning, which I think was an earlier version of AI, or we even just referred to it as modeling or just creating that algorithm to sift through that data is what we refer to today as AI or one form of AI. And this dates all the way back to the early '90s.

Cheridy: And I think that's true. And so what we're seeing today with ChatGPT is really just a new application in a different space of AI than we had 10 years ago. And so I think tools like that will also lead to helping manage the volumes of information we need to deliver personalized content. If you think about a piece of art for an email and I need it for a display ad so I need different formats, I also need to have it targeted and relevant to the individuals that I'm talking to. And so, all of that content management has become a very hard thing to scale without something like AI.

Lori: Yeah. You mentioned ChatGPT, and I'm curious about that because I think we've all played around with it to some extent. And you have to be really careful with how you use it. I mean, it's exciting and I can see the efficiencies it brings, but I also can see some concerns. Think about it from a marketing perspective, and you think about how people might use that to create copy. And you just have to be really careful about it so that you're not, well one, plagiarizing, but you want to continue to have the voice of your brand being represented. And if you start using tools like that, I think you do run the risk of getting away from what only a human could bring.

Cheridy: Right. It does seem like everybody's going to become a little vanilla if we're all using some tool to generate content. I think though, AI tools can be used to manage those volumes of content and I think that that is definitely an advance I'd love to see.

Lori: Yeah. I was talking with somebody just this morning actually who is at an event that is being hosted by Google right now and they were talking a little bit about some of the AI applications that Google Chrome is going to be offering, and one was very specific to content, and they were talking about using one of their products. And just entering some information about what they would like the theme to be, what they would like the background image to look like, and just that little information would spit out four different versions for them that they could choose from. And maybe they hone in on one and make a slight modification to it and get four new versions to choose from. And so, I could really see the benefit in using it from a creative standpoint, for sure.

Cheridy:  Yeah, definitely.

Lori: Another thing that you mentioned earlier that I think is a worthwhile point to touch upon, when you first started talking about AI, your background in math, I heard you reference clutter as it pertains to advertising today. Talk a little bit more about that, because I think that as advertisers, we really have to pay attention to what the consumers are experiencing on a day-to-day basis from a clutter perspective if we really want our ads to resonate with them, our message to resonate with them.

Cheridy: I think so too. And so I think as we look at the industry right now, it's primed for new and novel solutions that will cut through that clutter. The clutter is everywhere digitally. And those new novel solutions need to be privacy compliant, which has become a concern of consumers, maybe more visible to them as digital has been exploding. And so I think that's what intrigued me most about NaviStone and why I came here, is the novel way of taking a digital campaign and sending a piece of mail that cuts through the clutter. My mailbox, I don't know about you, but 10 years ago, my mailbox was full every day of mail, of people trying to sell me something.

Lori: Yeah.

Cheridy: And I got on all the Do Not Mail lists that I could, and now I'm trying to get on all the Do Not Call lists with my cell phone because it's switched. But I think for marketers, it yields a great result, results unlike anything that we've seen in years to send a piece of mail at the right time to the right person.

Lori: Yeah. This is not an exaggeration at all. And I think if you think about your own experience as a consumer, these numbers will resonate as well. From a digital perspective, we are all being exposed to a thousand or more digital impressions. I mean, think about just you're on the open web, you're on your Gmail account, you're on Facebook, just think about all the impressions that you're seeing when you're online. Now, think about the amount of impressions that you see when you're on your email, and I'm referring to a email as an impression, we're getting hundreds a day. But then to your point, when I go to my mailbox, maybe I have five pieces of direct mail and that's it.

Lori: And so I am sure to look at it, I am leaving it on my counter if it's not a good time for me to be engaging with it. If I see something that is of interest, I can show it to my husband, I can refer to it later, I can pass it on to my friend. It just has this kind of staying power that you don't get with display. And I think you could get it with email if not for how many emails we get. Because sometimes, I do find myself just having to delete, delete, delete just to feel like I have control over what's happening in my inbox. But with direct mail, I feel very different. I hang it on the refrigerator, I put it on the coffee table and I can refer back to it when I want to

Cheridy: Me as well, same thing. It might be something I'm not considering right now, but perhaps I'm going to be ready in the next six months. I pin it on my board in the kitchen and I keep seeing it, so I know, "Oh yeah, I was going to do that," and I start going back and start through my research process of buying which one I want.

Lori: Yeah. The other thing that I think is really interesting about direct mail, I had mentioned I have a son, and he's not college age, he's post college age, just in case he's listening to this, but he is interested in receiving his direct mail every day as well. And in fact, I think he might check his mail even more frequently than he checks his email. He's on his text all the time, his phone all the time. But as far as really going into email and checking his emails, I think he's checking his direct mail more frequently than that. So it really does appeal to all generations.

Cheridy: That's interesting.

Lori: So I want to ask you last about privacy. And I'm curious what you think about consumer's take on privacy today. I can remember when, and still is a very important consideration, but I also feel that consumers today are more aware of what advertisers are doing, they're giving their consent to having data used for meaningful advertising. And so I'm just curious, your thoughts on privacy. Is it getting more strict, less strict, the consumers care more about it, less about it? What do you think?

Cheridy: So there's a lot of legislation that keeps coming out. So clearly, someone thinks we need more legislation. I will say though, I think the Millennials and Gen Z, they expect a relevant experience when they go to a website. And they're happy for that company to have their data and put it through their recommendation engine so that they're seeing stuff without having to hunt for it. And so, when I talk to them, I'm kind of curious about that. Friends in my age group tend to be a little more cautious about what information do they have. And I think it's just 20 years ago, people weren't really aware of what information was used and how it was being used. And so I do what I can to educate my friends. Because it's not like we're trying to do something devious, we're actually trying to show you more of what you want and less of what you don't want. And so, I don't know, I think it might be a generational thing.

Lori: Yeah. As we come to the end of the podcast, I just was hoping you could share with our listeners just some thoughts about the future. As you think about the next three to five years, what do you see for the marketing industry?

Cheridy: That's an interesting question. So I think we're going to see a lot of AI applications. I think we're going to see legislation that's going to come in and try to manage how we use that and what we use it for. And I think that these new and novel solutions like NaviStone's remarketing product, I think we're going to see more things like that that are the creation from human brains that say, "Hey, there's a better way to do this. I can cut through the clutter, I can do something unique, I can do it in a privacy compliant way, and I can give customers what they want.

Lori: So are you saying that NaviStone solution gives customers what they want in a privacy compliant way through a channel that they are receptive to receiving information and likely to transact?

Cheridy: Absolutely.

Lori: Okay. Then as always, that is the perfect way to end this discussion. That will do it for this episode of Two Gals and Some Data. Thanks so much, Cheridy, for joining me today. If you'd like to read more from us, check us out at navistone.com/blog. And if you enjoyed today's show, head over to iTunes and leave us a five-star review. Thanks for listening.


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