June 20, 2019

How Agari Makes a Bold Mission Real

What do you need to make a big splash? A big ship, one would assume, is a terrific place to start. So that’s exactly what Agari used to launch their new brand, the purpose of which is written loudly and proudly on the walls of their headquarters: “Agari protects digital communications to ensure humanity prevails over evil.” That’s a pretty bold way of explaining that your company is an advanced cybersecurity firm for email. But a bold mission statement is exactly what companies need to grow. At Agari, this statement is deeply woven into the community fabric, from the board members down to rank-and-file employees.

On this episode of Renegade Thinkers Unite, Armen Najarian, CMO, discusses how they made the mission real, and how having that meaningful guidance of saving and protecting the world of digital communications, helped drive brand, product development, company growth, and more.

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Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Armen Najarian

Drew Neisser: Here we are at the world headquarters of Agari with Armen Najarian.

Armen Najarian: Here we are.

Drew Neisser: Here we are!

Armen Najarian: You make us sound like such a big company. World Headquarters.

Drew Neisser:  Well, how many people are you?

Armen Najarian: We have 170 people.

Drew Neisser: That’s a lot of people.

Armen Najarian: And we’re growing, yes.

Drew Neisser: And you’re growing. All right. Well anyway, welcome to Renegade Thinkers Unite.

Armen Najarian: Thank you, I really appreciate it, Drew. Happy to be here.

Drew Neisser: So, of course, we have audio and video going at the same time. It’s always a complication—mainly for me, not for you, because I’ve got to sort of deal with both of those things.

A couple of things: I listened to a podcast that you did with Bernie Borges. I really enjoyed it; it was great preparation for the show. I will link to it in the show notes and if anybody wants to listen to that one first before they talk, this is the sort of graduate course version of what you talked about. But before we get there, who are you?

Armen Najarian: Great question. Yes, who am I? So, I’m a bit of a, not a purple squirrel, but I have a bit of an interesting background for being a Silicon Valley B2B marketer. I started off marketing consumer brands.

Drew Neisser: What!?

Armen Najarian:­ Yes. I will test you. If you knew pre-1980 ethnic food in the United States—Chinese food.

Drew Neisser: Oh, Chinese food!

Armen Najarian: Chinese food—what’s the brand?

Drew Neisser: Oh, it was… something… King.

Armen Najarian: Yes. It’s two brands. Chun King, and the sister brand, La Choy. I was the brand manager for La Choy and Chun King and, prior to that, Wesson cooking oil with ConAgra Foods. So, I started off in consumer brand marketing.

After business school, I didn’t know what marketing was all about and kind of found myself down that path. It was very interesting and it was general management, you run a P&L. But then, this was the late 90s and I saw the tug being pulled into technology.

I was like “Hey, I’ve got to go and break into technology,” so I made the break and I started off with some small companies and then worked my way up over the years, and here I am.

Drew Neisser: So, I did notice you went to USC business school?

Armen Najarian: I did, yes.

Drew Neisser: But you went to school in Massachusetts, how did you end up at USC?

Armen Najarian: I grew up in New England and USC made me the best offer.

Drew Neisser: There you go.

Armen Najarian: And it did not involve crew or soccer. So, pretty cool, huh?

Drew Neisser: Yes! Well, yeah, USC has taken some grief recently. Having grown up in Southern California as a UCLA Bruins fan, I never had a fondness for USC, I have to say. For all the USC listeners out there, I apologize now.

OK, so, when you grow up in brand management on packaged goods products, the first word is “brand management.” And you really learn the discipline of marketing, from defining the target, defining the brand, figuring out what the essence is, distilling it down to a 30 second or 15-second commercial. Is any of that relevant to B2B marketing particularly in Silicon Valley?

Armen Najarian: 100% of it’s relevant.

Drew Neisser: I was talking to my buddy Noah Briar, the founder of Percolate, who is a brilliant guy, and the reason it’s relevant is because the fundamentals of marketing haven’t really changed.

Armen Najarian: That’s right. They haven’t. The principles I learned 20 years ago, in a completely different sector, fully apply to B2B technology marketing.

Drew Neisser: When we talk about brand management, we talk about understanding what it is. I’m looking at your San Pellegrino, I’m looking at this Kirkland, private label brand—thinking about some of the great brand stories, I remember a good friend was working on P&G on Gain, and I loved how they distilled that brand down to “smell as proof of clean.”

Armen Najarian: Yes.

Drew Neisser: I mean, just brilliant essence of the brand, right? So anytime you saw a person smelling it, that was Gain. There’s a tremendous discipline that goes into it. OK, fast forward, you arrive at Agari a year ago. What did you find—what was the circumstance when you got here?

Armen Najarian: Agari at the time was an eight-year-old business that had found its way into an emerging hot space, right? Advanced e-mail security. With a company that had, from a marketing perspective, invested good dollars over the years to try to build a sustainable demand generation engine and hadn’t really put much investment into the other half of the marketing discipline, the brand.

Drew Neisser: In terms of the demand generation engine that they had, was it driving leads into the pipeline, marketing qualified leads? Could marketing be considered a revenue-driving engine at that point?

Armen Najarian: Almost, it was very close, but it was ready to grow up. We crossed a big revenue milestone this past year, I won’t name the numbers since we’re a privately held company, but we are an emerging Silicon Valley company growing at 50% a year. The principles that were in place from a demand gen perspective a year ago looked like that of a much smaller business and they were ready to turn the corner.

Drew Neisser: So, growing at 50%, either you’re getting amazing ratings from the analysts or, if marketing wasn’t driving that growth, what was driving that growth when you arrived?

Armen Najarian: I would say we are beneficiaries of a couple of things. One is an emerging space that is top of mind for every CISO. So, what do we do? We stop phishing attacks from destroying businesses and killing brands. And every chief information security officer on the planet does not want to be the one who has to answer to their board because their company got popped. That’s number one. Number two is a great product. We’ve got some really good technology with a great founder story which I can tell you about, and that’s has helped as well.

Drew Neisser: Great technology, first and foremost. Solving a problem in a growing market, that helps. So, a rising tide lifts all ships. The one thing that was interesting to me when I looked at Agari from a technical standpoint was, “model the good.” I thought that was such an interesting notion because when you think about security, you almost always think about the bad stuff and mapping them bad. You guys actually take a different approach.

Armen Najarian: There’s a whole narrative in the enterprise security space around zero trust. You see this everywhere, and it assumes everyone is bad, and the exceptions will be good. So, we’ve inverted that just as you said. We understand what good sender-to-receiver mail behavior looks like, e-mail behavior looks like, and we’ve modeled that. We see that three trillion times a year.

Drew Neisser: Is that differentiated or is it just distinctive? Are there other brands that have that same kind of capability or is this truly a point of difference?

Armen Najarian: It’s truly a point of difference.

Drew Neisser: OK. And that’s not necessarily true for a lot of brands. Where a brand often comes in is when you’re lucky enough to create something that’s distinctive. So you have product differentiation. OK. You get here, you have a different kind of product, you have a demand generation engine that is helping with that, but you see that something’s missing.

Armen Najarian: I do because the broader enterprise security space is so noisy. There are 2,000 businesses peddling their wares in this space. And it’s a competitive space, everyone wants a piece of the budget.

Drew Neisser: I think I looked, at one point, at 26 different cybersecurity companies, and they all said they were the leader in “X” and then, they all were doing FUD factor marketing. Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. Scare, scare, scare, “Another study of another breach! Stop! Call us!”

Armen Najarian: Yes, we had to invert that. Fast forward—you mentioned brand promise—we don’t sell fear. Our brand promise is that Agari gives you the confidence to open, click, and trust anything in your inbox, right? That’s a message that I think we should all be able to identify with. We want to be able to do business unencumbered and that’s a promise of hope.

Drew Neisser: “Trust your inbox,” is the line I saw on the website and that’s sort of an expression of it. And when I read that, to me, I feet like, how could you own that because isn’t that what every cybersecurity e-mail company is going to promise, that it’s about trust? I don’t know, I was trying to figure out where the differentiation of that was.

Armen Najarian: Yes, there’s a whole build-up to “trust your inbox.” Your point is a manifestation of a lot of work that we’ve put into the brand. That’s one way to express it. We’ve built campaigns around that, but it’s much, much deeper than just that one tagline, Drew.

Drew Neisser: Yes, I know that, and we’re going to talk about those things. But I just wanted to challenge that a little bit. I love the language. I want to trust, and obviously, inboxes are a big problem, but I was just curious about how you own it. And the answer could be, you stick with it for a long time. That would be part of it, that if you want to own something, you have to own it for a long time. State Farm is still using that same “good hands” thing 25 years later, and that speaks to brand, which is different than demand gen. Because demand gen you sort of keep optimizing and changing and so forth, then you say, “Here’s another message, let’s see if that clicks.”

Armen Najarian: Here’s another tactic, here’s another message, it’s performance marketing. And it’s really important. Every B2B company has to do performance marketing, has to build a funnel, has to make sellers happy, and they also have to invest in building a halo around the business, and that’s the brand.

Drew Neisser: We’re going to take a quick break and when we come back, we’re going to talk about how you got to your bigger brand promise which I think is really cool, so stay with us.


Drew Neisser: We’re back, and my guest is Armen Najarian. Did I say that correctly?

Armen Najarian: Najarian. So close.

Drew Neisser: Got it. OK. I know…This has become a running joke on the show, that if I can butcher a guest name at least once it’s just…

Armen Najarian: I’ll feel welcome, then.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I know, it’s really bad. But Armen, I got down it with easily.

Take us back—when you first get here, what was the process for discovering your “why?”

Armen Najarian: Good question. It was a very comprehensive process, and, having done this before twice, I knew that I could not go off into a hermetically sealed room with my marketing organization, and then emerge three months later with the answer, with the Rosetta Stone. It had to be an inclusive process, and it had to involve the entire executive team or at least most of the executive team; it had to involve even members of our board of directors, some customers, some partners, even some analysts. So, the process was a very systemic process that took us through a three-month journey where we did a lot of introspective work.

Drew Neisser: Mainly like qualitative interviews?

Armen Najarian: Many qualitative interviews with a lot of those constituents I just mentioned, and certainly reaching out to the community. We did no quantitative work for this particular project. We didn’t have that luxury of budget or time, but we did enough qualitative work that we felt we got a good finger on the pulse of the collective wisdom of the crowds if you will.

Drew Neisser: And why…I know the answer to this, but I really want you to state it. Why is it so important to be inclusive of employees when you’re beginning a rebranding exploration?

Armen Najarian: It’s a really important thing to do because you want people’s fingerprints on it. Because ultimately, the manifestation, the durability of that brand sits in the hands of the community. It doesn’t sit in the hands of marketing, and if people have their fingerprints on the creation of this brand, they’re going to have 100% ownership of it.

Drew Neisser: Right, they will take responsibility for it. They will feel like they are empowered and part of an organization that is doing something more than just selling widgets.

Armen Najarian: That’s correct.

Drew Neisser: As part of this research, did you also do customer research, and were they part of this community?

Armen Najarian: They were. We did some select customer interviews, and partners that we treat just like customers. In the mix, we probably had six or seven conversations with customers and partners.

Drew Neisser: And that’s really important. Why?

Armen Najarian: Well, we drink our own Kool-Aid a bit too much here, especially in Silicon Valley. So you absolutely want a point of view on the actual buyers and the practitioners and the users of your product. Without that, our view would be skewed.

Drew Neisser: Here’s a question—You’ve gone through this three-month exercise, you’ve come out the other end, you have your “why”—we’ll talk about the why in a second. Do you go back to employees and your customers before the launch and say, “Here’s where we are, everybody on board?”

Armen Najarian: In this case, we did not. We included a good cross-section of folks early enough in the process where we got some good insights. From that, there was a core group that did not include customers that then kind of carried the ball to the finish line. So, we did not provide sneak previews in the journey. I’ve seen it done that way—we just chose to not do it.

Drew Neisser: So now you have this “why.” When I came into the headquarters, in addition to seeing the statement on the wall, which I love, and I’ll take a picture of it and include it in the show notes. But I expected to find people wearing capes because it’s very heroic. It’s more than just your typical “why.” You’re saving the world.

Armen Najarian: We’re saving the world, we’re on a mission, and people believe it. We truly believe it. Our board members believe it, our management team believes it, our rank-and-file employees, we all believe this. Our mission, as you saw, which is on the wall in big letters right here is, “Agari protects digital communications to ensure humanity prevails over evil.”

Drew Neisser: Prevailing over evil. I flew out here today on American and they have all the Marvel movies, but I was prepping for this interview, so I couldn’t watch any of them. But I love that. I’m imagining that employees felt really good about that and potential recruits. As you’re growing as fast as you are, you have to hire a lot of people. I think the unemployment rate in Silicon Valley is like 2%?

Armen Najarian: It’s about that low. Yes. It’s a war for talent here. We have a lot of big employers that pay big salaries here in the valley. Those companies aren’t for everyone but if you’re looking at pre-IPO growth companies, at least, I’ll speak for myself: I want to align with a company where I believe in what mission that company is on. And I would say that many, if not all the employees that we’ve attracted here to Agari believe that. They want to be part of something bigger.

Drew Neisser: How did you introduce it to employees?

Armen Najarian: The rollout of all of this was orchestrated. Everything culminated on December 4th, 2018. That was kind of day one for the new Agari brand. We paired the brand unveiling and all the messaging that we just described—the mission, the brand promise, and all the attributes—with some big product launches. So it was an Uber launch if you will. Product launches, brand launch, and we did that all in Europe. We brought it all the way over to an industry conference called Black Hat in the UK, in London. We flew most of the executive team over there because it was such a big deal. We had a lot to talk about, and a lot to unveil.

Drew Neisser: I wanted to put a big punctuation point on this because a lot of times brands launch a new brand, change their logo a little bit, introduce a new tagline, but they don’t introduce a new product that helps reinforce that idea. I think that’s a big mistake and a lost opportunity, because, while design matters—and it does—ultimately people are going to make a decision… There are products that you’re selling, so launching a new product and launching a new brand is a great one-two punch which, in my mind, is quite effective. At this Black Hat conference, what did you do to make sure you got more than your fair share of news out of it? Because that’s a big part of spreading the word, right?

Armen Najarian: It’s huge. We leveraged social media in a big way. We got most of the exec team to do first-person selfies from interesting spots throughout the city. You might have seen mine from a ship on the river.

That was one tactic that worked really well, kind of a LinkedIn takeover. Other things that we did is we pre-booked a lot of media interviews and media sessions with journalists in the UK  and that really helped quite a bit.

The third thing is our PR teams really got behind proactively pushing out messages. Actually, the third thing that we launched in addition to the products and the brand is we launched a big piece of research. We unveiled a new threat actor report that we called “London Blue.” It was from a threat actor group based in the City of London. That got us into the front page of The Financial Times. Which, you know, Drew, how do you buy something that valuable? You just can’t.

Drew Neisser: You can’t. I want to again put a punctuation point on that. A new brand story, a new product, and research that undoubtedly set up the problem you’re solving or some aspect of it that was proprietary. So often, brands hope to get PR but don’t do anything that’s newsworthy.

Armen Najarian: This is true.

Drew Neisser: And you really combined a number of things there to get some quality press.

Armen Najarian: It was a perfect, perfect storm.

Drew Neisser: There you go. So this was in London. From a creative standpoint, was there any big message? How did you make sure that everybody at Black Hat saw Agari?

Armen Najarian: Yes, interesting. We did. We did a takeover. As fortune would have it, the conference hall was adjacent to the River Thames. The location that Agari kind of took over was a docked ship right on the river, so we had the opportunity to fully brand the entry to that ship and many of the attributes of that ship.

All the attendees walking into the conference would walk by the ship and see this company called Agari that, maybe they have heard of before or maybe they haven’t, and that added to the intrigue. On the show floor, we had a big presence as well, so the combined effect of those two points really did make a difference for those attending.

Drew Neisser: You literally made a big splash.

Armen Najarian: Nicely done, Drew.

Drew Neisser: Yes. Thank you. That’s why they pay me the big bucks. So, you had the big ship, which is like a giant piece of outdoor that makes sure that nobody coming to that conference can miss you. You have a booth inside to continue the story. You’re wrapping it in PR with the research, and so forth. That’s a big awareness spike. One would think. At least among everybody at this particular trade show. How many people were at the show?

Armen Najarian: 2,000.

Drew Neisser: 2,000. But 2,000 CISOs…

Armen Najarian: Yes, very focused in our space.

Drew Neisser: So, this was as good a place as any to unveil the brand.

Armen Najarian: It was.

Drew Neisser: Let’s wrap up. From that launch, was there a lesson learned or anything that from that standpoint, when you look at it, you go, “That really worked. I wish we had done this.”

Armen Najarian: Of something we didn’t do?

Drew Neisser: Yeah, maybe. At the launch.

Armen Najarian: Well, it was ambitious to take everything over to London. Again, we’re a relatively small business, so to pick up all this intellectual property and people and move it over there‑we pulled it off. We did it. We might have been a little bit more successful doing it locally, but we didn’t have that luxury. So, I’d say, hey, you play with the hand that you’re dealt and we did a good job with that.

I would say we probably could have done a better job even engaging with the analyst community leading up to the event. We had some follow-on analyst engagement as we launched this new brand and set of products and the research. It would have been great to augment that with some support leading into the launch event.

Drew Neisser: I think that’s a great place to pause and take a break because you can’t do everything all the time. No matter how big you are, you are always going to be resource-constrained. So, you had some priorities, you followed through, those you delivered on. We’re going to take a break and we’ll be right back.


Drew Neisser: We’re back, and my guest is Armen Najarian.

Armen Najarian: You got it. Third times the charm!

Drew Neisser: Yay! Armen’s the CMO of Agari and we’ve been talking about a successful launch campaign. Let’s talk about, from a measurement standpoint, when did you start to measure and when did you feel like you had a success on your hands?

Armen Najarian: The digital markers were very important. That is the bedrock of our measurement. Certainly, a lot of the PR, inbounds that we got.

Drew Neisser: So the digital, what are we talking about? Website traffic…

Armen Najarian: Yes. Part of the brand launch was an entirely new website, and with that, we took a baseline measurement. You asked about what Agari was like a year ago when I joined—we had the baseline. The long story short is post-launch, when we looked at post-launch for six weeks versus the trailing three-month average, we raised a few things in our digital footprint. One is unique users we raised by 70%.

Drew Neisser: That’s a good number.

Armen Najarian: Time on site we raised by about 40%.

Drew Neisser: That’s huge.

Armen Najarian: And then conversion from visits to a form fill or raise my hand for a demo, we increased that by 25 points. So, good success stories.

Drew Neisser: Those are really good numbers and they speak to the power of “Wow!” They speak to the fact that, for these 2,000 people, you really were big in that moment.

Armen Najarian: We were big for that moment, and it wasn’t just the 2,000 people, it was the community around the world that we also got the message out to and started to see this digital engagement. But yes, having that 2,000 on-site to see and feel and interact with was super helpful.

Drew Neisser: Interestingly though, and this is fun to think about, one of the key metrics for this was still lead capture.

Armen Najarian: Sure was, yeah.

Drew Neisser: Could you in any way say, “We did this and we called it brand and it drove this amount of leads into the system relative to a demand gen?” Is there any way of creating an apples and apples comparison between those two efforts?

Armen Najarian: It’s funny, you know, depending upon which company you go to—in fact, when I joined Agari, when we were looking at the budget, someone on the team asked, “Armen, what do you consider of events, big trade show investments like RSA or Black h=Hat, don’t you consider that brand?” I had never considered that to be a brand investment. I had always thought about events as demand gen. Stepping back though, I can see why the question was asked. There’s just as much of a halo in an impression that you’re making upon the community, that hey, calling that 100% brand, even though, yes, you’re having person-to-person interaction, and there’s probably direct attribution to pipeline which we absolutely measure… I would say, the world is not so clean anymore.

Drew Neisser: It isn’t, and it never was that clean.

Armen Najarian: But it’s even less clean now.

Drew Neisser: Right, that’s true. It’s dirty. I’m thinking about where you put these buckets. It makes me laugh in some ways because if you don’t know marketing and you saw Google and search, you say “Wow, I can put a dollar here and I can measure and click all the way through. Why not spend all my money on Google?” And then you very quickly find out there’s only so much you can spend on Google because if they don’t know who you are, people don’t click on it, then Google pushes you down anyway, so it’s not cost-effective. Awareness, in theory, an increase in awareness should improve your Google performance.

Armen Najarian: That’s the belief, and I think you can abstract that beyond just Google. This is really the crux of this discussion, to say, “Yes, without a doubt, Drew, you made the insinuation that we need to keep our sellers happy.” And by that, we’ve got to fill their pipeline with good quality leads, that convert into opportunities. Table stakes, we have to do that. However, if we don’t also invest in some of these maybe less quantitative but certainly just as important halo activities—messaging, the creative, the impressions—it’s going to be harder in the long run to support and sustain increasing levels of pipeline.

Drew Neisser: It is, it’s really hard. The reason you would want to build awareness—as you said with your show with Bernie—is that one day, suddenly the sales guys walk into a room and they’re not foreigners. People understand, “I know your business! I wanted to talk to you guys!”

Armen Najarian: “I wanted to talk to you, I’ve heard of you, I’ve heard about you…” Word of mouth is huge in that community.

Armen Najarian: It reminds me of a Businessweek ad that ran in the 70s or 80s where there’s a grumpy looking guy and the headline says “I don’t know you, I don’t know your company, I don’t know what you do, I don’t want to meet with you, get out of my office.”

Armen Najarian: And you know, we’ve seen that before. But if you can reduce the number of times you see that to a little bit of a welcome reception, then that goes a long way.

Drew Neisser: To me, it is measurable. You could do an awareness study and brand health study. Do you have one?

Armen Najarian: We have it. In my packaged good days, we would do aided and unaided awareness and recall. We don’t have the luxury of that type of budget today, but there are ways to approximate that. So yes, one of the projects for this year is to hack an aided and unaided awareness recall.

Drew Neisser: So talk about that. Because I’m working on book number two. Everything is really solid. I’ve got this, 3-1-1. 3 targets; 1 story, 1 plan on a page, and then 3 metrics. I’m trying to get each metric for employees, customers, and prospects— one blended metric. It’s hard. It’s a little quixotic, I admit it and I’ll probably have to settle for a range of things that you can choose from. But I am curious—what thinking have you done to just get to some proxy measures for awareness?

Armen Najarian: Very guerilla, but I think it could work. For example, historically in consumer marketing, you did a consumer intercept at a shopping mall. We have talked about doing an intercept at the next big trade event. Right in the front.

So before people walk in, right? And we have third-party, independent people that we’ve hired saying “Hey, when you think of the next-gen security mail cloud or you think of advanced e-mail security, who do you think of?” Unaided recall, see what they come up with. That’s one vehicle that we’ve thought about that I think would give us a pretty good sense of, “are we making the right impression in the minds of our audience?”

Drew Neisser: I think that’s absolutely right. The interesting thing and one of the things we really advise our clients on a lot is, whenever you can do research like that, you can always do some other within that to get information that you can then use to make it PR-able. So it’s not just that moment in time. You can ask them an awareness-related question, but you can also get on a hot button question if you’re thinking in terms of newsworthiness.

Armen Najarian: It’s a really good point.

Drew Neisser: You can make that efficient.

Armen Najarian: You’ll get maybe three questions.

Drew Neisser: That’s fine, but you can get more if you give away a nice T-shirt.

Armen Najarian: Or a Starbucks gift card.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, or a Starbucks gift card. You’ve got someone and they’re right there. I think trade shows as a research opportunity are really underutilized. It’s a huge opportunity because people are there to learn, and if you have some kind of give: “Hey, I need two minutes of your time to ask you five questions, I’m going to give you a Starbucks gift card which you can redeem at our booth because we have a Starbucks cappuccino machine.” You can do that. But you have to have the will, then you have to do it again the following year.

Armen Najarian: That’s true. Yes. You’re on the treadmill then, right?

Drew Neisser: Right, because you have to be able to show. The other reason that we talk about the importance of having that kind of research, even if it’s just a few questions, is at some point the economy is going to slow down and at some point, you’re going to need to have brand health metrics to know where you are as those leads and budgets start to slow down. I would imagine your business is one of those businesses where people have to keep spending money.

Armen Najarian: We like to believe that, and I think there’s some truth to that.

Drew Neisser: Right. The only difference is if the economy contracts, then a lot of companies that are sort of fake, phony financing, then they’ll be gone. But that’s neither here nor there. OK. In this brand journey that you’ve gone on—you launched in November, you’ve won an award for your new brand, sales are continuing to hit target.

Armen Najarian: They are.

Drew Neisser: So, no one’s saying, “What the heck? Why are we still talking about brand now?”

Armen Najarian: Not yet.

Drew Neisser: There’s always this old story of the reason why awareness matters. The reason why Nissan is in the US instead of Datsun as it was when we’re growing up is, the chairman of Nissan walks into a hotel and says, “I’m the chairman of Nissan, I’m ready for my room. And they say “Well, who’s Nissan?”  And that was the moment they said “OK, we’re gonna spend $150 million so that I don’t show up somewhere and…”  There is an ego attached to working for a company that people at the Country Club have heard of.

Armen Najarian: That’s right.

Drew Neisser: So, to some extent, that’s why some brands take out billboards on Highway 101 to make sure that everybody in this community, including all the VCs, are aware of it.

Armen Najarian: Or get on the dasher boards at the San Jose Sharks, like I did at my last company.

Drew Neisser: Yes, exactly. People look at and they say, “Why?”  And this comes back to Byron Sharp. Have you read How Brands Grow?

Armen Najarian: I have not.

Drew Neisser: You’ll enjoy it. You’ll read it and you’ll believe most of his stuff. Let’s wrap up—in all of this, we’ve got a group of CMOs listening, two do’s and a don’t if you’re about to go through this process.

Armen Najarian: Do plan before acting. Very important. Do adequately fund it. I think it’s important to treat this like any other major corporate initiative, not marketing initiative, but any other corporate initiative that needs legs, and so fund it accordingly. Treat it like one of your biggest trade shows and fund it at that level.

And then, as I mentioned earlier, absolutely make it inclusive. Don’t do this in a vacuum, the failure rate I think would be significantly higher if you tried to go it alone.

I’d say do all those, and then, don’t. Resist the temptation, at least initially, to try to figure out all the metrics. We talked about some really good ideas. We’re at the time now where we’re four months post—now’s the time to start figuring that out. The digital metrics are easy, I think some of these recall metrics, we’ll work into these, and we’ll figure that out as we go along.

Drew Neisser: Right. At this moment in time, there’s enough success and enough momentum that you were able to create that you feel confident that you can re-up the budget for this. And that begs the question—where does this money come from?

Armen Najarian: Great question. When I built my 2019 budget, I literally have a brand bucket, I have a demand bucket, and I have a couple of other buckets. But this brand bucket is, on a percentage basis of the overall marketing spend—headcount’s the third one—brand is about 20 points of the overall investment that we’re making into the business.

These are distinct; these are not trade shows. This is actually either brand media, this might be design—we increasingly use the services of a design agency—or other strategic messaging that wouldn’t necessarily be campaign-specific messaging. So yes, we’re investing here, we’ve taken a bit of a leap of faith and committed and doubled down to the investment of brand in addition to the performance marketing, the demand gen investments that we make.

Drew Neisser: Do you think that it’s possible to have a campaign that is purpose-driven, that delivers brand and demand?

Armen Najarian: Of course. Without a doubt. And again, that’s where the beauty of this is. One begets the other. If you invest in a brand—let’s just go back to your billboard. Who’s done a great job at this? Zoom. We use Zoom at Agari. We’re big fans of the product, so they have the benefit of a really strong product experience. But I think their messaging is amazing. “Meet Happy.”

Drew Neisser: I love it.

Armen Najarian: You see those up and down the 101. Even if you’ve never used Zoom before or don’t even know what it is, it’s kind of an interesting concept. What is this meet happy all about? So yes, I do believe the investment in brands, in the case of Zoom, is directly benefiting their pipeline.

Drew Neisser: And just to reinforce this, I had Janine Pelosi on the show, she’s the CMO of Zoom. We talked about that, it’s killing it, and they do different outdoor types in different markets, but it’s really been effective, and it has driven demand. And it also, I think I got out of her that it also improved their Google results tremendously too because people clicked on it faster. And thanks for doing a shout-out because Zoom’s a fan of Renegade Thinkers Unite. How about that?

Armen Najarian: It’s like one big community, right? Isn’t that cool?

Drew Neisser: Wow, thank you so much for being on Renegade Thinkers Unite.

Armen Najarian: Thank you, Drew. Appreciate it.

Drew Neisser:  I learned a lot. I’m not gonna even try to summarize it now, just again, thank you. Don’t forget about brand; it does matter. And to all of my listeners, until next week, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.

Quotes from Armen Najarian

I want to align with a company where I believe in what mission that company is on. And I would say that many, if not hopefully all the employees that we've attracted here to Agari, believe that. They want to be part of something bigger.
If we don't also invest in some of these less quantitativ,e but certainly just as important, halo activities: messaging, the creative, the impressions— it's going to be harder in the long run to support and sustain increasing levels of pipeline.