My guest on the show today is my friend Mike Popowski. Mike drives Dagger’s vision, culture, and growth. He brings over sixteen years of digital, social and brand building experience. A proven client service and team leader, Mike has had success building teams for the world’s biggest brands across a variety of industries.
Adam: [00:09] Hi, and welcome to the Good People, Good Marketing Podcast, a podcast about digital marketing and how to make it better so the good people and good organizations can have good marketing as well. I’m your host, Adam Walker, co-founder of Sideways8, a digital marketing agency and 48in48, a nonprofit dedicated to hosting events that build forty-eight websites for forty-eight nonprofits in forty-eight hours.
[00:28] My guest on the show today is my friend Mike Popowski. Mike drives Dagger’s vision, culture, and growth. He brings over sixteen years of digital, social and brand building experience. A proven client service and team leader, Mike has had success building teams for the world’s biggest brands across a variety of industries. Mike, thanks for joining me on the show.
Mike: [00:49] Hey, Adam. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Adam: [00:51] It’s so good to talk to you, man. So I always like to have friends on here. It’s like having an old fireside chat just without the fire and good drinks.
Mike: [00:59] Yeah, the virtual fireside. I’ve got a fire going over here, man. You just can’t see it.
Adam: [01:03] Oh, really? Oh, well, I’ll just take your word for it then. That sounds amazing. It might be a little hot today for a fire, but nonetheless. Well, Mike, do you want to add anything about Dagger or yourself to that illustrious intro there?
Mike: [01:16] I think you covered it. Yeah, I think you covered it. We can get into it as we get into the show a little bit so I thought that was a pretty good overview. Thank you.
Adam: [01:26] All right. Sounds good. Well, let’s dive right in then. So, question number one, related to digital marketing, can you tell me something that has worked well for you?
Mike: [01:34] Yeah, sure. So maybe I’ll start by talking quickly about us and then that’ll set some context for what’s worked well. So we’re very focused on content, which I know is a very overused word and it means so many different things to so many different people and brands. But the way we look at it is, content really is the touch point between brand and consumer and that has changed so much, as we all know, over the last ten years with the proliferation of mobile devices and social media and the impact that that has had on consumer behavior, which has then impacted on how marketers have to comport themselves. And so one thing I always say is, gone are the days of the two thirty-second spots, a website and a print ad and that’s your campaign. Now, brands really need to be putting out content at the speed by which consumers are consuming it, which is always on, right? And so I look at it almost that brands almost need to act like media companies, where you think about marketing and advertising used to be you could send an ad. Now, that content that people are consuming needs to be valuable and relevant; so for brands to cut through the clutter, it needs to be relevant as well. And so that’s a very long way of answering what’s worked well for us.
[03:08] What’s worked well for us is that we bring that to bear with brands because I think some of them are still challenged by contemporizing their marketing communications. And so our goal is to say, “Okay, if you need a series of videos to talk about product XYZ or to bring this brand idea to life and you need a lot of them and the ways of producing it to get to a thirty-second is not what you need.” It’s a much more modernized approach.
[03:51] So within content, we’re very focused on video. I think we’re solving the problem for brands, which is, “How do you reach your consumers in an ongoing basis?” I think that’s working well and I think we’re a little bit unique because we’re a young agency in terms of time that we’ve been together just when we were founded and it was 2013 and that was after so much of that shift has taken place. So I think we’re coming into the market; we’re not revamping or retooling our processes as we were built for a different age; we were actually built for today’s age, which I think is also working well. It is an accidental advantage.
Adam: [04:37] I like that. I would not have thought of it that way but you’re right. I mean, you’re coming into it already with all of these things already being established and so you’re starting from square one in the current landscape as it were as opposed to shifting landscapes as you grow, so that’s fantastic. And I love kind of the point that you make: content is the touch point between brand and consumer and that brands need to be producing content at the speed which consumers consume it. So I guess I’m curious to ask you a question related to that. So you mentioned the old way of looking at it is like you just kind of put together this well-packaged campaign and that’s sort of it. I mean, do you still think in terms of campaigns or do you think sort of beyond campaigns and into more of like a flow sort of approach?
Mike: [05:18] Yeah, absolutely. We do think of campaigns. We still think of big ideas. I think under that big idea, we support it by content arcs or content pillars that then we’re publishing against those ideas as well. So absolutely. I mean, I think there’s what we call evergreen content, which is kind of you’re always on, but then there’s actual campaign content as well, which still needs to be delivered in that same mechanism. So, yes, I think this ideology supports campaign launches and campaign development as well, for sure.
Adam: [05:57] That’s great. Yeah, that’s actually really helpful, the way you broke it down into sort of evergreen and then campaigns, so campaigns have a more specific focus versus evergreen content, sort of always on a general topic and always available and attractive to end users. So that’s actually really helpful. Thank you. So, okay. So question number two; related to digital marketing, can you tell us something that has not worked well that we can learn from?
Mike: [06:19] Yeah, I mean, I think in my role there’s marketing and then there’s growing the agency, right? I think my biggest probably learning point right now is we’ve grown very fast. I mentioned, founded in 2013 and, really, in the last three years we’ve had explosive growth. We’ve ended up on the Inc. 5000 and it’s been great but that’s been a double-edged sword. I think for me, I’ve seen this explosive growth also force us to really make sure that we are aligned in our values, in our processes, in our behaviors, et cetera, because I think it’s very easy to focus on growth but then get misaligned internally. So this is more marketing; I guess this is more agency learnings. So for me, we’ve been very, very focused and we’re about one day out from our annual retreat where we’re actually rolling out brand new purpose, vision, mission, values and working on our behaviors because I think we had values before and what I think we’re really being conscientious to do this time around is integrate those values into practices and behaviors and everything from performance development to our one-on-ones to the tough conversations I’m having with my leaders, et cetera, et cetera.
[07:48] So for me, I’d say my biggest learnings have been more, I guess, entrepreneurial and growing a fast-growing agency versus marketing. I think in general, because marketing is fast moving and fast changing, I think I always say the reset button gets hit weekly. If you’re a brand and you’re on Instagram and they come out with IGTV, you’ve got to figure out how to work on that, right? Because there’s A, there’s first-mover advantage to that; but B, there is opportunity. And so I think part of— I’m careful to answer this question because I think failure and experimentation and marketing now is actually really a good thing. And it’s like a new cycle.
[08:39] I kind of talked about media companies, right? I think brands need to be a little less precious with their communications in the social atmosphere. You cannot overanalyze and over-architect every piece of communication in today’s world or you’ll never publish. You know what I mean? So I think I kind of answered that in two ways. One was really just my learning lesson as a leader of growing an agency, a marketing agency, and then the second part of that, just in general, what I think the mode by which we, as marketers, need to be acting, needs to be being okay with things that aren’t working well because I think you’ve got to put things in play to learn at this point.
Adam: [09:28] Well, you gotta test, right? Test and move and test and change and grow and test and iterate. Right? I love to test and iterate. I think most of us digital marketers like that a lot, so that’s great. I like that a lot. And I understand your pain from an entrepreneurial perspective. I mean, you guys have grown from what, six to fifty people in, I don’t know, like three years or something. Just astronomical. Is that right?
Mike: [09:51] Close. Yeah, I say four to forty-four but I’ll take the fifty. Now, I think based on current trajectory, we’ll get to the fifty mark very soon, but we’re in the forties for now, but yeah. Either way, to your point, it’s been, I call it explosive.
Adam: [10:09] Yeah, it’s a rocket ship, man. You’re guiding a rocket ship, so congratulations on that. I can’t wait to see where it goes. So that’s awesome. All right. Well, last question then, related to digital marketing, can you tell us something you’re excited about?
Mike: [10:23] Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s probably a segue from the conversation we just had on our ideology about brands, and I’m not saying completely comport themselves like media companies, but there are things that media companies are doing that brands should be learning from in terms of perpetually publishing relevant, valuable content, smart partnership with influencers, experimenting in new mediums, those kinds of things. And we’ve actually just launched what I sort of call for Dagger a learning lab, which is we’ve actually launched our own brand where it is a media company, a budding media company and it’s completely focused on Atlanta’s culture, which is a very dynamic and fast moving kaleidoscope. And so, as an agency CEO, what I don’t want to do is go talk to our brands about our ideology and not have anything real to authenticate it, right? And so it’s part that, but it’s part we think there’s actual, just an opportunity to do that against what’s happening in Atlanta culture. So it started on Instagram. We’ve got a launch party mid-October that’s happening at SweetWater Brewing. We’ve engaged in a lot of different partnerships around the city and we’re starting to build steam around it. So we just hard-launched it a couple months ago. And so that, if you’re on Instagram, butter.atl, follow it. We’ve got this really interesting infinite scroll that kind of ties together the issues.
Adam: [12:02] Oh, man. Yeah. Blows me away. Blows me away. The first time I saw that, I was like, “This is unbelievable.”
Mike: [12:11] Oh, good, man. I love that you love it. Yeah.
Adam: [12:13] Yeah. Do you mind if I describe it for a minute to our listeners?
Mike: [12:16] Yeah, I would love for you to describe it. Go for it.
Adam: [12:18] So on Instagram, when you go to someone’s profile, it doesn’t show the images big, it shows them as tiled, like all the big images they show, it shows them as tiled, and so what butter.atl has done is all of those tiles tie in together to make one large mosaic of an image that, like Mike said, is an infinite scroll and so every single image that they create ties into all of the other images and then it goes into a video or it goes into like a series of images or whatever else. So it’s just incredibly clever, really well done. Art is unbelievable. The coverage of Atlanta culture is really clever. Really well done. I mean, like I can’t tell you how impressed I am with butter.atl.
Mike: [12:59] Oh, thanks man. Actually, we need to have you be the new pitchman for it. Mosaic’s great. Yeah, mosaic’s great. No, thank you. I love to hear consumer feedback. Obviously positive is great, but I also anybody that’s following it, feel free to reach out to me or to you and say, “Hey, what do you guys thought about this?” I think part of it’s very much participatory and pulling in different content creators. But yeah, the mosaic thing is pretty cool. And each week and sometimes twice a week, we’re putting out issues on things that we’re seeing in Atlanta culture that are shaping it, everything from the Clermont Lounge to Atlanta United to different artists, which was this week’s issue. So it’s exciting and I think it’s still early stages so you’ll see that come to life. But our vision now is that that will really be a full-fledged media company in Atlanta brought to you by Dagger and really a proof point for this idea that so many of these things that we’re doing can be lessons learned for brands as well.
Adam: [14:02] So before I do the recap, my one question about Butter is, is there going to be coverage of 48in48 because that’s coming up, right?
Mike: [14:11] That’s not a bad thing. You know what? Your 48in48 founder, Jeff Hilimire, has asked me the same thing. Nonprofits are part of the culture for sure. So I think, yeah, let’s put it in the roadmap for sure. I think right now we’re very focused: artists’, music, sports, some of the very consumer-friendly aspects of culture. But I think at some point down the road for sure.
Adam: [14:39] Well, that sounds great man. I kind of figured, honestly, that 48in48 was sort of small potatoes compared to like oh, I don’t know, Atlanta United. So no worries there.
Mike: [14:48] Well, and you want us to wait because I think as we grow attention. I mean, right now the audience is burgeoning but over time, it’ll be bigger. So it actually is to your benefit if we say let’s do it in 2020 or late 2019 or whatever that is because I think you’ll just get more attention around it for sure.
Adam: [15:09] That’s great. Well, let me see if I can recap our conversation so that our listeners have kind of a good takeaway from it. So related to question number one, what is working well for you, you said you’re primarily focused on content. Content is the touch point between brand and consumer. I’ve got that highlighted and bolded in my notes. That’s kind of a fantastic statement. Campaigns are more robust than ever, but there’s still a place for campaigns, but there’s also a place for evergreen content. And you mentioned that brands need to put out content at the speed that consumers are consuming it, which is continuous and that because of that, brands really need to begin thinking of themselves as media companies rather than just brands that are putting out these segmented campaigns but not really unifying it together in any kind of cohesive state.
[15:53] For question number two, what has not worked well that we can learn from, you mentioned just the entrepreneurial growing pains of being one of the fastest growing agencies, presumably in the country, I think you said four to forty-four was your term in three years, which is— I mean, I remember coming to your office when it was like four of you and now I come to your office, and it’s just huge, man. It’s just unbelievable. And so you mentioned like maintaining your values and your culture and growing that within the organization. And then you mentioned also that in marketing we have to hit the reset button pretty much all the time because new things are happening in social media and everywhere else and we have to be ready to move and integrate those things into our current sort of campaigns and our current sort of media coverage as it were. And we have to be okay if things aren’t working well. We have to be willing to iterate around those things and continue to improve them or just scrap them outright.
[16:40] And for what are you excited about related to digital marketing, you mentioned that brands would be learning from media companies and Dagger just launched a media company, butter.atl, which I’m extremely excited about, incredibly impressed by. If you’re not actively already following on Instagram, you absolutely should because it’s really amazing to watch what you’re doing there. I’m really excited to see where all that takes you and where you go with it. So does that sound like a pretty good recap of everything we talked about?
Mike: [17:06] Yeah, I was going to say if we had a role that was Chief Recap Officer, we’d extend the offer right now.
Adam: [17:12] All right. See, I think Chief Recap Officer is way too highfalutin. I need something lower level, so like Scribe works. I’ll go old school.
Mike: [17:21] But point being great recap skills for sure.
Adam: [17:25] I appreciate that, Mike. That’s great. Well, do you have any final thoughts you want to share with the audience?
Mike: [17:30] Not off the top of my head. If you want to get in touch with us, whether you’re talent or brands, dagger.agency, on Instagram, @daggeragency. Obviously, I mentioned butter.atl and we’re on Linkedin. So get in touch and, Adam, always a pleasure. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
Adam: [17:48] You, too, Mike. Really appreciate talking to you. We’ll talk again soon, man.
Mike: [17:51] That’s great.
Adam: [17:56] Thanks for listening to the Good People, Good Marketing Podcast. To get more resources about digital marketing, make sure to go to goodpeoplegoodmarketing.com where you can find more podcasts, blogs, and other fun resources. Also, if you want to find me, your host, you can find me on Twitter @ajwalker and on my blog at adamjwalker.com, where I blog about leadership productivity, habit building, and the craziness of having five kids. Thanks, and tune in next time.
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