When I’m with my two sons (ages 9 and 11) I try to be fully present. I’m learning all too quickly how fleeting childhood is, and I’ll never get these precious years with them again. On the other hand, as Chairman, CEO and Chief Stamp Licker at PebblePost, I have a virtual 24/7 obligation to my company. And, like my dad before me, I try to forge a workable compromise by giving my sons occasional glimpses of what the business world is like.
The results can be amusing — and humbling.
By way of background: I’d been invited to be a panelist at &Then, a conference in Las Vegas put on by the combined forces of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the Data & Marketing Association (the DMA, formerly known as the Direct Marketing Association, which the ANA acquired last May). Our session was called “The Power of Print for Digitally Native Brands.” It was right in PebblePost’s wheelhouse, in other words.
Even better, I’d be joined on the panel by Laura Hymes, Marketing Director at Founders Entertainment. PebblePost had worked with Laura on a campaign for the Governors Ball Music Festival on Randall’s Island in New York. (There’s a neat parallel with my dad there, incidentally. He worked in the music industry as a public relations specialist and introduced me to that business at an early age.) Our campaign with Gov Ball had been phenomenally successful, resulting in a 10.5x incremental return on ad spend.
As you can imagine, I was eager to evangelize about the potential of Programmatic Direct Mail® to a captive audience made up of people with both a background and a vested interest in direct marketing. My goal, as always, was to make them see new potential. They could combine online intent signal with proven offline marketing techniques to generate unprecedented results, like Gov Ball had. But I also knew I had to speak their language — which meant putting at least as much emphasis on the programmatic component of Programmatic Direct Mail® as the direct mail part.
And one day not long before the conference I happened to be on the phone with Geoff Dodge, our Chief Growth Officer, talking about this. I also happened to be with my kids at my loft in SoHo. So they could hear me as I discussed what a great opportunity this was for us to spread the word. After all, just about every keynote and every breakout session involved omnichannel performance measurement and omnichannel attribution validation.
Big Data, in other words, was the overarching theme and focus.
Who’s your Daddy?
Anyway, I devoted most of that call to a discussion of Big Data, in the abstract. I kept saying things like, “This entire conference is about Big Data.” And, “The world will revolve around Big Data.” And, “Everyone knows Big Data is here.” And, “Everybody’s success will depend on Big Data.” “Everyone wants to understand what Big Data can do for them, how Big Data will make them smarter.”
When I got done, my kids were sitting there looking a little put out. I said, “Sorry about that, guys. I have to do business calls from home once in a while.”
But it turned out that it wasn’t the fact that I’d conducted a business call that bothered them. It was the way I had done it. They thought I lacked professionalism, that I was arrogant and showed zero humility. Just who did I think I was, anyway? Where did I get off boasting about how the most important marketers in the world were getting together for a conference that would be all about Big Dadda?
As Sawyer, my younger, pointedly put it, “Yeah, OK, Big Dadda. Well, I'm Huge Sawyer. Really Gigantic Huge Sawyer.”
Well, Big Dadda got a big laugh out of that one. And he reassured Really Gigantic Huge Sawyer and Really Gigantic Huge Sawyer’s Older Brother that he really did know his place in the world — and that at that moment it was right there in that room, with them.