Growth Marketing Camp
Growth Marketing Camp

Episode 14 · 1 year ago

This Startup’s Viral Video Campaign Netted $5Million in Earned Media

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Nelio Leone is a growth marketer par excellence. In this episode he shares the complete, raw story of how a single unbranded video took Careem from a local scrappy competitor to knocking out Uber in their region. The company was later acquired by Uber, and Nelio went on to run other intelligent video ad strategies for his next app, Washmen, and now at his growth agency, UrbanMonks. You need to hear the critical shift in advertising that made all of this possible for him. Dig in!

Welcome to growth marketing camp, where we sit down with our favorite marketers to D mystify growth and give you the insights to help turn your next campaign into a major success. Let's get into it, all right. Welcome to another episode of Growth Marketing Camp. Excited to be joined by nearly Oh Leone the marketer to the world. I'm going to call him so nearly oh you come from a long background of different countries, Greece, Paris, Dubai and all over the world, doing marketing in some pretty incredible companies of some pretty great results. Just for the audience sake. Previous roles at Kareem, which was acquired by Uber, a Washman APP with some serious growth stats, you know. Three X weekly sign ups, doubling sales, fourteen x decrease in cost per APP registration, which is huge. We all want to know how to go further with our budget. So that's wonderful. You're a growth marketers, growth marketer man. We're excited to have you on the show. Welcome. Thank you, man. Honestly, I love your podcast and it's an honor to be here. Thank you for having me. Absolutely well, looking back on those roles and all the things that you've done in marketing, all the places you've done and what's been your favorite role so far? So it's hard to tell because I started my career as a corporate market here. I was in the mini Parisian headquarters in France of Loreal Paris, and I was under like most innovative and most advancive vision, and that was a lot of fun because we were working a lot with labs to find these new molecules for like antiaging, and it was actually really interesting because we opened a lot of different market and that's actually what led me here to the Middle East. That was back in two thousand and thirteen. My boss in Paris told me, man, we found like a very promising market, which is like Saudi Arabia, and back then as well, Iran was very promising. Is that like, man, you need to go there. You know, we need someone to really launch our marketing activities in these emerging markets, and you've got the profile. Just go and do it. That was a lot of fun. Came here to the Middle East, have like two years of a lot of fun with Lo Reale in like very entrepreneurial, but then I met these guys ex stanford x Mackenzie. They were starting an apple were like twelve to me, like fifteen people back then, and they were like man, you seem to know your stuff about marketing. Why don't you join us? And with Kadine we went from a startup that, you know, would all get into like an open space maximum and we ramped it up to three thousand two hundred employees and it was recently bought by Ouber for three billion dollars. So that was also like a lot of fun because you get to see how a startup goes from scrappy, shabby offices and all of that to like Tech Unicorn stardom and in like two years. It's so intense and up until today I so honestly can't believe we've done like you know, we managed to go through that, because it was really intense and it was amazing and it was everything at the same time. And then I did pretty much something very similar with another APP called Washman, founded by these like x bankers and x logistics guy like raising in and and we pretty much brought it from being like a super small three people office to now like a proper APP with the wood like offices in multiple cities and all of that and but all we did to scale it in terms of marketing was just me and an intern and my iphone. So that's how we scaled it. And all of them just lasted like proxim like two to three years, but all of them were like really interesting. Lorille lasted a bit longer, like around four to five years. And now I've been two years working on urban monks, which is a growth marketing agency where, basically, since I pretty much cracked, quote unquote, crack, the playbook on how to grow pretty much any sort of ventures, I said, instead of me going and working for other people, why don't I just like create my own marketing team and we just come in as a assets in screed sort of squad that helps us US growth squad. Yeah, very cool. Well,...

...that's awesome. I'm sure that your clients are really enjoying having you on board. However long they've got you. I'm sure the wizardry is working out really well for them. Those are some some fascinating stores. I'm sure we could dig in a million different places. There's one campaign in particular were preping be for the show and it comes from two thousand and seventeen, but I think it's just as relevant today as it was, you know, four years ago. And in it's around video, and I'm excited because I think this is one of those kind of the the pieces of the puzzle that you figured out. You crack that code around video and what makes it viral, it makes it interesting and go big. So talk me through. What was the goal of the campaign before we dig in fully, like what were you trying to accomplish for currying back then? So, basically, with Kerriem and and again, this was not just like my work. We had like an agency and we have like other people on board, so it's really team effort. It would be quite unjustified for me to take it all the credit of that because, you know, it was more of a team effort than just my own. But of course they contributed and I pretty much like saw it happening and actively contributed to it. So I just want to make sure this is clear. When I first drunk any I came from a very strong branding background. So coming from brands like Larea, like the she, like all these like super you know where brand is really ingrained in you, I came to this APP world and yeah, we have the product but I was like, okay, where's my brand? Man, how do I pitch this two consumers? At the end of the day, even if it's tech, even if it's like a product, you need a brand because at the end of the day, you want to capture the consumer market. So the consumer market, whether it's an APP or whether it's a detergent, you have to speak to them in the same exact way. That was my thought process. And back then people like you know, especially internally, there was like this kind of creed that is very strong, and at least it was very strong and Silicon Valley back then, and that kind of like also got the management and and the founders really really affected. was like, Oh yeah, like brand, whatever this is for, like Cocola, or it's for like big companies. Forget, we're just like a small APP, like you know, whatever product is going to make us big, build it and they'll come. This truth to that, right. I mean, if you have a great product, you're going to have like customers coming to your hands and just like ripping it off your hands and and it works. The problem is that an excellent product with a mediocre brand and a mediocre growth strategy behind that is powered by a strong brand will not go as far as a mediocre product with a strong brand strategy powered by growth. So that was really my thought process, like, man, we can't just go like product, product, product. Where is the growth aspect of it? What is like the marketing aspect? Where's the brand? Where is like? Where is all of that? Where's the story that we're selling? Yeah, and so that was like the objective. And then I made so much noise because, think about it, right, we were against Uber back then. So Huber did not acquire. It was not a one company. Yet now that's one company. So we're all friends and whatever, but back then hubers are competitor and it was like a super fierce competitor, and having a competitor to the Uber that keeps you on your toes pretty much day in and out and nights as well, because it's a one of the coolest brand, or at least it was back then, like one of the coolest rand coming from Silicon Valley, the craddle of tech, where products like are done in such an amazing way that we couldn't really compete on products. We couldn't really compete on their strong PR that they had wherever they go and I don't know if you remember how they use controversy all the time to enter your markets. Now I was like, how do you want us to compete with these guys? And at the end of the day, in terms of products, between Kend em and Uber, the switching cost is like a radio button, like literally we use the same fleet, the same drivers, the same everything. So like in terms of even product experience, we're like pretty much matching the same. So it was for me from day one it was more of a win their hearts and their minds, but it really started with win their hearts. And the best way to win people hearts is not through conversion campaigns, is actually through branding, because that's where you tell stories.

So for me could eat. It was really a branding story. So the objective was like how do we tell a different story to users so that they can feel that they prefer supporting local and they feel there is a brand that is more localized to them and that is more relevant to them rather than the International Black Wolf competitor that comes here and use like standardized process and that was the whole conversation that we had in terms of okay, how does the brand reflect that and so the objective. It went through like one year and a half of of like proper rebranding where we had to rethink all of those strategies. are like, okay, how do we clarify the message that we're local? How do we clarify the message that we are the good guys and that we're here from the region for the region? And then we started doing like all sort of experiments with videos, right because like videos, especially back then. Two thousand and seventeen seems like not a long ago, but like in the digital space it's like yeah, yeah, and in two thousand and seventeen, you know, facebook was still a thing for everyone. So everybody was still on facebook. Instagram was kind of like picking up twitter, okay, but like the thing is you had to crack facebook. That was pretty much it, because that was the only kind of discovery mechanism that people would have in their feeds and everybody would be on there. So how would we crack facebook? was like, okay, what can we do to announce a rebranding that really makes an impact? And that's where, also with our CMO and and with a whole team, we came up with this stret end and especially with this amazing, amazing three man agency called the misfits, where basically they came to our office and they were like man, yeah, we could do this and that, but why don't we do like a video? That pretty much it's like in CGI we're going to emulate, on a top of a building of Dubai getting someone slink shot on the other side to another building. I like, how you're going to do that? So yeah, we can do it, we can pull it off, we have all these CGI things, we can make it happen. I was like, Whoa, okay, we were like super, super excited about it. So basically, like the whole objective right there was, okay, how do we rebrand and how do we launch our new brand with a punch? Yeah, and funny enough that rebranding happened pretty much at the same time where we were officially recognized as the first techy Unicorn in the region. So we have to really make it big. Yeah, and so that was the whole concept. Is Like, how do we get people attention and how do we get them to stop the feeds? And that's where the agency came up with this brilliant idea and then, as a team, we said, okay, the idea is nice, but then the whole team came together and it was amazing because then we came up with with the strategy on okay, let's launch the video, the initial part to create buzz. Let's launch it on branded where basically it doesn't look like a brandy. It's just gonna look like a piece of content and it looks super rot like if you go on Youtube and you check Kadine slink shot video and you find that the unbranded version, you're going to see that it was pretty pretty intense because it really look like the camera was like shaking and it looked like a couple of guys doing like some sort of really weird experiments, which fit extremely well with Dubai mind of mentality, where you had like Jetman and you had all these crazy people doing like all sort of stunts. So that fitted really well the culture and it fit really well what people want on social media, which was like we want something that is extremely like shocking, that doesn't fall into like normality, that it's either like super or that it's very extreme. It matched the fact that it was hyperlocal because you could actually recognize that it was du Bui. So for people from the region. This hyperlocal aspect was extremely important. Yeah, and third there was like a...

...liquidity to that content, which is like how shareable it is. And who doesn't want to share like a video that you know where you see a guy's getting siglink shot from one building to the other? HMM. And funnily enough, there was like then the fourth element, which was the element of shock. And if you see the video basically, especially the the unbranded one, it looks like the guys actually like it. Know, it looks it's like it's made on purpose that the guy actually misses the building. Okay, and now is like what happens. And that video started going super viral because we managed to distribute it really well through and the distribution strategy was as smart as the video, and that goes credit to our excmo of cream that did an amazing job at the distribution because coming with the creative concept it was one thing, but then coming with like an amazing distribution strategy that was like really inspiring. And so credit to him because he really like came with a with a super strong distribution model where he said, listen, since it's like unbranded, let's distribute it to all influencers and let's distribute the PR to the medias that are not under carry. Let's distribute it as like you know, either with some of course some influencers played the game, some others didn't, but whatever. But we distribute it almost organically, as like we don't know where this came from. Originally, it's just like on social so even the PR started life asking, Oh my God, it's like someone dead, and and so now all this like question, is he dead? Easy light thing. And then you're going to see like a lot of headlines from from back then. It's like Arab man tried this link, shot and died, and then we had people like on Forums in Egypt saying, Oh my God, you should, you guys should stop talking about him. I know him and I know his mother and now his mother is trying and you guys are just like you're like sorry for my friend, but like we're like, oh my God, what's happening here? And then at some point came to the point where we wanted to disclose. Like the strategy was, okay, let's go on branded and let's distribute it on branded for like ten days and then we're gonna say ha, he he haw, we're going to talk to the media, say it's us, and then it's going to even amplify the content and busy. What happened is that the government came to the office and talk to the CEO, like to the founder of gettymns. Like, guys, we recognize the video. This comes from you. You need to and this happened like after three or four days that the video went life. Is that, like you need to say right now to everyone, on the press, on social on everything, that this was actually a PR stunt, because now this reflects extremely bad on Dubai, because it seems like Dubai is so reckless that allows people to do crazy experiments and it reflects really bad on the image. And second it attracts people that may start thinking that they can do all sort of crazy stunts because this is allowed. So is that like? Basically, they almost said something like, you know, basically like take it off the Internet and left. You know. So, but by then the video and so viral. By Day number three or four, it went so viral that it was shared on the news in Vietnam. It was shared by Lad Bible, by you know, like those videos that you would see on the Lad Bible or ninety nine gag or all of that, and it create like a tremendous echo. And then at some point, so after day three or day for, we have to go branded and we have to like retarget all the users that saw the videos on landing pages or like we have to come with like P rubber strategy to retarget those pe pull that would actually have seen the video to say hey, guys, by the way, and then we said, like there's a better way to get around. Don't get slink shot get hetty. That was hunching and funding of the video up until today is still going on...

...the Internet and I think like maybe like a year ago or like a couple of months ago, we were really stoked when Elon Musk retweeted the video. I'm like wow, like this really went far. That's amazing. Well, that's incredible. I mean you broke down all of the most critical elements of it. I'm curious, though, of the channels that you distributed on. Obviously PR took a big part of that. Eventually, what your initial distribution strategy? Where was your top channel? Where were you spending the most energy, time budget? It was facebook, because back then facebook was like really huge. Instagram was was picking up, so we also leverage a bit of Instagram, but that was pretty much it. We had some youtube, but you know, it was like it was okay issue, but the real channel was facebook. That's where things started really to blow up. That makes sense. Now you're in growth marketing still, so maybe you'd tell us if you had to do it again today, what channels would you use primarily? Now Al so many of them. Feels like yeah, but that's a problem. Is that today I don't think this would actually apply anymore, and I wouldn't bank on something like this simply because most of the channels don't really have those algorithms very opened anymore, meaning that in order to get reach you now need to pay. This happened at facebook. It happened in two thousand and eighteen, where they got like the reach apocalypse. How we called it an in group marketing. We're basically like all organic content would not really get the same virality. So two thousand and seventeen was actually really the moment to do this, because then two thousand and eighteen, two thousand and nineteen, two thousand and twenty and twenty one, like it's almost impossible to get, like, not impossible, but it's very hard to get free reach on these platforms. Maybe one that has had a lot of Echo lakely it's was pretty much tick tock. Yeah, but yeah, that's pretty much it. If I would bank on one, it would probably be tick tock. Yeah, I would probably try tick tock. That's the only one that is a bit more open, but still not that easy to crack, to be honest. Sure, yeah, no, make sense. You went on to use, I think, the results of this campaign and of course, many others after it, to further your career and then, of course, the growth of you, the companies you've worked for and then eventually develop your own agency. Would you say that this campaign was foundational in Your Own Story? Totally. Yeah. Yeah, because if there is one thing that I've learned, and that is the key learning I got, is that you should treat every add creative that you produced as content. Your ads should not look like ads, because in the right moment where your ads look like ads, what's going to happen is that you disrupt the UX of facebook users or instagram users or tick tock users or whatever users. Why? Because you are not on social media to buy. Social media is not like an Ebay. You're not there to buy, you're not there to sell, you don't have a buying mindset. Well, you do, though, have is I want to get entertained, I want to get informed, I want to get inspired, I want to laugh. Yeah, that is why I'm going on social media. So most of advertisers that I've seen after that and still today, they all come okay, let's do facebook ads, and then they create apps that actually look like ads. Yeah, when was the last time that you clicked on an ad that look like an add almost never. Yeah, that's it. The first thing you do you either like, if you're Nice, you skip it and if you're really pissed that you see something that disrupts your experience, you put like block it or flag it or whatever. Yeah, because it just like, it just irritates you. So why advertisers still do ads that look like ads, whereas you could convey the same message through entertainment? So using your conversion ads,...

...but with creative concept that are very in tune with all the rest of content that you'll see on in the facebook, instagram, ticktock, twitter ecosystem. Yeah, this is the the big, big, big realization that I had with that slink shot. I said, what if, from now on, all of our ads would look like content? And this is exactly how we reduce by almost fifteen x the cost of acquisition at Washman, because we have these exact same problem. When I went at Washman the first few days that the founder was like, man, don't forget facebook, let's focus on Google, because we tried facebook, it doesn't work. And the first thing I did I went and look the creatives and I told them it's not facebook that doesn't work, it's the creatives that look like ads. And so the first thing I did I actually took this thing here. It's basically like a war bonnet, and the only thing I did I took like my phone and basically I started talking to people saying hey, my name is neario from Washman. I had like a Washman key shirt and I told them, listen, my name is neario from Washman and the head of growth and if you download this add right now, if you click that link below, I'm going to come to your place and I'm going to wash all your laundry, or something similar. I mean that. I was like more we wash, we dry and we fold, like giving all the value proposition, but in a way that it was very entertaining and that the video look raw because we shot it from an iphone. It was not like it was not high production, it was not like camera lighting, nothing. It was just literally an intern that shocked me while I was just playing around with a camera. Yeah, and that works. That went so liquid that we became a case study for facebook in the region. Amazing, because facebook couldn't realize how come there is this like Super Small Company in Dubai UAE that has like a relevant score. Back then there was still the relevant score. Now it's called quality score of their ads of like nine out of ten consistently for like six months. You know, they were like man, Whoa like we've never seen this. Yeah, that's amazing. Obviously that's informed the work you do now, which I'm sure has been helpful to your clients. Is there anything that you would maybe redo about this kind of looking back at the strategy, it seems like it blew up exactly like you wanted it to, your original campaign, even this, you know, the next one for a Washman. Is there anything that you feel like now you would deploy differently, other than obviously the channels, given that so much has change in the last few years. Anything, they're like, if only we had also tapped this one extra channel or this other method. Yeah, so I think, I think where we're not really strong. We were very good at creating that initial spike and honestly, the results were pretty impressive. We got like five million dollars in earned PR and for like a small start ups, it's like someone would come with five million. That's like your series be round right there. Yeah, or like you know, that's like that's you raise five million. You don't get like earned five million in PR that you basically it's as if the company would have spend five million dollars in getting PR articles and and all of that done for us. Yeah, so for a start up, again, like a series be, it's around like six million dollars, seven million dollars. Then it depends on the startups, but that's the magnitude we're talking about. So could we have done anything like? Was it good? Yes. Was it excellent? Yes. However, of course you can always like kind of blame yourself for for help, for doing also that little extra that would have made it like even more and that is we didn't manage two things property. First of all, we build that momentum. We were like super excited about Blah Blah, but we didn't have a fallow up strategy. So the thing when I booming, it's the stars, and then it just like went, not to the same level, of course, but it went like just imagine if you were like a hundred, it went to like million and then, instead of staying like maybe...

...at nine hundred thousand eight hundred thousand seven Hundredzero, it would just plumb it back to like Eightyzero and like, if only we have a strategy to then like keep on that momentum, it would have grown much faster. But anyways, I've heard that about viral content. Only I don't think you the only person who's experience like planning for success is actually quite difficult to foresee, because you want a temporary expectations right. You don't want to say, okay, this is going to be a ridiculous hit, we're going to be incredible and like plan this big, big audacious thing afterward. So it makes sense that maybe that was a lesson that you learned, because you don't want to go crazy right out of the gates with your first big ad, but it does seem like an opportunity to keep things going afterward. Yeah, yeah, yeah, so that was the thing. Then we kind of all like, you know, did a super successful rebranding. Everybody was like super powered up, like you know. It changed the culture internally. was like a big moment, right. Yeah, and the problem is that. Yeah, then after that we kind of like say, Oh, cool, man, I was so intense, it was so cool, but we should have like gotten exactly back to work and back to not necess about to work, but like then having like a strategicy what now? How do we capitalize on this? How do we use it? And we use it to the extent that this becomes like, you know, we can extend the success of this. That's the first learning. The second learning we didn't manage data properly. So if we would have have back then like a super strong data driven mindset, that would have been like okay, guys, now we're touching all these people, but are we capturing data that then we can reuse? Sure, so that then we can either retarget those people and when we can create like conversion funnels and then we can create like all of that fun stuff that will actually also have a strong impact on sales or on on trips book bookings and acquisition and all of that. So I think that's where we miss the opportunity of a having like a solid plan to capitalize on that success. Be Not having like a proper data strategy, as in, can we retarget those users? Can we filters the one that are in Vietnam or Mexico that are super irrelevant for us? Yeah, can we now build like a proper conversion campaigns on the users that already saw that? So again, I think all in all, it comes back and to continue with you, so like it was really like an intermitted win, whereas we should have liked probably band that's probably yet. I think the great news is that you benefited so much immediately and it was such a success right out of the gates that you still you know, he said, yeah, you went from a hundred two a million back down to Eightyzero. You probably wouldn't have gotten eightyzero if it hadn't gone so viral. If you haven't gotten that high, it probably wouldn't have taken you as far. So it's incredible story. Now you, Oh, I mean you've broken down every element that I think I would ever want to know about because it's so powerful. You clearly love growth marketing. You live for this stuff. If people want to if they want to learn more about you, they want to follow you on social media. Where's your favorite platform these days? Linkedin. I'm pretty active on Linkedin for one simple reason. It's because I find that most content on Linkedin was not really good, like in, for instant twitter, there's great content. Yeah, and on Linkedin I really struggled for a long time to follow people that would actually inspire me. So I said, you know what, since it's so hard to find content that I would consume, why wouldn't I, like, you know, do this content? And Yeah, that's why I'm pretty active on the platform. Yeah, I've enjoyed following you. I think you've got tips nearly every day that are actionable and interesting and based on your incredible experience here. So I'd advise everybody listening or watching you got to go following Ailie. He's awesome. You will enjoy it. Urban monks, if they want to learn about your company, how do they do that? So for the time being it's through my linkedin because our website is down, or just like revamping it like two months ago, so I need to work on that stuff. Exciting? No? All right, well, we'll connect with you on linkedin and make sure everybody follows you there. Thanks for joining us. This is a treat. You've got such incredible experience, such an exciting story to share. I'm sure this one's going to...

...be a favorite of the folks listening. Thank you very much, tanks, for having me and again, your post guts really rocks. Man, thanks for sure. Thanks for listening to growth marketing camp. If you enjoyed this episode, we'd love it if you would give it a quick five star rating or share it with a friend or colleague looking to get a little more inspiration for their next campaign. If you want to learn more about the company behind the show, had to open sensecom. That's open sky and skycom will catch you on the next episode.

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