UB Insider #49: Customer Engagement as a Marketing Strategy
About this episode:
Larry H. Miller Sports and Entertainment recently announced a partnership with Lehi-based Qzzr to boost fan engagement online across multiple companies and platforms. In this episode of UB Insider, Owen Fuller, president of Qzzr, talks about why companies are putting a priority on increasing engagement, and why they’re working it into their marketing strategies. Subscribe to our podcast or download this episode on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or Google Play.
Lisa Christensen: Hello and welcome to UB Insider. I’m Lisa Christensen, Online Editor at Utah Business magazine. Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment recently announced a partnership with Lehi-based Qzzr to boost fan engagement online.
Owen Fuller, President of Qzzr is here to talk about why companies like Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment are putting a priority on increasing engagement with their customers and why companies feel it’s so important to work it into their marketing strategies. Welcome.
Owen Fuller: So good to be here, thanks Lisa.
Lisa Christensen: So tell me briefly about the partnership.
Owen Fuller: Yeah, so it’s a big deal for us, of course. We’re really excited to be working with someone right here in Utah. A lot of our customers tend to be out on the coast or in big media hubs and we see the Jazz and really all of Larry H. Miller as premier brands here in town.
So what we’re doing is we’re working with the Jazz to increase fan engagement on their site. We’re powering fan zones on actually the Jazz site and also on other Larry H. Miller properties like the Megaplex site and the 1280 The Zone site. Fans can go there and take quizzes, they can vote on polls and they also get a chance to enter to win some pretty cool prizes in the process, too.
Lisa Christensen: So how does that kind of engagement, you know, getting fans to take polls and quizzes, how does that translate into, you know, increased marketing or sales or brand loyalty?
Owen Fuller: Yeah, it’s a good question. For one thing, in the sports world this topic of engagement is a big deal. With kind of all the ways that we have to divert our attention, the NFL, the NBA and all the teams are looking for ways to create a better fan experience. And the Jazz are certainly leaders in that. And so what they’re trying to do is just create a chance for Jazz fans to one, know that when they go to the site there’s something that they can do that’s not just stale or passive content, but that they can participate in it. They can be heard and they can share things with their friends.
So I think that it’s a win for the Jazz because they’re all about creating a great customer experience and this helps them do that. It’s a win for the fans because they get a chance to do something fun and they have good things to talk about on social media. And again the chance to, in some cases, win something great. They gave away some courtside playoff seat tickets as part of this not long ago.
Lisa Christensen: Oh, wow.
Owen Fuller: And then there are also sponsors that are involved in this, sponsors that work with the Jazz or the Jazz’s corporate partners. Or people like Little Caesars or some others that you see when you go to the arena. We’re working with them to deliver also great engagement that is connected to those brands. So it’s kind of a win for the Jazz, a win for the fans and hopefully a win for these corporate partners as well.
Lisa Christensen: How do you tailor this bettered fan experience for the different platforms? So, you know, how do you make sure that the Jazz fans are getting the best experience and the Megaplex customers are getting the best experience? How do differentiate those and tailor them?
Owen Fuller: Yeah, it’s a great question. The key is that fortunately those are all a part of the Larry H. Miller companies and that’s a company that knows its customers really well. So they help us. They help us say hey, these are the things people want. Like on the Jazz site, we did this great poll that got a ton of traction that was, who had the best reaction to John Stockton’s shot? Which was the shot that put the Jazz into the finals way back when the ’97 team was ruling the Western Conference. And so that went really, really well and people loved that.
Another quiz was, which all-time Jazz all-star are you? And that gave the fans a lot of fun things to talk about. Now Megaplex is a completely different game, right? Their quiz is about Guardians of the Galaxy and it’s just a different topic for a different audience. So it’s all about being relevant and knowing what people are coming there for and really not getting in the way of that.
Lisa Christensen: You guys have a lot of other big brands and sectors that you’re involved with: HBO, Marriott, ESPN, Redbull, LinkedIn. How do you tailor content and the experience for each of those extremely diverse companies?
Owen Fuller: Yeah, it’s a great question. The key is really that one, we provide a product that allows them to do it themselves. So we have, you know, an offering called Qzzr software that we have about 270,00. I guess I looked this morning and it’s just over 285,000 now, users. People that are content creators at these big companies that you talked about. They can get on, they can then just use our tool to create something really interesting and immersive and fun like a quiz. Our lists are even different.
Everyone is familiar with lists online like, 7 Places to Go Before You Die, but our lists allow the readers to participate in the story. So they vote on the list items, or they respond to them and that generates a readers’ list. So we basically give the best content creators in the world a tool to use that allows them to connect with their audience, because we can’t know them all.
Now we do have a Qzzr Studio team, and when someone needs help, like we might have some of the biggest financial institutions in the country, for example, have reached out to us and said hey, we love this, we want to do it, but we don’t really have a person on our team that we feel would be the best to do this. So our studio team will dig in with them and get to know their audience through talking with them and engaging their audience and then we can go ahead and create the content.
Lisa Christensen: You guys have been around since 2013, and you’ve been involved with some of the biggest phenomenon, I guess, on the internet. One thing that comes to mind is the blue/black slash white/grey dress controversy.
Owen Fuller: Yeah, what did you see Lisa? What color did you see?
Lisa Christensen: I saw blue and black.
Owen Fuller: That’s what it really was. Only 25% of people actually saw it that way, but you got it right.
Lisa Christensen: Oh, good, good. You guys powered the quiz that Gawker posted about whether it was blue and black or white and gold. But a lot of people may not know that you guys were behind that or that you’re based here. How important is name recognition or the obviousness of your brand to your marketing strategy as a company?
Owen Fuller: Yeah, of course for us we love it when people know that we’re behind these things. That’s always good. That always helps us. But at the same time we know that for our customers, a lot of what’s important for them is sometimes to have it look like it’s coming from them.
So while, you know, we had 358 million people use our stuff last year, most of that didn’t have our brand name on it. And you know, we’re okay with that because we’re really about making our customers successful. And what we’ve found is that we have a huge amount of inbound interest all the time because when people see that stuff online, they start tinkering and looking around and saying, wait a minute, who did that? Who does that? And they find us.
We had this crazy experience with the producer of the Today Show who called us one day out of the blue and said we’ve got to sign a deal. We need an enterprise agreement today. And usually enterprise agreements don’t happen that fast. So I said, what is going on? I’ve just got to know how this happened. And she said well, I’ve been seeing your dang quizzes on my Facebook feed for the last month so I figured we finally better get with it.
Lisa Christensen: So out of curiosity, what color of the dress did you see?
Owen Fuller: I saw white and gold! But Bucky, who’s my partner and our CEO, he actually claims that he saw both. So I don’t know what that means about Bucky, but maybe that’s why he’s such a visionary.
Lisa Christensen: So speaking about customer engagement as a whole, how has it evolved to get to the point, what factors have led to this being an important sector or important angle of business for companies to consider?
Owen Fuller: Well there’s this fascinating process that has taken place. If you go back through history, and you know, these aren’t just all of my thoughts, but this is something that a lot of people in our space are talking about, but originally, customer interaction was one-on-one.
Way back in the day, think about markets and bazaars where people are just interacting and they’re really getting to know each other and they’re tailoring the message to that person. And then what happened is we got these tools of mass media like TV and radio and all of these ways that we’re really able to market to people broadly. But that took away from personalization.
So now it’s all about well, this brand that steps in. And this brand is what you connect to because you can trust that the Gillette razor is what you want and this and that. And so there was this kind of dehumanization or this process of removal of personalization. And what’s happening now is customers are realizing that they’re in control and with the technology we have, they’re demanding that we do get to know them.
So where do I see customer engagement going? More personalized so it’s smarter, it’s more intelligent, it’s more interactive and it lives on every device. It can go with you and it should be getting to know you better. So, you know, the other offering that we have that I didn’t mention is Qzzr Science. And that’s where our team, our data scientists use behavioral economics and psychology and machine learning to help our customers take advantage of this huge data set that they have and really make customers’ lives better because of it.
Lisa Christensen: Why do you think that people connect so well with this ability to participate in these brands after we’ve had so many years of having that depersonalization and having these large, anonymous messages?
Owen Fuller: Well, so I think that there’s something unique about, I believe that there’s something unique about what we do that makes it really interesting. So one thing is all of our content includes a lot of rich media, and that helps because you’re stimulating people in more than just kind of like the traditional article. But I think there’s more to it.
Everything that we build has this element of reciprocity. So basically you’re invited to participate in this story and you get rewarded for it. So you take the quiz and you find out, oh, this is which Friends character I am. Or oh, now I got to prove that I really am the greatest expert on the Utah Jazz in the history of the world. You know, I think looking forward there’s only going to be more of it. What’s next? Is it immersive experiences and virtual reality? Or what will be the next way that consumers say, come get to know me better and this is what I expect when we interact with each other.
Lisa Christensen: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Owen Fuller: No, thanks. We’re just so grateful to be here in Utah. We’re in old-town Lehi and that’s just right where we want to be. It’s such an awesome place to build a business. We’re so thankful for the investors here that believed in us early, we’ve raised a couple rounds of funding. We’re thankful for this ecosystem that allows us to do what we do. So thank you for your part in that, and thanks for having me here today.
Lisa Christensen: Do you mind if I ask you about the experience of being in Silicon Slopes?
Owen Fuller: Yeah, it’s a great question. For us it’s been great. Before helping to launch this company, I built and sold an inbound marketing agency. I started that in 2009 right after college when I was too dumb to know what I was getting myself into. Thank goodness or else I probably wouldn’t have done it. And I’ve just seen that period of time of kind of being an entrepreneur here for the last eight or so years, what a change in the availability of resources, the networks that are here and the availability of capital.
We just had a big event this last weekend called the Kickstart Summit, for everyone that had been invested in by the Kickstart Seed Fund, who are just awesome. Gavin and his team do such a great job there. I mean, we had top notch people flying into Utah, 50 investors from out of town, from Silicon Valley and everywhere else, coming here to Utah, to us to get to know us and see how we can work together. Top executives, the former CEO of Starwood Hotels and Coors was a speaker there and spent a couple days with us. That’s a lot different than what I felt like when I started my last company by myself in my little apartment in Provo and was looking for maybe a Chamber of Commerce meeting or something.
Lisa Christensen: Where do you see Utah’s strengths in Silicon Slopes? And where do you see it going?
Owen Fuller: I think like most people, I see the talent that’s huge here. You know, we’re fortunate for that. We’re fortunate also that there are a lot of people that go out and have great experiences and really want to come back here. And I hope that we, as we grow, we’re going to need to do a few things to attract new kinds of talent, to be a very welcome place for people that are of any, you know, color, creed, personality type, while maintaining what makes Utah so great. So I think that there’s this balance that we have to strike.
We’re going to ultimately need to attract a lot more people than we have. We’re going to need to start people very young. I’m really thrilled with all I’m seeing about coding that’s going on for kids in schools, because hopefully as our company grows we’re going to need to hire a lot more people. And so, you know, where are we going to find those people is the question. But man, there’s no place we’d rather be.
Lisa Christensen: Well great, we’re glad to have you here. And thanks for coming in.
Owen Fuller: Thanks so much for having me.
Lisa Christensen: Thanks also to Mike Sasich for production help. Thoughts on today’s episode? Or just want to weigh in on the dress debate again? Reach out to us on social media at @utahbusiness or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to also subscribe to our podcast, available wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening.