The Marriage of Tech and Branding


Since the rise of COVID, community and connectedness are at the forefront of the minds of consumers. Brands have adapted by using technology to tell a story, building relationships with their customers through engagement.

Yet, many wonder if some of this tech, like personal data collection, is an invasive slippery slope.

Of course, as Chris Silver puts it, the foundation for any relationship is trust. But the co-founder and board member of BambuMeta thinks that brands are figuring out how to maximize their customers’ data while also respecting their privacy and time.

Join us as we discuss:

- How technology in branding is elevating the customer experience

- If zero-party data is really the answer to privacy concerns

- Why NFTs will change the game for consumer-brand engagement

Craving more? You can find this interview and many more by subscribing to C-Suite Blueprint on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or here.

How can we give the customer more control, over consent, over their data, over their privacy? How can we let them own their journey and how can we be better as brands and meeting the customers where they want to be met, both in store and out of store? Web Three Technologies. Are they just for N F T S and board apes and Crypto Bros, or can actually be useful? These topics are more I explore today with Chris Silver. Chris has a passion for helping brands achieve these moments of connections with brands and customers through storytelling. He's worked at brands you may know, such as urban outfitters, MAC cosmetics, estay louder and David German. Chris has a great point of view on how you reimagine the customer journey and how we leverage these new technologies in meaningful ways, not just distracting ways. Please welcome Chris Silver. You're listening to C suite blueprint, the show for C suite leaders. Here we discuss no boys approaches to organizational readiness and digital transformation. Let's start the show. Chris, thanks so much for joining me. Pleasure to be here as always, George, so last time we were catching up, you were talking about actually using technology to make relationships better, which is such a novel, unique concept, to actually make our lives better. So I think it's a great place to start the conversation is to talk about the customer. You've been leading top brands, the technology groups of those brands and the retail strategy. Um, you've seen the challenges over the years and you're seeing the new challenges are there. Um, what are those new challenges for the customer? What's important to them? One of the things that I absolutely love the most about working with these, you know, iconic brands over time is the storytelling and I think it's that storytelling of the relationship, of the history of the brand. You know, D N A is is critical for these experiences of the future. I think, Um, one of the things that customers resonated with over the pandemic is experience and connectedness and community, and I think one of the big things that, you know, we as brand technologists like to put into the hands of the marketers and the associates and everything is the ability to tell that brand story through as many different lenses, with technology kind of complimenting it and helping it along the way Um consumers over last twenty four months. You know, they really value their time, they value luxury experiences and they they really don't have any time for, uh, something that doesn't show that the brand actually cares. Um, we see that influencers that are building relationships with brands are are are gaining a lot of popularity. Um, live streaming, connectiveness, Um, and that that that unifying attribute that a customer engages with a brand, no matter what channel, because it's not just, you know, a website anymore. It's not a store, it's it's how are you portraying your brand in a story? So I've appreciated, you know, over my career, helping brands tell that story in many different ways, but, you know, trying to really connect and build that relationship with the consumer. What I hear in there is that the the fundamentals have never really changed, right, that the customer wants you to know them, they want you to meet them where they want to be met and they don't want you to betray their trust. And what's funny about technology is there are some areas where it's helped, but then there's some areas where it's just made a mess of things. or it gets in the way right, it starts to betray trust when you don't want to betray trust. That the the the insertion of additional channels now causes the customer to get lost rather than being met where they want to be met. And, Um, you know, I'm curious how you've navigated all of those, those times when technology doesn't necessarily help but where it throws in hurdles where they shouldn't be. Well, it's interesting today, I think. Um, finally, the hurdles that we saw in the past, and I don't want to offend my my legal friends and,... know, my opting friends and and everything around, the regulatory things that we saw in the past is, you know, kind of like a friction point. It is like a challenge point around like a perfect customer journey. But I think what's been interesting lately in all these conversations that's been happening, is what we saw in the past as a friction point is now a value proposition to the consumer. They want, you know, protected consumer data. They want to make sure that when they do sign up with you, that their data is not at risk. UH, they want to make sure that your messaging them at what times are appropriate and with content that makes sense. You're not spamming them or first seeing as you know, what these iconic brands, you know, never want, which is a noisy channel that they'll just eventually get muted. Um, I think it's we're finally at a piece where the customer values are matching. What we need to provide is brand in terms in terms of they trust us. You know, they trust US enough to engage with us. They trust US enough to come into our locations, on our properties, whether it be online, social or in real life. You know, the least we can do is be mindful of all that and stay out of uh, you know, harm with the data that they choose to, you know, give us to enhance their experience. Um, you know, there's a lot that goes around with that. I think there's been, you know, some other hurdles around uh, you know, emails being an over exploited channel. It's so noisy now because everyone's just blasting email. Um, text messages are are often seen as not too much of a luxury experience when you you try to engage a consumer, and also there's a lot of uh, noise and disruption on that channel. So I think you know, the technology that we have in place with web two, you know, is reaching a ceiling with what we can do with personalization, with enhance experiences, with connectivity to these communities, and it's kind of at the tipping point where, I think, you know, we have a new technology and ecosystem that's emerging that is bringing about a solve for a lot of things that, you know, once again, we saw in the passes, you know, a hurdle, but now what we're seeing is a value proposition to the consumer and you know, it's a very, very exciting time uh to be in technology, in this connected technology, but also to have a consumer trust you and to have this at your disposal at the start of it to kind of reshape the way that consumers are going to be engaging in these experiences going forward. I'll be curious to your perspective on this, having been on the brand side. But, you know, I think the consumers can have this impression that the brands just want to gobble up all their data and that's how they care about right, and I've, you know, we've served brand as well, and I think people can get distracted. I've even heard the phrase, you know, data is the new oil. You know, that's actually an old phrase at this point. But really, when I'm working with brands, what they're really trying to do is they're trying to own and influence the relationship. Right, the data is just a means to the end. If if there's a way to be able to to provide value to that relationship and really build a stronger relationship. But the consumer, you know my guess of brands probably at the end of the day, don't care if they own the data or not, as long as they can truly have that relationship. I'm I'm here as your perspective. Haven't been on the brand side. No, I agree, and you know, I've been in a lot of conversations not only with the brands but also, uh, you know, outside of the brands that I've been a part of, and I think you know some of the you know, the things and the conversations of the past have been. I don't know what I'm going to use it for, but let's let's collect it right, and I'm not saying it's part of the brands of the past, but that's the mindset of you know, Data Lakes and everything you're trying to connect is because, you know, not to collective for the sake of collecting, but to collective for the sake of how do I offer true value, true personalization, true discovery, that co creation, that personalization approach, so I can service my customer and build relationships even improven further. So it's not done for any you know, kind of malicious attent or, you know, trying anything like that. It's meant because we want to provide the best experience possible for the consumer. I think we we want to gather the data for personalization,...

...for forecasting, so we can give them better products down the line, so we can have the products when, when and where they want them in the different parts of the country of the world. You know, the data is definitely used for extremely good purposes for what we do, collected of and I know it's a scary thing just to say the data, but, Um, I think you know where this is headed. Is No, I don't think brands actually care about who the person is from a Pii perspective, just that they can um put the person or the that that the person in that specific journey that gives them everything that they want to engage a brand with in a highly, highly personalized way. So I think if we were able to say that this person looks a light a lot like this one, but it has this different attributes and not have to worry about all the P I I that comes with it to provide that, I think that's a extremely attractive proposition because it kind of changes the way that we're thinking of customer relationship management and that where are now doing things on the customers terms, because of the ability to provide these Um, luxurious uh and and frictionless experiences, because of us not having the risk of all this customer data with us, because the consumer now owns their data when they engage with us, we can now subscribe them to different things that really matter to them without worrying about who it is. We don't have credit card data, and look what we can do, you know, with apple pay and a lot of the different UM commerce and payment technologies. You know, I think we are now doing that with identity, personalization, loyalty, and I think it's really what I'm they always wanted to be, which is across everything, across retailer channel, and now the versus for what it really truly means for the customer. Yeah, and get getting the brands closer to the customer. Yeah, I can't tell you how many organizations I've been in where people are just so focused on the data warehouse, of the Data Lake, and I'm like yes, but why? What are you going to do with this? And it just and then it ends up just turning into a data swamp that's sitting around that no one actually does anything meaningful with. or or you're trying to unwind all the data to to figure out what is the true intent of this consumer, what it is, what do they want? And and I feel the more layers that we can remove in between they're, the closer you get back to, quite honestly, what what it was before technology was inserted, which is, you know, you the customers telling you what it is that they want and you're listening to them, as crazy as that concept sounds. Right, no, I think that's that's an extremely important point, you know, to make. I think the customer today you know, once the brands where, how Uh and when you know they want to engage with them on their their life cycle. Um, I think the interjection we do is to try to find more points Um, that the brand can kind of show that there's value to engaging with them at this point. Um, I think a lot of this is, you know, just trying to figure out when these triggers, kind of meet ups at the customer journees can, you know, go out and provide these these, you know, rich experiences. But I think the more of this future technology comes into play and the nature of it is that brands are already whenever the customer needs us most, whenever the customer wants to engage us most with the brands that they love. Um, I think that for the customer, this is what they always wanted, which is that, you know, super simple, frictionless engagement to the products when and where they need it, and it's not necessarily siloed by where they purchase it or how they purchase it or, you know, where they want to find out more about it. I think, you know the fact that we're giving, you know, brands on demand. I think is is the key to getting the brand's voice in DNA, out there in the normal, uh, you know, conversation that that people are having. Yeah, and interesting. You say DNA, because now we have n F T S, and N F T S are essentially this unique blueprint that we can have for for anything, Um, and you know, I've we've worked with plenty of AZZATIONS. You're trying to stitch together all these...

...different ideas to say, is this the same person in this channel that exists in this other channel? And and so now we have N S T yeah, the Golden Record, right. And now we have this not just a fingerprint but something, a fingerprint that can have contracts and agreements embedded within it so that someone can ensure that that it's used the right way. Um, you know, I'm curious what you're seeing on you know, and I'm sure everyone's been distracted by board apes and money laundering and art and all that stuff and N F T s. But but this is a very powerful tool that can be used in real meaningful ways and I'm curious what you're seeing. This was kind of the game changer for me. Um, you know, I got into web three, N F T S, wotchain technology probably about a year ago and I started to want to learn more, Um, on the art fanatic I i. i Love Art, Um, I love museums and I always think that, Um, the nature of art and the creativity, you know, always inspires me, you know, because it's something I can't do. Don't find myself as a creative person, but I see that there's value in the uniqueness of something, the scarcity of something, something that just like inspires you and that you want to own a piece of for a time because of the history or the story behind it. So I think there's always value in, you know, something creative that defines itself as as art. You know, it's something that I've always been fascinated with. It opened up my mind completely when I was having a chat with non retail folks, um to discover actually what an n f t actually is, and once I discovered that, it just unlocked Um, my imagination, um, but more specifically the possibilities of opportunity around what this N F T provides. And I think the easiest way to show it at is that an N F T is you're traveling profile, it's a it's it's just any bit of data you want to hold on yourself. It's any value. It could be gift card value, it could be promotions value, your account history, your preferences, yeah, a ticket to an event, Um, it could be your identity, different things about you in general, but it's it's this unique wallet and not talking an APP, not talking a digital wallet. It's it's something that you hold that holds any piece of information that you hold value to. This wallet now travels with you and that by you owning it and the data you put inside it is ultra scured and you control and you can tell brands or people or whatever, they can have access to bits and pieces of it, but it's your way. That blows channels out of the way, that blows the silos of where friction involves in. It's your way around. Uh, not really around, but it's it's your way across channels, retail experiences, but it's it's just traveling a wallet that stays with you across all these instances. I think you know, when we talk about Meta and where this is going with an n F T, I think it's the true value of what loyalty will be in the future is these N F T s. You know, I think there's Um there's been activations of this that I think are are fantastic, meaning if you if you hold this n f t, you get invited to something else, right like you see the Board Apes Club. You know that's that's one piece of it. I think there's other pieces that this n f t is actually your value with the brand across everywhere, no matter where you engage, if you're engaging with the products that you love, the relationships that you love. You know, it's your way to get credit and value from a brand across all these instances. Um, I think that it is special access it is, uh, your your value, uh, in terms of your spend, your engagement, you know, however you want to rate it, um to a lot of different you know, special access abilities. Yeah,...

...and I would think that the consumer can then get so much more return on the investment that they're putting into these brands, you know, rather than having loyalty cards lost in whatever drawers around their house. Or now I know one experience it's super frustrating, is is you you have an interaction with the brand and it's not going well and you kind want to shout to the rooftops like do you not know how many of your things I buy? And the dirty secret is the person that you're talking to they might not, because you buy in a bunch of different channels and it's not all linked together, and so they don't. But I know that there's probably someone at that organization that's that would be really frustrated if they heard that this experience was happening to someone who's an extremely loyal, you know, customer. I know there's a lot of activation, there's a lot of time spent, you know, from brands on, you know, trying to help consumers, you know, come in and use it. Uh, you know, get that relationship a lot of a lot of people it's their first interaction and first experience with a brand is with these gift cards. So, you know, it's just a shame that, you know, because it's paper, because it's not able to be surfaced. You know it's there. I think there's just if you look at that one use case alone, you know there's a lot that we can bring in terms of the customer value out of this by surfacing just any little ability on things that you want to remind them of or engage with them on. Yeah, yeah, at this point in my life I've I've I've wasted enough brand like loyalty and gift cards that now, when I get one, actually had this twinge of anxiety and burden that this is like a burden that you've given me rather than like a gift. No, completely, you know, and I think it. It definitely opens up and I know, Um, you know Gift Card integrations in the customer Mobile APPs. You know the mobile APP conversation. You know we're still there. You know iphones and you know APPs have been around for a long time. Um, and I think you know from a technology perspective, you here all the time. Oh, it's very easy to create a mobile APP, you know, and that gives you location awareness, gives you access into your car, very visible. It's on your device. You know, there's a lot of overhead, UM, not technology. There's a lot of overhead alone that comes into play when you're talking about a new channel activation of a mobile APP. There's Merchandizing, there's visualization, there's creative, there's, you know, not only technical but there's also, you know, how it plays into the merchandizing aspect of it and delivery and on time. You know, actions. It's some mobile APPS are an extremely expensive way to do and especially if you're just going to create a ending machine APP. I don't think that's what customers want. Um. They have very little time for an APP that really doesn't show value. Um. I think that's where you know, these M T S is Web free technology and where it could live, Um, you know, in the futures, is fantastic to what it means for brands that, you know, really don't have the ability or or aren't sure whether a mobile APP or, you know, a new way to engage the consumers that they have that cross channel, cross retailer visibility. You know, I think this technology is opening up a lot of doors in that light. Yeah, and the privacy overhead is very, very big right and you know, just constantly navigating the ever changing laws and the laws as they change across regions in different countries and all of that and and you know, being able to turn that into more of a black boxes is always a good thing. So you've made the jump away from brand into this space. So I'm curious what that journey has been like and what does that look like? Well, I wouldn't say away from brand. I I think that's true. Yeah, I think once you're a part of a brand and you've been on that side, you know, there's a lot of respect for you know and a lot of love, you know, for everything that you've you've done, you've experienced and just your thought patterns. And it's not tech for Tech Sake. It's always been. How do you increase, you know, a customer's excitement about coming in? How do you how do you complement their journey? So I don't think you're ever out of being a brand. Um. I did switch over to the product side. I'm helping take to... this new this this new product that's actually helping out the conversation around web three technology and the hurdles around it. Um. It kind of blew me away, uh, this technology in general, with what it's enabling and the core problems that it's not only solving from age old, you know, retailers, from consumer data privacy over exploited emails and opt in and consent challenges. I think what it's doing is it's actually bridging the brands existing ecosystems so that they can leverage this web three technology today without any of the friction points, without any of the challenges. Um when I first saw this technology, I it was like a light bulb and I said I had to be a part of it. Um. I think there's a huge value to retailers. I think there's even a bigger value to consumers in the future of what this technology brings. Um. The company is called Bamboo Meta and they created one of the first universal web three orchestration systems. Um. They actually act as a bridge between the current web two infrastructure for brands, allowing them to easily connect to any web three blockchain utilize this technology through turn key APP exchanges with salesforce and shopify, as well as full API. So it's very easy. You know, coming from the old C I o and me, you know, I don't know. You know there's a blockchain war. I don't know which one to put money into invest in. There's a lot of different reasons for each one. You know, I like this because it's the orchestration service that allows me to be flexible but also take advantage of this technology extremely easily from a resource perspective. Um, the consumer journey side of me, Um hates blockchain technology today just because of the friction points around the customer using it. Right. It's to acquire a free N F t today, Um, it's it's extremely difficult. It's up to twenty five steps. It's two APPS, you have to download Crypto, uh, and then you need your wallet, you know, in order to accept it. And that's that's an insane proposition just to get something for free and then once you try to take it, Um, because these blockchains today aren't sustainable, it can cost a consumer up to nine to actually accept that n F a. and the one thing that I loved of how this technology is that, Um, it's five years mature, uh, that there's no customer friction, there's no APPS. It's one or two steps for the customer. Just like they add a ticket to a sporting event or an airline to their wallet. Um, it adds that in the native iphone or Google Wallet. You know, they own the proprietary technology allows that wallet pass to have visibility into a customer's n F T and any blockchain, so you can do any automated process. I think, Um, that's great. That's a very technical way of doing it. You know. Yes, it solved the user friction problem and adoption because it made it very, very simple. Um. But what that means is that now all the experiences that you put in your virtual try on your magic mirrors. You're any kiosk, you're, you know, signing up at the point of sale for anything, uh, you know the ones. You know, the one tap payment to sign up for loyalty, to get that in a new channel for push notifications that get you out of the email that's now p I. I connecting all your loyalty programs to this n f t into this past, providing the customer with all these robust tools to browse more easily. It completely blew my mind because it was something that I've tried to solve many, many times over the years, helping paved the way for the future of engagement for the brands that I love and for the brands that I engage with, because I think this is a new, exciting time to be in this technology. I love seeing that glimmer in your eye, that's ce io glimmer, when you talk about orchestration tears, because because that that is really great. The way that it's being modeled is that because this is an ever changing space and companies are trying to figure out where do I make bets, where do I not...

...make bets? You know what's a distraction what's not a distraction, and having that glue and and that foundation and orchestration to to it really enables that. How can I have a test and learn, build a test and learn framework around this right to be able to dip my toes in the water? No, you're absolutely right. I think there's a lot of wait and see, right and rightfully so, because I think what we've seen so far, you know, is just touching the service on what this technology allows and it's, you know, while people are getting introduced to it. You know, we saw that with the Qr Code, we saw that with endless. I always saw that with, you know, mobile websites first, you know, and it's that wait and see. I want to see how they're going to engage with I want to learn from others, I want to I want to understand it. Um. I think what the technology that that I've gotten involved with with this man of a Meta for this orchestration service, is that it reduces risk and adoption and the customer friction as much as possible. So we can do, Um, a lot of lessons learned and trials and proof of concepts Um to understand exact actually how a brand's voice in DNA can be experienced by this new technology and that we're complimenting and showing value to the consumer in loyalty and personalization, in Omni client telling all these different use cases. As the journey continues for the consumer, if they're online, in store or in a different retailer. I think it's extremely exciting this new uh, you know, this new world. Yeah, and there's nothing more horrifying than playing the wait and see and and waiting too long. And it's funny you said Mobile, because I remember that. I remember those surges of mobile. There was the you know, people moving to mobile first, and then the people who waited too long, and then there was that frantic you know. I just remember executive almost coming to the table saying we need to buy mobile, like as if like it's a box. They're like, we need to buy one mobile please and make our company mobile. And at that point it just starts to become too frantic and expensive, and so it's it's nice to be able to ease into it, uh, and kind of start flexing those muscles as as an organization. So that's exciting stuff. Now. I'm glad to hear about it and Um, I'm glad to have you here. I'd like to always finish with something fun, Um, and I liked over your various years. Um, not that you're too old at this point, but I'm sure you've picked up a lot of good advice and I'd love to hear what's the great advice that you've ever been given. It was back at Um anthropology. You know, I was young, I was excited to try all this new technology, of what we could do and and I spoke with someone there and they had said like look, when we talk about technology, we we do it for three reasons, Um, and we do anything for three reasons. One is what's the value to the consumer? What's the value to the associate and what's the value to the brand? And if you can't easily say that in you know, and answer those three things, Um, you don't do it. And I think that's that's one of the biggest pieces of advice that I've learned, because doing technology for tech knowledge's sake, you know, isn't innovation. You know what I mean, it's Um, it's got to have value, it's got to have something behind it. Um. You know, it can't just be I want to do something because it's bright and shining in the room and I get my check mark. Ultimately, you know, it's got to lead to some advancement, to some value that builds a better relationship and community for the customer and for the associate. It's more more than not, Um, you know, it can't just be overhead. So I think that's that's the biggest piece of advice that I've taken with me. Um, just in general. That's good retail advice, I think. You know, puts value on the associate, puts value on the consumer and it puts value on the brand. Yeah, I mean I think value first should just be applied all over the place. Just daily questions we should be asking ourselves. So I love it. Chris, thanks so much for being here. I really enjoyed it. No, thanks for having me, George. I appreciate it. You've been listening to see skeep blueprint. If you like what you've heard, be sure to hit subscribe wherever you get your podcast to make sure for...

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