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Creating The Right Marketing Career with Patrick Moran, Reforge Program Creator & Marketing Advisor – Episode #118

“If there’s not a fit between your personality and the environment that you’re in, it’s going to be difficult for you to drive impact. This is regardless of how much you know in your [marketing] domain.” 

Patrick Moran was most recently an Executive in Residence at Reforge where he led the Growth Marketing, Experimentation and Testing, and Brand Marketing programs which he also co-developed. Previously, he was the Head of Consumer Marketing at Houzz and held leadership roles at Spotify, YikYak, and was one of the earlier marketing leaders at Netflix during its transition to producing original content (starting with House  of Cards).

He is currently advising early-stage B2C companies looking to profitably scale their marketing initiatives.

Questions and topics we covered include:

  • The 4 components that help you control your career trajectory: your knowledge, your impact, and your network.
  • Why Patrick made the switch from being a performance marketer to a brand marketer.
  • Patrick’s advice for marketers who are getting bigger responsibilities this year (how to deal with a larger scope of work).
  • Patrick’s definition of brand marketing and the basics every marketer needs to understand. 
  • How can marketers continue to grow in their roles (experience vs online education)?

And more!

If you liked this episode, check out Patrick’s new podcast “Finding Market Fit” which is available on Acast –

You can connect with Patrick via LinkedIn:

Full Episode Transcript:


Kenny Soto 0:02  

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the people Digital Marketing podcast with your host, Kenny Soto, and today’s special guest, Patrick Moran. Hi, Patrick, how are you?


Patrick Moran 0:14  

Doing Getty? I’m good. Happy Friday.


Kenny Soto 0:16  

Happy Friday. Now, there are a lot of interesting topics that I want to go over with you today. But before we get into any of them, let’s paint the picture of who you are as a marketer. Can you tell the story of how you got into marketing?


Patrick Moran 0:34  

Wow, how much time do we have, I’ll try to be as succinct as possible. I guess I first actually got into marketing after undergrad in the Philippines. And I was brand-associated with Unilever. So that was my sort of my first flavor of, marketing, which was basically through CBG, I went to graduate school. And back when I went to graduate school, they had a fair sort of fundamental perspective on marketing, which was sort of still based on the motions of CPG. And those industries. 


So my true foray into the marketing world that we see today really came from my experience with eBay, where they really doubled down on performance marketing. And a significant proportion of the revenue was basically coming basically came from performance marketing. So that’s really where I learned. At least, that’s where I, that’s my foundation in marketing throw what I learned in that sort of set of experiences. 


And then right after that, joining Netflix, as they were investing in original content, and figuring out how the brand plays into it. And so that had a fairly significant impact on my perspective of marketing, I think, if I would have stayed at eBay and not gone to Netflix, my perspectives would be significantly more around, you know, the sort of, you know, much more sort of performance-oriented, but yeah, I guess that sort of, those are sort of the foundations for me, and I guess I’ve spent the last year now, at least teaching or at least leading some of these cohorts over at reforge, around growth, marketing and brand marketing, which is, which is hopefully helpful to a lot of the members who take the program. But a lot of it is predicated on, you know, my experiences over the last decade or so, in these in these domains,


Kenny Soto 2:31  

There are going to be a lot of inflection points. That’s what I’m calling them, both within the macroeconomy and also in a lot of the listeners’ personal lives in their careers. Some listeners may want to reconsider what they’re doing, they might reconsider what industry they’re in and what role they’re in, in the marketing team. And this all ties to this concept of career trajectory, or the trajectory of where your professional career is going. And you talk to us about some of the components listeners should be considering, as they’re thinking about their career trajectory.


Patrick Moran 3:16  

I can certainly talk to you about the components that were important to me. And I hope maybe that’s, that’s, that’s a helpful perspective as your listeners try to sort of make their own decisions on what might be important to them. But I guess, when I look back, I think there are maybe three areas that have been quite important. I think the first area is around knowledge and domain-level expertise. I think the second area is around operational impact, and how to come into an organization and actually drive results. 


And then the third I think, is, which I think is something that tends to be overlooked, is basically how are you found, right? So how can you be found? So if you think about yourself, as a brand, or as a product? How are you being found relative to sort of everybody else? And I think a lot of that is predicated on the networks that you’re in that you end up. Or that you’re able to build? Right? So like I can, I can go into each of those areas. 


Okay, yeah, sounds good. So, I think I think insofar as domain expertise, I think the thing that’s been really important for me, is the ability to go deep into a very specific domain within marketing, but then having an understanding of how that domain fits in with everything else in marketing. And I think that it’s I’ve been the I’ve been better like I’ve benefited from being in or having been A part of a significant sort of explosion in consumer internet. 


And because of that, it’s allowed me. It’s given me sort of the exposure that I needed to basically see what world-class looks like, in a lot of these other marketing domains. Right? So I come from a world where, like, I have to truly understand unit economics, and how to impact unit economics. And if you think about unit economics, from an ROI perspective, there’s your LTV or the value of your user, and then there’s the cost to acquire them. And then there’s how long does it take to pay that back? Right. 


And for the longest time, I optimize on the cost side, right? So basically bringing users in. But then there’s the other side, which is okay, well, how do we then extract more value through existing users? Right? And so from that standpoint, you then expand into Okay, well, there’s the acquisition side, but then there’s the retention side. And then, and then even within those two things, it’s like, okay, well, where does Product Marketing fit in? How does Product Marketing sort of provide an impact on that, right? 


And so they’re the product marketing organizations, or the product marketing teams are usually the ones who bring products out into the market. But at the same time, they have a fairly deep relationship with the product team in figuring out the features that they need to launch. And then how does that fit with a brand marketing team? And how does that how does the how does what we’re doing a sort of aligned with, you know, kind of like the overall brand strategy? So I think, so domain experience, I think, was really important relative to how it fits within all the marketing teams. 


And then from there, I wouldn’t say that it was easy. But my line of sight, the expanding my breath, just became a little bit clearer, right? Because I now know, or at least have learned how these all relate, within the marketing sort of landscape. And then I think, like, maybe like the third sort of level, or maybe another level on top of that, because then how does marketing fit into the impact or making an impact to the business? Right, and I think that a lot of people tend to sort of overlook that. 


Or it’s like, you know, what, no, I live in marketing, here’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to try to drive in more users and what have you, but having an understanding of how the business works, how users or customers flow in and out of your product, or your platform, and how you generate revenue? And what the costs associated with generating that revenue, give you a better understanding of how marketing fits within the business. And so at least you have that level of a concept like.


Kenny Soto 7:42  

Can I jump in real quick, when you’re talking about this, as someone who’s experienced this change in mindset myself, I’m in my eighth year of being a marketer. It took seven years for me to realize as a marketer, that I’m not just supposed to be figuring out an acquisition. I’m also supposed to be figuring out, how you keep the customer. How do all of the channels impact the business overall? And once I started realizing that I got promoted, I got better at my job. And I now understand that as a marketer, if I really want to level up, I need to understand the business that I’m in.


Patrick Moran 8:20  

Yeah, and I think it all sort of builds on itself, right? Because I think if you’re able to determine what is important for the business, and then to your point, you’re now given the opportunities to actually build the team, figuring out like, what to invest in, what infrastructure to build, that only then, by de facto means you’re broadening your scope. Right. And so it all sort of builds on yourself. But I think that’s one is sort of one thing that that I think has been really important is sort of domain level knowledge. I think the second thing is, is operational impact. 


And operational impact, I think, has a lot to do with your personality skill set matched with your environment. And again, right, like everybody wants to go to Company A or sexy Company B or what have you. But if you’re unable to work, and I’ve learned this the hard way, many times, if there’s not a fit between your personality and the environment that you’re in, it’s just going to be very difficult for you to have to drive impact, regardless of how much you know about your domain. Right. 


And so I think I think there’s that I mean, I think it’s also at least my mental framework in that situation is, okay, well, what is the long what is my line of sight to my long term goal? Like what is the what is what does success look like in 12 months for my role, and how do I operationalize that on a day-to-day basis to get there? Right. 


So it’s, it’s this interplay between long term and short term but generally speaking, I think that’s, I think that’s, that’s, that’s, that’s important. And then the third thing is As How are you being found either internally or externally? And I mean, I think the advice, so I’ve gotten a lot of folks who have asked me for advice on Okay, well, how do they start their careers in marketing? You know, what should they do? And I think the path at least that I’ve seen be successful, not saying that this is the only path. 


But the path that I’ve seen that’s been successful, are the folks who initially or earlier on in their careers have been able to associate themselves with networks that are respected. And so what I mean by that is, okay, well, there’s a network that is respected meaning insofar as company is concerned, right, so he worked for Google, he worked for Netflix, she worked for Facebook, she worked for, you know, Twitter, whatever it is, right? And so whether or not you’re better, or worse, as a performer than some other person in the same domain, but in a different network, is relatively immaterial to the people who are looking for people to fill those roles. 


And the first thing they think of is, how can I tap into the Google network? Or the Facebook network? or what have you, it’s just the reality of the situation. And so the company is certainly one type of network, the people that you work with your bosses, the people you manage, those are also smaller networks? And how are they working within this space? How are they finding their way, right? So if you look at, let’s say, to be very specific, let’s say we three, and you know, there are a lot of small companies within the web three space, that don’t have the name of a Google or a Facebook or what have you, but they are able to build networks within themselves to have influence within that space so that when they talk people listen, are you associated with that network? Right. 


And ultimately, I think the goal is if somebody is looking for someone to help solve something inside a company, or outside of your company, are they thinking about you as maybe one two, or three of the list of people that we would reach out to? Independent of how impactful you have been? Right? And so I think, I think that’s, you know, I mean, obviously, you have to engage in conversation and prove out your sort of knowledge or what have you. But the amount of mental space that people have, in figuring out the top three, four, or five things to choose is very limited. 


If I asked you right now, namely, all the banks that you are engaged in, it’s going to be a lot shorter, the list is going to be significantly shorter than the number of banks that are available in the country, regardless of how good some of these bands are, relative to everybody else. Right. So, so. So I think, I think those are the three areas, I think that I’ve been sort of areas, at least that has been really important to me, I guess, over the last, you know, decade or so,


Kenny Soto 13:00  

Was the switch that you made from performance to brand intentional, like, how did you make that switch in the first place?


Patrick Moran 13:07  

So I guess, I mean, we could probably talk about like the definitions of performance and brand, but I’ll be specific and isolated into a different type of media buying, right, so there’s certain types of media buying, which is very fixated on backing into a predetermined sort of ROI. And then there are media that you typically buy, quote, unquote, in order to drive you to know, other types of metrics, whether it’s some level of awareness or consideration, or association or something like that. 


So at Netflix, when I joined, that was also the time when the company was essentially shifting from a streaming or a DVD business, into a streaming business into an entertainment business. And I think at that point, the company realized that they needed to make a sort of a significant change in how they show up into the world, and be seen as an entertainment business for a few reasons. Right. 


One is obviously for end users to take note, but the other reason, obviously, is because they’re, they’re also competing with some of the bigger entertainment companies at the time, like HBO, and Showtime and, you know, the usual sort of suspects in, in entertainment for content. Right, so they really needed they wanted to be known as an entertainment company. And in order to do that, one of the levers, in order to get there, is media. 


And so that’s how I ended up shifting or at least expanding my domain breadth from using media to will acquire users into using media to try and alter perception. And the way that we did that was, or at least the initial ways that we were doing that was to actually run sort of AV tests, and figure out the right experimentation structure in order to determine the impact they like the effects of those media buys. 


Because the question that we wanted to answer was if we’re going to spend x amount of dollars on this campaign today, how will we know whether we want to spend two, two times that amount or half that amount? Tomorrow? All right. So those were some of the things that we were trying to figure out. And that’s how I got sort of my, I guess, my first exposure into sort of this new or different type of marketing.


Kenny Soto 15:51  

This, this, whenever I asked this question seems very loaded, because of how vague it is, like, don’t really, there’s no hard or fast rule for this, but I want to know your opinion. One, should a marketer specialize at the beginning of their career or be a generalist? And then the second part to that is, what are the pros and cons of being a specialist?


Patrick Moran 16:19  

So maybe I’ll take a little bit of a different perspective on this one. I guess the first thing is that I think the most important thing earlier on in there in a marketers career, is to actually drive impact because it’s only through driving impact, that you’re able to be given more responsibility, so on and so forth, ideally, within an organization where, again, that has sort of high association to success, right. And in order to do that, typically, I think you have to really understand your domain Well, in order to drive impact. 


And in order for you to understand your domain, well, I do believe that you know, you probably need to understand how to specialize in that. There are a lot of folks or a lot of leaders who come in, who are new to certain domains. But the better leaders that I’ve known, are able to transfer their sort of mental discipline, from their expertise, and use frameworks to then associate into new domains. So I guess that’s sort of a long-winded way of me saying that, from my experience, it’s usually much more impactful to start off, being a domain expert, or an expert, and specialize in one thing, and then eventually brought in from there.


Kenny Soto 18:05  

Let’s dive a little deeper into the increased scope of work for the marketers this year, who are finding themselves successfully gaining more responsibilities through the hard work and impact that is being shown, what advice do you have for them when it comes to dealing with a bigger scope of work?


Patrick Moran 18:28  

I mean, I think, I think there’s a couple of things, I think one. Like it, if like, Can you define specifically, what impact you’re gonna be making, to the organization relative to the scope of work that you are, or at least the breadth of, of scope that you’re, eventually you’re essentially getting? Right. 


And I think the other thing, then is also having, at least for me, a great understanding of what great looks like, relative to what’s in your organization, right? And so I’ll always look into either other leaders or other professionals or potentially peers within that organization, so that I have a benchmark or a baseline for what great looks like, right? And what great looks like is fairly unique relative to organization, because there’s a cultural aspect of it, there’s an operational aspect to it. There’s Okay, well, how do you show up? How do you communicate? And then ultimately, like, how is impact sort of driving in these situations? But


Kenny Soto 19:42  

Sorry to interrupt again, but quickly defining impact? Is it always revenue?


Patrick Moran 19:47  

No. So yeah, no, I mean, I think that’s a really great point. I think it’s something that I’ve sort of overlooked and said that they were driving impact. So um, I think one of the things that I’ve stayed companies do is that they know how to learn quickly. And so there’s they there, they have been able to operationalize an iteration process in order to learn faster than, I guess, maybe their competitors, and so far is how to drive impact or how to drive much more engagement from their customers or their users. 


And a driving impact to me, yes, means hitting potentially, or potentially hitting a number. But I think equally, it also means being able to understand what processes or motions need to be set in place in order to drive this sort of rapid level of learning. And, yeah, I mean, I think I think, even if you ask, like, or listen to any of the podcasts from any of the leaders at Spotify, they that’s what they value the most is, how do we learn faster than everybody else? And how do we build the processes in the company to be able to sort of accomplish that? So


Kenny Soto 21:16  

Let’s take a step back and talk about brand marketing for a second. There are always misconceptions about brands. And for the marketers who just can’t get it. And I was like this for a very long time. How would you distill the common good concept? Or how would you define the concept of brand marketing?


Patrick Moran 21:37  

So I think the one thing I would say is that there’s a difference between brand marketing and brand advertising. And I think the misconception is that there’s this, that they’re one in the same, right? And because of that, then there’s this okay, well, you know, we need a brand marketer versus we need a performance marketer, and then you run into sort of this sort of entire situation. I think over time, I think what I’ve realized is a better way to look at it, or a better way to think about it is what is your distribution strategy? And does your narrative reinforce your brand strategy for distribution? 


And so if you look at it from that standpoint, then it’s a little bit of a different perspective, or a different take on things, right, because everything that comes out of the company, or everything, or everything, or every sort of communication lever that the company uses, impacts the brand, right? Whether it’s, you know, your your, you want to acquire users within seven days, or you want to just want to inform your potential customers of a certain launch or what have you. 


Right, so, and the media that you would end up using is very specific and unique relative to the goals that you have for marketing. Right. So I mean, I’ll give you a couple of examples of that. So Spotify rap campaign, right, the Spotify rap campaign doesn’t have TV associated with it, there’s no buying, you know, a whole bunch of media, a significant proportion of the media that they use, or distribution that they use is actually on the product. Right. So you use that as a brand campaign that performs. 


Right? So. So I think I think that’s maybe one way to think about it. But if I were to distill it into different components, and probably distill it, maybe three components, the first component is, how do you show up to your customer? And that’s where you have a fundamental sort of strong set of you have a relationship with a product team? Because, well, first, your product is probably your biggest brand asset. 


But second, everything that is expressed by your service affects the brand, customer service sales product, and PR media advertising, right? So the first thing is, how do you show up? Right? So I think that the first component is kind of like, how do you define your identity? And I think a lot of that is driven by a handful of different things. The second thing is distribution. Right. And so then it’s like, okay, well, you know, there are many different ways to distribute. There’s you, you know, there’s your push media, right? So whether that’s Facebook or display, or what have you. 


There are your whole media, whether it’s like content or SEO or what have you. But then there are partnerships. There’s PR, there’s a handful of different things. Right. So that’s distribution. And I think distribution is also predicated on time. And then the third is, well, how do you reinforce this over the course of time? Right. And so I think the mistake that a lot of people make is that okay, well, we’re going to define a brand strategy, blah, blah, we’re going to put it in a deck, and then you know, people are excited about it. 


And then no Have you ever heard or seen it again, like over the next 12 months, right? And, so that’s sort of the reinforcement. And I think an example of this is something that we were just talking about offline, which was, well, if you’re now going to use AI tools to develop content, these AI tools require prompts. And one of the prompts is, what is your tone, you can’t be pleased that you can’t take it for granted anymore, right? Because especially if you want to scale content, and scale your assets, you have to be consistent with tone. Right. And that’s what I mean by reinforcement and governance. 


So I think those are the kind of like three areas. And so that’s why I don’t think it’s just a matter of advertising. I do think that it is a fairly strong partnership with the leadership team, especially the product team, because how you show up consistently, I think, matters a lot, especially if you’re in an industry or space that is fairly commoditized. And you have just a lot of competitors, right? And so the ones who will win are the ones I guess, who understand their customers better than everybody else. And is able to show up consistently relative to their strategy or their brand strategy.


Kenny Soto 26:15  

Let’s talk about learning for a second. And learning in specifically in the role of a marketer, outside of experience, what other recommendations would you have for marketers listening to this to learn more, and get that domain experience that domain knowledge that they’re going to need to then make an impact in their teams?


Patrick Moran 26:39  

Um, I mean, I think there’s a couple of areas, I think one is, again, sort of your network and being able to just reach out the folks who are really great, different domains, or are even great in your domain. Right, and just being able to just consistently have those conversations and learn from them. And then like, like, I think there are programs like reforge, and other programs like that, that codify a lot of this into actual frameworks. 


And I think for me, at least, it’s been, like reforge has just sort of been a godsend to me, because it’s allowed me to expand my, my sort of my domain knowledge, not just marketing, but also product and relatively growth. So So I think those are maybe, you know, two other areas. But I think between those three, I think, you know, usually, folks will be able to gather some fairly, you know, solid sets of experiences, at least, to be able to move forward.


Kenny Soto 27:45  

Before I ask my last question, one piece of advice I can share, now that I’ve experienced that firsthand, you got to find a way to start a show. Now the show doesn’t need to be video, it can just be audio, but it’s the perfect excuse to meet people who are smarter than you, you can make it specific to the channel that you’re working in if you found that channel. So let’s say, for example, you want to make a media buying show. 


And obviously, there’s a better way of naming it. You can use that as your excuse to then meet all the media-buying professionals who are experts in the domain. If you don’t want to do a video or audio, find a way to just use the basic written format and reach out to people ask them questions in written form, and ask them just to respond via LinkedIn DM, there’s a whole bunch of ways to do it there. And if you don’t want to create content, then the other side hustle is to have a side hustle. 


So that can be you are promoting local dentist offices in your state. Or it can be that you want to start a dog-walking business. And at the same time market, that dog walking business as a case study, there are a lot of things that you can do outside of your nine to survive. And I’m of the opinion that to be really competitive. And I’ve been struggling with this idea. But I come to the conclusion that to be really competitive in this market. You can’t just rely on your nine-to-five anymore. 


Hiring managers are going to want to see what you do outside of work to make sure that you can keep up with everyone else. I’m speaking in general terms, though, because I’m sure some hiring managers will just care about what you’re doing on your nine to five, but it never, it doesn’t not help to have a side hustle is what I’m basically trying to say.


Patrick Moran 29:28  

Yeah, I mean, I couldn’t agree more, right, because it basically provides you with much more sort of nuanced context into how these things actually work. Right. And, you know, there’s, there’s no, there’s no substitute for being in the arena. Right. And actually, you know, being a part of all of this. 


And yeah, I mean, I could completely agree, right? I mean, like right now. I’m basically sort of advising companies and It’s one thing to understand how to start your own advisory business, it’s another thing to actually get out there and start reaching out to folks and go through the motions and the nitty gritty. Alright, so yeah, I certainly couldn’t agree more.


Kenny Soto 30:15  

You can learn frameworks, but until your manager tells you, hey, we have these three campaigns, we need to launch in a month. That’s when you put everything you know, to the test. So, Patrick, my last question for you is hypothetical. Because time machines don’t exist. But if one did, and you can go back in time, about 10 years into the past, knowing everything you know, today, how will you specifically accelerate the speed of your career?


Patrick Moran 30:44  

Um, you know, that’s it’s a, it’s a great question. I guess I don’t know that I would necessarily change anything.


Because I also have my own rate and way of learning. And I just don’t know that I would have learned what I needed to learn and be able to sort of internalize a lot of that, without having been through all of the stuff that I’ve been through, including all the heartaches. 


So if you were to ask me to go back 20 years, then I think my answer would be a little bit different in that there was sort of a fairly old way of learning from back in my era, around reading, and then sort of doing and then just kind of like going through a linear process. Whereas today, I think, if I were able to sort of better learn how to ingest information, figure out mental frameworks, determine patterns, and how things work and learn that way. I think, you know, I would have been set up for a little bit more of a, a better process, but the thing is, I’m, I’m a product of my time, right? So. So that’s, that’s sort of my perspective on that one.


Kenny Soto 32:26  

Patrick, thank you for your time today. If anyone wants to say hello to you online, where can they go to find you?


Patrick Moran 32:31  

Um, yeah, you just find me on LinkedIn. So yeah, I think I think my dad’s PC Moran is my LinkedIn sort of suffix so yeah.


Kenny Soto 32:43  

Awesome. And thank you listen to for listening to another episode of the people Digital Marketing podcast. And as always, I hope everyone has a great day. Bye.

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