Gamers are emerging as the new celebrities of a new media age, and the popularity of this entertainment genre has been accelerated by the lockdown. So, who better to catch up with than the Chief Marketing Officer of SplitmediaLabs a platform on the leading edge of enabling gamers to get published? Ian Truscott chats with John Howe-Marshall.

YouTube has taken creating and distributing entertainment from the hands of the big media companies and handed it to anyone with a story to tell and offered them an audience. And, aside from all the ‘influencers’ shifting huge quantities of eye shadow, gamers are emerging as the new-media celebrities.

Back in 2016, The Guardian in the UK reported that the biggest new children’s TV genre wasn’t on broadcast television it was people posting videos of themselves on YouTube playing video games.

…Joseph Garrett, whose YouTube persona is a cat named Stampy. His channel has 7.8 million subscribers and its videos have been viewed 5.3bn times, making him one of the most popular British YouTube stars.

Stuart Dredge, The Guardian, August 2016

A trend that was happening before coronavirus has now been accelerated as we are all in various states of lockdown. As we physically distance, gaming is becoming a mainstream social leisure activity that people can do together. And, in the absence of televised sports, a new audience is switching to eSports and their real-world icons are staying connected to their fans by picking up a console controller or the wheel of a sim racer.

A long intro, but who better to go backstage with for this lockdown issue than the CMO of a platform that enables this new breed of entertainers to edit and broadcast their content?

I give a holler out to John Howe-Marshall, Chief Marketing Officer at SplitmediaLabs.

Hello John!

What was your marketing big break?

Like (probably) for many, marketing was a field I gravitated towards through my own personal hobbies and passions. When I was a teenager I was always a part of the local music scene, helping the bands promote upcoming shows and filming music videos. I then pursued Film and Television production as my major in college, helping out on short films, tv shows, and commercials before landing my first full-time gig working for the local shopping tv channel in my area.

It was there I was given my first real Bootcamp in providing creatives and copy at a quick turnaround for a live channel that was broadcasting 24 hours a day. This often meant working 12 hours shifts with producers, presenters, the buying team as well as third-party agencies and resellers, on the content of an upcoming product segment.

This fast-paced environment definitely helped me build my marketing chops, thanks to a wide variety of accounts and working alongside young, passionate, and overcaffeinated marketers that helped make up the live production output. In that job, I made some life long friends and mentors, whose choices still help guide my decision making ‘til this day.

What would be top of your rider for your next marketing gig?

It always comes down to the people and the culture of the workplace. This holds true to this day, even as we increasingly move more towards working remotely or collaborating with team members sometimes thousands of miles away.

I’ve always gravitated towards scrappy and DIY centric teams, the kind that tends to attract the oddballs, outliers, freaks and geeks. In my experience, they are usually the kind of folks not afraid to be fearless, experiment, and just figure it out as they go along.

Data is everything, but what you do with those findings, and how they help influence the decisions, message and creative expression of how you talk to those customers is everything to me. At XSplit we have let data drive many of our decisions, which in turn opens up new opportunities for creativity.

What or who are your marketing influencers?

There is no excuse not to continue learning, and with so many mediums to indulge in, I am always discovering new creators taking a unique slant on marketing. Hell, that’s how I found Rockstar CMO!

For those who have yet to venture outside of traditional resources, there is a ton of great Podcasts, YouTube Channels, and writers on Medium, worth your time. Usually providing no-nonsense and actionable insights.

A few of my recent favorites include “The Punk Rock MBA”, “Everyone Hates Marketers” and “The Dialog Box”. Each covering a wide variety of industries (gaming, music, and tech) while still providing an anchor of go-to marketing strategies, insightful anecdotes and entertaining personalities to listen to.

If I was Spotify, what would I play for you first thing Monday morning to get you going?

It’s a toss-up between “in 20xx” by Dos Monos or “Orange Peeler” by Horse Jumper of Love

The curtain pulls back, you step out on the stage of your new marketing gig – what do you open with?

I’ve always put an emphasis on processes, and workflow. Whether it’s using the right tools for project management, organizing weekly stand-ups, or just ensuring internal reporting, and dashboards are kept on top of regularly.

Having good internal processes in place is gonna help you out in a pinch, whether its to push through a new initiative, pulling together updates for c-level staff and board members, or when faced with a project requiring time-sensitive deliverables.

Good processes usually allow for good cadence, and a steady output of projects and tasks as well as ensuring all parties have a good understanding of the task at hand.

The audience is dancing in the aisles, it loves that track. What keeps the house jumping?

At least in the industry of consumer tech and gaming, it always comes back to “listening to your customers”.

It’s all too easy to get stuck in the senior management marketing bubble of dashboards, data models, and spreadsheets versus trawling through the tweets, messages, and comments coming in from your users. Thankfully, XSplit is in an industry where our audience is very vocal, and happy to share their thoughts online. This cuts both ways though.

The types of marketers that succeed in this space are the ones willing to engage with the industry and its community on the ground level. Sparks of inspiration come from engaging with your customers first hand and constantly communicating with your team members who are on the front lines.

If you are not dogfooding your product or following the communities that spring from it, you are going to have trouble succeeding in the space.

You’re playing a huge stadium; how do you know the audience can hear your tune?

The customer journey forms the bedrock of all of our KPIs. Working predominantly in a SAAS model requires a good understanding of your customers and space in order to continue providing profitable growth. This is especially true when dealing with a newer medium such as Live Streaming, quite often in industries that run the gamut of being both hyper discerning on the tools they use, to having little to no understanding of the space at all.

Right now our mission is to continue to lower the barrier for what is needed for people at home looking to get started streaming, so identifying those obstacles, at the top of the funnel during the discovery phase, to first time experience with our products takes a lot of careful consideration.

However, we have established a great rhythm in the office between product, business, and marketing where we can share insights into what the current blockers are and quickly iterate.

If there was a billboard chart for marketing trends, what would be your Number 1?

Speed and iteration still feel like a relatively new space for marketing strategy but I anticipate it is something we expect to see adopted more across industries outside of tech.

Establishing well-defined Objectives and KPIs is key to this, along with adopting technologies that allow for agility, and easy iterative testing and optimization.

What would you throw from your hotel window into the Rockstar CMO pool?

Bandwagoning onto a new platform without any research, cause or need to. Think real hard why your company needs a TikTok before pouring resources into it. Please, I beg you!

What’s got you rocking today?

Right now more than ever people are transitioning to creating content online, whether streaming their first webinar, recording their first vlog, or broadcasting a game on Twitch. This is hugely motivating, especially when seeing folks try for the first time and choosing our apps to do so

If there was a marketing hall of fame, who would you induct?
When I first got in the space of working more closely with content creators, YouTubers, and streamers I was astounded at the level of ingenuity that they would bring to marketing their personal brand and driving viewership to their channels.

A lot of these folks run a one-person operation, they are the talent, the producers, and the marketing division. In many ways, their DIY strategies and “f**k it let’s try it” attitude deserves to be celebrated more in the space of traditional marketing. After all, over time we have adopted many of their lessons into our own communications.

Any final words before you drop the mic?

The aesthetics and expectations of good marketing communications in 2020 are changing fast. “The rule book” has been ripped up and customers are choosing authenticity over polish and production value. As marketers, that is a challenge but also an opportunity. An opportunity to test, try new things, and iterate.

A 7/10 on time beats a late 10/10 if only for those initial data points. Try to establish a voice that doesn’t sound contrived or trite. Grow a community, and create transparency so that your message has a chance to resonate

Thank you John!

About John Howe-Marshall

John Howe-Marshall

Chief Marketing Officer for SplitmediaLabs, developers of Live Streaming and Recording app XSplit used by more than 13 million creators worldwide to make videos and live streaming content for YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, and more. In addition, John also oversees marketing for a social platform for gamers.

John is a British / Australian Expat based out of Manila, Philippines, and has advised for Meow Wolf (Arts & Entertainment Company) and Challonge (eSports Tournament Management) as well as making Develop’s 30 under 30 list, and being a speaker at Digital Marketing Asia.

You can also follow John on Twitter.

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