By adaptive - October 23rd, 2017

Content may still be king but savvy marketers are tweaking their messages to tell stories in different ways for different methods of distribution. That’s a key element in marketing a business that is expanding its brand in new directions, according to Jerome Hiquet, chief marketing officer, Tough Mudder.

Hiquet’s role goes beyond marketing the company’s famous slogs through the mud that take competitors over, under and around obstacles. The executive oversees customer acquisition, revenue growth, and product innovation.
Hiquet discussed with Incite Marketing’s Robert Gray a number of digital-era brand-building tactics and strategies for clearing hurdles to growth by using storytelling and targeted content.
Incite: Tough Mudder is literally growing by leaps and bounds. What would you say is the biggest change for you in marketing this year?
Hiquet: For us for as a young organization shifting from mass participation events to brand monetization to content provider, it’s a big change for us. We have many more legs than in the past.
Marketing this year, I felt even more the combination of marketing science and the art of marketing; meaning we are talking about the importance of data, data management, and personalization.
Data is cheap related to what is the right content, the right narrative, the right storytelling leveraged for your brand equity; that combination is becoming very important.
The combination between personalization and storytelling is important. I feel they are more and more crucial for any CMO right now.
Incite: What would you say are your top 3 priorities are for 2017?
Hiquet: New customer acquisition, monetization of our brand and building an active lifestyle brand are the three areas we are focusing on.
Tough Mudder was born in events, through mass participation; built through community, our tribe, as we like to call it—our community for personal accomplishment. From there we developed the brand…it’s now a media content provider and we just launched our new fitness gym concept (The Tough Mudder Bootcamp).
Starting this year we are franchising to develop this—we want to have 100 Boot Camps around the country by the end of 2018. It’s quite a big deal for us to not only be considered as a content provider/media organization, a mass participation company, but as a fitness brand.
We want to continue to develop a media content marketing strategy and to be considered a content provider for platforms as a broadcaster or streaming. We signed some big deals with (TV broadcast giant) CBS to air some new programming…it’s made for TV and it’s entertainment; that’s an element we’re working towards to leverage and monetize our brand.
Incite: Which channels do you predominantly use to share your content and messaging?
Hiquet: We are only seven (years-old). We are born and raised in the age of social media. I would say we are leveraging all social media and digital channels since almost the beginning of the organization. This year we are investing more time to try to understand and leverage new channels, Snapchat is a channel we’re spending more time this year to understand. We are not only using it, but we are also creating original content for TV. That is a game changer in terms of promoting and sharing our content.
We are strong in content creation and distribution; the main challenge is to differentiate content on different channels.
We are using training content on Facebook and live streaming content on Facebook because that’s where people like to see us.
Incite: How are you differentiating that content?
Hiquet: It’s important for us to create the bridge between the digital experience people can have with our content and the real experience they could have on a (Tough Mudder) course. This is why Facebook is more than a way to share our content, it’s a way to create and embrace an experience.
Every weekend when we have an event we are posting Facebook Live videos (and) close to one million people are watching. It creates fun engagement with people watching from their couch and it has a high level of sharing and engagement.
We are maximizing the ability to cover digital channels with right content and focusing on engagement--how long they’re watching video and how many (videos) they are sharing.
Incite: How do you differentiate your content to capture your customer’s attention?
Hiquet: We are first a tribe, then a brand, and then we became a business.
The first step is to differentiate ourselves through content. The second step--what is our point of view on content we are pushing and what is the tone?
We are known for the teamwork aspect, so our content is always very much focused on ordinary people doing extraordinary things together. Starting there and adding content with a unique tone, quirky sometimes, we always stretch to create content this way to identify and differentiate ourselves from the competition but also to remain sincere to our community.
Incite: Can you share an example of where your content has performed specifically well?
Hiquet: Facebook Live is engaging one million people who are watching people going through obstacles, it is very important to us. Every year we stage a big event, the World’s Toughest Mudder, a 24-hour race with people going over 100 miles.
Last year we live streamed this race on our website and Facebook Live. There are some 2,000 people running this race, last year more than five million people watched from 200 countries.
The tipping point was at that moment, we realized our content is appealing and we can create live sport content for TV {and} the beginning of our relationship with CBS.
Incite: What advice would you give to brands trying to tell their story while providing value to the customer?
Hiquet: I think more than ever the customers are looking for an organization with a clear mission and based on the experience of Tough Mudder, we have a mission to deliver a life-changing experience. The mission, the value of the organization and to be able to translate that in terms of territories with a clear tone and point of view is a very important aspect.
I do believe in a new generation of customer, thinking in terms of transactional loyalty but also emotional loyalty.
As a clear editorial line, think in terms of “emotional loyals” and always push your brand and brand DNA through innovation; that could be a good start.
Incite: How do you maintain quality and scale for growth?
Hiquet: The first step is around content and to bring back in-house the design of video and a TV producer. More of our in-house team is educated to maintain quality and to protect the DNA of the brand.
Focus on quantifying measurements around content creation, storytelling, the efficiency of each piece of content and the last part is to scale and to grow, we like to take risks around new types of channels we can activate.
Incite: Do you currently assess the impact of your content? If so, what is your approach to measurement?
Hiquet: The ability to measure efficiency of each piece of content is key. On social we can follow the KPI, how long people are watching video, how many viewers, etc. We are not investing in TV ads but creating original content so we are trying to triangulate what is a TV rating and how the TV shows we produce are creating traffic on our website and sell sponsorships and monetize our brand.
Incite: How are you approaching personalization and is it a key priority for your marketing strategy?
Hiquet: I look at personalization as a dangerous world. For us, personalization-- when you are an experiential organization and consider yourself a tribe, you have to be careful how much you consider a data point to make changes to the experience.
Incite: What do you think is next for content & storytelling?
Hiquet: I think the correlation between data and content will be very important in the future to create content but also be able to refine what is the most efficient piece of content.
The type of content and the ability to create it with the brand DNA, and authenticity will be important in terms of how long the content should be…personalization is something that will be very important for the content of the future.
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