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Oct 15, 2019

Marketing Boss Dom Gallello calls in from London to give us his story. From digital strategy in Tokyo to running marketing at Sean Parker's reboot of Airtime to now running the show at Badoo (internet dating founding father), Dom has seen it all. Hear his insights on building a beloved brand through creative positioning and emerging tech.






PJ Bruno: Hello again. Welcome back to Brace for Impact, your MarTech industry Discuss Digest and today joining me from foggy London town. I'm thrilled to have this guy on the podcast, friend of Braze, and he's what we call in the industry a boss. [Dom Gallello 00:00:33], thanks so much for being on with us, man.



Dom Gallello: I appreciate that very much. It's actually raining here, so London, will take it a step further.



PJ Bruno: Classic London behavior. Yeah man, I was really thrilled to get on the horn with you a few weeks ago and just hear about everything. You've got quite an eclectic journey you've had so far, my friend.



Dom Gallello: It's meandering. I don't know if I can say it's been purposeful, but it's certainly led me to the right places and the right opportunities.



PJ Bruno: It's not about the destination, Brother. You know it.



Dom Gallello: Exactly.



PJ Bruno: Cool man. So, I mean, I'd love to just chat about, I mean, as you know, this is like an email series, but I know you have some experience with email at a handful of the places that you were at. And then also winning the Cross-Channel Attribution battle. Let's take a step back and go down memory lane a little bit. I know you're first big boy job that you had with marketing was overseas, right? You were in Asia for a bit.



Dom Gallello: Yeah. So I am half Japanese and after graduating college in Japan, I started my career in a communication strategy firm in Tokyo. A lot of what we did was helped clients like Coca Cola or Visa developed integrated marketing communications, and really taking an agnostic view of different channels, and understanding how to weave them together to best deliver a creative idea. So I think it was sort of the first step in my journey towards understanding that not only does multichannel marketing matter, it is actually the backbone of building successful business.



PJ Bruno: You were heavily involved in like more of building an experience, right? You were on that creative end of thinking about not just an email or a push notification but like experiences outside of the computer or the screen.



Dom Gallello: Definitely, when I joined Naked Communications in New York a little bit later, I was working on a lot of global brands and really building out worlds for some of these brands. So a great example was Fanta, where we developed a world called Fanta Play, which was literally a world of animated characters that you teenagers and young adults could basically engage with. And it was not just sort of billboards or advertising, it was really playable games, and comic books, and telling stories, and building a world that we could invite audiences into, and allowed us to basically make every single touch point and invitation into some broader experience that we were developing. And that crossed the 193 markets. It was absolutely huge.



PJ Bruno: Geez. And your role, there was, you had the zoomed out view of how all these things interplayed together.



Dom Gallello: Yeah, it was a mix of sort of creative and communication strategies. So understanding how a play could be brought to life in all of these different touch points, and then weaving it together into basically market packages that could be deployed. So using different channels to solve different challenges, depending upon what your market needed.



PJ Bruno: And at that point were you able to pull the metrics information on what the engagement looked like? Obviously it's tricky when you're talking about real life experiences and stuff, but what was the intelligence system behind taking in your understanding of how that was received.



Dom Gallello: A lot of the digital content that we developed, and this is really sort of 2013 and 2012, were predominantly basic view counts, play rates on specific digital properties. Some of the basics of what we were looking at. There was certainly not tremendous sort of event-based analysis that was going on at the time, particularly in the world of digital advertising. And then you have traditional measures for sort of traditional advertising channels that were constantly being deployed by the Coca-Cola organization to understand the efficacy of our work. I would say things have advanced very significantly since those seven or eight years ago. And it's a very different world that we live in now, to understand, of all the channels that we have at our disposal, which are the ones that are really working for us. And not only that, how do you evolve your strategies within those channels based upon what you see working or not working?



PJ Bruno: It's scary the level of detail we have in the insights sometimes.



Dom Gallello: It can block your decision making some times, but it can also at least help you evolve your approach in decision making, which is something that we never had in the old and traditional world of advertising.



PJ Bruno: It's funny to see the pendulum swing to the other side where the influx of data can cause that decision paralysis where you're like, "Oh geez, I don't even really, really know where to go with this."



Dom Gallello: Exactly.



PJ Bruno: So Dom, so first in Asia, you said Tokyo and then was it New York, and then the West coast or vice versa.



Dom Gallello: So then it was in New York working again on sort of global communication strategy. That was again some of that Fanta experience I discussed earlier. Working with Visa to develop their World Cup campaign in Brazil. Really thinking about how do you build a centralized in global marketing toolkit that can be deployed and flexibly applied to different markets based upon their predominant marketing challenges. From there I spent one year at NCI, at a business school, really trying to make the transition from really sort of the creative side of what traditional advertising represents, which is creating a world and inviting consumers to come and live and breathe these worlds that these blue chip brands have been so successful at creating. And really trying to understand how to connect that to true business impact. And so that journey led me over to the West Coast to a venture studio called West, which helps build brand and go to market strategy for technology companies, big and small.



PJ Bruno: Nice. And then after strategy, that's when you came back to New York for Airtime.



Dom Gallello: Yes. So after spending some time developing brands, and understanding how to take a technology company, and inject soul and basically higher purpose values into that business, so that you can not only continue to communicate your offerings as they are today, but also extend your imagination for what becomes possible within a product or an organization in the future. I then decided to join Airtime, which was Sean Parker's group video chat startup, allowed you to watch videos and listen to music together. And really took over as VP of marketing. Early on I was a consultant helping to basically develop their launch strategy, and understand how to cold start a social network, which is no small undertaking in the world of behemoths that we live amongst today. And then from there, once we had the initial user base on, really working across both acquisition and retention marketing to understand how we could bend that growth curve up.



PJ Bruno: So did you, you got FaceTime with Sean Parker?



Dom Gallello: There was significant amounts of FaceTime with Sean Parker. Yes.



PJ Bruno: Did he have the idea to turn it from The Airtime to Airtime?



Dom Gallello: Sean for me represents a couple of things. First and foremost, he understands social networks unlike anyone I've ever met. He has a tremendous capacity to think about how networks of people interact. And so as he went from Airtime version one, which was a desktop product, in to Airtime version two, he had a very clear sense of how he wanted some of the social mechanics to work, not only to help drive the right type of experience, but also to enable growth that we needed. And I think that was a lot of his special sauce that he brought to that early Facebook days. The second part of Sean is that he has a very clear vision for where social is moving. He really fundamentally believes that the world of liking and commenting was going to give way to the experience age where we would truly be together with our friends. And so Airtime continues to be the manifestation of that belief that this world of asynchronous communication will give way to really feeling like you always have your friends in your pocket. And I think Airtime really has tried to deliver on that experience since its inception.



PJ Bruno: Yeah. That vision still rings so true I feel like. So from my understanding, Sean Parker founded Airtime 2010. They had some hard years to my understanding. And then around 2015 another venture round, and then you came on board 2016. Is that timeline around right?



Dom Gallello: Yeah. So 2016 and April 21st, I'll never forget the date, was the date that we launched the mobile version of Airtime. Which was a very different product than it was originally, back in 2012. And it was very much focused on close groups of friends who could get together in a room, and hang out as if they were hanging out in real life. It is a tremendous experience challenge to deliver from a product perspective. You're talking about how do you integrate 10 video streams, and inject music or video that synchronously plays across multiple devices and multiple bandwidth. It's a tremendous challenge to really deliver from a product and engineering perspective. And I continue to tip my hat to those guys because they are really trying to pioneer what the future of social will ultimately look like.



PJ Bruno: So when they, when they made that pivot and tried to focus more on mobile and tighter groups of friends, was there an equal pivot in marketing strategy? When you took the helm, was it you got some sort of directive or were you given free reign to just do what you know how to do?



Dom Gallello: There are some pretty fundamental principles when it comes to acquisition that matters in the world of social networking. Everything for us was about network density. So ensuring that any user that we brought onto the platform would have friends to interact with. That becomes pretty hard to deliver in a world of even performance marketing, where as good as Facebook or Snapchat might be at matching you to a user that looks like your most successful users, they're not great at delivering users that are going to be highly networked within a defined ecosystem. So we were constantly thinking about ways to try and, not only bring on high quality users onto the platform, but also create the right invite mechanics that would essentially allow us to grow the network through more attributed virality. And that was leveraged, not just across client side text messaging, but also with email, and ensuring that we were always trying to get to the recipient, with the user's consent of course, but from as many channels as made sense.



PJ Bruno: How long were you there for?



Dom Gallello: From, I started really my work with them, in a consulting form, in February 2016. And I left the business in February of 2019. So just about a three year stint.



PJ Bruno: Man. So I sounds like you had your work cut out for you there. A lot of big initiatives.



Dom Gallello: It was. I think a lot of where we first began interacting with Braze was really trying to understand how do we leverage modern multichannel marketing tools to really create the experiences that became possible on Airtime. And we had a lot of fun leveraging the Braze platform to do things like when Taylor Swift's music video dropped, sending out to our teen and college audience, 12 snake emojis. And they knew exactly what that meant. They would open up that notification and they would be dropped into a room where a bunch of people were listening to that music video. And you were able to experience that song for the very first time in a community of friends.



PJ Bruno: That's cool.



Dom Gallello: These types of tools are amazing. And a lot of the focus has often been on how do we sort of optimize these channels in somewhat of a siloed fashion. Thinking about just what are the right subject lines or delivery times or any of these sort of fundamentals of delivery that are often talked about in the world of retention marketing or life cycle marketing. And I think what's often missed out on is how do you use those channels in a way that allows you to build an amazing and unforgettable experience that your customers are going to love, and they're going to ultimately talk about. And so a lot of my focus has been, and this is true for me now at Badoo, but keeping in mind that these channels need to be treated with care and with trust. And that when we reach out to a user, that we want to ensure that we're going to invite them to something truly special, that they're going to love, not just sort of beating them over the head with messaging to do a specific action that we might be self interested in accomplishing.



PJ Bruno: That's a great call, man. You got to respect those channels. It's not the old world of email blasts these days. You really got to get that permission. Make sure you're sending the relevant stuff. I love it. So one more thing before we move on to your latest spot at Badoo. So at Airtime, VP of marketing, right? I mean running the whole ship, did you still have that involvement in creative strategy the way you have in the past? Like the Taylor Swift thing, for example, was that a brainchild of yours or how much involvement do you have at that level? Because it seems like that's something that you're really jazzed about and interested in.



Dom Gallello: Yeah. So we certainly had a relatively big user base. That being said, we were still a small marketing team. And every single person on that team had the flexibility to propose ideas to try it out. I think one of my favorite aspects about the Braze platform was that I could empower young community managers or marketing managers, who generally had very little quantitative experience, but could easily wrap their heads around what the power of a notification targeted to the right group of people, and attached with the right experience or the right content on the other end could do. And so we were constantly experimenting as a team around many of these ideas. I believe the Taylor Swift idea came from one of our junior marketing managers, who simply spoke the language of our audience, and came up with a great idea, executed it. And we saw insane open rates and insane participation on that experience. And we just continued to do that following the cultural calendar of our audience, and just intersecting with them in ways that felt relevant to the time.



PJ Bruno: That's awesome. And so your transition to Badoo, was that, did they seek you out or you felt like your time at Airtime was coming to an end or how did that get that kicked off?



Dom Gallello: It was a unusual LinkedIn message, as you can imagine I tend to receive tons of LinkedIn messages. As I'm sure anyone on that platform does in the world of automated sales outreach. But received a LinkedIn message from a Andrey Andreev, of who is the founder and CEO of Badoo, as well as the group of companies now called Magic Lab, which owns Badoo, Bumble, Chappy and Lumen. And so when Andre reached out, having sort of known about him peripherally as one of the fathers of the dating space, I immediately responded and said, "Let's have a conversation." And his brief to me, which was true on that first phone call as it is today, was essentially to help Badoo become a iconic brand. To provide clarity and purpose to this platform that has operated for 13 years but has not really had marketing leadership for quite some time. And to really sort of kickstart the development of an organization that could essentially engender the next phase of growth for them by investing in great brand, and great experiences for their users. And so that's a lot of what my focus is on today.



PJ Bruno: Got reached out to by the CEO of the company. That's a serious headhunting move right there.



Dom Gallello: It works. I mean when you're hiring [crosstalk 00:17:02]-



PJ Bruno: It's effective.



Dom Gallello: ... It generally is helpful when your founder and CEO is a deeply invested. And Andre, he built this business in 2006 before most of the platforms that we know and love today even existed.



PJ Bruno: I was about to say, this is one of the first internet dating apps.



Dom Gallello: Yeah, it was the first one to combine sort of photo albums with instant messaging. It's hard for us to imagine today, but the old world used to be, you had to get a paid membership, and then you would sort of send emails to people and it didn't feel like a chat. It felt like this sort of laborious courting process of these sort of one dimensional profiles. And he basically said, "I'm going to launch the first free product that allows people to sign up, upload a photo album and just get on instant message with people." And it's gone through its evolutions over time, but it's scaled to 425 million users around the world. It has a truly global footprint. Our major markets are South America, Western and Eastern Europe. We don't have tremendous presence in places like the US or the UK, though we are actively working on that. And it has grown predominantly organically since its inception. It was the first product to introduce so many of the features that we sort of take for granted today. They introduced the idea that you would have cards of people and you would vote yes or no. There are other competitors since then that have introduced UI to make that more fun. But the core idea came from Badoo. Or introduced the idea of using a GPS location to identify the people nearby. And today that is one of our most popular features, where you can just see the people around you, and the people that you've literally bumped into on the street. So this place has been an innovation warehouse, continue to pump out features, but they've just lacked that coherent story, from a brand perspective, that ties it all together, and that makes the product easier to talk about. So now a lot of my focus is how do I take the core brand idea and how do I inject that not only into the communications we do out in the world, but also how do I connect that back with our community. As a consumer internet product, the way we grow is not through direct advertising, it's by getting people to talk about us. And there are a couple of different ways you can get people to talk about you. You Can create the next generation product, feature, whatever it is that just blows people's minds and you just become the talk of the town. Those are really hard to come by. Those are sort of once in a generation shifts in a how people interact with products. And generally speaking, they tend to be pretty rare. What is more controllable, in my mind, is building a differentiated brand that takes higher order values and continues to connect that with their community. So a lot of our focus on the growth standpoint right now is really thinking about what are the types of experiences that I can build, and how do I use in-app modals or notifications to basically connect those experiences, whether it's an intimate concert series in a city, whether it's exclusive offer for a festival. All these types of things we sort of offer to our audience through a lot of the CRM tools that we have at our disposal.



PJ Bruno: No wonder Andre was interested in getting you on board as far as connecting all these experiences together and having this semblance of a real robust identity. Badoo also have this data analytics platform that's proprietary to them, right? I mean it seems like the CEO is, from the beginning was all about data and understanding how the users are engaging with the platform. So I mean what a good foundation for the company to be built on.



Dom Gallello: Yeah. So Badoo really prides itself on building a lot of its own infrastructure and internal tools. A lot of the reasons for that are actually rooted in privacy and security of our users. So rather than passing data between third party providers, which generally speaking third party providers in the modern era are extremely secure. The company has just taken a stance that we want all user data to never leave any physical or virtual piece of property Badoo does not have direct control over. So everything from our own data warehousing through to our own internal CRM tool has all been built in house. And that also allows for greater flexibility considering we are operating at such significant scale across so many markets.



PJ Bruno: So just really quick, I'm curious because going back to, you mentioned about the capability of understanding the location of potential matches around you. Have you guys hit any GDPR snags? Or has it just been as simple as you give consent and that's what you're agreeing to and it's fine?



Dom Gallello: Yeah, from a GDPR perspective we really have not had any issues whatsoever. Users provide us consent to share their location and we only share who you've bumped into once you've matched with them. So there's a consent, sort of a dual consent, not only from a legal perspective, but also from user experience perspective, that this person that you've both mutually expressed interest in, we're going to show you guys where you bumped into each other. We're also not like dropping a pin, we're doing a little circle that gives you a radius. But that's also because GPS isn't particularly accurate all the time.



PJ Bruno: Got you.



Dom Gallello: Really it's not been a tremendous issue for us.



PJ Bruno: Sweet. That's good to hear. So from Airtime to Badoo, obviously different types of products, but there's a similar, I don't know, authenticity to the message about them, right? Because Badoo's dating focused social network and it's something like dating honestly.



Dom Gallello: Yeah. So I'll tell you the difference of Airtime and Badoo. Airtime was all about connecting your existing friends together in a more authentic space. And it was all fighting the world of Instagram or Facebook that was teaching us to be zombies behind a phone, endlessly scrolling on the content of our friends. Badoo offers a pretty different proposition, because in the world of dating we are in the business of helping people meet. That may not be a world changing proposition. It is certainly a life changing proposition. We get messages all day long around the people that have met, that have married, or have had babies from our platform. And it's really tremendous to see the impact that a dating business can have on millions and millions of lives around the world. We have about a hundred thousand people each week, who when they delete their account on Badoo, not delete the app but go all the way to delete their account on Badoo, they select, "I met someone on Badoo." And it's that type of combination of human stories and data stories that is so powerful. And as I've gotten to know the community, and really tried to build a clear and purposeful brand for Badoo, what became obvious is that really real people are successful on Badoo, everyday people are successful on Badoo. We don't cater to Instagram models and Vogue editors and Olympic athletes. We have really sort of the full spectrum of people, of all types of paths and backgrounds, that use our product. And are ultimately successful because they are open and honest about who they are and what they're looking for. So as we continue to take this message and really connect it with our communities, so that they understand that this individual experience of opening themselves up is one that's actually shared across the community. And that there are different ways for them to participate. Whether it's commenting within the crazy comment section of our Instagram profiles, where we're asking questions to our community about what they really want, or what dating advice they'd give to their younger selves, or soliciting success stories from our users, or inviting them to community events or talks or concerts or events. The ability for us as a marketing and a brand organization to leverage modern tools becomes all the more powerful. Because as we build a world, we just create many open doors for our users to walk through. What's been amazing is that at Badoo, because of our long history, we have a tremendously enormous verified email database. And whereas at Airtime email was a nonstarter for us, because speaking with gen Z they open up email maybe once a week, during school, only because professor has sent them a homework assignment. In the world of Badoo, it actually does become extremely powerful and we're still sort of experimenting around the right way to leverage it. But certainly what has become pretty obvious to us is that we want to use it relatively sparingly. We don't want to sort of bombard our users with, here's a marketing newsletter on the Top 10 Ways to Date. There are many other brands that do that, but the thing that's going to actually make the greatest impact for us, and our business, is going to be using those touch points really wisely to bring our users into high fidelity experiences. That ultimately they get excited about and ultimately talk about with their friends. Our battle is won over the bar table where you're drinking a bottle of wine, and Becky's telling you about what a crappy guy Paul has been, and that friend recommends Badoo because Badoo stands for dating honestly. And they validated that by creating some movie cinema experience or really authentic concert experience or whatever else it is that we were able to deliver to them, because they were part of our community and they were able to open that invitation, whether it be email or notification or modal. The mindset that meeting a single person can really change your life is very true. It's a really amazing thing when you see the sort of flood of validation, again, that comes into our email inboxes, physical mail inboxes, or even just the data that we get to see. We're trying to do an undertaking right now to try and calculate if we can potentially estimate how many babies have been created off this platform. It might be fuzzy math, but it might be possible. I'm not sure that the conversion rate is going to be as good as an email, but we'll see what comes out of it.



PJ Bruno: Cool. Contributing to overpopulation, you guys rule. Dom, a quick question for you about, you mentioned like obviously you're not trying to flood people with emails, that's not the point. But I'm curious in what ways is your team leveraging all that data that you guys get, to send more sophisticated emails? If so, just because from my experience, I've used Hinge, I've used Tinder, and I'm pretty sure I've only gotten emails when I've gotten a match. So is there anything else, I mean, not to give away your secret sauce or anything, but is there anything on top of that that you guys are toying with or trying?



Dom Gallello: A lot of what we do, from a transactional standpoint, is really trying to apply new machine learning models to best navigate on a more individualized level, the best opportunities to deliver a message. And so we're constantly playing and trying to optimize on that front. From the marketing perspective, it is just being sensitive about the trust that our users give us when they allow us the permission to communicate with them. And so from that perspective, try not to invest in some of those newsletter formats, and really trying to make really meaningful, impactful and inviting emails are ultimately our objective on the marketing front.



PJ Bruno: Dom, I mean, any parting words on winning the Channel Attribution battle. You've just left us with so much good stuff today. Anything on the horizon for you guys that you're really stoked about? Leveraging new technologies, new perspectives?



Dom Gallello: I think my only comment is, that as someone who comes from sort of the more traditional world of creative, that we can't forget the importance of creating incredible experiences for our customers. Those don't always have to be digital. They can be physical as well. And that every notification, every email can be an exciting open door for a user to walk through, and really engage with your brand in a powerful and meaningful way. And from our perspective and the learnings that we've had very early on here in Badoo, employing this strategy, we're seeing how it actually impacts the way people think about our product and ultimately talk about our product. And if there's anything that is an end goal for us, it's going to be how people refer our brand to their friends. And so these tools at our disposal just really allow us to take our community and really connect them with our brand. So never forget the creative and what door they're walking through.



PJ Bruno: I love it. So Badoo, dating honestly, connecting genuinely. Dom Gallello, thanks so much for joining me, brother.



Dom Gallello: I sincerely appreciate it. And again, always, always a big fan of great thinking and work that Braze does. We'll continue to obviously stay close together, but I'm also really excited about the great things that you guys are going to put forward, and help push this crazy world of multichannel marketing forward.



PJ Bruno: Thanks a lot, sir. Thanks for coming on and thank you all for listening. You all take care.