[MMA Innovate] Curious, Authentic, and Humble: A Recipe For Success

Ok, show of hands: How many people reading this article have been to conferences or listened to keynotes about digital disruption, getting smarter with data, or in-housing vs. outsourcing agencies?

Nowadays, conferences are so repetitive that you catch a few talks, collect your portable phone chargers, and get sent on your merry way, scrambling to outline a few innovative buzzwords to tell your boss about the show.

We’ve all been there… and there’s no shame in it.

Over my four years at Outbrain, I’ve gotten the opportunity to attend a bunch of industry events each year. Some are hits, some are misses, and about 50% of all material seems to be reused or recycled in some sort of way.

After catching the Mobile Marketers Association’s Innovate in Los Angeles last week, one theme consistently stood out; how imperative establishing human connection and attention are in the world of mobile.

If I wanted to get all ‘Ad-Tech’ on you, I’d drop a few headers below with data showing that 5-second video clips work best or how Tik Tok is where every brand needs to be. Instead, this blog will be about how three characteristics surrounding connection can make you a better marketer and better conference attendee (so that you have things to report back on during your next all-hands meeting!).

Being Curious

On a personal and professional level, stepping outside our expertise once in a while is imperative to finding success. What does that mean? Well, for us in the media world, it means stepping outside the walls of marketing to learn more.

In the words of Brian Grazer, American TV & Film Producer who co-founded Imagine Entertainment, with films grossing over $13 billion, “Be a curator of human experience. Between your own experiences and data, you can marry the two together for something really nice.”

Brian is widely known for having what he calls ‘curiosity conversations’ with those outside the movie-making and screenwriting industry. He’s talked to hip-hop artists like Dr. Dre and Eminem, to CIA directors, and even Carl Sagan.

Do they have anything to do with making movies? Nope. His goal is to understand what makes people tick; to see if he can connect a person’s personality with their accomplishments.

As a seller at Outbrain, my job is to develop connections that eventually lead to someone buying media with us. I find the least successful times are when I’m actually trying to push our incredible product. Instead, it’s the time I take to really connect with someone on a personal level, even in an indirect capacity, that often produces the best results. I’m there having my ‘curiosity conversation’ and bang-bang, a quality business connection has been made.

Being Humble About The Future

Being curious about others also has an amazing aftereffect: having an appreciation for how others operate. Even Jeff Bezos, a relentless & ruthless businessman, wouldn’t be at the top for so long if he wasn’t humble about his company. He is still trying to outwork everyone, knowing that there are people out there with better ideas than him.

Rishad Tobaccowala, Chief Growth Officer at Publicis and another one of my favorite speakers at MMA, left us with three similar thoughts for the future of our industry:

  • “The future doesn’t align with you, you have to align with the future”
  • “The future comes from the slime”, aka spend time with people that aren’t like you
  • “The future does not fit in the containers and mindset of the past, things aren’t optimized for tomorrow”

In other words, the world around us is evolving at a rate that is sometimes hard to keep up with. We as marketers cannot be so dialled into only our own way of thinking. Learning from other successful brands and incorporating these lessons into our own lives is the key to adapting in this new environment.

Being Authentic

Human connection is paramount for establishing trust and loyalty as a brand. The way to do that in today’s digital age? Remain authentic.

With so much crowding all over the web, creating true engagement is the most important piece of a marketing campaign. Brand loyalty is connecting through some sort of emotion, with a transactional aspect (sale) coming second.

On mobile, you have to get consumers’ attention very quickly. Brands that design quick moments for their customers will be the most valuable in the future. Of course, we’ll always get hyped for a 25% off sale, but right now consumers want to feel a reward other than financial savings.

Only once you feel comfortable with your brand’s authenticity can you scale it, and therefore introduce the world to a company that focuses on people, not just consumers.

And that’s where Outbrain truly comes alive — facilitating unique interactions with millions of users across the open web each day. Through native advertising, the opportunity is there to kindle the sparks of consumer curiosity that eventually ignite into a meaningful, lasting connection with a brand.

Not to mention, whether it’s Outbrain’s flexible in-feed placements or the integrity of our content guidelines, we take pride in creating authentic moments of discovery that users can not only delight in, but also trust.

Now that’s a real connection for the digital age.


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