#172: Brand Love with Rebecca Messina

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This is a podcast episode titled, #172: Brand Love with Rebecca Messina. The summary for this episode is: <p>The world of marketing is constantly evolving, but understanding people? That will always be fundamental. Today, marketing expert Rebecca Messina joins David to share her biggest learnings from the 22 years she spent at Coca-Cola, what it was like to be Uber's first-ever CMO, and how she's applying both of those experiences to her work as a senior advisor at McKinsey. DC and Rebecca go deep on the importance of brand building and brand love, the psychology of marketing, and what it means to be a brand vs. an icon. </p><p><br></p><h3>Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends. You can connect with DC on Twitter @dcancel @DriftPodcasts or text him to share your feedback at&nbsp;<span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34);">+1-212-380-1036.</span></h3><p><br></p><h3>For more learnings from DC, check out his weekly newsletter, The One Thing. You can subscribe here:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.drift.com/insider/learn/newsletters/dc/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank" style="color: var(--btn-color);">https://www.drift.com/insider/learn/newsletters/dc/</a></h3><p><br></p>
A Look Into Rebecca's Professional Journey
01:21 MIN
The Three Eras of Marketing
00:41 MIN
Being Able to Thrive in Discomfort
01:07 MIN
What's the Difference Between a Brand and an Icon
00:28 MIN
The Importance of Building Brand Love
00:51 MIN
Differentiate Your Voice, Your Values, Your Purpose
00:33 MIN

David Cancel: Before we get to the show, did you know you can get more insights just like the ones you're listening to right here on Seeking Wisdom delivered right to your inbox? Sign up to get my weekly newsletter, it's called, The One Thing at drift. com/ dc. All right, here we are. We are back on Seeking Wisdom and I have a special, special guest. I'm a little shy today, because I'm in awe of this guest. Her name is Rebecca Messina. Thank you Rebecca for joining us.

Rebecca: Thank you for having me. I certainly should get your autograph.

David Cancel: No way. I'm going to give the audience your background, because it's so extensive and embarrassing. So, I'm going to embarrass you now. So now, you have to sit there and be embarrassed.

Rebecca: All right, Ill be embarrassed.

David Cancel: All right. So, Rebecca is a Global Citizen. She's worked in four continents. She speaks four languages, I can barely speak English, so we're going to have to dig into that. And she was Uber's first ever chief marketing officer and we're going to dive into that. But before joining Uber, she was at Global CMO of Beam Suntory, I hope I said that right.

Rebecca: Mm-hmm(affirmative) you did.

David Cancel: Nice. And they own lots of things, if you like to drink Jim Beam, Maker's Mark and other brands, we can dive into that. And then, she spent a long time in Coca- Cola, which I'm fascinated and she's back in Atlanta right now and so we're going to dive into that and what she's up to now as a senior advisor and McKinsey, she's super fancy, but fancy crosstalk.

Rebecca: Very fancy.

David Cancel: But before we started this episode, Rebecca and I were talking about Duff's Buffalo, Shavita chicken and sneaking into Canada.

Rebecca: That's right. All that's true.

David Cancel: So, where did you grow up? I grew up in the Bronx, as we know.

Rebecca: As we know. I grew up in a very small town called Batavia, New York, it's about 30 minutes between Buffalo and Rochester. So, I never tell people I'm from Batavia because they wouldn't know where it was.

David Cancel: Do you know where Brant brand it is?

Rebecca: I don't.

David Cancel: Oh, that's up there too.

Rebecca: Oh geez, I have to get better with my Western New York geography.

David Cancel: So, how did you find your way out of Buffalo?

Rebecca: Yeah, it's funny. I had these parents, we were super middle- class and they always kept us connected to place if you would. And I say that because Italy was a really important place for my family. And a lot of Italian immigrants are up in that part of New York State. And I would, my family would be in that category. And so I kind of, when I started to think about where I was going to go to school, to college, I really didn't have a job in mind. I had this odd idea that I was going to be a Global Citizen. And so, I started to think of my parents like," What does one do when they do that?" And I'm like," I don't know. Maybe I'll be in the Peace Corps. Maybe I'll teach Spanish." something like that. And I had a lot of Italian language in my life and so I kind of grew up with a little bit of an ear for language, or desire, maybe not even an ear. I just was the one in the family who really loved that. And then, came time to go to college, I wanted to go far. So I actually, well that's not completely true-

David Cancel: Why is that, why did you want to go far?

Rebecca: ...Well, it's not completely true. One little story, I feel like Julia Roberts. So, I really wanted to go to Notre Dame and I didn't get accepted to Notre Dame. And so, every once in a while I feel like I should go back like Julia Roberts when she went back in with the bags and was like," Big mistake."

David Cancel: Yeah, yeah.

Rebecca: That's a little bit how I feel. So, I didn't get into my first choice and I had three backups actually, one in Massachusetts, Miami of Ohio and Syracuse. And I enrolled in Syracuse and amazing university, but then I got sort of cold feet, because it was so close to home, too close to home. And so my mom's like," You really should think about this school that my brother went to.", my uncle. And so, off I went to Miami and it turned out to be great. And indeed I studied, I was Diplomacy and Foreign Affairs and a double major with two languages and that's how it started.

David Cancel: Wow, that's amazing how you had that foresight to do that. And super impressive. I did not know anything. I did not barely know how to go to college. I didn't know what a major was, I didn't even know... I mean, I always tell people, it's such a different time before the internet, everyone has access to everything, I didn't know how to do, I didn't know how you could travel abroad. I didn't know how any of that stuff when I was in high school age. And so, it took a long time to learn that stuff, now everyone knows everything through Instagram and travels the world.

Rebecca: So true. And we have to actually write postcards to home then.

David Cancel: Yeah.

Rebecca: And I actually did, I wrote them and then they'd get it a week later and you get one a week later.

David Cancel: Think about that, think about you traveling, being away now for people who have kids and there's no cell phone and you only get postcards in the mail.

Rebecca: And you use, what are those phones called? I don't even know what they're called anymore, payphones.

David Cancel: Payphones, yes.

Rebecca: Yeah. That's how it went. And you had quarters and you... And then I used to have to call collect, because I was calling from another country and you remember the lady would come on and," Would you accept a collect call from Rebecca." and all that? Yeah, it was wild, wild times.

David Cancel: It's incredible. How did you go from studying, being this kind of Global Citizen, this kind of idea that you had, I wish I had that idea, I'm only having it now and then go into the world of marketing? How did you go, what is your professional journey?

Rebecca: It's funny, marketing at the end of the day is about people, so I'm well suited for that, in my personality. And actually, if you do want to see the world, there's probably no better conduit to do so than business. And so, when I started getting... Now, it's like," Okay crap, I really have to think about what I'm going to do with my life." I really just targeted global companies. And in the nineties, you were still thinking about careers probably differently than people at the same age are thinking about them today. So, I was thinking these big global companies, Delta, UPS, Home Depot, Coke and I was really, really fortunate that I got a connection with someone at Coke and they at least offered to talk to me. There was no formal internship program. There was no way to come in, kind of as an out of undergrad and I went in and I interviewed with Scott McCune, a really good friend of mine and one of my best friends now and they were able to figure out kind of a, made an internship for me. And it was just a three- month internship. All my friends are leaving college and have jobs and I'm going off to be an intern. And months turned into 22 years. So it was a... And it over- delivered on my Global Citizen, few years in and I graduated college in'94, in'99 I was living in Santiago, Chile. And then, I moved from Chile to Australia, then I moved from Australia to France. I had this just great experience with them and I had so many different opportunities and jobs and to be a female in Latin America and then late nineties was fascinating and really cool.

David Cancel: Yeah, fascinating is the right word.

Rebecca: Yeah. So, it was just an amazing experience.

David Cancel: That's crazy. So, I love one thing that you said which I harp on all the time and especially in the world that we're in, which is that marketing is about people and understanding people. Because I think, the people that I talk to who are in marketing functions, they're mostly digital marketers and they come from that background and they're so focused on channels and optimizations and tools and stuff and they forget the fundamental thing about people, so I'd love to talk more about that.

Rebecca: Yeah. And what's interesting, you do an amazing job with your teams, because you bring in folks like me, I don't know as much about B2B, certainly I know a lot about digital marketing, but you were seeking this more fundamental brand building mindset that I do think I was lucky to have at Coke. And an Uber story on this, actually when I was interviewing to go to Uber, I started Googling Uber and this is a telling story about exactly what you're saying is, and up on the page and I took a screenshot of it, was only, all you saw were hands and a phone. And I thought," Okay, this is 2018. The brand is well embedded in our lives. How is it?" I think what you said is, because it became an idea that was so centered around tech and then it forgot that it was centered around people formerly and drivers, hundreds of millions of rides every day, bringing two strangers together. It was people were running this, empowering this and that was kind of a little bit why I was able to go there, because I kind of just brought a different sensitivity if you would, that you have if you kind of were raised in more of a CPG or a mindset around brand building in a more fundamental way.

David Cancel: It's crazy. I mean, you hit on one of the things that drives me crazy, like one of my... Which is like designers and then the marketers that work with them for websites and collateral, they have some weird obsession with taking pictures of hands, no faces, like anonymous body parts and it's like," No, it's all about faces. People want to connect to people, real people, like look at eyes."

Rebecca: Yeah. Like a window into their soul a little and yeah.

David Cancel: Yeah.

Rebecca: And then you lose humanity without it. And so, I think it's more important than ever as we've moved to this heavily measured, heavily digital, transactional world, it's wonderful, it's brought more tools than ever to marketing. It's a golden era in many ways, but at the same time, we're still an inspired discipline.

David Cancel: So, if you're a marketer, if you're a designer listening to this, stop taking pictures of hands, stop taking pictures of the back of people's heads, take pictures of real people, right. Real art and things like that. One thing that's amazing about your background, which is I think things are cyclical, you always come back. And when we started Drift, I was obsessed with studying brand building and understanding brand building, because I think we had over- rotated so hard on digital everything, track everything and in terms of competition, in terms of how many alternatives there are in the market, we were moving towards a world where everything, all the technology, all products will be looking more like CPG, in terms of being able to build, having to build a brand, having to build affinity, having to do those things and less to do with the early days of technology when you could just compete on technology-

Rebecca: On utility and newness and yeah. It's so true. And I feel lucky that I kind of... I feel like I lived in two centuries in marketing. And I did, to be raised in the 20th century when brands were manufacturer brands and that's not a bad thing, but what can we make? Then we'll push it out to the world and we'll sell it. And I think what's so fascinating about the 21st century is, it's really more about," How can we put the outside world together and create something entirely new?" And I think to live in these two worlds but to see how brand building has a very different meaning, as a matter of fact it's a four letter word as you know it sometimes in tech. And I worked really hard, in my early days especially at Uber, to ensure that I... I had to almost undo some of the things, the conventions of brand building and really work on language that could connect with more of an engineering mindset. So, instead of talking about maybe brand building, I would talk about creating meaning or, it was just another way of bringing in the same idea, but in a way that maybe people could hear it who might've not been raised, if you would, the same way I was on building brands.

David Cancel: It's funny, I always, you don't know this, but I always talk about these three eras of marketing and I feel like, that I've lived through so far. The first era being the brand era, which you were talking about, right, that real focus on building brand. The second being this, started in the early 2000's, which was the digital transformation, it's the demand generation era, it's all about leads, all about capture, all about tools and utility. And I think we're now entering this other one which goes back a little bit to brand which is," How do you build these long- term relationships with people? Because everything now is not transactional like in the brand era, meaning we sell something to you once, it's all about long- term lasting relationships brought on by, subscription everything, but also brought on by the way that we buy and shop today.

Rebecca: It's really true. And actually it's a welcome moment, if you would, because it kind of brings the best of back together and it puts it back at the center what should have always been there, but it also requires us as marketers inside the org to connect in ways that maybe, I think we've kind of let this divide happen. And I think a lot of the work I do advising companies and things is, really helping CMOs kind of unify the C- suite or unify the teams. And they may not be, in CPG you kind of, you make your products, right. You are designing the innovation pipeline and you kind of live the whole life cycle, if you would of the business, you don't typically in tech brands, but that doesn't mean you can't get closer to it. I always say," You don't have to unify the structure, you just need to unify the process.", so that these inputs are there that right now are being really brought in very late. And when you bring marketing in late, you often bring the consumer in late and that's how we kind of miss out sometimes.

David Cancel: Amen. I love it, Rebecca. What was the training like, like in the early days of going to Coca- Cola? How did you train as a marker? Many people listening to this only know the digital demand generation era, they don't know anything about brand- building.

Rebecca: Yeah. Well, I was lucky because... Okay, so Coke didn't have any formal intern program and I didn't kind of come in the normal way. And often, Coke then, I don't know if it's true now, if somebody from Coke is listening maybe they know in the last few years if it's changed, but Coke tended to not hire entry- level marketers. It had sort of... It's strategy, I think HR would have even said this was, really we'll buy great marketers from P& G and Unilever and those companies. And it was really Sergio Zemen, to his credit, he was the chief marketing officer when I joined in'94, but he started this huge program about bringing in talent, there was a name for it, I don't remember it, it had some acronym. Anyway, so he brought in this great talent and I, you just, you got thrown into these jobs that were bigger than you. And it was, I always, and I do even now as I lead, I try to always get... People will live into those moments. They typically kind of rise up. And so, I was just lucky like that, to think that it 28 years old, I'm living in Latin American running marketing communications for four countries and it just was kind of a nutty. So, I learned by doing it in a large way and learned by working with some of the best marketers I could ever worked with and had just been given really great opportunities. And what I think helped me a lot was, I did so many different jobs from so many different angles and it really prepared me for like a world of Uber or even a world of Spirits, because I had to learn how to talk about what I knew in so many different contexts. And I'm really grateful I got to do that. I had to learn how to show up in a foreign country and explain things. And I had to learn French on the fly, because I didn't know French when I moved to France and it was really, really hard. And then, I learned marketing from single country view where we, full ownership of the P& L and then I saw marketing from a group view, where you kind of more connecting the dots across Europe for example. Saw marketing from a global view. Saw marketing from the incubator, the small brands and the big brands. And so, that was just really helpful. And so people are always like," How'd you stay there so long?" And I'm like," Because every job was-

David Cancel: Endless learning opportunities, right?

Rebecca: ...Endless, endless. It was like working at the United Nations every day and really working on really great things. But it was a company that believed in marketing and believed in brand building. And it taught me just some fundamentals that I will be forever grateful.

David Cancel: Isn't Coca- Cola still the number one brand, like from America?

Rebecca: No.

David Cancel: No? What is?

Rebecca: No, it isn't. Now, it's been overtaken by your Googles and your Apples.

David Cancel: Wow, really?

Rebecca: Yeah. Yeah. And we kind of knew that, I remember having meetings around when Inter brand would come out with it and our CMO at the time, Joe Tripodi, to his credit he called it he said," We won't be on this list 10 years from now.", because of the utilitarian nature of a brand like, Google, it's a verb in your life, right? Uber, those brands, so it's more because... Part of how that ranking happens is, awareness is these brands are all a hundred percent awareness, all the ones that are in the top, 97% awareness brands. But a brand like Coke is, got really, almost high virtual brand love if you would. And some of these have really high product love and there's a bit of a difference that we could probably talk about, but they've become well known in our lives.

David Cancel: Did you find that... I love the way that you learned at Coke and I think that's the way I've learned of just like, you're in the deep end of the pool, you're forced to learn, you survive and you thrive. And it's not always, it's not comfortable, because you're always on the fly and going. Did you see a lot of people not make it through that process? Because I ask, because I think a lot of times now when I'm talking to people young in their career, they seem to want these, they want the growth but they don't want the discomfort.

Rebecca: That's a really good way of putting it. I think, I mean you're an entrepreneur so you're in another class of people who are, can handle the discomfort. But I do like white space. And so, I kind of always said, I found value to create, I didn't always follow the job description and entrepreneurs you didn't even have a job description, so you take the structure out altogether. I'm given a little bit of structure and be like," Okay, so you sort of want me to here" and then I kind of go," Okay. Now, how do I kind of add value? Where's there a white space?" And there's some discomfort in that. It's actually also freeing, because no one's done that before. And I've liked being, first CMO at Uber. Many of the jobs at Coke were the first time somebody had those jobs. And I appreciated that because, I think I can only count on my hand one or two of my 10 jobs at Coke, maybe it was less than 10 jobs, eight jobs at Coke that somewhat have a for me. And it's very, very freeing to do that and not have to walk in someone's shoes, but actually kind of create the new shoes if you would. But there is a discomfort you have to thrive in and it makes objectives hard. It makes explaining what you do hard. And if you just put it in the context of value, it tends to work.

David Cancel: Funny you mentioned, you called me an entrepreneur and explained what you do and I always say that, I went to college same time as you, so when I was in the professional field I never used the word entrepreneur, because back then it used to mean loser, can't get job. Right?

Rebecca: Right. And now look at you, now you've got your little Julia Roberts moment.

David Cancel: I know, now entrepreneur means something. Entrepreneur didn't mean a good thing back then.

Rebecca: Right. Right. It was placeholder.

David Cancel: Yeah.

Rebecca: Yeah.

David Cancel: Someday will get a job.

Rebecca: Exactly. You just can't figure it out yet.

David Cancel: What do you think your, the lessons that you tried to take from when you... One, what convinced you to leave Coke after this amazing ride? And then two, what were the lessons, what were the things that you learned the hard way that you were trying to take to Uber, into whatever you did next?

Rebecca: The move out of Coke was hard, because I never saw myself leaving. I had to write the CV as the headhunter's calling. I'd never even really taken the calls before. My husband also worked there, so together we're like 43 years at Coke.

David Cancel: What?

Rebecca: Yeah.

David Cancel: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. I mean, I guess in a company as big as Coke that's fine.

Rebecca: We met living in France, he's Dutch. We were both ex- pats in France together. We got married. And by the way, this is the funniest part, people who worked with us at Coke always laugh. We were in offices next to each other for a while at Coke. Like literally, out my door and into his. And so, I never took his last name, just because it was like, that would have been triply weird. Like," Oh, the Hendriksen's are in a meeting." I'm like," No, no. Rebecca is in a meeting and Derk's in a meeting." And so anyway, it was really a big decision, because in a way it was the end of an era for our family at Coke and that was hard. So, part of it was just, good time to go. We kind of both really been there a long time. I knew and I always felt Coke was sincere in like," You're on this pathway to be our CMO." But there was a few of us, right and there was no guarantee. And to have the opportunity to go to a great company like Beam with an incredible CEO, I was just so drawn to what he was doing and the opportunity to take... They have big brands, you mentioned some of them. They had craft brands, they had families, they had stories, they have long legacies and short legacies. And I also had the chance to manage R& D, which is so interesting and spirits, so interesting because you really are working on, you're really imagining where trends are going," What are people going to be drinking? What do we need to be making? What mash bills? How do we need to think about this? What types of..." it was just wonderful to get that experience and I would have never gotten that at Coke. And so, to really have that end- to- end experience was so special. And so, when you ask," What did I bring with me?" I left for the first time a place where marketing was the center of the universe, that was Coke. And then, when you go to a spirits company, at least Beam then was heavily sales oriented, sales and commercial and then Uber would be, marketing really wasn't in the universe, at all. It was like Beam helped me kind of go," Okay. Recenter, realizing not every company is going to declare marketing as their most important capability." But in a company like Beam you're leaving value on the table if you don't recognize the potential of these brands through the stories, the archives, that was something I learned at Coke was, our past helps direct the stories we can tell later on that's where our credibility comes from. We had this unbelievable archives department at Coke that I just thrived with. And because it was a chronicle, the stories. And it kept you honest, the brand's DNA. And you just have to find ways to keep that brand very timely for today, because brands are timely and timeless and that was key for us. And I kind of took that with me to Beam of," What can we dig into? How can we dig more into these families?" But then, very much contextualized them in the world we're at now. Fast forward though, Uber required the best of all of that, because Coke believed it was a marketing company and it stayed at the forefront of marketing. And so, we were pretty modern marketing company by what we needed to be, right. We weren't real time marketing in the same way that you guys are in the optimization, but we could real- time social, for sure, but not real- time sales the way you all are optimizing all the time. Fast forward to Beam and you kind of go back a bit and part of the job there was modernizing marketing, bringing it up to what... But again, fit for purpose here like," What does that need to look like in a business that's 220 years old? And what does that mean for that business? What does that tech stack look like?" Very different than what Uber needs to do, what it needs to do. Fast forward to Uber, it required all of that but in reverse order. So, I walk into the world's most modern company, never had a CMO, never had a marketer in the leadership team. I screech in, the last, last man, last seat-

David Cancel: Something tells me you could screech in, no problem.

Rebecca: I did screech it. And the job there was taking the best of what you've learned along the way, but very, very carefully ensuring that it doesn't sound like you're trying to make one of the world's most important companies of the 21st century sound like a CPG. And I really loved that tension. I wanted that. It was so important to me that I didn't do that. And Beam helped me break some of that, because first Beam, I had to stop talking about Coke. I got that feedback out of the gate, 22 years somewhere," You're talking about Coke too much, shut up." And they kind of told me that, my great boss was like," Stop with the Coke stories." I'm like,"Well okay, but is it... In fairness, it's all I've ever worked at." And so, part of what I like about my current situation so much is variety.

David Cancel: You have new stories.

Rebecca: Yeah, exactly. I can tell new stories now. But just having this variety now that I'm exposed to. So, it was really this opportunity to take the idea of timely and timeless, because Uber was super timely but it hadn't determined what its timeless message was yet. It hadn't really determined who it was, so it needed meaning. It had incredible data, but probably lacked consumer insight the way I knew how to look for it. So, we did focus groups and in- home surveys and things that just weren't part of what they did, it wasn't what got them there. And we just did different things, but we did them very much, in my head I knew how to do this, but I just tried to put it in words and language that felt right for the context I was in.

David Cancel: I am kind of obsessed right now about," What's the difference between a brand and an icon?" and so I'm thinking a lot about that. And it seems like Uber and you mentioned like Google and Apple and these things taking over parts of our life. In some ways Uber to me is like more of an icon than a brand. You may have come from brands, but brands to me represented like a product, a service, a thing, like a feeling. And then icons represent like a cultural shift, like something bigger. To me, an example of an icon versus a brand is like... And I just saw this the other day I was like," Oh, Harley Davidson's like an icon." because it represented this cultural shift, like everything, even black on black, I'm wearing black and black inaudible here. This is in some ways brought on by this kind of cultural shift that Harley represents even if you never rode a Harley Davidson, never used that product, never even would consider it. But there's a difference between those two, have you ever thought about that?

Rebecca: I thought about this. I don't I articulated it as good as you actually. But it's so interesting you bring up icon and we can talk about icons, products and brands. So, in an iconic way, it's iconic, it's a navigation tool. Uber was certainly iconic in disrupting how we move around. I think though, I would love to say, it was iconic for something else too, maybe progress or... But I don't think the world's giving it that yet. So it's like, it's certainly iconic in the sense that you will always remember your first Uber ride presumably, just like you remember your first Coke, you remember where you were, many people in interviews will remember that baseball game or where they were, less so now, but certainly for a long time that was an important indicator for us. And so, I think in the sense of icons, they absolutely represent something that's in a class all its own. But I think it can be... If Muhammad Ali was an icon of what? He was an icon of boxing, but he was also an icon of other freedoms. And I think that's where I think there's a difference, I don't think Uber's gotten all the way to the other icon yet.

David Cancel: One that fascinates me though right now is Tesla. Tesla seems like it can, like it's becoming an icon, because it represents a lot more than just a car, electric, whatever, it really feels like it's representing something larger, the shift.

Rebecca: I think you're right on that one too. Part of that is because he does things that are bigger than the car. He always kind of takes you to other places which is like... He's trying to stand for more, he's really, really trying to change the world. And he's trying and he's created... Tesla means more than a car now, it's a mindset almost. And I think that's where the icon piece... I think Uber has the potential, for sure. And the product/ brand, icon conversation is so interesting, so interesting. And the fact that you and the business you're in so get it, and your teams get it, just in the time I was kind of preparing for this and the other conversation I had, I'm so impressed with how your teams really understand what business they're in, who they serve, what they want to stand for, the way they treat people, it's very nice. Very nice. Yeah, It's true.

David Cancel: Thank you. The only thing that we knew kind of starting the business and what we're doing now and kind of reinforces that there is no other way. I just think we're in a different part of the cycle right now, like that is the only path forward, I think. Just like building a brand was at some point with CPGs. Demand gen was for certain era. I think we're in this new era that we're still all trying to define... I don't think there's another way, because there's too many alternatives, too much choices, too much everything.

Rebecca: Yeah. And there's too much choice. And I love that you know that, because it's not just choice, it's sensitivity of many types. We actually did a study once at Coke, where we actually studied brand love. And so brand love, technically defined as loyalty beyond reason, and I didn't come up with that, one of the icons in advertising did. But we studied actually countries that had higher brand love... We actually had a brand love score. So we studied countries-

David Cancel: A brand love store?

Rebecca: ...A brand love score.

David Cancel: Oh, score, score.

Rebecca: Score, yeah. And we looked at all of the countries around the world and we looked at like, which countries had higher brand love than others. And we looked at correlated that with sales and we... So we made the argument for how important brand love was, is the point one.

David Cancel: Wow, that's NPS to the next level.

Rebecca: To the next level, yes. And it was really important, because it helped us tell these stories to the bottlers. It helped us ensure the whole system could kind of understand how important it was to build brand love. But then, we also looked at what brand love gives you. It gives you, breaks a tie, it gives you air cover when you screw up and you see lots of examples of brands that don't have that air cover and they're like," Okay, now what?" Reduces price sensitivity. There's just so many things that it gives you.

David Cancel: That's like the brand halo that people would talk about, right?

Rebecca: Yeah. Yes, exactly. It's the brand halo. And it's so, so important and it's so often overlooked and very often overlooked. And I struggle sometimes with some of the companies that I advise, because today's marketing tools, the 21st century tools that we are in a luxurious position of having can measure a lot, but they still can't measure everything and sometimes it's this part we're talking about that we get frustrated. It's like we shine a light on what we can't measure and therefore it's bad. I'm like," No, actually it's really, really good."

David Cancel: Really good. Thank you for saying that.

Rebecca: Really good.

David Cancel: Yeah.

Rebecca: It's maybe the most valuable part of everything in here, but it just doesn't pay you back in the same way these other things do. It doesn't pay you back today, in this minute, right now, but it will pay you back exponentially.

David Cancel: I think that's been... I harp on this so much, I rant on it so much and it's so fundamental to everything that we do. I say like, marketers today and I mean mostly digital marketers are obsessed with things that are perfectly measurable, perfectly scalable and then run away from things that are like you said, hard to measure, maybe subscale, like whatever. But all the opportunity is actually there. All the opportunity is there in that stuff that's hard to measure. There is very little opportunity left in these perfectly scalable, perfectly measurable things, because everyone is there, all the noises, it's been like, all the arbitrage has been taken out of those systems, it's only here and it just like baffles me why everyone wants to focus on this stuff when all the real stuff is right here. And they would always ask me like, these activities that we would do and these kind of marketing and brand building things that we would do, they were like," How do you know it works because you can't measure?" And I'm like," Because we literally... The person that we're marketing to, the customer, the brand told me and they told me, like this, just told me. Either they did it in a video or text, social or even face to face." And then, it'd be funny and then we'd have this whole conversation with groups and then we would get to the end and they would say," So, how do you know it's working?" I'm like," What? This is the lunacy, because they told me." Because it doesn't in Google Analytics does not mean that it's not working.

Rebecca: It's so amazing that you know that and the idea that everybody can chase those same analytics, the only thing you have left is this. The only thing you have left to differentiate is your voice, your personality, what you stand for, the values, the purpose you were built on, all of that. That's the only thing we can give consumers that gives them any real choice left, the rest is in the backend and we can all optimize it. And then to your point, it's like a really efficient factory. We can't get much more efficient back here and so we have to play with the only variable that's truly a variable, a true variable.

David Cancel: How do you choose companies now to advise and to work with and ones that hopefully will get what you're saying versus not?

Rebecca: Yes. I advise in three different pillars, one is through McKinsey and with them they get this amazing client base and I feel very lucky to get brought into some of those incredible conversations trying to solve huge problems. I mean, I don't choose them as much, I usually take the assignments as they come, most often. They're always very high- quality clients. The ones where I truly choose are, really try to point my energy and my efforts to companies that are breaking conventions from the 20th century. So, a lot of that, sometimes that means-

David Cancel: You're a trouble maker, I like that.

Rebecca: Yeah, a bit, like Better Food. My husband's put his whole rest of his career now into really disrupting the food system and looking at food waste and reducing footprints and things. And so, looking at Better Food, Better Beverages like in all aspects of that, they don't always have to be even perfectly healthy, I'm on the board of a wine company, but it's really staying close to the source, getting to know the maker, how it's sustainably sourced, how we're doing it. Things that are just really trying to go about being better. I'm having conversations with companies. I mean, looking at things like spaces, companies that are really trying to help the world in terms of mental health, stigmas that we have inaudible, infertility. I love those companies that plant- based, these are... I just think if I look back on my own career and go," Okay, I had this chance to learn from some of the world's biggest icons, but now how can I help companies kind of get on a path that takes in short circuits and my 20, 30 years of experience, it just helps them do this." So, we sit down and I talk with CEOs and we spend hours working on missions and visions and some just get it faster than others, but I find they all get it, it's just a patient's question. Really they get it.

David Cancel: Do you let them down?

Rebecca: I don't know. I think a few would tell me I'm... I think the mission and vision is maybe the hardest conversation you will ever have. And I stick with it, so painful. But I'm like," Just, let's stick with this, because it will pay you back the clarity, it will give you... It'll help you choose products you will make, or you won't make."

David Cancel: Rebecca, I spend so much time in pain in this area and I'm obsessed with it. And it's still, I've tried to explain it to people just like, it is painful, it will always be painful. I love it. I'm obsessed with it. It is pain.

Rebecca: It is. And it's easier to not do it. It's like avoiding a hard conversation. It's the same idea. And I'm like, on this one though, this is, it's freeing. It is going to give you so much freedom if you can go," This is our mission. This is our vision for the brand. This brand... How it all works together. It's very freeing." And I've been lucky to have some really interesting conversations with a lot of cool CEOs doing cool things in this space. And again, you're not using fancy language. You're not using fancy research techniques like we would use to do this, but we will have conversations, we'll simplify those. Let's talk about archetypes, right?

David Cancel: Don't start that, because I'm going to go... Yeah, this conversation will never end, inaudible.

Rebecca: I mean, I love, it's really true they're timeless, it's unbelievable. And in a way brands are archetypes for us, think about it. They help us navigate around and that's why these archetypes are so helpful to us and really helpful for global brands, really helpful because you can take that idea and you just have to think about like," What's a hero in Japan relative to a hero in the U. S." And it was just such an easy, powerful tool to use it and any company can use it, it's kind of free, right?

David Cancel: Oh my God, I love Rebecca Messina.

Rebecca: Oh, you're very kind.

David Cancel: Absolutely. I always say like, before starting Drift, my background is engineering technology. I didn't know, and I built stuff from marketers my whole career. Been around them, but I didn't understand marketing. I don't know if I still do, but so I started to understand it because my brain is logical, it's the opposite, it's like I don't understand the emotional part. And so to do it, I went back in time and I started to study old school copywriting, human decision- making, archetypes, storytelling, everything from the hero's journey to all the different archetypes, what they mean. And then, once I understood it from the cognitive biases and all these kinds of things, once I understood those elements, in other words the people element, the storytelling, why people make decisions the way they do, how they build, then I finally could understand to some level marketing. And it's funny, all I talk about now is this, so most people think that I'm a marketer.

Rebecca: What I'm hearing in you two things that is so fascinating. One, I'm now connecting you to some of the other entrepreneurs that I'm talking to and I'm realizing there's something about you guys that is so special that I don't have the same sauce. But you deconstruct things to learn them and that's an engineering maybe in you. And that's a side note, tangent, but that's beside the point. The other thing I was going to say was, it's the brand love piece and the building brands and the way you learned it, the other thing that if you had your own lock on sort of copywriting and human decision- making, mine was we went it Coke and we studied how people fall in love. So, I actually got love experts and Pepper Schwartz was her name. I think she's on Today's Show every year at thanks or Valentine's Day, but she's really an expert on how people fall in love. And what is so interesting is we were able to connect how people fall in love with how people fall in love with brands. And the similarities are amazing.

David Cancel: It would be the same, right? Because we're just humans.

Rebecca: That's right. And we're looking for consistency. And then, we can break the tie, if you screw up we do sensitivity as I love you, but only as I love you can you make more..." Are you good looking in the beginning?" matters." What are your values?" It's all the same. And it's so amazing. And she was this unlock for those of us that were working on this project, because it was just like," Oh my gosh, if you just keep that in mind." And because we all have had relationships, whatever they're with... It's like," You can't say you love me if you don't actually call me." Brands should actions need to be louder than words. Everything about a relationship can hold true in how you build brands. And forget going to score on brands, just learn, just think about relationships. And that really, it helps.

David Cancel: Absolutely. That's why from the very beginning of the conversation, it's about people, marketing is about people. And because I always say study the people stuff like you said, relationships, whether it's human decision- making, all these kinds of like technical things, social psychology, all that kind of stuff, study that because that's the only thing that's real, that's the only thing that has not changed, will not change. And all this other stuff that we study is not that useful in terms of marketing, because those are just mechanics, but the thing that does... And those things will always change because the technology, the thing that never changes is what people need from an emotional level and a connection level and a relationship level. And that's what we should study as marketers.

Rebecca: I agree. And actually, it's now it's all that's left that maybe a machine can't do for us. And even there, there's some things they can do in terms of some patterns... There's a lot they can do of course, but I couldn't agree with you more. It's all that's left and I think those are going to be the brands that have the biggest mark in this century for sure, is those that have used all the greatest tools and technology of the 21st century with kept empathy. And I really do think Google does an amazing job with that. I think about a brand that doesn't really need to tell any stories about, these beautiful stories that tell sometimes you've seen them. And I think it doesn't need to do that, but it does that for us to keep in mind that they do stand for something bigger than a search bar. And actually you're searching for meaning very often when you're using them and it kind of reminds us of that meaning that they stand for. And it just fascinating that you inherently knew this.

David Cancel: It's because I have no emotions, Rebecca crosstalk

Rebecca: I don't think that's true. I don't think that's true at all. You wouldn't know this if you didn't.

David Cancel: Maybe deep down, deep, in some dark corner crosstalk.

Rebecca: We got to dig them up.

David Cancel: Yeah.

Rebecca: Yeah.

David Cancel: Oh my God, this has been a fascinating conversation. You spent most time on social media. Can people reach you?

Rebecca: Yeah, they can. I'm on Twitter. I'm lousy on Instagram, maybe it's cause I'm a terrible picture taker and I'm intimidated. So, every once in a while if I get a good one I throw it up there. But yes, and lightly Facebook, but mostly LinkedIn and Twitter is where I'm at.

David Cancel: So, you have to find Rebecca Messina. We're going to have links in the show notes. This is an amazing conversation. I could waste her day away with many rants and conversations here.

Rebecca: I'm honored to talk to you. You are just amazing.

David Cancel: Thank you so much for joining us. And Rebecca, this is the Galaxy's only six star rated podcasts. You know how you can leave five star ratings for things?

Rebecca: Yeah. Yeah.

David Cancel: Our audience leaves six stars. So, they leave five stars and then they go into description and leave an extra star.

Rebecca: Oh no, I'm going to be super disappointed if we don't get seven.

David Cancel: It is seven now, Rebecca Messina has put this up to seven star only podcast.

Rebecca: Yeah, exactly.

David Cancel: So leave seven stars. Leave a comment for Rebecca and please follow along with her on social media. This has been amazing an episode. Thank you so much coming for being here.

Rebecca: Thank you so much. All right, take care inaudible

David Cancel: Let me know what you thought of this episode by texting me at 1( 212) 380- 1036. Again, 1( 212) 380- 1036. Now, if you're looking for more leadership insights sign up for my weekly newsletter, The One Thing at drift. com/ dc. Every week I'll share a habit tool or mental model that's helping me reach my goals. Hope to see you there. Text me, hit me up.


The world of marketing is constantly evolving, but understanding people? That will always be fundamental. Today, marketing expert Rebecca Messina joins David to share her biggest learnings from the 22 years she spent at Coca-Cola, what it was like to be Uber's first-ever CMO, and how she's applying both of those experiences to her work as a senior advisor at McKinsey. DC and Rebecca go deep on the importance of brand building and brand love, the psychology of marketing, and what it means to be a brand vs. an icon.

Today's Host

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David Cancel

|Co-Founder & CEO, Drift

Today's Guests

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Rebecca Messina

|Global CMO; Senior Advisor, McKinsey & Co; Board Member; Advisor