7.5.17 Marketing

Mitch Joel, Mirum Canada President and “Six Pixels of Separation” Writer, Shares His Digital Marketing Insights on Modern Retail

By: Adam West

The Crunch: Modern marketing is evolving rapidly with advancements in technology that are bringing big data insights and automation into the mix. This puts Mitch Joel in prime position. Through his weekly podcast and posts on his blog — both known as “Six Pixels of Separation,” which share a name with his best-selling book — and his frequent appearances as a public speaker, Mitch shares his immense knowledge on digital marketing across multiple platforms. And, as the President of the Canadian branch of Mirum, a global marketing agency, Mitch and his team help brands all over the world increase their marketing savvy.

Marketing Magazine named him “Canada’s Rock Star of Digital Marketing” in 2007. A decade later, Mitch Joel has done nothing to prove the publication wrong. In fact, in the years since, he’s written two highly respected books on the subject.

Despite the long hours he spends on planes traveling to between 40 and 60 speaking events per year, Mitch knows the world is growing smaller. The interconnected nature of the digital world is a topic Mitch knows well, and he frequently discusses how rapid innovation is changing the nature of marketing at these events or through his writing.

Mirum’s Mitch Joel spoke to us about some of the challenges modern retailers are facing.

While Mitch’s expertise and experience have elevated him to his role as the President of the Canadian division of global marketing agency, Mirum, he continues to make a name for himself through the thought leadership he displays on his daily blog — Six Pixels of Separation — and his weekly podcast of the same name.

We recently got the opportunity to speak with Mitch about how technology is affecting retail, especially in terms of marketing.

The nature of business is changing with the proliferation of machine learning, marketing automation, artificial intelligence, and other breakthroughs. These innovations are requiring retailers to constantly evolve to give consumers the kinds of shopping experiences they’ve come to expect, thanks to enterprise market leaders like Amazon.

“Retailers have found themselves in a business that increasingly isn’t necessarily about merchandising or the cash register, but about transactions, digital engagement, analytics, optimization, marketing automation, and loyalty programs, and it can be overwhelming in that world,” Mitch said. “That is the world of retail now, whether we like what Amazon is doing or not. That’s the world they’ve created. That’s the baseline functionality that people expect when they have a shopping experience, and if you don’t deliver, it’s problematic.”

Through His Blog, Podcast, and Public Speaking, Mitch Weighs In on Marketing Trends

Despite his full plate, Mitch has been able to carve out enough time to regularly update the blog that he’s maintained almost daily since he launched it in 2003. Six Pixels of Separation takes its moniker from just how connected we’re becoming in this day and age.

“In 2006, we launched a podcast of the same name that’s been going on every single Sunday for over a decade, where I spend an hour with some form of thought leader in the business space,” Mitch said.

Mitch spends much of his time on the road at public speaking events. These appearances give him ample opportunity to share his marketing insights with thousands of people each year.

“My role is to make sure the Mirum brand is out there, and at the same time, help to create interest and have brands work with us,” Mitch said.

He recently spoke at the News Media Alliance’s mediaXchange 2017 in New Orleans about the connected world and some of the challenges that come with digital evolution.

“We have a world where people go on Tinder and swipe right, and literally find someone to date within a fraction of a second, but if you go to most websites — including retail sites — and try to find a phone number, look at the struggle,” Mitch said. “From pinching your thumbs to hitting the wrong buttons and all of that, we’re not really adapting all that well.”

3 Pieces of Advice from Mitch on Marketing Strategy for Brands

Marketing is changing along with technological innovation, which makes it especially important for retail marketers to understand best practices and stay on top of new ideas and strategies. During our conversation with Mitch, he shared several ideas that could prove invaluable for those in the digital marketing space.

1. Brands Should Box Within Their Own Weight Class

Smaller brands don’t necessarily need to enlist larger global agencies when they’re just starting out. Mitch recommends these companies choose smaller marketing agencies at this stage because their needs are different.

“I’m not sure if they understand the corporate structure of how the agencies work and how challenging it can be,” Mitch said. “Boxing in your weight class is trying to find an agency that can both play with your budget and give you the attention that you need while also delivering against your dollar amount.”

2. Campaigns are Not the Be-All, End-All of Good Marketing

Mitch told us he’s most proud of the long-standing relationships he’s had with clients because it demonstrates the value his agency is delivering. There’s a tendency to put too much focus on campaigns, when there’s a lot more that goes into successful marketing.

“I feel that campaigns are sort of the end of the road of what you’re trying to do as a good engine of marketing,” Mitch said. “From the strategy to the development of the platforms to understanding the transactions to then executing something the customer sees, there’s more to it.”

3. View Disruption with Optimism as an Opportunity to Differentiate

Many companies, particularly those with storied histories as brick-and-mortar businesses, have a tendency to react with hesitation to the evolving retail landscape. Retail businesses born in the digital age now have the tools to compete with much larger corporations thanks to recent innovations.

“Anytime you’re playing in the world of technology, particularly in an industry like retail that’s being so disrupted, I feel like you can be very dismal and down about it, or you can see the opportunity there,” Mitch said. “I look at it very optimistically and opportunistically, and I think Mirum, as an entity, approaches it the same way as well. There are a lot of opportunities for retailers and brands.”

How the Acquisition by Mirum has Expanded Mitch’s Global Influence

When he first started work on his blog and podcast, Mitch was already President of Montreal-based marketing agency, Twist Image, which he helped transform into one of the largest independent digital marketing agencies in Canada.

In 2014, Twist Image was acquired by the J. Walter Thompson Corporation/WPP and renamed as Mirum. The acquisition has been exciting for Mitch, who has been able to make more of a global impact with a company that employs 2,400 and operates in more than 20 countries.

“Part of the reason we were looking to be acquired at such scale by the number one player in the field is that we wanted to scale, and the opportunity to take a whole bunch of pieces that had been acquired by the J. Walter Thompson Corporation network — brands like Digitaria and Activeark — was really interesting to us. These were similar entrepreneurs that were just geographically in a different place.”

The amalgamation of these once-separate agencies has already been tremendously successful. Among Mirum’s clients are heavyweights like Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Walmart, Pepsi, Starbucks, Microsoft, and McDonald’s.

“It’s been really exciting and fast and furious,” Mitch said. “We’ve been named Gartner Magic Quadrant for Global Digital Marketing Agencies in the past two years that we’ve been in existence, which is pretty impressive and awe-inspiring for me.”

The Intersection of Brand Engagement & Technology is the Place to Be

There’s no lack of interest in Mitch’s area of specialty, which puts him in prime position to help his own company and other marketers around the world get better at what they do.

At DealCrunch, we’re constantly covering exciting new technology that is causing retailers to pivot and adjust to change. From big data and the machine learning that’s making sense of it to create more personalized marketing and shopping experience, technology is at the core of sweeping changes in the industry.

“I believe I have a very long and wide runway, whether it’s with Mirum or otherwise, because my job is to look at the intersection of what consumers are doing with brands, with technology being at the focal point of it,” Mitch said.

For retailers or observers interested in these topics, spending time reading Mitch’s regular blog posts and listening to his weekly conversations with leaders on his podcast can be enlightening. After all, the key to successful digital marketing is understanding the current climate, which is where Mitch really shines as a communicator.

About The Author

Adam West spent more than a dozen years working in print journalism and now contributes as a writer and editor for DealCrunch, among other sites. Driven by his interests in marketing, e-commerce, and online savings, Adam helps educate readers on all things retail.

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