Nicole Yale (VaynerMedia): “Brands should look for advocates and not just somebody else to create content for them”

Nicole Yale has spent her career helping Fortune 500 companies develop digital strategies that drive brand engagement with high value audiences. For the past four years at VaynerMedia, Nicole has managed brand portfolios, leading clients through market challenges and the ever-evolving world of digital marketing and emerging technologies. In January 2017, she joined the expanding VM team in London, a city she’d long dreamed of living in. Among some big brands she has worked with, we can mention: Amazon Prime, PepsiCo, Unilever, Target, Ferrero SpA, Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, Tourism Authority of Thailand and more others.

interview by Romanita Oprea

nicole yale

What do you consider to be the best digital campaigns you saw this year and why?

Nike.  I am a big fan of that because it taps into culture and it really takes an empathic approach to the consumer, to understand what do they care about and why. I also liked it because when it came out it had a lot of commentaries, both negative and positive. And a week and a half later it was Labor Day in the SUA, which is a weekend of relaxation for a lot of people and represents a lot of sales for the major retailers, and Nike’s sales trended upword during that. So I like it because it had tangible commercial success.

I know they were appreciating the commercial success, but I don’t know if that was their main objective. I would look at that campaign and say that their objective was brand perception: being seen as a brand that cares about silent topics and issues.

I like campaigns or activations, something that the brand has done, that shows that they try something new or they are respective for the consumer.

Burger King that does that really well. Pretty much everything that they do is so much headline chart reading, because they are doing things as they should. In Spain they had an activation where they used Instagram, to allowed people to vote for toppings on a new product they were developing. And then, everybody that voted, using like a poll feature on Instagram, received a coupon to come in and try it. I like it because they are hacking a platform feature, but also because they are putting the consumer first. They are trying to make a sense of what matters to the consumer. They are not just saying they have a product and give people coupons to try it, they are bringing them along the journey and asking them to help them develop it.

7UP created a mobile drinks maker. When creating a cocktail, we usually say: you have to put x amount of this and x amount of that, but that can depend on what type of glass you have and how many people you have. What they did that was really cool was that you went to a site, you click on a drink (and remember, this is a soda brand, not a spirits brand- which is also why I liked it), you clicked on a recipe and then they will show you the different proportions through bars on your phone and if you put your phone next to a tall glass you could stretch it out and they would show you how the proportion changed or if you had a shorter glass it would condense it and show you need less of the spirits and more of 7UP.

To me, that is solving a clear consumer need, because I love cocktails, but I don’t like making them at home, because is too daunting and complicated. But if I had this guide that will just show me the right measurements and would be tangible and visual and in an instant, that would be something appealing to me to try.

Do you still believe in the power of influencers or micro-influencers in campaigns and up to what level to you believe their influence goes?

I would say I do. Definitely. It depends on how you use them. Because so many brands are trying to do more activations with them, whether they are trying a product or showing the product and that to me seems very still and outdated. Because nowadays everyone is doing it. And people can spot sponsored content a mile away. What is interesting to me is when you think about, again: who is my consumer listening to, who are the decision makers in their life, not someone who just looks like them, but someone who is helping them make the choices they make. And it can be on any scale: micro to macro. And then thinking about how do I work with them.

I don’t want just to do sponsored content, maybe I have the influencer help develop things or maybe I give a surprise in their lives (if the influencer is big enough) to send them meet some of my consumers. I think from a longer partnership stand point. Because I think that brands should look for advocates and not just somebody else to create content for them. Yes, you can do that and is great, but there can be so many others things you could be doing. And then, in time, if you are doing it correctly, people start to associate that person with that brand and it doesn’t feel forced. People understand that they are being advertised to and they are ok with that when they understand the process.

What are the major differences that you saw in the way that the social networks work in the USA versus the UK and the rest of the Europe?

I worked in US for six years prior to moving to London. And I think that, for me, one of the interesting things was that, I hesitate to use the word behind (but this is how it feels like) and I also recognize that New York is not representative for the entire United States, it is very much like a fast-paced epicenter, but it almost feels like some of the things that I was talking to with my clients in New York one year and a half-two years ago, are now just starting those conversations over here. We are trying to jump start them and lead the way, but I think that in a lot of instances there is still a resistance to looking at social and digital at as something that is worthwhile. As a communication channel.  I think that here, at a more tangible level, I see a hesitation with trying new things  or investing significant budgets for content production or even media distribution.

And that is very interesting to me because a lot of these clients are clients that continue to spend a lot on OOH, TV, print and is not that I don’t think those channels make sense, but I think it really begins with taking a look at the broader ecosystem and questioning: is what we are doing driving the impact that we wanted to? No? Then why don’t we try something new. I think it’s starting to shift, especially in London, where I noticed that mentality and openness to be willing to be doing different things. I talked about testing and learning and I think that in some cases failing. Not every media spent delivers awesome results. And that is ok, because you can do things that are relatively small on a scale where is not going to have a huge impact on your brand or business.