Q&A w/ Performics CEO Daina Middleton – Introducing Participant Marketing

By Tinuiti Team

Marketing is an ever-changing landscape, so you may find that your marketing approach isn’t what’s best suited for your target audience.  We talked with Daina Middleton, Global CEO of Performics, to find out how her company came up with their solution to marketing effectively in a modern world.

In a nutshell, what does your company do?

Performics is a global performance marketing company, which means we harness data to drive business results by managing digital marketing programs for some of the world’s largest brands and retailers.

Our primary tools are search marketing (SEO and PPC), programmatic media buying, affiliate marketing, conversion optimization consulting, and “big data” analytics.

What is participant marketing and why have you chosen this direction?

I spent the majority of my career on the client side of the business, including 16 years at Hewlett-Packard.  During the latter part of my tenure at HP, it became increasingly evident that the traditional approach to marketing was no longer working.

This isn’t surprising really, given that the tools, language and philosophies in our industry were all developed 50-60 years ago with the introduction of broadcast. The world has changed considerably since then.  Along with the acknowledgement that things were broken, there was not a suitable alternative and so I began experimenting with the notion of Participant Marketing.

The basic philosophy of Participant Marketing is understanding “consumers” have transformed into “participants” —  and our role as marketers is not to persuade uninformed consumers to make good choices, but rather to inspire people to take part, engage, join, share – participate.  Our current marketing methodologies are flawed, and we know this because digital data of real participant actions is showing us the truth.  Actions are the manifestation of participation.

You’ve recently come out with a book on the subject.  Why did you feel compelled to go the old-fashioned route to build influence?

This is not an either/or approach, but rather an AND approach.  There is no question that having a book as a platform is a powerful foundation for an idea. There is perceived legitimacy in being published, and this is important if you want to be taken seriously.

Furthermore, there is rigor in providing a thorough outline and is something tangible that people can refer back to.  Finally, I was motivated because there are not enough business women writers and we have an important contribution in the business world, especially in marketing where women represent 85 percent of the buying power around the world.

My book will help you embrace this valuable truth, and teach you how to activate participation and drive performance in your marketing campaigns.

What’s your framework and how does it function?

The Participation Way is a unique method of activating participation. It’s modeled on the theories of intrinsic motivation and self-determination theory, which have been applied to human resources and education disciplines, but not marketing because it hasn’t been relevant to do so.

The Participation Way was constructed as a formula in order to be memorable and as a reminder to marketers that all elements are required to construct environments that inspire participation and achieve performance.

The Participation Way formula is: D+E+C=P2

The first letter, “D” is for Discover. People are human and part of being human is having the desire to learn new things and the satisfaction of  becoming competent. Brands are great at helping people learn about their product or service, but they may forget how important becoming competent is, and nurturing this is essential.

The E stands for Empower. Empower is easy to understand.  If you take the time to take part in something, you want to have a significant role.  Brands should invite people to take part in the product or service and build environments that encourage participation, including the marketing program itself.

Connect is about the fact that as humans we enjoy communicating with others who have similar interests and passions.  Brands often build environments that encourage participants to connect with the brands, but they often don’t think about creating environments that allow participants to connect with one another.

Two P’s end the formula, for participation and performance.  If you create environments that have all three of the above components, you will have greater participation.  Because actions are the manifestation of participation and we measure actions, then you will also get better performance. This is why brands are tuning in – participation drives performance.  The results are fully measurable.

How can retailers and merchants drive performance using participation? Is participation all just about brand awareness, as opposed to more measurable metrics such as direct response and ROI?

If actions are the manifestation of participation, then participation is not just about brand awareness.  The key question that any marketer needs to ask is, “What actions do you want participants to take?”

Once this is defined, then a complete program can be mapped to develop an environment that utilizes the elements of the Participation Way and attaches these to program key performance indicators (KPIs).

What are some successful brands activating participation and performance today and how are they doing it?

The brands that are readily embracing this notion and transitioning faster than others are those brands who are themselves participants.  Think of Patagonia or Nike.  Both brands have employees who are passionate about and active users of their products.  So, creating environments that encouraged others to participate and share with others about their passion seems to be an easier leap.

Another example are those retailers who have embraced the notion that negative product feedback can be just as beneficial as positive feedback.  Think of Athleta, a brand that I enjoy, whose passionate customers post product reviews both good and bad. They encourage posters to include additional information about themselves – what sports they engage in, body type, etc.  Readers can use this information to determine ahead of time if a product is right or wrong for them and they value this.  What’s more, Athleta can use this information to immediately incorporate into new products.

What’s your vision for the future of Performics and marketing in general?

The great thing about our space is nothing is the same for long.  Change is a constant.  This provides us with amazing opportunities to develop new ways to deliver results for our clients.  Our data & analytics and performance experts are the best in the industry and performance will always be sexy.

About Daina:

Daina Middleton is Global CEO of Performics, the performance marketing division of Publicis Groupe. She recently published Marketing in the Participation Age, a book that applies Self-Determination Theory to marketing.

Daina previously spent 16 years at Hewlett-Packard. Today, she leads 1000 global Performics employees in driving performance for major clients such as American Express, Kohl’s, American Eagle, Kaiser Permanente and New York Life.

Daina also sits on the Board for Healthwise, a Boise-based company and health content developer who provides accurate, up-to-date, health content for companies like WebMD.

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