Talking Content – Interview With Joseph Jaffe

joseph jaffe mark masters interviewWelcome to the latest Talking Content conversation.

Here is an interview with Joseph Jaffe. Joseph is CEO and co-founder of Evol8tion, an innovation boutique that connect early stage startups with leading brands. He is also a four-time author of Life After The 30-Second Spot, Join the Conversation, Flip the Funnel and Z.E.R.O. Joseph stands for innovation, in particular technology-based innovation across the digital, social, mobile and emerging spectrum.

The focus for our conversation looks at the role of connecting with our audiences via the media we have complete ownership of.

What made you realise that a paid media model cannot sustain itself?

I have an acronym I called P.E.O.N. which stands for Paid, Earned, Owned and NON Media. Media comes from the word medium i.e. Neither rare nor well done (Ernie Kovacs). Neither Paid, Earned nor Owned are essentially customer-centric. They’re all about Paying for, Creating or Building Attention. Non media however is all about humans connecting with other humans (customer-customer, employee-customer, employee-employee). Non media is about Paying Attention (versus Paying FOR attention) Non Media is about leveraging an Owned Asset i.e. People. All the indicators out there point to a word where peer-to-peer trumps an artificial, contrived game of mass.

To me it’s ironic how we have no problem dishing out hundreds of millions of dollars for reach and yet we struggle to justify fractions of this amount in order to invest in human capital, customer service, intrapreneurship within the company and so on. Paid Media has been on a downward spiral for the past 15 years (not coincidentally since the mainstreaming of digital). Audience continues to fragment and decline. Prices continue to rise.

You all know this, but what is new is the recognition that media inflation continues to outpace economic inflation and at the current run-rate if this continues, it is completely feasible that the bottom could fall out the market i.e. We are prices ourselves out the market to the point where it will be impossible to afford a minimum acceptable level of reach, frequency, SOV etc.

Have businesses become too stuck in the ways they have ‘always done it’ (disruption and distraction) within channels they have become accustomed to rather than change?

We’ve heard different iterations of “No one ever got fired for buying IBM / buying TV / buying Facebook”. It continues to change, but it doesn’t mask the underlying point that hiding behind the tried and tested has always indicated safety and security. This is all changing. Look at Uber, Dropbox, Snapchat, Instagram. Companies that have gone from 0 to billion(s) in a handful of years or in some cases months. And in every case, represents major destabilization to the status quo and/or incumbents. Or think about Dollar Shave Club and Gillette as another example. There are plenty more.

Bill Bernbach once said, “safe advertising is the riskiest advertising of all”. Peter Drucker said, “to defend the past is far riskier than shaping the future”. As the volatility of the marketplace continues to shake up the rules, norms and best practices of “business as usual”, a continued generational shift in marketing and business leadership will in turn usher in a new wave and way of doing business, building brands and specifically authentic, community-driven experiences.

Are businesses too driven by collecting numbers rather than earning the conversation with others?

I have no problem with numbers, metrics, KPI’s, measurability and/or accountability. I just think we should be measuring the RIGHT things at the RIGHT time (i.e. a longer term focus versus short term gains for example). You referring the acquisition v retention argument and there I think the numbers are extremely telling.

Why is it that if 80% of a company’s revenue comes from repeat, returning customers, they are only investing 20% of their dollars against this critical revenue contribution. Actually most companies don’t even know this breakdown and those that do, are probably spending LESS than 20% of their total dollars on retention.

Jonathan Crossfield highlighted that true experts are willing to ‘admit that they don’t know or are unsure.’ Is it important to realise our own limitations?

The most dangerous people are those who think they know what in fact they don’t know. I’ve been fortunate to be right significantly more than I’ve been wrong, but that’s not by chance. It’s because I do 3 things:

1. Think 12-18 months out (versus the futurist approach)

2. Think Strategically

3. Think i.e. Use my common sense.

Going back to your point, I think there is also a point about being honest and admitting when one doesn’t know the answer versus trying to talk one’s way out of a situation. These days, digital and social footprints make it easy to go back and force accountability.

When brands become owners of their own information (or move from ‘tenants to landlords’) is this the biggest opportunity for businesses to become influential within their marketplace?

When marketing moves from being a cost center or expense to a revenue generator, that’s when the whole game changes!

Brands sit on a treasure trover of underutilized assists: from their people to their stores; from their data to their apps; from their customer service to their content. By activating these assists and giving (customers; employees) ACCESS to these assets, there is a very real opportunity and unlimited potential to move from being media dependent to that of media discerning. And then there’s the ability to monetize these assets. For example, what would have happened if Kodak acquired Instagram for $100m and sold it to Facebook for $1bn or even $19bn (WhatsApp)?

How do you become inspired to shape your thinking?

I guess I’m inspired a few ways:

  • By being my own boss (owning my own business)
  • By being an entrepreneur
  • By doing what I love
  • By meeting people from so many cultures, walks of life and influencers in their own right; learning from them; building friendships with them etc.
  • By truly shaping the future (versus defending the past) – this is a derivative of Peter Drucker who said, “it is far riskier to defend the past than it is to create the future”. This is what I’ve had the privilege of being able to do with Evol8tion in terms of influencing and even creating the very fabric of the brand-startup collaboration ecosystem
  • By doing something worthwhile – our mission at Evol8tion is to reduce the failure rate of startups by even 1%. Given the overwhelming majority of startups will never get fully funded (I.e. They will fail) AND the overwhelming majority of funding for startups comes from savings account, credit cards, friends and family, if we can have a hand in figuring out a way to accelerate startups’ growth by connecting them with their “brand soul mates” EARLIER in their life cycle, their success probability will be exponentially higher! That mission gives us tremendous energy and passion.

Also, by actually “creating content” (blogging, podcasting, video blogging, writing books), I am constantly learning and evolving myself. People often ask me how I know as much as I do and the honest answer is that creating original content is the consummate education and inspiration act.


Huge thanks to Joseph for his thoughts and views. On a personal note, Z.E.R.O is a fantastic book on the merits of a zero paid media model. It is a book that challenges and to consider the way that you currently market your products and services. For more from Joseph’s world: Joseph on Twitter: click here Joseph’s blog: click here

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