Chris Gokiert is the COO for Critical Mass (the company I work for). Though Chris started his career as a working archaeologist, he eventually found his way into the ever changing world of digital media and has never left it. Chris has been with "CM" since pretty much the beginning and has seen it all when it comes to life in the technology lane. I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Chris and topics ranged from Tim Horton's to "agency 2.0", to Karaoke. Enjoy.
DA: So before joining Critical Mass, you worked as an archaeologist—is there anything that you learned from that experience that you apply to your current position?
CG: Marketing is all about desire and motivation. Archeology is all about understanding the context and motivation of the society that you are researching. I was on more of the sociological or anthropological side of archeology. I was big into the motivation and desires of the societies. What we found on digs were really just the artifacts of the humans and society. Marketing is the same. We are always trying to figure out what motivates our customers. The big difference is we aren’t dealing with dead people.
DA: You’ve been in the digital space for a long time—what got you into the medium in the first place?
CG: Honestly, I had a wacky idea about doing a bunch of online gaming based on ancient historical figures. I figured I needed to learn about how to do it so I applied at Critical Mass to learn. I just never ended up leaving.
DA: There’s a lot of chatter about the agency of the future and what that will look like—what’s your take?
CG: I think we are seeing a lot of what the “agency of the future” will look like now. All agencies from all mediums are circling around the concept. Digital is definitely is becoming the centering point. The problem is that all of the agencies are roughly saying the same thing about being the “lead agency” but they just don’t know how to do it. The agency of the future is still going to lead with ideas and customer insights. Analytics are also going to play an important role. Most importantly, the agency of the future is going to have to be a leader in understanding how technology is integrated into users’ lives. The ideas and customer insights are ultimately going to play out on a technological platform of some sort. If the agency doesn’t understand that, they won’t be allowing their clients to reach their customers OR, crucially, allowing the end customer to reach out to influence the brand or each other.
DA: We talk about having “digital DNA”. What’s your interpretation of this statement?
CG: We live and breathe anything digital. We are able to take our ideas out to other mediums but we generally start with digital. It’s what we’ve grown up with, it’s what we know, it’s what we do.
DA: Who are some of the companies/brands that you admire. Why?
CG: I generally gravitate towards companies and brands that have a sustainable point of difference, or are able to battle through the tough times. Companies like Nokia, Sony, and Puma come to mind. Each of those companies were considered laggards at some point in recent history but all had a sense of vision and commitment to drive real differentiation in the marketplace. If you look at them now, they are all leaders in their categories. An X-Box with an HD DVD player, anyone?
DA: “Web 2.0” has gotten the attention of pretty much every business you can think of. Why should we care, or not care?
CG: Web 2.0 has been around for a few years now so we see it as a standard in anything that you do. Amazingly, it is still a buzzword out there so you need to talk the talk to be a part of the party. Kidding aside, the only people that are still talking about it are the ones who aren’t getting it or haven’t implemented it. If you think about how much easier Web and digital applications are with Web 2.0 frameworks, it’s mind numbing to think that some folks are still doing it the good ol’ fashioned way. I guess that’s a long of saying, “We should care. If you want something done in a more cost effective manner that provides a superior customer experience, you should be thinking Web 2.0.”
DA: You’re a Canadian citizen. What’s up with the whole Tim Horton’s thing?
CG: I don’t really know. People say it’s the donuts but it’s really about the coffee. I don’t drink coffee. I tried to in order to fit in college but it just didn’t stick. Just like Web 2.0, I learned the lingo. “Double Double” is all you need to know.
DA: I’ve seen you in action at Karaoke. What are the secrets every aspiring Karaoke singer should know?
CG: It’s all about knowing your audience. Pick a song that the crowd knows, get them to sing along, and you are golden. It doesn’t matter how poorly you sing, it’s all about showmanship.
DA: You’ve worked on Dell for some time. What did you learn from this experience?
CG: Faster, Better, Cheaper. Dell drilled it into us and there is nobody better at being able strategize, ideate, create, and execute than us after working with them for 6 years. When we first got involved with Dell, we thought we knew what it was like to run with an eCommerce giant...we were definitely naïve. We got the ideals of measurement and business cases pounded into us. We learned the balance of incremental optimization and innovation in a world that test, test, and test again before launching anything. We also became experts at melding brand experiences with transaction practices. If you look at the brand building and transactional solutions in the online marketing space and Dell.com, I think our track record was pretty successful.
DA: In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges in regards to the agency/client relationship? How about opportunities?
CG: Like any relationship, communication is always the biggest challenge. I find that the best client relationships are when there is real trust and openness. Although partner is thrown around a lot, many clients have been trained to keep their agencies at a distance. This leads to a lot of guessing, which leads to mistakes. If you have a very open dialogue, the opportunities are endless.
DA: What’s one accomplishment that you are especially proud of. Why?
CG: I finally beat my wife at Guitar Hero. She has a degree in music, majoring in piano. If you play Guitar Hero, you know how hard it is to beat piano players.