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Rapidly iterating to engaging content with VideGro’s Jenko Kent

Episode #

14

Jenko Kent is the founder and creative director at VideGro and has spent almost a decade directing and creating engaging video content that drives serious ROI for DTC brands. In this episode, Jenko shares:

- Why rapid iteration beats perfect planning for creating content.
- The process VideGrow uses go drive outsized returns for brands.
- The types of video content best suited for each stage of your customers journey.

Reaching out to Jenko

VideGro Website
Email Jenko at Jenko@videgro.co
On Twitter @JenkoKent

Stuart Balcombe
Hello, and welcome to the Customer Conversations Podcast. Today I'm excited to be joined by Jenko Kent. Jenko is the founder of VideGro, where he works with top DTC brands like Harry's, ThirdLove, and Lululemon to create insanely effective video content for social ad campaigns. Jenko, thanks so much for joining me.

Jenko Kent
Yes, thank you for having me. I'm really excited to be here.

Stuart Balcombe
Of course, so we're going to dive into all things video, all things customer engagement, and specifically with a DTC bent to it. Maybe for those who don't know you and for those who don't know VideGro, can you tell us a little bit about what your work typically involves?

Jenko Kent
Yes, absolutely. I'm the creative director here at VideGro. We're essentially a paid social video agency. Our goal is to rapidly create, test, and iterate content so that we can help DTC brands ultimately maximize conversions at the lowest cost per acquisition possible. So they can scale as quickly and as profitably as possible.

Stuart Balcombe
Awesome. I know that has been a trend in... Or a movement in social, towards video as a medium. I'm really curious to get your take as you're in this every day in terms of how you've seen that and followed that transition, or that movement, and why you believe that video is such a great medium for building deeper connections with customers.

Jenko Kent
Yes, absolutely. That's a really great question. I think video is fundamentally the most effective medium and tool that we have as marketers to build a connection with customers. And probably more accurately in some cases, just to demonstrate what you have to offer to customers from both a brand and product point of view. I think that one of the things that's always been really effective about non-video based content, so images and so on, is that it requires you to get to the point. In many cases, just starting with what you're selling works really well, and obviously with images they're relatively quick and low cost to execute.

So it's a really good way to be able to test and iterate different messages and different selling propositions very quickly. When we started our agency, our goal was essentially to say, "Well, if video is a much more effective medium, but images have all these benefits that we want to be able to leverage as marketers... We want to sell as much product as possible. How can we create video content as quickly and cost-effectively as we would create images to get all of those A/B testing capabilities that we love about being able to iterate static content?"

Stuart Balcombe
Got it. Yes, that makes sense. It's really interesting that, I know talking to people who are either just starting to do video or have been experimenting with video. That cost of production is typically a big barrier for getting things off the ground and getting moving. I know that something that you talk about a lot is you don't want to be necessarily spending a lot of time in production upfront before you get to the testing part. What are some of the tips and tricks, so to speak, for increasing that time to release, or time to launch the content?

Jenko Kent
I think that one of the things is just taking action, executing quickly and as cost effectively as possible. When the actual production is cost effective, I would say that's minimizing the risk involved in what you're creating. The less risk there is [inaudible 00:03:40] you're creating, the more opportunities you get to create content again if the first opportunity doesn't necessarily hit the mark. Not that we ever want it to not hit the mark, but I think that's really [inaudible 00:03:54] behind a testing and iterating model, is that sometimes it will work fantastically right off the bat, but the real value is in the long term learnings and moving towards something that is the most effective it possibly can be.

When you are able to have more opportunities to throw something at the wall and find out what is going to work, that really means that you lose that idea of, "This has to be right the first time. We have to absolutely hone in on the messaging. We have to get the exact right thing before we put it out there." And really says, "What's the fastest we can turn something effective around and get it out there." Because every time you put something out there, that's when you start learning.

Getting those learnings back is what really makes it more effective in the longterm.

Stuart Balcombe
In terms of getting those learning backs and being able to iterate and improve the content that you're putting out based on those learnings, what things are you looking at? What signal are you looking for to say, "Okay, this is in the right direction, let's go deeper there." Or, "This missed the mark, let's avoid that." What are the types of... Are you looking at quantitative analytics, are you looking at comments? What's typically your go-to signal?

Jenko Kent
Yes, so there's, I guess, two sides of it. One is very much, "How much product did this sell? What was the conversion rate? What was the click-through rate?" And most importantly, "How much money are we making for every dollar that we spend on advertising?" Obviously that's essentially informing us whether the ad was effective or not, resonated well enough or not. In a lot of cases, how much the platform will scale it up and give you a wide reach, is a pretty good indicator of whether or not it seems to be resonating with people that fit your target audience. Those are the things that we look at, really, to suggest success or not. Then we get into some of that other stuff when we're trying to look at why something isn't working, or why something really is working.

YouTube's really an effective platform in the sense that we can look at how many viewers are dropping off at each second throughout the video. So we know where we might be losing people. What seems to be working versus not. We do a lot of testing around different visuals, narrative layouts, so on and so forth. So by systematically A/B testing different versions, you can pinpoint where the, I guess, conversation that you're having with your customer seems to be going awry. Then fundamentally, just anecdotally, by looking at some of those comments and things that you're getting back from customers. They can be a really great way either to learn something about the ad that you're running, or potentially have a great idea for another ad that you want to create in the future.

Stuart Balcombe
Yes, interesting. So there is two parts to analyzing each campaign, or each creative that you're running. I'm curious, when you're launching a brand new campaign, maybe some brand new brand that you're working with, or it's just a new direction for an existing brand, what typically guides... How do you get to that initial idea for, "This might be a good thing." Essentially coming up with a hypothesis, right? Like, "We think, internally, that this is the thing that we should start with." What goes into making that decision while balancing it with, "Let's move quickly and ship the first thing."?

Jenko Kent
Yes, absolutely. Hypothesis is a great word to use. That's really what we talk about internally is, "What's our hypothesis behind this, why do we think that this is going to work?" I think starting with why we think this is going to work is always a good place to start with generating ideas. If you can't connect your idea to why someone might then click through and buy, that's obviously a pretty big warning sign. Obviously we go through a pretty extensive creative process in terms of the way that we think about and brainstorm ideas.

But I also... From an actionable point of view for anyone listening and thinking about ways to come up with ideas, I think that always looking at customer reviews and customer comments can be a great way to just start to think the way that your customers are about your products. That generally tends to lend a lot of credibility to any idea that you might've come up with. If you see that reflected back in the way that customers are approaching your brand and products, that's a really good indicator, obviously. I think that also, for us, one of the benefits that we bring to our customers is a third party experience with the product. We're testing it for ourselves, figuring out what we think is what makes this really special. So obviously if you're inside your brand marketing team world, you see the product every day. I think even if you want to do this internally, stepping outside of that and talking to third parties, whether that's friends, family, customers, or otherwise, and getting unique perspectives on that.

That's another really good way to look for universal and, or relatable truths that you might not have thought of otherwise. I think those are really good starting points. Then amongst other best practices that we see work across lots of other brands and so on. Those can also be really good places just to start when you want to make sure that when you're launching content for the first time. That you have at least some kind of benchmark of, "We did something smart here that we knew had a pretty good chance of success.

Stuart Balcombe
Right. Yes, I totally agree around... Something that I advocate for a lot is using voice of the customer data wherever you can get it, whether that's in reviews, in comments, in interviews. Whatever it might be as the starting point to make sure that you're speaking the same language that your customers are. I'm curious how those insights... How do you translate that into video, into the actual creative that you are producing? Is that something that you're doing, or is that typically driven more internally based on, "As a whole we're seeing these trends."? Or, "This is where the market's going."? Versus individual customer insight.

Jenko Kent
I think that the thing that we do the most, if I... I'm making sure I understand the question correctly, but I think the way we address some of that is by being able to spread our creative across lots of different hypotheses. When we start with a brand, the very first thing that we're doing is creating eight totally unique creatives. And because we have eight different opportunities to test an angle, especially early on, those hypotheses are pretty diverse.

Both in terms of style, messaging, angle, and so on. So we might be using ideas and premises based on something that we've heard or seen, and testing that with one creative. But we also might be testing the message that we've been using pretty consistently across the brand already to sell, what we've seen work with a unique spin on it. As well as our own hypotheses of what we think will resonate with the customer, or what would be attention grabbing. What might they not have thought of that's going to make them motivated to engage with the brand and potentially ultimately purchase what they're selling.

Stuart Balcombe
I think that's really where that third party viewpoint and your experience having done, maybe, related things with other brands in other campaigns really pays off. One thing that I know that we talked about a little bit prior to this call, and something that I know you've been thinking about internally, the difference or the... Really the goal of the content you're creating is, right. Is it to create deeper connections by itself? Is it to facilitate an opportunity to build that connection later? What's the initial... I guess you only have a... If somebody's seeing one creative at one point in time, how does that impact the rest of their journey? I'm really curious to get your take on that. I know that's something that wherever you're interacting with customers, that's always a consideration, right? It's not just about this moment, but what's the implication on the next step?

Jenko Kent
Yes, absolutely. I come from a background of always creating video content that was built around engagement and providing value to the person who is watching it. That's been a philosophy just in the way that I develop creative pretty much my entire professional career. But it's very unique in the DTC direct response space as well. Obviously what our clients are coming to us for is essentially to help them sell more product. And in that selling of product, what you're really doing, if you're working with a brand that has a really valuable product, has a really valuable brand experience, really more often than not our goal is to facilitate that connection. Where our video is going to make someone aware of the overall value that that brand can provide and urge them to get to receiving that value as quickly as possible.

If we can create a video that in one second... Say the video has no opportunity to develop a deeper connection whatsoever. If in that one second, we can have someone click through to a website landing page where someone is like, "Holy crap, I love this. Everything they're saying is exactly what I believe in, what I want." Just throwing things out there, but, "This product is environmentally friendly, sustainable, it's made in the USA. It's better than competitive products, it's going to last longer, and I absolutely love it. I want it. I have to have it." Especially if there's a great brand experience built around that, then to a certain extent, we've really done our job because we've provided the opportunity for that connection to be built. Having said that, that's obviously pretty different between paid social, organic social, other bigger picture stuff.

A lot of the best and most successful campaigns are the ones that are able to combine both. So an ad that really deeply builds connection with the brand and its values, while also urging them to click, that is obviously generally the holy grail. But it is really interesting where we've tested, in the past, video concepts that are more engagement oriented versus more product oriented. Where the product oriented ad has significantly outperformed the engagement oriented ad, just because it showed them the product sooner. They saw the product and were like, "I love that." One specific example I'm thinking of is some of the work we did with Ridge Wallet. I don't know if you know the Ridge Wallet, but it's a really unique, very slim, very modern design.

People see the design and they're like, "Wow, I have to have that." It's very cool, it's guaranteed for life. It's a really amazing product. So the engagement was almost secondary to the idea of, "Hey, you should just come and engage with this really amazing outdoor oriented brand that's very different to any wallet you've ever owned before." So again, just facilitating that connection for the brand to have with the customer later is sometimes the purpose.

Stuart Balcombe
Yes, I think it's interesting in a world where [inaudible 00:15:27] moving in this direction where the overall... The holistic experience that a consumer has with a brand is increasingly more important, right? Every touch point counts. How do you think about attribution? I know that attribution by itself is something we could probably talk for hours about. But how do you think about that from your role as somebody who's creating engaging video, video that aids conversion? How do you think about how that fits in the bigger puzzle, right? Do you worry too much about attribution? Are you mostly concerned about the individual performance of your video creative? How do you think about how it fits in the big picture?

Jenko Kent
Yes, we don't generally worry about attribution too much to be entirely honest. We worry more about it when we're thinking about how we're going to measure something that's more organic in nature. In the past, we've created viral holiday campaigns, really engaging five minute long videos that blow up on social and get a ton of shares, a ton of engagement. At that point, we obviously then want to be able to connect that to a business metric. So we want to know when sales were lifted, how that corresponds to the content we created? Could that be impacted by something else the brand was doing at the time? Because it's obviously really important to be able to connect the value you gave your customers to the value you received in the long term. If you're going to be able to justify spending on that type of content.

But for the paid social side of things, we really are doing one of two things. Either one, just measuring the immediate impact in terms of direct sales from watched ad, to clicked on ad, to bought, because we have benchmarks from everything we've ever run before. So even if that doesn't show a true reflection of how much value the ad brought to the brand, it does show us how much value it brought relative to everything we've done before. We're generally just competing with ourselves on all those performance metrics that we know don't necessarily reflect the lifetime value that that ad brought to the client. But we do know outperformed what we did before.

Stuart Balcombe
Right, and I guess it's a leading indicator, if nothing else, right? If it performs better at step one, then in theory, it should perform or continue to perform down the line. I know your focus is mostly on creative for paid ad campaigns. How do you think about the different types of paid ad campaigns, and specifically different points in the buyer journey? Are you creating very different types of creative, or trying to engage customers in different ways? Depending on if they're a brand new visitor who has no connection to a brand, just somebody who is maybe an existing customer, somebody who has purchased a... I don't know exactly where all the touch points, or all the life cycle stages that you're engaging with, but I'm curious to hear how your approach differs depending on the awareness of the customer.

Jenko Kent
Yes, absolutely. I'm really glad that you asked that actually, because I think there's a couple of pieces to that that are super interesting. One is just in general, when you're creating ads for top of funnel, middle of funnel, retargeting to existing customers, so on and so forth, obviously the ad content types that we're creating tend to be very different. I think when you're retargeting to customers the goal is definitely to create a little bit more engagement, and to build more of that deep connection. Because at that point, the customer already has a brand experience and they're wanting that brand experience to be continued. So you really have to reflect some level of what the product is that you're sharing with your customers, because your product is not obviously just what you're selling, but it's also the experience you provide.

Watching that ad is another touch point. That's another experience that that customer has had with your brand having now become a customer. So the content does have to be very different for that. I think a really cool example is one ad that we created with Pretty Litter that was really effective retargeting. That was super out of the box, very different to what they run for acquisition. Where acquisition was very much... I don't know how much you know about Pretty Litter, but it's essentially a cat litter that changes color based on the pH levels in a cat's urine. So that you can tell when the cat has [inaudible 00:20:04] , so they might not be healthy.

Theoretically it can save a lot of vet bills, because cats don't generally show when they're sick, very often until it gets really bad. So getting indicators that they might have a urinary tract infection early on can save you a lot of money down the road, theoretically, and obviously also in many cases can save the life of the cat. So very cool, unique selling proposition, but not necessarily always going to be something that a customer thinks that they need.

One of the things that was cool was we tested this angle where we had... It's a very soft material. It's more like beach sand than a traditional rocky, clumping litter. So we had cat owners standing in each one of the litter boxes and then just sharing their thoughts about how it felt under their feet.

Stuart Balcombe
Interesting.

Jenko Kent
It was just an out there concept that we wanted to test, but it was super engaging. I think the visual was very unique and grabbed people's attention right off the bat. Most importantly, it's like throughout all the owners were saying, "Oh my God, if I had to choose one to stand in all day, or every time I went to the bathroom, for sure I'd want to stand in the Pretty Litter." So it takes it from a product that has a really cool, unique selling proposition that might not be for me to, this is just all around a much better cat litter. I think having that opportunity to do something different, once you already know a little bit about the brand, that is more engaging and also provides a different angle, but that's something that really was extremely effective. It was the most effective ad we ever ran for retargeting for them. So it's very cool from that point of view.

No, I was just going to say the only other thing with buying journey that I wanted to touch on that I was thinking about before we jumped on the phone was, the other thing that's really interesting is how ad content fits into a customer buying cycle. So when we're talking about a wallet, or cat litter, or something that you're likely to purchase immediately, it's very different to when you're talking about, say, The Mattress Space where you might buy a mattress every eight to 10 years.

There's certain weekends that are huge sales weekends for mattresses in the US, like your Memorial Day sales, your Black Friday sales, that's when people are out there researching mattresses. They know they want to buy one because they know they want to get a discount on a pretty big purchase. So those specific times your content is going to be direct response focused, more comparative, very spec oriented. Like, "This is the value of our mattress over everyone else's." But the rest of the year, your content really needs to obviously share the value of the mattresses, but it also needs to be a lot more engaging. You have to really be top of mind for when someone is interested in buying a mattress. And so you really see that's why brands like Purple are absolutely crushing it, because they're constantly creating something that you want to watch. Even when you're not ready to buy a mattress yet, you're like, "I'll share this with my friends. I'll talk about it."

So you're top of mind for your customer until it gets to those key buying moments. When you want to share something that is very much like, "This is why you need to buy our mattress."

Stuart Balcombe
Right. It's really interesting. I love the standing in cat litter example, because it combines something that I've started to see a lot as I've gone going deeper into looking at social media comments, and review analysis for companies. Using the voice of the customer from the actual customer is a really effective way to get people on your side, right? You mentioned this earlier with the sustainable and eco-friendly example of how it can feel like, "This is for me.", Right? Like, "This is very specific to me." As soon as people can say very quickly, "Oh, that's a person like me who has a similar problem to me." It makes it resonate that much quicker. I'm curious to get your take specifically on that use of social proof directly in creative. Is that something that you have tested a lot? Is that something that you consistently see a pattern with when you test, and how you go about incorporating that in your creative?

Jenko Kent
Yes, we use it a lot. I think apart from anything else, the key is obviously always to be relatable. If you want to create valuable content that creates a deeper connection. Obviously relatability, that's how we build connections with anybody. I think that's why social proof works so well. And like you said, you see yourself in this other customer, and it's not an authoritative voice asking you to buy something. It's a mutual voice that has had a positive experience for themselves. So it's a no brainer from that point of view, in terms of leveraging that, to some extent. We do a range of different styles of content with that thought in mind, but more often than not, a lot of the time the brands that we work with have a lot of user generated content, influence of content.

So what we'll generally do rather than replicating that a lot of the time, we'll often use that to test how adding that into one of our ideas alters performance. Do we want to lead with a sound bite that's from that, then go into a creative angle that we think is really interesting from the brand point of view, and then maybe offer more social proof? That's something that we test a lot of when we do iterative versioning of all the creatives that we develop. We also then do come up with a lot of concepts that either one, imitate that style, or two, leverage things like the customers on camera like we did with Pretty Litter.

There's a lot of different ways that you can use customers to a great effect. I think some of the opinions on the street videos can be pretty entertaining as well. Just from... With the crazy reactions you get, you also get to talk like your customer a lot more. A brand often has a voice that they need to stick to from a brand guidelines point of view. But when you get someone that's on the street talking like, I don't know, a crazy person throwing out slang and cuss words wherever they want and so on, that's super attention grabbing, super relatable, and not something that you would necessarily stick in an ad if you were writing it yourself.

Stuart Balcombe
Right. It's using the exact words that your customers use, right?

Jenko Kent
Yes.

Stuart Balcombe
It's really interesting you brought up this point around walking in your customer's shoes and it being a mutual voice rather than an authoritative voice. It's more of a, "I'm like you, come join me." Rather than, "We're this brand over here, up on the hill, you need to come to us." Right?

Jenko Kent
Yes.

Stuart Balcombe
It's just a subtle nuance, but has huge impact. Well, this has been really awesome, I absolutely learned a ton, not being in the video creative space. That's always fun for me. So to wrap things up here, for somebody who is either already running some video content and is looking to optimize the results that they're getting from a ROI perspective, or for somebody who is thinking about it, but has yet to get started. What's the one thing that you would tell them to help them make that jump and really level up the videos that they're producing or using in their content?

Jenko Kent
Yes, that's a really great question. Definitely it depends a little bit on the scale of ad spend that any brand is running. I think that making sure that you can test a few different creatives and a few different versions of each creative is really important. I think probably within that is one idea that we've really applied to the way that we operate, is that just because an ad doesn't work, doesn't necessarily mean that the ad is not effective and that the hypothesis was wrong. It might just be the way that the ad was structured, developed. It might be the opening visual that you're looking at, the opening text is just not grabbing the audience the right way. That's not necessarily because there's something inherently wrong with the angle that you took. So I think recognizing that and building in the capability to test early on is really fundamental to what you want to do when you're starting out, I guess,

Stuart Balcombe
Amazing. This is super helpful for folks getting started. So for those who want to either go and check out VideGro, or learn more about your work online, what's the best place for people to go to find you?

Jenko Kent
Yes, obviously you can check out our website which is videgro.co, not.com, which is often an issue for people. Or just anytime, I'm always happy to answer questions and so on. You can email me, my email's jenko@videgro.co.

Stuart Balcombe
We'll link all this great stuff up in the show notes. Thanks so much for doing this.

Jenko Kent
Yes, absolutely. It's been a pleasure chatting, Stuart, I really appreciate it.

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