Season 2 / Episode 014
Affluencer vs Influencer and the Importance of Representation with Blagica Bottigliero
With Blagica Bottigliero - Director of Affiliate Marketing, JEBCommerce
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Today our CEO talks with our very own Director of Affiliate Marketing, Blagica Bottigliero! Blagica started with JEBCommerce in November of 2021. Jamie and Blagica talk about her origin story (yes, it involves a great sitcom from the 80's), the importance of representation, and dive into a ton about influencers, affluencers, and affiliate marketing.
Blagica shares her experience as an Emmy Award winning digital marketer, her time at large agencies and brands like Edelman, Target, and Motorola, then as a startup founder, and how she came back to affiliate marketing.
If you want to know about affiliate marketing and the convergence of PR, Social, and Affiliate, this is the episode for you.
About Our Guest
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Hey, welcome to the profitable performance marketing podcast. As the intro stated, I am your host, Jamie Birch, and I'm the CEO and Founder of the award-winning affiliate management agency, JEBCommerce. We have a really great guest today. I'm really excited to share this with you. But first, if you are looking for help with your affiliate program, if you're looking for an outsourced team to manage it, if you're looking for new pockets of affiliate recruitment, and you're trying to tackle things such as how do we handle influencers? How do we handle content? How do we take an existing and mature affiliate program and find growth and revenue? You definitely want to reach out to me. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And I'd love to spend an hour with you and just talk about what your issues are, your obstacles, and help you find a way forward. We've done that with many, many clients in the past. And my time is available to you.
Now, who are we talking to today? Well, none other than Blagica Bottigliero. Blagica, and I go way back. We have known each other for 20 odd years. We met while I was managing the affiliate and digital marketing at Coldwater Creek. And she was running the digital team at Orbitz. So she actually started the affiliate program at Orbitz way back when in 2001.
So she brings an amazing amount of experience. We talk about all sorts of stuff, her time at big agencies like Edelman, her time as a startup founder, her time at startups, and her time in affiliate marketing. So you're really going to enjoy this conversation. We dive into a lot about influencers and affluencers and the convergence of PR and social media into the affiliate program that we've seen, and the impact the pandemic has had on that. We have a great conversation about how important representation is to women and minorities, and how that relates to her origin story. And some of the things we do at JEB.
So this is a conversation that goes over a lot. Blagica is our Director of Affiliate Marketing. She started with us in November of last year. And she has been doing some great things with our team. So you can dive right into this conversation about all things affiliate, her career, how she made those choices, and all sorts of stuff on today's podcast. But I'm just going to get out of the way so you guys can listen to my conversation with Blagica.
[00:03:27] Jamie Birch: Well, good morning, Blagica. How are you? Welcome to our Profitable Performance Marketing podcast.
[00:03:30] Blagica Bottigliero: Hi, Jamie.
[00:03:33] JB: Welcome back from vacation.
[00:03:35] BB: Thanks. I'm stoked to be here. I am refreshed and ready to talk about all of the things.
[00:03:41] JB: That's great. I’m refreshed. Definitely, for our listeners, Blagica and I both were out at the same time. In fact, we are around this same Grand Canyon, you on the south side, my family on the north side over spring break.
[00:03:56] BB: I thought it was wild, because the times I was checking my feeds, I was like, “Oh, look where he is.” Oh, it's almost due north of us.” And it was a really great time to be out there. It was my first time visiting the Grand Canyon. So many thoughts on that. I'm just really surprised as to how many people go to that edge, like the edge with no railing.
[00:04:16] JB: You talked about the edge that was the photo. So we were obviously on the other side. We got to see Horseshoe Bend, which is one of the most photographed areas on the planet. And we've been there before. But we go on the reservation side, the private side. And so there are no railings at the edge. And I saw your Facebook post about wanting to just grab the kids back. And I had an argument with my kids. My son wanted to go hang over the edge. And I was like, “Look, my job until you're 18 is to keep you safe and alive.” If you're pissed off at me for the rest of the vacation and alive, I don't care.” He was giving me a heart attack.
[00:04:55] BB: That’s what my husband said. They both had backpacks. They both had – There’s a picture. There's a picture of my son who's nine. He's holding the railing. He's not over it, and my husband's hand is on his backpack in the picture just to keep him back. So it was glorious. And I'm so thankful that we went there. And it was really active. And I just think, from a refreshing standpoint, it's important to always unplug a little bit. So I'm glad we did it. And I'm glad they were able to show the kids this part of the country. It was beautiful.
[00:05:23] JB: And it is one of the best parts of the globe. We were last in – We stayed at Page, Arizona. We were last there. We arrived the night the NBA canceled their season. And got to the hotel. And we hadn't had cell service. And we show up. We go to Sonic right next to the hotel. And I just started looking at the news. And I'm like, “Why did we leave? What is going on?” So it was nice to come back this time and enjoy the time.
But we got home to snow. It snowed this morning, and it is cold, windy and rainy. So I am missing Arizona greatly today. But we could talk about that the whole time. It is super important to get away, I think for everybody, and to really disconnect I was able to, for the first time, and I think since the pandemic, take a vacation, and I take Slack and email and all that stuff off my phone and have no interaction with everyone back in the office. And that was really, really important. But tell us about yourself. Definitely in the intro, I'm going to tell a little bit about you. But tell us your origin story. Like how did you find affiliate marketing, digital marketing? And then I got a whole slew of questions for you today. But how did it all start?
[00:06:41] BB: Well, for those of you who might be in your late 30s or early 40s, when I was growing up, I loved the show Who’s the Boss? And Angela Bower was the mom in that show. And she was an advertising executive. I believe she owned her own ad agency. So I love that show. And I loved her shoulder pads. But more than that, just hearing different parts of what she did, I wanted to go into advertising. I really thought that I had – In high school, I ran for student government positions. I made my own signs. Like one of my signs in high school, I cut out a bunch of eyes from magazines, and I pasted them on the poster board, and it said, “The eyes have it. Vote for Blagica.” So I always was doing these really off the wall kinds of things.
So I was an advertising major. I went to Western Michigan University. I majored in advertising there. And I minored in business. Fantastic education. Western now is known for so many things, engineering, medicine, and what have you. But the business school was always top notch. And the ad program has come so far from when I was in school to the point where most big agencies actually still recruit from Western, specifically because Western teachers media, media buying and planning.
So I'm at Western, and I was a really serious student. I knew – This is like the late 90s. I knew I needed to get a job. And so I had internships all summer, all through the year. I worked at an ad agency. There was a competitive job that was sponsored by the direct marketing council, like straight up paper. Like the direct marketing people had this competitive scholarship where 10 students across the country would work for Ogilvy & Mather in New York. And I was one of the 10 who got this job. Dream job to work in New York for Ogilvy and go through the whole cycle of the agency. I was preparing to move to Queens.
But then a friend of mine from school just got this job at this company in Chicago called Giant Step, working with this thing called the Internet. And they were looking for a project coordinator. And I thought, “Well, it is closer to home. I'm from Detroit. So let me just give it a whirl and try.” So I took the train to Chicago. I interviewed. Really enjoyed it. Enjoyed the people. And then I got a job offer. And I decided to take the chance on this Internet thing and move to Chicago. And that's what started my digital career. It was 1998. I worked for Giant Step, which was the interactive division of Leo Burnett. My dream job was Leo Burnett, one of the best well-known ad agencies. Famous for the Jolly Green Giant, for that tiger from the cereal box. Other well-known brands.
[00:09:22] JB: Tony.
[00:09:22] BB: That's it. Tony. But Giant Step was interactive with like a division. So I'm like, “Okay, consolation gift, I'll work for this company.” And straight out of school they set me in a car to drive myself to Newton, Iowa, where Maytag was headquartered, before Whirlpool bought Maytag and brought Whirlpool to Benton Harbor, Michigan. And for the first two years out of college, I was living in appliances. And that began my career, understanding how to make websites. And that started my entire digital career since ‘98.
And from there, it went from learning how to make websites. And then I went to how to buy ads and how to create websites, and then how to sell things online. And that's what brought me to affiliate marketing.
[00:10:04] JB: That's great. There're a couple things I want to ask you. But you and I met. We've known each other for 21 years, probably 20 some odd years at least. That's definitely dating us, for sure. But we've known each other for a really long time. I met you while you were at Orbitz. So how did you find Orbitz? What was the decision-making process? How did you make that step away from Giant Step? And what sounded like your path into the ad agency that you wanted to get to, now you're kind of diverging from that. What happened there?
[00:10:39] BB: So at Giant Step, when the internet started, it was also – Like this is circa 1998 to 2001. Every brand every company needed to get online. Our brands included Oldsmobile, an earlier GM brand. It’s no longer there. Maytag, United Airlines. So every brand – Kellogg. Wanted to be online. So the ad part, I was like, “Hah. I'm still doing advertising, but it's on the Internet. This is cool. I think I want to stay here.” So I had the forethought even then to stick around the web. So 2001, there was a big .com bust. And agencies were downsizing across the country. And I was part of that. I was part of that crew. I got laid off.
[00:11:19] JB: The dot com parties turned to pink slip parties.
[00:11:22] BB: Exactly. We all sat in our chairs literally that day waiting for the call, “Do you have a job or not? Just wait in your chair.” Looking back, that was just psychologically awful. By the way, if any HR company did that to your staff, that was awful. It was so bad.
[00:11:37] JB: Totally. The thing I hated most looking back was so many .com businesses. And two that I worked at, we had our runway posted on like an LCD screen. Yeah, LCD screen. Yeah. It would say, “Hey, we've got 38 days of cash left.” And they would do that. And so it was the equivalent of knowing when you died. And I just can't believe we operated under that – The transparency is unique. But that way of, “Hey, we gotta figure this out, or we don't have cash in 38 days.” And maybe that's where a lot of my anxiety issues come from, is those first jobs.
[00:12:21] BB: But it also gives you a really deep sense of reality. So I got let go. That was figuring out what I wanted to do next. And I didn't know. And I'm like, “I'm done with this Internet. Done … I don’t care.” And I was washing dishes. And an old coworker of mine named Mark Rattin, amazing creative genius, called me up and he said, “Hey, there's this new company that's about to start and launch. It's already in the works. And it's called Orbitz. And the five big airlines own it. And it's going to change the way people travel and buy tickets online to travel.” “What?” And at first, I thought, “No. No. I'm done. But then I thought travel is interesting. Let me give it a go.”
Like looking back at my decision-making process, it was so – I wouldn't say it was naive. But it was just so like, “Okay, I'll try.” It was just so – Comparing that time to the stresses of what we have today as a country, as a world, it was just so much simpler, I guess. And so I took the job at Orbitz. I was there for three years. I was on the first e-marketing team. We had no playbook. And I went from coordinating creative, a lot of banners, digital displays. I mean, I could say 468 by 60, 234 by whatever every single day. That started – So I understood the transition of creative and banners and media buying. But that at Orbitz transitioned into heavier media buying. Search. We bought AdWords when it was a CPM. Then affiliate marketing. That's how I met you. You were at Coldwater Creek. Launch the affiliate program at Orbitz. And all that was just – As you know, there was no playbook. We just did it. We just figured it out, had test computers. And then I was at Orbitz for a while. Three years total. It was the hardest job I've ever had. I will say that to my grave. It was the hardest job I've had, because there was no playbook, and it was a true startup. So you had that LCD screen with what the run rate was.
We had, “Travelocity is posting it for this.” Expedia is posting it for that.” And the airline prices change two, three times a day. So I have memories of watching The Tonight Show in bunny slippers with my big massive laptop that was so heavy at home launching ads, because the price might change for the ticket to Vegas an hour before that. So I needed to make sure I had the ad ready to go.
And looking back at work ethic, nobody complained. Like the creatives have a bunch of ads ready to go. And I was in bunny slippers watching Jay Leno changing the graphic. And that's just how it was.
[00:14:59] JB: Yeah. And I remember from that period of time, it was just you did what you needed to get done. The pandemic has definitely changed dynamics in a lot of ways, especially from that period of time. Take me through the rest of your career. And I know, you're a travel junkie in a lot of ways. So that definitely piqued your interest. What was the rest of the way to find yourself at JEB?
[00:15:25] BB: So I used the word earlier called forethought. And something about me that I've always listened to is that little voice that's like, “That seems new and interesting. You need to learn that. You need to add that to what you know.”
So I was at Orbitz, and I needed a break in general from work for a while. I didn't go backpacking through Europe. I didn't do a break, a pause, a gap year. So I went to France for a bit. I was studying French in Chicago, continued, and then I came back. And then I worked at a company called Cool Savings for a while. That was all about lead generation. Learned about lead generation and whatnot from a consumer perspective there. Then I did a lot of consulting after that. I consulted within the affiliate space as well. I worked for another group called Partner Centric. Working for them, doing affiliate marketing as well.
And along those lines, I built a few of my own startups. I did a lot of, I'd say, web 1.5/ 2.0 training. And I use those years to really learn how to do things. How to build a website? How to drive traffic on my own? How to create content. During that time, I was also a blogger with NBC Chicago. So the NBC affiliate in Chicago, where my team actually won an Emmy for our work in new media. We were spread out across the city. And there was a 24-hour festival going on called – I forget what it's called now. But it was on State Street. It was a 24-hour festival and we covered it in real-time. And we all had different stations and projects.
And looking back now, people will think, “Oh, that's so easy. Live streaming on Insta, or whatever.” But that didn't exist back then.
[00:17:04] JB: Yeah. What year was that?
[00:17:05] BB: That was 2000. I should have the statue upstairs. I can go get it. I forgot the year. It was around 2006, 2007.
[00:17:16] JB: Oh, yeah. So that's well before like any other technology that made covering something 24/7 very, very difficult. All the technology that made that really easy, you didn't have back then.
[00:17:27] BB: Right. But it gave me the – So that content creation. Like, “Oh my gosh! This is possible. Okay. Like that was another thing to learn.” Like, “Okay, I could do this.” But I didn't realize then how important it would be for like 10 years later in terms of what happened with social media.
So I was there for a bit. And then I joined Edelman. So Edelman is still the largest PR company in the world. I started on the consumer side. Went into the digital side where I lead a group of strategists helping our brands understand social media and the digital version of PR. And then I went to Motorola. I was the head of social media for Motorola. I was always a gadget lover. And I loved the idea of working within cell phones and how to talk about technology. And that was right before Google bought Motorola Mobility. There's two Motorolas, Mobility and Solutions. And then Google bought us. And then I left Motorola. And I consulted some more. Did a lot of consulting in the Chicago area, the Chicago French Pastry School, Choose Chicago, Illinois Technology Association were clients. And then I spent some time at Target.
So Target reached out to me a few times through a recruiter. The first time I started, not to pursue the job. But the second time around, they were looking for a head of social media. And I'm like, “You know what? It's Target. I love the brand. Let me give it a go.” And that is one point in my career that is such a lesson for me, because I interviewed for the position during the first ever data breach that we experienced as consumers, it happened at Target.
And I interviewed at the time. The company had gone through so many changes in leadership and what have you. I was there for three months. Moving the entire family to Minnesota. And when I started, I realized it probably wasn't the best job for me, because so much changed within the first three months that I was there with leadership and direction. But the family loved Minnesota. We loved being there. And we stayed there for close to a year.
I worked for a company called ModSquad, where that job is where I learned the element of human moderation. So at that point in 2014, you saw a lot of content and a lot of news regarding things that were starting to be streamed online that were negative or scary in nature. And that is the beginning of when folks realize that there's only so much YouTube, Facebook or Google can do from the standpoint of a robot or algorithms. And I still believe that to this day.
And that's when I got my bird's eye view into, “Oh my gosh, like all this content we made, and how negative things could quickly turn from a conversational level?” So we had a bunch of human content moderators helping brands and companies with how they were interacting online. Enjoyed that. And then got back to Chicago. We came back to the Midwest. And I worked for an agency there where I lead social media, the social media practice for an agency. Enjoyed it. And then went back to doing some work consulting. And then the pandemic struck. The pandemic struck in the spring of 2020. My husband is a sommelier. He's kind of a wine nerd, but not a stuck up wine nerd. He's like a chill guy.
[00:20:46] JB: And he’s great. We had him do two virtual tastings and we love him.
[00:20:49] BB: Yeah. He's awesome. I think I'll keep him. He had a company called Bottles Nation, where he was doing in-person wide events in Chicago, across the country. He was being flown around and doing different wine events. The pandemic stopped it. And so I'm like, “All right.” And all the work stopped. And my clients were shoring up their budgets. And we thought, “What are we going to do?” And I locked myself up in the family office for a night. And we switched the company to virtual. Virtual tastings and beer tastings. We’re one of the first to do it. And it was off to the races.
So for about a year and a half, I was helping him from a marketing partnership perspective build and manage this thing that we started. We did over 1000 tastings in less than a year. And it's still going strong. Yeah, he's working with it today.
[00:21:33] JB: You’ve told me that before. And I've done the math. That it's like three a day or more.
[00:21:40] BB: We have people across the country helping us. So we had sommeliers, Cicerone, that's a beer expert, mixologists across the country working. At some point in the Q4 of 2020, we were doing like 20 events a day. It was unbelievable. Unbelievable. And we learned so much as entrepreneurs. And so now it's stable. But during that time, I kind of missed – Like, I love doing it and making content creative. I was managing a team of interns. Actually, one of those interns now works for the company as the marketing coordinator.
I knew something was missing. Something was missing in terms of like tinkering, in terms of technology. And then you and I were talking about what you built a JEB and I thought, “Oh my gosh! It's so great. Kudos.” And that's when I realized there was an opening for a director of affiliate marketing here and JEB with taking some best practices in the world in e-commerce, but incorporating content, social media activity, influencers, affluencer work, and merging it with the great stuff that you've been doing for 17 years. And I thought, “Oh, my gosh. This is it.” Because I felt like I just – I missed going in and tinkering and doing the thing that wasn't – It was a feeling that I missed for some time. And so when I came back to JEB, I felt like, “Okay.” Like I tell people it's kind of like coming home. And it is, because it meshes ecommerce, consumer marketing technology all in one.
[00:23:02] JB: Yeah. And one of the things – The big reason I reached out to you was this convergence of PR, social and affiliates that's happening. The last six months have been pretty incredible with investment in the space, and aggregation, and new services launched. PR organizations coming into the affiliate space. With your background in social and PR, wanted to bring you in. And we're going to definitely talk about those convergence.
But back to your career. On your website, blagica.com, there's an intro that you're a digital OG. Part of a generation of women who helped build the web. And honestly, that's the first time in a really long time where I heard it presented that way. And so tell me a little bit about that. Like the women who built the web? Share with me that story.
[00:23:53] BB: So I have a lot of girlfriends who are similar in age. We all started out together. As many of you know, Chicago was the majority of my background. But I traveled to conferences on the coast. And I started to get to know people in LA and New York. And this is even before some of the bigger companies. Like my girlfriend was the initial marketing director of Facebook. I'm sorry. Dig. And she worked at Facebook.
And there are many people in their late 30s, early 40s, who were sales reps, media buyers, planners, who were part of this web, this infrastructure that we all use today. But things change over the years. Maybe it's having families, or running the family, or other types of activities. And we’re seeing less and less women who were part of the beginning of the web, because most of us happened to be single. We happen to not be married. And we had all the time in the world. But what I noticed as I got older, the space to me still hasn't been able to keep up with the creative needs of a working woman, a mother. And even if a woman isn't a mother, I have many single girlfriends who literally helped make the web what it is today, but just not getting that same type of experience or opportunities that our male counterparts may have had, in general, with the web. When it comes to joining a startup, or running big divisions, or if you do happen to be a working mom, having the ability to have work share, or a creative environment, or director, or boss that will enable you to have more of a flexible schedule to handle what needs to be handled at home while still running your job.
My husband and I, Michael, we always had a creative setup where we decided to always have someone with the kids, and ended up being for a good portion of my career, Michael was at home running things with our children, and running his consultancy out of the house. And that's really how I was able to get so much experience and thrive, is I was always present. I always knew that the kids were taken care of and whatnot. But I still felt like I had to keep pushing in terms of being a woman in this space.
And this isn't to dabble with men versus women. But there's definitely – A lot has been done the last few years, for women and minorities, quite frankly, within the tech space. But when it comes to the digital world of web 1.0 to 2.0, there's been a drop off with the women who helped make it happen, that I don't see them as much as I used to, because of life or opportunities that just did not present themselves as they would have in other ways, other divisions.
[00:26:40] JB: So many questions I want to ask around this. Do you think it's a structural thing that – do you think professional women are opting out at a certain point? Or do you think the opportunities aren't there? So for someone, I've never experienced that. I've had all the privileges you can just about imagine. So I've had relatively – I've not had those extra baggage to carry on my journey. So for someone who has never experienced anything like that, do you think it's structural? Do you think they're opting out? Do you think – What are the things that I wouldn't see, especially as a leader? Like what wouldn't I see that women are experiencing that I should?
[00:27:23] BB: I think, structurally, it's getting better. I think, structurally, a younger woman who's in her late 20s, early 30s, I do think more companies have those solutions in place for longer pay time off, a creative work schedule. I think today it exists way more than it did before. I have a coworker at Orbitz who was so pregnant walking from the train to work because she was given no extra leeway to have her baby. And she did not want to lose out on work. And she had that fear of being incredibly pregnant and leaving work too early. So at that point, that was structural. I think early on, I do think in the late 90s, in the 2000s, it was structural. Because as consumers, this is who you saw making everything.
The wonderful guys in Palo Alto, the guys from HP in the garage, men; Steve Jobs, a dude; Mark Zuckerberg, a guy with a hoodie from Harvard making this hot or not list in an effect. That's what you saw from a tactical standpoint. And really, women existed, but you didn't see them as much. Oh, she's from Michigan. Meg Whitman. Meg Whitman. You knew of Meg. You knew of Carly Fiorina in terms of leadership and executives at tech companies. But you didn't see a lot of women creating the thing. And back then, I definitely think it was structural.
Now, I do know three women in my life who opted out because they didn't want to deal with that as much anymore. I know one woman who was very senior and got the clearance to work from home two days a week, be at work three days a week. And she couldn't take the passive aggressive tone anymore of her coworkers, “Oh, you're not here? Oh, you're not here tomorrow? Oh, yeah, you're not here.” She received the approval to do that. But her life at work was so stressful by not just her peers, but subordinates talking down to her in a way that she's missing out because she's not in the office.
[00:29:13] JB: And she's less than because of –
[00:29:13] BB: Correct. I'd say the last few years, it's finally gotten better. So I do think there's a horizon. But it makes me sad because I still think we're missing a lot of the structural IP that women have who helped make this thing happen. Who helped – I'll tell you, a lot of us women, before we had kids, we'd have glasses of wine and talk about Insta or Tik Tok when they launched or even when Facebook launched. And we'd say, “This can be a problem.” We saw it. We saw the toll that social platforms could have on children, for example. Like we saw this. We would just talk amongst yourselves. But I think now we're finally at a point where things are getting a bit more equitable across the board, women, minorities in general. We still have a long way to go. And I really wish some of those women would come back into the space.
[00:30:06] JB: Are you enjoying the show so far? One of the things we discuss often on the Profitable Performance Marketing podcast is the importance of driving incremental sales in your affiliate program. But this topic can be very difficult to get your hands around by yourself. How do you know what an incremental sale is? And how do you know whether your affiliate program is set up to drive incremental sales?” Well, we set up a tool that allows you to benchmark your affiliate program against the best programs in the industry, and the strategies that lead to incremental sales. You can access and use this free tool at jebcommerce.com/incremental.
This tool covers seven different aspects of your affiliate program, such as technology, your publishers, your promotion strategy, the internal resources available to you, your commission structure, available data, profitability measurements, and more. They're all covered in this free tool.
And I want you to be able to access this tool and find out exactly how your program stacks up all for free simply for being a listener of this podcast. And once you fill out this tool, you'll get an email outlining where you stand, including recommendations in all those areas for what you need to do to drive more incremental sales. You can access this tool at jebcommerce.com/incremental.
Now, back to our show.
[00:31:35] JB: Yeah, well, I appreciate you talking about that. What we've tried to do as a leader and a founder of a company, I get to impact the things that are important to me. And this is an issue, women and minorities in the workplace. Inequality is one that's been very important to me, and that we've been able to do some things.
I think one of our attempts to counteract that is – Or the motherhood issue, is really ample time off. And guaranteeing not just a job when you get back, but the job you left, so that you don't have to rebuild that ladder again. You stay right where you are. We give up to a year off for new moms. And we've had several employees take advantage of that multiple times and have done really well and seeing their careers go. So there definitely is a side from the employer perspective structurally that they need to handle.
Now one thing you mentioned, if you don't mind me jumping into, but how important representation is. So you wanted to be an ad exec because you saw a woman being an ad executive in a firm. And I just saw this in a commercial. I thought it was fantastic. Two men of color. I think they're scientists. And in the commercial they talk about, “We're here doing this because representation is important.”
[00:32:55] BB: Are they brothers?
[00:32:56] JB: I think so. Yeah.
[00:32:56] BB: I’ve seen it. Is it a technology? They’re holding a tablet. I’ve seen that commercial. Yes. Yes.
[00:33:01] JB: I think so. Yes. Yeah. And they’re in white coats. It blew me away when I saw that. So that is something that's even more important. And can you talk to that a little bit about seeing people like you be successful? And we talked about not really seeing a lot of these tech executives? How important is that?
[00:33:21] BB: Oh, it's huge. Anytime I would go to a conference and I'd see a speaker, a woman, whether she had kids or not, I would gravitate towards them. Because if by time I take them aside and ask them, “How is it for you?” Especially in my 20s, whenever I saw someone at a conference speak, I'd always want to just ask, “What is your life like? What tips do you have?” Because I wanted to make sure that I had that support system. And I, for a while, was really involved, especially – There's still a lot of women in tech organizations and what have you that I've started, but I also found that a lot of women in tech groups – Nothing wrong with it. But would focus so much on women who code. There seem to be also a lack of women in technology who may not code but are part of the digital web, a part of the intricacies of how things formed and how communication and connection is made online that I think we can use more of.
When I saw Angela Bower, I want – Like she's powerful. She's still a mom. She's running her home. And also, when I saw Mrs. Huxtable. She's an attorney. She ran that house on The Cosby Show, and she put all the kids in line. When I first got pregnant, someone asked me, “How do you want to mother?” I said like, “Mrs. Huxtable.” Because she would just give them that look.
There's an episode when Theo and his buddy cut in line and made fun of a girl getting a burger. They made fun of her because of her weight, I believe. He lied about it. To that day, to this day, I'm like, “Oh, my kids are – I’m going to use that Claire Huxtable tactic and act like we're in court.” So it's huge. And we talked about representation a lot in the media. But I don’t think we talked about it enough in terms of making sure people have a network, a connection. And yeah, I'm 46 years old, but that tween girl who watched Who's the Boss. And if Judith Light is listening to this, I want to thank you, Judith, the actress who played her –
[00:35:18] JB: We’ll tag her in the show notes. We’ll tag her. No. That's so important. And the representation thing hit me really hard. I was reading a book by a black author, Dee Watkins. And I reached out to him on Twitter, and I said, “Look, I have no experience like you. What can I do? I'm a middle-aged white guy in North Idaho. Like, what can I do?” And his entire comment was just highlighting people, minorities who are doing great things to other minorities. Give them experiences, if you can, to show them that those things are possible. And that's what representation does, right? If you had an Angela Bower, you knew immediately, “Oh, that was possible.”
And I even look back. I remember my father, one of the things we used to do on Sundays after church is he’d drive me to all – He’d just drive the whole family through these golf course community houses, these gated communities on Sunday will be open. And he’d drive us through. And he'd always say, “I'll have a house like that.” And it seems like I kind of made fun of them until I got older and thought, “What that did for me was show that that is a possible route for me to take.” Like I could get there. And that kind of drove home – Those two experiences drove home how important it is to highlight and have representation so that the next generation can look and say, “Oh, that's actually a possibility for me.”
I'd love to talk about career decisions. And you said before, there was just like a lot of curiosity. You had a little forethought of, “Oh, that's super interesting.” And you and I started at one of the most interesting times where we had this emerging thing that was happening. What was the hardest career decision you had to make? And how did you make it?
[00:37:01] BB: Oh, man, that's a good one. That's a really good one.
[00:37:05] JB: I always ask, because I look back at some of mine. And I'm just like, “I don't know if I was crazy or courageous. But I don't think I could do that now. I wouldn't go cross country. Or I wouldn't –” So I'm always intrigued, like what was the hardest one and how you made it?
[00:37:21] BB: Two are tied, the moving to Minnesota to go to Target was a hard one, because we literally left everything and moved. So that was a hard one. And I look back thinking, “What was I thinking?” Because I was interviewing during the data breach scandal, literally. And the person I interviewed with, by the way, whom I loved as an executive, and as a leader, he left the companies I was interviewing. And that was a little orange flag I should have paid attention to.
The other one that was difficult was actually Motorola Mobility. So I don't mean things were great. I had a great team. I had a great division. I had a lot of responsibility. I was there for a while. I was comfortable. But then Motorola Mobility rang. And being a gal from Detroit, who loves gears and technology, I thought, “They invented the phone, like the cellphone. How would I not want to go there and learn about this thing?” So that was a hard decision, because, really, I thrived at Edelman, enjoyed what I did. The team was a well-oiled machine. And it was a big jump. People were surprised when I left.
And I also want to go to the client side. I really want to understand what it was like to be on the brand side and work in that field. And it was tough. I mean, when I started at Motorola, I learned that I was doing a function that someone was doing who was currently on maternity leave and was coming back from mat leave, and I had taken their function. And the function of what I was doing was in PR, and then it was in marketing. So I had all of this kind of – These clouds above me that I wasn't aware of.
So here I was all wide-eyed and bushy tailed, and “Yay! I’m at Motorola. I’m the Global Head of Social Media.” And I was in the marketing division, and little did I know that there was a lot of baggage of what was before my time that I wasn't aware of when I came into the position. So that really made it tough. I'm so glad I did it, because I learned a lot. And it was challenging. I had to challenge myself with how to cope with things and grow up, if you will.
[00:39:24] JB: Yeah. So you've had experience with large agencies, PR and more traditional agencies. What are your big learnings from that period and that experience that you bring to managing the affiliate team at JEB?
[00:39:41] BB: Great question. Saturated momentum. So no matter how big the agency is, big or small, you're going to have a client who is paying the bills and a client who needs something. When clients hire agencies, they need something, but they also need your expertise. They want you to be efficient. They want you to be smart, but they kind of want you to giddy up. They kind of want you to thoroughly understand the problem, thoroughly come up with multiple solutions, and find the best solution for them as best as possible. So we learned to quickly immerse ourselves in the client, and I'll take that from David Ogilvy, Ogilvy on Advertising. It's one of my favorite books. David Ogilvy wore Sears clothing, and he used Dove soap. I think he may have owned a Rolls Royce. I’m not sure about the third one.
So I quickly learned to immerse myself in the vertical of my client; what they do, how they live and breathe. And I think the random guy at Ogilvy & Mather in New York, when I was applying for the job, he was an account planner. And I didn't know what an account planter was. I said, “So what do you do all day?” “Oh, I watch people eat chocolate.” “What?” He worked on a chocolate account for Ogilvy & Mather. And his job was to study people on the subway. He went into this two hour soliloquy about how people open their chocolate, how they work on the corner, and how they peel it down. What?
So I took that into my job at agency. So like, David Ogilvy taught me how to immerse myself in a vertical. This random account planner guy taught me the same thing. And no matter how big an agency is, a client still wants you to be nimble. And the irony that people forget, and I'm sorry for anyone listening, whether you're 46, or 26, or 16, the Internet is typically known as a fast place. It's the World Wide Web. It's the super – What is it? The information superhighway. I don't care how you slice the cake, or dot your i’s. Clients expect speed when they're working with the Internet. It's true. They don't want sloppy work. But if you're doing a function online, back during those days at Edelman, the clients’ understanding was, “Okay, it'll take longer to make a TV spot, or put something on a billboard, or a long lead magazine to put an article in there. But you guys can just put it on the web just like that, right?
So you have to take in those realities as an agency and teach your team to be nimble. And that's what I think I can bring to JEB, and I hope that I brought, is saturated momentum of understanding a challenge, but having that experience. Again, clients hire for the experience, what we've done in the past to merge those two things together, the client problem, challenge, experience of affiliate marketing, coupled with this new PR social world, and how to come up with the best solution for the client.
[00:42:48] JB: That's awesome. I love that saturated momentum. Lots of good things for listeners to pull out of that, and lots for me as the owner of the agency to know to support and keep driving home. Now, you've worked agency-side. You've been a startup founder. And you've worked on the brand side. What do you think is important for the agencies to know with working with clients? Like some of the people listening have never worked on the client side. They've grown up on the agency side. But what do you think the agencies need to know when working with clients?
[00:43:22] BB: Agencies need more empathy. Agencies need to understand that your main client or clients have people behind them. So most clients that you'll deal with at an agency are just a division of that company. It's just a division of the marketing channel. So Nike, or Reebok, they will have a PR division, a marketing division, sometimes a social division. Your client is just one piece of that spoke of that wheel. So there's always collaboration at a client with multiple divisions. There's a battle for budgets. Every division has to come to the table who’s seeking XYZ dollars for whatever agency, or many times, clients will call us vendors. That's a very common word, a vendor.
And so if a client is coming to you with a challenge or their stress or what have you, oftentimes there's something going on behind that in terms of corporate restructuring, a product launch not going the way it was supposed to be. I remember at Motorola, we had so many product launches that gotten delayed. Because back then, it's still the case, but not as much, we would make a phone, and the phone would get altered. AT&T would alter it with their little apps built in. Verizon would put their apps on the phone. We can never talk about it, which was hard for me as the head of social media. Couldn't really talk about it. But that puts stressors on launch.
So you go back to your agency. And sometimes it was, “I can't talk right now. This is changing. I need you to fix this. Just do it. I know. It stinks. And I just need it done.” And that can come off very abrupt, very aggressive. But if agencies take a step back and remember that the person that is your main client, first of all, went to bet for you, because they hired you. That's a big deal. So you need to make them superstars.
Part of my job working at an agency has always been to make my client a superstar at their company, within their division, within their team. What can I do to service my client in that way? I think agencies also forget that we are in a service business. We have the IP, we have the experience, the knowledge, the skill set, the people power all day, #allday. But we're still in the service business. So what can I do to make my clients day better? Because they're probably preparing for a presentation, a pitch, a new product launch, budgets are straining, whatever it may be. I want my client to know that they can call me, upset or not upset, and I can help them solve a problem.
[00:45:55] JB: That's awesome. Those are some really – The things I pulled out of that, make my client a superstar, more empathy. And remembering, agencies are a service business. I know I'm taking a lot of notes during this one. So affiliate marketing has kind of changed. One of the reasons why we brought you on to the JEB team was your history and experience and success in social media and PR. So talk to me about those things converging what you've seen over the last four, five, six months of us working together. And where do you think affiliate marketing is going?
[00:46:26] BB: Man, so much has changed and so quickly, but it's so exciting. Let's have the listeners go back in time with me for a little bit. We have all seen that the food bloggers, case in point. Anybody here watch The Pioneer Woman ever? She was a person who had a blog. There was a blog, and now she's on The Food Network. Brands realized at some point in time they could not keep up with the ability for an everyday person to get a YouTube channel, get a huge Instagram presence to connect with a consumer. So influencers are getting slotting fees and great partnerships and sponsorship by brands. Fantastic. That does continue. It does continue.
However, brands have realized that the KPIs, the key performance indicator, for that sponsorship, may not be leading into sales like they expected them to, or the engagement on the social channels of those influencers aren't what they used to be. So that, coupled with the pandemic, slashed budgets. So now brands are realizing how else can we still sell the thing or sell the service, work with people who are influencers and know the space really well enter affiliate marketing?
I giggle, because affiliate marketing, as you know, Jamie, has been here for decades. Affiliate marketers know how to find content creators. We know how to research websites. We know all of that. We've been doing it forever. But the change up now is that it's merging with the world of influencers. PR companies – Love you all very much, my PR friends. But PR companies used to have like the keys to influencers. We know all the top food influencers. And every CPG brand has their top influencers. But that's changed, too. Because the brand needs the PR agency to prove the worth of that placement in InStyle, that placement in the New York Times, that placement and CNN. How can you track it? Affiliate marketing, as you know. And for those listening, many of those content sites today will not accept many placements without an affiliate link.
And so now, our world that was kind of seen as – To use your word, the stepchild of digital marketing back in the day, has always been here. And now it's getting so much more awareness because we've been doing it forever. And on top of that, we know how to find what we, at JEB – I love that we're dumping it affluencers. It's essentially an influencer who's using affiliate marketing to gain traction for a brand.
We work with folks on TikTok and Instagram today as affiliates. It's a different way for them to increase the revenue stream, because they're not getting the slotting fee from a Kellogg or whomever anymore, but they still want to deliver that sale. And many would-be affluencers who are just posting about their baby or posting about what they'd like to wear in the morning don't realize that there can be a revenue stream for them. Enter affiliate marketing. So for me, starting out in the space from a traditional affiliate marketing side of things. When I say traditional, I mean just www. loyalty site, coupon site, content and so on, is still there. But now we're adding blogs, more blogs than ever before. True, niche content –
[00:49:32] JB: Which is, that's what we’re talking about. When we started, vlogs came about. And we're like, “This is going to be huge. And it's almost like we went through a period of time where they were going to be the best thing. And some were. Some weren't. Influencers came about. And they've been around for a really long time. And there were a lot of fits and starts and problems with that. And here we are sort of in this renaissance again of these content creators.
[00:49:58] BB: Yeah, and now there's this massive, massive rush. We're even seeing investment. We're seeing investment in affiliate marketing agencies. We're seeing investment in SaaS-based tools for affiliate marketing along the lines of influencers. Now, I love SaaS-based tools in terms of finding influencers and whatnot. But I will go to the length of time about the need for human moderation of everything.
I will gladly use a tool to initially help me find folks, different verticals who might like X, Y, and Z. But nothing beats the human time that we use to research a possible partner, whether it's a website or a social platform. On behalf of a client, you need that. And it still takes that time. But I think it's an uber exciting time right now in the affiliate space. Some call it performance marketing, commerce marketing.
For crying out loud, I think both McKinsey and Accenture did articles this year analyzing our world in the change and affiliate marketing. For crying out loud, Vanity Fair, Vanity Fair did a piece this year about our world. I never thought I would see affiliate marketing show up in Vanity Fair. But there was a whole article about it. It’s exciting.
[00:51:10] JB: Seeming that the rest of the world is catching on to our model of doing things, which is simple. It's paid for performance. Call it whatever you like. And as long as you can track it, the performance you're looking for, then you can call it affiliate marketing, you can call it performance marketing. And it's the same thing we've been doing for a really long time. So there's seemingly like two sides of the fence on the influencer, affluencer PR area? The one extreme is this is what's going to drive all my revenue very quickly right away. It's going to save what we're doing. And the other side is we've done this before, and there wasn't a lot of production. So how do you kind of address both of those?
[00:51:53] BB: I love that. I would say yes. I would say that the earlier influencer piece of things may not have worked. And you know why? It didn't need to? What do I mean by that? Well, the early influencers were getting paid a flat fee, a slotting fee of some sort, 5k, 10k, 100k for awareness or whatnot. And it didn't result in sales for the brands at the time. That is indeed very true. And there may have been fake followers that were purchased, or Twitter followers, too. That was indeed true. Completely true. But that's changed, because now the brands and their marketers and their staff, a lot more educated in this space. They know what to ask for.
So most brands today are up to speed and knowing they want that true engagement. And the thickness of what social media once was. And look, let's be honest with our listeners. I've heard a lot of horror stories, “Oh, I've worked with influencers. They don’t work.” Yeah. Many of them haven't, for sure. Now, the other side of things, will influencers and affluencers save the world? No. But you still need that to diversify your mix of publishers and partners you go out to, because it is going to be a mix of both.
We, as consumers, have attention deficit disorder with the World Wide Web. You're at Starbucks, you're at Panera, you're at Walmart, you're at Kroger, you're at Safeway. The line is long, even for self-checkout. In a world of on-demand right now, self-checkout still has a line. What are you doing? You're on your phone. Your thumb is going up, up and up. And you might pause and look and see things. That's how we behave as consumers.
So in the affiliate space, we have to adjust to that. And brands are adjusting to that. That's why so many brands are now adding affiliate marketing to their sphere. And many brand affiliate marketing contacts come from traditional media planning spaces. Why do I say that? Because we're not only seeing a change with influencers and affluencers. Affluencers are what we call those in the affiliate space. We're seeing more of an acceptance for paid placement.
So if you are out there, and you are someone who loves fashion, who loves travel, and you have a huge network of people, you not only can sign up for many programs, including those at JEB and get a commission on a sale, but you have a higher likelihood to get a slotting fee for that awareness that didn't exist before. So our brands are now understanding that component.
To sum that up, affiliate marketing is truly that convergence of paid media. Check. Got that. You want a slotting fee on your loyalty slide? That's paid media. So paid media with pay-for-performance. We got that. With even a PR aspect, because so – Skimlinks to look at Sovereign. So many of the pieces of content they're posting or publishing our peer links.
So you got PR, paid media, and social media converging within this affiliate space. It is enough to make your head spin. Hey, but that's okay. At JEB, we have it all sorted out because we've been doing it for a long time. And we can mash all the worlds together in a nice little package.
[00:55:02] JB: Definitely. Definitely. So when we talk affluencer and influencer. There are some misconceptions when – So now we're speaking to the advertisers that are listening. And they want influencers. And again, to your point of like, “Steve, right now. I need it now. I need it now. I need it now.” Talk to me about the big difference between working with an affluencer and an influencer. What the advertisers’ expectations should be, and what you found and what our team has kind of found working with both.
[00:55:35] BB: Love it. Influencer. If a client says, “I want an influencer today.” I am a CPG, and I make pasta sauce. Give me an influencer. Sure. to research an influencer, true influencer, that brand is looking for a spokesperson, potentially for a long-term deal, potentially to launch a new sauce. It will take time to really find the right person in terms of what they posted about. Have they posted competitor things? Are they working with a competitor? Are they posting often? What's their engagement rate? That takes time alone before the potential outreach to talk to that person about doing the deal with the brand.
And then, at that point, that person might still say, “I need $10,000 or $50,000.” Or that person may work with an agent, high likelihood, or a publicist, or through a network. All that takes time. Is it doable? 100%. Takes time.
Affluencers are typically folks who, whether it's through their website, or whether it's through a social platform like TikTok or Instagram, are already accustomed to posting things they like to do. And they're often tagging the brand anyway. They might love strollers. They might love wingtip shoes. They might like backpacks, or travel, and they're posting about a niche topic. So if I wanted to promote a new travel bag, there's a high likelihood there's a bunch of travel bloggers, single women, 25 to 35, posting about it on Instagram anyway. So you still need the time and the research to find those people. But the difference is you're reaching out to them one on one to give them an opportunity to add a revenue stream to what they're already posting to be an affiliate for your brand. It's still time. It's still outreach. It's the same activity that happened in the traditional affiliate space. But are you doing it through a different platform? And quite frankly, it might be quicker, because we can direct-message that person, that poster, and it's not considered spam, because they welcome those types of direct messages.
So both are possible. But I would say the influencer side of things tends to also work well in conjunction with a brand team or a PR team for a sponsorship or a long-term deal with a person or entity. And the affluencer side of things tends to have like they're more nano influencers. They may have smaller amount of following. They naturally post things and you can work in conjunction with a PR team from a brand perspective or guardrails, if you will. We find that many brand teams, like they have the guardrails in place of, “We'll work with the traditional influencers here. We’ll work with you on this aspect as well.” But lastly, the feedback that I hear from clients is let's just start now. How quickly can we get going with adding affluencers into the mix while still keeping the brand teams abreast?
[00:58:29] JB: Yeah. And I think the one thing – And I love the answer. I think another thing that is really important differentiation is, with the influencers, you're going to have to educate them on the model, and how they get paid, and how they post and all of those things. But affluencers, those influencers who are already familiar with affiliate marketing, and the networks, and the platforms, and all of that, that timeframe can be significantly lower, because you don't have to – You don't have to convince them that this is what we're doing. You don't have to educate them on a model they may have never heard of in their life. And you don't have to educate them on how to actually do those things.
So it's why I know you and I have been so clear with our clients of there's this differentiation. So when we're talking influencer, which one are you talking about? Because expectation of time, resources needed. How often you have to test to find the ones that see the other area, that we haven't talked about.
[00:59:27] BBB: Yes. 100%.
[00:59:29] JB: We are at time. And this has been a great conversation. Now my dog decides to wake up and make an entrance to the video here. But yeah, thank you so much. If someone wants to get a hold of you and continue this discussion, what are the best ways that they can find you and interact with you?
[00:59:49] BB: You know, the beauty of having a really funky first name is I've clinched the name in most social channels. So you can tweet me, you can send me a DM on Instagram. My first name, Blagica. You can also email me at email@example.com. And yeah, we'll chat. It's been delightful to chat with you in this way and kind of spitball the nerdery that you and I share. And yeah, let's keep rocking some saturated momentum.
[01:00:16] JB: Definitely. The origin story is something that over the 20 some odd years we've known each other, I have never heard. So that was fantastic. And we'll include all those links in our show notes as well. But Blagica, thank you. It's always good to chat, the many chats we have during the day. This is our second or third today already. But thank you for coming on board. And we'll have all those links so our listeners can continue the conversation with you.
But, thank you.
[01:00:41] BB: Thank you. Bye.
[01:00:46] JB: Well, Blagica, thank you so much for joining. I did not think I would learn so much after knowing you for so long. But I really enjoyed this conversation. And we dive into important issues. Not only affiliate marketing, but stuff that affects all of us. And that issue of representation really hit home. And hearing how important it was for Blagica’s own path to see someone like her, that look like her, succeed in something, open that up to her seeing that for herself.
So much is going on in today's society. So many discussions, and right versus left, and all these things going on. But I hope you can see how it affected this one person. Now, imagine that's affecting women everywhere and minorities everywhere, and how important it is for people to see someone like them in these positions.
So Blagica, thank you for diving into that with me. Love that. Who's the Boss continues to show fruit – A show that I remember watching like crazy and took completely different things away from it than you did. But I'm really glad that it's out there. And we learned a lot about the difference between big agencies and what Blagica brings to this job. Saturated momentum, and how important it is to immerse yourself in your client.
So if you're an affiliate manager listening to this and you're in-house, you're at one advertiser, super important you immerse yourself. If you're even someone on our team, how important it is to immerse yourself in your client and their vertical so you know? And it came down to client empathy. And we, as an agency, always want to make your client the superstar.
So many things that we chatted about and learned about. Affluencers and influencers and how they're different, what expectations you should have as an advertiser in working with those, and why the distinction within influencer is so important to know. Are you working with an affluencer or an influencer?
I'm so excited to have Blagica on our team, her experience in digital marketing. And she is a true OG. She has helped pave the way for everything that we have right now. And the only Emmy Award-winning marketer that I've met in our space. We're glad to have her and leading our affiliate team. She's doing some great things, and our team is doing some great things. So very excited again. Blagica, thank you for joining us on the call.
Now, if you're listening to this and you found this podcast helpful, share it with a friend, post it on Facebook, Twitter, whatever social media that you prefer, share that if you know someone who would benefit from this call. Someone in affiliate marketing? Maybe the career portion of this would really benefit someone. Send that to them directly. And if you need help with anything affiliate marketing related, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can set up a time. You can also go to calendly.com/jamiebirch. And there are times available for free consultation, whatever you need with digital marketing, affiliate marketing, especially if you want to talk about affluencers and influencers, you want to talk about KPIs, you want to talk about recruitment, and those kinds of things. You can go to calendly.com/jamiebirch to put time right on my calendar to do that.
And if you know someone who should be a guest, or you'd like to be a guest on this podcast, we are looking to finish season two and also start preparing for season three of our podcast. So definitely, email me at email@example.com.
And hey, if you like this podcast, you’d like this episode, leave us a five-star review at Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, whatever podcast player and platform you use, we would appreciate that.
Well, I hope you learned a ton about our new Director of Affiliate Marketing at JEBCommerce and all the things that she brings to the table. And if you have an idea for another podcast episode, please let me know.
Bye! Thank you, guys, for listening.