CommonSense Blog

PreCommerce Thought Leader Series: Daina Middleton of Twitter and Marketing in the Participation Age

By Aaron Strout | Mar 06, 2015

Daina (1)

As I mentioned in our set up post for our PreCommerce thought leader series, we will be interviewing several of our speakers in advance of our events the week of March 9. Next up is Daina Middleton, Head of Global Business Marketing at Twitter. For more information about our events during SXSW, go here.

Prior to joining Twitter to run global marketing, Daina was the CEO of Performics, the performance marketing division of Publicis Groupe. A pioneer in the digital marketing space, Daina is known for creating “participant marketing”. Prior to joining Performics, she served as SVP of Insights, Trends, Innovation and Research at Moxie.  Prior to that, Daina spent 16 years working at Hewlett-Packard in key marketing positions across the company, and was running advertising for HP’s $28 billion global Imaging and Printing Group immediately prior to her departure. Daina serves on the boards of Marin Software, Healthwise, and the Teton Valley Community Foundation.  She is a regular industry speaker.

And now on to the interview:

[Aaron Strout] I’ve heard you have a slightly unorthodox major/minor combination. How did this come to be?
[Daina Middleton] Yes, it’s true. I have a journalism degree which has been more beneficial than you might think — especially in today’s world where there seems to be an overabundance of communication. My skills there help me digest and sort through what’s relevant and what’s not. The “unorthodox” part you are referring to is my minor which is in fisheries and wildlife. The back story there is that while I was at Oregon State, they required a technical minor. I had so many credits from different technical fields, including archaeology, zoology and many others — even computer science.  Finally,  I decided to pick a minor by counting the area where I already had the most credits because I could not decide.

[AS] Daina, you worked with Vyomesh Joshi (VJ) of HP while he was running the print division. Tell me a little about that relationships and what you learned from VJ.
[DM] I was running advertising while VJ was running Imaging and Printing. We were experimenting in measuring everything in marketing — these were the early days when analytics were more of a promise than a reality and pushing the envelope with partners, particularly Google who would produce a 200+ page report including data and insights every week. VJ was really fascinated with the idea of measuring marketing and I think he read every page every week.  I learned this because after I forwarded the report on to him he would give me a call and ask me a question from one of the charts.  I never knew exactly when the call was coming. After a few calls, I decided that I had better do my homework and understand the story behind the numbers, along with the business impact in order to be fully prepared when the phone rang.

What I didn’t know at the time was that VJ’s expectations and passion for data was setting me up for my  job running the largest performance marketing company in the world: Performics. My interactions with VJ were instrumental in insuring that I was immersed in all facets of the data and performance. To that end, I still passionate about data.  Mapping everything marketing does to direct business impact is just common sense.

As I said, we were working really closely with  Google at the time to break new ground in marketing analytics. VJ was on Yahoo!’s board of directors at the time and was so impressed with what we were doing with Google that he insisted I come along with him to one of the Yahoo! board meetings to explain to them how they were falling short.

[AS] Like a few of our other speakers, you’ve written a book. Tell us a little about, Marketing in the Participation Age, and what some of the key themes are.
[DM] Yes, I did write Marketing in the Participation Age back in 2012. It was a great experience. There are three parts to the thesis:

  • Traditionally we were all trained that marketing is about persuasion.  Today, persuasion is no longer enough.  Marketers need to understand participation.  Every customer has a computer in his or her pockets.  And the goal of marketing is to get that customer to take some form of action on your behalf.  We are all measured on these actions.   And actions are the manifestation of participation.
  • There is a science behind participation. It hasn’t been applied to marketing before now because there was no reason to do so. The science is based on intrinsic motivation or self-determination theory which has been applied to education and HR but hadn’t been applied to marketing, until now.
  • The last chapter of the book focuses on the idea that more fundamental changes within a company are required for success today.  Historically, all marketing metaphors have been based on war.  If we want our customers to participate, then I think gardening is a better metaphor, and if a company can adopt “nurturist” values they will have success in the Participation Age.

[AS] How are you using your philosophy to help evolve the way that twitter as a platform is experienced for businesses/your customers?
[DM] Numbers help us make decisions today and better prepare me/us for tomorrow. How do we prepare for tomorrow?

  • Explaining how and why Twitter is so much bigger than just a platform.
  • Knowing your customer, and using data in smart ways to REALLY know them and invite them to participate.