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Immersion Active Leads “Digital First” Innovation with Brands

JoeFordOver the next few months, we’d like to help you get to know the Immersion Active team at a deeper level. What better way to do that than to start with an interview with Joe Ford, Immersion Active’s (relatively) new president. The following article is the first in a three-part interview with Joe, led by Kathi Scharf, Immersion Active’s marketing lead.

Kathi: You’ve officially been president of Immersion Active for almost a year now. What has changed under your leadership?

Joe: We’ve honed our focus and stepped up our game when it comes to marketing products and services to the 50+ consumer online. We’ve taken a hard look at our mission of helping brands connect with mature consumers. We wanted to assess what that means and requires today compared to what it meant in 2007 when we shifted our positioning to solely focus on marketing to older adults online.

Agencies are made up of the experience and knowledge of our teams. So, we’ve invested in building teams that have deep experience in verticals such as healthcare, retirement living, travel, tourism, etc. We’ve learned a lot since our first book, Dot Boom, about how to engage the mature consumer online, and we’ve layered in a lot of new techniques, technology, and targeting. Online video and social advertising, for example, are entirely different than they were six years ago and afford brands some amazing opportunities to engage the mature consumer.

When you blend these capabilities, experience, and technologies together, you get a special kind of marketing alchemy that is very different than just adding digital channels or capabilities to a more traditional offline campaign.

Whereas 10 years ago, when we were often in the position of explaining digital to marketers who had been using predominantly offline tactics such as direct mail or TV, now we show brands how we can reinvent their current efforts with a “digital first” lens that changes how they target and market across all channels. That’s why digital marketing to older adults isn’t something traditional agencies can just add to their capabilities list. The new paradigm starts and ends with digital.

Kathi: How has “digital first” changed how the Immersion Active team works?

Joe: We’ve always strived to infuse every client’s experience, from the first new business touch to the close of the campaign or project, with both our team’s digital DNA and mature consumer knowledge. But, we realized we needed to rethink what the traditional brand-agency relationship looks like and reshape it. We formalized our “small teams” client-service structure.

For each project, we assign a small, empowered team with team leads from different disciplines. This structure allows us to bring the best experts and resources to bear on each project; ensures we have at least two perspectives when making leadership decisions; allows the team to be more responsive and agile to respond to client’s needs; and ultimately lets us deliver the highest quality products and services to our clients.

Finally, we took a hard look at how well our processes serve our team and our clients. What processes need updated? Which are obsolete? What new processes do we need to put in place to provide consistency, best-in-class work, and results? Then we did the hard work of updating our processes, training our team, and implementing them. Now we’re seeing the positive results of that effort.

Kathi: Obviously, we’ve been busy in the last 12 months. How do you think these changes have affected Immersion’s culture?

Joe: I think I would answer one way, but I really value the team’s feedback on the changes we’ve implemented over the last year and I hear things like:

“We got better. Teams were reorganized … we put teams together that work well together; [leadership] takes an interest in each and every team member. Our teams talk more than they did before.”

“Still very open and honest/transparent with clients.”

“Growth as a company and success in our client accounts, ability to roll with the punches and excel, be innovative with paid media.”

“Strong internal relationships.”

“The whole team has a clear understanding of our company goals and how everyone can individually help achieve them.”

“Our talent acquisition success and the great people we’ve found to join our team.”

“Delivering our best work to our clients.”

The most important things in times where you have a lot of change is to focus on the culture, and what I love about what I hear is a lot of our culture coming through. We’re a transparent, authentic bunch and by nature are collaborative. That’s a strong foundation we’re going to keep reinforcing and building on. Culture comes first.

Kathi: Those are powerful testimonies from the team.

Joe:  We have a great team. I see my main role as ensuring they can do their best work. It’s why we attract the talent we do and keep it. Our team is the best part of my role.

To be continued … Next month, we’ll explore with Joe how Immersion has maintained its thought leadership in the agency space and talk more about the role the new Innovation group plays at Immersion.