SPECIAL EPISODE: Kaitlin Maud-Moon hosts Ezra Englebardt and Matt Rainone

How do the skills you learn in one industry set you up for future career success in another? Both Ezra Englebardt and Matt Rainone started inside ad agencies working on planning and strategy. Now, they’re both in house at CVS Health moving forward complex and occasionally sensitive comms efforts, using some of those same skills. In this conversation, you’ll hear how they think about their time in agencies and how they value the lessons they learned there in their day to day. This conversation is graciously hosted by former guest, friend of the show, talented strategy consultant and good person™ – Kaitlin Maud-Moon!!!

You can find Matt Rainone on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Matt_Rainone
Find Ezra Englebardt there as well: https://twitter.com/ezra802
Find Kaitlin at: https://kaitlinmaud.com/ Kaitlin – sincere thanks for hosting this conversation.

Thanks to the three voices heard in this episode for getting together a second time after Adam dropped the meat in the dirt with the recording.

But wait? Where the hell is Adam? He’s been working on a new show, In the Demo, all about the origins of the Millennial Myth. You can listen here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/in-the-demo/id1655565898. He’ll be back for the next episode and you’ll be hearing more from Kaitlin and maybe some other voices.

Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/adam-pierno/message
Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/adam-pierno/support

Transcript here:

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 0:00
This is The Strategy Inside Everything. I’m Kaitlin Maud-Moon. The Strategy Inside Everything is the podcast for people who think for a living. If you have an idea, a question or you want to push back on something you hear in this episode, go to thatsnotaninsight.com and leave a message or a voicemail for me. The best and most interesting messages will be added to future episodes. And I can’t wait to hear from you. All right, welcome back to another episode of the strategy inside everything. I am looking forward to a great conversation that is foreshadowing for today’s conversation that I’m going to have. I have CEO of B Squared media and the author–you’re getting used to hearing that–Conversations that connect, Brooke Sellas. Brooke, how are you?

Hi, y’all! I’m back. Adam has been working on some other projects, which he cannot wait to tell you all about soon. But in the meantime, I am so excited to be guest hosting the strategy inside everything. My name is Kaitlin Maud-Moon. And today on the podcast we have two of my dearest friends from Boston joining us. We have Ezra Englebardt and Matt Rainone, who work at CVS Health. Thank you so much for being here.

Matt Rainone 0:39
Thank you for having us.

Ezra Englebardt 0:41
Thank you so much for having us.

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 0:43
Of course, Ezra, do you want to kick us off and tell us a little bit about your background and how you came into the role that you’re in now?

Ezra Englebardt 0:51
Sure. I’m currently a creative strategy director at CVS Health in our in house agency just called Heart House. I’ve been here about two and a half years, I started kind of early days of the pandemic in May of 2020. My background is all brand planning brand strategy across traditional agencies, digital agencies, and then over the last five years in house agencies. So worked at pretty much all the big ones in Boston, and then in house most recently, Buy Brands, the better few beverage company and then Wayfair. And then now CVS.

Matt Rainone 1:30
Hi, I’m Matt Rainone. I’m also a creative strategy director at CVS Health and Heart House, I’ve actually I have a very different career, I’ve really only been at two companies. Over the last 15 years, I’m going on my 10th year at CVS Health, in a couple of different roles currently create a strategy director within the in house team. Prior to that, I was doing marketing strategy on some of the loyalty and digital products. And then prior to that, I was in a little bit more of an account role for the in house team. Before I came to CVS, I was at an agency in Boston for seven years. And I was in a couple different roles there too. And starting out on account moving to new business and strategy. And then right before I left was was doing a little bit of 5050 split between new business and corporate communications for the agency. So I’ve been in a lot of different roles, but just not at a lot of different places. So thank you so much for having us on.

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 2:33
This should be fun. We both come from agency backgrounds. But I know as your you spent the longest and like might have the most diverse background at different agencies in Boston, would you be able to tell us a little bit about what the difference has been between planning side roles at agencies and planning on the client side?

Ezra Englebardt 2:55
Yeah, I’ve worked at Arnold, Digitas, Sapient Nitro and Mullen, all in the Boston area, you know, I think and then in house Buy, Wayfair, and now CVS, I think the biggest difference that I’ve seen is that in house, most people don’t have a clue what a planner is, especially planner strategist, I’m gonna use those terms interchangeably. They don’t really have a clue what the job is. Even if they have an in house creative department, let’s say they may not know what it is, if they have a true in house agency. And we can talk a little more about how I define that in a minute. But then the people within the agency, some of them, the people who hire the props might know what it is. But the average in house creative in house markers, all those people, they tend not to really get what the job is. And even which is shocking, because even people who work with external agencies also they work with planners at those external agencies like somehow their brain disconnects when it comes to the in house team and they don’t get why I’m there. So that’s I mean, that’s the biggest change is that in all three of my roles I’ve been, well, my first two in house roles, I was the only slash head of planning. And now there’s two of us, there’s Matt and I. But you know, for the most part, the job has been like, do all the planning work, and educate everyone on what planning is and evangelize for more planning all at the same time? That I mean, I think that’s probably what I would say the biggest difference is. The other thing too, is that the agent and external agency players tend to wear a lot of hats. They are like the research person, the insights person, the brand that a creative testing person, they are the one who’s supposed to know about all the interesting things happening in the world if all those different things that’s like eight different jobs when you go client side. And so I think there’s a lot of trying to define, as I said, like trying to find who you are, what you’re doing there is like, don’t we have someone doing that and we have someone else doing that when someone else doing that and someone else doing that? And so I think for a lot of times it’s like it’s hard to define the planner role because clients So many more resources than agencies do. Yeah. Now, what do you think?

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 5:05
Yeah. How do you deal with that? What’s the? What’s the solution?

Matt Rainone 5:09
Well, yeah, so there’s two things. And I want to echo one point that Ezra just mentioned about all the resources on hand in house is there is so much research and so much knowledge and so much data, what I think we end up doing a lot of times is trying to like, sort through all of it and try to make sense of it. So I think like, that’s really where we bring probably the most value to our partners in houses, taking all the stuff that everybody has in their heads or elsewhere in finding it, and then just making sense of it and saying, I think we can actually simplify this quite a bit when, yes, we have 50, very disparate data points. But what that’s really all pointing to is this. And I think that’s where a lot of times our partners will come to us and say, Can I just run something by you, I’m thinking this, let me just play it out in my head, and then we can talk about it. And a lot of times what we end up playing is this almost like simplification role so that we’re not over strategizing because we have swats and swaths of data that we’re trying to get through. So there’s the there’s the first point and then I think the second point, yeah, like, there, I would say about 10% of our role is continuing to educate what we do and what value we offer. So what we end up doing is just getting our hands in a lot of stuff to try to continue to prove like, I think if you ask most people, they wouldn’t say like, I don’t always remember what they do. But every time I work with them, I really appreciate the work that they’re doing for us,

Ezra Englebardt 6:37
Which is both good and bad for your career progression. People don’t know what you do, it gets hard to know when to involve you. But it also gonna be hard to evaluate. Because it’s like, Well, why don’t they did a good job, but what were they supposed to be doing?

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 6:53
So how do you split responsibilities between your in house agency and external agencies that you all might work with?

Matt Rainone 7:03
It’s really project by project, we have a few agencies that are on a bit of a retainer. But there’s so many different pieces of our business, not even just between the multiple parts of the CVS Health business around the CVS Health enterprise, the retail division, the Aetna health care business, and then the Caremark pharmacy benefit manager. So there’s like, there’s a lot of work already. But then when you kind of even break that down even more. So Ezra is mostly focused on pharmacy and digital solutions, where I focus mostly on like a front of the store. So more of the retail side of it. project by project, we kind of evaluate, and we have a team that sort of evaluates what is the scope of the project? What’s the scope of the campaign? And then they determined? Is this going to be something that is led by the heart House team? Is this something that’s going to be led by some of our external partners? Or is this going to be something that’s sort of in between where perhaps external partners are sort of developing the bigger idea, and then our team is executing some of the other channels within it. So I think, in times where we have an external partner, that’s, that’s the lead, we’re sort of brought along for the ride, we provide some consultation here, there will be kind of take a little bit of a step back and let their planners do their thing. And then once things are starting to get, you know, cemented together, that’s when we’ll come in, and we’ll start to work with our teams to say, Okay, how do we translate all of this across the things that we have to build?

Ezra Englebardt 8:36
To build on that too, though, I think we’ve seen some really great collaboration with the external agencies. One example for recently is like both us and the planners at Saatchi and Saatchi kind of noticed a need for more refined inputs to two briefs into projects. And so the four of us, the two players are talking to Matt, I created a new input briefing document that then you know, sort of would satisfy all all of our needs that we’ve been workshopping now around and teaching everybody how to use that. And so it was really nice kind of internal external planner to planner collaboration that I think is yielding some better briefs already.

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 9:20
Well, I think that’s a really good point. What is there anything that you think folks on the agency side need to know to work better with their strategy counterparts internally at client side?

Ezra Englebardt 9:35
I mean, if they have a strategy counterpart, it’s pretty rare. It’s still it’s still it’s still a small in house planner world is still very small. But you know, I mean, I think like, recognizing that it’s sort of like the their like, person on the inside almost like most if you’re an in house planner, you probably came from the agency world. So more than you know others in the agency. You’re almost certain to understand how they think how they work, what they need, you know, what’s really going on when they hang up from the from the zoom, you know, those kinds of things. And so I think like, you can be that that asset that like fifth column that that supports them behind the lines and things like that. And, you know, I think that they that sort of like a valuable to them, I think for us on the inside in house team, you know, getting to work with them. The access in those conversations, you know, and tries to speak the in house team elevated to the same level as the external agency. I’ve sort of like to try and make it so that when people talk about hothouse, they talked about as in the same breath as Saatchi and Saatchi, or Gale or Hawkeye or Adventures or any of these other agencies that we work with. We are one of many in the portfolio of creative resources that CVS Health has at its disposal.

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 10:57
Matt, what would you wish that folks on the agency side knew about how things work on the inside?

Matt Rainone 11:06
Yeah, this is a great one, I think this was one of my biggest eye opening moments, when I came over to the brand side was just understanding how organizations work, what the planning process look like how much data is at their disposal, I think that, you know, sometimes in the agency world, we’re like, oh, we’re gonna uncover this, like really rich insight, or, like, we’re gonna, we’re gonna find some data points that no one’s ever seen before. And it’s, it’s virtually impossible. There’s so much data that brands have, where I think the outside agencies really play a great role is, like I’ve seen before, is kind of simplifying, what does all that mean? So I think like, number one, knowing that there are resources that exist, that you may not have even understood, where they’re, I think the second part is understanding what is the planning process look like? And what are the things that are most important to your marketing partners is extremely important, because one of the great value that agencies offer is bringing proactive, really future forward thinking. But even the best idea presented at the wrong time, right, like budgets have already been signed off, and things aren’t moving forward, the planning process is done, the planning process hasn’t started yet. Bringing an idea, even if it’s really great at the wrong time can just fizzle out. So just understanding who owns the dollars, when are those dollars getting approved? And how can you be most proactive around those times that the financial decisions are being made, that will help you even more, get your really good ideas in front of people at the right time so that they can advocate for them and get dollars, the worst thing to happen is you have a really good idea. But the planning is already done. And it’s like, oh, yeah, this is a great idea. I don’t know how we’re gonna get the money. This also seems like a lot of work for me to do to try to sell and another thing to my leaders. So just being a part of that planning process and understanding what the timing looks like, probably the biggest thing that I would recommend for anybody to think about.

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 13:10
Ezra, do you have anything to add to that? What do you wish?

Ezra Englebardt 13:14
The things that I learned really early on in my career was that for most marketers, the advertising, while it may be 150%, of the agency’s life and job, it might be only like 25% of the brand team’s job. And I remember being working at Procter and Gamble brands, and, you know, freaking apps. We weren’t getting this as I started my career to count, and we’re getting some approval on some banner ads or something they’re making for press. And it’s like, why are they paying more attention? Why are they more invested? If they don’t even seem to care? It’s like, oh, yeah, because like, advertising is like 25% of their job of which they’re managing, like six different agencies, of which some are shooting TV commercials, and we’re trying to make banner ads. So we’re like a tiny part of a tiny part of their job. They’re also like on the phone with Walmart 10 times a day, and they’re flying out to Costco headquarters to pitch some custom pack that only you can only get it. They’re, they’re working with research to do upstream product development for products won’t be out for a decade, let’s try to realize that it most organizations, even though you know, the ad agencies thinking about the ads all day long, it’s only a part of what marketers do. And recognizing now like how do you how do you make it easy for them to buy things, you know, just like make their job easier? And I think, but I think most people don’t think about all the other things that their clients are actually working on.

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 14:28
Before we had planned to have this conversation, actually, let’s just like full disclosure, we already had this conversation. And then there were some technical difficulties. So this is actually the second time we’re recording. I am not the podcast Pro that Adam is quite yet but hoping to get there. One of the things I loved about our last conversation is Matt, I had mentioned like in your title, it does actually include innovation as well. And so I asked like What do Is the innovation process look like internally expecting you to say like, oh, it’s really slow going, I have to, like, sell it so hard. And I was gonna ask you to like, give us your tips. How do you sell in innovation? But that is not what you said at all. Can you bring us up to speed on, on how innovation has kind of taken over? In some ways with you?

Matt Rainone 15:19
Yeah, yeah. It’s funny. I actually remember when you asked me that question, and then I remembered that I just didn’t answer it. Right? Because what you want it so I will, I’ll do two part.

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 15:30
Answer it the right way. Because you surprise me. I was like, tell me how you get people to buy into innovation. And you’re like, I need them to stop.

Matt Rainone 15:41
Yeah, exactly. So this is so talk of there’s kind of a two part answer. The first is that a few years back, a colleague of mine who actually he’s he runs heart house, he’s the head of heart house, we had come into CVS. And we both kind of realized we’re like, there’s really no innovation engine that exists here. There was certainly pockets of innovation within different teams. But there was never like a CVS way of doing innovation. A lot of times we bring in the Deloitte and the McKinsey’s and the ideas of the world and they would kind of come in for nine months, 18 months, and then leave and all that institutional knowledge would leave with them. So we actually built a process and a toolkit for how to do innovation at CVS. And it became sort of like a thing that was on the side of our desk. But since we launched that, probably in about 2018, I continue to get tapped to run Design Thinking workshops and innovation sessions with people. So I end up doing this a little bit off the side of my desk, where someone will say, hey, our group heard that you do some trainings, can you help us out? And I will always say yes, because I’m an advocate of human centered design. I think it’s a really great headspace for people to be it’s a great way to start projects. And it’s a great way to just do the right thing at the right time using the right tools to get to the hopefully the right outcome. So I certainly don’t have to do the hard sell on it. Because I kind of just do it when people come to me and say, Hey, I need some help. So that’s the first part. The second part, and this is I think, how I answered it, the first time that we talked about, a lot of times what I will typically ask, the first question that I say when people come to me is I say, do you have resources to put against this, to take it from an idea to actually put something into market? Because as I was saying, if you go to any company, if you go to any agency, there is no shortage of ideas. There’s no shortage of conference rooms that are plastered with posted, there’s mero boards and mural boards with ideas. It’s just the thing. And I and I call it sometimes I call it theatrical innovation, which is yes, we’re doing innovation because we do brainstorms and we met and we did a we did a sprint, and that’s and we all feel good about it. And we’re patting ourselves on the back, but then nothing actually happens. So a lot of times what I say is, do you have the resources to take this at least in in put it in front of people to get feedback, because the most disheartening thing is to recruit a big team and tell them oh, we’re gonna do this innovation sprint, and we’re gonna, we’re gonna come up with the next big idea. And you do all these brainstorms, and then just nothing happens. It’s like, why would I continue to participate with that? If all I’m going to do is get taps to come up with ideas, and then nothing happens. So we’ve kind of dropped, we’ve actually Ezra and I have worked with a couple of internal teams over the last year or so to try to get them over to the next step, not just running brainstorms. But a lot of times, what I’ll have them do is even do an exercise, which is basically, if you had $100, for one week, to test, the best idea that you came up with, what would that look like, and it actually forces people to start to think about experiments and low fidelity prototypes in ways to get their ideas just from an idea to post it to something that I can actually get feedback from an end user. So that is one of the things that we try to continue to promote, is making sure that you have the right resources when you’re doing innovation. And then also making sure that you take a little bit of a pause to make sure you’re solving the right things. We, we do some problem finding sessions, and some root cause analysis sessions with some partners to make sure that, you know, a lot of times what you end up finding is that we’re trying to get customers to do this. And what when it comes down to it, then those types of questions are business problems, and those are very self serving business problems as opposed to how can we help people with a problem that they have because those things will typically generate much richer ideas that are going to be more accepted by customers?

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 20:01
Whoo, it makes me want to ask so many questions about, like insights. On one hand, one of the things that I love about talking to other people who do, the type of work we do is just the wealth of like, niche facts and information and like little nuggets of learnings that they have from their work. And on the other hand, I have Ezras voice in the back of my head from the last time where we talked, where he had said something about, like, that’s not an insight and like going on and care about the things that you get from the team that are like, not an insight at all.

Ezra Englebardt 20:44
Yeah, it’s, it’s totally useless. I mean, I don’t remember exactly what I say. But you know, what we, and this may be like, planner anathema, but like, what we were redesigning that input document with the Socci team, we actually took the word inside out, there’s no sections like this is the key insight, because frankly, it like breaks people’s brains. They either they either just don’t leaders, but like she’s a busy mom. And once they have it all right, or, or they like try and concoct some ridiculous thing, because they’re like, it’s the the word insight, just like short circuits love. And so we just replaced it with like, what’s the tension? What does she want? But what can she have? What is she trying to do? But struggling? What is seems obvious, but it’s not happening? Right? Like, what are those kinds of tensions, right? What does she hate about this thing that she has to do all the time, those areas are where we can, we can tap into things and tap into that emotion and bring reality to our work. And, and, you know, yes, sometimes you come up with a really, really amazing insight, if you will. But oftentimes, it’s like, you know, you got to go to you got to go to war with the army, you’ve got a lot of times, you don’t have some super deep inside, you got to make some ads, and you got to make a campaign, you got to do a thing. So by relieving some of the pressure on the marketing team to try and nail this insight, it actually yields better our inputs, and therefore better outputs.

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 22:06
Yeah, and I feel like I remember you had said something too, about the people’s relationship with the brand just isn’t that deep. Like they’re, you know, it’s more functional than maybe we sometimes give it credit for

Ezra Englebardt 22:21
Totally, I mean, you know, CVS is working every day to become this massive player in the healthcare space. We have an insurance company, a PBM, we have pharmacies, we have Minute Clinics, we have Health, Hubs, all these places where we’re moving into in home care. Matt stop me if I say anything, you know, insider trading-ish. We’re doing publicly time to bring together all these things to really drive better health outcomes for people. And, you know, we, we sometimes I think, take for granted that when most people hear the name CVS, they think of a store that sells candy and chips and milk and has a pharmacy in the back where they sometimes have to pick up prescriptions, right, that’s like, the bulk of the relationship most people have with us. And so when we, when we, you know, go so far into talking about health care, and 10, all these kinds of things people are like, we CVS like they know where we suck healthy ish things, and they know that we have a pharmacy there. But, you know, I think we have to remember that not only, not only do most people still think of us as this sort of corner store, which is, you know, yeah, something we’re working really hard on. But also that most people are not going to drive three blocks down the road and wait for the red light to turn left into a CVS when there’s a Walgreens on the right. And that’s I think the biggest struggle we talked about a lot of these things Matt said, you know, is the marketing asked to self surveys, like, what’s going to make somebody choose CVS over Walgreens, when they’re almost always located near each other? They have generally very similar offerings, very similar ours, you know, it’s a very hard thing to distinguish in the mind of the consumer, what’s the difference between these two places?

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 24:02
Yeah, but I think that’s also on the other hand, like the value of a brand, you know, when I talk to people about what it is that I do, or why brands are important, there’s a whole bunch of sneakers that are functionally very similar. You know, there’s a whole bunch of denim out there that’s functionally pretty similar, but what are those little things that make a difference? And like,

Ezra Englebardt 24:23
Yeah, those I mean, you’re talking about style and design and art and consumer preference in that sense. Like you can’t like prescribe those attributes to the to the products and services that a retail pharmacy and you know, walk in clinic type brand offers like,

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 24:45
So how do you solve it then, like, how do you start to differentiate?

Ezra Englebardt 24:51
I think it’s a combination of innovating around the offering, right, which is CDS is trying to do you know, by buying a health insurance company by buying in an old care company and things like that. I think you there’s things we’re doing in store design to try and outmaneuver the competition. There’s things that, you know, there’s things you can do with your store brands, products and things like that, that you could again trying out innovate and outmaneuver some of the competition. But I mean, I think at some level, you’re never going to create a world in which people will drive past one Walgreens after another to get to a CVS. And if you if you listen to you, I can see Matt already smoking, if you listen to, you know, Byron sharp and the Ehrenberg bass Institute and those things, you’ll find that that’s not really the goal, the goal is not to create people who only ever shop at CVS, the goal is to go from zero to one, and to increase that pre purchase frequency and the visit frequency and all those things. And that’s what really the penetration is what really grows the business and not so much like getting the person who’s goes to CVS every week to try and go twice a week.

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 25:58
Eager to jump in, but I have

Matt Rainone 26:01
No, no, go for it. I wanna hear.

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 26:04
I immediately think of the relationship, right? Like I think, well, what if I have I trust that like pharmacist or I trust that person who you know, I see that same face, the retail, when I like check out? Do you all have influence over that? Or is there any way that like that can become a part of the strategy where there is more of like, people living the brand, I guess like if there’s only two of you, and 1000s of stores is something like that even possible, or in the consideration?

Ezra Englebardt 26:42
I mean, I’m trying to there is some work going on now that I can’t really talk about that I’ve been a part of, but it’s evolving, right? How do we elevate that service experience? How do right and you know, we there’s a lot of press around, if you’re a chewy customer and your dog dies, they mail you hard or flowers or something? Right? Like, those kinds of things, right? There was a lot of talk about like, oh, it at the Ritz Carlton, they can spend like $2,000 per guest per visit to solve any problems they have. It’s how do we, you know, Disney-fy the experience of you know, our stores. And to your point, it’s tough, right? 9000 stores, you know, if you spent, you know, $100 per store, you’re talking about? What is that? $90,000? There’s one time and if you do it, you

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 27:31
You can have a whole additional like team of associates.

Ezra Englebardt 27:34
Right, right. I mean, so there’s, there’s a lot of factors at play, is it? Is it tied to employee, you know, associate happiness? And what drives employee happiness? Right? Is it you know, if you had more money to provide, the more hours, would they be happier if you could hire more people? Would it reduce their stress level? And therefore they could provide better service if they were paid differently? Would it? You know, there’s all sorts of things like that. So we get to touch those in certain ways. We do have a little bit of involvement with some of the store design teams that we’ve proposed some tests and learner type opportunities and experimentation and things like that to try and drive up store satisfaction, employee satisfaction, but it’s not the bulk of the work that Matt and I do. But there have been opportunities where we’ve touched it.

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 28:19
Alright, Matt, hit me. How do you differentiate? And how do you do?

Matt Rainone 28:25
I’ll tell you, I think it’s actually so I think this becomes like the fundamental question around what is the purpose of advertising is the purpose of advertising to say, we have all of these things come and get them? Sure. Will that work? Maybe. But I think what it basically comes down to is, there’s a shame that the only person who’s ever thought this or synthesis is actually probably a quote from somebody, when you don’t have something actually differentiating to say you have to say, in a way that slightly differentiated, right. So where is that? Is that? Yeah, so I think like, I think a lot of it is it comes down to how do you make your communications different from your competition, so that again, like, I think we’ve seen that, like, advertising doesn’t work by giving you information. And then you make this really rational decision to say, well, they have that. So I will go by that right now. Like, it’s like a consistent, like, you have to keep hitting over and over and over and over. Something that’s going to be memorable. So when as I said, like you’re on a light, it’s like by taking the left into a CVS parking lot or right into a Walgreens parking lot. There’s something that fires in the back of your brain that says I’m going there because that one, it just popped up in my head. That’s where I’m gonna go. So I think a lot of it actually comes down to the strength of the brand and how the brand comes to life and how you can embed yourself in the back of people’s brains so that when they’re about to make a purchase decision, three months from the time that they saw that There’s something that connected and they’re like, yep, that’s how I’m going to go.

Ezra Englebardt 30:04
Yeah, I agree. And I would just add to that, I think it was Dale Carnegie said, You can’t talk your way out of a situation you behaved your way into, right, which I think aligns really nicely with my philosophy that brands are What brands do. And so we can run ads all day long. But if we don’t actually find ways to provide more value to people, then they won’t build those preferences. And so, you know, you want to build in, you know, seems like a tech industry, walled garden. So how do you connect things to make one plus one equals three, as long as you stay at CVS? Right? And how do you make it so that there are compounding rewards and compounding benefits, both financial and non financial to, you know, building that relationship so that we do drive that preference and things like that? I think it’s a lot of there’s a lot of doing to be done?

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 30:49
Yeah. Well, and one of the reasons I was so excited to talk to you both. So aside from the fact that we have a pretty lively group chat that I wanted to bring other folks into, which I think is like common in our industry, probably I know, as in a couple of group chats. I was really excited to talk to you all, because I think of all of my friends and peers industry, you have been in some of the most unique positions the last few years during the pandemic, working at a company that really is at the forefront of messaging, of public health. Controversy, in some ways with things like vaccines. So I am interested to hear what it’s been like for you all in, in has the experience changed your perspective on what we do at all?

Matt Rainone 31:51
Yeah, so I think that yes, we were we were lucky, unlucky enough. I mean, horrible situation, of course. But we were lucky to be in, in a place of leadership among rolling out vaccines on rolling out nationwide testing, things like that, which, you know, is hard as it was, because we had all of this influx of work that came in, we had, yes, we had all the things that we had already had planned. And now all of a sudden, we have all this additional work related to, to, to the pandemic. It was, it was actually a little bit easier for us, because we were actually there. And we could say, we are here for you, because we are doing these things. It wasn’t like we’re here for you. And by our trucks, because we are, you know, like, like, we had a natural, which was good.

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 32:40
Like that was

Matt Rainone 32:42
it was like, when you are ready, we’ll be there because we’re cottonelle. And we’re there to wipe your pots during the pandemic, like it was just like, it was like this weird, like onslaught of brands trying to put themselves at the center of that story when they didn’t really belong, which again, like, yes, they still had to keep the lights on, I assume. And they needed to keep saying a message. And that was probably the most relevant message they could tell at the time. But anyways, we actually weren’t in the position where we could actually the stories that we told weren’t directly related. So that actually gave us the opportunity to be a leader during that time.

Ezra Englebardt 33:17
For me, one of the most interesting parts of it was like, I’ve never really worked on a controversial product before. And so, you know, getting to do like the vaccine research and the before the vaccine came out, we had a monthly vaccine attitude tracker, and the data that came back from that was just wild. I mean, I’ve never I’ve never had the phrase Mark of the Beast turn up in an open end survey response once let alone like three to four times in a single survey. Yeah, so it was it was really interesting. And it was just it was just wild to it was so outside my personal bubble and sphere of relationships like that, you know, I also don’t think I know anyone who didn’t get it I don’t think I know anyone who wasn’t excited about killing it, you know? And so to check it hit in the face with that real hard dose of reality deadline there are people who think that not only do they not want this product they think it’s it’s horrible and that it should be banned and that it’s satanic. And you know, it was it was it was pretty wild.

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 34:29
Yeah, and I remember when we we did the podcast that will never be aired. You had said something that I thought was actually kind of beautiful because I was leading the conversation toward like, did you feel despair? Like was this hard to like get off calls at the end of the day and like go back to your normal life. And as you’re you who I think you would self described as a pessimist actually had quite an optimistic answer, which was like, I actually feel like I had more and pasty for just the diversity of people and like, serving all people, and what does that look like?

Ezra Englebardt 35:08
Yeah, I mean, my natural instinct is like, you know, at the time was like, Okay, fine, let’s give out the vaccines. And he was the one that said it was some country doesn’t want it because like, you know, you had a chance to, you know, it’s like, you know, I took a very, like, you don’t want it fine, you know, take your ball and go home kind of attitude. But obviously, that’s not that’s not the right way to do it, we I was privileged enough to be on a call with that Murthy the the Surgeon General, which is pretty cool in and of itself. And his whole thing was about empathy. And he was like, we you cannot browbeat people into this, you cannot argue them into this, you cannot data them into this, you have to have an empathetic approach, you have to try and walk in their shoes, and you have to try to understand what is it that is making them react this way to something that may save their life, right and save the lives of their loved ones. So they are afraid they have been fed a steady diet of bad and misinformation. And you know, and in their worldviews are being challenged, and you know, all this kind of stuff, and just trying to understand like, what, you know, where are they coming from? Because that’s the only way you ever really change people’s minds. Right? You don’t you don’t you know, outside of like a, you know, high school debate club, maybe you don’t ever argue your way to victory. You have to you have to come at it from a place of empathy. And so yeah, it’s certainly like, reminds me that, that you need to think about what is driving these attitudes. And it is, for the most part, for the most part, it was fear. And people were scared, and they were looking for answers that can confirm their worldview. So they were finding that, for better or for worse. But I am still a pessimist, generally.

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 36:48
You balance each other out then?

Matt Rainone 36:50
Yes, because I am the eternal optimist. Although I have to say, pessimism and cynicism, it’s certainly something that exists in our industry. And I think the having a good balance of cynicism, to know that, like, advertising is certainly not the most important thing in the world. And many times, people like regular people, for the most part, don’t care about the things that we are saying, now that I think that it’s it would be naive to not believe those two things. Now, that being said, you can either look at that, and have a very, like nihilistic view at our industry and say, nothing matters. Like who cares? Or you can say, Well, okay, people aren’t going to care about the stuff that we’re doing. How do we make it interesting enough that maybe they will, or maybe they’re just something that will stick in their heads, because we said it in a way that made them laugh or made them, you know, chuckle or like, it reminded them of something that they were going through. So I think you kind of have to have this balance, if there’s like, you know, you see it on like, in like the advertising, Twitter space. And on LinkedIn, it’s like, there’s just like, oh, like, this sucks, like, Everything’s bad about this industry. And then there’s the other side of it, which is like this stuff, where you’re like, you see some of these case studies that you’re like, Oh, my God, this is like us, like giving ourselves like the biggest pat on the back ever. But I think like being able to understand that advertising can both be ridiculous, and like, over celebratory of itself, and also it can, it can actually help businesses. And I think understanding both both sides of those things is important, so that you’re not too much into your own stuff. But you’re also not just like giving up on everything that we’re doing. One of my my phone just buzzed with one of my other advertising friend chat group chats with a link to the left handed mango chutney commercial, which if you and your listeners have not seen it, just Google left handed chutney, it is a fantastic and way to real look at our industry. But you know, one of the friends on this chat, his father was a longtime ad executive. And he asked it he all sorts of advertising and he said, you know, well, what, why to Matt’s point about is it rewarding work. And he said, you know, average has been part of this world, we all have to consume it a lot of the time. And, you know, if you do your job, well, maybe you make some of that time a little bit better.

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 39:20
Yeah, or in your case, like to bring it full circle, when there is a global pandemic and you are working at a place that is, you know, on the front line of combating that pandemic and helping people and getting them information like all of a sudden, that advertising work that we were describing earlier. Oh, the banners and the commercials and all that actually becomes like a vital channel for communication and helping people and making a difference and I think that you don’t know like you don’t know when something like this could could actually be

Ezra Englebardt 39:59
Fundamentally our job is to change people’s behavior, right? Usually it’s get them by one kind of peanut butter versus another which I don’t think you can really argue outside of like, a defensive capitalism is a super rewarding endeavor

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 40:12
Until there’s like a listeria outbreak and you need to.

Ezra Englebardt 40:16
But you know, every once in a while, you get to work on something that does have some, you know, some broader benefits to humankind and some some thing where you change your behavior from something that’s negative to something that’s positive, and has a really good outcome. So it’s rare, I think that people in advertising get to do that kind of work outside of like, you know, pro bono, you know, nonprofit things, or, you know, the occasional kind of thing like this. And so, yeah, it’s certainly I think, one of the more meaningful things I’ve ever worked on in my 20 year career.

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 40:49
Yeah. And I mean, I would encourage anyone listening to try and find those opportunities to when you can, if there is some innovation budget, can you test some sort of social impact Initiative, or if there is some cause that aligns with what you’re doing that could be mutually beneficial to co brand and use your brand’s ad dollars to lift up this partner that complements you in a really interesting way, I have had a lot of success as a strategist, finding some of those things, because I think not only do they connect with the end, consumer, viewer, audience, whoever that is, but I think it makes the work more meaningful for creative teams and for us to work on day in and day out, when we can find that purpose that isn’t like a manufactured start with why like I’ve applied purpose after the fact but is actually a campaign even that feels somewhat purposeful or feels somewhat optimistic, me.

Ezra Englebardt 41:55
It’s gotta be rooted in something real, like whenever I hear too much, and I’m a believer in Grand purpose, even though a lot of data now is showing it’s kind of BS, but you know, I still sort of want to believe, but like, there was this SNL skit about Cheetos a few years ago, where they’re like, pitching these ridiculously, like, heart wrenching sob stories about whatever. And then it’s like hard cut Cheetos. Too much. Or too many people read Simon Sinek. And too much advertising became that way of like, Let’s just tell some, like gut wrenching story and then stick our brand on the end. And, you know, Matt was sharing with me and our ECD the other day this like study about the decline of humor and advertising. I mean, I assume you guys will say that I still remember some of the funniest ads of my, you know, youth and things like that. There’s a reason why, like, you know, people over 30, if you say like was, they know exactly what you’re talking about, right? And there’s, you know, but we’re seeing a massive decline in humor. In the advertising world.

Matt Rainone 42:56
Yeah, I think people know that emotion is really powerful for advertising, to make connections with the brand. But if you for whatever reason, people automate, when they hear a motion, they’re like, it’s got to be set. It’s got to be like a heart wrenching tale. And humor is an emotion related bit. Like there’s a lot of ways to create emotions, without having to be so overdramatic. And when it comes down to it like that is worth like, we’re selling to, like we’re selling toothpaste or selling bite, like, there’s like, it doesn’t have to, like, you don’t have to be so serious about everything all the time. And, you know, and that and that humor, that humor data comes from cantar. Right? I know that there’s a lot of mixed feelings about creative testing, and optimization within our industry, but like they have a lot of good insights as to what can make connections with people, and what things perform the best when you’re trying to create memory structures with people so that they can always remember your brand when they

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 44:00
Well, we’re running up on time. So I first want to thank you both so much for doing this with me again, in sharing your wisdom. I feel like you’re in such a unique position to be like in house in an in house agency getting to do strategy. I think we have so much to learn from you all and with some of the work y’all been doing over the past couple of years. I’m just excited for more people to hear about it. Is there anything you want to promote or where can folks find you online? That you want to go first?

Matt Rainone 44:38
Oh, sure. Well, you can find me on mostly on Twitter. I don’t really play around with much on there but I don’t do Twitter while while it’s still up for the I mean it is hilarious right now. It is what November 14 right now for anybody who’s listening and the last week and a half has been just outrageous on Twitter so you can find me there at Matt underscore Rainone and then I think there’s something to promote Kaitlin I don’t know if you can tell him like kind of rocking a little bit of a mustache right now. I still do Movember every year. It’s really good charity just to take care of a lot of issues around men’s health. So feel free to check that out. Donate if you have a couple extra bucks.

Ezra Englebardt 45:21
Yeah. I’m Ezra802 on pretty much every platform, including my new Mastodon account, which I still have not figured out. But I got the username. The only thing I would promote if you haven’t done it, get a flu shot. We’re looking at uh, last year they talked about a twindemic now there’s like what they tridemic of RSV, flu and COVID coming soon to a town school near you. So get your flu shot. That’s it. Preferably a CDs but honestly, just get it.

Kaitlin Maud-Moon 45:54
Let me guys I’ll talk.

A P 45:55
The Strategy Inside Everything is produced by me, Adam Pierno If you like what you’ve heard, leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts. Actually, I have no idea if that helps, or if it’s ever done anybody any good. If you really want to help the show, and you liked what you heard, share it with someone else who you think will dig it. That’s the best way to help the show and keep the conversation growing. New Music for the strategy inside everything is by Sawsquarenoise. If you have an idea, a question or want to push back on something you hear here, go to thatsnotaninsight.com and leave a message or a voicemail for me. If you want more information on your host Adam Pierno you can find it on adampierno.com and learn about my books, speaking and consulting practice. Thanks so much for listening.