Blake Commagere is a growth marketing badass. Like, big time.
Blake was one of the original “growth hackers” back before it became an official job category on tax returns.
We somehow got the impressive Mr. Commagere to join 500 Distro as a growth marketing advisor, and today he’s sitting down with me for a brief AMA that should serve as a prelude for the Commagere Greatness that’s to come.
BLAKE, WHY 500 DISTRO? WHY NOT MARS, OR THE WHITE HOUSE?
For last 7-8 years I’ve been giving talks on growth as well as meeting 1:1 with founders to discuss how to implement specific growth concepts in their products.
In that time, I’ve had the chance to meet with entrepreneurs in every space I can think of and it has not only sharpened my existing skills, it’s allowed me to learn an enormous amount about other growth techniques. Meeting with founders has been by far the most fun part of my career over the years, and so it only made sense for it to be something for which I formally carve out time.
As to why 500 specifically, I recently had the chance to meet with the 500 Distro Team and they’re absolutely amazing. Some I’ve known for years and a few I’ve gotten to know over the last few weeks – and they’re all awesome.
The portfolio at 500 means that I’ll have access to so many awesome people from whom I can learn – and hopefully I can help teach them a thing or two as well!
Plus, I have a total mancrush on Dave.
2. CAN YOU REMIND OUR READERS OF YOUR CELEBRATED / SORDID PAST IN GROWTH MARKETING, STARTING FROM YE OLDE DAYS OF SOCIAL APPS?
Well, my sordid past is quite extensive.
I was an early engineer at Plaxo, the online address book sync tool which was co-founded by Sean Parker. It was an awesome opportunity to not just grow as an engineer, but the team there gave me the chance to learn an enormous amount about growth, UI/UX, user psychology, etc. I believe we grew the audience to ~100M users.
Years later, I had the chance to work with Sean again at Causes. I was in charge of building the Facebook app at Causes and it quickly became the focus of the company (and reached over 100M people).
Shortly thereafter, I created the first social games on Facebook which I grew to reach over 50M players.
Honestly, I wasn’t the best game designer, so I took what I knew about viral marketing + retention and created game mechanics based on them.
Those mechanics have been the basis for the majority of the organic user acquisition techniques used by mobile and social games over the last several years. So… sorry about that.
3. WE KNOW GROWTH MARKETERS LIKE TO KEEP THE BEST STUFF IN THE CELLAR, SO WHAT’S YOUR *2ND* FAVORITE (UNDERLEVERAGED) GROWTH TRICK / TIP RIGHT NOW?
Everyone knows that they should target their messaging to users, but frequently companies don’t efficiently target because they don’t think they have data that can help with that targeting.
Sometimes they are overlooking data that they have on their users because it is implicit to their existing data. As an example, if the only explicit user data you have on a user is their phone number, then you also know with a high degree of certainty their physical location (or at the very least a location that they used to live).
Going deeper, if you have a 212 area code, then I know you at one time lived in NYC, you’re probably over 25 (since most cell carriers stopped allocating 212 numbers several years ago) and that your household income is likely to be above the US median. Got an AOL email address? Pretty sure you’re not a teenager.
From these assumptions you can better target your messaging and get better results.
4. WHAT’S OVERRATED?
By far the most overrated thing in growth right now is dismissing it as “just marketing.”
It’s common to be dismissive of jobs and roles that you’ve never had to do, but given how few people are actually decent at growth and how critical to a company’s success it is, it’s particularly striking that there’s such backlash against the concept.
I get it, the term “growth hacking” is overused. So was viral marketing. I’m sure we’ll have a new term soon and it will incite vitriol as well, but that won’t change the fact that if a company doesn’t have someone that is good at growth, they’ll probably never have any users and nobody will ever hear of it.
5. WHAT ARE A FEW NON-OBVIOUS GOODIES FROM YOUR GROWTH TOOLBOX?
Oh, the most non-obvious part of my toolbox is pop culture immersion.
It’s way too easy for entrepreneurs to make sweeping statements like “That [insanely popular] show sucks!” without taking the time to consider that they are trying to build a product that will reach a fraction of the same audience.
You may be able to beat the Kardashians on an SAT test, but they’d probably kick your ass in a cross-promo competition on Twitter.
Like them or not, the Kardashians are an amazing marketing machine and assuming that there’s nothing you can learn from them is limiting your knowledge of your target audience.
6. PARTING THOUGHTS / SWEEPING STATEMENTS / PROPHETIC VISIONS?
Well, obviously I’m incredibly enthusiastic about the opportunity to help out more of the 500 portfolio.
If you’d like me to be prophetic and make sweeping statements, here’s one that is fun: The narrative and backlash against Google Glass is incredibly similar to the backlash against the first cellular phones.
The core innovation of the first cell phone was that you could be reached and communicate no matter where you were. For Google Glass, the innovation is a HUD. In each case, only a few thousand units were sold, they were incredibly expensive and they were dismissed as ‘toys for rich assholes.’
So many people are giddy with glee that Google Glass was not a commercial hit, and I’m sure their parents were just as giddy when the DynaTAC 8000X only sold a few thousand units. But Google Glass was an important stepping stone for the HUD, just like the DynaTAC was an important stepping stone for mobile communication.
In both cases, the form factor wasn’t right just yet. And in both cases, something that seems like it’s just for rich assholes will become a critical tool to improving our lives in the years that follow.
Granted, the form factor may need to be that it has to look like regular glasses, or maybe it’s contact lenses. But in the near future I will have a HUD that warns me when I enter a room that the CO levels are rising, can tell me that a floor is slippery before I walk onto it, can record someone that demands my wallet and can tell me more about everything in this world just by me looking at it.
The HUD is coming, it will be affordable and it will provide life changing data in real time to those that have it. And the luddites that rallied against Google Glass will eventually have HUDs and find some other new thing to whine about.
HUGE THANKS TO BLAKE, whom you should follow on Twitter immediately.