CMO Chats with Mark Soares, CMO and Founder of Blokhaus

Ortus Chats

MARK SOARES

Founder and CMO | Blokhaus

Mark Soares, Blokhaus’s Founder and CMO talks to The Ortus Club’s Marcella Tortora about getting ahead of the highly-competitive landscape, sustainability and the future of marketing, and the importance of execution for every campaign.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • The role of the CMO to strategically curate and set the direction of a brand
  • Execution as a powerful tool in getting ahead of the marketing industry
  • Sustainability and future of tech marketing
  • Conversions and marketing objectives as the main elements of a campaign’s success

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What does your company do?

Blokhaus is a new type of agency. We do marketing services for emerging tech companies, and particularly, on decentralised and blockchain applications and platforms. We support global ecosystems that are carving a new path in the world of Web3 and decentralised systems.

 

As the CMO in your company, what is your main marketing focus currently?

My focus is usually helping a very large number of startups that have succeeded in creating great technology in helping them understand what marketing is, and how to differentiate their brand. There’s a huge amount of technical knowledge in immersion tech startups, but there is often a gap in terms of understanding how to reach a certain target user, what to communicate as a brand, and how to resonate with them.

My day is typically filled with guiding from a strategic standpoint and helping different startups and different brands elevate above the competition and communicate better with their users.

Can you tell me about a particularly innovative or successful marketing campaign your team has recently executed?

We execute a tremendous amount of parallel initiatives, and probably the most successful or most innovative one was taking what is a technical product and helping it connect to a very creative audience. In order to do that, we coordinated on behalf of the clients, which represented a blockchain called ‘Tezos’.

We coordinated a set of initiatives that helped revitalise the brands and connect with a huge community of artists. This was done through campaigns. We had social campaigns, advertising, content creation, capturing interviews with artists and creating really compelling content, also hosting thought leadership panels and broadcasting them to millions of viewers.

This also circulated around major events like Art Basel, where we coordinated, produced, and established a presence. This was global- in Switzerland, France, Miami, Florida, and in Hong Kong. This was extremely successful in revitalising the brand. But also, onboarding a lot of creators to the platform- both artists and also collectors. There was a milestone for the brand, that had been seen mostly as a more tech focused and technical kind of brand in the financial sector, [is] now widely acclaimed as a quote unquote “The Art Chain”. That was quite successful from our side.

What are your biggest marketing challenges at the moment?

When you’re doing decentralised marketing there’s a lot of challenges that come up and the category that we serve is very different from traditional marketing. I should qualify that this might not be a challenge that many would face. But the biggest challenge we have is educating and onboarding a lot of different leaders in the category for better understanding of marketing. In a decentralised ecosystem and in this category, there’s a lot of technology that emerges globally, almost instantaneously, and then it grows really rapidly.

Look at blockchain, for example, there’s thousands of different projects and blockchains that are competing with each other. This is very noisy, and what that means is, you have to move incredibly fast. The teams that are building these technologies, they do move very fast, but they also are saturated. It’s very difficult to get the word out when you have so much saturation in the category.

There is definitely a learning curve for marketing within the category. Onboarding leadership and explaining to them how to reach a target user, set objectives, and create initiatives that will help meet those objectives is by far the collective challenge that every marketer in this place says.

There aren’t many marketers in the category of blockchain. In part because it’s quite technical, and it’s quite difficult to communicate from a technical standpoint, but also from a user benefit standpoint. That’s something that we do very well and very often. But yeah, that’s a challenge.

How does your company stay ahead of its competitors in terms of marketing?

Our biggest differentiator is execution. There’s a lot of ideas in every category. There’s a lot of ideas, but execution is priceless and quite difficult to achieve- especially at the pace that the category moves.

We stay ahead of the competition because of the knowledge we have in doing the work we’ve done. We’ve absorbed and learned so much from the technical teams that we were responsible for when writing a lot of the technical information on major blockchain websites and platforms. Therefore, we’ve been able to leverage that when communicating the tech. That’s probably the most difficult thing to do, at least in the category that we’re in. It’s really to truly understand the product and understand the user in order to communicate with them effectively. That’s something that sets us apart as an agency.

Then we can leverage that knowledge and execute very rapidly, because we know how to connect with a communities that are building these products, how to connect with with the funds and the teams are building these products, and then help them elevate their brands and create initiatives that helped them reach new users that they’re that they’re after. That’s how we stay a little bit ahead of the competition- although it is competitive.

What does the future of marketing look like?

As we do marketing in this emerging tech category, we have a different view of how users may interact with brands. Because we’re helping build web 3, as some refer to it, using decentralised blockchain technology, our perspective is that decentralised tech can help brands connect with users in new ways that were previously not possible.

That starts with the concept of ownership, because blockchain enabled digital ownership of assets. What that means, using the example of NFTs, is that maybe instead of doing email marketing where a brand is sending an email to a 1 million users on an email list, maybe what that means is rewarding the 1 million people that follow them with an NFT. Then, they can leverage that NFT to gain access to other experiences or information.

The best way to characterise it, is, instead of unilateral or one direction communication, from the brand to the fan base, it becomes more of a dialogue. It’s less a monologue from the brand to the user and more to a dialogue kind of dynamic. That’s empowered through the concept of ownership, where the users themselves have ownership of certain assets that can unlock information or experiences and just make their engagement with the brand much richer.

How does your company integrate sustainability into its overall marketing strategy?

We deal a lot with sustainability and we’ve done campaigns that really help raise awareness. We were one of the teams that were really raising awareness for sustainability of blockchain in 2021. In fact, I’d say that was probably the core focus in 2021. It was really helping people understand that there are options with the more carbon intensive products out there- and we continuously do that. When we engage with energy efficient protocols and technologies, the way we do it, however, is less just packaging and talking about it, but actually using the technology.

If we believe it’s a better approach then use it, the technology itself. That’s really all you can do. you should consider it like a mindset rather than a campaign. I would advise others to also consider it. If they really believe in sustainability. Then to use the tech, use the products that are sustainable in your day-to-day, and not just rely on the communication, the outward communication of sustainability. That would be my main message there.

What is the role of the CMO in one word? Why?

I think the role of the CMO is to ‘curate’. You’re essentially curating a brand and setting the direction for the brand. It’s saying, “I know where we’re going, we’re going over there” because that’s where the target user for the brand is, and where we’re gonna speak to them.

A CMO is constantly sending direction and curating the brand to make sure that it’s communicated properly- globally as much as possible. Of course, within the constraints that the CMO may have. It’s constant vigilance to make sure the brand is properly conveyed to its users and to its sense.

“I think the role of the CMO is to ‘curate’. You’re essentially curating a brand and setting the direction for the brand. A CMO is constantly sending direction and curating the brand to make sure that it’s communicated properly- globally as much as possible.”

What career advice would you like to share with other marketing leaders?

My advice would be to not get bogged down too much in the theory and to really embrace the execution of these different initiatives. In my career, I’ve seen a lot of marketers, and they tend to fall into 2 camps.

One is pure theory or strategy, and the other is execution- but both are really needed. Rarely do I see a marketer that prides themselves in both sides, and kind of right in the middle, with the overlap of execution, theory, and strategy. That’s what every marketer should aspire to be. As strong of a strategist as an executor. Because ideas are, for lack of a better description, cheap but execution is priceless. A great idea without the execution is not gonna matter. I really feel like, that’s where a lot of marketers fall short and it takes practice exercising this muscle for executing these initiatives in order to pull these things off on behalf of clients, or on behalf of the brand itself.

The other bit of advice I would have for marketers, and it’s something that I’m very vigilant about, even personally, is to not fall for, what I like to refer to as the marketers fallacy. It’s when you’re working on behalf of a brand, it’s the brand that you have to spotlight.

If it’s a product or a brand or service, you have to focus entirely on it, whether it’s the client that you’re doing work for or you’re CMO at a brand- that’s your responsibility. That’s obvious but, the reason why I mentioned that is, sometimes, marketers, because they’re marketers, like to talk about the work they’ve done as marketers. That becomes a relative type of strategy, you could fall into that trap of creating a campaign that’s really innovative in the marketing sense but completely falls short of delivering on behalf of the brand or the clients.

In that sense, you’re not really serving the brand, or the client, if it is a client you’re serving. What you end up doing is serving yourself as a marketer. Your objective shouldn’t be to have other agencies or other CMOs look at you and say, “Boy, that was a really cool AD campaign. I wish I had come up with that”. Well, frankly, that doesn’t matter.

If it didn’t do the job, it doesn’t matter. If it didn’t convert and if it didn’t meet the objectives that were set out, then it doesn’t matter. It’s really just embellishing the marketer’s approach.

I really feel like marketers need to be vigilant because we have an instinct to polish what we communicate out and really market things, and tell stories. We should be careful not to do that, because that will detract from the overall quality of the work. That’s something that you always have to be vigilant about.

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