Oh, Mama! GoDaddy’s Bienert Eyes ‘Full-Frontal Marketing’

GoDaddy’s message, and business, has evolved from the days of provocative Super Bowl ads. GoDaddy CMO Phil Bienert describes the company’s global strategy and how it adapts its new marketing platform in international markets.

Oh, Mama! GoDaddy’s Bienert Eyes ‘Full-Frontal Marketing’

GoDaddy first made a splash in 2005 with its provocative Super Bowl ads, earning the web domain registrar both brand awareness and criticism. But while the company’s message, and business, has evolved in the decade since, it continues to make news, this year for passing on the Super Bowl, switching to a new global ad agency, and launching a new marketing platform, “Go You.”

CMO.com spoke to GoDaddy chief marketing officer Phil Bienert about the company’s global strategy, interoffice turf wars, and the place of data in “full-frontal marketing.”

CMO.com: GoDaddy changed agencies last year and then sat out the Super Bowl in 2016. Is there a new strategy at play?

Bienert: It’s not the flip of a switch. What you’re seeing over the last year is us being able to start to take advantage of a lot of work we’ve been doing over the last three years.

One of the things we started to work on, that we recognized as an opportunity for us, is that what we do here at GoDaddy is serve small business around the world. These mom-and-pop businesses are the lifeblood of the global economy.

We are a global business. We are in 53 markets around the world. We realized a couple of years ago we had an opportunity to take advantage of 17 years of working with these customers, knowing them better than pretty much any company on the planet, and having the data about these customers and what makes then successful. That was the nugget that we stared working on a couple of years ago.

We have an opportunity to be a much more data-driven marketer, one that uses data and technology and personalization to be more efficient and effective to get our message out here with customers. What you’ve seen over the last year is us being able to operationalize that.

We realized this year we’re finally at the point where we can accomplish the audience reach of a Super Bowl but done in a more efficient and personalized way by hitting that audience with a digital campaign. We sat out the Super Bowl with no TV spot, but during the Super Bowl we ran an all-digital campaign that is proving out that all this work we’ve done—building the digital platform and interweaving our personalization into it—could work. At a fraction of the cost of a traditional Super Bowl ad, we were able to get the same type of reach with more frequency—because it’s more than one spot—and drive business results that are at the same scale than we would have gotten doing a 30-second spot in the Super Bowl.

CMO.com: Is this GoDaddy’s new normal?

Bienert: That’s a proof point of where we’re going with marketing at GoDaddy. Yes, we’re still going to be doing mass media. We’ll still be doing TV, but doing it with a view toward full-frontal marketing, with the idea of getting people to engage with us in a digital platform. So we can go from a monologue, or a bullhorn-type of approach to marketing, to one where we’re much more personalized, customized, and are able to have a dialogue with the customer through the whole purchase funnel—ultimately to purchase.

That gets to the agency decision. We were working with a lot of great partners around the world, but we realized we had an opportunity to pull all this together and work with a partner that would help us realize this full-funnel messaging approach on a global basis at scale.

We ended up going with TBWA/Chiat/Day. One of the key reasons was their data-driven approach to how you look at messaging: How you build functionality and capability within the agency, to have not one campaign going at a time, but thousands or tens of thousands at any one time around the world, iterating using technology so that we’re getting the right message to the right customer at the right time?

CMO.com: GoDaddy is a well-established brand in the U.S., but it’s expanding overseas. How is your execution different in those markets where you’re a challenger?

Bienert: Domestically we have 80%-plus brand awareness. We’re a household name, and our products are fairly well-known and associated with our brand. But we’re entering a lot of these international markets. We’re using the same playbook, but the way we ultimately execute at markets may be slightly different.

What we have built with a combination of agency resources and in-house expertise and technology is something that allows us to go into just about any market in the world, still within the same campaign framework that we rolled out, which is this “Go You” campaign, and execute it slightly differently.

In the U.S., the “Go You” campaign is on-message. The fact that we understand these small businesses better than anyone in the world is the core message. In the U.S. it is executed with some humor because people have gotten used to seeing it.

In the international markets, when you look at the advertising that resonates, you have to be less about humor and more about the foundations message. It’s still the same core message: Starting a small business is hard, and when these small businesses need help to be successful, they are able to turn to GoDaddy.

It’s really about executing that message through the full funnel, primarily trying to take advantage of digital touch points in these markets so that we can begin to build a dialogue with those customers and build a brand message around, “We are for small businesses. We are here to help. We have the tools and expertise to help you when you need it.”

CMO.com: It’s a departure from your campaigns featuring models and your sponsorship of Danica Patrick. Are you making more of an effort to target women small-business owners?

Bienert: Three years ago we started changing that advertising approach. If you think about the Super Bowl ads we did three years ago, one featured a real customer named Gwen who quit her job live on air during the Super Bowl to pursue her dream of starting her own small business.

Gwen is the type of customer that we have been focusing on in our advertising the last couple of years. Fifty-eight percent of small businesses in the United States are owned by women, so it was logical for us to make those changes in our TV advertising to be more resonant and relevant with the customers we are servicing every day.

The change in moving away from our NASCAR sponsorship, and our sponsorship of Danica Patrick was similar type of thing. Danica was a great partner, and she was a great part of getting our brand out there, get the brand awareness that we enjoy today. But if you look where we have been domestically and where we are trying to grow brand awareness, which is international, it just made sense for us to make that shift.

CMO.com: As a technology company, you have lots of data available. How do you leverage it?

Bienert: We’re able to understand the things that make a small business successful or unsuccessful and use that data to advise our customers about what they need to do next to continue to grow their digital identity. Those data platforms that we built to help our customers be successful are an obvious opportunity to use in marketing.

A lot of what we’ve been doing with those platforms has been first primarily focused on the customer journey of existing customers, as they acquire our products, use our products, and, ideally, are successful with our products. But that same information has informed us as we move up the funnel prepurchase to understand the patterns of behaviors as a small business is deciding what it needs to do.

CMO.com: You became CMO when your predecessor, Barb Rechterman, became chief customer officer, but many CMOs argue they should be the voice of the customer. How do you work that out?

Bienert: It’s actually easy when you have an entire organization that wants to be the voice of the customer. This is a company that from day one has been incredibly focused on the success of small businesses.

In our company, everybody feels ownership of the customer success. Barb and I work together. Barb and I are joined at the hip. Barb is focused on the success of customers, once we get someone to say, “I want to be a GoDaddy customer.” Other folks in marketing, on my team, are focused on, not [just] life cycle, but also how do we get people to understand what GoDaddy does, bring them into the company, and make them successful?

There should never be a line of demarcation: “This is you, this is me.” We don’t look at it that way. We really don’t have that type of turf war here.