Paweł Tkaczyk Interview

February 2nd 2015

Introduction

If you don’t know who Paweł Tkaczyk is, then read this The depth of thought and knowledge is remarkable. For anyone who wonders what it takes to do well in life, it is impressive that it took Paweł less than 5 hours to send me his answers. I’m really impressed. read on….

You are well known in the world of social media and marketing in Poland. How would you introduce yourself to foreign readers who don’t know anything about  you?  

I’d say that my name is Paweł and I make my living by telling stories. Sometimes I tell them in front of a crowd, last year it was as large as 3,000 people during the Infoshare conference in Gdańsk. I do a lot of public speaking. Sometimes I write my stories — I wrote two books, third one is on its way. The first book, „Zakamarki marki” won the Marketing Book of the Year award, the second one, „Grywalizacja” was one of the first books on gamification (first one in Poland), and it became an instant bestseller, too. But most of the time I help my customers tell their stories. I own a branding company and I believe that a strong brand is a story well told. The market is full of people who have great ideas, but have trouble conveying their stories to the greater public. This is where I come in.
When did you first get interested in branding, markering social media  and why –  what was that attracted you, and how did you set about becoming an expert ?
I started my company in 2000 with the idea of creating systems of visual identity for brands. Back then it was an innovative idea, there were like five companies doing something similar in Poland. Then, after a couple of years all the advertising agencies started offering corporate identity designs, we had to move forward. I asked myself: what is the thing that is needed before you even think of corporate identity? Communication strategy for brands was the natural direction, I also had a knack for it, my MBA was in marketing strategy. Social media came along as I decided — boldly, looking from today’s perspective — to not advertise in a traditional manner, but instead to brand myself as expert using only online channels, blog and emerging social media platforms. It worked…
When did you decide to get into Podcasting and why? Mala Wielka Firma   is one of rather few high quality Polish language business podcasts. When will Polish language podcasting  become more significant?
I always liked uncommon promotion ideas. My parents owned a publishing house so I grew up among books, authors and book promotions. When my friend, Marek Jankowski, wrote his first book (entitled „Mała Wielka Firma” – Little Big Company) he came to me for promotion ideas. We always liked discussing ideas and podcasting was becoming a thing in the US, so we said what the heck, let’s try this. It was a great promotion tool for the book and we got a small number of fans who convinced us to continue with this project even after the book was gone. Then came a radio station – Mała Wielka Firma became a weekly economic radio program and our audience grew. Right now, according to iTunes, it’s the most popular Polish in the economy category.
We observe the comeback of podcasting after a year or so of decline. People moved to YouTube but there are formats that are better consumed as audio-only. 30 minutes of talking head (that’s how we call our format) does not require video and it’s more convenient to listen on your daily commute or during workout. Polish language podcasting will never have the numbers that English language podcast get but it’s becoming a widely used tools for corporations to spread their message within. So, if you want to make money from sheer numbers, you should go for English. But if you want to position yourself as an expert and make money from your expertise, those thousands of core listeners in Polish are more than enough.
Who is who this section is about who you regard as really talented in the industry in Poland and abroad,
 Which internationally known experts do you regard as authorities?  Who you follow, subscribe to watch or listen to?  Which are your favourite  bloggers, podcasters, vloggers (Youtubers)? Which websites you go to for information and who do you regard as authorities in this area in Poland? 
I follow prof. Lessig, Brian Sollis, Guy Kawasaki, Mitch Joel, Gary Vaynerchuk — the regular social media gurus crowd. But my interests lie often outside just new media. I like reading Jane McGonigal and Gabe Zichermann for gamification, I listen to Marketing Over Coffee (with John Wall and Christopher Penn) and I Love Marketing (with Dean Jackson and Joe Polish) podcasts — for obvious reasons — but also The Lede (from Copyblogger). My work takes me sometimes deep into the human mind, so I like reading psychology and technology: Daniel Kahnemann, David Pogue, Dan Ariely… Prof. Alexander Bard writes about the information society, as well as Andrew Keen or Chris Anderson. I believe there is power in diversity so I try not to limit myself.
In Poland there is Natalia Hatalska who writes about the relationship of technology, society and the future. She started as an ambient media specialist but evolved into this imagination, inspiration expert. You should check her out. Artur Kurasiński is an enterpreneur who does interviews with all the shakers and movers of the tech world. He’s better than your regular journalist, because he knows the right questions to ask. Roman Łoziński and Krzysztof Sobieszek are both strategists and we meet during conferences, I love to hear what they have to say.
Are there any well known personalities who are better at selling themselves and promoting their reputation than are actually knowledgeable in their own right. In other words people who are famous and well known but not as talented as they are perceived to be (I will understand if you choose not to answer this question) 
I will answer your question but my answer may surprise you. If your goal is to sell yourself and you are good at it, I believe you are successful. Take Kim Kardashian — you can say she knows nothing and is just famous. But if this „knows nothing” earns her a handful millions of dollars a year, she knows the system, knows how to take advantage of it, who am I to say she knows nothing? I earn less within the same system… We may not value that knowledge or say it’s sheer luck, but still: we are no better. Jimmy Kimmel recently did a great prank during one of the organic food fairs in LA. He basically blended Skittles with water and sold it as an organic juice. And people bought in! Not only that, they praised the taste, the „organicness” of the juice and were willing to pay big bucks for it. So it’s not only the experts’ knowledge that is sometimes overrated. Our ability to rate this knowledge is much flawed as well.
 Equally are there experts who you regard as extremely talented who do not yet have the reputation they deserve super heroes? Who are the “Experts’ experts” and who are the experts for the general public?
I believe the key lies in the ability to… tell stories. If you are a physics genius but are understood only by a handful of physics nerds, you will not become famous. But if you take the same knowledge and package it in a great story, your chances of being successful are much bigger. This is exactly what authors like Malcolm Gladwell do — they find great stories in science and bring it to light. There’s this great guy, Sławek Łuczywek, he works as a global coordinator in Migam. This is a company that works on automatic translation of sign language into speech. They got a grant from sir Richard Branson (among others) to develop their technology. And Sławek is so good at what he’s doing because he’s deaf himself. Yet he lives in the „hearing world” or — should I say — between two worlds. He knows the matters of the deaf and can tell their stories to hearing folk. Talking to him is a great eye-opener. These are the hidden heroes I admire.
There are so many interactive agencies which have some level of skill, experience  and competence –  or at least more than their clients. If you want to make a quick assessment of whether an agency is any good, what do you look for, and what can a non specialist  do to qualify an interactive agency or consultant as being any good?
I look at the agency through the people they hire. Because it’s the people who come up with ideas, write strategies and so on. So, look at their top employees’ social media profiles. Are they interesting people? Do they have followers? Do they live their work? Agency can buy fans, people seldom do that. Also, see if you can come across some thought leadership — did they write some thought-provoking articles, spoke at conferences that were not just advertising gigs? If not, chances are you’ll hire craftsmen, mechanics not artists. And there’s nothing wrong with that if this is what you are looking for. But you should know in advance whether you want to hire an artist or a laborer.
If someone wants to get good at online marketing and acquire the skills that you have, what can do, apart from reading your blog and listening to your podcasts. 
Thanks for the plug, but there are many better than me 😉 There are — in my opinion — two ways you can acquire the skills. First, you have to learn the basics and be able to imitate the great ones. So, when you want to learn marketing, you read marketing books: Kotler, Godin, Aaker. You learn the rules. If you want to sell hammers, you put an ad here and there, the sales start. But then you need to learn to break the rules, bend them to your will. And this you find outside your core field. When we first started writing communication strategies, we took the core from marketing books, but then we added psychology, theatrology (yes, there is such science), improv techniques, game design, social sciences…
My company helps create strong brands. To do that, we had to realize that all the branding happens within customers’ heads. Brand is a mental construct. In order to influence that construct, we had to learn psychology. This led us to motivation, game design and many other fields. So my advice would be: never stop learning. The patterns will emerge eventually.
The different status of English compared to Polish on the internet leads to some interesting challenges for marketeers who want to be successful on line both in English and Polish. What advice do you have for on line Social Marketers who care about a) the Polish market alone, and b) those who want to do well internationally.  
It’s a great question, my goal for 2015 is to take my personal brand internationally, so I’m pretty well acquainted with the challenges you mention. On the internet, you can be important on the local market but at the same time be very insignificant as a global brand. It’s easier to go from global brand to local market, you just need to find local opinion leaders. For example if you wanted to talk technology in Poland, the best places are Antyweb and Spider’s Web portals. They are often ignition points of the technology discussions. When it comes to taking your local brand globally, the strategy is basically the same — you have to find the shakers and movers of the industry. The trick is, they often have the status of global celebrities and having them notice you may prove quite difficult.
As for differences between Poles and English-speaking nations, Poles are less open, they keep to their social circles more and tend to avoid formal organizations. We don’t have neighborhood book clubs, garage sales and tight local communities. Overcoming this may pose a problem when you want to use social circles to promote your product.
When you consider all the different skills and platform competencies that on line marketers need those days:  optimization, conversion,  landing pages, on line chat, SEO, Content, UX, analytics, design, Coding, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, Google Plus, Whatsapp, Snapchat,, Amazon, Ebay. Allegro….. the list is endless…    which are essential and which are ones that you can outsource  Which platforms are most important to be familiar with,
I’d say you can outsource any platform, because marketing is not about platforms. It’s about the user experience and knowing your customers. If you know your customers intimately, if you know what they’re passionate about and where they like to hang out, you can design an unforgettable experience using any tool. I’ll give you an example. There’s this e-shop that sells t-shirts in Poland, it’s called Koszulkowo. It’s a very specialized shop, they address older geeks, the generation before Millenials, the people who used to play games on their Commodore 64 and watch Star Wars. Last year they had a customer glorifying their service in a Facebook post because he was able to… guess the promo code for 100% discount. He just used the most common cheat code from old games (IDDQD – if you don’t know what it is, google it). This kind of intimate knowledge of your customers is not platform-dependent but it’s an unforgettable experience. And this is the skill I suggest people learn if they want to do great marketing.
What are your main observations about trends in old school marketing – trade fairs, events,print media , TV Ads, bill boards,  Does it have a future at all,? what opportunities and challenges do you expect to see as traditional old school  ways of reaching clients die out.
There’s longer story here to be told. Markets are changing but at the same time they’re going full circle. To understand the changes we need to divide the marketing into three parts. The first one is called the age of the marketplace. Products were made and sold by craftsmen, markets were local and we fulfilled our needs if we could afford it. Then came the factories — the price of everything went down radically, we could afford things our ancestors could not. So we started buying just because we could. „Build it and they will come” we call it. It’s also the dawn of mass media and the great divide between the publishers and consumers of stories. Most of the marketing knowledge we use today was conceived during that period. 4P of marketing, Unique Selling Proposition and so on. But then two things happened at once. We had so many things we stopped buying just because we could. We started paying attention to quality again. In 2015 we value products that are the opposite of factory-made: hand crafted, limited editions, organic, not industrial. The other thing that happened is the dawn of the internet: the tool that allowed us to go back to two-way communication but on a global scale. The media is no longer served to the weak audience, the amount of information flowing around is overwhelming and we started to value our attention more than anything else.
We are observing the transition between the Millenials (who are tech-savvy, multicultural, share-all) and Gen Z (who are judicious about what they share, they communicate more with images than words, value offline more). Their attention is even more precious than that of the previous generations. If you try to buy it cheap, you will fail. Ironically, traditional paper is more attention-grabbing for them than a shiny Facebook campaign. The sooner we realize that, the better marketers we’ll become.
The trend to mobile appears unstoppable and presents many challenges to those who want to reach their target audiences via smart phones and tablets.  Who are the winners and losers in this and why?   
I’m giving a talk at a mobile conference next week and I have a full presentation devoted to answering this very question. Long story short: for the Millenials the mobile screen is a browsing medium, they still prefer to finish their shopping on their computers. So you should allow them to do just that. Amazon has a brilliant idea: whenever you see something interesting on your mobile device, just add hashtag #AmazonBasket to it and – with proper configuration – the product will land in your basket, waiting for you to sit in front of your computer to finish shopping. Optimizing your e-commerce for mobile transactions is — for now — a less effective strategy than providing a seamless transition between mobile and computer.
Then there are Gen Z-ers who are often „mobile only”. The losers in the battle for this generation may be… the banks. If any of the efforts to develop a money-transferng service without the need of a bank succeeds, they will adopt it quickly. Many are trying, with Snapchat’s Snapcash as a poster project. Also, there are over 160 cryptocurrencies in circulation at the time I write this. None of them backed by a bank. They will have their impact as well.
What on line marketing trends are going to have the biggest impact in B2B marketing in the next 12-18 months. 
If I was to point out one trend that interests me, it would be crowdfunding. It’s a major disruptor in many areas, but I see it as a way for the companies to market-test their ideas without the need to build a prototype of any kind. Crowdfunding gives you near-instant access to significant resources without the hassle of the banks but with responsibility directly towards your customers. Many companies are building great stuff that they would have great difficulty building any other way.
If an entrepreneur  has 50-100K to spend on on line marketing is it better to hire a young person with passion and let them get on with it, as best they can,  or give the budget to an agency, or for the entrepreneur to learn the skills themselves and deploy the money him or her self?
Paid amplification – have you heard of this term? It’s going to be a trend in 2015 online marketing and it’s partly an answer to your question. Paid amplification means going viral by having it both ways: doing something crazy, extraordinary that people just want to share, but at the same time just buy the traffic in an old-fashioned way to make sure your viral doesn’t go unnoticed. Volvo Trucks did that with their Van Damme movie. So if I had 50-100K to spend on online marketing, I would hire a young person to go with his or her guts and make epic stuff, but at the same time I’d hire an agency to make sure this epic stuff does not go unnoticed.
If a non specialist reader or listener realises that on line marketing is important but doesn’t know where to start what are the best first things that he or she can do to make sure that the current efforts they are making are OK
I would recommend changing the way of thinking. First, establish a good measurement unit for your efforts. In case of online marketing I use the unit I call „eyeball-hours”. Think of it this way: if I am to spend an hour creating a content, where I should put it next for it to get as many eyeballs as possible? When you start thinking this way, marketing becomes easy. You decide that this article you just wrote should not go on your blog (because it gets like 1000 hits a month), but you should spend extra time trying to sell it to other blog that gets 1,000,000 hits a month. So, if your eyeballs-hours are going up, you’re doing a good job.
What is the best way to get a really objective SEO on line marketing  audit –  that is not designed to turn into a contract for the agency taking on the audit task. Who do you recommend for audits when the client doesn’t have much money, or should they do the audit themselves ?
SEO is not really my thing so let’s skip this question 🙂
Would you rather have a creative smart marketing person with a small budget, or a big budget and give it to a recommended  agency.  
This is a wrong comparison. If I have a small budget, I can only hire a smart person. But if I have a big budget, the choice is different: I can either hire a big agency or I can hire a hundred smart people with smaller budgets. And this is the option I would choose.
Do you believe that new technologies, iBeacons, NFC and other location technologies. Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Wearables  are going to become significant in Poland any time soon.  
No, Poland is a difficult market in this regard. Here’s why: this is a country of 40 million people. Too big to rapidly deploy some new technology, yet too small for large-scale experimenting. If you want high-speed internet nationwide, you install it in Iceland with its half-a-million population, if you want to scale your SaaS, you go to USA or China. When new iPhones are deployed worldwide, we are in the second or third wave of countries. And this is how it’s going to stay.
If a company has a web site  and is spending nothing on marketing it. and they want to  a) increase traffic, and b) increase conversion or capture of the contact details of visitors, what are the most important things they should devote resources to:
– website design to make it easy to navigate, understand
– Content creation, written, video, audio, 
– conversion optimization
– pay per click traffic, from adwords, Facebook, youtube, Twitter, 
– viral marketing (posting link bate on Social media groups
– on line activities like Webinars
and where are the best places to find people who can do  the above  tasks well.
Man, you sure know how to ask complex questions 😉 My answer is of course „it depends”. But the way of my thinking would revolve around the concept of 4C – it’s something that replaced 4Ps of marketing around 1990. Instead of Product we think in terms of Customer Value, Place is replaced by Convenience, Price should be considered as Cost and one-way Promotion is now two-way Conversation. I would first go with customer value: what is the reason anyone would visit their website. If such reason exists, how can we make this visit as convenient as possible (so: website design, among others). Convenience also means thinking about costs for the customers. Not only in terms of money. Cost can be viewed as comprising of three currencies: money, time and nerves. And all of them are interchangeable: the consumer is willing to put time and/or money to save nerves, some of us have more time and use it to save money and so on. But the perfect recipe is different for different industries so I won’t tell you.
There is a lot of talk of real and on line marketing integration.  What are the best  examples you have come across in Poland?
JWT Lemon Sky did a great stunt for Tymbark, producer of juice drinks. Tymbark has always been a choice for a younger generation. And they were thinking, how they could engage young people who are „digital natives” with a traditional product. They came up with an idea called „gramofun”. There’s an app that runs on your telephone. If you put a Tymbark bottle on top of it, it produces a stunning light effects that are in sync with the music that is playing on your device. And you can sync the effect with your friends’ devices to create huge disco-like performances using Tymbark bottles and your phones. I love the idea. And outside Poland there’s „Pay Per Laugh” project done by McCann for one of the Barcelona’s comedy theaters. It’s a facial recognition app that is installed on a tablet strapped in front of you when you watch a comedy show. The app recognizes when you’re laughing and… calculates the ticket price based on the amount of laughs you had. This is the technology blend I would like to see more.
What do you think of the trends in Marketing Automation. The fact that Rafał Brzoska –  one of Poland’s most successful businessman invested in  Sales Manago suggest it has a bright future.
I believe in the consumer’s inbox as the next social media platform. Because social media is no longer just about public sharing, it’s about communication. In Q4 2014 four of the largest social media networks across the world had around 2 billion users. In the same quarter four of the largest instant messaging platforms were reaching the same number – and their growth rate was much more rapid. Snapchat is the fastest growing social app in the US. But many of us feel we don’t need another app for one-on-one communication. We still have e-mail that is evolving but is one of the most intimate places on our screens. Marketers who know how to use it will gain in 2015. And marketing automation, big data help in personalizing the message. Which is very important in one-on-one communication.
If you career and life works out exactly as you want, what will you be doing in 5-10 years from now?
I will have finished my fifth or seventh book (I plan to write one every two or three years), all of my previous books will have become international bestsellers, I’ll be on my way to the next big conference where I will be speaking about… Well, this is the hard part. I love what I do — sharing knowledge, speaking publicly, building things… But I don’t limit myself to just single one field of study. Marketing led me to branding, then to gamification. My third book is on storytelling and it’s already full of cognitive psychology. I know roughly what my fourth book will be about, but fifth? No idea. I’m sure the discovery process will be a great journey.
If is there anything I  haven’t asked  that you would like to tell us that you think is important, please let readers know. Nope, this was a pretty extensive interview. It also helped me shape a few thoughts for the mobile conference, thank you
for that. And I’ll be seeing you around.

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One comment on “Paweł Tkaczyk Interview

  1. Thank you Paul Tkaczyk and Richard Lucas for a great and inspiring interview. A lot of interesting knowledge.