Partner Spotlight: An Interview with Parry Malm, Co-Founder and CEO of Phrasee

We sat down with Parry Malm, Co-Founder and CEO of Phrasee to hear his thoughts about the digital marketing landscape.

How does Phrasee help digital marketers stay innovative?

Phrasee is artificial intelligence that generates and tests high-performing marketing language at scale for email subject lines, Facebook ads, and push notifications. It helps marketers remain innovative in two distinct ways:

1.    It tracks the performance of every campaign it sends in real time, allowing it to identify what language is working on a brand’s unique audience and what language isn’t. Modern consumers can be very fickle, and what engages them today may well fall completely flat tomorrow. By continually tracking performance and optimizing marketing for the insights that tracking has to offer, Phrasee is able to ensure that any brand’s marketing language keeps up with the trends shaping consumer engagement behavior.

2.    Phrasee frees up human marketers from the mundane, repetitive tasks modern digital marketing is rife with. This enables human marketers up to do what humans are good at; focusing their energy on the creative side of marketing. With more time and space for creative problem solving and experimentation, innovation is an inevitable side effect.  

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges that digital marketers face?

I’ve said many times that the biggest issue holding digital marketing back is short-termism. Between the endless quest for clicks and the pressure to meet short-sighted KPIs, we’ve created a perfect storm for bad marketing. There are plenty of dubious tactics a brand or marketer can employ to gain a brief uplift in engagement, like dishonest or deceptive marketing language. The thing is, modern audiences are quick to catch on, so the uplift never lasts. It’s all quite silly, really.

Worse yet is the damage you can cause to your brand by behaving this way. It’s much more important to look at the big picture and protect your brand’s reputation and value, because that’s what really matters for marketing success in the long run.   

What are the biggest trends happening in your field right now?

The AI field is evolving so rapidly these days that it can be hard to keep up. Phrasee is AI focused on language, so we try to keep apprised on developments in Natural Language Generation (NLG) tech, and there are some really exciting things happening there.

Google demoed the most recent iteration of Duplex last year, and it’ll be really interesting to see how technologies like this evolve (and how quickly they are adopted by consumers) in the next year or so.

As the CEO at Phrasee, what are the biggest client challenges you’ve seen recently? How is Phrasee working with clients to help overcome these challenges?

The biggest issue for any brand looking to adopt AI into its marketing strategy revolves around the ethical implications of turning a technology this powerful loose on its customers.  

There is a lot of fear in the air at the moment about AI technology, some founded and some not so much. People want assurances that technologies like these will be used ethically, and that the interests of the folks they are being used on are protected. We think that’s perfectly sensible, and we only work with brands who think so too.  

That’s why we’ve recently gone public with our “AI Ethics Policy” it outlines our unwavering commitment to making sure that our tech doesn’t target vulnerable populations or exploit negative human emotions, as we believe there is a very real possibility that tech similar to ours could be used to do so.    

What do you think are the most important digital marketing metrics that every brand should track?

If there is a more important metric than return on investment (ROI), I haven’t seen it yet. The goal of every ad or marketing campaign should ultimately be about making your brand more money (if it isn’t you may be doing it wrong!), that’s why I focus on the metrics that impact the bottom line like Cost Per Lead (CPL), average revenue per email sent (ARPES), and Customer Lifetime Value (CPL).

Again, I think the strategy of putting too much stock into short-term metrics at the expense of long-term marketing success is fundamentally flawed. Marketing has always been about brand-building and consumer relationships and focused on generating actual sales, so focusing on the metrics that reflect these values makes the most sense.   

Why is it so important for copy and design to work together in marketing communications?

Effective design draws the consumer in and holds their attention, but effective copy is what closes the deal. I’ve always believed that both are important, and that focusing all your energy on one at the expense of the other is a fool’s errand.

How can AI help digital marketers elevate their customer experiences?

Today’s marketing Artificial intelligence is all about gleaning useful insights from massive amounts of data. If you believe that consumer data can help you understand what your customers want and how to reach them more effectively (which you should), AI is the most effective tool ever developed for doing so.  

In your opinion, which brands are creating the best customer experiences right now? Any recent examples?

Personally, I’m a huge fan of what eBay is doing. They’ve got a clear vision, and are executing that vision across many channels. Also, they also believe in non-digital marketing – things like radio and outdoor – channels that can be incredibly effective but are often ignored in favor of digital. 

Do you have any recommended best practices to help marketers level-up their customer experiences?

Absolutely, and it’s this: great customer experiences can exist only when brands and marketers truly respect the consumers they are trying to engage. Offering a great product at a reasonable price is (and always will be) extremely important, but if you forget to put the needs of the customer first and bombard them with boring, spammy marketing they’ll disengage and you’ll lose them to a competitor sooner or later.

How can marketers stay ahead of their competitors in 2019?

By taking risks! Doing the same old thing over and over just doesn’t cut it anymore. The game is changing, and trying out new strategies and new technologies has become an essential component of any successful marketing strategy.

The brands that own the future will be the ones with the foresight to adopt technologies like artificial intelligence while their competitors are still resting on their “wait and see” laurels.   

What are the best digital signals to monitor when trying to access the “Voice of the Customer”, and how is that data best leveraged to personalize a unique interaction with each customer?

Well, I can’t really answer this question because I’m not sure I agree with its premise.  

See, I’m not sure you should personalize to attempt a unique interaction with each customer. This sounds better in principle than it is in practice. Instead, what I think you should do is, instead of striving for personalization, strive to avoid irrelevance. Individuals exist in such a unique and unpredictable context, you’re going to get personalization wrong a bunch of the time and look silly. But, an achievable goal – and one that avoids reputational risks – is to focus on never being irrelevant.  

What are the three of the least implemented best practices that you consistently recommend when engaging with a new client?

1.    Just because you have access data doesn’t mean you have to use it.  

2.    Don’t focus on quick-n-dirty at the expense of long and durable.

3.    Don’t let myopic tactics like fear, guilt and anxiety drive your messaging.

In a post-GDPR marketplace, what recommendations do you suggest for going beyond base compliance not only in Europe but on a global reach?

I’ve always believed that engaging in dubious practices is a poor way to market anything. If you’re making it difficult for consumers to opt-out of your mailing list, sending marketing messages to people who don’t want them, or tricking people into seeing your marketing, all you’re doing is wasting your time and annoying people who might actually want to buy something from you in the future.

Best practice has always been to market ethically and respect the consumer enough to be honest with them. Sadly, some marketers lost sight of this along the way and legislation like GDPR became necessary. For those of us who were marketing ethically and in good faith already, GDPR had very little impact.  

Don’t try to trick people, be honest with them, and consider the impact what you are doing will have on their lives. Come to think of it, I think I knew everything I needed to know to market ethically and avoid breaking laws like GDPR before I was 5!