BUSINESS MAVERICK 168
Q&A with Dan Herman, chief digital officer at Joe Public United
Joe Public United is now one of the country’s leading brand and communications groups. It is 60% black-owned making it one of the largest majority black-owned independent agencies in the country. Dan Herman, an industry veteran, was recently appointed chief digital officer for the group, and answers questions here on the advertising industry, Covid-19 - and himself.
First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
Where do you find your news?
Twitter is my primary news platform. I use tweetdeck to view dedicated lists with accounts that curate my news experience based on my interests. I have a massive interest in politics. I prefer Daily Maverick, Politico, the Hill, Salon, BBC and the Guardian.
Marketing and leadership author, Seth Godin has been quoted as saying: “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.” – your view?
Storytelling is a critical ingredient for every brand – however, brand stories can’t just be told, they also need to be experienced. The days of persuading people to buy into your brand and product via advertising alone are long gone – In 2021, brands that focus on creating memorable experiences for customers are the ones that are doing best at communicating their brand story.
What do you most enjoy about digital marketing?
As a digital marketer, you have to be comfortable with being a bit of a mad scientist. There is always an innovation to bring to the table, something that can set you apart from the competitors, something new to test or experiment. Being a great digital marketer requires the bravery to try something new and the courage to learn from failure. There is no better feeling than when your crazy digital marketing idea pays off!
Describe your average workday
It generally starts with a solid breakfast and cup of coffee. I prepare my to-do list, and then enter the virtual office, reading and answering e-mails, chatting with colleagues on MS teams and engaging in meetings. I focus on ensuring that key projects are moving along nicely. I try to have as many casual conversations as I can every day. It’s so important to build good personal rapport with colleagues. In this difficult period, water cooler chatter has never been more vital to maintaining positive morale.
My favourite business/marketing books are “Chief Customer Officer” by Jeanne Bliss, “The Art of the Pitch” by Peter Coughter, “The Trusted Advisor” By David Maister & Robert Galford, “The Internet is not the Answer” by Andrew Keen and “MindF*ck” by Christopher Wylie.
My favourite fiction– “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac, “American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis, “World War Z” by Max Brooks, “The Beach” by Alex Garland and “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt.
Which campaigns (not yours) have made the biggest impact on you?
I strongly believe that digital marketing in the context of political campaigns set the bar for the tactics of persuasion that brands then follow on from. The Brexit Referendum, the 2008, 2016 and 2020 US elections, the Bell Pottinger drama – the digital marketing tactics leveraged within these divisive campaigns and their effectiveness at driving a consumer action (for good or bad), have shaped my perspective on the power of digital marketing, and how crucial it is to wield that power with responsibility and integrity.
Lessons Covid-19 taught the industry?
Covid-19 taught the industry that brands have to go beyond just communicating their value to consumers – they have to deeply consider the needs of their customers, and deliver tangible innovations and value offerings that help and support them through their challenging periods.
What keeps you awake at night?
I am really concerned by the dangerous impact of misinformation in the digital sphere, a trend that has exploded over the last year. I am horrified by how much of this type of content exists, the vast numbers of people being influenced by it, and it’s catastrophic impact. Misinformation is thriving on platforms where the majority of brands spend large amounts of money. Brands and advertising agencies need to do more to hold big tech companies accountable for enabling misinformation on their platforms, and need to act with high degrees of responsibility and integrity to avoid contributing to this dangerous environment.
What do you do to de-stress?
I’m adapting to being a new dad so life is quite intense. When I’m in a normal routine, I exercise, meditate, play soccer, play guitar and sing in choir.
What brings you joy?
Nothing brings me more joy than spending time with my precious family – my wife, Claudine, and our 10-week-old son, Shiloh.
What drives you nuts?
In this world of virtual offices, nothing is more annoying than meetings for the sake of meetings. My advice to colleagues – work hard to avoid unnecessary meetings.
Describe your media consumption – what do you listen to (podcasts, music, etc)
I’m an avid podcast listener and at the moment my favourites are: Catfish, Hardcore History, Making Sense with Dan Carlin, Six Pixels of Separation, the /Filmcast and the HBR ideacast. My all-time best series are: The Wire, What we do in the Shadows, Game of Thrones and Handmaid’s tale. I’m a bit of a movie buff so I enjoy watching YouTube videos on channels that deal with films – the one I’m currently a bit obsessed with is called “Kill Count” – which basically summarises horror movies. I’m also going through a bit of a Kaiju phase at the moment, so watching a lot of YouTube videos about the history of Godzilla. My guilty pleasure is professional wrestling – I’m a massive WWE fan! DM168
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