To Kristine (Vruno) Huson, marketing is all about proofs, outcomes and truths. At the end of the day, no one cares what your Toyota story is unless you have a very profound humanity story. She’s a Russian linguist and former human intelligence officer from the U.S. Army who knows how to find stories and insights valuable to her mission.
Her current mission? She works as a principal public relations and marketing consultant at H2H Communications & Marketing for nonprofit organizations like the Children’s Cancer Research Fund to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society of the Upper Midwest. She’s also on the board of directors and a fundraising consultant for the Newborn Foundation.
Kristine would tell all marketers that consumers have to have a reason to care about their brands.
Whether it is the hair raising, heart-wrenching experience of the viral Clouds by Zach Sobiech video she consulted on or the powerful testimonies she hears each and every day from the nonprofits she helps, she’s realized that emotional connection is crucial. No one cares unless advertising is profoundly – human.
Kristine is very excited about the future programmatic and marketing automation, especially when it applies to cause-based marketing and nonprofits. In fact, she is a major supporter of utilizing more programmatic to help give heartfelt causes wings.
PA.O: In your opinion, how is programmatic advertising changing the world?
Kristine Huson: It allows more efficiency in delivering targeted messaging, particularly for causes. There are subsets of motivation that donors come in for. Some come in just to simply help a cancer patient that they saw. Some might want to create change by research. Some might want to affect the whole process.
There are different spaces, like in any other business or organization, to join into a nonprofit. If we could deliver customized messages that are very helpful to people in these different spaces and deliver a steady stream of content to help them be informed and feel part of a greater cause, we could really make an impact. What we suffer from in cause-based marketing is more of a one-size-fits-all approach, and that’s not ultimately what people need. The more customized you can be in anything – donors and people involved – the better.
PA.O: Do you think it is harder or easier to be a marketer for the nonprofit realm?
Kristine Huson: It’s actually easier because people are not so hard on us, as marketers. They expect less customized content. There is a very deep-seated emotional connection people have with a cause that they don’t have with consumer products. We actually offer things that people can’t live without. We could be that much more powerful with tailored content and programmatic. We have an opportunity to really be helpful for people.
PA.O: It’s interesting that you referred to nonprofits as “must-haves.”
Kristine Huson: Congenial heart defects are the number one issue in newborns, and it’s not realized until the baby turns blue. If most hospitals had specialized equipment, children could be diagnosed and saved earlier on. The number one patient medevac population is newborns – tiny, little babies put on big planes and rushed to hospitals. This simple task of gaining access to equipment could save lives.
That is why audiences refer to nonprofits like the Newborn Foundation as something that they can’t live without. They provide services they need.
PA.O: How can nonprofits and marketers in general maintain or develop that emotional tug even while using programmatic advertising and marketing automation?
Kristine Huson: That’s what we do so well as nonprofits. Talk about the lifetime value! We have donors with 10- to 15-year relationships. That’s the level of connection nonprofits build – they leave people in their wills. Consumers don’t do that for Nabisco. Something marketers can learn from nonprofits is if you have that level of soul, heart and emotional connection, even in your automation, it is going to resonate on a much deeper level.
The first step to developing this human connection is serving up the resources that audiences need in the real context in which they need them. That’s where programmatic comes in.
For instance, I consult an adoption service, and they could just serve up a message saying you could make an adoption plan for your child right as a family is looking. Be helpful to people and let them know that these services exist. Automated marketing could be so helpful to help these individuals.
The second step – deliver the emotion. You can deliver emotion easily with one strong visual and one photo. You can use just a few simple words: “Do you need help?” It is pretty easy once you know your audience and what turns them on.
With video you can create a better story and better connect. It’s important to create touchpoints that are relationship-building and receptive to feedback. Consumers will let you know when you have overstepped. If you actually let the consumers tell you how to market, it makes it a lot easier.
PA.O: I know you have experience in advising viral video projects. What suggestions might you have for other marketers out there hoping to do the same?
Kristine Huson: I didn’t make the video, but I was the cornerstone of knowing it was a great story and promoting it. It was a story about a 17 year old with cancer, and I’m pretty sure many had the same reaction that I did.
The first step is having something that you have a strong psychological reaction to. My measure is whether the hair raises on the back of my neck or not. The content needs to make your heart pump or take your breath away. When I heard the essence of the story, I knew that was the story.
The problem with nonprofits is that we don’t have the budget to amplify. Once a week we have a hair-raising reaction to something we’ve heard or seen, but we don’t have the money or resources to really amplify the message across the Internet. For profits should really help nonprofits amplify; they can both definitely benefit from it. With consumer goods, they are much less likely to have that hair-raising connection and spend tons of money trying to recreate it. A local nonprofit can easily do this for them. $25,000 is a drop in the bucket to some brands. If the Clouds story was sponsored by Tide, they would have had more impressions than they had ever had.
PA.O: While video provides a lot of opportunities for marketers, we’ve also heard that it can be challenging for consumers, given that they are impatient.
Kristine Huson: What makes it hard for us to endure a video? We have to endure a disruptive ad before we view a video we actually want to see. Some automated marketers are disrupting our experience. I call it Cold War propaganda tactics. You are interrupting me and making it impossible for me to do something unless I endure your stupid content. I take huge exception to that. Automated video marketing sometimes shoots other brands in the foot. If I have 15 seconds of a misplaced ad before my video, you just destroyed my attention span.
PA.O: What might be the biggest opportunities in marketing?
Kristine Huson: We really need to incentivize people to adopt the customized-messaging program. For example, we as consumers could opt-in and say things like “I have dry skin and I’m sober.” If we can give advertisers some transparent data points about ourselves and then have them incentivize and give us the first product for free, or discounted, marketers would then be invited to advertise.
Marketers should be invited onto a stage to tap dance for you – to show you what they’ve got.
Instead of having this broadcast “spray and pray” advertising, marketers could get really micro and put on a show for the people who are actually going to buy their product. This is a great programmatic opportunity for consumers and marketers. “OK you want my info? Make your best pitch. Incentivize me. Get me to choose your brand.” This is the future of our consumers.
PA.O: What might be the cover of Ad Age in 50 years?
Kristine Huson: It would probably be “Keepin’ It Real.”
I want to see brands being more authentic. I want to see people and brands keepin’ it real. Marketers are selling good stories, but on the same vein, consumers can see if the product is not meeting expectations, so businesses have to be honest. Consumers are going to regulate industries and advertising. We know and will continue to know when we are being fooled.