Why creators are the future of commerce with Alex Morrison of PearPop

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Today on 3-Minute Marketing, I’m sitting down with Alex Morrison. He’s currently CMO at PearPop, an on-demand creator collaboration platform. Prior to joining PearPop, Alex has had a remarkable career agency-side, serving in leadership positions at firms like Grey Group, R/GA, AgencyNet and J Walter Thompson.

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Alex has first-hand experience seeing the impact of great influencer marketing and is stoked about how brands can benefit from partnering with creators at scale. So I asked him, “What is the future of commerce and why are creators the core of that engine?”

Show notes:

  1. Creators who have influence can engage audiences from their unique worldview and perspective. This is particularly enticing for eCommerce and D2C brands, who are trying to reach consumers in an increasingly noisy and competitive environment.
  2. Creators can add credibility and authenticity to a brand while showing real use cases of a company’s product.
  3. You can create a “surround sound” effect by having 100’s or even 1000’s of influencers sharing and mentioning your site or product.
  4. It’s hard to work with mid-tier and long-tail creators at scale, so most brands fall back on paying a premium to top tier influencers. But mid-tier influencers actually tend to generate the best CPAs and ROI.
  5. PearPop allows marketers to solve this challenge and attract/activate creators at scale and track exactly which influencers are driving results. You can try it out for yourself at pearpop.com/business.


– You’re listening to Three Minute Marketing where we interview the world’s top growth marketing leaders and distill their knowledge into actionable, bite-size insights. Now here’s your host, Chris Mechanic.

– Hello, and welcome to another exciting episode of the Three Minute Marketing podcast. We’ve got a really fascinating episode for you today. The guest for this episode is actually an agency veteran who recently joined a startup that’s doing some really fascinating stuff in the influencer marketing space. So they’re essentially helping brands connect with influencers and content creators at scale to massively scale their influencer marketing campaigns and massively improve the ROI of those campaigns. His name is Alex Morrison and he’s the CMO of a company called Pearpop. Chris has a really fascinating question for him today. So with that further ado, let’s get into it.

– Tell me about the future of commerce and how creators are the core of that engine.

– Yeah, great. So when we think about the future of how any brand, but in particular e-commerce and D to C brands, aim to connect with audiences and really drive sales in an increasingly competitive and eventually world. I think there’s something intuitively enticing about the idea of working with a multiplicity of voices, creators who have influence, actually can engage their audiences in a topic from their unique worldview and perspective and not launch performance ads. There’s nothing wrong with performance ads, but using creators to really add that level of credibility, as well as showing different use cases for a product or service in a really authentic, compelling way. And so we think about the value of creators to any brand, but in particular, e-com or D to C brands. What we often talk about is being able to have this sort of surround sound effect where imagine if you had all, close your eyes and imagine dozens or potentially hundreds of people talking about your product in an authentic way to their audiences and encouraging them to check out your site or your product.

– That’s a great visual right there. That’s a great visualization. And I think a powerful thought. Close your eyes and imagine that hundreds of little influencers, micro, macro, whatever types of influencers, are just talking about your product and showing the use case from their unique life view. So that’s powerful. Where can we go to see some examples of that?

– There’s a number of examples I can point you to on pearpop.com. And we’re working with brands ranging from Netflix, as well as companies like Panera Bread, who are increasingly trying to pivot into the D to C or membership space. I can point you to a few examples of that, but the real beauty of what we are doing and how I see the future of the creator economy is, right now, there’s sort of a crime of convenience that happens. A pain avoidance reflex kicks in for a lot of marketers. They know deep down that it’s powerful to work with mid-tier or long tail creators, but it’s very, very time consuming, labor intensive to do that. So a lot of, especially upper funnel kind of marketers who are thinking about awareness, the impulses to just sort of go with the big guys, right? But the drawback of that is that at the end of the day, mid-tier creators and long tail creators are really seen by their audiences as real people who can therefore influence real people in a much more out-sized way. We see much higher engagement rates and we see much lower CPAs. And what we are really focused on is instead of saying, I’m going to hire these three talents to promote my brand, let’s start with the idea, what is it that you want to get across? And then we put that brief out to our community of roughly 150,000. And those people who have already, let’s say used your product, or have an affinity for your category will voluntarily raise their hand and say, you know what? I actually want to promote that product in my feed. And so–

– It’s like, I feel that, like I’m feeling that product, I vibe with that, I can do that. I use that, I love that product.

– That’s neat, right? We’ve had plenty of examples where people will exactly respond that way. And instead of going through this process where you have to manually research and ask creators, “Hey, by the way, do you use this product?” We can send that signal out to the marketplace at scale, and people can respond and say, “You know what? That’s me, I want to be one of your people.” And it gives them an opportunity to express their passion for the product or service that you are offering to the world. And then we’re able to activate those people, essentially on demand. We can basically send out the brief, people respond to it and we can generate results much, much faster as a result. So what we’re trying to do is basically introduce, really a marketplace model akin to an Uber or Airbnb, but for the creator economy, where instead of riders and drivers, you have brands and you have creators. And if you want to, we would never say it this way, but if you want to hail an Uber, well, you know exactly how to do that, right? When you’re in the area, you press the button. And then in our case, hey, if you want to actually activate and collaborate with the right kinds of creators, you press the button, right? So it’s a very comparable expectation setting that we have to do. And usually when we have those first conversations with a brand, there’s sort of like this eyes opening a little wider moment where they realize, “This is actually a really different way of thinking about engaging creators at scale.” And all of a sudden you can imagine you could run a campaign, let’s say with a hundred creators or maybe it’s 12 or whatever the number is that feels right. You can track exactly who’s driving the sales for your products, who’s driving the add to cart action? Who’s driving the app install, whatever it might be? And then at the end of the campaign, you can say, “All right, well, we want to double down with the 20 of the hundred that really drove the results and let’s add a fresh 80.” And you sort of replenish the pool until you get to like this all muscle group that is very efficient and effective at driving results for you. And to do that, you do need tool set, but it’s a, first, you need to think about what would the impact of this be if we could harness it, including more and more people, not just ads in that marketing mix. And if you can find efficient ways to harness and collaborate with those people, there’s just huge, huge upside. Given how much time your audience is likely spending with those very creators we’re talking about right now and in never ending pursuit of not only eyeballs, but attention and ultimately action and behavior driving. I think influential impressions are very different from a typical CPM based way of thinking.

– Oh yeah. Totally. ‘Cause the thing that I love about influencer ads is that they don’t look like ads, right? The best ads are the ones that don’t look like ads or don’t feel like ads or don’t seem like ads. So there’s definitely more punch, more oomph behind those impressions, no doubt about it. And I think that’s a wrap, man. I think that’s a wrap Alex. And you definitely have a very unique perspective and I love that, close your eyes and visualize experience ’cause it’s powerful. Literally just hundreds of influencers, small and large, speaking nicely about you in the social media chambers. I think we’ll probably be a customer, I’m looking forward to hopefully working with you guys. And I have some ideas for you also, if you have a few minutes, you have? All right, cool.

– That’s good.

– Well, hey, if you’re listening.

– appreciate it and looking forward to all that’s going to come up, looking forward to working with you as well. And it’s an exciting time for sure.

– For sure. So hey, thank you guys for listening everybody. Check out Pearpop it’s pear like the fruit and then pop, P-O-P. Alex Morrison’s their CMO. He’s a badass, influencer marketing is definitely where it’s at, I think in 2022, 2023, we’re already seeing a lot of our clients doing it and it just works man, ads that don’t look like ads. I’m telling you. But stick around, Alex and I will continue talking here for a few minutes and then we will see you next time.

– Thanks Chris.

– When did you start Pearpop?

– So Pearpop was founded at the start of 2021. So we’re only about a year and three months old.

– Wow.

– It has been rocket ship of a ride in that time. We were named fast companies, most innovative companies in March. We’ve grown our creator community to about 150,000 and rising. And our focus is really on helping creators, earn a living, doing what they love, which is creating content. And if you look at the state of the creator economy, there’s no shortage of creative outlets for people today. But what is missing is the ability to actually earn in line with your creativity, in line with the audience that you command. And so we’re really focused on helping creators have equal access to opportunity. And in turn, brands can access that influence on demand that we were just talking about because we have creators actively alert at the switch, waiting for opportunities to collaborate with brands. And that’s what makes this go. Imagine if you opened Uber and there were no drivers in your area, that wouldn’t be a very fine experience. And I would argue that’s pretty much the state of the creator economy pre-Pearpop. And so–

– The value prop is clear. Like the USP is sharp. It cuts through the noise. I like that about Pearpop. A year and three months old is, so like show us a little bit under the hood, like what are the things you’re struggling with? What are the things you currently suck at that you’re trying to get better at, et cetera.

– You know, in a business growing as fast as ours, one of the tricks is to grow both sides of the marketplace in proportion because if you grow your creator community much faster than your brand community, things can get out of sync. And so we’re constant turning the dials to make sure that our creator community continues to grow. It’s growing in a very healthy way and as well, to make sure that we’re spreading the good word with brand marketers, performance marketers. So they understand that there’s this new tool at their disposal. And so one of the biggest challenges slash focuses for us is really growing both sides of the marketplace in proportion. And just making sure that from a product perspective, that we’re constantly innovating on behalf of creators because at the end of the day, the hardest part, I think every marketer deep down knows this. And when we talk to them, they kind of acknowledge it is, if we have the creators on our platform, marketers are there. Because they ultimately see the value in partnering with them, especially in a turnkey way. But creators have a lot of people coming at them every day of the week, talking about different ways to make money, different schemes, all these kinds of things. So our focus needs to be relentlessly on innovating on behalf of the creator to find new ways to help them earn a living doing what they love. And so right now, the principle way that that takes place is through brand collaborations. We are also launching a number of other features and products this year that will allow creators to earn a living doing what they love in a variety of ways. And so, again, for us, it’s not necessarily about looking side to side at other players in the creator economy, because while there are many other companies vying for brand dollars in the creator economy, we don’t see any true competitors doing exactly what we’re doing in terms of our model. So we’re really just focused on the creator and adding value there and businesses and adding value there. And we’re not looking left and right too much. So right now it’s all about that proportional growth. When–

– So is your, in general, in terms of balancing the two sides of the equation, the creator community is growing faster than the brand community or vice versa.

– Right now, we’re doing a pretty good job. I wouldn’t say that they’re out of sync tremendously, but what we see is like one month it might fall out of whack.

– So you have 150,000 creators, you said?

– Correct.

– That is a big ass spreadsheet.

– Well, it’s not a spreadsheet. And that’s the beauty of it. I mean, there is a spreadsheet somewhere in the, but the beauty of this is if you’re a marketer using this, we’re sort of taking you out of the mindset of, well, I have one tool to research creators and I have another tool to DM them. And then I have another tool and then I got to get my lawyers involved to deal with contract negotiations. And then I got to get, the whole creative process starts. We’re just saying, look, these people have already agreed to our terms of service. They are users of Pearpop. They have a hyper wallet on our platform. You launch a brief, people who are relevant. We can segment it any way you want. So if you’re a beauty brand, we can send it to only beauty creators. If you’re only in Miami, we can send it to only Miami beauty, et cetera. And then the people who respond are already a segmented, relevant group. And so yes, there is a fairly large community, but our focus is twofold in terms of creators. It’s continuing to attract new creators. We just launched a referral program last week where creators can refer their friends and earn a little extra that way. So we’re getting great organic traction in terms of our creator growth, and then there’s also engagement.

– Hey, have you seen, did you see that piece on Morning Brew by chance? Are you familiar with Morning Brew?

– I do know them, which piece?

– so there’s this detailed write up of their referral program. They had this like viral loop referral program that grew their subscriber list from like a hundred thousand to over a million in like short order, in like less than a year. Have you seen that?

– We’re very, I have. And I’m very bullish, we’re very bullish on the referral program because we are adding value to creators and you know what? Creators are very good at influencing other people. So they should be extra efficient at spreading the word about something they like. And so we’re sort of, we talk a lot about eating our own dog food. It’s like, okay, we talk a lot about the power of influence, the power of creators, virtually all of our success has come via, I’m going to use air quotes here, word of mouth, through creators and influencers, et cetera, spreading the word about something they like and Pearpop is one of those things. So we’re really excited to turn on this referral incentive. We think it’s going to be an accelerant for sure, on our creator side. And we have an amazing team that has been pretty much catching the demand that’s been coming in from the brand side. And we’re only starting to really go outbound and targeting a couple of key verticals where we’ve seen really great success, but the growth has not been the problem. We’ve had exceptional growth. Like I said, it’s growing those things in proportion. And that’s where, sometimes we actually have to say to the creator team, like, “Hey, just chill for a second.” We actually need to go deeper in terms of the engagement with the community we have. And we’re going to be focusing on these brand partnerships for a moment, just even if it’s for a few days. We just need to keep it, it’s this real time leveling out of efforts and team, basically level of effort across the team to make sure that we’re constantly optimizing. And that’s why, it’s really great. We’re a fairly tight knit team though. You know, we’ve been fortunate to have some good success in terms of raising capital, and we’ve been able to invest in a great team. So we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 to 70 people that are pushing us forward at this point, our goal is not to add a lot more people. We are ultimately focused on ultimately growing the metrics that matter, which are for us, our creator community, our brand community, and then ultimately, engagement in the middle. And so, yeah, it’s been a heck of a ride so far. I would say that we are at the point now where 2021 was really the emerge, in getting ourselves on the map. Now, 2022 is about scaling with a lot of our partners, taking on new and really continuing to innovate on this excellent base that we’ve built. It’s an exciting time for sure.

– And what is your role there at Pearpop?

– Yeah, so I’m CMO at Pearpop and I oversee our marketing efforts as well as our business development team, as well as our creator community. So I partner very closely with our Head of Product and our CEO, Cole Mason.

– What were you doing before? Like how did you get into this?

– So immediately before Pearpop, I was actually the president of Gray, based on the West Coast. Grey is a very well known advertising, creative agency. And I worked with all sorts of brands, very focused on, really brand building and driving performance through creativity. Before that, I was at RGA, I was their global, head of their content studio. And actually in, I believe it was 2015, founded their, what was called at the time, their Influence Studio, which was an early, scaled effort in what is now called the creator economy to really offer a solution to brands out of RGA. And so I had always been tracking and very, very passionate about the power of social and ultimately the power of creators as a means for marketers to connect with audiences in a really different kind of authentic way. And I always believe in following where the attention is. Like when you see that disconnect between where the budgets are for a marketer and where the attention is, you know that a shift is coming, a big one. And so I always try to follow where people are actually spending their time. And so I actually have a good friend of mine who’s also on the executive team here at Pearpop, met for coffee in 2021. And he told me about what they had started up, and I thought it sounded fascinating. And then as I got to know the team, as I got to see the product that was being built, I realized this was actually really special and decided to sort of make the leap both feet into really helping lead the team here at Pearpop. And it’s been one of the best decisions possible because it’s really, I think, a product that is poised to be the platform for how creators collaborate in the creator economy moving forward.

– Yeah, so if I’m a brand say, you know, you said DTC or say like I’m an e-com brand. I do hair care say, and I want to hire, or I want to engage Pearpop. Is it like an online experience? Like, do I go, and I just upload my brief and then voila, the magic happens or how does that, how’s that engagement process look.

– You’ve got it. So, I mean, there is absolutely a self-serve similar to a Facebook ad manager or Google ad manager product where you can go on and get things started on your own. Right now, for most enterprise clients that we work with, we offer sort of a managed experience around that product. So when we’re working with the big brands, typically they’ll provide us the brief, we’ll talk with them about it for a few moments, we’ll put it up for them and we’ll track the progress. So, that can still be just as you would expect, honestly, if you were a larger client of Facebook or Instagram or TikTok, whatever it might be, you would expect some element of managed experience. And we offer that as well. So the simplest way today for any brand that might be listening to this podcast is simply to email us. And we’ll actually guide you through the experience. And if your preference is to do a self-serve experience, you can just go to pearpop.com/business and check out the tool there as well.

– Cool. But, it is a fascinating model that you guys have and seemingly a really awesome business.

– Yeah, I mean, it genuinely is. I think the space is, there’s no shortage of attention and words being printed right now on the creator economy, as it were, but I think a lot of the solutions that are out there are either sort of agency model type solutions, which, I understand that model and it’s the white glove sort of, we’re going to hand select each influencer and all this kind of stuff. And that’s fine but it’s not for everyone, first of all and secondly, it’s pretty slow and manual. And some brands, they want slow and manual because they feel like there’s control, but that’s actually an illusion because in social, as everyone has come to know, you can absolutely try to control every frame of that thing like it’s a TV spot, but at the end of the day, I liken it a lot more to like collaborating with, if you were to do a deal with NBC or ABC and try to get a product integration on a hit sitcom. Like you wouldn’t expect to be able to write that episode that you appear on. You’re happy that you’re in there and appearing in a credible way that the writers think will add to the show. And I think because creators tend to be young, because this is social. I think that there’s a greater desire to sort of handle the interaction. But at the end of the day, hey, hat’s off. This person has 3 million people that hang on their every word, it’s better than most of us have managed. And so I think the acknowledgement of the sheer creativity and influence and power that these people have, that we’re talking about in sort of a commoditizing way. It’s like, they’re not just some kid. They have a really interesting creative perspective that people care about. And if you can figure out a better way to make a more equitable playing field. Where creators have some agency over what they’re doing in the collaboration and brands can dictate the key terms, but not micromanage every little frame of every post that goes live. That’s how you get ads that don’t look like ads because there’s a, someone on the team just the other day mentioned to me this term hostage videos, which refers to those videos you’ve seen where it’s like clear that the influencer is like reading a script or a cue card. And like every influencer video is the same as the other one. And it’s like so obviously not real.

– Right, ruins it. It’s like someone off frame, it just takes, it shoots a hole in the credibility of what’s being created.

Alex Morrison

Alex MorrisonCMO

Chris Mechanic

Chris MechanicCEO & Co-Founder

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