Matt Wallaert Discusses Marketing to the Individual at DDS 2015

Matt Wallaert  Vizion Interactive

Vizion Interactive goes behind the scenes with Microsoft Behavioral Scientist Matt Wallaert at the Dallas Digital Summit 2015. Check out the interview with Matt below as he delves into his creative talk, titled: “Snowflakes in a

Blizzard: Uniqueness, Belonging, and Marketing to the Individual”.

Learn from Matt about brand identity, and about the importance of making the user feel unique like a snowflake, while at the same time secure and part of a group, like a blizzard. Matt also has his own digital marketing predictions for 2016, so check it out!

Check out more interviews with the DDS 2015 digital marketing pros, on our blog:

Transcript of the interview:

Kristien: I’m Kristien with Vizion Interactive here at the Dallas Digital Summit 2015, with Matt Wallaert. Thanks for being with us Matt.

Matt: Thank your Kristien. And thanks for having me.

Kristien: Awesome. Can you tell us a little bit about what you do? You are a behavioral scientist.

Matt: Yeah, I am a behavioral scientist at Microsoft. Before that I built and sold a couple of startups and before that I was in academia. So I was a social psychologist by training.

Kristien: There you go. Can you tell us a little bit more what you do with Microsoft now?

Matt: I have split role. I’ve spent a lot of time in Microsoft Ventures. So, I’m working with venture capitalists and startups on how they engage with the Microsoft ecosystem and how we are going to help them grow. And then, I also spent time with a lab and a team working on the science part of it. So I look a lot across our products how can we build things for humans and not just the tech side of it.

Kristien: Awesome. And you have a very creative title for you talk I should say, Snowflakes in a Blizzard. Can you tell us a little bit how you came up with that name and what it means?

Matt: Sure. So I am a terrible marketer. I always laugh when I get invited to talk at marketing conferences. I am scientist by trade. But I was sort of, what we are going to talk about this afternoon is the interesting fundamental dichotomy between people’s need to belong to a group and also to feel unique and special. In many ways those seem like they are opposing with each other. One day I said, ”People need to feel unique. They want to feel like a special snowflake.” I was like snowflakes, blizzards. Wait! I can use this. This is a great analogy for how you actually do this. And so, that’s where it came from.

Kristien: Awesome. And let’s see, what are a couple of your favorite examples of marketers using this concept and reinforcing identities in their brand?

Matt: Sure. So I think some things that have actually become more common place on the web in particular actually support this ideal. So the fact that most sites when you log in will now recognize your first name, they will say, ”Welcome Matt.” That’s a great way of reinforcing. You are unique and special individual that we recognize is different that all the other people at our site. You have unique, identified experience.

Then, on the flipside of that, I love the Facebook connect piece. You and all of your other friends that like this thing. Your friends, like all these little people, and 3,000 other people. That’s a powerful statement about belonging to a group and being part of something. So I think you start to see these things naturally emerge from the ecosystem. And what I’d like is for marketers to be a little bit more deliberate in our product design, in our marketing, in our advertising, in our messaging about hey, how should you be thinking about this in relation to your identity? What are we helping you define yourself for or against?

Kristien: Awesome. Let me see, what other questions do I have here? So how do you think we achieve that perfect balance of making users feel unique but also part of a group? You were talking about it earlier but…

Matt: I think it is really about being responsive. I think we need to recognize that there are times that people are feeling various things, and there are situations that are likely to make them feel a particular thing. So we know if they’re in a really non-customized, mortgage applications, great example of here are a set, basic set of questions and everybody gets the same set of questions. It can feel really crushing about how is this related to my identity, it feel very soulless. So how do you go and introduce the idea of some unique identity? You might say, imagine adding a question that said, ”Why do you love your house?” “Or why are you looking for a home? Why are you in love with the idea of a home?” One of that sort of thing that can get them back to like we care about you.

Now, is it a part of the mortgage loan? Not necessarily. But sometimes just adding trivial questions that remind people hey, we are engaged with this process of you as a human. You can use that a lot of ways. Imagine if you took that question, interjected it in your CRM, so the next time you have a conversation with people, you say, ”I hear you are really in love with this Cape Code. Let’s figure out a loan for this Cape Code that you are really in love with.” My wife and I bought a house about a year and a half ago, and it was amazing how quickly she became bonded to the things that we were looking at. And if the people that were doing mortgage have been able to turn to her and say, ”Hey, I know you are really in love with this house for these reasons. I get it.” I think that’s a really powerful and unique experience.

Kristien: So 2016, do you think there’s going to be more of this coming about, or what are your predictions?

Matt: No, look, I hope so, if I do my job. If I give a convincing talk, maybe. I think as the tools become better, more marketers will be more apt to do it. But I really think that it’s something that we have to become more conscious about. As marketing automation, you look at Microsoft technology, Azure. Azure can do all the colorations for you, it can do data analysis and then surf its insights and say, ”Hey, you need to look over here at this thing.” But machines are really bad at the, “Okay, now that you are looking at this thing, what are you going to do about it?”

I think as we up level marketers to not just executing on a standard campaigning and not just like…when your Bing marketing campaign is already entirely automated, what’s the next thing you are going to do? You should be thinking about these higher level concepts because that’s what the value of marketers is really going to be over time. It’s not executing on these things that we really can get machines to do very well, but rather bringing that unique, especially human inside that at the moment analytics and machine learning can’t do.

Kristien: So is everyone going to have a behavioral scientist as part of their team?

Matt: I actually think that you see this is an increasing trend. One of the most common questions I get is how do we get our own Matt Wallaert? Where would you go to recruit these kind of people? I love Valve Software has a great HR manual and they always say, ”We are looking for T-shaped people, people with a good horizontal base and one really deep vertical of expertise.

So I think gone are the days when you go to the same MBA program and hire the MBA marketers that you always did. I think you have to be thinking about hey, where I can get new insights? If you want to grow your business, you have to be looking for growth people. And that doesn’t just mean getting the same people that you always have.

Where is your psychologist? When was the last time you really went out? Where’s your journalist? People talk about content marketing. Why aren’t you getting journalism majors? You can teach them the marketing piece, teaching people how to write, to authentically connect to people, to do those sort of interviews. I think there’s tons and tons of adjacent spaces that people should be looking for recruiting.

Kristien: Can you give us all your websites, so we can link?

Matt: Sure. My website is just my name. It’s Although I am terrible, terrible and very sporadic blogger. I’m also a new dad, so it’s getting even worse. I don’t have as much time to write as I would like. Of course, Microsoft Ventures, you can find a lot of stuff there and it’s relatively easy to find me online.

Kristien: Great. Thank you so much for your time.

Matt: Of course. Thank you Kristien.