Margo, you have global experience working with leading brands including HBO, National Geographic, 21st Century Fox, and Pepsi. Tell us about these experiences and expand on how your time in public and private sectors has helped you succeed in your current role as a Principal Product Strategist at WillowTree.
“What is the future of digital for our brand?”, “How do we create a successful digital community and drive engagement?”, “What does our app look like in 2025?”, or simply, “How do we sell more products?”. As a Product Strategist at WillowTree, I partner with our Fortune 500 clients to answer questions like these and others. Very often I’m called to a boardroom to listen to an ‘app idea’. My job is then to partner with designers and researchers to nail down exactly what that could look like.
My professional career started in the public sector which was a great education in understanding user needs and technical limitations while my pivot to the private sector has broadened my lens to focus on business priorities. That said, storytelling has been core to my success. While on an expat assignment in Germany, I started a travel blog where I shared stories from my travels around Europe. What started as a hobby-blog turned into a passion project with over 100,000 followers. I attribute my greatest career achievements to my passion for story in conjunction with my passion for great digital products.
"I attribute my greatest career achievements to my passion for story in conjunction with my passion for great digital products."
Here at Magnet Media, we believe data that informs storytelling is the best way to drive business forward. How do you engage audiences through data-driven stories?
As Maya Angelo said, “[People] may forget what you said – but they will never forget how you made them feel." At WillowTree, we use quantitative research methods to validate our product concepts. This can take the form of feature prioritization matrices, Kano model, and others. A prioritized feature list, like a menu, does very little to paint the picture. It’s imperative that we take these findings and add life – a story – about the user experience we envision. Compelling product stories are the differentiator invested in the vision in order to inspire executive decision-makers.
"Compelling product stories are the differentiator invested in the vision in order to inspire executive decision-makers."
How did 2020 change the digital landscape? How do you see brand leaders embracing growth marketing, and what do you think they need to keep in mind for 2021 and beyond?
More tech, less screens. As widely acknowledged, 2020 was a year of tech adoption frequently referred to as “forced experimentation”. Years from now it’ll be remarkable to observe the downstream impact of the population adopting digital tools (grocery delivery, telemedicine, etc) so abruptly and earnestly. Looking ahead, I think it’s likely that we’ll see more tech but less screen time.
Post-COVID, I think we’ll all be searching for ways to re-engage with the world in new and innovative ways. Voice technology, in concert with our mobile devices, offers unparalleled efficiency. Leaders from Google shared that about half of the time users start with voice, they turn to a screen such as a phone, tablet, or computer immediately after. Interacting with both voice and screens enables more complex interactions that require visuals. The emergence of these multimodal experiences combined with sweeping digital literacy will enable us to interact with technology more organically and productively.
"Looking ahead, I think it’s likely that we’ll see more tech but less screen time."
What, in your opinion, are examples of world-class digital experiences, and why are they so unique and effective?
I’ll spare you my raving NYT review. We’ve all seen Snow Fall. For someone new, check out pudding.cool. They’re doing something special in their approach to digital essays that makes for fun, engaging reading. Counter to visual storytelling, Spotify’s recent product announcements paint an exciting picture of interactive podcasts for improved auditory storytelling. The industry fuss over Clubhouse demonstrates the collective enthusiasm for the future of dialog. It’ll be exciting to see how Clubhouse’s concept of ‘drop-in audio’ becomes more commonplace.
What is one key piece of advice that you’d like to share with our The State of the Story community? And why is it important?
This is known, but it’s worth repeating: people are the heartbeat of every good story. To be an effective storyteller, first go to where your people are – talk to them, listen to them, empathize with them. A compelling story doesn’t emerge from a conference room discussion by team members entrenched with the product. Never overlook the important first step of truly understanding the characters you create. To do this, you must leave your desk and engage.
"Never overlook the important first step of truly understanding the characters you create."