Gary V is a fascinating personality to me. For so many reasons. But mostly because of his position in the industry–he’s become one of THE lightning rods in our social media marketing world.
People either absolutely LOVE him and share his quotes and content. Or, they really, really, really hate him and all he represents (including his love the NY Jets!).
You will rarely meet a person who says “Gary V? I don’t know, he’s OK.” No, it’s “I LOVE GARY!” or “That guy’s a clown.”
So, why is that? Why is Gary V such a lovable or hateable personality? I’d like to examine that for a moment today.
First, let’s take a closer look at those who love him. Why the adulation? There are a few clear reasons:
1 – He’s inspirational
A big part of Gary’s persona online centers on inspiration. “You can do this.” “No one can stop you.” “Follow your dreams!” He espouses inspirational messages like these routinely on all his social networks–and people eat it up. Especially in 2020 and 2021, we’ve needed inspiration more than ever. And Gary V continues to dole it out regularly.
2 – He’s a dynamic speaker
Remember when we went to conferences to hear keynote speakers? Well, Gary V was one of THE keynote speakers. He’s irreverent. He’s dynamic. And, he swears a lot. And, people are drawn to him. I’ve seen Gary multiple times early in his social media career when I was helping with a conference called BlogWorld. And, it was the same back then–some people hated him. But, a lot of people LOVED him. And, back then at least, it had a lot to do with his stage presence.
3 – He’s a self-made guy (kinda)
Gary V has built an empire–literally. In 2015, his VaynerMedia agency was named one of AdAge’s A-List agencies and has more than 600 employees. That year it grossed $100 million in revenue. A pretty amazing feat. He also took over his father’s wine business in the late 1990s and was among the first to digitize the wine business with his Wine Library TV concept which helped him grow the business from $3 million a year to $60 million a year by 2003. So yeah, he had a little help early, but man he parlayed that into some serious financial success over the last 20 years.
Some pretty solid reasons why people love him, right? Now, why do people hate the guy? Let’s take a closer peek.
1 – He’s the champion of “the hustle”
I could have easily put this on the love list above because it is, in a way, why people love him, too. But, he’s drawn a lot of fire over the years for championing this “hustle culture” attitude. And after a year where we all spent more time reflecting, with family and decidedly “not hustling”, this message has not exactly aged well in the minds of some folks.
2 – The swearing
His dynamic speaking style is why so many people love him. But at the same time, that style is typically littered with “f-bombs” and other vulgarities that completely turn people off. Again, I’ve heard the guy speak numerous times. Back in the early 2010s, it was kinda his thing. But, as he became more successful, I wondered why he was still doing it. He doesn’t need to now. Personally, I tend to think the over-swearing thing is just dumb. He’s a very successful business person now–he just doesn’t need to do that anymore. I know this bothers a lot of people.
3 – People hate successful people
They just do. And, who’s more successful than Gary V in social media circles? Not too many. So, he’s an easy target for those craving success but just can’t get there. I really do think this is a bigger piece of the hate than many want to admit.
4 – Does he really know what he’s doing?
In social media circles, this is a legit question I think pops up a lot among people who have been career communicators and marketers. I mean, the guy was a wine guy. And yeah, he built Wine Library TV on social video. And yeah, he was an early adopter and got all those speaking roles on the social media speakers circuit. But, does that really mean he knows what he’s doing when it comes to brands and social media? See also: His VaynerMedia is the agency behind Planters recent Super Bowl social media approaches, which have drawn criticism over the last two years. And, more recently, he was a part of the Clubhouse kerfuffle with Kool-Aid man that drew the ire of the Clubhouse elite. So, the question persists: Yes, he’s built a super-successful agency, but does HE really know what he’s doing with brand social media? The jury may still be out, believe it or not.
So, love ’em or hate ’em? Where do you stand on Gary V?
So much has been written about Clubhouse already–I hesitated to even try to add another viewpoint. However, as I continue to think about Clubhouse from a brand perspective, and field questions from clients on the topic, I wanted to create an informed opinion not based on my personal preferences, but based on the data.
So, I thought today we’d look at 5 pieces of data and what they tell us about the ultra-hot social media app so far (and its future).
Data point #1: Clubhouse currently has 6 million registered users
For context, Instagram has 1.2 billion users. TikTok=almost 700 million. Reddit=430 million. Quora=300 million.
So yes, Clubhouse is hot. And yes, it’s growing at a pretty fast clip right now. But, it still only has a very small fraction of the users that any of the other major networks have at this point. Advice: Worth monitoring, but probably not worth participating in quite yet.
Data point #2: 39% of users are 25-34 years old
Not that surprising, based on what I’ve seen so far on Clubhouse. And, not necessarily a bad thing at all. Sub-data point worth pointing out: 58% of all users live in the U.S. right now, so if you’re targeting an international audience at all, they’re not there en masse just yet. But, Clubhouse overall, definitely trending younger.
Data point #3: The biggest Clubhouse influencers/personalities lean tech, investment, author and celebrity
Just look at the list above. That’s what you see right? Take a peek inside Clubhouse–you’ll see a similar landscape. It’s kinda dominated right now by these folks + media (looking for stories, sharing perspectives) and smaller start-up founder types. That’s what I see so far. So, great for those niches, but that’s excluding a LOT of people and potential customers from a brand perspective.
Data point #4: It also heavily leans entrepreneur and business
So far, it seems like every third room is talking about something related to entrepreneurship or business. Lots and lots of business talk–whether its around startups, investing or leadership issues. Again, great if you’re targeting business-types, but that excludes a lot of different categories and segments.
Data point #5: Searches for “clubhouse app” increased by 99x over the last 6 months
Clubhouse has this inertia right now. It’s popular among a very vocal and social crowd on the web (see above). And, as a result, EVERYONE is talking about it. And, because of that, lots of people are searching for it to learn more about it. People are curious. They always want to know “what’s next” with social media. Clubhouse might be it! That FOMO is very strong right now and it’s driving so much interest. But, will that interest translate into use and time spent on the app? We don’t know that yet.
So, there are 5 data points that give you a pretty good picture of what Clubhouse is all about–at least right now.
My big lingering question about Clubhouse from a brand perspective right now centers on time. As in, is your audience spending (or going to spend) its time on Clubhouse?
You see from the data above who’s on there now. Pretty niche. Not all that diverse.
But also: Does your customer or prospect have the extra time required to spend on Clubhouse?
Because, let’s face it, Clubhouse is a time-sucking app. Maybe even more so than TikTok.
And, from what we hear from most surveys and data sets, people don’t have a lot of that right now. Oh sure, we’re still at home more than we’d like to be, so yes, in theory we have more time. But, people are still spending an awful lot of time on Facebook, Insta, YouTube and TikTok. Will Clubhouse siphon off some of that time? We’ll see. But, I’m not so sure that’s the slam dunk some think it will be when it comes to audio.
In case you missed it, Zillow had a moment last weekend.
A “viral” moment, to be clear.
Because for about 24-48 hours, a lot more people were talking about Zillow. And, in a positive way (for the most part).
And, not only was it positive sentiment, it was striking a very real chord with A LOT of millennials and Gen Z (my educated guess).
So, certainly, given this wonderful gift, certainly Zillow took big advantage of this situation right? Well, I’ll let you decide.
They did the requisite retweeting, but strangely only retweeted or replied for five accounts.
They did post this gem, which generated a fun stream of responses.
Including–and you could totally see this coming–a number of responses from actual Remax agents asking people if they wanted help with listings. Talk about reinforcing the stereotype Cecily Strong was portraying!
Then, they also shared it on LinkedIn of all places.
OK, so that was a little weird. But, then they doubled-down on LinkedIn and the CEO shared the post.
Now, Zillow did react. And, in a timely fashion. However, as I reviewed all this, I can’t help but feel the reaction feels a little short. I mean, again, they did react. Quickly. But, this was a huge SNL skit. It struck a big chord. A lot of people were talking about it–across a lot of social channels. And, all they did was a few retweets and a couple LinkedIn posts?
It feels like they missed out on a larger opportunity:
Meet your new spokesperson: Dan Levy
Doesn’t he resonate with a younger, more millennial fan base? Wouldn’t he be a fun–and timely–spokesperson for the Zillow brand? Why couldn’t they approach him about making this official and working him into some future ad campaigns? Maybe they still will–who knows? But I immediately thought this would be fun for a brand that, to date, hasn’t seemed all that progressive.
Strike a chord–and strike, strike again
SNL hit on something with this skit. Yeah, it was funny. But, they hit on a behavior and activity that so many people are taking part in during this pandemic: Searching for “dream houses” on Zillow at a time when we can’t do anything else. Nailed it. I mean, we saw that in the comments on Twitter, didn’t we? So, why not embrace that trend and quickly generate creative that does the same thing? I’d be all over this if I worked in marketing at Zillow.
The SNL skit….continued?
Why couldn’t Zillow take the SNL skit and make an extended content series out of this? Have some fun with it? Again–it really struck a chord with people. Clearly, this is resonating. I know they probably don’t want Zillow and “sex” mentioned a lot in the same breath, but it’s out there. And, people took to it. Why not create a content series around this? I’m thinking about a series of still images that play off the bedroom scenes in the SNL skit with the fun phrases from the sketch. You’re telling me those wouldn’t generate a ton of engagement on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram?
Tide. Jeep. Bud Light. Doritos.
These were the brands you were paying attention to during the Super Bowl Sunday because these were the brands with ads during the Big Game.
But Planters Peanuts–much like many other brands–decided to go against the grain this year and go without an ad (you remember their “controversial” ad during the last year’s game, right?). However, they decided they still wanted to participate on Twitter–just in a different way.
They were going to tweet at every brand after their spot ran with a “snarky” response. And, they were going to give away some money to some good causes.
Not many people know about the latter part of that strategy, but let’s start by talking about the first part.
Yeah, Planters essentially tweeted most brands after their Super Bowl spot ran with an assortment of tweets ranging from legit funny to weird to borderline offensive. Here’s a smattering of what those looked like:
Pretty straightforward–not even sure this falls in the “funny” category.
Again, not sure about the funny part.
OK, this one was kinda funny.
And then there’s the weird. Or offensive. You decide.
Yep, Mr. Peanut’s tweets ran the gamut. They were all over the board-literally. But, as you can see, they did generate some engagement and awareness. Now, the question is, was that engagement positive, neutral or negative? Well, if you look at a few of the tweets, you quickly noticed a number of not-so-positive responses.
These aren’t exactly the kind of responses Mr. Peanut was going for, I’m sure. I know they probably always anticipate some negativity, but there did seem to be more negative responses than positive–especially to the brand-to-brand engagement tweets.
However, now let’s talk about the positive angle to this approach–donating to worthy causes. Like giving $100,000 worth of cookies to essential workers. Yeah, they did this.
That’s a fun idea, right? And, it certainly resonated with those frontline workers.
And then they did this: They donated a whole bunch of money to a bar (and “institution” by all accounts) in Atlanta that was on the verge of closing.
Again, the response was overwhelmingly positive.
So, in terms of the community’s response to their strategy–mixed bag, right?
My opinion: The brand-to-brand stuff is always a reach. I tend to think it comes off desperate. Desperate for attention. Desperate for awareness. Desperate for engagement.
After all, there’s nothing wrong with saying NOTHING during the Super Bowl! In fact, they could have easily just went with a few cheeky tweets about the National Anthem, the game and the halftime show and then sprinkle in the tweets where they gave money away. That would have been a home run! I just think the brand-to-brand stuff was unnecessary. It wreaks of an agency trying to be too cute–and I believe that’s exactly what’s happening here.
But, that’s just me. What do you think of Planter’s approach on Twitter during the Super Bowl? On the mark? Or, a little off?
Last week, a post I wrote caught some serious flack on LinkedIn. It centered on J-Lo’s recent influencer marketing gaffe. The original title of that post: “It’s high time A-Rod gave J-Lo some influencer marketing advice.” After sharing it on LinkedIn, I received feedback from some female friends and colleagues that I have a lot of respect for–Candee Wolf and Gabby Nelson, as well as others. The message: You missed the mark on this one. More importantly, the post and tone came across demeaning and rude to women.
Originally, I wrote the post in a very straight-forward way–J-Lo had made a sizable influencer marketing mistake, which is very unlike her. And as I wrote it, I was trying to think of a way to add a creative twist to the post. My thought: Write it as if A-Rod was giving her influencer marketing advice. Clearly, this is ridiculous, since A-Rod is 1) Not all that well-liked, and 2) Doesn’t seem to know nearly as much about how to market yourself via social media as J-Lo does. Pure satire. At least, that was my thought.
Boy, did I miss the mark.
And, because of that, I offended women in our industry–including a number of friends. I am truly sorry.
But, with every failure (and man, this was a failure), there are lessons to learn:
Humor can come off tone-deaf
I was trying to have fun with how a dialog between A-Rod and J-Lo might look in real life. And, it came off as condescending and belittling. Lesson: always check to see if humor is actually reinforcing stereotypes. In this case, it was adding to the same rhetoric we are trying to pivot away from. And that is not funny. It’s tone-deaf. I was guilty of this and it was a hard, but very important, lesson for me.
Listen to your friends when they speak up
I’ll be honest: it was hard to hear from clients and friends that they were offended. I thought “they know me and they know I wouldn’t mean anything negative towards women!” After all, I highlight strong, smart, amazing women in my industry all the time on my blog. But, if those friends and colleagues wouldn’t have said anything in the comment stream of that post, I wouldn’t have learned this was an issue I needed to be aware of. And for that, I am grateful. I’m glad those friends spoke up.
Sometimes it’s OK to edit or delete
I’m usually hard-and-fast on the “do not delete” posts or comments mantra. After all, if you said it, you own it, right? But, I altered my original blog post because it was offensive. It wouldn’t be authentic of me to leave something up that wasn’t in line with my values. So I edited it. And, ultimately, I decided to delete the post altogether. It just didn’t feel like the point I was trying to make (around influencer marketing) was worth it in the grand scheme of things. What always matters to me is that I am contributing in a meaningful way, sharing a unique perspective, and adding to the collective good. After reflecting on this over the weekend, this post did not contribute to the collective good or contribute in a meaningful way. It reinforced stereotypes and the garbage that women (and men) are working so hard to eradicate. So, I took it down. I went against my rule–and I think it was the right thing to do (I only wish I would have done it sooner).
I would also normally advise clients to let the 24-hour news cycle die, rather than keep it going with a post like this. And for corporations, sometimes that does hold true. But my goal is to be real. To fail, learn and get back up. So, I decided to bare this black eye and own it by sharing this message and showing what I’ve learned in the process.
Again, I hope you’ll accept my most sincere apology.