Mike Germano is the President, Creative Director and Fire Marshall of Carrot Creative, a new media agency out of Dumbo, Brooklyn, that has a unique approach to creating/reshaping their clients’ online brand identities from top to bottom. They’ve worked with MLB.com, JC Penney, and CBS just to name a few. Mike enjoys striped ties and giant foam bats. Read below as we discuss all things Carrot, marketing, and the future of Facebook.
SC: When did you start Carrot Creative?
MG: Carrot started in 2005, in the basement of the house at which we were staying when we were in college. We started it towards the end of college and were able to convince the deans of the business school [at Quinnipiac University] to give us internships. We had our other business partner who was at RIT pretending to be our advisor, so it was kind of a shell game.
SC: Was there a turning point when you realized carrot was really taking off?
MG: I believe the turning point was when we solely focused on developing social media tools. We were originally based in Connecticut and it wasn’t really where social media was. We found ourselves making more and more websites and not really taking advantage of our social media skills. So focusing on building those services in 2007 was really our turning point.
SC: Besides Major League Baseball who I know you were very excited to work with, who is your dream client?
MG: We’ve gotten very lucky since MLB was indeed our dream client [check out http://apps.facebook.com/mlbfanbook/?ref=ts], but would’ve loved to have worked on the Obama campaign. We’re really excited to be working with Crayola and with CBS on their civic journalism project. We also just structured a partnership with Weber Shandwick, one of the largest PR firms, and will be doing a lot of their social media work. They have a lot of great clients and we’re excited to take a crack at it.
SC: What brands are doing social media right?
MG: I think the brands that are having the most success are brands that people already have a connection with. What we are seeing in the initial phases of social media for brands is profile tattooing, where people are willing to wear that image and what that brand represents, whether it be on an app or sending a bumper sticker or a digital gift. The brands that have an advantage are the ones that people already believe in that are now being turned into a form of self expression online. Some good examples are what Converse was able to do, clearly Stephen Colbert, and from a product standpoint, Dell.
SC: What are they doing that puts them ahead of the curve?
MG: I think it’s the willingness to take a risk. We’ve dealt with numerous companies that were hesitant to give up control of their online image to users, which is clearly where the marketing industry is headed. The ones that will take advantage of it will be the ones willing to take risks.
SC: If a company had limited resources, what is the one social media tool they choose to employ above all others? Why?
MG: If a company didn’t want to go out to one of the big agencies, then at the very least they should be securing a Facebook fan page, a MySpace page and putting their information up there. I’ve been pushing blogs a lot, it’s a great way to lay the groundwork to show that your company is willing to be open and have a conversation with the public. In the late 90s your company had a website, and now your company has to be accountable to clients and customers online.
SC: Who is a role model of yours in the social media space? Why?
MG: Gary Vaynerchuck is doing it the right way. I’m just really impressed all around with how he is marketing himself and his brand. I think, clearly, he’s gotten people online talking about wine. He’s gotten them excited and built a community. He’s the Howard Stern of wine.
SC: Do you think Facebook can survive on an advertising based revenue model? Can it do more than survive?
MG: Facebook has absolutely no problems at all. They do not need to worry about another monetization solution right now; they clearly have enough cash in the bank to keep their operations going. They might not be turning a profit, but they have a great online community and they set up their advertising platform beautifully. Building a superior platform that no one can compete with is their primary business, as well as getting people on Facebook and keeping them there. If they become the key player, they’re going to find numerous ways to make money.
SC: Do you see Facebook as the hub of social networking one year from now? Will FB Connect make an impact on the rest of the web? Google OpenSocial/FriendConnect? Other data availability portals?
MG: Facebook right now is that hub and I think it will remain that hub. If you look at what MySpace and Facebook have done in terms of features and their respective platforms, it’s night and day. MySpace is growing its media presence, but Facebook is adding more and more features to connect people and let them express themselves through things like applications. Facebook Connect will just be an extension of that. Facebook is already the key player here, and I don’t see other social web service that will challenge them for the time being.
SC: Awesome, thanks Mike!
Interviewed by Josh Backer