In today's episode we have Mint Mobile's CMO, Aron North, join us to discuss everything from how Mint started as a "side hustle" within the business, how they are using marketing to drive true product innovation, and how creative Ryan Reynold's is as a part owner in Mint.
Scratch is a production of Rival, a marketing innovation consultancy that develops strategies and capabilities that help businesses grow faster. Today's episode was hosted by Eric Fulwiler.
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Scratch is a production of Rival, a marketing innovation consultancy that develops strategies and capabilities that help businesses grow faster. Today's episode was hosted by Eric Fulwiler.
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Aron: The mistakes CMOS do today is that they're not willing to take risk. They're so buttoned up and polished, and everything has to be perfect. I'll tell you working with them has gotten me so much more comfortable with like trusting your gut your instinct and making a move because it's the right thing to move on. Not because it has some DAC and strategy and yada yada yada behind it.
I'm Eric Fulwiler. And this is scratch, bringing you marketing lessons from the leading brands and brains rewriting the rulebook from scratch for the world was today.
Hey, everyone, my guest today is Aron North, Chief Marketing Officer of mint mobile. Just get through our conversation, there's so much good stuff in here. We said at the end that we need to find time for follow up. And I think we genuinely might need to do that. Because I feel like we were just getting warmed up. I loved this conversation with Aaron loved hearing about his background. agency side, you know, we both experienced some of the pain points and had some ideas about how things could get done better. He spent a while on the brand side as well before becoming cmo amid mobile use at Taco Bell, a brand that is very well known for its innovation and advertising, particularly in the digital and social space. Mid mobile is a fascinating business, a challenger in the US telco industry. And a brand is probably you know, certainly one of the fastest growing brands in telco. But over the last six years, I think the stat was they've doubled every year. It's insane how quickly these folks have been growing. And a lot of it has to do with the brand that they built. And so it's really interesting to unpack, not just Aaron strategy and perspective about how to build a challenger brand. But also how he makes it work internally. One of the things that I love was hearing about how he's built this amazing relationship with the CFO, which is so key to investing in and doing marketing the way that he wants to do it. He talks a bit about his philosophy of sales as overnight brand is over time the scorecard that he uses to actually track progress. And he has specific metrics that he looks at that he thinks is most important to establishing mint as a challenger brand. Also, if you don't know mint, you might not know this, but Ryan Reynolds, the actor is an owner, a customer and features heavily in their advertising. So it's great to hear how Aaron has worked with Ryan. And just how, how that how that whole dynamic works for them. So long intro, but I'm really excited about this one, I think you're really going to enjoy it. So that's it in terms of the intro onto the show. Hey, Aron, how you doing today?
Aron: Great. How are you doing, Eric?
Eric: I am doing great. And I am I was excited about this interview. Just you know, when I reached out to you getting to know a little bit about your background mint mobile, watching some of the spots that are gonna play at least one of them in this recording. But yeah, just kind of the 10 minutes that we had before pressing record. I'm even more excited. That's putting pressure on you. But I think this is going to be a really good episode.
Aron: I feel no pressure at all. Excellent.
Eric: Excellent. All right, let's get into it. So kicking things off. What is a brand that you are very passionate about? Right now?
Aron: Yeah, so great question. And I had to really think about it. The reality is like you so I'm so heads down in what we're doing that I've sort of have to really think about other brands in the marketplace that are doing interesting things. And I'm going to come up with a I'm going to share my brand here in a quick second. But I think the explanation why is probably needed and that brand is Ford, like Ford Motor Company. I'll tell you that like what an interesting predicament to be in to be in the automobile industry right now. You've got all the pressures of supply chain, you've got demand that seems insatiable. So it's like it seems like they're in a really advantageous position because they don't have to dig into their margins and do discounts and things of that sort. But they're also electrifying their fleet. And Ford was one of the companies that said we're we're moving away from cars, SUVs and trucks are the future. Now electrification. Now this I just feel like it's a brand that is really at the crossroads. And it's a brand that seems to be doing things right. You know, I live in California and California instituted some EPA laws about emissions for did not fight them. The other auto makers did. You know, they've got an interesting dynamic with Tesla. They've got, you know, established huge multibillion dollar players in, you know, Chrysler or Solanas and General Motors and Toyota, but I just think that they're doing really interesting business work. And the marketing that's happening as a function of that is starting to get really neat. And I feel like they're at a point where you can sort of feel it, they know, they've got enough demand where advertising and marketing doesn't have to, like, be as heavy. So they're getting smarter with it. So I've really found the passion and basically following what they're doing and understanding what they're doing. Because they have just so many macro things happening to them. And their industry is right now at the precipice of a giant change. It's very fun to watch.
Eric: I love that answer for a couple reasons. One, I've always been fascinated by just the story of Ford. Of course, there's like Henry Ford and that whole era. But also one of my favourite business books, is a book called American made, that talks about Alan Mulally coming in from Boeing, and kind of turning the business around. And so if you're a fan of business, biographies, it's amazing. And I've read it a couple times. Now, I just think it's a fantastic, fantastic book and hearing what he did to kind of, in a way, have the company challenge itself to take a different path and a lot of the other big automakers did at the time, that's kind of 2008 2009 Great, great recession type type of time is really good. And then also, we had, you know, Jim Stengel, the former CMO of Procter and Gamble, we had, we had him on the show. And one of the brands, he threw out a couple of brands that he was passionate about, but one of them was the Ford Mustang, the new electric Ford Mustang. And so I think he's picking up on the same things that you are, and then living in the living in London, I don't see as much of the Ford advertising just as a consumer, but I have been following and have been fascinated by the moves that they've been making to get into the electric vehicle market. Namely, I think they split their business, right. And there's now two businesses, one that focuses on kind of the traditional vehicles, and one that focuses on the electric vehicles. I don't know if I'm getting that right. But if that's if that's not exactly how they're doing it, basically the takeaway for me, which is something I think about all the time, you know, if our thing like I was telling you before we pressed record is working with challenger brands, businesses that are looking to disrupt a category. Of course, the stereotypical challenger brand is the startup or the scale up, you know, the mid mobile's of the world that are kind of building from scratch for the world as it is today. Great, so much opportunity, and so many advantages to deliver innovation. When you're starting from scratch right now. However, incumbents have scale. They have the budgets, they have the brands, they have the supply chain, they have the production, whatever it is, but what they don't often have is innovation. How do you get an incumbent to actually deliver innovation, I believe fundamentally, a big part of it, is you need to split responsibilities at the top level of the organisation into someone who is running the business as it is right now. And someone who is trying to change the business for what it needs to be in the future. And most businesses don't do that. Most businesses incentivize their leadership team, their CEO to just deliver on the short term results quarter to quarter year to year run the business as it is. But I think that moved by Ford and again, I'm not I don't know exactly the details. But what it said to me is they are actually splitting it to run the business and change the business and really trying to become a challenger in their own industry.
Aron: I completely agree. And that's what's so interesting for me, I don't think they physically so I've read a tonne on it. It's just so interesting. And then, you know, once the algorithms find something you're interested in that the tonnage of articles is sort of insurmountable, but there's still one company they don't have to like publicly traded symbols, but you're absolutely right and even talked about it because I think they're going to do some layoffs. But they said, All of those are going to happen in the conventional internal combustion engine side of the business, but they are growing in the electric and digital side of the business because they're talking about digital ordering. You know, they're talking about OTA or over the air updates on the vehicles themselves. So I'm with you. It's so fun. under watch and I love, I actually love the fact that an incumbent is looking to rebuild their own business, I think that might actually be harder. Because you have so many internal stakeholders, they have a distribution system, that's a franchise model. I mean, they have dealers, right, so they have a dealer model they have to deconstruct and reconstruct. So it's just really, really interesting. And they are a company that I think has done some very, very smart things as they look 5/10/20 years down the road.
Eric: Yeah, it kind of reminds me of Disney and what they've done successfully so far with Disney plus, and moving to become much more of a streaming business. And, and you know, now it seems obvious because every, every every entertainment company, every media company is launching their version of direct to consumer streaming OTT. But when Disney was doing it, and certainly when they started working on it, because who knows how long it took, and how many internal conversations needed to happen, you know, it was not a given. So I always thought and always really respected that move that they made to be relatively early, as an incumbent trying to challenge themselves. And fundamentally, that's what it comes down to. And you look at the incumbents that are and have always been challengers like Amazon is the best example. That's what they do. They try to put themselves out of business before somebody else does. So I think that's a great it's going to, it's going to make me go read up on the floor, and I got some holiday coming up. I'm gonna go read up on what Ford is doing. I think that's a great answer.
Aron: Well, I'm laughing because you talk about Disney plus, and we saw this coming, the whole digitization and app and this and that. So we actually created mobile plus as a joke a couple years ago with one Ryan Reynolds movie on it. And like had a bunch of fun with that. Because it was sort of like the flavour of the day, it seemed like every, every day and a half or every two days, a new subscription service was coming out.
Eric: How's that doing for you? Big subscriber growth.
Aron: It lasted for one day. You know, we did like a one week we had the rights to the movie for
Eric: which movie was a by the way.
Aron: It was a it was a stunt. It was Oh, gosh. This is killing me. I can't remember the exact movie was give me give me as we as we chat. Cool. All right. But we thought that was quite funny and a neat joke to play.
Eric: So a tonne to get into with what you're doing to build the business and brand meant and what it's like to work with Ryan Reynolds and all that good stuff. Before we get there. Let's take a couple minutes just to talk about your background. So you spent some time in the agency world, you spent a long time on the brand side and big food and food and beverage businesses like Taco Bell. So maybe just give kind of the 30 to 62nd story of Aaron north and how you became CMO at mint mobile?
Aron: Yeah, well, gosh, I didn't know I wanted to be a marketer until late in college. I was actually a pre med nerd. And it just got so hard. I wasn't smart enough. It's the truth. I just couldn't memorise everything. So I switched a business and there was a nap business and market is a natural fit for me. It just felt right. You know, you go from being like a C student to an A student that kind of like in your foot, way less time it sort of opens your eyes to some things. But I spent a decade at agency really, really cut my teeth there like working very closely with strategy very closely with creative I was an account person but couldn't stand like just being an account person was always mixing it up with our planners was always working with the creatives loved it. And after 10 years just got disenfranchised. But that business model, really it was brutal being out there pitching all the time giving away your product for free. And then the clients just decided they don't like your pricing structure. So they're going somewhere else. So that was really tough. And then personally it was also really hard to be and an advisor, right. And as an agency person you go in, you've spent weeks months you know, always working on this looking for the smartest way to market your clients products. But ultimately you provide a recommendation, and they do what they want. That just got too it was too much for me. I couldn't take it. I had had clients who were doing rotations in marketing and we would train them and then they would leave and if to start over and reteach how to make good decision making with marketing and not short term sales decisions because you have to always balance the brand part of the equation. So I finally just, you know, saw an opportunity at Taco Bell and interviewed over there. It was a really interesting time to get hired there because they were right in the throes of that bogus beef lawsuit. And I'll never forget my interview there with my boss or who became my boss. She asked me She said, You know about this lawsuit? I go, of course, absolutely. She goes, Well, I love your point of view on what we should do here the concepts from the agency. And we reviewed the concepts. I gave my creative feedback and my strategic direction. And that landed me that gig and I think that really was an eye opener for me. Because, you know, if you're transitioning out of sort of the advisor role into the decision maker role comes with some hesitation, particularly when the decisions have the scale a brand Taco Bell does, I didn't really realise the scale until I started asking some pretty simple questions like, why don't we do lobster tacos, and they're like, there were quite literally be no lobsters left in the ocean, if we ran a six week promotion on lobster. And you just like that scale can be intimidating. So spent many years there grew up with them. In my mind, like we re transformed the brand. We launched a tonne of just marvellous, fun new products, like the Doritos taco, we launched breakfast, tonnes of stuff went back into the Super Bowl, and we're super bowl advertisers again, and then got the cold call to join, ultra mobile, which is mince sister brand, mint didn't exist at the time I joined the company. But I went in and sort of was presented the opportunity to build a marketing department, there was no cmo role was just a Senior Vice President of Marketing and came in took that opportunity and started building out a team to support our retail business, which was Ultra. And then really took mint as I mean, I think we call it a side hustle now. But it was really just an opportunity that I saw within the company, and I just loved it. So embrace it with two hands, and started building it from the ground up. And its success really led to that promotion of the chief marketing role. That's where I sit now, sort of growing, the team growing the business. And I'm also what they call the commercial owner of MIT and Ultra, which means I'm the single person accountable for the business performance. So it's a really neat role in that. I'm driving both the consumer side of the equation and the organisational side of the equation. I talk to people about often having to like balance, who wins in my decision making, right? Does the consumer win here? Or does the business need to win? Or can we create a situation where both come out ahead? But it's yeah, that's where I'm at now. And I Sorry, that was longer than 30 seconds?
Eric: No, no, that's great. I've got a couple questions, just based on what you said about your background, I want to double click on but let's just touch on that real quick. Because I think that's super interesting. So are you owning the when you say you're the commercial owner? Are you owning the growth targets? Are you owning the p&l? What does the rest of the C suite structure look like? Because obviously, it's not super common for a CMO to be the commercial owner as well.
Aron: Yeah, and I do not manage the full p&l Just to be very, very clear, I manage the growth targets of the business like so being a direct to consumer brand, right media is the oxygen we need to survive. That direct to consumer group lives within me. So I set the growth targets. The acquisition cost targets the budgets for the year. And of course, the staffing within our department, which drives a bunch of that growth. I am like peanut butter and jelly peas and carrots with our CFO like we are tight. We meet I don't want to say daily, but we talk all the time. And it's really neat to see sort of both of us grow. And our time together like me understanding more of the financial demands that that he wants. He's a co founder of the business and a co owner of the business Rizwan understanding what he's looking for from a CFO perspective, but also educating him on how we invest in brand and how we look at sales overnight, but brand over time, and how we manage those two in a cost equation that yields the year, you know, because there are times where we have to make investments. And it can get bumpy in the short term. But when you look at the long term horizon line, you can see how it pays out.
Eric: So I think I'd be very curious to understand how you built that relationship with Him. Because I think that there are, you know, the industry, everyone always talks about the short tenure of CMOs and how nobody understands everybody thinks they know marketing, but nobody wants to invest in it the right way, etc, etc. And I think at the end of the day, almost everything is a people problem or opportunity. Meaning there's the theory of like the CFO doesn't understand marketing, and then there's Aaron and sorry, I forgot his name, but the guy who's the CFO, and a lot of that comes down to of course natural disposition and perspective, but also the relationship that you're able to build with that person. And so how did you? And did you intentionally go about trying to build this really tight relationship with the CFO? And I would imagine, it's a huge part of what enables you to do what you do so effectively in the CMO role?
Aron: Well,I think context is important, right? When we started, or when I started, I should say, I think my employee number was like 111. And the company had sort of like 8090 people at the time. So small company right now, not as mean, still startup, but definitely on the precipice of scale up. So when we went and started mint, these were not big asks At first, right, like I was given very little to start up. In fact, it was a bootstrapped brand, for the first year, two years, maybe even a little bit more than that. But what I did was I started to build trust through accountability, right. So I'm a person who, even though I would say I lean more towards the creative side of the business than the business side, you have to have good business acumen if you're running a company running a brand. So I've gone through all that discipline, and one of the things I'm very, very active at is to sort of explain what's happening in the business. So we meet as an executive team every week, we all see daily sales reports, but we have a scorecard, and I talk about what's happening to the business. And oftentimes, I can explain what's going to happen to the business, not what has happened. And having the ability to sort of like predict, have reliable models has built a lot of that trust. And I'll tell you, I think it's funny because we we just came back from an executive off site and raise and I were talking a lot about this. He said to me, one of the things that really sort of built a bridge between the two of us was when a programme didn't work early in my tenure with the company, I just froze my hand and said, this did not work. There's no narrative here that makes it pretty. It just was a failure. We learn from it, here's what we learned, if we will never do this again. But I just need to raise my hand and say this didn't work. And I think a lot of marketers can get defensive and find a way or narrate a way to make it seem that things were working when they really weren't, were that's not my approach. I'm just brutally transparent, right? Like this didn't work, we failed. And I need to take that.
Eric: And that's such a huge part of building trust, and the right working relationship with colleagues and teams at any level. Actually, I think that you'd really like this book American made about Alan Mulally, because it talks about how that's one of the big things that he focused on when he got a Ford was actually trying to build vulnerability within the leadership team so that people would be accountable for the failures, because it tells the story of kind of how in the first six, 912 months, whatever it was, in these management meetings that he set up, you know, everybody would go through and give a status, and everybody's status was great. It was all great. But of course, like the numbers, were showing a completely different story. And so the big change that he made was actually more cultural than it was strategic of getting people to feel safe with actually saying, like, hey, this isn't working, and taking that accountability in order to build that trust. So I think that's such a big piece of it. Be very curious about the scorecard that you have, how much can you share of what's actually on there?
Aron: Oh, well, I mean, all your standard direct to consumer metrics are there. So we have, you know, sales. So for our business, we could sell a product, but the customer still has to activate the service, right, like so we have sales versus activations. And then we have people who are leaving the business cost per acquisition, we track some unique metrics that are a few of our business, like repeat customers, customers who are repeat purchasers, but not continuing the service. It's like a weird anomaly, right?
Eric: What about what sorry to interrupt but what about on the brand side? Because I really liked what you said of sales overnight brand over time, and that's the one that can sometimes be harder to measure and harder to convince CFOs or financially oriented CEOs to invest in properly. So are there brand metrics in the scorecard as well?
Aron: Not not in the scorecard we look at as an executive team. No. But but we do have with a very small but powerful consumer insights team. There's two people in that group. But they're geniuses and I love them. They're so smart. Tom Wagner actually leads the group and he was the person who built consumer insights for Taco Bell. I was lucky enough to just steal him and have him work with us. But we built a brand tracker, and it's running at all times. So every day there's surveys being taken out there and we keep a 30 day rule Rolling, we keep a 30 day snapshot we issue to the management team that gets cascaded. There. We're looking at critical bear brand metrics like aided and unaided awareness. For us as a value brand, trying to be a disruptor. In a space, the most critical brand metric I look at is value for the money. And that's a category, a category metric, and I look to see where mint stacks up against the competition, and what movement we have as a brand. Now, that is not something we are actively messaging, right? Like, oh, we're the best value for the money. But you can sense like we saw when we ran a big promotion around deflation, when everybody took price, Verizon ATT, raise their price twice in one month, we went out launched a promo that was called deflation. Well, we saw our brand scores react immediately. And we saw our value for the money score, react immediately, which was pretty fantastic. Even though we're not out actively selling value, right, we're out selling this cool brand that's direct to consumer, that happens to be an amazing price.
Eric: I think that's super interesting. And figuring out and honing in on what is that key metric, because of course, there's so many different ways that you could measure brand health, but you being so intentional and specific was with this is what really matters most to the type of challenger brand we want to build, and then building the rituals, the processes, the technology, and I'm assuming the culture around it. I think that's a really interesting insight. Just one thing. I know, we haven't even gotten into the meat of the conversation yet. But I do want to touch on this real quick, because I'm also very passionate about it. You talked about the 10 years you did in the agency world, I also did 10 years in the agency world. So been there in terms of the pitches and all that stuff. And I've got a bit of a bone to pick on that with the industry because I think it doesn't work for anybody, it certainly doesn't work for the agencies, I don't think it works for the clients either. Because if you're hiring an agency, you don't want your best people go in to support somebody else's new business. And more importantly, I don't think that having you know giving somebody an open ended brief of just like, what's the biggest, most creative idea you can come up with, go off for two weeks and then come and pitch it to us. I do not think that's the best way to pick who's the right partner for you, much like you said, how you got hired at Taco Bell. I think whoever that person was, Who hired you is really smart. They had you actually think through a problem that you would be tasked with working with, they actually did like a working session with you. And so we don't pitch as rival. And instead, what we do is say, hey, let's start doing some work together. Let's get in a room, give us a problem. Let's start working on it. And let's see how it feels on both ends, because that's going to be the closest to what it actually is like to work together. So my question is, I'll get off my soapbox. Do you as cmo now require agencies to pitch? If so, what are you looking for within it? And if not, how do you pick the right partners for you?
Aron: Well, we haven't done an agency RFP in several years, we'd found an agency roster we got really excited with. That said, we have hired two agencies in the last 18 months, neither one had a pitch. So one is a digital media agency, a digital buying agency for our sister brand, ultra mobile. And that came that that agency hire was done based on the recommendation of one of my employees, my senior vice president of direct to consumer. So he had used this agency in the past very, very excited about it. We had a conversation, and I trust him, I almost I mean, I trust all my employees, and I trust their decision making ability. He was so passionate about it and was able just to talk me through what the benefits were. So we hired we also hired a PR company. And the PR company we did not do an RFP for we hired the PR company because they came from a recommendation as well. So I have done RFPs for this business in particular. We did them years and years ago, but they weren't creative. RFPs they were more buying RFPs and that's more you know, like how are you going to bill us? How are we going to be charged? What's the team construct going to look like? And do we like your strategic vision for where we're going because we wrote in essence the RFP so it was just an answer to that but they're fairly light I on the agency side have been through them where they're brutal, they take you know half a year to complete and you end up investing millions of human capital in it so we don't do that. I don't hope knock on wood we don't have any RFPs in the future. They're not fun to do. huge time suck and you Yeah, I feel like I hope we have the agencies we need and the in house we need but I don't want to do any in the in the future.
Eric: So I do want to come come up and talk about the in house agency.
Aron: Just so you know, I'm full blown cheating on that question. So when Ryan became an owner, we had the opportunity to sign with maximum effort, which is his own agency, right? You've never seen an easier signature on a piece of paper in your life. They are at the time, and they still are the one of the most creative shops in America doing groundbreaking work, like so smart. So fast. Like, I mean, it's just, it's amazing. So when they said, Oh, we'd want we'd want you to use or look at maximum effort. I was like, we signed me up. So I work with George Dewey, he's the president of the company. I'll tell you, the agency relationship is so unique there. We live in text message, and chat on the phone. I'll brief a major assignment on a text. And I mean, like, it's not even a long text. It's just here's what we want to do. Here's the general idea. Let's kick off a brainstorm. We have a phone call. And that's it. We're on our way. I mean, there have been times where I've gotten phone calls from George. He's like, I don't know if you've seen this on social yet. But Dave Foley tweeted at us, and I'm like, Oh, cool. News Radio. I love Dave Foley. He's like, Yeah, we're on our way to this set. Right now. We're gonna shoot him and kind of spot today. I was like, what, this is awesome, what's the spot. But I trust George, and George gets the brand and knows what we're trying to do. So I got the script. I think either while he was still in the car, or like when they got on set and started recording it, and you have to like, I think this is one of the the mistakes CMOS do today is that they're not willing to take risk. They're so buttoned up and polished, and everything has to be perfect. I'll tell you working with them has gotten me so much more comfortable with, like trusting your gut, your instinct and making a move because it's the right thing to move on. Not because it has some DAC and strategy and yada yada yada behind it. So we've done a lot of that with them. And I absolutely love it. And you can just see, I believe you can feel the fun in the work. And you could see that from our work. We're having a good time pretty much every day. And I love that I think the customer in the consumer loves that as well.
Eric: funny, you mentioned it, and I was thinking about it, because it also speaks to your answer and what you were unpacking in terms of your relationship with the CFO that anecdote I told you about the book on Alan Malala, for trust, you know, having that working relationship where the communication and the alignment is so there and so baked in. And I think that's what you want. In any agency or consultancy partners, you want someone who really feels like part of the team. And a lot of that is based on trust. At the end of the day, I do want to talk about the in house versus agency model and how you're navigating that. But let's take a step back for this for a second. Give us the overview on mint mobile quickly as a business but also how you're thinking about a brand. And I think specifically within that be great to hear how you're thinking about building a challenger brand, in a pretty crowded sector. And in a sector that has a very big brand that claims to be the Challenger already in T Mobile. So we'd love to hear kind of the overview with a bit of a focus on how you're navigating that.
Aron: Yeah, so mobile's a rocket ship. We have been growing like a bat out of hell for the last six years. It's one of those brands where you can't even talk about the growth rate, because the numbers and the percentages don't make sense. I think the last report we issued was like our five year growth rate was something like 90,000%. But I think that's less interesting. The more interesting part is the second part of your your comment your question, which is, what are you doing to the brand and what are you doing as a disruptor in the space, I will tell you this, this is going to come as a shock. But when we started meant you could not buy a wireless service online with pretty much everybody. So as we were building the business, you shop everybody, and I remember shopping AT and T and dealing with their online customer chat, like I want to buy right now. They're like, go to a store. No, I want to buy right now online from you. We don't sell online. It can wait a minute what? And then that was echoed throughout the space. So for me, it was like, holy shit moment. This is an untapped distribution channel. And like, I think for anybody listening is a pretty easy answer to this but do you think there will be less as digital transactions in the future are more, so I was like wait, we have a chance to sort of be a groundbreaker here, and we have a chance to do something completely unique. And in fact, I'd found out because I'm not from this space, I was a taco guy before this. But I found out that many who tried and failed. As we were succeeding people were telling me the failure stories, and I'm so happy I didn't know them to begin with. But I think what's interesting is that you find a lot of people in the telco space have been here, their entire careers, and you have a lot of like tacit knowledge built in you. But I also think you get a lot of legacy thinking ingrained. So when I came to this space, and we still continue to embrace outside in thinking, we start with the customer, we start with the marketplace, and we look at what the need is first, and then we innovate and sell. Right? So the very first thing was nobody selling online. Well, let's start there. And let's make that insanely easy. So of course, you stand up a website and your direct to consumer business model and you get going. But what made it makes us so good is our relentlessness on sort of like ever improving the purchase experience, the service experience, the model itself, we're always looking to make it better. And I think the disruption comes because of the innovation we're doing. So our brand archetype is the Outlaw. So we're, I guess, if you're not familiar with the 12 brand archetypes, please look them up. They're critical to your brand's narrative. But we're, we're an outlaw, and not bashful about it as well, like some of your other outlaw brands, or your Harley Davidson ones, things like that. But Mint is very much not afraid to be brash or direct. We call out our competitors a lot. But when you look at how we innovate and how we create distinction, in the category, we're doing things that I would say are uniquely MIT, or only a digital brand could do. Our pricing models innovative. We're the first group of were the first brand as far as I know, that was selling wireless in bundles. So you buy meant three months at a time to start. And then you have an opportunity to renew and purchase an annual plan and be done with your wireless bill for the year. Like that's transformative thinking. And you get rewarded for that with a deep deep discount on the price. So we innovate on the price front or the pricing front. We also innovate on the digital front, where because we're a native digital brand, we're always looking to do digital innovation. I don't know where you're from the UK. So you know about SIM cards, most Americans are oblivious to the fact that devices have SIM cards in them, myself included in the interview, it popped the sim out of my phone and gave me a heart attack. I had no idea what was going on. But there is a technology called e sim, which is an embedded SIM card, which creates a completely digital transaction. We're the first NBN otologic. So the carriers you have to be enabled by your carrier when you're an NBN. No, so carriers have this technology. But you could tell that the established players aren't real excited about this technology, because it makes switching very easy. So we embrace them first to launch it. I mean, we're on our third wholesale optimization of it. And it is a rapidly growing piece of our business. It's crazy exciting. It's I draw the comparison with my team to the banking industry, you used to have to walk in and fill out a piece of paper and talk to someone that's the rotary phone. Then they invented the ATM that's wireless in the SIM card. Well, we're in Venmo and Apple Pay Now baby. And that's what Aetherium is. And that's the future. So like we do innovation on that front. We also do just things that are consumer centric, which happened to be disruptive because in this category, it feels like they hate you. Like we have shirts printed that say at MIT mobile, we don't hate you. And that was a quote Ryan had said so we have innovation built into the programme, for example. Everybody is on unlimited basically in America, but you don't need it. The average person uses like six or seven gigs of cellular data. But we've all been beaten down with overages. You know, we've all had that one cell phone bill in our history that was astronomical. So for us, it's just unlimited and not worry about it. At mint if you buy our unlimited product at the end of your first 90 days, we actively message you through both voicemail and email and tell you if you're overpaying. We tell you you don't need unlimited you can save more money with us by switching to this more affordable plan. You don't have to, but this will save you more money. And if you switch and end up needing more data in the future, you can always go back up to unlimited will prorate the difference. Like that's, it doesn't sound like true innovation like where you're not putting like, you know, spaceships or things, you're not landing rockets on their own. But this is material innovation when it comes to the consumer and them having a positive experience with the business and the brand. So I counted as innovation.
Eric: But I think innovation actually is a relative term, because it means doing something new and different. And at the end of the day, something new or different, that adds new or different value to the customer. And so that needs to be relative to well, what's normal, what else exists. And so as you were talking at the beginning of that, I was thinking about banking, because that's the world that I come from having been CMO of a basically a business that built challenger banks for the last two and a half years. And that was my perspective on it as well. And being a consumer in the UK, there was a little bit ahead of the curve compared to the US in terms of Challenger banks. neobanks coming out, part of why they're so great is because everyone else is so bad. And the bar was so low, that they just did basic things like let you sign up online, let you talk to someone in a chat on your phone, if you needed help categorise your spending push notifications if a transaction went through. And so I'm not taking anything away from what you've done. But I do think there is something there of you know, at the end of the day, I think that all innovation comes from adding value, which comes from having a deep and differentiated understanding of your customers needs and being able to deliver on them. And so the lack of innovation often comes from big companies that are not focused on that. And so what you see and you know, with where we sit in the industry, it's fascinating to look at the contrast. It's not just what challengers are doing, it's what they're doing that's different than incumbents. And, of course, I'm over generalising. But a lot of that has to do with being customer centric. And having the privilege of now having interviewed, you know, 50 CMOS on this podcast, some from big brands, some from some from challengers. If someone asked me, What is the biggest thing that sets challenger CMOS challenger brands apart, it's not focused on the customer and actually trying to find ways to add new different value through the product or the brands. And as a sub point to that, and I really like and, you know, this makes sense, with the context you told about your role within the organisation and the relationships and understanding that you have marketing, not just being a distribution channel marketing actually being plugged into how you make decisions about product, how you make decisions about how you grow the business, marketing being an innovation function within the company, not just distribution.
Aron: Absolutely. And you know, a lot of the innovations we develop here are driven by the marketing team, because we're out there talking to the customer, right, the wireless customer all the time, and we look at the pain points, and then we figure out, can we resolve this pain in the marketplace? You know, and I think T Mobile has done an excellent job over the past decade of being that sort of agent of change in the space. They're our wholesale partner, right. So we, when you buy MIT, you're buying T Mobile. And I think we've learned so much from them just operating in their shadow. And they are very consumer centric. They have things like a price lock right now, when the other brands are raising price. So it is really, really interesting to have them as sort of your, your, your partner in the business.
Eric: So I know we only have maybe five minutes left, I do want to talk about quick dial right. I do want to talk about Ryan Reynolds, because you are in a unique position of having a celebrity owner. And someone who in the many businesses that he's involved in now has been pretty involved in front facing in a lot of the advertising, including for men mobile. So I'd be curious about a couple things. One, what's that like to as CMO? How do you think about him as an asset for building the brand? Like, how does it fit into your strategy and what I will do, because I actually really enjoyed some of the ads have been a Ryan Reynolds fan for a while. So that was not hard to win me over. But I will include a couple links to some of the recent ads in the show notes as well, so people can go and check them out. But how does that fit into your world?
Aron: Yeah, and I don't want to mince words, but I think it's important that you understand the audience understand that he is an owner, who is a celebrity, and also is featured in the ads like he's an owner first, and he's involved in the business now. Is he involved in the day to day minutia of running a wireless company? No. But he's incredibly involved in strategic vision. He's very much involved in the marketing planning we do and how we plan to set the year Innovation schedule. He's very dialled in to all this, because, quite frankly, he needs to know, because he is also, like you said, the spokesperson for the brand, right? But it's not a spokesperson, it's genuine. He is an owner, the coolest thing about Ryan was before he became a mill owner, he was a mint customer, we didn't know. So he bought the service, use the service, validated the service, then got into the company. So that makes a difference, because it's not just a paid talking head like he is invested in this, and he genuinely cares. So that's a really important distinction when it comes to the marketing plan. He's really smart. Like, I remember the first time we met with him, I presented the marketing plan. And he was just like, there's too much here. I think you're trying to do too much too soon. Let's think about it this way. I was like, This is good. This is amazing advice. So we simplify the calendar, and had an amazing year, because we were really just pounding the core message of, you know, critical serves 15 bucks a month. How does it go into your thinking, as the CMO will tell you? I don't necessarily think of him as like a spokesperson for the brand. I think about the team, right? The whole team we're building in the marketing we're doing and their smarts as an agency. He's writing scripts with George, right. They're coming up and concepting ideas. So I just look at the ideas, and we weigh the ideas based on their merit. The best part is their ideas are amazing, right? So it makes it very, very easy for us. But I'll tell you the one thing I had to do early, and I preached this, but I had to live it. And it was a little nerve wracking was, you've got to put faith in your creative team. I don't care if it's Ryan and George or whomever and whomever. But you have to trust your creatives. If you have a good team and you've written a good brief, then trust the output. And I'll tell you a very specific example. Our first real campaign was called Ryan. And so it was Ryan and somebody else. We had really interesting folks like Teacher of the Year who was a math teacher named Rodney. We had Paul Reveres great granddaughter, so like interesting characters, and then the agency recommended written Miranda's. Now as a brand that typically sells to a younger audience. Rick Maraniss was a bit of a head scratcher when it came across my desk. And I was like, goes bust Ghostbusters. Like little shop a horror ramets? Yes, I'm like, we hadn't really done anything in like 20 years. They're like, exactly. And I honestly had a moment where I was like, shit, am I going to approve this? And it'd be a dud. And then I looked I like genuinely was like looking at myself going, why are you questioning your creative team? And their creative geniuses? Go with it. So we did and ended up you know, went nuts. Like it was, I think one of the biggest things we've ever done as a brand, it was spread like wildfire. And I will tell you like they are tapped into the zeitgeist better than I could ever be. That's what they do. They live for that. But I think the big lesson, and the lesson I would take take to the to the audiences, you got to be willing to trust your creatives, when they have a risky idea. It's worth it. Right? And if you're really concerned, find ways to balance the risk somewhere else. So whether it's an expense, I don't know what the risk may be, but like, try and try and back to your crew, I would say, I love that.
Eric: There's two things I would build on top of that briefly in ways that I think about that same topic. One, if you're not uncomfortable, then maybe the idea isn't big enough. And two, I think the I think, increasingly not always, if you're on the client side, you should push yourself to think of your role as saying no to the wrong ideas, as opposed to having to find and say yes to the perfect idea that you think is right. So it's more about guardrails, rather than bullseye. I think because ultimately like that's what that's exactly what you said. It's like why they're there are another example I'll give you my, my wife, who's built a pretty big following on Instagram now based on our home renovation, interior design and all that stuff. She's starting to get inbound interest from brands looking for her to, you know, do an influencer thing for them. And, and I always advise clients on this as well. She had a brand a big a big mainstream, you know, household goods. Brian reached out to her today that was like, hey, we want you to do something. And it was like a page and a half of shoot this in this direction with that style. You can't do this. You can't do that can't do the other and she said though because that she wouldn't do it First of all, and second of all, if they're hiring her to reach her audience, who knows best how to actually influence them? So I think you need to push decision making to the edges.
Aron: And how does that denigrate her brand versus elevate her brand, which is what they're trying to buy into? Yeah.
Eric: So I think understanding why you've hired someone to do the job setting them up to be successful at doing it. And if you don't have confidence in them being successful, that's a different conversation. That's you maybe need to make a change. But I love that I think that that is a you know, unfortunately, we've absolutely run out of time we use every minute that we had, I feel like we're just skimming the surface of this, but I'm going to let you go before I do. Aaron, last question to wrap it up. What is one thing that people should do differently? After listening to this conversation?
Aron: Let's say they should switch their wireless provider but that's just, that's just me being greedy.
Eric: Company, man, I love it. No,
Aron: Like, for gosh, I like to. If I could give advice to someone who just listened to this. I just tell you, the best piece of advice I ever got, and I still like really have to focus on is to trust your gut and your instincts. If you're if you're good, and you're doing your homework and you really understand your brand. You've got what it takes inside. Don't be afraid to push it out. Yeah, of course, take influence and input from others, but don't necessarily course correct. Because someone told you they think, right. Trust yourself, trust your instincts. You're the one accountable for your output, not somebody else. So believe in yourself. I think that would be my big piece of advice.
Eric: Love it. All right. Well, we will link to a couple the Ryan Reynolds spot, of course mint mobile and your LinkedIn. Aaron, thank you so much for joining us really enjoyed this conversation as advertised. You've met expectations and exceeded them. Thank you.
Eric: Scratch is a production of rival. We are a marketing innovation consultancy that helps businesses develop strategies and capabilities to grow faster. If you want to learn more about us check out wearerival.com If you want to connect with me, email me at email@example.com or find me on LinkedIn. If you enjoyed today's show, please subscribe, share with anyone you think might enjoy it. And please do leave us a review. Thanks for listening and see you next week.