Aron North (Mint Mobile) - Sharp Edges
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Ben: Welcome to the Marketing Stir podcast by Stirista, probably the most entertaining marketing podcast you're going to put in your ear. I'm Ben, the associate producer here at Stirista. The goal of this podcast is to chat with industry leaders and get their takes on the current challenges of the market, and we'll have a little fun along the way. In today's episode, Ajay and Vincent chat with Aron North, CMO at Mint Mobile. He talks about how brands have a need to commit to their promises when it comes to selling a product. Ajay participates in the headquarter's egg drop event, and Vincent has seven cucumbers for lunch. Give it a listen.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another episode of Stirista's, The Marketing Stir. I am you're always happy host, always annoying sometimes, because the happiness that I have, class happiest 1996. I say 1996 for a reason,'95, '96 will get to that in a moment. But I'm happy to be here, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Vincent Pietrefesa, the vice president of B2B products and partnerships at Stirista, coming at you, not live, but hey, at least I'm live now. It's so good to talk to you. Let's take a moment just to talk about Stirista for 20 seconds, that's all. Let's pay some bills. I'm kidding, there's no bills, but we are a marketing technology company. We own our own business to business data, our own business to consumer data. We help companies get to that data, to utilize it to get new customers. We have our own email sending structure. We own our own DSP, called AdStir. We do connected TV, OTT, we do display. Email me, vincent @ stirista.com. I love hearing from our listeners, I love hearing from our co- host. Ladies and gentlemen, you know him, tennis champion, San Antonio slayer, Mr. Ajay Gupta. What's going on Ajay?
Ajay Gupta: Hey, Vincent. We just had a little team- building exercise in San Antonio. We had the egg drop, I don't know if you've ever done that.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Ah, no. Yeah, at company picnics, I've done that in the past. Is like, throwing? You guys were outside, I hope.
Ajay Gupta: No, it was inside, but we had this large plastic sheet on the floor. But basically, every team gets an egg and some material to try to protect the egg, and then Jenna climbs on the ladder and throws the egg down.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Oh, wow.
Ajay Gupta: Yeah.
Vincent Pietrefesa: That's awesome.
Ajay Gupta: Only one accident. I won't name any names, but it was Steve Rinaldi's team where the egg cracked on the carpet.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Let's name names. All of our listeners out there, let's name names. You already brought it up. I just want to know.
Ajay Gupta: I guess, we'll find out if Steve and Shelby listened to our podcast or not.
Vincent Pietrefesa: All right, so Shelby. It was obviously Shelby Seal who did it? Shout out to Shelby Seal, Steve Rinaldi. But that's awesome, a team building. You know what I did today? My wife packed me seven cucumbers and that's it. I was like, " What is she trying to tell me?" I was like, " What am I supposed to do with this? Am I a rabbit? How am I eating seven..." You see how big I am, Ajay? 6'1", 220. You think I'm eating cucumbers? But anyway, that was my team building, is just eating some cucumbers. But that's awesome. Happy we do that there. I love coming into San Antonio, depending on the time of the year, and doing some team building. Looking forward to that. In December, we have a summit coming up. I'm looking forward to that. This next guest might, I would love to ask this next guest to be on our summit. It's a virtual summit, because I think he'd be great. I already spoke to him. I'm very, very excited about this next guest. I've mentioned this a few times on the podcast, where I would've hung out with this dude. I would've hung out with this lady. We would've been in high school the same time. I hope he's okay with me giving away that information. But he looks extremely young, so he's okay with it. Just like I tell myself, I look young for my age. You disagree with me all the time, Ajay. And first of all, I love the story. I love the company that he works for. And we would've been friends. We talk basketball. We would've hung out. Ladies and gentlemen, I know you're going to love this next guest, the CMO of Mint Mobile. Ladies and gentlemen, Aron North. What's going on, Aron?
Aron North: Hi, good morning. How are you guys?
Vincent Pietrefesa: We're doing amazing. I love, if you're watching us on YouTube, and not a ton of people do. Everyone listens to us via audio, and thank you for that. But Aron's got, it's the most beautiful... That's a real background.
Aron North: It's actually a backyard.
Vincent Pietrefesa: It's a backyard. I had to ask him, as a person who lives in Manhattan, as our listeners know, I was like, "What is that? I heard those are backyards." That's beautiful. Joining us from sunny California. Aron, it's so great to talk to you. Would we have hung out in high school? I think we would've.
Aron North: Yeah, I think so. I mean, I would've been the elder statesman, but I was a very inviting person. Had a broad group of friends, love sports. So yeah, I think we'd be able to hang, for sure.
Vincent Pietrefesa: I think so. I think so. Or, you're just being nice by saying that. As Ajay, I could see him smiling. He's like, " Wow." Would me and you have hung out in high school, Ajay?
Ajay Gupta: I don't know about the question, Vincent, but I feel like your wife's cucumber has thrown you in this crisis mode where you're like, " Would people hang out with me or not?"
Vincent Pietrefesa: I know. Yeah, exactly.
Ajay Gupta: Or, would they just like the cucumbers?
Vincent Pietrefesa: Well, yeah, because I was the guy, I would've been the kid at lunch who just had cucumbers. Nobody likes that kid. Nobody likes that kid. But anyway, Aron, so great to talk to you. You and I had met before and talked, and I love your story. I love what Mint Mobile is doing. But talk to the listeners out there who maybe live under a rock and don't know what Mint Mobile is. But talk to us about Mint Mobile and then your job within the organization.
Aron North: Yeah. Well first off, thank you for having me. 5'9", 175 since we're doing height and weight, apparently? Kidding, of course. The story of Mint. So the story of Mint, not coincidentally, starts around the time I joined the company. So, I have the prestigious luxury of being the person who helped build Mint from the ground up. Mint Mobile is a wireless service provider. So just like T- Mobile, Verizon or AT&T, which I'm sure you probably have one of the three in your phones right now. We do provide wireless service. So, the way our business works is we buy wholesale from T- Mobile and because we buy so much at wholesale prices, we're able to package it up and resell it as our own. Mint special sauce is that Mint is the, I don't know if we're the explicit first, but we're the first to scale direct- to- consumer wireless brand. So the concept behind Mint was, the wireless business has been a very traditional brick and mortar business forever. You go into a wireless store, you talk to a person, you give them your phone, they give you a new phone or they switch your service, whatever. That's the model. We saw an opportunity to really turn that model on its head and digitize the entire business. So Mint's promise, or premise, was always incredibly low, affordable, premium wireless, direct to consumer. And, really, everybody who's a direct- to- consumer guru knows that the business model is quite a bit different. Since we don't have stores, we don't have employees running stores, we don't have to pay for lights. Our cost structure and operating structure's different. And with that delta, you have the choice of either keeping it as profit or giving it to the customer in the form of lower price. That's what we've chosen to do. So, Mint offers wireless starting at 15 bucks a month, which is insane. Most people immediately reject it when they hear it, because they feel like there has to be something wrong with it. Then when they finally make the turn or they try the product, they get frustrated because they're like, " Dammit, I should've had this years ago." It's a very, very bizarre and fun thing to watch, because you could see it almost daily in social media. People going through this path. And my role here, I have two roles, actually. You nailed it, I am the chief marketing officer, but I also have another role here that's mostly... Accountability's not really a title we carry around, and that's commercial owner. And the shorthand for commercial owner is I build the forecast, the budget, and basically the business around the brand. And what's really interesting is I'm often faced with the dilemma of who gets to win, right? So, does the customer win with this initiative or does the company win? And what I'm really trying to balance is create that symbiotic relationship, where both the customer wins and the company wins. And we've been really successful in doing that so far. And it's entrenched into a lot of the marketing and programs we run just because of that neat dynamic of having marketing leadership also be brand and business leadership here as well.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Very interesting, very... Unique balance as well. You haven't really heard that balance of the CMO that we've had on. So that's very unique.
Aron North: And it is different. And I'll tell you there are still some things that remain constant. I have an incredibly tight relationship with our chief financial officer, who's a co- founder, and our CEO who is the founder of the company. So with a brand that's D2C, driven by media, you've got to have a really firm grip on what your business is doing, what the brand is doing. And having that tight relationship with both the CEO and the CFO allows us to operate quickly and operate decisively. We are an action- biased org, so we like to make moves. We measure once, cut, but cut with a little extra. So if you have to recut, you're not hurting yourself. But yeah, we're definitely action biased and I think this structure gives us the ability to move very quickly.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Yeah, I know, I like that, and I like the way you break it down and explain it and I know our listeners will as well. Aron, talk to us about a very popular question, for many reasons, because for those people who are looking to pursue marketing or get into marketing, talk to us about your path. How did you get into marketing?
Aron North: Well, I won't go too far back, but I will tell you my parents wanted me to become a doctor, my dad especially. So, when I started college, I was in the biomedical sciences program, which was the pre- med program-
Vincent Pietrefesa: Oh, wow.
Aron North: ...at UC Riverside. I did that for about three years and I was miserable. I mean miserable. It was very hard. I'm not smart enough, naturally gifted to just know this stuff. So I was dying studying and not really enjoying college. I switched to business, with an emphasis in marketing, and it just clicked, it made sense. And finish school, having fun and having good grades? But started my career agency side, spent a decade over there. Look, the agency model is very, very challenged right now. I don't know if I could say it's broken, but there's a lot of things that need to tinker with it. But the benefit of going agency side for a decade is I worked on a ton of marketing campaigns. Just the sheer tonnage of an agency is nothing you've ever seen. And then I went client side, I got my MBA. I always knew that, it was very hard for me to only be the person who's the recommender, right? " Here's our recommendation, here's what we hope you choose to do with your business." And it's a gut punch every time your recommendation is turned down. Was very hard for me. I think being close to creative, you wear these programs on your sleeve, your heart on your sleeve with them and it was hard. So, I got my MBA, because I realized to make the switch to client side, many of the Fortune 500s require it. So I did that and then made the jump to Taco Bell, was there for almost six years. Had a phenomenal run there. I got hired right as they were going through a bogus beef lawsuit and the brand was on the decline. Our team repositioned the brand. I mean, that manifested with a new tagline, but there was so much more behind it with product ID, product definitions, brand architecture, new releases of new innovation. So, it was a really fantastic time. And then got a cold call, got a cold call from a head hunter to join the fastest- growing company in America. And I was like, " Look, I don't want to move. I love SoCal. I've got this rad backdrop called the backyard." But they were like, " It's in Costa Mesa. It's 10 minutes away." And I said, " There is no way on earth the fastest- growing company in America's down the street." And lo and behold, it was. So I joined the company, it was only Ultra Mobile at the time. Like I said, we've built Mint from the ground up, this team here, and it has been an absolute wild ride and fun for the last six years.
Ajay Gupta: Awesome. Well Aron, I don't know if you know this, but we work pretty closely with telecoms, and I know this is a big season with the new iPhone coming up for some of our clients. So, just a general question for you. What marketing channels are you guys focused on right now? What's worked for you historically?
Aron North: Yeah. We're a digital brand, so as you would expect, a bunch of our marketing is done in the digital arena. I will give us a little pat on the back here. So, just about two years ago, we, as a digital brand, saw the promise of eSIM, which is the big, or one of the big announcements for the iPhone 14. We're the first MVNO to launch eSIM. We are on our, well, I don't even want to say what iteration we are, because we're constantly innovating and simplifying the process. But yeah, pretty proud to be the first eSIM- ready MVNO and very ready for the iPhone 14. But as far as tactics are concerned, we run a heavy mid and low- funnel game. That's where digital marketers spend a lot of their attention. And we also run in some top of funnel, because you've always got to keep new eyeballs coming to the brand. So, we run a heavy mix of varied media. I would say the only things we don't run are sponsorships of buildings. So you won't see the Mint Mobile football arena, you won't see us sponsoring sport teams. We don't do that kind of work, but we're very heavy into digital. We're getting more into connected TV and TVE, which is exciting. But I think what you would find is that our media mix is very traditional, with the exception of one thing, and that is that we like to have fun with the brand and we're constantly looking for brand moments. And with an owner like Ryan Reynolds, you're able to do things that are both analog and digital, that really disrupt, either from a marketing or a sales or maybe both perspective, which are most of the time nontraditional in their media vehicles.
Ajay Gupta: Not having physical store, obviously, it's a great cost saving that you can pass on, but does it affect the way you market, especially in terms of loyalty marketing? Does that make it more challenging not having that store experience?
Aron North: Actually, you would think it plays into life cycle or retention marketing, but it's more of a hurdle on the acquisition side, because the marketplace is so used to walking into a store and having an agent do everything for you. People don't understand this isn't very self- served. If you've ever downloaded an app or set up an account on something, that's, in essence, what you do to set up your wireless. And we've simplified it so much that it's very easy, but people are still scared. So what we've done is we've actually innovated with customer care. So we've got varying levels of customer care. Our customer care is exceptional, but there are people who just want more. They want some enhanced care service. So we do offer that and it's pretty phenomenal. The agents are trained and built for this. But what they'll do is they will actually, you call into care and you're like, " I want to set up Mint, and I want to bring my number from Verizon, and I'm nervous." And it's like, " Cool. Let's call Verizon together." And they jump on the phone with you and they talk to the operator from Verizon with you, and they make sure it works before you hang up the phone. Which is amazing, right? Because we're basically taking customer service and the store and we're bringing it to the customer in their home, which I think is a big unlock for us. But once you have good service and you're set up, it's really like, if you remember this, the Ronco, set it and forget it. The Ronco oven. Most people don't have any issues after you've done initial setup. We find it to be more of a focus in the upfront, but of course, customer care is always there throughout lifecycle.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Aron, a question I have is more around, even when you said you went to Taco Bell, you went in when there was, maybe not call it, maybe a transition, and then you also joined Ultra, now Mint Mobile, when you built the brand. Is there something that attracts you to that? Just taking what's already there and building something better? What do you think that is?
Aron North: Well I do like building things. I think it's very, very fun, and I'm an entrepreneur at heart. I've always been that way. So getting to Taco Bell, Taco Bell's very entrepreneurial. It's a huge org inside of a huge company. But when I was there, it was very entrepreneurial and ideas could come from everywhere and anywhere and we really pushed against that. Here, this is, I'm in the scale up right now, right? It was a startup, it is scaling rapidly. It's that idea of constantly being able to build and create new. It's in our core values as a company. We have, that's called Invent and Simplify. So we love invention, we love creating new, but inventing with the goal of making things better is something I look for. So being in an environment that fosters that and allows that to cultivate I think is really exciting. And it's something we do to our employees today. This is not like, " Oh, you're the CMO, it's your job to create all the innovation." There are teams here that are doing this constantly. And we create this environment where it's very, very safe to push ideas. I'm a big fan of failure. Failure, for me, is a proxy for risk. So what I tell the team is, " It's okay to fail. We fail here all the time, but we fail fast, we fail small, we fail cheap and we fail forward." And if you think about the context of that, you really haven't failed, because you've learned something. So I am willing to take those failures all the time. And, really, what it's doing is it's telling our employees it's okay to come up with risky ideas and bring them in, right? We'll vet them and if they're good ideas or they have kernels of goodness in them, we'll find ways to bring them to life, and I think that's really empowering. And that's really grown our ideas and our philosophies and our approaches to marketing, something that is colorless, odorless, tasteless. I mean you can't see wireless service, it just has to work. So having that freedom has really allowed us to bring neat ideas to life.
Vincent Pietrefesa: I love that. No, what a great philosophy. If you're going to fail, fail forward and encourage that. That's a great philosophy. Aron, let's talk about Ryan Reynolds for a second. Having a very high- profile owner, how has that helped the process?
Aron North: Yeah, it's amazing, right? You can't get anywhere around it. But I think what is easy to forget is that... So Ryan joined, we announced, in November of 2019. The business had been up and going for some time before that. So it didn't launch with him. And a lot of the infrastructure and the support mechanisms, and the constructs or concepts were there. Ryan is jet fuel. Ryan, that process doesn't happen overnight. And unbeknownst to us, Ryan had bought the service and was using the service. So he already had an understanding of it is exactly what you'd expect. It's just wireless service. There's nothing wrong with it. So when he came in, he already had proof of concept, he was very engaged, and he does add this jet fuel. What you get is you get, obviously, visibility and awareness. You also get this amazing creativity with him and his team. George Dewey's the president of Maximum Effort, his agency, and working with that team, it's second to none. I mean, their creative agency is incredibly hot. I think everybody wants to work with them. We're very, very fortunate that we have their attention. But it's different in that he's an owner and he's an active owner in the business. He's very involved in strategic planning, where we're headed and, of course, the marketing. So it makes it really, really nice to have someone who has that reach, but also that connection to the brand. We ran a deflation promo back in June, the Verizon and AT& T raised price. We came up with this idea right before, I think it was Memorial Day weekend, and by Tuesday of coming back, we had been texting, he was in, our company was already working on how to rebuild the website and the pricing and things like that, to support the promo. And they're big on fastvertising, which is advertising at the speed of culture. This is a bit more dynamic because it wasn't just advertising, it was changing the construct of pricing on the brand. But we were able through, because he's so invested, because he understands, Andy's a marketer, it was easy for me to get the team to start building the infrastructure piece and to work with him on the communications. And all that connected in, gosh, I want to say within two weeks.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Wow.
Aron North: We had the idea baked, built and live in market. And it's not like he just does his work and he walks away. He's super invested and asking throughout the whole program, " How's it going? What's working, what's not working? Show me performance and things like that so we can get better." So having that is a huge asset, and it's allowed our brand to accelerate at a rate that we had never imagined. So it's quite fun and it's also, I don't know if rewarding is the right word, but it's also... I guess rewarding is the right word, because you have someone so invested and you've got this work that's out there and it's really producing the result that's incredible. It is very, very fun and rewarding.
Ajay Gupta: And you've mentioned a few times how quickly Mint has been growing and the great growth rate. Are there any specific campaigns that you want to mention that are your favorites?
Aron North: Oh, we've had so many. We do campaigns just for fun sometimes, and sometimes we do stuff just to prove it can be done, right? So, I'll give you a perfect example. Dave Foley tweeted at the brand and Ryan earlier this year. It was just like, " I love these Mint Mobile commercials. I'd like to be in one." I didn't even know the tweet happened. The team found it. And I got a call from George, who I mentioned. He runs Maximum Effort. I get a call from him as he was driving to a set to film Dave Foley. I was like, " Wait, what? We're shooting Dave? What just happened?" It was so exciting, right? And we shot, edited and produced a spot all within eight hours or something like that, and had it out there. We did that because it was rad and fun. I can't tell you that was a giant needle mover in transactions, but it was so cool and so great. I love it. I love bringing it up. There are other ones that have been more transactional, also as fun. We did this Bobby Bonilla campaign a couple years ago, where if you're a baseball person, sports guy, yeah, he's got the greatest contract ever written in sports. He gets paid for 20 years after he retires, right?
Vincent Pietrefesa: Every July- something, right?
Aron North: Yeah.
Vincent Pietrefesa: It's like every July, he gets paid about-
Aron North: 1 point-
Aron North: Yes.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Yep. I'm
Vincent Pietrefesa: a Mets-
Aron North: You know exactly.
Vincent Pietrefesa: ... I'm a Mets fan. I know. It's like aholiday for us.
Aron North: So what we did is we created a 20- year phone plan. Mint doesn't really have contracts, so we created the most insane contract ever for wireless, a 20- year deal, where if you paid a hundred bucks a month, excuse me, a hundred bucks a year, you got 20 years of service or 25 years of service. We sold them. We sold plans. We sold 150- ish plans. It was nuts. Because we're people, we had a little side bet in the marketing team, how many we're going to sell? One, two, three, maybe four? To sell 150 was nuts. But that campaign went crazy, super fun. And we do stuff like that. We also do analog things that maybe don't get as much of visibility. We send out a holiday card every year. Analog, an actual stamped holiday card to our customers and they end up on Twitter. They're very fun. They're done in a very, I don't want to say irreverent, but on- brand way, where we do have some fun at our own expense and make it light. And last year, we included in the holiday card a competitor to Elf on the Shelf. We invented this thing called Ryan on an island, and it was a little paper standee and you could put Ryan, it said something like, " Have Ryan versus the Elf and see who will have ultimate holiday domination in your..." Something really fun. And that was all over Twitter. I mean, again, some of my favorite campaigns may not be the most transactional, but I think the brand component really lowers the barrier and invites people in. So, while maybe not directly attributable to the transaction, I know that they're certainly opening up awareness of the brand and consideration.
Ajay Gupta: And what about specific goals for this year in terms of your marketing department? Are there certain KPIs that you track on an ongoing basis?
Aron North: Yeah, we're always tracking what you would expect. So, we're always tracking awareness numbers, aided and unaided. We're always tracking performance. But ultimately, as a performance brand, we track growth. And we have crazy ambitious growth goals always with Mint. And I can't even really say what they are right now because Mint is, it's like nothing I've ever seen, in that we planned the most ambitious growth years I've ever seen in my life. And then we crush and we have to re- forecast and create harder goals throughout the year. So we've just completed that exercise. And I haven't checked my email today to see if the revised projections have been approved. But we're pushing even harder than expected. I mean, the brand's fun, it's got a killer proposition, 15 bucks for wireless. And look, we know, believe it or not, a ton of people use the$ 15 product. Some people are probably going, " Yeah, but that's not right for me." We do unlimited for 30 and have plans in between 15 and 30, so it's really compelling. And there's a lot of good, good reviews around what we're doing. We get named to be the hottest wireless brand, the best wireless brand. PC Mag names us the best, Wired, the best. So, got a lot of momentum. I think the hardest thing, it's such a hard question to answer, but the hardest thing is to not coast or decelerate. That is the hardest thing, or the thing I'm constantly keeping my eye on is that we're watching acceleration and making sure that the acceleration continues.
Vincent Pietrefesa: And Aron, would you say that that trait right there, or maybe you have a few other traits in mind, is what separates yourself as a marketer? How would you describe yourself as a marketer? What are those key traits that separate you, been a game changer for you?
Aron North: Yeah. I'm fiercely competitive as a person, so you got to know that going in. When I was in sports as a kid, in high school, my coaches would always say, " Look, you're the easiest guy to coach on the whole team. Just put somebody better than you, next to you, and you can't stand it. You have to be better." So, that's in my blood and it's part of who I am. So I think that never- say- die mentality... I mean, look, when we started, we were telling people the way Mint works is you buy online, but you buy in bulk and that bulk saves you money. Yeah, of course. We're not like some of the cable operators, where it's, sign up for 20 bucks, and then you can never get the 20- buck price ever. It's just an intro offer. For us, it's sign up, 15 bucks. And yeah, you get 15 bucks after, you just commit for a year. We were asking people to commit for a year and the brand was weeks and months old. That's a really hard proposition to sell, but you got to have a never- say- die mentality with that and you got to work through those issues and grind. I think that is a trait that has served us well. I think the idea of risk is okay. So we take, we have always parked 10% of our media budget in the unproven, the untested, and the unknown. And because we've always built it that way from the start, we wouldn't feel a pinch if all of a sudden we had to take 10% out. But that willingness to risk and fail, coupled with the rubber hits the road, the media to support it, has allowed us to push and try new things. And I think that is really what helps us as well. We're in beta releases of new media vehicles. We're in these things, because we're willing to take a flyer on something small that has potentially out- sized returns if it works. I think that's really helpful with our team. And then I'll be honest, one of my best things is getting out of the way, right?
Vincent Pietrefesa: Nice.
Aron North: Marketers got to know you'll ruin this stuff by putting your thumbprint on it. I talk a lot about rounding the edges and how that's unacceptable. I like sharp edges, they cut. Marketing needs to cut. Cut through, get to the customer, et cetera, et cetera. So, I also will make sure the marketing team knows that, hey, we're not going to give creative feedback if it's not materially going to enhance performance, period. I don't care about your preference. And we do a lot of training on this in- house, because it builds rapport, it builds trust within our creative team in- house as well, that if you write a good brief and you get a good creative solution, you execute it. You don't noodle with the edges for no reason.
Vincent Pietrefesa: No, I love that. I love the way you break it down. And for me, summarize... We talked about it. If I had to summarize it, I would say, look, some of those, the benefits of getting a production up in hours or weeks, that's a competitive advantage. Not having all that overhead from the stores. But in your words, Aron, how do you stay competitive with some of those other providers that you mentioned?
Aron North: Yeah. I think we have two things. So I've never worked in wireless before this. One of the things for me, historically, is I don't typically work in the same sector. But when came into this, I looked at this sector. And at the time, T- Mobile was very much the un- carrier, pushing with John Ledger and he was calling Verizon and AT& T Dumb and Dumber and things like that. What I realized is that the sector is broken, right? There's not brand affinity or brand love broadly across this. I think of it a lot like the airlines, and T- Mobile was doing a lot of this great work, really challenging convention. And, really, Mint did the same, but with a direct- to- consumer lens. So what we're trying to do is write the wrongs of the category and do it in a way that's fun and light and never stop. We're playing offense the entire time. We're not playing defense. So I believe if we're solving customer pain, the industry wrongs, and we're constantly innovating in that way, that's offense and that's customer benefit. We're constantly trying to enhance and create customer benefit. That, to me, is the way you grow, right? You live in a world today where there may not be perfect information available, but holy shit, you can Google anything and get a ton of data and a ton of info, and you can really make educated choices on all the things you're buying nowadays. So, I think brands have to commit to the promise. You can't just say you're going to do something, you have to constantly be pushing and innovating to bring it to life.
Ajay Gupta: Aron, one of our staple questions here is regards to LinkedIn. I'm sure with your job title and where you work, you get a ton of unsolicited messages. So what's a way somebody can get through to you or your inbox and get your attention? And what is something, more importantly, that really annoys the hell out of you?
Aron North: What are you trying to do to my LinkedIn, man? It's so bad. So look, I've already said we won't sponsor buildings or athletic programs. I guarantee you, because of this podcast, I'll get 20. It'll be everything from, and these are teams that I love, too. College teams I love, places I would love to see games, but we just don't do it. I, too, use LinkedIn for cold calls, right? Because we do partnerships. We do stuff like that that makes sense. The way I do it is I try and send a relevant message and it's very short. Because we all know it's a cold call. And I oftentimes will say, " I know this is a cold call. If you're still reading, I think the brands can work together. Here's why." I get right to the point. We get endless amounts of solicitation and it's often for stuff that doesn't make any sense. I don't know how to filter it out. But the way I do it is I just tend to be transparent and short, because I think if you're going to a decision- maker, you just want to get to it, and if not, delete it. And be okay with no response. If you're sending cold call spam email, just know that there's a lot of it out there and you might not get a reply.
Ajay Gupta: That's a good one, Aron. So, a lot of our viewers tend to be younger marketing professionals and students and such. What's an advice you'll give somebody who is trying to get into marketing that would make them successful in this field?
Aron North: I love that question. I get asked that question a ton. I interview any candidate who's coming into the marketing department, so I get a chance to talk to a lot of young marketers, and I give them the same advice. And the advice is, when you're young in your career, don't worry about the money. Okay? I see so many people, particularly young marketers, following money and promotions. Don't. Don't. Follow the work. I look for two things when I look at young talent, I look at where they've worked and what they've done. So, it doesn't have to be a big name agency or a big name client, but it better be a client or an agency that's doing interesting work. You're a marketer, take less early in your career to get better opportunity. When I see two candidates, and one comes in and has worked on a brand that I know and on campaigns that I respect, top of the stack. If it's someone who worked that places I've never heard of, on brands I have no idea, or the marketing is mayonnaise or wallpaper, whatever you want to call it, it's just bleh, you're going to the bottom of the stack. Those are the things I'm looking for. I don't care what school you went to, I just don't care. Right? To me, it's about your ability to make good choices after school. And that first choice is where are you going to work? And I know some places pay more, right? That's fine, but they're not doing stuff that's going to build your skillset. You're at a very foundational level as a young marketer. All that work's going to build you up over time. I worked at a not very popular agency, but I worked on the California State Lottery as one of my first accounts. Everybody knows the lottery. I was able to work on things that were really transformative. We created this campaign called Millionaire Made Here, and it was based off an insight that people believe stores are lucky. And if a millionaire was made there and you talked about it, more people bought tickets there. Well, that was something that was easily transferable as a marketing learning and something I could interview and talk about. It's a high- profile client, with a really unique marketing tactic that we were instrumental in. Those are the types of things I'm looking for when I look for young talent. So I really, really challenge folks to find something. If you're a marketer, you should be pushing. You should find a place that will allow you to push and get exposure. Don't go to a place that's just going to put you in a corner. It'll hurt you in the long term.
Vincent Pietrefesa: I love hearing that, especially with the school thing, right? A lot of people always think that, and maybe some places do. They just look for certain schools, and they will just search based on that. I went to SUNY Oswego, State University of New York of Oswego. It's a small school. A lot of people haven't really heard of it, but we just have to work harder. Separate yourself. I love that advice, Aron.
Aron North: I went to a UC school, UC Riverside. Look, I love my alma mater, but it's not the most prestigious. You got UCLA, you've got all these big- name schools, but I am a firm believer in what you put in is what you get out. And I really applied myself in school, in grad school, for that matter. And I think that manifests itself after. You see it in people's work product. But I don't care where you went, but if you got great learnings out of there and you've made good marketing decisions in your first early career moves, then yeah, I'm very interested in what you have to say.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Yeah. And isn't it funny how, in the beginning, you go back and you graduate and you put your GPA on there, and then you get some job experience, no one ever cares about that afterwards.
Aron North: Yeah. Oh, you still don't do that?
Vincent Pietrefesa: Yeah, yeah.
Aron North: Wait, I got to take mine off?
Vincent Pietrefesa: Yeah. No. I have it tattooed on me, my GPA. I don't know if I want my GPA out there. But no, it was not bad.
Ajay Gupta: Now, I'm really curious, Vincent.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Yeah. No-
Aron North: I'm still rocking my letterman jacket for my academic letter, not just athlete.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Nice.
Aron North: I was a mathlete as well.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Yep, that's it. The mathlete. No, my GPA was pretty good. I did all right. It wasn't a 4.0. I wasn't the valedictorian in my class, but I did all right. I was well- balanced, Ajay.
Aron North: There you go.
Vincent Pietrefesa: ...I did a lot of activity. I was-
Aron North: There you go, well- balanced.
Vincent Pietrefesa: ...well- balanced person.
Ajay Gupta: I'll get it out of you next time we're drinking.
Aron North: Ajay.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Oh, yeah. No, it's not bad.
Aron North: Ajay, I feel like you got to tell us your GPA now that we're all-
Vincent Pietrefesa: Yeah, I know. It's it. You better had a 4. 0. I bet you, you know?
Ajay Gupta: Only in grad school. My graduate degree was in creative writing. I think it was hard not to get a 4.0.
Aron North: I love it.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Yeah. Mine was in the threes. Don't you worry, it was in the threes. I think it was 3.5.
Aron North: Threes is winning.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Yeah.
Aron North: Threes is winning.
Vincent Pietrefesa: I was Dean's list. I think it was like 3. 4, 3. 7. I don't know what I was. Yeah. At SUNY Oswego, they fact check it and comment on it.
Aron North: We're hoping all the records are sealed and not comment.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Yeah. I know. We just listen to this. I'm kidding. We have a lot of listeners. So Aron, talk to us about personal side. What are you into? You're big sports fan. You're a Lakers guy?
Aron North: Yeah, huge.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Yeah.
Aron North: If we were doing this in my office, you'd see I've got a purple wall, I've got an autographed Kobe poster.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Oh, that's right. I did see that. I did see that.
Aron North: Yeah. Yeah, I love the Mamba mentality. It's weird, right? I don't get up at 3:00 a. m. to go do practice, but I do pace and think, and I do really believe that you can outwork your competitors. I'm a hard worker, probably to a fault, but I do like to create balance. I almost just said I like to party, and I can't remember the last time I partied. I do balance and I like it in the form of, I surf. So, I do like to get out in the ocean and trot probably out there two or three times a week. It's just such a neat physical release. You're so exhausted when you're doing it and you're out... Gosh, I'm going to get real hippie here. You're out harmonizing with water and feeling the vibe and the energy, and you get this, when you're done, you get a clarity because of the physical exhaustion you just don't have doing other stuff. So, I really love that. Got a family and love spending time with them. Yeah, so it's pretty fun. Plus, I've got this beautiful backyard that I get to enjoy.
Vincent Pietrefesa: I love it.
Aron North: ...during the summer time.
Vincent Pietrefesa: That's... Football wise, NFL. Is it...
Aron North: My heart. My heart has been broken. I grew up in the shadow of Angels Stadium, which is where the Rams used to play. I used to be able to ride my bike there, so I lived pretty close. Then they left for St. Louis and won a championship, and the owner was like, " Oh, Southern California. Ugh, thumbs down on them."
Vincent Pietrefesa: Yeah, yeah. Let's move to St. Louis. No one ever said that.
Aron North: So I abandoned the Rams and became a Charger fan, and then was a hardcore Charger fan, and then they left San Diego. So I have no team. I am teamless. All I root for is my fantasy football team.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Yep, same.
Aron North: Which just sucks, but it's also just the way, I guess, business has infiltrated the NFL and taken some of the charm away. But yeah, I root for, my team name is doormat, because several years I got walked all over.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Nice.
Aron North: But I have one, the Ultra Mint Fantasy Football League, 2016 champion.
Vincent Pietrefesa: I love it. Yeah. Our last place trophy is the cunkle. It's our VP of market. He just comes in last place every year. And Ajay, for the first time, has joined the fantasy football league here and has his first win, his first win. By the time this comes out, maybe he's 1 and 4, who knows? But he at least has his first one.
Aron North: Oh, congrats.
Ajay Gupta: Thanks.
Aron North: I had a great week, but got roped. I went against Patrick Mahomes who scored damn near inaudible. Yeah.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Oh, five touchdowns. Yeah.
Ajay Gupta: Yeah.
Aron North: Yeah. Yeah, look at us all, Ahh...
Vincent Pietrefesa: I know. I know.
Aron North: Everybody inaudible the fade.
Vincent Pietrefesa: But Aron, yeah, you could be a Rams fan again. They just won the Super Bowl. Yeah, you didn't jump back on the bandwagon, which I appreciate. You made a statement here on The Marketing Stir that you didn't jump back on the bandwagon, but they're there. The stadium is beautiful.
Aron North: It is.
Vincent Pietrefesa: You got a great coach. You got a quarterback for a number of years. Cooper Cup, come on.
Aron North: Yeah.
Vincent Pietrefesa: We give you permission.
Aron North: Yeah.
Vincent Pietrefesa: Go back.
Aron North: I'm I'm not there yet. I feel like it's too soon. Particularly after winning the Lombardi Trophy. You got to give them... They got to be terrible again, then you can start rooting for them.
Vincent Pietrefesa: I like that. I like that attitude. You're not just jumping on the Golden State Warriors or that. I love it. Nope, that's good stuff. Aron, this has been awesome. It's been great. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for breaking down some of your tactics and your methodology there. We appreciate it. Ladies and gentlemen, that's Aron North, the CMO of Mint Mobile. Check them out, please. This is Ajay Gupta. I'm Vincent Pietrefesa. This has been another episode of The Marketing Stir. Thank you so much for listening and we'll talk to you soon.
Ben: Thanks for listening to The Marketing Stir podcast by Stirista. Please like, rate, and subscribe. If you're interested in being a guest on the podcast, please email us at themarketingstir@ stirista. com, and thanks for listening.
Ajay and Vincent chat with Aron North, CMO at Mint Mobile. He talks about how brands have a need to commit to their promises when it comes to selling a product. Ajay participates in the Headquarters Egg Drop Event, and Vincent has seven cucumbers for lunch.