MarTech360 Interview with Safaa Lafnoune, VP Of Product, ViralGains

Hi, Safaa, could you tell us about your professional journey so far?

Throughout my tenure at ViralGains I’ve had many opportunities to hone my skills and learn different facets of a business. From Ad Operations, Customer Success, Development, Product Management to Strategy. These experiences shaped me as the leader that I am today in my capacity as Vice President of Product where I oversee the entire product lifecycle from strategy, ideation, development to post commercialization.

I’m thankful for the opportunities I was given and the ones I raised my hand for, and I strive to coach my team members and mentees to seize every opportunity – especially those that are challenging at first glance and to overcome the fear of failure; no success comes without failure and learning is always tied to experimentation and expansion of horizons.

What challenges did the COVID-19 pandemic pose for you and your team?

Pre-pandemic, my team was ⅓ remote and had processes in place to enable digital and remote work. Those of us who weren’t remote at the time still had to adjust to not being able to collaborate in person. As a leader, it was challenging for me not to be able to do a visual check through the office to see who might need some assistance, or even be able to turn around to run an idea by my colleagues and teammates.

However, we found ways to strengthen our digital presence, and incorporate aspects of the in-person experience like “water cooler” conversations into our stand ups every morning amongst other initiatives, like team online games to continue developing bonding across the various teams, or various initiative based Slack channels.

Overall the shift was positive once we were fully adjusted, as most members recognized the time waste in commuting and welcomed the extra time with their families – not to mention increase in productivity because of the ability to focus in one’s environment with diminished context switches. We still get together in person for team bonding events when we can but we reserve work conversations and sessions to digital environments as we now have embraced the remote-first environment and have team members in various regions and countries.

What sets ViralGains apart from the competition?

ViralGains has a very unique approach to advertising and marketing, which is that of listening to people’s voice in a privacy compliant way and facilitating the communication between brand, agencies, and consumers.

ViralGains’ focus is on enabling two-way conversation in advertising and marketing, and making it actionable. All our efforts are centered around that core, which allows us to do things like enable zero-party (0P) data collection, generate unique modeled audiences off of 0P data, create unique and interactive micro-experiences that engage end users who are interested, and most importantly, respect those consumers’ preferences in the process.

How has the Digital Marketing landscape evolved and will evolve in the coming years?

There has been a lot of disturbance in the landscape – both at the macro and micro levels – but I believe a lot of them are very positive. For example, the consumer privacy movement which is reshaping the landscape as we know it with efforts like deprecation of cookies, or the push of nimble digital communication since the pandemic. These two examples alone have had (and will continue) to evolve the industry and require continuous efforts from all industry stakeholders to get out of the uncertainty cycle and to thrive in this new reality.

In the context of consumer privacy [to dive into one of them], a lot of work remains to be done. That includes embracing the addressability spectrum as an industry and working to rethink how systems integrate to facilitate it regardless of when cookies go away in Google Chrome. And that also includes changing the mindset about data collection for the sake of having data, and instead being intentional about it and doing so only when needed.

There are a lot of different ways to get to the similar outcomes without all the creepy data collection practices that have been around for years – e.g. asking people questions, interactive experiences, etc., (just to name a couple that are long-term sustainable and privacy forward).

Do you think Marketing Automation has impacted the traditional Sales and Marketing funnels?

I think the concept of the traditional funnel has been disrupted for a while now with the digitalization movement and automation – for the better.

Not every consumer fits in one singular funnel template, and a lot of brands during the pandemic embraced its fluidity and leaned on automation and frequent communication to adapt to consumer demand, which was awesome to see.

What are your views about customized messaging helping to boost customer engagement?

I think it’s important to cater to consumers’ needs with customized messaging so as long as it’s thought through in the context of the overall consumer experience and flow. That’s actually something ViralGains’ solutions excel in where we see a lot of success is with customized messaging in a creative context which dynamically changes each consumers’ micro-experience and pathways, all based on that said user’s interaction. In doing so, we literally provide an end-to-end tailored flow for each individual.

That said, the creative itself is key to breaking through the clutter and cannot be forgotten about or deemphasized with over-reliance on endless permutations of custom messages. In other words, it all works hand in hand: good creative + tailored interactive creative experiences a good formula to follow.

What is the contribution of interactive ads and interactive content in helping brands to attract more audience?

Interactive experiences allow brands to speak with all audiences and meet them where they are to address their needs. Without understanding how a consumer sees a brand or what a consumer cares about for a particular need or problem, a brand simply cannot address it, nor can it build a relationship with their audience that ultimately drives sales and turns them into loyal customers.

Interactive experiences are quite elegantly the perfect replacement for the creepy data collection practices that permeated digital advertising for so long (and still does today in far more places than you’d think) – not to mention, they enable far more accurate predictors when used in conjunction with 0P data creative flows.

Is personalized advertising capable of delivering the perfect message?

Personalized advertising does deliver the right message to the end consumer when coupled with the concept of 0P data and listening to the voice of the customer. The reason being, the advertisement becomes a medium of communication and the response to the needs & feedback of a given end-user/consumer, and therefore one of the best ways to deliver a “close to perfect” message. After all, brands in this case are directly responding to what consumers want.

As an example, we recently worked with a brand who was trying to understand what held consumers back from purchasing their product and how it impacted their brand affinity. Using the ViralGains product suite, they asked questions to their target audience to understand if it was due to privacy concerns, price, or competition (amongst a few other reasons).

By understanding their target audiences’ response, this brand was able to then optimize the campaign with the user feedback collected, and deliver follow-up messaging addressing exactly the concerns of each individual consumer subset based on their survey response. As a direct result, ViralGains improved the brand affinity from 1%, to a whopping 8.1% absolute lift (versus the otherwise non-personalized approach), an 8-fold ROI.

Could you name the Top 5 apps/platforms that you use for Marketing?

  1. LinkedIn
  2. Canva
  3. MailChimp
  4. Slack
  5. Atlassian

Could you name one other VP of Product/Marketing that you would like to see featured here?

Not a VP of marketing but Han Wen the Chief Digital & Marketing Officer at L’Oréal USA.

This article originally appeared on MarTech360.