Episode 19

Edwin Wong ·  A Non-Linear Path to Building Your Career

“How nontraditional is your career arc actually going to be? I always liked understanding people, I think essentially because I was in a minority community that wasn't a majority of Asian, it was actually about 80% Hispanic. Learning how to get by learning how cultures worked, micro cultures, sub cultures work was a really important part of just being alive and getting by. And so I really found that, you know, even going to Pomona college when, the ethnic makeup was just very different, you really had to refigure out a lot of things. And so I really liked looking at consumer behavior or just people behaviour in general. And so as I started to pay attention to the things I love, I was inspired by professors. I was inspired by my intro to psych class. And so I just went with it that need, perception, cognition, and also industrial organizational psychology, which is the application of psychology and how to optimize workforce and I thought wow, the way we process information mentally, psychologically, cognitively has such an impact of how we connect with things and stimulus and you can actually think about people react and how it might impact the way they work.”

Edwin Wong is Senior Vice President, Insights & Innovation at Vox Media, the leading independent modern media company known for building the best media brands and the technology that enables them. He leads research to identify key trends in consumer behavior and help advertisers capitalize on these trends to effectively connect with their core audiences. He has been studying digital consumer behavior for nearly 20 years and has held previous roles at BuzzFeed, Pinterest and Yahoo.


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Podcast Transcript

Edwin Wong

Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, my name is Brya and my name is Maggie. We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.

Maggie: (00:00:23) Today we have a very special guest on today’s episode, his name is Edwin Wong, and is the senior vice president of media insights and innovation at Vox media. He was most recently at Buzzfeed as the senior vice president of research and insights, where he led audience insights, product insights, insights, and ad effectiveness, and played an active role as a thought leader in the industry. Edwin has dedicated the last 15-plus years of his career to studying digital consumer behavior, particularly in previous roles at Pinterest, VO, and Yahoo. Edwin, welcome to the show.

Bryan: (00:01:04) Yeah, we’re super excited to have you today. Usually, for our podcasts, we talk a little bit more about your background and your upbringing. We want to hear a lot more of that beause you’re a LA native, we want to hear about how you grew up in LA.

Edwin: (00:01:17) It’s been a long journey. I actually grew up in Highland Park is really close to East LA and what’s really funny is I’ve got a lot of friends now who hang out at bars and eat at a nice restaurant. They’re like, have you been to Highland Park recently? Joke that back in the day when I was actually living there, the only bars that we used to talk about were jail bars.

It was a pretty rough area and it was, and it was a really good place to grow up because I was a minority amongst minorities. My dad was a Baker and we owned a bakery in Lincoln Heights and really enjoyed all the things that you learned. It was not always a pleasant experience to grow up in Highland Park, but just the ability to learn how to survive and learn how to thrive in a place that your, our minority amongst minorities. I think it’s been a really good thing for how I’ve actually brought my career and how it actually looks at life too.

Maggie: (00:02:27) Wow. That’s awesome and so would you say you grew up in a pretty traditional Asian household, did your parents have a specific set of plans for you? Like did they have a preference of what kind of industry you wanted to go in and talk a little bit about maybe like your siblings? Do you have any siblings and did they have plans for them too?

Edwin: (00:02:49) Yeah, my siblings, I have three sisters and that was, that’s always been great because they taught me how to be a gentleman and all three of them are much smarter than I am. They were great role models for me. What was really fantastic is my parents, my parents were pretty traditional in the sense that we all played instruments. We were all studying really hard and grades really were important. What was a surprising thing is as we started college,  it was very traditional. Like, are you going to be a doctor or a lawyer of some sort? And as my sisters started to get out of school, they took some nontraditional paths in terms of their careers and when I started going,  I was third in line. My dad was, was pretty chill about what I was doing.  remember that he kind of didn’t have a choice cause while my parents would have wanted me to be a doctor after my first chemistry test and all my college buddies would laugh about this, I knew my dreams were over.

It was done. I was not going to Med School and I was not great and so I realized very quickly that I’d have to figure out another path to kind of get to where I got to, which I chose psychology in all things

Bryan: (00:04:20) That’s amazing. How do you start the media and what was that early part of your career life?

Edwin: (00:04:32) What was interesting is how nontraditional your career arc is actually going to be? I always liked understanding people, I think essentially because I was in a minority community that wasn’t a majority of Asian, it was actually about 80% Hispanic. Learning how to get by learning how cultures worked, micro-cultures and subcultures work was a really important part of just being alive and getting by. 

I really found that even going to Pomona college when the ethnic makeup was just very different, you really had to refigure out a lot of things and so I really liked looking at consumer behavior or just people’s behavior in general. I started to pay attention to the things I love, I was inspired by professors. I was inspired by my intro to psych class. I just went with it that need perception, cognition, and also industrial-organizational psychology, which is the application of psychology and how to optimize the workforce and I thought wow, the way we process information mentally, psychologically,  cognitively has such an impact on how we connect with things and it was and you can actually think about people react and how it might impact the way they work.

I started to go, wow, there are so many applications to understanding the structures that help you in business. So that turned into an interesting lab work that I was able to do and afforded a couple of opportunities to be the person that did a lot of the research under some really great professors around several studies at Pomona and I just started to flourish and grow in that area. That desire to understand people is what actually kind of got me to this job. But no, even still like the actual path was not always straight like when I was a psych major, most people, probably know that there are not a lot of jobs after college. I totally remember getting out of school and all of my friends were way smarter than me.

They went into the big top consulting firms. They went into law school or med school. A couple of my friends actually went to post-grad at Oxford and they were like, what are you doing, Edwin? And I ended up working at J crew and I was like a paralegal secretary type person, like totally not a paralegal,  I worked at the LA athletic club for this gentleman, his name was Mr. Michaelson and we, and that’s what I did.  I tell the story all the time, my favorite story, and this left me less, such an impression on me is we had, we had these parties that we would actually do because the LA athletic club was a club for like the Lakers and all these other really famous stars at the time, back in seven years ago. And I was licking stamps and getting invitations ready.

Bryan: (00:07:56) Wow.

Maggie: (00:07:57) Oh, wow. 

Edwin: (00:07:58)  I didn’t do it right and so the stamps were crooked and the tape was off. I also brought like 200 envelopes to Mr. Michaels (my boss) and he looked at them and threw them away. He yelled at me and said everything you do symbolizes and represents you and this tells me you’re not put together. This actually represents my club and that lesson actually stayed with me about how the details matter and that fundamentally changed the J crew. One of my favorite stories was walking with a regional manager and talking about Glenn Black, cause I love dress shirts and I love dressing up. He didn’t know what a Glen Black was and I was like you’re a regional manager’s own inventory. It taught me that even to this day, sometimes the youngest of people you work with just knows so much more than you listen and become an expert.

And those two things, while they were my first job laid the foundation and the character for the next 20 some odd years. How I made my way back into this role is my first real job was really with a brand consultancy. That was a startup and it was wonderful. A mentor of mine literally just said, Hey, I know you’re struggling a little bit. Maybe you’re not going to make it to the big time working at J crew really think about applying psychology to business. 

Bryan: (00:09:48) That’s a really awesome story. It’s really nice to hear that you did learn from your mistake when you were younger.  I do agree with that statement too. I always felt like how you do one thing is how you do everything. Your part of success is doing small things every day and you’re really well until it compounds with each other and you start seeing big results. It starts building deep into your character. I really like that, that part of your advice, and to hear more stories about marketing and how do you apply that to your, your professional right now, it’s pretty amazing to me to hear, because I feel like right now I work with a lot of marketers and a lot of them are psychology majors and it’s, at that time, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t that applicable.

How can I apply this? How can I apply that by looking more into it? I always felt like marketing was very emotionally tied and the way that you form your identity for your product or whatever your mission, your boss trained you, it’s extremely important and that’s a great segue to kind of like dive deeper into your expertise at, within marketing and then we Maggie and I had the opportunity to look into some of your speeches before, and we’re super amazed by the level of detailed explanation you gave to your audience. We wanted to hear a little more about like distribution and especially during your time at Buzzfeed, like how was the distribution strategy, like in terms of growing the brand so quickly within 10 years you guys are rivaling other firms out there who’s been there for 30, 40, 50 years. Then what kind of strategies did you come out with in terms of distribution?

Edwin: (00:11:33) The interesting thing is that Jonah Peretti continues to be a visionary and really great leader. Back in early 2013, 2014, even at South by when he talked about the fact that distributed media networks and going where the eyeballs are, is how you need to actually play this game for that time. One thing that he said by someone at Buzzfeed is that while content is King, distribution is queen and she wears the pants and so what’s interesting about that is the pipes or the platforms is where much of what actually is controlled in terms of where, where this content actually gets to the actual consumer, where I think there is an interesting difference is the quality of the water or what is actually getting to that consumer in terms of what it is.

And so back at Buzzfeed, there was an interesting strategy around Clay Christianson’s jobs to be done, where you can’t just think about getting content to the consumer, but making it have a purpose, that’s much more meaningful. What is so interesting about the way they philosophically thought about content is what it actually stood for and how it actually defined the consumer and hearing some of the interesting,  discoveries that came about through experimentation. If you think about the mobile device, I think there are several studies that Facebook has actually done that suggest that you spend about one second or about 1.2 seconds on a piece of content, a shorter now these days. But what’s interesting is within that feed environment, how do you get someone to stop and process even information? And so one thing buys food used to talk about is this concept of friends.

You might not just like speed reading, you understand it, frame to words and so if you’re going to do a quiz and you’ve replaced just one word, I understand the frame and I consciously understand the concept, but this time it’s about Disney princesses. While next time it’s about what kind of clean freak you are. So that actually helps with not just the perceptual understanding of what you’re reading, but also it goes with the actual consumption of what’s happening on the device. Now, the interesting thing is, as insights professionals, and someone who looks at marketing, we can’t stand still either because that’s going to change like what’s happened in 2014 and 2016, it’s going to look very different in 2020. 

So even understanding what TikTok looks like today and why that consumption is actually a thing I think is important, how digital is actually changing. And what’s been really great about doing this job is you’re never bored because people are continuously changing. I think that that’s the most wonderful thing about research because you have to go into it just knowing you don’t know it, knowing that on the flip of a switch, people are going to change because of what they’re reacting to and if you’re not on it, you’re going to miss the trend and you’re going to miss the insight.

Maggie: (00:15:13) That’s very true and going back to your original statement, I think that it’s important to know also like putting out content one person might view it in a different way than another person might view it, right? It really depends on your background and your experiences and how you’re able to perceive that content. So making those little changes and making sure that everyone is having the right perception and, making sure that it’s not getting lost in translation. 

I think that’s very important and there are so many new platforms right now with TikTok, as you mentioned, and all of this new content, these new algorithms with each of those con with each of those platforms, how are you guys able to catch up with all of this new technology and making sure that you guys are delivering that content to your audience? I’m sure there’s going to be a new platform after TikTok, right. We’re always evolving and so how are you guys keeping up with all of that media.,

Edwin: (00:16:13) What I think is most interesting is understanding the mission and the moment right now at Vox media, what’s been really fruitful for me is I’ve had some really cool experiences across several companies. I always talk about how I think the first phase of the internet was obviously in the early two thousand, it was an all-around organization and so you have the geo cities and you’ve got the Yahoo directory to come to play. The second phase was all-around direction. There’s so much in the directory. I needed to search to basically help dive into that organization. As you continue to see the bifurcation of search, whether it’s Yelp or LinkedIn, I need a person on Angie’s list. You will go from organization to direction and the third phase was really about this concept of connection. So the social plumbing and the platforms were built, got the ultimate word of mouth marketing, thanks to Facebook and Instagram.

The next phase in my mind is all about this concept of activation. When I went to Pinterest back in 2000 and oh gosh, I don’t even remember when I actually left for that 2015, I believe what was interesting about that is it was a place of ideas and the way I actually made those ideas come to light that continues to persist, even till now, if you think about what’s happening in this space and in this moment, COVID-19, black lives matter movement. We are in a space that demands to understand. I don’t know what is going on, but what is the government doing? How do I understand what a pandemic is? How do I open up a restaurant again, which restaurants are open? How do I think about animal crossing when it comes to polygon because I’m gesturing in place?

How do I think about systematic racism and how I  think to be a part of the change that in it is the most critical and so that activation is what I think is next for all digital experiences, especially in a time when the consumer believes that their physical and digital life is one and the same. I believe that instead of chasing algorithms, which we don’t want to do, what we want to do is build a better civic society and we want to build understanding. 

So the great thing is really understanding the reason why you exist as a network or as a digital experience and applying that with authenticity and with power, the algorithms will follow. People will follow your content. We saw a huge surge in engagement with all sorts of our traffic across our network, whether it was New York magazine, whether it was polygon, which covers, video games, and obviously with some of the things that we’re putting out there for Vox news. I think it’s because there’s that mission-driven sort of way that we think about storytelling and journalism. That’s really pushing what consumers want from us.

Bryan: (00:19:39) That’s really awesome to hear and I think we absolutely agree especially given the pandemic stuff, there hasn’t been much distinction between my online life, and my real life. In fact, I’m living more on my online life. So I think it’s great beause you even mentioned an activation concept, just to me, that sounds a lot like a call to action at the thing. But I think that if you tweak your words around what your marketing strategies will be like, hey, this is our call to action for you to feel like you were involved with this community, which is a big thing with, I feel like what marketing, by the way, I just have a sense of community and sense identity and where you belong to someplace. It really matters a lot for us Maggie and I, we don’t consider ourselves expert or professional marketers in any sense or any way, but even with starting Asian Hustle Network, um, for our identity, we just wanted to bring together an Asian community that really uplift each other and share our story.

As we were looking even before Asian Hustle Network for the community that we want to belong to, we couldn’t find one. And in fact, Maggie’s Chinese, I’m Vietnamese we found a lot of different Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean communities out there, but just never one together that we can share our story and for us, our identity is what our parents went through to give us the lives that we are today. Even hearing your story, that’s the very beginning of where your dad owned a bakery in Highland Park. My dad owns an appliance store in Pasadena and similar stories that we probably have very similar stories about our growing up. Parents taught us about the traditional path. What’s most important and at the end of the day. They all made sacrifices to get us where we are today and going back to being authentic and having an identity is extremely important right now, because you can think about it. A lot of people are spending a lot of time on social media. So they’re kind of jaded too. Like all these quote-unquote scam-looking pulses out there, and I’m like, wait a minute, this doesn’t even sound real at all.

And you have an authentic, it creates a sense of I belong here and it makes them jog their memories too, and have flashbacks of moments that they can relate to that story which I feel it’s, it’s super important. In terms of authenticity, it turns out to be authentic right now in marketing. Do you feel like the material they put out there should be high-quality content? I should be more like, like, not as high quality, but has a more emotional tie in the story to what do you feel is more important right now?

Edwin: (00:21:40) The one thing that we’re starting to recognize is that we wrote a piece around the Black Lives Matter movement where purpose needs to morph into justice. It’s not really just about staying more, but it’s really about meaning more and if you want to mean more, you actually have to do more to be more. That’s a way that I’ve actually been thinking about how for brands to stay on the sidelines and not really authentically take on making civics society better. They’re going to falter because especially amongst the younger consumer they are you guys have more of a conscience and are just making better choices for society, which I appreciate so much. The quality of content matters probably less than doing it for the right reason and I don’t think people can, I don’t think marketers should be staying on the sidelines if they know that what they’re trying to fight for is for like good, good civic society. I don’t think they should because who would want to argue against that?

Maggie: (00:23:46) Yeah. I think in today’s society, there is that gray area, right? Like if I say something, not everyone is going to agree or if I don’t say something, like I’m going to get backlash for it, but I always do believe, you should say something rather than not, but on top of that, as you mentioned on top of seeing something, you do have to do something right. If you are leading a community, think about like, how are you using your powers for good or how are you using and collaborating with people of influence to make sure that they’re fulfilling their civic duty, right, and on top of just talking about it, just like taking action and making sure that you are fulfilling that civic duty.

Bryan: (00:24:30) Yeah, definitely agree.

Maggie: (00:24:33) We have seen a bunch of videos of you and the speeches that you have given while you were at Buzzfeed and we watched that Asian identity video and that pulled on both of our heartstrings.

Bryan: (00:24:48) Maggie was crying her eyes out 15 minutes before this call.

Maggie: (00:24:53) I was crying. Maybe that’s why my eyes are so puffy, but just to give our listeners some context, there was this video that came out from Buzzfeed, and Edwin had done an incredible speech on it. Asian identity and how we identify ourselves as Asians in America or anywhere in the world and what would be the one thing that you would want to say to your parents today, right. Your Asian parents today. And it really just touched my heart because I thought about like the things that I wanted to say to my parents. I think it’s really important for people, especially non-Asians to look inside, look into our culture and see the struggles and the challenges that we faced as Asian immigrants and for our Asian parents as well.

And I’m very curious based on your experience at Buzzfeed and just media in general, how do you think today’s media is shaping the way people are viewing Asian culture today and going back to media back then when Asians just had roles as like a doctor or like a store owner or the cleaner or something like that times has changed a little bit now. Um, but still it’s, it’s considered a very rare case where we take on a lead role in a movie or media in general. So what is your take on that? And do you think we’re moving too slow or at the right pace or what’s your general perception on that?

Edwin: (00:25:26) It’s been interesting how quickly institutional frameworks are changing so rapidly in such a short amount of time. I think even a year and a half ago after crazy rich Asians, we were starting to see that a movie starring all Asians could actually be blocked, a blockbuster hit. I’m starting to see and feel confident that Hollywood sees that there is really good money if you can actually do Asian things with Asian people. Part of it is you’re starting to see that change. Has it been fast enough, but I don’t think it’s been fast enough, but is there progress? The answer is yes, my hope is that even some of the things that we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks for Vox when, when a character is being played by someone who isn’t actors and actresses are now stepping aside to say, let’s actually let that happen.

I would expect that the same is going to come to fruition for Asian characters or people that should be Asian are going to be playing Asian characters in Asian stories. The interesting thing is that as society becomes more diverse in the US we’re going to start to see the celebration of more interesting stories. I think what’s been happening is because the internet exists and there’s definitely a proliferation of streaming services. The stories that will be financed in the future are going to be a lot more culturally appropriate and a lot more different. I’m excited about, um, what’s to come for us and it’s not coming fast enough, but at least it’s coming.

Bryan: (00:28:32) I also feel like it’s a huge factor in us growing up right now, it’s you, and even for yourself, Edwin, there’s a sense of pride with where we came from growing up. There was a lot of,  I guess in my situation, there was a lot of shame, and shaming towards my Asian culture. So why are you bringing the Asian snack to school as well as weird? Or what are you eating that as that looks weird and I think a lot of us right now, we’re only out to who we are we’re like, Hey, why was I using why don’t used to be so ashamed about being Asian or being Vietnamese or being Chinese. But now it’s like, I feel a sense of pride and I feel like that’s affecting all of us. You kind of see it with the type of content that we’re consuming.

We kind of see it with the type of products we’re consuming. In fact, a lot of these bigger companies are now looking at Asians, in general, are not consuming to me habits because we have substantially grown our income group tremendously in the United States so we are a force, but it’s pretty amazing to like see like us owning up to who we are and compare it to before when we were younger, we kind of be a little bit ashamed of who we’re Asian, especially, especially when you grew around friends, grew up around friends who aren’t Asian or like they can’t really see that. Based upon like people only up to your heritage have you personally for yourself, how have you seen companies that you worked for started tailoring content for the Asian community to really target the emotional side and heritage side? We’ve seen this a lot in the Adidas and even Nike with the last commercial with the Chinese new years of the shoes running and just targeting their target audience towards the Asian crowd, like how you have seen companies that you worked for start doing the same thing.

Edwin: (00:30:33) I think back at Buzzfeed, there were a lot of really awesome, Asian creators and producers. I mean, Worth It when it’s David, when that guy’s just he was amazing. He’s actually a personal friend and II really appreciate what he did, it was just that he was Asian, but he had a great idea and nothing to do with that ethnicity. 

I think there was some really cool coverage, which is it’s all about the discovery of food and culture. It’s like, this is what people are going to try to really expose new consumers t to food.  I also think that even at Vox today, the coverage around what’s happening for Asians, especially in a time of COVID some of the really horrible things that are happening because of some of the things that have been said by our governments about this, about COVID, some of the violence, the increase in violence against Asians, like covering those stories, I think incredibly important. And those are choices that the newsroom needs to make to basically do those stories and I see that those choices are being made, even companies that I feel lucky to work for and work with. I think it’s because the editorial leadership really believes in not just creating a better, more accurate environment for Asians, but for all.

Bryan: (00:32:12) My question is like, do you feel at any point in your career that you felt like Asian wasn’t well-represented in any way, I understand you worked in media for the past X number of years now and just going through this entire process like felt personal about Asian being represented media.

Edwin: (00:32:40) Having worked in several companies and several media sales organizations, there’s kind of, not a lot of us represented. I think it has a lot to do with exposure and part of what is important about my role and mentoring young Asians in media is that it’s a great career and there’s a lot going on here that I want other young Asians to say like I might not want to be a doctor or a lawyer. I was not the greatest at math, so I totally don’t fit that stereotype. Being in marketing, being in data and analytics, that’s a wonderful career. And to answer your question, yeah, there definitely, wasn’t a lot of representation of Asians in media and there continues to not be that many.

Being a minority person in a large group has actually been one of my superpowers. I think that it actually allows me to function and, and hopefully thrive in these places and it’s going to be really important for people that are a little bit older, like me to take folks under their wing to make sure they succeed, to make sure they know that there’s a path that someone like me who can succeed. I can actually show, show those same people and pave the way for them as well. I think that’s an incredibly important part of my journey and has to be because I want to see a greater representation of Asians in the space.

Maggie: (00:34:32) That’s amazing. I love that you’re taking that opportunity and seeing it as an opportunity because Asians are definitely underrepresented in many areas and in many fields, especially in media. I think it gets discouraging to some people, but I love that you were taking that opportunity to really use your voice and pave the way for media and so I’d love to know more about your transition to Vox media and how that opportunity came about. What kind of differences did you see between Vox media and the other organizations that you have worked with such as Yahoo, VO, um, Buzzfeed and what kind of ways are you guys using at Vox media to use data-driven information and just like thought-provoking ideas to really capture the audience’s attention?

Edwin: (00:35:27) What’s been great is that I have a deep love and understand a deep love for the brands at Vox news, one that comes to mind. I think even as you’re starting to see what’s been happening around COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, we pride ourselves in talking about helping you understand. I think what’s been interesting about being in the new space is that most marketers talk about brand safety concerns or polarization. I thoroughly believe our take on it is that understanding will become this generation’s currency. There’s so much that’s complicated right now that understanding is going to help you make the right choices. Like what I should do,  what is COVID, how do I get over it? When should I come back up for air and start living my life again? When should I travel?

Like all of those really tough questions, what is the government policy around it? I think it’s an incredibly important place that Vox is going to be playing. That’s actually been really fun and even one of the things that I’ve always loved is chasing and learning about new mediums, as an example, which we do a lot of love, pivots love a lot of the estimation podcasts. I love to bring our podcasts that we’re a part of when we were working closely together. What’s interesting about that is it’s not just a new medium as you will; it’s a response to what is happening right now. In the last study that I just completed, I talk about Marshall McLuhan and how he talks about the media what’s interesting is that we’ve spent the last two decades in this ephemeral, timeline chasing way of connecting with content that is created, what I’m calling digital diabetes, it spikes, and then it goes away and then we’ll do the next sugar high.

Whereas if you think about what podcasts like this are doing, it’s an intimate connection to voices that ultimately leads to self-actualization of the consumer and so you go from this sugar high to a medium that builds slowly and actually makes you better. That is connecting you to everyone. Whereas podcasts are really about the self. So having a clear perspective of why media changes and why it evolves? It makes me excited to go to new places because at every company they’re doing those new things for a reason. If you’re able to actually start to talk about why then you have marketers go, that’s the opportunity. That’s, what’s so exciting about what you’re doing. If we’re successful in data and analytics and really helping box craft, this idea that it’s really about understanding breeds context, context breeds, action, and building a better civic society through all of these ways that you can connect with the consumer. And I think that we’ve done our job insights. We’ve actually bridged what we were supposed to do because we use data to help people understand that this is what’s happening.

Bryan: (00:38:52) Wow. That’s really powerful. I really loved that a lot too and I can see how you’ve been so effective along your way, your career, and everything you’ve done so far is really amazing. One question that I had to follow up with that statement is how would you go about marketing in today’s world versus like 20 years ago now, what are some key differences, differences that you’ve seen, and how we as consumers of material and content has changed over time?

Edwin: (00:39:24) That’s a great question. I mean, what’s so funny, is that database marketing hasn’t changed all that much from direct mail and post postal lists and they understand that you guys moved. So we’ll send you some coupons for the way there, and so what’s, what’s what I think is that change is just not accelerated. It’s really about so much more data that’s available to the market and to connecting to consumers. I would always go back and say that humanity in marketing is what gets lost. Like, we always joke about how ads follow us. It’s so annoying that you get the same retargeted ad and for the last 20 years when digital marketing is ramped, that still hasn’t changed because I think we are creating algorithms that are just fundamentally flawed, even the humanity out of it, and you operationalize it and then it just runs.

And the more it takes in the wrong data set, the stronger the algorithm gets and it becomes the way it actually generates engagement. I think we have to return back to really thinking about the consumer again, a little bit differently. So that’s what I would actually focus on. I mean quite frankly what’s, what’s so interesting is we get questions like even around podcasts. It’s like, well why are podcasts ads so effective instead of visual ads? It’s like, well, well, if you think about it, the, the fact that it’s like in order to listen to a podcast ad you actually have to be concentrated and attention should mean something to them. If you listen to any of the podcasts that the host reads sometimes the joke around they’ll make fun of the brand and its content and so it becomes a natural, organic part of the show in a very similar way.

We’ve got a really interesting format called the explainers at Vox, and people love that stuff because what do you love to do at parties? Oh, let me tell you what I learned or did, you know? And so I think it’s where what I would actually recommend is like marketing is really understanding the consumer journey and understanding how to breakthrough. We’ve really spent way too much time on metrics that I feel are, are okay, which is like scale metrics, three-second views, things that are okay, but I don’t know if they are actually a breakthrough. I think our models need to change our media mix models need to change the way we think about things need to change, and we actually have to start creating things of value.

Maggie: (00:42:36) That’s really interesting stuff,  I’m very curious to know about psychology and how people are eating up this content and processing it in their minds. What would you say is the most effective way that people will,  let’s say you’re looking at a, an ad on Facebook, right? They’re scrolling by and you want them to really hone in on that content and spend an extra minute looking at that content. What would you say is the most effective way to do that? Like, would it be like a more empathetic side or would it be something that has pulled on their heartstrings when something on their past, or like, what have you seen most effective way to, to really attach or like grab someone’s attention to your content?

Edwin: (00:43:29) I love that question because it’s about recognizing the context of the moment and what’s interesting is that I would say two to three years ago when I was at Buzzfeed, I would say what always performed best was funny and emotional. That’s like, the age, the video that you watched right before it totally tugged on your heartstrings and it still works. It’s still fantastic to connect with the consumer that way. We just completed a study about what a consumer would consider a quality piece of content today um, in 2020. What those consumers actually said was something that was factual or fact-based, helped me create perspective, and helped me to understand. So it blew my mind cause it taught me that if you hang on to what worked five years ago or three years ago, it’s not that it won’t work right, but it’s not recognizing the moment.

If you think about why someone would want something that’s factual and gives you perspective and is fact-based think about what’s happening in society right now, we’ve got polarization happening everywhere and people don’t know what to believe. Should I wear a mask? Is it an impingement on my rights, et cetera, et cetera, like so much stuff going on? And so the ability to actually create that perspective is the most important thing right now it changed my mind, teach me something, challenge me. I think that’s what the consumer is actually saying. That’s my copout answer to say, we don’t know, but your framework has to be, well, what’s the context in society right now.  And if you understand those larger things, then you should be able to make content that, um, ends up being something that matters. What I find really interesting about content creation is you’ve got a lot of companies saying, We can help you with trends and you can write about this trend because that’s, what’s peaking well, while that may be true. When does that end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy? If everybody’s writing about avocado toast and the vegetable spiralizer that makes vegetable pasta, then, of course, it’s going to become a thing because you’ve basically created the process and you’re actually not understanding,  why is avocado toast is trending?  

Bryan: (00:46:11) That’s still really relevant. I still like my avocados a lot.

Maggie: (00:46:16) that’s still selling for $10 at the cafe.

Edwin: (00:46:20) Interesting, right? Because it’s the understanding people is the most important thing, it’s not that those tools aren’t helpful and they help you get the clicks, they help you get the engagement because what trends and you might want to cover some of those things, but if you want to be really groundbreaking, you have to move outside of that.

Maggie: (00:46:40) Yeah, definitely. So it sounds like one it’s keeping up with the times and two really connecting with the audience, right. You really have to make that personable, natural feeling and make it feel nonrobotic right? Yeah. I think that’s the most important thing is to hone in on how you’re going to pull on those heartstrings.

Bryan: (00:47:02) Definitely it’s the human connection. The self is still important, right now, especially given COVID for craving for that connection that we do like belongs somewhere. And for us,  when we started Asian Hustle Network, what was meant for the community where we felt like there weren’t enough Asians represented in any, in anything mainstream media, higher investment corporate ladders and we wanted to bring people together because we realized from our upbringing as an Asian people tend to like, not be very helpful in terms of, in terms of helping chair, lift her up donations. I feel like statistically, we are one of the worst has given donations and we just wanted to change that too, because growing up, I never wrote, I never realized how much a scarcity mindset I was or as a part of, as basically taught. But if I won my friends lost and if I became successful, when I was younger, my mom said when I started winning like speech and debate tournaments and whatnot, or like wrestling tournament and my mama was taught me, hey, keep it down low. Don’t tell anyone about it.

And I was like, why? And they’re like, oh, like you already create a lot of jealousy. Like people will not support you, and the backstab you. I was wondering why that was a case, you know? And it stems from like a scarcity mindset that we all have. And then a part of our mission statement was to get rid of that. We were like, Hey, there’s so much money out there. So much opportunity out there that we can all succeed. So there’s no need for us to have this scarcity mindset. And this is to be more abundance to help each other out. And that was our main four mission statement for building this community. And we watched it blossom. We watch early day saying, Hey, if I had an opportunity, what would you guys do?

And a lot of early posts, and posters would say, why would I help you out? You’re just going to steal my idea. And that’s usually not the case at all. I, the case says like, you should be willing to help out get refines your idea. It gives you a new perspective. What we learned as we went through our progression is no one can really imitate your strategy. Your idea, only, only you can do it only, and only you can do what you’re thinking that what is you look like? You told me I probably executed completely differently. And that’s, that’s the main mission of Asian Hustle Network and just really bringing our cultural heritage together. And you realize that even though Maggie is Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, we each have our own courts that we grew up with.

Our parents tell us basically the same thing. There’s no need to hate each other. We’re all one big family and let’s help each other out. And that’s what we want to do. Your story throughout the entire podcast and listening to your previous, previous speeches, especially the one with the Asian identity one. And it tells us in our heartstrings too. And we really wait a minute, this person talking has a Muslim background, or this person’s talking as a sound so background, but it’s all similar or personal experiences? So leading up to the last question on our podcasts, we’re sort of tips and advice. Would you give someone just enter entering into your industry?

Edwin: (00:50:28) Asians are brought up generally to differ. And so I think over-indexing on not being who you were brought up to be is going to be a very helpful piece of advice. I would also ask that you ask for mentors, we are taught to do things on our own and to hustle on our own and just find someone that you respect. And it doesn’t matter what the race is. Um, and just go and get that mentor. And hopefully, it’s an older Asian person that is willing to really take the time to help and really guide this person. And so I would say, um, don’t, don’t speak up and really crush and have a voice and then go get a mentor. And I know there are plenty of people that would be willing to take on folks to help and get career advice and even talk about times that they’ve messed up. There are so many things I would tell people that I spend lots of time with just don’t do this. Cause they will probably not serve you that well if you do this, cause that was a mistake I made. And so that’s what I would actually tell a young person entering into my field.

Maggie: (00:51:52) Yeah, love it, thank you so much for giving those two tips based on your experiences. I do feel like there is this misconception, um, that people, don’t want to find a mentor because they want you to make it on their own, right? But I think it shows a sense of strength that you, are looking for mentorship and it shows that you might not know everything. There might be something that other people,  knows that could really trickle down to your knowledge as well. So thank you for those two tips. Yeah. I mean, we’re at the top of the hour, so it’s been an hour, has flown by so fast. We would have a love for ourselves and our mem, our listeners to learn more about you. So how can our listeners hear and learn more about you on social media or anywhere?

Edwin: (00:52:39) You can connect with me. Um, LinkedIn look me up Edwin Wong at Vox a V O X. Um, and then you can just look at some of the work that we’ve done as a group. I never want to take credit for the fine work my group has done, but do Edwin white box in a Google search. There are a couple of things that we’ve just recently done that I’m pretty proud of. So let me know how we can connect and thanks for having me guys. 

Bryan: (00:53:08) yeah, thank you so much for your time.