Episode #39: Understanding Growth Loops and Channel Strategy with Scott Dodson

In episode 39 of Mobile Growth and Pancakes we sat down with Scott Dodson, the CMO at Play Magnus Group, who taught us more about growth, retention, and channel strategy.

In this episode of Mobile Growth & Pancakes, Jonathan Fishman is joined by Scott Dodson, Chief Marketing Officer at Play Magnus Group. They discuss growth loops and the relationship between brand strategy, channel strategy, monetization strategy, and growth loops.

Check out all the other episodes of Mobile Growth & Pancakes here.

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“Do the basic groundwork of what your brand is driving. Play Magnus Group gives people the means to become the best chess players they can be, growing the sport and elevating it to another level. Having your messaging and some of your investments reflect that vision is the key.

Scott Dodson

Key takeaways:

  • Scott Dodson is an entrepreneur and mentor in entertainment, games, fintech, AI, AdTech, and EdTech. He has fifteen years of experience at C-level in games and tech. As the Chief Marketing Officer at Play Magnus Group, Scott is accountable for marketing, brand strategy, and operations. 
  • Play Magnus Group was founded in Norway by five-time World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen and is a global leader in the chess industry focused on providing eLearning and entertainment services for millions of chess players and students.
  • In terms of growth, it’s hard to define it as different companies and people look at growth from various perspectives. The key characteristic of growth is retention, while value is the core of retention. Defining your value loop is critical as it’s the foundation of the growth loop.
  • One of the top core growth loops driving growth is the group’s business model. There are course creators and consumers, and some consumers become creators themselves. Creators also get paid for their contribution to the chess community. It’s a mutually beneficial growth loop that produces more content, income, and benefits. 
  • Not every channel is a perfect fit for every good product. Think about product-market channel fit and choose the best channels that are a good fit for your product or service. For example, Twitch is a fantastic channel for games.

Maximize growth with iOS 15’s In-App Events

    Full Transcript:

    Jonathan Fishman: Hey, everybody, and welcome to another episode of Mobile Growth & Pancakes. I’m your host, Jonathan Fishman. Not many people know but I’m not John Fishman, the drummer of fish as my guest today Scott originally thought. What’s up, Scott?

    Scott Dodson: How are you doing, Jonathan?

    Jonathan: Good. I’m here today with Scott Dodson. He’s the CMO of Play Magnus. Would you like to introduce yourself?

    Scott: Sure. My name is Scott. As you said, I think the Jonathan Fishman piece was really interesting because I wasn’t planning on going there, but I was actually at the very first vacuum cleaner jam. The first time Fishman picked up a vacuum cleaner and jammed with it was my roommate, Lauren Cooties, vacuum cleaner and we actually were jamming together in our living room but anyway. I’m currently the CMO of Play Magnus group, which is a group of, I think we have 11 companies in the group, 11 different brands that we manage across the chess space, primarily. We can get into that a little more detail.

    Before that, I spent a long career mostly in startups. Mostly as the CEO but also in product and, then also a couple of years, three years in i-gaming altogether. One year as the CMO of Hero Gaming. Most recently, two years that Gamesys, running virgin poker and then five years at a language learning app called Lingvist, which has just actually just raised another round, which is great for them.

    I’ve been in Europe for eight years, or actually, almost nine years. Two years in London, five years in Estonia, one year in Malta, and now in Barcelona. Before that, most of my career for about 20 plus years was in Seattle, where I did most of the startups. I’m passionate about startups and growth, love roles in earlier growth-stage companies, and love to do a lot of mentoring. I get a lot of other exposure to the various growth challenges people are trying to solve across various industries.

    Jonathan: Awesome. What a fascinating career. As a person with much perspective, and having the experience of building more than a handful of teams, I think a lot of people right now are interested in how mobile marketing and mobile growth teams have restructured. Can you talk a bit about how your team, especially as you have a portfolio of companies and different apps and games, how is it structured?

    Scott: Yes, that’s a really excellent question. To be honest, we’re still figuring it out at Play Magnus, but I can speak maybe generally to the topic. Companies go through these phases. I think it’s where a lot of times you start out in a decentralized model, where individual teams, whether it’s a brand team, a regional team, or a product team have a lot of autonomy, and that works out really, really well. Then at some point, they go, “Ah, we’re duplicating efforts, this isn’t really working. We need a centralized function.”

    They’ll centralize it and that solves the problems that they’re trying to solve around duplicating efforts, knowledge sharing, and things like that, but then it develops a new set of problems, which is usually that the individual decentralized teams have KPIs to hit and now they’re complaining that they don’t have full authority or autonomy and being able to hit their KPIs.

    Then the company usually goes back into another evolution and decides to break up the centralized theme and decentralize it. I think that again, I fear this sounds like a wishy-washy answer when you say it, but I really do believe that a hybrid structure is the best and it varies company by company. Maybe the last theme is a good example, that I was where I was at Hero because I lead a mixture of people. Some people were responsible for regions, and some people were responsible for functions.

    We had a director of SEO, essentially. That was under my team. We also had the head of Japan marketing, for example, that was a region. We had a head of UI, essentially paid UI. We had ahead of– This is amazing, I’m spacing out– Sorry, ahead of content, right. We had this mix of kind of and then Sweden, we had ahead of Sweden. We had certain markets that were critical to us and needed a lot of a leader there on the ground or so to speak very close to it and then other functions, like content, or SEO or UI, that we felt like were best-served across the organization and could be looked at more holistically and resources allocated as needed, rather than having because what happens, I think a lot of times with regional markets is you get these situations where people have a budget that they need to spend so they spend it inefficiently.

    Other markets that really have a lot of opportunities struggle to get the same kind of budget maybe if they’re on a growth path. I generally favor centralization, I’d say overall, but I think you have to allow for that kind of decentralized autonomy, otherwise, you crush the joy out of an opportunity.

    Jonathan: Yes, I think it’s a great debate between centralization and bringing it up to a lot of different teams is basically engaging the same thing, but for different products.

    Scott: One of the things that maybe it relates to which is kind of a pet peeve of mine. I work with a lot of designers and designers have this cross to bear, which is that people that haven’t worked with designers closely think that what a designer does, there’s that meme of what I do, and what people think I do, what my mom thinks I do. Do something very different.

    They’re like, “Oh, yes, you draw the pretty pictures,” or maybe they even think about it in terms of UI and then they think they really understand. Oh, yes, they make the kind of– A designer essentially is a problem solver, and they bristle when they get pigeonholed into that box. I think growth is one of these things that also has the same characteristics, right?

    When most people think about growth, I think just in terms of user acquisition.

    They just go, “Okay, well, growth lives in marketing and it really means numbers.” It doesn’t even necessarily mean revenue, it just means and this is, unfortunately, the thing we have to fight, I think, or at least I’m still fighting this because growth is just a characteristic, and it could be applied to revenue. It could be applied to revenue per user, it could be replied to LTV, it could be applied to–

    It could be applied to to minutes on site, right? I mean, average minutes on site per user. It’s what metric do you want to move? Growth is a practice that’s designed to move that metric. That’s my personal crusade around this and I’m trying to figure out why I felt that [unintelligible 00:08:27] to what we’re just talking about.

    Jonathan: It relates to the next point because today we want to talk about growth loops but I agree, first of all, it’s extremely hard to define growth as I mean B2B space but when I speak with either VP Growth, different startups, and tech companies like everyone has a different definition. Today, we want to talk about applying growth principles to the growth of mobile app and game audiences. I know that you’ve been talking a lot about growth loops. How would you define what a growth loop is?

    Scott: Great. For building on this idea that growth is just a characteristic, I think, maybe we’ll start with the definition. I would define growth or let’s put it this way, I think the key characteristic of growth is retention if I had to choose one thing. Because without retention, we probably have– Most of you have seen that great graphic about how if essentially, every cohort of yours eventually goes to zero if you don’t retain at least some percentage of every single cohort, that kind of stays with you forever, that at some point, you can’t grow.

    The curve, you can only grow by acquiring a larger and larger cohort, every single cohort. At some point, that becomes impossible and you’d have to knee off and flatten out. Retention is the absolute core of growth and then you dig in, okay, what’s the core of retention? I would say the value is the core of retention. Maybe this is where loops come in because I think the easiest way to define value, I think is with a value loop. Somebody essentially, what is it for every product and it’s different in a game.

    I think of it in terms of the games I play like I don’t know, Hearthstone or something like that. There’s a bunch of value that’s inherent in that. I mean, a single game provides a great experience for me. Certainly, completing my daily quests. Those types of things give me this sense of satisfaction.

    You build off of that. I think for other apps or for other products, like for this language learning software app that we had to manage for five years, it was very much about some incremental amount of learning. Basically, I think defining your value loop is critical. It’s really easy for certain products. You rideshare app, the moment you step out of the car, it’s very clear that you’ve completed the value loop, you basically didn’t have to deal with cash. Whatever you didn’t have to deal with. Anyway, it’s obvious.

    I guess if you start with the value loop, and then build from there, I think that’s really, at least the foundational core of what a growth loop is. Because as somebody then works through that value loop, the question is how can you output a value loop? How can the experience of that person within that value loop essentially produce something that can be reinvested into that value loop or into another value loop? That for me is really the heart of it.

    Jonathan: Awesome. In Play Magnus, what kind of games and apps do you manage?

    Scott: The most kind of outwardly obvious ones are, we have this Play Magnus App Suite. This is how the company actually started. It started building apps around Magnus Carlsen, the world chess champion. The first idea was literally to Play Magnus. You could play him at various ages. There was a different AI that reflected the nature of how he played as a five-year-old.

    Jonathan: I played the same thing with The Queen’s Gambit. I won’t mention the competitor’s name, but it was on one of your competitor’s [unintelligible 00:12:35]. You could play her basically in the series in different ages. I lost even when she was like three years old.

    Scott: It’s a very smart play by one of our competitors because it’s essentially taking the same model that was working for us but applying it to the biggest piece of entertainment in chess history. That was the core of this. Then that evolved into something called the Magnus Trainer, which then gives you specific advice based on your play style. Then from there, we’ve explored some other areas.

    There’s some fun stuff. There’s something called Knight Runner, which literally is just a real-time almost platform or game almost in a way that you move like a knight and you have to solve puzzles and proceed. There are a bunch more really cool products look like Magnus Trainer two, which is probably going to be perhaps the coolest thing that the group has produced when it comes out next year. Those are the apps. That’s the app suite.

    Jonathan: Oh yes, you have also–

    Scott: We have a bunch of other apps actually from some other companies. That’s actually, interestingly enough, especially in terms of revenue, for example, that’s a relatively small piece of the group. In terms of footprint, it’s actually still quite large. It’s our second-largest footprint. The first largest footprint is something called Chess24. Chess24 just released new brand new apps. Chest24 has been a site that has been focused on news and entertainment.

    We evolved it into a place where you can watch the best chess. It’s always been a place where you could play as well, but that was our forgotten stepchild for a long time. We’ve invested heavily over the last year and just released our new play zone, which now again, lives across android and iOS apps, of course, as well as online. This is something we’re really excited about and I think it’s going to evolve even quite a bit from launch.

    The roadmap is really ambitious and I think we’re going to do some really great things in this and essentially go up against our two main competitors, which I will name, which are chest.com and Lichess. These two have probably the best player zones currently. An interesting thing about a place zone and about these apps is it’s not unlike poker in a sense that liquidity is a very, very- Which is the word that they use in the i-gaming world for the number of players playing concurrently, basically, -an important element to the user experience.

    The more players you have, and the more your technology is able to handle that gracefully, the better the UX the player has because they can get matches very quickly.

    In chess, you can get matches in various game types, you can offer more types of games sites if you have more people, and you get matches that are against people of the same level that you are, which makes for a better game. It’s a bit of one of these chicken and egg network problems where, the more people you get in, the better the user experience, but then how do you cold start from there? These are some of the challenges that we have, but luckily, because we have this pretty decent footprint for Chess24 and just some of our other products, we’ve been able to solve that pretty well.

    If I can just quickly hit two really key other pieces of the group. One is this Champions Chess Tour. We last year basically started our own tour. It was in a pandemic, invited the best players in the world, and Magnus, of course, agreed to be there since he’s a part of this company. We really pulled some of the greatest chess players around the world and some of the more interesting chess players in the world and had them play each other. It was phenomenally successful.

    We had over 100 million uniques, we had 30 million hours viewed. It was one of these things where we actually had the record, we had higher viewership than the world championships that had happened before. We had the peak viewership. We actually now just beat the peak viewership by broadcasting the world championship with our commentators, who also commentated on the tour. That’s pretty exciting. Over half a million concurrent viewers of this last world championship that we’re in right now.

    Anyway, it’s kind of a surprise hit. We’ve gotten sponsorships from some great, great partners. Meltwater is the title sponsor, but FTX on the crypto’s side, MasterCard; is the most recent sponsor that we got. It’s taken chess to another level and allowed us to put a level of production to this that we haven’t had before. Then finally, which also has apps burgeoning is a company called Chessable.

    In all the other spaces, I’d say we have competitors. Chessable is a certain is in a fairly unique position. Imagine if Masterclass and Duolingo, from the perspective of a spaced repetition algorithm, or Lingvist, my former company, had a love child on the chessboard. That would be Chessable. It’s basically some of the most famous grandmasters and content creators in chess producing courses, which are then supported by a space repetition algorithm, which allow you to learn the lines, allow the average player; the human player, not the grandmaster to learn the lines and actually improve their game dramatically in a very short period of time.

    That has become the flagship from a revenue perspective because people just value this content. If we talk about value being courted growth, they value this content immensely and it has a business model similar to Steam in the sense that there’s an endless amount of games that you can buy on Steam, in a similar way, there are this endless amount of great chess courses to buy on Chessable. Thanks for the opportunity to go through some of the group’s products.

    Jonathan: Amazing. I think it’s really interesting as the concept of chess and how that– You talked about liquidity, you talked about the user experience and how all of those are baked into growth. What are the top core growth loops that are driving growth right now? I’ll just mention by the way that I’m just downloading Chessable because-

    Scott: Oh, cool.

    Jonathan: -I’m so–

    Scott: [chuckles] Awesome. I think you’ll love it. There are lots of free courses as well. Chessable is really interesting– I think this is the closest thing we have to a two-sided marketplace, actually. In the same sense that Uber has drivers and riders, we have course creators and course consumers. In some cases, not very often, but every now and then the consumer becomes the course creator because there are a lot of especially young grandmasters who have now started to improve their game dramatically and Chessable are now starting to produce courses.

    There’s a growth loop inherent in this because we made a very conscious decision. When I say we, I had nothing to do with this, I’ve only been with the company for four months, but the very smart people at Chessable made a very conscious decision to pay the creators quite well, so really to allow them a much higher percentage than they would get from producing a chess book, let’s say, publishing the book. Then, of course, the scale of the internet allows for– We’ve literally handed millions of dollars back to chess authors now, even though in a very fairly short life cycle of the company. This now enables them to make a really decent living with passive income off of chess in a way that has never really existed before. In turn, they turn around and support us. The ideal world is a new author comes on board and maybe they’re already streaming and being a popular chess personality, but they make their course and people start to use it, they start to get paid and they realize, “Wow, this is fantastic,” and they promote their course. This is a fantastic growth loop that essentially produces more. Then each time they promote their course, that learner comes in and discovers other courses, so other chess authors benefit, and then the same way those authors turn around and promote their courses, and bring other people into the platform.

    Jonathan: Amazing. I think that mentioning streaming here, and I think it was like a year and a half ago, or two years ago when there was the game, Among Us, which was immensely popular. I think it was in the first quarantine when COVID started. Basically, that game really took off based on Twitch and streaming because identifying somebody that if you require is a user and they would stream the game in chess is something– I play chess. Streaming chess games is something extremely popular. They get, I don’t know, insane viewerships. It’s just a really, really quick way to get your game exposed to millions and millions of people-

    Scott: Absolutely.

    Jonathan: -and attract a lot more users, so yes.

    Scott: This, I think, it’s a great segue into something we talked about a little bit offline, which is this concept of product-market channel fit. A lot of people talk about product-market fit and everybody has a pretty good understanding of what that means. Product-market channel fit, I think is the next level of how to look at this, especially the way I like to look at things from growth. Simply put, not every channel is a perfect fit for every product or every go-to-market opportunity. Some obvious examples just to illustrate what I mean,

    Lingvist language learning product. I’m actually a huge fan of Pinterest as a channel. I think it’s really great channel in the sense that when I’m on Pinterest, I almost am disappointed if the thing I click on is not purchasable, which is completely different from all of their social media in the sense that I’m interrupted in what I’m trying to do by some ad that’s trying to grab my attention, which leads to some great creative and some really interesting ads, and that’s fabulous.

    Pinterest, when I actually find something I’m like, “Oh yes, that would look really cool in my house.” Or, ” I’d love to buy that as a gift for somebody. I want to buy it.” Unfortunately, it’s very hard to translate a language learning app into Pinterest. It probably can be done, but it needs a smarter person than me. Not a great channel for growth, let’s just say for Lingvist.

    To talk about Twitch, yes, a fantastic channel for games. It’s just so perfect in so many ways because it’s almost like the only danger is that it’s almost so entertaining in and of itself that people never want to play your game, but obviously, that’s not true. It gets very, very exciting. Then there’s one thing I think if you think about this. Okay. “How do I apply that? How do I take this idea? Okay, I get it.” Which is great for games, but you always want to be on the lookout for the emerging channels and channels that are a particularly good fit for your product or service.

    It really depends on, I’d say two things. One is a stage. In a talk, I think there’s a VC from Social Capital, Chamath, who basically said that something like, 30% to 50%, or something like that, of all VC money right now is going back into the pockets of Google and Facebook or Apple. Again, it’s amazing how much money goes back into those ecosystems. Those are, I think particularly Google and Facebook, are very over-saturated. You have a situation where, because it’s easy to measure because it’s easy to spend, you can do a campaign for $100.

    It’s a very low barrier to entry. It attracts a whole bunch of people. It’s also just very understood, but the reality is unless you are having an app or a game that really knows how to maximize either conversion or lifetime value or both, they’re not great channels for you because, if you think about it, it’s an auction and there’s just so much money pouring into that channel. Just a random example. My last company, we spent a lot of money on television in Sweden. We had a television budget in Sweden of close to, in dollars, over half a million a month and it was extremely effective. It was really, really good.

    I would’ve never believed this after spending years and just pure performance marketing and going, “Oh, God, TV.” The reality is, no one’s buying TV. Everybody’s spending their money on Google and Facebook. It’s a bargain and it’s a hard one to get into. You can’t really touch it unless you’re going to spend $100,000 a month, probably. It doesn’t really make sense on smaller budgets. It’s very hard to measure. You have to be willing to hold onto your seat for a few months to see the impacts.

    The combination of television and SEM of essentially buying the right keywords, developing this brand demand, and buying keywords were extremely effective for us. That’s one thing about channels. Just one more thing and I’m sorry, going on, is this okay? Are we?

    Jonathan: No, no. You’re good, you’re good. It’s fascinating, yes.

    Scott: The other thing that’s interesting about channels is, channels build on the backs of other channels. There’s this history that happens where one channel builds, I’m trying to think of the best example, Twitch doesn’t exist if predecessor channels didn’t exist before that. Twitch basically built off the back of YouTube because it allowed people to embed. It allowed people to basically put their Twitch links into, or YouTube allowed them to embed that into their streams so then people discovered Twitch. YouTube, in turn, built off of the previous channel before that. This is the case in many, many–

    If you rewind the clock a little bit, it’s like the internet, in a sense, was built off of direct mail, which you wouldn’t think about that. AOL, all these discs that people sent out, that literally built the internet which built off direct mail. Direct mail, in turn, was built off of essentially print back in the day. It’s like the catalogue business. It was where direct mail was actually really built up. I think looking at this stuff and seeing what’s going to build on top of Twitch, or what channel is Twitch going to enable, or what channel is TikTok going to enable because even something like TikTok is starting to be in that place where it’s not the huge ROI opportunity that it was a little while ago.

    It’s the last point I’ll make about this, and I think this is maybe even where just to make a plug for you guys. The fact that a channel becomes super streamlined and super easy to use and super measurable and super– Is not necessarily a good thing. It’s a good thing for the established players, but it’s not a good thing for the startups. The fact that something like, and again, Apple Search Ads, or whatever, the App Store is not really perfectly optimized, means there’s actually more opportunity there, for example in some cases than in– Just for an example, we don’t do a lot of paid marketing across the group, but we chose when we’re looking at promoting these new apps in a new play zone, and looking at liquidity, we put 100% of our paid budget into Apple Search just because the ROI there is probably better than some other channels right now, anyway,

    Jonathan: For sure. One thought I had in terms of the example you mentioned with TV, and also the fact that it can’t be easily measured is the fact that there is a lot of growth loops, organic growth loops that relate to the App Stores such as, okay, you spend $500,000 a month on TV, what that does and it’s very similar to YouTube by the way, but what that does is it drives people to search for a brand on the App Store. They open the App Store. Some of them search for your brand name, download the App.

    Then because the App Stores are also a great place for the established players, one of the key factors of the algorithms is that they prefer to rank higher apps that have a higher download velocity, which means the rate in which they grow first-time downloads. The more first-time downloads they see for an app, they assume it’s really popular right now so they rank it higher on the top charts, and the top category charts, as well as for different keywords in search.

    Then guess what, there’s a ton, there’s like half a billion people visiting the app store a week. Some of them search for these keywords, browse the top charts, they see your app, they wouldn’t see it before.

    Scott: Exactly.

    Jonathan: They download the app, and then it drives itself and more and more but you [unintelligible 00:30:41] it with TV ads. That’s a great example for an app start-up.

    Scott: I can’t agree more. Also, that’s a perfect example of another growth loop. I think about growth loops, this is right out of Reforge but the compound interest that you get out of what you’re doing. The growth loop is, I buy a TV ad, people see my brand, they search for it and they buy.

    The compound interest, essentially, that comes from this, the other output, the additional output that you get to reinvest here is the algorithm now thinks that my brand is more interesting, and that then lives in the app store. Essentially, the dynamic of that loop spinning creates this extra value that then gets reinvested and amplifies exactly what you’re talking about. I just think that’s a perfect example of how it works.

    Then the other thing that people don’t realize about TV is that, again, if retention is the core of growth, TV also works for retention. Very hard to measure but now, let’s say I’ve already downloaded the app and I see another ad, now I have this external trigger that goes, “Oh, yes, that’s right. I haven’t played that game in a couple of days. I want to go back into it and check it out.” I think this is where people don’t look at the extra value, this additional retention value, this retention that TV drives as well.

    Jonathan: For sure. I think in your space, The Queen’s Gambit was a perfect example of that. Because I know from speaking with a few other folks in the chess space, it drove a ton of new users. That wasn’t even the greatest thing that happened, it just brought back a lot of people that are really avid chess players that just gave up on the game, because they grew up a bit, they started working, it’s like a multi-area thing. It wasn’t an ad, but that TV series on Netflix got them back into the game. It worked a lot on re-engaging lapsed users, so I agree.

    Scott: Absolutely. That maybe brings to another category, which I think is easily overlooked, which is brand. The brand for me isn’t just your name or your logo, but it’s what do you stand for and what does it represent? I think that The Queen’s Gambit did more for chess for the brand of chess than almost anything, because prior to Queen’s Gambit, if somebody says, “Hey, describe chess or describe a chess player.” You had a very different picture in your head, right?

    Jonathan: Yes, everybody’s now imagining somebody in Moscow in 1976.

    Scott: Exactly. Right, exactly. Or myself as a super nerdy kid, an only child with no female friends for most of the first decades of my life. Then all of a sudden, now you say what’s chess and it’s glamorous, it’s high fashion. It’s Beth Harmon, the character. It’s all this– It suddenly changed it and I think it created a relevance or an acceptance whereby the growth of chess streaming would not have happened in that way because who really cares. Now all of a sudden, you’re doing something that the cool kids are doing too. Again, it’s a very low-brow way to put it, but I think it clearly improved the brand of chess in a dramatic way.

    We’re seeing it now, right now like I said, I was a little worried because now here we are, this is the first chess championship that we’re covering post-Queen’s Gambit. I was a little worried because, frankly there’s no American playing, which is again, I feel I’m very much an adopted. I’ve adopted Europe as my home but I know how America thinks and there’s the US and then there’s other. We’re vaguely aware of Canada and Mexico, maybe and so it’s like, “Okay, whatever. Some Norwegian dude and another Russian chess player, whatever.” We’re seeing record viewership, which clearly, even without an American, wouldn’t have happened without The Queen’s Gambit.

    Jonathan: For sure. Cool, so we’re almost running out of time. I just want to ask you one last thing as a CMO and somebody with experience of leading teams in different industries in different categories, knowing everything that’s happening now. There’s all of the challenges and opportunities basically, of the IDFA being deprecated and Apple’s privacy policies being enforced. Facebook, is a bit weakening because of that, but search ads, as you said, is really picking up as a source of acquisition. If you would just need to give one tip for fellow CMOS or marketing leaders for 2022, what they should be thinking about or what should be top of mind for them?

    Scott: It’s a great question. I’m trying to just figure out which of the greatest hits to cycle here through, but I would say, I’m going to choose a brand. Especially, most of my career was spent in startups, spent in the app space, or spent in the industry where we’ve never felt like we had the luxury, if you will, to invest in brand. Five years of Lingvist, we put zero value on any brand. We basically looked at every single thing as a performance channel exclusively. I realized this is not driven inherently by marketers. Marketers do understand and appreciate brands more than others but a lot of times, it’s driven by the C-suite, or by the business side of the house, that’s putting a certain demand on marketing.

    I think you need to carve out some space for this. You need to carve out the space and time to really, if you haven’t already, just do the basic groundwork of what are we about, what are we driving, Play Magnus, we’re about essentially giving people the means to become the best chess players they can be. Growing the sport, elevating it to another level. Then having your messaging and having some of your investments reflect that vision is really key.

    There’s a great video, it’s literally five minutes, it’s a guy named Les Binet, B-I-N-E-T, and there’s a video called The Short of It. He talks about the difference basically, between brand marketing and performance marketing. This is backed by a few decades of research. I think it’s great because it’s under five minutes. It’s something you can send to the rest of your C-suite and have them watch and have them appreciate, and be ready to come up with a brand plan because it’ll just make the rest of your life easier.

    Almost every performance marketing channel, in the long run, has diminishing returns. You have to figure out how to essentially build the highway out in front of you, not just for the next quarter but for the next two, three, four quarters and beyond that. I think the brand is the first piece and then the second piece, if you want to make us open up one more battle request, is creatives.

    I watched and listened to Adam Jaffe on your podcast, and I thought his point about creativity was spot on. I think that creativity becomes a competitive advantage. We’re able to drive a 400% increase in ROAS over two years at Lingvist, and more than half of that I attribute to improved creativity. I think even more the point he makes is there’s an additional growth loop here, when the creative is really good and when your conversion rates, based on all of the steps in your funnel are really tight and the creative is really good because then you get this bonus like you’re talking about.

    Whether that’s on Apple, or whether that’s on the Google algorithm around your YouTube stuff, it all tends to lead to this growth loop. That would be brand and creative. It’s very back to old school but it worked for 100 years because it worked.

    Jonathan: Oh, wow. I like that sentence. A lot of people are now saying like Adam Jaffe also talked about old school marketing, and I say it a lot but it’s not really old school it’s just real marketing. I think that what happened in the past few years is an addiction, as an industry we got addicted to performance marketing, and being able to measure based on user-level data that nobody gave us consent to use.

    We were able to measure in a deterministic way the direct response value of each and every ad, and it was so easy and so easy to communicate to leadership also like, “See with this dollar here, we get $2 back. That’s it.” We’re like, “Just give us more money, raise more money. Raise money, and let’s put it in ads.” That was how most mobile games mostly games grew in the past few years.

    As you said, brand marketing and real marketing drive demand long-term. It’s something that a lot of people have neglected in the past few years. I really like your points about creatives and brand marketing. We are coming close to an end. We have a few more questions we ask all of our guests that I want to ask you. We just covered tips. We have this kind of content recommendation piece. What would you recommend people to read, who to follow around mobile growth, at least?

    Scott: Well. I guess I already gave one of these but start with [unintelligible 00:41:07]. I think that’s a great quick win. I’m a huge fan of Reforge. Those of you who’ve done the work from Reforge are going to hear a lot of Reforge concepts in what I say. It’s even hard for me to know exactly what’s what at this point because it gets pretty convoluted. I’m a big fan of, again, the guys that are involved with that Andrew Chen, of course, and Brian Balfour and [crosstalk]

    Jonathan: Oh, Andrew Chen has a new book coming out.

    Scott: He sure does.

    Jonathan: I preordered it.

    Scott: Awesome. It’s great on the network, on essentially solving these network problems like the one I talked about with Chessable. We’ll leave it there less– [crosstalk]

    Jonathan: Awesome. Almost last question, given this, is Mobile Growth & Pancakes, what’s your favorite flavor of pancake?

    Scott: I’m a big fan of fresh blueberry pancakes. My kids just went off to school recently, but we used to do a weekend blueberry pancake day, which was great. The key though is having lived on the border of Canada and in Vermont for much of my life, real maple syrup is really the key. I’ll take just about any pancake as long as you give me some real maple syrup.

    Jonathan: Awesome. Good choice. Lastly, where can people find you if they want to chat about growth, chess, life, Europe?

    Scott: My onlyfans is private. My LinkedIn is SC Dodson. You can find me on LinkedIn @linkedin/scdodson.

    Jonathan: Awesome. Cool. Thank you so much. This has been really fascinating.

    Scott: Thank you, Jonathan.

    Jonathan: I really enjoyed talking with you.

    Scott: Likewise.

    Jonathan: I’ll speak to you soon.

    Scott: Fabulous.

    Jonathan: Thanks. Bye-bye.

    About Ron Gordon
    Ron is Storemaven's Head of Marketing, the one person you would have guessed will know what this mobile growth talk is all about. A misguided law student and journalist, Ron brings to the table some lack of seriousness the Hitech realm is desperately in need of. In his spare time, he's mainly trolling Whatsapp groups.

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