Why I’m Joining Sysomos: My Road Here

Today, I’m excited to share that I’m joining Sysomos as their first Chief Strategy Officer. While this is new news, the interview process was one that happened by a chance encounter.

As Sophia Petrillo said on The Golden Girls, “Picture this.” It was the night of Friday, March 11, 2011 out in Austin, Texas. The iPad 2 had just come out, and Apple set up a pop-up store in time for the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. I was at 360i, working with the agency and their clients on emerging media strategy, well into what would be my seven-year tenure there.

I stopped by the Apple Store with a friend, Ed, who was then one of Kraft’s innovation leads, and we got our hands on the new iPads with the magnetic covers. As I hopped from party to after-party to after-after-party, my bright orange magnetic iPad cover kept folding back to reveal the glare of the tablet’s display, and it was a constant conversation starter.

The most important conversation catalyzed by the iPad that night was with Peter Heffring, then Expion’s founder and CEO; he would go on to helm Sysomos. He told me about the technology his team had developed that marketers could use to engage with customers across social channels at scale.

We discussed the challenges brands had in striking that balance of local and global control across; a brand operating in 200 countries or owning 5,000 stores lacked any intuitive way to balance control and coordination. Heffring claimed to have a solution, one that he’d keep honing, improving, and innovating on over the next five years, ensuring it could work across owned, earned, and paid media.

A couple of years after our initial meeting, I joined Publicis agency MRY as its first Chief Marketing Officer, spending three years working with their creative and colorful crew. I then stepped aside from the role in April, launching a consultancy and relaunching my 11-year-old blog under the name Serial Marketer.

I spent the next six-months meeting with as many people as I could across the media, marketing, and technology fields and getting a sense of who was doing meaningful work solving marketers’ most pressing challenges. I summed up a lot of those challenges in a recent presentation, The Ten Plagues of Marketing. At the center of it all is a lack of trust among marketers, agencies, publishers, technology partners, and consumers. There is so much uncertainty now that we are besieged by daily reports of fake data about fake news spread by fake people. What, if anything, is real?

Just because “what’s important is invisible to the eyes,” as Saint-Exupery wrote in The Little Prince, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to determine what’s real. Each day, hundreds of millions of people are sharing what matters to them: what makes them smile and what disgusts them; what they desire and what they no longer need; where they are heading and where they are leaving; why they are hopeful and why they are fearful; who they are blessed to spend time with and who they miss the most.

Those add up to billions of stories. Stories are more powerful than data alone. By learning from the stories, the elements that comprise them, and the trends they ladder up to, marketers can glean insights. From insights, marketers can take actions, test hypotheses, and gain more confidence to pursue new directions. What I’ve seen from Sysomos is that they are harnessing those stories, but there is so much potential to dive deeper, and there is much more that Sysomos customers around the world can tap into.

That, to me, is the essence of strategy. It is the role of connecting dots and reframing them. It’s cartography. It’s molecular gastronomy. It is journalism. It’s understanding what’s important by revealing what was previously invisible.

Today, my contribution here begins. There is so much that I am eager to learn from Sysomos and its team, technology, and customers. I am also eager to collaborate with anyone who sees an opportunity to learn from each other, and then in turn to benefit each other’s organizations and customers. What excites me even more is that my most fulfilling accomplishments at such organizations as eMarketer, iCrossing, 360i, and MRY were ones that I could not have anticipated the day I joined.

Most of what’s ahead is invisible, but I sense that much of it will prove to be important. Thank you, Peter and the team at Sysomos for having me among your esteemed ranks – a half-decade after a chance encounter.

More About David Berkowitz…

David Berkowitz is the Chief Strategy Officer at Sysomos. Previously, he served as Chief Marketing Officer at Publicis Groupe creative agency MRY. Prior to that, he spent seven years leading emerging media at Dentsu agency 360i, co-founding its social media practice and running its Startup Outlook initiative.

Through his agency work, he has been a strategist and advisor to brands such as Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Mondelez, and NBC Universal. David has contributed more than 500 columns to outlets such as Ad Age, MediaPost, and VentureBeat, and he has penned his Serial Marketer blog since 2005. He has spoken at more than 300 events globally.

For more information about this announcement, read all about it here.