April 12, 2023

Marketing & Content in Gaming/Esports: Influencers of all sizes can drive product adoption (podcast episode #55)


Get creative ideas for your marketing campaigns, collaborations, and career by listening to episode #55 of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast. I had a powerhouse conversation with SM Lahti, Head of Marketing, TSM.

Listen now to hear Lahti discuss the importance of taking risks, the power of micro-influencers, and the significance of maintaining work-life balance.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

Marketing & Content in Gaming/Esports: Influencers of all sizes can drive product adoption (podcast episode #55)

The How I Made It In Marketing podcast is underwritten by MECLABS Institute, the parent organization of MarketingSherpa. To learn how MECLABS Services can help you get better business results from deeper customer understanding, visit MECLABS.com/results.

In a recent LiveClass of the MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort, I was asked, “should you look to your competitors to determine the appeal and exclusivity of possible elements that could make up your value proposition?”

I said no. You learn exclusivity from your competitors, but appeal you learn from your customers.

To form truly powerful value props, to truly create value in the marketplace, we need to stop being so focused on our competition, and focus more on our customers, and how we can serve them with unique value.

Which is scary, of course. To break away from the pack. So I love this lesson from my next guest, “Don’t be afraid to be the first. While not every innovative idea will be a success, it’s often the most adventurous ideas that end up being the biggest successes.”

We’ll learn the story behind that lesson, and many more lesson-filled stories, from our guest on Episode #55 of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast – SM Lahti, Head of Marketing, TSM.

Lahti leads a team of 20 at TSM, and shared the challenges and opportunities of managing a team in the esports industry in this episode.

TSM (Team SoloMid) is the Most Valuable Esports Company, according to Forbes magazines, with an estimated value of $540 million and estimated revenue of $56 million in 2021, which is 32% growth over 2020. And by the way, Lahti’s previous brand, 100 Thieves, is Forbes’ second most valuable esports company.

Listen to our conversation using this embedded player or click through to your preferred audio streaming service using the links below it.

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify | Listen on Google Podcasts

Stories (with lessons) about what she made in marketing

Some lessons from Lahti that emerged in our discussion:

Don’t be afraid to be the first. While not every innovative idea will be a success, it’s often the most adventurous ideas that end up being the biggest successes.

From an outside perspective, 100 Thieves’ social team, Lahti’s team, accidentally lost its verification checkmark on Twitter. They tricked all of gaming Twitter into thinking they made a mistake. They got everyone in the community talking about how they messed up by allowing an intern to take over social media.

In the end, everything magically turned out ok: they got their checkmark back, the intern got promoted, and they launched a nationwide search for more interns that culminated in 137M+ views on TikTok.

What people didn’t see was the many potential campaigns they proposed for social stunts to celebrate 1M followers on Twitter. Within their small team, they went down a wild and winding path of “what ifs” and found that they could create an entertaining story for fans by doing the exact opposite of what they originally planned.

But they’d be the first, it would be weird, and there was a very real world where it didn’t resonate or was perceived as “trying too hard,” so they hesitated to communicate the campaign with other teams. They got lucky with a campaign that went viral and earned more new followers in a one-week period than any other campaign outside of launching because it was unique and memorable, albeit risky. If she could do things differently, she wouldn’t be afraid to communicate and explain wild ideas.

Influencers of all sizes can drive product adoption.

At Twitch, they tested a product that allowed content creators to sell relevant products directly to their audiences. Internally they expected that the largest content creators, whose communities spanned across multiple interests, games, and products, would sell the most of any given product.

They found that in some cases, micro-influencers had a stronger conversion rate because they understood their audiences. The fans of niche micro-influencers believed in the ads their influencers created and the products they supported when relevant to the niche. A streamer with 10% of the live viewership of an established and well-known influencer sold more than the influencer with a bigger audience.

Understanding the power of micro-influencers with a niche is critical to approaching influencer marketing well. Influencers of different-sized followings need a different balance of things from brands. It’s the responsibility of the brand to understand not only how to make an ad featuring an influencer impactful to the audience but how to make a relationship impactful for the influencer.

Work-life balance is important. This isn’t stressed enough to people entering the gaming industry.

In her first full-time role in marketing in the games industry, the burnout was BAD. She found herself with a dream job at her ideal company surrounded by people who loved being innovative as much as she did.

She happily committed extra hours and days to her work without realizing the long-term consequences. She wishes she could say that was the last time and she learned her lesson. Lahti wishes she could say that experience taught her to be the kind of manager that would never have a person on her team experience burnout.

Unfortunately, it took her much longer to recognize warning signs, become a better manager by setting the right example, and stress long-term health over short-term commitment to a project. Her work-life balance still isn’t perfect, but she better understands her limits and how to balance her hard-working perfectionist approach. She has since been challenged to set boundaries, lead by example, delegate, and help others prioritize even when everything seems both important and urgent.

She is so lucky to be able to work in an industry that she is passionate about that allows her to constantly set the bar creatively, and it excites her that there’s a constant flow of people interested in breaking into the industry. But when you’re constantly surrounded by people passionate about your products, it means you need to actively stress the importance of work-life balance, especially as a manager.

Lessons (with stories) from people she collaborated with

Lahti also shared lessons she learned from the people she collaborated with.

Good ideas can come from anywhere.

via Vanessa Block, her good friend in graduate school and now producer/director of the film “Pig”

Lahti’s favorite people to work with in marketing are those that have unique perspectives, backgrounds and experiences. Block taught her that despite having earned her master's degree in medicine and her only work experience being in healthcare, she was capable of providing a unique perspective in a marketing meeting. Block taught Lahti to have confidence in her ideas.

Because of Block’s confidence in the power of a unique perspective, they were able to pitch a unique documentary, raise funding to go to Africa to film their concept, and later become Shortlisted by the Academy Awards.

Today, she strives to actively welcome different perspectives and ideas onto her teams. She is excited to work with people who make a 180 career-wise as much as she is with someone who studied marketing. She thinks that the best marketing campaigns understand multiple perspectives, and she strongly believes that if you lack diverse perspectives on your team, it’s your responsibility as a leader to seek how to bring those perspectives into consideration.

Content creation is truly a business that requires creativity, an entrepreneurial spirit, planning, adaptation, and so much more.

via streamers like Tyler1, OfflineTV, and NoahJ

When you run marketing for a company or brand, it’s easy to forget that creators build their own brands from the ground up and are also marketing experts in their own right. Lahti has had the pleasure of working with over a thousand creators in her career. Every single creator has their own unique brand and vision for what they want to achieve. At Riot Games, they were taught to listen to players to understand how to move the company in the right direction.

She had the incredible opportunity of building Riot’s first influencer program and got to listen to some of the most vocal and highly engaged players out there: content creators. These creators taught her that the best way to understand what your users/consumers/players need is to ask them. She learned how to ask questions and how to listen. She began building the influencer program by asking questions she thought would be beneficial to the company.

She learned quickly that if she asks broad questions about the player experience in general but from the specific points of view of these influencers, she was better able to get to answers that she needed to do her job well.

Always consult other perspectives, and value your own perspective as well.

via Cristina Amaya, Director of DreamHack Festivals

Early in Lahti’s career, she struggled with self-confidence in the male-dominated gaming industry for multiple reasons: she had a career swap and entered into marketing at a later age, she was self-taught and learning on the job, and she didn’t see many other people who looked like her.

Lahti had the pleasure of meeting Amaya at ESL FACEIT Group, through working at Twitch, and since then they’ve often found each other on many similar panels about working in the industry. Amaya founded LatinXInGaming, an incredible non-profit organization dedicated to connecting Latinos across the industry and assisting with representation in gaming.

On her first panel with Amaya, she was nervous about speaking too much, not being respectful enough of other people in the panel, and she was afraid to disagree or share an alternative perspective. Amaya is an incredible advocate for promoting representation in their industry and taught Lahti not only the value of ensuring that she is always consulting other perspectives, but the value of her own unique personal perspective.

She walked out of her first panel as anxious as she started and through collaborating multiple times, she has built a strong appreciation for different points of view and a self-confidence that has allowed her to become a better leader and mentor to others. Amaya’s incredible leadership with her nonprofit, at her regular job, and to new people entering the industry, is inspiring. It is encouraging that their industry is becoming more diverse and welcoming because of leaders like her.

As an example of consulting other perspectives for at a company-level, Lahti references a friend of hers, Lea Hughes, who helped lead focus groups at Riot Games. Hughes would take into account a broad range of ages along with a broad range of experiences playing the game.

Related content mentioned in this episode

Exploring Value Proposition and AI Technology: How to create unique ideas that you can execute with artificial intelligence

Healthcare IT Marketing: Branding a new service line within Stericycle, getting ONC certification, finding your joy, & more

Customer Experience: Take risks, fail early, and learn fast (podcast episode #32)

Consumer Financial Services Marketing: Your customer is your most important stakeholder (podcast episode #39)

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Not ready for a listen yet? Interested in searching the conversation? No problem. Below is a rough transcript of our discussion.

Daniel Burstein: I was asked on a recent meeting of the MECLABS SuperFunnel Research cohort. Should you look to your competitors to determine the appeal and exclusivity of possible elements that can make up your value proposition? I said no. You learn exclusivity from your competitors, but appeal you learn from your customers to form truly powerful value prompts to truly create value in the marketplace.

We need to stop being so focused on our competition, focus more on our customers and how we can serve them with unique value. Which is scary, of course, to break away from the pack. So I love this lesson for my next guest. Don't be afraid to be the first. While not every innovative idea will be a success, it's often the most adventurous ideas that end up being the biggest successes. Bold, very bold. We learned that lesson and many more lessons from my guest right now. SM Lahti, the Head of Marketing at TSM. Thanks for joining us SM.

SM Lahti: Hi Daniel, Thank you so much for having me on.

Daniel Burstein: Well, let's take a quick look at your background so people know who are listening to. So, you know, a lot of folks we on have like marketing and advertising business and stuff. You'd expect that from marketers. But I love it when someone's got a unique educational background. And for you, you have a Master's Degree in Global Medicine from USC. You actually started your career in medicine. We're going to hear about that. But then fortunately for us, you've shifted into the marketing industry. You were an Influencer Marketing Manager at Twitch, Streamer Influencer Manager at Riot Games and a Senior Growth Marketing and Editorial manager at 100 Thieves. And now, as we said, you are the Head of Marketing at TSM, where SM leads a team of 20.

And TSM, if you're not familiar, it's the most valuable e-sports company in the world according to Forbes magazine. With an estimated value of $540 million, estimated revenue of $56 million in 2021, which is 32% growth over 2020. And by the way, Lahti’s previous brand 100 Thieves is Forbes second most valuable e-sports company. So give us an idea what is your day like as Head of Marketing at TSM?

SM Lahti: Sure. So in an e-sports environment, when your title is one specific thing, you often wear many more hats than just that. So unlike doing marketing for, let's say, a game developer that's probably more established or a larger company where you have one specific niche of marketing, marketing in e-sports covers everything from paid, digital, social content, everything across the board, helping out with apparel, helping with integrated marketing, with sales.

So a lot of my role is being the marketing consultant within the company to other teams and other functions, as well as leading a lot of teams to help execute both Brand LED organic marketing to help build the fandom of the team TSM as well as execute our partner deliverables with third party companies, which is how e-sports orgs find profitability and keep going.

Daniel Burstein: Now I want to jump into some of the stories from your career, what we can learn from it. But first I got to admit I was not well versed in e-sports and you and your prep are helping me understand this. You use teams two ways. They're so teams. I think like any of us would use inside our organization.

There's a different teams, there's a PR team and you know, the product team and stuff, but teams actually. So the company, I think TSM stands for Team Solution and as I understand it, it's similar to, let's say, you know, one individual or one company owning a team in the NFL and a team in the NBA and a team in Major League Baseball, right? So TSM owns teams that play, I think in several different EA Sports leagues, is that correct?

SM Lahti: Correct. So I'd say the major difference between an EA sports team or organization we use them interchangeably is compared to a traditional sports team like in the NBA. Is that the Lakers? I'm from L.A., so we'll use the Lakers as an example. The Lakers only play in basketball and the NBA doesn't own the rights to basketball. With gaming.

TSM has teams that play in the equivalent to basketball, baseball and soccer and the game companies that make basketball, baseball and soccer own the rights to those games. And so the system's a little bit different. Media rights don't work the same way, and EA Sports Orgs will. Organizations will often field teams in multiple different quote unquote sports or games to build the biggest fandom possible.

Daniel Burstein: Okay, great. I think there's a lot we can learn from you. Anyone who's involved in any sort of entertainment, sports, technology type of thing could learn a lot. But really, if you're not if you're in any other industry, you have an open mind because like I said, this company has already got a $540 million valuation. There's something going on here.

So let's see what we can learn from your career specifically. SM So the first half of the podcast, we talk about lessons from the things you made and this is the first one I called out, I love it. Don't be afraid to be the first. While not every innovative idea will be a success, it's often the most adventurous ideas that end up being the biggest successes. So I'm guessing there's some sort of adventurous idea behind this, this lesson.

SM Lahti: Yeah. So one of the things I love most about working in gaming and specifically e-sports, is that you can be adventurous, you can be the first in your encouraged to take chances and see where that lands because you're speaking to A It used to be a very specific niche audience of people who called themselves gamers, but it's now since expanded.

If you look at how many people self-identify as gamers, it's increased since COVID, the number of hours watched of people playing video games online on Twitch on YouTube increased immensely during COVID. Gaming has started to integrate with pop culture entertainment and traditional sports in really seamless ways, and often e-sports orgs and teams are the ones to do that.

Traditionally, and I say traditionally in the e-sports world, which meant, let's say five, ten years ago, because that's when a lot of the older teams were getting established. It was thought that marketing had to simply cater specifically to e-sports fans, people who self-identified as e-sports fans and only watch gaming for competitive purposes. And that's expanded. And so one of my biggest lessons in being in marketing in e-sports has been it is okay to take a chance and try something wild and out there.

Because if you're thinking from the mind of, like you said earlier, the consumer and what they're looking for, you can come up with some really creative ideas and find ways to relate to them better than the industry was doing previously, or sometimes your competitors. My favorite example of this is a small social media related example, but I think it's a great, cheeky way of showing how you can be unafraid to do something silly with your consumers in mind and your fans and mind and really resonate with them.

At 100 Thieves, our social team when I first started was I had one director for and an intern and that was it. And it grew to, I believe, a size of over 11. And at the time we were trying to find ways to lead a brand owned campaign that really helped 100 thieves shine on social media without being tied to a partner.

Another brand that was just about us and celebrated us, but in a way that made sense for our audience and our Internet fandom and the members that everybody else who adores our brand would get it, but it would get other people talking. We came up with the idea of we were going to have our intern student take over our social account as we got close to a million followers, messed the whole thing up because that was his personality.

We watch as ridiculous things unfolded on Twitter as an 18 year old had control of a close to 1 million follower account on behalf of a brand and see if we can lose the checkmark on Twitter to cause people to talk about us. 100 thieves trended for about seven days on Twitter as a result of this. And not only did we launched this when we were about 10,000, just under 10,000 followers away from a million, We gained, I think, almost 40,000 followers within that week as a result of everyone talking about us and sharing how much this intern was messing everything up.

We never crossed the line with what was inappropriate. We never broke with our brand tone or voice was, but we did it from the perspective of exactly who we were trying to speak to an 18 year old gamer who just wanted to be a member and have fun with friends online and say ridiculous things. And we adopted that voice and it really resonated with our audience.

And it ended up being a largely talked about thing where people were trying to guess, was this planned? Was it organic? Is this a stunt? And it was an incredible opportunity to, yes, have social growth, but also show that we were unafraid to have the same voice as our fans, connect with them and be relatable.

Daniel Burstein: I love that. I mean, I think it would be a little harder today, but a 54 year old gamer has taken over the entire platform and done that to the whole company. But no, I love that because again, your focus wasn't on the competition. Your focus was on the customers and you're going to do something interesting and exciting for them.

And I feel like as marketers, I often see we travel in packs and I've seen many brands. You know, I kind of ask them, Why are you doing that in your website? And it's like, Oh, well, our competition is it's like so and one of my favorite stories and I want to move on to your next story is, you know, we used to have an event called Marketing Sherpa Summit, and it was like flying back next to someone from the summit.

I was in charge of the content and he was saying how valuable. The summit wasn't so great. I was like, Oh, I thought like, Oh, was it was it the content? What did you like best about the content? He's like, Look, the case studies were fine. My favorite part was I met one of my biggest competitors, that head of marketing there at the bar one night and we in a few drinks and finally I got the nerve to ask him like, Hey, we're copying everything you're doing.

And it's not working. And it was a few drinks. And so he made it like, Yeah, it's not working for us either. And that's what happens, you know, when we just have this myopic view on our competitors as opposed, I feel like looking at the customers, what can we do to get our message out there that is still brand aligned, that was still brand aligned for you, that that would resonate with our customer.

So I love that. Let's talk about another example and this one also, I know you're mentioning in the gaming industry, this has grown in popularity for almost every industry. You said influencers of all sizes can drive product adoption. And I assume here you're talking about not just getting the, let's say, productions of the world, but looking at the micro influencers.

SM Lahti: Yes, I think that we're now getting to a point where influencer marketing leaders and teams are starting to realize the power of micro-influencers and niche communities. But at the time it was a little unheard of. A This was about eight years ago. At the time, it was a little unheard of to pay someone with a very small following to promote a product with hopes that they'll get their very small of small following to convert.

Because if it was the same percentage of their following that converted to purchase as a large influencer, why would you pay the smaller person? But what we found at Twitch through this product that allowed viewers on the video streaming site to make in-game purchases on the actual video streaming site while they were watching their favorite gamer play games is that we found that these smaller niche micro-influencers were actually better salesmen than the largest creators that played of a variety of games.

If you found the creator that had a small community whose life and following and community was built around this specific game, they were the best salesman for the in-game product as opposed to the generalist, the Cardassian of Twitch, who played 50 different games and I thought that that was an incredible lesson because it's not something that we expected internally, and it actually informed how we approached a lot of other campaigns after that.

Daniel Burstein: Well, I like that too, because, I mean, that had been a basic marketing and advertising principle. Don't just try to get in front of everyone, the largest audience, try to get in from the right audience. But I wonder your opinion on this. What do you think the role of micro influencers will be in a world saturated with artificial intelligence?

Because, for example, I really wrote a post exploring value proposition in AI technology and I was answered a question that was like, My son is majoring in computer science. Is it even matter anymore that I you know, I was talking about like, hey, I mean, I can't answer for computer science as much, but for marketers know anyone listening they're scared of.

I feel like we're going to have a role for a very long time. I mean, maybe the next 50 years, 100 years, because we still need to build that value prop. We need to build a business strategy. We need to decide on the creative ideas. You know, I need that oversight or it's just frankly, a road to sameness and kind of crapification.

Just the air is doing all that stuff. So on the one hand, what you're talking about micro-influencers, very human. These are people communicating with people. But on the flip side, I also see, you know, people more maybe buoyant, more excited about A.I. than me that says we don't even need micro-influencers. We could create these phony AI influencers. Right?

They have these you know, they're not even real people, but they're these AI influencers online 100% controlled them. We own the rights to them. You know, we don't even have to give them a commission or anything like that. So I wonder, you know, your opinion on that. What do you think? What role do you think I will play with micro-influencers?

SM Lahti: That's a great question. I still think there's so much value in having a human to human connection, and I think I'm still a believer in that. I can't fully mimic that yet. I would look at a v tubers, for example, where someone has a 3D or 2D model of a character instead of their face while they're creating content or streaming games or promoting products.

It's there's still a human behind there. So, yes, the person or character that you see isn't real, but the person behind them is still human. And I think that YouTubers have shown that they can still make human to human connections with an audience and have that be an effective marketing tool. Still, in the same way that you would see a human on camera making the same sort of advertisement or promotion.

I, I still maintain until I see otherwise that without that human knowledge, the connection isn't as strong or long lasting. And while there can be AI generated influencers who aren't real, who aren't controlled by people who can make connections with people, I still think that the value of hearing a an advertisement from someone who you've followed for ages, who you trust, who you know their life, you know their habits, you know their friends.

You follow them on social media. You believe in the things they say or don't. You engage with them. I think that there's more a passion and drive to relate or not to what they say than something, especially if you know it's AI and not there's not a human behind it.

Daniel Burstein: Well, I like hearing you say that because I got to admit I'm a bit of a traditionalist. I still read a print newspaper. And so when I see some of these things, I'm like, I'm not sure. But you're on the cutting edge of technology. I mean, and so to hear you say that, too, that importance of human connection, I mean, I think that's great.

I do think one of the reasons we're seeing so much media right now is it's that curiosity factor of like, wow, we can do this. Oh, it's so cool. I want to follow this A.I. on Twitter, you know, whatever social platform it is, you know, And but yeah, it really remains to be seen if they can make a human connection like like another human being can.

It's not just about efficiency. And, you know, like you said, even with influence, it's not just about follower count. It's about that human human connection that made those micro-influencers work. Let's talk about a very other human topic that I guess I doesn't have to worry about. But you said work life balance is important. This isn't stressed enough to people entering the gaming industry. And frankly, probably the marketing industry as a whole. So how did you learn this lesson for yourself?

SM Lahti: Sure, I learned it the hard way. I it out more than once. With gaming, you often find people entering the industry, trade over college, or not having a college degree or even dropping out of school prior. Because it's a passion industry. It's fueled by people who have grown up with games, who love games, who want to see them be bigger and better than they were in their lives.

And with that, you often run into the issue of people giving more than 100% of their bandwidth to be able to do great work, to be seen, to contribute. And especially when you think about someone who's dropped out of college in order to pursue a career in gaming. Sometimes they'll approach it with Will I have to overcompensate for not having a degree, and I want people to see that.

I want to be here and I'm trying really hard and they'll give so much more than they're able to and in the long run, and then they burn out. And I learned this at Twitch. It was my first job in the games industry and my first marketing. It's a formal marketing role. If you don't count previous work in marketing accidentally.

It was my first employed by a large company and doing a job that had marketing in the title and I stayed till 11 p.m. three nights a week at work, got a bus back, went to bed, got up at eight, went back to work at 9ami was working six, if not seven days a week. Often I would go to gaming events as part of my work and immediately the next day after flying back, go back into the office and, you know, sit back at my computer again.

And I did it because I wanted to be there. I wanted to prove to people that after my 180 and my career and my background in medicine, like, I still tried and cared and deserved to be there as much as anybody else. And I wanted to do a good job. And I cared about the direction the industry and the work I was doing and the creators that I was helping.

And I burnt out to a point where my mental health was affected, my physical health was affected, and I really questioned whether I was cut out for the industry or not. Being a nurse in medicine was easier than working at Twitch, working with video game streamers, which is so funny to say, and something my mother will never understand.

But I learned the hard way and I've seen it happen to so many people and I don't know if there's unfortunately any way for me to warn new people in the industry that this is something that happens to almost everyone at some point in their career. But it's something I try and stress whenever possible that it is important to consider your long term health and also consider that if your drive is to contribute as much as possible in the short term, how much of your long term ability to contribute are you affecting by giving everything that you're giving right now?

So, yes, you might be working 60, 70 hour weeks right now to be doing a really good job, but are you affecting your ability to work later or do other things that you care about later that you should care about? Like have a life go outside? And in the games industry, we call it touching grass and doing things away from your computer.

And I don't know that that's stressed enough. I think it's gotten a lot better and a lot of companies have more senior management now. People who are trained to look out for their employees, people who stress work life balance. But at the time you found that a lot of young people who had no formal background in being people managers were leading very large teams and didn't know how it wasn't malicious, but didn't know how to look out for employees and help manage work life balance and help protect people from the drain of a passion fueled industry.

Daniel Burstein: That's funny. You call it stepping on grass. I was really hoping you're not stepping on the Matrix or having the blue pill or red pill, which everyone is. So I kind of wonder, you know, with your background in medicine, in the medical industry, did you learn anything from that industry, Like any specific tactics that you use now in the gaming industry with you or your team to get that work life balance?

And I'll give you a quick example. I interviewed Sarah Bernhardt, the director of marketing at TerraCycle, how I made It marketing podcast, and she talked about one of the people that she really learned from was her mom, and she learned from her mom that you can have it all because her mom was a nurse at Cook County Medical Center.

I think I think she was like a night nurse. And so she saw, you know, how her mom balanced things, you know, being that night nurse, but then still prioritizing her and, you know, her siblings and her family. And that really inspired her and she moved into the marketing industry. So I wonder, you know, do we talk kind of generally about, you know, that work life balance?

Are there any specific tactics that you use with your team or especially that you learn from like your medical background? Because I know like medical industry is known also for burnout and for, you know, it being very, really difficult to have that work life balance?

SM Lahti: Yeah, I I'm not sure that my time management skills came at all from my medical background because I was used to 14, 12 to 14 hour shifts, three days a week. And it was, you know, set on a calendar when you came in and when you had a day off and and that was it. And so I remember on my first day in at Twitch, I asked, what time am I supposed to be here and what time do you expect people to clock out?

And it wasn't because I was trying to just get away with just doing the bare minimum. I thought that the only way people worked was by a time card where I quite literally had a piece of paper I put into a machine that stamped the time on it. And I did that on my way out and that's how I got paid.

And so maybe that's why I burnt out in my first role as well, is because I was so used to a system being built for me and I had to learn all of that on my own. And I don't think any of my like time management skills carried over. But I do think that there's a little bit more crossover and skill set than people realize and even then I realized when I first switched my job, I think I learned an ability to speak to anybody because you never know who's going to walk into a doctor's office.

And I think that that's really important in marketing, not just the skill of can you communicate with your C-suite what your direction is and your strategy, and can you do you have the ability to distill that down to your employees that they can execute it, that it's not just that it's can you speak to a consumer? Can you understand why someone's not a consumer?

Can you understand the opportunity markets that you have and how to reach them and where they are and what they speak and what they're interested in. And I think that I being a very, very, very quiet introvert and incredibly shy prior to working in marketing, learned a lot from my career in medicine and how to do that the right way and how to relate to people in a very human way, and then apply that to my role in marketing.

Daniel Burstein: You know, I like what you say about the time clock I've thought about before, but I had a I mean, I was in college, I had a job with a physical time clock and I had one before you actually typing and and I forgot how kind of, I don't know, fulfilling of the words when you actually punch and I like stamps it out and you're out and then when you move into the marketing industry or any kind of professional job to your point, you don't have that.

There's no hard stop either way. And especially now, I mean, for me, and it looks like maybe you too like working from home like that, but it really bleeds and and there really is not that clear right delineation. So it's funny you say that having 14, 16 hour shifts working, I guess as a nurse, there was there was that clear delineation, even though there were long shifts.

And that's a really good point and thought of it just it just all blends together now in a professional job.

SM Lahti: When you work from home, how many times have you accidentally missed a meal because you're not looking at the time and you're you're sometimes you get in the groove and you're answering emails or you're taking calls or you have a packed day and you don't realize, Oh, like this is when I'd normally go take a lunch break or have someone walk over to my desk and and ask me if we're going to go get food or take a walk.

And I think that I had to, at least for me, I had to re learn work life balance during COVID for sure. When everything transitioned to work from home or hybrid schedules. I have the luxury of working in tech and video games where we have beautiful offices with usually catered meals. And so there is there are those designated breaks for when you are expected to get up, go get food.

But then I found that I was the kind of person that went and got a meal, brought it back to my desk and kept working. And so now I've had to figure out what what works the best for me, what keeps me on track and keeps me productive, but also doesn't take a toll on my ability to find joy in other aspects of my life or my ability to continue to do good work by my team in the future.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, and I'll tell you one thing I noticed you mentioned is going up and doing things on the on the campus and the office. You know, when I start work from home, look at you have a very comfortable, very cool gaming chair there. I do. But, you know, I would just I would just stay here because, you know, once you go to a meeting, it would just be on Zoom and then you just be staring at the computer all day.

And I got to say, my neck and shoulders got so tired. And at one point I realized, like, wait a minute, like when I was in your office, you know, we have like three buildings. I would I would get up and I would walk even just to go to a meeting, even just to have a different viewpoint of looking at people instead of a computer.

And so then something that changed that was transformational for me as one. I try to work all over the place now, not just at my desk. I'll bring my laptop with me and to if I'm on a zoom and that's like, we really need to do video and thank you for doing video. Now it's great seeing you be able to communicate, but unless you really need to do video with someone, I turn it off and it's just, you know, like I've got a lake in my backyard.

Look at water, look at nature, look at something else, finger, darn, computer screen all day.

SM Lahti: So I exactly go outside and touch grass.

Daniel Burstein: Go outside? Yeah. Literally, I try to literally touch grass. I like that. So in the first half of the podcast, we talked about lessons from the things you made and the second half of how I made it Marketing. We're going to talk about lessons from the people you made it with. But first I want to tell the audience that the How I made It and Marketing podcast is underwritten by McLeod's Institute, the parent organization of marketing Sherpa, to learn how McLeod services can help you get better business results from deeper customer understanding, visit Meckler ABC.com slash result.

That's MVC, AB ESPN.com slash results. All right, Let's talk about let's take a look at some lessons from people. You made these things with, the people you collaborated with. Your first lesson is good ideas can come from anywhere. And you learned this from Vanessa Block. She was a good friend of yours from graduate school, and now she is the producer and director of the film Pig, which is starring Nicolas Cage.  tell us, how did you learn this idea from Vanessa?

SM Lahti: I never thought that I would ever be sent to Africa to make a documentary fully funded when I was in graduate school studying to be a doctor. And it took a very creative friend of mine who saw potential in everybody and understood what our goals were. And at the time I wanted to change the world by in any way that I could.

I wanted to raise visibility for problems that I knew about, that I didn't think enough people knew about. We worked on a an HIV AIDS awareness campaign in L.A. together. And after that, she came to me and said, Hey, I think we should make a movie. I was like, Oh, you're hilarious. We live in L.A., You're from NorCal.

You know, you just moved to L.A. and become that that girl who, you know, immediately wants to get into entertainment because you're here. Don't worry, you'll get over it. It's fine. I'm from L.A., I'm jaded. I no longer think that. But she was like, No, no, actually, I think we have the ability to do something really incredible. And I always talk about this like it was a passion project because it was we in graduate school we made our thesis on at the time it was the domestic violence and rape capital of the world, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

And after we presented the thesis, she said, There's a better way to do this. There's a better way to explain the issues and talk to people about this. We should make this movie. And it took a ton of encouragement from someone that I trusted and respected as a friend but didn't expect to really push me outside of my comfort zone of I was going to be a doctor.

If that was it. My life was decided. I had decided this since the age of, I want to say like 13 or something very young, that this was the path for me. And it took her explaining to me that I had something different to contribute and special to contribute that we and we could do something incredible together if I just took a chance.

And it took a lot of explaining to explain to my parents why I was taking a year off before continuing my education and pursuit of becoming a doctor to work on my photography and my videography and figure out what marketing meant and pitching this film to producers to be able to get funding. Building a Kickstarter from the ground up and eventually make a film that took a couple of years to finish before it got Academy Award shortlisted in 2017.

And I think at that point, even my parents were were saying something to the effect of, Oh, okay, I'm glad it went somewhere, but what about being a doctor? And I truly realized in that moment that there's no one path for anyone. There are a bajillion different ways to get to where you want to get. And nontraditional backgrounds are inspiring and exciting, and you should welcome them onto your team because it means that that person has something unique to contribute that you may not understand or know.

And that's why I love to hire people. Now onto my teams that are passionate about gaming or e-sports or the products that we're marketing, rather than having a background or a degree in it in most cases, because I love to hear how they'd approach the problem of how do we do this better? How do we become a better team?

How do we more effectively market and gain more fans? And it's great to see now that Vanessa has continued on her path of making incredible films. Pig is great. And when I saw Nicolas Cage was in it, I was like, Well, you've made it, you did it. You became that that girl who moved here and found her career in entertainment and did an incredible job.

And she's continuing to make incredible things. But I will forever be grateful to her for pushing me outside of my comfort zone and convincing me that every person that you work with has something unique to contribute to your project and that you don't have to go in a straight line to your destination. And it's okay to pause and take detours and also listen to the other people around you because they may affect your path in a more positive or fulfilling way.

Daniel Burstein: And I love how that has affected how you hire too, you know, is kind of a little judgmental, crazy when you see a job opening and it's you know, it's got a very specific budget. You need a bachelor's or masters in, you know, advertising or marketing or business. And you need, you know, four years of analytics experience on this platform.

You need to know Tableau, you need to know Google Analytics, you need to know Salesforce, whatever, you know. And it's like, that's some pretty easy stuff to teach. You know, it's not it's not that hard to learn that stuff, but to your point, to have the creative ability to make a documentary about Africa, get it shortlists for the Academy Awards or all these other things that the people who have to and want to create in their life, they do.

And you see that even if they have a nontraditional background. I mean, those are the type of people used to have on your team that that's who you should be hungry for. And that's honestly what I call the podcast, how I made it in marketing. I think some people, some of the people I most like that humble type of people.

You know, you can seem very humble to. They were a little turned off of like, Oh, should I be on there? Not if I've made it and Baba. And the whole idea is it's a play on words like, that's what we get to do. We get to make things and the type of people who are like, I love making things.

To me, those are the people that excel in marketing.

SM Lahti: Exactly. You can teach skills, but you can't teach passion and you can't teach human understanding, or it's harder to teach that. And so I'm I'm a mentor for we have a collegiate program as part of TSM called TSM or TSM University. I think there are something close to about 100 students participating in it right now, and we have about 20, a pretty senior in the games industry from across a bunch of different roles, mentoring these students and providing them an end to the industry and also advice.

And one of the things I always tell my mentees is that when they ask how do I get into the games industry and how do I make myself stand out, I tell them I get a ton of college applicants every day saying I love e-sports and I want to work in e-sports. But the thing that will make you stand out is showing me how you apply that passion and what that means.

If you love e-sports, then you probably understand that there are a couple of things in the industry that you don't like from a fan perspective and could be better offer those. How would you change it? How would you make it better? How? Because you get the consumer benefit better than anybody else. How do you then apply that to be a good marketer?

And as soon as someone shows me that they are immediately more interesting to me than someone who has the appropriate degree and skillset, but maybe not the passion, because I know that the passionate and creative person is going to help me be unafraid to be the first and be innovative and come up with a really great ideas and set the bar for what good marketing looks like in our industry outside of our competitors.

Without thinking about what other industries are doing, without thinking about what other organizations or teams are doing. And I am so grateful to be surrounded by incredibly passionate people all the time. And I love it when my team is able to teach me something new that comes from their passion for following EA Sports and following every single game and and what the fans experience.

Because I don't know everything, but I know they know the community better than I do and it really helps me learn how to be better at my job.

Daniel Burstein: Let's talk about a group that has a real passion for creating and what we can learn from them. You said content creation is truly a business that requires creativity and entrepreneur, real spirit, planning, adaptation and so much more. And you learned this from streamers Tyler1, OfflineTV, and NoahJ.  So can you tell us how you learned and also like just kind of give a bit of a definition? I assume you're talking about Twitch streamers and if anyone on the listening is uninitiated, basically they their entertainment, they stream themselves playing the games, right?

SM Lahti: Yeah. So Twitch has expanded quite a bit. It is now live streaming entertainment. When I joined, I was originally when I joined Twitch, my first role at which was to bring non-gaming talent to Twitch. My job was to pitch for YouTubers outside of gaming to use the platform for their live streaming purposes. And so I helped bring things like Bob Ross Lake, like Pokémon, like the NBA G League, Mr. Rogers, as well as non-gaming individual content creators and brands like podcasts, like IRL streamers, like travel vloggers to the platform to explore how to use live streaming as part of their business.

Because content created creation is a business and Twitch has grown so much since then. It is. It encompasses far more content than it did back in the day, and it's great to see it continue to grow. But content creators often have to figure out how they actually want to build their brand market themselves and become a functional business when they pursue content creation full time.

And those are just a few of the content creators that I really admire. I work very closely with offline TV, which is a content creator group where they all have their own individual brands, but also come together to make collective content as under one name of offline TV. And it is incredible to see how they've built their creativity and passion for entertainment into legitimate businesses.

There is an offline TV member named disguised host who now has an e-sports team. He has used the money that he's made from streaming and making content on a variety of platforms, not just which used to be on Facebook as well, to find hiring professional players to compete in Valorant, which is a first person shooter game made by riot games in the Valorant League to ascend to the official league and be the equivalent to like the NBA G League or the Development League or the Minors and he's doing this on his own as his own brand in business.

And he has staff. He has people who manages things for him and he has to understand the the business, the investment, understanding that for e-sports he's going to have to invest a certain amount of money in hopes that it's going to result in a return later on. And he's got an incredible business mind and he's just one of the many who do this really, really well.

And I think that that's something that the games industry has been learning over the last couple of years. But a few other industries haven't quite learned yet that content creation is truly a business requiring more than just creative ity and the understanding of social platforms to make engaging content. It is understanding your competitors, understanding your consumer, understanding what makes you different and what niche you occupy, and how you can grow.

And you know, not every streamer wants to build an e-sports team, so how do they grow beyond that? What is life look like after their viewer numbers decline and they're no longer going to be a streamer? Do they become a coach? They become a consultant. Do they have another brand they build? You'll see a ton of content creators and YouTubers make energy drinks now and clothing lines and all these other things because they're building their businesses.

And I think that it's really admirable how many people have had to teach themselves these a broad array of skills in order to find ways to keep their small businesses and brands alive. Yeah. So I think that that is that is something that I never stop learning from every content creator I come across because they will always teach me something new about it can be like how to staff appropriately, finance payments, taxes, even like, Oh, this is how I approach my brand and my logos and my colors with these other brands in the space in mind.

And I think that they aren't always given as much credit as they deserve for the things that they know not everyone else sees.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, they're entrepreneurs. They should have some respect there. Can you think of any specific tactic or advice you give people listening on any tactic to learn from content creators? So I mean, for people listening, it might not be content creators and their sense, it might be a value added retailer. If you're in software or, you know, I'll give you a quick example to interview Julian Rehr, the assistant vice president of international marketing at RingCentral on the How I Made It Marketing podcast.

One of his lessons was having startup experiences incredibly valuable, and he talked about one of the most valuable ways he ever learned from customers is he would hand out leaflets on the street for this app startup he had, and it wasn't, you know, an essay because he wanted to first, he doesn't have a budget. This is the only way they had to promote his work.

But it was so great because we were handing the leaflets and I saw directly how they interacted with our message and our value proposition. And I can as a back and forth. And it was like, you know, I got a wealth of information just from being on the streets, handing out leaflets. So I wonder when you're talking about, you know, interacting with content creators or like I said, in other industries, there could be like different type of influencers or different type of, you know, third parties that have to work with any specific tactic that comes to mind that like works really well.

Getting them on the phone or demo. CALLER I don't know what you know, the right thing would be right Question to ask.

SM Lahti: Sure. I tried to talk to them as informally as possible, but again, I'm a big believer in human to human connections, being incredibly powerful and helping you get to where you need to go, but also understanding what you need to improve about your business or your approach to things. I don't think I'd know the things that I know about content creation as a business or what influencers go through if it hadn't been for asking them.

And so if you are paying an influencer in any industry to use or promote your product, if you can and have the ability to try and get them on a call, maybe after or before and ask them about their thoughts on it or how their community might respond to the way that you are approaching hiring them to do something for you.

Oftentimes brands will reach out to influencers and say, Let's say it's a YouTuber, and this can be if we're any product, let's say it's a tech YouTuber and they want to review a piece of tech. They will send the tech to the to the YouTubers and the like, the computer part, and say, okay, you're going to hold it up.

Talk about all these things. Say why it's so great right off some of these products backs and then do that for within for 30 seconds within the first 60 seconds of your video and then go on to your video. And that's going to be sponsored by us. Often that wording is prescribed by the brand. The thing that I'd push people to do is ask that influencer, does that work for your community or how would you change this?

What would work best? Does this make sense? Do you have another idea for how this could resonate better and then be open to what they might propose? Because sometimes the greatest ads and it's it's an influencer ad come from the creator coming up with an idea that makes sense for just their community. And it's not just the micro influencers that we were talking about earlier, but they know their audience better than you do and they know how their audience is going to respond to your product better than you do.

So listen to them about if they have advice or input or how to change things, and then also build that relationship with that creator. Because the more that you keep that relationship going, the more authentic the the ads and product placements are going to be later on. Because it's not just a one off here. Read off this line.

Okay, great. Thank you. Here's your check goodbye relationship. And I think that that's pretty that's also a little undervalued. Yeah I would one point if at all possible. Yes. Talk to your consumers, hand out leaflets, but also talk to the people who are promoting the product for you and make sure that the words that you're giving them are their words and make sense for their community.

Daniel Burstein: That's great advice because there is a certain irony to hiring someone for their ability to connect with an audience and then telling them what to say. I remember once I was listening to Sarah Silverman's podcast and she does such a good job with connecting to an audience and she had to read an ad. It was either it was for some sort of financial product, a bank or something, and it had so many disclaimers and it was, you know, so long and official sounding and she was doing her best.

You could tell she was trying to get through this long financial copy and keep it as interesting and compelling as possible. But to your point, if that bank or credit card or whatever it was actually talked to Sarah Silverman and said, how would you talk about this to your audience, that probably would have been a lot more compelling than hearing her clearly stumble through something that, you know, was not her, but you're just saying to ties into to our last lesson here, always consult other perspectives and value your own perspective as well.

And you learned this from Christina Amaya, the Director of Dreamhack festivals. So how did you learn this from Christina?

SM Lahti: Christina is also the founder of Latin X in Gaming, which is a group, a nonprofit dedicated towards getting Latinos and Latinas jobs in the industry and helping promote diversity within the companies that build games. And Christina and I were able to work together briefly at Twitch, but also found ourselves on a panel together. And I walked away being worried about my contributions.

Did I speak too much? Did I not do enough? Are people going to value me? Do I deserve to be here? The thing that you were talking about earlier, are you sure they didn't make a mistake? That it should be somebody else? And Christina is the one who really taught me that. Never apologize for who you are or for taking a seat at the table.

But also listen to other people. Because, like Vanessa taught me, great ideas can come from anywhere. Christina taught me that there are so many great ideas out there in the world that don't have the opportunity to get a seat at the table. And so whenever you can try and make room and make room proactively, it should not. When you're planning a project, you look around the room and you realize that there isn't enough diversity and therefore you're going to bring someone in to help get that check mark for you and check off that you were thinking about other perspectives.

It needs to be proactive. Do we have the right if we're going to do this well before we do it, do we have the right people sitting there or do we have a bunch of different perspectives in mind? Are we getting a broad variety of people to weigh in and then what's at the table and talk about this thing?

And Christina does this incredibly well. And it's tough in the games industry because it's heavily male dominated. I think about there are a couple of different statistics, and so it's roughly this percentage. So don't quote me on this exactly, but it's something like 55% of self-identified gamers are male and 45% are women, But about 75% of the games industry and who makes games is male.

And there is an issue there. And so you also see that in the way that games are made. And and this isn't just for the games industry, but it's a pretty big issue within games. But it means that you have to actively think about when you're solving problems or building campaigns. From a marketing perspective, are you considering the way that anyone from any walk of life with any background could perceive this campaign?

Are you considering that you should have those people in the room beforehand to weigh in before you make the campaign and not just doing testing afterwards on an audience to see if you have to fix anything? And I think that she is an incredible leader for promoting diversity in the industry, and I admire her so much, both with her work, at her job at Dreamhack, as well as in her nonprofit.

But I've also I aspire to be as inclusive a leader as she is and as as she wants other people to be. And I hope that the games industry improves in terms inclusivity in the future and just making sure that anybody, regardless of degree, ethnicity, anything else, feels like they have something to contribute and they feel like they're heard when they're contributing, especially within a team.

And it's something that going to hiring and you're thinking about best hiring practices that people should definitely be thinking about when you're hiring for your team. If you have a very small team, if you have diversity, how are you also ensuring that other perspectives are making their way in too? When you're planning campaigns or planning launches or anything before it even becomes public?

Is that consulting outside groups? Is that I see other people at the company who aren't in marketing? Is that asking consumers, whatever that might be, ensure that you're getting other perspectives so you're not building something in a silo and then hoping it goes well when you launch?

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, that's great advice. And I wonder if you had any specific example of how you make sure you get those maybe overlooked voices or ideas, you know, in the room when you're building something. And I'll give you a quick example from a previous episode, I interviewed Radhika Duggal, the chief marketing Officer at Super on how I made it marketing, and she talked about your customers, your most important stakeholder, and when she worked at Chase, she would actually spend hours outside of Western unions and pay almanacs because she was trying to learn from underbanked customers.

You know, I mean, at Chase, you know, they were so focused on, okay, we already know these customers who were serving pretty well who are bank. What about these underbanked customers using like Western Union's. And so I wonder for you, like, do you have any example or any insights you got from trying to reach outside of traditionally who you think your industry should be talking to in terms of customers to make sure they were served?

SM Lahti: I think that right is a fairly good job. Sorry. Right. Games, video game developer and publisher does a fairly good job of this when they're doing testing and with focus groups before a character in game launches or a skill set is their insights team. A friend of mine, Lee Hughes, used to be help lead these focus groups and so I know what their perspective is on it and how they went about building these groups.

But they take into account, okay, do we have a broad range of ages? Do we have a broad range of experiences playing the game? That's something that to think about with games too. That's great to ask your person who loves your game and has been playing for ten years, but what about the person who hasn't played it yet, who plays other games that you want to play your game?

Ask them to? Do we have women? Do we have people of color? Do we have all these different perspectives and backgrounds weighing in to make sure that something is going to resonate well across the board with everyone? And I think that video game companies have gotten really good about building diverse focus groups to get feedback. It's tough with small like startups, like EA Sports.

I think our best approach is I will jump into our Discord, which is where many of our fans hang out or our Reddit and sometimes ask questions and say like, Did this work? Did this not work? If we did this, how would you do this? Well, would this be okay? And it's not bad to ask for feedback before something goes live.

And if you can't do it publicly, then find ways to ask people under NDA or privately or within the company, even from people who are outside of your team. Ask someone who's not a marketer. Does this make sense to you? Does this how does this make you feel? And if they're not getting the same impression that you are, then that is pretty eye opening that, you know, you might not be communicating the things that you want to communicate?

I think it all goes back to you asks, Don't be afraid to ask for someone else's opinion.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I wonder too. You know, you made a great point there about will you ever reach outside of the gaming industry or outside of gamers to understand like, okay, how can I bring in how can we get more adoption for the industry in general? Because when I hear you say it, I think of some Jacksonville, Florida and the headquarters of the PGA Tour is right down the street here.

And golf is such a game where it has such a like a high barrier to entry and then you know, we had a topgolf open by us and, you know, they're all over the place. And top golf to me was so brilliant because it was a way it was very approachable way to get anybody to just play golf on it, you know, go out with their friends and play golf versus, you know, that hybrid entry in gaming, not quite as high of a barrier to entry.

Right. But you don't want to feel like the noob, like the newbie, you know, you don't. And so so what do you do to reach outside of gaming to to get that maybe perspective that you wouldn't hear too to kind of bring some people into it?

SM Lahti: I think gaming does have a high barrier to entry because it's expensive games. Most games cost mobile games are different. But like if you at some point in your life, you've probably known or had or had a friend who had a child who wanted a gaming console, whether it was an Xbox or a PlayStation or a Nintendo 64, or dating myself or Gamecube or whatever that might be, those are pricey and they continue to go up in price.

A gaming PC is over $1,000, and if you build it yourself, it still doesn't change the cost very much. It's they're difficult to do and the barrier to entry is high. So it's a it's a similar issue with gaming. However, you can still be a fan of games and care about games and and not be an active player of games.

And so that's something that video game companies and Twitch to consider as well. It's part of the reason why Twitch brought in non-gaming content under the platform because they understood that gamers weren't just people who only identified as gamers and that's it. And that's the only content they watch. They never watch TV, they never watch YouTube. They only watch people streaming video games.

That wasn't correct. And so the idea was what other things do our consumers like to do? What other habits do they have, what other content do they like to consume? And would that make sense for us to, like, bring that into the fold? And it's funny you mentioned golf because 100 thieves, we actually had a golf themed apparel drop, I believe it was in April of last year.

So 2022 and it was our first traditional sports themed line of apparel and it sold out, you know, in minutes. And when we launched it internally, we thought, Oh, this will be on for a while. It'll sell with time. That's okay. We expect it. It's a little different for our community. The overlap between gamers and golf is actually quite high because if you think about human behavior, a lot of gamers like the adrenaline rush or the competitive edge or the fun or the chase of a play, and you find that with traditional sports.

And so for a lot of e-sports organizations, whether it's TSM 100 Thieves or anyone else, they're actually looking at to a lot of people and groups of people who are casual gamers or don't identify as gamers, but who care about the passion behind traditional sports, whether it's going out, playing golf with your friends occasionally once a month, or whether it's you go to every single Chargers game possible and you have season tickets and you care about the competition.

You're a massive fan, whatever that might be. There is quite a bit of overlap in behavior. And I think for for us it was what other areas of opportunity are there because behaviors and drives are the same in our consumers. They look for play competition or social activities. Which ones are the priorities and how do we do that authentically and expand beyond our current brand to encompass those people?

I think that a brand only has so far to grow. Unfortunately, if you limit yourself to a very specific nature, should people and alienate the rest? If an eSports organization says we are only for core e-sports fans who care about one specific game and follow these specific players and that is it, they're going to limit themselves from being really potentially, really successful because they've decided that their potential audience is only so big, which is why you'll see a lot of esports organizations expanding beyond what they do right now.

100 thieves launched an energy drink called Juvie, and I believe it was fall of last year. They acquired a peripherals brand called High Ground. I believe it's two years ago. TSM has a product called Blitz, which is a software that helps gamers get better at games. It's like an overlay that doesn't your activities in-game, but helps you know how you can improve and how you're performing.

And so all these e-sports organizations are building other products because they want to bring in more fans into the organization outside of core e-sports. FAN And that's the only thing I care about that's smart.

Daniel Burstein: The brand extension, so awesome. We talked about so many different things about what it means to be a marketer from all the different stories you've told, from the creativity to the inclusiveness. Bring in those unheard voices in your mind. What are the key qualities of an effective marketer?

SM Lahti: It's a creativity, an ability to communicate your ideas and work with others. I think if you are open to working with other people, you'll go so much further. And also your creative ideas can only go so far if you're unable to communicate them to your audience or to your coworkers, to your to your manager, to your teammates, to the people that report to you.

Communication is incredibly important in whatever way makes you most comfortable and is most effective for you. But those are, I'd say, the biggest things for me for sure, because I think that anybody can learn to be a good marketer if they have a passion for something. And that's translating into really creative ideas and they're able to communicate that with other people.

Beyond that, all the other skills are teachable, in my opinion.

Daniel Burstein: And before I let you go, can I ask you your favorite gamers that to political in the industry and you have to you just have to love them all. They're all your favorite or do you have a favorite?

SM Lahti: Yeah, I do have a favorite. I when I was at Riot games, I joined Riot games because I love League of Legends. However, we launched a it was a game mode within League of Legends that has since become its own game. It's a mobile game as well. It's called teamfight tactics. It's basically a beautiful, bright, complicated chess. So it's a strategy game.

You don't have to be super quick. You don't shoot things, you know, you play against other people. But it is about strategy and and using money and resources wisely and playing at seven other people at once. But you basically have a rotating chessboard where you play against multiple other people and you try and be the last man standing.

And I love it.

Daniel Burstein: You know, strategy using money wisely, being the last man standing, it kind of sounds like marketing. Are you just playing marketing in your in your off time, basically?

SM Lahti: But those are the key skills for a marketer. That would be creativity.

Daniel Burstein: And that’s true, you are correct. Well, thank you so much, SM. I learned so much for you in this conversation.

SM Lahti: Thank you so much for having me on, Daniel.

Daniel Burstein: And thanks to everyone for listening.

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