Barkbox Marketing Director Stacie Grissom Shares How To Use Quizzes for Ecommerce Content Marketing

This week we get to talk with Stacie Grissom, Director of Content at BARK Stacie is Director of Content at BARK and co-author of the New York Times bestseller, Dogs and Their People. She focuses on creating content formats that work at scale for audience generation in today’s fast-changing landscape. Beginning her tenure at BARK […]

This week we get to talk with Stacie Grissom, Director of Content at BARK

Stacie is Director of Content at BARK and co-author of the New York Times bestseller, Dogs and Their People. She focuses on creating content formats that work at scale for audience generation in today’s fast-changing landscape.

Beginning her tenure at BARK as the third employee in 2012, Stacie built the content team from the ground up. She is responsible for developing BarkBox’s interactive, humor-driven content strategy and growing the company’s social accounts from 2,500 followers to over 11 million dog-obsessed followers. Along with a team of writers, Stacie helped to create the Dog Mom Rap, the best performing piece of brand content two years in a row, according to Unmetric. She also led the team that created the video series “Dog’s Best Day” that amassed over 157 million views in its 6 episodes. Today, her expanded team regularly puts out some of the most engaging brand content on social media month after month– including things like BarkBox’s cheeky Big HonkinPig in a Blanket toys, or most recently some totally normal BarkBox “spinach burritos.”

Stacie lives in NYC with her rescue mutt, Pimm, and spends her free time growing a balcony cocktail garden and documenting the recipes on @GardenCocktails.

Episode Transcript:

Josh Haynam:
Hi everyone. We’re here with Stacie Grissom. She is the director of content at Bark and they have under their umbrella corporation BarkBox, which some of you may know as an awesome purveyor of dog toys. She started at Bark as the third employee in 2012 and built the entire content team there. They’ve done all sorts of crazy stuff in terms of the effectiveness of their content and we’re super honored that they’ve chosen to use Interact to build their quizzes with. So, thanks for coming on today, Stacie.

Stacie Grissom:
Yeah, thanks for having me.

Josh Haynam:
So, really what I was thinking about before I jumped on today was I just want to learn from you as I’m sure everybody else does. So let’s start at the beginning. Where do quizzes fit in? How did that come up for you? What was the origin story?

Stacie Grissom:
Yeah, I mean, so I’ve been at Bark almost eight years and in the last decade we’ve definitely seen content on the internet grow and change and evolve. At Bark we’ve done everything from when I started in 2012 we launched Bark Post, which was a website where we were just creating content around everything related to dogs and the lifestyle of having a four legged family member to today where social and all different form mediums and forms of content we are exploring, and quizzes have just been a fun and exciting moment or medium that we’ve used to celebrate having dogs in your life. We’ve used quizzes in very silly ways, whether it was find the pug in these pictures to things where we’re actually trying to sell our products which … with the interact quizzes we do things around our beds and selling them on Amazon. So it’s just it is just a tool within our wheelhouse of celebrating these four legged creatures that we are lucky to have in our lives.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah. I think both of those are really interesting use cases that people probably want to hear more about and we’re seeing a lot of usage in both of those areas. The one that immediately stands out to me is the product recommender and being able to sell the beds. How does that work and what the results been for you?

Stacie Grissom:
Yeah, using content … One, content is such a nebulous thing in the marketing funnel. And so my constant battle is trying to show how content can provide value and whether that’s through obsessive UTM tracking or tracking affiliate links within the things the quizzes we’re just always trying to find new ways of getting people interested in what we’re trying to sell so that I can keep having a job where I get to talk about dogs all day. So, with the Interact’s tool, what I really liked about it was you’re able to get a lot more granular on how you can control the flow of the quiz in the backend. And so we’ve seen a trickle of sales but it’s just one test within many that we use.

Stacie Grissom:
We’ve also used the interact poll. We launched right before all this COVID madness started, we launched a dog friendliest bar competition and we actually used the polling tool there. And I would say that’s been a lot more powerful of a tool where we are able to collect people’s emails where we can then do more sophisticated marketing things down the line, but we’re able to get a lot of engagement there. And I think in general the product quizzes are not going to be the most popular things in the content world but in always trying to show that content can provide some value, that’s where they are important. But the more fun attention grabbing top of the funnel types of things are always going to be more popular than your lower funnel conversion type quizzes.

Stacie Grissom:
If I’ve learned anything in being in content on the internet, it’s that you have to have … one of our founders has this concept of you need to have a lot of acorns growing at once to make sure that you are constantly testing and growing new things to see what works because something might strike really well at one point in time and then if you do it again or at a different point in time when just the world isn’t wanting to listen to you at that moment you just need to constantly have a lot of things brewing and throwing at the wall or growing little acorns.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah, I liked that a lot and definitely can resonate with that mentality and seeing very similar results on our end and the content we run at Interact. How do you continue to come up with ideas? What’s your process like?

Stacie Grissom:
Whenever I’ve brought on new folks, whether they’re freelancers or full time people onto the team, I always try to look for these people that are just constantly hungry and constantly itchy to create new stuff just in their own personal lives. You know, TikTok launches a year ago and immediately they’re just on it trying to figure out what the heck this platform and medium is. So I think it’s a little bit in who you use as a manager of people who create content. I always look for people who have blogs and social platforms and have a lot of things going on and are just insatiably curious. And I think that usually solves a lot of where do you get new ideas? And I think the other thing where it’s more in how do you frame the mindset of how you approach your business?

Stacie Grissom:
And what I mean by that is I think … so, I was employee number three at Bark. If we had from the beginning looked at our business model as like, “Hey we are in the business of creating subscription businesses for dogs.” Or if you expand that to pets then maybe our next business line would have been MeowBox or something like that. But instead we were thinking about … our problem that we’re solving is how do we make dogs happy, how do we make dogs and their people happy? And because of that, the scope of what you can do and what you give yourself permission to do is limitless. And I think because from the beginning we were always looking at we are not just sending toys and treats to people. A lot of the other pet businesses out in the world, one of the things that always bothered me about them was it was all so boring and transactional. You feed your dog, and you love your dog, and there’s sappy stuff that other companies would do. But for the most part they didn’t explore the humorous and the bizarre world of what it means to have a dog sitting on the couch next to you.

Stacie Grissom:
They are discussing hilarious farty creatures and nobody was really talking about that. And so because we opened ourselves to talk about anything and everything related to dogs, good, bad, hilarious, strange the idea is kind of never stop because it’s just as the world moves on, new ideas come about. And also I think the internet has enabled us to all be kind of on the same page of … everybody is starting to realize that there has been this underground cult of people who are obsessed with their dogs that is now very visible.

Stacie Grissom:
And because of all of those things, the ideas never really stop. Plus, we put out over 400 toys. We design and create over 400 toys every year with just our subscription services alone. And so because of that we have toys about … you know, this month is Squeaky Easy, next month is Scoob, two months ago we had Snowman and a year ago we had the Grinch. So because of that the ideas of how does your dog filter into this never really stop. Plus we’re launching new business lines beds and different essentials. So, just always trying to find the cool, interesting, silly, entertaining way to talk about that. And quizzes are just a medium within that.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah, I love that. And the question that came to mind as you were talking, which I think is really pervasive, because I hear it literally all the time is there’s a question around how do you connect up that kind of content that’s interesting and fun and connects with people on a heart level, how do you make that actually drive back to the bottom line? And you alluded to a little bit earlier with the product quiz and how that is nice because it can connect up, but more broadly, how do you think about that problem and solving that problem of going from a broad audience that is really enjoying the content you’re creating Back to the practicalities of we do have a business that that needs to sell products.

Stacie Grissom:
Totally. So the product quizzes that we create, whether it’s what is the best bed for your dog? If you were coming to me saying, “I have this business, what should my content strategy be?” I would never say going to the product specific quizzes first, unless you’re trying to create bottom of the funnel ads where you’re like, the quiz is just a part of it. I think the philosophy of content in general needs to be where it’s a bit of a faith. You have to have a lot of faith in both content and PR. You can’t just go off of this thing that we did drove this many impressions, but usually you can’t really close that loop on and then it drove this many subscriptions or it drove this many conversions.

Stacie Grissom:
A lot of times you just have to have faith that in doing something interesting, the score will take care of itself eventually if you repeatedly do this day after day, year after year. And what I mean by that is when you look at our Instagram or a lot of the content that we put up on Facebook or the email … A lot of the the content that we put out in the world it’s not related to our products at all.

Stacie Grissom:
And we are lucky today that our the flywheel of a lot of people are sending user generated content of their dog’s interacting with our products, that’s been a result of years of us just putting up cool things about dogs. One of our most popular pieces of content was this thing called The Dog Mom Rap that we launched in 2017 it was just a little video that the content team put together where we basically took all of our top performing memes from that year and put them through the lens of celebrating the pride of what it feels to be a dog mom, but kind of a rock and roll dog mom.

Stacie Grissom:
And then we made a little rap out of that and filmed a video to fit with it. And that video has over 68 million views today. I could never say, “Hey, this drove to this many subscriptions.” But the total calculation of views and impressions and people talking about like, “Hey, did you see Bark made this weird thing.” That eventually does get back to “Hey, I need a a Christmas gift for my mom’s dog.” “Oh yeah. That company, they have fun, weird stuff. I think I’ll do that.” You’d never be able to calculate that in a Google analytics or whatever tracking tool you’re using, but it is an exercise in faith in just trusting that if something does really well, if you’re able to entertain people, if you’re able to catch people’s attention with something that’s not bad, you just don’t know exactly what will come of it.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah, I mean I love that philosophy. I just read that book, The Score Takes Care of Itself, and I’m a big fan of that idea of just do the right things then the right things will happen. That makes a lot of sense. I was curious as you were talking too, how do you come up with the right products to be selling, because it sounds you have a pretty fluid product line. How does that connect up to the audience and the people that are engaging with the content that you create? What’s that process like to go from we have this broad audience to here’s some products that we can be offering.

Stacie Grissom:
Yeah. So I think there are … the products that we create that we’re trying to write a bit of a pop song where they’re just very pleasing and lovely and fun and colorful. To me they’re a bit the Taylor Swift products. A lot of people are going to like them. It’s not going to be explosive, but they’re really cool and they’re better … I’m not saying Taylor Swift is better than … just saying pop song, but they’re just really well-made, good fun toys. And then we also have these lightning bolt products and we had one last week where we kind of just trust and pursue people’s ideas to see if they’ll work. So last week, yesterday was April 20th, last week we launched a promotion on April 15th of these 420 themed toys. And there was some little nuggets of weed, there was a joint, there was a bong. If you’d ask another pet business, if they could sell those toys, they would’ve been like, “No, no, no. We don’t want to offend people.” But at Bark we’re like, “If we offend people we apologize.”

Stacie Grissom:
And usually in the 10 people that we seriously offended, there are thousands of people who think that it is the funniest thing that a dog company made a joint toy for your dog. So I think it’s just constantly having the bread and butter products with also these lightning bolt moments that actually push a lot of success to our bread and butter products. I think also a lot of our toys and this is a quiz that we made where we actually hide a lot of toys inside our other toys and you can never calculate. If we start making these multi-part hidden toys, a lot of people aren’t even going to find the hidden toys within the other toys, but the people who do are going to be very vocal about it.

Stacie Grissom:
And because of that, we’ve had three toys get to be on the front page of Reddit. There was a cactus with a sad cactus inside, that was the first toy. And then we made a few other versions of … there was an acorn with a sad acorn inside and a pineapple with a sad pineapple inside, but today we evolved it to in our spy box there is a getaway motorcycle toy inside. There was a disposable camera and inside was a little film canister with squirrels taking selfies.

Stacie Grissom:
Most recently, one of my favorite toys of all time is we made a wombat toy for our Australia box. And if you don’t know wombats actually poop cubes. So we put a little happy poop cube inside this wombat toy.

Stacie Grissom:
There’s the regular toys, there’s the lightning bolt toys, the weed toys, and then there’s also adding these funny details to your toys. It’s just being obsessive and trying to delight people through content, through products ends up creating this much larger narrative that has enabled us to be able to grow to be one of the larger dog businesses in the country just by pursuing fun.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah. That’s amazing. I love those examples. And then it’s you’re not even doing marketing at that point, you’re just having a good time and other people want to talk about it.

Stacie Grissom:
Oh yeah. We were supposed to have those weed toys to last until yesterday and they sold out in one day and I’ve never seen that. And there were [crosstalk 00:19:38] offended people, but we actually took off their name and turned the mean comments about the toys into a few ads and then we were sharing them on social. But yeah, it’s just a lot of fun.

Josh Haynam:
It’s just like having a personality and like you said if you do really offend somebody, you apologize, but you don’t have to stop being who you are just because somebody might not like it. So that’s really awesome. Another question that came up and given your background as being the third employee at this company and now it’s just these massive brands, there are a lot of e-commerce, well not even eCommerce, but commerce brands that are now having to become eCommerce brands or are looking to really expand their eCommerce presence. If you could take yourself back and mix it with advice for somebody who’s taking a brand online right now or is just starting to try to expand their eCommerce offering and do marketing around it, what are the first steps? Where do you get started if you’re looking to just get something launched and growing in terms of the internet, world of commerce?

Stacie Grissom:
Yeah. We live in weird, weird times and I do not take for granted that we are very digital right now. And I’m thankful every day for that, but I think advice that I have for someone starting out, a lot of the success that we’ve had has been because we were one of the first brands to use Instagram in the way that we do, we were one of the first brands to make a business Facebook page and just start posting content to it, not about our products, just content. So I would say try to avoid the really crowded places. Instagram is not necessarily the place where I would start right now, but there are other platforms that even … you know, producing quizzes and sending that out to your email list if you already have an email list. Stuff like that where you’re not just adding more noise to the world or you’re not trying to break through in a very crowded place, starting to get some traction in places where you maybe already have a foothold, a local presence or a highly engaged local email list or TikTok is starting to get a little bit crowded, but a lot of people are online right now and there are pockets of newer spaces where you can be creative and get a lot more bang for your buck than say joining the places where everyone else is at the moment.

Stacie Grissom:
Yeah. So I think take stock of what you have and see how you can amplify that. And then I think also just philosophically, I know … so, at work we get a lunch catered to us every week and we have this amazing catering, it’s not really a catering service. They have a little farm out in Long Island City, Queens. Their whole business before was making lunches for different businesses around the city. And what they’ve done is they’ve used their connections with all of the office managers and they’ve started making these at home, work from home packs of food, where the people like me or employees who already love the food that they make, they’re actually starting to deliver direct to people. And they’re using their connections with the office managers to ask them to send emails to all of their employees.

Stacie Grissom:
So they’re able to expand very quickly by being authentic and saying, “Thank you so much for supporting us. Please know that this is helping us stay in business.” Being really direct, really honest, asking for help and using the tools that they already have in their wheelhouse and they … I’m hoping that they can weather this storm, but it’s been interesting to see how, for example, they’ve pivoted using honesty and the tools that they already had in there in their pockets.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah. And that just connects right up to the point that you made before, just being authentic and real and keeping things just very straight forward. I really liked that. That’s something we’d totally, totally agree with over at Interact. So that’s amazing. Before we jump off, where can people go to check out the quizzes that you’ve made and see the way that you’ve been able to utilize those?

Stacie Grissom:
Yeah, I mean you can go to barkox.com is where we put up a lot of our content, but for the most part if you follow along @barkbox or @superchewer, which is our other subscription business, we promote a lot of the content that we are creating on those channels.

Josh Haynam:
Awesome. Well thank you so much, Stacie. We really appreciate you coming on today.

Stacie Grissom:
Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Josh Haynam:
Awesome.

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Josh Haynam

Josh Haynam is the co-founder of Interact, a place for creating beautiful and engaging quizzes that generate email leads. Outside of Interact Josh is an outdoor enthusiast, is very into health/fitness, and enjoys spending time with his community in San Francisco.

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