“Provide value to people and they will come back and value you.” – Stacy Jones
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Stacy Jones: “Game of Thrones,” Starbucks & Viral Lightning
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Thanks so much for being with us. I have an incredible guest for you that has such an awesome story about her visibility. Lightning struck for her. She went viral. This is Stacy Jones, someone I’ve known for a long time. She’s the CEO and Founder of Hollywood Branded and she’s also an expert in influencer marketing. She has been doing product placement for film and TV for years. You might have seen Stacy. I’d be surprised if you didn’t see the story she was associated with. She has received over four billion media impressions in US TV and digital. That is not counting TV and print internationally.
The value of these impressions has her earned her agency over a $65 million media value. You might wonder how this happened and we’re going to get the play by play, but has anyone seen the famous coffee cup in Game of Thrones? For any Game of Thrones fans out there, this was an incident where someone left a coffee cup on the set and made it into the episode. Everyone thought it was a Starbucks cup and it created a whole internet sensation. Stacy, being the smart businesswoman that she is, took the opportunity to talk about it. Stacy, I’d love for you to tell us what happened. Welcome and give us the play by play.
Thank you so much for having me here. We went viral and it was not exactly planned but it was something cool that happened because I already participated quite frequently with interviews with the press. It happened to be that golden moment, that perfect storm where Starbucks was getting so much attention about the cup that everyone thought was theirs. In fact, it probably was a company called Paper Cup out of Belfast. I had woken up that Monday morning after it premiered that Sunday night to an email in my inbox from MarketWatch asking if I would chime in on providing some estimates on what it would have cost for Starbucks to have paid to have their cup be in not necessarily Game of Thrones. We all know that you’re not going to have a present–day product in a historical TV show or feature film, but in something that would be a similar caliber. A TV show that would reach as far and wide a range of audience members as what Game of Thrones does.
Is there another show that would do that? Game of Thrones is this international sensation. How did you find one that would compare?
This is a Super Bowl TV series. This is the biggest of the biggest. When all is said and done, there were over 100 million people who were watching the series from all corners of the globe. We would equate this based on the type of viewership it would receive. This is a Super Bowl-sized program and there are easily over 100 million people who see a single episode from all corners of the world, if not more.
It truly was the cup scene around the world.
We would look at this based on how would a massive blockbuster feature film play in this space. How would an Avengers, a Batman v Superman, a Black Panther or any of your top twenty feature films that are out there that are getting this type of viewership. That’s how we would price it. Knowing that, in this case, you couldn’t see the logos. There’s not a whole lot of value there for it. You couldn’t tell what brand it was. There’s not a whole lot of value there for it. If you could see a logo, you could see a brand, the cup was positioned in the right point of action. It’s easily something that a brand would pay $250,000 or more to be in that type of property in nowadays age.
That’s the actual cost to be in the show. There’s the PR media value of the impressions that it gets once it appears in the show. People thought it was a Starbucks logo even though it wasn’t. Starbucks lucked out on this one. Tell us a little bit more. How did it unfold? How many impressions were they getting? What happened?
I chimed in with MarketWatch and I let them know about the $250,000 value. MarketWatch’s article went viral at that point. I’ve never participated in anything before that went viral and it was cool to see. It had a lot of pickup. By later on that day, I started having other media outreach to me. CNBC and Business Insider were two of those media outlets. With both, I let them know that not only, but there’s also that $250,000 minimum value that I’d started tracking the press and we use PR analytics software. With the PR analytics software that we were utilizing, it’s critical mention, it was showing at that time millions of dollars’ worth of value. That’d be expected. As the day wore on, as the night wore on and as the whole reality of in fact that everyone was talking about Game of Thrones and Starbucks kept on going, that turned in ultimately to billions of dollars’ worth of media value. It is insane what the overall reaches are for Starbucks around the world. There’s not a single country that’s not talking about it. It’s on local news, it’s on national news, it’s in print and it’s in digital. It went everywhere that one could even assume covers media as well as social and as well as digital platforms too.
How has this affected you? Firstly, it’s important to point out that the press called you and lots of things that we’re working on in my business and with my clients and members are making sure that they are out there and visible so that people can find them. Had you had a relationship with this press person? How did they find you?
They hadn’t. I did not know the person that I interviewed with. I didn’t know any of the reporters I initially interviewed with. Heather, what you’re saying is what’s incredibly important and what your readers need to understand and takeaway. I’ve been in this industry of product placement. I launched my agency back in 2007. I ran another agency for the previous decade before that. I have spent so much time talking with press anytime, any outlet. I don’t care what size it is. I don’t care who it is. I’m happy to talk to anyone about product placement, celebrity endorsements, influencer marketing and I don’t just talk. I talk to them. I try to listen to what they need and then I continue to follow up. That’s what the big win here for me is not only did I talk to them and bring them unique points. I was able to contribute to a story that helped all of these articles go viral.
Going out and providing value to people will make them actually come back and value you.
I kept in touch with them afterwards and kept them up-to-date about what was going on and what the reach is. Starbucks has easily over 60 billion online reach alone. It’s over $3 billion easily value. Probably $4 billion to $5 billion, pulling up something to take a look at it and it’s looking like it’s supposed to be a $4 billion or $5 billion. I can’t keep up to it. I did a podcast myself on this. I went to sleep, I woke up the next morning and the numbers had doubled. Those were old numbers by then and the podcast hadn’t even come out.
It was fantastic for Game of Thrones and Starbucks, not that Starbucks really needed it or Game of Thrones. They’re both already international sensations.
One thing for your readers to understand is not only did I go above and beyond in trying to make sure that the reporters had content that was cool enough, but I also spent many years building up our reputation in general where with all of those different interviews I participate in. All the time is creating relationships with reporters so that they would come back to me and so that my profile of press would grow and I would list that press on our website. We have a press page where I would make sure we shared it digitally to make sure other people saw the press that we were getting. To make sure that our website was optimized for Google with SEO so that if a reporter was looking up a story, we would come up in a top search. All of those things are incredibly important to do so that you’re positioned in the right place to be reached out to when a story is running.
Thank you so much for sharing that because we talk about this all the time in my community. At the end of the day, that’s what good PR does for you. It allows people to come to you and that even means not just clients or customers, but the actual reporters that are out there that need your expertise, need you as a source for their stories. Undoubtedly, these reporters searched online probably for a film and TV product placement and you probably were the first company to come up is my guess.
We have many blogs that we also do. That’s something that your readers should be doing as well and writing and putting it under their name so that their point of view is out there. They’re able to be seen as someone who can at least write, if not talk, intelligently. That’s something that’s important and providing tools and resources and content so people can get a look under the hood of your company and get to know you a little bit.
That’s something I’ve always admired about you is you send out your weekly newsletter that features your blog posts and you have multiple blog posts on a regular basis. I’ve looked at you with admiration thinking, “She’s a content machine. She’s brilliant. She’s always putting out great posts and stories that are tied into current events, things that are happening out in the world.” I have a feeling if they hadn’t called you, you probably would’ve been just about ready to write your blog piece on it anyway.
100% we would have. This certainly got a lot more traction than any blog we would have written, but case in point, I had another reporter, totally different topic, reach out to me because of our Instagram page. We had posted about a certain top celebrity. It happened to be a Kardashian. This woman was writing a story for her magazine and she thought that we would be up-to-date on what the current topics are around that Kardashian individual. She’s right. We are. That was another platform that reporters look at. Your social feeds are something that helps tell the story of your knowledge as well.
If we could look at even the past few weeks, maybe before, what would you say is the biggest difference? Where were you right before? What has shifted? Where are you now?
I was in New York the week prior to this whole story breaking and I was doing agency, client brand meetings and sales pitches. I was able to follow up with them or even better yet a lot of them followed up immediately with me saying, “I just saw you here.” We had good meetings. They were all great meetings, but our authority level with these new prospective clients, it kicked it up not a notch. It soared through the roof. They’re like, “How did you do this? This is amazing.” The calls that we’re getting from brands and agencies. It’s a different way of being seen when you are recognized as an authority and someone who is a knowledge expert.
There are things happening that we can’t talk about yet, but you have some pretty big things in the works that are a result of this Game of Thrones Starbucks cup incident. What do you think the change is going to be in your business going forward now that you’ve gotten through this phase where you’ve gotten all of this attention?
We’ve been talking about buying a building and we are going to be buying bigger office buildings that we can move into. All the things I’ve been putting out in the universe about business growth is everything’s being connected. While we were already scaling up because of other things going on with hiring additional team members, I see the goal that we had outlined coming to fruition a lot faster.
That is such amazing news and I’m happy for you. If anyone deserves it, it’s you. I know how hard you work. In doing this work, what lights you up the most about it?
As far as working with brands and content, I love partnering pop culture with brands. There is not a better way in my eye to create something that’s engaging, authentic and a story. This whole Game of Thrones and Starbucks experience, this should prove to everyone the fact that people are locked into their favorite content and what is appearing in it. When brands are participating in a movie or a TV show, it is being noticed. It is being thought of and talked about. When you’re working with an influencer or a celebrity, people are noticing it, they are engaging with it. It is unfathomable the value of that, so far beyond just doing traditional advertising,
As someone that has been doing this a long time and running your own business, there are always going to be challenges and obstacles. Is there any advice you have for anyone out there? As entrepreneurs, we’ve all gone through it. What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve had? How did you get through it? How can other people stick with it and keep going to get to a point like this or maybe lightning will strike for them as well?
As a business owner and entrepreneur, there are obstacles at every turn that you go, whether you’re a woman-owned business, whether it is getting clients to pay or whether it is employee HR issues. There are issues that we all have, anyone and everyone has. It’s about pivoting, keeping on going, not giving up and continuing with the faith that the vision that you have is going to come to fruition and making sure you have a vision. If you don’t have a vision, there’s no way that you can meet that goal of whatever it is if you haven’t put it out there.
Knowing your vision, your why, being in a pure state about that, it completely sets the stage for success and then the consistency and persistence to stick with that. That’s well said. If you could tell yourself as a younger version of yourself one thing, what advice would you give your younger self?
If I went back into the younger self that wasn’t super young but maybe a college self, I had no idea that my theater production and design degree that I was going after as a BFA would accumulate into something that was a rock-solid business success. You never know the point you’re at where you’re going to get, but everything serves you well along the way.
Stick with it, stay with it and trust that. For you, you’re a perfect example of seeing how everything you’ve done and all you’ve worked for and all that you’ve invested over the years has culminated into this wonderful place where it feels like it’s your time to shine. It’s your moment in the spotlight. After all this work all these years, you’re getting the attention you truly do deserve because you are brilliant at your work and more people need to know that you can help them with their businesses. We’re going to hear some good news coming from you soon from some high-profile clients. I can’t wait to see what unfolds for you. Do you have any last thoughts for our readers?
Make sure that you get out there and you start publicizing yourself. Everything that Heather is teaching you and taking down the path on is true. If you don’t find a way that you can toot your own horn and share what’s internally going on at your organization. If you don’t find a way that you can relate outwardly to your current and future customers to let them know that you are aware of cutting-edge trends and what’s going on, you’re not establishing yourself to be the best that you can be. Look at the tools that are out there. I happen to be the crazy content maker believer where anything that you make can be repurposed. A blog can turn into eBooks, can turn into infographics, can turn into social posts, can turn into a podcast series and it goes on beyond even that as well. All of these things take time, but they’re worthwhile to spend the time on. They’re going to be able to keep giving and delivering for you for years to come versus necessarily going out, paying for Facebook advertising and trying to lead people into you instantly. Provide value to people and they will come back and value you.
If people are looking for a way to connect with you, Stacy, how can they find you?
There are a couple of ways. You can go to HollywoodBranded.com and all of our information is there. You can also listen to my podcast, Marketing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them). We’re on iTunes and you also can find the link on our website. If you’re interested in learning more about product placement, influencers, celebrities and not quite ready to work with someone and want to have more of a DIY approach, we have an online class series at Learn.HollywoodBranded.com.
Thank you so much for sharing this case study with us. It’s fascinating to hear the behind the scenes on when lightning does strike and how you yourself went viral along with this story. Everyone, just hang in there and keep at it. Stacey’s been doing this a long time and lightning does strike, the stars do align and it does come down to persistence, consistency and staying in your truth for your message or your movement. Putting it out there in the universe in every possible way and someday the lightning will strike for you too. Thank you, Stacy, so much. It was wonderful having you.
Heather, thank you.