Meet your marketer: David Cohen

Welcome to the first episode of a new series: Meet your marketer.

Today I have the pleasure to talk with David Cohen, SEO team leader at SEER Interactive. I talked with David about this interview for the “Meet your SEO” , and David suggested me to include this in a new series, because he loves SEO of course, but he talks a lot about marketing in general. You can read more about his thoughts on his blog, and honestly, it’s one of those blogs I really enjoy to read.

Well, let’s begin episode 1 of this brand new series!

David Cohen

When did you enter the marketing world and why?

First day in marketing: December 1, 1997. After high school I was living in Moscow, and when I returned it was time to get a ‘real job’. I responded to an ad in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from a guy who launched a direct-response marketing startup in his spare bedroom.

He gave me the job and put me to work writing headlines, copy and generating leads, all while I was learning from Claude Hopkins, David Ogilvy and Gary Halbert, the most street smart marketer ever.

Why marketing? Because I’m fascinated by people. Through experiencing Moscow’s whimsical culture, I discovered that I was most fascinated by what drove people to make decisions and how this could be influenced. This made marketing a logical choice. Plus, I pretty much suck at everything else, so there’s that factor too.

Do you think a degree in marketing or related topics is still important to succeed in this world?

No. Marketing is learned by doing, testing, failing, and collaborating. Traditional colleges aren’t giving students action-oriented learning opportunities because they’re still using an early 20th century classroom model that was designed to produce factory workers.

I would never discourage a student from getting a marketing degree if that’s their goal, but I would encourage them to do this if they go to college:

• Network and build valuable relationships that will last
• Start a business and intern whenever possible
• Build effective communication and critical thinking skills

Which is the most common marketing strategy error you see big brands are doing?

Two errors come to mind. The first is empathy, as in the lack of. The second, which I’ll expand on, is the way some big brands hold their marketing teams hostage until after a product is developed or iterated on.
Products are supposed to solve problems, meet needs, and make people’s lives better. It’s up to the brands’ marketing team or agency to tell the right story about the product and to make one or two things obvious about how the product will improve the quality of life for people.

It makes no sense to me why big brands don’t include their marketing teams in the product development or iteration process.

If big brands lets their marketers be a part of the product development journey, they could better write user stories, user personas, and develop marketing strategies to reach the right people with the right messages through the right channels.

When hiring a person, which is the most important thing you try to find?

Critical thinking and emotional intelligence. Training people to solve problems and work harmoniously with a team is way more difficult than training people to develop skills. People can learn skills through mentoring and action-oriented learning opportunities.

I have no idea how to train a grown adult critical thinking and EQ. We’re running businesses here, not adult daycare centers. The best hires I’ve ever made have been people who don’t fear challenges and who understand that successful execution and winning results can best be achieved by collaborating with a team.

You are not a strict SEO guy, but what do you love about SEO the most?

What I love most about SEO is the community. I never fit in the traditional marketing community, but even though I’m an outsider and have little to offer SEOs in terms of technical wow-ness, the community has welcomed me and treated me with kindness and respect as if I was one of their own.

And what you don’t get at all?

I don’t get that SEO is everything marketing and SEOs are supposed to know everything – coding, copywriting, advanced Excel, PPC, content strategy, social, PR, and design. It seems unrealistic to expect people to do all of those things with excellence and precision.

SEO is not an all-encompassing form of marketing, but it plays a critical supportive role. For example, let’s say you’re developing a content strategy. You don’t separate SEO from your content strategy when the user discovery process happens online, no matter if the user discovery process happens through search or social or a combination of the two.

Maybe it’s time for SEO to get a rebrand?

What do you drink at work?


Could you explain why you called your blog “Altered States of Marketing”?

I never wanted a blog to tell people what to do or how to think. What the name communicates is that the ideas shared are intended to provide a different perspective than what traditional marketers are telling people.

The goal for the blog is to present ideas that marketers can think through for themselves and then realistically take action on, even if resources are limited.

You join the awesome SEER Interactive agency. Can you tell us a little bit more about what are you going to do for them?

At SEER a good bit of my time and focus will be on the marketing and content strategy side of things, specifically to drive growth and revenue for our clients.

Wil Reynolds’ vision for SEERs future is stellar, and we both agree there is tremendous potential in going beyond what people typically think SEO is or SEO does. I’m honored to contribute marketing value to SEERs clients and to work with a team that cares so much for their clients.

And as my parents said, “You’d have to be an idiot not to take that opportunity with those SEER people.”

If you weren’t working in the marketing, what would you like to do?

Sushi chef. I never pursued it though because really, who wants a half Russian-Jew, half Irish guy making sushi for them?

If I could do anything I would write a book of stories from people from around the world – stories about their families, their history, painful times, and happy moments. If nothing more, I’d give the book to my kids so they could understand how small the world is and how beautiful people are, and that it’s better to love people for what makes them unique instead of hating them for what you don’t understand.