Marketing Re-Imagined: Eric Ritter Of Digital Neighbor On How We Can Re-Imagine The Marketing Industry To Make It More Authentic, Sustainable, And Promote More Satisfaction

An Interview With Drew Gerber

Drew Gerber, CEO of Wasabi Publicity
Authority Magazine

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Do not market your product or service as a cure-all. Be authentic and true with what value your brand can provide to someone, without being overly promising.

From an objective standpoint, we are living in an unprecedented era of abundance. Yet so many of us are feeling unsatisfied. Why are we seemingly so insatiable? Do you feel that marketing has led to people feeling unsatisfied and not having enough in life? If so, what actions can marketers take to create a world where people feel that they have enough, and they are enough? Can we re-imagine what marketing looks like and how it makes people feel?

In this interview series, we are talking to experts in marketing and branding to discuss how we might re-imagine marketing to make it more authentic, sustainable, and promote more satisfaction. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Eric Ritter.

Eric Ritter is the owner and CEO of Digital Neighbor with 20+ years of experience in advertising and marketing. His neighborly agency stands out as results-driven and proves kindness goes a long way in both B2B and B2C. Eric’s passion and expertise is search engine optimization, where he acts directly as a ‘sommelier’ or advisor for clients seeking the best SEO solutions.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to know how you got from “there to here.” Inspire us with your backstory!

Hello, thank you for having me! I’m happy to share my backstory. I spent over a decade working at various in-house marketing and advertising agencies, and in each experience, I noticed that my personality and values didn’t always align with where I worked. I didn’t always agree with the way we marketed, how people at the company were treated, or even how we treated our own clientele. I left corporate to start my own agency, Digital Neighbor, in 2016 because I wanted to do things differently.

What lessons would you share with yourself if you had the opportunity to meet your younger self?

If I had the opportunity to meet my younger self, I would tell myself to always be true to who I am, and not change based on external expectations of others. I would encourage me to be confident in myself and understand that just because I wanted to do things differently from other people, that they’re not wrong.

None of us are able to experience success without support along the way. Is there a particular person for whom you are grateful for that support to grow you from “there to here?” Can you share that story and why you are grateful for him or her?

The person that I’ve always looked up to and who helped me find my own path was Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. While many people have heard of Patagonia, few people realize how dedicated that brand is to their core values. Every single piece of clothing that you purchase from Patagonia has a “no questions asked” guarantee for life. Their philosophy is that for everything they create and put out into the world, they have a responsibility for it, and they want to ensure that each backpack, shirt, or jacket doesn’t end up in the dump or contaminating the water.

This ideation contrasts with fast fashion and the idea that we need new clothing every season, and it also counteracts buying items on sale, which are two ways to potentially grow a fashion business the fastest. But, since they stuck to their values and truly believed in them, their business did grow very quickly and now they are a household name.

I learned about the Patagonia brand values back in 2015 through a friend of mine who had a Patagonia backpack and said he’d have it for the rest of his life. At first, it sounded counter intuitive to me to run a business this way, and without investing in any marketing at all, but once I realized they only invested in paid media to advocate for what they truly believe in, that they had found a way to do things their own way and still make a profitable company. That was a major lightbulb for me.

What day-to-day structures do you have in place for you to experience a fulfilled life?

In order to experience a fulfilled life, I incorporate the “4 Core to Success” strategy in my everyday life. This strategy is a daily commitment of taking care of the 4 things that every human needs to be successful: 1. Your body (working out, eating healthy), 2. Your being (through meditation & journaling), 3. Having balance (Focus on your relationship with others), and 4. Business (always learning & sharing with others).

At Digital Neighbor, our team of 10 is doing an 8-week challenge of the 4 Core to Success pillars every day, because that’s about the amount of time it takes to build new healthy habits.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think it might help people?

Yes, as marketers we need to be up to date with the needs of consumers, and today more than ever, people are looking for help answering their daily questions. I look at marketing as an opportunity to be helpful, rather than pushing our narrative on other people. That’s why I love SEO and in-bound marketing, because rather than interrupting what people are doing and “annoying” them, we’re being there when people have questions or want to find something they’re looking for. Through SEO and in-bound marketing, our clients are answering questions people have and providing value, rather than pushing out their product or service.

Ok, thank you for sharing your inspired life. Now let’s discuss marketing. To begin, can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority on marketing?

Yes, I am an authority in marketing because I’ve been doing this successfully for 15 years. During this span of time, I’ve learned how traditional agencies are organized and gained knowledge of the digital side of marketing, and I’ve combined these experiences together to create a unique digital marketing agency that can work with both small businesses and Fortune 500 companies.

Throughout history, marketing has driven trade for humans. What role do you see that marketing played to get human societies where we are today?

Marketing has played a major role in human society. Without marketing, we wouldn’t know about new products, or be educated on health-related public service messaging and be fully aware of how to take care of ourselves as humans. For example, a marketing campaign is what helped eradicate Polio, back in 1988. This level of communication has helped make us healthier in general, while also helping to create more competition in the business world, which leads to innovation and innovation leads to improvement. Without marketing, the innovation improvements across multiple sectors would be limited, such as healthcare, product development, and the growth of businesses and jobs. Marketing is a new engine that is pushing society forward and helping people get jobs, develop new products, and allowing humanity to become better and healthier as a society.

I work in marketing so I’m very cognizant of this question. What role does marketing play in creating the human experience of “I don’t have enough” even when basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing are met?

Marketing does play a role in creating this human experience of “FOMO” or “Fear of Missing Out” in all of us. It drives a primal response to want to collect more, and a need to continue gathering material things that we may not ever need, because of the messaging that is all around us influencing us.

What responsibility do marketers have when it comes to people feeling that they aren’t enough?

Marketers do hold a responsibility to our society. For example, ethics are super important in marketing, and there are certain things that marketers should never approach, such as addressing people’s insecurities, using scarcity or fear as a tactic, and we should never position non-essentials as essentials. Marketers should also never advertise to minors or children.

Many 21st-century marketing professionals in a capitalistic society will discuss solving human “pain points” as a way to sell products, services, and other wares successfully. In your opinion or experience, has aggravating pain points led to more pain?

In my experience, yes, marketing has aggravated human pain points in the past. As marketers, we have a responsibility to our clients to provide them with effective marketing campaigns, and capitalizing on pain points often drives the best results. However, there are always two ways to approach the marketing strategy for a business, and while focusing on pain points may make it “worse,” it’s often the path chosen because it will sell more product. From an ethical and long-term approach, it makes more sense for marketers and business owners to agree that focusing on the positive of the product and how it can be helpful is more effective rather than focusing on the pain points of the negative side. As marketers we should continue to encourage our clients to take the higher road.

Different cultures view trade/marketing differently. While some may focus on “pain-points” others may focus on “purpose-points”. How do other cultures differ in how they approach marketing? Please give examples or studies you may know about.

I often research other cultures and found some of the most interesting studies on marketing viewpoints in the United Kingdom. They seem to be the most advanced when it comes to marketing, because they were the first to invent “account planning” in advertising back in the 1960s, which basically means they took into account the consumers voice when creating a marketing strategy. Historically, advertising in the US has focused on the benefits of a product to create a strategy. But in the UK, they came up with the concept of “does a consumer and our target market really care about this benefit or feature?” They realized that the consumer is a major part of the equation. This strategy has led the UK to use less negative pain points in their marketing because they don’t treat the consumer as clueless, they are seen as a participant in the conversation, and they want to speak to them in an intelligent way.

Okay, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview: It seems as if we have never stopped to question marketing. In your opinion, how can marketing professionals be more responsible for how their advertising shapes our human experience of feeling safe, secure, and knowing that we matter? Based on your experience or research can you please share “Five Ways We Can Re-Imagine The Marketing Industry To Make It More Authentic, Sustainable, And Promote More Satisfaction”?

I love this question, because I strongly believe that marketing should have its own “code of conduct” or a bill of advertising rights that outlines what marketers can and cannot do in order to help the industry become more authentic, sustainable, and promote more satisfaction. The five ways I would like to share are:

1. Make sure that your brand and product has an authentic stance for something. Rather than have your brand be there to be consumed or focus on sales, your brand should stand for something bigger. I love the Patagonia example I shared earlier, but also Apple is a great example of a brand that has started to shift into a focus on fitness and health with Apple Watch and Apple Fitness + programs to help people focus on taking care of their wellness as a part of their day-to-day life.

2. Marketers should always avoid targeting people’s insecurities and they should never target minors. These are two ethics that all marketers need to stand by. Marketing should promote a positive message and be appropriate on a certain level. Those that don’t abide by this standard are pushing the industry away from being authentic.

3. Instead of pushing our message to people who don’t want to hear it, capture the people that are raising their hands and saying they are interested in learning more. Although many people are unhappy with the level of data being collected by platforms and companies, the positive tradeoff is that we’re all now seeing advertisements that pertain to our demographics and our interests, and are more tailored. Marketers should use data to a certain point and stay active through blogs and social media to be there and be ready when someone decides they are interested in learning more.

4. Do not market your product or service as a cure-all. Be authentic and true with what value your brand can provide to someone, without being overly promising.

5. Treat people as “people” and not just consumers. We should all take a page out of the United Kingdom’s book and remember that we’re all humans, and marketers and businesses should focus on creating a narrative that people will actually care about.

For you personally, if you have all your basic needs met, do you feel you have enough in life?

For me personally, of course I have passions that I need to work on fulfilling. One of those passions is traveling, and although it’s not an “essential” part of my life, it should be prioritized. Through my business, I dedicate time to be sure I am making a difference through my work, with my team of employees and with the clients that we serve.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have inspired you to live with more joy in life?

Yes, I appreciate The Minimalists podcasts and books, and the fact they’ve started a media conglomerate that goes against the narrative of society telling you that nothing is enough.

I also enjoy Tim Ferris’ Four-Hour Workweek book and consider a lot if his tips for productivity and fulfillment.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

If I could start a movement, it would be around sustainability in marketing and advertising. What people don’t realize is the tolling cost of all the pieces of plastic and swag that businesses purchase to brand themselves. I would start a movement that instead of giving away useless swag, businesses provide something that is more sustainable, such as planting a tree or generating donations to a charity. I would encourage each business to think of their own way that they can do something impactful for the future of our planet.

What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?

Connect with me on LinkedIn.

Visit the Digital Neighbor website.

Visit my personal brand website, Helloericritter.com

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.

About The Interviewer: For 30 years, Drew Gerber has been inspiring those who want to change the world. Drew is the CEO of Wasabi Publicity, Inc., a full-service PR agency lauded by PR Week and Good Morning America. Wasabi Publicity, Inc. is a global marketing company that supports industry leaders, change agents, unconventional thinkers, companies and organizations that strive to make a difference. Whether it’s branding, traditional PR or social media marketing, every campaign is instilled with passion, creativity and brilliance to powerfully tell their clients’ story and amplify their intentions in the world.

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Drew Gerber, CEO of Wasabi Publicity
Authority Magazine

For 30 years, Drew Gerber has been inspiring those who want to change the world