Anne Fauvre talks the art of messaging in the blockchain space and seeing success firsthand at the Albright Group
Anne is currently the Head of Marketing at Oasis Labs. Prior to Oasis Labs, Anne worked in a variety of marketing and strategy roles, including as the Director of Product Marketing and Special Projects at eero and a Product Marketing Manager for the iPhone at Apple. Anne started her career in foreign policy and politics working for former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and on the Hillary Clinton Campaign in 2008. Anne received a BA with honors from Georgetown University and an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School.
What first got you into the blockchain space? What keeps you here now?
My entry into the space was when I joined Oasis seven months ago. My background is in product marketing in consumer electronics — I was with Apple for about 4 years, and also spent some time in politics, which is a form of marketing in many ways. I found that I was passionate about finding a way to explain and translate technical concepts so that everyday, non-technical people could understand them. At Apple I had an opportunity to focus on this “translation” for specific technologies within the iPhone. Eventually, I started looking for something new and decided that I wanted to go into space that was early, less defined and complex. A lot of what marketing does is demystify industry jargon in order to make the industry welcoming, and blockchain is certainly riddled with this kind of jargon. I wanted to be a part of creating and defining what the language would be in the space.
Right now, the blockchain space is very exciting. It’s fast growing and although there are strongly-held perspectives on some things, changes happen quickly and there’s no playbook for what success is. From the marketing/communications perspective there’s a lot of room to think about things in new ways.
Why is it important to create non-technical explanations of blockchain concepts for consumers?
There’s this concern when you speak to people outside the tech industry about what blockchain is, and the reality is that blockchain isn’t magic, it’s just a technology. It is one that can open up a wholly new set of use cases and solutions for people, but at the end of the day it’s a technology. In the long run, just like the internet, most consumers don’t need to understand all of the technical details, but they do need to understand what it will do for them.
Although the industry as a whole is still very much on the “let’s define what blockchain can do” side, we’re beginning to start building out use cases. As we start developing products that are more customer-focused this language will matter more.
Could you tell us a little bit about Oasis?
Oasis Labs is a privacy preserving cloud computing platform powered by blockchain technology and a number of secure computing techniques. Blockchains by design are public ledgers, and so one thing that makes is really unique is that we use a number of data privacy techniques to make sure that we’re able to retain the privacy of sensitive data. Adding this extra layer of privacy allows us to work with developers who use sensitive data, whether that’s personal health information, financial information, corporate data or something else.
What makes Oasis interesting?
Our team. Every member of our team — from founder and down — really impresses me. We have an incredibly innovative team all focused on a big lofty goal of making data privacy a reality for our users. Right now we’re taking some innovative technologies researched by our co-founders (and other early members of the team) and commercializing it — figuring out where this blockchain and data privacy technology can provide the most value to the most number of users.
What does your role as head of marketing entail?
My job is to help consumers of our product understand what we’re building. I spend a lot of time trying to understand the technology that we build, and creating messaging and building collateral to ensure that we can articulate our value add to a diverse set of customers. Marketing takes the form of a lot of different mediums. At the core is writing and creating stories, which involves making slides and design elements. Right now I’m really focused on trying to convey the value of our company and the solutions that we offer. Like many early-stage companies, we’re also currently doing a lot of user testing. We have an incredible technology, and now we’re testing to see which customer bases make the most sense for us to focus on.
Why is it important to create messaging for people with a variety of different backgrounds?
It’s really important to understand the why of something. Why is something valuable for me to use? Why should I be excited about this? At Oasis we have incredible documentation that goes into great detail, and the number of developer tools we’ve built have made a lot of people excited, however it’s really important to understand what you’re building at a higher level. Our products (and blockchain products in general) can be used beyond just developers. We have to build technology not just for the people currently in the blockchain space, but a more diverse group of people who will enter the space in the future. People from all areas may have really incredible ideas that would benefit from blockchain, so it’s important that we give them the language and description of what we’re building in an understandable way. It’s really about opening the funnel to make sure that we’re able to connect with as many people as possible.
How did you go about diving into the blockchain space and trying to understand what Oasis was building?
I spent a lot of time with patient engineers on my team (Anne laughs). My philosophy with my own career has always been to move in a direction where I’m always learning. Building context and language around what we’re working on takes a lot of reading, asking questions, and trial and error to make sure I understand the nuances of different terminology. The biggest thing is not being afraid to ask questions. Even if you’re a brilliant person who has been in the field forever, things change quickly and it’s impossible to know everything. It’s important to be comfortable and confident enough to say, “Explain this to me, I don’t totally understand that.” Frankly, this is how we can bring more people into the industry. It’s about making it easier for people to ask questions about things and add value from their unique perspective.
What are some hard problems you’ve had to solve at Oasis?
One challenge is the constant iteration to make sure that we’re getting the right messaging. From a marketing perspective, I think the hardest piece is balancing the description of what we’re building — how do we make it specific enough so that it resonates with people, while still being broad enough to welcome different types of developers? There’s no easy answer to that. Marketing is a lot about iterating, and the more you can do incrementally means that you don’t have to make big decisions, since you make a lot of really small decisions along the way to get there. I always want to test a measurable hypothesis and get feedback as quickly as possible to update messaging.
Who do you get feedback from? What does the feedback process look like?
There are two buckets. One is people who are developing on our platform. The other is our future customers. There’s a couple of different ways to get feedback from this group. One way is seeing how much our content resonates with people, and this can be done with traditional marketing– A/B testing and gathering metrics from our website. Our team also speaks at a number of conferences. Sometimes at these conferences, I try to see which slides people are taking pictures of the most, and that helps me gauge if there’s a message in that deck that really stood out.
What kinds of initiatives help you understand who your customer is?
The best example of this is blog posts. I’ve had posts that I thought would be really successful, but didn’t get as much traffic, and then we had this one technical blog post on using Rust that got a lot of traction. This is a small thing, but it helped me understand who’s excited about what we’re building. We’re in the foundational days of the marketing team, in fact we just launched our new brand and website and we’re still trying to figure out how to build momentum around the things that we’re doing.
How does marketing in the blockchain space differ from marketing in other areas?
It’s similar in that there’s a set of skills and tools that exist in marketing across all fields. What’s different is that since blockchain is an early stage, frontier technology, it’s still being innovated and built on. We have a good sense of the problem that we’re trying to solve, but it expands more and more over time as a technology becomes more mature. If you work at a consumer company, you know you have a product that you need to convince more people to buy. In blockchain, it’s not so clear. The challenge is that channels are still being developed and our consumer base has expanded immensely, even since I started at Oasis seven months ago. This is a lot of what makes my job so exciting and fun, and really a big reason of why I wanted to be a part of this industry and Oasis.
What is one marketing rule that you try to follow?
The best marketing is based in something genuine and authentic. At the end of the day there’s a lot of channels you can use to create excitement, and it’s important that messages you create tie back to the product that you’re building. Marketing should be rooted in something that will get people excited about the product that you’re selling. The core of what we do is about explaining and articulating what we, as a company, promise to our user.
You were formerly a product marketer for the iPhone at Apple. What lessons did you learn that you’ve applied in the blockchain space?
I was really lucky to work at Apple for about three-and-a-half years. I started as an intern when I was in business school on the iPhone team, and then came back full time. Product marketing at Apple is about being the voice of the customer to the product and the voice of the product to the customer– you wear many hats. For me it was a great way to see what perfect looks like. I have never been in an environment where people are so uniquely driven to create the best possible thing they can. At Apple the bar is high and it’s more than just a job, it’s about creating something that’s not only beautiful but really life-changing for people.
You worked really closely with Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state. Tell us a little bit about what you did at the Albright Stonebridge group.
My first job out of college was working at the Albright group (eventually the Albright Stonebridge group). It was run by many former foreign policy officials from the President Clinton’s team, and we helped companies deal with issues in emerging markets and provided helpful strategies for them to expand into these markets. It was really interesting, dynamic work and in addition to that Secretary Albright and other partners in the firm had their own political lives, whether it was writing books or giving speeches, so there was a lot to be involved with. I took this job as an opportunity to learn from these seasoned policy leaders and I wanted to soak everything in that I could. I took on a few different roles as an assistant to Secretary Albright. I worked with her on her books and book tours, on a class that she taught at Georgetown, and I also worked on the business side with many of our clients as they were expanding into new markets like India.
What did you take away from this experience?
Success is hard. People who are successful work really hard. Secretary Albright traveled three weeks out of every month, and she was always focused on learning, growing, and helping everyone around her learn and grow as well. People like Secretary Albright are forever intellectually curious and seeking to do something bigger and better. Seeing this first hand has been very impactful for me as I grow in my own career.
How did this female mentorship shape your career?
All my bosses at this first job were women, which was a really nice environment. At business school I found that my classmates felt like they didn’t have female role models. I was in a different position; I knew how to be present in a meeting and how to stand up for what I believed in. I had also seen how to balance work and life after work hours. In some ways the Albright Group felt much more like a family than a job for me.
What advice do you have for graduating students?
Find a boss that wants to invest in you and is a learner themselves, because they’ll take you with them and that’s an invaluable opportunity.
Write to Roshni Rawal at firstname.lastname@example.org. The she256: Fireside Chats are sponsored by Upscribe.