Mar 8, 2024
34 min
Episode 60

TOP CMO: Fara Howard, GoDaddy- 'Beyond Domains'

Fara Howard  00:00

You have to be curious, ask a ton of questions really know your audiences. At the end of the day our jobs are about communicating with customers and prospects. This

Ben Kaplan  00:09

is the podcast where we go around the globe to interview marketing leaders from the world's biggest brands, fastest growing companies and most disruptive startups.

Ben Kaplan  00:24

This is TOP CMO with me, Ben Kaplan. today I'm chatting with Fara Howard, CMO of GoDaddy, a popular domain name provider that has a new mission to enable small businesses to build their digital infrastructure through AI tools. Fara has over 20 years of experience in digital and retail marketing. Before joining GoDaddy, Fara served as CMO of Amazon Fashion, that's the global giant's fashion division, and VP of global marketing at VANS, the popular skateboarding inspired apparel. She also spent 10 years at Dell, where she rose from brand manager to Executive Director and global site design, consumer and small office marketing and global creative. So how can marketing leaders ensure that their teams are empowered for success? And what's the best way evolving of brands strategically over time, without forgetting its core values? Let's find out with Fara Howard. Fara to give the audience a little bit of context, GoDaddy, well known brand that kind of made a big splash with Superbowl ads back in the day as a provider of website domains, but it's evolved into an expanded broader market positioning. So take us through the sort of evolution of GoDaddy, from domains to domains plus websites to enabling small business in a digital context

Fara Howard  01:46

absolutely been in to your point, we started that we started way back in 1997, known as JOMAX technology, and that company evolved into GoDaddy. And the belief at that point in time was that JOMAX, aka GoDaddy could democratize the internet by helping people figure out how to get real estate on on the World Wide Web, right? Take me on the way back time machine to the way people used to talk about the internet in 1997. Since that time, GoDaddy became synonymous with domains. And for multiple reasons, we were the easiest place to buy them. Customer Service was amazing. And to your point, we got the word out. And we got the word out, often, one time a year, loud and proud of the Superbowl now since that time, and I fast forward to do into the teens, right? So you're now about 2015 2018, GoDaddy started building more and more products and capabilities for small business, we started building website capabilities, we had always been a reseller of posting capabilities, we started to dial up the capabilities around mailboxes and making certain that small businesses could present themselves very professionally with both business and business mail, we know those go hand in hand. And then later on closer to 2021 22, we started to integrate more commerce capabilities into our products, because we know certainly on the heels of the pandemic, how important it is for small businesses to be able to sell online, we'll pause briefly because we're actually on the precipice of what I would consider a major change for GoDaddy, is how we package all those things together to make it even easier for small businesses to get their business online. But the short version of a much longer story is we started in domains, we are now reinventing what it means to have a domain because your domain opens up the capability for you to dynamically build your website, dynamically produce marketing content, all enabled by AI. We're taking that democratization of real estate in the internet in 1997 concept all the way forward to democratizing what it means for small businesses to get online, making it easier for them than ever. How

Ben Kaplan  04:06

much difficulty do you have in sort of breaking free from the domain space? When you're well known for that you have a very distinctive name. And back in the day, people were like, well, you know, what is this GoDaddy thing and kind of is unusual. And you had sort of brash, aggressive commercials, particularly during the Superbowl. And all that really helped put GoDaddy on the map. But then it also kind of cemented a certain idea of what GoDaddy is. So as CMO, how difficult is it to sort of like break free from that and get potential customers maybe a range of small businesses now to think about you differently? Well, I

Fara Howard  04:39

think the important thing to note is GoDaddy is the leader in domains and that's it. That's a huge advantage for us from an awareness standpoint, both in the US and around the world. We have the predominant share of internal language domains under management that means that we we sell more domains and any other playa. And that means that when you're starting to think about how do I get online, Go Daddy's often the first name that a small business thinks that that's a huge benefit and advantage. The opportunity for us is how do we connect with consumers in different ways? Or I should say small businesses, we communicate to them like their consumers, because they're get to be small businesses, how do we help them know that we can do so much more. And that's been a huge focus for us over the past five years, is really connecting our name with what we do, and making certain that it's broader than domains. And we've made significant progress in that regard specific to product awareness in categories like websites and light commerce, we've also really been focused on how we increase our relatability. You know, to your point, some folks may have really liked our prior campaigns and remember them, some may have not. But what we know for certain, or at least, my conviction, as a lifelong marketer, is people want to see themselves in your brand. They want to feel like they have a connection to the brand. And one of the ways we've really been focused on doing that is showcasing our customers and everything that we do, and telling their stories, because he's a better advocate, hearing from a customer or hearing directly from us. And so you've hopefully noticed a change in our approach and tenor, as we really put customers in the center, the way we communicate. And that's that will be an ongoing focus for us.

Ben Kaplan  06:30

What was the decision on moving away from the Superbowl? I know, when you and I have chatted in the past, you've sort of gone to like a one time a year strategy, big awareness to a more continual, you're still on TV now. Was that an easy decision to make just in terms of making your dollars work more for you? Was it a difficult one, because there was sort of this brand equity, and you were one of the brands associated with the Superbowl? But how did that evolve? And did you consider even killing TV altogether, saying like, hey, we don't need to be on TV, we provide digital services, we should just be on digital,

Fara Howard  07:01

then thank you for the question. I was not at GoDaddy during this period of Superbowl advertising. So I'll have to connect some dots based on my knowledge as a historian in the brand, and but I can talk about our go forward plans. When I joined GoDaddy, about five years ago, we had already started to broaden our focus to more of an always on approach, which directly aligns with the way I think about marketing, it's really important for brands to have a constant dialogue with their customers and prospects. So people know who you are, and what you do, and what they can expect of you. And the team had done analysis on how to start to engage new channels to do that. And that's been hopefully what you've seen going forward as well is steadfast presence in digital channels, where we now are consumers are as well as remaining on television. So you ask the question of the couch, you make the decision on TV, we made it with a lot of analytical data, customers still watch TV, consumers still watch TV, linear TV can be really advantageous for marketers to connect with a really broad audience. And we do that we just don't do it one time a year in the Superbowl, because our belief is, and we've seen it in the impact from our marketing investments, that finding a way to be on more consistently across more channels is a much more effective way to communicate. Now, that doesn't mean that the Superbowl will never be in our future. Just to be clear, we're not on the Super Bowl this year. But we could be in our ears, if we felt like there was something that we wanted to say. But we would continue that narrative outside of the Super Bowl, again, with the steadfast conviction that continuing a conversation with consumers is

Ben Kaplan  08:51

a criticality. One of the big things on the agenda. I know now for GoDaddy is the launch of new products, correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe it's called Airo. And what it is is kind of confusing more when you like launch a website more like aI generated content, other things kind of pre configured for you. Now aside from the actual tool itself, just the marketing of that, I know it's important to you coming up, you're obviously chat GPT and open AI kind of opened the floodgates on using AI. What is the launch plan look like? How do you think about marketing? How do you sort of make a splash? Do you want this as Rolling Thunder? Do you want this as Big Bang? How does GoDaddy launch what is meant to be a new phase of your business?

Fara Howard  09:31

First, I think it probably makes sense to just expand a little bit on what Airo is and then that will actually directly lead into how we bring it to market. So what Airo is is AI enabled capabilities to help customers get their business online faster. We know that customers have to and small businesses in general have two big challenges they're trying to overcome. They want to save money and save time but primarily time Right, they're very focused on time. Think about it. They're trying to be a landscaper, a hairdresser, a plumber. And at the same time figure out how to set their business up, including their digital business their their time start. Secondly, they need customers. And what Airo does is when you buy a domain from GoDaddy Airo will dynamically produce an AI enabled website, an AI enabled mailbox, marketing content, and do and a logo and more enable LLC capabilities and really provide a digital AI generated, complete package that you need as a small business to Get Your Business Online faster than you could have ever imagined. But it's all based. It's all generated initially from the purchase of the domain. So with that as a backdrop, and the way we'll go to market is by helping customers understand that the domain that they buy from GoDaddy has so much more power than they ever realize really power that will enable them to have a future that they didn't expect right away. So we will turn up the volume on our advertising communications starting at the end of this month in the US where this product will roll out first before it rolls out to other regions and countries across the world and will bring it to life on tick tock on TV, with out of home and with digital communication and other channels as well. But our intention is to sustain it. What

Ben Kaplan  11:28

is the launch for you guys look like on a tick tock? The format of tick tock is unique, more and more brands advertisers want to try to utilize it. What does that look like? Small Business target audience on tick tock? How do you think about that? The

Fara Howard  11:43

way I think about tick tock and digital channels like YouTube is we know that people are going to those channels to learn. I know you're asking me about Tik Tok, and I'll dive into that too. But on YouTube, one of the more common preambles to a search is how do I or how to we see similar dynamics on Tik Tok. And so, yes, when we engage on digital channels, our intention is to find entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs and waiting, if you will, right, small businesses about to be born and target that audience so that we can make sure that our message lands with the right person. But we're also really focused on short form education, because we know that people are going to that channel to be educated. But it's got to be channel right, right, like on tick tock, you're also really looking to be entertained. And so short, the st. Entertaining on tick tock, we believe can then drive up engagement on that channel, and then drive prospects and customers to come to godaddy to learn more. So our approach is going to vary by Channel.

Ben Kaplan  12:50

Are you creating this kind of content in house? Are you using another agency? I also know that because your background, we should mention, it may include that Amazon fashion and vans, and you were over a decade at Dell. And one of the things you did at Dell consumer side was establishing an in house digital agency there. So how are you creating all this content? Do you have like a go to person or team? Or is this being created in some other way,

Fara Howard  13:14

we have an in house team at GoDaddy as well. And that team is skilled across multiple channels. And they work on campaign concepts all the way down to production. Now we end up engaging partners depending on some of the channels. And if we're producing a specific type of content, we may engage outside support to work with us. But the ideas are born in house, which to me is really important because that means that the team that is making the work, they know the product, they know the company, and most importantly, they really know the customers and we rely on them to bring these ideas to life. I'm incredibly proud of the in house team.

Ben Kaplan  13:59

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Ben Kaplan  14:35

This is TOP CEO available wherever you get your podcast in your view, how are you as CMO? Are you someone who goes down there and like gets involved in the creative process? Do you just sign off on the overall concept and people go execute versions? Are you in the weeds? Are you high level? How involved are you?

Fara Howard  14:57

I think it depends on the The significance of, of the project. But let me answer your question first at a really high level, and then I'll actually talk specifically about Airo. So I believe that my job as a CMO is to connect business strategy with how we tell stories, it My job is to distill all the complexity of the business, the competitive landscape, the consumer needs, and distill it down to a really sharp set of messages that we want to get out to the world. And then I bring it to the creative team, so that they can help bring it to life. On some projects. My job is at macro level simplifier. Like how do I make sure that the teams that are bringing that works like and it doesn't just mean advertising, it means on and our email communication, like how do we ensure that there's really clear direction for our creative leaders, storytellers, UX designers to bring things to life on a project as important as Airo, I spend more time on it. And I come in, to cross functional forums to make certain we're moving at the right pace with the right level of breakthrough ideas, with enough innovation to make certain that we're heard with run the business work, I've got a great team. And my job is to make certain that I'm giving them really good inputs, so then they can go bring it to life. So I think the altitude at which I tend to fly is predicated on the magnitude or significance of the work that we're working on. But the premise remains the same, like, my job is to be a business simplifier for our creative teams, so that they can do the work that they need to do to bring creative to life.

Ben Kaplan  16:34

GoDaddy is a global company. I think you mentioned on Airo that you're I think starting in the US, I believe and then rolling it out elsewhere. Is that your approach to marketing? Do you tend to be us first and then roll out elsewhere as well? Or is that this particular case? Or how do you just think global marketing where you spend resources and the sequence you do things we

Fara Howard  16:56

often launch in us first, when we launched websites, plus marketing, which is our Website Builder tool, it did launch in the US, and then we rolled into other markets will do the same with Airo, our audience in the US is significant. It's our biggest customer base. And it's also it's our most established,

Ben Kaplan  17:18

what is an example of something that really gets adjusted or changed or transformed outside of the US market that would be notable in understanding the market and understanding how that's different than what we assume about the US versus the rest of the world.

Fara Howard  17:35

Sure, I'll give you two examples. One example is historical, but I think it's an important articulation of how we think about communication and different needs for different countries. and Canada, for a long period of time, our GoDaddy Canada team had a relationship with the Raptors. And the Raptors basketball team was a really important part of their brand communication strategy. And they know that the Toronto Raptors have rabid fans across all of Canada. And they utilized stories of raptors, and their entrepreneurial ventures to go to market. We didn't use those stories in any other region, they wouldn't translate. But they were really effective in Canada, and that relationship was a long standing one. Another example, in the UK. And in Australia, we were more focused on websites plus marketing, and domains and not commerce capabilities initially. And so they ran very different campaigns in the US as compared to those markets. Now, from a global brand continuity standpoint, look and feel tone and voice, logo, color palette, all the things that are subtle, but it really important cues to say, Hey, I know this brand, it's GoDaddy, we really focus on making sure that globally, we're consistent, specific to that. But we do want regions to have the flexibility to communicate the right things to the right customers in ways that they get hurt.

Ben Kaplan  19:06

How do you structure teams globally? Do you like your org chart and structured? Have you optimized it? Whereas GoDaddy now and do you have more work to do and just how you organized? Is it sort of central command and control? Is it more decentralized? How does it work?

Fara Howard  19:22

I liked the question. Do you like your org structure? And I liked the fact that I can actually say yes, right now, because it's been a huge focus for us from an operating model standpoint to make certain that we had a structure that worked. And to answer your question. Specifically, we have a hybrid model. So my team, which is corporate marketing at GoDaddy, we're responsible for many critical parts of how we run the business with the region's we run We buy media centrally. We provide product insights from a product marketing standpoint and share that content. Start with the region's The list goes on and on. And my team is held accountable for similar business results and KPIs with the decentralized teams. So we operate in a manner that really is designed to drive scale. There are more marketers at GoDaddy in corporate marketing in my organization than in the regions. And that's by design. We want skilled senior leaders in the regions who know the customer know the climate and know the competitive landscape, know the channels, and they can help us be better, and make sure that we that we resonate in that region. But much of the work, like I said, on the website, for media in creative planning, and the list goes on specific to PR, for example, all of those ideas tend to be born centrally. And then we work in partnership with the business unit. So the regents to ensure that that were correct. And

Ben Kaplan  21:00

how do you think about your role, specifically, as a manager? Do you believe in a lot of one on one meetings with your direct reports? Do you emphasize trying to set a vision so everyone understands what direction we're headed in marketing? Is it something else? How are you CMO as a manager of the marketing organization,

Fara Howard  21:22

I think my job is to enable experts to practice their craft, make decisions and move the business forward and sit simply to get barriers out of their way so that they can be successful. But the way I tend to lead is, I do spend a lot of time with my team, I spend a lot of time with my direct leaders weekly, I spend time with my individual direct one on one. And I also spend time with the broader marketing team, the entire organization to make certain that we're aligned on what's our strategy, how do we go to market and then making sure that it's really clear who does what I learned a really valuable lesson early in my career, when I took accountability for running functions that I did not have a depth of experience in. And it taught me really valuable lessons. And maybe the opposite of a micromanager. Like, my job is to help teams know where we're going, but not to tell them how to get there. Because the experts in my organization will be much better at making those decisions, then I will and then I stay on top of the work with them to really clear goals and like to your point ongoing discussions in one on one and group forms to make certain that the business is moving forward. And we're hitting our our KPIs. Do you

Ben Kaplan  22:39

think that the future of marketing and marketing leadership, do we need to cultivate more managers? Do we need people with really good management skills, a lot of times we have as you climb the ladder, you start having success, you're a great individual contributor, you just automatically sort of become management? Because that's the step up, you get promoted. Do you think we do a good job of training people to be managers? Or do you think we just trust that people figure it out? If they don't they sort of don't last long in that role? Or should we be doing more teach management skills,

Fara Howard  23:13

I think marketing is a team sport. And when you're doing work with others, you if you're successful in your job, you do a better job listening, responding, empathizing. And I think that those are all traits that enable good managers and leaders. So I think there's naturally a lot of on the job training for marketers, but I'll speak specifically to GoDaddy. One of the things that I really respect at GoDaddy is the investment that we make in training our employees and training our managers to make them it to help give them the tools I want, say to make them but to give them the tools so that they can lead others because people will only be led, if they're willing to follow you. And I believe that followership, like I said comes from some of those really basic but very hard to master skills, specific to listening and empathy. Our CEO, Amman, Bhutan, Bhutan, he often says, to be a better leader, be a better person. It's no mistake that I've got this poster behind me, right, like, work hard and be nice to people. Listen, be kind, give clear and direct feedback. And all of those things do require training which we provide. But I do believe our craft as marketers, because the work happens, cross functionally sets people up who desire to be managers and leaders, sets them up with a lot of the foundational skills to be successful. You also said like hated people just like sort of graduated into that position. I think it's really important for us as leaders to assess readiness. Like someone may be great at their job, but are they are they ready to lead others? Not always. And, you know, I really encourage my team means to ask those hard questions to ensure that we're putting people in situations where they can be successful and correspondingly their teams can to.

Tom Cain  25:10

Okay, so here's what I'm thinking. It's a weapon with a sci fi twist. But there's also a film noir plot running in the background. And dinosaurs because why not right? Take the dinosaurs down a little bit. Okay, no dinosaurs. But a little bit of romance is always welcome.

Tom Cain  25:45

And zombies. Yeah, we just throw some zombies in there. Your vision, our craft, talk thought I don't know. Go and listen to the first draft again, back to the show.

Ben Kaplan  26:02

I want to wrap up on a little bit of a speed round. I mean, you've had an interesting career, you've been at a number of different types of companies, different spaces, different industries Go Daddy's very different, I guess I'd say it's somewhat related to where you were before, but different than maybe one before that. So first of all, you're most recently at Amazon fashion. Maybe people don't even know I don't know that. I know that Amazon has Amazon fashion as a thing. Quickly. What is that? And what did you learn from that experience that you take with you now?

Fara Howard  26:27

Yeah, Amazon fashion, is, you know, if you've ever bought jeans, socks, shoes, yoga pants, you name it from Amazon, you bought it from Amazon fashion. So Amazon fashion is a mix of Amazon selling a lot of brands that you know, right to Amazon, creating third party brands based on what you've told Amazon you're interested in, based on historical purchases. So it was a fascinating opportunity for me to think about creating brands, and also helping merchandise manage organize millions of products in The Everything Store, so that people could find what they were looking for, you know, what I learned at Amazon is that their culture, which is very document heavy,

Ben Kaplan  27:19

kind of famous for like, as I've heard it explained to me by people, and then you hear Jeff Bezos talk about yourself as like, before you have every meeting. There's like a memo written that goes down kind of frames all the issues. And as I understand it, even in the meeting, everyone sits down and reads it together. First, before there's discussion. Amazon is kind of famous for that is that what you are referring to

Fara Howard  27:38

100%. And it works by writing down what your business goals are and how you're going to get there. You end up being held accountable, you're able to get people aligned, disconnects are quickly reconciled. So I really it reinforced for me the value of the written word.

Ben Kaplan  27:55

Okay, got it. And then you were at vans before that, I believe. And at vans, that's a brand that has a cult following very distinctive. What was your specific vans? And what did you learn from vans that you take with you? No,

Fara Howard  28:08

I learned at vans, the importance of honoring the core, right said simply know who your primary audience is, and make certain that you honor that, and then figure out how I call it a concentric circle model, like how that core can expand without alienating your what your brand is built on. The dance was built on, on skateboarding, and surfing, some may say, but skateboarding really was the genesis of how that brand took off. And the skater community really is about creative expression. And so by bands being grounded in creative expression, that gives the brand flexibility to play in new territories without leaving the genesis of their brand behind. So I think it's really important as a marketer to know where you where you came from, so that when you tell the future story, it connects. And vans taught me that lesson in spades, I sat next to the son of the founder and his daughter, my office was flanked by both of them. So it was a fascinating opportunity to really do archeological dig on a brand and figure out how to tell modern stories of a brand that had a really deep heritage.

Ben Kaplan  29:20

And you were over a decade at Dell, you worked on the consumer side. And also on the business side for small business, which is probably the most consumer side if you were gonna be on consumer II type approach to business at Dell. What do you take away from that experience now

Fara Howard  29:37

at Dell, and it's reinforced at GoDaddy measure, measure, measure, right? And when you measure things they matter. And Dell taught me the power of performance marketing, it taught me that marketing is a critical part of running the business. It's not a luxury it is it is the engine, and it helped me all makes certain that I balance math and magic and all decision making, it was a huge foundational part of how I grew as a marketer. And

Ben Kaplan  30:08

finally, I think if we go all the way back to the beginning, I mean, you actually get your start really in CPG world, and I guess it Pepsi, but really working on brands like Gatorade CPG world is sort of a very distinctive form of marketing. We have a lot of CPG clients ourselves, and it tends to have certain frameworks that are used a lot. So just like the consumer decision journey, and it has other things like that, what do you take away from that now what kind of exposure to that give you that you use? Now,

Fara Howard  30:37

Gatorade taught me and to your point, consumer packaged goods teaches that the decisions you make have to be grounded in consumer insights they have to be you have to know who your consumer is. You have to listen to them, you have to watch them. And you have to make certain and I don't mean that to sound creepy, like a Gatorade, we would go into the lab and watch people exercise. And my job

Ben Kaplan  30:59

today is we're gonna watch people sweat. Okay, I'm watching you sweat. What can I learn from this? But yes, I understand. You're saying of course.

Fara Howard  31:06

And we loved every minute of it as weird as it sounds. But it taught me that you have to be curious, ask a ton of questions really know your audiences, to your point, lots of frameworks from consumer journey to personas that are directly applicable

Ben Kaplan  31:21

need state use cases, all these sorts of things, right. And great

Fara Howard  31:26

marketers, regardless of whether they're in CPG, or b2b, you'll really no need to remember that. At the end of the day, our jobs are about communicating with customers and prospects. And CBG teaches you that every

Ben Kaplan  31:40

day, you're on this journey. Now I personally believe in one of the themes of the show is that we're all on this lifelong journey to learn. And we need to keep learning. What is next for you. Final question in terms of as a marketer, what do you want to learn more of? What do you want to expand your skills at what in the next couple of years? For you? is top of the agenda? Can I give you to my cheat? Absolutely. There you go. You're not limited to one two? Of course,

Fara Howard  32:05

one is, I am fascinated with the impact that AI is going to have broadly on the world, but certainly on my industry from a marketing standpoint. And you know, AI say it's time, but it does push to the mean, right? So how do we use that time savings to produce great creative ideas that then a human touch can make better? And so how do we embrace AI and technology to help us bring more and more great ideas to the world? I don't think that it makes us extinct as marketers, I think if we don't lean into it, we become extinct. So that's a huge focus for me. And then the second ties all the way back to some extent to the beginning. I want to continue to excel at measurement, both myself personally and for my team, so that when marketing is entrusted with really valuable dollars to invest, we're making the best decisions possible for the company, and putting our messages in the best places possible for consumers. So two big areas both technology enabled for sure. Well,

Ben Kaplan  33:09

there you have it, Fara Howard, CMO at GoDaddy. Interesting to see what's next for GoDaddy. interested to see the marketing of AI tools on your new launch and best wishes for continued success.

Fara Howard  33:21

Thank you. Thanks so much, Ben.


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