Craig Berman, fabric Head of Corporate Marketing, on Learning from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Making Content Marketing Data-Driven

Craig Berman is a strong believer in the benefits of amassing knowledge through peer interactions. He’s cultivated this superpower throughout his career in marketing and communications, including over 14 years spent at Amazon.

He joined headless commerce platform provider fabric in January 2022 as senior vice president of corporate marketing. Craig’s role at the unicorn startup includes overseeing messaging and strategy and reunites him with Faisal Masud, fabric CEO. The two executives naturally mesh well together since they each received a well-rounded retail tech education at Bezos University, aka Amazon, where they helped build out various facets of the e-commerce behemoth’s business.

Craig chatted with me recently sharing his thoughts on startups, the future of retail and applying science to content marketing as well as some insights he gleaned from working with Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and executive chair. What follows is an edited version of our discussion:

What do you see as the main difference between working at Amazon and at a startup?

I think the scrutiny dynamic is super different. At Amazon, it was about managing the inbound requests because the scrutiny level was so high on the company. We knew that the coverage was going to come. So, the question becomes: How do you maximize and present things in a way that the coverage is exactly the way you want it?

At a startup, you're not afforded that luxury. You're really just trying to get any kind of coverage. Sometimes, you have to shoehorn your way into stories and angles that maybe aren't exactly fine-tuned the way that you want them to be, but you take that approach because you need the coverage.

What’s your advice on how tech startups should position themselves to the media?

We’re still seeing some of these hot valuations really fly up, and boy, those companies get a target on them really fast. Reporters are cynical about those valuations. They’re thinking, “Wait a second. You're an $11 billion company, that's 300 times your earnings, and you’re trying to validate or back up that valuation. Something's not right here." And then they dig in and they start finding things. In some cases, companies didn't learn. They didn't take the lessons of the early 2000s to heart.

At fabric, we're trying to be very diligent and very forthright and honest in how we're talking about our company, our technology and what we can do. We’re being very honest about where we are as a startup, and I think that's serving us really well right now.

What do you see as the next chapter in the fabric story?

There is so much opportunity out there. One of the challenges is just shrinking things down into something that's manageable for a company that's rapidly growing. We are around or approaching 400 people now.

Our eyes can get really big. We can see so much potential and opportunity and that we could do many different things. It can all quickly become overwhelming. Our challenge is how to find the ideas that matter most and throw the resources in there to create a flywheel.

<split-lines>"Our challenge is how to find the ideas that matter most and throw the resources in there to create a flywheel."<split-lines>

How are you evolving your content program at fabric?

We're trying to bring in more science to understand and give the content that we're creating a much greater chance to perform better. So, that it will work—rather than simply writing content and hoping on a wing and prayer that it’s something people are looking for.

Our thinking becomes, "Okay, well, what are people searching for? Let's write some content that's responsive to that." I'm trying to take as much of the guesswork out and be much more data-driven in our content work. If we're going to spend the time and the resources to create the content, let's make it more of a science and give it the best chance to do what we want it to do. We're making really good progress there.

<split-lines>"I'm trying to take as much of the guesswork out and be much more data-driven in our content work."<split-lines>

You’ve been in the retail/e-commerce space for quite some time. What’s next for retail?

I think where retail's going is all about the customer experience and making everything easier. It’s making payments easier, making delivery or pickup easier, making finding the products and selecting which ones to buy easier.

Consumers just aren't going to give up on that. Their expectations are not going to drop—ever. If anything, new brands incrementally move the ball a little bit further down the field and everyone's then got to catch up with that.

<split-lines>"Consumers' expectations are not going to drop—ever. If anything, new brands incrementally move the ball a little bit further down the field and everyone's then got to catch up with that."<split-lines>


What are your thoughts on the metaverse and its role in retail?

At Shoptalk, the huge annual retail conference, someone talked about the metaverse, and I just walked out of there. I was thinking, “I need to go buy some more Amazon stock," because nobody in this room understands the metaverse.

At one point, they're sitting there, complaining and saying, "Oh, we're having our lunch eaten by Amazon and some of these other folks," and yet here you are talking about things that are just so distracting from what your core mission should be. If you’re worried about Amazon, what are you doing spending time on the metaverse?

From your time at Amazon, what are one or two examples of learnings you’re taken from Jeff Bezos?

Jeff was ridiculously good on the marketing side of things. He had a really good sense of customers and of the consumer. He also has this insight of “Be stubborn on your vision, but flexible on the details.” In other words, make sure your vision is big and broad enough and stay with it, but also be willing to experiment and to try things. Don't be so rigid in the execution of what you're trying to do that you just get in your own way. If you already know the answer to something, then what you're doing is not an experiment.

We've now got this big, broad vision of being the future of commerce. How we execute on that is going to take a lot of experimentation, a lot of trial and error. It can be hard for people newer to the workplace to wrap their arms around this notion of experimentation.

We also talk a lot about “one-way doors” and “two-way doors,” which is also part of Jeff’s type of thinking. If the decision you're making can be undone, it acts as a two-way door. If you don't like what you're doing, you can turn around and walk right back to where you were. No harm, no foul, no problem. Those are no-brainer decisions, involving little risk.

When you have one-way-door decisions, then you’re making a real commitment. To try to get back to the previous state is either going to be impossible or just really difficult to do. These are the decisions where maybe you just take a breath. You spend more time looking at and trying to find data. You bring more people in to get their points of view to really understand and make that commitment on whether to go forward and through that door.

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