Here is a transcript generated by of The Content Mix podcast interview with Mario Bini, regional marketing manager and storytelling extraordinaire:

Carlota Pico 0:13
Hi, everyone, I’m Carlota Pico from The Content Mix. And I’m excited to be here today with Mario Bini, who is regional marketing manager for AliPay Europe and has over seven years of experience in marketing and communications. Welcome, Mario. And thank you so much for joining us today on The Content Mix.

Mario Bini 0:31
Thank you for having me and very happy to be here.

Carlota Pico 0:34
The pleasure is ours. To get this interview started off, I’d love to learn a little bit about your background, a bit about AliPay and how you went from the food tech industry into the FinTech industry.

Mario Bini 0:47
Sure, I always started my career in in the tech industry with some experiences at Microsoft, I moved on to Deloitte digital, Google and more recently Uber. And and I think what was fascinating to me about the transition from Uber, which is a quite an important American company into Alibaba Group was really, after almost seven years working in content and marketing for Western companies. I really was asking myself, what was it like to do that for for a kind of a company that is so important in the Asia market and worldwide, such as Alibaba Group. So I think for me, this was really an opportunity. And it is an opportunity to further deep dive on that and explore, you know, different ways of telling stories to consumers worldwide. But from the point of view of a company that is quite different from, you know, what I was used to be for.

Carlota Pico 1:38
Very interesting. So I do want to focus on storytelling, because that is one of your areas of strength. And I’m under the understanding that you are also a lecturer at the University of Rome. And I was looking at your lectures and your presentations and I was extremely surprised because I saw an emoji highlighted as the Word of The Year within your presentation. So, from your expert opinion, how has language grammar and has storytelling strategies changed over time?

Mario Bini 2:08
This is actually one of my favorite slides from the presentation. So I’m glad you caught that, you know, Oxford Dictionary in the UK every year selects what is the Word of The Year, which is one of the most use words in the year or sometimes it can be also something new that they add to the dictionary. And in 2015, I think it was quite a historic moment, because for the first time, Oxford Dictionary chose a pictogram to as Word of The Year. So they actually chose the emoji face with tears of joy. This is actually the most used emoji on social media. And they decided to add it to the dictionary and selected as word of the year because of its predominant usage in the English language from 2015 onwards. And I think, you know, this really tells us something about, you know, how storytelling is really changing our language, and specifically how we were actually becoming a little bit more visual thinkers rather than using words to communicate. This is particularly I feel relevant for marketers and I always get tend to include it in my presentation because really switching from traditional marketing to a very kind of visual heavy approach. I think there was a research from MIT from a few years ago, where they were actually proving that our brain is processing images 60,000 times faster than words. So I think this is quite incredible. If you think about, you know, it’s much easier for for us human beings to kind of grasp visual clues rather than kind of read to words. And and I think this choice from Oxford dictionary is emblematic to this kind of new way of communicating that that we are having, and that marketers are having.

Carlota Pico 2:39
Mario, I feel like you’re reading my mind because that’s actually getting into one of my next questions, which I’ll get to later on, but I still want to focus a little bit more on storytelling. When it comes to content, HubSpot’ CEO said the following: “What separates good content from great content is a willingness to take risks and push the envelope.” Because of your extensive international storytelling experience, what do you think separates good storytelling from excellent storytelling?

Mario Bini 4:13
I think this is a really good question. And it’s actually quite true that I think there is a subtle line between, you know, average ways of telling story and really those that make a difference. And I feel if I were to give my personal opinion, there are probably a couple points that I would like to highlight when I think about effective storytelling and, and maybe I can, I can share later a few examples from from my career, but definitely one, one area is creating content and tell a story that is relevant for the audience that you’re talking to. And not only relevant in terms of cultural relevance or localization relevance, it’s really more about you know, tackling something that is pressing for the local community. It can be a social issue, it can be, you know, a pain of the community. You know, for example, at Microsoft, we work extensively on projects related to climate change or kind of to try to, you know, bring your brand’s closer to the younger generations in a way that was relevant to them. And the other area, I think, for great storytelling is really create this kind of engaging connection with users. And when I say engaging connection, I really mean I direct involvement of the user base in telling the stories. So this can be through interactive experiences, it can be through giving the possibility of your audience to also have a voice in that story, you know, asking them to share their experience and kind of be part of that conversation. And I think these two ingredients together really makes the difference between a good marketing campaign and an amazing storytelling campaign that really resonates with people.

Carlota Pico 5:41
Okay, so it’s more about creating emotions and being able to connect with your local audience. And that’s what separates great storytelling from just average?

Mario Bini 5:49
I would say create emotion and at the same time, allowing users to directly participate in that sharing, so making sure that they can become the protagonists of the story and not just listeners.

Carlota Pico 6:01
I love that! I absolutely love that, Mario. So I do want to ask about COVID-19. Because obviously, it’s impacted industries across all fields, and also worldwide. So on those same lines, could you walk me through best storytelling practices for European audience during these very unstable times?

Mario Bini 6:20
Absolutely. Again, relevant question. I think, probably during this crisis, there has been a shift on both sides, both on on the content creation part from marketers, and also from the consumer side. I feel that every time that we see such a cataclysmic event and probably it’s even, I would even say that it’s a unique, for example, for my generation, I feel the customers are really developing a higher sensitivity towards good content. And really, they try to segment a little bit more and they probably become a little bit more aware of what brands do for the local communities. And I think it’s, it’s interesting to see how brands are reacting to this crisis in different ways. I think in terms of best practices, there are many players, especially in the payment industries, which I’m currently into, that are starting to developing initiatives to get closer to local communities, maybe helping SMEs or developing, maybe free of charge marketing campaigns to help local businesses relaunch, and these type of initiatives and this type of storytelling can really resonate a lot with consumers today. Because as I said, they are more sensible to kind of seeing brands in a new light in a way and and trying to understand what are brands doing to help the community emerge from this crisis? So I think, you know, on the consumer side, it’s more sensitivity. And on the marketer side is really a responsibility in a way to kind of make sure that your brand is capable, capable of reacting and engaging in this developing conversation. And you need to ask yourself as a marketer, how can I create content and how can I create a product that can really resonate in this crisis and really help make a difference in this crisis? So anything there are many examples I could mention a few know what Revolut is doing with perks, for example, offering advantages if you shop at local businesses… American Express is doing something similar, I think, you know, not only in the payment industry, but there are many, many examples of brands that are really stepping up to this challenge.

Carlota Pico 8:13
Yeah, I would also add empathy. I think brands are really showing their human side when it comes to their communication activities right now, because they’re really trying to relate with the human on the other side of the screen. They have so many mixed feelings that could be possibly facing financial issues as well. And so they’re really saying like, “Hey, you know what, we have your back. Yes, we’re in the business to make money. But of course, we all are also humans, and we can also relate to you and we understand that right now, it’s not the best moment to be selling our activities, but rather showing you through real life examples and actions, why we care about you as a human being and not only our products.”

Mario Bini 8:53
Absolutely. And that’s exactly what we were saying before you know, when we’re talking about putting the customer at the center of your story and making them the protagonists. And I think, you know, COVID-19, you know, among all the difficulties is really creating an opportunity for really brands to step out and show their true colors in a way.

Carlota Pico 9:10
Yeah, I love when our conversations come to a full circle.

Mario Bini 9:13

Carlota Pico 9:15
So I would really like to put some of the theory that we’ve been speaking about into real life examples. Could you walk us through some of the campaigns that you lead that really exceeded all of your KPIs? So obviously, objectives what those KPIs were the results that you achieved?

Mario Bini 9:31
Absolutely, I think one of the campaigns I’m most proud of, so it’s because it was one of the first campaigns that I worked on in my career while at Microsoft, I was based in the UK and I was in the consumer apps and services team out of Microsoft. And I was working especially for the brand Skype, which is probably also kind of brand that it’s in everyone’s mind in these days, well probably it’s helpful in this type of situation with with COVID. I think the challenge that Skype faced and probably still facing in the last few years is really trying to, you know, re-establish its relevance to bring people together in the face of a rising competition. Because if we think about a few years back, when Skype was launched, it was one of the first, you know, voice and communication providers that was out there. And it was very effective, very adopted, it’s still number one in many markets around the world. But now, you know, with the rising competition from Google, Amazon, and different players entering this communication space, you know, of course, Skype saw its market share reducing quite heavily, and allow, you know, most of the times, marketing campaigns and storytelling campaigns actually start from kind of business KPIs, and I think this is something that they always try to underline in my in my talks, because it’s sometimes it’s easy to forget that even when we talk about content and storytelling, we’re not just talking about creating just, you know, good content to bring out there but it’s normally actually deeply connected to business KPIs. So in this case, it was really about how we could kind of recover this market share and increase our market share by making sure that for our customers, this brand was still relevant in their lives. So I think this was the premises, and we really did a lot of brainstorming on how we could develop a storytelling campaign that was, you know, really engaging for users and could apply the best practices that I talked before. And we came up with a campaign which is called “Stay Together,” and Stay Together was featuring a series of real people’s stories that we actually showcased around the world. We looked for these people among real Skype users, we asked them to tell us their stories on how Skype affected them, and how it helped them you know, be connected with their families. And I think, you know, one of the most prominent videos was the story of this man, Denis that moved from Uganda to Pennsylvania in the US in search for a better future for his family. And the only way that was connected to his son and his wife that he left in Uganda was through Skype. And I think it was really, really an incredible story of hope and connection. And I know really, he could literally see his son growing up with the help of technology. So it’s a real powerful moment of connection that is enabled by by, in this case by this product. And not only we created this, this piece of content, it was a two minute video with Denis’s story that we showcase on the world, but we also created an interactive platform,, which was part of our website, asking people all over the world that were inspired by Denis’s story, to also share publicly their own experiences of using the product, whether it’s to remain connected with your, you know, boyfriend or brother in the military, to, you know, families that were split apart by, you know, lives from different parts of the world. And actually, the response was really, really overwhelming. I actually wrote down a few of the KPIs to share with you, but just to give you a perspective of how powerful these types campaigns can be. We’ve got around 53 million users on the platform that we created around the world with 40 million video views for the Denis video campaign, and 6.5 million engagements inside the product. And I think, you know, these are quite powerful metrics to showcase that we managed to increase users of the product in these key markets. But at the same time, we really, I think the biggest achievement of this campaign was really creating that platform for the users to be at the center of the story, and really be the one that went to the website and share their own perspective and share their own story of how Skype help them and had an impact in their life. I mean, this is what I was talking before, you know, of really creating your good storytelling campaigns with people at the center. And really, I think it was Palahniuk that used to say that the best stories comes from ordinary people. And this is really, really true. And I think he was an excellent example of how you could create kind of this this digital story, working with your users directly.

Carlota Pico 14:00
Yeah, it’s not only a good story, it’s already produced emotions in me hearing about it. So I can only imagine what it would be like to actually see it, see the campaign live and be able to resonate or at least feel like I’m in the shoes of that person who’s able to reconnect with their family back in Uganda, and really feel inspired by it.

Mario Bini 14:20
Absolutely. And I will be happy to share the video with you, and I think it’s a you will find it quite interesting to see.

Carlota Pico 14:26
Yes, I would love that, we’ll definitely link the video to this recording so that our audience is able to feel those emotions as well and understand why the campaign was so successful.

Mario Bini 14:35

Carlota Pico 14:37
I do want to reference a comment that you made at the beginning of our interview, which was about the power of images. According to your presentation at the University of Rome, you highlighted that our brain processes images 60,000 times faster than words. With that in mind, what do you think the future of great marketing will look like?

Mario Bini 14:59
Absolutely. It’s definitely going to be a very visual. I think we already see today how this trend is actually impacting the way that brands communicate out there. And but it also will, will bring out a downside of it. And I think the future, one of the biggest challenges that we will have as marketers is really how we can make sure that this content stands out from the competition. Just to give you a perspective on this, think that 50% of users on Instagram, they don’t reach the end of one minute video. So you know, you can see how, yes, we are moving into a visual approach. We are developing a lot of content for customers. But essentially, we are competing not only with other brands, but also with original content that customers are sharing on this platform. So I think one of the biggest challenges, you know, to this strategy is really trying to find a way to differentiate brands, more and more, not only from each other, but also from consumer. But definitely if we look about the future of marketing, it’s going to be more visual is going to be engineered for silence. Something very interesting because another trend that we see is that nearly 80% of customers, they scroll through their social media feeds with no audio, maybe they’re in the Underground or in an office or in a crowded space. And I think it’s also interesting to see how brands are adapting themselves and their content to be also effective without audio, which is, actually if you think about, super anachronistic to what traditional marketing was doing with TV ads, and this type of, you know, content creation in the past. So I think you know, there are different sides, but definitely, we will see more and more predominant kind of visual contents in the future.

Carlota Pico 16:33
I think it also says a lot about human behavior, right, and our tolerance towards content because we have less patience than we have ever had. We don’t have patience for anything that isn’t extremely engaging, or anything that’s even over a minute long.

Mario Bini 16:49
Exactly, or even half a minute long, so…

Carlota Pico 16:52
It’s kind of worrisome, but also exciting at the same time.

Mario Bini 16:57
Because you can really push your limits and really strive to understand how you can really be relevant. If you’re not relevant, you’re just another commodity, and you’re probably going to be discarded by consumer. So I think it’s quite exciting in a way.

Carlota Pico 17:09
Definitely! Moving into brand marketing, since everything competes with everything—and that’s a quote that I pulled from your presentation deck at the lecture you gave at the University of Rome—what advice would you give to entrepreneurs that are just at the beginning phase of defining their brand? So in other words, what can they really do to resonate with their local audience and stand out?

Mario Bini 17:33
So I think it’s a very good question and probably very relevant for a lot of startups out there that are trying to kind of create an identity for their brands. But I think it’s, you know, before even thinking about brand, it’s really about, you know, what is the purpose of your company? I think it really starts with the why and, and, and it’s really about what you’re trying to create, what value are you trying to create for the community and that is really the starting point. Because once you understand that, and once you are sure that you are going to do something that is going to be relevant for your consumers, you just need to build your brand around that. And I think all most effective brands, if you think about taglines, if you think about how they communicate, either visually or verbally, it’s really all about conveying what their mission is, what their purpose is, you know, what is the vision for their community and their customers? So I think probably the first suggestion would be if you were to create a brand today, really start by thinking, what is the purpose of your brand, what are you going to try and convey and what value you’re going to create. And this is super important, because we really, we moved away from the paradigm in which good branding was just about, you know, creating good communications, this is really about creating value and creating concrete value for customers who are talking to. So I think this is definitely the starting point, and then you can start creating your brand identity around that.

Carlota Pico 18:50
Definitely. I would also add that it’s really important for brands to also think about their employees, because one of the biggest threats to a company is human retention or lack of employee retention, right? And so employees normally resonate with brands that tend to be on the same page when it comes to their personal values. So when creating a brand, it’s important to obviously think about your clients and to think about your end consumer or your end client. But at the same time, it’s also really important to create a brand that your employees will be proud of. And that will be, and that they will be actively sharing company achievements through their social networks, because that’s another great way of just really pushing your brand to new audiences if your employees actively are engaging on in brand activities.

Mario Bini 19:38
Absolutely. And I think actually, you know, following up on what you just said, I think it’s super true that you should see as a brand and as a company, your employees, they’re actually your first clients. So I think you know, all of your stakeholders around your brand that are able to kind of become ambassadors for your brand, ultimately. You should really see them as your client and making sure that not only they are happy, but they really resonate and they feel that they are attached to the values that the brand is conveying out there.

Carlota Pico 20:02
That’s an excellent way of putting it. Definitely—your employees are your brand’s first clients.

Mario Bini 20:07

Carlota Pico 20:08
Okay, moving into our set of rapid-fire questions, which is basically your recommendations to our audience. To get this section started off I’d love to learn about your source of inspiration, which can be a book a professional role model or influencer?

Mario Bini 20:24
Absolutely. Actually, there is a book, it’s one of my favorite books that I always recommend, whenever I talk to students or even colleagues, it’s called Resonate by Nancy Duarte. And Nancy, she’s a great inspiration. She actually owns a communication agency out of California, and she wrote this book around how to create visual stories that are engaging and appealing to audiences. And I love her book Resonate because it really brings you to different examples of storytelling from, you know, president speaches to corporate speaches to you know, storytelling campaigns, you know, for the launch of Apple products, and it really showcases how all of these storytelling approaches, eve completely different from one another, they actually follow a series of very identifiable, you know, structural points that you can easily replicate. And I think it was probably one of the first books I read on storytelling. It’s from a few years ago, and I still think it’s incredibly relevant. And anything in general, reading a lot, even though it might seem a little bit, you know, strange, you know, after we’ve talked a lot about digital marketing and new ways of communicating, but still, in my case, you know, reading different types of books on this subject is something that really has me not only relaxed, but at the same time, you know, making sure that you always get new points of view from people from the industry. So absolutely, but Nancy Duarte is probably one of the first that comes to my mind.

Carlota Pico 21:46
Thank you, so I’m going to have to read her book.

Mario Bini 21:48

Carlota Pico 21:49
Moving into your favorite app at the moment and why?

Mario Bini 21:54
Okay, so my favorite app at the moment, I must say, probably not something very original, but it’s TikTok is one of the most downloaded app right now. But what I like about TikTok, it’s not about—I must say, I’m not a good TikTok-er, I only did a couple of videos as a test, so it’s definitely not my thing—but what I love about it is really the way that it’s creating a new communication paradigm. And I think very few apps managed to really do this, you know, in the last few years, really completely changing the way that we communicate. I think some people might perceive TikTok as competing, let’s say with Instagram or relate to that, but I feel what TikTok is doing is really completely changing that approach. You know, tick tock is not about sharing what is happening in your life, you know, chronologically sharing what you do everyday like you would do Instagram stories. It’s actually the opposite. It’s really about remixing popular culture, instead of creating original content. You know, think about the dubbing videos or the music challenges video. It’s about replicating something and really kind of going out in the world stage and then kind of bring your talents and creating some piece of entertainment that can can be, you know, seen by millions and billions of people. So I think this is super interesting. It’s something completely new. It’s hard to think about apps that are doing the same right now. And, and it’s even more interesting to think about our brands are seizing these opportunities. And you know, can give you a couple examples. But one that comes to mind, for example, is the #InMyDenim campaign by Guess which is one of the first brands that approached TikTok, asking people to dance in their denims to showcase their moods using the brand jean. And I think it’s really creating completely new ways for brand to engage with users and to create original content as well.

Carlota Pico 23:42
Especially if the if the future is visual, right?

Mario Bini 23:45
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Carlota Pico 23:47
Well, those were awesome tips Mario. Thank you so much for joining us on The Content Mix it was an absolute pleasure to have you on the show. And I can’t wait to hopefully meet one day in person and keep on picking your brain about what the future of everything will entail for all marketers from around the world.

Mario Bini 24:02
Absolutely. It was a pleasure to be with you and looking forward to meeting you in person. And thank you for having me. It really was a pleasure.

Carlota Pico 24:08
Thank you. And thank you, everyone for joining us today on The Content Mix. For more perspectives on the content marketing industry in Europe, check out We’ll be releasing interviews just like this one every week, so keep on tuning in. Thanks again, and have a great day and see you next time. Bye!

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