Reddit CMO Roxy Young: Knowing Your Community Is The Key To Everything
As a real fan of her work, I must admit I was more than a little nervous to meet Roxy Young, Reddit’s Chief Marketing Officer. An absolute marketing legend, her track record speaks for itself, and she now leads marketing for one the coolest and authentic companies in the world: Reddit. Within seconds of the conversation, you instantly understand why she remains at the top of the game.
Young: “I’ve been so privileged to work with so many amazing consumer brands. I started my career at The Gap, where I learned all about the power of a brand in terms of being able to move product and connect with people. I was also at Netflix early on as we tried to build a brand-new entertainment and subscription model. I mean, people used to drive in their car to a video store, only to find that the movie they wanted to watch wasn’t there! It was an amazing opportunity to build a very relevant consumer brand focused on convenience that’s now turned into a massive global media company.”
Prior to Reddit, Roxy spent time in more nascent industries — first, it was gaming at Zynga before moving on to travel start-up, Hipmunk, which is where she built a relationship with its co-founder, Steve Huffman, formerly of Reddit. After Steve re-joined Reddit as CEO, he contacted her in 2017 with a long list of goals he wanted to accomplish in order to evolve the brand. He tapped Roxy to help, and she has been there ever since.
Reddit’s recent five second long Super Bowl commercial could have been easy to miss, however it ended up being one of the most effective commercials of the game according to the Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review. It is even more bold of a move to hear that Roxy essentially dedicated their entire marketing budget to just 5 seconds of airtime! The boldness, coupled with Reddit’s hardcore community fanbase and their thirst for knowledge, as embodied by their now world-famous avatar — Snoo — is key to this success.
“Snoo is the Reddit brand mascot — a genderless alien that represents the desire for people to understand their world. When you think about it, if an alien comes to our planet, they’re going to try to learn everything about our world. That’s exactly what people are doing on Reddit. I might want to understand how to be a better parent, learn about the best beauty products, or find ways to stay motivated about exercising. Whatever it is, Snoo represents that desire in all of us to explore the topics that we’re interested in.”
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Seeing people get tattoos of Snoo and making their own figurines, Roxy and her team began to wonder — “what else could we do to leverage this love of Snoo?” Enter a unique take on another emerging phenomena: NFTs and Cryptocurrencies. Reddit came up with the idea to offer Redditors a special opportunity to be part of the platform’s history, have a direct connection with their brand, and show off their affinity in a public way.
“We have an amazing product team. They are always monitoring the landscape for the latest trends and what consumers are doing. NFTs were a category that seemed interesting and worth exploring. Snoo is such a loved character and we thought this would be a great way to bring it to life and create a limited-edition NFT product offering — handcrafted, unique ‘crypto’ Snoos. The really cool thing about them is that you can use them as your avatar on Reddit, so they have instant utility and exclusivity, being that the only person who can use it to represent themself on Reddit, is the person who purchased them.”
Talk about bragging rights. Here in my native country, the U.K., Reddit recently celebrated its one-year anniversary of the opening of its first office in London with its first-ever brand marketing campaign in the country, “Maybe Together We’ll,” aimed at showcasing the depth and breadth of communities on Reddit, including thousands in the U.K.
“As somebody who studies brands and follows the role they play in people’s lives, I’m really excited and honored to see people showing such enthusiasm for the brand. I think the unique thing about Reddit is that we are a community of communities. We are made up of thousands and thousands of communities, and our mission is to bring community and belonging to everyone in the world.”
By users participating in the various communities on Reddit, Roxy and her team want people to feel a genuine connection with other people — even if they don’t know them in real life — and make the Internet more human. It is fascinating to hear the unique behavior the brand sees from its advocates.
“A lot of people tell us, ‘I only use Reddit.’ 60 percent of people who are using Reddit are not using platforms like Twitter or Snapchat. They’re really so loyal to Reddit and use it to laugh and learn new things every day. We play a key role in their lives.”
Although many people think Reddit is only about video games or cryptocurrency, over the last several years, the company has seen a significant increase in the diversity of vibrant communities in beauty, food, family, and fashion — believing that belonging is a core human need no matter who you are or where you’re from.
“Our entire platform is inherently inclusive. Anyone can contribute to a conversation, share a personal story or experience, or start a new community. If there’s something you’re interested in, chances are there are other people in the world who are interested in it as well! Helping people find a place where they belong is definitely at the core of what our company stands for.”
It is not just online where Reddit’s communities have had a real-world impact. The power of its nearly 11-million-member community was no more evident than its recent impact on the stock market. Reddit’s r/wallstreetbets crowd-driven campaigns saw declining stocks — from GameStop in January to AMC Entertainment in June — go on to see unprecedented and unexpected rallies.
“I mean, who would have believed that? We definitely didn’t have that on our radar! There are so many heartwarming things going on — we’ve seen people experiencing financial trouble reaching out in communities to get recommendations on how to improve their situation. Just a few weeks ago, a woman said ‘My son has his birthday coming up, but I don’t have extra money to buy him a present. He wanted this stuffed stingray animal, and here’s how I made it with extra fabric I had lying around the house.’ She shared a picture of her creation with the community and overnight people were sending her gifts. There was a GoFundMe started where so much money accumulated that she was actually able to make a charity donation. I think that is the power of community coming to life on Reddit every day. It makes our work really, really special and truly showcases just how human the platform is.”
Clearly, Roxy brings incredible experience that any marketing leader can learn from. Developing a core strategy based on actually taking the time to understand your company’s community is key, as it demonstrates how being cognizant of how everything you do as a brand will affect your users.
“I encourage every marketing leader to really understand who their community of users is and figure out how you can embrace them. We think of our community as an audience to what we are doing. They’re going to be seeing how we portray our brand, and we want to make them proud when we show up in the world. We have so many great examples of that working really well. Last year, we supported the Presidential Election voting campaign, as did many other brands. People vote on Reddit every day, so in our campaign, we said, ‘Hey, you’re voting on content on Reddit — You should vote in the real world too!’ We had people taking pictures of those billboards and coming back to Reddit to express how glad they were that Reddit was encouraging people to get out there and vote. It’s just one of the spirited examples of what people can do together as a community”
Roxy’s passion for community, diversity, and inclusion speaks for itself. There is so much for other marketers to learn from on how she and her team continue to grow awareness and repeat usage for products that make people’s lives better. Leveraging her well-rounded track-record as a truly “full-stack” marketer with experience spanning all areas of marketing and branding, Roxy and Reddit center everything they do around their community, so it is little wonder why Redditors are so loyal to the brand.