Evelyn Krasnow has proudly built a career by taking "the least sexy products on the market" and making them interesting to consumers - from trash cans to cables to even toilet plungers. "The everyday products we so often overlook have the most interesting stories behind them," Evelyn explains, "and I’ve always been passionate about bringing those details out because it lures you in on a totally different level." Now, she's out to make people fall in love with their TV remote with Caavo, the universal control center helping viewers navigate the nail-biting streaming wars.
What was the most eye-opening thing about going from Belkin to startups?
"You have to show up or you’ll fall down..."
[It] was like Career Botox—it reboots you to the core. I was absolutely shocked when people told me I inspired them. I wasn’t consciously doing anything new or different— it was just another Tuesday to me, so I thought, well, these people are younger and perhaps less jaded so while this feedback is not deserved at least it’s evidence that I’m connecting. And then I realized that the optimism and youthfulness that drive a startup are infectious. Nothing is just another Tuesday. The constant change, that flurry of momentum creates a current of forward motion that forces you to be more present. You have to show up or you’ll fall down and because of that you do connect with the work and with others more purposefully, and that changes everything about your approach.
What are you working on currently that's innovative?
We are excited to add Google Nest Cam to our lineup of supported devices so you can watch your camera feeds on TV from the comfort of your living room. We also recently partnered with Sonos to be the first brand to bring Sonos to your TV. You can pull music into the room you’re in through the TV, and we have basic commands now—play, pause, skip, and the cover art appears on screen for the song that’s playing. We also released Telescope messaging where users can speak and send on-screen messages from one TV to another when each is connected to a Control Center. We are working to add more community and sharing features, and we’re very focused on improving discovery so it’s easier and more efficient to find what you want to watch.
How do your customers play a role in the development of new product features?
Consumer feedback is a huge part of how Control Center is shaped, and we always consider input for future releases and software updates. Our remote has an integrated feedback button that allows our customers to dictate and send us a direct message directly through their TV. We place high value around the set-up process for Control Center and regularly conduct home set-up evaluations to gauge how existing and new customers are managing their set-ups so we can improve the overall process on a continuous basis. Our beta program is comprised of some of our super-users where we demo early releases for de-bugging and feedback on an ongoing basis.
How are you leveraging the ever-changing streaming wars to your marketing advantage?
We are inventing a new category in a world of entertainment where people are so glutted with amazing content they spend 30 minutes a day just trying to find something to watch. That’s a real statistic. There is a reason why everyone just says, “I can’t deal,” and watches The Office and why it will remain the Number 1 show on Netflix until 2021. The first thing we did to help tell the story of how we simplify search and discovery was to make a simple, hand-drawn video explaining what Control Center is and why it’s great. That exercise was instrumental in making our technology more accessible to consumers and it resonated—people starting buying.
We’ve also experimented with a lot with influencer marketing across a wide range of budgets with varying success and then we’ve done some homegrown campaigns like a “Show us your remotes,” contest which cost nothing and struck a real chord. It was more successful than we expected because it addressed the core problem that Caavo solves—too many remotes. Anybody who engaged with us had a problem that we solved, so we weren’t trying to manufacture a connection, we were solving a real need. And the content was great because people got clever spelling out messages with their remotes and actually, photos of big piles of remotes are just the right kind of weird.
Any learnings you can share from experimenting with influencer partnerships?
"...I’ve learned you have to accept it’s a gamble."
With influencer partnerships, I’ve learned you have to accept it’s a gamble. You aren’t buying the certainty of an ad or even a guarantee that the influencer’s audience will find your partnership palatable. Generally, I’ve found the bigger influencers are much more collaborative with tone and messaging, but their audiences are equally savvy and less forgiving if the content feels forced. Smaller influencers tend to have a more welcoming and supportive base, but there’s even less management of the messaging. We had one macro influencer who over-delivered with amazing results, and several others where it would have been less painful to throw money out the window and at least experience the joy of watching it fly. Influencer campaigns aren’t predictable, but when they work they can be incredibly powerful.
What’s currently happening in marketing that most excites you and how is it changing the future of marketing?
We still have a long way to go but I’m excited by the amount of diversity we are starting to see in all forms of marketing. Whether it’s the people we see in advertisements, brands rallying to support causes that need our attention on social or walking down the street and seeing branded shirts with messages promoting equality on models who eat like real people—that’s exciting to me as a marketer and inspiring to me as a human. I would love to see a future for marketing where more customers feel seen and heard and represented by brands they love.
What's one thing you've learned that's stuck with you throughout your career?
I used to think the goal was to be the smartest person in the room. I would ask the most difficult question, point out the one flaw in the plan and it took some pretty humiliating moments for me to realize that is seriously the most annoying thing you can do in a meeting outside of eating yogurt or a hard-boiled egg. There is an appropriate time and place for everything, and being mindful of that is a great skill.
What's one of your proudest career moments?
When the New York Times finally reviewed the simplehuman step can, it was a great acknowledgment that we had successfully transformed the trash can category and at Belkin when we won back the cable business at Apple after having been kicked out. Turning a brand around and making it premium is almost harder than launching a new brand from scratch. I don’t know which means more, both took a lot of hard work.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Do not engage.
What book would you most recommend to fellow marketers?
Made in America by Sam Walton