Edwin Wong // Ep 19 // A Non-Linear Path to Building Your Career

Welcome to Episode 19 of the Asian Hustle Network Podcast! We are very excited to have Edwin Wong on this week's episode.

We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
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Edwin Wong is Senior Vice President, Insights & Innovation at Vox Media, the leading independent modern media company known for building the best media brands and the technology that enables them. He leads research to identify key trends in consumer behavior and help advertisers capitalize on these trends to effectively connect with their core audiences. He has been studying digital consumer behavior for nearly 20 years and has held previous roles at BuzzFeed, Pinterest and Yahoo.
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Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, My name is Bryan. 

And my name is Maggie 

And we interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals.

We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.

Maggie: (00:00:23) Hi, Everyone welcome to the Asian Hustle Network Podcast. My name is Maggie

Bryan: (00:00:27) my name is Bryan


Maggie: (00:00:28) and today we have a very special guest on today’s episode. His name is Edwin Wong and he is the senior vice president of media insights and innovation at Vox media. He was most recently at Buzzfeed as the senior vice president of research and insights, where he led audience insights, product insights, insights, ad effectiveness, and played an active role as a thought leader in the industry. Um, Edwin has dedicated the last 15 plus years of his career to studying digital consumer behavior, particularly in previous roles at Pinterest, VO and Yahoo. Edwin, welcome to the show.


Edwin: (00:01:02) how’s it going guys? 


Bryan: (00:01:04) Yeah, we’re super excited to have you today. Usually for our podcasts, we talk a little bit more about your background and your upbringing. We want to hear a lot more of that, you know, cause you’re a LA native, we want to hear about how you grew up in LA.


Edwin: (00:01:17) Uh, yeah, it’s uh, it’s it was, uh, it’s been a long journey. Um, and um, I actually grew up in Highland park is really close to East LA and what’s really funny is I’ve got a lot of friends now who hang out at bars and eat at nice restaurant. And they’re like, have you been to Highland park recently? Joke that back back in the day when I was actually living there, uh, the only bars that we used to talk about were jail bars. It was a pretty rough area and it was, it was a really good place to grow up because I was, um, a minority amongst minorities. And so, um, my dad, you know, he was a Baker and we owned a bakery in Lincoln Heights and, um, I really enjoyed, um, all the things that you learned. It was not always a pleasant experience to grow up in Highland park, but just the ability to learn how to survive and learn how to, um, thrive in a place that your, our minority amongst minorities. I think it’s been a really good thing for, for how I’ve actually brought my career and how it actually looks at life too.


Bryan: (00:02:26) Wow.


Maggie: (00:02:27) Wow. That’s awesome. And so would you say, you know, you grew up in a pretty traditional Asian household, you know, did your parents have, um, you know, a specific set of plans for you? Like did they have, you know, um, a preference of what kind of industry you wanted to go in and, you know, talk about, talk a little bit about, you know, maybe like your siblings. Do you have any siblings and did they have plans for them to?


Edwin: (00:02:49) Yeah, my, uh, siblings, I have three sisters and that was, that’s always been great because they taught me how to be a gentleman and, uh, they are always, um, all three of them are much smarter than I am. And so they were great role models for me. Um, what was, uh, really fantastic is my parents, my parents were pretty traditional in the sense that we all played instruments. We were all, um, studying really hard and grades really were important. What was a surprising thing is as we started college, uh, it was very traditional. Like, are you going to be a doctor or a lawyer of some sort? And as my, um, sisters started to get out of school, they took some, uh, nontraditional paths in terms of their careers. And when I started going, I was, I was third in line. My, my dad was, was pretty chill about what I was doing. And, you know, I remember that he kinda didn’t have a choice cause while my parents would have wanted me to be a doctor after my first chemistry test and all my college buddies would laugh about this, I knew my dreams were over.


It was done. I was not going to Med School and I was not great. And so I realized very quickly that I’d have to figure out another path to kind of get to where I got to, which, which is, you know, I chose psychology in all things


Bryan: (00:04:20) that’s amazing. You mean what re what initially started, like started your interest in media because you’re, you’re such a, you’re knowledgeable in this field, you know, how do you start the media and what was that early part of your career life?


Edwin: (00:04:32) what was interesting is that the, how nontraditional your career arc is actually going to be? I always liked understanding people, I think essentially because I was in a minority community that wasn’t a majority of Asian, it was actually about 80% Hispanic. Learning how to get by learning how cultures worked, micro cultures, sub cultures work was a really important part of just being alive and getting by. And so I really found that, you know, even going to Pomona college when, um, the ethnic makeup was just very different, you really had to refigure out a lot of things. And so I really liked looking at consumer behavior or just people behaviour in general. And so as I started to pay attention to the things I love, um, I was inspired by professors. I was inspired by my intro to psych class. And so I just went with it that need, um, perception, cognition, and also industrial organizational psychology, which is the application of psychology and how to optimize workforce and I thought wow, the way we process information mentally, psychologically, um, cognitively has such an impact of how we connect with things and it was, and, and you can actually think about people react and how it might impact the way they work.


And I started to go, wow, there’s so many applications to understanding the structures that help you in business. And so that turned into, you know, a lot of, uh, interesting lab work that I was able to do. And so I was, um, afforded a couple of opportunities to be the person that did a lot of the research under, um, some really great professors, um, around, um, you know, several studies at Pomona and I just started to flourish and grow in that area. And so that, that desire to understand people is what actually kind of got me to this job. But no, even, even still like the actual path was not always straight. Like when I was a psych major, most people, they probably know that there’s not a lot of jobs after college. And so I totally remember getting out of school and all of my friends were way smarter than me.

They went into the big, big top consulting firms. They went into law school or med school. A couple of my friends actually went to post grad at Oxford and they were like, what are you doing, Edwin? And I ended up working at J crew and, uh, and, uh, and I was like a paralegal secretary type person, like totally not a paralegal, just like, uh, I worked at the LA athletic club for, um, this, this gentleman, his name was Mr. Michaelson and we, and that’s what I did. And so it was just so crazy that, you know, I tell the story all the time, my favorite story, and this left me less, such an impression on me is, um, I we had, we had these parties that we would actually do because the LA athletic club was a club for like the Lakers and all these other really famous stars at the time, back in seven years ago.


And I was licking stamps and getting invitations ready.


Bryan: (00:07:56) Wow.


Maggie: (00:07:57) Oh, wow. 

Edwin: (00:07:58) and I didn’t do it right. And so the stamps were crooked and the tape was off. And I brought like 200 envelopes to, uh, Mr. Michaels. And he looked at them and he threw them away. He yelled at me and said, um, everything you do symbolizes and represents you. And this tells me you’re not put together. And this actually represents my club. And that, that lesson actually stayed about how the details matter. That fundamentally changed J crew. Uh, one of my favorite stories was, uh, I was walking with a regional manager and I was talking about Glenn Black, cause I love dress shirts and I love dressing up. He didn’t know what a Glen Black was and I was like you’re a regional manager own inventory. And it taught me that even to this day, sometimes the youngest of people you work with, it just knows so much more than you listen and become an expert.


And so, you know, that, that, that those two things, while they were my first job, the foundation and the character, I, you know, what I think follow me for the next 20 some odd years. And you know, how I made my way back into this role is, uh, the first real job was really with a brand consultancy. That was a startup and it was wonderful. Uh, a mentor of mine literally just said, Hey, I know you’re struggling a little bit. Maybe you’re not going to make it to the big time working at J crew really think about applying psychology to business. Here’s something called market research. And from there, I went from Home partners to Yahoo to Yahoo move from that to EO. And I sit where I sit now,


Bryan: (00:09:48) that’s really awesome story. It’s really, really nice to hear too, that, you know, you did learn from your mistake and you’re younger. And I do agree with that statement too. I always felt like how you do one thing is how you do everything. You know, and part of success is doing small things every day and you’re really well until it compounds with each other and you start seeing big results. It starts building deep into your character. I really like that, that part of your advice, and to hear more stories about, you know, marketing and how do you apply that to your, your professional right now, it’s pretty amazing to me to hear, because I feel like right now I work with a lot of marketers and a lot of them are psychology majors, you know, and it’s, at that time, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t that applicable.


I, how can I apply this? How can I apply that by looking more into it. I always felt like marketing was very emotionally tied, you know, and the way that you form your identity for your product or whatever your mission, he trained you, it’s extremely important. Yeah. And that’s a great segue to kind of like dive deeper into your expertise at, within marketing, you know, and then we Maggie and I had the opportunity to, to look into some of your speeches before, and we’re super amazed by the level of detailed explanation you gave to your audience. And we want to hear a little more about like distribution and, you know, especially during your time at Buzzfeed, like how, how did, how was the distribution strategy, like in terms of like, um, growing the brand so quickly, you know, I think within 10 years you guys are rivaling other firms out there who’s been there for 30, 40, 50 years. Then what kind of strategies did you come out with, with terms of distribution?


Edwin: (00:11:33) The interesting thing is that, um, Jonah Peretti continues to be a visionary, um, really great leader. And, you know, back in the early 2013, 2014, even at South by when he talked about the fact that, uh, distributed media networks and going where the eyeballs are, is how you need to actually play this game for that time. And, you know, one thing that, um, he, that was actually said by someone at Buzzfeed is that while content is King, distribution is queen and she wears the pants. And so what’s interesting about that is, you know, the pipes or the platforms is where much of what actually is controlled in terms of where, where this content actually gets to the actual consumer, where I think there is an interesting difference is the quality of the water or what is actually getting to that consumer in terms of what it is.


And so back, back at Buzzfeed, there was an interesting strategy around, um, Clay Christianson’s jobs to be done, where you can’t just think about getting content to the consumer, but making it have a purpose, that’s much more meaningful. What, what’s so interesting about the way they philosophically thought about content is, um, what it actually stood for and how it actually defined the consumer and hearing some of the interesting, uh, discoveries that came about through experimentation. If you think about the mobile device, I think there are several studies that Facebook has actually done that suggest that you spend about one second or about 1.2 seconds on a piece of content, a shorter now these days. But what’s interesting is within that feed environment, how do you get someone to stop and process even information? And so one thing buys food used to talk about is this concept of friends.


You, you might not just like speed reading, you understand it, frame to words. And so if you’re going to do a quiz and you’ve replaced just one word, I understand the frame and I consciously understand the concept, but this time it’s about Disney princesses. While next time it’s about what kind of clean freak you are. And so that actually helps with not just the perceptual understanding of what you’re reading, but also it goes with the actual consumption of what’s happening on the device. Now, the interesting thing is, as an insights professional, and someone who looks at marketing, we can’t stand still either because that’s going to change like what’s happened in 2014 and 2016, it’s going to look very different in 2020. And so even understanding what tik tok looks like today and why that consumption is actually a thing I think is important, how digital is actually changing. And so, you know, what’s, what’s been really great about doing this job is you’re never bored because people are continuously changing. And I think that that’s the most wonderful thing about research because you have to go into it just knowing you don’t know it, knowing that on the flip of a switch, people are going to change because of what they’re reacting to. And if you’re not on it, you’re going to miss the trend and you’re going to miss the insight.


Maggie: (00:15:13) Yeah. That’s very true. And, you know, going back to your original statement, I think that it’s important to know also like putting out content one person might view it in a different way that another person might view it, right? And it really depends on, you know, your background and your experiences and how you’re able to perceive that content. So making you know, those little changes and making sure that everyone is having the right perception and, you know, making sure that it’s not getting lost in translation. I think that’s very important. And you know, there’s so many new platforms right now, you know with tik tok, as you mentioned, and all of this new content, these new algorithms with each of those con with each of those platforms, how are you guys able to catch up with, you know, all of this new technology and making sure that you guys are delivering that content to your audience? Um, you know, there’s, I’m sure there’s going to be a new con, new platform after tik tok, right. We’re always evolving. And so how are you guys keeping up with all of that media, all of that content,


Edwin: (00:16:13) What I think is most interesting is understanding the mission and the moment, um, right now, uh, at Vox media, what’s, what’s been really, uh, fruitful for me is I’ve had some really cool experiences across several companies. And my, I always talk about how I think the first phase of, um, the internet was obviously in the early two thousands, it was all around organization. And so you have the geo cities and you’ve got the Yahoo directory come to play. The second phase was all around direction. There’s so much in the directory. I needed search to basically help dive that organization. And so, you know, you continue to see the bifurcation of search, whether it’s Yelp or LinkedIn, I need a person Angie’s list. And, you know, so you will go from organization to direction. The third phase was really about this concept of connection. And so the social plumbing and the platforms were built, got the ultimate word of mouth marketing, thanks to Facebook and Instagram.


The next phase in my mind is all about this concept of activation. And when I went to Pinterest back in 2000 and, uh, gosh, I don’t even remember when I actually left for that 2010, I believe. Um, what was interesting about, uh, uh, Oh, sorry, 2015. Um, what was interesting about that is it was a place of ideas and the way I actually made those ideas come to light that continues to persist, even till now, if you think about what’s happening in this space and in this moment, COVID-19, black lives matter movement. We are in a space that demands for understanding. I don’t know what is going on, but what is the government doing? How do I understand what a pandemic is? How do I open up a restaurant again, which restaurants are open? How do I think about animal crossing when it comes to polygon because I’m gesturing in place?


Um, how do I think about systematic racism and how, how, how can I actually, uh, think about those things to do change, to be a part of change that in it is the most critical. And so that activation is what I think is next for all digital experiences, especially in a time when the consumer believes that their physical and digital life is one in the same. And so I believe that instead of chasing algorithms, which we don’t want to do, what we want to do is build better civic society and we want to build understanding. And so the great thing is really understanding the reason why you exist as a network or as a digital experience. And applying that with authenticity and with power, the algorithms will follow. People will follow your content. And, you know, we see it. We saw a huge surge in engagement with all sorts of our traffic across our network, whether it was New York magazine, whether it was polygon, which covers, you know, video games. And obviously with, you know, some of the things that we’re putting out there for Vox news. And so, um, I think it’s because there’s that mission driven sort of way that we think about storytelling and journalism. That’s really pushing what consumers want from us.


Bryan: (00:19:39) That’s really awesome to hear. And I think we absolutely agree like there’s, especially given the pandemic stuff. Like there hasn’t been much distinction to my online life, my real life. In fact, I’m living more on my online life. So I think it’s great. Cause you even mentioned like an activation concept, just to me, that sounds a lot like a call to actions at the thing. But I think that if you tweak your words around what your marketing strategies will be like, Hey, this is our call to actions for you to feel like you were involved with this community, which is a big thing with, I feel like what marketing, by the way, I just have a sense of community and sense identity and where you belong to someplace. It really matters a lot for us Maggie and I, we don’t consider ourselves expert or professional marketers in any sense or any way, but even with starting Asian Hustle Network, um, for our identity, we just wanted to bring together an Asian community that really uplift each other and share our story.


Um, what we found before was, as we were looking even before Asian hustle network for community that we want to belong to, we couldn’t find one. And in fact, Maggie’s Chinese, I’m Vietnamese we found a lot of different Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean communities out there, but just never one together that we can share our story, you know, and for us, our identity is what our parents went through to give us the lives that we are today. Even hearing your story, that’s the very beginning to where your dad owned a bakery in Highland Park. You know, my dad owns a appliance store in Pasadena and similar stories that we probably have very similar stories about us growing up. Parents taught us about traditional path. What’s most important, you know, and at the end of the day. They all made sacrifices to get us where we are today, you know, and going back to being authentic and having an identity is extremely important right now, because you can think about it. A lot of people are spending a lot of time on social media. So they’re kind of jaded too. Like all these quote unquote scam looking pulses out there, and I’m like, wait a minute, this doesn’t even sound real at all.


And you have an authentic, um, point of view to your material. It creates a sense of, Hey, I belong here and it makes them jog their memories to, and have flashbacks of moments that they can relate to that story, you know, which I feel it’s, it’s super important. Um, in terms of authentic, like it turns to be authentic right now in marketing. Do you feel like material they put out there to should be high quality content? I should be more like, like, not as high quality, but has a more emotional tie in story to what do you feel is more important right now?


Edwin: (00:21:40) The one thing that we’re starting to recognize is that, you know, we wrote a piece around Black Lives Matter movement where purpose needs to morph into justice. And you know, it’s not really just about staying more, but it’s really about meaning more. And if you want to mean more, you actually have to do more to be more. And that’s a way that I’ve actually been thinking about how for brands to stay on the sidelines and not really, um, authentically take on making civics society better. They’re going to falter because especially amongst the younger consumer, um, they’re, you guys have more of a conscience and a are just making better choices for society, which I appreciate so much. And so, you know the quality of content matters probably less than doing it for the right reason. And I don’t think people can, I don’t think marketers should be staying on the sidelines if they know that what they’re trying to fight for is for like good, good civic society. I don’t think they should because who would want to argue against that?


Maggie: (00:23:46) Yeah. I think in today’s society, there is that gray area, right? Like if I say something, you know, not everyone is going to agree or if I don’t say something, you know, I’m going to get backlash for it, but I always do believe, you know, you should say something rather than not, but on top of that, like you mentioned on top of seeing something, you do have to do something right. And you know, if you are leading a community, think about like, how are you using your powers for good or, you know, how are you using and collaborating with people of influence to make sure that they’re fulfilling their civic duty, right. And so, you know, on top of just talking about it, just like taking action and making sure that you are fulfilling that civic duty.


Bryan: (00:24:30) yeah, definitely agree.

Maggie: (00:24:33) Now, so, I mean, we have seen, you know, a bunch of videos of you and the, you know, speeches that you have given, um, you know, while you were at Buzzfeed and, you know, we watched that Asian identity video and that pulled on both of our heartstrings


Bryan: (00:24:48) Maggie was crying her eyes out 15 minutes before this call.


Maggie: (00:24:53) I was crying. Maybe that’s why my eyes are so puffy, but, but, you know, just to give our listeners some context, you know, there was this video that came out from Buzzfeed, um, and Edwin had done an incredible speech on it. Um, and it was about, you know, Asian identity and how we identify ourselves as Asians in America or anywhere in the world. And what would be the one thing that you would want to say to your parents today, right. Your Asian parents today. And it really just touched my heart because I thought, I thought about like the things that I wanted to say to my parents. Um, and I think it’s really important for people, especially non-Asians to look inside, look into our culture and see the struggles and the challenges that we faced as, um, Asian immigrants and for our Asian parents as well.


And I’m very curious, you know, based on your experience at Buzzfeed, um, you know, and just media in general, how do you think today’s media is shaping the way people are viewing Asian culture today, you know, and going back to media back then when, you know, Asians just had roles as like a doctor or like a store owner or the cleaner or something like that times have changed a little bit now. Um, but still it’s, it’s considered a very, uh, rare case where we take on a lead role in a movie or media in general. And so what is your take on that? And do you think we’re moving too slow or at the right pace or what’s your general perception on that?


Edwin: (00:14:26) It’s been interesting how quickly institutional, um, frameworks are changing so rapidly in such a short amount of time. Um, why, I’m why I think it’s the, just even a year and a half ago after crazy rich Asians, we were starting to see that a movie starring all Asians, um, could actually be blocked, a blockbuster hit. I I’m starting to see and feel confident that that Hollywood sees that there is really good money if you can actually do, um, Asian things with Asian people. And so, you know, part of it is you’re starting to see that change. Has it been fast enough, but no, I don’t think it’s been fast enough, but is there progress? The answer is yes. And you know, my, my hope is that even some of the things that we’ve seen in the last couple weeks for, for Vox when, when a character is being played by someone who isn’t actors and actresses are now stepping aside to say, let’s actually let that happen.


And I would expect that the same is going to come to fruition for Asian characters or people that should be Asian, you know, are going to be playing Asian characters in Asian stories. And so, and the interesting thing is that as society becomes more diverse in the U S we’re going to start to see the celebration of more interesting stories. I think what’s been happening because the internet exists and there’s definitely a proliferation of streaming services. The stories that will be financed in the future are going to be, um, a lot, a lot more culturally appropriate and a lot more different. And so I’m excited about, um, what’s to come for us. Uh, it’s not fast enough, but at least it’s, its coming.


Bryan: (00:28:32) Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. You know, I also feel like it’s a huge factor in us growing up right now, it’s you, and even for yourself, Edwin, there’s a sense of pride with where we came from growing up. There was a lot of, uh; I guess in my situation, there was a lot of shame, shaming towards my Asian culture. So why are you bringing the Asian snack to school as well as weird? Or what are you eating that as that looks weird, you know, and I think a lot of us right now, we’re only out to who we are, you know, we’re like, Hey, why was I using why don’t used to be so ashamed about being Asian or being Vietnamese or being Chinese. But now it’s like, I feel a sense of pride, you know, and I feel like that’s affecting all of us. You kind of see it with the type of content that we’re consuming.


You know, we kind of see it with the type of products we’re consuming. In fact, a lot of these bigger companies are now looking at Asians in general are not consuming to me habits because, you know, we are, um, substantially growing our income group tremendously in United States, you know, so we are a force, but it’s pretty amazing to like see like us owning up to who we are and compare it to before when we were younger, we kind of be a little bit ashamed of who we’re Asian, especially, especially when you grew around friends, grew up around friends who aren’t Asian or like they can’t really see that. Um, based upon like people only up to your heritage have, have, have you personally for yourself, how have you seen companies that you worked for started tailoring content for the Asian community to really target the emotional side and heritage side? We’ve seen this a lot in the Adidas and even Nike with the last commercial, with the, with the Chinese new years of the shoes running and, you know, just targeting their target audience towards the Asian crowd, like how you seen companies that you worked  for start doing the same thing.


Edwin: (00:30:33) Uh, I think back, back, back at, at, uh, Buzzfeed, there, there were a lot of really awesome, uh, Asian creators and producers. I mean, worth it when it’s David, when that guy’s just he’s he’s, he was amazing. He was, he’s actually a personal friend and I, I really appreciate what he did it, it was just that he was Asian, but he had a great idea and nothing to do with, you know, nothing to do with that ethnicity. Um, and I think there was some really cool coverage, which is it’s all about discovery of food and culture. It’s like, this is what people are going to try to really exposed, um, new consumers to, um, to food. Um, I also think that, you know, even at Vox today, uh, the coverage around what’s happening for Asians, especially in a time of COVID some of the really horrible things that are happening because of some of the things that have been said by our governments about this, about COVID, some of the violence, the increase in violence against Asians, like covering those stories, I think incredibly important. And so, um, those are choices that the newsroom we need to make to basically do those stories. And I see that those choices are being made, even companies that I feel lucky to work for and work with. You know, I think it’s because the editorial leadership really believes in, uh, not just creating a better, more accurate environment for Asians, but for all.


Bryan: (00:32:12) Definitely. How you’ve you felt at any point in your life? I mean, like, I guess my question is like, do you feel at any point in your career that you felt like Asian wasn’t well-represented in any way, um, you know, you worked in media for the past X number of years now and just going through this entire process, like, how have you, like felt personally about Asian being represented media,


Edwin: (00:32:40) Having worked in several companies and several media sales organizations, there’s kind of, not a lot of us, uh, represented. Um, and I think it has a lot to do with exposure. Um, part of what is important about my role and mentoring young Asians in media is that it’s a great career and there’s a lot going on here that I want other young Asians to say like, Oh, I might not want to be a doctor or a lawyer. Um, you know, I was not the greatest at math, so I totally don’t fit that stereotype. And so, you know, being, being in marketing, being in data and analytics, that’s, uh, uh, that that’s, that’s, that’s a wonderful career. And so, uh, to answer your question, yeah, there, there definitely, wasn’t a lot of representation of Asians in media, um, and there continues to not be that many.


And so part of, again, uh, being a minority person in a large group has actually been one of my superpowers. I think that it actually allows me to function and, and hopefully thrive in these places. And it’s going to be really important for people that are a little bit older, like me to take folks under their wing to make sure they succeed, to make sure they know that there’s a path that someone like me who’s, you know, can, can succeed. I can actually show, show those same people and pave the way for them as well. I think that’s an incredibly important part of my journey and has to be because I want to see a greater representation of Asians in the space.


Maggie: (00:34:32) That’s amazing. I love that you’re taking that opportunity and seeing it as an opportunity because, you know, Asians are definitely underrepresented in many areas and in many fields, you know, especially in media. Um, and I think it’s, it’s, yeah, it gets discouraging to some people, but I love that you were taking that opportunity to really use your voice and pave the way for media. Um, and so I’d love to know, you know, more about your transition to Vox media and you know, how that opportunity came about. Um, and what kind of differences did you see, you know, between Vox media and the other organizations that you have worked with, you know, Yahoo, uh, VO, um, Buzzfeed, um, and you know, what kind of ways are you guys using at Vox media to use, you know, data-driven information and just like thought provoking ideas to really capture the audience’s attention?


Edwin: (00:35:27) What’s been great is that I have a deep love and understand a deep, deep love for the brands at Vox, Vox news is, is, uh, one that comes to mind. And I think even as you’re starting to see what’s been happening around COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter movement, we pride ourselves in talking about helping you understand. And I think what’s been interesting about being in the new space is while most marketers talk about brand safety concerns or polarization. I thoroughly believe our take on it is that, you know, understanding will become this generation’s currency. There’s so much that’s complicated right now that understanding is going to help you make the right choices. Like what I should do when I, uh, what is COVID, how do I get over it? When should I come back up for air and start living my life again? When should I travel?


Like all of those really tough questions, what is the government policy around it? And I think it’s an incredibly important place that Vox is going to be playing. Um, and so that’s, that’s actually been really fun. And, you know, even one of the things that I’ve always loved is chasing, um, and learning about new mediums, I guess, as an example, which we do a lot of love, pivots love a lot of the estimation podcasts. I love to bring our podcasts that we’re a part of, um, when we were working closer together. Um, what’s interesting about that is it’s not just a new medium, uh, as you will; it’s a response to what is happening right now. Um, in the last study that I just completed, I talk about Marshall McLuhan and how he talks about the media. Um, being a message. And what’s interesting is that we’ve spent the last two decades in this ephemeral, you know, timeline chasing way of connecting with content that is created, what I’m calling digital diabetes, it spikes, and then it goes away and then we’ll do the next sugar high.


Whereas if you think about what podcasts like this is doing, it’s an intimate connection to voices that ultimately leads to self-actualization of the consumer. And so you go from this sugar high to a medium that builds slowly and actually makes you better. That is connecting you from everyone. Whereas podcasts is really about the self. So having a clear perspective of why media changes and why it evolves? It makes me excited to go to new places because at every company they’re doing those new things for a reason. And if you’re able to actually start to talk about why then you have marketers go, oh, that’s the opportunity. That’s, what’s so exciting about what you’re doing. And so, you know, if, if, if we’re successful in data and analytics and really helping box craft, this idea that it’s really about understanding, understanding breeds context, context breeds, action, and build a better civic society through all of these ways that you can connect with the consumer. And I think that we’ve done our job insights. We’ve actually, you know, bridge what we were supposed to do because we use data to help people understand that this is what’s happening.


Bryan: (00:38:52) Wow. That’s really powerful. I really loved that a lot too, you know, and I can see how, how you’ve been so effective along your way, your career and everything you’ve done so far is really amazing. One question that I had to follow up with that statement is how would you go about marketing in today’s world versus like 20 years ago now, what are some key differences, differences that you’ve seen and how us as consumers of material and content has changed over time?


Edwin: (00:39:24) That’s a great question. I mean, what’s so funny, uh, is that database marketing hasn’t changed all that much from direct mail. You guys are probably moved before and every time you move, you’re like, oh, how did Lowe’s know to give me 15%?


Bryan: (00:39:43) Yes.


Maggie: (00:39:44) Yes. 


Edwin: (00:28:32) they’ve been buying big, buy your, you know, post postal lists and they understand, you know, that you guys moved. And so we’ll send you some coupons for way there. And, and, and so what’s, what’s what I think is that change is just not accelerated. And so it’s, it’s really about so much more data that’s available to market and to connect to consumers. I would always go back and say with the humanity in marketing is what gets lost. Like, we always joke about how ads follow us. And it’s so annoying that you get the same retargeted ad. And for the last 20 years when digital marketing is ramped, that still hasn’t changed because I think we are creating algorithms that are just fundamentally flawed, even the humanity out of it, and you operationalize it and then it just runs.


And the more it’s takes in the wrong data set, the stronger the algorithm gets and that it becomes the way it actually generates engagement. And so I think we have to return back to really thinking about the consumer again, a little bit differently. So that’s what I would actually focus on. I mean, quite, quite frankly, like what’s, what’s so interesting is we get questions like even around podcasts. It’s like, well, why, why are podcasts ads so effective instead of visual ads? It’s like, well, well, if you think about it, the, the fact that it’s like in order to listen to a podcast ad you actually have to be concentrated and attention should mean something to them. And if you listen to any of the podcasts that the host reads, like sometimes the joke around they’ll make fun of the brand its content. And so it becomes a natural, organic part of the show in a very similar way.


We’ve got a really interesting format called the explainers at Vox, and people love that stuff because what do you love to do at parties? Oh, let me tell you what I learned or did, you know? And so I think it’s, uh, where, what I would actually recommend is like marketing, uh, is really understanding the consumer journey and understanding how to break through. And we’ve really spent way too much time on metrics that I feel are, are okay, which is like scale metrics, three second views, things that are okay, but I don’t know if they actually break through. And so I think our models need to change our media mix models need to change the way we think about things need to change, and we actually have to start creating things of value.


Maggie: (00:42:36) Yeah. That’s, that’s really interesting stuff. Um, I’m very curious to know, you know, you, you talking about psychology and you know, how people are eating up this content and processing it in their minds. What would you say is the most effective way that people will, you know, let’s say you’re looking at a, an ad on Facebook, right. And they’re scrolling by, um, and you want them to really hone in on that content and, you know, spend an extra minute looking at that content. What would you say is the most effective way to do that? Like, would it be like a more empathetic side or would it be, you know, something that, um, really has pulled on their heartstrings when something on their past, or like, what have you seen most effective way to, to really attach or like grab someone’s attention to your content?


Edwin: (00:43:29) I love that question because, um, it’s about recognizing the context of the moment. And what’s interesting is that I would say two to three years ago when I was at Buzzfeed, I would say, uh, what always performed best was funny and emotional. That’s like, oh, the, the age, the video that you watched right before it totally tugged on your heartstrings and it still works. And it’s still fantastic to connect, uh, with the consumer that way. Uh, we just completed a study about what a consumer would consider a quality piece of content today um, in 2020. And, uh, what those consumers actually said was something about was factual or fact-based, um, helped me create perspective and helped me to understand. And so it blew my mind cause it taught me that if you hang on to what worked five years ago or three years ago, um, it’s not that it won’t work right, but it’s not recognizing the moment.


And if you think about why someone would want something that’s factual and gives you perspective and is fact-based think about what’s happening in society right now, we’ve got polarization happening everywhere and people don’t know what to believe. Should I wear a mask? Is it an impingement on my rights, et cetera, et cetera, like so much stuff going on. And so the ability to actually create that perspective is the most important thing right now it changed my mind, teach me something, challenge me. I think that’s what the consumer is actually saying. And so that’s my copout answer to say, we don’t know, but your framework has to be, well, what’s the context in society right now.  And if you understand those larger things, then you should be able to make content that, um, ends up being something that matters. What I find really interesting about content creation is you’ve got a lot of companies saying, Oh, uh, we can help you with trends and you can, you know, write about this trend because that’s, what’s peaking well, while that may be true. When does that end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy? If everybody’s writing about avocado toast and the vegetable spiralizer that makes vegetable pasta, then of course, it’s going to become a thing because you’ve basically created the, you know, process and you’re actually not understanding,  why is avocado toast trending? You know, I’m being so 2000 and


Bryan: (00:46:11) that’s still really relevant, you know, I still like my avocados a lot.


Maggie: (00:46:16) that’s still selling for $10 at the cafe.


Edwin: (00:46:20) Interesting, right? Because it’s, it’s uh, so the understanding people is the most important thing, you know, it’s not that those tools aren’t helpful and they help you get the clicks, they help you get the engagement cause you know what trends and you know, you might want to cover some of those things, but if you want to be really groundbreaking, you have to move outside of that.


Maggie: (00:46:40) Yeah, definitely. So it sounds like one it’s keeping up with the times and two really, you know, connecting with the audience, right. You really have to make that personable, natural feeling and make it feel non robotic right? Yeah. I think that’s the most important thing is to, you know, hone in on how you’re going to pull on those heartstrings.


Bryan: (00:47:02) And definitely it’s the human connection. The self is still important, you know, right now, especially given COVID for craving for that connection that we do like Belong somewhere. And for us, you know, when we started Asian Hustle Network, what was meant for community where we felt like there wasn’t enough Asians represented in any, in anything mainstream media, higher investment corporate ladders. And we wanted to bring people together because we realized from our upbringing as a Asian people tend to like, not be very helpful in terms of, in terms of helping chair, lift her up donations. I feel like statistically, we are one of the worst has given donations, you know, and we just wanted to change that too, because growing up, I never wrote, I never realized like how much a scarcity mindset I was or as a part of, as basically taught. But if I won my friends lost and if I became successful, when I was younger, my mom said when I started winning like speech and debate tournaments and whatnot, or like wrestling tournament and my mama was taught me, hey, keep it down low. Don’t tell anyone about it.


And I was like, why? And they’re like, oh, like you already create a lot of jealousy. Like people will not support you, and the backstab you. And I was like, I was wondering why that was a case, you know? And it stem from like a scarcity mindset that we all have. And then a part of our mission statement was to get rid of that. You know, we were like, Hey, there’s so much money out there. So much opportunity out there that we can all succeed. So there’s no need for us to have this scarcity mindset. And this is to be more abundance to help each other out. And that was our main four mission statement of building this community. And we watched it blossom. You know, we watch early day saying that, Hey, if I had an opportunity, what would you guys do?


And a lot of early posts, posters would say, why would I help you out? You’re just going to steal my idea. And that’s usually not the case at all. I, the case says like, you should be willing to help out get refines your idea. It gives you a new perspective. And what we learned as we went through our progression is no one can really imitate your strategy. Your idea, you know, only, only you can do it only, and only you can do what you’re thinking that what is you look like? You know, you told me I probably executed completely different. And that’s, that’s a main mission of Asian Hustle Network and just really bringing our cultural heritage together. And you realize that even though Maggie is Chinese or, you know, so and so, and so Japanese or Korean, we each have our own courts that we grew up with.


You know, our parents tell us basically the same thing. You know, there’s no need to hate each other. We’re all one big family and let’s help each other out. And that’s what we want to do. You know, your, your, your story throughout the entire podcast and listening to your previous, previous speeches, especially the one with the, you know, the Asian identity one. And it tells us in our heartstrings too. And we really wait a minute, this person talking has a Muslim background, or this person’s talking as a sound so background, but it’s all similar or personal experiences, you know? So leading up to the last question on our podcasts, we’re sort of tips and advice. Would you give someone just enter entering into your industry?


Edwin: (00:50:28) Asians are brought up generally to differ. And so I think over indexing on not being who you were brought up to be is going to be a very helpful, uh, piece of advice. I would also ask that you ask for mentors, we are taught to do things on our own and to hustle on our own and just find someone that you respect. And it doesn’t matter what the race is. Um, and just go and get that mentor. And hopefully it’s a older Asian person that is willing to really take the time to help and really guide this person. And so I would say, um, don’t, don’t speak up and really crush and have a voice and then go get a mentor. And I know there are plenty of people that would be willing to take on folks to help and get career advice and even talk about times that they’ve messed up. There’s so many things I would tell people that I spend lots of time with just don’t do this. Cause they will probably not serve you that well, if you do this, cause that was a mistake I made. And so that’s what I would actually tell a young person entering into my field.


Maggie: (00:51:52) yeah, love it. Um, thank you so much for giving those two tips, uh, based on your experiences. I do feel like there is this misconception, um, that people, you know, they don’t want to find a mentor because they want you to make it on their own, right? But I think it shows a sense of strength that you, you are looking for mentorship. Um, and it shows that, you know, you might not know everything. Um, and there might be something that other people, uh, knows that that could really trickle down to your knowledge as well. So thank you for those two tips. Yeah. I mean, we’re at the top of the hour, so it’s been an hour, has flew by so fast. Um, we would have love for ourselves and our mem, our listeners to learn more about you. So how can our listeners hear and learn more about you on social media or anywhere?


Edwin: (00:52:39) Uh, you can connect with me. Um, LinkedIn look me up Edwin Wong at Vox a V O X. Um, and then you can just look at some of the work that we’ve done as a group. I never want to take a credit for the fine work my group has done, but do Edwin white box in a Google search. There’s a couple of things that we’ve just recently done that I’m pretty proud of. So let me know how we can connect and, uh, thanks for having me guys. 


Bryan: (00:53:08) yeah, thank you so much for your time.


Maggie: (00:53:09) Yeah. Thanks so much, Edwin.

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