Earlier this month, Chris Roselli, CEO, THE.LAND took some time out to chat with our Editor about his newest endeavour. An expert in user environments, Chris shared his views on multiple aspects of our current digital landscape, with particular reference to influencers, social media, consumer experiences and last month’s CES event. He and Lydia spoke at great length and with much enthusiasm so, although one of our longer interviews in this series, readers are encouraged to study with close attention.
Our Conversations series launched in 2017 and will continue this year, with a very select number of interviews throughout the year, held with true innovators and entrepreneurs in our industry.
Name: Christopher Roselli
Occupation: CEO & Founder, THE.LAND
Words to live by: ‘Create with empathy’
Lydia Hanson: Chris, we’ll discuss THE.LAND shortly – and I also want to hear your feedback on CES last month as I know you attended – but to begin would you mind telling us a little about yourself? You’re an expert in user experiences, and have spent years within this space.
Chris Roselli: I’ll start from the beginning – and I’ll only take a couple of minutes to give you the background of ‘me’. I grew up in the States. My mother was heavily into fashion; she was a designer, and worked with some brands. I grew up in these disciplines of the aesthetic of design. My father was in technology; I always had a computer around me, so I learned more of the design aspect of computers. By the age of thirteen or fourteen I was very fluent in this discipline. That’s the background of really why all of what we’ll go on to talk about fits together.
I was a professional soccer player for 13 years, in Brazil, the U.S., in Italy, in Croatia. I was grateful enough to have that, and I think that plays very much into what I’m doing today. As an athlete, you have a certain type of discipline, goal setting and understanding of team play, right? So, now, being a CEO and owning my own company, as a team we set goals and all the players are capable and have 100% understanding. All of it really plays in to me as a person, and to the idea of THE.LAND and what it actually does.
After working and building a digital entertainment platform for years, I started to see a void, and a slippage in the value of influence and influencers.
What wasn’t clear then that is today is that the influencer is the most important element in driving social media forward. And after studying the tools available to them today, it was apparent that their existing options, while good, are limited. We felt as though we needed to bring things into a bigger opportunity for everybody. And that’s why digital real estate was created, for us, and we called it THE.LAND.
We called it the THE.LAND because we say, “you can go to THE.LAND to claim your Land.” You can replace the ‘THE’ with anything you want, and that would be the address. So, if it was ParamountPictures.Land for example putting their trailers out to social media it’s still, in effect, going to be something where they can reach their audience, and all the actors and brands in that content. Everything is connected +together in the Land. They can now reach that audience and drive revenue before the Box Office.
Really our purpose here is to enable retailers and brands to collaborate in a marketplace that is owned by platforms. There’s a space in between the social media world and the website world that is up for ownership – a contextual experience space. Not to get off track, but just to give you an example: you might be watching something from Dior, or a highlight from Cristiano Ronaldo, and have an interest in taking a closer look at ‘those shoes’. But there are so many more things in that content that are contextually there, that if you go from a highlight film or a cool piece of content into Nike.com the percentage of transaction falls off almost completely – because people aren’t emotionally engaged anymore. That’s where we saw our opportunity to really build the contextual experience there and show how it’s not just the products, but it’s the places, the people, the teams, the companies, how it was made. And we built this contextual LAND that floats within all of those space, resulting in ownership of the data, and in consumer relationships.
It takes a lot of clever people! We have a very seasoned multi disciplined team that consists of tech veterans from companies like Google. We also really love challenges and wanted on this audacious one of building something that could connect with everything and allow people to own their digital space in the same way that Facebook owns your content.
Lydia Hanson: Well, why not? If you have the resources to do something like that, and you love a challenge, then it makes perfect sense. It’s exciting speaking with you. We’ve been discussing with other innovators (for around 6-12 months now) the idea that soon consumers will be able to purchase the items they see in music videos or movies directly; and this is exactly the kind of thing you’re investigating?
Everybody, today, whether it’s a technology provider or a fashion brand, is all about that user experience. It didn’t used to be that way; it’s completely transformed in the past few years. For your guys, how important is that user experience?
Chris Roselli: Our model is that the experience is everything, but the consumer’s in control. For example, as you’re watching a piece of content, we aren’t going to pop on the page that something’s for sale. We don’t want an environment that’s too ‘selly’ and we have cognitive and UX experts on our team making sure this doesn’t happen. One in particular is Dr. Bob Deutsch, who worked on the “Think Different” campaign with Steve Jobs.
He single-handedly changed the model in the campaign from “think differently” to “think different”. He literally put the probes on a head and went to a testing unit with Steve Jobs and explained that a three-beat is a story – a beginning, a middle and an end – and a two-beat is a story that needs to be filled in at the end. And that’s why people feel like that phone is not Apple’s phone, it’s their phone as they complete their own story. He single-handedly shifted that whole market based on the cognitive reaction of filling your own story in. He’s on our team because we feel as though our product, and our platform and our services, have to represent that.
Lydia Hanson: Of course. It’s a lot to do with the way people think, and with influencing, and with social media. Giants like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are very much driving trends, and trend is something synonymous with the fashion world. But a percentage of this is via paid advertising; I believe it was only last year – and I assume you will likely know exactly when – that Instagram initiated a proviso whereby any paid promotion from celebrities must be cited as such, usually via the ‘ad’ hashtag. Do you have any thoughts on how consumers can trust the validity of trends?
Chris Roselli: I think consumers trust people – they trust Kim Kardashian, or they trust Kanye West, or they trust Pharrell, or Pharrell with Chanel, which is the perfect match. We have our heads so deep into social media that we see some of these projections before they’re coming; so we knew all these things, like the sponsored ads, in advance. These sponsored ads definitely created an experience; I think it’s a benefit because it really slowed down the process of the dilution in that space, but it also opened the door for THE.LAND because it comes from more of a collaboration of things.
Here’s how we’re different than the platforms you mentioned…
Kim Kardashian, for example, gets paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to put a post out to social media. That’s a model, and it is what it is. It’s not our model; our model is the results of the transaction and the engagement within that. But it also takes it back to people that are not Kim Kardashian. Let’s say somebody – David Beckham – doesn’t have a sunglass endorsement, and he really enjoys wearing Ray Ban. Ray Ban is actually now in a position because of THE.LAND. He can simply take a selfie, and we can say, “Are you wearing Ray Ban Wayfarers”? He can say “yes”, adds that product in, and Ray Ban is now able to track products through David Beckham without an endorsement.
These are things that we’re doing because we feel as though we will close off a lot of opportunities if we depend on endorsements. But that just means that David Beckham is not paid to wear that product, so it’s very contextual and real. He likes wearing them, and it just so happens you can buy them. That’s our approach.
Lydia Hanson: You can trust that he’s wearing them because he wants to wear them, rather than because he’s been paid to do so.
In terms of THE.LAND, are there various different tools you can use? How would a consumer use it, for example, versus how a brand would use it?
Chris Roselli: I would say differently, but there are definitely a lot of overlapping tools for both.
As a consumer you can connect directly with a person or a brand. You can watch a piece of their content, you can transact directly from that content or discover the brands they support and endorse. The consumer experience we put at the top of the list, and it’s more front facing. Very soon we will actually open up the consumer to the experience to say, “there’s more opportunity for me in here too because I like wearing these brands.” Our second phase of our rollout is to enable the public to also be the marketplace for brands.
For brands, the best way to explain our toolset is to watch the video on our site.
Our first tool allows any influencer like Pharrell to select a photo, select a brand, selects some products and post it to their existing social media audience in just a few taps. Brands that have never heard of THE.LAND will get a notification saying that someone wants to be their marketplace through their audience.
Our second tool for brands enhances the influencer/brand collaboration experience.
Oftentimes when these brands send influencers information it has to be in a special format, and it’s not. It might be three pieces of information, and one is an MP3 etc., and it becomes this big confusion. So, we created this tool that allows the brands to load up the LAND with things to engage with the influencers they’re working with. It’s all done within THE.LAND and, that way, all the tracking is done from the beginning, and all the products are embedded into that content. We created a way for the brands to really understand that this is an easier way to do it.
The final and arguably the most important tool, I feel allows brands to understand the analytics of what happened prior to understand what they’re going to do next. Obviously, advertising agencies are very important and we value that so much to say that we can track the amount of results that you’re getting in all the branding you’re doing on social media, per influencer: what products are sold, where they’re sold, demographics, who it is, and any consumer behavior. So to say that Pharrell is putting out a new album, and he’s an artist we want to put more energy into, they can start projecting more of what they’re interested in doing on social media. It becomes something where brands see who is becoming really popular in social media, and want to attach themselves to that influencer.
We also have the metrics for brands. Even if it’s a movie – such as Atomic Blonde starring Charlize Theron where it’s a very fashion forward movie and has a lot of amazing brands and products within. Atomic Blonde, and everybody in that whole segment, has LAND and is going to be pushing their product out. Think of all the brands who will want to connect with that environment, like Dior which is her endorsement, but that shouldn’t close the door to other brands like Chanel who can also monetize. It opens the door. Brands can really look at it as projecting the future of their interests.
Lydia Hanson: For this kind of video or movie tagging, how do you actually measure those analytics? Don’t give your secrets away here, but how deep do those analytics run?
Chris Roselli: They run quite deep. We create a lot of software in house. We have an amazing partner, Hitachi, who does a lot of things with us. We also use some of their software for recognition – finding faces, finding products, finding things. We created the technology with them to timestamp everything, meaning that you can say a certain brand appeared X number of times within a movie, a football match etc., and we can quantify that now and feed it back to the brands. From a level of saying we timestamp everything, we’re collecting faces, data, geo-location of users – anytime somebody is clicking on something we’re lifting out information and getting an actual profile. Because we post to social media, we can now lift a profile up, give them the opportunity to connect with ‘the David Beckham’ a little bit more, and we start actually sharing more information. Because of that, the player itself starts collecting and comparing analytics across other forms of content. So if it’s a Barcelona game we’ll take all the Barcelona games, and process them with the piece we’re doing now, and package something up to see: here’s how many times Nike appeared in that content, here’s how many times Messi had the ball, here’s how many clicks were on social media during that time.
Every day we’re coming up with new things to really gather.
We’re more interested in the amount of posts, views across demographics and social channels, the products, sales by channel, by influencer, which influencers are selling the most. And this is a way for Nike to look at it and say Cristiano Ronaldo, during that game, sold X amount of products. And through his social media they can see where they all came from. We’re starting from what Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are gathering, and we’re going above and beyond because we feel as though Pharrell wants to see that information as well as the brands he’s working with, and the title sponsors of these events. It becomes a very big marketing tool, but also an analytics platform.
We’ve had conversations with pretty large advertising agencies who tell us that they spend 50% on this and 50% on that but they can’t see which half works; can we? Yes, we can.
Lydia Hanson: That can be an issue with advertising, and marketing. It can be difficult to pinpoint what’s working and what isn’t. We can use bespoke tracking links to measure traffic coming from a particular source, but not always what happens once the traffic reaches its intended destination. How long do they stay? Do they buy something?
Chris Roselli: Exactly. I’m a big fan of this gentleman, but Sir Martin Sorrell was at CES this year talking in the sports zone – which I spent a lot of time in – about how 40% of their ad spends go to social media, Facebook in particular. But they aren’t really pulling out all the data that they need to quantify just how much it’s working or where it’s working, so they can refine their focuses. Him and our company are connected through a couple of different companies there, but for him to start talking about that Barcelona jersey that should be available through other channels, and when we discussed what we’re actually enabling, those channels you’re talking about aren’t just social media channels – they’re people like Lionel Messi. That’s a channel, and an individual who now owns LAND so you can say how much he’s selling across the channels.
We’re definitely in a sweet spot because we enable influencers to really empower themselves, we enable brands to support it, and everybody wins.
Lydia Hanson: Let’s move onto CES then, since you mentioned it. In general, did you find that there was some common ground across all of the industries? And were people aligned in the same kind of thinking that you have for your platform?
Chris Roselli: I felt as though, at a higher level, yes. I felt as though, on the ground level, not so much. I felt like a headphone company like Beats or Monster, who has a lot of ambassadors in music and sports, didn’t understand the landscape that they were operating in. So, on the higher level, when it comes to Sports Innovation Labs (which is connected to Sir Martin Sorrell) and CES as a company – which is a great trifecta there – they understand it completely. When we met with them they literally, within a couple of minutes, wanted to participate because they saw it as a void needing to be filled if you were a brand, a person or a platform. Other platforms are going to start using our platform to promote their product and services through social media as well.
It doesn’t limit anything. At the high level, they knew there was opportunity because of those voids, and that it had to do with giving power to influencers, or players (in the sports sense here). A basketball player, Baron Davis, was actually the ambassador of the show, and he spoke about making more meaningful and contextual content for the public and that will lead to having more reach – that’s obviously what we do.
But we showcased to those brands, and showed their number of followers and their ambassador’s number of followers, and asked how they see how that person can drive traffic to their brand. And is that what you really want? Or, do you want to transact headphones? So, for an ambassador, that is the culture they’re trying to represent their brand through, and they’re very selective with that. So, we said, if your ambassador is enjoying your headphone and transacting that, what do you care if they actually go to your website? They’re in your brand already. You don’t need to drive people to your web domain, when we can have them actually recording something with the headphones.
The principle here is to lead people down to a space where they don’t feel like shopping – the contextual, emotional space. And that’s why you endorse influencers.
Lydia Hanson: Very interesting. Were there any other particular discoveries at CES you’d care to share with our readers, as a look at what we can expect to see this year?
Chris Roselli: With regards to the fashion space, I saw a lot of 3D rendering of people to help sizing. In one example you could take a selfie and run through a glass suite and try on sunglasses. There was a really cool one where you could try on make up, without actually putting any on – and it wasn’t done on your phone, it was done on the premises. I don’t know if they pull that software into an environment where you can take a selfie and go through Covergirl’s full suite of makeup and try on Katy Perry’s look from the Grammys. But that would be, I think, the next version of it.
I think the general 3D rendering of a person is clever, where you can take 6 snaps of yourself with your phone, and literally (or digitally) go into a store and say, “I want to try on that dress, what’s my sizing?”
There were some other elements shown in the Fashion space that I thought were perhaps a bit bland, given the environment we come from.
Lydia Hanson: As much as we don’t like to admit it, Fashion has notoriously been ‘behind the times’ when it comes to adopting technologies – technologies that automotive and aerospace might have adopted a decade ago. 3D is a good example; it’s been around in fashion for a long time, and it’s taken a while to get to a certain level of adoption, despite the fact it’s such a help to brands.
Sizing, as well, that you mentioned is another huge issue in Fashion. We all know that whilst you might be a size 8 in one brand, you could be a 12 in another. Now, with so many companies addressing the sizing issue, we’re on our way.
Chris Roselli: It’s pretty interesting that some of the other stuff we’re working with is manufacturing on demand. Mary J Blige, for example, is wearing Dior earrings and Jimmy Choo boots (which are thousands of dollars) on stage, and her audience looks the same – but you know they’re buying those earrings for $50 and those boots for $100. She might say, I want to get into that game without putting my name in these stores that literally diminish the value of me as a brand. There are printing on demand, and manufacturing on demand, opportunities out there too. That, mixed with the sizing aspect, means a consumer just won’t order something that isn’t going to fit them, and instead gives their sizes.
There are so many things you can put into an environment to say: I’m a fan of Mary J Blige, my sizes are X, Y & Z, I want that shirt, and here is my 3D rendering. So, they know they aren’t going to return it – and that’s one of the biggest problems in fashion today.
Lydia Hanson: Absolutely, especially with online retailers. With manufacturing on demand, it will soon become normal to make product after it’s sold. We won’t be working seasons in advance, and worrying an item might completely miss the mark; they’ll be manufactured once enough people have made the purchase. And it gives the illusion to the consumer of that personalized experience; it gives them that flattery that it’s been made just for them, when in actuality the same product has been shipped out to hundreds of other consumers.
You’ve already shared with me quite a few areas you’re working on, and a couple of things you’re planning in your next rollout, but is there anything major in the pipeline for THE.LAND that you’re able to share with us that you haven’t mentioned, that you wouldn’t mind being published?
Chris Roselli: Sure, I don’t mind at all. I feel as though these conversations are the best opportunities to share those things. Some of the assets that we’ve created in tools and the platform …we never really talked about the platform as it stands alone. For example, Dior or Nike or Chanel (it doesn’t matter who as everyone uses social media) is partnering with influencers for a reason: that audience. Now we’ve opened up that opportunity to transact and own that space, (so when someone actually clicks on something it’s an ownership that Chanel has, the digital space and their platform itself), let’s say if you went to Chanel.Land, people will gravitate from social media. Because that experience is so contextual they’ll actually be able to crossover into Pharrell.Land based on interest in a Chanel necklace. What happens from there is they can segway from Pharrell into Chanel.Land and have an experience where everything that Pharrell posted, everything that’s Chanel is there, even down to the last piece of content Karl Lagerfeld created that had a little bit of Pharrell in it but was about Coco. In our research, people tend to stay in there for 30 minutes to an hour! And they tend to forget they came in from social media, which means we take them into an experience where Pharrell can deliver Pharrell in its purity.
THE.LAND as a platform itself is something that is being built every time somebody posts to social media, and everything in there that Pharrell wants to share. People don’t realise he donates an awful lot to charity and has his own charity, and Chanel is very charitable as well. For us to show the 60,000ft view of Chanel.Land based on your interest in Pharrell, these are the things we’re really focusing in on down the line – making sure that the platform for these influencers and brands really exists. It’s our initial rollout, but we’re obviously going through social media channels to make sure the audience get’s that experience, but everything that’s posted is a mirror image of what happens on Chanel’s wall. We keep a repository in a bank of that. They’re their own social media platform, and their own analytics company now.
The vision of having LAND as a brand, and as an influencer, is the second phase of everything that’s happening here.
Lydia Hanson: It’s very, very clever. If we take the brand out for a minute, from a consumer view …it sounds awesome. You can have so many different elements weaving together to create an experience without having to visit multiple different websites. It’s all interlinked which is very nice from a consumer experience point of view.
Chris Roselli: Definitely. That was our focus. We work from different perspectives; I like to come from the experience side. I don’t want to take this off track but I had an experience where, for a few years, I was able to go to Paris Fashion Week, haute couture, Women. I was blessed to be able to sit in the front row, go to the houses and atelier after, speak to the people, look at the brands and the products and that fine stitching. And it was there that I thought about how the culture that’s projected sitting there in that front row is not translating to the people sitting at home. That’s one of the reasons why THE.LAND was created, and the technology to transact through videos. I’m sitting at the show and looking at the cameras at the end of the show, and thinking how great it would be to be able to transact from that content. The culture in Chanel, and Dior, and Gautier, is something that I felt should be accessible to people – people who couldn’t be there.
Flash forward to today: we’re back at the cultural, the experience, and giving everybody the opportunity to experience that.
Lydia Hanson: Very clever – to think of all this and then put it into action. I just have one last question before I let you go (I promise!): is there any way that A.I. might play into your platform at any point?
Chris Roselli: Definitely, definitely.
A.I. is obviously becoming more popular. I’ll just share where I think it’s going, and then how it relates to THE.LAND. In my opinion, the future of A.I. is in perspective experiences. Obviously soon singularity is coming, and we’re making technology so small it’s going to be fitting into the size of a blood cell so it can actually enhance human beings on some level. But things like chip sets are starting to be put into environments where, what I’m looking at, you can see, and that’s going to become more mainstream. It’s going to go into the contextual side as well, of designers making X, sketching X, live. The future of A.I. is really the live, contextual experience I might be having that you can live through. That’s one thing.
You can put a footnote in that and say, I’m on stage, I’m Pharrell, performing a concert, and people have no idea what it feels like to do that. I think that’s the future of A.I. as well. It’s one thing to walk into a store and be able to see a shoe on your foot without actually trying it on, but it’s another to actually be at the Chanel show, or be on stage with Pharrell. Having that experience, it will become more emotional, which will lead to more engagements, more purchases and more revenue as a byproduct.
We’re looking to implement some of these things in tests now, because we’ve been blessed with some relationships where we can test equipment and APIs and things like that, but that’s more of a side exploration project.
The augmented reality side, mixed with A.I. is a very interesting space. You can imagine watching a film or commercial, and you’re Chinese, and a Coke bottle suddenly comes up covered in Chinese writing – it’s because of you, because of the viewer. I think that’s the future of A.I. as well, where if I, as a consumer, really like Nike and adidas, and the guy in something I’m watching is wearing Reebok …for me he’s wearing Nike or adidas. Another person’s watching and he’s wearing Reebok.
That’s going to be a very interesting space to play in. But if we’re only providing the place and the results, and the access to do so, it’s really up to the brands. I think there might be a fight over that place when it comes to brands, but as long as the influencers are in charge then everybody will win.
Lydia Hanson: I’m really excited for you and, as I’m sure a lot of our readers will be, to keep up with you guys and find out what’s new down the line.
Chris Roselli: Thank you, and we welcome that! I want to make sure that these kinds of platforms and opportunities are projected to these brands, who value your publication so much.