Discussing Digital Marketing with Melissa Stone, The Bliss Group’s Vice President of Digital Media

In October, The Bliss Group welcomed Vice President of Digital Media, Melissa Stone, to our growing team. Melissa comes to Bliss with a wealth of experience. She has spent the last fifteen years applying her brand strategy, digital marketing and financial planning expertise to developing successful campaigns for a roster of high-profile global brands that includes Nike, L’Oréal, and Estee Lauder. In 2019, she founded boutique marketing agency, Eastend Marketing, which supported clients like Meta (formerly Facebook) and Wellesley College. 

As Vice President of Digital Media, Melissa directs our team in driving brand awareness, lead generation, and revenue for the firm’s healthcare, financial services, professional services, and technology-centric clients. She directs the firm’s team in building and optimizing clients’ digital media strategies, across Paid, Social, and Owned Media. 

In addition to her responsibilities at Bliss, she regularly contributes to Entrepreneur Magazine, through which she shares her thoughts on brand management trends, content development and digital marketing.  

Melissa found time in her busy schedule to engage in the following Q&A session. She shares about her previous roles, digital marketing’s evolution and digital media trends in 2023. 

What inspired you to pursue a career in digital marketing? 

I was drawn to digital marketing because I’ve always loved storytelling through numbers. Successful storytelling in the context of marketing involves three of my favorite things: brainstorming a new campaign concept, determining how to communicate a unique message, and analyzing how to optimize a campaign to drive results. I’m passionate about bringing a company’s story to life, cutting through the clutter, and driving growth. 

My first role at The Estee Lauder Companies, where I managed e-commerce for two global luxury skincare and fragrance brands, La Mer and Jo Malone, allowed me to embrace my passion for being creative and analytical. To me, digital media combines Paid Media (online ads) with Social Media and Owned Media (website optimization and email marketing). A successful marketer can seamlessly create a holistic campaign across these channels and drive engagement. 

Can you tell us a bit more about the work that you’ve done in the B2C as well as the B2B space? 

For the last 15 years, I’ve specialized in digital marketing at B2C companies like L’Oréal and Nike, and then launched my own boutique consulting firm, Eastend Marketing where I worked with clients like Wellesley College and Meta to help them create content and optimize their performance marketing channels. 

At Meta, I partnered with their Global Business Marketing (GBM) team to create B2B thought leadership articles, sales enablement materials, and video content for the Sales teams to share with their advertiser clients to drive engagement with Facebook and Instagram’s new ad products. 

After Facebook re-branded to Meta last year, I pivoted to focus on crafting B2B sales enablement materials about the Metaverse. For instance, after its re-brand, I launched Meta’s first public-facing content “Building for the Metaverse Today,” which encouraged advertisers to experiment with augmented reality, a first step towards the Metaverse. 

What brings you to The Bliss Group? 

I’m excited to join such an innovative firm. While I’ve worked with many agencies in the past, Bliss stands out because of its data-driven marketing and communications approach and unique partnerships through the founder-driven Next Practice Group

I’m thrilled to go from the client side to the agency side and work with a wide variety of companies. I can’t wait to build our digital media team and hear from our clients on how we can maximize their growth online. 

How has digital marketing changed over the years? 

The industry has significantly evolved across Paid Media (starting with Google), Social Media (Facebook) and Owned Media (arguably, Apple). Online marketers have shifted their priorities from creating content for audiences on their desktop computer, mobile phones and now, possibly, the Metaverse, whatever that might end up being. 

In particular, a lot has changed regarding how we communicate with and advertise to consumers and businesses online. One could say that Google’s launch in 1998 formally kicked off the growth of digital marketing. It focused on helping users research online, and helping businesses monetize this search behavior through Paid Search ads. 

Facebook’s launch in 2006 helped Millennials connect online in one of the first social media networks, allowing businesses to monetize this community through Paid Social ads. Just a year later in 2007, Apple launched the first iPhone, which encouraged marketers to create mobile content for the on-the-go audience. 

Then, in 2012, Facebook acquired Instagram. This is when selfies and social media on mobile really took off and then just two years later in 2014, Facebook purchased Oculus (a virtual reality company). In 2019, it released the Oculus Quest (Facebook’s first virtual reality headset).  

And then, when Facebook re-branded to Meta in 2021, it intended to help users stay connected in a more augmented and virtual reality world, and arguably get businesses ready for the future Metaverse. A lot has changed in the past few decades as marketing has evolved to target audiences on their desktop computers to mobile phones to now planning for the Metaverse. 

Your articles for Entrepreneur Magazine discuss trends in digital marketing. What trends do you foresee taking off in 2023? 

In light of the shakeups at technology companies, a looming recession, and significant inflation this past year, it’s important for companies to determine how to re-allocate their marketing budgets across Paid, Social, and Owned Media to maximize their Return on Investment (ROI).  

Frequent mass layoffs and turbulent technology stock prices at companies like Meta and Twitter have led companies to wonder whether these firms are still stable enough to continue advertising with. And assuming that they are, should channel priorities change?  

In 2023, I believe that companies will focus on re-evaluating their analytics to drive sustainable growth. For example, if Twitter is an important channel for your brand engagement strategy, start looking more closely at recent trends. Have your Twitter followers been significantly increasing or decreasing more quickly than usual? And then determine whether it’s worth pausing your ads until the platform stabilizes. 

I also expect that companies will continue to re-assess their audience, especially since there continues to be friction between balancing data privacy best practices with delivering personalized content. There has been a heightened global focus on data privacy with government regulation at the forefront (i.e., GDPR in the EU, Google Chrome’s possible deprecation of 3rd party cookies, and Apple’s iOS changes).  To prepare, ensure that your organization clearly understands what audience data is being collected. Continue to invest in your Paid Media campaigns, but also be sure to prioritize Owned Media by capturing 1st party data on your website, rather than being completely reliant on 3rd party data through various ad platforms. 

Finally, I believe that companies will continue to develop mobile-first content and focus even more on creating a streamlined user experience. Marketers should accordingly prioritize the mobile website journey by aligning Lead Nurture (Email marketing) campaigns with website content.