Buckitdream’s Tim Carroll talks passion data, transitioning to CEO and building a global brand from scratch
Around five years ago Marketing named Tim Carroll, then global marketing chief at Village Roadshow, one of its five Australian marketers of the year. A year later he left the high-paying corporate world to pursue his dream – building an app.
The Ellen Show last week played host to the official launch of Buckitdream, an app conceived by former Village Roadshow marketing head Tim Carroll.
Carroll’s idea was for a place where people could record their bucket lists, and then travel, entertainment and leisure companies could help them knock them off, one at a time. Sounds simple enough, but it’s taken his determination and global connections to get this far.
While the viability of monetising dreams remains to be proven in practice, Buckitdream’s investors include US media business Hubbard Broadcasting and board members include the former head of News Corp Europe and Australian businessman Peter O’Brien. The platform itself was built by ex-Googlers guided by Carroll’s marketing eye. On the investor front, Carroll says he aims to add a dozen more media companies around the world as commercial partners over the next few years.
Marketing sat down with Carroll to talk about the ‘dream economy’, monetising passion data and paving the way for marketers to become entrepreneurs.
Marketing: How did you get Richard Branson on board as an influencer and why is that an important part of the strategy?
Tim Carroll: I made a video for him and played it in front of him at Necker Island in November of 2014. I got him emotionally engaged – ‘I want to anoint you as the first ever Buckitdreamer of the universe’.
That set the stage for Shaun White, the extreme sports star, to go in front of 60,000 people in LA, telling everyone, ‘I’m a Buckitdreamer as well.’
The whole magic of this is that we’re building a brand through influencers. The community, the dreamers, will want to aspire to become a Buckitdreamer. We’ve already published 100,000 dreams and we’re 30-seconds old.
The economic value of , ‘all the things I want to do in the future,’ is priceless. And the community [will be strong] because it’s a brand that people will love and become fanatical. The Apple reviews indicate that where Buckitdream is going it’s going to be a passionate, inspiring brand.
The monetisation aspect is that we help people live their dreams by connecting them with merchants. We’ll have social elements to it, social cause elements to it as well, where we’ll bolt them in. We will have audacious, blockbuster campaigns that have mass consumer participation.
We’ll have social cause elements to it as well. We will have audacious, blockbuster campaigns that have mass consumer participation.
If you go to a consumer with a proposition that is, ‘What’s your dream? Download Buckitdream and you could win one of your dream experiences,’ there’s no economic barrier to anyone to enter that promotion. Buckitdream is free to download, and that will roll out over the next 12 months. Some of the biggest media companies in the world want to be a part of that.
Their relevance to their audience is now under siege and their relevance to advertisers is under siege as well. They have to pivot into still being a great media company, but moving from an anonymous relationship with an audience to now having mobile solutions, data solutions, cloud solutions to be more relevant to that audience. Their problem is that their advertisers are saying the same thing. What they ultimately want is closer, direct, one-to-one relationships.
M: What did you do to make that jump from CMO to CEO?
TC: As a CMO I would say that I was a commercial CMO. The guys I learned from was the CEO of Village Roadshow, Graham Burke, the chairman of Village Roadshow, Robert Kirby, and it would be fair to say for 11 and-a-half years I got a first-class education in the attributes of great CEOs and great chairmans. Who, as Australians, think globally. I learned a lot from those guys, but one of the key things was always to surround myself with best-of-breed people. My right-hand man was a former partner at Ernst and Young.
The corporate development of Buckitdream, globally, is outside my core competency, the capital structure, the whole M&A activity, everything required around shareholders and the like. Having someone who had been at Ernst and Young for half a dozen years, and PwC before that, brings tremendous competency to Buckitdream.
Our head of technology is an Australian who spent 10 years in America working on Wall Street, working for CitiBank, working in American startups, and is now back in Australia and part of the team, but understands how to build mobile data cloud solutions and provides 20 years of expertise to get it done on a lean budget.
The other point of difference with Buckitdream is that we always thought global from the start, so we built an advisory network of people from the US, Europe, and Asia Pacific that could focus on business development. It’s been well thought out, but one of the things that I’ve learned is to make the leap from a CMO to a CEO you have to have a big vision and you have to look at the development of your company in terms of growth horizons. Over the last 48 months we’ve gone through what’s called the early seed stage.
Now we’re preparing to go into a significant investment round in the second half of the year, which is called a series A. We’ve done major presentations in the last three months preparing the professional investor to think about the Buckitdream opportunity as well as potential strategics. To your question earlier about media, media have now got their own investment ventures to look at those hot, early stage opportunities that help their core business.
M: Are you a founder that wants to exit and make money or are you looking for the long-term?
TC: Definitely long-term. I was well paid by Village Roadshow. I would probably say I was in the top 10 paid CMOs in Asia Pacific possibly, definitely Australia. So making that leap was an opportunity for me to actually invest in myself.
I think that we’re going to architect a branded company with a fanatical fan base and community that is going to be worth a lot of money. What guides me is not the motivation to say, ‘Oh, there’s a prize at the end of the rainbow and I’m going to make a lot of money,’ but the number one KPI for me is to build a global brand.
I think that will leave a pathway for other marketers to become entrepreneurs, to become brand builders in their own right because the world has changed. You can build a brand now, globally, through this pathway. I’m not the first. We’re definitely seeing the groundswell happen accordingly.
M: How big do you think it can get?
TC: There’s no reason why Buckitdream won’t have 20 million engaged fans within three to four years, and that’s base-camp of Mount Everest for me because, once you get to 20 to 30 million, there’s no reason why you can’t get to a 100 million. There is absolutely no reason why, architected the right way, Buckitdream can’t reach in excess of a hundred million, two hundred million people because every consumer on the planet has an inherent dream that they seek to fulfill and most have more than one.
If we become the brand that leads the birth of the dream economy, then logic says, providing we have the continuation of capital to fuel the growth of the company, that we can appeal to a 100-million-plus people.
M: What about the many dreams that can’t be bought by money?
TC: Dreams can be just dreams. If you think that every dream is going to have an SKU next to it, that would just be a fallacy.
But [when you consider] total experience, if you’re a merchant, you’re not thinking about the shopping basket being a room at Lake Como, you’re thinking about a total experience, about the reasons behind that product.
Services is a growth area. If you look at loyalty points in America, you’ve got an industry that produces 50 billion dollars of loyalty points per annum. The average American consumer has 14 to 15 loyalty cards, yet only close to two-thirds of loyalty points are redeemed, which means that 16 billion dollars of loyalty points are not redeemed. I join those dots: the problem with loyalty points is that they’re not motivating behaviour. If you could really align loyalty points with something that is truly important to a consumer, you’ll change that outcome.
M: As a new category of data, what else is happening around ‘passion data’?
TC: Being able to serve an engaged user with the right advertising messages around their dreams and passions? It’s a lucrative opportunity.
That passion data, it becomes very exciting to financial services, but it becomes very exciting to insurance, it becomes very exciting to travel and leisure, and it becomes very exciting to publishers of content.
If you’re dreaming about Machu Picchu and that’s a dream that you want to fulfill one day, well, a publisher wants to serve you up that right content.
M: Are there competitors at the moment?
TC: Oh yeah. There’s competitors everywhere. People are looking at it through different lenses. The guiding principles for us, and again led by a marketer, is to build a branded platform that has user-generated content as well as produced content that builds a community of interest. Off that passion data, we can monetise that time and again, time and again, time and again.
Whereas, if you’re trying to build a bucket list website as the destination for consumers to dream, if you can’t go beyond the dream, you’re not going to have a sustainable business model. There are brands all around the world that are dabbling in the dream space.
But winning your dream, that’s great; it’s here today, gone tomorrow. We’re building a branded community of people who aspire to live their dreams and be inspired by other dreamers. Yeah, there’s fragments of it all everywhere. We see it everyday. We see it in media brands and merchants. If you look at the key stakeholders in Buckitdream, there are media companies to drive mass consumer participation, merchants to fulfill dreams.
I’m already getting brands that approach us now and say, ‘How can you help us, with your platform and your solution, move our customer relationship from light to a deeper, engaged relationship?’
M: Who are those conversations with within the companies? Is it with a marketer?
TC: What we’re seeing at the moment worldwide is the CEO is embracing this. What I’m seeing in major sectors is the CEO is personally making it a mission for them to lead their company into the next age. I think that’s great because that means that we’re in an environment where we can talk to a CEO, the guy who can make a decision about a global partnership.
When a multi-billion dollar CEO, tells his management team, ‘Make this happen,’ that’s fantastic. When a global CEO of an entertainment company says, ‘Make this happen,’ great. When Richard Branson says, ‘Make this happen,’ it’s fantastic. It’s not puffery. It’s not a gimmicky concept.
This is a massive convergence play, where media companies want to be relevant to their audience and their advertisers by finding a category that inspires mass consumer participation. Buckitdream provides a solution for that. Merchants want better data to target right time, right consumer – Buckitdream offers that. For those brands that really want to get into an emotive, passionate relationship to drive their brand relationship further, we’re already seeing the first wave of that as well.
It doesn’t happen overnight. This is a marathon. 48 months to get to here, relatively, is not a long time, but in the next three years 20 million people in Buckitdream, 200 million pieces of passion data, and a network of media, merchants, and brands, we’re in the right place to take this to the next level.
That’s the journey we’re on. You’ve got to have titanium balls because, when a global CMO leaves a major Australian entertainment and media company to pursue his own dream and vision, you get the naysayers that go, ‘Well, he’s mad’, or ‘He must be having a midlife crisis.’
Very few people understand one’s motivations and desires to actually go and have a crack at it. I was in the right place at the right time to invest in my own self to go and build this opportunity.
I met a famous American CMO, I can’t tell you his name, but after a dinner and drinks he said to me, ‘You’ve got a brilliant book in you,’ and I go, ‘Screw that. I want to build a brand’. I want to put my 20 years of marketing skill I’ve learned from the best chairmen and the best creative agencies, the best CEOs of media agencies, great CMOs around the world… my motivation is to build a brand, not write a book.