Reflections on Drift’s Hypergrowth

November 22, 2019

Full disclosure: I’ve never attended any sort of corporate conference. Drift’s Hypergrowth was my first one, and, as I walked in the door to be greeted by an eclectic urbanist color scheme and DJ booth blasting to the chattering conference-goers, Tara, fellow-attendee and my VP of Marketing, assured me that “they aren’t all as cool as this one.”

We were here to learn “the latest” in Marketing, and every aspect of the event seemed to be tailored to that end. Between an award-winning beatboxer, Grace Savage, an eager emcee, Drift VP of Marketing, Dave Gerhardt, and the 17 different speakers, it would have been easy to passively take in the whole spectacle. To counter such inclinations, I chose to focus on three separate “micro-moments” that I found enlightening.

Moment 1:

David Cancel, CEO and Co-Founder of Drift, announces the type of shoes he is wearing, Air Jordan Retro Flyknits, colored red.


Cancel’s Flyknit Jordans are meant to be noticed. He ensured that when he shouted them out on stage. But they didn’t exist in a vacuum. Cancel coordinated these statement-shoes with neutral-colored fitted jeans and a Drift-branded yet otherwise plain grey crewneck sweatshirt. The Drift brand mark was slight, and it sat on the hem of the shirt, near the left hip. The neutral-coloring of the pants and shirt forfeited any claim to attention themselves, thereby serving to let those shoes stand out even more. The oddly sized-placement of the drift logo differentiated itself from the multitude of other branded shirts, which simply default to large lettering across the front of the chest.

Several speakers throughout the day exhorted the crowd to “be different.” This sort of statement is typically delivered as an isolated value proposition, because, in these circles, it’s an assumed shared value. No one attending the conference would rebut “I don’t want to be different, actually, I want to be the same as everyone else”.  That’s all well and fine, but that often prevents an exploration of the far trickier question of how to be different. Cancel’s sartorial flourishes provide a visual guide for one way to approach this. Find one, significant, way in which to stand out – his Flyknits – then, build the rest of the brand to support that flourish, as Cancel did with this jeans and sweatshirt. Finally, ensure that the standout difference is linked to your brand (color matching between logo mark and shoes).    

Moment 2:

Elaine Welteroth, NYT bestselling author and award-winning journalist, faces her interviewer at a 45-degree angle during their fireside chat.


It would have been easy for Elaine, in that situation, to default to facing the large mass of people in the audience. But, in pulling her orientation away from the significant gravity of the full house, Elaine transferred the focus to a point in space between her and her interviewer, pointing the center of attention to the interaction itself (the interview) rather than her. Instead of directing her orientation to everyone in the crowd, Elaine chose to simply to focus on one, her interviewer, and in doing so, the interview (and her message), gained the attention of all.

Success requires focus. In “marketing” speak, it’s essential to directly tailor each aspect of your messaging to your highest leverage targets. The way in which Elaine engaged her interviewer directly succeeded in capturing the attention of everyone in the room. It was far more effective than if she had tried to spread her attention towards everyone.

Moment 3:

Brad Stulber, author and performance expert, asks who in the room considers themselves to be passionate. Everyone raises their hands.


Brad described a 3-step pattern which corresponds high-performance, “Stress + Rest = Growth”. It’s conceptually simple. The first step, “Stress”, he described as an activity which pushes you to at least 70% of your maximum capacity. Passion is an important element of this initial push – it provides the mental drive to move forward. But, according to Stulber, the second step, “Rest”, actually requires dispassionate reflection to allow for the result, growth.

As cynical as it might initially sound, passion, it and of itself, is not a positive good. Rather, for it to be considered a positive quality, it must be properly directed. It’s unwise to simply rush bull-headed in a direction and presume – by the mere presence of passion – that you are correctly directed. As Brad denoted – rest and reflection are imperative to ensure your passion is not wasted. Again, practically speaking, this means any marketing undertaking must provide time for us to reflect upon and evaluate its effectivity and progress.


Now, these three “micro-moments” may seem far-flung, and they probably are. But I’ll attempt to draw a thread between them.

To do that, I have to admit that “micro-moments” is not a term that I conceived. Rather, I borrowed it from a speaker not mentioned above. Gurdeep Dhillon, Global Head of Commercial Marketing, Adobe Experience Cloud, mentioned on-stage that “Marketing is less Netflix, and more YouTube. It’s the micro-moments that matter. It’s the right content, delivered at the right time, to the right person.”

Well, there you have it. In 13 words, Dhillon more elegantly states what I spent an entire piece exploring. If it really is the right content (discerned through dispassionate reflection), delivered to the right person (the highest leverage entity of your audience at-large), at the right time (ideally on-stage at your own conference, but you get the point), then all else, whether that be AI-assisted databases, coffee-dates with your CRO, or a pink and orange brand-color refresh, are merely strategies to achieve this end.

So what did I learn at HyperGrowth? Just three little things, I suppose.

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