Martech Interview with Chief Marketing Officer, Productsup – Marcel Hollerbach

Marcel Hollerbach from Productsup describes how their platform helps in enhancing content marketing & also discloses factors that led their way to Gartner’s list


“Running a successful startup depends on many factors, but one thing all successful entrepreneurs have in common is persistence”

1. Tell us about your role at Productsup.
My main role at Productsup is heading our global marketing team, but with a broad background in business and engineering, I often act as an internal entrepreneur, building up new teams or pushing new initiatives. I was involved in building our BDR team, setting up sales operations, leading new pricing initiatives, or determining the product market fit for a completely new product. All of this goes hand in hand with marketing, so it felt quite natural to dig deeper into it.

2. Can you tell us about your journey into this market?
After being a freelance web developer for a few years, which financed me through university, I founded my first startup in Berlin: a social network for musicians. I was looking for a good video streaming technology to enable our artists to easily share their music videos and couldn’t really find one. This led to the creation of my next venture, HiClip, a white-label video streaming platform that I co-founded with Kai Seefeldt, now Co-CEO at Productsup. HiClip was acquired by Adconion Media Group in 2008 and that’s how I got acquainted with the digital media industry. Kai and I soon spotted two opportunities: native advertising and product ads, so in 2010 two other companies were founded: Productsup and NativeAds, which was later acquired by OOH media company Ströer. So I’d say that the last 10 years have basically been about advertising – driving outstanding results for brands and publishers around the world.

3. What do you think is the biggest technological challenge in marketing right now?
I think it’s hard to point to one challenge in particular. You’ll find increased complexity in pretty much every area of marketing. While in 2004 online marketing was way simpler, with some SEO and Google Adwords without Quality Score, in 2020 you have to be an expert in so many areas. From SEM, to social media, to social commerce, to mobile marketing, retargeting, affiliate, B.I., marketing automation, etc.
For me, the biggest challenge is to stay on top of all these developments.

4. What are the biggest changes you expect to see in your industry in the next few years?
One thing that we all notice is the rise of social commerce. A lot of social platforms like Instagram are working on native checkout capabilities. I also expect an even bigger push towards video advertising. Just think of Instagram Reels, TikTok, Likee, Shoploop or Snap! Many platforms are betting big on it, so advertisers will follow suit.

5. Can you explain how your platform helps in optimizing content marketing?
Let’s take this fairly simple explanation I would use to introduce our platform to someone who knows almost nothing about our industry. A child, for instance. Productsup is like a power adapter. If you have a US power plug and travel to Germany, the plug won’t fit. You’ll need an adapter to connect the US plug to the German outlet. The same thing happens online. When a brand wants to list their products on a new channel, it needs an adapter to transform data according to the channel’s requirements. For example, you need to change inches to centimeters or dollars to euros. Productsup has more than 1,500 of these “adapters” built right into its software. By using them, businesses can reach more channels with better product data and increase sales across the board. That’s Productsup, in a nutshell.

6. What features of your Dynamic image and video creation capabilities differentiates them in the market?
We are not the first to enable the optimization of product images or to render videos, but we can do it on scale and that makes a big difference. Think about a retailer with 1 million SKUs looking to make video retargeting ads for each of their products. That’s no easy feat! Having predicted that this would become an important functionality for marketers, we started investing early in it, so we’ve created a very robust product.

7. According to you, what specialties of your firm helped you in obtaining a place in the list of Gartner’s 2020 cool vendors in digital commerce?
Productsup is the only platform that offers syndication to brands and retailers with the most comprehensive list of channel integrations throughout categories and geographies. Our clients are able to syndicate their product content to search engines, marketplaces, social commerce platforms, affiliate networks, retailers, datapools, and comparison shopping sites across the globe. We built this platform for enterprise customers, such as IKEA or Beiersdorf, so we offer everything a buyer like this would look for, from ISO certifications to single sign-on, massive scalability and great usability.

8. What advice would you like to give to the technology startups?

Running a successful startup depends on many factors, but one thing all successful entrepreneurs have in common is persistence.

It takes time to find product market fit and you will encounter challenges every step of the way. The most important thing is to never give up. Keep on pushing. New opportunities and solutions will eventually come up and take you to the next level.

9. What work-related hack do you follow to enjoy maximum productivity?
When I write, as I’m now writing these answers, I listen to binaural beats, which quickly make me very focused. I started doing this back in university when studying for exams and it’s proven to be a good strategy for me.

10. How do you prepare for an AI-Centric world?
People often misunderstand this, but more often than not, it’s not the sophistication of an algorithm that makes or breaks the success of AI. It’s actually the data you feed that algorithm that makes a difference. So

To prepare for an AI-centric world, one needs to gather clean structured data as soon as possible, so that a team of data scientists can then make sense of it.

11. What major developments are you currently planning?
This relates to the question before. We are planning to offer more data integration capabilities for marketers, so they could bring in performance data from their various channels, combine that with their product catalog, and be able to make better decisions on where to advertise, where to go next, and where to optimize.

12. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?
I don’t regard a specific team as ‘my team’. At Productsup, we all support each other as much as possible. The things I deal with on a daily basis are so diverse, that I need input from almost every department: from marketing, to finance, to sales, to customer success, legal etc. So I am very fortunate to work with passionate, smart, and most of all kind people across our company.

13. What movie inspires you the most?
A movie that really got me thinking is Transcendence, with Johnny Depp. In the movie he’s an AI researcher who gets sick. It’s clear that he would die, so his mind is uploaded to a supercomputer and he lives on digitally. The movie relates to the book “How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed” by Ray Kurzweil, who is a well-known futurist and director of engineering at Google. The book explains how it would be possible to create consciousness with machines. I think that’s fascinating and also a sign that we are only at the beginning when it comes to technology, that the most disruptive tech developments lie ahead of us. Compared to what futurists call singularity, the disruption we experienced because of the internet will seem rather small, when looking back 100 years from now.

14. We have heard that you have a very joyful work culture, so can you share with us some of the fun pictures of your workplace?
Here are a few pictures from our HQ in Berlin and from some company parties. Of course, they are all from previous years, as we’re now mostly in home office. Although we haven’t seen each other in a while, our culture stays strong.

15. Can you give us a glance of the applications you use on your phone?
Sure! Amongst my most used apps are Sonos, my Gmail app, Slack, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, Amazon, Zalando, YouTube and Netflix, but also the game Clash Royale that I am highly addicted to. 😉

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Marcel Hollerbach is CMO and board member of Productsup, a Berlin-based tech company providing an award-winning solution for product content integration, transformation and syndication. A serial entrepreneur, Marcel is also a founding partner of Venture Capital Fund Cavalry Ventures, which specializes in early-stage investments in European tech startups. He also founded video streaming platform hiClip, which was acquired by Adconion Media Group and NativeAds, which merged with Seeding Alliance and was later acquired by Ströer. Marcel studied Business Informatics in Würzburg and Stanford. His expertise in ecommerce means he has a solid understanding of user behavior in a digitized world, as well as the importance and impact of high quality, contextualized product data. In his spare time, Marcel is an ambitious guitar player.

Productsup provides an innovative SaaS platform that empowers brands and retailers to optimize and syndicate their product content to all digital marketing, shopping and business channels, such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, or Walmart. With agile data and seamless connectivity, the award-winning company helps customers break through data silos and get their products to market quickly. Headquartered in Berlin, Germany, Productsup is trusted by more than 800 businesses worldwide, including five Fortune 20 companies and market leaders like IKEA, Beiersdorf, Superdry and ALDI.

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