DJ Saul doesn’t subscribe to any marketing school of thought… because he studied Mandarin Chinese at George Washington University. Still, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the #dctech leader has just been handed the reins as CEO of IStrategyLabs.
“I’ve been very much self-taught,” Saul said. “Especially with how fast content and social and digital and technology changes have evolved, just the fact that I’ve been doing this for so long replaces any formal educational background that may have launched me into this world.”
Saul, 31, was one of ISL’s first employees in 2007, working out of founder Peter Corbett’s townhouse in Dupont Circle. He’s been ISL’s chief marketing officer for the last three years, and in 2016 took on the role of managing director, overseeing successful social media campaigns for Volkswagen, the award-winning The Field Trip To Mars school bus ride (it’s pretty awesome) for Lockheed Martin and launching promos for the releases of the first and second seasons of Mr. Robot.
ISL was acquired by J. Walter Thompson last year in a deal that kept the company operating independently out of D.C. With Saul’s promotion, Corbett will remain a “full active member” of the company with the sole title of founder.
“Every founder hopes they can build a business that’s greater than themselves, and that in the course of the process, team members will join them who they can rely on through thick and thin,” Corbett said in an announcement detailing Saul’s promotion. “I’m excited to see DJ lead us on to further greatness over the years to come.”
Saul, who is a cofounder of DC Tech Meetup, said the first Mr. Robot campaign reached over 20 million people.
“We pretended to hack Twitch, which is a gaming-focused live stream platform, where typically younger people watch other people play video games,” he said. “It looked like a little hacker stream from the show and we gave away six figures in straight up cash via Paypal for people who were finding code that we were showing through the live stream.”
ISL is also the “social media agency of record” for Volkswagen, handling all editorial planning and strategy, content production and publishing, community management, paid media, analytics and reporting.
Saul’s advice for marketers? Don’t blindly follow trends.
“Don’t just chase the shiny new object,” he said. “That means defining your key business metrics. What are the key performance indicators that you’re holding yourself accountable to as a marketer? Don’t stray from what you need to do to meet your goals because a new technology is coming out, or because you saw one of your competitors do it.”
At the same time, Saul said that a lot of time should be spent on research and development.
“You should aggressively test and prototype all things new and exciting just to see what might work,” he said. “Looking in the future, for instance, what is a way that we might be able to leverage something like augmented reality? So, instead of going all in on a campaign, you might just do a closed test on how you think it’s going to work in the future.”-30-
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