Persado's Cognitive Content Engine Leaves No Marketing Word Unturned

6 minute read
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In the Persado marketing platform, no word goes unnoticed.

The founders of the New York City-based platform built the Persado engine using machine algorithms to produce what they call cognitive content. They find, essentially, the DNA of marketing language and use those discoveries to craft messages — more than 45 million of them through email, Facebook, display, mobile and offline.

The founders call their tech “marketing persuasion technology.”

About Persado

Persado earned a mention in Forrester's January US digital marketing forecast (fee charged). Customers like Expedia and Verizon, Forrester author Shar VanBoskirk wrote, have “improved conversions by an average of 49.5 percent by using auto-optimizing email content and subject lines with Persado.”

By 2021, Forrester wrote, CMOs will spend nearly $119 billion on search marketing, display advertising, online video and email marketing.

Today, we catch up with Persado as we continue our “On Our Radar” series. 

Year founded: 2012

Alex Vratskides, left, and Assaf Baciu
Persado founders Alex Vratskides, left, and Assaf Baciu
Founders: Alex Vratskides, Assaf Baciu 

Founders backgrounds: Vratskides is the CEO and co-founder of Persado, a spinoff of Upstream, the Europe-based mobile marketing company he co-founded in 2001. Serving as CEO from 2004 to 2012, he grew the company’s global footprint, working with mobile operators in more than 40 countries. 

Before that, Vratskides worked as a management consultant at Boston's OC&C/McKenna Group. He is the first angel investor for Luluvise, where he is also a board member, and he serves on the board of advisors of Seyyer. Vratskides holds a bachelor's degree in applied mathematics from Columbia University and a master's in engineering in operations research from Cornell University.

Baciu is SVP of product and engineering and co-founder of Persado. He is responsible for the progression and foresight of Persado's growing AI product portfolio as well as the management of all product advancements. 

Before joining Persado, Baciu was VP of product for Upstream, where Persado’s core technology was incubated. Before Upstream, Baciu worked for the speech and imaging solutions supplier Nuance Communications as a senior director of product strategy, where he was responsible for developing on-demand and mobile solutions. Baciu joined Nuance from BeVocal, following its acquisition in 2007. 

Baciu holds multiple patents at the intersection of natural language processing, machine intelligence and human/machine interactions. He received a master of business administration from the University of San Francisco and a master's degree in social psychology from the Sorbonne in Paris.

Headquartered in: New York City

Number of employees: 210

Number of customers: 100

Awards won: Persado was awarded No. 16 on the Inc. 5,000 list of America's fastest-growing companies in 2016. It listed Persado at $17.4 million in revenue. 

Also last year, Persado made the top five at No. 5 in Crain’s New York Fast 50. It listed Persado's 2012 revenue at $183,701 and this 2015's at $17.4 million. 

Gartner named Persado a "Cool Vendor" in Data-Driven Marketing (subscription required) in 2016. 

It was also named a great place to work by the independent analysts at Great Place to Work

Learning Opportunities

What is your total funding from investors to date? $66 million, including Goldman Sachs for $30 million last April.

When was your latest major platform release and what did it entail? Since it runs on a machine-learning platform, Persado’s cognitive content engine is always evolving and refreshing its knowledge base. 

But now, several years in and billions of consumer impressions later, you can say the platform has “learned” enough to inspire action at the individual level. We’re offering a completely new take on personalization, which enables enterprise clients to determine an individual customer’s "emotional ID," that person’s specific emotional triggers. We provide clients with the precise emotional language and other creative assets optimized for that individual. 

What is one thing you have that no one else does in this space? Today, no one offers cognitive content generation for marketing at the scale that we do (multichannel, 23 languages) or with the effectiveness we systematically drive (49.5 percent average Click Through Rate) for our 100-plus customers. 

Our not-so-secret weapon? The largest database of marketing content in the world. More than one million words, phrases as well as images, organized, tagged and scored based on in-market performance. We have a unique system of classification for emotional language optimized for marketing. 

What can we expect in terms of innovation in 2017? Moving into 2017, the platform will continue to learn from new and existing brand clients, and we will continue to improve our clients' ability to connect with consumers at an increasingly personalized level. 

On that topic, personalization continues to be the most over-promised, under-delivered feature in digital commerce. What we call “radical personalization” will be the real triumph beyond 2017. 

Companies will accurately pinpoint the products and services individual consumers will most likely want at the exact right time. Perhaps more impressively, they’ll understand the best way to communicate those recommendations. Recent advancements in AI are enabling this deeper level of intimacy at unprecedented scale. 

Will AI and cognitive learning be the differentiator for tech companies in 2017? Media fascination has led to a crowded AI bandwagon. It's tough to discern which solutions are for real and which are just hype. 

Regardless, AI will scale processes and make huge leaps in productivity, profitability, accountability and efficiency. This approach will not only help us make better decisions, but also improve the process for evaluating those decisions. It will only become more helpful as the inputs and complexities of scenarios increase. 

What's the most common struggle you see organizations are having with managing/publishing relevant content? The growing competition for attention and an expanding universe of touch points makes personally-relevant content more important than ever. 

But creating content the same old way won't cut it. Consider the scale of content demand: organizations typically rely on a manual content creation processes, minimal testing and a lot of gut decisions based on “years of experience” and insight from what worked in the past. This limited approach yields limited results and sets a low bar for customer experience and success. Technology can solve these problems, and AI is at the forefront of those solutions. 

What are successful organizations doing well in this regard? Winning organizations are hyper-focused on their customers and unafraid to innovate to enable personally relevant experiences. They make a habit of testing technologies and techniques to do a better job of engaging consumers. 

Staples, for example, has looked to evolve the traditional banner ad to be more personally assistive in content. And Under Armour is on the cutting edge of emotional marketing, using data and emotional insight to tailor ads, alerts and other content as part of their strategy.