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Mozilla | Lindsey Shepard: How to Unfck the Internet

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

This is the Authentic Avenue podcast episode featuring Dana Marineau, Chief Marketing Officer of Rakuten, with host Adam Conner.

This is a link you can use to find Authentic Avenue, a marketing podcast hosted by Adam Conner, on Apple Podcasts. Remember to subscribe, rate, and review!

On today's show, we figure out how to unfck the internet.

Helping us on that journey to discovery is Lindsey Shepard. Lindsey, who also goes by Shep, is the Chief Marketing Officer of Mozilla. You probably best know them by their Firefox browser. (Maybe you're reading this through it right now!)

Shep is interesting because she comes from Facebook, where she led, among other things...integrity. So naturally I was curious about her journey away from the social network to the browser world.

On that very same note, we then talk about how the internet is...well, fcked. How'd it get there? Why's it stuck there? And, what is Mozilla doing to fix it? To unfck it, as they've put it?

We end on a note of advice, and a first for my career here: Shep calls me out on how I define and think about the word authenticity. I loved it, and I hope you enjoy the brief challenge as well.

It wouldn't be a feature of Mozilla if I didn't give you a link to download Firefox, so here it is:

Enjoy, and happy unfcked surfing!

FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW: (powered by AI; 100% accuracy not guaranteed; provided by Descript)

Adam Conner: [00:00:00] Today we unfuck the internet. What, what did he say unfuck the internet? Has Adam gone nuts? No, I asked him he just fine, but I am going to explain what I mean on this Authentic Avenue.

Mozilla, you probably know them for their Firefox products. They are a tech brand currently pushing internet for people not profit. And I shouldn't say currently, because that's what they're foundationally based upon. My guest today is Lindsay Shepard, who is their chief marketing officer. She also goes by ship.

So you're hearing me say Shep on today's episode, quite a bit. And today's conversation is focused not only around her journey, which was to Missoula from Facebook, where she oversaw integrity. Which I thought was interesting, but we also talk about that phrase with which I started this show. How does one unfuck the internet, what goes into it and how is Mozilla trying to authentically make it happen?

What are the implications for people? What are the implications for brands? And towards the end, we also talk about. Authenticity and specifically a challenge to the way that I think about it. I've done it like 180 of these she's the first one to ever really challenged the terminology. So I look forward to having you hear that because I really, really appreciated it.

I'll get out of the way and let her do that and let you hear it. So without further ado, sit back, relax, maybe go download Firefox and listen in. As I get real with Mozilla and Lindsay Shepard.

Hey Shep, how you doing? Good to have you.

Lindsey Shepard: [00:01:34] Hey Adam. So great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Adam Conner: [00:01:37] It's a pleasure. I want to learn about what's currently going on with Zillow.

I want to start with you though, because of your, your journey to get here, where you came from. The role that you had, the role that you have now is going to sound big and like, what is necessarily different. Now, the reason being full disclosure, I was looking at your LinkedIn. And I saw that prior to coming to Mozilla, which obviously has like, has certain values associated with it, like privacy and things like that, that others.

Maybe don't necessarily have, but you came from Facebook, which we will talk about too much, except to say that you were a director over integrity, which I thought was really interesting alongside of course, like the core marketing aspect. Why Mozilla after a role that may have shared some similar values.

Lindsey Shepard: [00:02:19] Yeah, it's a great question. I mean, it feels super obvious to me to be honest. Um, but I think from the outside end could be curious, you know, after the 2016 election, there was a ton of energy and sort of focus and commitment at Facebook around solving some of these new problems that had emerged, right?

Like there were some new issues that showed up around the web that we hadn't really dealt with before. Right. You know, that was, that was something I was really passionate about and spent several years working on there. Um, and I think, you know, the big realization for me at Facebook is that there's no silver bullet.

Like there's no big answer to misinformation or. You know, the, the weaponization of, of bad content or clickbait or any of these issues that people deal with online. Um, but the piece that was most interesting to me was this idea of user agency, um, and making sure that that people were having the experience they knew they were having.

So, you know, I became more and more excited about that. And as I sort of poked my head up and looked around. It's obvious that if that's what you want to geek out on muscle is the only place to be. I mean, this company has been working on this stuff for 20 years and you know, they walk the walk and, you know, so coming to Mozilla felt supernatural for someone that's so obsessed with the space.

Adam Conner: [00:03:51] Well, that's. I like to hear you say, walk the walk. I say that a couple times here, because I'm obsessed with this big, a word about which this show is. Um, you know, it was funny as I was looking through this, I was thinking, and just as you responded to that, talking about how media was. Weaponize is really great way to put it very recently in the news and listeners, whenever you listen to this, um, it will be shortly after the announcement that another large publication out there, quality media and Reuters is putting itself behind a paywall, rather large paywall.

And the observation that was immediately understood by, I guess like marketing Twitter and a couple others is like, It's tough because it makes dis information or information, which is frankly, cheaper to manufacturer. Cause sometimes it's not true, uh, much more widely available because typically that is free.

Lindsey Shepard: [00:04:39] Well, I mean, define free, right? Like, you know, there's so much trash out there and typically click through some of these super sensational, like polarizing headlines and you end up in like an ad farm, right. With all those gross sort of that's true pros, pictures and stuff like that.

Adam Conner: [00:04:57] So somebody is paying for it.

Lindsey Shepard: [00:04:59] Yeah. I mean the, the Reuters thing is super interesting. I mean, you, you definitely. I don't know, it gives me pause to think about how do you know, how do we think about supporting real quality journalism and like good discussion and quality content with some nutritional value in a world that really values, you know, Clicks over quality, you know, that alone, that space around the media and around journalism broadly.

Um, as one of the reasons I was so excited to come to Mozilla, cause we have this product called pocket. It sort of still, you know, it's, it's, I'd say at the beginning of its life cycle. Um, but it is a content sort of discovery, aggregator distribution app that, that thinks more about quality than. That engagement, I guess.

Adam Conner: [00:05:51] I'm looking at, I'm looking through it now.

Lindsey Shepard: [00:05:52] Yeah. It's super, it's super interesting. It's different. And it surfaces stuff that I don't know, it feels additive like, you know, so often you'll be scrolling through your phone and you'll end up holding on something and afterwards, a little dirty, I don't know. So there's something about how do we, as, um, as a society really support ecosystem that.

That helps us get to two good things on the internet and like stuff that's worth our time. I don't know.

Adam Conner: [00:06:19] Well, I, I think he might know a little bit because if, if I ask about this next part, let me put an explicit tag on the show, but that's okay. It's not that it's spelled this way, but of course you're well familiar with campaign that currently anybody who goes to Ms Hill's website can see, which is to unfuck the internet kind of sounds like a lot of ways that the internet is currently being in that way.

Is what you're talking about. And there are things like pocket, of course put done within Firefox, which can help to alleviate some of that. But I'd like to learn more about it. Cause that seems like one of the most, um, not just explicit, but like direct attacks on not attacks, but like, uh, expos these, I'm not sure exposures of the way that.

The world works. He has, you said clicks over quality. I also thought it was kind of interesting that literally the third thing under four thing on it, after it said like you do so freely, no ads, aren't going to follow you around and then tell Facebook to F off. I thought that was really interesting given, given the fact that like, well, you know that better than anybody, I guess.

So watch, tell me a little bit more about how you're helping people to, well, unfuck the internet. I think that's really fun.

Lindsey Shepard: [00:07:26] The internet is. Incredible, right. Like I'm a huge dork. I'm obsessed with this whole ecosystem. Um, and the way things are built and the way people use them. But you know, when you take a step back, even away from that in this past year, what we've realized is that the internet it's like the great equalizer.

It's the connector. It's the way that our kids have stayed up to speed. Um, even when they can't be in the classroom, it's the way we stay connected. It's the way we've had family dinners. Like. Everything is online. Um, and I think with this time, this moment in time where we're also focused on our online experience, it's become really clear to so many people like, wow, there are a lot of things about this that are fucked up.

Um, and that shows up, I think every week, If not every day that there's this data breach or, you know, this, anyway.

Adam Conner: [00:08:24] Just another one or another one that was recently publicized within this week, or I have to go to Facebook too, but it just another one happened.

Lindsey Shepard: [00:08:29] Right. And there, you know, there's so much conversation about these big platforms and does this company have too much power or is this company taking too much of your information and what is my microphone really recording?

And I think, you know, What people are are worried about, I think is that they, they understand this is a big enough thing. Now, our online lives are big enough part of our real lives now where we have to have some agency and have some, take some ownership of what that looks like for us. But as you start to dig into the different pieces of the ecosystem, it's just not simple.

I mean, it's very complex and. My ambition with the unfuck, the internet work is to start to shed some light for like, Normal people that don't spend their entire day obsessing over the complexity of the tech ecosystem. Take action. Um, to just give themselves a better experience, a more secure experience, a safer experience online, um, both with their own immediate.

Sort of interactions or things that they use or do, but also in creating a little bit of tension on the ecosystem to make better decisions and just do better. Right. Um, cause it's all at the end of the day, it's all about how, how people interact with things, so, right. Yeah.

Adam Conner: [00:09:52] And people can make better decisions for themselves.

Of course. Right. Ideally in your world, that means they take it very simply you do something like move over to Firefox. If you don't like those ads following you around, if you want to unfuck the internet in your own way. Yeah. And I see that, like, people are starting to move there by people. I mean, big tech and big business, and it's probably driven by like brand equity.

I'm not sure I don't want to speculate, but like, all I heard about in the last year or so was, oh, what's going to happen when Google cuts off all of its cookie tracking. Right. And that was the big thing. And then come fantastic marketing, at least from my perspective. Cause that's all that I knew. And then somebody else who actually works pretty deeply and like with Google ads for another brand told me, well, actually they're kind of coming out with their own proprietary thing.

They're just deleting third-party trackers. They're still going to have their own. They're still gonna make a bunch of money off it. I was like, okay, well, I don't really know if that solves the problem or if that's just going to reset the problem. But broadly speaking, like these types of moves should be good for consumers brands.

Might want to also think about making good decisions. How do you predict they'll adapt to those sorts of sweeping changes? I mean, in a world where a brand can't follow you around with ads on like a Firefox, like w w how do they mix, how do they get some of the art back into the, the way that they market?

Cause like all this ad tracking stuff with a hell of a lot of the science. Right. Um, it's true. And so I'd be interested to know your thoughts on it. Cause you must be a proponent of some of that or coming back. Right?

Lindsey Shepard: [00:11:19] Of course. Yeah. So the there's a lot in what you just said. Um, and I want to unpack it. I mean, I think first of all, in the front end, there's a lot.

Coming out around big companies, making decisions to protect your privacy and to keep you safe and all of that. And I think it's always healthy for us as consumers to stake it, take a step back and recognize the incentives of any individual company and why they might be saying what they're saying. And if the incentives of the company are misaligned.

With what it is that they're saying, I think it's worth questioning that. Um, because there's a lot of smoke and mirrors out there, right. In terms of, of, of what people are actually doing to protect their consumers. Right. So that's like, I can't not say that.

Adam Conner: [00:12:10] Sure. But I didn't even think about like I'm in this world every single day.

And I get, I get kinda skeptical, especially on a show where I'm supposed to talk about people who are authentic and some who come on on, or in some art. But I kept looking, going back to this. I was like, there's no way that Google's just giving up money here. But I didn't know that. And of course, like as I've then as I realized, oh, there's another product behind it.

And by "protect your privacy," what they mean is that like protect other businesses from having the data that we have. And I don't know where the protection was coming from at that point. So any anyway. Continue.

Lindsey Shepard: [00:12:38] The alignment, understanding those incentives is important to understanding why your, why are being communicated to in a certain way.

You know, the second part of what you said is super interesting. So, you know, it, it Mozilla. Um, marketing's really different than it is at other places, because we are steadfast in our commitment to not exploiting people's information. Like we don't do that. We don't know stuff about our user base that most companies do.

And for a marketer that's super tricky. Right. I think over the past really decade. We've become so spoiled because you're almost handed all of this incredible information on a silver platter when you're looking to talk to any particular group about any particular thing. Yes. Um, but my point of view, Is that like, I don't need to know what kind of toilet paper someone uses to help them understand why they should be using my browser.

Right. Like yeah. Things aren't connected. It did. And it's, it's exploitation in a lot of ways. I mean, it really is. And so in, in this world where I always say, great marketing is half magic and half math. Um, and we've been, I think. As a discipline, really over rotating on the math. I mean, the math is critically important.

I'm a data nerd. Like this it's something that I, I love, but if we're going to approach marketing in a way where we refused to, um, exploit people's data, right. Then we've got to lean into the magic equally. Um, and that's where I think this idea of, of storytelling really kind of take shape because it's all, it's funny.

It's like what's old is new again because we didn't, we didn't come to the table over many years ago when advertising started.

Adam Conner: [00:14:34] Yeah. Nobody in Mad Men was pulling out like "What toilet paper do people...?". Right, right.

Lindsey Shepard: [00:14:39] Lookalike cohort.

Adam Conner: [00:14:41] Yeah, no, that's exactly right.

Lindsey Shepard: [00:14:43] So, I mean, it's, it's been a super interesting process and, and really sort of, um, You know, a lot of muscle building for me personally, to have kind of go back to, okay, what are our hypotheses?

Right. And you know, who do we think we're talking to? And how can we test that assumption in a way that, um, is authentic to who we are.

Adam Conner: [00:15:03] So, and luckily I would say, and you probably feel this way as well. Like Missoula is on the foundation is we're not going to exploit people's data like that. My assumption is that it will be a lot harder for others to do it because it's.

When you talk about the magic and the math for them, it's like beyond just a marketing thing. Um, I bet some skeptical CFO sitting somewhere is probably like, well, magic is great, but the math, uh, pays the bills in this other business stream. And I'm not just going to give that business stream up and blah, blah, blah.

So I hope the magic comes back as well, but it's, there's gotta be sort of a, I think almost even a bigger change and that's gotta be org-wide, which obviously Mozilla has and not others do so. Um, but Hey, I'm a big fan of telling the stories. I mean, If that's the way that we can get back to good. Um, You know, good marketing.

There's always good marketing, but like marketing that doesn't make you feel like, oh, and then you see the same ad next week on like a banner ad. You're like, oh my God, great. Who do I know that? Who got it there? You know what I mean?

Lindsey Shepard: [00:16:01] I mean, it's, it's tricky because every, I don't know it has to be relevant.

So there's definitely pros and cons. Yep. And to this ecosystem that knows so much about you and follows you around. I mean, I I've bought a lot of stuff online obviously, and sometimes that targeting can be really useful. So it's not that I'm necessarily again, um, you know, targeting consumers in a way that.

Makes the work relevant to them. But I want to know when that's happening to me, I think so much of it's about sort of intent and agency, as opposed to like really a black and white experience. And so I think there's something. There's something to be done there. Like if I'm seeing an ad, I'd like to kind of know why and not know it's buried underneath 15 clicks, right.

Like help me understand why you're telling me this and why you think it'll be valuable to me. Yep. And, you know, I think all of that goes back to this phenomenon in the world of things, just being more tailored. And like things feeling more relevant and more to your point, more authentic, like there's so much less Polish on the stuff that works these days.

Adam Conner: [00:17:14] Yeah. And then I'm sure, like, I'm trying to think about it from the other side. Cause I agree with what you're saying. That'd be great. You know, if I give any data to anybody, I want it to be me doing it. Not them collecting it from somebody else. And I used to work for a tech organization that was all about first party data.

And I think that will eventually come into the fold big time. Um, yeah, I'd rather like. Exactly right. I just, I know it's not super prevalent right now. It'd be like, why did I get this, that reason storytelling linear. But hopefully it gets there at some point and it could be a fantastic avenue for any business to authentically market.

It's decent segue. Cause that's what I like to talk about. So you've got all these different initiatives and even, you know, qualities within those initiatives, like unfuck the internet, there's like several elements to it. And I like to ask folks when they come in, your story is clear and when it comes to being.

Again, authentic and the big, a word I'd like to go after like everybody, every person, every business, every moment has its own specific avenue to achieve that authenticity, your operationalize, it, maybe it's with the way they treat consumers. Maybe it's the way they treat employees the way they socially invest.

All those different things. Boil down to different recipes for everybody, which well what's that recipe for you maybe right now. And if it's for you chef, if it's for Mozilla broadly, I'd just be curious to know. Cause everybody's got their own.

Lindsey Shepard: [00:18:32] Yeah. I mean, if I'm going to be completely authentic with you, Adam, I kind of disagree with the premise of operationalizing authenticity.

Adam Conner: [00:18:41] I love it. Let's dig in.

Lindsey Shepard: [00:18:43] That alone feels like corporate jargon that isn't ever going to be real. Like it's never going to be realized. Yeah. I think that, you know, when I think of the word authenticity, um, there's an element there there's like equal parts. Like a core almost compass or where you're coming from in your, in your heart.

Like I know listening to, we can see this, but there's like pressing on my chest. Like there's something you just know and feel that's foundational to who you are, who the businesses or the organization is, but there's also an element of serendipity or spontaneity, you know, if you want, someone's authentic reaction to something.

Surprise them with it because you'll see it. We're human beings and that's how it shows up. And so I think, you know, you have to have a really strong understanding of who you are and where you're coming from and that compass, but you also need to be dynamic and reactive to the moment. Right. It's true.

And I think we're seeing so much of that around the world. I mean, it occurs to me you're Tik TOK, right? It's this format that could not be leaked. Rougher. It could not lower fidelity. And that's why it works. I think more and more in the world, people, you know, their bullshit meters are so finely tuned, man.

Like people can smell it a mile away. And so there's this need, if you're going to be resonant and you're going to be relevant. You've got to lean into who you really are and what you're really doing and not spend all your time polishing shiny pennies, like it doesn't work anymore. And so I think that what that means for brands and for CMOs and marketers in general is.

The equal parts, keep it simple. Like so much of this stuff is really obvious. What's your authentic brand? What are you here to do? Like that should be something that rolls off the tip of your tongue because you know, you know why you're there, but then also consider your audience, like open your eyes, look around.

People don't want. Some shiny aspirational image anymore. Like that's not where we are as a society. We just want to feel like we can relate to the things that we're seeing. Yeah. That's a huge shift broadly. Um,

Adam Conner: [00:21:02] I like that. All right. So context for listeners I've done, uh, roughly in terms of the number of CMOs, I've talked to podcasts, I've done with them as of today, it's like nearly 180 almost as first time somebody has.

Frankly, like challenged the terminology. And I think I might update it, like, it's true. Like, how do you operate? Like what I, probably, what I should have said is like, how do you like weave it into the structure of how you work? Because I w what I had in my head was like, well, you operationalize it through everything that you listed out in unfuck, the internet.

Right. That was that, that was just a way that you worked. That was your operating principle. Um, but I'll find a new word for it because. Know, I certainly don't want to let anybody push him. Peter, go off when I say that. So, um, fair enough. Now everybody's got to figure out what like who they are. What's true to them.

Let's do that for you. As we round out today, I always ask an advice column and advice column is always, how would you advise others on how to craft their own avenues to authenticity? You've done it. You've got a story. It brought you to Mozilla. You came to Mozilla, you had this fantastic, uh, this, this fantastic initiative is more of like a mindset.

We've talked all about it here. Um, but that's sort of the most recent chapter of the story. And I have listeners who are marketing leaders, listeners who were simply brand builders, trying to emulate your journey. And I'd like to know what advice you might give to them so that they can become, I guess, as confident as you are here to challenge some podcast or later in life on the way that he says things.

Now. Kidding. No kidding. I get to go ahead.

Lindsey Shepard: [00:22:31] Like so many things in life, Adam, it's the, keep it simple, you know, know what you're after, know what you want to do, know what you want to learn? You know, I think people, um, lose track of what it is that they're trying to learn in the experience, their experiences they're trying to have in order to push forward on some predetermined path.

And that's not it, you know, I, um, I think constantly keeping your eye on the prize, whether it's in developing your brand identity for your company or understanding your own journey and career path, it's like making sure that you've really got your finger on that center, um, of what it is that you're, that you're after, um, is always going to kind of keep you moving and probably will take you in.

Through weird twisty, turvy, curvy directions that you might not get to if you are, you know, just following some five-year plan. Um, I, one of the things that I say a lot, and then I talked to my team about a lot, is this idea of holding things loosely. Like sometimes it's okay to just hold things of loosely out in front of you and watch them.

Sort of spin and show up before you decide to take action. And I think that's helpful too.

Adam Conner: [00:23:47] I agree listeners. I would, I would encourage you to think about that in a brief thought exercise. Like what do you want to learn? Even in this, as I said, I probably I've been doing this specific niche, like for two and a half years.

I don't think it was until about, I got about a, a, a real about eight to 12 months into it that I really figured out what I wanted to exactly learn. From leaders from people like you and I, thankfully that's resulted in a lot better conversation. It's actually informed like what I want to do. And I feel like a lot of people are like, yeah, is cool.

I feel like a lot of people say, especially at the beginning of their career, it's like, you're mostly just another things. Like the external benefits of a job. Like, oh, I did a great paycheck. I get good visibility. It's a promotion, whatever. And not as much on I alright, but between you, me and everybody listening to this, nobody goes.

It goes through an investment bank. You graduate from Harvard or whatever goes to an investment bank because of like, oh, I just, I want to learn how, like the intricacies of like very few people do that. They do it because there's a big fat check associated with it. And people, same reason why people go to big tech it's anyway, I listeners I would encourage that chef.

I thank you for that perspective. I'm glad that that learning has brought you here and brought you specifically here to this moment. I'm glad to have learned. And, um, I keep, I can't wait for you to keep unfucking the internet up. Oh, I'll end with that. But I appreciate, I appreciate you coming on. It was a pleasure to have you and thank you.

Lindsey Shepard: [00:25:12] Thank you, Adam. Talk soon.

Adam Conner: [00:25:14] Fascinating perspective. I really do think I might change the way I talk about authenticity operationalizing it she's right. It sounds like corporate BS. I should check myself. I'm going to update that in an upcoming interviews. I will change how I talk about it. Promise. Thank you Shep. And thank you to the listener for tuning in here's.

How else you can stay connected with me, LinkedIn? Mostly. All right, Adam Conner, Authentic Avenue, follow both connect with me. You can also find me wherever podcasts are and you can write me via email let me know what you're thinking. Let me know if you'd like to be on the show.

Let me know if podcasting can be used as an authentic content lane for you, whether it be external or internal. Cause I know a lot about it. Regardless. I'm going to be back again real soon, talking about how somebody else carves their own path to authenticity and how you might as well until then I'm Adam Conner signing off saying until the next time I get real again with you.

Thanks for taking a walk with me down Authentic Avenue.


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