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Teri Sun: Wild Safari Rides, B2Me, And Creating Augmented Reality Experiences


32 min 44 sec
Published on July 29, 2021
Teri Sun
Teri Sun
Chief Strategy Officer, White Rhino

Teri Sun joined White Rhino, a brand design firm primarily operating in the healthcare space, straight out of college, and helped the small agency scale using her interest in human psychology and behavioral studies. She took additional responsibilities and helped create outstanding visual experiences for White Rhino’s clients.

Piyush Poddar
Piyush Poddar
VP Sales and Partnerships, Axelerant

With over 15 years of sales experience in digital services and having hosted exclusive Agency Leaders Dinners for CEOs globally, Piyush has taken his penchant for engaging digital change-makers online with “Humans Behind Digital Experiences (DX),” an Axelerant Podcast. His goal is to host an uncommon conversation that goes deeper than the platforms big organizations run on today, to a level that’s more personal—more human.


Do you have empathy for your co-workers, for your partners for your clients, and for the audiences that you're trying to market to, and you can understand and put yourself in someone else's shoes? To me, that's the key driver of success. 

Piyush  0:14  
Hello, I'm Piyush Poddar, and you're listening to Humans Behind DX Podcast, where I talk to leaders from digital agencies and organizations delivering awesome digital experiences. Today, I'm going to talk to Teri Sun, Chief Strategy Officer at White Rhino. Teri, welcome.

Teri  0:33
Thank you. It's great to be here. 

Piyush  0:35  
How about starting from the beginning, if you will, tell us a bit about your earlier career days, maybe how you started, set up your agency, and how you got here.

Teri  0:46  
I started at White Rhino, just right out of college. And it was my first job and it's been my job ever since. Very small agency at the time, the agency was just coming out of when the bubble burst and working its way back to you know, a strong workforce and strong client base. And so I came into a growing agency. And so it was a great opportunity, actually, at the time for me to wear a lot of hats and understand a lot of different aspects of the agency because it was smaller at the time when I joined.

Piyush  1:28  
Yeah. And I have always been curious, you know, what's behind the name? Why White Rhino?

Teri  1:37  
We have a few stories, right? One story is probably the one that everybody wants to hear, which is our Founder went on some wild safari ride. And some very interesting events happened with rhinos, that's not the case. The true story is that our Founder and Creative Director, Dan Greenwald when he was younger he used to doodle a lot in class. And he would doodle rhinos, and he would also doodle sharks. And so when it came time to name his agency, rhinos was something he went with one of the big things that were important to Dan, when he did name, the agency was not to name it after himself, I think that's the thing I love about White Rhino is there's not that sort of egocentric culture that you would expect in, in an agency. And he really wanted it not to be his company. But for everybody working at White Rhino for it to be their company. 

Teri  2:48  
The story that I like to tell, which is a half-true story, which is one of the other reasons that the rhino was selected and the white rhino is because they're bold and rare. And unfortunately, these days more rare than we would like at the time. Obviously, they were not as endangered, but their boldness and that's something that underpins the work that we do at White Rhino.

Piyush  3:15  
And obviously, you know, white rhino. A white rhino stands out from anything in anyone out there in the crowd. So totally that strategy and branding and unique positioning that you have created in this space. Do you want to talk a bit about the specific industry segments or sectors where you are more active in or have been as part of White Rhino? 

Teri  3:44  
Yeah, absolutely. Over the years, White Rhino has touched all sorts of industries. But since I started with White Rhino, we've been very heavy in the business-to-business B2B space. And that's really where I got my foothold in my career. And working on a lot of lead generation campaigns and lead nurture brand campaigns in that high tech B2B space working with brands like SAP, Citrix, HP. And over the years, though, we've always been, we've always dabbled in some business-to-consumer work. And about 10 years ago, we started to really build up the healthcare side of our business. And so today we're about 60-70% health care. And the rest is mostly business-to-business with a little business-to-consumer here and there. And it sounds like a very odd mix of B2B and healthcare. They seem like two different ends of the spectrum. 

But what we find is that there's actually a lot of similarities between them and there's a lot of lessons to learn between them. So on the business-to-business side, we've always been a fan of when you're selling to a company, you're still selling to a person, to an individual. So there's no reason that B2B marketing shouldn't be as emotional or creative or interesting as that of traditional B2C marketing, and in, in the business-to-business marketing space really understanding those emotional drivers of people that are making these decisions. And about 10 years ago, we coined the phrase B2me, it's not B2C, it's not B2B, it's B2me, it's business to the individual. It's understanding those individual motivators and triggers. And a lot of our work in the healthcare space understanding patients and what drives decision making there has influenced how we look at emotional decision making in the B2B space, and underpins all the work we do in B2B. In fact, one of the frameworks that we use the framework we use for journey mapping when we look at the emotional highs and lows that someone goes through as they make a B2B decision, we actually use that model is based on research on how a healthcare consumer would quit smoking, it was research, it's called the transtheoretical model of behavior change. And it looks at how people make decisions. And we use that to identify strategies for content strategies and messaging strategies across the buyer's journey in the B2B space. So there are lessons in B2B, from the healthcare space and how healthcare consumers make decisions. And the other side, in the healthcare space, we always like to talk about how healthcare is about three to five years behind B2B marketers in terms of marketing technology.

And so there's a lot of lessons learned in healthcare, B2B, our B2B clients, we're adopting new technologies, marketing, automation, responsively designed websites, that was all adopted much earlier in the B2B space, and prior to healthcare. And so our experience in B2B with those early adopters and, and really spearheading a lot of those, those projects, and helping our clients be at the cutting edge of technology and marketing technology, we're able to take those lessons learned and allow our healthcare clients to also be at the edge of, they're not at the edge of the industry, but they're at the edge of their healthcare peers because we're able to take those lessons learned from the B2B space. So there's a lot of benefits in working with both and it keeps it very interesting as well. I love the emotion and the mission of healthcare marketing. And I love the complexity and unraveling that the complexity of messaging in the B2B space.

Piyush  8:32  
Right. That's great. And really, it's the humans that are you said, B2me, I recently heard someone coin a word B2H business-to-humans. And I think, you know, all marketing, all sales, and everything really boils down to selling and marketing and messaging an individual and caring about what they'd like to achieve as part of that interaction. So that's lovely, great. Another interesting discussion that we should have is about the times that we are in right now- this pandemic and especially because you have such deep expertise in the healthcare space, and solving their marketing problems. Is there anything you'd particularly like to talk about, that you have at White Rhino has achieved as a, you know, major accomplishment this last year, during the pandemic in this space?

Teri  9:36  
Yeah, I think there are insights in both the healthcare and B2B space related to the pandemic. On the healthcare side, what the pandemic did- the pandemic changed everything about how we live, it changed how we work, we all went remote. It changed how we learn. I have a six-year-old son and you know remote learning, online learning was just not something that happened before. And suddenly overnight, we all had to do it and it changed healthcare. Telemedicine got a quick ramp up. We saw healthcare clients who once had telemedicine as a thing of, you know, a point on the roadmap three, five years out, it suddenly became the priority of the day. So overnight, health care organizations had to shift and pull in their digital strategies, and become much more digital and the concept of the digital front door and that your website, your digital experiences, the first place that patients come to you and you've got to have a really strong front door to get them in became more important than ever, we've seen health care organizations in the states are now seeing new competition because of telemedicine, your competitors, not just the Community Hospital, the town over a few towns over. But now our healthcare and hospital clients are competing with other systems across state borders, and really across the nation. So it's really changed the dynamics in healthcare. And folks are still figuring it out to a large extent. But I think also, a lot of the healthcare clients we work with, I think, have done a nice job making that shift. And there was no, no hesitation. And they really, you know, took it by the horns and drove forward.

Piyush  11:43  
Right. And at White Rhino, did you also leverage this to go beyond the local market that you would probably have dealt with earlier? And you know, maybe go to different states and you know, book or focus international? Because it's all remote now, right? Doesn't matter where you are based out?

Teri  12:02  
Yeah, we've always had a pretty international base of clients. So I wouldn't say so much has changed on that side, where I have seen some shifts on the White Rhino side is when we look at the talent. So we White Rhino have always been a smaller agency that uses a large network of partners. And the pandemic has really, you know, with remote work being more of a thing, you don't all have to be in the same location and, and we found great tools for doing workshops online and whiteboarding. And there's a lot of ways that we can collaborate from anywhere in the world. And I've seen that through that we've been able to really extend the types of partners and the different partners that we work with and pull in talent don't really matter where that talent is. So it's sort of opened up our access to great talent, which allows us to do better work.

Piyush  13:04  
Right. And what are you looking forward to this year as maybe a primary challenge you want to fix or something you're targeting as an accomplishment? Or a goal that you set at White Rhino or personally, anything you'd like to share with our listeners? 

Teri  13:24  
One of the things that excite me as we move into this year, and is related also to the pandemic, and I talked about the impact of the pandemic on healthcare. But when you think about the impact the pandemic had on B2B, there was this not even a shift, there was a just the stop, there were trade shows, no longer. Pitches have stopped. And tradeshows are the lifeblood of a B2B salesforce. That's what they look forward to all year long. You know, you run some campaigns, but it's the trade show. And that was a big, big change. And I think the industry has not figured it out yet. And you've seen a lot of people try, you've seen a lot of these virtual trade shows, I attended one. I spoke at one and after the session, I spoke at there was this virtual reality like trade show floor where I could move around and as I got closer to people, I could hear their conversation as I got further I didn't hear it as much and it was interesting, but it was awkward too. And I think it's so there's been a lot of people trying to make the online trade show environment work. 

And the challenge that I'm seeing that I, you know, I'm looking forward to is helping our clients overcome this and seeing how others overcome this is they're taking what used to exist in a trade show environment, and that environment that experience, and they're just trying to replicate it online. And they're not necessarily recognizing that online, it's just a completely different channel. And it lends itself to likely a very different experience and changing the sense of what a tradeshow is. So as an example, a common thing at trade shows is you have the trade show floor and you walk around from vendor booth to vendor booth.

Well, what are other ways in more digital fashion, that you can have the same outcome, the goal of walking from vendor booths to vendor booth, is to identify vendors you'd like to maybe talk to, and then to have some meaningful conversations with them. And that doesn't mean that in the virtual world, that you need to move your mouse cursor around a room to go from vendor booth to vendor booth, or that, you know, in a tradeshow environment, you're restricted by space, you have to physically walk the whole floor before you can get a sense of who's there or you look at your brochure, but in an online environment, there are lots of opportunities for us to maybe give that attendee a better sense of all their options, and where they could go or help them, you know, use some survey questions, help them understand which vendors are most relevant to their needs? And then how do we facilitate those meaningful conversations? I'm not sure an awkward augmented reality, virtual reality experience is the answer right now, maybe in a few years, people will be used to that. But I think companies really need to think more about the outcome they're trying to get from these trade shows. And then think about how can they use the digital world and digital space and digital experience to deliver on those outcomes? And less about replicating what was happening in the physical world? Because it's such a different medium?

Piyush  17:33  
Exactly. I mean, that's a beautiful observation and suggestion there, right. You don't need to replicate the same in the virtual environment, because it's a different environment, right, create a different unique experience. Totally, I mean, I've, I've probably experienced, you know, four or five different virtual platforms myself, you know, each having, you know, advantages and disadvantages, but at the end of the day, you know, everything still is restricted within that 13 inches of screen. And that's where it's not... the expectations are different, right? You can't stay in that ecosystem for like, five hours, seven hours, you need to do a job here, it has to be really on-demand, you know, whatever, you want to see what whoever you want to interact with, you know, get the job done. And, right. I mean, so yeah, I mean, of course, look, this is the first time you know, the whole world got, this requirement of creating a virtual experience to this level, and this scale, I'm sure you know, things are gonna evolve and improve. They say, we know we are never going to go back to the same normal again, but it will be a hybrid. So it's really that race of, you know, making the best experience out there.

Teri  18:53  
Okay, I have a great example of a company that approached it the right way. They happen to be a White Rhino client, though, I can't we can't take full credit for this being a strategy because of the pandemic. What happened is we were already working on this strategy and the pandemic hit, and then it happened to be the perfect solution. It given the lack of trade shows and our client Olympus Medical is in the medical device space and in the medical device space, those trade shows definitely are everything because that's where those sales reps are showing in the product. The product is physically there in person and Olympus was about to launch a brand new laser for urology, and the amazing thing about this new technology that they had was its size. Where traditional laser used in urology, this is this particular product is used to help with the treatment of kidney stones. Traditional laser is the size of a refrigerator. This laser has a size of a microwave. And that contrasts, you know when you see that in person, you think, wow, this is a game-changer.

But we suddenly lost the luxury to be able to show it off at a trade show, their trade show was canceled. And the good news is that we were in the midst of developing an augmented reality application that allows a urologist to place this new laser in their living room, and walk around it and true to size, put it in their living room and see it or put it on their kitchen counter and see it right next to their microwave, or put it next to their refrigerator and see the size difference, walk around this new laser and interact with it. And there were hotspots on the laser that you would click on your phone, but what would look like in real life in front of you. Information is popping up to help you understand all the different features. And this new technology offers. And our client has said, After launching that you know all things considered this was this is a quite genius that the pandemic paralyzed them from showing this great new technology at their trade shows. But this augmented reality app allowed them to put the device into a urologist's hands if you will and into their home and allow the sales force to really have the same type of meaningful conversation that they would have had had the urologist spend in person at the trade show. So it was a brilliant coincidence that and maybe that that full coincidence because we see 3D design augmented reality, that's all the wave of the future. And, and so it's interesting to see that, you know, as those trends are emerging, we're thrust into a situation a pandemic, where we need to take advantage of those technologies to better communicate and better interact. So it's a nice, nice coincidence.

Piyush  22:13  
Yeah, that's interesting. I mean, you know, companies have started had started investing into these kinds of innovations as probably a nice to have feature or experience, but you know, the time change that translated it formed it to a must-have thing died. And I'm sure you know, this kind of augmented reality, the demonstration will also give you more inputs, in terms of what features people are interested in, and you know, all the analytics way more than you would have probably been able to capture in a physical world. 

Teri  22:50  

Piyush  22:53  
But that's really, really amazing to listen to. And you said that you were already working on this much before the pandemic hit.

Teri  23:03  
Yeah, we concepted it in 2019. And we started working on it in reality, in February, March. So it was, we were wrapping it up. Actually, just before we found out that the trade show was canceled. So they were intending to use it to give people a preview prior to the trade show and help drive them to to the trade show. And then it became the trade show.

Piyush  23:37  
Interesting, very good. Okay. Cool. And so you know, all of these things considered, what is your advice to agencies and, you know, similar organizations to prepare for and to be able to embrace these changes, and be ready for the next stage.

Teri  23:59  
I think the biggest thing is, people need to recognize that it is a very different medium. And you have to put your assumptions aside, and everything that you know about 2D design, you know, print design, trade shows, web design, it's very different in the 3D space, we're finding as an agency that not all designers understand how to design for 3D experiences. And you can come across a lot of poor 3D design work for 3D experiences because the person didn't understand how to think in that depth and how to take advantage of all that depth in that space that you have. So I've seen examples of really just people taking very traditional 2D things and sort of putting in a 3D space. They're not taking advantage of the added interaction added experience that he got from 3D. And, and I think, you know, likewise, like I was saying with the trade shows, you know, if you've got, you can't just use 3D to mimic what's happening in the physical world, that seems like the obvious thing to do, because 3D and virtual worlds are, they feel like a mimic of what happens in the real world. And even more so now I saw an article recently around the deep fake technology, and they have now created a virtual version of Tom Cruise that looks and sounds just like him, it's kind of creepy. And, but kind of going back to what I was saying- just because it feels like a mimic of the physical space, it is a very different medium. And so use that, you know, think about how, how this intensely immersive experience, and the sense of depth can actually, you can create a new sort of experience that you couldn't actually have in the physical world.

Piyush  26:15  
So with that, Teri, let's shift gears a bit and look at the bigger picture, larger picture right, from the time you got involved with the agency business till now that you have reached. What do you think is your philosophy of success and purpose in life, or work?

Teri  26:38  
My philosophy of success and this is something I've learned over the years, and I see it as a culmination of the work I've done for clients, that the culture at White Rhino, and some really great coaches I've had along the way, it really comes down to empathy. And that sense of, of emotional intelligence. And at the end of the day, if you can have, Do you have empathy for your co-workers, for your partners, for your clients, and for the audiences, that you're trying to market to, and you can understand and put yourselves in someone else's shoes? To me, that's the key driver of success. And as, as we go more and more digital, more virtual, we have less, one-to-one human interactions, that idea of emotional intelligence is going to be those emotional skills are gonna be so important to the workforce. And, and I see it- I see a lot of companies struggling with the remote work environment, culturally, that it's not about not getting used to Zoom or the technology there. But it's the behind the scenes, making sure managers have enough one-to-one time with their employees, making sure that there's still a culture, they're creating a shared vision of success within the organization. And, and so that you can make productive decisions to work towards those goals. And I think there's a lot that companies really need to think about, as they move forward in terms of making sure they have a good culture at the core as a foundation for these other things that they want to do.

Piyush  28:40  
Right, that's great. And if I may ask, What are you reading or listening to right now? Are there any favorite books or podcasts or I don't know, YouTube channels that you would like to share with the listeners?

Teri  28:52  
This will be maybe an odd answer to you, but I read Google. So I love my Google newsfeed, I really do. I think I use it enough that Google really does know what to serve up to me and serves up to me information that I would not have stumbled upon otherwise. And I love the algorithms there. But you know, I do listen to and read a lot. Really, when I read and listen to podcasts, it's focused on anything in the psychology space that underpins a lot of what we do psychology and neuroscience. Because that helps me with building up my empathy skills and understanding how the mind works. I'm just fascinated with how the mind works. But for instance, I listened to a podcast recently on the topic of vitalism, and in it's a psychological theory about really what drives humans at their core. And so those are the types of things I like to kind of seek out from a podcast or reading perspective, I think based on that, kind of the emotion, the psychology, the neuroscience,

Piyush  30:11  
Those are great recommendations for our listeners, I'm sure people will, you know, there's a lot of AI and recommendations happening, we have various tools, including Google. And yeah, they sometimes they know better than what you know. So, great. Post COVID-19, which I believe, you know, we are starting to see the end of it, hopefully, in a couple of months, when the word is back to normal, where would you like to travel, or do anything exciting that you'd like to share with us?

Teri  30:44  
I definitely want to travel to some new places that haven't been to before. And I really enjoy, I guess I wouldn't call myself a foodie necessarily, but I do enjoy good food and the artistry that chefs put into their food. So anywhere where there's a really passionate chef, and you know, preferably they're not, you know, really small, maybe a small, small building, you know, really small kitchen, but really passionate about what they're doing. Those are the places that I think I'm drawn to, and, and want to go support their artistry and I just, I thoroughly enjoy, you know, seeing what they're able to do.

Piyush  31:33  
That's amazing. That's amazing. So Teri, where is the best place people can find more about you your writings or work, etc?

Teri  31:42  

Probably on the White Rhino website- I do a lot of our, our blogging and in our content. So if there's an article that's been published, I often publish under the code name of White Rhino. And sometimes we call our or pen name is Ryan O' Horn. But that's usually my voice behind that. So that's a good place. And that's something I'm looking forward to actually focusing on in the coming year is putting out some new thought leadership content, especially around some of the topics we discussed today, that a lot has changed in the last year. And I'm excited to get those ideas down and share with folks what we're seeing.

Piyush  32:27  
Now. Well, all the best for being able to, you know, achieve that as per your timeline. And thanks again for your time, sharing your story. Friends, this is Teri Sun from White Rhino. Thank you for listening. 

Teri  32:40  
Thank you

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