Earned x Hot Ones: CreatorIQ’s Director of Research & Insights Alex Rawitz Shares Observations and Predictions About the Creator Economy—all While Eating Spicy Wings

Taylor Masket
Taylor Masket
Mar 12, 2024

For Ep. 120 of Earned, we decided to spice things up. Conor sits down with Alex Rawitz, CreatorIQ’s own Director of Research & Insights, and author of the renowned newsletter you know and “tolerate”: How to Build Brands and Influence People (subscribe here!). 

Conor puts Alex in the hot seat by taking on the famed Hot Ones challenge—if you’re not familiar, please educate yourself here—wherein they progressively spicier chicken wings throughout the interview. Hey, test and learn, right? 


To start the show, we dive into Alex’s background, and learn why the New York native turned Stanford graduate decided to join a little-known influencer marketing tech company called Tribe Dynamics back in 2016. The pair reminisce about what it was like to be in the center of a then-nascent industry, and how it’s since turned into a thriving creator economy. We take a step back and explore Alex’s passion for reading—a passion that some would describe as ‘excessive’—and learn more about how he uses writing to process the world around him. Next, we talk HBBIP: what it is, why it started, and why it’s been so successful since its launch. 

Alex berates Conor for not finishing his chicken wings, then shares the tried-and-true strategies and patterns he’s observed among successful brands over his last eight years researching the industry. We hear about the latest brands that are doing influencer marketing right—from Raising Cane’s to Balenciaga—before unpacking the evolution of the influencer marketing space since Alex first joined in 2016. To close the show, Alex shares his predictions for the future of the creator economy, then tries the hottest wing in the lineup—The Last Dab—as he unveils a special announcement.

We’ve included a couple of highlights from the episode below, but be sure to check out the full video above, or tune into the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts!

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The following interview has been lightly edited for concision. 

“There is a unique growth story to tell for every brand”: Alex Rawitz on the Success of His “How to Build Brands and Influence People” Newsletter

Conor Begley: In terms of your own writing style, one of the reasons that I had you on here is that you’ve had an incredibly successful newsletter that we've launched. “How to Build Brands and Influence People” is the name, “HBBIP.” To put some numbers on it, it's generated 4x what the previous periods were. What is it about that newsletter that has been so successful, in your opinion? And how do you approach writing it, for others that are considering writing a newsletter?

Alex Rawitz: I think there are several things there. First, we send it to a lot of people, so that helps with the open rate. It's a numbers game. 

But seriously, I think the newsletter solves people’s immediate need for content. It's funny, because in my self-intro, I talked about how I didn't know much about influencer marketing, didn't know much about beauty and fashion, any of that, when I started out at Tribe Dynamics eight years ago. Well, I also didn't know much about newsletters several months ago. I'm not really a subscriber to newsletters, but I think that when I encounter requests either internally or externally for content, for what's going on, everyone wants to know what brands are growing, why they're growing, and they want a funny story. They want something memorable, anecdotal, that they can hang on to. And I think what works with HBBIP is that we're always approaching it from that standpoint—there is a unique growth story to tell for every brand.

It can be across verticals, which I think helps expand the newsletter’s audience and helps expand its interest, but each newsletter is always coming from the same point. And that point is that I, as someone whose interests lie outside of this space, found this to be an interesting story, and found this to be compelling. So I would only try to tell a story within the newsletter that I thought was worth telling for those reasons.

“Brands that have mastered their influencer marketing strategies are working first and foremost with influencers who have an organic affinity for that brand”: Alex Rawitz on the Patterns and Strategies That Spell Success for Brands

Conor Begley: So you've studied a lot of brands within the influencer and creator marketing space, and you write about a lot of those brands. What would you say are the common patterns across those that succeed? 

Alex Rawitz: Brands that have mastered their influencer marketing strategies are working first and foremost with influencers who have an organic affinity for that brand. This is something that we preached for a long time at Tribe Dynamics, and I think it remains true, and will always be true as long as influencer marketing is a thing.

The people who are already talking about you, people who are already passionate about your product, your mission, whatever it is that makes your brand special, those are the people that you should target and pursue relationships with. So the brands that chase a big figure who's somewhat extraneous to that brand's underlying mission, someone who you have trouble thinking would actually use that product, or have an affinity for it—those are the brands that get in trouble. Those brands produce content that doesn't really resonate with social media users. 

Additionally, you can look at it from the metrics standpoint, and talk about the key metrics that indicate growth. Engagement is a big one. I think that Engagement [is even more important] than Impressions. That's essentially how many people are interacting with your content, versus how many people are just seeing your content, who might encounter it on social media. It's more important, I think, and a greater harbinger of success, that more people are going to be engaging with your content, are going to be liking, commenting, and sharing it, versus just seeing it and moving on. 

If you have a wide audience, that's great. But that doesn't guarantee that your brand is going to have staying power. I'd rather be in the position of a brand that is killing it with Engagement and killing it with Retention—that’s how many people in your community are continuing to post about you time and time again. I'd rather be in that position than a brand that works with some celebrity, works with some powerhouse creator, but the resulting content is more advertorial, more like sponcon, and just sort of dies after its first initial cycle. You can't really see that partnership reviving anytime soon.

Conor Begley: I'm having a really hard time listening to you right now because I'm thinking about how many chicken wings you've eaten.

Alex Rawitz: Thank you for that cogent response, Conor. I appreciate it.

Keep up with new episodes of Earned by following the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts, or subscribing to our YouTube channel. To catch up on our previous episodes, featuring leaders from brands like Revolve, K18, Instagram, and Roblox, visit our Earned Podcast page.