Digital Marketing Strategy with Ashley Stanford

Ashley Stanford is EVP at digital ticketing solution TicketSocket and the Co-Founder of Ice Cream Social, an incentive-based social sharing platform. Our conversation reflects Ashley’s 15-year career in digital marketing strategy. We discuss what being selected for NBCUniversal Sports Tech Accelerator Program meant for Ice Cream Social’s development, the secrets of successful Influencer marketing campaigns, and tips for attributing results from online and offline activations.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:  

Ashley Stanford: You just got to get your hands in there because that is where you truly learn by executing and doing. You may make mistakes along the way and that’s actually great. That’s where you learn 100 times more after you make a mistake! 

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on marketing and advertising produced weekly by Bigeye, a strategy-led, full-service creative agency growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. Digital marketing has become the cornerstone of modern marketing practice, revolutionizing how brands engage with consumers. Over the past two decades, the digital landscape has seen monumental shifts, most notably the rise of social media marketing, which has transformed many consumers’ relationships with brands. The impending cookieless future underscores the importance of first-party data solutions, with an increasingly privacy-focused digital world requiring innovative strategies. Our guest today navigates this complex and ever-evolving landscape. Ashley Stanford is a digital marketing expert, currently Executive Vice President of Client Strategy at TicketSocket and Vice President and Co-Founder of Ice Cream Social. With over 15 years of experience, Ashley specializes in event marketing strategy, social advertising, and influencer marketing. She has worked with clients including Whole Foods Market, Cool Sculpting, Spartan Race, USA Triathlon, and Invisalign, among many others. Ashley combines her professional expertise with personal interests, including biohacking. To discuss digital marketing strategy, I’m delighted that Ashley is joining us today from Huntington Beach, Southern California. Ashley, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Ashley Stanford: Thank you, Adrian. I’ve really been looking forward to having this chat with you.

Adrian Tennant: Well, as I mentioned in the intro, you’ve worked in digital marketing for 15 years. How did you first enter the industry?

Ashley Stanford: If I’m being quite candid and completely honest here, in High School, marketing was really the only class that I did really well in, where everything just kind of clicked and I got it. And so, you know, that really helped form my path during the marketing club. And, you know, I decided that that’s what I wanted to major in when I went to college.

Adrian Tennant: What are the most significant changes and innovations you’ve witnessed over the past 15 years?

Ashley Stanford: Wow! I would say the biggest one came pretty early on in my career. I was maybe one or two years into working in marketing, and at the time I was really focused in on website development and search engine optimization. And out of nowhere came social media marketing. I mean, Twitter was there a little bit, but once Facebook rolled out and became open to everybody and businesses started asking, you know, “How can I promote my business?” Before there were even Facebook pages. I would say that was a huge turning point in my career where I really had to pivot and say, “Okay, I gotta, you know, maybe switch focus and follow this and see where it goes!”

Adrian Tennant: Based on your extensive experience with influencer marketing, what key elements make for a successful influencer partnership would you say?

Ashley Stanford: First things first: You need a pretty good contract in place. You don’t want to approach influencer marketing just a “Hey, let’s swap”-type situation. You do want to put some boundaries in place, and within that contract, I would say the most important things from a marketing standpoint that you do want to include would be number one, a clearly outlined set of deliverables. What exactly do you expect this influencer to create for you? And list out every platform and piece of content, how long you think it should be. You really want to have clear guidelines set on what the expectations are. And number two: You do want to be sure you give them brand guidelines and explain what are non-negotiables. Because at the end of the day, if an influencer creates a piece of content for you and they say something about your brand or industry that would, in some occasions, deem that content unusable on your end, that can be a big issue. And number three: I would say you do want to make sure you include what we call whitelister access, and essentially what that will allow is for the brand to put paid dollars behind that influencer’s social media content so that the content’s being promoted under that influencer’s profiles.

Adrian Tennant: How do you approach the challenge of measuring the success of influencer marketing campaigns?

Ashley Stanford: Great question. You’d be surprised. There is a lot that you can actually measure. And, you know, with influencers, there can be a lot of different things that you do to have measurement in place, whether it’s a promo code for tracking or a specific URL. It also depends on what your end goal is. If you’re trying to drive sales or drive leads or something of that sort, that can be obviously you just can’t always track that, word of mouth all the time. maybe it can be a matter of, you know, putting it, check out, “How did you hear about us?” Some larger brands that I’ve worked with that have a very nice marketing budget to play with, I’d say, they do invest in what we call social listening tools, where you can actually monitor these, essentially name drops about you all across the internet and what those conversations are, and from there you can monitor trends of, you know, when your brand awareness goes up and down and where that could be rooted from.

Adrian Tennant: Do you think that social listening tools should be held by clients or should agencies also have access to them?

Ashley Stanford: Both. So, personally speaking, where I’ve had a lot of experience with social listening, I’ve always worked on the agency side. So, the agency will often pay for these tools and run the reports, digest them, and basically, give them to the client. Because a lot of times, the agencies are the ones handling these different campaigns where it is important to track from a digital perspective. You know, a lot of times, they are managing the influencer campaign. So if they want to prove that it’s working, a lot of times the agencies are the ones that invest. But it also does depend on the department and your reasons for tracking. Right now, I focus a lot on event marketing, but I did spend a good 10 years working in medical device marketing, and you do need social listening because you do need to listen for when people are talking about your product in a way that’s not FDA-approved or adverse effects, and you have to be ready to respond. So that could be from customer service, and you can see where it’s beneficial from a marketing standpoint. So it also depends on the department, what you need it for, those sort of things that you gotta take into consideration.

Adrian Tennant: Well, Ashley, you’re the co-founder of Ice Cream Social. Can you explain what it is and how it supports organizations in the events and entertainment space?

Ashley Stanford: Ice Cream Social is a social referral tool that we’ve created essentially to turn all of your customers into influencers for your brand. So it’s kind of taking anyone, even if they do not have an Instagram profile with any followers. Anyone can still be an influencer. Everyone has an intimate circle of friends and family, even if they are not out there talking about everything online. And that is a huge missed opportunity for a lot of brands of only thinking influencers are anyone with X amount of followers on social media. That’s really not the case. And so Ice Cream Social essentially incentivizes and gamifies sharing, you know, what you’re doing in this particular case. Ice Cream Social mostly works in the event industry. So, in this case, letting all your friends know you’re going to a particular event, and if you get enough friends to come along with you, then you get a prize or whatever the event company decides that’s going to be, whether it’s a gift card, free merchandise, a free ticket, refund, whatever the case may be. So it’s really just kind of incentivizing that part of marketing.

Adrian Tennant: And how did you come up with the name Ice Cream Social?

Ashley Stanford: Thanks for asking – because it has nothing to do with ice cream necessarily. So everyone’s like, “What is ice cream social? What does this mean?” And really just the idea came from back in the day when word-of-mouth marketing was much more prevalent and happening at things like your Avon parties, your Tupperware parties, your neighborhood ice cream socials, and barbecues. And so that’s kind of where the name was inspired from.

Adrian Tennant: Love that. Well, Ice Cream Social was selected for the NBCUniversal Sports Tech Accelerator Program. What has that experience been like?

Ashley Stanford: Amazing. So great. And NBC Comcast SportsTech has been so wonderful to work with. It was a really cool experience. And essentially, what they did is they took our, as co-founders, they narrowed it down. There were over 800 companies that applied to be in this cohort, and they chose ten. And they take the leadership team of those 10 startup companies, and they put them through an accelerator program where they help you define a lot of things within your company. They may help you raise capital. They help you practice public speaking and your sales pitch and all these really great things. Helpful things, as a co-founder! And more importantly, what they do is they introduce us and help us build relationships with all of their partners. So whether that’s NASCAR, Golf Now, ESPN, or WWE, it was a really great opportunity and continues because it hasn’t ended yet. It’s a forever partnership where they’re always introducing us to these companies and helping us find use cases for our product.

Adrian Tennant: Well, as you mentioned, your app incentivizes word-of-mouth marketing while also gathering valuable first-party data. Is this a model you foresee working in other verticals outside events and entertainment?

Ashley Stanford: Absolutely. And that’s actually what brought Ice Cream Social to life was, wanting it to live outside of just events. It was a feature set created within our parent company called Ticket Socket. Essentially, COVID hit, which was not a great time to be in events when events were not happening. And we kind of had to pivot at that time as we had a full staff and obviously wanted to keep the company moving forward, even if events were not happening. And we had some clients actually reach out to us who couldn’t put on events, but were still pushing their merchandise. They may have had like a merchandise component to their business and event. And so they asked if they could actually use Ice Cream Social on their e-commerce website that wasn’t selling tickets, but selling merchandise. And we thought that’s a great idea. So that’s kind of where we, at that point, peeled Ice Cream Social off from being a feature inside of a product to being its own standalone company. And so, yes, we do have many cases of Ice Cream Social being used outside of events and entertainment and tourism.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message. 


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Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Ashley Stanford, a digital marketing expert and entrepreneur. In addition to your role with Ice Cream Social, you’re also the EVP of Client Strategy for TicketSocket. Ashley, can you explain what TicketSocket is?

Ashley Stanford: Yes, TicketSocket is a white-labeled ticketing and registration system. So we power a lot of big brand events to facilitate that ticketing transaction.

Adrian Tennant: At TicketSocket, you aim to enhance client revenue without increasing marketing budgets. I’ve got to say that sounds like something clients everywhere are interested in all the time! Could you share some of the strategies or tactics you’ve implemented that have been particularly effective?

Ashley Stanford: Yes, I love telling clients that that’s my role and we kind of had to make up that role after I’ve decided that’s what I want to do. So what I’ll do is I will work with a lot of our clients at TicketSocket. And we’ll come in, and we’ll look at what they’re doing with their marketing. And I’ll look at their strategy. I’ll look at all their different tactics. And we’ll find ways to optimize what they’re doing. So, each little piece can perform better and create kind of that compound effect. And through that, what I find is a lot of people, you know, don’t even have a marketing strategy, or maybe they’re all in on Facebook ads. And, you know, there are a lot of things that you can do to improve your marketing spend already without spending more money on Facebook ads. There’s other things out there that work really well. And, I mean, one thing that gets me really excited in particular is I’ve found with a lot of these clients, when we implement Ice Cream Social into their marketing strategy, their kind of channel stack of things that they’re doing with email, SMS, Facebook ads, billboards, whatever they’re doing, we’ve found that adding in that word-of-mouth marketing component to it actually brings down the cost per acquisition across all of those marketing channels. So that’s been really fun to see. So my whole goal is just I love optimization. Growing up playing video games and finding new, better ways to beat the game and so I’ve kind of translated that into marketing.

Adrian Tennant: From a practical perspective, how do you tailor marketing strategies to accommodate the diverse range of events and experiences that TicketSocket supports? I’m thinking of everything from fun runs to music festivals, right?

Ashley Stanford: Yes, there are a lot of different events that we work with. And the first thing that we do is really look at who’s their target market, because, you know, sometimes we’ll do conventions that are geared towards toddlers, which obviously you’re marketing to Mom, too, in those cases. And then we do a lot of air shows, which, you know, might garner a little bit older audience. And so you have to kind of approach each event with who is their target market, which is, really marketing 101, but sometimes we forget that, and you have to think, “Where are they spending their time?” And that’s where we want to be with our marketing. I do heavily focus on digital marketing, you know, that is my specialty, but I do have clients that don’t do a lot of digital marketing. They’re heavy up on getting new segments the week leading up to their event, doing billboards, having flyers in local grocery stores, like a lot more grassroots things, that works really great for circuses, monster truck shows, that sort of thing. So it’s really just understanding who the audience is that we’re marketing to first.

Adrian Tennant: Thinking about all the clients and projects you’ve worked on, which have been the most satisfying or personally rewarding, and why?

Ashley Stanford: I would say, I have really found working with events to be really fun for me. And the reason is, as I mentioned earlier, I have spent a large portion of my career working in medical devices. And with medical devices, there’s a lot of things that come into play. There’s HIPAA. There is the fact that a lot of times we’re marketing to consumers, but it’s actually doctors that are doing the sale, and so there’s this big in-between. So essentially what I’m saying is when you’re doing medical device marketing, you can’t always track that exact return on every tactic you’re doing. It is difficult to measure when you’re just trying to push people into a doctor’s office and then you’ll never know if those leads convert because of HIPAA – all the compliance and things in place. And with event marketing, I have loved seeing that direct return of seeing a sale come in from whatever marketing you’re doing, knowing exactly how much money my social media ads are bringing in, how much money my email marketing strategy is bringing in, how much money SMS is bringing in, having those tangible results essentially that we talked about earlier has made marketing happen just much more fun.

Adrian Tennant: I am curious: what kinds of mechanisms do you use to track those conversions in events? Are we talking, for example, about coupon codes or QR codes? What are your go-to conversion attribution techniques?

Ashley Stanford: Sure. I would say at the foundation of it, of course, Google Analytics. So we’ll have that installed and a lot of the proper tracking things in place, like using UTM parameters to track different marketing initiatives. So Google Analytics is usually kind of our home base. But again, we’ll also look at the platforms we’re using. So if we’re using Meta ads, we will see the data within that dashboard. If we’re using Active Campaign, we’ll see the data within that dashboard. Attentive, whatever the tool is, we’ll track it that way. In addition, we do a lot of affiliate marketing, so we will track those affiliate links. If we’re running a particular promotion, we will track e-promo code usage. If we’re doing billboards or print marketing, yes, we do track the QR codes. So there is an element of a lot of different metrics being pulled in to kind of analyze what’s working and what’s not.

Adrian Tennant: Well, if anyone listening is considering a career in digital marketing or maybe just entering the industry, what advice would you give them?

Ashley Stanford: Me personally, I can watch and listen to things all day long, but you just got to get your hands in there because that is where you truly learn – by executing and doing. And you may make mistakes along the way, and that’s actually great. That’s where you learn 100 times more after you make a mistake! So, if you’re the type of person who is just consuming all the content, all the videos, purchasing every course, listening to podcasts, that’s great. You’re going to have great knowledge, but you just got to get in there and try it out.

Adrian Tennant: Excellent advice. Well, I mentioned in the introduction that outside of work, you count biohacking among your interests. How did your interest develop, and has it influenced your approach to work?

Ashley Stanford: So I’m a pretty lightweight biohacker. I’m not a professional – wouldn’t take advice from me! But I have this love of optimization. I started my career in search engine optimization. So just that tinkering with a website until you can get it, number one on Google, at least back in the day, it’s not as easy these days. And just loving what I do and wanting to bring the most attention and focus and make the best use of my time when I am working led me on that path of enjoying biohacking. What can I do to take care of myself so that I can perform at peak levels? This doesn’t happen every day, but when you do fall off track, I always know how to get myself back on track, and yeah, I just love consuming that kind of content, whether it’s like Dave Asprey or Aubrey Marcus or Andrew Hupperman. I just love that kind of content. I love trying different things on myself and learning my body and what works for me and what doesn’t because I have tried a lot of these trends or supplements that everyone says, “This is so amazing it’ll change your life!” And guess what? did not work for me. My body did not agree with it. And, you have to have also that element of just learning to listen to your own body and not taking what everyone says as truth.

Adrian Tennant: Well, you mentioned search engine optimization and some of the challenges that exist. How do you see artificial intelligence affecting traditional SEO? Do search engines as we know them are an endangered species?

Ashley Stanford: Great question. I’m not quite ready to venture and say “endangered species,” but there is evolution, for sure. One thing that I’m always keeping in mind when I am still working on SEO is, we’ve always created content in a sense of “What will Google pull up in their search results?” But now you have to think about “What will Alexa say? How can I create content that’s easy for Alexa to recognize and read out loud?” And so there is that evolution happening for sure. And I do think it’s going to advance very quickly, with this jumping off the deep end into AI here lately, so I do think it is something to watch and to be ready for. A lot of the old tactics still work, but gotta do a lot more of it for it to be successful. But yeah, anyone listening, you should start thinking about how that’s going to evolve.

Adrian Tennant: I’m curious Ashley, what’s next for you, personally or professionally?

Ashley Stanford: You know, I am loving this space here in event marketing and evolving Ice Cream Social and taking into consideration what is happening with AI and how do we evolve that word-of-mouth marketing, because it’s not going always at your neighborhood barbecue now just chatting with your neighbors talking about what you love. It is going to evolve, it is evolving, and I’m excited to kind of follow that and see what’s next.

Adrian Tennant: So this is obviously an audio-only podcast, but I can see a well-stocked bookshelf behind you. What have you been reading recently?

Ashley Stanford: I did mention earlier I love anything biohacking, So I am reading Dave Asprey’s latest book. But if I can recommend one book for anyone to read it is called The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte. It’s more than a book, it’s a little bit of a workbook, and you go through all these questions and exercises, and at the end of it, you come out with these core desired feelings that you want to be themes in your life. I don’t like to compartmentalize my life. I like work and life and hobbies to all flow. And so, I have these words that become themes in my life and become the filters of my decision-making. And I first did this book maybe ten years ago. And I try to do it every couple years because we evolve, we change as people, you reach goals, you move on, things happen, life changes. And so I’ve done this book maybe three or four times. And every time I’ve done it, there’s been one word that always remains the same, and that’s freedom. And I’ll say in America, yes, we have a very different meaning behind the word freedom than many other people get to experience, so it is quite a luxury. But over the years, it’s really evolved for me. When I first did the book, “freedom,” – all I could think about was money, “I need financial freedom, I want to reach my goals,” and then it became “time freedom.” Work gets busy, you do start making money, you have small children, and all you want is time. And now it’s really evolved for me into this idea of “opportunity freedom.” Like creating, yes, the time and the financial space in my life to have the opportunity to choose the things and projects that I want to work on and always being available to say yes or no to what comes my way, depending on, you know, what my interests are.

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about you or your work with Ice Cream Social or TicketSocket, what’s the best way to connect with you?

Ashley Stanford: If you want to learn more about me, you can go to You can visit or and let me know any questions you have. Happy to connect.

Adrian Tennant: Perfect. Ashley, thank you very much for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Ashley Stanford: Yes, appreciate it, Adrian. Had a good time.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, digital marketing expert and entrepreneur Ashley Stanford. You’ll find a complete transcript of our conversation with links to the resources we discussed on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Just select ‘Insights’ from the menu. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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