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Robin Rice: How Do We Make Consciousness Useful in the World?
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Finola Howard: Recording. Okay. Hello everyone. I’m Finola Howard, and this is How Great Marketing Works. And today, we have another wonderful inspiring entrepreneur for you all to listen to and speak with through me, I suppose. And I want to introduce you to this inspiring entrepreneur and her name is Robin Rice.
Finola Howard: And Robin, I have come across a few years ago, and I would best describe Robin as … This is how she puts it on her LinkedIn profile, because there’s so much more to Robin and you’ll discover that very shortly. But she would describe herself as an executive level thinking partner to leaders and top executives around the world.
Finola Howard: Now, I know a little bit more about Robin, because I know she’s also involved in social change projects that she has pioneered that are wonderfully, simple and deep in their impact.
Finola Howard: She’s also the creator of an amazing masterclass called the Significant Year, and I want to talk about that with you, and the importance of the masterclass. But let’s first meet Robin. So, hey, Robin, how are you?
Robin Rice: Hey. Thanks for having me.
Finola Howard: Yeah, I’m delighted to have you. I think the first thing I’d love to say is how we came in contact with each other, because that’s a really interesting story, because we know each other a long time now.
Robin Rice: We do, and full disclosure, we are really good friends now.
Finola Howard: Really good friends now.
Robin Rice: Like you’re one of my deepest friends now. Yeah.
Finola Howard: The same for me. So, there’s our caveat.
Robin Rice: I hope it’s not one sided.
Finola Howard: No. Mutual. So, how did we meet? It’s a good story.
Robin Rice: On LinkedIn. I remember I was looking for someone to do some marketing for me. Or maybe I wasn’t even looking, but I was seeing people on there or something, and your picture was on there and I was …
Robin Rice: In that way when you know soulful things, I was like, “Her. Her. I don’t know about her.” And I just remember knowing that I had to connect with you and that I wanted to work with you. I didn’t know we’d be such good friends over so many years. And you worked on so many things with me now.
Finola Howard: And it’s been a pleasure. I love what you said. And this is one of the things that I love about you is this amazing way with words and with language, because I think, also … I mean it’s too small to talk of you as a coach, or a mentor, or a thinking partner.
Robin Rice: Yay, I’m glad that’s true.
Finola Howard: Yeah. I hope I know this. I know this from the work that we do, and I know this from the work that you do, and the changes, and the impacts that you have had on so many people. And you’ve had this impact on people at very high level and a very focused way, one-to-one with these leaders and change makers in the world, because there is a very definite recurring theme here, which is about changing the world.
Finola Howard: And one of the things that I like about you, of the many things that I like about you is that you have this level of working with somebody at these change makers across the world. You have this level of being able to work with changing the world yourself in these social change projects, which are very … They just deliver to a specific target audience. It’s perfectly marketed. And then this other level of inspiring and teaching and guiding people on how to become a change maker themselves. This is a very deep work.
Robin Rice: Well, it’s important. I mean, I can’t do it all myself. You can change the world, but not by yourself.
Finola Howard: Yeah. I love that.
Robin Rice: I mean, I think change is … As a little girl, I saw the world in very challenging times. I didn’t have an easy childhood and I looked at this world and I just said, “Look, either we have to make it better or I don’t even want to be here.”
Finola Howard: Tell us about your story, because it’s an important story, but it’s not the only story. I mean, I think when you share your story, your kind of founding story or your background story, it’s not all of who you are, but it’s probably a very informative starting point to show how you’ve reached the depth that you have.
Robin Rice: Yeah. Well, it would take a long time to tell that story.
Finola Howard: Yeah, of course.
Robin Rice: I’m trying to write an autobiography of some kind to tell that story.
Finola Howard: And you know what I forgot, Robin? I’m sorry. You’re a published author.
Robin Rice: Yes. Actually, people often forget this part. It’s so funny. It’s like, “Oh, and by the way, there’s like seven books.” And they’re like, “Oh, did you read?” Thankfully, I have to say, but yeah.
Robin Rice: I think for me, life was difficult. Lots of lives are difficult in the early stages. I had a particularly heavy dose of loss as a child, like repeated, very, very significant losses. So, I was dealing with the bigger questions from even five years old, which you would think a five year old isn’t looking at that, but I was.
Robin Rice: I remember looking at that and feeling like, “This doesn’t make sense. Death doesn’t make sense. The way people handle Death doesn’t make sense. How can this being that I love be gone?” And so, I didn’t have the luxury of happy go lucky. It just wasn’t built into my life.
Robin Rice: Again, it was very, very challenging on so many fronts. For me, I had a very powerful awakening experience at age 35. And so, I can honestly say, very honestly that if you’d asked me on any given week other than maybe a few spectacular weeks, like when my kids were born, would you rather have lived this year or this week or not lived it? I would have said I would rather not have lived, which is a pretty strong language.
Robin Rice: And then after this awakening experience, which I did not look for, did not know what it was, didn’t know it existed in the world, this greater consciousness that occurred at that time. I’ve never had a week like that since. Like never.
Finola Howard: Let’s discuss this.
Finola Howard: Let’s discuss this really quickly, because it’s important. This whole concept of awakening. But let’s put it in the context of its relevance to … Let’s call it the real world – that’s up for grabs, but let’s call it the real world.
Finola Howard: Because I want to be very clear about how we have this discussion, because too often, this area of awakening is kind of shoved to the side yet deeply so many people know it to be an important part. And some people don’t use it, but I’d like not for it to be relegated to the side.
Finola Howard: I think it’s something that is a tangible tool. You will express it much better than me, but it’s something very tangible that can be used to help us in life to navigate it, and something that’s been untapped. Yeah. I’m not so articulate here :).
Robin Rice: I think there’s a lot of ways to talk about it. One of the things is I don’t care if someone else is on board with any particular language or whatever. It doesn’t matter to me. There are levels of consciousness in every person, levels of maturity of consciousness or whatever.
Robin Rice: I think one of the bigger challenges that a lot of people have is that the experience is so close to what you would call a spiritual experience that it gets relegated to spirituality and spirituality is relegated to not the real world.
Robin Rice: But consciousness isn’t … It can have a spiritual interpretation, but it’s a thing in and of itself. Just consciousness is a thing in of itself. You can be politically woke. You can be conscious of your body. You can be conscious of your … Your education is a kind of consciousness of how do we approach life. Do we approach it academically? Do we approach it with a multi sensory awareness? There’s just all kinds of consciousnesses out there.
Robin Rice: So for me, this was a more sudden stroke of consciousness that came on, and then I had to figure out, “Well, how do I be in the world with this? How do I do this? How do I make this work?” Because I’m really pragmatic, right? I’m super grounded. I’m like, “If it doesn’t work in this world, it can’t be very useful.” It’s nice, but can it work in this world?
Robin Rice: So, I’ve spent really every year since 22 or so years since saying, “How do we make this actually valuable to the experience that we’re in right now? How do I deal with this person who’s here, who’s got a life, who’s got desires, who’s got all those things and has an interesting perspective from a consciousness standpoint?”
Robin Rice: And then that’s what I work with my clients and those people that work with me and my groups and that sort of thing too is really want to bring you to a higher level of consciousness, which means thinking about your thinking. If you only take it that far, think about your thinking. Think about how you think. Because if you don’t think about how you think, you’re not conscious. You’re just thinking.
Robin Rice: You’re a machine. You’re a pre-programmed 57-year-old machine that has lots of experiences that thinks you’re independently doing things, but most of the things you’re doing are cultural and most of the things you’re doing are the way that you did it before. We know a lot about neuroplasticity now. We know we can learn, but we got to start with this. So, I don’t know if that’s all over place.
Finola Howard: I think it’s a really great way to explain it, because thinking about you’re thinking is being conscious. This idea that there are many types of consciousness. I think that’s really useful. I was going to interrupt at one point and say, “That’s really brave.” But in fact, it just makes sense. We’re not even in the realms of bravery.
Robin Rice: Yeah, not at all. It just is. Consciousness just is and you have more and more of it or more and more access to it or however you want to put it. But in my particular case, I don’t know why I got a big dose of it at a particular age, a particular moment, but it changed the rest of my life.
Robin Rice: And now, I know that the more conscious you are, the more smart you are, if you will, with yourself. The smarter you are in the world. And I particularly like working with super smart people. That’s not the only people I work with, but I do happen to enjoy working with super smart people, because super smart people are very often super dumb about themselves. Right?
Robin Rice: They put all of their chips on the outward educational, creative genius aspect and then they’ll get around to themselves later.
Finola Howard: Do you think that’s changing? Because you know that in the tech industry, they have moved. All of those tech superstars have moved in their thinking. They’ve changed their thinking. And I suppose when they get older too, they’re totally moving their thinking towards …
Finola Howard: I’m actually watching the Bill Gates Kind of … He’s on Netflix at the moment, which is very interesting. So, he’s flipped his thinking as he got older and historically, even Cornell, all of the guys, the steel industry, all of that time, they all flipped their thinking as they get older. But that’s kind of happening sooner now.
Robin Rice: Yes. I mean, that’s a maturity that happens. It’s built in to our growth process. People think you graduate college and then you actually are just going to be you for the rest of your life. And in fact, your older years are incredibly shaping years.
Robin Rice: We are missing such an opportunity in the world because these older years are … Your self consciousness drops, which means consciousness itself can come in more. Your worry, your anxiety hopefully is dropping. You don’t care whether you’re wearing lipstick or not. Like I said, you were wearing beautiful lipstick. I’m like, “This is lipstick but …” Whatever, but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.
Robin Rice: I am not my lipstick. I am not my clothes. I am not any of those things. If I had to wear something different today, I could care less. I just don’t care. I try not to show up in a sweatshirt for something professional, but I don’t really care of myself.
Robin Rice: But the point is, is that as you grow older, these things naturally drop away and we have very little Cultural language and knowledge of this, that we’re going to grow. So, of course, you’re going to change positions based on how you’ve grown and what you’ve learned and why shouldn’t you change positions.
Robin Rice: If you do your research on the whole Silicon Valley, it all started out with drugs. I mean, really, that’s what … We got Silicon Valley by people who are on drugs. So, everybody has an internal experience. Every single person has an internal experience.
Finola Howard: Do you think consciousness is required? Is this level of consciousness required at a younger age now because of the world we live in?
Robin Rice: Absolutely. You have a whole world as your neighborhood. And our brains and our psyches and all of this are not adapted yet to handle. We have a natural biological built-in desire to protect our family, to care about our neighborhood, to see a wrong and right it. All of those kinds of things.
Robin Rice: Well now, you’re seeing the wrong in 54 different places before you even get out of your morning news. And so, the beings that we are, are not prepared for this. And I personally believe consciousness is really our only answer to that. The only evolutionary leap that we can take is going to be a leap in consciousness.
Finola Howard: I love that. Tell us a little about the work that you do. And I know you can’t say much, but tell us a little bit about what it would be like to work with you at that top level, that one to one level as a leader or top exec? What’s that like? What’s that like to work? And how does that show itself?
Robin Rice: Another big question, because I don’t have anything scripted. The very first thing I’m going to do is I’m going to peer very deeply into the constructs that you have about yourself. I’m going to go in and I’m going to say, “Where did you put yourself together really well? And where didn’t you? Where did you miss a beat? Or where did you skip a grade? Or where Did something go off that’s now showing up as a problem in your life?”
Robin Rice: People don’t come to me when everything is hunky dory. And truthfully, no one’s life is hunky dory. That’s just an image. And everybody has the same challenges and the same problems just at a different scale. You want to scale your business, well scale your problems.
Robin Rice: Everyone has ways in which they’ve adapted and coped with life and all of that sort of thing. And everyone has limits in their thinking because they’re just one person, and they’re looking out. So, having someone think with you and say, “Well, what about this?”
Robin Rice: Or, what I like to do is challenge the premise of the question. So someone come in with a question and says, “Why can’t I X, Y, Z? Before we go into why can’t I X, Y, Z, I’m like, “Why are you asking about X, Y, Z? X, Y, Z isn’t important. Really? Is it? Oh, to you, it is. Okay. So, this is really important to you, this X, Y, Z.:
Robin Rice: Let’s look at why that’s important before we go try to solve it, because people are smart. People are really smart. We’re emotionally savvy, we’re psychologically savvy these days, we’re smart people. If you haven’t answered a problem that you’ve had in your life for a long time, you don’t have the right question, for sure. You do not have the right question.
Robin Rice: So, if we don’t go and look at the question and go behind the question … And it sounds like psychology, and I suppose to some degree as we all are psychologically savvy, that’s in there. But I’m just actually really interested in your brain synapses and how did you get from A to B to C, and is that working? Because You wouldn’t come to me if it wasn’t working. Or if it was working, right? You’re coming to me because something is not working, and I’m going to …
Robin Rice: So, if you work with me, one of the things I’m going to do is I’m going to lend you my confidence that we can fix this. We can change this, we can shift this, we can grow this. And that’s one of the things that I absolutely know, because I’ve worked with so many people over the years. And I don’t know how I’m going to help you, but I know that if we both feel it, I can and I will.
Finola Howard: Do your clients come with a specific task or question or objective in mind?
Robin Rice: Sometimes. Sometimes there’s 10 objectives. All they know is that they are at a place in their life that this isn’t working anymore. And I specifically chose in this case. Now, I work with a lot of different levels of influencer, whatever. But in the main work, the Rainmaker work, I work with leaders and people who are influencers, because I figured that’s the best way I can get … I can change the world most if I’m changing influencers.
Robin Rice: But they are coming very often with problems that because they haven’t been able … They’re smart. They haven’t been able to solve them for a long period of time. They’ve talked to a lot of people over the years. They are actually pretty much hopeless. They’re like, “Yeah, well, you can work with other people. And I hear that you do, but you can’t actually help me.”
Robin Rice: Because we convince ourselves that we’re not actually helpable in certain areas. Again, you don’t come unless you’re sort of defeated. And so when you’re defeated, I have to look at why you’re defeated before we even look at solutions.
Finola Howard: Yeah.
Finola Howard: At that level …
Robin Rice: Rambler. Sorry.
Finola Howard: No. I love it. Let me just say it bluntly, who would admit that they were defeated? Or am I naïve in asking that question?
Robin Rice: No, not in public.
Finola Howard: Yeah.
Robin Rice: Right? They’re not going to admit that in public, especially if they’re a public figure.
Finola Howard: Even picking up the phone, at that level, …
Robin Rice: No one is going to call me and say, “Robin, come help. I’m defeated.” Right? But something inside of them doesn’t believe that anything is actually going to change, because it hasn’t changed for so long. Right? And that’s the kind of work that I do is I work with people for whom the answer hasn’t come for a long time, or they’re in a totally new place, and they just don’t know how to handle it.
Robin Rice: I work with women a lot, who are in the public eye. For example, one of the things that comes up all the time is, “I’m a nice person, but I have to say no by email 200 times a day. And maybe I have to even become impersonal and have an assistant say no on my behalf.” And they’re saying no not just to someone they actually don’t want to have lunch with, but their grandmother’s best friend who happens to be in town. “Oh my god, how do I say no to her?” But there’s 54 grandmother’s best friends in a given week.
Robin Rice: So, how do you handle a new level of you, a new identity of you? And identity is a big piece of consciousness. Are we conscious of our working identity versus our public identity? And how do they converse with each other, if you will?
Finola Howard: Yeah, it’s interesting.
Robin Rice: But there is in each of us, every one of us some part of our lives where at some point, we’re going to feel defeated. And so …
Finola Howard: I have to ask this question.
Robin Rice: Yeah.
Finola Howard: We always have to ask this. I think you’ve already answered, but I’ll ask anyway. When someone chooses you, why are you different to other people? Because you are very clearly different to others.
Robin Rice: Yeah. Well, that’s where that consciousness piece comes in.
Finola Howard: Yeah.
Robin Rice: I don’t know why I was shaped the way that I was. Life shaped me. The consciousness that came upon shaped me. But what it did was it allowed me … I was very clear. So, I have this massive consciousness experience, and the very first thing that I’m saying in my head …
Robin Rice: Well, the very first thing is, “Took you long enough. I can’t believe you let me sleep for 35 years.” And I’m like, “Who is saying that to who are you saying it to?” I was watching this kind of thing. But then the other thing I said was, “I am not going to be good.” I’m not wearing white robes. I’m not doing the whole save you thing. I’m not doing a guru thing. I’m just not doing any of that stuff, because I knew it wasn’t what was needed in the world.
Robin Rice: So, you have the benefit of my having had that experience and the natural unusual gifts that come with it, which we get really woo-woo when we start talking about those. But the clarity of sight that I have is really what’s different. I have a clarity of sight that’s very penetrating and very quick. Usually, almost always on target, but I’m willing to be wrong. And if I am wrong, we explore that, because I’m not perfect by far.
Finola Howard: I’m glad to hear it. What a relief. And so my next … Let’s talk about clarity of sight. And what I’d like to talk about clarity of sight is the social change projects, three I’m thinking of at the moment. You have two very strong, very impactful social change projects.
Finola Howard: One was called Stop The Beauty Madness. The second one was called Your Holiday Mom, and the third one is the one you’re going to bring out and we’ll talk about it in a second. The thing I love about these social change projects is that you have had that clarity of sight to focus in, down to something that seems so small, such a small idea, but it’s an enormous idea simultaneously.
Finola Howard: It’s a small idea in that it’s capable of being actioned and having impact. And it’s a huge idea, because it’s capable of impact. You know what I mean? That it will make a difference. And I’d love you to talk about those two. And then in a moment, let’s talk about the one that’s coming, which is called …
Robin Rice: Whoa, don’t bring it out there yet. We’re not launched. We will talk about it in abstract.
Finola Howard: We can talk about it in abstract. I’ll let you lead the way on that.
Robin Rice: Yeah, sure. Thank you for letting me talk over you.
Finola Howard: Okay, forgive me for that.
Robin Rice: No, we didn’t rehearse any of this.
Finola Howard: It’s so exciting. It’s so exciting. So let’s talk about the first two.
Robin Rice: Yeah.
Finola Howard: Stop The Beauty Madness and Your Holiday Mom. And the thing that I’d like you to talk about, one is describe the idea really quickly. I think would be of interest to entrepreneurs out there, and also social entrepreneurs out there is this idea that you can take this big passion project that you have and make it actionable, simply. Like, for example, Your Holiday Mom costs $11.
Robin Rice: Yeah, a year. The URL might have gone up to 16 now, but big deal, right?
Robin Rice: Yeah. So, I’m very strategic in the design of the social change. I am going for viral from the very first thought. I’m going for viral, and I know that the way … And viral is different levels and different things. There are certain viral that are just way out of the league of what I’ve done. But what I’ve done by myself and with a group is actually pretty big numbers.
Robin Rice: So, Stop The Beauty Madness ended up being covered in 30 magazines, major magazines, or in major magazines of 30 different countries. And we stopped counting at 30, so it was actually more than that, which was just astounding for something that I and a handful of people who are supporting me and working with me and helping me get it out there. It’s just amazing to me.
Robin Rice: So, I like to say nobody pays me and nobody stops me. So, if you don’t pay me, you can’t stop me from doing whatever I want. And so, I look at it and I say, “You know what? I’m really sick of the beauty standards, because I’m suffering from them.” It’s not just the world is suffering and I have this opinion. It’s like no, we’re all suffering and we’re getting it wrong because it’s cultural. It’s not just me.
Robin Rice: If every woman feels ugly, then you’ve got a culture problem, not a personal ugly problem. I feel this way, and I feel it passionately, which I did growing up and I have at different times in my life. If I feel that passionately, then it’s gotten into my system. It’s gotten into my psyche.
Robin Rice: So, what I did with Stop The Beauty Madness was I put about 25 ads together, and I used stock photos and it was so successful, I had to pay a whole lot more money for them. And even The Today Show couldn’t pay the fees of putting it on. They wanted more money for the success of that, so even though we filmed it, it never actually went out.
Robin Rice: But the idea was I wanted to talk about the truth and I wanted to see it in a big way. So, I got focus groups, and I said, “Okay, well, what’s this sub group’s experience? What’s it like to be young, old, fat, thin? What’s it like to be white, black, Asian? What is it like in this whole thing? What is the message that’s going to come out of this?”
Robin Rice: So, we had really striking, in your face ads, really in your face ads. And so you think you’re going to see a typical beauty ad because of the stock photo that I chose, and then you see something like a super, super, super thin woman for example, and it says, “My boyfriend says I gained a few pounds. I just love how he’s always looking out for me.”
Robin Rice: And every woman knows how painful that is. You have an elderly woman who’s absolutely stunning and it says, “Old isn’t ugly, it’s invisible.” Because that is the experience of the older woman. You are literally on the street no longer acknowledged and seen as you walk down the street anymore.
Robin Rice: And I’ve even experienced that, and I’m not that old yet, especially when I was in Silicon Valley. So, all of these things came together and I just put them out there. It was how I designed the group around it in the pre-phase that is what actually creates the viral part.
Robin Rice: So, this becomes our project. I bring in a focus group. I’ve done that with my latest one for your holiday mom. Moms write letters to LGBTQ youth every Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. We just write a letter posted on a blog. The blog is what costs the $11 or $16.
Robin Rice: We have volunteers that edit and make sure that it’s in the right tone and all of that sort of thing. The day that the mom’s letter is posted, she’s on there to respond to the comments and the comments are heart wrenching. I think we had something like 30,000 interactions in our first 40 days, something like that. And now, we’re in our seventh year. And every year, we save lives. We know that because they actually write that in the comments. “I was going to kill myself tonight, but I found this site.”
Robin Rice: And all I did was take this very basic human need, which all of us have, which is a mom’s love, and say, “If your mom doesn’t love you, can’t accept you, I will. Here’s what it’s like to sit at our table. We’ve got Hanukkah or we’ve got Christmas, or we’ve got whatever. Sorry, you have to sit next to crazy Uncle Joe, but someone does every year. It’s your turn.”
Robin Rice: And we make it very, very visual and central from a standpoint if you can smell the cookies, you can smell the turkey, whatever it is, and you experience what it’s like if I were bringing you into my home and sitting new. You and I are going to go for a walk down the lane. We’re going to talk about your life and I’m going to tell you I think you’re amazing.
Robin Rice: And that virtual experience, that sensory experience actually changes us. It changes the sense that maybe my mom doesn’t love me or can’t accept me right now, but someone does. And so these very fundamental … You asked why is it a small thing. It’s a small thing because it’s very specific in one area, one message, one thought, but I make sure it’s a universal thought. And that’s what allows it to have big impact.
Robin Rice: If every single one of us has some kind of experience with rejection from our mothers, say, regardless of even if you’re … Lots of people are part of Your Holiday Mom that aren’t young people, that aren’t LGBTQ even. They’re like, “I just miss my mom because she died several years ago,” or whatever.
Robin Rice: So, those things all come together. This very specific focus, this very specific message, but a universal message. Again, I’m really long-winded with you. Sorry if …
Finola Howard: No, you’re not, because it’s so powerful, Robin. Yeah. It’s so powerful. It is very narrowly focused. That’s this grounded nature that you have, and it’s heart wrenching. Yeah, it’s absolutely heart wrenching.
Robin Rice: It is.
Finola Howard: And simultaneously, thank God, thank whatever. That you’ve had this ability to see consciously clearly what could make a difference.
Robin Rice: Yeah, it’s the cultural message every time for me. To me, it’s like, “Where has culture got this wrong? Where has society got this wrong? Where is there a hurt?” A very deep and powerful hurt that is actually shaping us that could be somehow relieved.
Robin Rice: And then from there, we can deal with the details and we can deal with how are we going to express this and that’s a matter of creativity. I mean, the other thing I would say is that’s a component of all of them is it’s so fundamental that it’s obvious once you see it. But because of our culture, we don’t see it until … We see it in ourselves, but we don’t see it collectively.
Robin Rice: So, I want to look at it and say, “How is this collectively an issue?” And if it’s collectively an issue, maybe you’re not as screwed up as you think. And that gives us some relief, like, “Oh, wow. This isn’t just me. It’s not just me that feels ugly.”
Robin Rice: And I’m not even rational about whether I’m ugly or not. I have absolutely no idea. But even if I did, it wouldn’t be universal of what people thought what I looked like, unless I’m talking about culture as a whole and that’s where the problem is.
Robin Rice: That’s where we go with these. And the new one, I am not going to put the name out there just yet, sorry about that, but we’re tackling loneliness as a direct core. Talk about something universal. They’re now saying three and four Americans are … It seems to be in the more wealthy countries, especially at the moment because we don’t need each other anymore. We think we don’t need each other anymore.
Robin Rice: We think that there’s this … We can afford to live alone as a financial decision. But as an emotional and a psychological decision, we can’t afford to be alone all the time. We will deteriorate. We were not made to be alone all the time. And many, many people are very alone. They’re alone at work. Sometimes, they’re alone in their own families. They might have people around them, but they don’t feel understood.
Robin Rice: And so this concept of loneliness … Again, I’ve taken one tiny little thing that we’re going to work with that has a universal message, and we’re going to put it out there. I’ve already got a focus group. I’ve got about 100 people. They’re helping me choose the logo. They’re helping me choose the music. That’s coming up next.
Robin Rice: They’re helping me do some pieces around it. So that, one, I’m not in a vacuum where I can make a big mistake as I have before. And two, I get people who feel like it’s not just my project, it’s our project. In our project, we have 100 people wanting to share our project and take ownership and I want them to take ownership. I want them to feel like I was a part of this, I supported this early on, and now look where it’s going, and share it that way. And that’s the inherent viral factor.
Finola Howard: We would share it too.
Robin Rice: Yay.
Finola Howard: So, you will have to come back and talk about when it’s ready.
Robin Rice: I will.
Finola Howard: Because it’s so very interesting. So, I love that. I love that you can make this difference by how you see things. Just one other thing I want to talk to you about today. That is your reach in terms of …
Finola Howard: There’s already a significant reach here with your leader, your clients that are leaders and change makers, and then with the social change projects, but you also do have a great resource for everybody called bewhoyouare.com, which is an academy of great learning.
Robin Rice: I’ll be who you are.
Finola Howard: But you have a particular masterclass. Now, masterclasses are very interesting to me, because by the very name masterclass, it’s up a level, pushing forward, growth of great interest and great popularity with many online course creators.
Finola Howard: But this one is a little bit different. It’s a year-long program and it’s called a significant year. And I know you’ve one rolling out now at the moment, but it will start in January. But, let’s talk about The Significant Year and I have a complete disclaimer here, because I’m on the current Significant Year.
Robin Rice: Which is amazing. Finola, finally took one of my courses.
Finola Howard: I’ve taken lots of your courses.
Robin Rice: Well, one of my live courses.
Finola Howard: So, this is really powerful and I wanted to share it. And in fact, in my own group, I’ve shared some stuff yesterday about it, because there’s a point when you grow, because I’m always very interested in growth, right? And there’s a point when you can reach stasis, that you can get stuck, or you can get …
Finola Howard: You’re kind of just … Or you’re stretching. It’s this piece where you kind of need to ask for help. You need to have to be in a place to help move you to the next stage. And I am lucky enough to be accepted, because you have to apply for this course.
Finola Howard: It’s a masterclass and it’s called A Significant Year. It’s for makers. I’m going to let you talk about it in a second. But the thing that attracted me to it was that it was consistent. It would be powerful, I would be around people who are at the top of their game, that we would support each other. And that we had work to do, but we had work to do for a specific objective.
Finola Howard: And the thing that I think that you add that’s quite interesting is I might come saying, “I want to write a book.” Or, I might come … Particularly for me, I came saying I want to scale, and part of that is a book. But the other part that Robin adds to this quite uniquely is an essence based change.
Finola Howard: And I think that’s very interesting, because that’s the piece, that stuff that’s so … And I think you’re amazing at unlocking that. And I advocate this strongly. Let’s talk about this, because this is a unique way of doing a masterclass.
Robin Rice: Yeah. There’s several components to it. You have what I call 6×6, which is this inner inquiry that goes deeper and deeper into what ends up being 12 themes over the course of 36 weeks. So, you have deep learning that goes on with that, and that’s lesson-based.
Robin Rice: And then we have our one-on-ones. We have six of those over the course of the time. And then we have the group calls, which people love and end up going over time most of the time because you’re supporting each other.
Robin Rice: So, first of all, I think because you’re about marketing and business and that sort of thing, I think it’s interesting to look at the whole piece. So you can go to bewhoyouare.com and take Training Your Inner Warrior for free. We’ve now had more than 15,000 people take it. It’s one of my best courses ever, and I wanted to make it available to anyone, and I didn’t want to have to wait to convince you to fork over your $299.
Robin Rice: And because of that, we’ve been able to give away, I don’t know, maybe like $3 million worth of the course or something, which again, it actually sold for that. So, those aren’t just inflated numbers.
Robin Rice: So, you have that free and then you have my Rainmaker, which is pricey. And I say this slightly tongue in cheek, but it’s actually kind of a reality is that people who have a lot of money that pay me for the one-on-one work, because we’re going to do really deep work, we’re going to do really powerful work, we’re going to make major transformation. You need to be invested in that. So, that’s not inexpensive.
Robin Rice: However, that also helps me pay for all my social change projects. So, it’s not just my lifestyle. That’s my funding model. But what I didn’t like was that there wasn’t anything in between. In between is the significant year and it’s not inexpensive, but it’s also totally workable. And actually, this is the very first time in a long time that I’m allowing payments, experimenting with that for people.
Robin Rice: But the idea is, is that we are now more and more a freelance-based society, we are entrepreneurs, we have every tool available to us to create things. We can create our own website, we can write our own books, we can do anything. You can make anything these days. The maker instinct inside of us is very happy.
Robin Rice: But it’s also very overwhelming, because you’ve got to learn all of these different things that you need to do. And you have to learn by trial and error, and who do you trust and all those things. And since I’ve done so many of those things, I’ve published books, I’ve published websites, I’ve built lots of websites, built social change projects, done all of those things, I knew I could bring that to a group setting and offer that.
Robin Rice: But more important than that, because I don’t want to be the guru, is that I can bring together a group of people. And this is one of my superpowers. Over the years, people have always said, “I love your class, but I really love who you brought to the table.”
Robin Rice: And by the way, not everybody is top-top. That will intimidate them to think, “Oh, well, I can’t join this.” If you’re smart, if you’re doing it, or if you want to be doing it, if you’re ready to do it, if you’re going to write a book, if you’re going to start a business, you’re going to upscale your business, you’re going to do whatever.
Robin Rice: As long as you actually have some success behind you in some form, and you’re smart, and you’re really, really ready, then you can join us also if you’re a woman. Because this is a woman’s group in particular. I like a particular feel for this for women entrepreneurs that women can be in that environment.
Finola Howard: Can I ask you why?
Robin Rice: Not politically correct to answer.
Finola Howard: But it’s useful…
Robin Rice: Trust me, I love men. I think men are amazing, but men process very differently than women, and women share differently when men are in the room. That shouldn’t be true, and isn’t always true, but when we do that essence-based change and we work with something very deep and personal inside of us, it’s just, in my experience, women tend to share more and more authentically when they’re not. They’re afraid to be judged, really is what it is.
Finola Howard: Yeah, but I think it’s really important to state that. I think it’s okay. I think it’s always okay to have a group just for women. But I think it’s also really important that we say why.
Robin Rice: Yeah. We’ll rail against a group just for men, but we won’t … So, we do have to say why in some ways, but there’s a lot of reasons.
Finola Howard: I mean, I was involved with a women’s initiative several years ago, pre-Facebook, pre-social media, and I was contacted by the Employment Equality Legislation here in Ireland of why men weren’t allowed. So, I think it’s okay. It’s important to say it.
Robin Rice: Yeah. And keep in mind, I have a transgender adult son, and I also know that many people are not in the bodies that they feel comfortable with. So, for me, regardless, if you have an interest in approaching it from the feminine, then I would consider, very, very much consider bringing someone in who was in a male body who had this way of thinking.
Robin Rice: But this is really capitalizing on a way of thinking that women seem to already have intuitively gotten, and we don’t have to start with education 101, if you will, on that particular piece. So, it’s a judgment call, but it’s you know a very particular approach. Those are my reasons. They may or may not get me in trouble, but those are my reasons.
Finola Howard: I think it shouldn’t get you into trouble.
Robin Rice: Yeah. I also think I want more women to be successful in the world. I just want to support that process. As a woman, I do understand that better. I understand. I’m not cutthroat. I’m not a cutthroat person. I’m never going to be a cutthroat person. It’s not how I’m interested in being out there.
Robin Rice: Not to say that all men are cutthroat, but there’s a culture of cutthroat that I know women are backing away from business because they have rejected that. And I hear that at all levels. Even the very top levels. They’re like, “I just don’t want that next promotion, because I know where I’m going and I don’t want to go there.”
Robin Rice: We have to work on that. Maybe that’s the issue they come with is like, “I don’t want the next level. I don’t want to scale, and here’s why I don’t want to scale. I don’t want to be whatever.”
Finola Howard: Or, here’s conflict with my scale, because I can share this very openly here. That was one of my things, my own conflict as a woman or as a person or as Finola with scale. And it’s very interesting. I find the dynamic of the women there powerful.
Robin Rice: Yeah.
Finola Howard: There is a sense of allowing, and what I mean by allowing is that we have space to be our messy selves, and then we have space to be simultaneously our professional selves, because there are many dimensions. This is also true for men anyway, the different dimensions of the human being.
Finola Howard: When I reflect on it, and I spoke to one of the people on the group during the week, and we talked about how some of us are really strong here, and then we’re crap over here.
Robin Rice: Right.
Finola Howard: A really strong there where we’re crap … You know what I mean? But we just accept it of all of us, and together we rise. You know that kind of idea?
Robin Rice: Yeah, it’s true of all of us. I mean, the image is that we have to have everything together on every level and nobody does. If you allocate all of your resources to becoming an engineer, and none of them to becoming a psychologist, you’re going to have an imbalance in what you know. That’s just how it works.
Robin Rice: And by no means am I in the gender question here. I’m just saying this is just a fact of life. If you are particularly rewarded for a particular gift and skill that you’ve put out there all over the years, and now your life journey is saying to you, “Okay, we’re going to back away from that one and work on some remedial stuff that you got kind of missed.” That’s really threatening. That’s really scary.
Robin Rice: And so you approach it with compassion like everybody’s stuff is worthy of compassion, and I have true compassion for the stuff and as you also know. Then I’m very logical. And I’m like, “Okay, and here, and here, and here is how you’re going to go about changing that. The fact that it’s coming up tells me you’re ready to change it. So, here’s how we’re going to do it.”
Robin Rice: I have this constant thing where people say to me, “Yes, Robin, but how? I know I’m supposed to grow. I know I’m supposed to change. I know I’m supposed to evolve, but how?” And that how is managing our brain synapses. That how is managing our habits. That how is getting past fears. I mean, there’s lots of things that are the how, and then just thinking differently.
Robin Rice: Again, if you had the right problem in your head, you probably would have solved it by now. So, you need someone to help you get the right problem, so you can go about solving it.
Finola Howard: Yeah, but it even comes back. None of us are islands. We need to know when to ask for help.
Robin Rice: Yeah. And by the way, back to the male, female thing. I just want to say that the only one I’m doing that with is the significant year. Rainmakers, lots of them are men and Training Your Inner Warrior, lots of people are men that take that. I love men. I think they’re great. They’re awesome.
Finola Howard: I know you do. I know. I just think it’s worth sharing that it is that kind of group, because we need it.
Robin Rice: Yeah. And look, when you sign up with me, I … I don’t reject people easily. If you’ve signed up, you’re probably interested, so you’re probably really along the way. You might not be quite ready or there might be some things that make it so that we … I know I can’t deliver for you, but the main criteria that I have when someone applies is at the end of the year, can you look back and say, “Wow, that was a magical, major movement year for me in my work, in myself, in my essence, and all of those things.” And if I don’t think I can say that, I’m not going to have you waste your money.
Finola Howard: Yeah. I also like very clearly that you bring us to that every week.
Robin Rice: Every week. Yeah. Okay.
Finola Howard: Will you have a significant year if you do this? Will you have a significant year when you reflect on this? And I like that you definitely ground us and bring us back to the accomplishment of stuff. Yes, we’re doing essence-base worked as well, and I suppose we should clarify what is essence-based work?
Robin Rice: Yeah. So, it’s less tangible, but it’s fundamental. It’s some essence inside of us. So, you have something that’s inside. Maybe it’s a particular fear of failure, or maybe it’s an anxiety. We don’t do therapy. I’m not a therapist.
Robin Rice: So, people will have therapists as well and hopefully take some of this stuff to them. On the tangible level, we can say, “Okay, I’m going to scale my business by X. I’m going to write this book. I’m going to …” It is project-based.
Robin Rice: You’ve got to choose a project as part of the year. You don’t have to know what it is when you start, but we’re going to work on it all year, because I want you to have something in your hands when we’re done. But along that way, that’s how I figure out where you’re breaking down inside your head. Like why you’re not writing a book, why you’re not doing these things. Figuring those things out.
Robin Rice: And so then the essence is, “Okay. Why am I always only comfortable to a certain level of success?” Or I want to be comfortable with everyone in my family knowing what I really do, which is I’m a healer or something that is fundamental to the bigger picture, but you haven’t been able to make real movement with. Now, when I work with my Rainmakers, we take on 8, 10, 12 of those. In the class, we take on one.
Finola Howard: I recommend it. Robinrice.com.
Robin Rice: Thank you. Thank you. It’s really fun as well. It’s really fun. Everybody is like, “These are my significant friends, and can we have a WhatsApp group?” And all those things.
Finola Howard: All those things. I want to ask you one final question. And that is think about the audience here. So, the audience is entrepreneurs and business owners. And if you were to give them three pieces of advice to walk away from this with, what would those three pieces of advice be?
Robin Rice: Wow. See, now, you’re asking me to be very general, not specific, because I don’t …
Finola Howard: Don’t go specific.
Robin Rice: And there’s three. I don’t know. When you become an entrepreneur, you get to decide which 12 hours a day you want to work, but you still work 12 hours day. And you have to love what you’re doing for that 12 hours or you’re wasting your life.
Robin Rice: So, that would be one thing I would say is you don’t have to find your passion. I think that’s a catch phrase these days that’s very dangerous, because there are lots of days when I’m not passionate about whatever it is that’s on the docket for the day. They’re the things that go with the things that make me passionate, right? Although you can design yourself to be much more like that.
Robin Rice: The second thing I would say is … I had it, now it’s gone. There’s something in me that just wants to say it’s okay if it’s hard. The world is selling you easy, and fast, and quick, and all of those things. It’s okay if it’s hard. Hard is part of life. If you’re going to climb a mountain, there are going to be moments when it’s hard and you still want to climb the mountain, great. You’ve chosen to climb the mountain.
Finola Howard: Good one.
Robin Rice: And the other thing is … This is just my basic philosophy. Over-deliver. Under-promise, over-deliver. I think what everyone who hires you wants to hear regardless of what they’re hiring you for is, “I gotcha boo. I gotcha. I gotcha, and I care, and I’m good at this, so you don’t have to be. Just let me hold you through it and make it happen.” And that’s not an easy thing, especially for entrepreneurs to do. But to just let somebody hold you.
Robin Rice: If you hire someone, trust them to do a good job as best as possible. Don’t hire the wrong people when your intuition says, “I’m giving you a lot more than three.” Sorry.
Finola Howard: Oh, good. I love it.
Robin Rice: Yeah, but over-deliver from a standpoint of … That doesn’t mean break your back and become a slave. What it means is be so good at your job that when you’re done, they can point to what you did, and you can say, “Yeah, you said you were delivering that and you did. And if you can’t do that, get better at your job.”
Finola Howard: Great. Great way to end this. Thank you, Robin Rice.
Robin Rice: Thank you. I love you, Finola.
Finola Howard: Love you too. And ladies and gentlemen, for our inspiring entrepreneurs today, this was Robin Rice. Thank you for your time.
Have you ever given one of your customers a gift? And if you have, did you think about whether they wanted to receive it in the first place? When you think of a gift to send your customers, something to thank them and show your appreciation, what comes to mind? A company-branded … Continued
Marty Neumeier: Customers Are Your True Volunteers
They Only Hang With You When They Want To
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Finola Howard: Hello everyone, and welcome to How Great Marketing Works. And this is our Inspiring Entrepreneurs Series. It’s a little bit different today because I also think it’s kind of the Inspiring Expert Series or Inspiring Legend series because I have the wonderful Marty Neumeier here with me today to share a little bit of time with you and also to share some of his story, where he’s come from.
One of the things that I love about his own profile is that he said he knew he wanted to be a graphic designer when he was seven. And that whole journey to where he is now, working with CEOs, having written so many wonderful books and changing the lives of so many professionals and companies around the world. So welcome, Marty. Delighted to have you here.
Marty Neumeier: Well, thank you Finola.
Finola Howard: You’re very welcome. So let’s start – and hello everyone, I’m delighted you’re here with us too. Please share with us, how you knew from age seven what you wanted to be when you grew up. So, I’ll let you take it away.
Marty Neumeier: That’s pretty crazy, but true. In second grade, I think it was, they asked everybody, you know, what do you want to be when you grow up? And, you know, “I want to be a nurse”, or a little boy would say, “I want to be a firetruck”. You know what I mean? They didn’t even know anything. They just knew that, you know, cowboy or whatever. And I said, commercial artist. Well, what is that? And I said, you know, drawing things and you know, you get money for it.
Finola Howard: How did you know at seven what that was?
Marty Neumeier: Because my mother went to design school. She went to art school to be a fashion illustrator. And you know, I used to watch her draw, just like, she would just doodle. You know how most people doodle and they make little squares and squiggles sometimes. She would be, when she was on the telephone talking with someone about something completely different, she would be drawing these like beautiful faces, you know, sort of real realistic, beautifully proportioned faces. And they’d be all over the page by the time she was finished. And I’d say, how did you do that? And she said, oh, you know, you can learn that. It’s just something you learn. And I went, you’re kidding me. Can you show me that? And she goes, oh yeah, that’s just, let’s draw a face into the circle and eyes go here and you know, and then if you want to make it like in perspective, you change it.
Marty Neumeier: And it was way over my head, but she told me I could do it. So, I started drawing things. And when you do that at a young age and you have someone to teach you, you get pretty good at it pretty fast. And when you show your work to other kids, like at school in seventh grade or eighth grade, they can’t believe it. They’re just like, that’s magic. That’s totally magic. I used to bring to school pictures of like clipper ships with all the sails and perspective and all the little lines drawn, very complicated, you know, waves parting and seagulls. And I got a bird book from my mother and I was copying all the birds, you know, in color and what I took from that was, well, that’s what I am, you know, I’m just a kid. I don’t know what the options are in life. I just thought obviously I am the school artist, there’s nobody else in my class and that’s what I’m going to be. And so I just set my mind to that and it certainly simplified all my choices in life because I knew that’s what I was going to do. And it was only later that I realized life was bigger than that first thing you choose in seventh grade, at seven years old rather.
Finola Howard: Fantastic. But then you moved on from that. And I’m sure that has influenced how you think because you are drawing as you think, I’m sure.
Marty Neumeier: I think so. Yeah. I mean, I was interested in a lot more things too. I just focused on it as a career, but I was pretty good at English class. I went to Catholic school so there was a big emphasis on that. And there wasn’t an emphasis on anything else creative, so that that was the thing you could do. You know, and I could spell and diagram a sentence and all that. So I was picking that up and I think that influenced me quite a bit. And it was only when I was, oh, I would say early twenties when I started realizing if I want to be a graphic designer, that’s really taking control over a piece of communication and the communication isn’t complete if it’s just graphics. There has to be a verbal component. There almost always is, right? Unless it’s something visual, like a trademark or illustration or something.
Marty Neumeier: So I wanted to control that too. And I worked with copywriters in the beginning and I just thought, you know, I could just do this myself. I can have much more control over it and get a result that doesn’t look like words stuck onto pictures or pictures stuck onto words. It looks like they were born together, right? They were stripped down to, it was just like, you couldn’t take one piece away and have it work. So I think that was the beginning of being a writer and also realizing that strategy is really important, that you can do great graphic design or design a great product. But if you don’t connect that with a business outcome, like some expected outcome, you’re just never gonna get very far and you’re not going to be able to explain your work to someone who would pay you a lot to do it, to work on it.
Finola Howard: At what point did you realize that in your career? At what point did you, because it’s interesting, a lot of graphic designers won’t have the verbage, they will be pure designers and will bring, so you’re unusual.
Marty Neumeier: Right, they’ll go into a meeting and say, so what I was thinking or, and then they’ll show you a bunch of things and it’s like if I were a business person, I say, well, who cares what you’re thinking? It’s like, with all due respect, what’s this going to lead to? What are we getting out of this? How is this going to work? And if you can’t explain that, if you can’t connect the dots for them, like I’m doing it like this, so we can create this, which will change this, which will create profits, then you’re going to be sort of pushed down in the, in the food chain, right? They’ll stick you in a little room with no windows basically and a computer and they’ll tell you what to do. So if you want to have control over your work and do work that you’re proud of and that has an effect in the world, you need to kind of move up the food chain and start learning about, a little bit about how business works, how marketing works, where you fit in the brand community, how you’re going to add value.
Marty Neumeier: You need to prove it. You need maybe to get cozy with research and testing of your own ideas so that it’s not just about your opinion. And I know from being a designer you can have a very strong opinion about your work. You can believe in it like crazy and it can still be wrong. And I only found that out when I was probably 40 years old before I actually tested that, like tested my work to see how good it was, tested ideas against each other. And then what I found is, well, you know, sometimes I’m right and sometimes I’m just fantastically wrong. So, and I certainly think my clients, cause I was running a design firm, my clients were also wrong quite a bit. So, well the reason clients go wrong is because they understand their position in this process to be a decision maker.
Marty Neumeier: Like you show me some ideas and I pick one or I take two and I tell you to mix those two together, this is the worst possible thing. So what I started to do was say, look, none of us are experts. We’re all trying here. We all bring some expertise to it, but who is this really for? Is it for us in this room or is it for customers? And the client would always say, well, it’s for customers obviously. Right, so why don’t we get some customers in the process just to make sure that we’re not missing a point of view that we should be thinking about. And so I started bringing clients to real world situations, like into a store where we were designing a package, to go on a shelf next to some competitors and we’d talk to customers and I would take notes and the client would be on the other side of the aisle listening, you know, pretending to be a shopper.
Marty Neumeier: And I’d get all these very cogent points from customers of what they were understanding from the work because, you know, when you get close to something, you kind of, whether it’s the actual work or whether it’s your career, if you get too close to something, you can lose perspective. And so it’s just great to get a preview of how that package or whatever it is you’re designing, logo or whatever, is going to play out in the real world before you commit to it. Before you commit to it, you have a chance to improve it, you have a chance to learn from it. So building those steps in was just a huge thing for me. And it changed how I think, how I work. It made me more strategic because I was working with the client in real time talking about like, what are we trying to achieve?
Marty Neumeier: Because they didn’t often know. They would say, here’s our product. Can you put, you know, sell it. I’d say, well, what are you, what is the competition doing? What are the choices that customers have when they go to the store? Who else are they thinking about? Oh, wow, okay. Well, and they had all that information, but they weren’t sharing it. I said, okay, so who’s number one in this, in this list of people for your customer? Who’s number one, who’s number two, who’s number three? Because number one is gonna win almost every time. Unless number one is so expensive they can’t afford it. And then number two is going to win. If you’re number five, what are you doing? How are you going to compete? So all those kinds of questions really made clients think. They made me think. And I realized that I had to be strategic with my work because if I didn’t do it, the client was certainly not going to even think of it.
Marty Neumeier: They’re just trusting that it’s all gonna work out. But you know, I wanted my packages to succeed in the market because it feels good to do that. But also you can point to it for your next client and say, you know what, I went to Apple computer. I did all their software packaging and sales went up 40% in six months without changing the products. Then they’d go, how many products is that? It was 15 products. They all average 40%. Average 40%. President said it, here it is. And they’d go, okay then how much is it going to cost? I would say, well, it’s going to cost more than those other guys that are competing with me. But if you want that kind of result, you pay that kind of price. They always do.
Finola Howard: You benchmark when you walk in the door.
Marty Neumeier: Yeah. Right. Well, you talk about actual results and you talk about how you got them and if it all hangs together as a story, they’re going to trust you more than someone else even when they pay more for it. So that was like a light bulb going off. And I said, well that’s remarkable that, so this is what strategy is about. So I was using strategy in my own business to separate myself from the competition. And then I realized my clients need strategy too because they’re not that way. They’re just concerned with day to day stuff, you know, selling stuff everyday, dealing with shareholders or whatever they have to do. It’s not long term thinking and it’s certainly not how to make a design work in the marketplace. They’re trusting you on that. So that was, that was the start of all these books.
Marty Neumeier: I started reading about this and realizing that no one was really paying much attention to it. Good to Great, you mentioned that earlier before we went live. That’s a good book. People should read that. It’s a little bit old now, but had some groundbreaking ideas in it. I picked up on those. I picked up on all the books of, Trout and Ries, on positioning. That’s how I got into this whole thing. Their thinking to me it was so obvious and so clear that it just had to be right, and it was. And then, you know, if you’re a designer, because I think there’s a lot of designers here today, you need to attach your work to that sort of strategic thinking and then it becomes very powerful and you can talk about it in ways that will get you listened to, you know, people will trust you more.
Marty Neumeier: But I think the main thing is to say that and then say, and guess what, we’re going to test some of these ideas, the important ones with actual customers because we want to know before we, you know, green light something, we want to know if it’s going to work. Are you okay with that? They’ll say, how much does it cost? You’ll say, well, it’s only five or 10% of the whole thing. They’ll go, good investment. And then, and then you start to really learn about your craft, whatever it is you’re doing, you start to learn what works and doesn’t work. So I really recommend that. Well, I think we covered that pretty much, The Brand Gap and Zag both talk about that.
Finola Howard: I love both. So, what I wanted to ask you to talk a little bit about was, how Liquid Agency, which is your agency now do what they call a scramble.
I shared with you my own process of working with clients and how I work with the graphic designer. Because I’m a strategist. I work with the graphic designer, I work with the client, it’s very collaborative. And over the last few years I’ve noticed that more and more, I’m working with the HR person in the organization to actually make sure what’s on the outside is on the inside.
One of the things that you mentioned, was that you don’t like to think of the employees as a customer, whereas in marketing speak, we talk about the internal customer and I’d love you to talk about why, and I liked you mentioned this idea of porous walls not to be so rigid on what we think of as the naming of things, I suppose.
Marty Neumeier: Hmmm, the naming of things is important. By the way, I have a dictionary.
Finola Howard: Yeah, I know.
Marty Neumeier: It works across all my books, all eight books I think. It’s called the Brand A to Z and it’s free. If you go to my website, www.martyneumeier.com you can download it for free. It’s fun. It’s fun to look through. It’s very simple. Anyway, yes, naming things is important and I think you’re right that it’s good to think about employees as customers in a way. But I think if you go too far with that, you lose the fact that they’re employees. They have their own set of concerns. They’re getting paid, they have to do what you say, or at least pretend to. Customers, do not. Customers are true volunteers, they only hang with you when they want to. And it’s different with employees. They stick around longer and they know they have a duty to the company.
Finola Howard: I liked that, that idea of customer as volunteer.
Marty Neumeier: They’re not, you know, in the old days, you know, branding was about, you create a product, you decide what it’s going to be, you decide what to name it, you create some messaging and you blast it out there on TV with, with millions of dollars. And often there’s no choice for people cause they only know about your brand because you’re the one talking all the time. They hate it. They hate that you’re doing that. But that’s the choice they have. So they only can say yes or no to your product. Now, customers have a lot of choices and they can talk, they get a view into what you’re doing online and they also talk to each other. So it’s no longer this one way conversation. It doesn’t work like that anymore. You really have to seduce people to join your tribe, which is what I call it now. Your tribe, your customer tribe, your brand tribe is people that support you and probably will support you even when you’re not doing things very well. Even when things aren’t going well, they’ll still support you, they’re loyal to you and they’re loyal to each other within the tribe. That’s how tribes work. So that’s really what you’re creating is a tribe, if you’re building a brand. You’re creating not only individual customers, but tribe members who will reinforce what’s good about your brand with each other.
Marty Neumeier: So that’s a great thing to be able to talk about and to offer to clients because, you know, leaders of companies intuitively understand, I’m building a, they think of it as maybe a family or something, but a family of customers or a family of employees, but they realize it’s a community and someone has to take charge of that community. And I think that person should be, the title for that person in a medium or large sized company, should be Chief Brand Officer. Chief Brand Officer should be at the top or near the top of the company. Not somebody that works for a Marketing Director. So if anything, it’s the other way around. Marketing Directors need to work for whoever’s in charge of the brand. So my example, my poster boy for that is Steve Jobs. So Steve Jobs was CEO of Apple, but he was really the CBO of Apple. He was the Chief Brand Officer. He managed the products, the communications, the customers, the developers. He did not manage shareholders. He did not manage finance.
Marty Neumeier: So he was something different. And actually he didn’t manage the company. There was some probably Tim Cook that finally in the end was the real CEO. So he took over for Steve Jobs. But now there’s no Steve jobs. There’s nobody running the brand in Apple. That’s why you’re seeing less innovation. It’s less exciting now. It’s more status quo, keeping, keeping things moving. You know, that’s, that’s the typical work of a Chief Operating Officer or a CEO. But what you need is a CBO if you want to keep innovating, which is what Steve jobs promised everybody.
Finola Howard: And delivered. Shall I, we have some questions.
Marty Neumeier: Oh, good. I love questions.
Finola Howard: That would be really good, yeah. So, I’m going to throw a couple of questions at you like this. So we have a question from Greg who has design agency in Nebraska and he says, what’s the future of branding? Is there a new word, a new approach and a new method? And I went back to him and I said, I asked him to clarify a little because I wanted more and he said yes, I’m feeling there is a need for a rebirth or revolution of this thing called branding. It’s largely misunderstood. And since Marty’s is such a pioneering mind, I’m curious as to what he sees as the next horizon for the work we all do. And is there a new label to attach to it? In other words, what problems are we all solving in 40 years? The same? Different? Slightly different? Vastly different?
Marty Neumeier: I understand that it’s difficult to use the word brand because it has baggage. In the last, you know, hundred years, probably before that branding was identifying products and companies, you know, it was logos and messaging and that sort of thing. And it’s become much more than that. It’s more, much more inclusive. So that’s hard to get across if you’ve got into your mind a brand is a logo, you know, if you’re the CEO and you think that’s what branding is, it’s all the corporate identity stuff. Yeah, it’s going to be difficult for you to understand that. It’s more than that. So should we create another word for that? And I think, no, I just think it’s just gonna be this painful transition until people realize that the word they know is bigger. I struggled with this for a long time, but I think coming up with a new word for it… new words can’t just be minted like that. They have to be organic and we already have it. So it’s easier to expand the word we already have. So that’s that.
Marty Neumeier: The other thing I see happening in branding, happening right now is that companies understand that to do this work properly, they need to engage the whole company in this process, right? So it’s a cultural thing too. So, it’s about designing your culture and CEOs really are interested in this. How do I design a culture? You would think that a CEO could get people to do whatever he or she wants. They’re the boss, right? But that’s the thing they worry about all the time. It’s like I keep telling him what I want from them and they don’t follow me. So it’s a continuing frustration. So the culture is broken in that case there. He’s unable to get people to follow.
Marty Neumeier: So what you need to do is, is work on that culture, redesign the culture, create new processes, create new understandings of what we’re all doing together. I mean, branding is just solving this problem. How do you get a complex organization to execute a simple idea? Good brands are always very simple and easy to understand. You know, Nike for example, it’s about finding your inner athlete. Okay, I get that, that’s what I thought. You know, everything else just ladders up to that, right? Cool. Apple is about using technology to create more, you know, to make you smarter, right? To make you smarter. And more designed, focused, let’s say in their case. Every good brand has a very simple proposition, but how do you get the whole company on that wavelength, right? And so that’s where the CEO’s are at a loss because they’ve never been trained to do that.
Marty Neumeier: They’ve been trained to think of brand as logos and it’s something the Marketing Manager handles and it’s really more like the Marketing Manager should report to the Chief Brand Officer because brand is every bit as big as the company itself. You think about a company that’s got an inside and an outside. The inside is all the usual CEO stuff. The outside is the brand. It’s the way the important people think of you. The important people are customers. So this is something companies are realizing that they need someone to manage customers, the whole customer community because that’s how they’re gonna succeed. Customers have a voice, they’re volunteers. They’re not conscripts. You can’t make them do anything. You need them. And they in a sense, they run the company. If you’re doing it right, your customers are running the company and you’re serving them, serving customers.
Finola Howard: So you’re teaching your employees to serve customers always then, and not just to serve process.
Marty Neumeier: That’s right. So if you look at it like the whole sort of linkage, the management supports employees, employees serve customers, customers create profits and serving shareholders and shareholders need to support management, the leaders. And what’s happening is shareholders are saying, no, give me money now I want my money off the top. That’s when companies go wrong, you know? So a good CEO is one that can hold off the shareholders and say, no, you’re last in line. You get money because all this other stuff is working first, because we’re managing our employees well, they’re serving the customers well, customers are making money for you, you get it last. That’s just the way it has to work. So that’s the reverse of what it has been. And that’s why business has been just so horrible in the last 50 years. It’s like terrible to work for some of these big businesses. Shareholders come first. Customers hate these companies and there’s still a lot of them around there, but we’re in the middle of a kind of business revolution where everything’s getting flipped upside down. So that’s the subject of my second to the last book, The Brand Flip, it describes how branding has flipped everything for good. I mean, it’s a good trend.
Finola Howard: I want to ask you a question or rather someone here wants to ask a question. She says, Rachel, who’s a designer, what if you don’t? And she’s designer of homewares. What if you don’t have a whole company or team to help or work with you? You work for yourself but need to clarify your brand, your customer.
Marty Neumeier: Yeah, so I think you need to figure out how to work, be part of various teams. So if you’re a solo person, maybe you start networking with people either by just, because you’re already working with them on different projects, but volunteer to go to meetings where the other players are instead of just being sort of divided and conquered, you know. So you say to whoever hired you, well, you know, whatever I’m designing needs to fit with the strategy. So can I be in the meeting with the strategist where that happens? You know, just ask and just keep insinuating yourself into groups of people where you can have your voice heard, learn something from them. Make sure that your work dovetails with theirs. And then if anyone asks your opinion, you tell them, look, I think teams work great, but you have to have people working simultaneously. You can’t separate them if you really want coordination between the various players.
Finola Howard: But if, because I know Rachel, if this is a small business and that, so she is her business. So it’s that working on your own question.
Marty Neumeier: Right, well you don’t have a lot of say do you? So you can ask and you can keep asking and you can politely say, well, who else is working on various parts of this? What is this, what do I have, how does my work connect with other people’s work? And then you say, okay, can I be in that meeting? And maybe you don’t get paid a lot for that, to go to those meetings, but I think it’s a start and you’ll be taken more seriously when you start asking questions that are above your pay grade. Like that’s what I always did. It’s like I was really nervous the first time I said, what’s the strategy for this product? Not knowing very much about strategy at all. And they would go, I don’t know, we don’t have a strategy.
Marty Neumeier: Ah, okay, well maybe I can help you with that. Cause you need a strategy. We need a strategy together. So, you know, read more about branding, read about, well I think The Brand Gap is a good place to start, my first book, because it talks about collaboration and it poses a framework where a company can hire a lot of individual people and get them to work as a virtual team. It’s a good way to do it. If you have someone very strong within the company that can make all those people play together nicely, you can get great, great work and so wouldn’t you want to be on that team that’s doing great, great work.
Finola Howard: Cool. Another question for you, does the customer client experience have a knock on effect on building brand and if so, how can you manage this?
Marty Neumeier: Okay, you cut out there for a minute. Can you repeat it?
Finola Howard: Does customer, this is from Kate, does customer or client experience have a knock on effect on building a brand? And if so, how can you manage this?
Marty Neumeier: I don’t know what client experience means in this case. Do you think you can explain that in different way?
Finola Howard: Yes, I’ll ask Kate if she can explain it in a different way.
Marty Neumeier: Customer experience is really important to building a brand because that’s how they form an opinion. It’s one way to form an opinion. This actual use of a brand, right? Or a product or a service. When you actually experience it, you say, oh, okay, I think I get what it is. And you make an, you form an opinion about it. You know, you’re giving it a reputation or it has a reputation with you. So that’s what branding is. It’s a commercial reputation. Lots of ways to, those are all touch points by the way. So the touch points are places where the product or the service touches customers, where they come in contact with it. So it could be seeing the name, it could be hearing the name, it could be seeing a television commercial. It could be seeing the product on a shelf. It could be using the product, it could be reading about the company in a magazine.
Marty Neumeier: It could be any of these things. Or hearing somebody, these days, hearing someone talking, talking about or seeing it on Twitter. Those are all touch points that, as a brand builder, you need to try to control as much as possible. You can’t control them, but you can try to influence them in a way that gives you the outcome that you want. You need to be aware of them. I’d probably say that my definition of a brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service organization. It’s not a product. Brand is not a product. Brand is not a logo. The brand is not the sum of all experiences. What it is, is a person’s understanding about a product, service or company. And so it’s in their heads, it’s in their heads and that’s where the battle is fought. You have to understand what’s in there, who’s competing for their attention in their heads.
Marty Neumeier: Who are the competitors? What are they saying, what advantages they have over you? How can you give them something that would meet their expectations better than what the competition can? Is it price? We hope not. Is it, it could be anything. It could be that your brand seems more like you than the other brands and you can identify with other people using that brand. So you join that tribe, not even knowing why. You just know that my friends are doing it, I’m going to do it. I trust my friends. So these are all touchpoints.
Finola Howard: Let me ask you another question. This is from Matt, who’s a branding consultant in Nottingham and I know he did your, new masterclass. What do you think brands should focus on in order to prepare for an uncertain future and what practical things might they need to put in place to ensure they are set up for success?
Marty Neumeier: Yeah, well as far as predicting the future, of course that can’t be done, but the best way to understand where your brand should go is to pay attention to customers and see what they’re saying and social media is just beautiful for that. I mean, the most important thing it does for companies is let you get some insight into what customers are thinking. So if you’re involved in social media about your brand and you are watching it, you’ll find people that are maybe unhappy with parts of what you’re doing. And they say, well, what’s wrong with this stupid company? Why don’t they do x? You’re going, why don’t we do x? And if you start hearing those kinds of people saying that a lot there, they’re giving you a glimpse of what’s sort of missing in your company that you could fill in.
Marty Neumeier: And they’re not saying, I’m going to go to a different company cause I know they have x. They’re going to say, it’s just not there, and I wish they would do that. So, and after a while, if you’re really good at this, if you have a firm or a department that’s really good at this, they’ll find those people that are always coming up with future ideas for you. And they’ll target those and they’ll pay attention to those people because they’re really good at it. There’s just some people that are ahead of everybody else, right? They’re always thinking ahead. Well, that’s free. That’s free ideas right there. And so, that’s one way to stay ahead. The other way is just do what Steve Jobs did. He empathized so much with customers. His view of customers, his sort of advanced view of customers, he knew what they wanted, he didn’t have to do research. He knew it. He was just in that head space. Some people are good at that. Some people aren’t. So that’s another way.
Finola Howard: I think that, you don’t stop the research.
Marty Neumeier: Well he famously said he doesn’t believe in research, but they did tons of research. I was there. But the research was typically not in deciding to do something, but in making sure that it was working the way that they imagined it was. And it was creating the bond with customers that they hoped it was. And so they would sort of be testing iterations of things quietly, privately, internally. And then with certain people on the outside very carefully, not to you know, to alert the media and, let the cat out of the bag. They wanted to fail off-Broadway, not on Broadway. Right. So they wanted to test it out quietly and then when they knew worked, like when Steve Jobs showed the iPhone for the first time, he said, “It Just Works”. Well it also took a lot of effort to get to that stage where it just works, right?
Marty Neumeier: But that’s, you know, he was into perfecting something before he announced it. So that’s one way to do it. It’s a fine way to do it if you can. And you need designers to perfect things. So another reason I think products shouldn’t be created, like, in an evolutionary way, I think they should be designed. I don’t think they should be trial and error on the stage where everybody could see it until it’s right. I mean that’s kind of what Microsoft did and you can see what happened to them after a while. They got a really good early start and then nobody wanted their products cause they weren’t designed.
Finola Howard: Yeah, great. I have another question for you. A design agency in Dublin, Barbara, she says, Marty it was you who changed my business for the better after I first read The Brand Gap and I have since been selling the idea of putting brand strategy first before any deliverables. Thank you for that. She said, I want to talk about the reluctance to spend money on brand. I see so many small businesses relying solely on referrals and projecting and this is a real Irish phrase, a dog’s dinner of an image to the world. So my question is, what do you say to this sector to educate them on the value of building a strong brand by starting with strategy and let them know how it can change their business for the better.
Marty Neumeier: I just give them a free copy of The Brand Gap.
Finola Howard: Great. It works. I love it.
Marty Neumeier: That’s how many people are doing that. Lots of designers, they’re just frustrated. They say, just read this, okay, then we’ll talk. Tell me you think of this before we talk. Or any of my books, which are all slightly different topics, but if it’s about strategy, Zag is good. If it’s about building a culture, The Designful Company is good. If it’s about social media and branding, then The Brand Flip and so forth. So that’s how people are using the books. They’re giving them away as just like, you know, this is part of the package. If you want to work together, read this because we’re pretty much in line with this. And then it’ll be a way, it’ll be a little, our little book club. We’ll talk about this and see how this could apply to your company.
Finola Howard: And even probably put stickies on key passages or something that you want them to read in case they say they don’t have time.
Marty Neumeier: Yeah. Read this page or two pages. There’s 50 words a page in one of my books. But yeah, read this chapter and let’s talk. You’ll find out if they’re anywhere near your wavelength. It may open their minds. You still have quite a bit of opportunity to build on whatever it is that they’re reading without, you know, reading a book isn’t the same as, like, following a formula. At least my books aren’t, there’s no formulas. They’re just principles. What you do with them is up to you, how you personalize those and professionalize those is up to you.
Finola Howard: I would also make a suggestion, which is your book Scramble, because that is really, I loved reading it. I loved reading it because it was storytelling and it took all of these ideas from The Brand Gap and Zag and all of that and brought them to life in that scenario. So it wasn’t that idea of theory. It was, “This Is How We Did It”.
Marty Neumeier: Yes. So for participants here who don’t know that book, it’s written as a business thriller. So it’s a thriller about a business that suddenly is struggling and has to do something differently to survive. And there are the usual villains and heroes and so forth in there. But the idea is to explore how using these principles would actually feel in the real world. Like, you know, if you read something in a book, it sounds great, you know, then you go to try it and practice and you go, well, people aren’t letting me do it. It’s them. And that’s what happens. It’s like, you know, unless everybody’s on the same wavelength, it’s gonna be difficult to get any new ideas through. So, you know, so this book explores how to get through that, how to get everyone on the same page, that whole process of a, you hinted at it and it’s called swarming.
Marty Neumeier: The book is called Scramble and that’s part of, that’s one way of swarming. Swarming is when you have everybody working on the problem at the same time. The designers, the clients, the writers, the strategists, the researchers are all working in the same room, sharing ideas in real time instead of doing it step-by-step. Cause the problem with doing things step-by-step is that usually the so-called important decisions are made first, then the lesser ones and lesser ones and lesser ones until you just down to the details. But what happens is every time you make a decision up here, it’s cut off for the people down there. They can’t influence that decision. And I know from experience and maybe some of you designers know, after the strategy has been set, you can come up with an amazing idea that is just not part of that strategy, but it should have been. You know, they just hadn’t thought of it because you thought of it and nobody had thought of it before you like, alighted on it, just in the process of your work.
Marty Neumeier: And you brought it to them and then you said, look, I got this better idea. No, no, no, that’s not part of the strategy. It’s cut off, that door is closed, that chapter is closed. So to avoid that, you have the book open the whole time. Everybody’s working and bouncing ideas off each other until you come to some mutual decision about it. And in doing that, the work is usually better and the client is willing to defend that idea to the death after that. They will go with that no matter what, until they need to change it. They won’t say later, oh that seemed good at the time. But we’re not, we’re not doing that anymore. We’ve hired a different company with a different way.
Finola Howard: Because it was theirs. They were part of its inception.
Marty Neumeier: Yeah, well they’re just bought into it at that stage. I love that idea and it works great. You need to be comfortable working live in front of people, right. You have to be good enough. So it’s pretty advanced branding. But for people that are fearless and also humble enough to understand that they’re not always right, they thrive in this kind of thing. And it’s just a really quick way to get some great results. In one week, you can prototype a whole brand, like, you know, with all the key components, the logo, maybe a name, a website, product package. If you get enough people in the room, working fast and furious, at the end of the week you can say, wow, this is what the brand could be. And then the leaders can say, do we want to do that or not? Or how much do we want to do this? Do we want to go another round and try something else? But almost inevitably they’re gonna go mostly with what they’ve got because it’s there and it’s gorgeous and they helped.
Finola Howard: I love, there’s a quote by David Packard of Hewlett Packard, which is, marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department. That’s it. That is, be brave enough to have us all there and you get end to end. Great.
Marty Neumeier: Well, business is too important to be owned by business leaders too. I mean you know, other people can be involved. It’s totally true. We all, we need more collaboration. We need more respect for each other’s contributions, which can be very different. Designers think completely differently. They think with their hands often but they come up with ideas you’d never ever think about, you know, if you were being logical. At the same time, logical people have a way of holding you, holding your nose to the grindstone. It’s like, no, that’s great, but that’s not gonna work for us because here’s what we’re trying to do, did you forget? I mean, the two ways of thinking are really great together. And it’s just easier to understand each other when you’re in the room together. And so that’s how we arrange it these days. We call it swarming. If you read Scramble, you’ll see a beautiful illustration of how that works out and the difficulty of it too. It’s not easy. It’s, as I say, it’s advanced.
Finola Howard: Yeah. Another question for you, and this is from Katya, with a design agency in Slovenia. So we’ve got all over the place. She designs brand identities, visual assets and shows companies how they incorporate that into their promotional material for better brand recognition. She wants to know what the future of the value of these brand assets, like visual brand identity, like logos, color schemes and things that are representing the brand visually and consistently. This is what was interesting. She feels that the value of visual assets is decreasing because we’ve so many possibilities to market our services and products, that consistency and recognizability in that sense isn’t that important to companies anymore?
Marty Neumeier: Well observed. That’s true. A friend of mine was in the peak of his career. He was a great logo designer, trademark designer, working on his own out of his garage studio and working with some of the best Silicon Valley companies, you know, and being paid quite a bit of money for these things, you know, 30 to a hundred thousand dollars for a logo and the stationery that went with it and the colors and all that kind of stuff. And then one day it stopped just like that and never came back. It was just like someone flipped a switch. And I think it was a bunch of things, you know, up to a certain point. The only way a graphic designer could influence a brand was trademarks and colors and typefaces and, you know, page design systems, templates and things like that.
Marty Neumeier: And so that business grew into something very important because it could have an effect. But what happened is people realized there are many more objects and you know, touch points that could influence customers, including websites, I think websites probably did it. I think they just saw, well, I can spend $30,000 on a new trademark and it’ll be gorgeous, or I can spend it on my website and I’ll get customers from it. Right? So I think we’ll just let the web design company do the logo for $500 or whatever, just as part of their work. So it went from being the focus of attention to being kind of just not that important. But it still is important. It’s super important. It’s just that there are other things that are important to us. As a brand designer, you need to be open to all these things that can be designed and not focused on one.
Marty Neumeier: You know, I mean I still think a logo is worth spending $10,000 on if the company is any kind of size at all and it may be worth spending a million on it for some companies, so it’s still worth something. And to think that you can just take a logo off somebody’s website or out of a book or something and it’s going to be important and valuable and long lasting. That’s just insanity. So that’s why we need Chief Brand Officers, to make those determinations and to make sure that everyone understands the relative value of all the pieces that go to build a brand.
Finola Howard: Cool. I’m just going to see if we have any last questions and then you might tell us… Yeah, someone was saying the book you mentioned earlier, besides The Brand Gap. We have several. We have The Brand Flip, which I can show you, The Brand Flip. We have Scramble and we have Metaskills and we have the Innovation Toolkit. So lots from Marty, but just Google Marty and you will find it. Marty, is there, can I ask you one other question, which is, is there a project that you’re involved with, with Liquid Agency or recently, that you loved the most or that has always stuck with you or the story always stuck with you?
Marty Neumeier: Yeah, with Liquid Agency
Finola Howard: or any agency, it doesn’t matter who, just the one that
Marty Neumeier: When I was designing software packages, that was when I learned quite a bit of the material that I’m talking about now. I did have a favorite client and it was Apple. It was their software division, which they call Claris, C L A R I S. That was the part, the division. It had its own president and so forth. They spun it off, but it was really owned by Apple. And those people were just great to work with. Open-minded, educated, bright, curious, creative people. And they were involved in a very big project, which was to change all the packaging, all the way, the whole way they communicated about software at Apple because the problem that they were facing was, Microsoft was beating the pants off of them and because it was open to all kinds of software, there’s just so many more choices.
Marty Neumeier: So Apple had to create their own software for the Macintosh, mainly, so that people would buy the Macintosh. It was the, you know, without software who’s going to buy. And so they really needed to succeed. It was super important. And they went out there into the marketplace with software packaging that was designed internally by Apple. And it was just completely wrongheaded. It looked like the most boring corporation in the world, more boring than IBM. It was the stated entity of the personal computer industry. More boring than that. It was just like gray and blue stripes and panels with people working in offices and then screenshots on the front next to the name. And I just said, this does not look like it came from Apple. This is not the Apple that I know, you know, all the beautiful ads and everything, beautiful logos and stuff.
Marty Neumeier: So they gave us the job, this was a big deal for us. They gave us the job of designing all 15 at once with almost an unlimited budget. It had to work all around the world in every language, in every culture. And so we did well with it. We really put a lot of effort into it and we created, I don’t know, 70 or 80 ideas, narrowed them down finally to, I believe, 18 that we presented. And up to that point, we’re having a blast. You know, it’s going great. And we present 18 of our best ideas in little mock ups about, you know, two inches high. We did everything miniature so people couldn’t like analyze them too much. And I took them to Apple and they set it up so that everyone in the company, and I think there’s probably 800 people, could vote which package they wanted.
Marty Neumeier: That was pretty scary. And then the CEO would come in at the end of the day, he’d look at the votes, he’d look at all the ideas, and he would say, okay, let’s focus on these three or something. And so the voting went well, people were pretty excited, we had all the little mock ups, the little packages on a shelf on a window. The shelf is sort of like the middle part of the window. The CEO comes in, I’d never met him before. He’s a really nice guy, but I didn’t know, you know, he, he was very stern when he came in and he said, okay, what do we got? I only have half an hour, so let’s make this quick. It’s like, we’ve been working on this for three months, you know, he’s got a half hour. And so he looks at all these packages and looks at every one, goes down the line and then he goes and looks at them again and he starts knocking them off the shelf with his finger, just these little paper packages onto the floor, every one, because they’re all on the floor and he says, that’s it. I don’t like any of them.
Marty Neumeier: And luckily I didn’t know what to say. So I just sat there for awhile and waited, no one said a word. Then I said, alright, it’s the first round,so that’s fair. Let’s try something else. Let’s put them all back up and go knock ’em down again, but leave the ones that you just, that you don’t hate. All the ones you hate, take those out. The ones you don’t hate, hate is the bar, leave those in. And he comes back and he says, you know what, there’s three here that I don’t hate.
Marty Neumeier: I said, great, now we have something to work with. And he started like, you start defending the moon, you know, things started to change and everybody started talking. And so it warmed up and then all the boxes are on the floor. And one of the marketing people said, you know, now that we’ve been making some progress, I’d like to talk about this one. He pulls up this one that’s almost all white and it’s got this very loose drawing of an icon on it, bold type and everything. So this is like, I’ve never seen anything like this in a software store. What about this? And the president looks at it. He goes, well that’s very different cause yeah, but we want a big change, don’t we? Isn’t it going to be different, whatever we do? He goes, well I just don’t know.
Marty Neumeier: I mean I just don’t know if we have the courage to do something like that. And then he turns to me and says, can we test these? And this is where testing, we took out testing, cause it was either we test this or that one’s gone. So, of course we can test these. Of course we can test these. We’re going to test them in the store with real customers and we’re going to tell you what they say and we’re gonna bring you to the store too, okay, great. We did it. And that one, that crazy one was far and away the winner. You could see it from a mile away. Everyone in the store said they loved it. They said, this is much more of what Apple should be doing. Why didn’t you do this before? Blah, blah, blah. We went forward with it and sales went up 40% with no change in the product. And then he was a believer and the whole software industry became a believer when we told them that story because they noticed this gutsy, crazy solution to a software package. And everybody wanted our services. So that was my favorite experience.
Finola Howard: Fantastic. But you had to, it’s so interesting you had to hold your ego and hold your nerve to come back from them all being on the floor.
Marty Neumeier: Yeah that was tough, not to just argue. Like most designers would say no, but my idea was, or you know, just resist. I couldn’t resist. I just said, good point, why don’t we find out, you know, let’s test. And in that case testing proved at least that we were right about that one design. And after that I just, I was addicted to that and I just thought, I don’t want to do anything that’s not successful. And if I can find out before it’s produced, I’m In. I don’t care what it does to my thinking or my ego. It’s like my ego will be fine after it succeeds and I won’t show anything bad. I’ll just always show work that I think is really good.
Finola Howard: Wonderful. That’s a really good note to leave people on. I would like you to tell us, and thank you, I would like you to tell us where we can experience more of Marty Neumeier live because I know you’re coming to Dublin. But I also know that you’ve these are amazing brand workshops, which you must come to Dublin for.
Marty Neumeier: We are planning to do one in Dublin next year, sometime. It’s just that the we need help in putting these on and the group that’s putting on this conference can do it, but they need more lead time. So this year at a design leaders conference on November 6th and November 7th, I will be there on November 6th, I’m giving a talk and I’m going to give a talk on Scramble, the new book, the design through a business thriller. And then on November 7th, I’m giving, I think it’s a half day workshop on The Brand Flip. So those two things. And then I’m also teaching my course, a brand masterclass. It’s a two day course, where you get certified in branding at the starting level. You get a certificate and you can put it in your Linkedin page and you’d be surprised what it can do for you.
Marty Neumeier: And that’s not in Dublin cause we’re not ready. Dublin is not ready for us or we’re not ready for Dublin. I’m not sure which.
Finola Howard: Do you think you will come to Dublin next year or should we be travelling?
Marty Neumeier: Well, I think you, why wait? You know, I mean we’re going to be in Glasgow that’s not very far. And in London. So we’re also in Lausanne, Switzerland. We’re also in Hamburg. So one of those would be good or wait till next year, but the way this is set up, it’s the company’s level C and it’s set up with a five tier program. So this is the first tier. We’re going to roll out one tier per year. You need to pass one course before you get to the next one. And by the time you get to the fifth one, you’re going to be ready to be a CBO, Chief Brand Officer or a thought leader in your subject area.
Marty Neumeier: That’s the goal for these. And we’re not going to get a lot of those people finishing at that level, but we’re gonna get a lot of people at the first and second level I think, cause it, just right there, you can really change your fortune with that. We’ve got people that took the first course that are already getting titles of Chief Brand Officer. We got three already a Chief Brand Officer after one course, not even after the fifth. So there’s obviously a hunger out there for people that have actual brand knowledge, very specific brand knowledge and can explain it. And that’s what you learn. You learn how to be part of a brand team and you learn how to explain it to bosses and clients and each other. So even at that first-class, we’re already getting people doing what the fifth class is supposed to do. So I can only imagine what’s going to happen when we get there, but please join us, it’s going to be a great time. Well, you know, it’ll be a small enough group in any of these where you’ll get attention and a chance to be heard and learn and meet some other interesting people.
Finola Howard: Fantastic. Thank you so much for your time, Marty.
Marty Neumeier: Thank you Finola. Bye, everybody.
Finola Howard: Have a great day.
If you don’t know who Marty Neumeier is already, let me share with you one of his own Bio’s: Marty Neumeier decided to be a graphic designer at age seven. In college, he took leave of his senses and auditioned for the Monkees (no luck). In 1984 he and his wife drove a U-HAUL truck to … Continued
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