Ben Guttman Joins Us On The Join Up Dots Podcast
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Introducing Benn Guttmann
Ben Guttman is out guest today on the Join Up Dots business podcast.
Today, we’re diving into the world of marketing and human connection.
Our guest isn’t just a marketing entrepreneur; he’s an educator, writer, and curator of the dance between people and ideas.
Ben is here to guide us through his journey, where simplicity reigns supreme in a noisy world.
His career, from marketing agencies to collaborations with industry giants, has led to a profound revelation: simplicity cuts through the clutter and paves the path to success.
As we explore the pages of his upcoming book, set to be published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Ben shares his visionary insights.
How The Dots Joined Up For Ben
From partnering with local gems to collaborating with NFL and I Love NY, we are going to unravel the mysteries behind our choices, votes, and purchases.
But this journey isn’t just about success; it’s about community and connection.
Ben’s impact resonates beyond the boardroom, shaping economic opportunities and strengthening his beloved hometown.
So if the simplest thing is simplicity then why do so many people make things difficult for themselves by over complicating?
And what is the first thing we can do to build connections in such a way?
Well lets find out as we bring onto the show to start joining up dots with the one and only Ben Guttmann.
During the show we discussed such weight subjects with Ben Guttmann such as:
Ben shares the power of messages when they are are easily perceived, easily acted upon and easily understood
Why there are five different principles that we should focus in on simplicity to make our words count.
We talk about the classic sticky message that Apple brought to the world and why it is the benchmark for a benefit statement.
Why the world is moving to a world where things are getting more and more simpler in regards to social media.
How To Connect With Ben Guttman
You can also check our extensive podcast archive by clicking here – enjoy
Full Transcription Of Ben Guttman Interview
Life shouldn’t be hard life should be a fun filled adventure every day. So now start joining up dots tap into your talents, your skills, your God given gifts and tell your boss, you don’t deserve me. I’m out of here. It’s time for you to smash that alarm clock and start getting the dream business and wife you will, of course, are dreaming of. Let’s join your host, David Ralph from the back of his garden in the UK, or wherever he might be today with another JAM PACKED episode of the number one hit podcast. Join Up Dots.
David Ralph [00:39]
Yeah, good morning. Good morning. Have you ever thought about the world of marketing and human connection? We’re gonna think about it today. Because our guest isn’t just a marketing entrepreneur. He’s an educator, writer, professor and curator of the dance between people and ideas is here to guide us through his journey where simplicity reigns supreme in a noisy world. Now his career from marketing agencies to collaborations with industry giants, has led to a profound revelation. Simplicity cuts through the clutter and paves the path to success. And as we explore the pages of his upcoming book set to be published by Berrett Koehler publishers, he has going to share his visionary insights from partnering with local gems to collaborating with NFL and I love New York, we’re going to unravel the mysteries behind our choices, our votes, and how purchases but this journey isn’t just about success. It’s about community and connection. He’s impact resonates beyond the boardroom shaping economic opportunities and strengthening his beloved hometown. So if the simplest thing is simplicity, then why do so many people make things difficult for themselves by overcomplicating? And what is the first thing we can do to build connections in such a way? Well, let’s find out as we bring onto the show to start joining up dots with the one and only Professor Ben Guttman. Good morning, Professor, how are you?
Ben Guttman [02:00]
Thanks so much, David, I appreciate that. You can just call me Ben right.
David Ralph [02:05]
Yeah, but you’re a clever bloke and my mum always say that you have to you know, a doctor remains a doctor and a professor remains a professor. But in this case, I will go with what you said. So simplicity, because simplicity is one of these things that really is speaking to me, I’m quite a simple guy. And I like a simple life. But I’ve started to realise recently by actually having a simple life, it’s quite difficult when you’re operating with other people, they kind of complicated they make it not as simple as you would like, how, what’s the first steps? The what? What’s your actual definition of simplicity, first of all,
Ben Guttman [02:44]
got it. Got it. So. So simplicity as we define it in, in my book, when it comes to messaging when it comes to communications, connection, marketing is three attributes. It is a message that is easily perceived, understood and acted upon. And so all of those things come together to make something that’s more fluid that is more that is smoother that we feel better about. But you know, to go back to what you just said for a second, the thing about simplicity is also even if you talk to like the lifestyle, minimalist, minimalist of the world, the book like The Marie Kondo is, it’s not always about the absolute less. It’s about everything you need, but only what you need. It’s about finding the things that work and embracing them. Instead of just ruthlessly cutting stuff away.
David Ralph [03:29]
Yeah. Yeah, I I got into minimalism few years ago. And I got to a point that I just thought, I’ll have a cushion, have a cushion to sit on these guys were just like, one fork and one spoon. I thought how it’s a crap life to be to be that far down it. And I think at certain point, it becomes complicated, because you’re trying to minimise everything, but actually, you’re making this life more difficult to operate in.
Ben Guttman [03:58]
Oh, yeah, for sure. And, you know, that’s why like, personally, if you saw my apartment, if you saw my office, I’m a maximalist, right, I have, I have every square into the wall covered, I have all sorts of fun little knickknacks, and books and everything everywhere. But, you know, it’s there’s a certain appeal to that fundamental component, which is to say, if I don’t like that thing, that should go away. And because it’s your it’s about only embracing the things that, you know, in that lifestyle, which I’m not the expert on, that it’s about only embracing the things that really bring you value. And tying that back to the messaging component is really I mean, simplicity, in the way that I write about it is really kind of a substitute for ease more than anything else.
David Ralph [04:45]
It’s very difficult to be precise, aim clean. I’ve been on your website going up and down and looking at your popups and I really liked him because of that. It took me a second to read them a second to understand and click, I can take sort of action. But it’s quite difficult, isn’t it to express a message back cleanly when the message is kind of, you know, all encompassing. When somebody’s building an online business, they almost feel like they’ve got to share every aspect of what they do, instead of that absolute, Simon Sinek kind of energy of why we do it.
Ben Guttman [05:26]
Oh, absolutely. So there’s what in the book when we talk about simplicity and complicated, and we say they’re, they’re kind of two ends of the same of the same spectrum, but they’re not really. So it’s simple on one end, and complex is on the other end. And complicated is the artificial pulling towards complexity. Most things are not that complex, there are plenty of things that are complex. The I just saw Oppenheimer the other day, right? Making the atomic bomb is pretty complex, right. But if you look at another example of kind of the physics space, and I mentioned this in the book, when, when Stephen Hawking wrote A Brief History of Time, his publisher went to him and said, every equation that you have in this book is going to cut your readership by half. And so he went through, he took out every single equation except for one. And if you can explain the gravity and black holes and supernovas of the universe with just one equation, and stuff that complicated, can be that complex can be brought down to a simpler vision. You can do that with your website, your startup, your small business.
David Ralph [06:35]
Yeah. But it’s that understanding of the message that your audience want. And when, you know, we’ve got Professor over here, I don’t know if you probably do, he’s probably got a ball now Professor Brian Cox. And he is like a astrophysicist. But he talks in real normal language. And so you can sit and listen to him. And you can understand exactly what he’s talking about, about black holes. And God knows what, because he, he knows his audience. But when you’re starting an online business, we use that as the sort of benchmark of this. It’s very difficult to know how to speak to your audience when you haven’t actually created your audience. So do we start with overcomplicating and bein simplifying? Or do we just try to almost dumbed down and think that we’re being as simple as possible, and then losing some of the audience? What do you think?
Ben Guttman [07:30]
That’s a good question. I would say. One of the things we talked about in, in the book is about there’s another five different principles that lead to simplicity, the first one is beneficial. And the first one is to say, you have to focus on how what you’re saying, what you’re communicating, how it changes and benefits the audience in their life. What does it mean for them, it’s basically just asking, so what, and when everybody has all sorts of things, right? In their business, they have all sorts of things in their product. These are features, the things you see in the material world, the things that you know, you have a you have this mode, and this button and this product that you sell, people don’t necessarily need all those things that he what those things do for them. And so, in my eyes, it’s really about figuring out what is the why is what you do matter what what why does what you do matter. And then you have to focus on that as part of your as the foundational part of your message.
David Ralph [08:35]
And how do you know this? How do you know that it matters to anyone else? Other than you?
Ben Guttman [08:43]
That’s a good question, too. It’s, and that’s a little bit, you know, beyond kind of the scope of, of some of the stuff we talked about is that begins to get to kind of like kind of the product development side of things. But the, the real. The real essence there is about is about digging deeper than that surface level. When you go in and you want to describe something in the world. The first thing you do, by default, the first thing we all do is open up our five senses and start describing it. We say, Well, you know what, I have this new drill. I bought that i i It’s orange, it’s got this comfort silicone grips got this long battery life, I’m gonna write an ad for that drill, and it’s gonna say, hey, you know what, these are all the features for it. And you put that out there, it kind of works a little bit. But then you have to interrogate yourself a little bit. You have to say, well, so what, what does that comfort grip mean? For somebody? Well, it means that they can they can use the drill longer without having to take a break. Okay, well, so so right ask it again. The use of longer means you can finish the job earlier. That means you can that you can get more done as part of the day if you’re a professional you’re gonna get more work you can wear paid. If you’re amateur you can get means Hey, you know what I can finish decorating my apartment Instant one day instead of in two days or. And it’s about kind of drilling down to that fundamental need that you have ultimately. And the reason I use the drill is there is a favourite quote by, by legendary marketing professor Theodore Levitt, formerly from Harvard, who says, and people don’t want a quarter inch drill, they want a quarter inch hole. And, you know, what I would say is you have to take that step further, they don’t really want the quarter inch hole, they want the picture frame in the wall, they don’t want the picture frame in the wall, they want to see that photo of their family so they can feel kind of love and belonging, ultimately. And so that’s the model that I ended up using AI alone, I outlined in the book, in terms of discovering what it is that actually connects with people.
David Ralph [10:44]
Now, this fascinates me in so many different areas, because we started the conversation with simplicity, we moved into sort of a product direction, as you say, but I’m trying to get to the bottom of you here to understand why you have become interested in the things you are interested in, and why you think that other people are going to be interested in it. And I will read your website. I’m an author, professor, and marketing executive, across all of that. I’m interested in the things and ideas that move people, and in helping us get better at creating that magic. My question to you is, why do I care? You know, not being rude. But why do you think that? Your listener, your reader would look at that and think, yes, I need to find out what’s to deal with this guy.
Ben Guttman [11:34]
Well, we all have things that we want to do. We all have things, either causes that we care about. We have, we have businesses we want to build, we have people in our personal lives, we want to, you know, donate to our fundraisers, or cajoled to get to the dinner party. We all have things that in the course of our daily lives, in the course of our professional lives, that we want to inform that we want to persuade. And that is what I work on. When I’ve worked in my agency. That’s what I teach. When I teach my class what I wrote about in this book is but how do we become better at the grand project of you know, of life, which is to connect with everybody else here? And
David Ralph [12:19]
essential part of life? Connection? Did you think that is what we are all on this planet to do?
Ben Guttman [12:27]
Personally, I that’s that’s a big part of it for me, right? I mean, it’s, there’s only you know, when you look back in the last few years, if we all had this big experiment that happened, right, where we go inside, and we don’t talk to people, we don’t see people. Everybody exists in this on a screen for a few years. I’ll
David Ralph [12:46]
change I’m still in that life.
Ben Guttman [12:49]
Yeah, you know what, I guess we’re talking on the phone right now. That was something that for me, there’s something I a blog post, I wrote around that time, that I said, there was like, there was the company of this, how it’s kind of comfy jail in a way, right? At any point in human history. This would have been much harder, right? We we have every television show, every every album, every podcast, every book, every video game that humanity’s ever made accessible, you know, via the press of a button. We have several million products on Amazon that can come to us in a couple of days. But you know, the button in all of that still kind of sucked, right? It was wet. It was it was that experience that makes at least me personally, I know made a lot of other people realise that all of those things are kind of the window dressing and that the the, the time we spend and the experiences we share with other people are the important thing.
David Ralph [13:50]
Now I don’t connect with many people. This is one of the things that I’m going through at the moment. And I started to kind of reignite past friendships thinking I haven’t seen him for a few years. And I got nowhere. I’ve got nowhere with it. I connect with the people. We have a little bit of a chinwag on on Messenger, whatever. And then when it gets down to the Come on, let’s meet up for a drink or whatever. It doesn’t go anywhere at all. And I’m wondering if people really do need that connection? If they’re all They’re happy with the superficial connection of Texas Tech’s back? Oh, yeah, I’m keeping in check with them.
Ben Guttman [14:31]
Yeah, I think that does play into some of this is, you know, again, in, you know, another department in the school and to talk about psychology. This is something that I think is true, which is we have the kind of low grade socialisation that you get by following someone on Instagram. We’re following someone on LinkedIn, on Twitter. And it feels like you kind of know them and you’re kind of keeping in touch, but it doesn’t give it’s a snack. It’s junk food, right? It’s not it’s not the meal that you you get when you go and you do have that pint of somebody, and you do have that dinner or somebody’s going to vacation, you have that long talk at night, whatever it’s going to be. And so, yeah, I think that, you know, you can fill up on that junk food. And it’s, it can be hard to. And it can really be hard to do those other things.
David Ralph [15:18]
So we need to diet, don’t we, basically, we need to, you know, it’s never gonna happen. But if you turned off the internet, and I ponder, you know, you’re younger, I’m, I’m getting old now. But I am already at that stage when I kind of wonder how we operated before the internet? And of course we did, we operated for hundreds and hundreds of years, 1000s of years before the internet. But I still ponder how I found places without Google Maps and stuff, and how I knew what the number one in the charts was without looking on Google, you know, all that kind of stuff. But if we took that bag, and we got rid of all of it, do you think that we would then suddenly be getting much better connections with people? Or do you think we would just wander around in a daze? Because we’re sort of so ingrained in this now?
Ben Guttman [16:10]
Oh, well, you know, I’m a techno optimist, despite all the evidence that that has been pushed in our face. Otherwise, I still believe that technology can make us connect better, the technology can make us healthier, happier, more prosperous. So I, I’m not personally ready to say, hey, let’s turn off the internet and get out of here. I do think that there, there is a cost to the amount of distraction, the amount of the amount of physical time that you spend staring at the screen. And I think that there’s an interest this is this goes into actually part of why I wrote the book was because we’re living in this kind of golden age of distraction. The average American spends 13 hours a day, consuming some form of media, once you add in sleeping, once you add an eating and showering and everything else you got to do for the care and feeding of the human pet. There’s not much left, right, we spend most of our times on a screen of some sort of the other. And, and that I think is one of the reasons why it’s so important to think kind of critically about, well, how do we do that connects, and it doesn’t come as naturally anymore, sometimes for a lot in this environment. So thinking about it more intentionally, it can be useful.
David Ralph [17:32]
So how do you do this, obviously, you are interested in the human connection. And the world of marketing is ingrained in human connection and understanding these trigger points. So if people are so fast now, and I’m noticing it myself in the evening, if I sit down, I think, Oh, can’t be bothered with a two hour film. I’ll just flick around on YouTube. And I watch five minutes of beers and five minutes of that and things I’ve seen before. And I’m already realising that my brain is losing the ability to actually focus. So how do you build this better connection? In this sort of noisy, scattered well, but we live in?
Ben Guttman [18:15]
Oh, yeah, I saw some joke at some point where it’s like watching a movie, is the new reading a novel? It takes? Like, it takes that much, you know, intention to do that.
David Ralph [18:28]
It doesn’t help Netflix, Ben, any if it’s one hour 31 I go, Oh, yeah, I might watch it. Anything near two hours, I think, Oh, who’s got two hours?
Ben Guttman [18:40]
It’s, it’s really tough. I mean, it does, it doesn’t help. It doesn’t help that every social media platform basically has turned into the same thing. Every every social media platform is this video. And it’s noisy 92nd video that is, you know, has somebody dancing or has some emojis on it, or some other sort of, like, very intense kind of visual stimuli, that is designed is designed to capitalise on, you know how our brains evolved, which is, hey, we see some motion out there, we see some colours and, and this is the kind of thing that we want to pay attention to. And so it’s tough. It’s tough. I mean, I think when when, when we talk about how, if you’re a marketer, if you are, you know, an advocate, and you want to break through that noise, you have the first first part of it is understanding your enemy, right saying, okay, nobody cares. By default. If you have a message, use it. Assume that nobody cares. Use this. And this is the secret marketing that every no mark, no advertiser, no advertising agency is going to tell you this in their deck when they’re pitching you, but the secret of marketing is that nobody cares. Everybody woke up today. Perfectly fine. They didn’t have on their to do list. I wanted to watch your commercial. I wanted to click on your ad. had, I wanted to reach out promotional social media posts. And so we have to every every one of those things I’ve ever done has been against my will. Right? And so you have to assume that there’s a certain level of apathy about most things before you can then that humbles you before you can get out there and say, Okay, how does this actually connect to what people want?
David Ralph [20:23]
Oh, yeah. So how does it that? That’s, that’s the big question, which is which links into your book about a powerful messages, you know, what is it about them that makes people take action, when most of the time we don’t care?
Ben Guttman [20:40]
Yeah, well, it goes back to, it goes back to that benefits of our widget, what doesn’t matter, people care a lot about the things that they’re motivated to do. There’s a part in the end of my book, where I talk about something that’s kind of proof positive and the other direction, which, when you work really hard for something, when you you know, when it takes you a effort to accomplish something, you value that more. So there’s a famous story from, I believe, was General Mills, that they introduced a it back in the 50s, they introduced a cake, instant cake mix. And all you had to do is add water and plop it in the oven and you have a cake. people hated it. It was the easiest thing in the planet, people hated him. Because homemakers at the time, felt like it was cheating. They felt like oh man, I’m not doing anything, I’m actually making this cake. But they went back to the drawing board, they test it. And what they did was they added an egg, all you have to do is add some water. But now you have to crack an egg and put that in there. And that extra bit of work that you put in to cook that cake, all of a sudden made something you made, just water is cheating. An egg is cooking, an egg is baking. And so that’s called the instrumentality heuristic. And so sometimes when we really want something or motivated or something, putting a little bit of friction in there can be very useful. But when everyone you’re that’s only a rope that can pull it can push. And so when you’re trying to reach somebody trying to cut through, you have to connect it with things that matter for them. And that goes back to that, you know, asking that so what multiple times to interrogate your message.
David Ralph [22:24]
So what you say is that simple ideas stick simple messages when and you give some examples, and we all know these about Nikes just do it, or Apple’s think different. So let’s look at Fat apples pink different because Join Up Dots, the mantra of it is from Steve Jobs, classic Stanford speech. So it’s a kind of Apple product. What if those two words do well, then why did they stick? Because on from the outside, they don’t really say anything at all. Just think different? Okay, think different about what? Why did that work? Why is that now in our psyche?
Ben Guttman [23:06]
Well, that one’s definitely a very good example of what you mentioned Simon Sinek before, what he talks about with the Start With Why right like, well, people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it. The example that that I actually pulled from Apple that I think is really the stickiest one, in terms of simple message goes back to when they introduced the iPod. And so do you remember the time before iPods right? CDB had a CD book yet? Or you had a case of cassette tapes? Or it was just the radio? And hopefully, I’ll
David Ralph [23:38]
still calm your radio? I’ve still got one.
Ben Guttman [23:42]
Oh, yeah. But so what Apple did, and this is, you know, kind of mythologized in that, that that Steve Jobs movie that came out. So it’s kind of like funny, it’s like the climax of it. But their message was 1000 songs in your pocket. It was a very clear benefit as to what you get for, you know, for getting an iPod, the different What’s the benefit the people they’re not, they’re not going around saying, hey, if eight gigabytes, hey, you have a quick wheel, hey, you can recharge. They’re just saying, Well, what is the benefit? The benefit is you get 1000 songs in your pocket. And that immediately cuts through the noise. Microsoft at the same time, or a little bit later when they introduced their mp3 player. What was one of their slogans, it was music the way it wants to be? What does that mean? What does that mean? musical way wants to build? I mean, I think but 1000 songs in your pocket is very tangible. It cuts through it’s something that people go immediately Oh, I kind of want that. Like that, that connects to the thing I want. And that I think is a really good example of a beneficial message.
David Ralph [24:48]
Now I’ll give you another message. Okay, this is by a guy called Ben Goodman that says his book simply put, why clear messages when and how to design them. Now, how long did it take you to come up with that? Did you scribble it down and go? Oh, yeah, that looks good. Or was that something that went through many different variations before it got to the couple of people?
Ben Guttman [25:11]
Oh, wow, that did go through quite a few number of revisions. I have a note here on my computer that has probably about, I don’t know, 50 100 different titles, and it has probably a similar number of sub titles that, you know, there were lots of permutations. I don’t know how familiar if the process but with with a book that’s published by traditional publisher, your work of the editors, and they have a lot of influence over what the title is, you can you have input, depending on your contract, you might have the veto power over it, you might have final decision over. But what they were really wonderful to work with Americolor. And I was able to kind of get the final word on the title. And so in a book title, you want something that’s going to be that’s going to stand out immediately, and be clear and easy to say on the phone, all the things that are important for other messages. That’s that first piece, that’s the title, the subtitle, you want that to kind of explain? Well, okay, well, you got my attention with the title that’s like the hook. What the hell is that? What the hell am I getting out of that book. And so that’s why we have to talk about some of the benefits. Yeah, we went through a few different rounds of this, I had a few titles that weren’t so great when I first thought about them. And then I went through, and then I did what we actually recommended the book also, which is it’s called, called welcoming the Enlightened idiot. And welcoming me like an idiot sounds kind of like a mean thing. But it’s if you look back at the origins of the word enlightened an idiot, obviously, enlightened sounds a lot more positive at this common man is somebody who’s not out it’s not in my head. It’s not in the Publisher Set, it’s not in my agent set. And we take those, and we put them together into a little survey, and we just pulled a few people that were interests that were in our target market, few couple of other business people and marketers or entrepreneurs. And we ask them kind of their feedback on just getting a little bit of feedback, is is makes a huge, huge difference in terms of being able to determine, Okay, is this working? Is this not working? Because, in my head, I always knew what the thing was about. But it didn’t make sense until I was able to articulate that and pull it out into something that other people said, Okay, now I get it. So that is, I think, a prime example of the power of, of taking other people’s input, and using it to shape your message.
David Ralph [27:43]
A lot of times you you must get people’s opinions in inputs where you think you don’t know anything, you don’t Asus annoy you, I get so much advice thrown at me. It’s very rare. That one sticks with me, I just think, Oh, you don’t know, you know, you don’t understand you’re just some guy I ever drink with suddenly is an expert on God knows what. How do you know when it’s the right message to accept when somebody is giving you advice? Is it because of who they are? Or is it because of how the message makes you feel?
Ben Guttman [28:21]
So my favourite piece of advice is that all advice is autobiographical. Everybody’s giving advice to themselves in the past, more so than they’re really giving advice to you. And so if you put that lens on, and you look at anybody telling you anything, say well, what they’re really doing is giving advice to their past selves, the more similarities you have to their past self, then it’s going to be more valuable, the less Logan’s gonna be a little less valuable. The thing about anytime you get feedback, though, is there is a ceiling as to what it can do. It’s it’s a, it’s a compass, it’s a temperature check. It’s not a guide. You can’t look at focus group results. You can’t look at test data and say, well, this tells me what I should be doing. It should be telling you Oh, did I hit it to this work this time? That’s much more important.
David Ralph [29:18]
Now, how do you do it? Then let’s cut to the chase. Okay. You put it all in the book. Simply put, why clear messages when and how to design them. So how do we design them?
Ben Guttman [29:30]
Well, that’s a that goes into the five principles. Right? So the first half of the book, is that why? It’s the well okay, what happens in our brains when we hear something, what happens? What’s the what are the pitfalls we have in terms of complication? And why is simple, so important? Going into the second half of that book is exactly what you’ve just asked. So there’s five principles. I mentioned beneficial a few times before it’s the first one and then it’s focused. It is salient, empathetic and minimal. And so each one of these principles, you know, it’s not necessarily a flowchart or checklist, but the same simple messages are these five things or as many of these five things as you can. And each one of them in the book, I have kind of the why that one’s important and the you know how to execute it. There are some very concrete things in there that I give us kind of a shortcut. But really, it’s about kind of interrogating yourself saying, okay, am I focused? Am I just trying to say one thing? Am I salient? Is it standing out from the crowd? Is a different than everything else? Is there contrast? Is it perceivable? Is it empathetic? That’s the Enlightened idiot, is it talking to people in a language that there is a caring about them and their situation. And then finally, it’s minimal. I put that one at the end very intentionally, which is at the top of the call we talked about. Yeah, minimalism, simplicity. And about everything, you need only what you need. That’s what the minimum component is, at the end, you only going to know what everything you need is after you go for the rest of the pieces. So once you put that lens on to see through those five different principles, then all of a sudden, you’re you’re intentionally designing your communication, your messaging, instead of just throwing it out there.
David Ralph [31:19]
Oh, I must be a a half illuminated idiot here, then because I understand totally apples 1000 songs in your pocket? That makes total sense. But just do it. Nikes? How does that work into these five principles? Because I don’t know why it’s beneficial. I just look, just do it. Just do what, you know, how does that work? Why is that stuck with us?
Ben Guttman [31:44]
So I think I think that one is a much better example, when I talk about salient than anything else. So I mean, all of these messages have, you know, strengths and weaknesses on different pieces
David Ralph [31:55]
and didn’t have to have all five principles to work or can you skip one?
Ben Guttman [32:00]
You don’t have to have all five principles, if you if you completely ignore something that’s gonna hurt you, obviously. But it’s, it’s more it’s more kind of descriptive of saying, Well, okay, simple messages, most effective messages are acting upon these five things. Rather than just saying, Well, you have to check these boxes before something, you know, personally works at all. The so salient is the act of something standing out against the background. It’s something when there’s contrast, and you can see the figure from ground all those different things. Salient is achieved by doing something that’s different than everybody else is doing. In in a similar example, to that just to it, if you look at if you look at the bookshelf, and you look at all the different business and self help and psychology bestsellers over the past decade, what do all of them have in common, or not all of them, but many of them have in common? Well, they all have, you know, one of the four letter words that you’re not, I don’t know if I can say, my, your podcasts, but they all have, they all have, you know, some sort of expletive or a bleeped out version of the expletive on the cover. And those did really, really, really well, because they were different. When you stand when you look at a shelf, and you see everything is, you know, some, you know, touchy feely psychology type of soft language there. And then all of a sudden, you see something that says, like, unfuck yourself, while you’re like, Oh, well, this is interesting, this is standing out to me, and that pops out. But now, what has happened is, is it starts to be a little saturated. So those don’t work as well. Something like just do it stands out, in contrast to a lot of the other. A lot of you that kind of like noisier or kind of like less direct, less, less kind of a human ways of communicating that that other other brands are putting out there.
David Ralph [34:04]
So if you didn’t know what Nike was VO and you just sort of words just do it. You wouldn’t have a clue. It’s got to it’s got to have the heartbeat of the company attached to it somehow.
Ben Guttman [34:17]
Oh, yeah, I mean, Nike you know, when I teach my class i i try to actually band discussion on a couple of different brands because they’re just so exceptional at what they do that you know, we talk about them, but when I asked the students to evaluate stuff I say, you know, don’t give me anything about Apple. Don’t give me anything about Nike. You know, give me the month Disney these companies are just so good at some of the things they do that it’s I find it more instructive for them to usually look at like okay, what are the you know, if they dig past that to the different ones so they’re really good like app like Mikey is for the past 50 years has been one of the best collection of marketers on the planet. They are they’ve done something and it’s a stepping out to the messaging category. But they’ve done something really interesting in their brand, which is to say that they’re for athletes and what what does an athlete mean? Every human every person has a body is an athlete. And so they’re, they’re trying to connect with people in this very kind of emotional, evocative way. And that’s, that’s why something like just do it. That’s like, why why a lot of their other marketing really hurts.
David Ralph [35:28]
So is it something like McDonald’s? I’m loving it. Now. I, I can’t bear McDonald’s, I won’t eat McDonald’s. I think it’s terrible, terrible food. Nobody can really say I’m loving it with with other food on option if I had a Michelin star restaurant, surely that’s gonna win out. But it’s as equally famous. I know it in my head. I even know little tune that comes with it. Why is that worked? I’m fascinated by how these companies have got into my psyche. But they’re as famous as I don’t know, The Beatles, I suppose in many ways.
Ben Guttman [36:08]
Oh, yeah. I mean, there’s, there’s this level of exposure that you get to some of the it becomes a character and society, rather than it being kind of just like a marketing message. And so that’s why, you know, I talked about how I think different topics, just do it. I I’m loving it. Personally, personally, I’ve never actually has been a huge fan of that one. I feel like it was a little, the little irritating of a slogan, but the one that in their competitors that I think is a really interesting one is an example of a focus message. So that’s the second bucket is Burger King. So Have it your way, they have said, Okay, well, they’re not going out saying, hey, you know, we have really great fries, and really great burgers. And we also have customization. And also it’s fresh. And also it’s convenient, and it’s fast. And they’re not saying seven and eight different things. They’re saying, Well, what is the one thing we want everybody to know, in our message. And it’s, I wonder if we can have it your way you can customise it you can get whatever it is, that is that is your individual taste. You know, focus is about trying to say one thing, instead of sign, say two, or three or four different things in the same message. The subtitle of that chapter is called the Frankenstein idea, or fighting the Frankenstein idea. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this. But every time that I work in a team, or on a committee, or I have my students form a team, students are a prime example of this, because that’s an inherently flat structure. What happens is, you have five or six people in the group, and they shout out five or six different ideas. And so I give every semester I give them a brand. And I say, hey, go work on this brand. And, you know, come back and do a pitch, I’ll bring a couple other professionals in and we’ll do it, we’ll evaluate it every single time. At least one or two of the groups comes up and say, Hey, we’re gonna do this, and this and this. And this as part of it, they come in, they say, Here’s three hashtags, we’re all pretending something of AI and with NF T’s and drones, and with influencers and with no and sampling and whatever it’s going to be. And in their idea, there might have been one really good thing, there might have been several really good things. But by doing all those really good things together, but trying to say three or four different things at the same time, it ends up being worse. In Frankenstein, Marie Shelley’s novel, the way that she describes the monster is that he has several pieces of you know, beautiful eyes, beautiful hair, you know, strong, strong muscles, whatever. Individually, the components can be great, but when you put them together, it ends up being worse than the sum of its parts. And so I think that that’s one of the biggest pitfalls a lot of people have. When it comes to when it comes to focusing on a message.
David Ralph [39:10]
Now, you said something, and I was scrolling up and down on your website, and I thought, yeah, I agree with his totally. And basically, it was, like, you’re not gonna find me on social media or anywhere. You don’t have to look at six different platforms. It’s just here. And I will send it out to you. And I looked at that, and I thought to myself, yeah, that’s what everybody wants his net. But the the common sort of advice is and when I started and I’m going to name check this guy, when I started building my online businesses about 14 years ago, the big guy was Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income. And his advice was be everywhere. And it was as simple as that be everywhere. And terrible advice, terrible advice, because you end up just putting crap out everywhere instead of really good stuff in just somewhere. It Up. match changing again, where people are looking at all these platforms and stuff and thinking, it’s just another thing to do. Let’s get simple.
Ben Guttman [40:09]
Oh, man, oh, man, yeah, you hit the nail on the head. If I was going back to when I ran my agency, one of the things we would tell every single client is do what you can do best. And this applies to a lot of different things and applies to every build that you know, from a content standpoint of like building a website for tourism brand, these other than you can do, the best thing you can do is to give bespoke local knowledge to something not do a bunch of directories, that’s what so that’s an example of it in the in the content. But in terms of the tactics, what you were just saying is, if you can only do if you only if there’s a finite world, right, we only have so much time, we only have so many resources on so much bandwidth. If you can only really do one thing, great, you should do that one thing great. And you said kind of Quantico give up on other things, you shouldn’t, you know, what we would recommend tactically is to say, let’s go reserve your name. So go sign up for the account, get your Instagram handle your Tiktok handle whatever it is, because maybe one day, you’ll change your mind on this. But if you can’t commit to doing excellent content, that you can’t commit to putting energy and maybe even paid resources behind a certain platform, it just doesn’t make sense to do it. People, you know that. In the beginning, it was maybe they were just like, Oh, I’m on a platform, I want to just connect with everybody. Now people are a lot more discerning, and they say if I want to connect and follow somebody, I want to get some value out of it. And personally, for me, I feel like I looked around and I said, Okay, I can provide the most value. If I focus on the on my blog, my email, and on LinkedIn, I said, I’m not I’m not gonna go out and start a Tiktok channel tomorrow to talk about things
David Ralph [41:58]
and the quality, you know, I watched quite a bit of YouTube float around on it. And the quality now is like TV programme quality, you know, it’s 15 minutes of stuff where they’ve got a production team, it’s not like the old put a webcam on and just talking to the webcam, as it was. And this week, actually, Ben, I got banned by Facebook. And I got banned by Facebook for copyright infringement, I had no idea means I didn’t post anything. So they’ve just suddenly done that. And they won’t tell me what I’ve done. They won’t tell me to you know, anything, I can’t get it back. So I’ve lost basically social media platforms on about four different businesses. And I just, I’m sorry, I don’t care. I just looked at it and thought, well, this is the universe saying to me, just do what you’re best at, you know, just pull away from that, put it in and don’t give your business and your effort to somebody else who can say is my boss, I’m taking it away. And so what you’re doing there, and this is why it spoke to me again, is you’re saying all my effort is under my control. All my effort can be marketed from one place. And that just seems like it just seems common sense to me. And I would love to know if there’s people out there that have been building online businesses, whether they’re getting to that point now that they’re going on, I don’t care about posting on Instagram three times a day and doing Tik Tok and doing all this it’s just too much noise. Let’s just do one thing.
Ben Guttman [43:29]
Yeah, I think that there’s a lot of people who were feeling the way I consumer and which is to say, Fuck, man, I can’t I can’t do this. I can’t I can’t download this new app, I can set up a new thing. I can’t see me. I can’t, I can’t go and you know, follow 1000 people anymore. So that’s, that’s happening with that and put on the producer on the Creator. And as you’re saying, yeah, just focus on what you can to do best and what you have the most control over the the piece of advice I give anybody who is is building anything for independent creator, a entrepreneur, anywhere kind of in between is every platform is besides email in besides your website, and besides your own if you have a physical mailing list or text mailing list, you don’t own it. So there’s me there’s pay you know that you go back to kind of marketing one on one there’s like there’s earned media which is like PR and everything. There’s paid media which is buying an ad somewhere you know, doing the some of the things we talked about a messenger and then there’s owned media. And so own media traditionally is you know, people think of it as well as your email list as your website did your text message list, your mailing list, you know, if you have a storefront or a billboard. And then but people have for a long time lumped in like Facebook, and Instagram and LinkedIn or whatever as as own media, but I like to frame those as least media instead, which is that you have If you have access to them, you have control over over, you know what you post on them, and you don’t really have to pay for it sort of, but you kind of don’t really own them, you’re at the mercy of what just happened to you in terms of, you know, getting banned, again kicked off the platform and losing a huge investment, you’re at the mercy of what happened. When we started our marketing agency, Facebook reach was incredible. We, you know, boosted a million clients to the moon and stuff on Facebook. And then over the course of the several years after that, they’re like, Hey, by the way, we’re going to decrease organic reach to 10%, to 5%, to 1%, to 0%. And because we want to get more money out of you to be able to boost that content. So that stuff happens all the time. If you’re starting today, and you want to only you want to focus on one thing, focus on email, it’s harder to grow it. But once you have an email address for somebody, you have it, you can, as long as you don’t kind of breaking the law in whatever jurisdiction you’re in about spam. You can send as many emails to people with as whatever content you want, at any time. And that is so much more powerful than what you can do on any of these other platforms.
David Ralph [46:07]
Now, what is your favourite before we move to the end of the show, because we could go into so many different directions, once she’s the favourite thing of your free for you in being simple?
Ben Guttman [46:22]
Oh, man. What’s the favourite thing in terms of being simple? I think that it does make things a lot easier. It’s it’s hard to do. It’s hard to achieve simple communicating. But it makes things when you’re once you kind of blast past that barrier there that we all put up on our heads about how to complicate stuff. And you have that really great sentence, the really great slogan, and the really great, you know, rally cry. It makes your life a lot easier to tell people and connect with them what you’re doing. And then, you know, can when you’re on the receiving end of it, it kind of like makes your brain sparkle a little bit when you hear something that’s so great. You know, another example that I that I love is an old slogan from FedEx, which is when it absolutely positively has to be there tomorrow, overnight. And like great, you kind of immediately talk and get it, you know, and it just it just clicks. There’s a New York City here, there used to be back in the head cots, they are out of morality in the 80s there was a parking sign. That said, don’t even think about parking here. It’s direct, it’s clear, you completely get it. And it’s so much better than reading a sign that says well, no parking, you know, this hour this hour and like no standing here, truck loading only. It those are the type of things that just kind of bring a little bit of a smile to my face.
David Ralph [47:51]
We have one in United Kingdom that has actually become sort of part of our, our vocabulary of it does exactly what it says on the tin. And it was about 1980 or something and it was just an adverb of a man painting his fence panel Brown. And he said, it protects my wood. It makes it brown. It does exactly what it says on the tin. And that’s it. And you know, people still use that now. But they go Yeah, does exactly what it says on the tin and you kind of understand you don’t have to say that else.
Ben Guttman [48:23]
I had no idea. That’s where that phrase came from. That’s great. I’m going to feel that I use that all the time what it says on the tin, so I appreciate that.
David Ralph [48:32]
Yeah, the company is called Ronseal if you want to Google him and I’ll ever share with you would profits Ronseal but yeah, it’s a it’s a famous one. Now what is famous on Join Up Dots is this part of the show where we take you away further conversation and push you into a conversation with your younger self and if you could go back in time and speak to the young Ben and make things simpler for him as he moves forward to where you are today. How would you make it simple but we’re going to find out because I’m going to pay the fame and when it fades is your time to share this is the Sermon on the mic
Unknown Speaker [49:17]
Ben Guttman [49:30]
appropriately I’ll keep this direct and simple too, which is there’s a quote you’re gonna come across at some point, which is the ship of safe import. But that’s not why we build ships. There’s a lot of things that are comfortable that are easy that you can that are that are the easy wet the groove that you can easily kind of click into. But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to do interesting things big things. Go Go join that Oregon As Jason send that email, reach out to that person, try that project. And, you know, just take as many swings as you can.
David Ralph [50:09]
Simple advice as we would expect, Ben, what is the best way for people that have been listening today to connect with you, sir?
Ben Guttman [50:17]
Yeah, absolutely. So you mentioned keeping it straightforward in terms of the channels. My website is Ben guttman.com, B ENGUTT, M A N N two T’s two Ns, which I guess it’s not quite a minimal name, but that’s what it is. And if you go on Ben guttman.com, you can get a sign up for me email lists there, you can find my book. Simply put, why clear messages when and how to design them, which comes out in from Berrett Koehler publishers, October 10 2023. And yeah, excited to get and you also find me on LinkedIn and Ben government as well.
David Ralph [50:49]
And we’ll have all the links in the show notes to make it as easy as possible or as simple as possible. I shouldn’t say, Ben, thank you so much for spending time with us today, joining those dots. And please come back again, when you’ve got more dots to join up. Because I do believe that by joining up those dots and connecting our paths is always the best way to build our futures. Ben, thank you so much.
Ben Guttman [51:10]
Thanks so much, David, this is great.
David Ralph [51:14]
So simplicity, you’re building a business, try to keep it where you control it, do your best work in one place. Do your best work wherever you are. And if you can make it easily perceived, easily understood, and easily acted upon. That’s a big, big win. There’s some real good marketing advice in there. Some of you might be coming to this podcast and it’s a little bit ahead of the curve. So bookmark that one so that you can come back later on and listen to it. Because it really is make things clear, precise, and easy to understand. Until next time, my friends. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Join Up Dots. And we will be with you soon with some more content. Cheers. See ya. Bye.
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