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Podcast Guesting Pro founder Graham Brown joins podcast host Marc Suess on "Sweetspot Podcast" to discuss the secrets of Brand Storytelling and Brand Love. The following is a transcript of their conversation. For more tips on podcast guesting success, go to our podcast guesting resources.

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Marc Suess 00:10
The past, the present and the future. Three words, three boxes and the secret to storytelling. Today, you’ll learn how to use this tool. Sweet people, I'm back. Welcome to the show. Welcome to the Sweetspot podcast, I'm your host, Marc Suess. And if you're looking for the sweet spot of your brand, you've come to the right place. My guest today is the world traveling entrepreneur and storyteller Graham Brown. He's a podcast pro, running a podcast agency, produced his own shows and he is a regular guest because he has amazing things to say. Today, I talk to him about surprise podcasting for brands, but also about brand love, what that is, how that works, we talk about resistance and purpose. We discuss culture and mindset and you get some amazing firsthand tips like the three box technique for storytelling that is just mentioned in the intro. And also we take a look into the future of marketing and brand storytelling. You're in for a treat so without further ado, please enjoy my talk to Graham Brown.

Narrator 01:31
Welcome to the sweet side. This is the Sweetspot podcast with Marc Suess, investigating entrepreneurship, purpose and the creative life.

Marc Suess 02:03
Sweet people, it's my pleasure to introduce to you today, Graham Brown. Graham, nice to have you on the show. How are you?

Graham Brown
02:10
Yeah, I'm very good. Wonderful to be here. Thanks man.

Marc Suess
02:13
Perfect. Where are you right now? Where do I talk to you?

Graham Brown
02:18
In Singapore.

Marc Suess
02:19
Alright.

Graham Brown
02:20
So, yep. It's for those that have never been. I know, I'm amazed by some people who've never been to Singapore, but, yeah, we're out here in Asia. We're on a good vantage point to half the world's population, India, China. It's a good pace of change.

Marc Suess
02:36
Alright. That's great. Because you describe yourself as a road tripping entrepreneur. I read that about you and this sounds super intriguing, but I mean, what does it mean? How did that come to be? Why did you choose to become a road tripping entrepreneur?

Graham Brown
02:50
I think it's like, if you like, travel and entrepreneurship are very similar, I feel in the sense that you can do things two ways. You can be a tourist or you can be a traveler in life. And being a tourist, as we know is like, you're on the coach, the bus tour, everything's arranged for you, you get off the tour, you go and see the museum, you buy in the shop, you go home. But as a traveler, you kind of get lost in the back streets. And so travel and entrepreneurship are very similar in that respect that obviously doing the coach tour of career is doing the career thing. But I'd choose not to do that. And I guess you are kind of similar as well, is that, I don't think you can just be one. You can't just be an entrepreneur and not be curious about other cultures or going to different countries and so on. So I think it's part of the same package.

Marc Suess
03:50
Absolutely. I love this comparison, actually. I never heard that between travel and entrepreneurship, in my life, I found out that I started out as a creative, as a designer, as an illustrator, and then became an entrepreneur. And I found that there's a big overlap in terms of, okay, working with insecurity, working with curiosity, some of the things you just mentioned, but I love the picture of being a traveler and not going coach, but maybe get lost in the little streets and very romantic.

Graham Brown 04:19
That's what I imagine.

Marc Suess
03:50
I really like it. Yeah. That's well,

Graham Brown
04:21
Here's the thing about you. I mean, like for your listeners as well, like Marc is doing this podcast in English, you think about how vulnerable that is. It's like being a traveler, isn't it? When you go into another country and you have to order food. Exactly. It's quite scary, isn't it? It's like, “God, what am I going to get?”

Marc Suess 04:37
It can be.

Graham Brown
04:38
So a lot of people choose not to do that and they choose just to eat familiar foods or go to McDonald's or eat at the hotel. But you've stepped out and you're doing this podcast. I think that's wonderful. I mean, that just goes to show, you know, this creative doing the podcast. I know you've traveled a bit yourself and you're also an entrepreneur, so yeah, proof and point.

Marc Suess
05:01
Thanks. Yeah, absolutely. And it's an amazing journey. It's just fun. It's just, once you get, I talked to another friend of mine on this podcast about if you push yourself out of your comfort zone on a regular basis, it sometimes can even become a little addictive to be like, okay, it was quiet for too long, I gotta do something. I gotta shake things up a little bit. Are you familiar with that feeling?

Graham Brown
05:26
Oh yeah. Yeah. There's a great book, by the way. I know you were gonna ask for recommendations but I've jumped the gun a little bit here. 

Marc Suess 05:33
That's okay.

Graham Brown 05:34
There's a book called, I don’t know the exact title, it's something like, ‘How to make yourself rejection proof’ and, I don't remember the exact title, but the, author Jia Jiang, he's a Chinese American dude. he's got a video on YouTube called ‘The 100 days of rejection.’ It's on point of what you are saying that basically what he did was, he set himself this challenge every day to go out and deliberately be rejected and those kind of rejections would be basic stuff; ask a stranger for some money or walk into Dunkin donuts and ask for an Olympic rings shaped donut. I mean, they say, obviously a lot of the time, say no. One time he walks up to this guy, knocks on the house door and says, can I plant this plant in your garden? There's really random stuff. But the point being is, if you get good at rejection, comfortable with it, it allows you to achieve so many more things in life because you realize this is the barrier that holds us back. It's a very, very funny video and it's an inspiring book recommended to everybody.

Marc Suess
06:48
A hundred percent. I really like this because if I talk to people, to professional athletes or people who are really into sports, I think this gives you the kind of humble mindset that failure is like the default state. If you try to score some points or whatever, of course, 99% of the shots are missed, but the ones you get are actually, yeah, I like it. I like that one. 

Graham Brown 07:13
Absolutely. 

Marc Suess 07:13
Cool. Already starting off with a Ted talk and a book recommendation. Love it. I'll put it in the show notes, sweet people. I'm gonna research it and put it in there. Alright. So, Graham, I really want to talk to you today about podcasting and storytelling. And since they're connected, I think we can fluctuate between those two topics, but since you're a big podcaster yourself, and you're a guest on many shows, let's start there. First of all, I would really like to start with your company Pikkal, where you create brand podcasts. So I'm really interested how that came to be. When did you get in touch with the whole podcast market? When did you find your passion for it? And also see that there's a business opportunity in there?

Graham Brown 07:55
I've always been a storyteller and podcasting was a great avenue for that. I mean, I did my first podcast in 2014. That was the first one on iTunes, or the platforms. Before that you had to host it on your own website in the old days, MP3s. But it didn't become a business until much later. So in 2017, I started a podcast. Put this into context, I was that road tripping entrepreneur at the time, me, myself, my family, my wife and my son, we sold all our stuff into like three suitcases, literally three suitcases and traveled the world for four years. And then another two years, we stopped a bit and then traveled a bit more. And that story aside, what was really interesting, Marc was that time we were living in places like Okinawa and the Canary islands and Cyprus, really sort of beautiful islands. And as much as I loved it, what I really missed was the challenge, that outside the comfort zone, exactly what you said. Because I'm an entrepreneur, I want to be a challenge. I want a bit of resistance in my life. That gives it purpose. And what I did in 2017, when I was living in Okinawa in the east China sea, is I started a podcast to reach out to people. So at the time in Asia, there were a lot of startups starting. So I would reach out to these entrepreneurs, what are you doing? What's going on in Shanghai? What's going on in Bangkok? What's going on in Chiang Mai, Singapore. I talked to all these entrepreneurs and that podcast was a way for me to connect and I did 503 episodes of that podcast. It's called the Asia Tech podcast. I don't do it anymore because I proved a point, can I do this? 

Marc Suess 09:55
Yeah, yeah. 

Graham Brown 09:56
And I got the story out there, joined the dots, but what happened was Marc, that people started coming to me and saying, Hey, that podcast thing, how do I do that? And this was around about 2018 and it became a sort of now I have this idea about a business that could come out of this because at the time we were traveling around, so we moved to Singapore, set up a podcast studio and the good thing about Singapore is that it's a small island and you can, within 20 minutes reach pretty much every multinational bank, management consultancy, FinTech, financial company, SAS platform in the world in a tiny little island. And that's when it morphed into a podcast agency, because those conversations with individuals now became, hey, what can you do for our management consultancy or our bank? That's where the agency started because people were so, like, so short of options, how do we actually do this podcasting? There were no agencies at the time in Asia. So in that respect, we were probably one of the first, which was exciting in the sense that there was no playbook but also a challenge because, there were no models for how to do this.

Marc Suess
11:20
Well, that's a big advantage from moving to a new place and establishing something there. And I got two follow up questions on that. First of all, I'm really interested if you host a podcast series for over 500 episodes, first of all, you quit, because you said you proved the point, so what would you say was the point, or when did you reach a point where you said, okay, I think I told this story complete or enough facets of a story that I think it's enough. So I really wonder when did you feel this series come to an end? Because 500 episodes is a great run. 

Graham Brown 11:54
Yeah. I wanted to, firstly, tell the story of the Asian startup ecosystem, because it didn't have a voice. Asians tend to watch and learn, they tend to be a little bit more reserved about standing up and talking about themselves. I wanted to change that. I wanted to give them a stage. So after 500 episodes, I'd covered a lot and had some great, I mean, I had some really good guests and quite famous entrepreneurs as well in Asia. I proved that point. And the second point was, can I do this? You know, am I somebody who can build a brand for myself in this space? And I wasn't anything in the Asian tech scene before the podcast started, but, halfway through, I remember randomly walking in a city in Japan, in Kyushu, which is in the south, crossing the road and walking across the road and obviously if you're a white guy in Japan, you stand out a little bit and somebody stopped me and grabbed me in the road and I was kind of, it's a bit weird in Japan for somebody to do that. Somebody grabbed me by the arm and he said, “You! You are that guy.” And I said, “What do you mean?” And he pulled me to the side and said, “You are that podcast guy.” And it was somebody who'd been listening to my podcast. And I don't even know they'd seen me. I hadn't had a video of me on the podcast, but they've obviously seen me somewhere. And then I realized actually, wow, that's really powerful. And that started happening quite a bit. I'd go to conferences and people would know who I was because I was that guy doing that thing. So to answer your question. I realized that actually this could be a lot more powerful because it shouldn't just be me who had this superpower, if you like, is this something that I could share with other people and help them find their voice? And that's when I realized actually the only way I can really do this is to help them start their podcast rather than me doing mine. And that's where I am. 

Marc Suess  13:59
All right. That Sounds like an amazing journey. And especially, I think I can understand because I'm already, or I'm always interested in how businesses get started, what's the inspiring drive,and also why things end because you either learn from a failure or you find something came to an end or something. That's really cool. So now I want to get into what you do today with the agency, because you specialize in brand podcasts. So anyone who listens to this is at least interested in podcasts, but maybe did make the jump to, Hey, I got my own personal brand. I got my own company. Maybe a podcast would be something for you. What do you think is the biggest purpose of a podcast for brands? 

Graham Brown 14:45
Yeah, there are two types of brand podcasts. Let's break the podcast market down a little bit so people can understand it. Let's map it. You've got B2C podcasts, which are true crime history, those kinds of podcasts, probably the most popular form, most well known, Joe Rogan, for example. You've got now in the business space, you've got corporate podcasts. You have, for example, B2B podcasts, sort of the typical corporate podcasts. These are like a lot of what we do, management consultancy podcasts, government agencies, banks. We work a lot with companies like EY or Deloitte or investment banks like Julius Baer from Switzerland, UBS Switzerland. Some of the MBB consultancies, SaaS platforms, FinTech, airlines, government agencies, et cetera. Now the big growth area with these is that they don't want to have really exciting, true crime type podcasts. Their business is not about, they're not doing this as a marketing tactic. They're doing this as a communication strategy, which is how do we get our conversations out there? How do we shape the narratives? How do we influence rather than acquire? And those are the type of podcasts that we do because these corporations, and there are many, many, many of them, and we've only just got a small group of clients and I imagine 90% of the world of those corporations has yet to start a podcast, are in need of humanizing their voice. Who are these people? That investment bank, who are these people? What do they stand for? What are their views on ESG or DEI or everything that people want to know now.  Think of how that impacts hiring, think of how that impacts sales, think of how that impacts PR about those brands. So that's a big part of where I think the growth opportunity is that these corporations have really yet to get on board with podcasting. It’s really just starting. And the beauty of this Marc is that, you know, if you look at podcasts now with corporations that it's not one brand, one podcast. The real beauty is what you're seeing, for example, if you look at management consultancies, like Deloitte or McKinsey or EY, they have like 7, 8, 9, 10 podcasts each. What I feel is that each practice, each team, each leader will have a podcast so potentially I feel the massive growth area in these corporations is that in the near future, they could have 100, 200, 1000 podcasts per brand. And that is really exciting. Because now you've got this real unlocking of storytelling inside these organizations. 

Marc Suess 18:00
That's a great, well, not only great example, but also a great vision for the podcast market. I really enjoy that because I think about what you just said. And I think I want to dive deeper into this, the first thing is storytelling and giving a voice to a brand. So it's not an abstract, unidentifiable cooperation or something, but really get in touch with the people with their way of thinking and also if I think about what you just said, when I work with a lot of companies, the problem is often there is a lot of fluid knowledge inside the company that only gets today connected over a cup of coffee and the cafeteria, having chat over lunch, more accidentally than really planned and there's a lot of very important knowledge when it comes to making business, taking care of the company culture and I think this is also something that podcasts can really capture and keep alive or conserve or push forward inside a company. So I think it's not only on the outside, but also on the inside of a brand that it really, really helps. But you know, I'm wondering if, okay, I'm listening to this as a brand owner and I think, Hey, this sounds amazing what Graham does, where does the process start? And to me personally, the biggest question is how do you help a brand find their voice for the podcast? 

Graham Brown 19:24
Most brands already have a voice internally, at least like you say, like you've very astutely observed that these conversations are happening already over coffee at lunch, in the culture of the company. Now the challenge is externalizing that or even internalizing it, even sharing that between teams. And I believe that the brand can do a lot of justice and benefit to its own story if it just gets its own people to tell that story, as opposed to hiring actors, which is, what we've done in advertising for years, isn't it, proxies, actors, influencers, but inside of every brand, there are great storytellers. Maybe what they don't have is the technique, the domain technique for converting that story on a podcast. But that's where we come in. They have the content, they have the stories and the experience and the connections. They understand the pain points better than anybody else. What they need is a little bit of tweaking to make that work in audio. What they don't need is somebody to come in and write a script for them and say, this is how we're gonna make your brand amazing. The big idea, you know, the old mad men type world of advertising. That's what we don't want. That exists in podcasting for sure and that has its place. But these brands don't need that. These brands have white papers, reports, research, institutes, people with a lot of experience and great networks of people within the industry as well. So they have all of that. The challenge is just pulling that out and I think giving them a safe space. We talk about guardrails and green lights, when we help those storytellers tell their story is that we give them parameters to operate with them, to help them understand this is how you tell a story on a podcast and you'll find after two or three episodes, they'll start with buttoned up tie and buttoned up shirt collar and by episode two, they're rolling up the shirt sleeves and episode three, they come in like with a shirt slightly undone at the collar, tie undone slightly, and they're much more relaxed and it's like, wow, this guy's now really into it. And that's what we want, because then they're natural. And when they're natural, they're human. Like you say, putting a face and the voice to the organization.

Marc Suess
21:58
Yeah. Amazing. So I think this is the qualitative aspect of podcasting for brands. What would you say is the quantitative aspect in terms of when would you say, of course it depends on the company, but when is the company podcast successful?

Graham Brown 22:15
Hmm, obviously it depends on your definition of success, doesn't it? That a brand will have a different podcast objective to the other brand. You can, for example, create a podcast to generate thought leadership, to influence narratives, a bit like PR, a bit harder to measure in terms of metrics, you can start a podcast to create content to use for your sales team so I've seen that where a successful example of a podcast is where an investment bank creates the podcast to deliver news and analysis. The sales teams will then use that podcast and send it to clients. So it's like sales collateral. Another version of success is leads. How much business did we get through this podcast? These are all the top level metrics. Obviously below that you've got audience and rankings, which are the lead metrics. So obviously more audience, more rankings equals more of the business objectives as well. So really it's important when you go into a podcast project to understand what is the measure of success first, because the client obviously has a business need. It's our role to help them understand what could work in a podcast and what won't work in a podcast, because if they just want to get leads, maybe they should just do Facebook ads. That's reality. However, if they want to build for leadership, there are different ways of doing that and success is measured in different ways. So it’s kind of ‘it depends’ answer to your question, if that makes sense.

Marc Suess 23:59
Yeah, but I like this because I like that you just pointed out that it's on the content marketing side and it's about thought leadership and about more marketing soft skills, so to speak, all long term things like thought leadership brand, building image, establish your people on the mic as leaders in their field are not just a sales tactic. You can also use it. But yeah, I really like this and I'm happy to hear that, because yeah, I like brand building measurements, not only short term sales thing. So to slowly get more into storytelling, you've done so many podcasts yourself. You've been a guest on many podcasts. Today you are here as a guest. So what would you say makes a great podcast guest. It's kind of a meta question within our podcast, but I'm really, I'm really interested in that. 

Graham Brown 25:11
Yeah. I mean, a part of what I do is I help business leaders get onto podcasts as well, because I think we're at a stage now that maybe four years ago, Marc, if you and I talked about brand and marketing, there wouldn't have been so many podcasts, but if you went into a niche area, like I was looking at pet marketing, for example, you wouldn't find a podcast on it, but now there are lots, you know, like pet services marketing, like pet training marketing podcasts, very niche, very specific. So what's happened in the last four years and obviously with the pandemic is that there's been an explosion in podcast, 4 million podcasts today, 50 million podcast episodes, which means there are now so many options and I would put it to any brand that, maybe one of the things to consider is if you are not sure about starting a podcast, think about guessing on other people's podcast. So with that in mind, we have to think that it's now a lot easier to get out there onto guests and onto podcasts. So the competition is a lot stronger, right? Yeah. So you can't just turn up to a podcast and use it as a sales pitch. That's out. But I would say the most important thing, if you wanna be a really good guest is firstly, connecting with the host is really important. Remember, in our conversation now there's me, Graham, you Marc and then there's the audience, the listener, there's three of us, right? And a good guest should be able to talk to all three of, all two really at the same time, like I'm addressing you or I'm talking to the listener and that's an important skill and to do that, you have to know who the listeners are, who are these people? What’s their avatar? What's their pain points? What are the reasons? Why are they listening to Marc's podcast, right? Why do they trust Marc? So to know all these things is really important because, I feel that I don't know how you feel about this. I'm sure you've listened to enough podcasts, Marc, but my personal feeling is that too many people go onto a podcast, switch expert mode on, and empathy mode off. That's the problem. Like nobody cares. Like nobody cares what you know, as they say, people don't care what you know, unless they know that you care and I think it's so important that that's you. Come on and talk about the problem and what you're trying to do and what you're trying to solve first. And then people will identify you that I think makes a good guess. That's my personal opinion having sat through a lot of podcasts on the other side, but I think that's important to help you understand what goes wrong. And I think it may just be the fact that people are a little bit scared. They go into expert mode, right?  

Marc Suess 28:01
And I think, just as you said, expert mode. I think they start looking inward like what's my checklist? What's my to-do list? What's the talking points I wanna push out there and there's little empathy and also I'm a big believer in brand entertainment in terms of  infotainment, the age of streaming, social media, everything else. I think if you wanna be heard as a brand, you have to provide some kind of entertainment, at least connecting your brand topics, your own talking points to something that resonates with your audience, something that they really care about, something that's going on in their lives or whatever. And I mean, you can always hook what you really wanna say to some anecdotes or something that's contemporary and important to them. So, yeah, I think more on the outside. I really appreciate that. Yeah. 

Graham Brown 28:40
Yeah. You're working an audience, aren't you, like a standup comic or like a performer or an artist like yourself. You are doing that, you're performing for somebody, you're trying to connect with them. If you're creating a painting, you're expressing yourself, but you've always got the viewer, the audience in mind, right? Absolutely. How are they gonna interpret this? 

Marc Suess 29:03
Yeah, I like the image of, I think that's a great takeaway for anyone who might prepare for an interview or has a podcast interview upcoming that to not focus on yourself and your talking points and not even only on your podcast host, but really imagine, or maybe take a little passport image of your audience or something with you that you really remind yourself to - Hey, you're talking to a whole audience out there, address them.

Graham Brown
29:29
That's a great idea. I’ll share a quick story with you I knew… I know, I know. Sorry. He's still alive. I know a friend who worked in radio, many years in radio and radio should have died many, many years ago, but it's still going strong, right? And I asked him why is the radio still alive? And he said, radio is all about community and audience. They know their audience better than anybody else. And he, like your passport photo, worked under this sort of old wise radio guru. Yeah and this radio guru told him, like, when he started it, he said, this is what I do and he said, this photo here is a picture of my listener. And it was like some housewife. Yeah and Jane, I dunno what her name was, and he stuck that photo onto the microphone and he says, “This is what I do. Every time I talk, I talk to her directly”.  So I'm always thinking about Jane and I'm like, what's her problem? What's she thinking about now? What's bothering her? What's keeping her awake at night? And I thought it was so magical because we live in this world of streaming where it's like, Hey, you guys, well no, it's not like engaging. We can learn a lot from radio.


Marc Suess
30:40
Yeah. Wow. That's something I’ve never heard before. I really appreciate this. Someone, especially as a podcaster who praises radio, or at least the life hack we can take away from radio. Really appreciate it. That's amazing. 

Graham Brown 30:53
It's a great one. I'm gonna have to put a new photo up here. 

Marc Suess 30:59
Yes. Right. 

Marc Suess 31:01
Sweet people, did you know, successful brands are storytellers. They capture the attention of the audience by sharing, engaging, and meaningful content. And I believe that every company, entrepreneur or creative has an amazing story to tell. So what's yours? I help you share your story with the world with a cross media content strategy, editorial plans for your daily work and a long lasting brand narrative to build a great audience. It's time to tell your story. Check out sweetspot-studio.com and get in touch because it's time to share your brand story with the world. And now, let's get back to the show.

Marc Suess 31:49
Well, Graham, we're in the middle of talking about storytelling and I want to start off going deeper into this because you wrote a book about the psychology of storytelling called ‘Brand Love: How to Build a Brand Worth Talking About.’ So I think, first things first, well, you all sweet people find the book and all the info about it in the show notes. But, maybe we can start at the top. I don't wanna dive too deep into it, because I guess you already talked about it a lot and you have great interviews just revolving around this book, but for someone who's new to this, what would you say brand love really is? 

Graham Brown 32:24
It's how to create a brand worth talking about. Why do we talk about some brands and not the others? Why do we love some brands and just ‘like’ others? It's curious, isn't it? Because there doesn't seem to be a roadmap or a playbook for that. And it's certainly not something you can do through social media. There has to be something core to that brand and a big part of what we found. And the whole book was a journey of discovery, like researching the brands, talking to the people. I wrote the book with two partners, one who was one of the marketing heads for Monster energy, which was, for those that don't know it's the green claw soda, that is very much like Red Bull, but a bit more grungier than Red Bull.

Marc Suess 33:16
And loved by people. I saw in the book, there's a picture of someone having the Monster can tattooed on his/her arm and it's intense. Yeah. Yeah. 

Graham Brown 33:31
His whole laptop was full of those images. And the really amazing thing, Marc, was that they did that even in markets where they hadn't yet got Monster. Indonesia, for example, quite early on. 

Marc Suess 33:50
Oh wow. So, the brand became a symbol attached to all the values, all the brand story. And it transported even to markets where the brand wasn't available. Wow. 

Graham Brown 34:00
Well, you can’t buy it. And because his job was like international expansion, getting it into new markets and so very much learning from that. Because he worked at Red Bull previously. Red Bull and Monster are slightly different. They do things differently, but the genesis, the origin of their stories and how they tell stories is very similar but if you think about it, like, why would somebody love… Why would they get a tattoo? It's just soda with sugar and caffeine, right? How is that possible? And this is the beauty of it, and I think this is the power of like, why we should all spend some of our time studying soda because the beauty of soda is also its weakness is that if you take Coke and Pepsi, they're exactly the same, like one is slightly sweeter, but physically, and in terms of their capabilities as brands, they're very much similar. But when you look at the soda market you'll see that they don't have anything, they don't really have a product, they don't have any barriers to entry, they don't have any secret technology, any distribution rights, that others don't have. All they have is a story. And therefore, when you look at the soda market, that is a pure story. That is that all they're selling is a story because everything else is copyable. And when you really get into that, you really understand what makes people love brands is what those sodas had to learn the hard way. Because if they were all about, oh, well, taste better and Pepsi actually did this. This Pepsi challenge. You remember that? In the supermarkets and then they would say, “Hey, which tastes better?” And actually Pepsi tastes better. But interestingly, when they repeated those experiments, I think 20 years afterwards, neuropsychologists would run this experiment, same thing they would give you and me two colas, A and B and we'd taste it. Oh yeah. That one tastes better. Oh, that is Pepsi. And then they, with a twist, changed the experiment. They now said, okay, here are the two colas, but we're telling you which brand they are. This is Coke and this is Pepsi and when they drunk Coke, they said it tasted better than Pepsi by a factor of four to one, which is really interesting. When you think about it, when we didn't know which brand was which, Pepsi tasted better. But when we knew the brand, it was far better tasting. The Coke and the fascinating fact of that is that, actually brand has in some way, shaped the experience in the brain, at the brain level, neurophysiological level of experience and that is the magic of storytelling. Yeah. And once you understand, that's what it can do. The question is how do I do it.

Marc Suess 37:04
A hundred percent. And how do you do it? You got a little drawing, a kind of a brand love model. And, it's like a heart in the center where there's brand love and then you have three parts of a circle around that heart, it's people, culture and metrics and I mean, everyone can read the book and I totally recommend it. But since you already said, I think the example with Pepsi and Coke, is an amazing example, because it's about the story that you attach to a brand, the resonance in your life, the story, how it resonates with you. And I think people use brands as a part of identification. I mean, I see it even here in Hamburg, Germany, which is super flat. It's the north of Germany. It's an absolutely flat city, but you see a lot of hiking, outdoor street wear, you see a lot of four wheel drive Jeeps and all of these brands are basically, probably also just love brands, because I don't need them. I can't even say it. Is it better or worse? It's just a part of me, a part of my identity that I construct via consuming these brands. So I'm really interested in this, this one part of the circle that you draw up there circle because you said marketing is a mindset. Maybe we can talk about this, but I'm also interested in yes, the brand love and storytelling is part of the internal culture, but I'm really interested in how you think brands can resonate with our culture, like the outside culture, the social fabric so to speak.

Graham Brown 38:42
The challenge, it goes back a lot to what we talked about with podcasting Marc, the challenge is that these brands have great people and great stories inside them and what we've done for generations is we've kind of supplanted that with these proxies. I mean, the best example of this is Ronald McDonald. It's a clown, right? Yeah. It's fake. Nobody really likes clowns. They're a little bit scary for people. I don't particularly like them myself. I think they're odd. They're strange. Like, I don't think anybody actually liked Ronald McDonald, but it was used as a proxy to connect with people and yet we are all very happy connecting with real people. And one of the challenges brands have is to let go of fake and be vulnerable and almost break down the walls such that people can connect. If you think about, take Monster as an example, most people who work for Monster are involved in some form in the sports that they sponsor, whether it be dirt biking or F1 or whatever it may be, all the different sports they're involved in. So they already have those connections. They already have networks and what they allow those people to do is get involved and connect. And it's real. A traditional way of doing that was to not allow people to get involved, to cut them off, to build a wall, and then hire a marketing agency to create this fake campaign, the big idea about what we're about. So really it's that shift. It's that shift from almost manufactured reality of a brand to the authentic brand, which is allowing people in and allowing your own people to connect with their networks. That's the vision of where we're going, but I think we're seeing that now. I think we're starting to see brands open up, we're seeing people more public about what they talk about, a lot more acceptance, even in the leaders as well about them having an opinion and allowing them to get out there and vocalize the story of the brand. 

Marc Suess 41:00
So all of a sudden it becomes way more important where your brand stands, what values they want to transport in the communication if they resonate with the site guys with what I'm all about as a person, instead of, okay, I have to narrow it down into a 30 second advertising slot. 

Graham Brown 41:21
Yeah. People see through that, right?

Marc Suess 41:25
Yeah, I think so. I just wondered as you said that if it was also connected to our media consumption and the media opportunities we had up until the nineties, because it's hard to be authentic and connect, I think it takes more time or way more touch points to build a brand that's culturally so diversified or get so many touch points. Maybe it's so hard to do it and if I can just book a single 20 seconds advertising slot on TV, I'm not sure I'm
thinking about it. 

Graham Brown  41:53
You're absolutely right. Yeah. You're totally right. Go back to the late eighties at the peak, I remember it being much older than most people in the marketing industry now I'm afraid is that I remember there was a time if you remember MTV, MTV showed one advert for Madonna, with Pepsi, and they paid seven and a half million dollars to Madonna for this one advert. Yeah. And it showed only once. And it was so powerful that even before the advert, they had a documentary about the advert. It was like, oh, they're gonna release the Madonna commercial. It was like, it's just an ad, it's a 30 second ad, but they had this big hype and build up to it. And you said, an important point about was that enough. And here's the interesting thing is that when you saw an advert for Coke or Pepsi on TV, that cost a lot of money, only brands with money could advertise. Therefore, when you saw that ad, you knew that they must be selling a lot of Coke and Pepsi and the reason they're selling a lot of Coke and Pepsi is because people like you are buying it, you and I are buying it. Therefore it was social proof, but fast forward, 20 years, like, people appearing on your screen. You can do that for free now. So the social proof element of advertising was destroyed and therefore, we no longer believed in, if you go back 20 years as seen on TV, it didn't mean anything anymore, right? Nobody cares, and in many ways, there's many other better ways of creating connections. So that's what changed the social proof aspect of advertising, which was what it was always about and always will be about. 

Marc Suess 43:45

I really like this idea of the social proof factor in advertising. I'm really gonna sit on this after I talk and think about it because I can only, well, I caught the, I caught the end of the advertising age. I started working there in the early 2000s. And you just heard how great the ad industry has been back in the nineties, back in the eighties. And I think this is a big part of it, because you really were in the focus of a lot of cultural attention and you were really the focal point of transporting so much attention for one brand into one spot like Madonna and that's comes with a lot of responsibility, a lot of attention and a lot of hype that's created around it, but as you just said, and as we just established as the storytelling shifts, as the media landscape shifts, you're not that important anymore as a translator as, yeah, the cultural translator, narrator of that brand.

Graham Brown 44:49
Yeah. It's a good point, Marc. Because you're bringing out what it used to be like and not of people may not, you were lucky to catch the end of it, but most people won't even know so advertising was like the startup world. That obviously in the eighties, in the context of the eighties and that has changed, that's where the creative people went, because as you say you had that attention, if you could create a good campaign, you could change a brand completely. You know, you could, I think of the people who created the campaigns, like the most famous ones, obviously ‘De Beers’, diamonds forever. These campaigns, which are well known. There's even one. I don't know if its European, but Meow mix who make munchies for cats, you know, it's so good that even cats ask for them by name, all those kind of things. The copywriters for these ads were superheroes in their day, but it's very different now, but they would be doing I don’t know, Bitcoin, who knows what every now, but that's where it was back then.

Marc Suess 45:54
Absolutely. Yep. Interesting cultural shift also in the background, within the storytellers themselves. Yeah,  I want to ask you about if I'm listening to this with my brand, if I'm about to be on a podcast, we talked a lot about storytelling and in theory, and in the bigger context, but I know that you probably have some storytelling techniques that you can maybe tell the sweet people about, maybe a trick. They can trick, a technique they can apply if they prepare for their brand or for an interview. Is there something you can share with us?

Graham Brown 46:33
Yeah, this is more down to the mechanics of storytelling. Yeah. People often say, why is Steve Jobs so good at storytelling? Well, he just knew what stories should look and sound like, and that is a superpower in itself and if you look at great stories, they all share similar plot lines and I'll share one with you today. It's like, sometimes when people ask me about my background, I say, I graduated with an AI degree in 1995, which is like, last century, it's all a bit sort of strange 25 years ago doing AI, a very different world, there wasn't any. opportunities in AI back then, not like now, which should be Google, Facebook and so on. So they gave me an opportunity to teach English in Japan. That was it. And I remember they asked me like, do you think you could do it? And I said, well, what do I need as a qualification? And they said, to teach you need to speak English. And that was it. So I was away. I went to Japan. And the reason why I'd tell that story is, firstly, it gives a bit of background, but the point is, is that when people ask you to tell your story, the often mistake that people make is they start at the beginning and I'll say, I was like five years old and I did this or the beginning of the company. But it's like, if you think about it, all good movies, all good books, start with an ending. And this is what I want to share with your listeners is that use what I call the three box storytelling technique, which is simply put, past, present, future. If you tell your story in three boxes, you'll capture a lot more of the imagination of your audience, but you don't start with the past. You start in the present and let's put this in the context of a movie. The movie opens, there's a dead body on the floor. You know, a woman drops a gun and she runs away. That's the opening scene of a movie. I know I'll never make it in Hollywood. Marc, forgive me. That's my version of a thriller. 

Marc Suess 48:50
That's fine, that's fine. 

Yeah. Yeah. We might back this one. But you get the idea that  is not unusual as an opening scene. And when you see that scene, first of what you've done is you've put the problem there. This is the problem, it's on the table. Now we have to fix it. And the audience is thinking, how did this happen? Yeah. What on earth made these events come to be. And the next step for the director of the movie is to say, okay, right. I've put the problem on the table. Now the next step is I'm not gonna give you the solution, which is expert mode. The next step is how did we get here? And the movie then winds back to college when the boy met the girl and before she shot him, like when they were friends, like when it was all starting out. So the backstory. And that's a very typical, well of typical way of telling a story. And it gives people the backstory and the backstory helps the listener understand who you are, what are your drivers? How did you get here? What means what to you? What's important in your life? So you do three boxes, box one, present, box two, go back to the past, how did we get here? What is the way of thinking or the mindset or the broken thought processes that got us to where we are today and then once you put all that there, your job now, as a leader, storyteller is to pitch the promise land, which is the transformation. I've shown you all these problems. Now I'm gonna take you over the threshold to the solution. The third box is the future. What is the shape of the business? What is the transformation journey that we need to undertake to get there? And that's a very simple way of telling a story in three boxes, but as long as you get box one and two, the right way around, you can maintain the engagement and the attention of the audience. 

Marc Suess 50:58
Well, first of all, thanks for this three box image. I think we can all work with this in the future. And I also loved not only the drawback to, yeah, it's about business. It's about the future. It's about inspiring people. I also love the image that you said, Hey, imagine a thriller or a crime show where you are this guy who's in eager mode, who's in presentation in sales mode. Okay. This happened, this happened, 10 minute movie. It's over. We solved the case. It would be incredibly boring. I really like that idea of imagine you're telling a thriller, how do you manage your information? How do you reset the audience involved. Yeah, I really like it.

Graham Brown 51:38
Wow, Amazing. We've all sat in those presentations though, oh my God. 

Marc Suess 51:44
Yeah, this happened, this happened. She's dead. She's in jail. Thank you. Yeah. Great movie. Thanks. 

Graham Brown 51:52
And let's do the next one. Yeah, but I think there's like a really, people often say, well, I don't have an interesting story, but I feel like in each of all of us, there's an interesting scene which is found in every single movie. It's called the departure scene, which is we've all left something in our lives. And that something could be a comfortable job in a bank, it could be a country. You know, you moved from Hamburg to London or you maybe started a business against the advice of all the aunts and uncles around you. Yeah. Who, you know, you should get a comfortable career. So we've all left something in our lives, everyone, every one of your listeners has done this at some point to some degree, and that may not be an amazing feat. It may not be heroic. It may not be movie quality, but I bet there's somebody who, you know, who is thinking about that who's thinking, looking out the window, thinking, shall I do this? Who needs to hear that story? And every single movie, every single book, every single religious text has this departure scene where the hero crosses the bridge crosses the river, crosses the threshold. Yeah. Leaves comfort, and takes on the Rocky road, the journey, you know, we don't know who's on that road. There may be thieves. There may be, you know, God's disguised as monks or whatever. It may be in the part of tales who knows. Yeah, exactly. We just don't know, but it's gonna be different. We only know that much. And that is every single movie, every single book out there and every single one has that departure scene and it's a great way to start. If somebody asks you, what do you do? Start where you left off, cuz that defines a lot about you and we understand who you are and what you're building in this life. Yeah. 

Marc Suess 53:40
And this reminds me, you mentioned comedy and standup before in our talk. And I heard a great advice or a great line about storytelling when it comes to standup comedy and I think this applies to all stories. You can tell if the more specific you make it, the more general, the story will be in terms of how can I attach to it. If you want to tell a joke, it needs to be super specific and I think the same goals for a story, of course you can talk about, if you would say, oh, I departed from a place and I arrived in a new place. No one can attach themselves or the emotions to it. But as you just said, I had to go from here to there and I think the more specific you make it, and the more you make it about your own job, life, biography, struggles, whatever, the more people can actually relate to it cuz then it gets emotional. Then it gets personal, you know, 

Graham Brown 54:31
It's trust. Yeah. That's what it is. Yeah. Like, do I believe this person, like when you meet somebody, you always reading them and when you listen to their voice, does what they say and how they sound add up and it's the same with story as well that if you think about Lord of the rings, Pit Jackson would go into detail and he hired botness to plant the right foreigner, plants, the floor, sorry for hobbiton, you know, where the hobbits lived and they planted all these plants and they spent like 18 months to two years growing them before they put their set in, you know, they had that level of detail. Yeah. They were gonna put these plants in here because you're not gonna watch the movie and think, oh, what? Those are daffodils, right or that's lilacs there. Yeah. That doesn't look like it's in place, but you just absorb that and everything feels right about the message of that story and that level of detail. Like when you tell a story, don't say you departed, say exactly where you were going, you know, and then even the punchlines and all these kinds of things need to be practiced. Yes. And you need that level of detail. And that's the bit about comedy is that it takes a lot of work, a lot of hard work to appear effortless. You know, when you get on stage and you practice and you telling jokes, you see people like Jerry Seinfeld, you know, these standup comics, you know, who had all the fame. Yeah. They needed all the money, but they go back to the comedy clubs, yeah. You know, to do new material. Cause they're constantly testing, testing, testing. And that is the key is that if you're a storyteller to get that level of experience, to get that level of detail, to be that good at it is constant practice. It is a journey in itself. And that will come with a lot of facing rejection. 

Marc Suess 56:24
Yeah. Full circle. I really like it. Going back to the recommendation about rejection. Yes. Really, really cool. Graham. I have one, one last topic I wanna, I want to touch on. You just said that you studied AI back in the day, 1995, you graduated. So, if I get this with the three boxes, right? We are now here, we went back into the past what you studied and now you, as my guest, as a leader, maybe you can give us a little outlook into the third box, into the future. What do you think is AI gonna do or maybe other technologies, to storytelling? 

Graham Brown 57:00
Yeah, I feel this is where you, and I really have an opportunity to shape things that the more we as a society rely on AI and data and algorithms, and more of that takes over interactions, even at the basic level, like talking to a chat bot, you know, it's not a great experience, is it nobody really enjoys that? The more that happens, the more our lives are run by data. Think of delivery apps, the more we will seek out the human touch, you know, we will seek out. The aspects of humanity that machine cannot do, and machine cannot tell stories. Machine cannot tell a story because in the same way a machine cannot paint you. Okay. As an artist, I'm sure. You'll appreciate, there are many examples of monkeys, parrots, elephants painting on a canvas and it looks like Jackson Pollock, right? And you think, and, and then there's the story about how they sold it for a hundred thousand dollars and it's like, ha ha ha. Aren't artists. And you know, particularly the buyers of art stupid, right. That's the, what they're trying to tell us but the point is is that we do not buy art., we buy the story, you know, you buy hundred percent the artist in his story, you buy the fact that it was Picasso or the fact that it was a Jackson Pollock and not a monkey and what they were they trying to say, and you can't have that from a machine. A machine can easily copy art and maybe do it better. Music is the same, but I guarantee that, that a AI can write a song as good as any song you've ever heard but the thing is that AI has never, ever been a teenager and been rejected by a girl it's never, ever faced loss, never, ever sung, so the song doesn't come from a position of pain and I feel it's the same with art. And I feel it's the same with all humanities. There's this internal yearning, whether it's pain or the need to connect with people. And that is what makes us human. And it's from that position that we connect with other people and that's something that machine cannot do or will ever be able to do because machines cannot make mistakes or be vulnerable. And so the challenge for us, Marc is, and all your listeners is that the more vulnerable we become, the more people will connect with us. So if you are out there thinking, oh, should I do this? And you feel like a little bit nervous about pressing publish or going onto a podcast. It's the right thing to do, because I tell you in 10, 20 years, AI will be doing your job. So the part that we need to focus and get really good at is the bit that AI cannot do, and that's how it's gonna change the dynamic and a lot of people are gonna lose out for sure. As in every industrial revolution, there'll be losers and winners. 

Marc Suess 01:00:00
Yeah. Wow. Thank you so much. I really loved hearing that because I don't know how it is, how it is in Singapore but in Germany, up until. I think three or four years ago, every, literally every startup technology trade fair meeting, investors meeting, wherever I've been, even with my startup back in the days, it's always been the same story, they always started the pitch with either two images, two poems, a piece of music and it always, the release was always the same. Oh, this one is done by a human and this one is done by a machine and what you just said resonates so much with me because what I appreciate most in, in any art form, let's say music, cuz we didn't talk about, about music so much, let's say you are at a life concert. And I think the most amazing thing you can, you can possibly see is someone let's say you got a blues guitar player cuz that's close to my chest, and I think the most beautiful, like thing that can happen in this evening is that he's so close to failing. Because he's just out there in his comfort zone and he's just at the very limit of his capabilities and he's spending the last tone and it's not perfect and the AMS little overdrive and it's just, and I think that's so much of the beauty when it comes to culture or arts that you see, someone is really so close to the breaking point, that something is happening there that you can resonate with, and that's, if you know, it will never fail, cuz its an AI, you will never have that emotional attachment to it.

Graham Brown 01:01:35
Absolutely. You've nailed it. That that's the edge. Yeah. That's the edge, which, you know, like somebody on stage, like a RDA, for example, like playing those riffs or those chords could screw up at any minute and you just hang you and even those points, you know, where you've been in a concert and somebody sung and their voice gave out and oh, everybody like, you know, gasps, Yeah. That makes the experience real hundred. And that's why we pay, you know, hundred times for that. And that's, you know, music is free. Right. But the experience is priceless. 

Marc Suess 01:02:09
Very well said, Graham, we learned so much, I learned so much from you. I really enjoyed the conversation. I have two more, very quick questions that I ask all of my guests here. So the first thing is, I'm really excited. You recommended already some books, some Ted talks, I will recommend your, the books you wrote or participated in, but can you tell us what really drives or inspires you right now? Could be anything from a show to a book, to a movie to conversation, you had something you wanna share with me in the sweet people.

Graham Brown 01:02:42
I'm just really enjoying playing the game. that's it and my goal is to keep playing the game. I think that we as entrepreneurs tend to too much think about exits as the goal, that may be a way of achieving it. But I think if you're happy doing what you are doing and you feel challenged, then that's as good as it is, that's as good as it becomes. And that is really what living's about. So as long as I can keep doing that, look after myself, make sure I stay relevant, keep challenging myself out of the comfort zone, I think I'll be happy. That's what's exciting and driving me at the moment, constant challenge to do that the every day I'm kind of not getting comfortable.

Marc Suess 01:03:27
Beautiful message. Thanks. I'm really appreciated. And yeah, last question is What's next? What can we look out for? Is there something coming up, new releases, something we can follow you or that you wanna share with us? 

Graham Brown 01:03:43
Uh, well, one of the big things I've been working on in the last six months is podcast guesting. I'm really excited about opening up podcasting to bigger audience. Now because obviously it's not just people who own a podcast, but it's all the people who could be part of a podcast. I think that's really exciting, that seems to be a big growth area because for every one person who owns a podcast, there are maybe a hundred who want, who enjoy podcasts. And I feel that that should be interesting because not a lot of people know about it yet. But you know, like we all know about public speaking and personal branding and the importance of that. So that I feel is something an area to watch because now that we kind of question the idea of traveling to a conference or spending time out of the office, now you have a way to reach all of these virtual stages globally just by like what we're doing now. And I think that will appeal to a lot of people. 

Marc Suess 01:04:43
Great. Thank you so much, Graham. That's it for today. Thank you so much for being on the show. I really enjoyed our talk. 

Graham Brown 01:04:52
Me too. 

Marc Suess 01:04:54
Thanks and talk soon. Bye.

Yes, sweetspeople, how great was that? I think Graham is a big inspiration to all brand owners, creators, and storytellers out there. I love the comparison of being a traveler and an entrepreneur. In a previous episode, I drew parallels between working in the creative field and being an entrepreneur. You have to cope with limited resources, with newness of ideas, with constantly evolving, loving the challenge and well wanting to leave something behind or at least, put a lot of yourself in the work, which makes it personal, the props you get and even more so, the critique. So I'm sure you know what I mean if you listen to this podcast and if not, I think you learned a lot about this today. I appreciated that Graham shared so much of his experiences and insights on storytelling and brand culture with us, such an important topic that, yeah, if we just would talk about design and marketing, we would forget about, but I think the culture of a brand is really an underlying factor that determines if you're successful as a brand or not. I really enjoyed talking to him about this and I already knew the three boxes model, but it was nice to hear it again from him and I can't wait to use it for my next story. That's it for this week, I'll be back in two weeks, sweeties, when I talk to Rafale Jets from the Hamburg Creative Society, we'll talk about creativity, innovation, and the creative culture here in Germany. So stay tuned and have an amazing week. I'll hear you on the sweet side. 

Narrator 01:06:46
This podcast is produced by Sweetspot studio. New episodes each week, wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you enjoy the show, leave a rating and subscribe to never miss an episode. Find out more@sweetspot-studio.com.

                    

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About The Author Graham Brown

Graham Brown is the founder of Podcast Guesting Pro. Graham is a published author on the subject of Digital Communication and Personal Branding (Amazon titles include "Brand Love: How to Build a Brand Worth Talking About" and "Mobile Youth: Voices of the Connected Generation). He has produced, project managed and guested on over 2,000 podcast episodes.