As the founder of Wildstory, Marc Gutman is dedicated to building powerful brands by crafting differentiated customer experiences that create delight and encourage people to après.
Before Marc founded Wildstory, he wrote for a little-known (okay, well-known) guy named Oliver Stone and propelled Chris Rock to animation folklore on Osmosis Jones, the story of a white blood cell with a mission to stop a deadly virus from killing its human host.
No, not the virus you’re thinking of, this was back in 2001!
Join Marc as he shared the secrets of creating the right story for your company to elevate your brand and identify your customers as heroes.
Carolyn Bradfield 0:08
So welcome everyone to Cloud Conventions in our session “Make the Customer the Hero of Their Own Story”. I’m Carolyn Bradfield, the CEO of Convey Services and we are the technology behind cloud conventions.
Before we get started a quick reminder that your lines run you and your video is turned off. We’ll have a few minutes at the end of the presentation for Q&Q so, easy way to do this as type whatever question anytime during into the chat window, and we’ll pick them up at the end.
So today we are joined by Marc Gutman, and he’s someone that I’ve personally known in the technology industry for years because he worked on the channel team at rain dance communication, which is a conferencing and collaboration company is headquartered out in Colorado and Marc and I work together there. He went on to form his own conferencing organization and functioned as a channel partner to a large number of conferencing providers, reselling and private labeling services. So he’s been in the industry that we’re in. And he understands what it feels like to be in the channel. So when Marc and I talked about this week, we caught back up with each other. And he was telling me about his business, Wildstory.
We- I was really curious as to why he got back into the business of marketing and storytelling because this is an organization that helps companies learn how to craft their story that customers in the market can relate to. So Marc reminded me that storytelling is in his DNA because he worked for a very little known guy in the entertainment industry, wrote for him named Oliver Stone, and then a lot of the people on my staff knew This other show that he wrote for which propelled Chris Rock into the animation folklore, as a writer on a series called osmosis Jones is the story, believe it or not of a white blood cell that is there to stop a deadly virus from killing its human host.
So how pertinent is that in today’s COVID crisis? So, marks a great storyteller. This is bound to be interesting. And with that, I’m going to turn the call over to my friend Marc Gutman.
Marc Gutman 2:30
Carolyn, thank you very much. I appreciate you for having me here. Very excited to be part of cloud at conventions. And so what’s going on here? Let me make sure- there we go. Great. So I’m here to talk about a very simple idea. And this idea is that, I believe that business is built on storytelling and brands are going to win out over those who are not. Now my prediction used to be in the next five years and given with what we’re dealing with now.
It’s- that timeline has contracted, It’s much tighter than that. And if you are not focused on your brand and the story that you are telling your customers, you’re going to be in trouble. And one of the reasons that this is is I want to be very, very clear that brand strategy equals business strategy.
Brand is not about your logo, it’s not about your colors.
It truly is about your business strategy.
And in the simplest sense, aligning your business goals with your customer needs. And so the good news is, if you do only one thing that I talked about here today, you’ll be well on your way. And you know that one thing is as business owners, look, I’m a business owner, as business leaders, people running teams, I’ve done that as well. It is so easy for us to get caught up and how great we are and talking about ourselves and talking about our products and services and thinking and we spend all day with our our face in our products and services.
We’re in meeting after meeting talking about ourselves and how great we are. And so it only makes sense that we want to go out there and tell the world, everything we do everything about our product, everything about our service, and we want to throw up all over our customers. But that’s the one thing we’re doing wrong, because as businesses, we all think that we’re John McClane. We all think we’re the hero. We all think we’re saving the Nakatomi Center.
But in reality it is our job as businesses to make our customer the hero to make our customer John McClane and I’m here to tell you today that you are Al. You are there to help john McClane, you are on the outside, you are telling Bruce Willis how to get through the building and navigate the evil villains, but you are Al. So as we go through today’s presentation, I want you to think of yourself as Al. And you are John McClane. And I’m going to talk a little bit about that and get into more detail about how we do that. But before we do that, I want to tell you a bit about myself who you’re listening to. And so Carolyn did a great job of setting it up. And I’ll try to do this as fast as I can. But I’m a kid that grew up in Michigan, also known as the high five state.
I have a fond uh, you know, appreciation for being from Michigan and I was like every normal kid there. I love skateboards and I dreamt of going to California because nothing ever happens in Michigan. It’s the most beige place at least when you are growing up. There was an amazing place. And I love being from Michigan. I go back there every summer. And I also at that time, I had this amazing love for movies, my mom would drop me off at the movie theater on hop from, from theater, to theater to theater, watching all these great movies and I spent so much time messing around with a device that look just like this an old school VCR.
And when I got to Michigan, I thought Actually, I was going to be an economics major. I thought it was super easy. And I got to go to University of Michigan and I failed out of economics my first year so I decided that wasn’t my career. And I did fall into English literature and film. And at that point, I got into my red Oldsmobile and I drove out to California and I had a dream to be a screenwriter in my very first job, I get out to Van Nuys, California. And it looked like this. This does not look like Hollywood and I couldn’t believe what it was. And I went into this warehouse where everything looked like the land of Misfit Toys.
There were welding robots. There were eyeballs popping out. There were all sorts of weird things happening. And I thought it was a really strange place. But when I found out it was Walt Disney Imagineering, and that’s where I got to work on my very first movie, working with Ellen DeGeneres. And I thought Ellen was cool, but I was less impressed with her because after that, I went and I got to work for this guy right here. Oliver Stone, Academy Award winning director and I became his story editor. And I learned everything I know today from Oliver learning about story. He was a genius. And it was an amazing experience.
And from there, as Carolyn mentioned, actually, I wrote a couple scripts for Oliver that were produced, and then I went to 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers, and I got to work on this amazing movie called Osmosis Jones and why that’s relevant is we spent two years with this movie up on a wall as storyboards and I got to work with a lot of different people. But again, learning what makes a great story.
And after some time in LA I was writing for Osmosis Jones was a TV series, I wrote a video game, I decided to make a change, and I came out to Boulder, Colorado. And I fell in of all weird places into the conferencing industry. And I actually started my career at this little funky company. One of the first brands I learned to love after I left the entertainment industry, and I worked in a knock just like this answering bells. And we were this little growing upstart conferencing company.
I thought it was really amazing. And I had a really interesting time there because in the morning, I would work on my screenplays, and then the afternoon I would come and I’d sit and screen just like this. A room just like this looking at screens and answering phone calls, and that’s where I learned about the conferencing industry. And as I worked my way up, I worked into the channel. Actually, at one point, Carolyn became my boss when she was a channel partner. And then we acquired her company. So we have a long relationship there. But I fell into the telecom space. And I even decided to start my own telecom conferencing company. And that was about 11 years ago, I started a company called Lighthouse Conferencing. And you can see here even from a very early time period, before I really knew what brand was before I knew what marketing was, I wanted to have a different kind of company.
I wanted to have a different sort of conferencing company and really working on these ideas of brand and, and having our ethos and our big ideas shine. So today, I have a company called Wildstory. We are a marketing and branding firm for the arts, recreation and entertainment industry. And really our whole process is based on story, everything I learned in Hollywood and specifically telling the story of your customer and how To make your products and services make them the heroes of their own lives. Gonna Say that again, our process and if you have any takeaway from this presentation, follow this idea that our process is based on the story on story, specifically, telling the story of your customer and how your products and services make them the hero of their own lives.
And so I work today with companies like Thor industries. Thor industries is the largest manufacturer of RVs in the world. They’re a $12 billion parent so well known brands like Airstream, Jayco, Heartland, just bought a company out in Germany called Heimer. And we help them come up with a brand identity and connect more with their customers. We’ll talk a little bit more about that. helped them with partnerships with KOA. We also work with another brand called El Cap, which is the largest climbing gym network in North America and helping them bring their brands together and give their brand of personality tech companies like Inboard electric skateboards.
And today my life looks a lot like this. I live out in Colorado. That’s my wife, Lindsay, I have three children. That’s the album cover of them and the upper right and I spend my time getting outside as much as possible. I’m also the host of a podcast called Baby Got Backstory, where we get into the background of many famous brands and their stories and understanding what makes them tick. And so, learned a lot from that experience.
So, enough about me I want to come back to what we’re here to talk about and that is businesses built on storytelling and brand are going to win out over those who are not. And a lot of this idea, a lot of this belief is based on the hero’s journey, the hero’s journey was best articulated by Joseph Campbell. And it’s this idea that every great story follows a certain formula and this formula is that a hero goes out on an adventure, and that hero is met by a mentor or a guide, who guides them into guides them through that journey, so that they can rise above a challenge, and go through a transformation or a change and achieve the goal that they want to achieve. Now, if we, we could go through each one of these if we had two hours on the stage today, but we only have a half hour and so we’re going to focus really on this idea of thinking that our customer is that hero, that it’s all about their journey, and that we’re going to play the part of the guide. I am going to make all these slides available after the presentation. And so you will have the ability to go through this in detail.
But one of the greatest hero journey stories that follows this framework is Star Wars and when you think about Luke Skywalker of being the hero, and him being called to go out and and fight the dark side, but he’s He’s resistant to that. But then then he meets Obi Wan, Obi Wan Kenobi who in brings him and guides him through the experience. The same is said to be true in future episodes with Yoda to help him through. And so we talked about this at the very beginning. Your customer is Luke Skywalker. And you are Yoda. Now how do we achieve that I’m going to go ahead and I’m going to give you some examples and things that I’m seeing. I’m also going to give you some exercises in just a little bit here that you can take back with your teams to start to connect more with your customers.
So here’s here’s something, here’s Thor and you know, they’re a customer of ours, and they are talking at least about helping them find your perfect Id find your perfect, find your perfect RV. It’s a fun tongue twister for me today. And you know, I’m a little critical actually of the This message because I don’t really feel like they’re totally making their customer, the hero, you can see that they are showcasing their products and services. Airstream a little better. But again, they’re showing us that you know what it’s like to when we fully realize our own hero story what this might look like. But again, they’re scared to go ahead and not show their products. Want to talk a little bit about some telecom products. So right here, I went to AT&T and this is their page from yesterday. And this idea that I don’t even know who this is for, I don’t know if this if I’m an AT&T customer.
I can only suspect that they believe that their greatest path to acquiring new customers is from customers that have slow phones on other networks because I don’t know who they are. In the story is they are, they are telling us that they’re the hero. They’re showing us their phone. They’re talking all about them. Not too intriguing. I think T-Mobile does it the best in this space and a space that’s commoditized, where they start showing us imagery of who we want to be. I want to start thinking of myself as this is this young users this young person, so they do a much better job of highlighting their customer as the hero on their page. I think Boost Mobile does a pretty good job as well. You know, how does Boost Mobile a company that really has no ability to compete against some of the biggest carriers in the world? How do they compete? they tell me who they’re for.
They make me they make you know, I’m not their customer, but they make their customer the hero of their own story. They even start to add different areas of value on their website, and I thought I had a picture But I can tell you about it where they’re starting to do different contests where you can win different different prizes like you’re on American Idol because they know who their customer is obviously, the younger person who is looking for a better value, but also that they they’re sharing that their brand story is all about their young people having fun, not just about low cost phones.
So why is this even important? And, you know, I think this is so important today because customers want to know who you are and why you exist. It’s not just enough anymore to have a great product to have a lower price. And businesses that understand this will dominate in the coming years two books that that highlight this very well. One is A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink, talking about why right brainers will rule the future, and also The Dream Society, about how we’re really moving from this idea of an information society into experiences and dreams and ideals.
And I think a company that does this in an amazing way is a company that we’re probably all familiar with is Patagonia. They they let you know who they are immediately on their homepage. They’re always telling you that they’re about activism. They have a lot of campaigns that say things like don’t buy this jacket. And look, this is definitely an extreme. I’m not here to say that we should all be Patagonia. I’m not here saying that we should be telling a story that is so so much about activism. But I think it’s a good example to really highlight and hit home that that Patagonia people are so connected and so adamant and so fiercely loyal to that brand, because not because of their products, but because of what they believe in what they stand for.
Now every year, one of the largest communication firms in the world Edelman puts out a puts out a report called the trust barometer talking about consumer confidence. This is across all products, and all industries. And this slide shows from 2017. What I can tell you about the latest report that was released in 2019. Is that consumer confidence consumer trust in brands is at an all time low. And so if it’s at an all time low, but we have someone from a brand a b2b brand, oftentimes, sometimes b2c brand American Express saying that trust is the factor most closely associated with purchase intent.
How can we build that trust? And one of the easiest ways that we can do that, especially during the pandemic right now is that customers are looking to brands for information and to protect their interest not to be constantly sold to. And so if we think about how we can build trust, we’ve got one little problem.
This is what Everybody’s day looks like right now. The old way of building building trust is we used to go out, we used to have dinner with our customers, we used to take them out. We used to go to events, we used to have shared experiences. This is an actual meeting I had just the other day. And so we’re all online. And so how are we going to go ahead and build trust with our customers because only one competitor in any given industry can be the cheapest.
For everyone else, there’s branding and brand story telling. Also, the stronger that your story, the stronger that your brand, the higher your profit margin. And so who doesn’t want to have higher profit margins? I like to think of Apple as a great way to illustrate this. They’ve done a great job of building a brand story.
When we look at these two phones when we look at an Apple iPhone versus a Samsung phone is there really Any difference in the job these phones get done? I would, I would, I would argue that there is not an almost argue that they’ve gotten to the state of commoditization.
However, if I tell you that your iPhone sucks, you’re going to take that really, personally, you’re going to get mad at me, you’re going to start telling me all these reasons why it’s a great device. Conversely, if I am a Samsung person, I think I look at Apple people and I just think, Wow, they’ve really bought into this ridiculous story about this device. somehow they’re more creative somehow they’re, they’re more free and fun and music loving, and they’re getting less phone for more money. I can’t believe it. So what story are you buying into? Each one of us is an amalgamation of brands. This is sometimes how I see myself I mentioned to you look at those flags.
I’m a Colorado person. I’m a Michigan person. I drive a Jeep, I go to Whole Foods, I’m really this amalgamation of what the brands that I frequent. Tell the story to the world that I want you to know. It also tells a story to myself of the type of person I am.
This is a brand I love. This is a brand that has taken a super, not exciting product, luggage and turned it into a runaway hit and success. And this woman who founded the luggage company, Away Jen Rubio has says that today’s consumers are looking for more than just a great product. They’re looking for a brand that aligns with their values. And that takes the time to truly understand their needs as people, not just customers.
That’s another way of saying “hey, we need to make our customers the hero of the story that we’re trying to tell about our brand.” And here’s something that’s really Really interesting, we have this really unique opportunity about standing up and sharing our beliefs by telling our customers who we are, it tells them they are. And I want to clarify this statement, not by telling them that, “hey, we sell you phones.” But “hey, that we believe that you think differently by sharing our values by sharing our “Why” by telling our customers who we are, it tells them who they are.”
Think an amazing example of this is Tesla, Tesla by telling us that they’re this forward thinking, tech, eco friendly company. When you drive a Tesla, you’re telling the world I’m futuristic. I’m technology savvy, but more than that, I’m doing my part to fight against fossil fuels. And so I want you to think about in your own life, when you say I’m a blank type person what is happening in that brand experience? There’s people that say I’m a Ford person. When you’re out on the golf course I know people that only hit Callaway golf balls. I’m a Callaway person. I’m a title this person. I’m a Chick-Fil-A person. I love that brand. I love what they do.
I love the experience that they have, and I’m a Chick-Fil-A person. I’m an Apple person. I’m a Levi’s person. In my own experience, I’ve gone through many different brand affiliations and ideation. So when I started, I was a rain dance person and I was a rain dance person through and through.
When I started my business, I was actually a PGI person because I loved what they stood for. But we got to continually work at that brand relationship. I felt that they initially were making me the channel partner, the hero of my story, and as soon as I felt like it was about them when they forgot about me when they started becoming The hero of their own story, I became a West person. Then I became a Lighthouse person as I started my business. And now before like yesterday when they updated their their software had spent the last two years being a Zoom person.
I haven’t even been on a normal conference call in the last two years. And so when we start to think about how we align with different brands, how are you becoming a different person? How are you making your customers a blank, insert your company name person? So what can you do? I’m gonna go through this really quickly, but you can focus your hero statement on your website, you can start talking about your customers the transformation that you provide for your customers.
You can plant your flag, you can create a mission statement or Manifesto. What do you stand for? What are you running towards? And what do you stand against? I actually have an exercise I’ll share with you that you can take back to your team. And I want you to remember that you are the guide hoping your customer to always be the hero in the story of their own lives.
If you’re trying to get into the mindset of your customers, one thing you can do an exercise that I love to share with other brand builders and with other companies as I want you to journal a day in the life as your customer, but the one stipulation is you cannot mention your products and services at all. I don’t want you to mention your product. I don’t want to mention your company.
I want you to think about what is a day in the life like of your customer from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed. You can write a manifesto and this is a great way to really align with what you stand for. What are you here for and you don’t have to be a great writer to do this. A great way to do this is you You can bring out your iPhone, and you can put it on record and get either go for a walk with these prompts by yourself if you’re the leader or take your team, and put the phone in the middle of your team and go through these prompts and just start riffing. And just start going, what are we here for?
Here’s what we know for sure. What do you believe in? What kind of world do you want to live in? What do you embrace, and go through these prompts, and what you can do and here’s an example that I did for a customer, you can go ahead and turn this all into a brand narrative. If you have good writing skills, or someone on the team, go ahead and do this, you could send it to a copywriter. And this becomes your idea that you and your customers can rally around remember, by telling our customers who we are. It tells them who they are. And a way to build a brand is to build a community around a sense of purpose and what easier way to do it than building a manifesto.
You can start thinking about what is their day like and map their day before your brand. After your brand, use this a worksheet and fill out what do they have before your brand? What do they have after your brand? What are they feeling before your brand, after your brand? And you can start to work that with your team. Here’s something I am super passionate about right now for brands, where else can you add value? So it used to be enough just to sell our customers our products and services and I use the conferencing example.
It used to be just enough for me to go ahead and get a card in their hands for them to have collaboration services, whatever that need was whether it was virtual tradeshows operator assisted calling, conferencing, video conferencing like we’re doing right now. But no longer is that enough. And so where do your goals and your customer needs intersect? Where else does that customer conferencing customer for example, where else do they have issues? Where else do they have challenges maybe they need to change check sheet for check sheet for perfect meetings. Maybe you could provide a Spotify playlist that keeps you top of mind.
Look, I need playlists all the time, I’m always looking for music to work towards- to. I’ve seen a lot of people doing zoom backgrounds, that’s a way to stay connected. What do your customers need in their lives? Besides your products and services? Were also are there opportunities to show up and make them a hero? And so how do you because this allows you to stay relevant when they’re not buying?
And so continually ask yourself, what would delight them and keep you top of mind even if it has nothing to do with your products and services? Because I want you to remember your customer is the hero of the story that you’re trying to tell and that you’re the guy and don’t be afraid to be authentic, vulnerable, human-centered.
If you want someone to buy what you’re selling, the mission that you are on the make your story more personal and human-centered. Look, your customers go on vacation and take pictures of their sandwiches at famous delis, they watch their friends and loved ones get married. They buy puppies and pets.
They go to football games with their friends. They struggle with their kids to get that one picture on family vacation where they’re kind of smiling. And they take pictures of their wives who aren’t happy when a chocolate bar explodes in their purse. And they even sometimes have wings. And what I’m trying to share with you is that your customers have lives outside of just using your products and services. And the more that you can connect, insert yourself in to their actual lives, the more success you’re going to have selling your own products and services. Because as we stated at the beginning, you are not John McClane, you’re Al.
Your customers are the hero, they’re John McClane, save and help you. It’s your job to help them save the Nakatomi center. So thank you very much. Thank you for sharing staying with me. If you have any questions, I’m happy to stay on and answer those for the remainder of our time.
Carolyn Bradfield 29:09
So Marc, let me come back into the conversation. First of all, I want to let you know that there are things going on in Michigan. You said there wasn’t in the beginning, but just as an Fun fact, Michigan has more golf courses than any other state in the country, including Florida and California. Boom, there you are. That’s what’s going on in Michigan.
Marc Gutman 29:31
I meant as a young kid I meant as I go back to Michigan every summer, I love it. It’s a big part of my heart. Yes, I meant like I had a very normal childhood.
Carolyn Bradfield 29:39
Yes. So um, although we don’t have time for Q&A, um, want to make a comment I want you to respond to because I think is super relevant to this audience. You know, a lot of people in the audience as channel people. A lot of people that- somebody just chatted and also said it has more boats as well!
But as channel people, we come in as the consultant, the person that’s connecting you to technology. And it’s really, really tempting for us to try and be that hero that hooks that customer up with technology, but then not remembering that that customer has his own customers. And so, you know, you’ve been on the channel before, how would you help a sales agent, a managed services provider, kind of put that inkling to be the hero that saves the day to the background, so that they can make the customer that they’re serving the hero?
Marc Gutman 30:40
Yeah, that’s a great question. And I and I’m going to answer is because I wish I would have known it earlier in my career. I would spend a lot more time asking questions about what makes them successful.
I’d spend a lot more time asking questions about their customers. I’d spent a lot more time asking questions about how did their customers, you know, measure success? How is your customer measured? How are they, you know, you know, seen in their own organization? And how did they define success?
And it spent a lot more time just, you know, getting out of the office, whether that’s literally or metaphorically, as we’re on virtual technologies, and having those types of conversations. I would just be asking a lot more questions, rather than trying to sell my products and services, which I, you know, I’ve been guilty of as well.
Carolyn Bradfield 31:28
Yeah, I think we’ve all been guilty of that in the channel. And I think that’s incredibly good advice. I pull a lot of information out of this. And it’s causing me to rethink, you know, how we shouldn’t be kind of really focusing on the bits and bytes of what our technology does, but more about, you know, how we can turn things around so that when they use our technology, it makes them look great in the eyes of the customers and employees that they serve.
So like Marc said, he will make this presentation available. marc, if you’ll send it to me, I will upload it to your speaker profile on inside of cloud conventions. And you can go visit Marc there. Get his contact information, get more information on Wildstory, because if you’re struggling at all with your branding and your identity, he’s definitely got the chops to help you out and and get you moving in a better direction. And then we are recording this event right now. And we will make this recording available and easy to find on the cloud conventions portal, which will be actually live and online from now until the end of 2020.
It’ll take us a couple of days to get the video up. But you’ll have not only the PowerPoint, but you’ll also have the ability to go watch this video. So, Marc, it’s so great to reconnect to you to be reminded about how talented you are and I think you’re exactly in the right place at the right time given your background with an affinity For people that sell technology for a long history of telling a story writing and making it compelling, and so hopefully, people on this call have gotten some good information, and they’ll want to get to know you.
And just as a reminder, two things for you guys, in 30 minutes, we have an incredible keynote from Tim Mueller of IT exchange that if you want to sell your company and you’re into technology and your company small, he’s going to go tell you how to value what it’s worth, and what the process is how to find a buyer. And then right after that, at six o’clock, we have our last happy hour. Anybody that went to the first two, they’re a little bit crazy, but as you know, that it’s the channel. So if you haven’t registered for that, just all you need to do is just go on the site, click the link for the party tonight and it’ll let you know what the what the dial in The Zoom information. Yes.
So Marc, thank you again. It was great, great information, perfect presentation. And so with that, I will see you hopefully on the keynote tonight and hopefully the cocktail party. So bye from Cloud Conventions!