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HIDDEN TRUTHS OF MARKETING AND BUILDING A BRAND

September 22, 2022

S03 - E02

RSnake covers Elijah's background in Hollywood, how he got into building experiences for companies, Google's actual business model, cost effective marketing campaigns as well as some of the shenanigans that lead to sharable content. Elijah and RSnake also got into some of the issues around outrage campaigns and how marketing can be used to fuel the dark side of capitalism. Errata: Elijah brought up RSnake's conversation with John Robison where RSnake, not John, brought up Biden's popularity stats in July 2022, though Trump's approval rate did slide a bit below Biden's low on day 330 of Trumps presidency (36.4%) vs Biden's low on day 548 (37.5%) on https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/biden-approval-rating/

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Elijah May

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

Robert Hansen

Today, I get a chance to sit down with Elijah May. We cover Elijah’s background on Hollywood, how he got into building experiences for companies, Google's actual business model, cost effective marketing campaigns, as well as some of the shenanigans that lead to shareable content


Elijah and I also got into some of the issues around outrage campaigns and how marketing can be used to fuel the dark side of capitalism. With that, let's jump into my chat with Elijah May


Hello, and welcome to The RSnake Show. Today, I have with me Elijah May. How are you, sir?

Robert Hansen

I'm well, thank you


Robert Hansen

Well, thank you for coming down. We did this in semi-short notice about a week ish ago, something like that, had it all set up. And I'm really glad to see you


Robert Hansen

Likewise


Robert Hansen

You are actually one of my favorite people. We haven't known each other that long. But every time we hang out, I have these very interesting conversations. And none of them are like one another. Would you agree?

Robert Hansen

I do agree, yes. I was waiting to see where you're going with that


Robert Hansen

There's always something weird, and I can't quite put my finger on why it's interesting. But it's always interesting. Sometimes it’s about technology. Sometimes it's about marketing. Sometimes it's about future stuff. It's just all over the map. So I feel like you might agree that this would be worthwhile and worth the attempt. We'll see where we land


Robert Hansen

Oh yeah, I'm fascinated by the show's premise. I've obviously watched some of the episodes. We'll talk more about that. I think that I love the concept, and I enjoy talking to you immensely. So we can do this for a few hours


Robert Hansen

I think so, too. You had a lot of experience in Hollywood which, by the way, isn't how we know each other despite a lot of my Hollywood connections. But also things like negotiating and doing celebrity events. You want to give a little bit of a background just so the audience can get a feel for how you got here?

Robert Hansen

For someone who coaches pitch competitions, I suck at a pitch. I went to USC. I grew up in as rural a setting as you can possibly imagine. I always ask people if they have seen the movie Deliverance. I'm like, “Like that.” But without the horrible parts, everything else is basically 100% accurate


I went to USC because it was as far away in the continental United States as I could find a school. That's it. That was my criteria, “How far away is it from North Carolina? I’ve got to get out of here.”

Robert Hansen

Had to stay on the continent though. You were going to risk going to Hawaii


Robert Hansen

I did look at Hawaii. But I think it was something to do with USC had rolling admissions or something like that. I was like, “This is the one I applied to and got in? Good. I’m out.” I didn't even really overthink it, which is apparently not how you're supposed to do college


It worked out well for me because one week out of school, they called and said, “Hey, the woman who runs the filming department would like to talk to you.” I said, “Okay. Why?” Then, “We don't know.” I walked in, and I talked to her


She said, “Well, what are you doing right now?” I said, “Well, I was looking for a job waiting tables because I was going to try to be an actor.” She goes, “That's cool.”

Robert Hansen

A terrible mistake


Robert Hansen

Yeah. She's like, “You can do that. I fully support that. Or think about this for a second, you could come work in the PR department at USC. We're under external relations.”

In the filming department, what we did there is, if any studio with a commercial or a television show or a movie wanted to film on campus or recruit students for this or that, like athletes, we have a department that did that


She said, “I need someone to run this department.” Okay, I thought maybe she was looking for a referral. I'm like, “Why are you telling me?” She's like, “Would you be interested?”

Robert Hansen

In which part? Is this part of the good word?

Robert Hansen

The job. I think she started it at $42,000 a year. I was working as a lifeguard the week before, and I thought I was crushing it when I was making $8 an hour


She's like, “Look, I fully support if you want to be an actor. That's fine. You can go on auditions. You can take off whenever you want. You'll be meeting producers and directors all day every day. But if you want to leave and go on an audition, you can go do that.”

I just stared at her for a really long time. Nothing about this makes sense. She's like, “Go think it over.” I said, “Okay.” And I walked back across campus. I lived off campus. This was the furthest opposite side of campus. from where I lived


I stopped into my old campus job at the lifeguarding offices. “Can I borrow your phone real quick?” She picked up the phone and said, “Yes. It's all great. I'll see you Tuesday.” They said, “What was that?” I said, “I think I have a job. I'm not 100% sure. I didn't apply for a job or anything. But I think I have a job as an intern.”

I didn't honestly think that it was real. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and for them to be like, “Huge mistake. We thought you were somebody else. Apparently, there's two résumés. We're so sorry about that.” But no, I had the job for eight years. It was absolutely life changing


I got to be the go between the university and the studios. I got to meet with directors and producers all day, every day and work on countless shows with every celebrity at the time. And I got to learn the ins and outs of the business


Robert Hansen

Yeah, you get to learn the business side of Hollywood because I think a lot of people think about what's in front of the camera. But the much bigger part is behind. It's an enormous industry.


Elijah May

Yeah. I had taken some film classes at USC, and our film department is famous. So I certainly had professors who knew the business, but there's nothing like being on set.


There's nothing like dealing with the shenanigans. And if we're being honest, a lot of the silliness that goes on in Hollywood like, “Oh, everybody's freaking out because Judd Apatow has to have cheeseburgers from McDonald's.”


This is a real thing. People are really freaking out. There's a chef over there. It’s a five-star chef making filet mignon and lobster. But Judd wants cheeseburgers, and the world stops unless we get him cheeseburgers.


The great thing about my background and having had such a crazy vagabond country upbringing is that I was incapable of caring about that kind of stuff, no matter how important the person was. So I was always able to keep a fairly level head.


A couple of times, someone pulled me aside and asked me if I could pretend to be upset. “Because you see, we're all freaking out. And you're acting like this is not a big deal.” I said yes. He said, “We understand it's not really a big deal, but if you could play along a little.” I said, “Okay.”


I think what I learned on that job more than anything, speaking of things they don't teach in college, EQ. Just the emotional intelligence of how to deal with so many different types of personalities.


Academia is the slowest thing in the world. This is like the tortoise and the hare. You've got academia, and then you've got Hollywood. In Hollywood, we're going to build a house. Then we're going to film in that house, and then the house is going to disappear like it was never there in two weeks.


In academia, they're still talking about whether or not it should be a house six months from now. “What kind of house, a Victorian house?” These two things are so fundamentally different that the challenge of getting them to just work together for a few days or a couple of weeks was monumental.


Robert Hansen

The perfectionist in me watches what happens on sets. I'm like, “Oh, it's terrible. Really shoddy work.” But on camera, no one notices.


Elijah May

Exactly. The number of times I had to tell people like, “I understand this is expedient for you. But no, we're not going to knock that wall down.” It was an actual someone's over there, and they're examining a brick wall.


He has a sledgehammer next to him. “Hey, what are you doing?” “Oh, we're just going to punch this wall. The director just wants us to get a shot while the actor walks in the front door, and then we just pan through the wall and catch him coming.”


I’m like, “No, we're not doing that.” And he's like, “No, but the director said he wants a shot.” I'm like, “No, I hear what you’re saying. You're not going to knock a hole in the wall.” He said, “Well, I was told to knock a hole in the wall.”


I said, “All right, so here's what we're going to do now. Everybody stop. Go get the director or the producer. We'll all get together. We'll talk about we're not going to knock a hole in the wall.” Which is a crazy amount of not exactly authority but influence to have over a production as a kid from a cabin in the woods, who knew nothing about anything. If I tell him he can’t knock a hole in the wall, he can’t knock a hole in the wall.


Robert Hansen

Well, that's with great responsibility.


Elijah May

Oh, it went right to my head.


Robert Hansen

Yeah, I bet. But somehow you came out pretty level headed, which I actually really appreciate about you.


Elijah May

How kind of you.


Robert Hansen

I said pretty level headed. But what do you think is wrong with the culture? I feel like when I talk to a lot of people who come out of Hollywood, and Chris, stop listening for a minute, there's some serious disconnect from the rest of society in a way of thinking about things that are so foreign to the way the rest of the country thinks or rest of the world, for that matter, thinks. What do you think is causing that?


Elijah May

I think that’s an interesting parallel. I moved from LA because we got a kid and what you just said, everybody I know who grew up in LA, especially people who worked in business, their version of reality is skewed.


I don't want that for our kids. I don't want to try to fix it. Now, this is pre social media. So I didn't know that kids are going to be fucked up anyway. But never mind.


We thought, at the time, that we'll go somewhere that's not as intense and as shallow as this industry and this town is. And so we moved to Austin. I worked in the Friday Night Lights show. We wrapped up, “Oh my god, what do I do now?”


Everyone kept talking about all the production in Austin who’s who on the show. What I found is there's a really interesting parallel here because in LA, everybody's a writer, director, or an actor. In Austin, everybody's an entrepreneur. They're all creatives. It's the same energy, basically.


Everybody being like, “I'm going to do my own shit.” is basically the energy. A great many people trying to make their own films and whatnot are entrepreneurs. This is not what they're labeled in LA.


Yes, LA is unique. LA is, in my experience, especially shallow. I remember I pulled up on a set in a show. I was on autopilot. It went to my head a little. My first car was a fully loaded Audi A4 just tricked out. It was a beautiful car.


It wasn't that expensive, but it looked like most of it was. It costed probably three times more than my mother had ever made in a year when I was growing up. I pull up on the set of the show, I park the car, and I get out of the car.


The director, who I've worked with at least three times before, goes, ”Elijah, hey, man, what's going on? Hey, how come we never hang out?” I’m like, “What the fuck?” I didn't even know this guy who knew my name. “What are you talking about?”


He's like, “We've worked together a bunch.” I'm like, “Yeah, that's true.” And he's like, “We should hang out some time.” I’m like, “We'll try.” Then it dawns on me the only fucking difference is I just pulled up in this car. And all of a sudden, we're friends? I’m like, “That's, to me, the epitome of Hollywood.”


By the way, my boss got a new car within a week. And her boss got a new car within a week. I will say, as expensive as that car was, it paid for itself so many times over. Showing up in that car, people are like, “Oh, you must be important. So now you're allowed to do all of these things.”


Robert Hansen

The funny thing is, a lot of these people who show up in LA are not from LA. This is this first generation in LA, a huge chunk of the population there. Same with Austin, actually. They're not from LA. They're not from Austin. So why do you think the culture brings that in?


What do you think about being famous or the desire to be famous or work with famous people or whatever drives that?


Elijah May

What is it about Hollywood? What is it about celebrity and fame that attracts people?


Robert Hansen

Yeah. But what is it that causes the culture is really what I'm after. So many people aren't from LA. So, are they bringing the culture with them? Is this like a microcosm, a little bit of this culture exists all over the world and they concentrate it in one location? There's all these entrepreneurs all over the place, and they concentrate in Austin. Is that what is happening?


Elijah May

This may not be as direct an answer as you're looking for. If you look at the passage of the Queen last week, and everybody's freaking out. But I’m like,” It's all about the royal family. That's a royal family.” Which to me, is just a fucking bonkers idea, the idea of royalty.


I understand medieval times. But now we’re really having this conversation like you give a fuck what these people do with their lives? I don't understand it.


Leon, our British friend, is like, “Oh my god, insensitive information.” My first response was almost like, “I don’t fucking care.” Is that insensitive? Is this really important to people who grew up in this culture? This is a significant cultural thing for them. I don't understand why, but I understand that it is.


I'm like, “Oh.” I just think I replied, “Wow.” I didn't want to be rude. I think LA is exactly the same. I think they're just American royalty, basically. And so what you've got is there's this really fascinating thing that happens when we see people.


I've talked to quite a few celebrities who say, and I'm sure you have as well, people walk up to them like, “Hi.” They think that because they know that face, that face should know them? And this is a strangely common phenomenon.


It's almost like the people who think that the weather people choose the weather. There's this surprisingly common disconnect from reality. And so when you see these people all the time and they're on a pedestal, it's like, “Well, everybody wants to be the king.”


Even in current Disney movies, you still want to be a prince or a princess. This is not a thing that has gone away. People want to ascend. Most people don't even know about entrepreneurship.


More people do now because of people like Elon. But going back, for years and years, you looked at people on the silver screen and there are just enough people who were like, “I could maybe do that. It’s to pretend real hard. I want to go be a famous person.” And I think that Hollywood just plays into that so much. It's gross.


Robert Hansen

I think it's very gross. I get a weird sensation every time I'm there. It's like Disneyland for real. It's like everyone's playing a part and then don't realize it.


Elijah May

But they don’t know it?


Robert Hansen

Yeah, exactly. It's like they were perfectly fine to live this life and be seen in this way. But they're going home and taking their makeup off, and they're normal human beings inside. When they're in public, they project this persona. But they don't realize that it's so manufactured.


It's a very weird sensation because you go to their houses, and you talk to them. They're normal people. They have dishes to do and laundry to do.


Elijah May

Yeah. I knew some people who were totally bought into it. For me, it was the younger celebrities who were, by far, the most obnoxious. Because they're still trying to figure it out and be like, “How am I supposed to be this?”


I don’t want to name names. But I will say Alyson Hannigan who worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of the sweetest people I've ever met in my life. She's such a nice human being. Other young actors and actresses, obnoxious.


I understand because I had just enough taste of success in Hollywood at a young age where I was like, “Oh, I think I'm pretty important.” When I came to Austin, things had so gone my way so easily with such little effort. I worked hard, but people just kept handing me opportunities.


I thought, “I'll just pack up and go to Austin. Obviously, I'm so awesome that awesome shit just keeps happening to me.” There was a lot of hubris coming in. And believe me, I got knocked down several pegs. Though that's Hollywood. Hollywood works the way it works.


Also, dumb luck is dumb luck, no matter where you are. But I don't know what it is about fame that attracts people other than that. It’s just like moths to a flame. We're just attracted to bright, shiny objects and bright, shiny people. Even if it's all fake.


Robert Hansen

A lot of people don't know who I am outside of the context of this podcast. But in my little world of security, I'm very well-known. So people come up to me and they'll do the, “Hey, how are you doing? I saw you present three years ago at some conference.” I'm like, “I don't even remember where you're talking about.”


I've been in so many places, talked to so many people. That never really got to my head in that way. What really got to my head was never being wrong. I really needed to always be right. The thing about being a celebrity is you need to always be beautiful or handsome or whatever.


In my world, it was always about being correct. And so I could see how that could easily be an attribute you pick up. It's a faulty software that gets injected into your brain or somehow this matters when it really doesn't matter at all.


Obviously, people make mistakes. Obviously, people have bad hair days. This isn't real life. But people really did perceive themselves that way in Hollywood. In a number of different situations, I was like, “Wow. I can't even comment on what's going on right now because I don't have a frame of reference for why you care about this.”


Elijah May

My wife and I had debates. She tutored Lionel Richie's youngest kids. This is when Nicole and Paris had their show. I don’t remember what it was called. But I remember she came home talking about how Lionel was lamenting what it's like to be a celebrity parent, how difficult that must be.


He's like, “You don't understand. All of their friends, every friend that she has a mansion. There are more bedrooms in every single one of those homes than they probably even know. If I say, ‘You can't do this, you can't do that. I’ve taken away this, I’ve taken away that.’ So? Somebody else has a room, a car, a hotel, a jet, whatever. I can't turn that off. She has access to all of that.”


As a parent who isn't surrounded by that sort of access, you can make decisions about what children do and don't have access to. And I certainly had never thought about it that way. So we talked about that frame of reference.


Robert Hansen

I’m not going to expose my kids to be celebrities, the social media for the celebrity class, other celebrities. Avoid them because you're going to turn out naughty.


Elijah May

I don’t know.


c


That’s interesting.


Elijah May

It had never occurred to me that way. I would say that in one of the very first conversations we ever had, my wife said, “I'm going to make it my mission in life to take your ego down a notch.” And I underestimated her commitment.


We've been married for 18 years. But she refused to go out with me for six years prior to that. So she really is very committed. She's done a very good job of teaching me about a couple of things. She has a master's in education. Concepts of things like A, multiple intelligences.


Until I got to out of my league, over in the mountains of North Carolina, I was crushing it. “I’m so smart.”


Robert Hansen

You could trap bears.


Elijah May

Yeah, I was just like, “Nobody here knows algebra.” They called me in to talk about my SATs scores or whatever. I'm like, “What did I do wrong?” They’re like, “You got the highest score at the school. Could you keep that under wraps or somebody will blacken the school?” I’m like, “What did I do wrong?” They're like, “Just keep it to yourself.”


I joke about it. It's true. I thought I was a genius.


Robert Hansen

Did I ever tell you you’re a pretty smart guy?


Elijah May

Yeah. But when I got to USC, there were four roommates. And there was a guy who was in literally every single one of my mechanical engineering classes. Every single class I was in, the same guy was in.


He was on full scholarship from the Turkish government. Every professor that we had graded on a curve at the time, and he would get above 100. Meaning no matter what score we got, he adjusted everybody else's grade down.


I hated this guy, but I was strategic. I said, “Hey, we should study together.” He went, “Okay. Why not?” Then we sat down together, and he busted open a textbook and starts going through some principles of physics. I went, “Okay, so thanks.” I've no fucking idea what this guy's talking about.


We're supposed to be in the same grade level. I had never been outclassed that way. It was a truly humbling moment. Until I met my wife. I think that was probably the apex.


Honestly, I'm not even joking. I think our first conversation was an argument talking about frame of reference, what you do and don't understand. We talked about happiness and sadness. She said, “If Paris Hilton is miserable because her private jet doesn't work that day, that misery is still misery.”


I'm like, “Bullshit. Absofuckinglutely not. I refuse to embrace the idea that your sadness over your lack of absolutely absurd opulence is somehow comparable to someone's sadness over a lack of actual food.” And I don't think we've ever settled that one. But I will say time and time again, she's forced me to take a step back and re-examine my frame of reference.


Robert Hansen

Not that there is going to be a very popular way of looking at this, and I'm sure people will eventually hate me for these comments I'm about to make. But I think a lot about torture, various different types of torture. I was thinking about children in particular and how you don't give them their toy or you don't do something.


They're not just crying just to get their toy back, but you're actually making them suffer. If make them sit in a corner or something, they're not terrorized. But that is torture. It is as much torture as rubber hose or putting somebody in a dunk tank or whatever. They're tortured.


Obviously, torture does work because kids come out of that okay ish. This is the part that people are not going to like very much, but I do see what you're saying though.


Elijah May

So what you're saying is if timeout works, waterboarding isn’t that bad.


Robert Hansen

I didn't say that. I said worked. I didn't say it's not bad. But Paris Hilton being tortured by the fact that she can't make some event is not necessarily that dissimilar from you not being able to afford whatever you need to survive. And it is something that she's just completely unprepared for emotionally.


Elijah May

Yeah. I think the emotions are similar. If you were to plug us both into a-


Robert Hansen

Obviously, the damage potential is way higher in one case than the other. But in terms of the emotional stress it puts on somebody, I think they're weirdly equivalent.


Elijah May

Yeah. I think that if you were to look at the areas of the brain, a lot of those people are going through these experiences. I volunteered for a medical study when I was in college. I was broke as shit. And then they said, “We'll pay you $50 an hour. All you’ve got to do is lay on this thing.”


I said, “And?” They said, “And we're going to pump a little bit of radioactive fluid in your body.” I said, “Sign me up. $50 an hour?” They said, “Yeah.” “How many hours?” “Four to six.” “Let's do this.” It was a weird day.


They’d play a sound, and I was supposed to press a key on a keyboard. And they were going to look at the center of the brain later trying to find the correlation between sound and dexterity, some shit like that.


I realized, after laying there for like 20 minutes, there was a pattern. I just kept running the same sequence. So I just typed in the sequence, typed in the sequence, typed in the sequence. They came in after like 45 minutes like, “What are you doing?” “What do you mean?” They said, “You can't do that.” I said, “I can’t do what?”


They said, “Physiologically, you can't respond to what you're seeing that fast. You're getting it within like a fraction of a second. What are you doing?” I said, “Oh, it's a sequence.” They're like, “Fuck.”


The setup and the cost of this experiment paying me and they're like, “You can go. You’ve broken the whole thing. Yeah, you still get paid. Take your check. Just get the fuck out of here.”


I think that if you were to look at the brain, if you were to do a brain analysis, and they're fascinating studies we can go into if you want to talk about more random shit. Yeah, your brain doesn't know the difference. Happiness is happiness. Sadness is sadness. What feels like torture to one person-


Robert Hansen

And feels like nothing to somebody else. To be clear, I'm not advocating torture. I'm just saying I think it works in some cases because the more I think about kids, I'm like, “Wait, we are torturing them. Really torturing them from their perspective.”


Elijah May

So to clarify, you're not advocating torture. You're saying that it works in the case of children sometimes.


Robert Hansen

I think it works in lots of cases lots of times, but we seem to be okay with doing it with children. It got my brain going.


Elijah May

No, it’s an interesting thought experiment.


Robert Hansen

Yeah. One of the things I wanted to talk with you about is marketing. I hear you know a thing or two about it.


Elijah May

Yeah, I screwed up a lot.


Robert Hansen

Yeah. Well, good. That's how you learn. Before we get into your stuff, why don't we do a quick deep dive on the terms B2B, B2C just so the audience can keep track of what we're talking about? SEO, SEM.


Elijah May

The whole acronym salad?


Robert Hansen

Yeah. Just all the high level stuff and from your perspective, why they're important.


Elijah May

Oh boy, let me just rattle it off.


Robert Hansen

Just quick, just rattle it off.


Elijah May

All right. Okay. B2B is business to business. B2C, business to consumer. He mentioned SEO, search engine optimization. We'll talk about that one. That's one of my favorite/least favorite.


PPC, pay-per-click. So if you're on Google and you're one of those people who sees an ad up at the top of the side of the screen, you click on those, and there are people who do that. Google wouldn't get paid to do that.


There's always new acronyms. I think those are the most common ones. I guarantee three more are going to pop up as we’re having this conversation. Yeah, I'm on the spot. I didn't make a list of acronyms when coming.


Robert Hansen

No, I think it's important. Specifically, the B2B and B2C because I think a lot of people think that marketing is marketing. It's pretty much a uniform, and you're good at it or you're bad at it. And that's really not at all how this works.


Much like security, there's different avenues to get good at marketing. You got to be a technical SEO, as you mentioned, or good at SEM, search engine marketing. You can be good at business to business communications, communicating to other business leaders.


If you're trying to market to a CFO, for instance, you're going to do it completely differently than you would, let's say, some mom who's going to buy toothpaste or something. It's a completely different style of marketing that has some overlap but not as much as, I think, a lot of people might think.


Elijah May

Oh, yeah. Okay. All right. They're experts. We are speaking of acronyms. So SMEs, subject matter experts. If you're an SEO, search engine optimization, subject matter expert, then you're going to be extraordinarily adept at understanding A, how the algorithms work.


When you go to Google and you type in a term or you type in a phrase, understanding what people do type in and what happens when they type in, all of that makes you an expert in search engine optimization. And knowing what to do on your end on your website or in league with Google.


Google is just a relevance engine. That's what it's designed to do. Whatever you type in, Google's job is to give you the most relevant answer for you. That's all Google does. I know you know this, but we're saying it for the audience.


Robert Hansen

Actually, I think I disagree with that statement. But that's definitely the way that Google wants to portray themselves for sure.


Elijah May

No, I want to hear this. Okay. All right.


Robert Hansen

I can do my version.


Elijah May

Yeah, please.


Robert Hansen

Well, I think that was how it used to work for sure. Back in the days of an algorithm called not RankBrain, the one before that, I'm spacing on the name of it. PageRank. Back in the PageRank days. I think that is correct. I think it was all about relevance.


How they defined relevance, broadly, was how many people are linking to this thing and how popular are those things. And so it was a graph database.


Things that are highly linked mean that they're more important because a lot of people like these things, and they're talking about them, etc. Things that are not well-linked, people don't care about them as much. So less likely that most people are going to care.


If I'm typing T-shirts, and everyone's linking to tshirts.com, that's probably more likely to be the thing. So that's, to your point, the relevance part of it. Not anymore, though. Now, I think they're optimizing for something different. There is some local SEO stuff going on. So they're trying to optimize, not for what's relevant, but what's relevant in your geography, let's say.


Even worse than that, now they're starting to take over the search engine themselves. So now the top of the fold is almost all just Google. The very first top of the page is going to say Google, and then you’re going to say Gmail, your thing or whatever.


Then it's going to have the Google logo, and it's going to have a search box. All of that’s Google’s purpose, everything up at that top inch or so is Google. Then you get into the ads, and now there's two to five ads or whatever.


Then you might have a map. Let's say you're searching for a hotel in my region or something or you're going to go visit somewhere, you're going to get a map with a couple of reviews or something underneath it. All of that, everything on there is clicking to Google. So once upon a time, yeah, they were trying to get you to relevant stuff.


Elijah May

What they're trying to do now, tell me if I'm wrong, here's where I think you're going with this. Their job is to keep your eyeballs on because you can monetize that.


The advertising model that's been sold for eons is reach and frequency. Total bullshit. But there's still enough people that buy it. I know so many CMOs who are like, “What's my reach?” And so I'm like, “Fucking kidding me? Here we go.”


You can literally sell eyeball time. Their business and their job is to maximize their returns. And so the more eyeball time they have, that's the number one thing I think that they have to sell. Everything else hinges on that.


Robert Hansen

The top two or three to five, whatever results, let's say, are ads. Their goal is that you don't scroll down any further. They want you to click on one of those ads. So you're not even going to see the relevant thing that we were once talking about, how it used to work. That's down at the bottom. It's beyond the fold now. Not in every single case on every single search results page but enough of them, especially the high popularity ones.


You're probably never going to see what you were just talking about, the original way it used to work. Their system RankBrain, sure it's got some of that stuff built into it still. Absolutely. But I think they're actually optimizing for click-throughs on ads. That's it. Their new system is entirely designed to try to get you to click on ads. And nothing more.


Elijah May

Yeah. Just because we're not really paying attention. You're right. It looks just enough like an organic result, and you click on it. Now something that blows my mind is I understand if you’re Pizza Hut and I google Pizza Hut, you have to have paid placement there.


You know Domino's is 100%, those are the most expensive ads in the world, your head to head competitor and a big brand. So Domino's wants nothing more in the world than for people to see a Domino's link. I'm going to Google Pizza Hut, so Pizza Hut has to buy that link.


Robert Hansen

I liken it to, let's say, you have a billboard on top of Pizza Hut. What are you going to do? Are you really going to let Domino's buy that? The landlord wants to put up a billboard. And he goes over and sells it to Domino's. You’re like, “What the hell, man?”


Elijah May

You have to have the opportunity to buy that billboard. And Google certainly will sell you that billboard. But they're also going to sell to Domino's. Okay. Everything we just talked about, however, is predicated on the premise that they are relevance engines. Because without that premise, everything else goes away.


The idea is I go to Google, I type shit in, and it's supposed to give me the most relevant answer. We know full well they're going to give me ads, and they're going to give me map links and shit like this. And they're going to give me YouTube links or they own YouTube.


They're going to give me all of these things that are designed to keep me in their world. But all of that is predicated on the idea that they give you the best organic results. By the way, if you're smart, then you're also going to make sure that your brand is on YouTube.


They want to offer up YouTube as one of the options. So you have to make sure your shit’s on YouTube. All of that still hinges on the idea. Your job as a search engine optimization SEO expert is to understand how the algorithm works or whatever Machiavellian things are happening.


Your job is to understand how that works and then figure out what to do about it to make sure that if I’m paying you, my shit shows up higher than it would otherwise.


Robert Hansen

Yeah, and it doesn't have to be just Google. It could be Bing. But it can also be completely unrelated things like YouTube search or TikTok search or whatever. All those are search engine optimizations just for different types of search engines.


Elijah May

Yeah. I still don't understand who uses Bing. But it’s out there. I’ve heard about it. I do think there's a giant caveat to this, which is you can be an expert in all these specifics.


I spent two years teaching email marketing. You can be an expert in email, you can be expert in search, you can be an expert in ads, media buying, creative design.


There's so many things in the world of marketing that you can be an expert in specifically, but people who are really true marketing strategists understand that word of mouth is still the thing.


I've said this so many times it seems silly to say it, but I still understand that there are plenty of people who don't live in this world. Modern version of word of mouth, of course, is social media. I'm like, “Holy shit.” And I post this on Twitter or Facebook or TikTok or Instagram.


Robert Hansen

Don't use TikTok, kids.


Elijah May

Don't use TikTok. The bottom line is, can I get people to share my shit? I think that if you're a real marketing strategist, you understand, if you're great at marketing, I can hire someone to go do SEO and optimize my stuff.


Or I can find someone who really understands how to make something interesting enough that it gets all those links. I don't have to go artificially create those links because I'm just going to create this thing people are going to just share it like fucking crazy.


Robert Hansen

There you go. Okay. You used to advise or still currently advise the MD at Crest Ventures, MediaTech Ventures. And you founded The Experience Firm.


Elijah May

I did.


Robert Hansen

What to you comprises a good brand? I saw somewhere you wrote, “Have fun.” But that's a pretty large scope of things. What, in your opinion, makes a good brand? When you look at them, that's a solid brand.


Is it color schemes? Is it the name of the company? Is it the videos they produce? What is it that, to you, stands out that they're going to do well?


Elijah May

Jeremiah Gardner wrote a book called The Lean Brand, and he articulated it better than I think anybody or I ever have. I had the opportunity to introduce him at the Social Good Summit at South by Southwest. I don’t remember how many years ago, but we did it in partnership with the United Nations and the World Food Program.


He was one of our speakers, and he came in and talked about basically your brand is your relationship with your customers. I think it's the best explanation that I've ever heard, but your brand is how people relate to your business.


Let me be more specific. I had the opportunity to launch a couple of things. I started a lot of shit. Some successfully, some not. We created the Austin Entrepreneur Network and Texas CEO Magazine out of the same original brand. So originally, the company/brand was Austin Business District Magazine.


Robert Hansen

That's a mouthful.


Elijah May

Yeah, it was a mouthful. It had been around for a while. So people knew about it. But a lot of people thought that it was associated with the Austin Business Journal. They were really confused. They didn't understand. Why does the Austin Business Journal, which is a magazine, have a thing called Austin Business District Magazine?


It was totally unrelated. And so when I joined Jason Myers, who was the founder, editor, publisher, he had all of that, at Austin Business District Magazine, he knew everybody in town. It was one of the most fortunate things that could happen to me because he introduced me to everyone.


I became his representative to the Chamber of Commerce. I would go to all these different people at the Chamber of Commerce, who were all business representatives and say, “Hey, do you know what Austin Business District Magazine is?” And they'd be like, “Yeah, I think I've heard of it. It's like an entrepreneur thing maybe?”


Robert Hansen

So they thought it was like a sub-brand of some sort?


Elijah May

Yeah. They're like, “It's an entrepreneur magazine, I think, or something like that. Isn't it like an executive magazine?” I went back to Jason and I said, “Jason, people don't know if it's an entrepreneur magazine or an executive magazine or a strategy magazine.”


He's like, “Well, it's all of those things.” I didn't know much at the time. I had been in the entertainment business. I came to Austin. I met a CEO at a golf tournament that we put on for the casting crew of Friday Night Lights.


He said, “Hey, did you use to work in the PR department?” I went, “Yeah.” “I need someone to run my PR marketing.” I went, “Yeah. Sure. How hard can that be?” Again, I had this hubris. I'd been successful, and I got lucky. And I found out that some things are way harder than they sound.


But we spent a fortune on advertising and it wasn't working, and I really, really wanted to understand why. I mean, as I was leaving that company, it was definitely the first job I fired from.


The CEO said, "I love and hate the same thing about you. You're the only employee I've ever had in my life who's in my office every day telling me things I don't want to hear." "You're welcome, I guess."


Robert Hansen

Just lucky, I guess.


Elijah May

And, I've never had it in me to just go with the flow. I don't have it. Like, "That's fine. This sucks. The company's making terrible decisions, but, hey, what can we do? We work here."


I'm not that guy. I am not your guy. I will be in there every day being like, "This makes no sense. What are we doing?" And trying to fix it and tell him like, "I don't think I can fix this."


So, when I went to Jason and he said, "Well, it's kind of all of those things." I'm like, "That's not a thing. I don't know a whole lot, but I know that that's not a thing." I didn't have the language for it at the time.


So, when I had spent all this money in marketing. I'm spending $60,000 a month in Austin. I'm buying every TV station, every radio station. I'm putting full page ads in the States, spend three times a week full color. They are gorgeous and no conversions. Nobody gives a shit.


I'm like, "Well, that doesn't make sense." This is what you're supposed to do. All the media reps said this is what you're supposed to do. And that's what they do for a living. Why isn't it working? It is working. They're getting paid. It's working great.


Robert Hansen

Yeah, they're doing great business.


Elijah May

Doing shit for us, working great for them. So, I started researching marketing. Like who knows what the most effective form of marketing is? Somebody must know, right? And word of mouth. Word of mouth. Everything, word of mouth.


Turns out the world's foremost expert in Word of Mouth Marketing was here. And Sam Decker and others had just founded WOMA, the Word of Mouth Marketing association. It happened right around that exact time.


So, word of mouth is the thing. That's the thing that everybody knows is the most effectively... It's not even like debated much. Everyone kind of gets that.


Robert Hansen

Yes.


Elijah May

Fast forward, I've spoken at thousands of. I've spoken to thousands of people at dozens of conferences, and I've asked this question from the stage many, many times, "What's the most effective form of marketing?" And word of mouth. Word of mouth.


Twice in that entire time someone raised their hand and said something other than word of mouth. And both times they said the same thing. And it was somebody in the back of the room.


They raised their hands, and I said, "What you got?" And they said, "PPC." Both times. They said, "Pay Per Click? You're telling me Pay Per Click is the most effective form of marketing in the whole world?" And they went, "Yes." Both times.


Robert Hansen

Where do you work?


Elijah May

I said, "Okay, what do you do for a living?" "PPC." Okay. All right. No, I love this. This is great. Maybe I'm wrong. You said you like to be right. I like to be right. I also like to find out if I'm wrong so I can be right. "Where do you get most of your business?" Long pause. They both said the same thing. What'd they say?


Robert Hansen

I'm just going to go on a limb here. The search engines, the Googles of the world?


Elijah May

Referrals.


Robert Hansen

Oh, really?


Elijah May

Both of them.


Robert Hansen

Well, if you optimize for PPC and you have nothing else, you might just get PPC and no referrals whatsoever. So it could go the other way.


Elijah May

No. In these two particular cases, they both told me that where they got the majority of their business is being referred.


So, this conversation's over, right? We can all agree here, right? Like we all agree it's word of mouth. Even the two people who said that it wasn't agreed, that's where they get their business. So, the question is, how do you get it?


If everybody knows this is the thing, I'm not aware of anybody anywhere. I'm looking. I'm reading there's a word of mouth marketing book wasn't even out at the time. And I'm trying to be like, "Where's the playbook on word of mouth marketing? What does that entail?"


So, it was quite a long rabbit hole to come up with really obvious answers. If you come home at the end of the day, what do you tell the people you love? What do you tell them about your day?


Robert Hansen

I need a beer.


Elijah May

Yes. Should you choose to share the details of your day, what do we talk about?


Robert Hansen

Yeah. All kinds of things. In fact one of the things I do every single night is, at a certain time of night, I'd say, "Let's talk about three good things that happened today."


And even if the day was pretty shitty, we find three, could be tiny little things. Like, "The cat was really purry today." Some tiny little thing. Just something to kind of train your brain to look for things that are positive throughout the day.


And could be, "We saw a good movie or saw some friends." Whatever was good.


Elijah May

I love that you guys do that. I love that. Because it's a healthier way to be.


Robert Hansen

And the beer also.


Elijah May

Yes. And the beer. For me, it's whiskey. But I'm right here with you. You talk about the best and worst things. We all do it. "I had a great day. I had a terrible day." "Why? What happened?" But the thing that you don't talk about is, you're never going to believe this. The most totally 100% average thing happening today.


Traffic was like 40 miles an hour all the way. Unless that's like, "Holly shit." We don't talk about average things and everybody knows that. We talk about terrible things if we talk about great things.


So, if your business has to make a decision, if you want people talking about it, well, you got two choices. Do you want to suck or do you want to be great? But being average, if you take a simple statistic, which has been accepted for years and years.


So, Michael Gerber wrote about it, I think better than anybody has. He wrote about The E-Myth Revisited. 80% of businesses fail. Now, that's a largely misunderstood statistic, but it's still, for all intents and purposes, it's a good basic number, right? 80% of businesses fail.


So, what's the average? The average is failure. Bottom line. Average is failure. You cannot afford to be average as an entrepreneur. You literally can't. You're almost guaranteed to fail if you're average. The thing I tell people, the irony, and I speak at every college in town.


And I tell these kids, I'm like, "Listen, I got really good news and really bad news.” The really good news is the bar is so fucking low. You have no idea how low the bar is because most people, they don't know what they're doing and they don't give a shit. They're phoning it in.


They're just trying to figure out how to get it from one day to the next. They don't actually give two shits about the thing they're trying to do or whether or not they're great at it. Just being the one person in the room.


I'll give you a specific example, 2010 or 2011. I'm speaking to 300 students at UT. And we did this thing where I would speak to the students and then I would speak to the business owners, and then we would have them all get together, sort of like an intern fair. 300 students at the AT and T center.


And I said, "Hey, does anybody in this room want to tell me why they're here? What are you looking to do? Because I know a lot of companies and I may be able to help you, I don't know. But tell me what you do. I sure can't help you if I don't know who you are, what you're trying to do."


One person, Taylor Letterman, one person gets up and says, "Well, I taught myself WordPress. I was hoping maybe I can find some companies that are looking for help with WordPress."


Robert Hansen

Easy.


Elijah May

Got it. "Anybody else?" Crickets. crickets. 300 people in this room. Okay, good luck. We go upstairs. I talk to the business owners.


I say, "A bunch of kids are going to come upstairs in a minute. If you are looking for something, business owner, if you're looking for a specific skill, tell me. I know a bunch of students. I don't know about these students, but I know a bunch of students. Just tell me what you're looking for and maybe I can help."


They come to me, six different people. "I'm looking for somebody who knows WordPress." "Taylor, get over here." Four of those people hired Taylor on the spot. Now, I didn't find out till later that Taylor had made a strategic decision to drop out of UT and teach himself something that he thought was useful.


Because he is like, "This school thing, I don't get where this is going, but I can learn something useful with the same amount of time." Roughly, Taylor goes on to become like a CTO of a company that designs a software for Wall Street.


Because they hired a CTO, spent a bunch of money, all went to shit, and they're like, "Who's got a good idea?" It's like, "I got an idea." They did that. And they're like, "Great, you're in charge."


Elijah May

One person at 300 people. And we're friends to this day. And I've sent him so many people. He's now way beyond designing shit on WordPress.


Robert Hansen

He's working on Wall Street. You might still do your WordPress site, you never know.


Elijah May

Taylor's been very kind to me. If I had a project and I'm stuck, and Taylor's like, "I got you." He's like, "Whatever you need, just tell me and I'll do it. I don't even care". It is astounding to me. I cannot tell you how many times I'll speak in front of a group of people and say, "Tell me how I can help you, or I can't help you."


So, I like to replace this term. We all know search engine optimization. If you're in the marketing world with conversational optimization.


Robert Hansen

Back to my question, what does make a good brand then? When you're looking at somebody, you're like, "That's hot. They're going to do well." What are the attributes?


Elijah May

So, believe it or not, I was about to answer your question.


Robert Hansen

Oh, good. Okay.


Elijah May

No, I seem like I was offered left a field, but I was right there. So here's what it comes down to. You, Robert Hansen have a brand. And I tell people all the time, listen, if I'm having a conversation with somebody tell me what are the key words in that conversation where I go, "Timeout, you got to meet Robert." That's it.


How I relate to you, what I think of when I think of you. All of the impression in my brain. There's a complicated explanation. There's plenty of complicated explanations of what a brand is, but fundamentally, the question is, how do I relate to you? What place do you hold in my mind, that's your brand. That's the RSNAKE brand, that's the Robert Hansen brand. Those things are actually a little bit different.


But when somebody comes to me and goes, "Oh my God, I'm looking for a Podcast or if they mention cybersecurity, fucking Robert, I don't even need any more context. Someone's like, "Hey, cybersecurity." "No, hold on. I know the guy. You talk to that guy." I don't even have to think about it.


So, with Austin business district, it was so confusing. We went and we split it in two, we split it into the Austin Entrepreneur Network and Texas CEO Magazine, neither of which, zero confusion. No confusion at all.


The Austin Entrepreneur Network, everybody understood what that was. And everybody who cared about Austin entrepreneurship wanted to be part of it.


Robert Hansen

That's much more clear.


Elijah May

Period. Texas CEO Magazine. Like people who were impossible to get on their calendars for years, for months, they're admins like, "I'll get back." They're like almost Texas CEO Magazine. I'm freed Now. Did you want to get together?


I mean, part of it, we went and got Brett Hurt, agreed to be in the first cover. We went and sat, BazaarVoice with their new facility. Like a New Year's Day. It was literally us and him and one employee in the whole building. And he's just telling us his whole life story.


And then, of course Brett's the magazine. Everybody wants to be in the magazine. That's a brand. Texas CEO Magazine is exactly what it sounds like. We profile the most important people running companies in Texas. And everyone's like, "Fucking sign me up."


Robert Hansen

All right. You said you had some failures. Let's hear it. I think it's worth. Let me preface why I think this is interesting.


So, when I'm interviewing people for a job like and I'm trying to hire these people, there's a couple standard questions I always ask. Which I will talk about some of the others some other day, just not really relevant to this one.


But one of the questions I ask is, "Tell me a time you were compromised." And I would say about half the people who answer the question, they're like, "Oh, I've never been compromised." And I'm like, "Okay, the interview's over, you can leave now."


Elijah May

Because you either don't know, or you're lying either way.


Robert Hansen

You're lying or you're so new that you have zero experience at all. And I mean, literally never plugged in a computer-type, no experience whatsoever. Because you've clearly, accidentally clicked on a link. You've clearly had your computer running too slow one day.


Something happened to you at one point, your credit card got stolen. Something happened to you at some point, it may not have been dramatic, it might have been minor, but if you were not creative enough to even remember that that happened, you're probably not going to do very well in security.


I'll pass on this person. But occasionally, they'll get a really good one. And you get to hear this insider look and how they dealt with this adversity. Sometimes it's company-related, so they have to kind of hedge it a little bit, have to change some names and places or whatever.


But you get this inside baseball about how they think about things. And that is incredibly useful, both from understanding how they think about the world, but also, I learned things like, "Oh, maybe, maybe I should use some of these tactics when I'm dealing with these types of situations."


So, I think it's one of the biggest learning tools. In fact, another quick anecdote, just to get you where my head is at. There was some CEO, I forget which one, like the CEO of GE or something. Some mega CEO.


And he was asked, "Would you rather give your kid $100,000 and have them go build a business and fail not succeed and fail, or give them enough money to go through college? Which would you prefer to do? Which one do you think would've a better net output for their life?"


And so, he said, "Would definitely have my kid fail." And then, they started asking all these other CEOs, and vast number of them said, yes they would have their kid take the money and fail.


Elijah May

No question.


Robert Hansen

It's like you get your MBA for free. You learn a lot about business, the real world business. You have something on your resume, and it hurt, and you're never going to let that happen again.


Elijah May

Versus the MBAs I get to talk to, they're like, "Well, the spread..." I'm like, "Fucking listen, you have literally no idea what you're talking about." Oh my God.


I remember, I didn't do this on purpose, but I got called into a company, it's a very prominent Austin company, and they're like, "We have this problem." And they're like, "This is our head of marketing. She just got her MBA. I'm so sorry." I didn't even think about it. She's like, " That was bullshit."


Robert Hansen

It could have gone the other way.


Elijah May

No, I thought she was going to be super offended. I've got a friend who says, "MBAs are great. They have this very yes or may have in their attitude. They're used to being abused and told stupid shit. They make great employees."


Sorry to anybody out there with an MBA. I'm really sorry. Oh my God. So my very first client at the experience firm, and so I had taken a job as vice president of a swanky downtown advertising agency, working with some of the biggest brands in the world.


And I hated it so much. Total frat party all the time. It was gross. I didn't like it. It's not on my LinkedIn because I didn't even want people to know. And that was a fail. I mean, I was in and out of there in a few months. I was like, "This is awful."


And a lot of companies now in this day and age, they brought me in on contract to try it out, and we both agreed, let's leave it there. Now, the irony is they asked me to come... You know what? Never mind that.


So, went to the advertising agency, found out that ideas that I pitched at the time became some of their most successful campaigns in history. But I was long gone by then. Started the experience firm, and I get referred to this client.


One of my co-founders had worked, had done some sort of management consulting. At the time If you'd asked me what management consulting was, I would've had no idea. Wouldn't even know where to start with the definition of management consulting.


So, I get referred to this CEO and I go and meet with him, and he goes, "Yeah, we've got this brand, we've got super cheap signs and we really want to take it to the next level. We've been growing, keys in, I think. One of those entrepreneur organizations."


And I mean, they're doing great things and they keep growing, out growing their space. They're looking for a new space. They really want to work in that culture, and they really just want to take this to the next level.


And I come in, full of piss and vinegar, I'm like looking at this, as brands go, super cheap signs, it's super on the nose. Still around today. Still get their emails.


And then, I thought, like, "We are going to take this to another level." And what I have learned over the years is that more often than not, the employees already know what needs to happen. When you go in as a consultant, the employees already... They've been trying to get done for a long time.


And then, you come in and you propose the exact same ideas and they're like, "This is fucking bull shit." Like, "Oh, it's a good idea when this asshole says it. Okay, fine, let's do that."


I just tell the employees right up front and say, "Here's what's about to go down. I'm going to go in there and I'm going to pitch some ideas you probably already had, and then they're going to go, "That's great, and then you're going to go, "Fuck you."


So, why don't you just tell me what the good ideas are? Just tell me what you want to do. Tell me what would totally work here, and then I'll just go be the champion for your idea and we'll get it done." And they're like, "You're awesome. This is great."


You want the employees to like you for the most part. And then, they had this idea that they really loved, and it was called Signs and Bacon. It's a silly idea, but it's a fun idea. We can have fun thing?


Robert Hansen

Yeah. I like this. I want to talk about fun.


Elijah May

Signs and bacon. I'm like, "Explain this to me." Said, "Well, we were thinking that if you buy a sign, we'll give you something made of bacon." And I'm like, "This is just dumb enough to be brilliant. I love this idea."


So, I'm talking to my partners, we're drinking beer. So, the CEO is like, "We kind of went down this road. We created a brand. It's a really cool brand, and we just didn't really do anything." I'm like, "Let's bring it back. Let's do it. This is perfect. This is so experience firm, right? Signs and Bacon.


Like you buy signs and get bacon, fucking why not? This is going to be great". And one of my partners, I said, "Okay, What's the top of the heap here? What's the best thing you can possibly get that's made of bacon? What are you aiming at?" This is like a reward points kind of thing?


Robert Hansen

I have no idea. Some sort of lattice.


Elijah May

So my buddy goes, "A pig." And we've had a lot of beer. We're like, "Someone's getting a pig." So, we literally the same day go have shirts printed like a bunch. I still have some at my house that say, "Someone's getting a pig."


If I know this was going to come up, I would've worn the shirt. Now, we realize a couple things. One not necessarily cool for girls to wear it out to a bar. We didn't think all the details through. This was pointed out by one of my girlfriends who's like, "I'm a little overweight. I don't think I should do that." I was like, "Oh, shit." We went and bought a pig.


So, my very first business expenses is I bought a potbelly pig, and we named him, of course, Kevin Bacon. So, we went and bought and bought Kevin Bacon, the pig. And we have this whole thing where we're going to roll out this brand, we're going to make a fun video.


This company, the CEO has always come up with crazy ideas. This is true, right? He had a sign outside of his office as like Chief Idea Officer or some like that. No, it was an innovation department. And so, they're getting, they're getting a new office and it's swanky.


So, we shoot this commercial, and we use this commercial, we introduce Kevin Bacon, the Pig. It was called Meet KevinBacon. And I call a friend...


Robert Hansen

M-E-A-T or?


Elijah May

M-E-E-T KevinBacon, one word so we can't get sued by Kevin Bacon.


Robert Hansen

Totally different.


Elijah May

Yeah. So, in this video, which ink named one of the top five startup videos of the year in magazine. Not that it held us a whole lot, but that did happen. The CEO takes a phone call and he is like, "Oh my God, we're getting KevinBacon. I need a sign."


The employees are like, "Did he say Kevin Bacon? I think he said Kevin Bacon." So, there's a red carpet. I called a friend of mine who I knew had a very nice car. And you know this person. And his name is Worley. And I call Worley, and I'm like, "Hey, can I put a pig in your car?" And he goes, "Fuck yeah."


Robert Hansen

Of course he can.


Elijah May

I'll never not love him for that. For that alone. And he brings his really nice car and we put Kevin Bacon the pig in the back of his car. And so, he pulls up, I'm dressed as secret service, like security.


I open the back door and then Kevin Bacon, the pig gets out, and this whole crowd is getting around, "Kevin Bacon." They're cheery. And we got a kid who's like, "That's a pig." And another kid is like, "Well, I think he's cute." And he's like, "He's kind of cute."


That's the whole sort of spiel. So, we shoot this video, we spend a significant amount of money. This is our first client. We're going all in, we're shooting this commercial, it's going to go everywhere. A couple things, Kevin Bacon does not like riding in cars at all.


So, the very first thing that Kevin Bacon is, he only has to ride into the shot. Like action cut. The first thing he does is all over Worley’s car. He absolutely just defecates in the backseat. And I'm looking at Worley like, "I'm sorry. Are we done here? Are you out?" He's like, "Just get it out. Let's go. Like do this thing. I'm here, car's here, pig's here."


Robert Hansen

It can only get worse.


Elijah May

"Let’s get this shit done. We're in this far." I'm like, "God bless you." Because I'm thinking like, "Oh, car left, shoots over. It."


In the end, we get every, we get all the assets together, we go to do the push, and we just kind of flubbed it. We had contacted the news and we'd shared the video and we had this big email blast that was supposed to go out announcing Signs in Bacon to their massive email list.


And they do have a very large and very loyal email list. And we had a separate site called Signs and Bacon, where you would go and you would... There were signs, it was trying to find a premium customer for a brand called Super Cheap Signs. That was our fatal flaw of the plan.


They have a very clear brand. They have people, very clearer expectation of that brand. People don't expect super cheap signs to come at them with, "Hey, what if you spent a bunch more money and we gave you some random shit?" They didn't care. It was the wrong audience.


In retrospect, it was obvious. Super Cheap Signs customers just want super cheap signs. They don't want super cheap signs and gimmicks. They don't want medium price signs and gimmicks for sure. And so, the whole thing, after all of this build up and we shot this thing and we sent out this email blast and just kind of just kind of tanked.


Robert Hansen

So, it wasn't so much that it wasn't fun or that fun doesn't work, it's just that you chose the wrong kind of fun. It needed to be fun that was more directly in line with their brand.


Elijah May

It was off brand. And that's the bottom line. That it was fun for the employees. We were so focused on the employees having something that they wanted to talk about. I'm a big believer in culture.


We're so focused on the employees having something that they loved because they loved these signs and they love someone's getting pig and they love this logo they had with Signs of Bacon. I can show it to you later. That we lost track of, "Well, the customer actually give a shit?" And they did not, and it crashed and burned.


And yeah, that was a short-lived contract. It was expensive for them. And I ordered some signs from them later. I called the CEO and said, "Hey, how much for this many signs of their custom order?" And he's like "$60,000." And we're still friends.


But they took a hit, we under delivered. I'm not getting any referrals from John. And I like the guy a lot and I think he went on a limb for us. And I appreciate that. But someday we'll figure out how to make it up to him, but I haven't yet.


Robert Hansen

Well, yeah, I think you just did. A lot of people have heard his name multiple times now. So, tell us about cost efficient marketing. So, that was a very expensive version of that.


But I've heard you mention at least twice now and various conversations you and I have had, there's a way to do marketing that doesn't cost an arm and a leg that people can do. And I'm assuming it's along these viral routes, but I'm not going to put words in your mouth.


Some way to get your brand out there. Talk to the audience, find more people, get more word of mouth without having to spend $60,000 on an ad that's just going to fall on the floor. You have some ideas?


Elijah May

So, let me give you my version of your torture theory.


Robert Hansen

Sure, yes.


Elijah May

People are like, "It's really hard to get press." No, it's not. They're like, "What do you mean?" I'm like, "It's so easy." And so, the example I always give is the same. It's called Dead Puppy Marketing. Here's what we're going to do.


We're going to issue a press release at 8:00 AM this morning saying that we're going to murder a puppy live on Facebook at 3:00 in the afternoon. You know who's going to be there? Everybody. Protesters, people who are all for it. It's going to be a mad house.


Every news station in town will be there to see. Please, nobody murder a fucking puppy." But the point is, it's not hard to get attention. It's not hard to get attention at all. We know that. It's hard to get the right attention.


And the only point in saying that is to make you break away from the idea that it's hard to get attention because that belief is fundamentally false. It's not true at all. And what you understand that it's not hard to get attention, then the question is, what are you going to do for that attention?


There's a tremendous number of things you can do. I mean, someone will post a rap or a poem, even something on TikTok that's meaningful that goes absolutely viral. Prince EA was doing this even before TikTok became a thing.


You need to make an impression. I mean, I think that the biological term is arousal, right? So, it's actually one of my favorite things to talk about. So, all marketing is just behavioral science. It's all it is. There's nothing else to it. Daniel Kahneman thinking fast and slow, that's all it is. Your brain has one primary job, your brain's primary job is?


Robert Hansen

Keeping me alive.


Elijah May

How does it do that?


Robert Hansen

Anticipation of potential future threats, whatever that is.


Elijah May

Right. How does it anticipate potential future threats?


Robert Hansen

Some of it is rote built into me, and some of it is imagination and constructing little mini-models of what I think the future might look like if I tick A or B path.


Elijah May

If you spent all of your time reacting to imaginary scenarios in your brain, do you feel like that would be productive or unproductive?


Robert Hansen

I mean, depends on how good you are at imagining things. But I get your point though. For sure I think the bulk of people's imagination about what could go wrong is terribly misguided and pointless. People don't risk model things properly, especially quickly. They can do it if they really reason through it.


But most of the time people are like, "Oh, my gosh, this is the worst thing that ever happened. They didn't call me." And therefore it's like, "They might not have been busy."


Elijah May

I'm trying to remember this guy's name, was an Air Force guy, came up with this expression, goes in an oodle loop. Your brain's primary job is to eliminate unnecessary information.


Robert Hansen

It was an Air force general, I forget his name.


Elijah May

And so, observe, orient, decide, act. That's what you're doing all day, every day when you're sitting here, when you're walking through a parking lot. So, if you're walking through a parking lot, somebody yells, what do you do?


Robert Hansen

It depends on what they're yelling. Oh yeah. Yes. I give my attention for sure.


Elijah May

Observe. "Are they yelling at me?" Nope. "Yelling at a friend? Doesn't involve me." But if they're yelling at somebody else, is it angry? Does it look like it might escalate? Right? Do I need to spend more time on this? If they're yelling, "Oh my God, Bob." You're like, "I'm moving on. I don't give a shit." That's a thing that makes noise. It's like a gong. We're doing that again. Sorry.


Robert Hansen

I'm just bringing it out. Look at the beautiful assign we have here.


Elijah May

Check out the brand. Yes.


Robert Hansen

There it is.


Elijah May

You have to decide. So, I say when I use this example. I usually say, most of us saw a dog at some point today. If you've been anywhere, chances are you saw a dog that you didn't know. Whether or not you responded to that dog depended on a couple of things. Was it barking? If it was, you're looking, not barking at me.


It's tied up. It's not angry, I am moving on. Is the dog off leash? I'm paying extra attention to the dog either because the dog might be a threat or the dog might be in danger either way.


I'm observing to decide whether or not I need to give a about this information and the vast majority of the time. So, when we look at babies and they're laying on their back and they're drooling, the predominant thought is like, "Oh, they're not doing anything."


No, it's exactly the opposite. They're doing exactly what you would do if you were just taking in information, all of it all the time. That's what babies are doing. They're just fucking processing everything because their filters aren't in place yet.


As an adult, you just really good filters. You get better and better and better at deciding what you care about, what you don't care about. And what we don't care about, the vast majority of the time is marketing advertising.


You get really good. Like those ads on the top and the side, they're constantly updating them and optimizing them to get your attention because they know that your brain is very specifically trying not to notice that shit. That's your brain's primary job is to filter out information. So, what we're trying to do in marketing is figure out how do I break through that?


So, the most popular class that I teach is how to make people curse. And it's a basic escalation of attention. A, how do I make, how do I make people care? Because you don't care. Doesn't matter what I'm talking about, you're gone. You just left. Then what I have to say is irrelevant, right?


Robert Hansen

Outrageous or awestruck or something along those lines.


Elijah May

How do I get you to care? What am I going to do that is going to get you to stop barking dog, yelling, whatever it is? And a lot of people, they sort of try a really rudimentary version of this. They'll have somebody out there with a spinning sign trying to get you to look.


Seth Gordon wrote Purple Cow. He's like, "If I were driving down the road and I saw purple cow, I'm going to stop and get up taking a picture." That's fucking crazy, right? If I need you to care, then the question is, "Okay, about what?"


So, I've got to get you to understand. That's the goal. Now let's say that gets you to care, I got your attention and you understand that I'm now selling lollipops. You’re like, "Don't give a fuck about lollipops." Expunge from my brain moving on with my life.


You're not going to remember it. You're not going to tell anybody because you don't give a shit. But what I want you to do is to care, to understand, to remember that information and to share it with somebody else mm-hmm. And ideally, I want you to engage, I want you to be a customer, right? And so, curse in addition to being a fun acronym.


Robert Hansen

Or at least find me another customer if you're not it.


Elijah May

Yes. So, it's fine if I can just get you to care and understand, remember share, engage, I win. But curse is a weird word, right? So, curse sounds better. But I'll say curse a lot. So it's on brand for me. It's really that simple. This is just a simple psychological progression of buy-in.


So, when you're trying to take an idea that's, whatever it is, doesn't matter what it is. I'm trying to get a lot of people's attention in a short amount of time. I mean, yeah, you're willing to do things that other people aren't willing to do is what a voice label is down to.


I mean, you think about two people, we were talking about Hollywood earlier. So, Jamie Kennedy and Johnny Knoxville. They basically said, "I'm going to do whatever the fuck, I will be as obnoxious as I have to be to get people's attention.


Worked out great for both of them. I'm not a fan of either one of those people, but I absolutely respect the fact that they looked around and said, "What is everybody else..." I mean, Will Ferrell for me is a perfect example. I do not like Will Ferrell. I don't find him funny at all. But man, am I impressed at what he's willing to do that most people would not do.


Robert Hansen

So, you just have to be willing to do more to get them to engage, whatever that is. Something more interesting.


Elijah May

That's not expensive. It takes courage. Doesn't take cash by and large.


Robert Hansen

So, how does a kind of stodgy older company like a bank, let's say, with effectively a lot of controls in place. They're not a lot of say a lot of things. We're not make a lot of promises. We can't guarantee better interest rates because we don't know or whatever.


There's a lot of regulatory environments. You see the slot in healthcare. How do these sort of more regulated or my industry security, you have to be really careful about making claims. You can't say we're going to stop all.


Because the second anything gets through, everyone's just going to go ha, ha and it'll really, really destroy your brand at least within the industry, outside the industry. No one will notice.


But how do you do that in that type of environment? Is that a culture thing? You just say, "We're going to have to power through this or hire outside consultants that you can fire and say that they didn't do their job?


Elijah May

So, I'm going to say something and then I'm going to segue and come back to it. The people who have answered this question, I believe better than anybody in the world, is Dan and Chip Heath. They wrote a book called The Power of Moments. Easily one of the best books I've ever read, hands down.


And they talk specifically about banks and things banks could do, but don't. But hold that thought for just a second. The very first public talk that I ever gave was what makes marketing go viral. And I gave it during the Rise Conference for entrepreneurs here in Austin.


And if you know anything but the Rise Conference, Rise Conference used to be a little like South by Southwest. It was totally entrepreneur-focused and completely distributed.


So, we had different speakers all over the place for an entire week here in Austin. Now, in that week, there were two people that I really wanted to see. I wanted to go hear them talk.


They were both amazing. Tom Singer and Royce Pence. And I find out that in my very first public talk that I've ever slated to give, I'm booked at the exact same time as Tom Singer and Roy Spence.


Tom Singer's, now the new president of the Austin Technology Council, Roy Spence, one of the founders of GSD and M a billion dollar advertising agency. He literally created the slogan, Don't Mess with Texas.


And I'm like, "Fuck me." I'm not going to get to hear the people I want to hear and I'm going to be in a room by myself, 100%. Because anybody with any brain in their head is going to go listen to one of those two people talk because they're amazing. I get there and the room is full and I'm like, "Oh, these people are must be all just getting ready to leave."


Robert Hansen

Am I in the wrong room?


Elijah May

Yeah. And the speaker before me was Carl Settles founder of E4 Youth. And Carl actually hung out and that's how we met. And he stayed for the talk. And more people kept coming in and kept coming in. And I'm like, "What is happening?" I think maybe all these people think that somebody else is about to talk.


And so, I gave this talk on what makes marketing go viral. And I had in my research. So, this is all very new to me, but I'm fascinated by this topic. Like what makes this happen? And I found out the very first campaign that I could find that that was a true viral hit is almost unknown. What was the name of the bank?


Robert Hansen

Anyway, some bank.


Elijah May

Capital Planes Bank, something like that. There's a song that we all know called, We've Only Just Begun by the Carpenters. Now that was written as an ad jingle for a bank. The carpenters covered it, it became one of the most popular songs in the history. But it was actually run as a commercial for a bank.


And all showed, and it broke all of these rules. The commercials are like, people talk about this. Nobody was talking in the commercial. It was just young people running and frolicking and getting married and driving over there. And they're playing the song we've only just begun.


At the end, they threw in this thing like, "We know that you have a long way to go and we want help you get there." Something like that. It was so successful that there was like a run on the bank. There's so many young people showing up to the bank being like, "You're giving out loans."


Somehow they interpreted as like you're giving out loans. They're like, "Whoa, whoa. Turn this shit off. What the fuck is going on?" It was a problem. I think Hal Reiner might have been the guy who wrote... Was it Ogilvy? Anyway. Because the song was such a hit because people were so enamored with the song, the Carpenters covered it.


Most people don't know that Carpenters didn't write it, the more the original performers and it went on to become like a wildly viral hit. This is long before we were talking about virility or this concept existed. But the question you had was, what could a bank do? What could a stodgy old institution do?


Robert Hansen

Somebody who's been around a long time has a lot going against them either internally or politically or whatever makes marketing harder.


Elijah May

So, without writing hit song, which a lot of people are trying to do. Dan and Chip talked about simple things. Every single family goes through certain milestones. I mean, not every single family, but like most of us.


If you have kids, your kids get to a certain age where you want them to have a bank account. But you get to a certain age, part of your career where you want to re-examine like savings accounts, things like this.


They said, there are so many things that banks could do, so many things that banks could do to actually demonstrate that they give a shit about you as a human being. That would be easy for the bank to do.


Like, "Hey, listen, we know that you have kids and your kid just turned 13 and we have a special financial seminar for kids. If you want to bring them in on Saturday. We're going to have fun little get together and then we're just going to talk about savings and how they can start building. If they start building now, they could be financially set."


Most parents would bring their kids to that, why don't banks do that? I Sent this to the president of a bank and I'm like, "Dude." He's now head of Asian foreign another bank. And I like this guy a lot. Banks fundamentally don't think that way. And that was the most difficult thing I had to learn.


My original thought was, if I'm looking at Yelp, right? I'm looking at a restaurant. If they have two star reviews and I could get them to four or five, game changer. What I learned is a company that has a restaurant that has two star reviews on average, they don't care.


I'll never get them to four or five. They have two stars because they've already developed contempt for their customers. They've already decided that their customers are and that they're being and they're trying to ruin their lives by giving them bad reviews online. They all but hate their customers. And it becomes self-perpetuating at that point, right?


Customers are always annoying them and people are like, "These people are really rude to me." Yeah, because they hate you. They hate your guts because somebody else give a bad review. They think you're because you complained about the food.


We've all watched restaurant night mayor. How many chefs? You're like, "Oh, you're complaining my bad food. You obviously don't know shit about shit, the outta my restaurant." It's incredible.


And so, I think it was John Gottman who's a social psychologist who talked about being able to watch a couple for five minutes and tell you whether or not they were going to get divorced. And it all comes down to one very simple thing.


If you see signs of contempt, and it doesn't matter what the relationship, it doesn't have to be a marriage. If there are signs of contempt, which is I decide that I'm better than you for any reason, it's over.


Our relationship is doomed. There's almost no coming back from that. And that which brings me to a conversation I'm going to have with you.


Robert Hansen

Okay. Go ahead.


Elijah May

Awkward segue in just a second. This is the number one problem we have in all of society. When you look at polarization and politics, everything else, contempt is that thing that means if I disagree with you and I decide it's because you're not a good person. I'm a better person than you.


Well, there's not really fixing that is there. You just suck and I don't. And I can't fix that. So, I'm not even going to try, we're not going to have a conversation. Because fundamentally, this is true, once you learn to recognize contempt. There are literal micro signs you can recognize on people's faces. Which is what he became an expert at. But it's not that hard. We know what contempt looks like by and large.


Robert Hansen

It's sneering, looking down your nose, etc.


Elijah May

All of us have had those moments with a significant other. Somebody that we love. We're just like, ugh. It's dangerous. We don't realize how dangerous it is when it leaks into any of our relationships whether they be business relationships or personal relationships. At the beginning of this conversation, we talked about the difference between b2b and b2c. There are different types of marketing. Yes and no.


Bottom line, no business has ever bought anything from anybody ever. People buy things. Businesses don't. I've spoken to people. “Well, my business is different. We're b2b.” Really? Really? How many businesses have ever signed a document and decided to wire you money? They're like, no. It's always a person. It's only a person.


Robert Hansen

I actually valiantly agree. Because one of the things I find that's wrong with me being a CTO, but also having been a CISO in the past, and various other executives, CEO, my mailbox is just destroyed. I've declared bankruptcy. I can't get through it. People are like, “I emailed you today.”


I don't even know what email address you're talking about. It’s just a mess. But when I meet somebody, and we have a conversation like this, I will hold on to all of that. That is really in my brain. I will recollect it six months down the road, a year down the road. I'll go, “You know what Elijah said something this one time and blah, blah, blah. Hold on. Let me go get you his contact information.” Now, this has become a real thing. Even if I'm not buying from you, I know somebody who would.


I become a bit of a super-connector just by virtue of paying attention and knowing people who are doing something interesting. You don't have to be wealthy. They're just doing something interesting, whatever it is. You could be a painter. You could be a sculptor, whatever. Just something that you care about. If it's interesting, you are better at it than everybody else, and you really care about your craft, I'm going to pay attention. I think that's interesting.


Elijah May

One of the things that a conversation like this affords us to do is just to carve out significant attention for that conversational optimization. That conversational SEO when you're talking to somebody else. Our society, human beings, communicated by stories for eons before we discovered writing. Simon Sinek says, “It's not psychology. It's biology.”


It is wired into us to take stories, catalog them, save them. Because there was a time when it was the only way to get the lifesaving information you needed to get. These tales that were passed down for generation after generation after generation. If you couldn’t remember that shit.


Robert Hansen

They were precaution. It was told in song and stories.


Elijah May

We're still wired for that. We talked about cortisol. In the office we get stressed out. Your brain doesn't know the difference between, there's a deadline looming that's stupid, and a lion might eat me. It just knows that shit’s fucking stressful. There's a reason why people break down over something that doesn't really necessarily warrant that reaction. We were running around throwing rocks and shit 100 years ago.


It's not that long ago. Now we have spaceships. We are wired for this. We have no fucking idea what we're doing. We're just like, “Is that a lion. No, it's not. It's my boss.” Focus on my point. I totally lost the point.


Robert Hansen

You wanted to talk about something? Let’s skip to that.


Elijah May

I have a very close friend. His name is Don Tracy. He's a very active member of the Republican Party here in the state of Texas. He was a council member at Cedar Park where I live. But he's on every single economic development board. He worked at ACC. He runs a continuing education. We have a lot of conversations. We talk about things.


He's working right now on education and prisons. About why people are so reluctant to give people who've been to prison. The idea is you go to prison, you pay your dues, you get out and you contribute. People are so reluctant to give people…


Robert Hansen

That is an idea.


Elijah May

It’s an idea. It's a great idea. So reluctant to give these people opportunities. They're going in and doing work that's now been praised all the way to the highest levels of the state. “Oh, my God. You've created this transformational education.” Now, I don't even want to get into how broken the systems are. Never mind that for right now.


The conversations that Don and I have around race and socioeconomic status. I think Don is certainly one of those people who would tell you that he was raised to be colorblind. He’s like, “I don’t care what race you are.” He's like, “I didn't even know you were black”. He's like, “Are you black?” I'm like, “Yeah.”


He's like, “Okay, I don't care.” Right. Great. There's a thing that happened when Donald I had conversations about things we do not agree on. I believe, and he believes that both of us are acting in good faith. This fundamental concept. This is what's lost in our political discourse. It’s this belief that the other party is acting in good faith.


We tend to find ourselves believing that the other person, it isn't just parties, the other is acting from some nefarious, dark, fucked up place. I'm acting in good faith. I'm just trying to make things better. You're being a dick. This is basically where we get to. Again, contempt. Per your recommendation, I was watching your episode with John.


Robert Hansen

John Robinson.


Elijah May

I was so tempted to text you and be like, “What the fuck are you talking about?” I was losing my mind. I’m like, I'm going to hold on to this. I'm going to hold on to this, right. There's a lot of stuff in there. I'm like, I'm going to lose my mind. I wanted to pick one very specific thing because I think it's really interesting.


I should have told Chris I want a computer. Maybe Chris can look it up. I think, I'm not positive. I may double-check today. I think that you guys said that Biden has had the lowest approval ratings in history for a US President.


Robert Hansen

I don't think I said that. Maybe John said that. That was a poll that had been done. I know what poll he was referring to. I'm not a 100% percent sure. Maybe I did mention it. It was something like 38% which is very low for this time of year. Usually at this point, presidents start ticking up going into the midterms because they're going out. It was surprisingly low.


Elijah May

That I can believe. That actually I can believe. But so my thought was, wait a minute that can’t be. What I thought I heard was, he had the lowest approval rating in the history of the US President. I'm like, there's no way that Biden's having lower approval ratings than Trump had at his nadir. Well, I wanted to know. I went and looked it up.


Based on Gallup, which I don't know if Gallup is the source of truth or not, but it's something we generally accept to be true. Gallup says that, no, Trump's lowest lows were lower than Biden's lowest lows. But I remember you talking about the idea behind the show being, what is real? How do we talk? What's the real shit? I'm like, this is one of those things where I know that you are not just educated, a gross understatement, when it comes to access to information particularly on the internet.


I'm like, does Robert have access to information I don't have access to? This is something that they said with great confidence. We all have conversations where you just like, especially when you have a guest you don't necessarily disagree with, I'm sure it's this stupid shit. You're like, okay, whatever.


Robert Hansen

I try to. Obviously, if someone's going to talk about aliens or something, I have a bit of a more difficult time placating them. I let them go. Which I shouldn't do actually. I should say, “What's your evidence for aliens exactly?” But, yeah, I do try to get in front of it when I see somebody doing something. It's just when you're talking about the SEO thing for instance. If I think you're saying something that's true but not the whole story, I'll try to bring that up.


Elijah May

I appreciate that profoundly. Which is why I want to have this conversation. I want it because something that I thought I heard, and I double checked. I'm like, I'm pretty sure they both said this. They were both very certain about it. This is based on everything I can find not true. I wanted to understand.


Robert Hansen

I’ll see if I can find that poll again. I do know a poll. I think he's the one who brought that up. I’m not 100% sure about that. I think it was, if memory serves, the lowest. But it was a very specific point in time. It was a very specific poll. Not Gallup. It was something else. I can't remember what it is off the top of my head.


But it was surprisingly low for this time of year when he should be going upwards, not going down. The reason for it. Actually, the important part of the conversation wasn't the number. Actually, I didn't think that was the important part. The important part of that conversation was, the reason why the pollsters believed that it was happening was the younger generation is most directly affected who are more likely to vote Democrat. That's why it was surprisingly low.


They are being disproportionately affected by inflation right now, rising healthcare costs, lower access to jobs because of COVID, etc. There's all kinds of conflating issues. Higher gas prices, et cetera, et cetera. They're disproportionately disaffected at the moment. That's surprising for this time of year. That's where that was coming from. Poll could have been wrong as well. I don't have a ton of faith in polls.


Elijah May

Okay. I have almost zero. I remember listening to an Arbitron executive talking. When you buy a radio as I did at one point. They talk about market share. Everybody makes up their own nomenclature. Five shares. Five percent of the market at any given time. I remember somebody asking this vice president at Arbitron. They said, “What's your margin of error?”


Robert Hansen

Scantron. Is that what you're talking about? The bubbles?


Elijah May

No. When you sell radio. It's like what Nielsen ratings are. That for radio. At a conference at Intertek in Austin at the convention center, somebody asked this executive. They said, “What's your margin of error?” He said, “Plus or minus three points.” Now, if I'm selling you that you should buy this because it has a five share. That's as high as it goes.


A 5% share is as high as it goes. You sit up and tell me that your margin of error is plus or minus three. What you're basically saying is worthless. Absolutely worthless. Which is exactly what I found buying radio. Absolutely worthless.


Robert Hansen

Part of the problem is a lot of these pollsters talk to people who are going to talk to them. If you call up and you're Fox News doing this interview. You don't like Fox News. You're going to hang up. If you're, “Hey, this is CBS News. Can we ask you some questions?” You don't like CBS News. Or just generally a lot of people are working. “I don't have time to talk to a pollster.”


You're going to miss out on a huge segment of the population. People who are picking their kids up from school. They’ve got things to do. You're going to get this very narrow group of people who are going to answer the phone at that time of day from a strange phone number, interact with a stranger on the phone that they know is a stranger and start answering questions. That's a very specific group of people.


I generally don't look at polls seriously. It's more if there's anything in the poll that might lead to, it's more interesting when the poll itself has changes. We've done this poll year after year. This year, it seems different than every other year. That's more interesting because these are the same weird people who have answer.


Elijah May

These weirdos right here have all changed their mind. No, I agree with you. I think that there's so many things that we take for granted that we take as truths. I started my career in PR, specifically in Hollywood. Manipulating language a lot. I realized that, and that's what I found. That I was just lying constantly.


Robert Hansen

How did you feel when you were doing that? How does lying feel?


Elijah May

I was so good at it. I thought hard about going and becoming a Hollywood agent. Do you remember that movie Phone Booth with Colin Farrell? Where someone basically drives in front of the boot to shoot you. He is negotiating this deal. He's got the producer on one side. He's got the talent to the side. He gets them both locked at the same time. You're supposed to be like, this guy's a despicable asshole. I'm like, I fucking love this guy. I want to be that guy. I thought hard.


I remember watching entourage. A lot of people love Ari’s character. But I was like, I could’ve fucking been that guy. I realized that's why I left. I didn't leave because I couldn't do it. I left because I could do it. I left because I'm like, I could totally be that fucking guy. I had the connections. I was good at opening doors.


Robert Hansen

But how did it make you feel to do that? You liked it? In hindsight?


Elijah May

I was proud of it. I was super good at it. I just didn't. You just had that moment where you're like, “Fuck, I don't want to be this person.”


Robert Hansen

Everybody goes through that catharsis eventually. I mean, it might take them a lot longer than other people. But you can't be that way forever without some serious introspection and lying to yourself.


Elijah May

When I was in high school, I lived in a cabin in the woods with no running water. Because it was such a difficult home life, I moved out at 16. I was living on my own. I got accepted to this university. Four years later, I'm the liaison between USC and Hollywood. What the fuck. That makes no sense.


Think about the hero's journey. You think about Star Wars. Luke Skywalker is this orphan on a planet. He finds out he's somebody special. It's like that for me. I'm like, I'm fucking somebody special. Look at me. Look at the shit I get to do. Somebody saw what a genius I am. Or how talented I am.


It played into all of the things that every one of us wants to believe about ourselves. It’s that I'm special. Just someone had to recognize it. I've had this conversation with my old boss about why the fuck she picked me out of the blue and offered me this job. I found out there were hundreds of applicants for that job.


Robert Hansen

But they didn't have the EQ. Maybe it was because you weren't part of Hollywood yet.


Elijah May

I was growing up on a farm. If you've stepped in between two bulls that are trying to fight, two directors are trying to fight, it’s nothing. In Hollywood everybody wants nothing to do with that power clash. But for me, I'm like, “Fuck you. Go stand over there.” Then you tell this guy what he wants to hear. You tell this guy what he wants to hear. But he's finally, “I'll go home.” Then everybody was going to sue. Now they're not going to sue. They're like, “Who did this?”


“That guy did it.” Right place, right time. A lack of reverence for the things you're supposed to revere in Hollywood. That's what it all boiled down to. That has carried over with me. I've learned now meeting rich and powerful CEOs. I mean, I’m probably going to tell them to go fuck themselves in the first five minutes if I have any reason to whatsoever.


Robert Hansen

Back to marketing.


Elijah May

That is marketing by the way.


Robert Hansen

I know. But back to internet marketing. You are good at experiences. We haven't really talked about that very much. You mentioned a while back a story about Sony and their experience. Would you would you regale us with that little story?


Elijah May

Sure. Which one was Sony?


Robert Hansen

They brought in some big machines downtown into South by Southwest or something. I’m misremembering the story? I’m misremembering the story.


Elijah May

Anything about the machine?


Robert Hansen

Well. It was parked on the sidewalk.


Elijah May

Oh yeah. No. That was Sony.


Robert Hansen

You’re making me feel like I'm over here. You're killing me. I can't help.


Elijah May

It's the slowest of the species theory. You know that one right? They say in the wild, a pack of animals thrives when the predators come and kill the weakest ones. What does alcohol do? Kills off brain cells. It's going to kill off the slow ones. You drink, you get smarter. Everyone knows this is basic science.


Yeah. I was working on Reddit Twitch with W Labs. Amber brought me in as creative director on the project. Now, I didn't get to do a lot of creative stuff because you got two big brands. They’ve got brand teams. They're going to make all the brand decisions. I'm a glorified coordinator. But we get told that Sony is delivering this experience. They're sending it in a box. We didn't find a place for it. That's fine. I got a three story building I’m working with. On the second, third floor, we got a big bar. It's called Rio. We're going to put this box from Sony. We’ll probably put it near the bar on the second floor. All right.


We're waiting and waiting. They're running late. It is 1 A.M when this box gets there. This box shows up on the back of a semi. It is 8000 pounds. They offload it. They're like, “Okay, bye.” I'm like, “Wait. What?” I can't, even if I wanted. It's not going in the building. We're seriously debating. Remember when I told you earlier. Are we going to blow out the wall and get a crane in here? No. There's no way. This thing's not going up any stairs even if we tried to kill people. Which we decided not to do. It's not going in that building, or on that building, around that building. If we put it on the top it's coming down.


We just found a spot. There's a sidewalk in this gravel, and then there's a road. We just found a spot. It's on the gravel. It's not blocking the sidewalks. Not blocking the road. Looks safe to me. We find the spot. We put this box there. Code compliance. They are very serious. They come. They are like, “That’s not on your plan.” That's true. That box is none of my plan. That's not the box I was expecting. I did not plan for this box.


They're like, “Well, what are you going to do?” I'm like, Well, I can't put it in the alley, because it's going to block the alley. I can't put in the sidewalk because it’s going to block the sidewalk. I can't put in the road because you surely can't. This is my best option. They're like, “Oh, no.”


I’m like, “What am I going to do?” They go call people. They call people. They call people. I hope the city of Austin probably doesn't watch your show. I hope not. The entire code compliance department for the city of Austin comes out. They stand around for a good 30 minutes. They talk. They point. They talk. They point. I'm doing that thing where I’m having to hang close enough so that if they need me, I'm involved but I’m not trying to be in their business. I'm just loitering right here. “No? No?”


Finally after all of this conversation and pointing and talking and talking and pointing, pointing, talking, they come over. They say, “I think it's going to have to stay where it is.” I’m like, “Oh, no.” Gloating is not an option. The only thing you can possibly express is, “Oh, thank god you solved it. I'm so glad you guys are here because I didn't know what to do.” That's exactly what I did. I went right back into Hollywood mode. “I had no idea. I was totally just sat here in the blurry breeze trying not to die. You saved my life. Thank you so much.”


They're like, “Oh, you're welcome. You're welcome. You're welcome. If you need anything else, just call us.” I’m like, “I promise I will. You guys are absolutely lifesavers.”


“It's totally fine. It's totally fine. It happens Southby. It’s Southby.” All of these. You're in trouble. All the stuff went out the window. “It's Southby. It's fine.” You don't call me on this because we're in official activation. I'm like, I'm so screwed. It is this giant black box. It’s in and of itself, just sitting there. It is an eye-catching thing.


What happened was they had just come out with a movie called Life. Ryan Reynolds is in this movie. It's about they discover life on Mars. They're experimenting on it in the ship as they're traveling back to Earth. Shit goes sideways. They're poking it with a thing. They basically wake it up. It grabs the scientist who's poking it. It grabs his hand and crushes his hands.


What happens is you go into the box. Close the door behind you. You put your hands into these two rubber gloves. You watch the scene in the movie where he's prodding it with a little tiny cattle prod. Then it grabs his hand. It starts to squeeze his hand and it crushes his hand in the trailer. Your brain is like, your hand is being crushed. It's actually really cleverly designed. They're using the backlight from the trailer to film your face. While the person's hand is being crushed in this short clip, they're filming your face freaking the fuck out.


Then you come out of there. You pull your hands out. You're checking your hand to make sure that you still have one. You go around to the side. You can enter your email address. You can email or tweet your clip to yourself. They're having the premiere of this movie at I think the Paramount, two days later. We have it for a couple of days. Then they're taking this box over to Paramount. Not my problem.


I just have to make sure that the box doesn't get destroyed for the next couple of days that it lives here next to the sidewalk. You've worked with events. You know what a brand ambassador is. You got people who show up. They put on a Sony t-shirt, then you ask them basic questions. Then they pretend to know what's going on. This is a standard operating procedure for events. You hire some locals who pretend to talk about your thing and pretend to be an expert.


Robert Hansen

Make sure they get the contact information. Scan your badge.


Elijah May

The beautiful thing about this is you go and you email to yourself. Because you're like, it's hilarious. Your reaction is funny as shit. Brilliantly, we got this guy who's pretty old for a brand ambassador. But he really is answering all the questions. This guy is so engaging. I'm like, now I’ve got to hire this guy. He's so good at talking about this thing and explaining why it works and how it works. Finally, I'm just like, “Hey, man you're really good at this. What do you do?”


He’s like, “This is my pet project.”


“Oh, that's cool. You work at Sony.”


He's like, “Oh, yeah. I do. I work at Sony.”


“What do you do? There's an experiential division. A marketing division.”


“I'm the Vice President.”


“You're the vice president of Sony. You just really wanted.”


“Yeah. It's just a pet project.” Somebody from AA came out and they're just checking on everything. They're like, “Hey, we just want to make sure Sony’s happy.” It became a running joke between me and Josh.


He’s like, “Sony’s happy.” He later got a big promotion.


Robert Hansen

What about bad marketing thing you've seen in Southby? Experiential stuff is great. Instagram. Bull moments are great. What are some bad ones?


Elijah May

I’ll tell a story without any names. All right, we'll keep it simple. There are several companies out there working on flying taxis. A flying taxi being a human-sized drone you get in it that takes you wherever you're trying to go. We're working on an activation. This is something that Uber and others are working on right now that they want to launch in the US. We have some folks specifically working on doing testing in Texas. Because we're like, fuck regulation. We’re doing this thing. Yes. It’s Texas. You still got to deal with the FAA. But you're going to get away with more shit in Texas than elsewhere.


We're talking to somebody. They have this thing. It's a prototype that might or might not come. I'm like, if I can put a single person in a flying taxi and fly them from the ground to the top of a building. If anything at all, I fucking went Southby. If I could just put somebody in a drone big enough to fly a person around. Then when I find out I can't do that. I have a prototype that might not work. The FAA won’t approve it above five feet. I’m like, “I'll take five feet.” They're not letting me have a drone. I'm not putting a person in it.


I'm like, what are all the ways I can fake it? I can fake the shit out of it. Well, can it look like a drone? I can make it go up and down? I can engineer the shit out of this thing. Why are you talking to APD? They’re like, “They've got a helicopter pilot.” I’m like, “This is cool, man. Let's figure it out.” I mean this is one of those where I'm just so excited to work on it that I've now dumped my own money. They haven't really technically hired us. But they were referred by Southby to us. I'm like, “Yeah, this is a good one. We're doing this.”


All this time, they're working with a third party, a PR firm. They like me. They don't like the PR firm. They called me and asked if they can just cut the PR firm and just work with me. I’m like, “No, I can't. I can't do that.” This is one of the things that, of all the possibilities, of all the things we've talked about doing at Southby, this is one of the most exciting. Even if I don't get the actual drone. Just the process of designing the experience and making it feel real for people.


Here's what I wanted to do when I can't get a real drone. Did I tell you about this with the TVs? There's a prank that they did. It was a YouTube hit where they put four TVs, I think they were LG, forgive me if it was a different brand, on the floor of an elevator. Then people get in the elevator. It starts to go up. The floor falls out from under them. It looks so real. They freak out. People try to climb the walls. They’re crying. It's a pretty fucked up prank. It's very, very convincing. You see people weeping when they realize they are not going to die. Dead puppy marketing.


There's a good version of this. I can get a drone. I can launch from any building. I can pick six buildings in Austin. I can have you have a tablet where you pick a destination. I can show you the POV of lifting off the top of the building, flying over to UTM, landing on top of a building. Showing you that it takes seconds to get from south of Congress to the heart of UT to the stadium. I can get the footage. This is easy. I'm going to use these TVs.


You're going to step into a booth and it's going to look like the floor of the roof. The floor will look like the roof of the building. Then it'll fly out from under you. We’ll blow a fan on you so it'll trick your brain. You hold onto the railings. You're like, “I'm fucking flying!” You're going to see the actual experience. This is what it would look like. This is what it would feel. Your brain won't know the difference. Totally doable. We’ve solved this. No one gets in a real drone. No one's going to die. It's going to be cool as shit. We'll do it on an actual building.


Robert Hansen

The APD helicopter pilot. It's super interesting.


Elijah May

We are fucking in. There's going to be a line of people waiting to get in this booth and take this experience. They come back to me. They said, “Hey, we have a different idea.” I went, “Hmm. I really like this idea. What you got?” They said, "Here's what we're thinking. We're going to get some people to dress up as skycaps." Skycaps? Yeah, like at the airport.


The people who take your bags when you pull up on the curb. I’m like, “Okay.” They said, they're going to hand out flyers that say, ‘Do you want to ride in a flying taxi?’ Okay. Unless you can add that on. That works.


Then the flier is going to tell you to go to our panel session where there's going to be people talking about what it will be like when we have flying cars. I said, “Are you fucking kidding me? Seriously?” They're like, “Yeah. You don’t think it'll work?” I'm like, “(a) No. (b) What are you talking about?” This is a big shot agency. It’s so disappointing. This is a big advertising creative agency. I used to be surprised to hear some of the stupid shit.


You're just going to bait and switch people and think that maybe they’ll be dumb enough to be, “Oh, maybe if I go to this ballroom at three o'clock on Tuesday, then I'll maybe get to fly in a flying taxi.” What the fuck are you talking about? That was it. I spent months of planning and then they decided to do that. I said, you're on your own. Good luck with that one. The lid is off. Then later at Southby they said, “Hey, what happened? Nobody ever showed up at the panel.” I’m like, get the fuck out.


Robert Hansen

I was at eBay. We were expanding into different regions. There's local versions of eBay all over the place. Marktplaats is the German version for instance. A co-branded version of eBay. They decided they were going into the Asian region, and they should have Asian sounding names. They started typing in Asian sounding names.


They landed on kijiji.com. They went ahead and built this huge thing out. Had this enormous marketing, press release. This huge launch with all these banners everywhere and ticker tape and the whole thing. It's translated as Underoos. Everyone in the region was like, the brand is Underoos, or little boys’ underwear. What? It's a very specific weird thing to call something.


Elijah May

Yeah. It is. This is their choice?


Robert Hansen

They landed on Kijiji. A similar thing I thought was very interesting.


A similar one was the Honda Fit. They rebranded it for the Swedish market, again without paying attention to it. It was the Honda Fita. Fita, they didn't bother to look that one up or ask any locals. They just did this massive marketing launch. The whole thing. It means a slang version of a lady's nether regions. Of course they found that out the hard way. Everyone's like, why did you name it this very offensive slang word?


What do you say when you see stuff like that? To me, whenever you're translating stuff into other languages, you’ve got to have somebody on the other side of that. You’ve got to have someone who's translating everything you're saying over into the native tongue.


Not the other way around. Because a lot of people, what they'll do is like, well, I have a nephew and he speaks Chinese. It’s like, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Is he in China? Or did he go to school for a couple of years, and he can read some Mandarin or something? Because that is not the same thing.


Elijah May

Again, I'm going to go back to what I said before because I cannot overemphasize it. Which is, the bar is so low. I've sat in rooms where we're going around the table. We're like, okay, you have an idea. You have an idea. You have an idea. Okay, we've got four ideas. I go, first of all these two people have literally no experience. Now, I'm down with the idea. Sometimes the person with the least amount of experience might have the best idea. Sometimes.


Robert Hansen

Sometimes yeah. Very rarely.


Elijah May

But if I can demonstrably point out that what they just said is the dumbest fucking thing I've ever heard in my life. You're like, okay, we got four ideas. No, no, we don't. We don't have four ideas.


Robert Hansen

This always drives me crazy. People are like, there's no such thing as a bad idea. Oh, my God. There are tons of them. Just go on social media. Spend 10 minutes on social media. You're going to see tons of bad ideas.


Elijah May

I get that it is a brainstorming tactic. There are no bad ideas. Okay. But the caveat to that is that's just a step. The next step is weed out the bad ideas. Anytime that you're going around the room. People are like, okay you have an idea. You have an idea. You have an idea. This is like, if you and I sat down with a client. You're like, I think that if you're concerned about your cybersecurity, you should do X, Y, and Z.


I want what I think. Here’s what I think. I think you should buy cybersecuritiser.com. Then what we're going to do is, we're going to make it super secure. Then make a commercial. I’m telling you I’ve had clients be like, “That’s a great idea.”


Robert Hansen

I'll tell you what actually happens. This brilliant marketing technique appears on my desk, about once a year I'd say. It's like, why don't we just hack into all of the potential clients and then show them how vulnerable they are?


Then they'll just definitely buy all of our stuff. I'm like, yeah, you just described how to go to jail very quickly. There is such a thing as a bad idea. You just describe it.


Elijah May

I talked to a guy who had an IT company. His plan was to drive around neighborhoods and find people's access points. Then walk up and be like, “I just hacked into your system, you should hire me.” I’m like, “No, you're going to get shot. This is Texas. You're getting shot for sure. You’re getting shot on principle. I'm not even sure you won’t deserve it. What the fuck are you talking about?”


He's like, “You don't think I should do it?” I’m like, no. What? Oh, my God.


The problem is when the person evaluating the idea has no useful, practical lens for evaluating ideas. They're like, “Oh, well, I like your idea. Your thing sounded cool.” That should never be the criteria for making a big business decision. It usually is the criteria. It is shockingly often the criteria.


Robert Hansen

Gillette had a campaign. It was, ‘The Best a Man Can Be’ approximately as opposed to ‘The Best a Man Can Get’ which was traditional marketing campaigns. It was voted one of the worst videos on YouTube. Which is not necessarily meaningful. It's just one of the stats. Got a lot of negative fanfare amongst the community. It actually was, I think, one of the genesis of the Get Woke Go Broke slogans that were used very heavily on the right.


But if you go and actually look at the stock price over that time period, you can't even tell where that happened. There is no change whatsoever. It's just Procter and Gamble just getting steady uptick just over that entire period. To me, that strikes me as being one of those campaigns that is an outrage campaign whether they intentionally did it or didn't intentionally do it.


I have certainly heard enough marketing people in the backroom talk. How these things actually go down. It's like, this would be great. We'll get all the men to be really, really, really pissed off. It doesn't matter because the women are the ones who buy this anyway. I realize you can't comment on that specific campaign per se. But is that a thing that happens regularly?


Elijah May

Can we talk about Chick-fil-A for a minute? Somebody comes out and says, “At Chick-fil-A we don't believe in gay marriage.” People are freaking out. We got protests. People are like, “Fuck Chick fil A. I’m never eating Chick-fil-A again.” They’re like, “I've got gay friends.” We're like, this is terrible. This is a horrible brand.


Then a vice president of Chick fil A, if I remember correctly, comes out and doubles down as well. “It's true. We don't support that.” People are like, extra, extra pissed. Extra like, “This is absolute bullshit.” Do you know what happened to their sales?


Robert Hansen

They skyrocketed.


Elijah May

Roy Spence, talked about briefly earlier, wrote a book. It came out around the same time as Simon Sinek ‘Start with Why’. It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For. I'll say this. Actually we'll probably spent more time on this because this is fun shit.


I don't have to agree with you to believe that you have the right to stand for whatever the fuck you want to stand for. This is what bothers me. I say without joking. At first, I think I said I was joking. Now I'm not. I'm a libertarian socialist. This is an actual thing. I believe you should have the freedom to do whatever you want. You don't have the freedom from the consequences. You make a bad decision, that's on your ass.


Bottom line, I think that how society ought to behave is we all look out for each other. We all take care of each other. Everybody has basic needs covered. Then beyond that, whatever you do or don't do with your life, good for you.


Robert Hansen

That is more or less how the United States is functioning currently.


Elijah May

Is it?


Robert Hansen

Close. I mean, the government is supposed to be out of the way as much as possible. Yes, we do have social safety nets to take care of people.


Elijah May

We have shitty social safety nets. The justice system is broke as fuck. Our education system is a joke.


Robert Hansen

I'm not saying that it's idyllic. I'm just saying that that seems to be close to what its current operating mode is.


Elijah May

That wasn't really the point. I would say that for me, I think everyone's basic needs should be covered because we can as a species. Not because it's a moral imperative. Because we fucking can. Right? Everyone should have food. Everyone should have shelter. Everyone should have access to education. Then what you do with it is what you do with it. That's it.


I just think everybody starts at the starting line. Fucking go. Some people are faster. Some people have more grit. Whatever the fuck, I don't care. That everyone should have a fucking chance. To me, that's the basic fundamental premise. For me, that's the American dream. Never mind that for one second.


Chick-fil-A says, “We don't support gay marriage.” Then a VP comes out. They're getting yelled at. Usually this is where brands capitulate, back off and be like, “Oh, it was just one person's opinion. Everybody settle down.” He's like, “Well, that's what we think.”


Then people who are on board with that went absolutely apeshit and started eating chicken nuggets like they were going out of style. “That's not what my family believes really. My wife and kids fucking love Chick-fil-A. I hated them before. I hate them.” I respect the fact. If you don't want to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, should you have to? The libertarian amigos, fucking no. If you don't want to make a cake for black people, should you have to? Libertarian me says no.


It’s your fucking cake. It's your fucking shop. Sell to whoever you want to. I understand that that's problematic. We know that there's something very powerful about a company being like, this is what we're fucking about. This is our thing. This is where we are at. This is what we believe. This is what we don't believe in.


They've done studies on values. They’re doing a lot of studies, trust me. There's a study. There's definitely studies out there, don't bother looking at the studies. They've done studies.


Robert Hansen

They have.


Elijah May

Yes, they did the studies. Turns out that when you look at the values, there's actually only a couple of things that are really important when it comes to establishing your company's values. Do you know what the most important values your company can have are?


Robert Hansen

Honesty? Integrity? I don't know. You tell me.


Elijah May

Two things. One, it's the ones that are real. If you say, honesty is a really interesting one, honestly is fascinating. I guarantee you don't go pick a school, pick any school, look up their values, one of the values is going to be honesty. Gunman kicks down the door and says, “Are you hiding these students in here?”


Robert Hansen

Negative. Of course not. When you're talking about? What kids? You're in the wrong place.


Elijah May

We all know the right answer is a fucking lie. You lie, your life literally depends on it. First of all, we never ever, ever rank our values. And that's critical. What's the most important thing? What do we believe? What is the most important thing?


Serve your school, protecting these children, job number one. Educate them, job number two. So, yes, honestly might be on that list but let's not get confused about where it falls on that list. This is really critical stuff that nobody fucking talks about and I don't understand it.


It's true of companies as well. So I went and I met with one of the most successful car dealerships, and they are like number one in their category in the entire world. And I said, “What are your values?” And we went down all the shit. Honesty.


Robert Hansen

Great. I can see what you think of honesty. You're a marketer, after all.


Elijah May

If I tell you right now that I value time with my children, how would I prove that to you?


Robert Hansen

Spending time with your children.


Elijah May

Versus what?


Robert Hansen

Doing this.


Elijah May

Or?


Robert Hansen

Other things I suppose.


Elijah May

Any other things.


Robert Hansen

Yes.


Elijah May

If I tell you that I value something, then the only way to make that true, is to be willing to give up something for that thing. That's what it means to value something. It's more important to me than other things.


So you just told me a car dealership, I was hired and paid a ton of money to come up with values, mission, vision, like what are we about? Who are we? You told me that honesty is one of your top things.


So I just want to be really, really clear, if you have a decision to make between honesty, and selling a car, which way are we going? And they're like, “Ooh.” So don't say it.


Robert Hansen

So how about the perception of honesty? That's a little bit different.


Elijah May

You know what nobody ever puts on that list of your values? Profit.


Robert Hansen

Making money.


Elijah May

Nobody ever puts it on the list. I'm like, “Listen, I have a new rule for values, if it's not more important to you than profit, and don't bother fucking writing it down.”


Robert Hansen

I would love to talk with you more about this at some point, we're going to run out of time if we do it, though. But my perception of profit has always been, that is the food of the company. It's actually weirdly part of the DNA of the company by virtue of the operating agreements, and whatever.


We can get into that some other time. But, people never say, what's your biggest value? Food. They don't say, air, which they should, if you don't have it, you're going to die. So I think those are sort of implied in a lot of conversations. I would say,


Elijah May

I agree with you. They're implied but never stated and I think they need to be stated. When you told me that you value something, what I mean is, do you value it more than these basics? Otherwise, don't bother because it’s not meaningful, it’s not useful.


We're not going to apply it so let's not bother writing in. So when it comes to values, the ones you keep, that’s it. There's no specific values, it's the ones you keep, that's what matters. If it's real to you, and it's real to your staff, then it means something.


The one that's the most problematic, there's only one poison pill, that’s integrity. Why? If you say you have integrity, and you don't, and everybody in your company knows that you're full of shit, nothing you ever say will matter again.


Writing integrity down on your list of values is one of the most dangerous things you can do as a company. Because if you say it, you better fucking have it.


Robert Hansen

I actually feel very similar about something called a warrant canary. Have you ever heard of this term?


Elijah May

No.


Robert Hansen

So basically, you'll have a sign in your house or in your business or whatever that will say the FBI has never asked me to divulge information about my employees or customers or whatever. You'll have this as a sign somewhere, some people put it on their website, whatever.


You're not allowed to remove it because that's illegal. But you are allowed to continue to put up the current version. So this one's good for a quarter and then you're allowed to not put one up the next time, I'm allowed to not take actions. But I'm not allowed to take action.


So I can say, well, there's no update warrant canary, normally there'll be a new one. So by virtue of it not being updated, you're like, something's happened, which sounds like a great idea. I've actually been in someone's bathroom where they had a warrant Canary up in the bathroom.


So you can actually tell that this is a thing in the security industry. So you have to pay attention to it. I was talking to a couple of business owners about it, and just kind of brainstorming whether it was even a good idea or not.


I think what we landed on was, it's absolutely a terrible idea. Because, first of all, you might get it wrong, and you just forget, and everyone freaks out. Secondly, let's say it happens, are you just going to shut your doors the second the FBI shows up and ask for something?


Because that's really what you're saying is your privacy of your customers is worth more than the entirety of all of your business and all of your employees, and all of their livelihoods. And so, even well intentioned CEOs who really want to do the right thing and do not want to give up the information on their customers or whatever, they can't justify something like that.


I think that's to the heart of what you're saying about integrity, you might have all the best intentions, but the second you actually document it, you're actually putting the entire company in jeopardy.


Elijah May

You’ve got to be careful about the flags that you plant.


Robert Hansen

It’s Google’s don’t be evil.


Elijah May

Yes.


Robert Hansen

So let's talk about getting hacked, because I think this is interesting from a marketing perspective. I'd love to get your take on it. So public relations, every single company who goes through getting hacked does this wrong. Every one of them and it just shocks me that this isn't common parlance. Here's how you deal with it.


So there's five steps. First, you have to say what happened, just say this is what happened. So many companies get this wrong, they start wrong, and you have to do it in the right order, by the way. Number two, you have to explain how you found out about it.


Number three, you have to say what you have done to make sure that it'll never happen again, like we made some controls. Number three, you have to make the customer whole in some way. And number four, you have to make sure that they understand that they are a valued customer, and you take this seriously and how bad this looks upon you, etc. Apologize.


That's the end. Most companies get one, maybe up to three of those things correct and then the rest, it's all just a cluster. So if you ever get compromised, just be aware of it. But the marketing part of this is very interesting. So first of all, companies can actually make a profit coming out of these things.


So when TJ Maxx got compromised, very badly by the way, it was one of the worst that's ever happened. They made more money, because people didn't stop shopping at TJ Maxx, they just stopped using their credit cards, all of a sudden the transaction fees went away.


Another example would be a lot of companies will offer you a year of identity protection or whatever. But then you're going to want to renew and when you want to renew, it's actually a referral program and the company makes more money. Or companies will say “Oops, we're so sorry about what happened. Here's discounts to our product.”


You're more likely to convert because “oh, we got hacked. Oh, and here's 50% off on this premium offering or whatever.” And suddenly, you're making more money, not less money. Have you seen any of this stuff? Are you privy to this?


Is this something you're communicating to your customers, like getting hacked? One other quick point, I have seen no more than a 10% deviation and stock price, but for no more than 10 days, and then it returns to the mean.


So it's not even like they take a hit by talking about it. It's like a 10 day blip and then they're back to where they were at max.


Elijah May

So it goes back to one of the first questions you asked me was how do you get a lot of attention without spending a lot of money? It’s doing something other people won't do. As it turns out, being honest is something most companies won't do.


It’s right there for the taking. It's a paradox and one of the best things that can happen to you is having the opportunity to prove that you're not a shitty company.


Robert Hansen

It's right there in front of you.


Elijah May

It’s right there, just take it. I think Gladwell wrote I think it was “Blink”. He talked about hospitals that make a mistake and operate on the wrong knee. If they come to you and go, “Oops, we screwed up big time. And we're really sorry and this is what we're doing to make it right.”


They don't get sued. Companies that are like, you brought the wrong leg. You wrote on the wrong leg. It's your fault. You should have told us the other leg is broken. You were in a coma at that time, not a problem you should have brought… companies that make excuses.


By the way, who does that? PR people and lawyers. PR people and lawyers, the worst, get them together and it becomes an absolute shit show because they are so hell bent on never admitting that they've done anything wrong.


I would get called into my boss's office. “Why did you also tell so and so that we made a mistake? They were supposed to be able to get in at five and we were not here till six.” Because that's what happened. “Why did you tell them that?” Because that's what happened.


Yes, but then they expect things from us. And like, yes, we should do those things. Every year, we made more money, every year, we blew our numbers out of the water. Grew that department from one person to seven people. And they're still asking me, why are you doing these things?


Trust. Trust is by far, the most significant currency in business. I testify as an expert witness in a branding case, actually speaking to something that you asked me earlier today. It was about a salon that had an identical name to a well-established salon here in Austin, one of the domains that had the same name as a salon downtown.


When people would call and say, “Oh, hey, I called your South store. And they were booked up to work with you guys?” Yeah, sure, no problem. They knew what they were doing. They knew absolutely what they're doing. And I went in and I testified and I'm like, are even an expert?


Turns out expert witnesses, there are no rules, hearsay, everything's a lot. I got to interview customers, I could say whatever I want. And so they come to the end, I said, “There's no question in my mind that this company was letting people believe that they are calling the same company.


And they've been playing on this well-established brand for a very long time in Austin, even though this company is two years old. And they were deliberately ignoring anybody who brought it up.” And then the lawyer says, “Well, what do you think about the logo?


These guys have capital B, they have a small case B, with a very similar font.” and I went, “I don't have any idea. I'm not a designer. I don't know anything about design. I can give you my opinion.” I told the terms, the judges said, “Do you want my opinion?” And she goes, “No, you're good.”


I guarantee you I knew in that moment that case was... she said, “I think I've heard enough.” And she absolutely threw the book at the company that I was testifying against. Because as soon as I said that I didn't know anything about that, if I had been like, “well, let me tell you about logos.”


I don't fucking know, I'm not a designer. What the judge wants to know is, am I just some asshole who got paid to come here and say what they're supposed to say. And the lawyer clearly expected me to say, “Well, yes, as a matter of fact,” I'm like, “I don't know.”


The judge went, “Okay, this person is telling the truth.” There’s something that happens when you admit to things that you're not supposed to admit to. People are like, “Oh, I can trust you.” It's actually remarkably simple. We want to do business with companies that we trust. Nobody wants to be a patsy or a sucker.


Robert Hansen

One more quick thing about that getting hacked thing I thought was interesting. So many companies are very hesitant, resident.


Elijah May

Reticence


Robert Hansen

There you go. That's the word I was after. To put up an explanation on their website, they don't want to put on the website. They're okay, ish with emails, especially because emails get dropped and you can actually make them get dropped, which is kind of a fun little clever trick, if you ever get hacked, and you really don't want anyone to know about it. Get yourself on all the spam lists.


But anyway, so you put this thing on your website and was like, oh, no, then it's going to be there forever. No, what's going to happen is you get this massive outreach campaign, everyone's going to link to it as much as possible.


Then after a year or so, flip the links, make it something interesting and you now have a bunch of backlinks to your website, Google up rank it for whatever and you're off to the races, you actually made a whole bunch of backlinks for free effectively.


So companies are a little insane about this whole thing, a little bit scared of it, but they probably shouldn't be. So you have thought about and I think you're actually serious about creating a new matchmaking brand and advertiser company. Can you talk a little bit about that?


Elijah May

Yes, so the sponsor fits. I've put on so many events over the years and we're always trying to go and find sponsors and then as I talk to CMOs, and I have this conversation with people who do sponsorships at the absolute highest level in this town, the people who've been the most successful at it.


What you find is, companies who want to sponsor things, again, remember I told you how low the bar is, quite often, they don't know what they're doing. They just want eyeballs. They just want that thing, that reach thing that we talked about earlier.


Where can I get more of that? I spoke to a company this past year SXSW who was willing to pay $100,000 to have their logo wrapped on the side of a building. It was a Metaverse company. I said, “Oh, so it'll be, you'll scan. It'll be interactive.” And they're like, “Oh, why would we do that?”


Robert Hansen

How much did they spend?


Elijah May

It was $100,000. Roughly, but if we didn't do it. I'm like, “Wait a minute.”


Robert Hansen

Not the Metaverse, not Mark Zuckerberg.


Elijah May

No, nobody would want to set it. I'm going to try to say this without sounding contemptuous, “You just want me to put your logo on this building around the corner no less? So you can't even see the whole logo unless you stand across the street, a catty corner?”


They're like, “Yes, that'd be cool, right?” “Yes, that'd be. That'd be super cool. That'd be so cool. Do you have any specific KPIs?” “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, literally. Whoa, we didn't think that we were going to get into all that. We just thought it was a logistics call.”


Yes, no reason to talk about KPI. Sorry, KPIs are those key performance indicators, no need to talk about key performance indicators. Let's just spend $100,000, put your logo on a wall, telling people that “Oh, we're not going to mention that that’s a metaverse.


We're just going to put the name of the company on the wall.” that's a good idea.


Robert Hansen

So many companies do not keep any sort of KPIs at all on anything they do. And it’s amazing to me that they stay in business.


Elijah May

Yes.


Robert Hansen

That’s just despite themselves, or they haven't run out of money.


Elijah May

Exactly. So if we're being honest, my goal is, I want to maximize opportunity for both sponsors and sponsorees. So you've got shows, you've got venues, you've got events, and they all are looking. I think that if the right sponsor came along for RSnake, I imagine you would be interested in having that conversation.


Robert Hansen

Absolutely.


Elijah May

Who’s a good fit? And that's what we call it sponsor fits, is we really want to find the right fit, specifically for whomever it is, so that the sponsor gets the maximum output, and the show or whomever gets the maximum output.


Robert Hansen

At one point you lamented to me that you found it almost sad how easy it was to do that task, to do that match making between two disparate organizations. Why is it so easy and why do so many people get it wrong? What is it about this process that to you is so trivial and other people get so wrong?


Elijah May

I don't understand, I talked about MBA marketing and luxury colleges, I talk to professors. I literally turned to professors and be like, “What are you teaching them?” And they're like, “Wow, we don't know. Just on tenure track here.” We are like “What's going on? This education? These are six figure educations. What are you teaching people?”


You get into the business world and you sit in a meeting, I remember thinking, one day I'm going to get to do business with a fortune five oh, my God, and then you sit in that meeting, and you're like, “Everybody here is an idiot.” Wow.


Robert Hansen

Wildly overpaid as well.


Elijah May

What is going on? This one might kill me. Just telling you I'm astounded at the things people say to me.


Robert Hansen

So you've started this thing called Future Maker Studios, co-founder of it. And largely, it seems like this is about trying to find a path forward in the world, through technology primarily, but I get the sense that there's more to it for you.


It’s not just a matter of making sure that this cool tech sees the light of day there's something else, a bigger thing you're trying to accomplish. So what is that thing?


Elijah May

That's a great question. Okay, so you're absolutely right. Future Maker Studios, checks a lot of boxes for me. I went to college originally thinking I was going to make a mechanical engineer. And the candidates were a lot smarter than me. And I thought maybe that's not what I'm meant to do.


But specifically, I was interested in robotics. My interest in robotics when I entered college was, they basically said, “Well, you don't have any relevant experience.” It's true. I've been living in the woods, I didn’t know a damn thing about robots. I thought they were cool.


They said, “We have a robotics program, but it's going to be years before you even get to touch any of that stuff. Don't even worry about it.” Now, when I was 18, like a lifetime.


Robert Hansen

Seems like a long time.


Elijah May

I'm not sure I’ll live that long. What are talking about?


Robert Hansen

The way you drink? No way.


Elijah May

I didn't drink until I was out of college, ironically. So I've been making up for lost time. I really wanted to go into the field of robotics specifically into prosthetics. I bounced around, changed my major few different times.


Ultimately, I landed in psychology, and then I got hired by the PR department, yada, yada. When somebody came along and said I got into the world of entrepreneurship after moving to Austin, I didn't really know the word entrepreneurship when I came here to Austin, but I fell into it.


I got heavily involved in it. I became arguably one of the leaders of the entrepreneur scene here in Austin. And when this opportunity came up, when I got approached about creating a space where that fosters innovation.


Where inventors and change makers and entrepreneurs can come and have access to the tools, to the people, to the resources that they need to go and create new things, that checked all the boxes. So I had already agreed to try to build a recreational robotic space here in Austin.


But the size of a stadium, something that would be a jewel in the crown of Texas. I got a lot of support, including from Gensler, the largest architecture firm in the US. And they agreed to design version one of that robotics arena.


So this was an idea, an opportunity to take that idea and marry it to an entrepreneur Innovation Center. So when we brainstormed the brand, what we came up with was Future Maker Studios. So it's all of the things for me, Robotics, entrepreneurship and production.


I always wanted to get back into production. I just didn't know how I was going to do it. I knew that I wasn't going to go back to LA. I knew that Texas in all the time that I've been here we've never had what we expected in terms of film production.


We had projects come and go, you got Linklater, you got Rodriguez. But we don’t have a studio like they build outside of Atlanta that draws production from elsewhere.


Robert Hansen

That is definitely changing.


Elijah May

That is definitely changing.


Robert Hansen

I think there's three very large studios coming online right now.


Elijah May

The biggest one in Texas is in St. Marcus, of all places. Obviously, John Scott one, you got quite a few things going on over in Bastrop, you got another one out and Dripping Springs, it's only a matter of time before I think Texas becomes a production epicenter.


As we know, there are people really working on getting the state behind that in a more meaningful way. That's been happening since the day I moved here in 2006. I think that some of the people who are newer to the conversation are going to be able to hopefully get more done.


But for me Future Maker Studios is I think that we all started looking for a Swan Song at a certain place in our career, where you feel like you've accomplished some things. You're like, okay, I know how to do this, and I know how to do that. But what do I really want to do? What do I really want to accomplish?


Robert Hansen

What do you really want?


Elijah May

I want to go build Future Maker Studios, I want to facilitate entrepreneurs on a level that is not currently being done, I want to facilitate Creative Media Production in a way that is not currently being done. I want to facilitate robotics in a way that is not currently being done.


All those three things don't seem immediately or obviously connected. I think that Future Maker Studios will be the connective tissue for those things. And so, if you look at SISU Cinema, they're taking big Cuca robotic arms, the same type of arms they're using to build Toyota Tundra trucks.


In San Antonio, they put a cinema camera, I think they put a RED camera and a couple of others on the arm just as a demo and all of a sudden people whoa, whoa, wait a minute, you can do stuff with the camera on one of these robotic arms that you can't do in any other way.


Stuff that saves production companies weeks in some cases, tremendous amounts of money and allows them to do things. Drones were a game changer, but cameras on robotic arms are also a game changer.


We've talked to SISU Cinema about linking with us. I hope I can say that, I already did.


Robert Hansen

It’s too late.


Elijah May

The timing is right. We're seeing an explosion of robotics companies in Texas.


Robert Hansen

So is this going to be an incubator? Are you taking a percentage of the companies that go through? How are you going to fund it? How are you going to get funders to back you, how's that all going to work? You have a plan for that?


Elijah May

The incubator piece is the piece that I'm the least involved in. So I'm partnered with Media Tech Ventures, they've been running an incubator called Media+Tech Collective, they've had incubator cohorts, and I think four countries outside the US. I'm a mentor.


So I jumped on, I'm talking to people in Korea, talking to people in Italy, talking to people in Brazil, I'm talking to people all over the world. I never know what language or time zone I'm going to be encountering. But the same stuff we're saying here.


But having a place, an epicenter, where these people can come and visit. so it's both for local entrepreneurs and for people who want to travel here from elsewhere in the world, because Austin, as we all know, is becoming internationally known as an innovation hub.


Robert Hansen

It sure is. You said you are interested in talking about capitalism.


Elijah May

Yes.


Robert Hansen

As a dot, dot, dot, I don't know what you actually wanted to talk about.


Elijah May

So here's what I wanted to talk about, in the context of culture, I had a conversation with a hedge fund manager who was furious, because he had read something about the percentage of people who said “If I have to go back to work, post pandemic, I'll quit.”


He's like, “This is absolute horseshit.” And I went, “This is absolute capitalism, this is a value proposition. They don't like the one you have. Then get another one. Tada, you don’t get to bitch about that. That's how you made your fortune.”


Robert Hansen

But you do get to bitch about it, that’s your right to bitch..


Elijah May

So this is something I don't understand. I've never ever understood and this is a hot topic right now, what's going on with the railroads? I've never understood the fight against unions. caveat. So my wife is a teacher in LA. You're you have no choice, you're forced to join the union.


That's horseshit. But the idea that people can't get together and go, “Hey, you know what, they're fucking me. And they're fucking you. But if we got together, it'd be a whole lot harder for them to do it.” How was that not capitalism 101?


Collective bargaining is just another form of us being like, “How about we work together?” fundamentally, here's what I feel like, I feel like people are so full of shit. We talk about what you stand for. I get so aggravated hearing people talk about like, “Oh, free market.”


Well, then, stop asking the government to force employees to do this or that on your behalf. If you're actually a free market capitalist, if you actually believe in the shit that you're saying, then suck it up, buttercup, and let's see what you got.


Robert Hansen

Yes. And the best ideas will always win, that's how it all works.


Elijah May

In theory.


Robert Hansen

Well the worst idea is the one that you have to come down by Fiat and use the government. If that's really such a great idea, why is the government jackbooted coming to your house, like pulling something from you or pushing something into your hand? That's probably not a great idea.


Elijah May

Which brings us to the whole pandemic, the pandemic response.


Robert Hansen

Okay, we're really changing topics now.


Elijah May

We're not though. Are we? More often than not the current context of capitalism is…


Robert Hansen

I'm not a virologist, just for the record.


Elijah May

I'm not talking about what we should or shouldn't have done, because I don't know what the truth is. And that's why I brought up the point I brought up earlier is because I'm like, I just want to know what the truth is?


Whether I'm right or wrong, or I grew up, I just want to know. I have no idea in this day and age with the preponderance of information out there. Who do you trust, right and it's obvious where some people get their news from, because some people are 100% sure of this,100% sure of that.


So we know where you're getting the news, where you're getting your news, nobody knows what the truth is, and like if they if there is somebody out there, I would really like to know. Is there some source of actual verifiable information?


Robert Hansen

At some point, I'm going to have a, I can't call him an historian because he doesn't want to be called an historian, but a friend who's very into history. This is a similar problem I have with history, I could read this lineage of books or whatever.


But they're all based on some premise. That premise is written by the victor, the victor is going to want to make themselves look a certain way. And they're going to inflate the numbers in many different ways to make their battles look more victorious, or make them look more brutish, or whatever.


Then later on, we find out that's all wrong. And that's not at all how it happened through some parallel technology or some other historian who figures out some other facts some way. And I'm always a little wary of going back in time.


To your point, even today, because you could have all the best intentions of trying to find out the truth and be falling for exactly the wrong person who has exactly the wrong ideas.


Elijah May

I am extraordinarily curious how we sort through that. How does a well-meaning person, someone acting in good faith find the right information? I don't know the answer to the question. I'm not sure that will solve it.


Robert Hansen

I'm definitely positive we won't solve it.


Elijah May

Are you sure and we got like five minutes, if you could…


Robert Hansen

I do think it starts with attribution, you have to know who you're talking to. So many times, you're talking to somebody online, and you're really not talking to somebody, you're talking to a picture that was pulled to make you feel something about somebody and these robots are all over the place.


You don't know if you're talking to a person or many people or a fraction of a person and 20 other bots are going to agree and you're like, oh, wow, I'm like, all these people really agreeing with this person. No it's the same person over and over again.


Sometimes you can actually detect it for real, like I had a one on a website once came after me and really wanted to say something bad about me and all these bots started appearing, and it's going like crazy. And it took a little work on the back end.


But I'm like, oh, these are all actually the same person over and over and over again, there's really only one person who's upset and figured out who they were. And I contacted them. Why are you so upset? And then he told me and then we got to be friends. And now I know all kinds of.


So once you decloak people and you really figure out what they're really about, you learn a lot more about what's really going on, the real motives. And they could still be acting in bad faith, but at least you'll know. So what do you do for a living?


Just like that guy with the back of the room about PPC? What do you do? Well, I actually do media buys. Okay,


Elijah May

Defend their livelihood, which is understandable.


Robert Hansen

Totally understandable.


Elijah May

Okay, so here's what brings me back to my point about capitalism, believe it or not. You're a mentalist?


Robert Hansen

Yes.


Elijah May

The illusion of choice. They've made a choice for you, but you believe you're making a choice. Now, there are entire organizations that are experts in manipulating human behavior. Absolute experts. I've worked on reality shows, the same reality shows produced The Apprentice, VaRules. Was it real world? No it’s a front.


But in the world of advertising, they're experts in manipulating human behavior. So you take those people, and you take all of their money, capitalism, right, capitalism. How do we maximize profits? We maximize our profits by controlling what people do. And there are people who are experts at doing it and people have no idea.


So it's easy. Bilborough watching earlier talking about, you look fat, you all knew that McDonald's is going to make you fat. You're going to get a cry about McDonald's making you fat. It's a funny joke. And it's a good point.


But it doesn't change the fact there are a great number of things that we think we have a choice in doing. And this is what my question, like, is unfettered capitalism our best option as I believe in freedom.


Robert Hansen

Fettered, in what sense? You mean zero rules at all? Government has no say whatsoever.


Elijah May

Like I said earlier, I believe in freedoms, I understand their limits, but I believe companies should be able to do what's in their best interest.


Robert Hansen

I think unfortunately, it sounds great. But it's a utopia just like any other utopia. I think, in practice. There's a bunch of stats on this, but effectively, there's a huge chunk of the population that is completely unemployable for health reasons or just mental incapability.


I just saw this video the other day, which is apparently quite old, but has a very inbred family and one of the guys is just barking like a dog and that's how he talks. I would not trust him to do literally anything.


Let alone like interface with people and try to negotiate deals or sell something or, No, this guy is completely not functional. He can eat, that's what he can do. I don't think the government provides zero value in that context.


They have to provide some sort of safety net, because those people are literally incapable of doing anything other than self-sustaining when they're given food. So I think that truly unfettered capitalism means that the government provides zero role at all in anything.


I think, unfortunately, the way the world works, we just have this whole bottom tier of society that for whatever some people just opt out, they just like, “See you, I'm out,” it’s too mentally stimulating. I just don't want to be part of this. Very creative people sometimes will just peace out, I just can't .They have opted out of it.


Elijah May

But that implies that even the middle class is fundamentally capable of just making great things; it's just a free market. I buy this. I don't buy that. I think that all of this is ignores, we know about psychology. This is what gets me every time I watch every talent show with any mentalist ever.


How many of those people work at the FBI? How many of those people work in advertising agencies, we can all see what they're capable of. And we all assume that everybody who has those skills is out there doing magic tricks, bullshit. There are lots of people who have the skills who are using them to control what we do.


Robert Hansen

We know that's true in the online world, because you can measure it with things like dark patterns, for instance. So there's I forget I'm going to space on the name, but it was like a free credit report, or something like that, where they had this gray banner at the top.


It said, basically you don't need to come to this website, you can get your free credit report directly from the government or whatever. It’s their disclaimer, but it was grayed out in such a way that the human eye literally can't see it, like your eye just skips over because that's not the content.


It's not what you're after, it's more like those headers at the top are designed to not be looked at initially. You scroll down first to look at the content. And then you may go back to the top to do drop downs or whatever.


But then there's a drop down. So your eye just can't see the thing, you have to really focus on it. I think it's been taken down now. But I'm sure you can find photos of it online. That was put there exactly in that way for a purpose.


There's a lot of banner ads or pop ups, it'll say, “Do you want to support us by doing blah, blah?” And then they'll have a “I do not want to support you.” But it's in a black font with no link, no underlying


Elijah May

Unsubscribes and emails, they're there.


Robert Hansen

Yes, it is designed to make it look like this thing isn't clickable, it's not interactable. You shouldn't ignore this text. Your eye has a very hard time seeing, I know it's there. I see this thing all the time pop up trying to ask for more, like turn off my AdBlock or whatever.


I'm like, where's the button again? Oh, it's on a button. It's a link, I have to kind of think through it. So you're absolutely right. This is definitely happening. I just don't know what the government would do about that. What are they going to say? You can't use patterns that people can't see very easily?


What does that mean? Are they going to get into the CSS business? I just don't know how they could do a better job. I'm not saying that it's a good thing. I'm not. I just don't know what law I would write to protect people from links that they can't tell are links.


Elijah May

To me, it's a fascinating question, like maybe if we had more time over drinks.


Robert Hansen

We’re getting pretty close to time here.


Elijah May

Just that the same way that I learned, I was super proud of my ability to manipulate, I was really proud of my ability to manipulate people in Hollywood. And it did well for me and it did well for the organization that I was working for. I know that there are people out there who haven't ever pumped the brakes on that.


They're proud of the fact that they design those things that we're talking about. They're so proud of it. They're like this thing performs brilliantly. No one has ever clicked on the link saying you don't need to be here. I just wondered and I told you, I watched your episode with John, I'm going to watch it on YouTube.


I was like, Oh, my God, you get into talking about things like government regulations and like free market capitalism. Because I know the thesis of the show is like, what's real? And it really made me want to dig into some of these questions like, okay, great.


So if you're just somebody who wants to know are your two insanely intelligent people, and people who watch the show are watching it because they know that you're going to bring smart people, myself excluded from that right?


Robert Hansen

Not at all.


Elijah May

Into this conversation and they want to learn from these people and it frustrates me not just your show, but in general this question of like, who the fuck to listen to and not listen to? Does truth live anywhere? Or do I just have to spend all my time on the internet digging and hoping that I find it somewhere?


We can't do that, our brains or filters, we cannot do that. We have to choose our channels, and we choose our channels, and then we fight with each other. And that is probably the single most frustrating thing to me about our culture and our society today.


Robert Hansen

Well, my goal in the show is to get how the world works in people's ear holes, if I can. That does not mean they're going to like the answer, it does not mean that it's going to come from one person or one source.


Elijah May

Hopefully not.


Robert Hansen

It won't unfortunately, if it was that easy, it would be over read, I would have given the one guest and there's the five things you need to know and you're off to the races. Unfortunately, the real underbelly of how everything works is so much more complicated than any one person has a grasp on.


That's why I'm talking with you, for instance. People think they understand marketing, they don't understand marketing, they don't understand the nuance of it, they don't understand how they're being treated or viewed by marketers. I think your sort of brutalist approach to thinking about people is actually important for people to hear.


It's like, oh, this is what the marketing community thinks about me. I am part of a funnel, I'm just falling into this funnel, I'm getting further and further to the bottom. And the more I behave the way I'm supposed to, the more likely I'm going to be spending money on something I don't necessarily want at all. But I thought I wanted at the time.


Elijah May

So you will all have marketing and two steps. Who's your market? Target Market? incredibly hard for people to make a decision? Who's your market? What are you going to do for them that's unique or better? That's it. All of marketing? Who is it? What are you going to do for them? Getting people to answer those questions hardest thing I've ever tried.


Robert Hansen

All right. So we're out of time. But I would like to know, how do people get in touch with you? You've given a lot of information, how do they reach out and find out more about you?


Elijah May

I'm super Googleable . If you spell my name, Elijah May. At some point, I realized there are other Elijah Mays in the worlds, and I get really mad about it. I'm going to wipe them all off the front page of Google and think I'm just about done.


There's another one here in Austin, I know he hates my guts. So if you Google Elijah May, you are going to find me. You can always email me Elijah@experiencefirm.com. I'm Elijah May on most social channels.


Robert Hansen

Great. Elijah, thank you so much for doing this especially on such short notice.


Elijah May

Thanks for having me.


Robert Hansen

Really, really good, thank you.


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