Episode 21 – A logo doesn’t equal a brand – Kyle Shields – Creative Director, MAVAN

Episode 21 – A logo doesn’t equal a brand – Kyle Shields – Creative Director, MAVAN


Kyle Shields is an award-winning art director, designer, and creative director who has found success in branding, advertising, and growth marketing. After spending a decade spearheading successful ad campaigns for brands like Wendy’s and MasterCard, Kyle now lends his innovative expertise as Creative Director at MAVAN.

Growth@Scale Podcast Episode 021 with Kyle Shields graphic

Matt and Kyle dive deep into the tenuous and nuanced relationship between creativity and growth. Kyle highlights how to define and leverage your brand audience to create an effective growth strategy, the importance of creative testing and brand consistency, and AI’s transformative impact on creatives.

Key Takeaways:

  • 🎨Your creative approach should be a balance of flashy advertising and effective audience alignment
  • 👥Perceived audience may differ from actual audiences, which is why creative testing is crucial for determining effective marketing strategies
  • 🔗Developing an early brand guide is instrumental for scalable businesses and brand consistency, which builds consumer trust and recognition 
  • 🚀 AI’s rapid advancement in creative fields presents both opportunities and challenges, urging creatives to continue to adapt and harness new tools for continued relevance

In this episode:

0:00:05 – (Matt Widdoes): Welcome to Growth@Scale. I’m your host, Matt Widdoes. This is a podcast for leaders who want to bring sustainable, predictable, scalable growth to their businesses. Every episode, I sit down with world-class growth experts across product marketing, finance, operations, you name it. The hope is that these conversations will give you real, actionable advice for building and sustaining company growth.

0:00:32 – (Matt Widdoes): Thanks for tuning into this week’s episode of Growth@Scale. I’m your host, Matt Widdoes. On this episode, we’re joined by award-winning creative director and MAVAN design guru, Kyle Shields. Kyle, welcome.

0:00:43 – (Kyle Shields): Thanks for having me.

0:00:43 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, we’re excited to dive in today. So for people who don’t know you, tell us, who are you? Where have you been? What do you do?

0:00:49 – (Kyle Shields): I’m Kyle Shields. I’m an art director and designer based out of Toronto, Canada, and currently working at MAVAN as the creative director, covering sort of the ‘design’ side of things.

0:00:59 – (Matt Widdoes): Great. And tell us about your background, like, how’d you get started, you know, kind of what things have you done before MAVAN?

0:01:06 – (Kyle Shields): It’s a bit of a long one. I think I’ve done a bit of everything as a designer. I think as any good young designer, I started doing album covers, working for apparel companies, small freelance jobs. So I think almost in late high school, I think I’d already started my own apparel company and really kind of found myself in that creative space. And, spoiler alert, it wasn’t a massive success. And I think at that point, I was kind of just trying to find where my next step was. I didn’t really see advertising or marketing as kind of like an end space for me. 

0:01:37 – (Kyle Shields): Really wanted to get more into the fashion and culture world in terms of creative, but found myself at Deloitte coming out of university, which was just a good opportunity, got some credits in the process.

0:01:49 – (Matt Widdoes): But couldn’t be more of the opposite end of culture. It’s like Enron, or Supreme.

0:01:58 – (Kyle Shields): Well, and that was part of it. I think it was part of testing that world out. And I think very quickly realized that that wasn’t the right space for know, not to say anything negative about it, but I wanted to start finding myself in a little bit more of a creative environment, obviously. And that’s what kind of led me into advertising. That’s what kind of led me into looking more at corporate design or sort of advertising.

0:02:22 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah. And I feel like sometimes the experience of being at a place like Deloitte or just being, not necessarily Deloitte, but you could be anything that is on the edge of stuff that you think you don’t want to do. It’s worth trying, because if nothing else, it tells you it’s kind of like, “I never want to go back to that.’ It’s like if you ever worked fast food or something like that, it can be a strong motivator to work harder or do other things because you’re like, “I know what that’s like.”

0:02:45 – (Matt Widdoes): And then sometimes you’re into something where you think it won’t be great and you go in and you’re like, “This is actually pretty cool. And I found, like, a little area here that I didn’t realize, you know, what I thought this was is not what it was.” That can be a valuable tool is to go into the areas that you think are not interesting and test it, basically. So how much time did you spend at Deloitte?

0:03:09 – (Kyle Shields): I was there for about just under two years.

0:03:11 – (Matt Widdoes): Oh, okay. So enough of a chunk to buy it off and really know what you’re looking at. And where did you move on from there?

0:03:17 – (Kyle Shields): Yeah, I think from there I started trying to look into small ad agencies, I think trying to find someone that was sort of willing to take a chance on, you know, I had a very strong design background. I didn’t go to advertising school, which you know, was maybe more of a traditional route to get into the agency. You know, I found myself at a small shop called Naked Creative based out of Toronto, working on things like AncestryDNA, The Globe and Mail, which is sort of a big Canadian publication.

0:03:45 – (Kyle Shields): And that was a good opportunity for me to get some chops. I kind of got to work with some great mentors at the time. That kind of helped push me to a place where a little bit more conceptual thinking, a little bit more bigger picture. And at that point, I moved to Bensimon Byrne. Yeah, they were the number one privately held agency in Canada. So it was a great opportunity to suddenly just get exposed to bigger clients, better creatives, and just a lot more opportunity.

0:04:12 – (Kyle Shields): And I think that’s kind of like, where, I fine tuned a lot of my skills. I was there for a handful of years, and then honestly, from there, actually, that’s where I met Aaron, who’s my writing partner. So we’ve been sort of together since then. Yeah, it was, I think, from there, that’s kind of like when my career took off in advertising and gave me an opportunity to work at big shops like McCann and INNOCEAN and you know, try out some of the smaller firms and kind of everything in between.

0:04:35 – (Matt Widdoes): Well, and you’ve worked on some pretty big brands, too. I mean, if I remember correctly, like Wendy’s, MasterCard. What other large kind of campaigns or brands have you worked on? And I think that gives you, by the way, the agency practice gives you this ability to work on lots of different things and draw from different things. And so you get to try on a lot of different stuff, and it forces you into a perspective where you’re like, all right, we’re selling dog food today, and then tomorrow it’s like we’re doing a Super Bowl ad for a car.

0:05:05 – (Matt Widdoes): What are some of those other big brands that you’ve worked on?

0:05:08 – (Kyle Shields): Yeah, I mean, you hit the nail on the head. I think that’s the exciting part, right. Is really getting your head inside of some of these different audiences. So, I mean, it’s a wide variety. And I think, again, that’s what’s so fun. A lot of people specialize in certain industry. You might work on Chevrolet, and then you’re going to kind of do automotive ads for the next 20 years. But, yeah, we had a good opportunity.

0:05:29 – (Kyle Shields): I’ve worked on Constellation brands, which is like Kim Crawford, and sort of a whole variety of wine brands. We worked on Svedka vodka, so a young kind of audience that was sort of a challenger brand to Absolut. You know, everything from care-giving charities to baby shoe companies to trying to think of some of the other great brands we’ve worked with. I mean, you named a few, you know Wendy’s, Chevrolet, MasterCard.

0:05:54 – (Matt Widdoes): Like, it’s not just static ads or, like, billboards or print, but you’ve done some high production video, like real live action stuff. You’ve also done some, I seem to recall some prank UI stuff. Walk us through some of the more wilder projects or just kind of interesting stuff that has kind of crossed your plate that you guys have delivered.

0:06:23 – (Kyle Shields): Yeah. And that’s the fun part. Right. I think every day is like a new challenge, right? You’re faced with a new product or a new consumer issue, and kind of like, solving that in an interesting way was really the goal in advertising. So I think we’ve done everything from design UI’s for smartphones. I think Wendy’s, you know, kind of like replacing Siri with Wendy’s and kind of like a whole opportunity to create this deep interface that was a lot of fun. We did, like, a contest on Twitter, and people were kind of like, I think we gave away 40 phones, and with that came a lot of sweet Easter eggs, but also, like, Wendy’s discounts. And again, that was to launch the Wendy’s app in Canada. So a little bit of a roundabout way to bring people into an experience where we likely could have just been running TV ads or something like that. So getting to build a phone, me and Aaron designed and built a tiny home that we could drag around to home shows around the country.

0:07:17 – (Kyle Shields): We worked with a 3D animation house in Sweden to kind of bring this cast of popcorn characters to life to advertise for the banks and Cineplex. And so that was kind of. It’s funny, of all the projects I’ve done in my life, that’s the one that a majority of people know. Because in Canada when you go to the movies, before every movie rolls, there’s a little 30 second popcorn spot that kind of advertises the trailers. And it’s funny for all the big, important, life, world-changing ideas we’ve done, it’s like this group of little popcorn guys, like, going to the movies has become sort of like one of our biggest projects, our sort of most well known project.

0:07:57 – (Kyle Shields): But yeah, it’s diverse and I think those challenges are what’s really exciting. It’s kind of starting with a blank slate. We have a lot of different skills, but understanding that the medium or kind of the execution isn’t our limitation. You can kind of start very much from a creative strategy perspective and just take it somewhere unexpected. I think that’s where a lot of the fun and the creative process comes from. And I think especially in advertising, we had a great opportunity.

0:08:26 – (Matt Widdoes): And so now, with a lot of the stuff that you’re doing really focused on growth and revenue, which advertising is as well. But it’s a little bit more disconnected. I’m curious, when you think about creativity and its relationship to growth, looking out, we see a lot of, there’s a lot of opportunity for pattern recognition on our side. But what are some of the misconceptions you’ve seen as it relates to how creative interplays with growth or its function within growth?

0:08:55 – (Kyle Shields): No, it’s an interesting question, and I think that’s what drew us into this space in the first place. Those differences and those nuances and trying to get a sense of what can I do for a client with $5,000? What can I do for a client with $3 million and kind of understanding there’s still an effective way to market and grow with those constraints. And the one that hurts the most to say is the one thing I’ve realized from a growth perspective is the sexier, more expensive ad doesn’t always win, for sure. And we could argue the merits of brand versus performance and which tactics work better, in which situation. But really the short answer is they need to work together.

0:09:35 – (Kyle Shields): And what we’ve experienced is sometimes that million dollar brand spot or a clever pop-up activation isn’t the thing that’s going to convert a user. It’s not going to help a company grow. It’s not necessarily going to help the bottom line. And so it’s just like starting to look at, I think that’s a big misconception. Right? People want to come in with the flashiest ads and things like that, but there’s lots of small tactical ways and kind of like through testing, through understanding audiences, through really, just through that learning process, that you can kind of really start to fine tune and make things that are effective and resonate really well, which is like sort of the opposite approach, I think, from advertising.

0:10:12 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah. I think it’s funny because so often you see, and it’s particularly true in my experience with younger creatives or product focused people, is that tendency to go with something that is going to look really great in their portfolio. Right. And there’s this desire, you can feel this, particularly at ad agencies where they’re all after the awards, and that’s an important part for their business, is thinking through, like, “Hey, we won best ad of the year.”

0:10:41 – (Matt Widdoes): And there’s this kind of fight for that creative side of it. And sometimes that’s what the brand wants, is like, they want to have some really fun ad. And its purpose isn’t necessarily directly tied to revenue, like an ad might be on Facebook. And so it is a balance. And sometimes, especially in growth, the creative side has to sometimes give way to the performance side, as just like, okay, this is actually what’s driving revenue, and this is what’s getting people down the funnel. And yes, it’s way more basic and it’s way more straightforward, but there’s not a lot of room for that creative interplay. And so it’s like finding the spots where the creative stuff can shine through. And I don’t think it’s an either or choice either.

0:11:18 – (Kyle Shields): Yeah, you said something interesting there, just about award shows. And I think if you look at, let’s say, 100 ads that won gold medals at the One Show or the Clios or something, a very small percent actually have a massive impact on performance. But then you start looking down that roster and then it’s like 80% to 90% of them were just really great ideas that didn’t end up affecting that bottom line. And so there is this small, sweet spot where that overlap is really effective. But so far, so often in advertising, it’s ads that are made for other advertisers. It’s not necessarily made for the bottom line or the business or the consumer.

0:11:59 – (Kyle Shields): Again, even I think traditional advertising has a lot to learn in terms of making sure that performance and growth and kind of effectiveness can kind of come into the work that they’re creating as well.

0:12:12 – (Matt Widdoes): What other things come to mind, as far as misconceptions?

0:12:15 – (Kyle Shields): I think a big one that we see a ton is more about your audience. I think a lot of people, small businesses especially, they invent this product. They’re super close to it. They have this very strong idea of who they think their audience is. And oftentimes, you’d be surprised at how that changes. How your product market fit kind of adapts and shifts over time. And so I think a big misconception is that your audience isn’t always who you think it is. And so as companies are looking to scale, you kind of need to be super confident in who you’re targeting and making sure that it’s actually going to be effective. I think there’s a really good story about Fireball whiskey, actually.

0:12:53 – (Kyle Shields): It was originally invented in Canada. It was, like, in a lineup of schnapps-flavored products. And the guys wanted it to be like a fireside, mature guy, ‘sipping whiskey’. They wanted it to be this kind of high end premium liqueur that you’d like, have after dessert and smoking a cigar.

0:13:13 – (Matt Widdoes): And I think a gentleman’s drink.

0:13:14 – (Kyle Shields): Yes, a gentleman’s drink.

0:13:15 – (Matt Widdoes): Fireball, yeah. They didn’t call it Fireball, though, right?

0:13:19 – (Kyle Shields): I think it had to be called something else. Yeah, it had, like, something. McGillicuddy’s Cinnamon.

0:13:26 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, McGillicuddy. Okay, that makes sense.

0:13:29 – (Kyle Shields): And so they had this product for reference. That product hasn’t changed to today. The issue was they went out and they were targeting my dad and his friends and trying to get. And myself trying to sell this fancy whiskey they had invented. And the issue was they couldn’t figure it out. They couldn’t nail the audience. They just couldn’t get it to move whatsoever. And eventually they sold it. They said they gave up. They were like, look, no one wants this drink.

0:13:57 – (Matt Widdoes): Nobody wants a fancy cinnamon whiskey.

0:13:59 – (Kyle Shields): No one wants a fancy cinnamon whiskey. So they sold the formula, and Sazerac bought it. You know, they market a bunch of other liquors in the. You know, they kind of did something really unexpected. So they looked at the problem…. And it wasn’t with the product, but it was with the audience. And so, again, this misconception that who their audience was became this massive opportunity. You know, they did something like, I think they started a grassroots movement where they literally just sent people to honky-tonks in Nashville, handed this stuff out to bartenders, they went to small dive bars, they went to college frat parties, and they just started getting people exposed to this.

0:14:38 – (Kyle Shields): They started doing advertising and really through learning who their audience would be, started strategically targeting young, party friendly college kids that became this new audience. From a product that couldn’t sell a case in 2005. By 2011, it had broken the Top Ten, and I think by 2015, it was the number one selling liqueur in the States. And I think that’s like a good success story of how taking a step back from your own product, people get so close to these things, they truly understand it in a way that no one else does.

0:15:14 – (Kyle Shields): And just trying to learn. I think part of growing is unlocking new opportunities. It’s unlocking things you didn’t expect. And so by being too rigid in the way you approach things or being too, or not being open to trying something completely different, you sometimes miss out on what could be an opportunity. Like Fireball, for instance.

0:15:33 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, I think too, even in a broader sense, that’s a great anecdote to kind of highlight that kind of inability sometimes to see past what you’ve convinced yourself that you have in front of you. And next time, by the way, I’m at a nice restaurant at the end, I’m going to have a coffee and ask if they have Fireball. I’ll just take some Fireball neat, sip it, and ruminate on the latest global events. But yeah, I think so often the example I think of is the telephone game you play as a kid, where you kind of whisper something to something and to somebody next to you, and that keeps getting whispered, and by the time it comes back, it’s totally different.

0:16:07 – (Matt Widdoes): And even when you’re actually. Obviously, there’s people in there playing. But even if you just said honestly, like everybody, if this word comes back, or if this sentence comes back perfect, we all get $10, right? So now there’s incentive to not be goofy in between. Still, things break down, like eyewitness testimony is almost inadmissible. It’s not really trustworthy. We’re just bad at receiving messages perfectly generally. And it’s no different in companies like really try to hammer. This is why they create brand values and things like that, and they create this really tight messaging, and they really want to live and occupy this one portion of somebody’s mind. A sipping whiskey or the best whiskey to have while you’re out partying and you want to take a shot, whatever that might be.

0:16:51 – (Matt Widdoes): And just so often companies skip that process of consumer insights and really listening to their customers and seeing if what they’re putting out is actually how they’re being interpreted. And the message is whatever was received. So whether that’s what you intended or not, but it is what it is. But it’s on us as the communicator and the purveyor of information to get that right. And it takes a lot of repetition, it takes a lot of consistency.

0:17:20 – (Matt Widdoes): It plays out in packaging. I think Apple’s a good example of this. It’s like, Apple’s pretty much done it. And your experience from the time you’re on you know, a store looking at something and you’re filling out the cart, it’s like, okay, that feels a certain way and it looks a certain way to the email you receive when you’ve confirmed the order to the shipping, to when you open the box, to when you go into the store to get something fixed.

0:17:43 – (Matt Widdoes): It’s all very consistent. And it takes kind of that level of commitment and consistency to really drive those things home. And then when you’re finding that the product feature that you just released that was going to make problem X go away for the client and they’re using it for something else, you’re like, okay, well, that’s a thing. And we didn’t anticipate that, but it’s like the most common use case. So let’s kind of follow that use of the customer and start building out something new there because we uncovered a problem that we didn’t realize they had and they’re using our tool in some creative way to solve for that.

0:18:15 – (Kyle Shields): Yeah, and I think it’s something that a lot of companies need to do better. But you see so many interesting stories like that where it’s a small feature, just like you said, that was kind of like a back pocket thing for a company or just kind of like an additional thing. And when you start seeing how people use your product, that’s your best info, right? You’re going to start really understanding why it works and why they love it and really what it’s capable of. Because you and the 20 people involved in building something can’t possibly pressure test it the same way it can be by millions of people who are constantly using it and recreating it and remixing how they apply it every day.

0:18:54 – (Matt Widdoes): Well, let’s talk about that. So you mentioned testing there, and that is super important at pretty much every part of the business is worthy of testing and particularly outbound marketing and product stuff. But what are some things in that kind of area that people either overlook or skip or just kind of not necessarily go about it the wrong way? But what are some common mistakes or misconceptions you see there on the creative testing side?

0:19:17 – (Kyle Shields): Yeah, I think a common mistake we see a lot is this brute force acquisition strategy. You know, thinking that if you spend enough money, if you have really good targeting, the algorithm is going to kind of figure it out for you. And I think you see that with big gaming companies, it’s sort of this big blanket approach. And gaming companies it works well for because they have a big sort of audience. I think there’s like a really big, diverse audience. But the idea that creative doesn’t really matter, that, you know, as long as you can hit people with enough ads that it’s actually going to be effective. And so oftentimes the creative testing piece gets a little bit lost when you’re doing in massive volume, something that I’ve seen a little bit.

0:20:00 – (Kyle Shields): I think what we see for creative is it has an opportunity to unlock unexpected things. Like we are talking about audiences that you didn’t know you had or functions that you weren’t expecting to kind of promote as the main thing. And so you kind of learn a lot about your product and kind of who your audience is by really getting into some specific creative testing because you have an opportunity to understand, does a new message change performance?

0:20:23 – (Kyle Shields): What happens when we showcase app UI? As you start getting into answering some of those questions, you can kind of make a much bigger impact on that massive spend you’re putting against it. And so I think a big misconception is that volume will beat creativity, whereas it’s really a combination of the two. I think you can learn a lot faster with big volume and paid media, but ensuring that you’re always kind of optimizing that creative from a messaging perspective, from a functional perspective, is going to really, I think, unlock huge benefits long term.

0:20:56 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, I think too, it’s like the creative where that plays within and across the funnel. So similar to the comment a moment ago about Apple is like the insights that we get from speaking with our customers and the motivations that they’re telling us is why they’re purchasing or why they love this thing or why they choose us over a different brand. That being translated into both our targeting and our visual and copy creative. That being extended to the landing page that people get to after they’ve clicked the ad, and the offer that they see, or the first experience that they have when engaging with the product. And the lifecycle, whether that’s a push message or an email, and what that creative looks like and what that’s hammering, all really needs to be super cohesive. I can also say, too, and I know this isn’t a surprise, it’s not exactly what you’re saying about the gaming companies, but the gaming companies spend a ton of time on creative testing. And they’re at scale actually because of that.

0:21:57 – (Matt Widdoes): As you go up in scale, the need for creative testing goes even higher. Because the refresh rates go way up. Because if you’ve ran an ad, at some point it fatigues. And you don’t really have that problem at low scale. Because if you’re spending $10,000 a day, it’s not going to fatigue super fast. And obviously a lot of people are way under $10k a day. But when you’re spending $12, $15 million a month, which is pretty common at scale, it’s not an insane budget.

0:22:25 – (Matt Widdoes): You have to constantly be on top of it. And you’re finding nuanced details between character-driven artwork versus gameplay-driven artwork. And then within the gameplay, it’s like, which stuff are we highlighting and to whom? Because people play for different reasons. Some people are playing to disconnect, some people are playing to have meaningful moments with friends. Some people, it’s all over the board and then hunting those down. Because within all of the demographic stuff, like 35-45 year old females, they’re not all doing it for the same reason.

0:22:58 – (Matt Widdoes): Everybody’s motivations are mixed together. And that carries over the same whether it’s a mobile game, or it’s a fast food app, or it’s a banking product on the web. People all have their own reasons for why they went out hunting that day, for a solution and what decision process they went through to choose yours or to not choose yours. So it all interplays. And I think that the consistency across messaging and the kind of look and feel of things from top of the funnel down is super important.

0:23:33 – (Matt Widdoes): And I don’t think that’s a bold claim, probably, but it’s worth calling out. I think oftentimes people, to your point, kind of brush over that. They skip that pretty critical step right at the end and can succeed in spite of that, but they’re leaving a lot on the table when they do.

0:23:47 – (Kyle Shields): Yeah. And I think that brings me to another thing, another thing that people get wrong. Or it’s sort of a misconception about an approach to creative testing. Again, good example. At scale, you have the ability to kind of really get in. And it is those nuanced differences that are kind of really hitting with different targets or different audiences. And so when it comes to actually setting up a test or structuring the creative that you’re testing, one thing that people often don’t kind of consider or could do a lot better at, is this idea of isolating creative variables.

0:24:22 – (Matt Widdoes): Right.

0:24:22 – (Kyle Shields): So you’re talking about player artwork versus in game artwork. I think in order to walk away and have these really strong learnings, you need to really be able to isolate what’s changing between an ad. And I think that’s something that in smaller companies, we see a ton. It’s because they’re going to go in, they’re doing testing. It’s not like they’re not running ads, they’re getting data. But the cleanliness of that data and sort of the ability to point you in a very specific direction isn’t there because they haven’t done a great job of isolating these variables. So running a test where the only thing that changes is the artwork that we use is going to give you a pretty clear indicator, and that can kind of then fuel future learnings. Right.

0:25:09 – (Kyle Shields): Like you said, you can take that and apply it to landing pages. You can take that and kind of apply it to just different touch points for users. So really important to make sure that running a test is great and learning from it is great, but just ensuring that the data that you’re going to get back is super clean and super usable so that you’re not making decisions based on something that is a little muddy or unsure, because I think a lot of people fall into that trap.

0:25:32 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah. And this can come down, too, especially at scale, when you’re running a ton of stuff. And not everybody has this sorted, but we even created a tool that could help us automate the naming convention. But you want to be able to capture in the creative itself the date that it was created for which product, with what theme, by which artist and on which channel and which size. So that over time, if you’re running a ton of stuff at scale, you’re able to parse out that says, wow, we can do a split on the artist to see if any of our artists are actually higher performing than others in-market, because maybe that’s a thing.

0:26:11 – (Matt Widdoes): We can do a split on a product to kind of separate the fact that this game is doing better than this game or this product is doing better than this. And so we want to kind of pull that out and time-of-year stuff. So if we went back, if it was seasonal, it was a Q4 piece. And it’s for some evergreen product that’s been around. Maybe it’s last year’s MacBook ad, right? But it’s like what was working last year and what can we glean from that? What wasn’t, more importantly, what wasn’t working and how can we use that to inform this next batch?

0:26:42 – (Matt Widdoes): And so if you don’t have any of that and you’re reliant on digging through hundreds of pieces of creative on a platform, so on Google or Facebook and trying to dig in and be like which one was doing better? And you’re having to trust that data and you don’t have any of the split on your side. You can’t look at cohorts internally, you can’t really look at anything if you don’t have that naming sorted and things aren’t properly tagged, because it all needs to be in the same order too, if you’re going to delineate on a marker in the naming. So all of that, I think the data piece is so important, which for any testing that probably is obvious, but it’s like what is the infrastructure that you can put in to ensure that the data is usable on the other side?

0:27:21 – (Matt Widdoes): Switching gears a little bit, I’m curious, like on the brand side of stuff, which is oftentimes harder to measure directly, and it can be this amorphous… You know, if you ask 10 people what is brand, you’re likely to get 10 different answers, but that everybody kind of agrees that it’s magic or not magic, but it’s something that’s kind of hard to pin down and ‘It’s a feeling’, you’re going to get lots of things like that.

0:27:47 – (Matt Widdoes): What do you see when a large company is kind of reinventing themselves and thinking about their brand and kind of making some fairly sizable changes on that side, or they have a new product, or maybe even just looking at a new company that’s establishing their brand for the first time. Maybe this is one of the common missteps, but they did a little bit early in some room, but it was just a bunch of people that had never done it. And then now they’re like, okay, we really got to start thinking about our brand here because we’re starting to feel the pain of not having a brand guide and not having some of these other things that let these extended teams operate.

0:28:19 – (Matt Widdoes): What are some things that you see there on the brand side when people are starting out or recreating that they skip or kind of overlook?

0:28:26 – (Kyle Shields): Yeah, I think you nailed a few things. With young companies, there’s a common misconception: brand equals a logo.

0:28:34 – (Matt Widdoes): For sure, yeah.

0:28:35 – (Kyle Shields): And don’t get me wrong, I love designing logos and it’s a very important one. Right? It’s like the main touchpoint. It can tell your story, it can kind of build authenticity, it can build trust, it can do all sorts of amazing things that, again, are hard to measure. But it is the other pieces that come with it that are so vital for companies. Because especially as you start to scale, you can start with a small team and you don’t have a ton of different people trying to express the brand in different ways. But as you start to scale, consistency is really one of the main things that helps build trust in users, right, I think we’re not smart as human people, frankly, we’re a little dumb. And when we go to purchase something, it’s like, what’s the thing in my head? That, what do I need? Who’s the guy that does that?

0:29:25 – (Kyle Shields): And if you’re that company that pops into someone’s head, you’re successful. And I think brand has a way of making companies like an authority in a space, or again, building that trust, that recall. But it’s not just done through a logo. I mean, it’s done through the brand itself. I think when I think about a brand, like you know, Wendy’s, it’s not successful because of the logo, it’s successful because of the expression. It’s successful because of how they speak on Twitter and how consistently they speak on.

0:29:52 – (Kyle Shields): So I think it’s like the idea of making sure to look at things holistically and making sure you’re creating this guide, whether it’s like a loose one-pager or it’s a 300 page brand book, making sure that the whole corporation is briefed properly up to date and that these rules are set so that as you scale, it’s easy to bring people into this brand. And I think it’s everything from tone, it’s from messaging, it’s the character, it’s how you chirp someone on Twitter.

0:30:21 – (Kyle Shields): It’s that design language. So there’s so many things that I think go into building a brand. And it’s hard. I think as a young company or as a startup, it’s so easy to undervalue that and undervalue the impact, but in turn, sort of the investment that’s worth putting into it.

0:30:40 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, it’s true in a lot of corners too, because people do this often in data. It’s like you do a little bit and then you’re like, okay, let’s move on because you’ve got a ton of stuff going on. And so this is one where sometimes people don’t do anything. They went to fiver to get a logo. That’s the logo. They have a template that they found on WordPress that they like and they’re like, okay, that goes there.

0:31:01 – (Matt Widdoes): ‘Pick a blue’ or ‘That blue looks good enough. Great, that’s good.’ And then it’s like, all right, website’s done. We have our brand, which is, again, to your point, the logo. And then now it’s like, make our emails look like that website template because that’s our brand, essentially. And there’s never been any thought that went into it. It’s easy to skip a lot of those steps early, especially if it’s a brand new company, right, that doesn’t have a brand person, is very rarely the first hire unless you’re a branding agency or something, I guess. But it’s very easy and often overlooked. And then as you scale, it’s one of those things that’s like this amorphous, seemingly difficult and large undertaking that probably in most people’s minds doesn’t have an immediate ROI. So when you’re looking at where do we spend that next incremental? $50k?

0:31:51 – (Matt Widdoes): $250k? It very rarely is like, let’s go deep in brand.

0:31:57 – (Kyle Shields): And it gets expensive. I think as you start to scale, it becomes more and more cumbersome and expensive to kind of implement that structure and implement those kind of rules because now you have 250 people to educate or you have multiple storefronts or different programs and apps that need to be updated. And so it becomes a bigger, scarier, more difficult thing to do down the line, but can sometimes like setting up that system up front early.

0:32:28 – (Kyle Shields): That app is going to get developed in the same kind of consistent tone as your website and so ensuring that you kind of can get that. And again, I’m not saying it has to be like a Pepsi’s brand book that’s like 600 pages long, but it is starting to, from an early point, understanding all of those things and just making sure that people can kind of stay consistent with things. Because what you’ll find is you run into roadblocks as you’re scaling, right? You’re like, oh, shit. We never thought of what this might be as a sound bite in a podcast. And I think there’s opportunities to kind of continue refining and evolving brands as you go. But laying that groundwork down first is often like a really good step to kind of ensure you’re not faced with this insurmountable problem sort of down the road.

0:33:14 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah. Makes total sense. And I think so much of it draws from your culture, which if you haven’t defined a culture or really thought to put, again, very similar to, you might think, you know, what your company culture is, but what do the people say? Because whatever the people say is your culture, whether you like it or not. You can be like, we’re fun and fast. And everyone’s like, this isn’t fun at all. And there’s nothing about this place that’s fast, right? It’s like, okay, well, are you fun and fast then just because it’s on a logo in the lobby, or not in a logo, but on a board and like a neon sign in the lobby, where does it actually live?

0:33:47 – (Matt Widdoes): And so anyways, all of those things, and I think that tone of voice, all these other things, as you expand, people are all going to be making it up as they go. And it’s hard enough, even when you have it clearly defined, it’s hard enough to get people to follow that right. And to really always, it’s a constant pointing back to the book kind of thing, even then. So if there is no book, there’s nothing there to defend. There’s nothing there that says, this is where we’re trying to live. If we go all the way back up to that kind of first principle of, like, all out of this is informed by what competitors are doing and what they’re not doing and where’s the space that we can play and live.

0:34:23 – (Matt Widdoes): So if you’re not doing that, then you’re missing a huge piece of the purpose of all that work and the value of all that.

0:34:30 – (Kyle Shields): Yeah, I was going to say, even if there is a book, it’s that people go back and reference it. And I think that consistency is such a key because so often we see companies that come in, ‘Here’s our brand book.’ I’m looking at the website and the ads that they’re showing us that don’t follow any sort of consistent pattern. And so I think sometimes companies are guilty of creating this brand DNA and then just like almost immediately abandoning it.

0:34:56 – (Matt Widdoes): They’re like, “We’re done.” Yeah, that’s for sure. True.

0:34:59 – (Kyle Shields): Yeah. And it’s sometimes the fault of a design team not being able to kind of think about all the use cases and build it so that you’re not going to run into these roadblocks and have to kind of abandon those rules early on.

0:35:11 – (Matt Widdoes): Well, it comes down to how it’s valued. If the leaders unilaterally don’t value it and kind of shrug it off, then it’s not going to be held to. And then it’s a self fulfilling prophecy that it doesn’t matter because you’ve never benefited from it. But you look at these companies like Red Bull or King, who I can tell you firsthand, take brand very seriously. And most people agree, like, yeah, they’ve got a great brand. I mean, there’s very few people that are going to say Red Bull doesn’t have a great brand. But so much goes into that, including things like, and this was true for many, many years. It’s slightly different now that they’ve gotten into soccer and F1 and some other things, but back in the day, they would never, ever have their logo on aT T-shirt, one, on a T-shirt next to another logo. So if they sponsor some local mountain bike race, full stop, they’d pay to reprint all your tees if you had done that without asking, that was so important, because they didn’t want it next to Bob’s Donuts or even Toyota for that matter, like a large brand. And then, speaking of shirts, the only people that could wear a Red Bull logo on a piece of clothing were sponsored Red Bull athletes or the sampling teams that you would see out, like driving Red Bull cars. That was it, you know, and when sampling teams would move on or get fired or whatever, they had to return all that clothing.

0:36:33 – (Matt Widdoes): And then whenever the new style clothing came out, they would shred all the other clothing. It was very important for that. And they took that super seriously that nobody ever got to wear the logo. And it’s like, it’s that type of craziness and tenacity that allows them to keep a distilled brand where people value that and they’re like, oh, man, that looks so cool. And they also value the style. They also value being really core to a lot of different things. So they’re never going to put it on some stiff shirt that is like a Citibank swag.

0:37:02 – (Matt Widdoes): It would never be swag either, right? But if they did do swag, it would be super nice and it would be super exclusive. But anyways, those are like some minor things, but yeah, if nobody’s taking it seriously and holding it dear, then it falls apart because it requires that kind of strength and defense to really hold. I’m curious, when you’re creating something from scratch, like a brand from the beginning, what are some of the core things that you look at? What are some of those exercises that you’d go through to try to parse that out.

0:37:31 – (Kyle Shields): Yeah, I mean, there’s definitely two places you have to start, and that’s looking at the competitive landscape. You got to see what’s out there. And I think that’s something that a lot of designers are guilty of kind of doing quickly or skipping over.

0:37:45 – (Matt Widdoes): Is that as much to draw inspiration as much as it is to know what everyone else isn’t doing and find gaps where you can live? What are the main goals of looking at the competitive landscape there?

0:37:57 – (Kyle Shields): Yeah, of course it can spark ideas. It can kind of help you understand different nuanced ways to communicate sort of what you’re doing. But for the most part, for me, I love using that to inform what not to do, and what to avoid. Hey, there’s way too much of this. One thing that I’m seeing, it would be a disservice to us to kind of explore that as a visual identity. But then, you hit it on the head.

0:38:23 – (Kyle Shields): It’s really hard to identify white space. What’s something that nobody is doing, I think, but it’s such a high impact exercise to take a sheet of logos and put it up on the wall and just start understanding. You look at the banking space and they’re all blue. You got 80% blue logos. Maybe touches of red in there… hospitals. It’s like a very specific shade of blue, I think you look at. I mean, we don’t need to get into environmental companies, but of course, you’re looking at greens.

0:38:53 – (Kyle Shields): There are a lot of color theory and a lot of basic color theory that has percolated into the logo design world. So I think very quickly, you can kind of see what you need to avoid to stand out in that space. Because if you come in and create a new logo that looks like 500 others, then it’s not that it doesn’t work or it can’t work. It often can. It’s just you have a lot more uphill battles to fight and kind of like to gain that kind of brand recall or to build that equity to kind of resonate with an audience because you’re suddenly competing in a field with 500 similar looking things.

0:39:29 – (Matt Widdoes): Well, especially, too, in the importance of how that bleeds over into not just your logo, but things like, if you have an app, like an app icon, it’s like, how do you stand out on the phone? How do you have a mark that’s consistent across multiple properties? And then how does that interplay in print or on billboards? Traditional print or on the web as well? There’s a lot of considerations there.

0:39:55 – (Kyle Shields): Yeah, we often start with competitors. I think it just kind of sets a baseline of what’s out there and sort of what you’re working against, what you’re trying to beat, and then research. I like to dive really far outside of the industry we’re working in or looking at from a brand perspective, it’s research both on, again, like inspiration, what’s out there, how other design systems are working. But then first and foremost, it’s a lot of research on the company.

0:40:25 – (Kyle Shields): Right. I think you’re, in theory, creating this identity that’s going to be the core of how this company kind of turns and faces to the world. So I think it’s a designer’s responsibility to really understand what the product is. Why is it created, who we’re selling it to? Why does that person need it? Do they really need it? And I think starting to dive into these nuanced things and you can go very deep in that section and I think it’s super vital because you’re going to just start really informing who you’re talking to and what you’re trying to communicate.

0:41:03 – (Kyle Shields): And then again, with some of that competitive stuff, a lot of the ways to avoid sort of communicating too similar to someone else.

0:41:10 – (Matt Widdoes): So I’d be remiss. We could probably spend a whole episode on this, but I would love to kind of touch lightly on AI and creative and what you’re starting to see in the space, it’s still very much emerging internally. It’s one of our most active channels on Slack. We talk a lot about new tools and processes and things that are out there, but creative is one of the areas kind of benefiting the most from that. I feel like what are some things that you’re seeing there at a high level? What are your thoughts on maybe the future of that?

0:41:44 – (Matt Widdoes): Don’t really have a structure for this, but just kind of curious, hot take on that.

0:41:48 – (Kyle Shields): Yeah, I think I’ll start by saying it’s moving fast. I think every time we see a new tool come out, it’s getting better and better at stealing my job, which is a good thing. What I’d say is that historically and for the last few years, we’ve seen a lot of big promises and some inconsistency in the delivery of those promises. You see some things that are really effective and some things that in very isolated, controlled environments are also very effective.

0:42:20 – (Kyle Shields): But all that to be said, we’re just seeing, it’s leaping forward so quickly that I have lots of opinions on where it’ll go and how fast it’ll get there and what it’ll be capable of doing. But the first thing to note is that we’re getting very close. Six months ago, I wasn’t convinced that it could compete with inversioning out ads, let’s say. we’ve been trying to look at it for little things like if I upload ten headlines and a couple images, can it generate me some ad variables or variations? And I think it is able to do that kind of stuff. And we’ve started toying with building the models that can kind of do product mockups and stuff like that. But six months ago we kind of came to the conclusion that it wasn’t quite there yet. And by the time we were picking it back up, looking at some of the new products, it’s like they’re already doing it, it’s already in practice. And so the number one thing is to be open about how fast things are. We’ve seen some really cool leaps forward with text to video, or even sort of like video to video. Like you can upload like a low res angle of a box and upload a photo of a car and it can kind of build you these 3D kind of environments.

0:43:30 – (Kyle Shields): There’s some really… Yeah. Honestly, it’ll be interesting to see where we’re at in about three months. I think we’re kind of, you know Adobe Firefly is the first time that AI was really designed for creatives to use. So I think historically in this last couple years we’ve seen a lot of AI products that were used mainly by developers and people who were versed in these model building spaces. They were able to kind of build these custom models and execute it. But recently we’ve seen products that are designed for your everyday sort of designer, art director, writer. And that’s where it’s starting to get really interesting.

0:44:10 – (Kyle Shields): The ability to productize something, make it accessible, make it effective, is kind of our first step. And I think Firefly, like through Adobe did a really great job of a few simple things that even today I’m already using almost daily in the work that we do. And it’ll be really interesting to kind of see what that looks like in 6 months. I know that there’s some video editing software that are starting to really challenge that industry in terms of, again, just giving someone who isn’t a traditional editor the ability to kind of go in there and create something really cool.

0:44:45 – (Kyle Shields): Social media is going to be driving that massively forward.

0:44:48 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, I think it frees up, to your point on and this is one of the first things I mentioned, I think it’s really behind. The reason we have an AI channel is that I want us to be the most informed, most comfortable with AI tools. Because if you do that from day one, then it can never really take your job because the more you’ve get, it’s the designers that aren’t using it now that it’ll take their job because you get to spend your day more and more on things that AI can’t do. Right.

0:45:19 – (Matt Widdoes): And we know that because you try it and it sucks. And then we try it again, it’s like, oh, that’s pretty good. It can take that now. And so over time, as that evolves, and this would be my recommendation to anybody… AI will never take your job if you are adopting it and using it quickly. It’ll take the people who didn’t. Because one day somebody’s like, AI can do your job. And you’re like, it can’t because I’ve been using it this whole time. And if you can become the master of those tools, yeah. Then it’s like, all right, yeah, I sit on top of 100 robots, and I’m the person that knows all the prompts. I’m the person that knows all the interplay and the automation, all these other things. So I’m excited about it. I feel like it’s similar to, we’ve talked about this before, I think on the podcast, but it’s similar to in 1998, you talk to a digital photographer and they’re like, well, I’m going to be out of a job pretty soon. It’s like, that’s not true. It’s like you aren’t in a dark room anymore. But the guy who has still never opened up Photoshop and is still in a dark room somewhere.

0:46:16 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, I mean, that guy’s toast. But for the person that dove in headfirst and is like, I’m going to learn. Or Ableton was another example of those. It’s like, it didn’t kill the need for a drummer. It just made it to where we could more quickly be like, okay, add that in. Cool, we got that. And then you can move on. So hopefully it allows for more creative expression and not less. It just accelerates.

0:46:36 – (Matt Widdoes): It actually makes what’s good. It raises the bar. It doesn’t lower the bar, it makes it to where, sure, I might be able to now take a really great picture with an iPhone camera and an app that is similar to Photoshop that maybe does it automatically. And it just gives me that nice boca that I might have wanted from some 50mm lens, or I can quickly reduce red eye, or I can do all these other things that you would have had to have done in a dark room long ago. But it’s like, that doesn’t mean that we’re not seeing better and better and better.

0:47:05 – (Matt Widdoes): It’s not like photography has stayed flat or has gone down and there are no more professional photographers.

0:47:10 – (Kyle Shields): And the creatives’ role will be huge in how we use AI and kind of how effective it becomes. Because I think at the end of the day, we still need someone to kind of review the work. We still need someone to hold its hand to kind of help guide them. Whether it’s from a prompt perspective, whether it’s from cleaning up an image that it creates, whether it’s some future use that I can’t think of off the top of my head. But I think it’s definitely not going to delete the need for creatives because I think you still need to have that eye, you still need to understand where you’re going, have that conceptual thinking process that’s going to lead you to something really interesting. And so I think what you’re going to see is it’s going to become a much more competitive field. So the people who, to your point, are already using it are going to succeed. I think the people that are already very good have these great eyes, have that experience.

0:47:58 – (Kyle Shields): They’re going to succeed with it as well. And this is a concern and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. But it’s those junior designers that don’t necessarily have the experience. They don’t necessarily have that background or even ability to guide and kind of, let’s say, work with an AI to kind of develop creative. It’s going to be a lot tougher. There’s going to be a higher, I think, barrier to kind of get to that experience level because a lot of that kind of easy and small level work can be handled. And I was having a conversation with a friend recently about AI, and we were talking about UX design specifically.

0:48:37 – (Kyle Shields): I think one of the comments was like, well, a robot can’t take on UX design that requires a human touch, that requires human interaction to truly understand UX. And that’s true. It’s not going to take every UX designer’s job, but it’s likely going to take 90% of them because there’s going to be one UX designer who’s now able to handle tenfold the amount of work because of this automation, because of this ease of creating more things.

0:49:08 – (Kyle Shields): To your point, adopting it early, testing its abilities, and honestly, just like keeping up to date on what’s out there. I think you see so many new products popping up every day and so we all just have to be ready because we have to be able to adjust and adopt new things as fast as they’re being created. And so that will be an interesting challenge for creatives.

0:49:30 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah. My hope is that, similar to photography, it gives you more time to focus on, for lack of a better term, being creative. So if you take that dark room example, a great photographer would spend half their time in a dark room. Photoshop made it to where what would take 15 hours in a dark room would take 15 minutes. And so what are you going to do with that time? You’re going to be in the field, are you going to be taking more shots? Are you going to be faster about it? Because you’re like, I can just fix that in post in 2 seconds. I’m not even worried about the exposure.

0:50:00 – (Matt Widdoes): I got what I need. I can change the ISO, I can actually change the underlying ISO of this film later or of this shot if you think about like a large format or something. But it does raise the bar in a way to where the outcomes are better, the end product, but it also makes it to where the barrier of entry is lower, right. So now I don’t need to have chemicals and access to a dark room. So it does make it to where, yeah, there’s probably going to be more photographers in the world or more creatives in the world, but even then it’s like the best of the best will still rise. And I think what defines the best of the best will always be you always come up to the medium that you’ve got and that if AI is at the forefront of that, it’s like, well, you better be. If you’re going to be a really great creative in the next 5 to 10 years, you need to absolutely dominate all the AI stuff because you’re going to be competing with that.

0:50:59 – (Kyle Shields): Well, I’ll just roughly tell you what it was thinking, just about how maybe AI is potentially going to change the style of content and how, as we get better at faking and reproducing high budget, high quality stuff. I have this hunch we’re going to kind of return back to this very organic, self-filmed anything that doesn’t feel like it was. Those million dollar commercials are going to start feeling less real or less exciting, because it feels like some computer just generated it.

0:51:35 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, I mean, I think there’s been. Somebody was saying that they’re predicting that we’re going to start seeing things that say, like, this was 100% created by humans, none of this leveraged AI. So that, for songwriting, for this like this entire song, all the lyrics, all of the music, everything, end-to-end was created by humans with no use of AI. And that then people will start being like, wow, that’s pretty impressive, because you’re going to have to start delineating because people are going to potentially get so numb. And you think about the opportunity for really at scale, because a lot of this stuff’s not that far out.

0:52:11 – (Matt Widdoes): What used to sound like sci-fi five years ago is now starting to sound more and more realistic. But the ability to go in and just say, I want a feel-good movie that is like a silly, you know holiday rom-com starring, you know, insert anybody, Humphrey Bogart and, you know, Arnold Schwarzenegger and go. And then it’s just like, boom. Loading. And it’s like Jingle Bell sound at the beginning and you’re like, I’m watching exactly what I just asked for. And so now it’s like hyper-personalized. And sure, early, those are probably not going to be that great. Obviously, it requires a lot of computing power and lots of things have to go right for that to happen. But in a world where that’s the case, it’s like, yeah, I write songs. click a button. I just wrote a song.

0:53:00 – (Matt Widdoes): It may not be better than the AI. What somebody. It’s like, but you’re already hearing these, like, I think it was Drake or somebody. It was like some fake Drake song that sounds like Drake, and it’s like, wow. And then you could just. Anyways, yeah. Where all that goes, who’s to say?

0:53:15 – (Kyle Shields): Yeah, I think, yeah, there is going to be, that big pushback, that pushback to just human-made content. And I think you look at that in any movement throughout history, right? There’s this inevitable kind of rebellion against it. And so whether that’s… We were just talking about it a little bit, but as content becomes more and more polished and as these things get better and better at kind of creating things, we are going to start tuning it out the same way we tune out banner ads and tune out kind of lo-fi, janky kind of Internet stuff, we’re now going to start seeing this super polished, super perfect, kind of AI generated work. And inevitably, I think we are going to again start pushing back, stop relating with it kind of again, it might become easier to ignore. And so again, I really foresee UGC, really authentic, kind of real people.

0:54:17 – (Kyle Shields): That’s going to be the future of effective content or even just in the short term, I think there’s going to be a big return to just things we can trust. Right? I think AI has made us question what’s real. And so the more real and the more authentic something feels, I think the more relatable, the more effective it can be, kind of in swaying people’s opinions.

0:54:36 – (Matt Widdoes): And I wonder, you see that go full loop where you see something where you’re like, yeah, this is the UGC stuff I’m talking about. And then it’s like all that was AI. And you’re like, what? Those people weren’t real?

0:54:45 – (Kyle Shields): Yeah.

0:54:46 – (Matt Widdoes): It’s like the AI found out that we wanted it to feel more human, like, and it totally owned us.

0:54:51 – (Kyle Shields): No, exactly.

0:54:54 – (Matt Widdoes): Well, and I think the implications it has for, I mean, lots of stuff. It’s like now if you start to think about, again, taking that Photoshop/dark room analogy, it’s like, where does that time get spent? Photoshop, it was, okay, you’re no longer in the dark room. And then it’s like in, let’s say, music, you’re no longer bound by writing. So now what? Way more time goes to performing, right? Because you have something crank like 100 lyrics and you’re like, I like that one as is. Let’s go. And, hey, give me a backbeat for this.

0:55:26 – (Matt Widdoes): I like all this. This sounds great. I love this. Thanks. That song’s done. That’s going to be a hit. And it’s like, okay, well, now, way more attention goes to the performer, right? Because there’s less value in the writing because everyone’s like, yeah, I mean, all that was written by an AI. And that’s just how music gets written now. And occasionally it doesn’t, but I’m indifferent. Like, oh, cool.

0:55:47 – (Matt Widdoes): They said they didn’t use an AI. They probably did. Maybe they’re lying, I don’t know. But you start to like, again, back in the Photoshop thing, you stop. What used to be really impressive is now less impressive because you’re like, yeah, it’s Photoshop. They moved ahead. That’s got a guy’s head on a dog’s body. Yeah, that’s Photoshop. That’s what it is. Whereas if you had done that, if you had shown a guy’s head on a dog’s body in 1960, people would be like, wow, how did you do that? What is this?

0:56:16 – (Matt Widdoes): And they used to do things like that, right? Like, they could do that in a dark room. But that was magic. That was like insanity. It was like, what am I looking at? And, like, doctored photos and stuff from the CIA or, like, whatever. There would be, like, doctored things. And that was like, you would just believe it because you’re like, that’s a photograph that’s as good as real. And you didn’t realize that in a dark room you can manipulate that.

0:56:40 – (Matt Widdoes): Well, now it’s like, well, yeah, that was probably just photoshopped. It’s basically just Photoshop. Could be just like a household term now, right? It’s like a verb, right. And so where does that go? I’m not sure, but I would think that for the creators, it’s like, okay, cool. Like, the example I use today is I can tell an AI as a non creative, like, make up 100 logos, let’s just say, for this thing, okay. And then I’m like, all right, don’t like it, don’t like it, don’t like that. And I could sit down with you and say, I don’t like these.

0:57:08 – (Matt Widdoes): These feel hokey and cheesy. This one I really like. But I also kind of like this one. And you and I can have a much faster conversation around what I’m actually trying to get across, because I’m not a creative, and you are. And so you could then look at that and be like, okay, I’ve got some ideas, and come back and be more like this. And then I’m like, yes, that’s exactly what I want. But we just skipped, like, 50 hours of revisions because I just showed you on a sheet of 100 logos that were created in 30 seconds, and some of those inspired you to come up with something new.

0:57:38 – (Matt Widdoes): And maybe then we take what you did that I really, like, put that into a model, and then we’re like, ooh, I kind of actually like this one a little bit more. And obviously it’s rough around the edges, but you’re like, man, that gives me a new idea. We just saved, like, weeks and weeks and weeks, and then it’s like, cool, that’s done. And so, yeah, I think it’s going to be interesting to hear that you’re feeling like it’s accelerating and moving very quickly, because I don’t really know. I don’t have enough of a pulse on that because I’m not using it as much. We’ve seen some stuff in ChatGPT and some other things where I’m like, okay, that’s pretty good. I can still spot it, like when somebody’s using it. And so the next versions will have to do a better job at kind of masking.

0:58:18 – (Matt Widdoes): There’s probably a whole tool already out to kind of mask the fact that it was ChatGPT and not require somebody to kind of rewrite. But it’s still pretty impressive what it can do. And so, yeah, I think we have so much in the AI channel, it probably would be cool to try to pull out a bunch of things from that and have a conversation about some of those tools and what they do and just do. Maybe even a blog article or something on just the latest that we’ve seen, because there’s some cool stuff there.

0:58:45 – (Kyle Shields): And there’s one other thing, like, you talk a little bit, we talk a little bit about faster, but I think it’s also going to force us to be better. I think I’ll use some of your analogies. It’s like if it writes the song and the music for you, we’re going to be forced to kind of really think about the performance, how our voice works. It’s going to push the limits of how we sing or how we… It’s going to have to make us do something that again, pushes the boundaries of what we’re adding into that. And so I think that’s one example.

0:59:17 – (Kyle Shields): You talked a lot about Photoshop and photography. I think another one to consider is the camera phone. I think, how did that change photography? Because a lot of people very similarly were like, oh, well, at first we all had our flip phones. Images were garbage. But as the cameras got better, there was a lot of people thinking that it might kill photography. It’s going to over democratize it. Everyone’s a photographer, and therefore the skill of photography might, could be impacted. Ironically, I think it went the other way. I think it actually made better photographers. It gave people an ability to try things out really fast.

0:59:58 – (Kyle Shields): It gave people, I mean, there’s professional photographers shooting on iPhones, but it’s that perspective, it’s that approach, it’s the way they use the tool. It’s like the film they put in front of the lens. And I think what it’s going to do is, we’re inevitably problem solvers, right? So I think humans and people, we’re always going to find a way to kind of add our own twist or element or kind of like creativity as a layer on top of a lot of this AI stuff. And so I think that will also be interesting is where does it force us to push? I mean, if we can write a movie, or if Netflix can write me a movie that I want to see tonight, what human elements from styling, or is it like, I’m going to want to choose a costume designer as an inspiration. Again, it starts introducing new ways that we haven’t even really thought about in terms of how we can kind of start augmenting that even further. And so it’ll change our role a little bit, but not necessarily make it worse or better or faster isn’t the only answer.

1:01:04 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah. And it doesn’t get rid of it. There’s still the eye for it. So going back to that, okay, an AI just cranked 100 songs. Well, we’re not going to release a 100 song album. And if it can create 100 songs right now, if it can create 100 songs a second, now we’re having to parse through them to actually determine which one’s best out of that because we’re going to put our name on it. Right. So again, it’s like that eye, that perspective, that taste, some of those things that are not even necessarily inherently human, but they are. I mean, the AI has no taste or eye without input from what we say is good. Right? And so it doesn’t innately have that perspective like an artist would, where you could still put an iPhone in their hand and they’re like, oh, you’re like, oh, that’s an interesting shot.

1:01:47 – (Matt Widdoes): I walked past that same scene or cliff or whatever, and when I looked at that, I did not see the image that you just took. And something about that caught your eye, and then you framed it in a way that actually changed the perspective or changed the context of that. And actually, that is a really cool picture now that I see it. But it was just a puddle I stepped over 2 seconds ago. And that’s the stuff that’s kind of irreplaceable. And that you’ll find, I think we’ll find, elevates the function and does democratize it, but for the greater good, generally, that the outcomes that we see and experience are better. But yes, there are going to be less people probably pursuing basic graphic design and whatever, but again, the role will change. And so the people with the better eye are going to get better jobs because they’re going to be the ones inputting it in and being like, that’s not good enough. Let me give a different prompt. That’s not good enough. I don’t like that. I don’t like that. And then you’re like, I love this.

1:02:40 – (Matt Widdoes): And you take it out and somebody says ‘That’s amazing. That’s exactly what we want.’ It’s like, thank you very much. I can’t do that, right? With or without AI, because I still won’t have that same kind of taste and sensibility that an artist will.

1:02:48 – (Kyle Shields): And changing the function. I think, as a creative is more how I describe it. I think you look at how Google changed what we consider intelligence, right? I think my grandfather had to memorize everything, and if he could pull a fact out of his head.

1:03:06 – (Matt Widdoes): Or just not know something.

1:03:07 – (Kyle Shields): Right, if he could just pull a cool fact out of his know, everyone around would say, wow, that guy’s so clever. He’s so smart. I grew up in a time when I didn’t have to do that. I wasn’t forced through the function of being able to access information, my ability. And they talk a lot about this with millennials. It’s like our intelligence isn’t necessarily measured by how many things we can memorize, but often it’s how quickly can we access that information.

1:03:35 – (Kyle Shields): And so it’s knowing where to look, how to sift through multiple sources, how to check a Reddit thread against a Wall Street Journal article, and how to make your own rational decision. And so the way intelligence has kind of presented itself, and a lot of, and don’t get me started on the younger generations are even more so, kind of morphing what intelligence looks like. I think the AI will inevitably do the same thing with creativity.

1:04:00 – (Kyle Shields): What we consider creative and how that gets applied and how that exists is destined to change. And so it’s going to look very different eventually.

1:04:10 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah. And I think at the highest scale, the fundamentals need to be known, because you look at, you know, I take another analogy of, I remember very distinctly in various math years of school and in math teachers being like, you know, you’re not gonna always have a calculator around. And it’s like, I’m gonna have a video camera in my pocket. Like, you cannot believe… You have no idea what’s going to be around.

1:04:30 – (Matt Widdoes): And you can turn your iPhone and do massive… You have essentially a scientific calculator currently in your pocket. You can do crazy, complex things with it. But if you don’t understand the basics of math, it doesn’t matter whether you have a calculator in your pocket or not. Exactly. Now, that might be less so, because you can just say, hey, can you use geometry or trigonometry to plot this thing that I’m trying to understand in physics? And an AI will be like, boop, there you go. And it’s like, can you explain the fundamentals of these theories and remind me again what a tangent is? Okay, thank you. And explain to a five year old, okay, explain a little bit deeper.

1:05:08 – (Matt Widdoes): How does that play here, so to that same point on if AI, things like ChatGPT, get past these kind of initial flaws where it’s just lying and making up stuff. But if you could really trust it, and it was like, no, that’s accurate information. It really changes how you learn and really elevates because you can just very quickly be… you know, I was talking to a friend of mine who works very high up in the government in firewalls and stuff, and was explaining to him kind of early days at ChatGPT, and I said, well, here, ask me an interview question that you would ask me if you were hiring somebody to replace yourself in this really high intelligence role and high security role.

1:05:53 – (Matt Widdoes): And I don’t even remember the question. I think it was basically, explain what ‘zero trust’ means. And zero trust is a framework, really, and I only know this because of ChatGPT. But it’s a framework essentially like scrum or anything else, which is talking about it’s really kind of like a mindset. It’s not a thing. And he was saying that most people in the space talk about, this is the only zero trust product that does this, this, this, this, this.

1:06:19 – (Matt Widdoes): But they’re misusing the term because it’s actually more of a mindset than anything. It’s not a product that you can buy. It is an ethos. And I typed in the question, I said, well, that’s a really great question. And I’m, like, reading the response casually back to him. And he was in awe. He’s like, that’s incredible. He’s like, you just explained it better than 95% of people at the Pentagon. Like, what is this?

1:06:42 – (Matt Widdoes): That is insane, right? And it’s like, could you just read that to people I work with? Because they all need to hear that, right? And it’s like, no, that’s the thing. This is just doing that now, right? So go back to that analogy. You go back to your grandfather’s time. There’s no way you’d answer that. Whatever information you’re looking for had to be in the encyclopedia. That was it. Or you had to go find, if you wanted to know, like, Tom Petty’s birthday, you had to ask some guy on the street that was wearing a Tom Petty t-shirt that just like, do you happen to know his birthday? I’ve been trying to figure that out. Or you had to meet Tom Petty.

1:07:14 – (Matt Widdoes): Or again, if it wasn’t in encyclopedia, which that probably wouldn’t be. It’s like, okay, is there a book. Basically, you used to go to librarians. They were like the old Google. You’d go there and they’d be like, oh, we might have a Tom Petty book here. Let’s look in this reference. And like, oh, yeah, we do have a book here. And it’s about various rock stars, and it talks about their life. And now it’s just like, ChatGPT, what’s Tom Petty’s favorite food? And has everything on hand. So anyways, it’s an interesting time, and I think the interplay between AI and business will be very interesting. I think the interplay between AI and the human experience, whether that is through learning or as an assistant to you to say, ‘Hey, help me get a restaurant,’ or ‘Help me plan a date ‘or ‘Help me do any number of things.’ And that date sounds good. Book all the travel, and here’s my credit card. And it’s going to be very interesting. And we’re just at the infancy. And I think anybody who’s kind of laughing at it or mocking it has just missed a bunch of lessons in history that this won’t be going away. And even if this initial batch is weak for the next 5 years, the cat’s out of the bag.

1:08:19 – (Matt Widdoes): The idea that this can happen and the ways in which humans are creating and thinking through, ‘Oh, how could we leverage that into this other thing?’ Right? So that’s that human element. And it’ll be interesting to see when that starts to blur. And I think it’ll be in our lifetimes for sure. We’ll see a lot of that change in the coming 20-30 years.

1:08:39 – (Kyle Shields): Yeah, without a doubt, I think.

1:08:42 – (Matt Widdoes): For sure. Well, Kyle, thanks again for your time today. Always great chatting. And maybe we do do another episode where we just talk about AI and its role in creative. Yeah.

1:08:51 – (Kyle Shields): Thanks so much. Appreciate you having me here.

1:08:55 – (Matt Widdoes): We appreciate you listening to this episode of Growth@Scale. We hope you gained valuable insights about creative’s role in growth. And if you like this episode, make sure you subscribe to never miss an episode. See you next time!

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