We had the long awaited conversation with John Burke to discuss the approach to strategy that he’s learned over his 20 year career in and out of the marketing business. This is a conversation you don’t want to miss. We get into culture and the culture of ideas among other things.

Listen here: https://specific.substack.com/p/john-burke-on-strategy-and-twitter-05e?r=n6j6&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web&utm_source=copy

Relevant Links:

Martin Weigel – https://martinweigel.org/2012/03/12/why-being-interesting-might-be-more-important-than-being-different-part-1/

Professor Byron Sharp – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhASXtCNKN4&app=desktop

Matt O’Rourke and Pete Favat – http://adweek.mlbam.com/video/topic/61009368/v36718619

Read Adam’s new book, Specific. Available on Amazon.

Episode Transcript:

Adam: All right. Welcome to The Strategy Inside Everything. I’m very excited. This conversation has been a long time coming with our guest who is joining me today from Where are you? Are you in New York? Or are you in Pennsylvania, John?

[00:00:15] John Burke: I’m in Helm, Pennsylvania today.

[00:00:18] Adam: Very nice. This is John Burke who’s joining us across the country using the interwebs to have a very, very, very fun chat, if our encounters on Twitter and text are any indication, and in person, I guess.

[00:00:31] John: Yes.

[00:00:32] Adam: You guys are all in for a treat. I reached out to John and he really wanted to jump right in and talk about how strategy ties into creating killer creative and making it all about the work. So I respect that as a former creative, a very average creative. But let me introduce John Burke to you guys. John, would you tell our listening audience, both of them, a little bit about yourself?

[00:00:58] John: Sure, sure. Hey, Adam, and thanks for having me join today. I appreciate it. So yes, I’m John Burke. I’ve been at this since about, I think, 1996 or ’97. I’m a planner through and through. I didn’t quite realize that for many years. It took a while to kind of find the discipline or the discipline to find me. I’ve been at agencies, everything from Arnold, Ketchum, BBDO, I mean Digitas. I’m at a content agency now. I’m not going to say who, in case they hear this [laughs]. Just kidding.

[00:01:34] Adam: No, that’s fine. That’s cute.

[00:01:36] John: No, I’m just playing. I’m at MXM right now which is a Meredith agency where we specialize in content marketing. Yes, so actually, interestingly enough, I’ll tell you a quick tidbit, Adam. I didn’t start out in advertising at all. I actually started in new media. I worked for Pseudo Networks back in the kind of Silicon Alley days.

[00:02:01] Adam: Oh, wow.

[00:02:02] John: Josh Harris. Yes, it was just like a crazy scene back then. But I actually started off with the title of Creative Director, oddly, but

[00:02:09] Adam: Oh, you did?

[00:02:10] John: I did. Yes, I didn’t really have any creative bones in my body outside of music. I had to [crosstalk]–

[00:02:18] Adam: That was your first title, was creative director?

[00:02:21] John: My first title was creative director, yes.

[00:02:23] Adam: Congratulations, buddy. You started at the top.

[00:02:26] John: I know. And you know Seth Goldstein? You know, the like sticky bits Seth Goldstein [unintelligible 00:02:31]?

[00:02:31] Adam: Yes.

[00:02:32] John: So his brother, Jonas oh, God, this is I can’t believe I’m telling you this story. So Jonas was so I lived in Boston. I went to Berkeley College of Music. I’m not going to go into anything before that but just know that it was a crazy background. My roommate was Jonas Goldstein, who’s Seth’s brother’s, girlfriend was my roommate, Sarah. To make a long story short, I met Jonas one day. I didn’t like him at all. And then we ended up becoming best pretty typical, right? We ended up becoming best friends.

[00:03:05] Adam: That’s how a lot of these thingsYes.

[00:03:07] John: Yes, right? It’s like you just like fall into that. So I didn’t really know. I like fell into weird world of people with money. They were investing in technology. I came out of Berkeley. I went to NEC. I was a drummer. I’ve been a drummer since I was two. I skateboarded for a long time. I had no tech skills at all. They just viewed me as someone who knew music. I could connect them with some techno people I was in with like Frankie Bones and Adam X and that kind of crew from Sonic Groove.

Anyway, long story short, I got started in new media and had a stint, followed Jonas for a while over at AOL. We did a thing for Seth. Then I moved to Canada, British Columbia. I got married to a Canadian girl. When I got out there, Adam, like stupid American, I thought I could work. Like, [unintelligible 00:04:03] I could work here, you know?

[00:04:02] Adam: [laughs].

[00:04:05] John: I had no status in this different country. I’d never

[00:04:07] Adam: They were like, “Nice try.”

[00:04:10] John: Yes, they were like, “Yes, no.” So I had to get a lawyer. Anyway, that was like during the time period where I couldn’t work because I was waiting for my status as a landed immigrant or whatever the hell it was at that point. Basically, a work visa. I was like, I don’t know shit about technology. And like I said, I’d worked with Seth. I’d worked with Jonas a lot. He was like my best friend for a long time.

And so, I started home hosting my own servers. So I had an email box. I had a web server. I ended up having two or three web servers. I learned all the Microsoft servers kind of portfolio stack pretty well. You know what, frankly, honestly, dude? There’s only so many places to click in that UI. You can only There’s only so many pull down menus on the desktop or on the server for Windows and if you just pull them all down and try everything, after a while, you learn it.

[00:05:08] Adam: You’ll get there eventually.

[00:05:09] John: You know what I mean?

[00:05:10] Adam: Yes.

[00:05:11] John: Yes, go ahead.

[00:05:12] Adam: Go ahead.

[00:05:13] John: No, I was going to say

[00:05:13] Adam: Well, how did you

[00:05:14] John: Yes, go ahead, brother. [laughs].

[00:05:16] Adam: How did you get from there to planning?

[00:05:19] John: Well, that’s what I was going to say. So I had a stint at Microsoft for a long time. Well, actually at Avanade which is like a MicrosoftAccenture kind of tech venture.

[00:05:27] Adam: Right, right.

[00:05:29] John: Frankly, dude, I just got fucking sick of it after a while. I just got sick of it. I just burned out. I was somehow good at it. I don’t know how that happened. I moved back. I got a divorce. I moved back to the States and I was like really interested in advertising. I just faked it until I made it or whatever.

I just bullshited my way into my first gig, worked for a consulting company, a brand consulting company in the city. I had a short stint at Arnold or wherever the hell that was. And just really quickly, I found I had a knack for it, man, you know? People always say like with strategists, or planners, or whatever you want to say, like “be curious,” and that’s important at the beginning. I don’t think that that has any legs after you get your footing in the industry.

[00:06:19] Adam: Well, yes, you’re not going to go far on just curiosity.

[00:06:22] John: No. That’s not going to get you nowhere. I mean, that whole narrative is just total bullshit, in my opinion. But, I mean, that’s like a cost of entry for advertising in general, right?

[00:06:30] Adam: I agree. Yes, it is. It’s table stakes.

[00:06:33] John: It is table stakes, exactly. Once you get in, then it’s a matter of like, “Okay, well, does strategy, does planning fit me? Am I a creative person?” Like, you had a creative background you were saying, right?

[00:06:44] Adam: Yes.

[00:06:44] John: I just, honestly, I think I had so much street level life experience that I just could see bullshit when it came up and I was pretty able to make quick decisions.

[00:06:59] Adam: That’s actually how we met, John. I don’t know if you you guys should follow John on Twitter. His handle is at @JustOnlyJohn. We both have very low bullshit tolerance.

[00:07:10] John: Yes.

[00:07:11] Adam: I think, John, more aggressively. He stomps up and down on it than I do. But yes, I mean, that’s one of the things that made me start following you because you’re just calling people out and saying, “Nope, that is not true. We’re not going to even entertain that nonsense,” so I love that.

[00:07:26] John: Yes. You know, I love that about you too, Adam. I mean, certainly, I can be a little more hardcore at times. Honestly, to the audience listening and to everyone who follows us both on Twitters, I don’t really mean that as like a negative thing. It’s just kind of like there’s a certain aspect, I suppose, of all planners personalities that are somewhat provocative. I mean, we’re certainly show people. Essentially, we’re salespeople of ideas at the end of the day.

It’s interesting, over the years, I’ve been really good at kind of cultivating a really solid list of people to follow and learn from. And hell, I mean, I just learned the gig really quickly. I had already known, like I said, I knew a lot about technology that served me well. Obviously, as kind of social started to come up bigger and bigger in the mid to late ‘90s or 2000, whatever the hell it is. 2000s, I guess. 2000 zeroes.

[00:08:20] Adam: Right. The [unintelligible 00:08:21] they call it.

[00:08:22] John: Yes. Right, right, right. But Yes, I mean, I think kind of seeing bullshit is certainly a skill that we should have, right?

[00:08:33] Adam: I want to cut right through that because I agree. The topic of the planner’s job to help create great work, help sell great work, and cutting through the bullshit, those are inextricably related.

[00:08:52] John: Oh, they totally are, dude. And you know what’s funny

[00:08:55] Adam: And where is it more important, John? In your opinion, is it more important when you’re in your internal documentation, like writing a brief, or is it more important in the way the idea is communicated to the client, and/or the review and the feedback, the idea you’re giving to the creative team?

[00:09:09] John: Well, both. What’s the difference, really? I mean, in any of those three scenarios. I think we’re in the business of we are salespeople. We’re salespeople of ideas. And if you, as a planner, have not done your homework– and the homework doesn’t have to always be shown in slides.

The first thing I tell someone who’s just getting started in planning or someone who’s new to my team or whatever, and I’m serious about this, the very first thing I say is, “Your job is to come up with ideas and sell them. And if you don’t believe in those ideas that you’re sellingI mean, you have to believe in them. If you can’t believe in them, there’s no way you’re going to get a company or a marketer, brand, or even a CMO at a higher level to buy.

You have to believe in it. You believe in it because you have done your homework, you have a POV and there’s no right answer.” That’s the second thing. There is no right answer. There’s the best answer for the situation based upon what you’ve learnt, but once you arrive at that, your job is to sell that, push it through and that means internally and externally out.

[00:10:20] Adam: You’re thinking, the point you’re trying to make, if I can put some words in your mouth, you’re saying, “Hey, we landed on this idea. Now, go do the research to debunk it or support it and we’re going to go all in on this idea. We’re not going half way it.”

[00:10:34] John: I think, yes. So, research after the idea, isn’t that what you just said?

[00:10:39] Adam: Yes. Even when you have a theory for a brief and you say, “I think this is the best way to go,” we can’t approve that before– so that we know that we stand on solid ground before we bring it out to our clients or even the creative team. I hate presenting something to the creative team-

[00:10:51] John: Yes, I would say the opposite of that.

[00:10:53] Adam: – and have them shake their heads at me.

[00:10:55] John: Bro, I would say it’s the opposite of that. I’m really glad you brought that up, man. I certainly don’t mean to disagree with what you’re saying at all.

[00:11:05] Adam: I’d love to disagree. Let’s do it.

[00:11:07] John: Gloves are on home, homie.


But look, if you’ve arrived at an idea before you’ve done “your homework” and then that’s the wrong approach. Because what I see a lot of planners do. You’ll see this in meetings, is that when something comes up and you see people– like a need for a POV has arisen from the fucking conversation, whether it’s internal or external, it doesn’t matter. Someone says immediately, you always notice these people in the room, they are going to go, “Well, you know in my own life or in my experience–”

[00:11:49] Adam: I can’t stand anecdotal, that’s bullshit.

[00:11:51] John: It’s bullshit but that’s the same thing that’s behind of landing somewhere– Our job is to be almost like tabula rasa. You have to go in with, “I got no preconceived notions. I have some ideas of which I practice my craft by.” We can get to those in a bit. But as far as the problem on the table, I don’t know yet, and I think if you try to come in and you say, you know, and then I want to approve it or disapprove it.

So I’m not really sure I believe in that proving or disproving a hypothesis. I think you can have an idea but you’re not doing yourself or your client or your team a great service, to express that too quickly. I think a quiet confidence and then going back and doing at least a little bit of research to– do you see where I’m going with that?

[00:12:41] Adam: Yes. I don’t think we disagree actually. You’re saying, don’t lead with the idea in front of everybody in proof of, and you’re also saying that confirmation by us is going to lead you to find anything that you want to find.

[00:12:53] John: That is bingo. That is it.

[00:12:55] Adam: Thanks to media. I think we both agree at some point the idea has to start somewhere, so you have to start with some kind of– even if it’s just an area of thought. We’re working on a food product now and we were just having a conversation about, at grocery, what is really the message that’s going to move this thing?

Really, I sat down with our ECD here and just started crossing out areas more than anything else. I was like, “We can’t say this. This is not going to work. We can’t say this. This is not going to work.” I don’t know what the answer is yet but I know that we were, as a team saying, “Let’s not focus on this. We know it’s not this. This other brand owns this.” Now, I have some ropes around the ring that I can go do some research on and figure out what’s the right thing to say.

[00:13:36] John: Yes, sure. I mean, yes. You have some– four-post guard rails are not going to hurt at the beginning to point you in the direction. I totally get that. One other thing, can I back you up a little bit man?

[00:13:48] Adam: Yes, of course.

[00:13:49] John: It’s probably my Twitter persona coming out a little bit, but it’s probably all becoming clear for you, man. You had said our competitors are doing this. So why would that be bad if your competitors are doing it? Why would that discount you? I’m sorry to push you in that.

[00:14:06] John: It doesn’t discount it unless it’s a claim that they explicitly–

[00:14:10] John: You know where I’m going?

[00:14:13] Adam: For sure. I don’t rule it out just because someone else is claiming it, but I do think I have to look at how much credit they get for it, how tied is it to their brand, how effective it is I think for connecting them to the customer I care about, which might not be the customer they care about the most.

[00:14:27] John: Understood.

[00:14:28] Adam: You know what I mean? [crosstalk]

[00:14:29] John: Yes. I do. Look, I mean I’m not being completely honest when I say tabula rasa. Look, just particularly mine is like, you’re going to have a gut feeling. As soon as you hear something, it’s going to take like five seconds for you to have a gut feeling.

[00:14:43] Adam: Yes, of course. Your job is to push down the bad ones.

[00:14:49] John: Your job is to push down the bad ones. I totally agree with that and I think that’s where the confidence kind of comes in. What I’m saying is, to go back [unintelligible 00:14:56] some point, before I would write a brief or before I would put anything on a freaking slide, is that I would have had a hypothesis internally, not expressed, maybe not expressed to a large group like you with your ECD is fine.

[00:15:11] Adam: Yes. I agree but in your mind you might have a hypothesis, yes.

[00:15:14] John: Yes. I mean it would be ridiculous for me to seat here and say– [laughs] To be honest with you, those things come up in two seconds, dude. You know what I mean?

[00:15:25] Adam: Of course.

[00:15:26] John: I mean of course. That’s why you’re good at your job.

[00:15:29] Adam: And you know what is funny though, that’s the training at 15, 20 years in this business. You have the discipline to say, “That’s a bad idea though because I can quickly rule that out. It’s a good reaction but let me hold fast and do some research here to disapprove that,” because there’s something– You learn how to say no to some ideas, and some inspirations you go, “Oh, no. That is worth following.”

[00:15:51] John: See, I feel you 100%. I guess the only point I’m different with you on is that, before I were to express that particularly to creatives or executional folk, I’m not saying like ECD because it’s more like a partnership. When you’re briefing or even more so when you’re putting shit in slides in front of a client, that’s the point where the confidence in the idea should be fucking iron clad.

Now, it doesn’t mean you’re not open to things that may come up. Because if you’re not open, then you’re just an asshole and you’re certainly not serving anybody out the client well, once you get to the point of expression outwardly of that direction, the homework had better have been done Because if it hasn’t been done and you don’t believe in it, I mean, you are just going to do damage to a team. Just like Mat’s shit. We’re talking about Mat’s shit last night on text to the audience. But Mat O’rork’s–

[00:16:54] Adam: [laughs] You better explain that. They’re not going to know about Mat’s video, but it’s an amazing– I will link to it on the show notes, if you want to give them a background or should I?

[00:17:00] John: Yes, yes. We will do it together. But you should link that, dude, because that thing is like—

[00:17:06]Adam: It’s amazing.

[00:17:07] John: It’s freaking awesome. If there’s one thing I would point besides Wagle’s articles and that sharp thing, I’m also saying which you should also put those in there.

[00:17:16] Adam: No. They’ll both be in there for sure.

[00:17:18] John: Yes. Those are awesome resources. So, is it the strategy, is the idea. Basically, what Mat and his partner were saying, or I think his boss actually, were saying was like, “We need you to give us a small box to work in.” And so, I think– and to go back to my original point, dude, is it like, by the time you start outward– when you’re in sales mode, not when you’re in kicking around mode, which is kind of what we are talking about– when you’re in sales mode, and that goes for internal and external, is that you better believe in it.

Again, no right answers. You can be flexible but if you don’t believe in it, there’s no way you’re going to get a good CD to execute on it by drawing some vague fucking giant box where they have no guardrails.

[00:18:10] Adam: Yes, because it’s not like you’re working with CDs that this is their first day being a creative person. They have strong opinions too. You have to be able to have influence to say, “Hey, here’s the little box but here’s the 15 reasons why this is the little box, and let me show you how strongly I believe in it.”

Then get receptive to figure out to tweak about the shape of the box a little bit and maybe widen out one corner and smash on another corner, or to hear a totally new take or new data that you didn’t know about, but Jesus, you’re screwed if that comes up.

[00:18:42] John: I’ll tell you an anecdote for that. There was this dude at BBDO, the CD– I don’t know what level he was, but he was amazing. I think he came from Canada. He was like a French Canadian, “Oh, da, da, da,” guy. He was fucking amazing. He was like LP Tremblay or something. You all can look him up.

[00:18:58] Adam: Your French is amazing by the way.

[00:19:01] John: [French Language] But he was fucking from [unintelligible 00:19:05] or some shit. This guy was so good. If I had gone into his room with a half-baked shit and be like, “What do you think? How should we do this?” He would be like, “Get the fuck out of the room.” Excuse my language, man. I know you said it’s okay to curse but–

[00:19:22] Adam: I don’t care.

[00:19:24] John: He would have been like, “Get out, dude.” Honestly, a good, good creative like that, he didn’t have any time for ambiguity. He wants to know that I’m confident that this is the direction, because then he trusts me and then I just trust him to just go– You know what, when I would brief this dude, I would always do it in person, write some shit on paper, but I would just talk to him about it. I’d hand him the paper, he wouldn’t look at it.

I would come back in his room, two or three days later, he would have– This guy is the best creative I ever, ever, ever saw, Adam. He would have these– it was like storyboard, whatever the thing called for, up on the wall. His shit was fucking banged on to what I had said that he was all ears. [crosstalk]

[00:20:13] Adam: It taught you a lesson though, didn’t it?

[00:20:14] John: God, dude, that’s why I’m saying all this stuff, man.

[00:20:16] Adam: Yes, it’s amazing because I can think of every– I promise every planner that’s listening to this, and strategist, any creative you’ve ever seen for which you wrote the brief and you’re frustrated because it’s off brief, I promise it’s because you were vague. That might be a single word or a tense that you used incorrectly, bad diction.

[00:20:39] John: Or your mannerisms when you deliver it.

[00:20:42] Adam: Yes, absolutely. You were not crystal clear about what you wanted to say. You didn’t get by and you didn’t convince them that it’s the right way to go.

[00:20:51] John: Again, to Mat’s point or Rorke’s point, give me a small box. Give me small box that I can play in. There’s more freedom within rules. There’s a whole principle of more freedom within rules. I believe in that 100%. To go back to my original point, man, the first thing I fucking tell a planner when they come on the team or someone new to the business or even someone who’s been in the business for a long time that doesn’t practice this kind of shit, is that you better damn well believe in your ideas.

Don’t put all your background work in front of people. They don’t give a shit. What they care about as you believe in it because you did your homework, that’s all the trust. If the trust is there, then you get this LP Tremblay work. It’s like you’re like, “Holy shit, dude. How did you think of that? It’s incredible.”

[00:21:35] Adam: That’s when good things happen, when people trust you.

[00:21:37] John: That’s when good things happen.

[00:21:39] Adam: Like in any relationships, Jesus Christ. You mentioned something here, at the top, I took some notes while you were talking you said, “I do have some ideas by which I practice my craft.” I want to dive into those. You have some core tenets or some base pieces that you start with every project or is every project artisinal and bespoken, custom to the project?

[00:22:03] John: It’s a great question. I’m going to just going to preface everything from this point forward with saying that I might contradict myself a few times. [laughs]

[00:22:13] Adam: That’s a beautiful thing.

[00:22:16] John: Because that’s the nature of the gig.

[00:22:18] Adam: Of course.

[00:22:20] John: I do. As you know, I’m a big believer in Ehrenberg Sharp POV. I take some serious issues with that. I guess the reason I say that those are my operating principles, because those are my operating principles at this point in my career. Everything has led up to that. I’m not sure if they will retain those principles, but right now, those are the principles by which I try to operate.

The situations don’t always allow for you to operate by principles that are contrary to what most marketers and MBAs, and those type of people think, like differentiation and shit and loyalty and bla, bla, bla. But I certainly have bought into a certain set of principles based upon “marketing science” [unintelligible 00:23:11] that really resonate with me because it feels right. Also, not only it feels right to me– actually it’s funny, I said this feels right first even though the whole Ehrenberg thing and marketing science but–

[00:23:24] Adam: [laughs] That’s fine.

[00:23:26] John: But it feels right, and maybe that’s the belief in the idea because I know they did their homework think. You know what I’m saying? I don’t know but I believe in those principles.

[00:23:33] Adam: It still does feel intuitively correct to the time that we’re in now. I don’t know if I had read it as carefully as I’ve read it recently, if it would have clicked just based on what the world is today. But what about Ehrenberg and his ideas, what specific ideas do you do you really lock into?

[00:23:51] John: It’s a good question. I’m going to mix some of that shit with that [unintelligible 00:23:55] article which hopefully you’ll send a link to which I think–

[00:23:58] Adam: Definitely.

[00:23:58] John: It’s probably the most seminal in “blog posts” I’ve read ever, and that goes for Faris’ attention books and all that shit.

[00:24:08] Adam: I really like that book.

[00:24:09] John: Yes, the book’s great. You know what’s funny? Actually, a little anecdote before I answer that. Mark Earls, you remember that heard thing?

[00:24:16] Adam: Yes, that’s a great book too.

[00:24:18] John: It’s a great book, man. I, just through Twitter– Twitter is the gift that never stops giving, as long as you invest in it. I actually had a chance to sit down Mark Earls for about, it was four or five years ago, at a coffee shop around the city. We hung up for three hours. I have no idea why this dude hung out with me at all, but we just got into.

We got deep, deep in a conversation. That was a really informative pivotal point in my growth as a planner, lucky enough to sit down with Mark, just informally for three hours. I’ll always thank him for that, thank you Mark, if you’re listening.

[00:24:59] Adam: Know what’s funny though? I’m always amazed with the people I’ve met on Twitter. I mean we met on Twitter, but I’ll just DM somebody and say, “Hey, you want to get on a call? I’d just like to pick your brain,” people are always like, “Yes, let’s do it. It works.” It’s pretty amazing.

[00:25:18] John: Yes. What’s funny about, I’ll say our Twitter, meaning like add Twitter, it’s all politics right now. We know what’s going on. I’m not going to address that.

[00:25:27] Adam: Thank God.

[00:25:28] John: Yes, I know. But you need a break from that shit, dude [laughs]. It’s crazy. But there’s this group. It was about was 80. I would say like 60 to 80 of us or something, that goes all the way from the highest most seen, like [unintelligible 00:25:43] and Chapin and that crew all the way down to fucking Pete Shelley who’s just really getting started. He’s in creative now but he has an interesting strategy.

[00:25:53] Adam: He’s a smart guy.

[00:25:54] John: This is crew and it’s hard for us not all get involved in politics, but that crew to your point is so receptive. We talked about this when we hung out, Adam. But that crew, if I could dump that list of people, that 80 people, send it out to every planner in the fucking world and be like follow these people and get them to engage with them. They’re so open, receptive and you can listen– I mean it is a career-making group of people. They will teach you everything you need to know in one way or another over time.

[00:26:30] Adam: I think yes. I think even just reading how they write shady tweets, you can learn a lot.

[00:26:36] John: Totally. Honestly, I told you I bullshitted my way into this career, now I’m good at it. I have complete confidence in my ability to be very, very strong, strategic leader for teams, and for clients. I just straight up lied my way into it, dude. I’m going to be very honest with the audience, and that’s okay, because I learned so much from this group of people. I am permanently grateful for what they have done for me and my career, and the growth that I’ve learn– all the things I learned from them, it’s incredible.

[00:27:09] Adam: Yes. That’s really cool.

[00:27:12] John: You as well, man. You as well.

[00:27:13] Adam: Thank you. You’re an excellent liar.

[00:27:16] John: But I’m not lying.


[00:27:19] Adam: Well, the group of people you’re talking about, I’m sure I don’t follow all 80 of the people you’re thinking about.

[00:27:24] John: You probably do.

[00:27:27] Adam: There’s a good amount of calling people out. It’s funny to me that I could see someone, like Tom Goodwin who’s off in the stratosphere writing his book and getting 70 million retweets of everything he says. But every now and then, he’ll just call me out on something that I said and it’s like, “Oh, that dude is still actually reading this and engaging in normal conversation.”

[00:27:48] John: It’s amazing, isn’t it?

[00:27:52] Adam: It’s weird, yes.

[00:27:53] John: It’s so great though. Because before this amazing vehicle that we have, which Twitter really is– if they marketed themselves better, Christ almighty, what a fucking platform. But it’s a straight up one to one, dude. When you get people that are receptive and really open like Tom, open people, what a great– not even just reassuring but what a great vehicle to just grow, and learn, grow, stay informed, all that shit right. Except for Keith, he’s kind of a dick.


II’m just kidding. I love Keith. I love Keith so much.

[00:28:30] Adam: If you’re talking about Keith Stetler, I will him and this well for sure.

[00:28:33] John: Keith is the soul of ad Twitter. You’re the soul of ad Twitter, Keith [unintelligible 00:28:42] industry [laughs] but whatever.

[00:28:45] Adam: He’s one step removed from it now I guess.

[00:28:50] John: I think he’s in finance [unintelligible 00:28:47].

[00:28:52] Adam: I’m jealous.

[00:28:53] John: I know. Smart move.

[00:28:54] Adam: Well, any last thoughts you’d like to share on creating great ideas and cutting through with great insights?

[00:29:01] John: A couple things, yes. Can I soapbox it a little bit?

[00:29:05] Adam: Absolutely, do that.

[00:29:09] John: Go back to that operating principle thing for a second. One thing that’s so provocative in the Ehrenberg MO and what Martin put together is this idea that differentiation doesn’t matter. I think that, not that it doesn’t matter, but it’s not something holy grail that people think it is. Because people, “How can we be different? Oh, my God. We have to be different.”

And that actually people buy products not in a loyal way but they buy products on shared attributes within a category that are not specific to any brands. There’s a lot of great shame. I’m not going to go into the details but just read Martin’s article. I mean marketers, like brand or I should say like LOB or kind of like lower level marketers are not– that’s not an idea. I’m not sure you can really bring up to them, because they’re not going to be very receptive to that, because it just totally shakes the whole foundation.

CMOs are very receptive to that. Leadership, very receptive to ideas like that. When it comes down to getting great creative out the door, and I’ll tie this in somehow, I’m going to make this up on the fly, but when it comes down to getting great creative out the door, you can’t always operate. I say this like operating principles, you can’t always operate with principles like that.

If you’re going to try to bring a big fucking ground shaking idea like that, or that loyalty is not as important reach is, like to Faris’ Book attention, attention, attention, right? You can’t bring that shit into a brief, because you’re just going to fucking scare the hell out of everybody.

[00:30:52] Adam: It’s too big of an idea to wrap creative.

[00:30:54] John: Right, it’s way too big. But if you don’t have that in your DNA, or like whatever your planner X person is in your DNA– that’s my DNA, it doesn’t have to be yours. It resonates with me. I think it’s true. I mean Faris’ book to fucking Ehrenberg, it’s all the same shit. It’s all the same message told in different ways, but if you try to bring those ideas into like your LP Tremblays, [laughs] you’ll be like, “What the fuck are you talking about? I don’t want to hear that shit.”

[00:31:24] Adam: Well, you can, going back to your thing about [unintelligible 00:31:28] talk, that’s not tight enough for them to create a wrapper for it. It’s too big of an idea.

[00:31:34] John: Right. That’s where I see planners fail out of, is because they can’t– This is it, this is the nugget. They can’t fucking prioritize. If you can’t prioritize and divorce yourself, just kind of getting in the beginning when we’re talking about how invested you are an idea right off the bat. If you can’t fucking prioritize and have some sentiments of independence and also humility, while also being– this is the gig, while also being confident. It’s odd how that–

[00:32:02] Adam: Well, yes, you have to be brave enough to sacrifice something and say, no, we’re not going to talk about the 32 ounce size. We’re going to talk about this other thing. That’s where we’re going to make our money.

[00:32:13] John: That’s perfectly said, perfectly said. Yes, you don’t have to be a martyr for some fucking idea that you read in Mark Earl’s book. He’s right and I love Mark, and he’s fucking amazing, or like Faris’ shit or Martin’s whatever, Mark shit — well, actually Mat shit’s different, but any philosophy, that should be in your DNA and you can bring that out at the appropriate times. Don’t bring that–

[00:32:35] Adam: That’s right, that’s key.

[00:32:36] John: Yes, don’t bring that shit into the project, bring into the project [crosstalk].

[00:32:40] Adam: Every book that you read doesn’t have to be the gospel for the rest of your life. It can be, myou call up the relevant information when it’s time, like any thinking person.

[00:32:52] John: Then you make this– if that’s in your DNA, it’s going to come out somehow. But make that small– honestly, I don’t have to even give a lesson on planning, or even talk about, because it’s Mat’s video. That’s your job. To get to the small box, you had to have done your homework. You have to be able to make beautiful– Look, if you don’t believe in your idea, and we talked about this last night, man, the layout of a slide is important, visual queues.

[00:33:21] Adam: It is. I hate to admit it. I hate to admit it, but it is important.

[00:33:25] John: Where the eye goes when the slide first loads. That’s very important because that’s part of the sales job. If you don’t own the idea, there is no way you’re going to layout a great slide. You have 50 ideas. That prioritization, small box, there is a lot behind that that you shouldn’t as a planner show internally or externally. All that shit’s yours. You don’t have to bring it out, and when you bring it out to them, you’re going to loose them, and then you’re just the asshole.

[00:33:57] Adam: That was awesome, well said. I think we are going to wrap this up, but there is enough loose threads here that we’re going to have to have you back on, John, for another chat.

[00:34:08] John: I’d love that, Adam. Adam, listen, thanks so much, man. I’m really, really, really behind what you’re doing with the teaching thing that you also have going on. You are really what we need right now. We talked about this when were out.

[00:34:19] Adam: Thanks, dude. I appreciate that.

[00:34:20] John: Yes. Help bring us together man, come on.

[00:34:23] Adam: I love it. Guys, please go find John’s Twitter @JustOnlyJohn. I promise he’s a good follow for sure. I’m @apierno. You can also follow @instil_strategy, which is the training that John just referenced. I appreciate the kind words. John, thanks for making time out of your ridiculous calendar to chat with us for half hour.

[00:34:46] John: Adam, thank so much. I really appreciate the time.

[00:34:49] Adam: All right, man, thanks.

[00:34:50] John: All right, bye buddy.

[00:35:04] [END OF AUDIO]

Categories: Podcast