PODCAST EP 24
Simon chats with Connor Gillivan, CMO of Free Up.Listen Now
Simon Dell: I’m with Nick Bowditch. Nick has many claims to fame, at least I think he has many claims to fame. He might not think so. He might have more that I don’t know about. I first met Nick when he was working at Facebook. He was working at Facebook Australia down in Sydney. He’s gone on to write his own book. He’s a noted public speaker now. He’s involved in lots of businesses and startups. Welcome, Nick.
Nick Bowditch: Thank you, Simon. Gee, that’s a kind introduction.
Simon Dell: And I did that off of the top of my head as well, would you believe? What I’d like to start off is just you giving us a quick potted history of all the things that you’ve done to help define you. Just a little two to three-minute “Here’s me and these are things that people should know about me.”
Nick Bowditch: Currently, I speak at events and conferences, which is the majority of the work that I do now. I do a little bit of consulting with different companies and different small businesses and startups. I’ve come from a startup background myself, which I’m sure we’ll talk about where I’ve built and sold a few startups, tech startups, mostly.
I’m a successful and unsuccessful entrepreneur. I’ve had far more failures than I’ve had wins, but I’ve managed to have a couple of pretty significant wins. I’ve worked with some big brands as well as worked in my own small businesses. I’m a small business guy, but I have worked for a couple of big corporate brands, mostly in roles where I worked with how they worked with small businesses.
Prior to that, I used to teach people how to scuba dive, did that for about 8 to 10 years, and I live in the Central Coast of New South Wales in Australia. I live about an hour north of Sydney, just over the border into God’s country. I have four beautiful but feral little children in my charge as well.
Simon Dell: And anybody that follows you on any sort of social media will see frequent pictures of them being feral.
Nick Bowditch: Yeah, I’m a sharer.
Simon Dell: As most of the people who have children that I’ve spoken to so far are oversharers. That’s nothing.
Nick Bowditch: I never used to be. In fact, I don’t know how, before Facebook and Instagram, I don’t know what people did who are parents. How were you proud of your children if you weren’t able to show the whole world them?
Simon Dell: Didn’t you invite people around for those little slideshows where you had them in the carousel?
Nick Bowditch: No. You’re a bit older than me, I think, so maybe that might explain that.
Simon Dell: The two things I really want to touch on there from that introduction, because maybe I’m some sort of masochist for you, but I want to understand a couple of your failures. I think failures are really good at helping us define.
Nick Bowditch: I think it’s the only interesting part, really. In terms of who are you, and where are you now, and what are you doing, and why should anyone be interested, I just don’t think your successes are interesting. It’s the failures that you get up and keep going from are the ones that make you interesting.
Simon Dell: Before we get onto that, I never knew you taught people to scuba dive. When I was looking at your LinkedIn profile the other day, there’s a bit of a gap there, and I’m assuming that the gap now is the scuba diving gap.
Nick Bowditch: It could be. I left Australia for eight years and two days.
Simon Dell: You were out of the country teaching?
Nick Bowditch: Yes. I was about four years in Asia, two and a half years in Latin America. I lived mostly around the Caribbean, Colombia, Honduras, and Mexico, and worked a bit in the South Pacific. I’ve been in Europe as well. Did two summers in Greece as well.
Simon Dell: What made you abandon that then and come back here?
Nick Bowditch: Everything gets old after a while. And so, I’ve been away for a long time, I was severely homesick, and I finally realized that I had missed so much: brothers getting married, brothers having babies, sisters having babies, all my mates getting married, and I was sitting on the beach in the Caribbean, loving life but completely disconnected from my real world.
I just got tired of it. One day, I just decided to go home, and came home, and about a week later realized it was the worst decision I’ve ever made because I had no money and no skills, no transferable skills. I had friends but they all got married. Everyone has changed and I wasn’t. It was kind of a brutal little period, actually.
Simon Dell: Was that where you contrived that first startup?
Nick Bowditch: Yeah. I came back, and I had no money, no prospects. And so, I got to get a job. There’s no real diving around here, not that you can make any sort of income, living from, where I live, anyway. So, I thought, “What do I know? What can I do? Well, I can travel. I know about travelling.”
So, I got a job as a travel agent. I worked in Sydney, so I would do a two-hour commute to and back to Sydney. I’m trying to sit in this little cubicle and be a phone monkey at this travel place that did everything offline, that had no online stuff at all. I could just remember thinking, “Why am I here? Why are we all sitting here in this office when we could be all at home in our jammies doing this? It could all be online.”
I spoke to them about it a little bit. I wasn’t an expert by any means. I had no idea, but I just thought someone can do this better. I used to come home and winched at my wife at the time. We had no kids then, but it was just me and her. I winched to her about, “Far out, man. Someone should be doing this better. These guys aren’t doing it properly.”
And so, it was decided that I would chuck it in and have a crack. I started a small business, made an online travel business and see how we go. We had very little to lose. When I started that first business, we had about $400 in the bank, and my wife was a full-time student at the time. The risk was very low to put it that way.
Simon Dell: Were you confident that you could make it work, or was it just a ‘let’s just give it that’?
Nick Bowditch: I wouldn’t say I was confident, but I was more motivated by the fact that, “I hate this job. If it all goes tits up, I’ve only lost the job and $400. I’ll just have to get another job.” It’s a bad and good position to be in when you’re broke like I was. The only way is up, but you’re not particularly risk-averse, either, or I wasn’t. And so, I thought I’ll just give it a crack and see how it goes.
Simon Dell: I read in your LinkedIn profile, it was classic Nick Bowditch, because I read it and I just went, “Yeah, that’s him.” I’ll read back your own LinkedIn profile to you. “Never using any traditional marketing or advertising in print, radio, or TV, instead opting to build the business using solely social media marketing.” What I find really interesting with that is that was back in 2007. Social media was in its infancy. What suddenly made you go, “Social media, that’s the way to do it”?
Nick Bowditch: Primarily, because I didn’t have any money, I would’ve loved to… For instance, I had $400 to start with. I spent most of that on a decal for my car. That tells you a little bit about what I knew about marketing, especially since I was building an online travel business, I spent $300 on a decal for my car. It was a crappy car. It wouldn’t be the sort of car you want.
I really didn’t know anything, and we just lost all our money. The other thing that came back in all of my frantic Google searches, like how to run a business, how to conduct a business with no money, and so on, was put stuff on Facebook. Build a profile online and then people… The way I read it and the way it was put was, “Oh, people will flock to you. It’s easy, and they’ll buy heaps of stuff from you.” And it wasn’t that easy.
Simon Dell: Yeah, those are the days back in Facebook. You believed that, didn’t you?
Nick Bowditch: Yeah, and there was no ads then, so there’s no paid content. It was all about building relationships.
Simon Dell: Organic reach was 99%.
Nick Bowditch: That’s right. Well, there wasn’t pages or news feed either. We’re talking the deep dark 2007, 2008 in Australia. It was a matter of just necessity. I didn’t have any money to put a newspaper ad together, or a radio ad, or anything like that. I had a free website, WordPress website which I built, nickbowditch.wordpress.com or whatever it is when you don’t own the domain because I can’t afford that.
I buggered it up. We just went terrible and nothing really happened until I worked out that I could create video content and that people would share it. That was the saviour. It was about 18 months after I created the first video content that we started to turn over $1 million dollars in this little business in which I was still running it at home, still without really any idea, other than creating compelling, engaging videos that people could relate to, and they’ll share it, and we started to make some money.
Simon Dell: What was that content? What was that compelling content in the day of 2008 internet?
Nick Bowditch: It was relatability. For instance, I would talk a lot about family travel. Earlier on, I worked out I needed a business coach. That was the first decision I made that was a good one probably in my life. I got this business coach, and I paid her whatever it was, and I couldn’t afford it, but it was worth every cent.
She said to me, “There’s heaps of people doing this stuff. You need to be an expert in some kind of travel.” And so, I was like, “Okay. I think I could be dive travel, I could be Caribbean travel,” things that I knew. But then I realized, I sort of took a pun on the fact that, well, I could be a family travel expert. And so, I invented this tagline, it was “Nick Bowditch Travel – Australia’s Family Travel Expert,” if you don’t mind.
I didn’t have a family, and I’ve never travelled with a family, but I knew that families were going to book more than one ticket, which meant more than one commission. And so, that made it worthwhile when people were buying. What I specialized a little bit further on was 2A3C travels, so two adults, three children, which you don’t know yet, Simon, but it’s very difficult to travel with three children.
You need interconnecting rooms, and where are you going to sit on the plane, and all of that stuff. No one was really doing it, so we niched it down. It was the best advice she ever gave us and I ever thought was, yes, you’re going to lose some business here because you’re not going to take some dude who wants to go on a Contiki thing, you’re not going to help more expensive river cruising geriatrics either. You’re just going to concentrate on family travel.
And I lost heaps of work and money. It was really hard turning away work, but when we did and we niched down into what I wanted to do, and what I knew would make us money, and we stuck it out, and then I started to make money.
Simon Dell: In those early days of business, as I know, you pretty much want to just grab onto anything that walks in the dark, don’t you? And that’s a skill, saying no that early on.
Nick Bowditch: It was only because those of two powerful women in my life, my business mentor and my coach, who were saying to me, “Ride it out. Stick it out. This is what you want to do. This is why we started.” But it’s really hard to not back work when you’ve got no money.
Simon Dell: What took you out of that? Did you sell that business? Did you just decide that that wasn’t something you wanted to do?
Nick Bowditch: We sold the business. I had consultants working for me by the end, like literally consultants, not travel consultants so much as consultants. They were travel agents as well, but they just had an ABM. We were paying them, and they were working under my brand, more or less.
What happened was the industry was shrinking the whole time in terms of commission. When I left, you made 0% commission on domestic flights, so you had to book land, and insurance, and packages, and tours and stuff to make money. The international commission was down to about 5% on a flight then.
I think it might be down now to about 2 or 3%. I wanted to get out. And so, the consultants who I had working for me pitched in, took the equity, they reached out, and went off and did something and kept it going for a little while. Now, they’re all doing their own thing on their own then.
Simon Dell: They took your name as well, did they?
Nick Bowditch: They did at the time because, not that it was David Jones or anything, it wasn’t like a great name, but they just weren’t ready to put themselves totally out there at the time. And so, they sort of sat under my brand for a little while after I left, and now they’re all doing their own thing and killing it, which is great.
Simon Dell: After that, The Bowditch Group. Tell me a little bit about that.
Nick Bowditch: After that, I failed about five times.
Simon Dell: Maybe there’s a good time to give us one of those failures, maybe one of the biggest crash and burns that you’ve got.
Nick Bowditch: I was emboldened by doing alright after doing crap for so long, and I did alright, and I was starting to get a bit cocky. So, I thought, “Well, we’ll go off and do our own thing.” I tried some import export stuff. I tried e-commerce a few times. I just wasn’t cut from that cloth. I just couldn’t quite make it happen, make it work. I ploughed a lot of money into different things. Not a lot of money, but enough money to go, “Oh, Jesus.”
The biggest loss, the biggest failure in all of that is I was never actually doing something that was closer to my purpose, something that I really wanted to do. And I didn’t know what that was, I just knew I wasn’t doing it. And so, The Bowditch Group was a collection of businesses, different ideas, and trials, and stuff like that.
And then I started to speak. That was a thing that started to come mostly out of that time, was people were interested in how I built Nick Bowditch Travel when no one else had really done similar things with Facebook at that time. I reluctantly became the Facebook guy and started to speak in little business events, and breakfast, and [INAUDIBLE 00:38:48] staff and whatever, and started getting a bit more confident around that, and thought, “This is good. I’m just really standing up, laying it on, like I could do this anyway.”
I went from there. And then The Bowditch Group morphed into Clooee. Clooee was an agency where we had two focuses. One focus was working with small businesses on their social media marketing effort. The other focus was next generation mobile apps. We built an app called Clooee Look which used augmented reality. This was a time when that was like science fiction.
Simon Dell: That’s early days.
Nick Bowditch: It was very early on. And it was too early, as it turns out, because people were just like, “Huh?” We built this app, and you would put it over the label of your baked beans, and look through the app at the label of baked beans, and you could trigger a PDF download, or a contest entry, or a video playing, or something like that that would use the augmented reality to augment a general marketing piece, like a label, or a billboard, or a newspaper ad, or whatever.
Simon Dell: Just to jump in there, was that your idea?
Nick Bowditch: It was my idea and another guy who was working for me then, but we melded together three to four different technologies which were each a bit of it at the time, and the license and stuff, and created this thing, which I then sold. The people who bought it then just ran it to the ground.
Simon Dell: One of the common themes that you meet with a lot of people who are entrepreneurs and have created businesses is this classic, as another friend, Simon, described, is entrepreneurial ADD. All these ideas keep coming to you and there’s a danger that you keep acting on them. Did you find that that’s a problem for you?
Nick Bowditch: Oh, yeah. It still is. And again, those two influences in my life, my business coach and my wife were very good with that. I would say to one of them, I would never say to both of them at the time because I knew I was going to get shot down by one, I would never put myself up. But I’d say, “I have this idea.”
And I always thought they were great ideas, and they may have well been, but one or both of them would say to me, “How about you just finish the other seven ideas you had this week and we’ll talk about it?” I just don’t get shit done. I don’t get shit finished. That’s my biggest character flaw when it comes to business, is I’m really good at starting stuff, and I’m really crap at finishing it.
Simon Dell: My wife continually calls me half-job Jerry. There’s that great idea, let’s get it started, and then it tails off.
Nick Bowditch: To be fair though, Simon, I think you and I both share that, but I think we also both share that as a bonus, too. Some people find that early day, that first three months extremely difficult, and I find that first three months extremely easy. It’s staying with something.
And I remember when I worked for other big brands, and it was all sort of scrappy to start with, and then it became really established, and really organized, and stuff like that, I thought, “This isn’t as fun. I’m out.”
Simon Dell: Tell us about some of the other clients that you worked for back in that day, that Bowditch Group day.
Nick Bowditch: They were mostly small businesses just like mine. They all sucked at social or didn’t understand at all, or afraid of it, or were anti it. They just didn’t give it any kind of resources, or time, or money. And so, they didn’t do any good on there. And all we had to do, really, was a little bit of ideation, a little bit of, “Oh, yeah. I think this could work. I think this works,” and then put the grunt in.
The problem with agency work around social media is that you just can’t charge enough for it. Nobody wants to do that grunt work. Nobody wants to post on the Facebook page of the hardware store like three times a week, and people don’t want to hear necessarily from the hardware store or the real estate agent. They just need them when they need them.
It was a really difficult storytelling aspect to come to grips with, and you just couldn’t charge well enough to make it worthwhile.
Simon Dell: I find it’s not really changed. Even in the evolution of 10 years of social media, we still got this problem that small business struggles with ideas, and storytelling, communication. At the other side of it, the consumer struggles with wanting to hear about it.
Nick Bowditch: That’s the issue for me, that’s the problem. What do they want? If I’m the hardware store, why would someone like my Facebook page? And if they do, what the fuck do they want to know? Do I talk about Kevin Spacey and do I news jack things or do I talk about hardware?
Because there’s only so much to talk about hardware, and half the people who are liking the page probably want to talk about hardware. Everyone’s different. It’s just really hard. And it seems really easy, which means people won’t pay enough money for it.
Simon Dell: I keep thinking about this real estate agency local to me who I sort of know as an acquaintance. He started with a new agency, and he started posting these epic walkthroughs of houses that he’s selling.
The first one was exactly that. It was epic; drones and everything going off, and soundtrack, and all that kind of thing. But after one of those, I’m like, I don’t know, how many of those do I want to watch? Maybe two or three, and after that, these aren’t houses I’m going to buy.
Nick Bowditch: That’s the key. I reckon real estate is the hardest. Funeral director, maybe, is up there.
Simon Dell: I was approached once but a funeral director asking to help on their social. I was thankful they never went with me.
Nick Bowditch: They did go with me. I don’t know if they’re the same ones, but we did have one and it was really hard. Everything needed to be subdued, obviously, and reverent, but everything needed to be really well-lit, really high quality. The problem with real estate and funerals is from an agency point of view, from a social point of view, is people only need you when they need you. They don’t want to hear from you otherwise. Like, who wants to hear from a funeral place?
Simon Dell: With that in mind, if you’ve now taken the social cap off, if people are listening to this and they own a funeral director, or they own a real estate agent, what would you suggest to them now in terms of keeping them front of mind to their local community?
Nick Bowditch: I would try to be the most influential and front of mind voice in the community. That’s the only thing that worked, and I think it’s still the only thing that works, is when the real estate guy talks about… I live on the beach here. I’m a beach suburb here, and the real estate guy should be talking about sand erosion just around a block from here, climate change, overfishing, traffic snarls, marriage equality; things that matter to people.
I think it’s too easy for us to go, “Well, no one wants to hear from the real estate agent about marriage equality.” But if I’m trying to decide between two different real estate agents to sell my home, and I know how one stands on an issue like that, even if it’s not in agreeance with my stance on it, I’m more likely to go with that person because they are real, and they are authentic, and they are willing to take a stand on something and say this is how I feel. That’s compelling for me. I would try to be the most compelling, influential voice in the community, no matter what you’re selling.
Simon Dell: I think that also pays dividends as well. A lot of people go on Facebook and ask their friends, “Can you recommend a real estate agent?” If that real estate agent has been talking about something, it’s amazing how that then lends itself to a referral.
Nick Bowditch: It’s funny how many times I refer somebody, or some brand, or some business, or somebody else who I’ve never spoken to. And I don’t go, “Oh, these guys are awesome.” I go, “Oh, try these guys. They’re all over Facebook. I see them all the time.” That lends legitimacy.
Simon Dell: What other things have you learned from that sort of startup space in the small business space that you think — those things that you say, when you start working with a new client, or a new business, that you go, “Right, here’s the basics that people have got to get right.”
Nick Bowditch: In social?
Simon Dell: In anything, in business in general.
Nick Bowditch: You’re never going to be ready. Stop saving up and just start. That’s the biggest thing for me. The biggest conversation I have with startup people and small business people now. The most repetitive conversation is someone says to me, “I’ve got this job. I’ve got this career, and it’s well-paid, and it’s standard, and it’s safe, and it’s secure. But I’ve got this idea, and I’ve started to sell these things. I’m selling a few of them now and I just can’t make the jump to leave my full-time job.”
I know, no doubt, you’ve had this conversation. My response to these is always a little irresponsible, actually, but my response is always, “Dude, when are you going to be fucking ready? Just have a crack.” Obviously, if you have a mortgage, and you got children to feed, there’s a difference there.
That was why it was good for me to have nothing when we started because I would’ve lost it for sure, whatever we had. That’s the biggest thing, is people wait and wait, and then it’ll be too late or someone will have done it.
That’s the second thing. For instance, one of my clients was telling me the other day, he referred a guy who has this startup idea to an app developer. The app developer told his mate, “That’s already been done. Someone’s doing that.” And talked him out of it. I think that is really prevalent, where people think they need to be the only person with the idea, or with the technology, or with the capacity, otherwise, they’re not going to start.
If that was the case, there’d be no Samsung, there’d be no LG, there’d be no Virgin Airlines, and there’d be no Jetstar. A lot of brands would never have started. There’s 7.5 billion people. There’s plenty of fish in the sea. That’s probably my two biggest lessons.
Simon Dell: It’s interesting you say about taking that jump. I had this conversation with a previous guest, and it was from a book I read by a guy called Cal Newport. The book is So Good They Can’t Ignore You. Have you read that?
Nick Bowditch: I saw something about it on Facebook.
Simon Dell: It’s interesting because he has a slightly different angle on it. I definitely think it’s obviously a book I highly recommend to everybody. He has a couple of points, but one of the points that I like that he talks about building up career capital.
If you’re in a job that you don’t like, it’s that you should spend the time building up capital in yourself, education, knowledge. When you move into a business or a startup, whatever it is, move into a business or a startup that uses the career capital that you’ve built up in your previous role.
His argument is if you’re an accountant, don’t go and start a yoga school because you don’t know anything about yoga and your career capital you’ve built up won’t help you in that yoga school. But if you’re an accountant, go out and do something that uses your career capital and that you’re passionate about. His other point is that the more career capital you get and the better you get at the job, that’s when you find your purpose.
It’s not the other way around. You don’t sit there and go, “Here’s my purpose. Now, I’m going to go off and do this.” It was quite an interesting take on it that I thought turns that on its head a little bit.
Nick Bowditch: It does. I like that, though, because I think too many people do decide what they’re going to be and then try to work backwards over it, “I’m going to try this and fail. I’m going to try this and fail.” Having said that, every success and failure I’ve had, I have had that career capital. It’s not having to try anything outlandishly different. It’s being the execution, my execution that’s been knowing that.
Simon Dell: Yeah. I mean, he obviously said there’s some other factors in that as well. He uses a lot of good examples where people in their early 20s have put their stake in the ground and said, “This is what I stand for and this is what I’m going to do.” Two, three years later, they’re a complete failure because they haven’t got that capital in themselves to build that purpose around them. It’s an interesting point, anyway.
Nick Bowditch: If you think about it, Zuckerberg was already a coder. Elon Musk was already a coder. They haven’t necessarily started something drastically different.
Simon Dell: The good example he uses was Steve Jobs, because Steve Jobs wasn’t overly interested in building computers when he first started off.
Nick Bowditch: It was Steve Wozniak.
Simon Dell: Exactly. There’s another book I’ve read where all those good credit people tend to have a duo next to them, and that’s the same with Gates and Jobs. They all had that person next to them who could activate the dream, as it were.
Nick Bowditch: It’s the same as Zuck, actually. Everybody in that business compliments him in some way, and it’s a very smart way to ….
Simon Dell: Let’s talk about the time at Facebook and Twitter. I don’t really want to dwell on it too much because I don’t think it’s… There’s a lot of things I’m sure you learned there but I’m not sure a lot of the lessons are wholly appropriate or wholly useful to people in that sort of business. I’m really keen to find out some of the key things that you did take from Facebook and Twitter as well.
Nick Bowditch: From Facebook, especially, I was there for about three years. I learned something new every day. I was able to work alongside and sit next to geniuses every single day. I was the dumbest person in every meeting. That was fine with me because I was able to learn.
Most of these brilliant people I worked with at Facebook couldn’t say what they wanted to say to people they wanted to say it to. They couldn’t phrase things. They couldn’t communicate and connect with people as well as I could. Likewise, I didn’t understand data the way they did, or I couldn’t code the way they could. I filled a role there.
The biggest thing I learned there was the value of inclusion of your team on the journey. The buy in you get from your people, it was easily the stand out thing that I learned there. Zuck does a Q&A every Friday afternoon for an hour where he gets up in front of the entire workforce and he encourages people to ask anything they want.
He’s extremely open about answers he gives and whatever. When you work there, everyone from the person cleaning the dummies right through to Mark knows everything about the business. You are really empowered, and you’re really included, and you drink the Kool-Aid. You really do. You are part of the machine.
Simon Dell: Do you think that’s something an average business owner could do themselves?
Nick Bowditch: Absolutely, but they don’t. At Facebook, everyone knows everything and you literally know everything. You know all the nifty stuff that’s coming down the pipe, the things that they’re building. You know the trouble that we’re in, or money that we’re not making, or products that aren’t working as well.
And then you look at businesses like Apple, where in the campus at Cupertino, here’s some parts of that building where some people employed there can’t go. There’s literally doors you can’t go in. I just don’t think it would have the same inclusive effect. I know people who work at both brands. I know that that’s true.
And so, often, I ask small business people and startup people, “What business are you running? Are you running Facebook where everyone’s included, or you’re running Apple where some people can’t go in that door?”
Simon Dell: It’s funny because they’re both a success in their own way.
Nick Bowditch: Of course, but I would challenge and say, how much more successful could Apple be if everybody knew about everything? Obviously, they’re terrified that whatever’s behind that door being built or planned is going to be leaked. But the underlying thing of that is, is what does that say to the employee? It says, “I don’t fucking trust you.” That’s not a good place to work.
Simon Dell: Facebook has evolved a lot since 2007 when you started using it for that travel agency. Where do you see these platforms evolving to next?
Nick Bowditch: I don’t ask the people, even my mates there, about very much. Although, I occasionally have serious FOMO and really want to know, I mostly have had that kind of thing.
Simon Dell: FOMO has been a constant thing about everyone I’ve spoken to on this podcast so far. I keep making the joke about how we give millennials shit for FOMO, but it doesn’t change, it just evolves into a different kind of FOMO later on in life.
Nick Bowditch: The truth is that all of us Gen X’s have great FOMO of millennials, let’s be honest. But yeah, so I don’t know for sure where it’s going, but I know that there’s a great investment in AI, and AR, and VR. I think that we’ll look back in five years and two things will have happened.
Here’s your sound bite that I’m sure you’ll play in five years when it hasn’t happened back to me, but here’s my thing. In five years, I think Instagram will have more monthly active users than Facebook does. I think that Facebook in Oculus, in virtual reality, will be used far more effectively and more densely than Facebook on a laptop or even mobile. That will be on the back of machine learning and artificial intelligence completely changing the way everybody markets everything to everyone else.
Simon Dell: You’ll have a big challenge with both AR and VR in the fact that I believe that no matter what you do, the end consumer does not want to put something on their face, on their head.
Nick Bowditch: I totally agree with you, but I also think in five years, they won’t.
Simon Dell: It’ll just be projected in front of them by…
Nick Bowditch: Something. Contact lens?
Simon Dell: Up here, we’ve got one of those free roaming VR, whatever you call them — not exhibitions, it’s a game. That’s really where I see VR going as an entertainment, not necessarily at home, but somewhere that you could go for two or three hours in the same way that you would go to a cinema. I think VR will kill the cinema because, quite frankly, I’d rather go and experience a zombie outbreak in VR than I would go and watch the latest romantic film with the wife.
Nick Bowditch: I think also, just on that, I think it’s going to seriously threaten the travel industry. I think as VR improves, if I can sit in my home, and for free, be on the Serengeti and watched wildebeests and elephants walk past, and it’s really good, am I less inclined to save up and spend money to go to Africa?
Simon Dell: Good point. Just on that then, taking the next step, what are some of the other brands that you admire and always return to? I know there’s always an ongoing conversation, I think I saw it last weekend, about the Qantas versus Virgin debate. I know you’re not a fan of Virgin. I’m a Virgin traveller. I wouldn’t go Qantas, but what are some of the other brands that you like, that you would always buy or that impress you?
Nick Bowditch: It’s funny, because I’m not particularly brand-loyal generally, but I’ll only buy Kleenex Cottonelle toilet paper. And seriously, if they put a hundred in the packet, I’d fucking buy that. The bigger the packet, the better. That’s one thing.
Simon Dell: That’s not the brand that I was expecting you to say, but fantastic.
Nick Bowditch: That’s probably one of my top five favourite brands. Qantas, I just think there’s so much to love about Qantas. There’s the nationalistic part of me that loves it. There’s the storytelling part of me that loves it. I just don’t think there’s better brand storytellers in the market anyway.
Simon Dell: Have you seen their recent TV campaign? They’ve got one where they’re talking about the people behind the Qantas brand.
Nick Bowditch: Oh, yeah. That started on social. Interestingly, they’re going social first with a lot of their brand campaigns, which is really interesting. Imagine five years ago someone doing that. Facebook were the last place you’d try something, not the first.
I just love the fact that they can tell the story of the traveller without ever showing the equipment, the planes, the meals, the food, the legroom, any of that stuff, and you don’t care. I know as a frequent flyer, they just look after you in a way that actually rewards brand loyalty in a market where I just don’t think it is rewarded very often. I just love them.
That said, I had to fly Virgin last week for some reason. This is the point about brand loyalty: It could’ve been the best experience in my life, and I still would’ve thought, yeh it was alright. That’s when you know you win. I’m an Audi fan.
I think the real constant thing with me is brands that don’t try to be something else, brands who go, “Do you know what? Someone’s got to be the most expensive here. It might as well be us. Fuck the rest of you. This is what we’re doing. We’re not going to lay down for that. We’re not going to try and twist ourselves around.”
Mercedes-Benz now have a model of car that’s $29,990 and they do that because they weren’t getting 22 to 26-year-old women buying their cars and they really wanted them. I think that’s really the wrong thing to do.
Simon Dell: It’s that authenticity whether you’re Audi, or whether you’re the local real estate agent, or the local funeral, that making sure you’re authentic in that marketplace, saying this is who we are, just being honest and transparent with people. That’s massive.
Nick Bowditch: I think on those ones, too, that’s why Snapchat, for all its problems, that’s why it works for some brands and some people. It’s certainly why Instagram Stories, and Instagram Live, and Facebook Live worked, because you can’t fake that. It’s not a do over. It’s not an edited version. It’s real in that moment. Somebody is literally doing that, and they’re taking a risk to do it. I think the market respects and rewards people to take risk and be themselves.
Simon Dell: Last couple of questions for you. You’ve obviously met a lot of people on your travels. You’ve spoken at a lot of organizations. What organizations or what people have you met that really impress you, people that you would go back time and time again to listen to, or organizations that you’d be part of?
Nick Bowditch: At Facebook, there’s a long list, really, but part of that might be my unconscious bias because I had definitely drunk the Kool-Aid by then. But I would say the two standouts for me there, and even with Zuck, actually, one is Sheryl Sandberg.
I just found her, in person, to be such a formidable yet compelling and convincing person. And keep in mind, she spends a lot of her day in a room with a whole lot of white, old grey dudes talking about policy and talking about investment. And yet, she can still have the same cut through with them as she does with the younger Facebook workforce. Generally, I think she’s a very compelling character.
The other person at Facebook who impressed me more than anybody else is a fellow called Chris Cox. Chris is the VP of Product. He was one of the first handful of people that Mark got on board. The most compelling and impressive thing about Chris is that he does a talk during the new hire orientation week, on the first Monday at 10:00 a.m.
The very first person who speaks to you is him. He tells a story about how Mark approached him to go and work on Facebook, this thing that he was calling The Facebook, had no money, no employees, it had big plans and whatever. And Chris said, “This is shit. I’m not going to do this. This is never going to make money and no one’s ever going to advertise on it. How are you going to make money?”
Anyway, Zuck was able to coerce him and convince him to do it. But he tells this story at 10:00 every Monday. And when I heard him say it the first time at my new hire orientation, he might’ve said it a thousand times. A few years ago, just before I left the Book, I snuck in and listened to it again.
It might’ve been the 4,000th time he told it. Whatever that was, he sounded like it was the first time he said it. No PowerPoint or any gadgetry, any of that. He just sat on a chair at the front of the room and told his story, and every person in the room is on the edge of their seat, completely engaged. That’s impressive. From a speaker point of view, probably the best speaker that I’ve worked alongside or on the same gig of was Todd Sampson. Todd’s on The Gruen Trans.
Simon Dell: Yeah, the ‘hack your body’ guy.
Nick Bowditch: Body Hack guy, life hack guy, super clever fellow. But just, again, someone who can make very difficult concepts seem very simple, that always impresses me because I’m kind of the other way around. I take the most simple things and make them completely difficult and bamboozling. But Todd’s a very impressive guy. Those sorts of people I’ve been very fortunate to work with, and meet, and call friends, which is nice.
Simon Dell: Fantastic. We’re wrapping up here. What’s next for you? Where do you go from here? Not literally, because obviously, you wait for the kids to come home.
Nick Bowditch: Yeah, kids are about to get home. All hell’s about to break loose.
Simon Dell: We’ll wrap up quickly before that happens.
Nick Bowditch: I’ve written my second book, a follow-up to the first one. It should be available shortly. I’m in the process now of writing the third one, and then I’m going to have a break from writing for a while. I’m really interested in the stuff that I’m doing now for Lifeline. I’m the ambassador for Lifeline in Australia, which is a suicide prevention hotline.
I’m also an ambassador for The Carers Foundation which is based in Queensland. One of the ways we care for carers is 3 million carers in Australia, looking after someone in their life, and none of them put up their hand for that. That sort of work, I’m really interested in.
And just speaking at conferences, I speak more now about mental health and suicide prevention than I do about marketing and startup, but I still occasionally delve into both, which is nice. My next thing, I don’t think it’s been invented yet, actually. Maybe it’s selling Serengeti VR platforms. Who knows?
Simon Dell: Put my down for the first one. I’m definitely interested. How did you find writing? Do you find that a soothing experience or intensely painful experience?
Nick Bowditch: I’m fortunate it comes very easily to me. The editing process is more difficult because I can be a bit of a know-all and a bit whatever, but my editor is fantastic and she just says, “No, that’s shit. Here it is, it’s better.” And I go, “Okay.” But no, I’m cool. I like it. I think it’s cathartic, but it’s a lovely thing when it’s done, to put it that way.
Simon Dell: If people want to talk to you, if people want to ask you a question, if they want to buy your book or hear you speak, what’s the best way of getting a hold of you?
Nick Bowditch: The best thing is to go to NickBowditch.com. The best way to contact me is through Facebook or Instagram. I’m @nickbowditch across all the socials, and that’s probably the best way to get a hold of me.
Simon Dell: Fantastic. Mate, it’s been a pleasure. I think there’s probably a whirlwind coming through your front door in a few minutes time.
Nick Bowditch: In about three minutes from now.
Simon Dell: I’ll give you two minutes to prepare for that, but I just want to thank you for your time. There’s some really interesting stories there, some fantastic things that I think people will find extremely useful. Hopefully, they can apply to their own business and their own life. Thank you very much, for your time, mate.
Nick Bowditch: You’re welcome, champ. Thank you.
For more transcriptions of the Simon Dell Show click here: Marketing Podcasts.