The Importance of Brand Experience with Rich Curtis

How do you make yourself and your brand stand out without all the fluff? Rich Curtis, CEO of FutureBrand Australia, explains that it’s about delivering your brand distinctively and not necessarily uniquely. It is in those distinctive moments where you will begin to become recognised and that is where you can begin to start building your brand. In this episode, Simon and Rich explore the fluffiness around brand purpose and experience, how COVID has affected brands and what it really takes to truly deliver purpose and experience through your brand.

Show Notes

Rich Curtis is currently the CEO of FutureBrand Australia. FutureBrand is a global company which focuses on delivering transformational brand experiences through strategy, design, innovation and experience. Check out their website.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/curtisr/

 


Transcript

Simon Dell: So, welcome to the Cemoh Marketing Podcast, although it’s a podcast and video cast at the same time. Rich Curtis, how are you?

Rich Curtis: I’m very good. I’m very good. Mostly sunny day.

Simon Dell: Again, you’ve disappointed me today because when I saw your name coming up, I was going, “Is this the guy that wrote Blackadder?” And sadly, you’re not the guy that wrote Blackadder, are you?

Rich Curtis: What if I said I was?

Simon Dell: He’s a lot older than you, I think.

Rich Curtis: Maybe he’s just the cover star.

Simon Dell: Because about three episodes ago, I had a Richard Hammond on, and I was disappointed then as well.

Rich Curtis: Yeah, right. I did once have a client called Paul Weller, and I used to find it quite amusing going for lunch, Richard Curtis and Paul Weller.

Simon Dell: That would crack me up. That’s just – you know, yeah, that’s…

Rich Curtis: It’s the little things, isn’t it? It’s the little things.

Simon Dell: I’d enjoy that so much. That would be… Because one of my very good friends who’s coached us in business and he’s been on a few of my episodes is actually called Simon Bell. And when we go out, we have to – when we introduce ourselves to people, that’s a really awkward conversation as well. So, they’re like, “Simon Bell and Simon Dell?” And we go, “Yeah,” and they go, “How did that happen?”

Rich Curtis: It sounds like a limerick.

Simon Dell: I’ll challenge you by the end of this episode to come up with a limerick about that. So, tell us what you do, because there’s a lot on your LinkedIn profile. And obviously, I want to focus largely on FutureBrand. But tell us the brief Rich Curtis story.

Rich Curtis: Well, in terms of what I do day to day, it’s one of two things. It’s either helping organizations create new brands or transform existing ones. And you know, I grew up as a strategist. You essentially read and review a huge amount of information and try and make sense of it for people and suggest what the way forward might be. And that’s in many respects, no different to what I did or what anyone does at university.  

You know, you’re just trying to add research and analyse a lot of information. You know, things that other people have said or written or how people might feel a particular subject and, you know, analyse that, make sense of it. And I think, importantly, understand how to sell it. Originally, one of the first jobs I set my heart on was being a barrister, a lawyer. You know, that idea –

Simon Dell: Bizarrely, I didn’t say – I’ve got a degree in law, right? 

Rich Curtis: Right.

Simon Dell: Yeah. And I got out of university and went, “Fuck that. I’m not doing that again.”

Rich Curtis: I never got that far. I never got that far. I am… I kind of shadowed a criminal defence barrister while I was at school, and I found that getting people off, who were clearly guilty, was not something I could really feel all that comfortable with. 

Simon Dell: Right. 

Rich Curtis: And so, that was that for me. But I think there’s always been that balance of not only coming up with ideas, but then also selling them. I think that’s very much what I do now. And I think that kind of has its origins. If you like, in that idea of wanting to be a barrister and kind of studying at uni and putting together in arguments and making sense of it, and having other people believe it.

Simon Dell: Were you always on the school debating team?

Rich Curtis: Debating wasn’t a thing at our school, or if it were, I must’ve dutifully ignored it. But kind of sport was always the big thing for me. And certainly, in terms of business leadership, so to speak, kind of a lot of my leadership, if you can call it, that comes from playing sport, basically. And I think there’s a lot to be said about leadership in sport because typically, you’re one of the players on the field alongside everyone else, as opposed to how a lot of leaders can sometimes be. There’s a lot of pointing and waving of arms and whatnot, whereas I like to tend to get involved. So, not so much debating and gesticulating, much more sport and being part of a team.

Simon Dell: What did you play?

Rich Curtis: So, when I was a kid, rugby, until clearly, everyone else got much wider and taller than me. And golf was the thing I’ve played since I was a little kid, and then played golf all the way through to university, which is not necessarily associated as being a team sport. You know, the Ryder Cup at a global scale is the only – and the President’s Cup as well. But at uni, it was a team sport insofar as, you know, there’s 10 of you lining up each and every weekend to play another team.  

And you know, kind of sitting down with each of the players and understanding what their strengths and weaknesses are, and you know, all those sorts of things. So, there was a lot in that that I learned. And I think the other thing is you learn how to lead, while at the same time being a peer as opposed to having some hierarchy naturally elevate you. So, I’ve always wanted to be quite hands-on. It seems to just keep you connected to everything and everyone. But yes, golf, not a contact sport.

 

Simon Dell: So, talk to me about FutureBrand. It looks like an enormous company. I mean, is it an enormous company? I mean, they look like there’s a lot of employees. How big? What sort of scale are we talking here?

Rich Curtis: Yeah, I mean, there’s lots of people, and lots of offices in lots of countries. So, I also think about 500 or 600 people, 20 or so offices around the world. And you know, as I said, it’s about either creating new brands or transforming existing ones. I just look after Australia, and that’s more than enough. We’ve got more than enough going on here. And you know, we work across lots of different sectors. So, finance, health care, technology, travel and tourism. Little bit of mining and resources.  

And you know, the skills that we have are transferable across their sectors, whether it’s B2B or B2C. I think in days gone by, you might have disaggregated those things and kept them quite separate. But you know, consumer brands sit over here and surprise brands over there, whereas, you know, now more than ever, all of these things are emerging and conflated. And so, you know, we get to across a lot of different sectors and see inside of a lot of different organizations.

Simon Dell: Mate, this is a really kind of random, going off on a tangent here. How has that structured FutureBrand? You’re the CEO of Australia. Is it like a franchise business or, you know, how do they structure that?

Rich Curtis: So, it’s a global business with everyone reporting up via offices and reporting lines. In Australia, we’re a bit of a quirk, so to speak. Insofar as I own the business in Australia. And you know, for us, it gives us – what our clients play back to us is being the best of both worlds, that we are locally-owned and independently-minded, and then also have the global relationships in global resources.  

You know, that was a transaction that happened this time last year. So, it’s kind of relatively recent in the scheme of things happening with the business for seven and a half years. And so, it’s kind of same-same but different. You know, there’s lots of continuity, but I think the local ownership gives us a little bit more agility, which I think now more than ever, businesses need, and brands too.

Simon Dell: Yeah, yeah. Talk to me. I find there’s two different types of businesspeople in this world. I think every businessperson can be lumped into one or the other category, the ones who understand the importance of a brand and the ones that don’t understand the importance of a brand. And generally, the ones who don’t understand it are often the small little businesses, small or medium sized businesses that don’t understand, you know.  

And by brand, we’ll – you know, we obviously talk about, “It’s not just your logo and the colours and all those kind of things. It’s all those other bits and pieces.” But often, there are some big brands, some big brand owners and CEOs that don’t really understand the value and the power of the brand. I guess you’ve probably met a few of those in your time.

Rich Curtis: Yes, most definitely. I think there are those people who are in denial, so to speak. I mean, whether you like it or not or recognize it or not, you have a brand, and that’s how others perceive you or how expectations are managed, and people will use that brand to make decisions. So, the fundamental thing here is that it’s not just about having a brand for the sake of it, but for any products or service, you know, people will buy it for a variety of reasons, and typically, it’s a combination of things.  

And those reasons might be price, distribution, quality, relationship, but brand will be one of those things. It might not be the only thing, and it might not be the most important thing, but it’s going to be one of those things that as a bundle, drive choice. And so, if you ignore your brand or if you’re blissfully unaware of it, well, then you’re leaving behind one of those tools by which you can help people choose you.  

And if you’re just relying on a relationship, well then it’s difficult to scale. If you’re just relying on price, it’s difficult to drive margin. And brand is something that can help you get chosen and build loyalty as well. So, it’s there, whether you like it or not. And I think bigger organizations certainly will spend a huge amount of time kind of squeezing everything they can, operational efficiencies here, there and everywhere. And then eventually, go, “Hey, there’s this little old brand thing over here. Maybe we should do something with that too.”  

And I think the same can often apply to small businesses and small business owners. You know, there’s a heck of a lot going on. But if you’re not building your brand, you’re just – you’re not building that longevity and that sustainability into your business. You know, there’s a phrase in property that the deeper you dig, the higher you can build. Otherwise, the thing topples over. And I think it’s the same in terms of brand.  

And looking in – you know, all too much marketing, I think, is also just sales support. Whereas marketing, per se, is about demand creation. It’s about creating that desire and making yourself attractive. And so, that’s where you need to understand what it is that customers need, and what it is that they want, and why they buy and how they buy.  

And so, it’s actually quite practical things. You know, go into creating your brand, it’s not this abstract kind of notion that’s quite esoteric, it’s actually, “What do our customers want, and how do we then kind of respond to that? How do we wrap it up in a way that makes sense to them?

Simon Dell: There’s a lot of small businesses who are up – you know, medium-sized businesses as well who are, you know, looking at themselves post-COVID and going, “The brand needs work. We need to think about… You know, we need to think about how we present ourselves, how we create demand, all those kinds of things.” Where do they start? I mean, you mentioned thinking about what your customers want and all those kind of things.  

I’ve been going through the process as well with a client of ours who was looking at creating… We’re looking at creating in partnership with them a hydration drink. Now, we’re not creating anything different than what’s being potentially created already before. So, we know there’s customer demand there, but where do businesses start? Because I think that’s probably… I always find that that’s probably the first – that first step is the hardest step for any of them to make, to sit there and go, “What do we do first? Do we look at the customer base? Do we look at the demand? Do we look at the channels that we could sell through? Do we look at location?” You know? Or is it all of those things? And how do we take that first step

Rich Curtis: Yeah. Look, I think… You know, there’s value in separating what’s strategy and what’s execution. I think at a strategic level, it’s “Who are we? You know, what’s our brand all about?” And some of that will come from when – it will come from within, kind of irrespective of how customers might think or feel about things. Because in some cases, if it is something that’s genuinely innovative, well, customers don’t know how they feel about it because they’ve never experienced it before. Some of it will come from within, and that needs to be balanced with a customer perspective and what need you might be fulfilling.  

And you know, we always talk about DNA insight and foresight. So, the DNA is what makes you or what makes your brand tick, and then insight into customers. And then foresight, equally important in terms of how the market’s evolving and how do you make sure that whatever you’re creating is future-proofed. And those three things help you triangulate where you’re at versus where you might need to be.  

And then other things like price, channel distribution and so forth. I think they’re execution elements about how you might go to market. And I think – you know, thinking about those things in the right order is important. Otherwise, you might be taking a slightly more superficial approach or kind of get bent out of shape by thinking more tactically.  

But I think, fundamentally, it’s like, “Well, what’s the idea here? What’s the idea, and what’s the purpose that sits at the heart of what it is that we’re trying to do?” And then equally important, if you’re going to have that sense of purpose about your brand or your business is, “Well, how do we then deliver that through the experience?” And you need to have both.  

And the experience, yes, might be, you know, price perceptions and channels and whatnot. But you need that experience so that your brand isn’t just the logo that sits top left, top right-hand corner of the website, but people actually feel that brand through the ways in which you might interact with them. And so, you might have a great experience, but you don’t have a clear purpose. You’re likely to be relatively kind of same-same, relatively generic.  

And if you have the purpose but no experience, then it’s a little bit redundant. And because your purpose is invisible, people don’t experience it. So, there has to be a combination of the two. But I think you have to start with that purpose and what it is that makes us us, what it is that makes us distinctive, and how might we describe what it is that we do in a way that is clear and compelling.

Simon Dell: And that’s an interesting point. You know, you kind of… You see a lot of brands get, probably what I would call, get very fluffy about their purpose. Get very kind of, you know, what’s the best way of describing it? Very – almost up their own ass about their purpose. You know, “We want to do this. We want to…”  

I’d read the WeWork book recently about Adam Neumann and his sort of rise and fall from WeWork. And all of these kind of fluffy, exaggerated brand statements, do you think that – and again, one of the people I read and follow quite a lot is Tom Goodwin, who often has a lot to say about those kind of things.  

Do you think the consumer wants that? What does the consumer want from a brand? What are they looking for? They’re looking for this, you know, purpose that fits with their kind of beliefs, or do they just want something that does – you know, does exactly what it says on the tin? And you’d recognize the reference, and hopefully you’d recognize the reference of that advertising campaign.

Rich Curtis: Yeah. Like, I think the one big thing that COVID has changed, with respect to this conversation, is just calling out the bullshit, basically.

Simon Dell: Yeah.

Rich Curtis: Insofar as a lot of people might have been talking about authentic leadership and sense of purpose, and this that and the other. And a lot of those brands and businesses were revealed to be quite naked underneath all of it. You know, there was just nothing there. And so, those businesses that have come out stronger as a consequence of COVID are the ones that already had that authenticity of purpose and that clear sense of who they were.  

By the time COVID came along and everyone’s scrambling to pull it all together, you know, it’s just far too late. And you know, there’s a few clients with whom we’ve worked with over the past 12 to 18 months whose employee engagement scores actually went up through COVID. So, good example of that, right at the extreme end of things, is Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, MCEC.  

So, not able to hold any events or anything, but because they already had that authentic leadership from Peter, the chief exec, and you know, that sense of who they were, it actually pulled them together, and their scores went up and they became even tighter and closer in spite of everything. And whereas there are those that were exposed relatively quickly and weren’t all that tech-savvy or worked all that well stitched together and things fell apart quite quickly. So, you know, now more than ever, I think organizations are really having their feet held to the fire as a consequence of COVID.  

And also, you know, as a consequence of technology – and that’s not a new trend, necessarily, but the thing that technology affords us is just greater transparency. So, we will now know the brands behind the brands. There’s nowhere to hide as a consequence of social media, et cetera. And so, you know, fundamentally, I don’t think anyone walks around going, “I’m looking for a brand with a clear sense of purpose today.” You know, it’s, “I want some milk,” or “I want some cornflakes,” you know.  

And so, brands and advertising and so forth are often, quite purposely, interruptions and interventions, rather than things that people actually go out and seek. And so, I think we need to have that reality check on things as well. And I think there is a lot about that purpose with a capital P that is just far beyond what any consumer would ever expect of the brand.  

You know, the whole idea of banks that want to be loved drives me absolutely wild. Or telcos that want to be loved, or car brands, you know? I don’t understand the brand love thing. I hope it’s semantic rather than actually falling in love, because that sounds like quite a dystopian future. So, I think there is a lot that is hyperbole. And so, you know, people do just want things to do what they said they were going to do. And I think at its most basic, you’ve got a product or service, there’s a need for it. And then when you buy that product or service, you want it to do what it said it was going to do. 

And I think at its most basic, there’s value in that. But I also think there’s value and then adding layers over the top of that. And I think the most meaningful one is emotion. You know, that there’s some kind of emotional connection. And I don’t mean love necessarily, but when we’re creating brands or working with brands, oftentimes, we’re not designing logos or strategies, but we’re actually trying to spark some kind of a feeling.  

So that when you go to a hotel, you might feel relaxed and refreshed or when you sit in a car behind the wheel, you might feel exhilarated, and you’re trying to capture those feelings. It might be that if you’re working with a tradie, you just want reassurance that you’re not going to get – that they’re going to do a good job, they’re going to turn up.  

And the brand – and functionally, he or she, that tradie might do all of those things. You know, turn up on time, do a good job, keep it clean and not charge through the roof. And they may all be quite functional, but if you can level that up to a sense of reassurance, you know, that’s then that brand feeling. And so, to go back to what you were saying earlier about the order in which you might think about these things, you might set your brand up to be, “Well, we’re going to be the most reassuring plumbing experience that you can have, because we’re always going to be clean and tidy and turn up on time. If there’s ever a drama, we’re going to fix it up.” 

And that sense of reassurance then takes the anxiety out of what times can often be quite a panicked situation. And so, you might not be unique in that respect. Customers will have plumbing emergencies. It can be quite stressful. Kids running around trying to get them off to school, the taps are leaking, or whatever. You know, you might not be offering something unique, but if you can do it in a way that is distinctive because you are the most reassuring, and you get recognized for that in the experience, then you’re starting to build your brand, and that becomes – that’s that kind of connection that people have.  

“I’ll go back to that tradie or that plumber because I actually felt quite reassured. I don’t quite know what it was that they did differently, but every little interaction I had with them just left me feeling quite comfortable.” And in the context of the anxiety created by, you know, a leak or whatever it might be, a burst pipe, that’s a valuable brand.  

And so, it can be as simple as that. It doesn’t have to be, you know, “We’re going to solve the water problems of the world, one tap at a time.” Then you’ve got – you know, a few blokes and a couple of youths, it could just be, “We’re going to deliver this brand of reassurance at every point of contact.” And that, for me, is a formidable thing.

Simon Dell: You mentioned cars, and cars is always one that I look at to sort of go, you know, the fluff has gone from me for selling cars. And I sort of say to people, “Yeah, the people who want to buy the Teslas and the BMWs and all those kind of things. But you spend five minutes out on the main road in Australia, and it’s just – it’s wall-to-wall, silver SUVs that are all fairly distinct, that they’re fairly indistinct from each other.” You know?  

They – you know, a Mazda looks like a Toyota, looks like a Mitsubishi. You know, they all do the same thing. They’re all silver, they’re all SUVs. They’re all 4x4s. They’ve all got the kids in and the bags and the baby seats, and all those kind of things. And if to me, there was ever a signal that sort of people are potentially, you know, the brand isn’t really this kind of, I want a brand that fits my values and my purpose. To me, it’s mid-size SUVs, because most parents and – you know, and I use me, and this one is going, “Look, is this car are going to get me from A to B? Are my kids going to be safe if it crashes? And is it going to cost me an absolute fortune in petrol?” And if there’s two yesses and a no, I’m going, “Let’s just buy that, whether it’s a Mazda or whether it’s a Honda or whatever.” 

And yeah, maybe there’s a little bit. They all drive the same, they all feel the same. But, you know, I feel there’s this backlash, you know. I feel there’s this backlash specifically against a specific person, and his name is Simon Sinek, who, whatever 10 years ago, went, “We’ve all got to think about the why. We’ve got to think about the why, and people want the why with the business.”  

And I go, “Yeah, maybe sometimes. But most of the fucking time, people just want to know if this car is going to be – if their kids are going to be okay in this car, and they’ll pay the money to do that. They don’t really care about the “why buy” behind the Hyundai brand or the Toyota brand. It just – it’s not a factor.” And maybe that’s just me thinking that. But maybe, maybe that’s that sort of element where now that brands have been exposed, and people just want good functional quality brands?

Rich Curtis: Yeah. Look, I tend to agree, and I think auto branding is pretty vanilla at the best of times. I think in recent times, the two brands that probably stand out are Tesla, for obvious reasons, and Suzuki. So, I think some of the recent Suzuki work with their tagline, “For fun’s sake,” is taking the piss, basically.  

And I think you can do that in a category like auto because it’s a car. It’s obviously a car. It’s on a road, it drives. And so, there’s no value you can really derive, or I don’t think there’s any value you can really derive saying, “This car has four wheels, a steering wheel, look at it go along the road. It’s got airbags, et cetera, et cetera.”  

All you’re doing is just demonstrating that you belong in a certain category. And I think any category has certain conventions. And yes, you have to follow some of those. Safety in cars, trust and security in banks. You know, you have to play up to those conventions. But then, if you follow them all, you’re just building the category, you’re not building your company. And so, you have to be able to break some of those conventions to show how you fit in a category, and then at the same time, are distinctive in certain ways. 

You see the neo banks, you know, some of the FinTechs do it. You know, they’ll play up to some category codes and then purposefully break others. So, Athena Home Loans swears a bit. Little bit of a sweary brand, you know? And they talk about, you know, “Nobody wants to get a home loan, everyone wants to get rid of a fucking home loan.”  

And you know, that’s quite a powerful thing in terms of signalling quite clearly that they’re going to be quite different. But there’s a lot of stuff they do that’s still the same. You still have to go through a relatively laborious application form. It might not be as laborious as the others, but it’s still slightly laborious and onerous, right?  

So, there’s certain things you’ve got to do and certain things that you then purposely don’t do. You know, airlines, low-cost airlines in Europe back in the day. You have to pay for your own food. You have to pay to sit in certain parts of the planes. You know, that was all about, “Well, what conventions are we going to break in order to show that we’re a little bit different?” And the biggie, the EasyJet, by all accounts [inaudible 00:28:49] in the day with segmenting their audience based on not whether you were travelling for leisure or for business, but whether you were paying for your ticket or someone else is paying for their ticket – your ticket.

Simon Dell: Right, right.

Rich Curtis: And that basically broke out a segment of the market that was the small business market, because they’re small businesspeople flying. And they’re flying for business, but they’re not like other businesses, because they’re paying for their own seats rather than the companies paying for the seats. You know, that small businessperson mentality. 

And so, that was what broke out that segment and that category, and very much kind of enabled, fuelled the growth of that business. So, I think that’s where car companies go wrong. They just follow blindly too many of those category conventions. And so, as a result, everyone and everything looks exactly the same, and it just all blurs into one.  

I think with Tesla, it’s interesting, because you know, somebody told me the other day “I bought a Tesla, wanted to do our bit for the environment.” And I’m like, “No, you didn’t. You just wanted to buy a luxury car.” And so, you know, I think both of those things are true. And sustainability is increasingly becoming the norm, as opposed to something that you have to pay extra to afford.

Simon Dell: I think someone said to me recently about luxury cars in general was that people buy a luxury car, not because how it makes them feel, or not because they want to do their bit for the environment. It’s about how they appear to people who know them or see them driving that car. It’s all about – which is obvious, really, but it’s their own status. It’s, “I want people to look at me in a certain way. So, I’m going to buy this car,” you know? And that’s what that sort of luxury car thing is to me, is all about that.

Rich Curtis: Yeah. And I think that’s where… It used to be credit cards back in the day, and cigarette packets. You know, you go into a bar and you put them both down, whereas, you know, those self-expressive symbols, just aren’t quite they once were.  

And certainly, you know, finance as a consequence of technology is changing dramatically in terms of how you send those signals about yourself. You know, technology makes a lot of stuff invisible, and actually almost erodes the opportunity for you to kind of present your brand because everything kind of starts to look and feel the same.  

I’m sure you’ve been through websites, and as much as they might think that they have this all singing, all dancing brand that’s unique and distinctive and whatnot. And then actually, the purchase experience is disarmingly similar. And then you get to pay, and they’ve outsourced payment to PayPal, and then you’re off somewhere else.  

And so, you know, the brand experience – and it might be a relatively kind of basic one or it might be more sophisticated. It might have technology involved or it might not. It might just be all in-person. More and more, you need to think about the whole of that customer experience, and not in a way where you feel overwhelmed.  

You know, there might be some really critical moments that matter, so to speak. So, if you go back to auto, it’s going to be the test drive. You know, they know that if they can get you behind the wheel, their ability to close the deal skyrockets. But how do you replicate that in a post-COVID world? But you know, across any experience, you need to think about, “Well, what are the two or three moments where I can really make a difference?” And that’s where you want to be able to use your brand to elevate the experience.  

So, you know, to go back to the plumbing example. It might be that whenever you get an inquiry, you call back, same day every time. And it’s a small thing that you can do that really gives a clear sense of the brand delivered through the experience by something that you do. And I think it has to be the actions that determine that brand, rather than just things you may say and may or may not deliver.

Simon Dell: There’s a great book – and I’m going to forget the name now. The Power of Moments by Dan Heath. I think he wrote it with his brother, Chip Heath. But the story I always use is the Disney Paradox. That’s exactly how Disney operates, is that when you go to Disney World, they give you these moments, these small individual moments where you just go, “Wow, this is amazing.”  

You know, you’re meeting Mickey Mouse, you’re in Space Mountain, or whatever. It’s been a long time since I’ve been at Disney World. And then when you get out of there, you just go, “Well, that was one of the best days of my life because I’ve done all these things.” But when you look at it actually sensibly, you go, “Well, I stood in a queue for three hours and the food, the hot dog was cold. And the Coca-Cola was watered down.”  

And when you look at it in reality, it wasn’t a great experience. But because Disney kind of went… Right. Well, these little moments here that are really kind of engaging and super engaging micro moments, you kind of then forget all the other bits. You just remember those bits. And that’s the same – that’s the same principle as your plumber, is just sitting there going, if the plumber just does two or three things exceptionally well, super levels of service, super – you know? However they operate, whatever a plumber can do in that space, it elevates them above every other plumber.

Rich Curtis: Yeah. So, there’s a thing called the peak end rule. So, in any experience, you remember the peak. So, that might be the most intense feeling. That might be a really good feeling or a really bad meeting.

Simon Dell: Meeting Mickey Mouse, yep.

Rich Curtis: Yep. And then you remember the last thing that happened. And so, in any experience, I think that always provides a useful frame for thinking about where you want to might place your energy. And it’s going to be that moment where – you know, that really matters, and then the last thing you do. And you know, we went on a family holiday to Legoland. You talking about Disney reminded me of it. And when we were heading out, we checked out bags in the van, and off we were going.  

The concierge or one of the bellboys took a photo of us as a family. And unbeknownst to us, I think he was trying to line us up and got some of the other bellboys to help him. And unbeknownst to us, had taken a selfie of all of them, as opposed to taking a photo of us. And our whole family, to this day, remembers that holiday and that hotel, the Legoland Hotel for that kind of simple interaction, even more so than anything else that happened.  

And it was hilarious because you’re all sat in the van or on the plane or wherever. You’re going through the photos and we’re like, “How, that’s it? Who are these clowns?” But it’s a great example of a memory that then gets created. And that’s the other thing. There’s two types of experiences. One is the actual experience, and then the other is the experience that you remember. And they can actually be quite different, based on the feelings or emotions that are attached to something, or…

Simon Dell: Yeah.

Rich Curtis: And so, you know, it’s worthwhile kind of reflecting on that. And it’s just how do you deliver that experience. And again, you know, I think that’s just become much more important than ever because there’s so much transparency. On the one hand, there’s cynicism from customers, and so you need to be able to kind of point to these proof points.  

There’s the ways in which people can experience your brand or you deliver on the things that you say you’re going to deliver on. You know, you’re going to have people in your team, quite possibly. And so, you need to be able to keep it simple for them as well. And the last thing anyone needs is like, another thing to do. I think when brand becomes an intervention, it’s just another thing on the todo list that I really don’t have time for. 

And so, it’s finding ways in which you can integrate it in the things that you already do. So – but then it becomes habitual, it just becomes part of the experience, as opposed to marketing or branding this extra thing I need to think about. So, if you’re having a huddle on Monday mornings, introduce the brand within that. You know, there’s things you’re going to be doing anyhow, and there are opportunities to reinforce the brand in some small way.

Simon Dell: When I do these podcasts, one of the reasons I started doing these podcasts was to educate myself, if nothing else. And there’s a couple of things that you said today that I’ve scribbled down here and now, I’m going to take back to my team. And the peak end rule is one of the one of the great ones. I’ve a done a video for the popsicle hotline. I’m not going to go into it now, but it’s a hotel in LA that has a little popsicle hotline.

Rich Curtis: Yep, I know the one.

Simon Dell: You know the one? Yeah, yeah. It’s a great story. Great story. They were ranked number two in TripAdvisor at one point for the best hotels in LA, and little things like that had gotten there. But I’ve got two more questions before we wrap up because I’ve kept you long enough as it is. Obviously, FutureBrand. You’ve mentioned future proofing. You’ve got future all over you. What’s going to happen in the next 10 years? What do we need to keep front of our mind for the next 10 years?

Rich Curtis: I think technology is obviously going to become more and more important. The thing I worry about with technology is that as it becomes more ubiquitous, it becomes more similar in the same way as there was VHS and Betamax and kind of one over the other. You know, that we all drive cars the same way, the technology is homogenous in every car in which you might sit. It’s – well, there’s kind of two versions, left or right-hand drive. Technology has the risk of making everything easier, but also making everything feel kind of the same. 

Simon Dell: The same, yeah. 

Rich Curtis: And it makes it simple and easy and effective, but it also makes it quite bland and generic. And so, I think now more than ever, we actually need to be retaining some of what people call “friction” in our lives. Like doing this thing, this is friction. It would be far easier if you just sent me a list of questions on an email and then I replied to them, but it wouldn’t be as interesting. And it wouldn’t be as engaging if you were just reading up on the screen. So, you know, I think we need to find ways to keep some of that friction and keep some of the emotion, and keep some of the quirks and little things that make it different. Otherwise, we’re going to live in quite an anaemic world, quite a bland world.  

And so, at the same time as – yes, I totally appreciate there’s this drive on for productivity and efficiency and simplicity and ease, and people just want things to happen. There’s a risk that if you take that to its ultimate conclusion, your brand becomes so easy, as to become invisible. And I think in a world of Google and Amazon kind of taking over, I think now more than ever, you need to invest in that brand and that brand experience.  

And I’m not saying that FutureBrand and others can have lots of projects and revenue and whatnot. I’m saying that selfishly, as a consumer, I don’t want to live in that future. So, I think, that for me is the biggie. You know, how can you put emotion into the experience and not have it overrun by technology to the point of it just becomes vanilla and boring? You know, we need all the flavours, not just the one.

Simon Dell: My last question for you. We do a TikTok series. I’m on to my fifth episode now of Great Australian brands. And I’ve done Forex, because I used to work there, so that – I felt that was a bit cheating. Guzman and Gomez, The Wiggles, Commonwealth Bank, and I just did Qantas yesterday. If I asked you to add one to that list, who would you pick?

Rich Curtis: I would pick R.M. Williams.

Simon Dell: Okay, all right. I’m writing that one down.

Rich Curtis: I would pick R.M. Williams for the reason that, you know, they’re a luxury brand that is really thinking long and hard about its future rather than its past. And I think that’s interesting. I think all too often, those luxury kind of heritage brands rely upon their past and their history for far too long, to the point at which it becomes competitively disadvantageous and just a little uninteresting.  

And I think they’re a brand – you know, they’ve just been bought by Twiggy. I think the iron ore chap.

Simon Dell: Yeah, yeah.

Rich Curtis: [And by WA 00:42:08]. Hugh Jackman’s involved as an investor, I think. And as I understand it, I think it’s sweat equity on his part.

Simon Dell: Oh, wow. Okay. 

Rich Curtis: Appearing in the ads. 

Simon Dell: That’s expensive sweat. Buying Hugh Jackman’s sweat. Yes.

Rich Curtis: Indeed, indeed. So, yes. So –

Simon Dell: That’s a good investment. That’s a good investment for him, though. That’s a smart move for him.

Rich Curtis: Well, yeah. So, you know, look, I’m making some assumptions here. But you know, rather than having to put any – sorry, I believe what’s happening is he’s appearing in the ads for nothing, and getting paid in equity rather than cash.

Simon Dell: Yeah.

Rich Curtis: And you know, if you’ve got that talent and that profile and that appeal… You know, Twiggy is a man with a vision. And I think already, it was a brand that was looking to reinvent its future. And if you look at, I think just the luxury marketplace, it’s interesting. You know, the Guccis and the Burberrys and the LVMHs of the world, and how you create those category codes.  

I mean, the one that’s in the media at the minute is Tiffany. So, getting rid of the Tiffany Blue for its brand and making the shops bright yellow to appeal to a younger female. And that’s the kind of the first big move by LVMH since they acquired the brand, just not so long ago. But R.M. Williams, great Australian brand, then it would be great to see that reinvigorated in a way that is respectful to its past, but not slavishly so. So, I’d be putting that on your list.

Simon Dell: Perfect. Mate, if anybody wants to reach out to you, what’s the best way of getting contact with you? Where do you hide online?

Rich Curtis: Well, I don’t know if I hide, I’m trying not – I’m loud and proud,

Simon Dell: I’ve seen your LinkedIn profile. You’re not hiding.

Rich Curtis: I’m loud and proud on LinkedIn. So, yes. So, Rich Curtis, FutureBrand. Hit me up on LinkedIn. Always happy to have a chat. And look, the other thing that I started during COVID was, I think with Thirty:3, which was this idea that, you know, now that I’m not commuting to Sydney, I had an hour and a half extra in my day each morning.  

And so, giving that time up to help people for free, and who might want some brand and marketing advice. So, Thirty:3 is the other place to find me. www.thirty3.com.au. If anyone fancies a quick chat about brand and marketing, always happy to meet and speak with people.

Simon Dell: Mate, thank you very much for your help and your time today. It’s been an absolute pleasure. And yeah, look, well, hopefully we’ll do this again.

Rich Curtis: Yes. Good to talk to you, mate. Take it easy.

Simon Dell: Yep, thanks very much.

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