Where are you going and what will you create? When Joe Burton was able to answer this question, he became an entrepreneur in the field of scientific well-being. More than changing your life, Joe always teaches mindfulness as a competitive advantage when he serves corporations, universities, and healthcare systems. His focus is to help organizations create an engaging culture and healthy work environment. Change has never been so much a part of youth and culture now that technology is dictating its pace. The huge generational gap is a challenge for every marketing team. Gregg Witt has the amazing ability to become the Switzerland between generational marketing and youth marketing. He shares his consumer insights on how business can become relevant to teens and young adults.
We have Joe Burton and Gregg Witt. Joe is the CEO of Whil. You’ve probably seen him everywhere because he’s a contributor of Forbes, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, the list goes on and on. Gregg is also a contributor in a lot of different areas. He’s a culture expert in the youth, post-boomer, post-millennial, he looks at the younger generations, especially Gen Z. We’re going to talk to him about some of the unique requirements to advertise to them.
Listen to the podcast here:
Train Your Brain: Mindfulness As Competitive Advantage with Joe Burton
I am with Joe Burton, who is the founder and CEO of Whil, the world’s leading digital well-being training platform that helps employees to reduce stress, increase resilience, and improve their sleep and performance. He’s an entrepreneur in scientific well-being, former president of Headspace, and he spent fifteen years as the global COO in public companies. Joe is an alumnus of Harvard Business School and a regular contributor to Forbes, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, the Observer, the list goes on and on, 24 Hour Fitness and Huffington Post.
He’s worked in more than 50 countries and travels the world speaking about topics including disruption, corporate culture, emotional intelligence, employee safety, mindfulness, and other things that help you have a competitive advantage. He’s a certified Search Inside Yourself Instructor, and he discovered that mindfulness is really a lot more important than he thought originally and it changed his life. I’m very interested to talk to you, Joe. Welcome.
Thank you so much, Diane. I’m excited to be here.
Did you go to the WorkHuman event last spring?
I did. I was one of the keynotes.
I recognized your picture from signing up for the show and I thought, “I want to talk to you,” but then you started talking to other people and I didn’t want to interrupt you.
I wish you did.
I should have. I didn’t get to see your talk. I was going in and out just because my mom had surgery that day and I was going to try it and catch a couple of things. I missed a couple of the things. I really only got to see maybe three. It was quite an event and I would’ve liked to have seen your talk.
It was a great event and I heard my talk was amazing.
What was your topic?
I spoke on mindfulness as competitive advantage. We’ve got about fifteen topics that we cover and that’s the one that WorkHuman requested. It was a fun audience.
I’m fascinated by what you do since I wrote my doctoral dissertation on emotional intelligence. You tapped into a lot of things that interests me of course because of that. I’m curious why Whil, your company.
It’s a mixture of where and will. Where are you going and what will you create? Whil and there was also a four letter URLI can afford to buy when I started the company.
I put the app on my phone and it won’t let me in since they don’t have a sponsor. What’s the sponsor thing? Can you explain?
We primarily serve companies. We are built for the enterprise. We work with companies like GE, Intuit, and Havas. We partnered with companies like Aetna, a Virgin Pulse, Castlight. We’re primarily serving corporations, universities, healthcare systems. I’ll give you friends and family access. I’ll let you in. I think sometime next year we’ll probably come up with a consumer product, but our primary focus has been on how do we help organizations, not only help their individual employees but also change their culture, create healthy work environments for people.
You said universities, did you have a lot of universities or certain ones?
We’re in about eight universities now. In fact, I’m here in Louisville, Kentucky. I presented at a training for Brown-Forman, the famous spirits and wine company and Louisville Medical School is one of our universities, I’m happy to say.
I find everything that you do really interesting. I get a lot of people that talk about mindfulness and some of the stuff that you deal with, but you talk about it in a way that I can relate. Just like really it wasn’t your thing, and your not for you thing to begin with. Then you’ve read about it more and you became more of a believer. Can you just explain what mindfulness is first of all?
The way we approach it is we really come at it for professionals by professional’s approach, because of my background as a global COO and my expertise in being as stressed out type A personality. When I started looking into mindfulness and meditation as one practice as a part of mindfulness, it was the last thing I was looking for. I found it initially to be woo-woo, hippy-dippy, not for me. When I got into the science and I found the right kind of trainers, what I understood to be is really its brain training. The short of it is we’re all training our brains all the time. I think with your background in emotional intelligence, you’re an expert in this area.
We created a product to help people be intentional about it. When we think about mindfulness, we think about a brain training, awareness, training, attention training to help people be able to focus and be in the moment more regularly. As it turns out, that comes with a wide array of health, well-being and performance benefits and we think that’s super important. There’s a lot of science, over 4,500 studies correlating the benefits of mindfulness practice with really changing people’s lives. In the absence of doing the right kind of healthy brain training, we’re all training our brains to be unhealthy in a very big way.
Explain a little bit what you mean by that.
We like to start with just having people understand the basic understanding of the brain. When you talk about some of those woo-woo notions of mindfulness or meditation that’s out there, I remember when I first started and I was suffering through about eight years of chronic back pain. I was desperate. I tried everything, and then I tried mindfulness. I’d go to training courses and people are talking about enlightenment and my eyes would roll back into my head. We don’t think professionals are looking for enlightenment. I think they’re looking to lighten up a bit and there’s a big, big difference.
When I started going into how brain works, lo and behold, I find studies from Harvard where they talked about the average person spends about half their time with the mind wandering. That means worrying about the future, the past, regret, is my boss out to get me everything except what’s happening in the moment. They estimate in their research, we spent another 20% of our time in distracted awareness where we’re listening but not really. As it turns out, not only is this terrible for business and for being a leader, but it’s awful for your health. I used all the cheesy analogy of imagine you’re brains area refrigerator and most of us have the door open. The equipments are running constantly.
We like to be crazy busy, crazy busy, and what’s inside is not very good. These practices help us to calm and focus the mind, give the mind a break, power down so we can power backup and recover and be focused. The reason, I think it’s so important is there’s a lot going on that’s rigged against us until we get in touch with our ability to be more emotionally intelligent, manage our emotions and so forth. I think there’s something like 188 known cognitive biases. The way we think is pre-wired for efficiency. That’s not always great for leaders. I think your audience will recognize common biases like confirmation bias, negativity bias, self-serving bias and so forth.
We think in certain ways because it makes it easier for our brain to process information. The world’s changing so rapidly, that unless we take control of our thought processes, it becomes harder to do business. I like to use the analogy like we all have these inner critics in her head. I think when we were kids, you may remember like the bugs bunny cartoons and there’d be like a little devil on one shoulder, a little age on another shoulder, that’s your inner critics. Most of us have like an entire board of directors in our heads. We’ve got the critic that nothing’s good enough, the impostor syndrome, you shouldn’t be here, and second guessing ourselves constantly.
Stanford University has done a research. They estimate the average person has between 60,000 and 70,000 thoughts a day and 90% of them are recycled. Same exact stuff every day, and guess what, most of that’s negative and not true. The way the brain’s working isn’t working in our favor and in fact, it’s gotten to the point where we can’t pay attention anymore. Microsoft came out with a new study last year. The average human attention span is now eight to twelve seconds, the same as a goldfish.
Some of you are insisting, what did you just say? It’s the same as a goldfish. Learning all of this for me, really helped me get a better understanding of here I was in my early forties, a global COO. We have about 50,000 employees around the world and I wasn’t equipped to take care of my own mental and emotional well-being, let alone thinking about how to take care of our employees. That’s what brought me into these practices and getting a better understanding of how does it work, why is this stuff important?
How much time you need to spend per day on this kind of thing, especially maybe your program specifically?
We recommend about five to ten minutes a day on a fairly regular basis. We do a lot of coaching with CEOs and C-level executives, and sometimes I’ll hear like, “How are people going to take ten minutes out of their day?” These folks are out of touch. They’re not familiar with social media and YouTube and Facebook. The average employee is taking hours out of their day to do things that are not healthy and to feed distraction. In fact, there’s a lot of research around it. It’s become addictive to do that, to distract yourself continually. It’s terrible for business, but as I say, it’s also terrible for the average person’s health.
It’s interesting to see the productivity that you’re getting and just how much money it’s saving them. I had a guest on yesterday, Lee Benson, who put in a gym and different things into his workplace and just the amount of money he was able to show that they saved from that. People just becoming healthier and it helped their brain obviously to have that. I think that they don’t really look at the end results when they think of these things, what to add at work and what you can do for people. It’s great that you’ve, you’ve done all the research behind them. What’s your degree at Harvard? What did you do? Where you are in the business school?
At first I studied at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, which just below Ivy League. I did the executive program at Harvard Business School. I’ve been through about five of their executive programs over the years and going back about fifteen. As we go through the program for a management development, 3D negotiations, maybe all of these incredible programs they put on. When you go through their Executive Programs, they’re so pricey that you actually get alumni status. You can say I’m a pretend alum, but I love the perks.
How hard are those programs? Are they any different than your just almost Ivy League training?
Just to give you an idea, the program for Management Development, which was a really transformational for me, it was a three-month program. It was six days a week, twelve hours a day. It had 180 professionals from 72 countries in the program that I went through. Your employer has to fund it and give you the three months off to go through it. Then when they’re out there ever has a chance. It is amazing.
If you’ve only have eight to ten-second attention span, what are we doing the rest of those twelve hours? That’s what I’m thinking.
Probably catching up. I imagine most people who are looking at their phone under their desk.
I don’t know if I could sit through that. That’d be tough, but I’m sure I’m sure they make it worthwhile with what they give you on that. Going back to what we’re talking about on what you’re saving for employees, don’t we have to think about their health claims and all that data that we’re getting out there. How does your app play into tracking any of that?
There are probably a couple of reasons that companies are so interested in what’s going on with mindfulness and also emotional intelligence training. I think one is the explosion in science, 4,500 studies on the past couple of decades. Every major payer-provider, every major research university is focused on these practices and their benefits. Two is it’s in the conversation. Every major sports team is now practicing mindfulness to help their athletes focus under pressure, perform under pressure. I think that’s where companies are looking forward to from our employees. The third is we need people to be able to not only cope but thrive. When you look at studies that have come out from for example, Aetna, put out a really interesting white paper last year. They estimate they save about $2,000 a year on healthcare claims.
Reducing health care claims for their own employees that go through these training practices and they estimate that they increase productivity by about $3,000 a year per employee. That means people being able to focus single task instead of multitask which is a big time-suck. Multitasking is a myth. That’s where we really starting to dig in on the data around when something’s not going right, you can go through digital training programs and then we can actually see how the needle moves. A lot of your audience probably has a FitBit and your FitBit will reliably tell you that your sleep stinks, day-in and day-out. Again, it’s still bad, it’s still bad but there’s nothing to help.
What we do is we have 250 individual digital programs, training programs, a mixture of video and audio based in neuroscience, mindfulness, positive psychology, sleep training, adult learning theory and so forth, but we actually say what’s going on with you? Set a goal and we’ll give you the right training programs to help. In this example, if you’re not sleeping well, here’s a 30-day sleep program we developed with Dr. Jeff Durmer and FusionHealth. It’ll help you clean up your sleep hygiene, put you to sleep faster or stay asleep longer, and then we can actually track that. Your FitBit will say like, “You’re improving.” We’re connecting our data to points not only around wearables but now biometric devices.
With the right integrations, we can see what’s going on with people’s their resting heart rate reducing, their blood pressure reducing, the sleep improving and so forth. Then we’re also able to use this to tie in and recommend things to employees sometimes before they even know they need it. If that flag goes up to say your sleep is not good, we can say, “You might want to try our sleep program.” These things are all connected to. If people are having issues with stress, they’re usually having issues with anxiety. That’s usually connected to bad sleep, that’s usually connected to back pain. It’s like a domino effect. We can play along and recommend what people need at different aspects in their life based on data. It’s fun for the individual to play along too because people want to be better at stuff.
I keep going down your list have that checked and I’m thinking of the sleep. Sleep is really a rough one for me. For me, God forbid, the jingle gets on television at night and I hear it, it goes around and around and around all night. That’s what keeps me awake. Did you have anything in your app that solves that?
Yeah. It’s very funny. We have a program from Dr. Dan Siegel and it’s called in Cultivating a Healthy Mind. It’s based on his famous work from his book Mindsight. It walks through how the brain works. The gist of it is the brain is a machine. It wants to get better at processing information. In this case you get a little jingle and it keeps coming back and coming back and coming back. You may be thinking like, “Isn’t that annoying?” but your brain is actually thinking, “I’m getting better at this.” We need to form a training techniques to actually disrupt that and get the brain to come back and focus on what you’re actually doing in the moment.
One of the other things I learned in looking at all the sites here is for folks who suffer from insomnia, the moment their head hits the pillow. We’re training the brain all the time. The brain says, “I’m now in position to worry.”Then it spins up because it knows it’s that time of day, I’m in position, I’m ready to do this to get better. There’s that anxiety, those conspiracy theories, these get even plots, they all start to kick in and we actually train ourselves to do that while we’re slicing off years of our life.
I am definitely interested in learning more about that. Do you have any tips that you can share on the air that can help people or in an area or in some other areas?
When we talk about sleep, we like to use practices that are based in a cognitive behavioral sleep therapy and something called iRest. These are practices that have gone through a lot of clinical research. We don’t use anything unless we know the science behind it and the results that have been correlated to specific practices. When you’re sleeping, when you lay down at night, first, no light in the room. If you guys have out there, have a desk in your bedroom, get it out of there. That’s like constantly like, “I could be sitting there doing work right now.”
Leave the phones and other devices out of the room. Take the TV out of the room, use the bedroom for sleep. When you’re actually laying there, focus on your breath. The old accounting sheep is one form of, “I’m going to take that distracted mind and focus in on one thing.” I don’t recommend sheep, but I do recommend your real breath. Just focus on deep breaths in, deep breaths out. You can do something that’s known as a body scan, which sounds a little weird. This is one of those, I like to say mindfulness needs a new PR agency. I hear some of the terms and I’m like, “Body scan, what?”When you get into it and you understand it, and it’s just to cycle through, “How’s my head feel? Do I have a headache? Is it good or is my neck or shoulders tight? Do I feel anxiety in my chest? And just move down through the body and you can tighten each part of the body as you go and then release to release the muscles.
As you’re doing that, you’re just checking in on how does the body feel as you ease yourself into sleep? Dr. Jeff Durmer, of FusionHealth recommends 30 minutes at the end of the day to wind yourself down. No technology, don’t eat, don’t watch TV. Read a book, do some stretches, make a self-care part of your routine for going to bed. Most of us get all geared up and then we jump right into bed and expect the system is going to shut down. Your audience can also find we’ve got a bunch of free resources on our website at Whil.com and that includes a Dr. Durmer’s sleep tips.
That’s so fascinating because I’ve tried a lot of things and I agree. You got to distract yourself. They say if you have a song in your head, you put a different song in your head and then that gets rid of the whatever. Then you can hear all these tips, but for me, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve listened to the book Death by Black Hole at night. I try and go to sleep. Neil deGrasse Tyson probably didn’t think that he wrote it for that purpose. I love the book, but it distracts me from the other thought. You put one thing in your head to get rid of something else. With your case, it makes more sense. You’re focusing on your muscles, you’re focusing on the different things. You’re focusing on breathing and you’re getting your mind out of the original thing that’s driving you crazy.
When people say like, “How can I find the time?” I jokingly call it habit replacement therapy. Take one of your really awful, unhealthy habits and like slice five minutes off of social media and take care of your mental health.
You obviously are doing something right. You are featured in Time Magazine’s Special Edition as one of the three apps that are changing the world. That’s got to feel good.
Pretty amazing. It’s a great for business. The other thing that’s exciting for us though is beyond Time Magazine, the conversations on the cover of ESPN, Cosmo, Wired, Fast Company. This whole idea of mindfulness has come of age and you must be excited about emotional intelligence. You have been studying this stuff for many, many years. That’s now is the hot ticket, the must-have skill. We’re excited not only for our company but just the world is waking up to it and I think so many people need the help.
When I wrote my dissertation a decade ago, and back then I didn’t know too much about it and I thought it was fascinating. I thought, “This will be an interesting phase,” and then it just blew up. Everybody found this and it became such a huge topic. I’m so glad it did because I didn’t know what it was really at the time. Daniel Goleman had a great book back in what ‘95 I think he wrote and it’s just only been more interesting as people have researched it. I’m fascinated with that. You said something before we got on the air. You said something to do with your career to have paralleled with something I wrote in one of my books. What was that?
The reason I got into to mindfulness is I was a global COO, as I said, we had about 50,000 employees around the world and life started catching up to me. There’s a lot of research that says like, “Our brains aren’t equipped for modern living.” Technology has increased, our brains haven’t changed much. I had this experience of eight years of chronic back pain, back pain turned into insomnia, insomnia turned into asthma. My body was falling apart. Here I am, global COO, with a bad attitude, working twelve to fourteen hour days, traveling 70% of the time, making more money than I ever thought and hating it. At the same time, life started catching up to me.
I was the youngest of six in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Our father was an unemployable alcoholic, so at a very young age we had alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and just not the most healthy environment in the home. Here I am, early 40s and I lose an older sister to drugs. One year later, my twin sister takes her own life, also a long-term addict. Here I am in my dream job not fully equipped. Right around the same time, I read your book, How to Reinvent Your Career. I’m a case study in that because I sat down with my wife and all the stress going on in my life. This amazing, amazing partner, my wife Sarah was like, “You’re not happy. You’re chasing money. Why don’t we chase happiness?”
I’m going back a number of years here, but it still sticks with me. Things change. Everything in my life was changing. The nature of the business that I got into had changed. I remember one of the comments like the product is you. I got into digital well-being around. I want to help people like me, professionals that are going through a high pressure, high performance jobs with lots of stress, but don’t want to slow down. I wasn’t looking for mindfulness as like, “That’d be a great way to retreat.” I don’t want a retreat. I want to have a great life. I want to accomplish things. I’m not looking to dull the sword, I want to sharpen it. That’s what I’ve found within this, but I remember I was consuming so much information around like how do you get on track for the life that you really want? Yours popped out on Amazon, How to Reinvent Your Career and I think so much of the advice is still a perfectly relevant, because everyone is experiencing change.
The thing I’ve found with so many people have the golden handcuffs and they think they can’t leave. I think you can. You actually end up better off a lot of times if you’re in it for a different reason and then the money will come from other ways. It’s interesting to see we have a lot in common. We would have plenty to talk about. If you could share your website and your information again with everybody because I want to make sure that they can find out more about Whil and you.
We are at Whil.com. We work with about 115 companies around the world, a bunch of universities. We also have a product for schools. We’re an eight school systems, in high schools and middle schools helping young adults with their stress and sleep issues. We also have something called the Creating Mindful Leaders Training, which we travel the world putting on. I’ve got a new book coming out with Wiley Business Publishing and that’s called Creating Mindful Leaders: How to Power Down, Power Up, and Power Forward. If we can help your employees, we’ve got 250 digital training programs that work through apps and we can launch in under an hour plus or minus $10 to $12 a year per employee to provide all 250 programs.
This has been so fun, Joe. Thank you so much for being on the show. I really enjoyed it.
Diane, it’s my pleasure and I’m glad I got through it.
Youth Marketing: How To Stay Relevant with Gregg Witt
I am with Gregg Witt who’s a youth culture specialists and a Senior Marketing Strategist. Gregg has an uncanny ability to help consumer brands be more relevant with tweens, teens, and young adults. He’s a proven brand builder and inspiring speaker and in 2016 was named Top Five Youth Marketer To Follow by Inc. Magazine. He spent seventeen years in consumer insights and youth marketing consulting for more than 100 companies during that period. You’ve probably seen them everywhere and I am so fascinated to have him here. Welcome, Gregg.
It is a pleasure to virtually be here.
You are virtually here and it is my pleasure as well. I’m fascinated in what you do just because I deal with a lot of generational influences in the workplace and people always ask me to talk about the different generations and you focus on the younger ones. Does that also make you focus on the older ones as well to understand the relationships?
It really does. There seems to be two camps. The hardcore generational marketing people or brain set and then the cultural connections or the cultural aspect or camp. The world is constantly changing and so young people in each generation are going to adapt to that and evolve with it. I sit right in the middle. I’m like Switzerland when it comes to youth marketing and generational marketing. It is a piece of the equation without a doubt. There is a different time frame, but there’s also the world and the technology and everything that’s happening now is happening to all of us into every generation. I don’t just feel like that if I use the word Gen Z or I like to call them young people or young Americans depending on where we are, they’re not a new species.
I’ve been duped. I see that there are some pieces that are different and there are some pieces that are the same and in that equation, you have to look at trends cycling. They’re always cycling as soon as they cycle, and these four or five-year, three-year deals and sometimes they skip a beat. What I think is cool is how there’s everything’s a mash up and a fusion. Right now, ‘90s is a huge, major, major influence, but there are ‘70s and ‘80s stuff going on too. It’s just the ‘80s are back and do that. Totally a different topic, and I can say the same thing about the early ‘90s.
As soon as I witnessed the big baggy pants things starting to happen again, I started freaking out. I don’t care about being in tune and I try to stay plugged in, but I’ll never wear a hip sack. I’m a skateboarder too. I will never wear small, little millimeter wheels. That’s a whole other topic. You pick and choose what’s relevant to you in your life and young people do the same thing. That’s the part where it’s like, “Are we really that much different?””No.” The main difference in the demographic that I help brands connect with is that their frontal cortex isn’t developed yet. It’s their life stages is what I’m trying to get at. That doesn’t mean I know a lot about the human brain and all that, but what I’m saying is, there are these life stages and we have to accommodate them based on being kids, tweens, teens, and then as they transition into young adults.
You did ask a question that I’m coming out really late. Sometimes just because I’m involved in the world of marketing and brand building, sometimes it’s like, “Sure. I’ll deal with projects that are all the way up until they’re the early mid-30s depending on if there’s like a multicultural or an attitudinal or a lifestyle component to it.” I have work that I’ll do like when I’m naming something for Nitro Circus for an example. I’m not just targeting youth. I’m targeting the moms and dads, I’m targeting people that are into motocross, into skateboarding, into music and that transcends generations. You have to be very careful on how you approach this space that I’m in.
You covered a lot and that brought up a lot of questions in my mind. I’m writing about curiosity right now and it made me think about that as I’m listening to because you’ve got a hip background. You founded Goodtimes Skateboards, you have an entrepreneurial background. You started that at a very young age. Do you think it takes curiosity to get people to be entrepreneurs? Do you think we need to develop that more in younger people? Are they having it as much as in the past and how can we improve in that area you think?
From my experience, I stay plugged in with youth culture. I’m at schools all the time. I’m in skate parks. I’m doing very formal and casual and everything in between on a mobile video apps. I have an app called SureShot and we have Youth International, somewhat global but more of a national youth community. I’m in contact with them all the time.
I just wanted to know if we’re getting a younger generation that’s as curious. Can we develop that?
From all this connectivity, what I find is that maybe it’s just my exposure to them, but they seem more curious and potentially more sophisticated than anything I’ve seen in the past specific to entrepreneurialism. Although I think the key thing is it’s individually. If they go at it for the money, and it’s about making money and they want to make sure they make money on their own, that’s a different agenda. I don’t know that that piques the curiosity. I definitely feel that there’s a real movement to entrepreneurialism, which I think it’s super cool. That’s largely because it’s more possible than it was in the early days. That’s nothing new, it’s not going to surprise anybody. I believe absolutely you have to be curious, you have to be a learner and you have to be not afraid of anything.
How do you develop that though?
I don’t think you develop that. I believe over time you can learn that, but I don’t think that’s something that’s taught. I feel like it can come from exposure to your family, which is what happened to me. It can happen definitely from mentors. That’s plannable, definitely. It’s also inherently it’s inside somebody. Some people are wired more towards like engineering or something that’s just completely pragmatic all the time. That’s not to say that they’re not going to be an entrepreneur, it’s just in my experience, those are people who are less likely to be entrepreneurs. They’re probably the ones who are going to make the entrepreneurs succeed.
There are complimentary qualities that we all have. I just gave a talk on generational differences like a week or two ago and the audience was very glued in. We were talking about the different generations. It’s always the boomers against the millennials or millennials are entitled. You’re even putting millennials in the older category, if you’re stopping at 35 like what you said before.
Millennials for me are just like adult parents. That used to be the youth market back in the day.
I have millennial daughters and a millennial niece and I think my niece would even say, “These young people want this or that,“ and I’m like, “Young people?” She’s not even 35 yet. It’s something that there is a new younger group. What do you foresee for this Generation Z? How will they be different from millennials?
How are they going to be different from millennials? I’m just throwing stuff out there, just because I study this. I just look at it from a lot of different angles. If you look at it from parenting, a lot of people would say that Gen X and millennials were between absence and helicopter parenting. Then Gen Z is definitely perceived that there are going to be technology parenting, which makes sense. It makes total sense. These all are like stereotyping, which is actually fun.
I don’t want to stereotype but I want to get an overall perception.
I’m into it. If you look at Gen X, a lot of people will be like, “Somewhat of a bitter generation.” Then millennials are like anxious, which just makes total sense. The world was anxious, but that millennials and then Gen Z, largely will respond back, like they’re just stressed.
You think the Gen Z is more stressed? Why do you think they’re stressed?
Gen Z are stressed because they have so much exposure to the good, the bad and the ugly.I think they’re just stressed because they have so much exposure to the good, the bad and the ugly. They’re still, depending on their age, have literally seen the beautiful home sold and them and many families just moving into apartments or worse. That’s giving you equality problem in comparison to many. When you look at identity, it’s very important. A lot of times it’s the stress that Gen X to be somewhat confused and that millennials are very clear and they are going to do it. They’re going to make it happen. Then Gen Z just tend to identify much more fluid, like, “I can be this at this moment.” That’s not just sexuality, but just in general a fluid. I myself, I’m individual. I’m not like that person and I may go this way and then I might change it like that and I don’t think that’s completely, totally changed.
When you look at social or interactions, definitely like Gen X would be much more private for a lot of reasons. Then you would say like millennials were authentically public. Gen Z is like they’ve experienced what we’ve all done and they’re not going to be superficially public. They’re going to have an Instagram and if you’re going to look at their Instagram, you’re going to be like, “That’s what my son or daughter is doing over there.” They’re like, “I’m glad you see that. I’m glad you’d like that. I am doing that too,” with Instagram or whatever else and obviously Snapchat is a great example of that is where I’m having the real deal conversations.
I wrote a Brand Publishing Course at the Forbes School of Business and what we did was you look at all these vendors and how they’re trying to appeal to people. You’ve got to think about when you’re marketing, you want to market people where they are, where they’re hanging out. Gen Z you’re saying is in Snapchat, which we’ve heard. Where are millennials do you see them more if you’re trying to market to them?
Millennials is interesting. I think they’re definitely in the same places as well. Even Snapchat, you have definitely an adult demographic there. I think somewhat of the differences between Gen Z and millennials, whereas you probably will find a lot more millennials on Facebook, and then there’ll be a lot of Gen Z, the data will tell you that Gen Z is on Facebook, but they’re not. They’re using it as a utility like Google. They are using it for groups. They are using it for events. They’re using messenger. It is different geographically too. Like for instance, one of the things that I do is I run Influencer Campaigns for small and major brands and I do not have within my gaming genre, my beauty, makeup, lifestyle , the big, big genres I have, when I’m targeting youth, I do not have one of them that uses Facebook as a amplification channel.
I’m talking about thousands of internet creators and personalities. I know that if I look at the data, which some of these same people answer, they’re on Facebook. I’ve concluded that and I think for some brands, Facebook can work too, if you have some great content. Barça is one of arguably the number one action sports site and content producer in the world. Facebook is the number one way to bring people in to the network, into the brand. That just threw me for a loop because then I’m seeing and I go, “Now, you’re telling me that Barça which is a Hypebeast-owned company is getting their almost an entire millennial and Gen Z audience out of Facebook and a reasonable engagement on Instagram and the majority of the interaction on their own land, on their site. That’s promising.
It’s interesting how little that websites seem to be the focus anymore. Everybody used to always try to send everybody back to their website. We see a lot less of that now. Do you consider that’s going to be even less and less as more of these social media platforms grow?
I think it’s going to go more and more back to your site if and only if you have great content. You’re going to have to use the partnerships with those channels. Obviously for some, it’s Facebook, but YouTube being the number one content hub and then Instagram driving traffic back and forth depending are critical, but it’s also difficult to convert from say an Instagram. You can use the Instagram ads but there’s really nothing organic about it anymore.
I met JP Sears and he’s a funny guy. He’s big on YouTube, and I watched something he posted on Facebook of an ad he’s doing with the Poo~Pourri people, and it was five minutes long. You don’t really see a lot of promotional things that are that long. Do you think we’re going to start to see longer promotional videos from YouTube that try to keep your attention? I’ve never seen quite that long.
It really depends on the audience and the genre. If you have an audience, which is where I think people get confused like their followers or their audience or their customer, but if you have an audience and you have some incredible content, some of that longer form content will perform. If you have certain games tutorials or you have unboxings or you have a new skate video drops, they’ll watch it for potentially for however long you go. I know that the sweet spot is like 45 seconds to a minute. I’m not trying to sound like, “The recommendation is everybody go long go long form.”
It’s just about knowing your audience or knowing how you are intending to build an audience, if you are. I think that in a lot of the work that I’ve done with Disney, I found two minutes was nice. Two minutes was a really good. When you’re starting to build followership or audience, whatever it makes sense to work with a shorter content and then I know this is obvious, but just doing a lot of testing. Every business, every brand, every age group or whatever, it’s different. There’s no one size fits all solution for content.
You do social media activation for a lot of companies. You mentioned a couple with Disney and you’ve got sports, you’ve got Nissan, HBO, Qualcomm, how did you get to have such big accounts? What was the start of all that?
I started getting asked or invited to assist entertainment companies, assist Glacéau Vitaminwater, and then I got to be part of the Landscape Structures, which is the third largest playground company, and help them with some different product line extensions. Then one day, when I was with the CEO and the founders, they called me their youth market consultant and I said, “Consultant. That’s what I am. I’m a consultant. I figured it out.” At that point I started a youth market consultancy and that’s anything word of mouth, just one person sends me to the next one. It really has been just because I started that small with two of us and grew that up to a fourteen-person agency.
It was just more of a unique positioning, saying something in the market at a time when people were ready to shift, to focusing on niches and smaller segmentation. It wasn’t a new thing, but it was becoming more and more inherently important. I didn’t start that movement, but I was a part of two or three other agencies that did. I definitely give credit to Bill from Fuse and I give credit to everybody at Mr. Youth who just stepped into the formal agency place a couple of years before I did. Then three of these agencies and a few others, we started to do conferences and boot camps. We did some actual podcast before podcasting was very cool and we built out that space.
Other than that, getting these bigger accounts has been more of David and Goliath stories than anything. It’s been more like, “You’re one of three agencies, you don’t want five agencies,” and then every once in awhile, the prospective account would say, “We tell you who the other ones work.”They just go, “I don’t stand a chance at this.” That makes me want to go even harder and basically, just supplying these various methodologies and systems that I and my colleagues have developed to be effective.
Then you build the confidence to go to go for more. I think also to attract large accounts, content marketing is critical. I would always give advice to people that want to target different niches just to create really smart or opinionated thought leadership content because it does matter. Even though sometimes when you’re writing it, you’re like, “Does anyone even care?” I’m writing this thing and it’s daunting. I just love what I’m doing and I love to passionately tackle challenges that just so happened to be an aspect or an element or a percentage of some of these larger accounts businesses.
You’re probably not a Gen Z, I assume or maybe you are. I don’t know what generation you’re part of, is there a point where you feel like they won’t take your opinion because you’ve gotten too old to relate? You know what I’m saying?
I already am an old dude. I’m in the 40 age. When I’m with the Gen Z skateboarding street where a lot of the music kids, they’ll look at me like, “I know that dude. That guy is a real legitimate skateboarder. I will engage in a conversation with that guy.”When I’ll go into schools and I’m often in schools and they’ll just rip me apart, and I get humbled. A couple of weeks back it was on the weekly of me getting humbled. Honestly, it’s those conversations, those like we’re in the same space. I’m not preaching down to them. We’re having conversations where it’s the most humbling and you stay the most connected.
I will say I think the reason why what we do at Motivate Youth, the agency that acquired my agency Immersive last fall, is that I’m developing leaders. I’m working with literal high school students remotely and on site. I’m working with young adults. I’m working with them and training them to be strategists and planners and facilitators, because at the end of the day that’s what I do really well. I bring these people together. I facilitate and then I can train them and we can work collaboratively together to understand that youth, that cultural lens that we have to have in order to then apply strategy and all these other things that so many of us do so well.
In addition, we do have a secret weapon at Motivate. We have SureShot which is a community of 5,000 and growing. What we’re able to do is have ongoing surveys. We do really cool activities like saying, “You’re going to plan a road trip or say you’re planning a party. Tell us everything you do from the morning when you’re packing.” What I get out of that is then I have data. I have a real insight. I get new ideas, but what we do with that is we have mobile video responses. Another area where I have been able to at least have an edge is I can validate not necessarily the ideas, but I can validate where they’re coming from. It’s not necessarily a dialogue like where I go and then actually speak and hang out and talk to people. I’m learning something and I know that what I’m doing is different from the majority of my competitors.
I’m positive you didn’t have under thirteen because I have that, and I’m COPPA compliant. I know you don’t have that. When it comes to thirteen to my eighteen and now into my early twenties, I always question this when I see data.”Did see that those are the young people that took your survey?” People just start itching their head. I’m like, “I thought you were like the top research company in the world. You’re telling me, this is the data and you don’t know if they really took the survey.” I’m like, “I just spent ten years analyzing the patterns of how they’re gaming the system, and then I’ve also spent that same time seeing how the parents are gaming the system. If you’re telling me that you know what’s going on with young people and you’re looking at a survey, but you don’t see the face telling you that I’m not buying it.” That’s just one little tool.
You did so many interesting things and you mentioned your SureShot app and the name of your company, but I think a lot of people are going to be fascinated by all this and they want to know how they can reach you to find out more. Can you just share your website and how they could find out what you do?
This has been so fascinating, and I want to thank you for being on the show.
Thank you so much to Joe and Gregg. I really had a good time today. I hope all of you who missed any of our past shows, please go to DrDianeHamilton.com/Episodes to hear past guests and all their information. You can also find us in iTunes. Please come back for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
About Joe Burton
Joe Burton is the founder and CEO of Whil, the world’s leading digital wellbeing training platform helping employees to reduce stress, increase resilience and improve their sleep and performance. He’s an entrepreneur in scientific wellbeing, former President of Headspace and spent fifteen years as a global COO in public companies. Joe is an alumnus of Harvard Business School and regular contributor to Forbes, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, the Observer, 24 Hour Fitness and The Huffington Post. He’s worked in over 50 countries and travels the world speaking on topics including disruption, corporate culture, emotional intelligence skills, employee safety and mindfulness as a competitive advantage. Joe is also a certified Search Inside Yourself instructor. He discovered mindfulness as a super stressed out executive after dismissing it as “definitely not for me.” And it changed his life.
About Gregg Witt
Gregg Witt is a youth culture specialist and a senior marketing strategist. Gregg has an uncanny ability to help consumer brands be more relevant with tweens, teens and young adults. He is a proven brand builder, an inspiring speaker, and, in 2016, was named a ” top 5 youth marketer to follow” by Inc Magazine. Gregg Witt has spent 17 years in consumer insights and youth marketing, consulting for more than 100 companies during that period. He provides authentic insights-driven strategies, creative leadership, and oversees social media activation for leading companies such as: Advocates for Youth, Autodesk Education, Awesomeness TV, Bravo Sports, The College Board, FunnyOrDie, Glaceau Vitamin Water, HBO, Nitro Circus, Nissan, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, Red Bull, Qualcomm, Walt Disney World and more.