Today I’m sitting down with Tom Bassett, the Founder of Bassett & Partners: a brand and design strategy agency in San Francisco.
Prior to starting his own agency, Tom was the head of strategic brand planning at Wieden + Kennedy, the ad agency for a little known brand called Nike. He also worked at TBWA Chiat/Day where he helped build the Apple brand, and where he got to spend time with the late, great Steve Jobs.
I invited Tom to be a guest on my show to talk about strategy and why it’s so important when building a brand. I also wanted to discuss Briefly - a brilliant film he created that gives us the POV from creative leaders about what they need and want out of a creative brief.
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Hi I'm Joelly, your Branding Badass, and welcome to my new podcast. Branding matters. Today I'm sitting down with Tom Bassett, the founder of Bassett Partners, a brand and design strategy agency in San Francisco purchase starting his own agency, Tom was the head of strategic brand planning at widening Kennedy, the ad agency for a little known brand called Nike. He also worked at tbw W, a giant date where he helped build the apple brand, and where he got to spend some time with the late great Steve Jobs. I invited Tom to be a guest on my show to talk about strategy, and why it's so important when building a brand. I also wanted to discuss briefly a brilliant film that he created that gives us the point of view from creative leaders about what they need and want out of a creative brief. Tom, welcome to branding matters. Thanks for having me.Joelly Goodson :
Well, it's a real pleasure.Tom Bassett:
One of the things I love about this is I get to have really interesting conversations with experts from all over the world. And I'm learning so much as I go. So I really appreciate you taking the time to be with me today. Okay, so quite an impressive resume. You headed up strategic planning on Nike at Wyden, Kennedy and Apple at TV whi de and Yahoo at Black rocket. So tell me what was it like working in all those places? You know, look, I was born and raised in Canada and I came up I started my advertising career. I was born and raised in Montreal, Montreal, okay. Yeah. And I worked at a J. Walter Thompson, which is an agency in Montreal, and then it merged as a lot of them did with a sort of more local French Canadian firm because of the bilingual nature of the audience there. I ended up getting transferred to Toronto. And I think, you know, reflecting on my experience going to widening Kennedy was sort of like getting drafted in the major leagues. Right. It's one thing to no disrespect to Canadian advertising scene are very proud to have been from there. But you know, when you're working at Wyden Kennedy on Nike, it's it's sort of exhilarating. It's a bit terrifying on some levels. But yeah, they're all phenomenal agencies. Same thing at Shai Tay in LA is the agency does apples work. So to be involved with people who have done advertising work at that level was phenomenal. It's just an amazing experience. Yeah, I love the way you compared it to being drafted when I wanted to work at widening Kennedy. I flew out there on vacation. And I called them from payphone across the street. And they're important, correct. They're important. And I had a car phone at the time, but cell phones weren't as prevalent then. So I literally called from the payphone across the street. And I said, I'm here, I want to work at the agency, who do I talk to? And they were sort of blown away that I had gone to that effort. So that one thing led to another so if there's any advice I would give a junior person trying to get into the industry or somebody who's trying to get a job somewhere, they really want to work as Go, go, yes, go for yourself. And be that see it for yourself. I agree. Totally. I you know, I did the same thing, actually, when I was looking for work. And I told my son the same thing I say, don't just send a resume, go in person and ask for or find out the name of the manager, the person charged and asked for their name specifically, good for you. That's impressive. So were you assumed or creative, as we call them in the agency world? Yeah, I started as an account coordinator. And luckily, the guy I work for was also an account guy didn't have account planning, then J. Walter Thompson and Montreal. Luckily, he was a brilliant strategist as well, and really taught me the strategy, sort of foundations and they had a thing called the Thomson way, which I'm sure still exists, there are these templates that you follow to go through their strategic thinking process, I think it was a mediocre account person. In a sense, my level of attention to detail maybe wasn't as stellar as it could be. But I seem to have a inclination towards strategy. And so I eventually, after a few years, got into the strategy fields. When I applied to Wyden Kennedy applied as a planner, they call it account planning, which is not a great title, because it sounds like you organized parties. But yeah, I started, I started as a planner on Nike, which was a bit of a to be honest with you was there was a limited timeframe, in my mind that it was either gonna work or wasn't because they had never really successfully integrated planning on Nike. They tried a few but nothing really stuck. And so I figure I had a six month lease on life, I would take this job, I'll give it a try. And I had there would work or it wouldn't work. And if it didn't work, they'd fire me or two new but yeah, that's how it started. IJoelly Goodson :
love the importance nice. So if anything, you got to live in a beautiful city for a while,Tom Bassett:
right? I loved it at the time, they had difficulty recruiting people. And so everybody wanted to be in New York or LA. And not that many people sort of either wanted to be in Oregon or understood or appreciated. I just saw the work that they were doing on behalf of Nike and I don't know what it is they do. But whatever is they do. There's some sort of magic and I want to learn it and I want to understand it and I would love to contribute to it. Not to me, I just thought it is this sort of fantastic opportunity to really be exposed to people who operate at a very what I perceive to be a very different level. Yeah. So what was it like being there? I mean, what was the what was the best part the most exciting part and who did Do you meet? Did you meet any famous people? Yeah, I mean, I, you know, athletes because Nike? Well, the reason I asked because Nike is sort of synonymous with really top famous athletes. So I'm just curious who's working there at the time. Where did you have any involvement and meet with any top athletes? Yes. So I started shortly before the 96 Olympics, which we're in Atlanta. And so the Olympics brief for Nike and Atlanta was my first big project in the course of that I met, you know, Michael Johnson, and we actually hung out. We went out one night with a group of us.Joelly Goodson :
Oh, no way. That's fun. Yeah.Tom Bassett:
He said he can actually take tequila shots pretty well. I was pretty surprised.Joelly Goodson :
Is that your roommate? I've had I've actually had dogs on quite a few interviews. So it's par for the course. tequila shots.Tom Bassett:
My first big brief I worked on for Nike was at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996. We got to meet a lot of the athletes the American athletes Michael Johnson, Lisa Leslie Sheryl swoopes. Gail Devers, for that campaign, I ended up getting Michael Jordan I worked on the Jordan Brand helped craft a strategy for how to advertise for him, but also once he was moving into retirement, how to recast his role within the company because he was no longer a player wasn't like he was he retired that he had, he had not retired, but he was playing his last season. If you watch the last answer,Joelly Goodson :
I was just gonna ask you have you seen that documentary?Tom Bassett:
I have sort of lived a lot of it. But yeah, I know. He's, on some levels. He's an imitator intimidating character, because he's Michael Jordan. And the point. Yeah, we had a point of view for his brand and, and we had a pretty tight presentation. And he's a smart guy. So So went really well. And he bought off on it. And we produced a campaign that repositioned to him as a CEO, which he liked, you know, rather than just being a player, he was now the owner of brand Jordan or the pseudo owner. And so that was good. And then we helped relaunch tiger woods or sorry, Nike golf, which included hiring Tiger Woods is kind of the big iconic athlete as part of the Nike golf brand, I guess, were the sort of the big name bigger names. I met a lot of other athletes along the way. And Lance Armstrong, but you know, sort of sort of the big names.Joelly Goodson :
So you mentioned Tiger Woods was that before his controversy, or afterTom Bassett:
a while before this, if he hadn't even turned pro, he was just on a process to turning pro. So he was at the very beginning of his career, and to go on a bit of a tangent. So we do I do a ton of Nike swag, right? People love to have branded golf shirts. And everybody always asked for Nike. And when, before the incident, you know, Nike was everywhere. And people wanted Tiger Woods brands, specifically, because he has his own brand of apparel. And then that happened, and then it sort of went to the wayside. And so I'm curious to know, how do you think of brand recoups itself? And how do you dig yourself out of that hole? Because that's a really good example of a great brand that went sideways. And now he's back up again, there's that demand again, what's your take on that? It's a complex question. You're asking, right? Did Tiger Woods damage the Nike brand? I would argue No, I maybe temporarily, there were some PR hit to it to some degree, but they have such a broad base of athletes in sports are involved in such a history that it was a blemish on him as a personal side, but he didn't cheat at sports. He didn't cheat at golf. So as an athlete as a performance athlete, which is really his role relative to Nike brand, it was unfortunate. But in the long run, he's made a big comeback, and won the Masters last year, I think, to some degree, people can fail and we can see them come back. And so with maybe there's a short term reaction to that, absolutely. There's the Nike brand. And then there's the Tiger Woods brand. There's all this whole line of Tiger Woods apparel. And so I can tell you from my experience, when all that happened, there was not the same demand for the Tiger Woods apparel. And then like you said, when he made a comeback, and he said people route the underdog and they want to see them rise and succeed. And then you see how it comes back. And I love the fact that Nike stood by him and didn't leave like so many other people. So yeah, I think he had done some, if he had done something in the context of golf and performance, you know what I mean? He was taking steroids or whatever that that's one case case, but he didn't well, then there's lamps, lamps. Lance Armstrong was the other one that you mentioned. Right where that brand? Well, Lance is Claire, right. Yeah, absolutely. You know, that there's a clear case of cheating to achieve high performance levels, right. And if you're if you're sponsoring someone for their athletic performance, that's an issue of integrity and has to be addressed more centrally, I think this was a gray area for them as a sponsor. Yeah. No, it's interesting. After you were at Wyden, Kennedy, then did you go and work on the apple account at TWA? I did. There was a guy who was running the Nike account at the time at widen, he went down to Shai de to work on Apple and he was looking for a strategist. So he basically recruited me to go down there amazing. So one huge brand to now another huge brand. Were there any similarities between working at the two companies, I think the similarities run in a level of taste right a level of style that both of them have very exacting standards in terms of style and styling cues, the importance of that and the value of design. I think they both are incredibly clear. storytellers and values story and really understand how to leverage that I think culturally, once a tech company and Wednesday, you know, a sports brand. And these are two very different kinds of companies on some levels, Apple was much more centrally run and decided to the point of, you know, Steve Jobs made a lot of the decisions himself. If something like a fashion brand is like, you know, there's a creative director at the top who's deciding everything. I think Nike is very strongly run centrally, but I think there's a fair bit of autonomy that happens, they have like, you know, any given time, they might have 5000 skews, right? You know, Apple sort of has a relative handful. So it's, I think it's easier for Apple to control fewer products, and they scale the heck out of them. Nike has a very different model where they have 5000 skews at any given time. In fact, Steve Jobs and Mark Parker, Mark Parker was the CEO now the chairman of Nike sort of befriended one another and Steve Jobs came up and was like, You're crazy. Well, you have way too many skews.Joelly Goodson :
Oh, really?Tom Bassett:
Yeah.Joelly Goodson :
Oh, wow. So did you meet Steve Jobs?Tom Bassett:
I was yelled at by Steve Jobs.Joelly Goodson :
Did you read his book?Tom Bassett:
You know, I didn't because I lived a lot of it. I guess I didn't feel the sort of the need or desire to but but yes, he was in meetings with us. Or we were in meetings with him, I guess, realistically. So I get the feeling. It wasn't the best experience working with Apple, it was phenomenal, phenomenal experience, you know, again, back to somebody with incredibly exacting standards with incredible attention to detail. He is not necessarily known for having gone to charm school. But you know, if you can take that, and you just take it for what it is, then I'd say in a lot of cases, he's right. If you read, there's a book written by Ed catmull, of Pixar, and he talks about how actually, in the story reviews for the Pixar films, they actually had Steve not attend, because he had such a strong point of view. And people didn't want to know what to do with them. They're running Apple, he was brilliant. It's what that company needed. So he came back with a very clear point of view, very strong leadership style. And they became the most valuable company in the world. He did a lot of things, right. So was it always pleasant? Not necessarily, but you know, if you did your job, and you did good work, he approved, it wasn't a committee decision. So that was kind of nice. I read the book. And so they mean, it's very clear in that book, they talk, they tell a lot of stories about him. I thought it was a really good book. And it was really interesting and give them a little backstory, but I've never talked to someone who was actually yelled at by him. So it's interesting to hear your feedback. He said he was a great leader as far as taking a company to being one of the most successful brands, would you say that was probably his greatest accomplishment? I don't know. That's a big question what his greatest accomplishment was? Well, I just when you work with him, like what you saw firsthand. Yeah, just I guess there was a level of passion and devotion and just infinite attention to detail that really permeated every thing. And everybody that was in and around Apple, right. So they do things extremely well, they do everything, right. They don't cut corners. And they expect a lot of people and they get that back out. If you look at the finishes on the iPhone, or you look at the way the software experiences are designed to go look at their campus, you look at you know, their advertising, it's all just incredibly well done. They spare no expense, but it shows again, back to this I think similarity with Nike is they they really value design. And yeah, they have a sense of style. I mean, when I think about those two brands, specifically the reason I asked him both similarities, because I think that the simplicity of both of them, right, and the design and in their branding, and in their logo, it's it's very apparent everything you see and how they go to market and present themselves. And I would assume that their target market is probably similar. I mean, I think a lot of people that are that were Nike and buy Nike or have the air pods in and have would you say? Yeah, sure. I mean, it's definitely tribe. Yeah, I think there's a simplicity to their storytelling, which is hard for people to the I think a lot of people you know, in advertising will look and say like, Oh, I could go work, a whitening case, easy to do great Nike work. It's like, actually, I think it's that much harder, because they want to make things very, oh, I have this sort of guiding philosophy for our company is a quote from Einstein, which is everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler. And I think they do that with the product with the storytelling with the experiences. It is very simple on some level, but it's so simple. It's almost elegant. That is I think it's harder for a lot of companies to replicate. They see that and they want it but they don't understand how to get it. Well. I think if I were to sum it up, I'd say just because something is simple, doesn't mean it's easy. I love your philosophy. And that's a great intro into what I was gonna ask you. Do you have any input with the creative? I mean, do you work with the creative department? Do you come up to helping them with the ideas? Yeah, so there's, look, there are a lot of different strategies and a lot of different ways to see it. And there's a lot of different types of strategists. I'm a bit binary in the sense that like, I feel like there are certain ivory tower strategists who says really smart things from the hilltop that doesn't really actually get down into the weeds of really interviewing people and understanding people and I think I'm much more of a bottom up person. I really want to understand people I understand how they view a brand I understand how they view a category how they expect As a product, how are they connected with culture? And it's very insight based. And so my philosophy on strategy is that our job is to be a catalyst for the development of a great creative platform. I think we're strategists doesn't go wrong is they feel like they're sort of preordained to be the ones with the brains of the operation to say, this is what it's going to be. And this is how it's going to work. And then somebody just goes and executes that. So to answer get back to answer your question, I have very close relationships with creative people and creative teams. And I think that's a very important part of your process. Because if they don't know you, and don't trust you, you're probably not going to get very far if you have that level of trust with creative teams, Michael, we're working on a campaign once for Yahoo, and it was for Yahoo search. And I came up with that line bingo, which is kind of what people feel when they find exactly what it is they're looking for. And this was at a time when people thought surfing was interesting. And they were they're slowly starting to change. So I don't really want to surf, I just want to find that piece of information. I'm looking for the creative team, we're big enough to say that's the idea. Like, that's fine, you know that. So that was the tagline for the campaign. And so we had that history, you had that trust, and they had that openness. But again, that's few and far between, you have to also really trust the creative teams you're working with to solve the problem, right? Yeah. Dan Wyden had a great philosophy, which was don't tell my team what the answer is, but challenge them with question and have them solve it creatively. And so we actually developed this whole working methodology where the brief was a question the role of a planner is to write the creative brief difference between an account planner account managers account planners, kind of really responsible for knowing to consumer and the account person should really know the business. This episode of branding matters is brought to you by gems for gems. gems for gems is a proactive charity focused on ending the cycle of domestic abuse. 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To learn more about gems for gems, you can visit their website at gems for gems.com. You can also find them on Facebook, under gems, for gems, and on Instagram, under gems for gems Canada. And you can always reach out to me on any social media platform under branding badass. And now back to our show. What inspired you to do this film, it's called briefly and what was sort of the impetus for doing it, but actually watched it and it was phenomenal. Thank you. I think the idea for it was really that I had I had experienced a lot of you know, Arad had a lot of exposure to great creative talent, great companies and great brands that value that and I thought I wonder if I could pay it forward to other people, particularly more sort of junior people coming up through the business or into the business, what could I potentially help teach them about the craft of account planning or strategy, if you will. And so I decided at the time that I didn't really want to just do advertising because I interview advertisers because I felt like I knew that and there are a handful of great advertising people in there. JOHN Jay, who was the global creative director at wieden. And Kennedy, Nike, the founder of 72. And Sunny, which has been written up as company is one of the most innovative companies in America, but really extend beyond that. So I have Yves de haar in it who is one of the most well known industrial product designers in the world, Swiss guy, Frank Gehry, who actually the Canadian American, you know, David Rockwell, who's a phenomenal architect and designer, and then Myra Coleman, who's a children's book illustrator and does a lot of covers for The New Yorker magazine, I guess what I really wanted to do expand the lens beyond advertising, and just really understand what the similarities were across creative disciplines. From the point of view of the creative person, I could have done the same thing and talk to a lot of account planners or strategists. They were just sound made sound, everything sound really intellectual and so easy, and you just have to create these briefs and magic happens. And I thought, let's ask the people who read I always have always viewed that my audience is the creative team. Yes, I have had some accountability to client but really, I saw my job is being able to extract I shouldn't say extract, inspire, I suppose the best possible creative product from the team I was working with. And so being a planner and divorced from the relationship with a client, I could really lean into that the premise of the film was what can we learn from great creativity. leaders about what they will need and want out of creative brief, whatJoelly Goodson :
are some of the things that film brought to the forefront?Tom Bassett:
Well, each chapter in the film discusses a different theme. Now, I won't go through them all. But there's a theme about the importance of relationships, for example, and how potent it is for them, to have relationships with clients, but them to have relationships with their own people, but just really understand that you can have this free exchange of information that having discussions and sometimes nonlinear discussions about the products, you know, you've been hard talks about going to trade shows with clients, and just wandering around and seeing things and talking about things. Just having that level of trust and relationship is really important. There's a chapter on conflict, Frank Gehry leads that one where he's in big conflict over the Eisenhower Memorial that he's now in the process of building in Washington, a lot of people echo that he, you got to pay attention to the brief, but it's somehow at some point, there's kind of a bit of a leap to the creative platform. And it's not always linear, and not always easy, but there is disagreement, or it can't be disagreement with client, and that's okay. So I think there's some great lessons in there in terms of how to think about developing a creative brief, I think that the final quote in the film is really a summary that film which is if you can ask the right question, you can usually solve the problem. And that's in a way, the foundation of great creativity is asking a lot of questions, but ultimately deciding on what is the question to be answered. So our job is really talk about what is the brand stand for Volvo safety, BMW performance, Mercedes engineering, okay, what is the foundation for this brand, right? So really get everybody aligned around what the core idea is behind the brand or a particular product launch? if you will. There's a whole separate group that talks about media buying and placement. Now, the brand, to some degree should inform those channels and those kinds of things. I mean, look at Tesla, right? I mean, Elan musk will post things on his Twitter feed saying, Hey, I'm trying to solve this problem, or, you know, what's wrong with my cars, and people will email him directly, right? you're interacting with a CEO of a company, right? This visionary who, by the way, went to Queen's University, but I did not know that my son is a huge Elan Musk, when he talks about him all the time, I have to let him know that I was the queen. So it's somewhat contingent on sort of what the brand stands for, like they your brand proposition is safety, right? Presumably, the medium that you're choosing, or the media mix is not an unsafe one. For instance, like if you're doing something for child safety, like, well, you probably don't want it on some on gated YouTube channel where random porn pops. Like, that's not safe. Okay, so, so I think so. So our job is to really determine like, what the creative platform should be go back to the 1996 Olympics brief was kind of an iconic brief to some degree. It was, you know, how do we communicate the idea that sport is war minus to killing and it's like, Whoa, like in a, you know, in an environment of the Olympics, that shocking. But that was the strategy of really leaning into the truth of an athlete, a Nike athletes, Olympic point of view. And so they had these big bold posters at that time, or whatever. So that the media to some degree was like, aggressive and shocking, the imagery was that way in the headlines were but Alternatively, if you're trying to, I'm trying to think of a current of a brand or something that you're, what would you do with this brand? It was take Amazon, I think Amazon's a great thing, because like, I think of them again, when they started very simply, right? It's like we're an online bookstore at that moment in time, the best thing you could do was provide a framework for something new existing in the real world. And it just say, Oh, we do that in a live online bookstore, you go to a bookstore, you go into a bookstore, or you look for a book, you grab the book, you take the cash, and you go out, like I get that. Then it was online books and CDs. And then it was a virtual bazaar. And now it's like, what does that mean? AWS has Uber and Airbnb and every other major brand in the planet. Right. So back to your questions like, it's kind of a big question like, Well, how do you advise somebody how to advertise like, well, I guess I was thinking more along the lines of I'm circling back to you talked about relationships, right, when you talked about your brief, and you talked about creating relationships. So a big part, I think a brand is trying to connect with the consumer on an emotional level. Would you agree with that? Yeah, I think that's a big part of my history and experience. So you're trying to connect on an emotional level with your audience now in the digital space, because I think we're all on there. Whether it is Ilan Musk, on Twitter, connecting with people, I would think it's more challenging Now to do that. How do you keep it humanized in this digital space? I think they're constantly re learning the formula like at one point Old Spice to the whole campaign, where they called out specific people and their actor would respond to something you had tweeted and like, Oh, my God, that's revolutionary. nobody's done that before. And so given all these different media right now, whether it's Instagram stories, or tik tok, or whatever, people are just constantly experimenting. So I think it's left sort of the advertising marketing industry kind of dizzy because you're just constantly have to reinvent the wheel. And it's hard. So I think to your point, connecting people emotionally is important. But I think you know, on that point, if you looked at like an iPod campaign, right people probably remember The dancing people with the white headphones. But one of the first campaign or one of the first boards, actually, I think Steve Jobs might have written the headline was 5000 songs in your pocket. And people were like, Oh, thank you. That's what a digital music player is right? Like before there was all this die on reo data and was like, What is this thing? He just kind of came out and said, Oh, it's like 5000 songs in your pocket, kind of like online bookstore. So I think you have to recognize where you are. And the development if you're entering a category, you're reinventing the way something is done. And it's never been done that way before you kind of need a handrail. Elan Musk is selling cars, people understand what cars are. So it's Yeah, it's an electric car. And it's got a big screen. And it's Tesla and all that stuff. But it's still a car and I understand what a car is. So I think it depends a lot on what it is you're trying to market. Right. And that goes back to your philosophy. But everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. I read. I think it was on your website where you talked about helping brands get to their unique emotional truth. So that was I thought that was an interesting line. Can you elaborate a bit on that and share maybe how to do that? Yeah, I think. And this goes kind of probably counter to a lot of what people want to hear, but keep the goal in mind. Unfortunately, a lot of people get too enamored by process, and they're looking for a repeatable process to land up in an original place and like, that seems emphatic. All right. I want to sample that. Well, if I go through a carwash, I'm gonna get my car washed over and over again, I'm not gonna land on Mars, right? I don't care how I get there. I just know that I want to get to a unique emotional truth to this brand. Nike go, I shouldn't say got lucky. But early on, you know, Nike is the goddess of victory in Greek mythology, right? So victory was kind of like at the core of that brand. You know, watching sports as an emotional experience. doing sports is an emotional experience. Winning sports is like super emotional, right? And so you're, you're already in this, like, hyper charged emotional kind of space. And they were a bunch of athletes. And I think they just responded to I even hesitate to call it advertisings. I don't think it was advertised. Yeah, nothing else. And so I think they sort of created this whole model of like, oh, wow, you're you're connecting with emotional labor. You're not just saying, here's this this product. Yeah, the shoe is more comfortable. They went, hey, you can slam dunk like Michael Jordan. Right? Yeah. And Spike Lee. Oh, he's cool. It's culture. Right. So I think getting to that emotional truth is really the end goal. How you get there is gonna vary, I think there's there templates, you can look them up online, everybody, every agency has some sort of briefing format. But at some point, somewhere along the line, if you can identify that underlying human truth, it's going to resonate and connect you with a shared value system with your buyer, user consumer, however you want to define them. I love what you said. So since COVID, what would you say are the biggest challenges within the design tech and creative communities? I think creativity thrives on in person, collaborative collaboration, and serendipity. To a large extent, there's a lot of happenstance and we live in a very prescriptive culture United States call scheduled at 4pm Pacific and we got on at 4pm. I got off a call it for me now I barely have time to run to the restroom. Right? So I think short term people are probably able to figure it out. I think longer term, that's gonna be a harder dynamic to replicate in a digital environment. I think we'll find new ways of working that, you know, we're very adaptable human beings. But I think that's, that's the biggest missing piece. I've heard from other creative people, the frustration is just like just those in person, like I'm writing to hurt spouse back to LA x. And we're just having a conversation about something and like, Oh, my God, and idea came to us, like, we just don't have that. Yeah. time together,Joelly Goodson :
kept off each other as muchTom Bassett:
right? As bouncers, like improvs. Like, hey, okay, do improv on your own now, or do you have digitally it's like, it's kind of you're, you're tight, you're playing with one hand tied behind your back now things like television production, or, you know, photography and shoots like that, like, you can't have everybody around now and everything's locked down. So, again, what's the serendipity onset of everybody's got to be six feet apart and wearing masks, and it's a very challenging environment, I think for them. But I think we're still all responding to a little bit in shock, right, like COVID happened, and everyone was like, Oh, my God, it was fight or flight. And we're most fearful for a while. Now. They've kind of wrap their heads around it, and they're ready to move forward. But you know, we're not all been vaccinated. So I think, I think I'd be curious to see what happens moving forward. I think that the future of cities in the future of office is a big question mark around creativity and how to, you know, you've got much more distributed teams, and you've got people who can and live all over the world, you've got digital nomads, now people living out of fans all over the place, and they love it. But is that really going to help the creative quality? I don't know.Joelly Goodson :
And I think big shock is I don't think any of us expected this to go on as long as it has. Like you said, I'mTom Bassett:
very optimistic about the future of creativity, regardless of the constraints that the environment provides. I think there's always you know, when paint first was, you know, invented it was like, just very functional that cover houses and then artists like didn't went, Oh, I could do some fun stuff with that. Oh, yeah,Joelly Goodson :
absolutely. I totally agree with you. Okay, so before we go, you were talking earlier about how you interviewed a lot of people. You talked about Frank Gehry, you didn't I mentioned Mark Cuban, but you, you had mentioned to me that you had interviewed him amongst many others. So who today has been your favorite person to interview and why?Tom Bassett:
This is a bizarre one say and it probably not that many people know about him, I interviewed a guy named Harry Benson. He's a famous photographer. He basically was like the Beatles photographer who came over with the Beatles when he came to America, Scottish guy, and I interviewed him for a project I was working on. And he, I think, applied many of the same techniques that I do in interviewing people put to photography. And I realized partway through the interview that it was like the fox interviewing the fox, and everywhere I'd go, he'd kind of run away a bit, and then come back and mess with me. And like, it was just a really interesting dynamic. And he's just a fascinating character, the life he's lived in everything. And he's just beautiful photography, if you've certainly seen it, many of his coffee table books, he's just incredibly talented and has some of the most memorable Beatles photography photos you've would have ever seen. But here's just kind of a really interesting character. And he, oh, he only worked on his terms, no matter who he was interviewing. And he walked out on famous people. I want to say he walked out on Michael Jackson, actually, because he was just like, Yeah, no, you don't own rights. I'm calling the shots on what we shoot and what we produce. And I'll leave and they call them when he was down in the lobby and send him back up and said, Okay, we'll do it your way. But he was a very determined now self driven photographer. So I think that was probably maybe one of the more unusual ones IJoelly Goodson :
that's interesting. So is he still alive? Or no?Tom Bassett:
I'm not sure. Because I interviewed him. I want to say he was well into his 70s. At that point, it might have been 10 years ago now. SoJoelly Goodson :
okay, interesting. Come up. What was Mark Cuban like,Tom Bassett:
it was a bit of an odd setup situation, I don't think he was set up for success in a bad way. It was a big project for large, soft drink brand. It was a sports marketing assignment. And he owns the Mavericks, right. And so they said, Oh, we got Mark Cuban, you can ask me anything you want. And so I hopped into this room, andJoelly Goodson :
were you intimidated.Tom Bassett:
I was but I, to be honest with you. At this point, I've interviewed a lot of fairly famous people. And so there's a bit of nervous energy in every interview like that. But at the end of the day, they're just people and you know, the more that you can connect with them as people and not BS. They just want to know you're authentic. And I'll open up I don't think I got out of it. What I was hoping to get out of it. Yeah, because he had he had sold his company for how many billion or 1,000,000,002 or something. So as I was expecting these incredibly broad, sweeping ideas, and I didn't get there, I was a failure on my part, I think to get the information I was hoping to get from him.Joelly Goodson :
Was he a nice guy, though? Like he, you know, nice. Yeah.Tom Bassett:
He's very jovial, very nice, very, like good sense of humor. Like, relax. He was just he was just a dude. Like, you could picture going to a basketball game and having a beer with them. Like, it wasn't, you know, it wasn't like Steve Jobs where Steve Jobs walks in the room. And everybody's like, yeah, you know,Joelly Goodson :
I bet. Well, it's funny you say that about being intimidated. When I first started doing this podcast and fearing people, I was so nervous, and then you quickly realize like, like you said, We are just people. And if you can, the more authentic you are, and you connect on that human level, I find. I'm more calm now. And I'm less, you know, nervous. And I would have normally be super nervous to sit down and talk to you, but I seem to be pretty. Well, I mean, you have so much amazing information, Tom to share. And I really appreciate that. If anyone wants to learn more about briefly, which we talked about briefly earlier, or about you or tmb, what's the best way for them to connect with you?Tom Bassett:
Yeah, sure. I mean, briefly is available for free on Vimeo. So if you just type a video briefly on Vimeo, we pop up. It's got about 300,000 views or something. I founded a company called mind swarms. memd swarms. So Tom at mindswarms, calm.Joelly Goodson :
Yeah. Do you want to touch on that? Do you want to quickly touch share a little bit about what that is?Tom Bassett:
It's a what we call it a mobile video ethnography platform. So it's a asked questions and answers from people all over the world. So we do that for most of the big brands already talked about?Joelly Goodson :
And what's sort of the premise behind it like what what inspired you to create thatTom Bassett:
I spent a lot of my career going to people or have idea of golf, see for yourself going in person and interviewing people and videotaping those interactions, and then bringing that videotape back to share with clients. Because they weren't off and they're and so when the internet came along, was I thought we maybe could do this digitally remotely. And we started that, and then we put it into mobile. So yeah, it's just a way of gathering feedback from people all over the world via video and understanding how they see something and how they use something, how they relate to something and sometimes how they react to an ad or design or a product as well.Joelly Goodson :
So is it sort of a digital way of doing focus groups,Tom Bassett:
right? So focus groups are sort of an old model, right? You've got eight strangers in a room for 90 minutes and you have a two way mirror and you ask them some questions and you're supposed to value their opinion. I think I think a well moderated group can be good. There's always someone in the group who's outspoken and then there's always a shy people bias as a moderator so so ours is just one on one digitally remotely. It's just you and your home. You're comfortable. There's no strangers. There's no two way mirror. And it's a video selfie confessional and somebody says, you know, what do you think of Nike? And you say, yeah, I think they're a great company, or I really hate that they sponsor or such and such or whatever. I don't know. Yeah. People have their opinions. And so it's really just just gathering of unvarnished opinions from people via video all over the world. That's great. I love it. And so it's called mind swamps. Correct. Cool. Well, I love that. That's a great idea. And are you on social media? Yeah, I'm at Tom bass on Twitter. I'm obviously on LinkedIn. I don't do much on Instagram, or Facebook. We are we publish our own newsletter and those kinds of things. Cool. Well,Joelly Goodson :
thank you again. It was so nice talking to you. And I hope I get to meet you one day in person next time in San Francisco. I like it's one of my favorite cities. So I'm definitely going to be back. So I'm going to look you up when you're ready, of course.Tom Bassett:
Okay, awesome. Well, thanks again. Have a great night, and I'll talk to you soon. And there you have it. I really hope you enjoy the conversation and maybe learned a few things to help you with your branding. But most of all, I really hope you had some fun. This show is a work in progress. So please make sure to rate and review on whatever platform you listen to. And if you want to learn more about the branding badass, that's me. You can find me on social media under you know it, branding badness. Thanks again and until next time, here's to all you badass is out there.