Episode 162 Featuring Joseph Ianni

Tim Ash - Unleash Your Primal Brain and Neuromarketing

Tim Ash - Unleash Your Primal Brain and Neuromarketing

Neuromarketing is the new concept of the day, brought to you by our guest Tim Ash who was also kind enough to share a copy of his new book "Unleash Your Primal Brain" with me, warranting a follow-up for sure. It's an interesting read and sheds light on the way our species evolved throughout history, tracing that behavior all the way to how it interfaces with us this very day. I think most people would agree marketing goes hand in hand with psychology, but the degree of which was something I learned through this discussion. Additonally, we touch on a number of important and timely subjects both in and out of ecommerce and it was a blast to record.


Tim Ash is an acknowledged authority on evolutionary psychology and digital marketing. He is a sought-after international keynote speaker, and the bestselling author of Unleash Your Primal Brain and Landing Page Optimization (with over 50,000 copies sold worldwide, and translated into six languages). Tim has been mentioned by Forbes as a Top-10 Online Marketing Expert, and by Entrepreneur Magazine as an Online Marketing Influencer To Watch.

Who are you and what do you do

Joseph: Tim Ash, opening question for you, not that it's a contractual obligation or anything, but I'm just going to do it anyways. Tell us what you do and what are you up to these days? 

Tim Ash: Let's start with what I've done. I, uh, studied computer science, cognitive science, did my PhD work. Although I never finished in artificial intelligence, what would now be called neural networks and self-learning systems. Uh, and then I had a long career in internet marketing. Specifically, I ran a leading conversion rate optimization agency called site tuners for many, many years and say we're one of the original OGs, original gangsters in that field created over 1.2 billion in value for the Expedias, Facebook's, Nestle's of the world, Google.

And, um, after running that, I I'd been focusing a lot on, uh, I guess you'd say how to market and how to persuade people. And that took me back to my roots and my graduate work, which is about. Persuasion more broadly in psychology. And I realized that at the root of it all is evolutionary psychology. Our brain evolved for a reason. We picked up stuff along the way. So I have been focusing on these universal things that describe how we act, why we behave the way we do, how we really make decisions. And of course it can be very powerfully applied to marketing as the crossover is called neuro marketing. So that's what my focus is now, keynote speaking, a lot of executive advisory as well as my new book, which we can talk about in a bit.

What is neuromarketing

Joseph: More than eager to talk about that book for certain. So there are some, there's some terminology here that, you know, we get to bring to the, to the program really for the first time. And neuro-marketing is, uh, is the term that, uh, that stands out to me. So is it a strategy all of its own or is it. An element in the component that you find resides within really any strategy that you know we're aware of. 

Tim Ash: That's a great question. I would say it's more of, um, foundational. I mean the strategy and tactics are both sort of on the implementation side, but if you want to understand what you're influencing, it's the human brain. I mean, the technology is what we're focused on as internet marketers. And it's about our marketing technology stack.

Are we doing personalization? Are we doing retargeting? Are you measuring it all with analytics? And you know what? I basically have to say that, that doesn't matter at all. I mean, there's a huge ignorance about what you're trying to persuade and that's the human mind, and that hasn't changed in evolutionary terms at all.

So if you want to have a long durable career in marketing, you should understand this foundational stuff about how the brain works, how it evaluates risk, what moves it to act those kinds of things. So I'm focused more on the universal layers. And I think the neuro-marketing and the underpinnings of it, which is evolutionary psychology is absolutely the starting point for anybody doing marketing. 

Joseph: Here's the disconnect that comes up a number of times. And it's certainly a disconnect that, uh, I'm I, I encounter quite a bit too, is we have the, the seller, we have the brand owner, they own, they have their own human. Now, they've got one, everybody everybody's given one as part of the starter kit. And, and one would think that, you know, we're all sharing this, uh, this, the same organism, although a di it diverts millions of by millions of ways.

And then, then we have this disconnect between us and then the audience and not being able to, uh, to understand what it is that the audience wants. Part of it is, you know, there's one of us and there's potentially tens of. Thousands of hundreds of thousands, not millions of them. So where is this disconnect coming from? Where the seller isn't able to find the answers in their own mind that they can't seem to find in there, their audience. 

Tim Ash: That's a, that's a great question. I have three answers to that one because it's such a good question. So first of all, we're experts in our own thing. In this case, you know, we run an e-commerce website, we know everything about the product selection and the fulfillment, and then how we're running online campaigns.

So we tend to overlook what our audience won't. There are millions of little friction points and things like that. So we need to kind of look at it with a beginner's mind. I've always, I built my former agency site tuners on the basis of basically being never satisfied, always advocating for the end user, saying, Hey, from their perspective, this sucks.

Yes, this is confusing. Or, um, they lost the information sent. They can't figure out how to take the next step. So basically, we tend to suffer from what I call greedy marketer syndrome, you know, where that's the second problem, we're experts in our own thing and then we're just trying to ram stuff down the sales funnel and say, let's focus on the bottom of it. And, uh, hope dollar signs come out. And we're not really supporting the complete customer journey or the things that a lot of people need before making the buy decision. So that's the second one. 

And then the third thing I would say is there's a really, almost a universal ignorance about how the mind works. We think that we're rational creatures and we tend to design things for, well here, you know, you get an 8% discount. If you sign up for a year, making me do math and stuff like that, and buying decisions, all decisions, anything that we want to do and act on is completely irrational run by the subconscious mind.

And I think that I very rarely met marketers that really understand that. To such a fundamental level that that's where they operate from. So greedy marketer's syndrome, not understanding that we're really irrational and being experts in our own thing. That's where the biggest sources of disconnect I would say.

Joseph: And speaking along those lines, and another thing that comes up is there is no shortage of data. Um, whether, you know, we're talking about people, so working in the retail space, um, or even obviously here in, in the e-commerce space and, you know, I've, uh, I've, I've done sales for, for a number of years and, uh, happy with some, but not all of it.

The science behind the disconnect in the e-commerce space

And what we found. You know, one of the most prominent ways to sell a consumer on a product was story storytelling was appealing to that, to that, to the emotional side and building that connection. And so there's going to be a lot of me using the word disconnect and I'll try to space it out as best I can, but you have all of the we're we're, we're swimming if not drowning in data.

And yet it seems like that last hurdle to, to really connect with the customer it's to get the conversion all takes place in that nebulous gray area, emotional monkey brain part, where we have no, we don't really have a way to quantify it. So has there been an attempt to quantify it? Like, has anybody gotten close to figuring out what is the real psychology or science going on behind that part that's frankly, a mystery? 

Tim Ash: Absolutely. I mean, I think this is a golden age of, um, understanding the brain and psychology and there's people working in lots of different silos, whether it's medical imaging or behavioral economics, uh, or sales and persuasion techniques. There's, there's lots of ways of attacking it.

Uh, but I think that we are kind of cracking the skull open and it's, it is the last frontier. There is a lot of ignorance. I'd say the human mind is literally the most complicated object in the universe. So a hundred billion neurons. That's a lot of stuff going on in there. So we have to focus on that is my point it's about durability to me. It's not about, um, you know, oh, it's the latest technique or what's, uh, in other words, I don't care if it's. Hologram suppositories or whatever the next technology is. Or we go back to Google glass. Right. That doesn't matter. What we're trying to influence is the same. It's just the channel to which and through which we're trying to influence it. So, uh, that's, that's kind of my approach. 

Joseph: One conversation that I had previously with, uh, Bob Braham and, uh, and his, uh, service, uh, famous is, you know, about enhancing the, the mobile experience and, you know, trying to, you know, use that as a means to give our customers because lots of people are using their mobile phones.

I don't remember exactly where I read it. Uh, we were somewhere where like, yo, we're, they're trying to jam chips in our brains. Some else's like, know they're not, they don't have to, we got the phones where. 

Tim Ash: You wake up, you look at it, you go to bed, you look at it. And when you're in the bathroom, you look at it. It's, it's omnipresent. 

Joseph: Yeah. I love to give your, take on the, uh, what you've observed as to be the relationship between, you know, our device usage and where you think we're going as a species in terms of, you know, as a mobile phone, going to be the end, the end game for, for it. Are we going to get all the way to like star Trek where, you know, we're still using our mobile device.

Tim Ash: Well, I think that, um, if I'm not a futurist, but I play one on TV, so I'll throw out a couple of things. Uh, the first is I think that, um, everything has to be tied to the human body and how we perceive things. So, uh, holding something in our hand and staring at a small screen, that's still not the natural evolution of it.

It's more like minority report. If I don't know if you remember that Tom Cruise movie where he's visually moving things around and there's some kind of holographic projection that that's in front of him. So we want to kind of be in the, in the world, moving, talking gesturing. I think typing on a tiny keyboard is, is not the last stop.

Uh, there's a lot more things going to voice on mobile, but even the screen itself is a problem. Eventually it's going to be just kind of a flick of the wrist and you're projecting something on a nearby, flat surface. That's how we're gonna get our visuals as part of. 

Unleash your primal brain

Joseph: Alright, so let's talk about this book, uh, unleash your primal brain. We've, we've warmed, we've warmed up to it. To me, it sounds like, you know, it explorer. Uh, that, that part of us that is. The most deeply rooted. It's not, you don't necessarily have to be, you know, say an e-commerce or in marketing to read this book and drive value from that.

Um, is that, is that true? Is it just?

Tim Ash: Absolutely. In fact, I would say I wrote it. It's a non technical overview of the development of the brain. And, and, uh, it's an exciting ride. I, I wrote it to also be an audio book and to be easily translated into other languages. I recorded the audio book. So I read it to be a read through there's not a single table or footnote or citation in there.

I do have a recommended reading list in the back, but it's, it's a, it's a wild ride through the human mind. And basically it's what we picked up along the way are from the earliest life honor is, um, reptiles, uh, mammals, our primate cousins. And then the last part is what makes us distinctly human, including storytelling for example, is one of the things you mentioned earlier.

And, uh, so I unpack all of that. And so it's not for marketers specifically. I mean, if you read this book, You get something out of it, regardless of your blinders. So you could read it for business broadly speaking, it could be leadership or marketing or sales. You could read it for relationships, for culture, for gender differences, storytelling, all of that stuff.

And you can read it for personal development, understanding the importance of sleep, how memory really works, learning, uh decision-making and risk all of those things. So really it's, it's, it's the operating system for the 8 billion people on the planet. The things that we all share in common, not our individual differences as you mentioned. 

Joseph: So this was a rare opportunity for me to, um, ask something that really goes on in, in, in my own mind. Um, so, you know, uh, bear with me, audience, maybe, uh, you will all, uh, associate with this as well. This is a part of the, this like my inner psychology that I don't seem to know. Which is, you know, we all have our inner voice.

Our inner voice’s role in decision-making

Joseph: There’s that little narrator going inside know, talking and talking. And it seems to me that the actual compulsion for the decisions I make, have nothing to do with the inner narrator is that the integrator is just there to like justify or validate or contextualize the decisions that are coming from upper management.

It's tricky because I don't know exactly like how far along you've come in answering at any one, given question that I get thrown to you, but I'm just gonna give it a shot because why not is what role really is the inner voice supposed to play in guiding our actual decision making process? 

Tim Ash: Yeah, that's a very interesting question. I think what we need to do is essentially invert the 2000 years since classical Greece, that we've been taught, you know, that the rational mind is what makes us distinct and unique and better than other animals. And it's in charge. And we think of it as sort of as the charioteer and driving and directing and guiding the wild horses of our emotions.

And creating the momentum, right? And actually that's backwards, the wild horses who are running for you. And once in a while, if there's no immediate risk to us. And if it's something that we've never encountered before and is novel, that we kick it up to the conscious brain, but you're absolutely right that conscious brain, as opposed to the primal brain that I talked about in the book is really, after the fact explaining things, you can see through medical imaging where a decision is made, a certain part of the brain is activated, and then we're able to verbalize it a fraction of a second later.

But that verbalization is not the decision. We don't have access to our subconscious or why we really made it. And it's an after the fact rationalization, in fact, I think it was science fiction author. Great Robert Heinlein, who said, man is not a rational animal. He's a rationalizing animal. So we rationalize things after the fact and come up with a quote unquote reason why we did something, but it's totally bullshit. 

Joseph: So this is where I want to really ask you about some of the practical methods, even some of the ones that you've been able to, uh, to apply for yourself. So, you know, a person gets up and I would argue that the most important hour of the day. This is probably that first hour. It sets the pace for the rest of the day.

And even just being able to wake up on a proper sleep cycle alone is essential. So, I mean, it's the, the importance of it is determined even before somebody even wakes up. So I should, I should also, uh, quantify, cause I just want to, um, also use maybe the feedback that you've received vaginal understand, um, how long has the book been available for? 

Tim Ash: The book came out this spring. So it's a brand new. 

Joseph: So I just want to check whether or not you've had a chance to receive feedback on that end of that. Okay, great. Great. So what have you found to be the most effective way for people to wake up and actually starts to get to that, uh, that, that primal brain to, I guess, cooperate with what it is the rational mind has laid out for the day?

Tim Ash: Yeah. Well, I'm going to, you said I would argue that the first hour is the most important, well, I'm going to argue back at you. Um, because I think it's actually the least. Okay. And I'll tell you why, uh, you, you absolutely hit on the key. The key to all sorts of survival of all life on the planet is sleep proper sleep.

In fact, there's no creature that lives longer than a few days that doesn't have some form of sleep, uh, dolphins, which are Marine mammals. Obviously they need to breathe. So they figured out that. Alternate, the two hemispheres are their brains. So one's asleep and resting while the other one is not drowning.

And then migratory birds actually take micro naps and drop out of the sky, but don't quite hit the ground as they do these long migrations, but they need sleep too. It's not optional, it's life support for everything. And so the way you go to sleep as the most important that last hour, when you've experienced or consciously put into your mind in that last hour before sleep gets processed about five to six times more than the rest of the day's events combined.

And so anything you can do to kind of load up an interesting creative problem that you've thought about, or that you need to figure out sleep on it. It works creativities on cork during sleep proper seven to nine hours sleep, including several REM cycles. Um, and also anything that you learned that day, any mental or physical skill, if you don't sleep on it, it doesn't get encoded as into long-term memory.

You don't get the benefit of the training. Uh, so, and then also sleep calibrates for human beings, the nuanced social interactions we have. If you don't get sleep, you get paranoid. You think people are set up against you. You misjudge the micro expressions on their face as being in aggressive. So you can't function in any kind of society or group without sleep.

So for all of these reasons, sleep is really crucial. There's a, one of the habits that I have is I do a little gratitude journal. That's not like I write a lot. I just a bunch of bullet points that just remind me of good things that happened that day. And I write them down. Bye in pencil, um, in my little dope book just before I go to sleep and then that sets the tone for the following day. 

Joseph: Lately in the last, uh, couple of weeks when, uh, I have it, I had adopted almost close to that, but I had, what I did was top three. Failures of the day, then top three successes of the day. And what I found was I wanted to take some time also to hone in on, you know, what are the mistakes?

What are the things that I, I didn't feel I did particularly well, as well as, you know, focus on the, on the, on the achievement sides as well. Now it's funny too, as you just said, you know, and you're going to argue back at me and I thought, yeah, this is a debate. I don't know if I'm going to hold my own.

Tim Ash: Well, here's the, here's how I would do it. I think you need to consider both, but doing it a different time. So for example, at night, I would just do the gratitude part. And that's why religious people, for example, they say their prayers, they remember all the things to be grateful for their kind of blessing themselves and the people around them.

If you will, at the end of the night, before they go to sleep, that's the right thing to do in the morning when your mind is fresh and most creative, and you have some reserves of that conscious mind, executive function, that's called that's the time to think about problems and how to deal with and tackle your biggest ones.

First, I had a mentor once that told me kiss the biggest frog don't put off, don't do your emails and do all those menial tasks. Take your hardest problem and tackle that in the morning. 

Joseph: For me, it's only it's crossed my radar here and there. Uh, I, I never had a chance to get too much into it, but I would absolutely love to hear about, you know, your, your experience with it. And so for people understand, here's what I do know, and it's not much, but here's what I do.

And now, you know, you have hardware and we talk about the physical machines. You have your software, which is the programs, the apps that are running on the hardware and then at wetware is us the human being. Yeah. Okay. That's as far as far as I know, but, um, in, in, in, in, in creating this book and in your, in your continued pursuits, and even in your, you know, in your history, working in e-commerce and digital marketing for so long is.

Yeah, when it went rare, cross your, your radar. 

Tim Ash: From the, from the very beginning, like I said, cognitive science was one of my undergraduate majors back at the university of California, San Diego. I double majored in that in computer engineering. So it's always been kind of software and wetware. And to me, the most interesting thing is definitely the wetware.

And there's a lot going on in artificial intelligence right now we're training machines to, from large data sets to extract kind of human-like levels of appropriate responses and everything from medical diagnosis to other fields. And it's really quite amazing. But what we're really doing is we're not writing programs anymore.

We're just saying let's take the hive, mind the collective experience of millions of people based on their actual actions and let that guide us. So in a way, artificial intelligence is being trained. On lots and lots of Schumann experiences and that's, what's making it smarter. It's not like there's some brilliant programmer that's writing code somewhere.

Joseph: Okay. So see, so this is, I guess, a bit of a misconception on my part is thinking, um, specifically that it only relates to, to humans, but it's actually more than that. It's the relationship between us as, you know, hardware running internal software and how that is providing information so that machines are starting to pick up on these things on their own.

And so you had mentioned, you mentioned it before at the beginning as well, is the, is the self learning process now myself and maybe others have seen, I've seen Terminator. So, you know, there are, we do get a for some people, the, the, the, the, the hairs rise up. So what can you tell us about the objectives of this? And. 

Tim Ash: I don't know that there are those, if you want to read a really good book, I'm just going to deflect that by saying there's much smarter people than I have that have thought about this. My friend Mogadon, um, these written a couple of books solve for happy is one, which is also fantastic, but he just wrote one called scary smart.

And it's about the approaching singularity. In other words, uh, you know, when AI becomes sent and what we can do in the very brief time, that's allowed in order to be able to at least influence the course of that is after that all bets are off. I mean, when, when machines get smart enough to say, Hey, human beings are an efficient, good chance.

They'll try to kind of like work us out of the system in one way or another. I'm not talking necessarily Terminator robots, but, but, um, just kinda sideline us and these things take on a, a momentum and a, you know, an emergent quality of their own. For example, you can look at a million snowflakes and they're all unique and wonderful, but by looking at a snowflake, you can never predict an Avalon.

That's an emergent property of millions of snowflakes. And in the same way, your smart door sensor, your Siri, your Alexa, when they're all talking to each other and turning on your coffee pots and opening your garage doors, those are relatively simple actions, but we just cannot imagine what the system dynamics of that is going to be like when they're, you know, billions of them in operating in the world in the wild. 

Utopian vision of society

Joseph: I guess the, the part that I enjoy in, in using my imagination on this is to somewhat visualize.

You know, what society will, will look like and what society will will function like. And again, you know, as you say, there's, uh, there's other, uh, um, uh, experts on the subject of delved into this, um, much further. So you'll feel free to just have fun with this, which is I hear about this. And, you know, we, we hear about, um, automation.

That was a, that was a big subject, um, uh, last presidential cycle. And, uh, and in tying in to what we're discussing here. And I guess the, the vision that I have for the future is that, you know, people still want to work. People still want to do things, but it's all going to be within the fields that well machines probably don't really have a hand in creative fields.

Um, the arts, um, a sports competition, um, the Olympics, the, or an entertainment. More more free time for people to, to do as they please and too, and just focus on the, on that kind of a healthy competition. So I, it's a bit, it's a utopian view of, uh, of where we're going to go. If somebody walks into a, uh, a McDonald's and just like taps on the screen and the food shows up, is there going to be a person there?

I don't know. Maybe they'll just have a few costs a year just to keep people company without them. 

Tim Ash: Utopian of McDonald's is still around killing you with that crap food. But I used to eat a lot of McDonald's. I stopped doing that. 

Joseph: I, I still, I'm just joking. I'm just giving you, I mean, you're not wrong and not as a isn't particularly good. Uh, somebody's a YouTuber that I watch, he said, yeah, yeah, stop. Uh McDonald's is that a single McDonald's meal is more harmful to you than a pack of cigarettes.

And so I, I took that advice and started smoking. I just seen him skinny. So it's again, and, and, and, and having fun with this is, and then we'll move on to, cause I'd also want to talk about the landing page optimization and tying in some of the, uh, um, um, someone we talked about in that is, um, where would you like we're at, or what's, what's your utopian vision of, uh, of society, whether or not. 

Tim Ash: I don't know that it is a utopian vision. What we're seeing actually is that, um, when you don't need people before we use the animals, you know, we use draft horses, we use wind power and windmills and, you know, in Holland. And we tried that, that was then the industrial revolution. We use fossil fuels and steam to move things. And as you said, though, what's happening now is more and more is moving into kind of a mental realm.

The problem is it's pretty easy to harness all that. So there it's easy to exploit right now in the US we have a hundred years high of income inequality. So in the gilded age, it was the railroad robber barons that concentrated the power. Now it's the, it's the Teslas and the Amazons and the Googles of the world.

And what you end up with is not something utopian. We're seeing it. Now you end up with Uber, you know, their commercial is everyone needs a side hustle, really just to live like a human being in a civilized society. I need a side hustle, screw that. So I think it actually creates opportunities to concentrate wealth upward and, um, that corrupts the political process and basically serves the interests of the 1%.

I, and at some point when that gets unsustainable, usually you have some kind of, uh, violent or cataclysmic revolution of sorts, uh, when people just feel they're being exploited and it's too unfair, that's something else that comes out of our evolutionary psychology. This is like, screw this half a loaf is better than none.

If you're really giving me just one person. And you're keeping 99% for yourself. That's unfair. And I will actually make things worse for myself in order to not let you have that. Uh, so I'm actually predicting something more negative and cataclysmic, not like we're all artists and Olympic athletes. 

Joseph: I respect that. I, so what I'll say is, you know, being I've been a freelancer for 10 years, right. So, you know, I'm part of the, the, the side hustle generation. And in, in some, in some, in all my sales jobs, I was well in one of them, the whole division was let go in another one, a new Disney manager comes in and we were all like, go, she just wanted a score.

And it's like, and in some cases, you know, I did, I was quite good at the job. It didn't matter. It was just, it was a loyalty thing. Um, and then I started pursuing. Uh, this in editing and in podcasting. And, and so that, you know, in, in thanks to places like Upwork fiber, not so much, but you know, Upwork and Craigslist and all of these, uh, these platforms, I was really able to actually, um, advance myself.

And so, you know, you have other people in there they're driving, running, and Uber is, and I understand that the profit margins are razor thin. Uh, it's not exactly, uh, sustainable, but it is giving people options. Um, because if you just look at the money you made. Yeah, it's pretty depressing, but we can also look at is the human connection of every time somebody is in the car that can open up a new realm of possibilities.

Who knows who, who you have a conversation with. Maybe they have an opportunity for you. And next thing you know, you're not driving Uber's anymore. And now you're a chauffeur. 

Tim Ash: By the way, as soon as soon as self-driving technology gets good enough and fleet vehicles have electric cars, you know, that's just a few years away.

Um, then there won't be a need for drivers, but also, I mean, but is it the highest and best use on of people on the planet to be driving taxis essentially by another name? Um, I would argue that's not necessarily the best either. So, so I get what you're saying is that some people will benefit from it too, to some extent, but really, uh, I don't know that this kind of automation is.

A good thing for society. We're just always on, we're always sleep deprived. We're always stressed out. We never feel like we're off duty or always feeling like we're falling behind. There's this hyper competitive capitalism without a social safety net. I personally judged to be a problem, not the solution. 

All about Amazon

Joseph: Well, I'm happy to keep on talking with you about this. Cause I think this is all really interesting subject matter as well, but the, the other side of it that I wanted to, um, to, to say too, is, you know, we talked to people they've, they've, they've used Amazon, for instance, as a, as a means for success, they've been able to run their, their business through it.

Uh, one episode, I think you might, uh, like, I don't know if you ever met or heard of Dr. Robin Gaster, but he talks, uh, greatly about what would be the end game for something like Amazon. You know, Jeff Bezos, you can credit him for giving a lot of people means to take matters into their own hands, run their own business.

But on the other hand, the amount of wealth that he has a mask, it goes beyond competition. And it just like. 

Tim Ash: As far as the practical stuff is pretty, pretty obvious, right around 1980. Uh, wages went flat productivity continued to increase at a straight line that Delta is being harvested. You're being skimmed for money essentially.

So everyone assumes that there is some American dream and we can all be Jeff Bezos. But the fact is there's one Jeff Bezos, there's only room for one Jeff basis. The rest of us are his cattle. Uh, and you know, you think you're making things easier for yourself by being able to order something on Amazon and it arrives next day or within an hour, if you're in New York.

Well, you know, that's great, but we don't talk about the externalities on the price. People are paying for that. And the, and the, the quality of people's lives in those warehouses or any number of other things. So again, I don't, I don't want to go down a rabbit hole unless you want to, but I definitely also strong opinions on that.

Joseph: I like talking about it. I really do. 

Tim Ash: Like, if you talk about these Amazon, um, conferences and Amazon sellers, I mean, it's this really. Actually kind of sick thing in e-commerce where you can't do very well without Amazon, but they're separating you from your customers, right? You don't have direct access to your customers.

They control everything that they're putting the squeeze on you in terms of whatever arbitrary fees they want to charge. And it's worse than that. They're actually using you for market research. So if they notice you're selling something, well, they'll go knock it off in China and have an Amazon basics version of it that competes with you.

And all of a sudden your ads aren't showing up, even though you're trying to pay them money to be part of their marketplace. So that's a very a, would you say incestuous business model, and this is designed for Amazon don't get confused. 

Joseph: So seriously, here's a question for you. Then we can tie in some of that, that, that gray area that we talked about earlier, the, the, the nebulous territory that, you know, has quantified someone by story selling.

Um, and this, and this comes up quite a bit is, you know, in order for brands to even have a fighting chance, whether they're on Amazon or they're not, is to go beyond, um, just the, the data, but to actually have some kind of meaningful mission, a mission statement, a story, a story. 

Tim Ash: Let's talk about, uh, exactly. Let's talk about, uh, what's the best way to put it, how to position yourself and how to hide from Amazon, because there's very few defensible places left and you're absolutely right to hone in on the story and the tribe as the basis for that. What I think a lot of e-commerce companies really miss the point is that they're talking about what's the best way to put it.

They're talking about. Well, we put up an online store and we sell this stuff and everybody else sells this stuff, buy your stuff from us. I mean, essentially that's a race to the bottom in terms of pricing there's or nobody wins in that scenario. Right? So when you need to do is cultivate your own tribe.

Don't farm other people's land. You're just a surfer slave in that scenario. Okay. So you have to be able to attract people to you. That's the first thing that people need to understand. You have to be a magnet to attract the right kinds of customers and audience. And in order to do that, you're absolutely right.

You have to have a differentiation and that differentiation is in the form of, I would say your origin. Why you exist, you know, it's that classical story in the form of the hero's journey that you see from the Odyssey to star wars, because it's how we take in information. Life was good. Something went bad.

I went on a quest, I picked up some unexpected allies. I eventually killed the dragon. And then there was a re greening of the earth. And now I'm trying to bring this mission to the world. So if you don't have that kind of passion, if you don't, if you can't clearly say why you exist and what you stand for that, then you're going to lose. That's it, it's that simple. 

Joseph: A lot of the people that I talked to, they have, um, through their various means, been able to take control of their own life. They are, um, what I would deem free under the circumstances does the society that we're in, they have, they can choose to fly. They can, they work more.

They decide how many hours they want to work. They've delegated their tasks to other people, virtual assistance and all of that. And how, I mean, I've been talking to these people for a year now, and it is very difficult to not want to take a record of myself, which is why I am now. It seems to me that this is the only way for somebody to actually, you know, become free, is to, uh, is to reach that, that economic level, the six figure territory, the seven figure territory.

And I don't see really any other way. I dunno, going off grid and seeing if there's any undiscovered tribes in the Amazon and just trying to like live, you know, a completely, uh, well, you know, primal. So from your point of view is what have you seen to be the most, if possible ethical, but really like the most, um, uh, humane, um, the tangible realistic way for somebody to be as free as they can in this society.

Long-term effects as a result of this hyper isolation

Joseph: That was, um, a one take where there was a podcast you did and 2020. And one of the, one of the terms that was brought up there is that, you know, being an isolation and drives us insane too. And that was in, uh, in October of 2020. And so, I don't know, like six or seven months into the, uh, into the pandemic. And so once in a while I do pandemic questions. I try not to bring it up too often, but have you, what have you observed to be a, you know, the, the, the, the effects are what could be the, the long lasting long-term effects that we're going to be dealing with five years from now, 10 years are not as a result of this, uh, hyper isolation.

And then what have you seen to be the pockets of, um, you know, innovation or means that people have been able to, uh, find ways to socialize even under the circumstances? 

Tim Ash: That's a great question. I'd say that, uh, overall the effect has been hugely negative. And as you mentioned, um, I talk about in my book, you know, we're highly social creatures.

We shouldn't be isolated just as mammals we're pack animals. And if we're alone, we die, but as human beings, we have the largest close tie social groups of any mammal. So by far, uh, that famous Robin Dunbar number, the Dunbar number of one 50, it's really, we have a closed group of a hundred to 200 people that we can keep very intimate track of and understand all the social dynamics in a group that size.

And if you don't have that, then you, you, you can't function. Uh, essentially there's um, so zoom meetings are a very poor substitute for that. Uh, I'm sorry to say, it's just not the same. I'll give you a very close to my heart example. You know, I have two teenagers in the house one's, you know, depressed, um, clinically, you know, and on medication for it.

The other one had a real rough year with virtual school and failed three classes. And when I was signing up to retake a couple of those for summer school, this is San Diego unified school district. So big one with, you know, a hundred of thousands of, of students. Um, they said that, well, I'll actually, I'll let you guess.

Um, percentage increase. Do you think there wasn't people that had the take summer school that basically failed at least one class over a normal year? 

Very specific Mr. Spock. I like that. Actually 1500 is the right answer. The number of people failing at least one class. The number of people failing at least one class that past school year was 1500%.

That's and that's just so actually the, I think there are different populations that are at risk for different reasons, but the one I'm kind of focused on is that 12 to 25 cohort, basically when you're outward focused before your brain is fully formed. And you want to build social ties with your friends now with your parents, but with your friends and peer group.

And those are the kids that have suffered the most, the teenagers and young adults.

Joseph Ianni
Joseph Ianni

Debutify is the easiest way to launch and scale your eCommerce brand.

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