June 14, 2020

EP12 - Live Your Customer's Story with Tony Chapman

Tony Chapman won a multi-million dollar agency pitch with 40 pictures and a monologue. I was there to witness it, and ever since, have marveled at this marketing guru who is also one of Canada’s leading communication experts and one of the youngest members inducted into the Marketing Hall of Legends (2008).

Tony Chapman won a multi-million dollar agency pitch with 40 pictures and a monologue. I was there to witness it, and ever since, have marveled at this marketing guru who is also one of Canada’s leading communication experts and one of the youngest members inducted into the Marketing Hall of Legends (2008). 

In this episode, Tony and I discuss the best ways to succeed, whether you are a large multinational or a small, local entrepreneur. Some of Tony's most important pieces of advice resonate across all verticals and businesses. He has many insights and thoughts on culture, the role of digital, and which brands are winning in today's world competing for customers and their constant attention.

Some highlights of Tony's advice include:

"Stop telling your story, become part of theirs" 

"Give the customer more of what matters to them, their life, their livelihood, their family, and do it with less friction"

"I think you can, especially with digital nowadays, have an incredibly purposeful career that will bring profit to you versus a profitable career that lacks purpose"

Listen in to Tony Chapman as he shares his stories and opinions as an authority on how to build brands and sell strategically and profitably in today’s volatile marketplace.


Transcript

Corby Fine:

So with me today is Tony Chapman. I'm sure many of my listeners have heard the name. Maybe many of you have actually met Tony. I have a great story about meeting Tony and there's a real story. And then there's the story in my head. I know when I met Tony, but the story I like to tell was it a pitch? And Tony was, the CEO and founder of an ad agency and the agency I was working for at the time. With competing for the same client. And it was one of those times where you kind of got to see what the other agencies were pitching. And I'll never forget. When I talked to the client about why we lost and Tony won, he had one simple line. He said, Tony stood up at the front, had 40 slides. Each slide was a single picture. And all he did was talk. He spoke to the story in each of the images. And it's a story that I've used many, many times in my career about how sometimes. The simplest things in your business, the simplest things in how you communicate and the simplest things in your life are not only the most memorable, but actually get you the best results. Tony Chatman really met me for the first time through a friend of mine who was working for him at his ad agency, capital C, but I liked the previous story better. So I'm going to stick with that one anyway. So Tony was, and still is one of Canada's leading communication experts. He is truly a marketing guru and authority on brand building on selling on how to really help organizations. Work through their growth pains, through volatile markets, really any challenge that they may be facing, he is at the forefront of pioneering, innovative marketing and sales tactics. He helped pioneer social media in Canada. He's a trailblazer. And for me, he's not only a mentor and advisor, but he has a friend. He now spends his time as a host. As a facilitator, a creator he's on TV, he's on radio. He's doing podcasts. In fact, the reason I am sitting here at my desk today is because in February, Tony asked me to be on his podcast and it gave me the bug. I am sitting here now and I have the honor and pleasure of doing the reverse and having Tony as my guest, tony Chapman. Welcome to my podcast today.

Tony Chapman:

It's nice. Corey is credit an introduction. I wish my daughters could hear that cause they really describe me as a, a dork and ATM machine and a chauffeur. So, Thanks for having me on.

Corby Fine:

well, I was about to get to that part, but now that you've you've superseded it.

Tony Chapman:

done that quite well. They have a monopoly on that.

Corby Fine:

so, why don't you tell everybody what you're up to these days?

Tony Chapman:

Well, it's an interesting career of, I guess constant reinvention. I spent the first three decades. I built two internationally renowned agencies. One was focused on internal communication, like helping strategy, uh, helping CEOs with their strategy and animating it and get the. Get your employees to buy in and really believe in the company. And then I, I pivoted for 22 years, I built a consumer facing agency. You talked about capital C and an, a research firm that was kind of a leader in the day, six years ago. I sold it all. I was done. I had nowhere else that I wanted to explore and I thought it must be, you know, it's time to become that professor or teacher. And I somehow found myself on the speaking tour and I decided to put together some of what I learned and share it with audiences. And that led me all over the world. It was in China and Spain and Poland and Scotland, Mexico, all across North America. And as I was going along on that journey, realizing that chasing microphones was a lot of fun. You know, you could get on stage, you could really work with an audience answer questions, and then when you left, you didn't leave with a brief that had to be followed through. So it was just a. Was a great way of saying it. What a nice way to kind of maybe end your career. And then a couple of years of doing that, I started getting bored again. And I started looking at these conferences and they were just like almost a male cat spraying. It was, you know, essential theme, but different presenters, nothing organized, no core idea was woven through it. So I. Started presenting myself as sort of this host, I call it a museum curator of an exhibit where I would kick this core idea and weave it through and interview people on stage and maybe do a fireside chat with the CEO. And that just suddenly completely revitalize me because instead of just telling my speech over and over again, I had to do a deep dive in different sectors. I was in the cannabis and music conferences and green based business and clean energy and finance and entrepreneurs. So just sort of woke my mind up. So I was going along and really enjoying that. And then COVID-19 hits, heading into a record April, and may. All of the events are canceled. So I decided to reinvent again and decided to use my. Knowledge is a host and my passion for small business and entrepreneurs launch a podcast called small business matters, which is part of my chatter, the matters platform, and with it personalized stories of small business owners so that all of Canada would take their challenges personally, and hopefully rally to support them.

Corby Fine:

your agency's really focused on, I would say larger organizations, right? That's where the money is. That's where, that's where all the ad people like to focus. It's it's the big pitch. It's the big client. It's the big idea. The big brand. But now you're focused much more on the small business, the entrepreneur, the smaller sector that does, you know, at the end of the day, employ the majority of people, but it doesn't always get the same attention. So what was it about your experience prior and all of the great large global multinational companies that you worked with that really helped you? understand the value that you could bring and the tips and tricks that you're helping now, as you transition into this focus of the small independent organization.

Tony Chapman:

great question. I think part of it is who I am. I came from a pretty tough upbringing. My dad was bipolar, so we were always. We're always one step away from losing everything. Cause he sort of self medicated with alcohol and I kind of didn't go through the proper Ivy league school. And when I moved to Toronto, I, you know, I just never felt I belonged. It was always a bit of an outlier and I kind of carried that chip on my shoulder in a positive way for three decades. I mean, my agency was always East side of Toronto where every other agency was on the West. It was just kind of this natural thing of feeling David versus Goliath. So my affinity is always being for the, the against all odds, uh, individual and how they, you know, rise to the task and find a way to, uh, to succeed. So I guess that when I had a chance were no longer dependent on my livelihood and I could take my love for storytelling and narrative. It was a natural audience for me to pick was the little guy. And, and helping, uh, he or she, give them the kind of Slingshot that can take down Goliath. And when karma, you know, as well as I do nowadays, because of the world we live in, it's no longer about shouting loud or who has the most touch points, wins. It's all about, your ability to tell a story and do a seated to the right and the right places, let it grow and then harvest it. So you don't have to be big anymore to, uh, to win.

Corby Fine:

Something you said is really interesting and sounds almost counterintuitive to retail. I walked down the street and you see clusters, right? I see clusters of restaurants, clusters of sporting goods stores. Small business has always liked to be where their competitors are because people can. just walk around and cross shop, but you just talked about going East when others go West. so how do you rationalize that in a world where, you set up your agency cause you want it to be a little different, but traditionally the small business and retailer will always think about wanting to be a little bit, maybe more aligned with their competitor.

Tony Chapman:

Well, I think they do have to have those covered wagons that circle and protect each other because they are relying on traffic. And small business owners are interesting. They're, they're very competitive. They, you know, if you ever get them in a meeting or a workshop, they don't like to share what they're doing. They don't have that willingness because they are worried that that's their IP, that's their intellectual power. But when you really think about. who they are and what they do, they do exist because of each other. And I think what we're finding now is we're going through this COVID-19. And so many of them are on life support that their work they're really working well together now to say, what can we do to support each other? How can we help? What can we offer? I mean, I think about this podcast each week, we interview a different small business owner and I reached out to a guy like you and you immediately go. I'm all in. I'll do whatever I can to help. And I think that that attitude might be the silver lining that's coming out of COVID that, being together, working together and really rallying for that small business, that person on main street, the first thing competing, you know, has to pay rent and wash the windows and put mannequins in the windows and hire staff and do all this stuff versus Amazon where you can just click and get. I think Canadians are starting to have that collective and social conscience who says we need those people in our economy. It's not only good for them. It's not only good for our main streets. It's good for us mentally.

Corby Fine:

So you talk about not having to be the loudest shout as much as you need to, to really succeed as a small business owner. you know, Tony, I come from a much more, digital and performance oriented background. you've got, you know, really great experience in, large. brand building exercises, working from again, public, multinationals to small independent entrepreneurs. I've always had this, this notion when you can offer free beer, free cash, you know, you kind of win. is that, is that really true these days? do organizations need to stand on the laurels of the performance and the offer and the incentive, or do you think that the brand and the story. No matter how loud you have to scream it from the rooftops still has its place. How do you, how do you recommend the split these days?

Tony Chapman:

Another great question to me. If you look at the data and I know you're a data guy, you'd say, well, price is becoming the primary tie breaker. Free prize inside always creates an edge, but you also go a little deeper and you realize more often than not. That's a race to zero without an airbag. There's always going to be someone that can undercut you in price, even if, even if they can't operationally, they will because they're panicking and they're going out of business. So it's not, it's not a firm foundation to build your business on. I do believe that if your offer resonates with your consumer, I always say stop telling your story, become part of theirs. If you really understand your consumer and realize they're on a quest in life. Every consumer is they're trying to be safer and more secure, trying to find love. They're trying to find a place to belong in on this planet. They're looking maybe Maslow's hierarchy of needs. They're looking for purpose. It's self esteem. If you can identify that quest and you can help them get to where they want to go. If that's your story, they'll pay attention. And they'll, they'll not just buy what you have to offer. They'll buy into it. And I think that ultimately the organizations that have. The benefit of having a product or service that really matters to where that individual is going, has to rely on storytelling. All the others that don't, that are really just commodities, then ultimately a, he sells it cheapest. We'll win possibly for the short term.

Corby Fine:

Plug your favorite brand? Who, who does that best? Who would you say? I'd be willing to put a tattoo on my body because they really understand and live their customer's story.

optimistic-arpeggiator_1_06-01-2020_170949:

Oh, it's a great, you know, I think first of all, more often than not, you have to have a face to face relationship with the consumer to do it. You really have to, you can't exist on a shelf or a package to have that kind of a relationship. I'll give you a couple examples. I think the dollar store has done an amazing job, for people that haven't got a lot of money to still create an affordable treasure hunt. So I can go in there with $10 and come out going, wow, look what I look, what I got. I'm looking at my bounty. So I think they do a great job and they stay true to their knitting and saying, this is who we are. And you come in and surprise and delight probably can get almost the same stuff for the same price at a Walmart. Target the United States, but there's something great about going, you're not sure what you're going to discover and you as a shopper. So I think that they're wonderful for doing that. I think that Starbucks interesting enough really went through, a couple of cycles, but they've come out with a much more. Personalized approach, not right now with COVID and curbside, but right there, they're really hitting their stride where they're asking your name and getting to know who you are. And you walked into this, like what should have been a sausage factory, and really felt like they knew that you wanted your latte, nonfat, no foam, extra hot. And how are you today, Tony? And I thought that was a great one, because they just gave you a, a little bit of an, an away system and a busy day. And those are the things that I'm looking for. I think red bull and based at Coke and Pepsi for decades, own energy drinks is called caffeinated. Call us and red bull came along and completely turned the industry upside down because they focused on giving you wings and giving you more life out of life. And realizing that the millennial at that time was trying to put 26 hours in a 24 hour day and they'd help you do it. And so I think the ones that really do it both an emotional and functional basis are the ones that stand up.

Corby Fine:

It's ironic. You mentioned red bull. I literally, this weekend watched the Baumgartner space jump with my son. Who'd never seen it before and, still I associate the brand to the moment and the moment, which was just so. inspiring and revealing that I'll forever have that association. And the dollar store for me is really my favorite shop because it's the only place left in town that I can buy my favorite chocolate bar, the crunchy bar. So that is, that is also one of my favorite places

optimistic-arpeggiator_1_06-01-2020_170949:

you know, you and I both know when that started the package, good companies wouldn't go near it because the big retailers said, don't you dare and now it's become a massive channel. Was the only. A channel to take share away from Walmart for over a decade until Amazon showed up. And because again, they weren't in the business as long as they for a dollar they're in the business of making life affordable. And I think when you have that, uh, that mission or higher purpose, uh, it forces everybody in your organization to take, take that upon yourself. It's not a marketing idea anymore. It's operational. I remember just, I'll tell you a quick one. This is working with the SunLife SunLife and they were an insurance business and banks were starting to hunt in their area. So they were in trouble because you know, somebody phoning up saying, I from SunLife, unless you really were thinking about life insurance that day, it wasn't a call. You take what we identified an insight and insights are so important. And the insight that we saw as the Canadians were starting to retire in record numbers. Many were worried about running out of money and the way they would describe it as I'm worried about eating dog food when I'm in my eighties. So how could you possibly enjoy the first 10 years of retirement, if you think you're going to be on life support? So we went to SunLife and I said, do you have anything for it? And they said, we have this annuity where they'll you pays the monthly. Check. I said for how long, well, as long, as long as you want, it depends on the annuity. So great. And we created it money for life. And the whole idea was we guarantee you a paycheck every month for the rest of your life. And that completely turned around SunLife and it wasn't a marketing idea. The entire organization embraced the idea. Of that they could provide something of utmost importance. Again, go back to that quest safety insecurity in this case was the security of a monthly check. And that's that to me is what great marketing is. It's not the size of your business. It's how well you understand the insights about the consumer. You have the honor to serve.

Corby Fine:

it's a really great point. I think the other thing that's interesting is the four brands that you just talked about. Dollar store, Starbucks, red bull SunLife, you know, very, very different. And obviously to your point, they've tackled the concept of their customer and marketing in very different ways. But what about digital? What about this notion of, you know, how digital has enabled businesses to be different too? Cause when I think about those four as well, I think about, you know, yeah, it's still kind of hard to get insurance from an end to end perspective, online the dollar store, very, you know, tactile kind of got to go in, not really an econ play, but the flip side. red bull has gone like completely digital from a content delivery messaging perspective, and then Starbucks you'll walk in and you've ordered on your app. They know your name, it's labeled and printed, like very, very personalized, very high touch, digital experience, all very different spectrums. Where do you see, digital as an enabler to this brand versus performance story going forward?

optimistic-arpeggiator_1_06-01-2020_170949:

Well, digital has become the oxygen of, of every organization. If they're not breathing it in and, and working with people like you, they're not only missing the opportunity, they're going to be missing the opportunity to compete. And I'll give you a couple examples. We first discovered digital. We brought digital in our agency. We bought a small little company, and. A couple of things that we did. We remember doing this one where, you know, Unilever wanted to launch another shampoo. Is it Canada needed another shampoo, every functional category, curly hair, straight hair, blonde, everything was covered, done. And. What we determined was an insight was that women especially have a very powerful, emotional reaction to a bad hair day. And they describe it as stories like, Oh God, I had the worst hair. And I ran into my old boyfriend or someone would jump and go us, nothing. I rented my old boyfriend's new girlfriend, and they'd all really personalize the fact that, that, that it was almost like their armor would be stripped away. So we created this little $3,000 video of a bride cutting off her hair. And just before she gets here, Uh, married and we put it out on YouTube. We didn't really know much about YouTube or anything. And we thought we'd, you know, if we could get a hundred people, uh, well, Ryan, see Chris started talking about it and next thing you know, Oprah covered it on her show. And Jay Leno did a spoof on it, and it was about a thousand major media networks around the world. And Norman Jewison, when the great Canadian directors weighed in and said, I don't think it's fake. I think it's real. And if you look at the video today, it's, it's his what a $3,000 video is, but what they, everybody believed was the insight. And about a year and the two year, two years later, we launched a car for the first time, without a dollar in advertising. We gave away 50 cars to the most creative people in Canada. And all they had to do is describe why they wanted it. And they used their social media and we got more mileage. and more awareness. So that was the beginning of understanding digital, but where I really now compressed digital, is it delirious the two most important benefits, more and less more of what matters to me, my life, my livelihood, my family, my moments, and it does it with less friction. And when you can hit more and less as a brand, and you continue to put that in your and your scope, you're onto an incredible adventure, because as you just said, with Starbucks, More personalization, more speed, less friction. Wow. Amazon one click and you get it. I mean, I fight Amazon every day on behalf of small business owners, but as a brand, what they've done is every road now points to Amazon. You've got over 50% of the e-commerce. And continuing to refine their service. So digital is not an afterthought any longer. It's not, I need to have a digital strategy or a digital person in my organization. It has to be your oxygen. content has to flow. As you know, Coca-Cola said with no dead ends. And it's, it's the power of what is done. And the fact that it's the last thing I'd say about it. Cause it's in the clouds. I don't, I no longer need shipping lanes and big highways and the densities of cities to compete. So all of these forces are happening all at once and it's, it's the most exciting time to be alive. I wish I was 20 and starting all over again because I think we're a day one.

Corby Fine:

I really liked the concept of more of what matters to me with less friction and how every brand could take that line and figure out the application to their own business. A really good tip. I think the last piece that I want to get to though is in order to make that a reality, you need to talk about the culture of the organization, the environment, the people, and do they really have the wherewithal and the intent to truly help customers to truly. Find more of what matters to them as the individual that's going to help drive that business. And so one of the key questions, I often find myself asking, and I'd really love your opinion. When an organization thinks of culture, they need to figure out who they, who they care about. And so there's investors, whether it's publicly traded or, you know, friends and family giving money, there's the employees that are working day to day. And then there's the customers. How do you think an organization needs to think about the priority of who to really take care of.

optimistic-arpeggiator_1_06-01-2020_170949:

It's a great question. When I talk about storytelling, I break it down into four parts. I said, you have your, you have your protagonist, your protagonist goes on a quest. They have to battle, competitors and they come out ideally with a desired outcome and we fall in love with that story all the time. We love the stories. And I think that to answer your question, that anytime you're in business, Understand, you're never the hero. You can be the smartest CEO. You could be the brand with the biggest market share you could be a chief technology officer with some secret sauce that no one else has thought of. You're not the hero of the story they hear. Other story are the people that matter most to you. And in those cases, your consumer, your employees, if you're pitching for money as an entrepreneur, it might be an investor and you need to really. Put their needs first, and that's the hardest things for humans to do because we tend to want to. Really advance our agenda. And yet I think the great leaders going forward nowadays, aren't going to be worried about the Corby fines that are coming in with a knapsack full of digital, strategies and tactics that they, they don't even know where to begin with. They're going to be the leaders that bring someone like you and say, let's join the quest because our job together. It's to help that consumer get more of what matters to them for less. And I think that's ultimately, it's not is more important. It's having the ability to have the humility and generosity to say you're in business to truly serve their quest. you're the Yoda of every story, the fairy godmother. you're not Luke Skywalker battling the evil empire. You're just getting Luke, prepared and confident inspired to do so.

Corby Fine:

A good star Wars reference. I like that.

optimistic-arpeggiator_1_06-01-2020_170949:

I thought you'd love that. I always get, you know, you get to the tech guys, you just throw in star Wars or Marvel comics were good, but I'll often talk about the hunger games. I mean, it's a great example of, you know, the, that starts with just a normal life. Think of that as your consumer, suddenly her sister's drafted to a fight in the hunger games. She knows she won't last a minute. So this 15 year old and only skill you've learned so far in the entire thing is that she can hunt squirrels with a bow. So, you know, she's a good Archer signs up and she goes on this. It turns out to be an incredible class. It was three bucks and four movies and battles in each one, along the way she meets a lot of people. They kind of help her get to where she wants to go to. And, you know, from, you know, chapter one, she's gonna. When the hunger games, but you stay with that entire story. And the people you really celebrate along the way is the people that rescue her and pick her up and quit where some new skill. And I think that's what a brand has got to think of themselves as, as the, as the enablers of the story, the mentors, and when you do and you have, and you do certainly have that sense of a servitude. I think you can, especially with digital nowadays, you can have an incredibly purposeful career. That will bring profit to you versus a profitable career with that lacks purpose.

Corby Fine:

so other than bow hunting squirrels. What is the secret to success for the small business in 2020? What are those couple of tips that you want to leave? My listeners with that will be the takeaways for their own success.

optimistic-arpeggiator_1_06-01-2020_170949:

They're dreamers. Uh, they're the crazy ones. they believe in their ability. they work tirelessly, but I think the most important thing is there a resilience that the, We're going to lose a lot of them over the next six to eight weeks, we might lose half the independent restaurants, but we should lose a hundred percent of them based on how we're asking them to compete at 50% of the most survive. And they'll be that much more resilient. They'll look back at this time when things returned to normality. And there'll be even more of a ferocious competitor because they didn't rely on being able to go to a bank like a big multinational and Boral their way through. They had to earn their way through. So we're going to see a survival of the fittest and the fittest are going to be come out, they'll start whispers. And those whispers will turn into roars. And, uh, that's what excites me about, chatter that matters to the soul small business matter serious.

Corby Fine:

And they're going to listen to small business. That matters cause that's one of the other success tips, right?

optimistic-arpeggiator_1_06-01-2020_170949:

Well, I hope so. It's, you know, it's doing well, it's a podcast we're learning about long form content, but the ones that listen to it are really loving it. And that makes me so proud. I think it's, it's truly everything I've done today. For some reason, it has led me to this little project that actually absolutely means the world to me.

Corby Fine:

Well, Tony Chapman, you are the inspiration for me starting my podcast. you gave some great advice today, about constant transformation, about working to support each other as small business owners, especially in this day and age about living your customer's story. Whether you're the dollar store or Starbucks or, you know, an independent restaurant around the corner. I think the key for me around my area of expertise and sort of being a digital native, really thinking about more of what matters to me, the customer or the constituent and removing the friction, I think that's really, you know, really a great way to phrase it. And, and I'm sure you've said it before, but I can't recall you saying it.

optimistic-arpeggiator_1_06-01-2020_170949:

It's a, it's a key cornerstone in my speech. When I talk to people about understanding that it used to be one or the other, I could do more or I could sell for less, it's not about selling for less anymore. It's, it's, it's more, that matters. Less friction, less effort. And I think that's just the demands of. Not every sadly, I mean, it's tough because every retailer has to look like Apple and every digital user experience has to be the kinds of stuff that you've built out in the past for CIPC or the Amazons of the world. It just has to be that good. And that's a, that's the bar we've raised, but, you know, reaching for those bars, is absolutely what makes for an exciting career.

Corby Fine:

Yeah. And Tony, the most important thing that I think I learned today, and you are absolutely living it yourself. Is the notion of being genuine. You're never the hero. So put others first. And I think with all of the work that you do, all of the giving back to the community that you do, I, on behalf of all my listeners and myself as a friend and having you as a mentor, I want to thank you for everything you've done for, myself, and the Canadian marketing and business landscape.

optimistic-arpeggiator_1_06-01-2020_170949:

Well, I appreciate it. And carby tag, you're it. I'm going to get you back on my podcast next let's alright, thanks. Thanks for having me on.

Corby Fine:

Thanks Tony. I appreciate it. And have a great day.