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  • Writer's pictureFrancisco Mahfuz

E44. Telling Creative Stories that Work with Dan Knowlton

Below is an AI-generated transcript and therefore it may contain errors.

Francisco Mahfuz 0:00

Hi everyone, Francisco here. Just before we get started, I wanted to share something I'm really excited about. I recently launched the story powers bootcamp, a course that teaches you everything you need to know about how to find craft and tell stories that work. But it's not just an online course, because you get personalised feedback from me for all the practical activities in three hours of life coaching to work through any challenges, or focus on specific projects. So it's like if you bought a cookbook, but the chef came along with it. So go to story and click on Course, all the information you need will be there. So please check it out. And if you love the show, and would like to support us, you can go to buy me a forward slash story powers. I drink about five coffees a day, so any support would be much appreciated. All right on with the show.

Welcome to the story powers podcast, the show about the power of stories, the people who tell them and why you should be doing it too. I'm your host, keynote speaker and storytelling coach Francisco. My first guest today is Dan Knowlton, then is the co founder of nolton. A video and social media marketing agency that is bridging the gap between driving trackable results for brands and producing social media content audiences Q up to see is also an international keynote speaker and co host of the business anchors podcast. Now, I admit I can be a bit weird sometimes, but I got nothing on them. He's built a massively successful business by wearing ugly wigs, putting on silly voices and talking about vermin. Ladies and gentlemen, Dan Knowlton.

Dan Knowlton 1:45

that is the best intro I've ever had. That is amazing. Thank you.

Francisco Mahfuz 1:50


Dan Knowlton 1:53

This is already I know this is gonna be good based on that intro. This is brilliant. Hi. Glad to be here.

Francisco Mahfuz 1:58

Just this morning on social media. I was giving you a bit of grief on your haircut, which I said seems slightly, you know, Mark Zuckerberg II, but I realised that that might be because I'm harbouring some resentment towards you and your brother Lloyds. And there's two reasons. The first one is that you share the video of a guy making fun of podcasters who keeps adjusting the boom arm nonstop. And as you can see on the scan, I have a boom arm. Now, super. So moving that thing, this thing. The other thing is, every time you talk about your speaking on your podcast, your brother says international keynote speaker there No. And I have to say keynote speaker international goes through all the time, and I'm talking about the stuff I do. And now again, super conscious about it.

Dan Knowlton 2:56

Don't worry. I mean, I'm used to working with my brother. It's constantly him taking the piss out of me. So yeah, I'm used to it.

Francisco Mahfuz 3:04

Is that what you meant? When you said in a different podcast that you and him are classic brothers?

Dan Knowlton 3:10

Yeah, I think so. I think like, the interesting thing is, you know, growing up together, I don't know if you've got any siblings, if you're

Francisco Mahfuz 3:16

gonna sibling. I've got I've got more than I can count. Okay, so yeah. So

Dan Knowlton 3:21

you know, like, you're constantly sort of poking fun at each other and that kind of thing. We're literally grown adults. And we've just continued to do that through running our business. So yeah, and on our podcast as well.

Francisco Mahfuz 3:31

It's not a bad I was strategy. I think I've subscribed to the view that growing up is just learning that you shouldn't pick your nose in public, essentially. And apart from that is just, I can't do this in front of people. But that's essentially

Dan Knowlton 3:48

Yeah, I think one of the best parts is just the amount we laugh whilst working together. That just makes this whole process of running a business so much more enjoyable when you just constantly he he knows how to whisper one thing in my ear that will make me laugh for 10 minutes. It's just once you grow up with someone, it's yes, good.

Francisco Mahfuz 4:06

Yeah, no, I recognise that my brother is a a director for advertising movies. I don't think we could work together. We have a very good relationship now. It's been a long time since he's chased me around the house of the kitchen. I but but, but yeah, I think I think I'm quite happy having different professions that I think we're driving each other up the wall too much, and no work could get them. Yeah, I get that. On your podcast. One of the things you guys do all the time is you share professional and business stories. How much of that is planned? So as you go into the episode, you have like, Okay, I'm gonna share this story that sorry, or does that just come naturally in the way you guys communicate to each other?

Dan Knowlton 4:54

That's a really good question. So I'm analysing it. I'd say it's 7036 70% planned 30% Just happens because we've spoken about other things, maybe even 6040. But we to prep for the podcast, we do agree that what we're going to be talking about, but then we each go away ourselves and create bullet points of things that we think will be interesting to talk about. We don't always talk about all of it. But definitely, yes, it's about 60 or 70%, planning. And then, just naturally, through talking about things, I always get excited. I'm like, oh, remember this story from our childhood, or this time in business when this happened. And I find that there, the 30 or 40%, that we don't prepare for our will always come across the best because we both get excited to tell the story. And I think people like to see that kind of hate to say but authentic, you know, storytelling come across.

Francisco Mahfuz 5:47

But I love I love that you use that word, because I hate that word. Oh, yes, you say that. But, and I actually when I was researching the podcast, I came up up with that a lot of fact that you hated you mentioned the podcast, and I thought that I would tell you that I was going to name the podcast, be authentic, be authentic to 10x everything with them? Yes. But when I was listening to one of your older interviews, this was 2017 You gave a straight face dancer, that the secret to your your social media success was that you were authentic. And I thought okay, say that you're hated say that you're hated sales your head. And you just went on about how being authentic was great. Wow.

Dan Knowlton 6:35

I literally I don't ever listen to, you know, can't like stuff that I did years ago because I'm sure I'd constantly contradict myself. And it's just cringe makes you cringe. Don't listen to yourself things you were saying. But hey,

Francisco Mahfuz 6:49

well, you know, I think we can all be we can if we go back long enough. We've all said plenty of things that we that we regret.

Dan Knowlton 6:57

Yeah, definitely, definitely.

Francisco Mahfuz 7:01

One of the stories you shared on the podcast was about because you guys are talking about your, your, your keynote speaking. And it was a story about a guy. This was Eastern Europe, I think it has something to do with porn. So what what is that story again?

Dan Knowlton 7:19

Oh, wow, you're gonna make me tell this story. Okay, I'll tell the shortened version. So I this was one of my first international speaking engagements in Bulgaria. And I, I basically went and stayed in, in Bulgaria for a few days and did this three day event. And after the after you talk people come up to the stage, and you're sure you know this, like, want to ask questions about what you've talked about. And one of them was asking a question, and I said, Ah, let me show you this on my phone. And I clicked the internet. Me and him were staring at the screen. And it was just porn. Which is most cringy thing that's ever happened. But is it good stories? It's out.

Francisco Mahfuz 7:59

I think I can talk that a bit. Please do. I lived with my father for maybe a year because my father, my mom and my dad are divorced. So I lived with my dad when I was I think 17 or something. And he travelled a lot like he was almost never there. And one day, I realised that I could watch porn. So I called the cable company and pretended to be him, you know, authorise the porn channel. And, you know, and I had a blast, and no studying got done for a long time. And I only got caught because my two of my many brothers would come and stay with my dad for the weekend sometimes. And one day, he I think he was recording a Disney movie for them or something like that. They were much younger than me. And then I got home and he was irate. And I was like, what's happened? There's like, I'm watching that the kids are watching this movie. And they come to me and say, Dad, what is it and there's like, 30 seconds of porn. Ah, and then flips back to the movie because surely I went in and I was just browsing. And I was like, oh, maybe not. It's not good

Yeah, so yeah, it wasn't good. No,

Dan Knowlton 9:19

Lloyd actually did a a commercial drone licence course across a week, it this place and there was like, it was like 50 year old men, mainly. And the course teacher, they have the same thing. We got his laptop up, connected it in and wasn't looking. And then in his browser history, it just had all the titles of the videos he was watching and imagine that happening to you like doing a presentation and people seeing that. I mean, I don't

Francisco Mahfuz 9:43

know if what's worse is that people realise it's porn, or that or what kind of foreign and because he might just be you know, you know, hot standards. Yes, and Earth form, but it could be some really weird stuff. Anyway, I think I think we've talked enough about porn. Oh, yeah. So one of the things you you guys talked about really come to your speaking is you said that I think in the beginning, you were pretty crap at it that you didn't even couldn't breathe properly or something. Yes. And one thing you said is that you, you don't want to start turning around for you, when you started telling stories on stage. So what types of stories did you start talking about on stage? And it clearly not the ones we just shared?

Dan Knowlton 10:32

Yeah, no good. Good point. The first kind of stories that I've really noticed is different was talking about my journey, rather than I remember starting out used to have a slide who am I, I run this company, this is my job title, and like just such rubbish, whereas I'm trying to think that the exact event actually, it was an event in Ireland called the soaps have called Social Media Marketing, summit Island. And I was talking about Snapchat when Snapchat was a thing, just talking about the journey I'd gone on from being in a job and learning lots and going to university. And then in my job, I just hated my life. And I, I broke down in this job interview, and I think it was it was sharing an emotive story. And on stage, I literally said, Yeah, I had this phone interview that I thought was gonna get me out this horrible job. And then I mucked it up, and I broke down and cried and rang my mum and dad, and like sharing that vulnerability of like, and this wasn't strategic by me, it just happened because I thought I'd tell the story sharing that you could tell everyone was sort of drawn in and listening to me because I was like, I cried, and I was upset. And everyone, you know, you can kind of relate to somebody being vulnerable and sharing that emotion. So that was that was it

Francisco Mahfuz 11:38

do share that I've heard that story, right. So I know, the one about, you know how you're working very long hours, and then you really screwed up the interview with like three questions. You're just hanging up and started crying. We've all done that. Just the other day. Now, so you've done this for a while now. So what types of stories do you tell now when you're on stage,

Dan Knowlton 12:00

I'm looking back to my last big speaking engagement. I mean, they've all completely stopped pretty much because of COVID. But the good old days when I was speaking last year before COVID, I spoke at an event called Digitali. And which is in Romania was a really, really cool event. Mark Zuckerberg sister was speaking then I got that dinner with her and stuff. That's my claim to fame. One of the stories I spoke about was about my at the time, my fiance was pregnant. And I was I told a story. I don't know if you've watched this, because you've done as a research, you might not have seen this story, but I at the time, I remember I was researching, like how to be a good dad. And, and that story of me like showing I was nervous. And what happens if the baby does this. And the baby does that. I talked about that. And I showed a picture of my pregnant fiancee. And then I tied that to the remarketing ads that I was seeing and how clever those remarketing ads were and how they made me buy. And some of the really creative content. I was retargeted by with this, this dad that had the if you've seen but like this front strap where you strap a baby to the front of you. There was a really clever video where as a dad dancing with the baby, and that video.

Francisco Mahfuz 13:09

I don't haven't seen that video, but I think I have I have scars on my chest from having worn that thing for about five hours a day for the last for the last four years.

Dan Knowlton 13:21

Exactly. You know, and that that story tied into me buying something because of what I was searching for based on need I had and then being retargeted with clever content. That's another type of story. Yeah, because

Francisco Mahfuz 13:33

that That, to me makes complete sense. And this is the one thing that when I'm talking to people about using stories in any type of presentation, or when I'm thinking about what stories I can use when I speak, there is always that danger of Well, the story is great. I'm just going to get it in there. People will laugh, but it has nothing to do with my content. Like I'm just telling it because because right because I want them to like me.

Dan Knowlton 13:57

Yeah, I think that now, planning talks, I always try and do the latter that you just spoke about of making it strategic like, cuz I know that stories work, and it makes people listen, how can I tie a story into what I'm actually talking about that that's going to make this interesting. And we do this a lot in the podcast as well. Business anchors podcast, when we're talking about let's say sales as a topic, we'll talk about the time that we went to a pitch that we didn't realise was a pitch because we were so naive and didn't know we were doing and that get that like taps into the lesson of you know, making sure you're fully prepared and know what the expectations are managing expectations. So everything now is tries to tie in but I'm certainly guilty of just telling random stupid stories, because I thought that was cool.

Francisco Mahfuz 14:43

Yeah, it's difficult sometimes when you have a really good one, but it's you can do it both ways. Right? You can say okay, well I want to talk about preparation. When was I not prepared at all and that that you can always get the so so this is what I'm going to talk about find the story professionally. Personally, where that didn't happen at all, or when I learned that that thing is important, but you can also do the opposite. Right? You get the cool story. I mean, I'm sure you can get the the porn story we talked about and find the lesson in there somewhere. Maybe it's a preparation last, and maybe it's you know, how professional you come across or whatever, perhaps an extreme example of that type of thing. But you you have a really cool story. Sometimes I have them and I'm like, What is this? What does it mean? Doesn't always work? But

Dan Knowlton 15:29

yeah, I think you also, once you do quite a few speaking engagements, I'm sure you found this. You try and test different stories and you find some of the ones that you think are the best stories ever don't get a great response, and then others that also something else I found in Eastern Europe, because I've done quite a lot of speaking Eastern Europe is the word like the cultures are different. So some people are very stern. And something that if I were speaking to like a British audience, and I be using slang and like, Oh, I remember at school when this happened, you have to you know, I have to now try and think what all this audience and culture understand. Because I've totally said jokes that not jokes, but like stories that I've learned with a UK audience, and then they just don't get so it's trying to really get that culture as well, that cultural fit

Francisco Mahfuz 16:13

that 100% I agree. And there are certain things I think both of us do, which is self deprecating humour, that if we ever speak in Asia, that's not going to work. You're not not supposed to crap on yourself in front of particularly like a Japanese audience, they won't see that as a good thing. They won't see that as vulnerability, they will see that as, so you're more on them. Why should we trust you. But I think this is an interesting lead into how you guys handle your own marketing, not the stuff you do for your clients, but for yourself. And for anyone who hasn't watched this, I very strongly recommend they do. There's plenty of this videos on LinkedIn, I might put some on the show notes. But I came across you. I think the same way a lot of people did is when you started with the wigs. When did you think okay, I know how we're going to market ourselves. weeks

Dan Knowlton 17:03

is one of those things that naturally sort of came about. So up until we started six years ago, and we tried producing loads of different content. Some of it works slightly, but not really it took us ages to figure out what we can do that's going to get traction. In 2017. We tried this new concept, we basically wanted to share testimonials or client testimonials. We want a short video of them saying nice things about us. But we knew that sharing a video of that is super boring, like who wants to watch people saying yeah, Dan and Lloyd grey from Nelson. So what we did was we thought of a creative idea to dress up as different characters pretending to be our own customers that we talk like, say funny things. And to show the different characters we will Wix. That was the first video that went mental for us. We had like 1000s of views on Facebook, which at the time for us was like viral 1000s of views and like 50 comments, oh, my God, we've actually you know, it, yeah, we've made it. We're like, wow. And then that was really the first point of like, wow, we can actually do something a bit more creative. And it works. And then we tried lots of different things. And then I think it was even like a year ago on LinkedIn, we tried something similar, with characters, different wigs playing, still doing different sketches that marketing teams would relate to. And it completely landed and directly generated business. Like instantly, we got messages saying I've seen this, I want to talk to you about working with you. And that then it's kind of spiralled from there. But the problem is, what happened after that was everyone that sees our content just thinks we make stupid videos with wigs. So when we've got big, credible brands that potentially could work with us, that aren't funny and entertaining, they think they can't work with us, because we just produced funny videos, which isn't true.

Francisco Mahfuz 18:39

I guess that's it's one of those problems that if you haven't completely solved already, you should be able to solve very quickly. Because once you have a few case studies, then you say yeah, this is what we do to market ourselves. So you get a feel for how working with us is and how creative we are. This is not the work we do for our clients out Oh, how funny would it be? If a big client comes to you in you come back to them and say, okay, so we have this idea. Why don't I are going to get some weeks. And we're going to do the same thing we normally do. But your product is going to be on the table. I'll

Dan Knowlton 19:13

tell you what's interesting. This month, we literally converted a fairly small client. It's not like a big company, a recruitment company that we're doing that for that came to us and said, We want us to be in it. But we want you and Lloyd to play characters in it. And we're like, Yeah, let's do it. So but we had we did have a whole strategy around getting properly communicating that we don't just make stupid funny videos. And it's really worked because there's been a whole creative strategy. We've had to do that. So

Francisco Mahfuz 19:41

this is something that I don't actually sink is that I mean, is this a real problem is a problem you thought you might have.

Dan Knowlton 19:51

Okay, I'll give you evidence as to why it was an actual problem. So I a guy I know through business networks where I am locally for the last few years. gives me a phone call around like, a year ago. And he says, I was speaking to the founder of this big business park. And he was saying, I was saying, Tim, you've got to see what nolton are doing. They're local to you, you should work with them to create videos and stuff. And this big, high profile Big Cheese guy who's like, is yeah, got a lot of credibility and influencers to him. I've seen what they do, I'm connected with him on on LinkedIn. But we're not funny. So we wouldn't work with them that he called me and told me this. And that was the first moment I thought, I looked back at all of our LinkedIn content. And I was like, wow, we do actually come across that with, you know, getting great traction and stuff with some people. But we can do a lot more than just producing funny content, I drive sales. So yeah, so then that was the evidence that we needed to there, maybe I thought was a bigger problem than it was, but

Francisco Mahfuz 20:47

because I say that, because there's some other people on LinkedIn, that have very particular personal brands. So I'm thinking of a guy I had on the podcast before Alex B. Sheridan. And he's in many of his videos, his his, his playing characters, his rapping, you know, it's, I've seen you wouldn't think is necessarily very corporate. And but you know, speaking to him, he says, it's very clear to the people that he speaks to us. Now, this is just me, this is how I express myself creatively. That's not how we you would do it like that. I don't teach my clients to rap. So they can imitate exactly what I'm doing. But it just is, you know, this is my thing, your thing might be completely different. But the other side of that is looking at some of the case studies you've done. They're perhaps not as weird from a sense of sense of humour point of view than some of the stuff you guys do on LinkedIn. But having said that, it's still funny, or the stills like whimsical. So that's the thing that you guys do more naturally, sometimes more like that. But there's plenty of clients who will?

Dan Knowlton 21:53

Yeah, I think you're exactly right. A lot of the best case studies we share with the world are the ones that allow us to have creative freedom, because we know through our own experience, entertaining content, gets people to watch it. And when people watch something that's created in a way to drive a sale when you can keep them watching. Yeah, that's a great piece of marketing collateral. So so the companies that allow us to have credit, I mean, sometimes we do pitch really out there ideas like the recent client, we've we've just started, the campaign's launched by Whole Foods online. And it's like a whole foods company, and the company is killing it now. But I remember that what we the concepts we pitched, they're basically a very ethical green company. And we pitched ideas like punching dolphins in heads on the video to like, as a kind of, this is what we're not like. And obviously, looking back, it wasn't quite out there, we eventually got to concepts that are in line with their brand, a lot more, did interpretive blowing up stuff blowing up a shed yet we wanted to blow up a shed. And then they sort of said, well, we kind of don't want to show that we're wasting material and blowing up stuff. And like, yeah, that's kind of fair enough.

Francisco Mahfuz 22:57

But you still built that into the commercial, right? Because there's a guy who keeps wanting to blow up a shed and the sort of the whole person says, No, you can't barbershop,

Dan Knowlton 23:04

exactly to keep people watching. But the most excited projects I get most excited about work on are the ones where the brand is like, we totally get you and what you do, do whatever you want to drive the most sales and the best return on investment that is like gold dust to us. Whereas I'd say at least 60 70% of the brands that approached us, especially the bigger more global brands, now there's a lot of red tape around what they feel they can and can't do, you know, they don't want to piss people off or offend people. So but and we still produce, you know, emotive campaigns that drive that in a more formal, less funny way. But yeah, I just love working on stuff where we can just do crazy shit that's really fun to talk about and drives really good results.

Francisco Mahfuz 23:47

Just to sort of wrap up the part about the way you guys promote yourself. Do you notice a difference when you just made up some stories to try to you can act against each other? Or when you actually just playing a real situation, but in a funnier way? Do you notice any real difference there? Because the testimonial stuff to me seems to be a very good example of using like a real thing, but in a funny way. Are they just inventing stuff?

Dan Knowlton 24:11

Do you mean with our own content in terms of some things like a sketch we just make up and other things are like here's a case study. Yeah, with your own condom. So yeah, the difference is the the sketch stuff where we're producing funny content is great awareness content drives way more views way more engagement, way more people saying, Wow, I love this is amazing. The more serious content which is like middle of funnel consideration, content, case studies showing results. That drive you know, way less people are like, Oh, this is amazing. But they're the pieces of content that we get messages saying I've seen these results. I want to set up a call like, just from posting the results of this campaign we're doing in January I've got today I've got like four calls booked in with companies who are like, wow, those results are insane. We've seen what you're doing let's let's have a call. So we need a mixture of all of them because the Cool, creative fun made up stuff draws the audience in. And then once they like us, or they've seen what we're doing, then we can reinforce that trust with, we're actually good at getting a trackable return on investment.

Francisco Mahfuz 25:10

So I've seen you talked about this before. So we talked about the funnel, and what types of stories work for different parts of the funnel. So so if I get into the first thing you just said, now is all the crazy nonsensical stuff, is the first part of the funnel is just awareness. Okay, these guys exist, I can see what they're doing. That's what you use that sort of stuff for right? As one example of awareness. But yeah, what would be another educational content, the first four years of us starting,

Dan Knowlton 25:40

we didn't produce any funny content, it was purely, here's something we've learned to do with growing a social audience on the growing audience on Twitter, you know, using this tool to schedule stuff, we'd learn something, then create a tutorial, that was the kind of top of funnel stuff to draw people in teaching them how to do something that we've got evidence generates a tangible result. Other things are so educational, entertaining stuff to talking about our story and our journey. You know, we started from here, this is where we are now, we tend to do less of that, but that I'd crossed that as kind of mainly top of funnel content. So yeah, they're kind of the three main main types of content.

Francisco Mahfuz 26:15

Okay, and then the the middle of the funnel stuff would be what exactly

Dan Knowlton 26:20

would be anything, if you think about when people are buying into you? What are all the questions they need, answering what all the things they need to see, to know that you're the best solution to their problem, and they can trust you to deliver on your promises. So for example, case studies showing the results you've achieved, talking about credible brands, you've worked with awards, accreditations, things that demonstrate that you're, you invest a lot in the work you do. So like showing all of the great equipment, we've invested 10s of 1000s of pounds into produce content for our clients. So they know, oh, they're not just turning up with a smartphone and trying to shoot our content. Objection overcoming content. So for example, all our notes in too expensive to work with, are we the right company for nolton? All of these questions, we create content to say, hey, if your X Y, Zed type of company, were ideal for you, you know, it's those kinds of

Francisco Mahfuz 27:10

things. Okay. And then is there a third part to that funnel?

Dan Knowlton 27:13

The third part is the kind of the we call the purchase stage, which is you've made someone aware of you, they trust you, you've overcome all their objections. But that's not good enough. There's plenty of people that that know us and trust us, but they haven't got in touch with us. So it's doing all the things we need to do to nudge them to get in touch with us. So having consistent call to actions across everything we do on our website, making it easy for people to get in touch with us being prompt when they follow up with us having an effective sales process and a way of managing that sales process. We use HubSpot sales and CRM system. So yeah, those kind of things

Francisco Mahfuz 27:45

chose we talked about one of the things that I wanted to cover. But there's a few questions. I still want to ask about this challenge with Tom. Right, because so I watch the commercials or watch the whole foods commercials and watch the wall commercials, which I think are the case studies you have up on the website, what I find challenging to understand is, so a company has watched all this stuff you've done you presume they watch some of the stuff you've done when they're approaching you. How much of a convert, do you have to start the conversation about? Okay, well, do you see what we normally like? Is that what you're looking for? Any? If the answer is no, I mean, did they? Are they just working on the basis that okay, these guys are good? Surely they can they have a completely different gear than the stuff that I'm normally seeing?

Dan Knowlton 28:27

Yeah, good question. So we do share other things that aren't just our best, most exciting, fun, entertaining content that shows that we produce more corporate content. So some some of them see that as a point to know Oh, they do do other stuff. And we talk about that. But the main part of the sales process where we were gathering this information is when we set up that discovery call and when we were asking the questions of, you know, what are you trying to achieve? What you looking for? What how would you define your brand? What's your tone of voice? And we asked those questions. And if they're saying, we're very serious brand, you know, there's lots of red tape need to be very corporate. I'm taking this all in as part of the sales process. And I'm saying great, you know, we've done serious stuff with this kind of brands. So we've done that great, this is interesting, then we'll go and develop a pitch that's based on the information they've provided. So it's asking those right questions at the start of the sales process to really gauge that. And when we started out doing this I was rubbish at this is taking a lot of failed attempts at this to get to where we are now. And I've still got a long way to go. So it's constantly trying to fine tune and get better.

Francisco Mahfuz 29:31

Now when it comes to the the ad work you guys are doing for clients. I've seen you talk about emotion and the role of emotion in in advertising. And you quoted, or you mentioned the Christmas commercials that are massive. They're massive in many countries in Brazil, for example, a very big, but but in the UK there. They're very long standing institution, right? Yeah, I remember. I remember a few from when I was there for five years. but those are very different types of commercials, right?

Dan Knowlton 30:03

Yeah. The the way I like to think of it is like the Superbowl commercial, the Christmas. Have you seen like the John Lewis AD? The Saints wizard? Yeah. So in Brazil, do they not have this whole thing around Christmas commercials,

Francisco Mahfuz 30:16

we do. So what happens is, what I'm thinking of is there's one major supermarket brand in the south of Brazil, called Safaree. And a, let's think of them as John Lewis. And every single year, there is the Zafir, Christmas commercial. And it's, it's very similar in style. It's something that has nothing to do with the brand. Like it's nothing to do with a supermarket. We know it's a software commercial. And then it's a story, it's always a sort of emotional stuff to, you know, get the feelgood factor about the brand higher. And I've seen plenty of those internationally actually shared on social media not long ago, where it's this grandfather, and he looks at a picture you don't know what the pictures of of him, and then he goes into his chair, then it's a mass and then you say, Yes, amazing. Yeah, it's one of the kettlebells. So he's training with a kettlebell. And at the end of the day is his training, so he can leave his granddaughter to put the star on the Christmas tree? And my question would be, Why could you not make most commercials like that? Where there's no brand, nothing specific about the brand is more like, Okay, I love this brand, and what they what I feel like when I think about them, why can that not be what people do a lot,

Dan Knowlton 31:32

I'll tell you why. Because you're never going to nudge someone who's thinking, Oh, this is nice to buying a specific product or taking a specific action. You know, to get someone to actually take action, buy a product, they need to understand the brand, they need to see the brand. So this type of Christmas ad is incredible. Because you know, these these companies that have created a category of advert that people actually get excited to watch. And that's a completely crazy concept. When you think of like traditional TV ads, disruptive advertising, ah, another pop pop ad, oh, there's a TV ad. Let's skip this. Now they've created a category of advert where people literally schedule time to see all the John Lewis ad is live, I've got to see that, how crazy is that? It's like having, it's like Netflix. It's like creating something that people get excited to watch. So it's incredible in that sense. And everyone's talking about the John Lewis ad. But what what everyone isn't talking about is, you know, the new microwave that's being sold through John Lewis, that's going to help solve my problems. So that that category of advert has a great place in terms of building that work awareness, getting people talking about a brand. But that's where all the other content that that links back to that marketing funnel, I mentioned, is crucial to have, because if you just had that John Lewis advert, everyone, millions of people will be talking about it, no one would be going to the John Lewis site to buy products, no one would be going to the jumbo store to buy products, because they haven't, their hand hasn't been held through that customer journey of realising what problems John Lewis can solve, realising you have those problems, realising they've got the best solution to that problem, and then actually taking action. So you need all the other content to to make this work, rather than just the amount of marketing companies I see. And we used to do this saying to their customers, we can help build awareness for you, cause you like anyone can build awareness, you can shout in the street, we do marketing that builds awareness, but actually converting that awareness into trackable sales. And ROI is the challenging part. The easy part is building awareness.

Francisco Mahfuz 33:29

I think it's interesting that you say that they've created this type of advertising. Because in the one sense, you're 100%, right, they have created this type of advertising, at the same time, haven't recreated anything. It's just two minutes of storytelling is just because we've gone so far from the idea of people telling stories just for the sake of telling stories in when's the last time that you sat next to a mate or a relative and thought, Oh, is there a story I want to tell you like, Oh, I love the stories. I'm just gonna sit here and listen. Now if you organically do is a mate, you don't know what happened to me yesterday. You listen. But it's concept of oh, you know, my grandfather is a great storyteller. Every time he sits me down for a story I'm looking forward to I don't know what it is. It's probably good. Just gonna be entertainment. I'm gonna learn anything but but I just want to listen to this in that I think ties as well with what we said in the beginning, where you're not saying that your story about your interview that failed was a story that had no purpose whatsoever. That story showed you as an approachable human being. But at the same time, that story is not going to lead anyone to any type of action, but from you're not an asshole when I thought maybe war. Okay, fine. I covered that objection. But you don't do anything after that.

Dan Knowlton 34:43

Yeah, I think I think that's a good point. I also think, again, you may have heard me say about this before, but the TED talks, but Chris Anderson's book TED talks, the thing that the one massive takeaway I got from that is that whenever you're speaking on stage or you're engaging with anyone, they have their wall up there thinking, well, I, firstly they're like, I'm not letting your ideas into my brain because I don't know you like you trust you. And then you have to somehow break down that wall. One of the approaches they talk about for breaking down that wall is showing vulnerability is showing that you're, you're not the I'm the best at marketing, I can help you, you're actually saying, here's how I'm not the best. And then people start to open that up. So I think that kind of storytelling does have a place to break down barriers to let people in, let people let you into their mind with your ideas. But I think you're even making me think now I need to be way more strategic about the stories I tell because previously, this is all just happened, because I've just fumbled my way to getting into speaking and stuff. And now. Now I need to think more strategically like you.

Francisco Mahfuz 35:45

If it's not broken, don't fix it. But at the same time, there's this saying which some people disagree, and I disagree at times, which is don't have a story without a point. And don't make a point without a story. Yeah. When it comes to the walls you're talking about, I have seen people described this as that most people push information out. So you're giving them your opinions, you making statements about marketing, or whatever you're talking about. Whereas a story is not a push strategy is a pull strategy. So you tell us something that happened to you. There's no agreeing or disagreeing, you know, you might, I might disagree with your conclusion about what happened to you. But you've now given me this experience, and I'm going to go, Yeah, I actually lived something similar to that. Okay. Yeah. And I can see how that would work. You putting it out there, and it's for people to pick it up or not? It's different than saying, No, you have to do this you have to do.

Dan Knowlton 36:38

Yeah, it's weird how how crazily people respond more to to stories when you're speaking, like when you're just because I totally have just done the sharing information on stage and everyone sort of their yawning, you know, looking at their phone, when you say, Ah, this thing happened to me the other day, I've got to tell you about this. Everyone's like that on their seat, like leaning forward, like, I need to hear this. It's just, it's injured, there must be science behind something that's going on with, I think in the book, actually Chris Hansen's book talks about how and when you when you describe a situation, something to do with the brain receptors in the audience. He's like, you kind of match up somehow. I'm not an expert, but he

Francisco Mahfuz 37:17

am. Yeah, so he's, he's quoting URI Hasson, who is a guy who did a lot of brain imagery studies. And essentially, what they found is that when we start telling a story, the brainwaves of the storyteller in the audience are very different to begin with. But as the story goes on, those brain waves align, and that he calls that alignment, or coupling is one of the two. So the idea is that once they're aligned, informations flowing a lot more freely. So whatever I'm trying to get across to you is getting there more easily. And couple of episodes I go ahead pose Zack on the podcast, and he's he's one of the scientists that does all the hormonal stuff about oxytocin, which is the trust hormone and all of this stuff. He essentially found out about that in he told me about the Superbowl commercials that you and I sort of talked about on social media. So what that is, is this, so people love Superbowl commercials. They're they're massive thing in the US, and they cost an absolute fortune. So what he wanted to find out is he he developed a ranking criteria to judge if a story was was good or not. And he wanted to check how accurate that criteria was for judging things like the people like the story, it predicts sales bumps for the product. So what he did was as a comparison, he used the Superbowl commercials. So they are ranked, I don't know who exactly but someone ranks them in order of preference by the audience. So he got the commercials, ran them through his software, and found that his criteria was completely different than what people were saying they liked. But then he did the same experiments actually checking people's neural reactions. And he found that the brain agreed with his criteria was what people had said they liked. So what you're saying you liked from a commercial you just watched is not what your brain is thinking. And that doesn't translate necessary to anything that a company would want. It doesn't mean that you're going to sell more. And his theory behind that is because, you know, if you're watching a commercial that has babies in it, or has herpes, or whatever, right? You're gonna like those commercials. They're nice. They're funny, but they don't have a narrative arc. There's not much tension in them. So there is not there's not a climax of any kind. They're just nice. So that doesn't really do what a story is supposed to do. And if it doesn't do what a story is supposed to do, you don't remember it as well, and it's is less likely to drive you to action.

Dan Knowlton 39:49

Wow, that's so that's so interesting. I actually am reading a book currently called spin sight, SPIN Selling and they talk about this point of people saying The reason for success in some area and that being complete BS, like they said they studied 30,000 sale of the top salespeople in the world who said, yeah, the art of selling is down to doing this and that and when they actually analyse their behaviour, it was nothing to do with that it was something that they hadn't even said. So it's so interesting that we think like we're giving advice on Yeah, this is why this is successful. But maybe it's all wrong.

Francisco Mahfuz 40:24

Yeah, there's a lot of confusion between cause and effect. You know, why'd you do that? And we we tell ourselves stories about things we do all the time. And you think, you know, why behave this way because of this and you might have nothing to do with it might be completely random. It no stories more random than the one where you tell yourself of who you are, like, oh, I I'm doing this now. Because when I was a kid, this and that happen, maybe has nothing to do with it. But you're just trying to find some sort of this is just random someone that's at then you should go into marketing. Oh, okay. Oh, go into marketing, then that sounds like a good idea.

Dan Knowlton 40:58

Yeah, I think those I've seen some speakers, though, that you can so tell that they're doing that and they're just, they've made up like, Oh, when I was a kid I want so candy bars at school. And from that day, it is quite, I don't think it's quite easy to tell a really authentic kind of story that actually happened when someone's telling it to like someone that's fabricated a story to sound good as part of a speech, I guess, unless they're really good at storytelling. They've practised it. I don't know what you think,

Francisco Mahfuz 41:25

yes, 100%, it happens, people will try to come up with the the origin story that makes perfect sense. But often, it's just often is just nonsense, and it's not needed. Some of the best stories you have. They're not about what actually happened and how impressive what happened is, they are about how you read what happened. So I've told the story before the remember I told on the podcast, but you know, my daughter, I have a four year old daughter, and she's obsessed with frozen a few weeks ago, she woke up in the middle of the night and said she was scared or something. And she wouldn't go back to sleep. Nothing I could say to her convince her to go back to sleep. And I reasoned with the best of my abilities. And you know, if you have school tomorrow, you're going to be tired, no, then I started sort of threatening her. And then I said, Listen, you're not gonna vote frozen ever again, if you don't go back to bed. And that that didn't get me anywhere. And then, so frustrated that I broke down crying, like I was sobbing like a child. And that got through she was like, Oh, don't be like that, please. I'll go back to bed right now. I've used that story as an example of why emotion beats reason every time you know, emotionally decides and reason justifies. And it's a perfectly decent example of that type of reasoning. I can also use one that I have used, which is, you know, the Syrian refugee crisis and how we only care about it. When we saw the little picture of the little boy, they both do the same job, suddenly now one of them is more powerful. And in some scenarios, you might need that bigger one, but I think people get this idea that if I haven't always lived in a way that makes me the expert now Danish from the stage. No, just find the funny story What happened to you into McDonald's and if you can make that work with a content that was fine. Yeah,

Dan Knowlton 43:11

I find I can relate most to someone when they're, they're saying things that seemingly make it make it sort of discredit them, like the people that say, you know, there's, there's, there's the, you know, I sold candy at school, and now I'm a really good entrepreneur, or the people that are like, for the first 20 years of my life, I did absolutely nothing and ate McDonald's every day. And then randomly, I thought I do this and that and that's more like relatable, isn't it than the traditional?

Francisco Mahfuz 43:36

You're talking about? Light again?

Dan Knowlton 43:38

Yeah, this is you know, it's story that Yeah.

Francisco Mahfuz 43:43

All right. So one final thing I wanted to ask you about your approach to add work and telling stories for clients. And this is something I I honestly have no idea what the answer is. Now watch the whole foods, whole foods commercial. So what you have in your website, I'm assuming is a whole bunch of pieces were next to each other, you know, it's not a five minute commercial. What I found really interesting there is it's obviously a recurring story. So you have the same as a three year fork, you know, has the blonde woman which is sort of the spokesperson, there is weird Secretary that you're playing in Janet, right name for a secretary, the supposedly good looking bloke that wants to blow up stuff and whatever. And this is my question. How do you build in a story that only really works to its full full extent once you watch the previous staff? How confident you have to be that people will have watched them so that you can deal with on that story? I don't know if which connects to what but you know, there's one where the woman gets pushed off the aeroplane and the next one, they're on the beach and they should just just on the water covered in plastic.

Dan Knowlton 44:49

So So good question. And the way we kind of combat that is the only video we've shown is the case study is the one full length five minute video showing the whole There's actually another 50 path plus pieces of creative we shot and edited separately, that stand alone. They overcome objections, they communicate benefits of buying from the things that communicate offers and things. So I guess we've made it so that we produce this full length video, that we know that the people that watch that full video are the real fans that are fully into this. And we know that we can remarket to those and make them spend more money. However, we also know that 80% of people 90% of people won't do that. They'll watch a small part of it, they'll get a bit of the vibe, and then we can remarket them with the other 50 pieces of creative that are most relevant to them, depending on what they've seen. So it's a good question, I we don't rely on people's what seeing that full story to get everything else. We combat that by creating loads of other pieces of creative that works, stand alone to deliver the same result, if that makes sense.

Francisco Mahfuz 45:59

So what you're not doing was perhaps I misunderstood that. But what I thought you perhaps were doing is to say, okay, so this is really four or five different things, we can cut them up as five individual ones, you play one, you know, you circulate one of them. And then a few weeks later, you start putting out the second one, because perhaps, you know, I don't watch much TV these days, and don't spend that much time on on social media. So I could think of TV commercials because that used to be done occasionally over the years with popular brands, they had the same characters, and they just kept coming back. So is that not how you guys use that?

Dan Knowlton 46:32

So good. We do both that that video you saw, there are eight versions of that video, shorter versions, square versions, versions with elements cut out that still make sense. So we do in a way. And we also for any marketing content, have some segments of that main video that communicate clear benefits or overcome objections are standalone pieces. But you're exactly right. It has to be thought out before you shoot anything to know that segment that would make sense standalone we can use as a separate clip. But this bit, you need to get the full story to be able to cut it. So we won't cut that as a separate clip. So it's it's a case of cutting the relevant segments of the full video out to users for other creative but also having 50 other pieces of creative that work standalone. So it was both.

Francisco Mahfuz 47:20

It's interesting to try and apply that to speaking to the stage. Because I've I know speakers that have like a very, very long story that they can cut in smaller pieces. So maybe you know you have your journey story. And your journey story has that initial pace with the failed interview. In the end, the beat comes right next to it, you're not going to tell at that point, you're going to tell 10 minutes into the speech. And then it's just another minute bit buddy builds on the previous one. So when you get into the end of that you just getting all those callbacks. And if something was fun, you earlier, it should be a lot funnier by the end. But there's no way you would have told that as a you know, 25 Minutes story.

Dan Knowlton 48:02

Yeah, some of the best speakers I've seen have done that in a very clever way. What you've just said. And I guess it's because you're an expert in this. It's like telling telling one story that's broken up across the whole talk. But you're then you're bringing back in like remembering that I said that and it ties it all together. Yeah, it's all making sense. Now.

Francisco Mahfuz 48:20

It's like with the vermin mansion, which is probably should have explained to say that at some point, you guys tell the story about bed. Worst business advice you ever gotten. And your dad said that people shouldn't eat at their desks because vermin. And, you know, so I watched that that comes up a few times in the episode, but you've done it in different episodes. So someone who's listened to that, perhaps for the next year? Why do we keep saying vermin over and over again. And it's it's building on the previous thought.

Dan Knowlton 48:53

It's done unknowingly though, I think what you're the reason you're really good at this you're an expert is because you would do this proactively and plan this out like us that just randomly happen without planning it. So this is why I'm thinking wow, I need to be doing this in a more constructive way from now.

Francisco Mahfuz 49:09

But it's it's done naturally we could say because it works because it because it's such a good story with such a good sort of punch line that he just keeps coming back to you over and over. It's like when I grew up watching a lot of Seinfeld and friends and now I've weaned myself off of doing that but but but for many years, my friends and I would just say lines from the show's over. We still say stuff like serenity now. Or you know pivot now this illustrious pivot

Dan Knowlton 49:43

classic Friends episode.

Francisco Mahfuz 49:44

Yeah, you know, we were on a break. You just say stuff like that because it just stuck in your brain so much and is now it keeps getting easier to get funnier and funnier and funnier. The more you're doing me. I think you put a bit more thought into it when this is pretty much all you're doing because this is not already Whoever speaking is a part of what you do is not all you do. But yeah, but that's one of the things that if you can build on those initial stories, then the whole thing just feels rounder. Also, if you can finish with something you had at the beginning, that always works really well.

Dan Knowlton 50:14

Feels like a nicer ending, doesn't it? Then you're like, oh, wow, it's all come together for this one point. Yeah. And a

Francisco Mahfuz 50:20

lot of movies. And books do this all the time. So books will typically open with a scene that is if not the end, close to the end, and then they'll take you back to where they were. The Breaking Bad or first episode starts with him half naked with a gun in the desert. And then that only happens at the very end of that first season. But then you go alright, and I can see how we are. Yeah, then this has been fantastic, mate. Now we talked about LinkedIn plenty of so people know to look for you there. But if if you want them to find out more of your real work, and not just the weeks, where should they go?

Dan Knowlton 50:58

Cool. A website, Nelson at UK is where all our case studies and loads more info show real and stuff is there. So no, and I

Francisco Mahfuz 51:06

must say that I think it's a big shame that you didn't stick with your probably fictitious first name for the company then is then calling from then.

Dan Knowlton 51:18

Yeah, Lloyd didn't want to go with that. So we went with Nelson.

Francisco Mahfuz 51:23

Yes, I can see how the other Knowlton who's not called then. might not appreciate working for them at them. Yeah,

Dan Knowlton 51:33

I think it's a bit too many dance. This has been really good. By the way. This is probably been one of my most fun podcast because of the amount of prep you've done for this. I'm learning from your what you've done in this podcast for us when we do interviews. So this has been a lesson for me. So thanks. Well, then

Francisco Mahfuz 51:47

perhaps I should I should spend some time some other day picking your brain on how to do the marketing side of it. Because you guys have done a much better job with the marketing part. There I am. I completely suck. But no, it's, it's been great. Alright, everyone. Thanks for tuning in. Take care of yourselves. And until next time.

I hope you enjoy the show. And if you did, I'd love for you to subscribe and leave us a review or a rating on the Apple podcasts app. It's very easy. You open the app and find this show and scroll down a little and when you see the stars. I'd really appreciate it and it does help other people find this. And if you'd like to get in touch or find out more about what I do, reach out to me on LinkedIn or visit my website story

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