Seeking Wisdom: Why You Need to Ditch The Creativity Myth

Seeking wisdom

Everyone wants to be more creative.

How many times have you heard someone say something along the lines of, “I wish I was more creative so that I could be a better writer, artist, strategic thinker, fill in the blank”? I bet a lot.

👉 But here’s the thing, in saying this, people are selling themselves short. They’re limiting themselves with the simple belief that you’re either creative or you’re not. But recent research suggests that may not be the case, and that certain activities may increase creative problem-solving abilities.

That’s because creativity is a skill, not an innate ability. And just like all skills, it’s something that needs to be developed and nurtured.

In this podcast, Dave sat down with Allen Gannett, the CEO of TrackMaven and newly published author of The Creative Curve, to discuss exactly this. They shared their thoughts and experiences around the creativity myth, and how to strategically consume content to unlock your inner creative genius.

Whether you want to step up your copywriting, podcasts, social posts, or videos, this podcast will help you level up your game and get over your creative curve.

Enjoy.

-Amanda

Time Stamped Show Notes:

01:03 – An introduction to Allen Gannett, the CEO of TrackMaven and author of, “The Creative Curve.”

05:40 – What Allen has learned in the 8 years since founding TrackMaven, and why he leans on side projects to stay level-headed.

06:57 – The misinterpretation about what it takes to be creative and why Allen wrote his book, “The Creative Curve.”

09:13 – The one thing DG did to unlock his inner creative genius. Hint: You need to constantly consume.

10:48 – Why most creative geniuses use other people’s content to feed the right side of their brain and unlock their own ah-hah moments.

16:00 – A discussion on pattern matching and the two things that drive a huge degree of preference: familiarity and novelty.

21:00 – The writing process behind, “The Creative Curve.” How Allen found successful creatives and academics to interview, the tools he used (Workflowy and Rev.com), and why he focused so heavily on outlining before writing.

24:43 – Allen’s tips behind creating an actionable marketing plan for his book, “The Creative Curve,” and what his proposal did (and didn’t) include.

26:05 – Allen’s thoughts on getting feedback from publishers, writing his manuscript, and working with creatives and illustrators to bring the book to life.

29:39 – How Allen got LinkedIn video access during it’s beta phase, the process and apps he currently uses for LinkedIn videos, and why you need to be using captions in your videos.

3 Key Points:

1. The art of being creative requires hard work that often goes unseen. Not every idea is going to be a game-changer. Therefore, in order to be successful as a creative, you need to generate a multitude of ideas in order to find the one silver bullet that will lead you to success — and that takes time and effort. Steven Pressfield said it best in his book The War of Art, “When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”

2. To have aha moments, you need to feed your brain and give yourself space. All successful creatives are successful because they make time to look at others’ work and then give themselves time to think. As such, Allen says that in order to come up with the best ideas of your career, there are two critical things you need to do:

  • Have prior knowledge about what you want to have aha moments about. This means getting exposure to new ideas and feeding your brain a steady supply of new information.
  • You need to give the left side of your brain (the logical side of your brain) space and time to calm down in order to allow the right side of your brain (the creative side) to kick in.

3. There is a bell curve relationship between familiarity and novelty that drives a huge number of preferences. Imagine you see an ad once — you probably don’t care. Similarly, if you see it ten times you’re over it. But, if you see an ad 5-6 times, you’ve got just the right amount of exposure — that’s the sweet spot. The lesson here: there are diminishing returns on both sides of the curve and this is what Andrew Chen calls the law of shitty click-throughs. Once you find a marketing strategy that works and start to scale it, you often see the effectiveness of your campaign wear off. To create successful marketing strategies you need to pay attention to frequency, as well as making continuous optimizations.

Connect With Us

Follow David and Dave on Twitter.

Come follow the podcast at seekingwisdomio.

Learn more about Drift at Drift.com.

Episode Transcript

Dave: Let’s do this.

Allen Gannett: Let’s do it.

Dave: Okay. So, first thing I do the intro. So, we’re back for another episode of Marketing Monday. Did you know we do Marketing Monday now?

Allen Gannett: No, but I’m so excited for Marketing Monday.

Dave: So, seeking wisdom was so popular. I’m just kidding. Seeking Wisdom grew, and it’s still growing, but what we heard from people over and over, is like, “Look, we like the book reviews, we like the DC rants and lectures”, but we have a core audience of a lot of marketers and a lot of sales people.

Allen Gannett: A little more practical.

Dave: Yeah and there like, “But where’s that stuff?”

Allen Gannett: Yeah.

Dave: And we’re thinking of new channels, and we’re like, “Wait a second, audio is a format that we are already very comfortable with.” I can just get in here and talk about anything, we can bring on guests, and so we launched Marketing Monday, and so that’s what we’ll do with this episode. Which is perfect, because if you actually, conveniently have a book out-

Allen Gannett: It’s a book. That’s for marketers-

Dave: You just stumbled into town today-

Allen Gannett: Yeah. It’s great.

Dave: So I want you to introduce yourself first, and then we got a lot to talk about today.

Allen Gannett: Awesome.

Dave: Okay.

Allen Gannett: So my name is Allen Gannett-

Dave: Yes.

Allen Gannett: And I’m the CEO of a company called TrackMaven. Are we on right now?

Dave: We’re on, we’re on. That’s how good this is.

Allen Gannett: Its just rolling right in.

Dave: Are you tired of doing this yet?

Allen Gannett: Like doing podcasts?

Dave: Book tours, explaining who you are, explaining yourself-

Allen Gannett: No, no, no. Every time my mom listens she goes, “Allen, that wasn’t the best intro.” I’m like, “Mom, I thought you were done being critical of me.” So TrackMaven’s a marketing analytics company, so we basically track data from a huge variety of big consumer brands. Tell them what’s working, what’s not working, what sucks, what doesn’t suck. And then I have my first book coming out June 12th.

Dave: Okay.

Allen Gannett: And so it’s all about-

Dave: I mean if you asked me the book is out.

Allen Gannett: Oh it’s right there. The awkward print-on-demand version. Basically for the book, I was talking to all these marketers and they’re all like, oh, I’m not creative enough, like I can’t do it. And I was like, what are you talking about? And it turns out that … Can you fix this?

Dave: Yeah, I can fix this. Hold on. This is-

Allen Gannett: For those of you listening, Dave does not know how to [crosstalk 00:02:01]

Dave: No. I’m not the designer in the room. So we’re good.

Allen Gannett: And so basically for the book I tackle this question of whether or not you can learn to have moments of creative genius and so I’ll hold the answer for later-

Dave: I want to unpack that a lot. Okay.

Allen Gannett: And so it’s very applicable for marketers, creatives, entrepreneurs, all of the above.

Dave: When did you start the company?

Allen Gannett: Six years ago. Oh my God.

Dave: Six years ago? You’re a young guy.

Allen Gannett: I know. I was 12 when I started it.

Dave: You were 12?

Allen Gannett: Yeah, it was really-

Dave: No seriously telling me the story. People want to know.

Allen Gannett: So I started TrackMaven about a year out of school and during college I had started a Facebook performance marketing company back when Facebook performance marketing was just getting started.

Dave: What year was that? Was it like 2010?

Allen Gannett: It was 2010, you nailed it.

Dave: So I don’t know, because I’m just trying to unwind like we think a lot about like … I love thinking about the first person to do email marketing, right? Probably was 90% open rate, 80% click rate.

Allen Gannett: Oh yeah.

Dave: So I was just trying to think like that’s cool. So you got on Facebook ads early?

Allen Gannett: Back then you could get perfect clicks from any ad for five cents a click, like any ad. You could be advertising the dumbest thing.

Dave: But you were in college, why were you playing around with Facebook ads?

Allen Gannett: I started a company that was doing lead gen, and so we were a lead gen company which is like not the most fun thing in the world, but basically figuring out how to get people to convert on lead forums. And so it was like literally growing up in data driven performance marketing.

Dave: Gotcha.

Allen Gannett: And so we sold that company for a very small amount of money, enough to get a nice jacket.

Dave: You know, there’s a nice jacket that I bought [crosstalk 00:03:32] dollars.

Allen Gannett: And so then I took a job as CMO of a venture back startup in town because people were like, “He’s young, but he kind of gets it.”

Dave: “He knows the Internet.”

Allen Gannett: “He kinda knows the internet. He knows Facebook Marketing.” And then from there I spent about a year doing that and I realized one, I really don’t like working for other people. I’m really bad at it. And then two, data and marketing is oil and water, but it shouldn’t be. Like most marketers are like “I’m a creative.” But then most marketers are also like, “Shit, I need to use data.” And there’s this weird sort of tension there. And so I was like, “I love data. I can talk about data all day.” And so the whole idea for TrackMaven was, and our logo’s a dog, so excuse the pun, but to be a marketer’s best friend.

Dave: Right.

Allen Gannett: And sort of like, we’re the ones, we suck in all your data, we give you reports we give you visualizations, we give you answers about what you should do differently.

Dave: So did you bootstrap to come in, did you go and raise money? Because you’re a marketing guy, I’m assuming you weren’t building the tracking software behind the scenes.

Allen Gannett: Yeah. So we raised money right from the start.

Dave: Gotcha.

Allen Gannett: We had a PowerPoint and like it was me and a PowerPoint. And we raised the seed round, then I hired a team and we built it. And our first customer was Martha Stewart Living.

Dave: That’s awesome. How did you get her?

Allen Gannett: it was a random intro through one of our investors and there’s a fun story.

Dave: Hit me.

Allen Gannett: I saw Martha at a cafe. I don’t know her, I’m just calling her Martha because I mean everyone calls her Martha.

Dave: What are you going to call her, Miss Stewart? Of course it’s Martha.

Allen Gannett: So I see her at a café, this was like three months ago. I go up to her. I think it’s her, but it’s not quite clear but I go up to her. I’m like, “Martha?” And she’s like, “Yes.” And I’m like, “Just so you know, you were my first customer and I so appreciate that.” And she goes, “Oh, Josephine”, who I guess is her assistant, “Josephine, come here, come here. Give Josephine your card. What’s the company’s name?” I was like, “TrackMaven.” And she was like, “Oh, I’m sure we love it. We love it.”

Dave: Just like, “I’ve never heard it in my life.”

Allen Gannett: Yeah. Never heard it in my life. By the way this was like literally-

Dave: “I’m sure we love it.”

Allen Gannett: This was like two weeks after they canceled after four and a half years of using us.

Dave: “I’m sure we love it.”

Allen Gannett: I was like “Oh, great. I love Josephine. She was very kind”, and she’s very loving in person.

Dave: That’s awesome. So I want to focus on marketing but I can’t help but ask this question, what have you learned … This is a huge question. What have you learned from six, what year is it now? 2018. Eight years of this company. Are you still having fun doing it? Do you still get to do marketing?

Allen Gannett: Yeah. So it’s super interesting as you build a company, your role changes. The company now, yes, it’s six years old so I’ve been doing marketing as a thing for about eight years. When you first start you’d sort of do everything and then you learn really quickly that’s annoying everybody as you get bigger because all of a sudden you have like 20 people and they’re like, “Can you please stop doing my job?” You’re like, “Okay, I can stop doing your job.”

Dave: You can’t not care.

Allen Gannett: Yeah. You can’t not care.

Dave: Especially if marketing is your thing, you’re not going to care about how your website looks, the headline, the subject line and that feels hard.

Allen Gannett: 100%. And so for me what’s been fun is as we get bigger I find pet projects to scratch my marketing itch. So like some years has been our user conference I lean on a lot, right now it’s a book, sometimes it’s been like our content marketing strategy and so I basically need to find something. Otherwise I just go crazy and annoy everyone.

Dave: Yeah. That job sounds fun. Like you just get to pick the marketing things that you want to. That’s awesome. When did you know you wanted to write a book? Like did you have that in your-

Allen Gannett: So the book came from … I started giving this talk about three years ago.

Dave: So I feel like a book is one of those things where I’m sitting here … I’ve seen so many people I’m like, “I could write a book. I want to write a book.” Right?

Allen Gannett: You could. You could.

Dave: Yeah. But then it comes to actually writing the book-

Allen Gannett: Oh my God. You totally do it. So it’s like hard, but not hard, if that makes sense. So basically three years ago I was giving this talk in marketing conferences about how marketers think creatives are just born with these magical skills, but when you actually read the autobiography of great creatives, they’re like, “It was seven years of very hard work. It was very intentional.” Like they’re all systems thinkers-

Dave: Also, I mean, we could talk for so long about this, but like the whole art of being creative, you can’t see that’s a good sign. That was traumatic.

Allen Gannett: The whole art of … You can’t plan it. You can’t plan it, right? Like there’s a great … It was in one of Steven Pressfield’s books where he’s talking about being an ad guy back in the day and people come to his desk and be like, “What do you got for me?” And he was like, “It doesn’t work like that. I need to make 10 things in order to get one that’s going to be a game changer.” And here’s where we go. And so I think people misinterpret that.

Dave: Yeah.

Allen Gannett: And so when people hear that, they go, “Well, I don’t have that random great idea.” And the issue is that when you actually look at the stories of creativity, the stories are actually, “Well, sure it’s difficult and it’s confusing, but there is actually some method to the madness.” And so the talk led to this idea of like, “Hey, there could be a book here.”  And then as I was working on the book, I realized it’s more broad than just marketers. And so the whole idea for the book was what would happen if you interviewed 25 living creative geniuses? So billionaires, Oscar winners, Tony Award winners, startup founders, like super eclectic mix, and like if you just ask them about their creative process, what would you find out?

Allen Gannett: And it turns out there’s actually a lot of interesting stuff there. So one, there’s patterns. You find over and over again I talk about in the book, there’s these four things they all do, there’s four things they all do that actually enhances their creativity. The second thing I did was I talked to all these academics who study creativity, and creativity is actually one of these things that is like super well studied. Like there’s tons and tons of research on like what causes creativity? How do you get better at creativity?  Is it nature? Is it nurture? These questions have all been answered. Can I tell you a personal story?

Allen Gannett: I would love a personal story.

Dave: I have just in the last probably two or three years realized that I’m creative.

Allen Gannett: That’s great.

Dave: But do you know what happened? Can you guess what changed in my life for that to become the case?

Allen Gannett: Okay. Someone gave you positive feedback on something creative you did.

Dave: No. No. Okay. I’ll just tell you because there’s no way you’ll ever guess.

Allen Gannett: Yeah. This is hard.

Dave: I never read. I’ve never read books. I hated reading. I hated reading, but then when I really started to get interested in marketing, DC started giving me all these books. Old school-

Allen Gannett: He’s a reader?

Dave: He’s a huge reader and so [crosstalk 00:09:48]

Allen Gannett: As David Ogilvy Shared-

Dave: What was amazing is like I was so lucky to have him, two and a half years ago, start sending me. He was like, my curator, he’s like, “Here take this book.” And I’d be like, “Okay.” And I would read it and I’d be like, “Oh my God, this, this is awesome.” Because I’d never read something that applied. I hated reading in school and in college because it never applied to anything that I was doing. But for the first time I’m reading a book and I’m like, “Oh my God, this is exactly what we’re trying to do with our website right now and it was written 80 years ago.” I’m like, “What else you got for me?” He starts giving me more and more. And it was once I started reading all those books, then I would just catch myself like, “Oh, I got an idea. I got another idea, and I got another idea.” And now it’s become like Popeye and spinach. Like the more stuff that I can consume, and Ogilvy says it in the book, you unpack it, like you re consume all these stuff. And then you go away and you unlock your subconscious and then you’re like, “Oh shit, here’s what I want to talk about.”

Allen Gannett: So Dave, I think we have to have a little talk.

Dave: Okay.

Allen Gannett: Because we’re now going to talk about … So in the book, I talked about the four laws of creativity and the creative curve, the first law, consumption.

Dave: Consumption.

Allen Gannett: So let’s talk about it.

Dave: I love it.

Allen Gannett: So one of the things I’ve found is exactly what you experience. All of these creatives I interviewed over and over again had some story that went like this. This book is just falling, so here’s the book hands on the table. Had some sort of like this, like Ted Sarandos, the chief content officer of Netflix. I interviewed him. He at 18 years old, got a job as a video store clerk, and he watched every single movie in the store.

Dave: Amazing.

Allen Gannett: Beverly Jenkins, a famous novelist, she lived right by a library. She was poor. Her escape, she went to the library and read every single book in the library. And so over and over again, you see this trend of these creatives consume huge amounts of content.

Dave: I love that.

Allen Gannett: Huge amounts.

Dave: And I love it because probably Ted Sarandos, I bet you he doesn’t have a framework for creating new content, right? He hasn’t have some method that he … It’s just like-

Allen Gannett: Subconscious.

Dave: Just give the guy a whiteboard and you’re like, it’s like this, it’s like this and this.

Allen Gannett: And so the reason why it’s actually really interesting. So basically it’s kind of cliche when you talk about creativity, you talk about right brain, left brain, but we’re going to do it because it’s important.

Dave: All right.

Allen Gannett: So your left brain-

Dave: I still don’t really know the difference between both.

Allen Gannett: Like logical step by step processing. So like you’re solving a math problem and it’s all conscious.

Dave: Or not solving.

Allen Gannett: Or not solving. Yeah, you’re hearing the number, you’re doing long division, doing this whole thing and every step you’re thinking about and then you finally get the answer like, “I got the answer. Good for me.” Your right brain is where you store more like distant metaphorical associations. So think about when you’re watching a standup comedian, you get the joke. That’s your right brain just getting it. Unless it’s like Adam Sandler, then it’s not funny. And so your right brain does all this subconscious processing. But what’s interesting is that your right brain, how it does its processing, it’s not actually special, it’s just different. It’s just quiet. It’s just that this type of processing happens below your level of awareness. And only once it finds these ideas, once it connects these distant ideas together, only then does it sort of pop into consciousness. And so the thing is that people mistake this for magic. It’s actually not magic.

Dave: And it’s funny because everyone says that, which is like that idea that hits you in the shower or at the gym or on a run or somewhere else, right?

Allen Gannett: But why does that happen? Think about it. Just because your left brain when you’re in the shower, your left brain isn’t firing away trying to answer these very present questions.

Dave: And it’s really hard. I think a lot of people struggle with the creativity part because especially if you have a busy job or something that you do is very taxing or stressful, there’s a lot of stuff happening, right? It’s so important to be able to step back and get away from it, because that’s when you’re going to have the clarity.

Allen Gannett: So there’s two things that really drive to ‘Aha moments’. So Aha moments are really well studied by researchers. And the first one is you have to have prior knowledge about what you want to have Aha moments about. So the same thing why you were reading all these books and the reason why consumption was such a big pattern was like you need to like … If you’re Ted Sarandos, watch a lot of movies to have all those mental models in place to connect.

Dave: And I actually realized that I actually don’t like reading, still I don’t. But when I do it for the focus, I say I will read books about business and marketing, right?

Allen Gannett: And you go deep.

Dave: And then I can go deep, and that’s when I get the good stuff.

Allen Gannett: Totally. And that’s the first step. The second step is you need to give yourself the space for your left hemisphere to like calm down. And so this is why running, commutes, drives all these things are so important. And if you don’t make time for that … And what’s amazing is I interviewed all these super successful people, literally like David Rubenstein, he’s a billionaire and they make time to think, right? And so like, if we don’t have time to think, we’re not billionaires, right? We’re just like these people running around. These people who have way more responsibilities, they even know how important it is.

Dave: And the funny part is like I always get …  I have this personality where like I think that I have to write everything down, right? Because I want to have good notes, I don’t want to forget anything. I never want to be the person that’s like, “Hey Dave, you know that thing we talked about last Tuesday?” And I’m like, “What?” I always wanted to top of that. I should always be ahead.

Allen Gannett: Just nod your head and smile.

Dave: Just managing a head. Right? But what I realized was the more that I read and the more that I consume and do stuff, I’m selling myself short on how much I’m remembering, right?

Allen Gannett: Totally.

Dave: And so then I’m trying to like, “Hey, remember this framework from Ogilvy or this framework from DC or this other thing?” Then if you asked me randomly on a Saturday morning out for a run, I’m like, “Oh, here’s how it works.” And like, “Oh shit.”

Allen Gannett: Yeah.

Dave: Okay.

Allen Gannett: Totally.

Dave: Yeah.

Allen Gannett: And so the thing is that when you look at all these things, like we experience these sort of like … We don’t really understand where these ideas are coming from and because of that we ascribe all this sort of divinity to it, but that doesn’t actually mean it’s divine or supernatural, just means we don’t understand it.

Dave: Which is, I love that because one of the things that DC we talk about a lot on Seeking Wisdom, which is where this is obviously but-

Allen Gannett: Can we call you DG? Is that a thing DG, DC?

Dave: Yeah, people call me DG.

Allen Gannett: Oh okay.

Dave: Yeah. Actually funny stories like when I started at Drift, he sent me an email and there was like seven people at the company at the time. And so basically everyone that starts gets first name at drift dot com except for me. He’s like, “I couldn’t get you dave@drift.com”, even though he doesn’t … You don’t call him Dave, it’s David. “I still couldn’t get dave@drift.com”. He’s like, but I set up dg@drift.com. And so then just that became a thing.

Allen Gannett: Now everyone calls you that. I don’t know what I was going to talk about. One of the things I think in the book that I think is really applicable to marketers, and this is sort of a big concept, so I’ll go sort of high level, we’ll go as deep as you want. Is one of the things I found when you look at all the studies around creativity, is researchers actually have really got a good understanding of what makes people like something which I think is so important for marketers. So here it is, right? What they have found is that there’s this like specific blend of familiarity and novelty that drives a huge amount of preference in liking.

Allen Gannett: So like if something’s too familiar, it’s kind of boring, like we’ve seen it, we’ve done there, we’ve been that. But oftentimes we think about creativity, we think about novelty, originality, innovativeness, but actually we don’t like things like that.

Dave: Well, if it’s too far on the other spectrum, it’s like if nobody has proven it, if you go to that new restaurant on Yelp and there’s no reviews, you’re not going there.

Allen Gannett: What’s going on?

Dave: Exactly.

Allen Gannett: And so this is why Star Wars was so successful, it was literally a Western in space. It’s the same story arc, there’s good guys, bad guys, they’re like chasing into, you know, whatever.

Dave: Now, this is really important. We talk about this a lot, which is like pattern matching.

Allen Gannett: 100%

Dave: which is most people, most marketers just still forget to do that. They’re like, oh, I got an idea, I’m going to make it up. No. Do you know what the great marketers do before they go and create the next video or write the next article, or write the next book? They go and find other examples that’s not copying. It’s going and finding what has been proven and what already works.

Allen Gannett: Kanye West literally just tweeted about that.

Dave: He just tweeted about it and I posted that on my Instagram because I said-

Allen Gannett: And I was like, “Oh my God. This is part of my book campaign.”

Dave: Same thing. It’s the same thing, right? And now it’s so much so that we have this conversation so many times in the marketing team here at Drift where like now if you don’t go and find it, I want to know, “Okay, hey this is great that you wrote this new article, who was your inspiration for this article?” “I don’t have …”  “What? What” I would be going and looking at like what headlines have already been popular, which format has been popular? What video? So that’s a huge piece-

Allen Gannett: And one of the great ways, there’s actually a lot of interesting studies around this with music that I think really make this point well. So they basically played a song for someone that had never heard before and they played it over and over and over again. And what happened was the first time you hear the song, you’re like, “What is this?” The second or third time you’re like, “Okay, this is not that bad.” The 10th time you’re like, “I love this song.” And the fifteenth time you’re like, “Please stop playing ‘Hotline Bling’, like we’re over this, right?”

Dave: Some people might that.

Allen Gannett: Yeah, it’s a whole thing. And so basically what they found, this is why the book’s called The Creative Curve, is there’s this bell curve relationship between familiarity and preference.

Dave: 100%.

Allen Gannett: The more you see something, the more you like it, but only up to a point. Then you get bored and you want something new and more novel.

Dave: I actually have this in a slide. I’m genuinely enjoying this conversation, which is great. I have this in a slide for a talk that I gave. I stole it from Andrew Chen who was growth at Uber. He calls it The Law of Shitty Click throughs.

Allen Gannett: Yes. I’ve seen this.

Dave: Right? I love this chart. It’s a law of shitty click throughs and it’s the same reason why, if you’re any good at Facebook ads, that frequency is so important, right? The frequency is like the amount of times you see an ad. Five or six is a sweet spot. One, it’s not very good-

Allen Gannett: No idea [crosstalk 00:18:57]

Dave: 10, 15, you’re showing too much, right?

Allen Gannett: You’re done.

Dave: So this is the same thing.

Allen Gannett: And they’ve seen this. What’s amazing is scientists have studied this and they found this bell curve relationship when you look at paintings, advertising, but here’s one of the things I think was really interesting, so scientists have found this bell curve relationship, but only for complex things.

Allen Gannett: When something’s really simple like your logo color, like your logo or your brand colors, it’s actually the more you see it, the more you like it indefinitely. And the reason why is that scientists call it perceptual fluency, and it’s basically the idea with things that are very simple we basically just say, “Oh, we’ve seen it before. We know it.” and the fact that it’s so easy to process, we mistake that for liking it. So that’s why in marketing and branding colors are so important, logos are so important because these subtle things-

Dave: Is that all in the book-

Allen Gannett: It’s all the book.

Dave: Those lessons that you’re talking about?

Allen Gannett: Those lessons are all in the book.

Dave: It’s cool because I didn’t have a copy so I didn’t do a deep vibe, but I didn’t expect you to have so much psychology related lessons, which to me is actually that’s the most exciting stuff. The creativity stuff is one thing, but we love learning about the things that are rooted in science. We love Robert Cialdini’s book, obviously the six principles there like baking all that stuff into your marketing.

Allen Gannett: The book is regarding the familiarity, novelty thing. What I tried to do is I read a lot of business books, and my biggest hangup with business books I love like narrative storytelling. There’s usually not enough science and every chapter just serves an anecdote supporting the original thesis. So this book, the entire book, every chapter is like a new concept and it’s all science supported, so there’s like 5,000 pages of notes at the end. All that kind of stuff. It made it a pain in the ass to write, but it’s hopefully, like actually actionable.

Dave: So people can go get the book, right? Does it matter when we release this episode?

Allen Gannett: It doesn’t matter but if you do it the week before the week of it makes me really happy.

Dave: When are you launching the book?

Allen Gannett: June 12th.

Dave: Okay. All right. So we’ll do that. We’ll do that because I think it’ll be a better story. So we’ll do a June 12th-ish week-ish. But I don’t wanna give away all the book, make people go and check it out. It’ll be everywhere. Amazon already saw the links and everything. Go check it out.  I want to dive into the writing process because I was gonna ask you I think I could go write a book right now, but it’d be like Dave’s thoughts right? There would not be 500 pages of references notes in the back. So why did you go and take on … Are you in the library doing research? Where did you get all this science from?

Allen Gannett: Yeah. So basically for the book I did a couple things. So the writing process took a while because I have a job.

Dave: I want to actually go all the way into this. So tell me you have the idea. “I’m going to write the book. Officially, I’m going to write it.”

Allen Gannett: So here’s the whole … I’ll start from the very baby beginning. So I was giving this talk, someone was like, “This would make a good book.” I was like, “Okay.” And so then I talked to one of my friends who had sold a book that did really well and he was like, “Oh, you should talk to my agent.” And I was like, “Okay.” And so I talked to his agent and the book world it turns out is a lot like startups. There’s a lot of gatekeepers, people who like, everything’s are [inaudible 00:21:54]

Allen Gannett: And so his agent turned out to be this guy who I later found out was like the business book agent. He’s like 71. He did Mark Benioff’s book, Satya from Microsoft, Eric Schmidt from Google. I was like, “Okay, I got the picture.” And so I talked to him and he was like, “Hey, I really like this idea, but it’s not where it needs to be yet. Why don’t we develop it for a few months?” So I basically started writing the book, sort of getting sort of mentorship and advice from this guy who was like literally 71. He’s like one of the biggest agents in the world.

Dave: Writing the book, you’re just in a word doc like banging out chapters or like-

Allen Gannett: So basically my process was on the front end I was doing two types of interviews and one type of reading. So I was interviewing creatives, at this point I knew I wanted to write a book about how creativity can be unpacked. So I figured, “Okay, I’m going to interview people who are really successful.” And so I just started cold emailing people and I had this sort of social proof of I had this agent who was sort of a rockstar agent. So I was like, “Hey, the book’s not picked up by a publisher yet, but my agent is Jim Levine. He’s done the books for Eric Schmidt and Marc Benioff and all these people.” And so I got a couple of interviews that way, which was really great. And then I started interviewing academics. So my whole thing was, “I’m going to interview all of the leading academics in creativity”. And creativity is studied in neuroscience, psychology, sociology, anthropology, there’s a lot of different fields that touch on it.

Allen Gannett: And so it turns out, by the way, no offense to academics listening, but academics really like to talk about their work. So that part’s really easy. And then I went and I basically pulled the papers for like literally this was thousands of pages of peer reviewed research on these different topics and I started putting in this giant WorkFlowy document. So WorkFlowy for those who’ve never checked it out, is this awesome outlining tool that has infinite sub-levels, so you can create outlines within your outline for indefinite times or periods. And so basically I started putting all my notes in there and anything that I thought was interesting I could put more research in and actually put it in. And so I was doing these interviews, I was transcribing them using rev.com, I was putting all the notes into WorkFlowy, and it started to like come together. As I was consuming all this information, I started making connections-

Dave: Did you edit the transcripts?

Allen Gannett: No. So I had a VA who basically took the transcripts and went through and made sure they weren’t crazy, if that makes sense.

Dave: Yeah, yeah. 

Allen Gannett: And so at that point, basically, is this too much detail?

Dave: No I love it. This is the detail I wanted.

Allen Gannett: So at that point, as the balance started coming together, only then did I start actually writing chapters and so for the book proposal process, so one of the big secrets of writing a non-fiction book is you don’t actually write the book first. Which is kind of great. It’s kind of like a startup. You do sort of like a pitch deck, so you write one or two sample chapters and then you write this like 15 page plan, the most important section of which is the marketing plan of why this book? Why now? Why you?

Dave: Tell me about the marketing plan though? Like, you have to tell them, “Hey, we’re going to email it to this 100,000 people”, and like what do you get out of that?

Allen Gannett: So basically as a marketer that was the most fun part because I was like, “Oh, I can write a marketing plan all day.” So I basically, my whole plan with the marketing plan was I’m going to put so much stuff in there that it’s obvious that this guy’s crazy.

Dave: They’re just going to be like, “Yeah, this is gonna work.”

Allen Gannett: “This guy’s fine. Yeah.”

Dave: So tell me what was in there, what did you put there?

Allen Gannett: I put a list of I think 40 events I’d spoken in the last year.

Dave: Were you set out when we were trying to go back to all of these?

Allen Gannett: Yeah. Plus the list where I’m like, here’s 20 I know. I put a list of the top 10 editors and major publications who I was friends with. I put a list of 100 podcasts that I was like, I can probably get on-

Dave: Shout out.

Allen Gannett: Shout out. And then I also put a whole bunch of stuff around sort of the audience I’d built with TrackMaven and showing that, “Hey, this is something I know how to do, coach others on how to do.” And so it was very, very actionable.

Dave: Right. And it wasn’t necessarily like on June 12th we’re going to do X and then on the July 4th we’re gonna do Y?

Allen Gannett: It was just I’m resourceful.

Dave: “Can I show you that this is a good investment?”

Allen Gannett: Exactly. Exactly. Basically, how it works is you put together the proposal and then it’s a lot like VC, you send it, your agent sends it to all these different publishers and then you get back responses and the ideals have multiple. And so there’s 15 publishers we sent it to. One was like, “This is terrible.” And I was like, “Noted.” And then 12 were like, “We like it, but I think the market’s too small.” Which I don’t understand, but it’s okay, I’m over it.

Dave: Anyone who does marketing.

Allen Gannett: Yeah. And then two were like, “We love this book and want it.” And so that was all it took and then so we ended up signing it with Currency, which is part of Penguin Random House, and so that’s been a super cool experience because like you have an editor and there’s copy editors and they have audio departments, I have just recorded the audio book.

Dave: Tell me about then then they say yes.

Allen Gannett: Yes.

Dave: And then you’re sitting in your house somewhere and now you’re like, “Oh my God, I have to write this thing.”

Allen Gannett: Yeah. And so it’s basically more the same. So it was like just doing more interviews, more research, more outlining.

Dave: Mentally, did you map out the whole thing? Here’s the outline, and then literally go chapter by chapter, by chapter in order?

Allen Gannett: It was more of I basically did as much research as possible and then it sort of organically started to come together. So in the book, the first half is basically disproving this idea that creativity is this mysterious wondrous thing that has no rhyme or reason. And then the second half of the book is these four patterns I found among the creative geniuses that actually are things you can do that are actionable. So as I was researching, I heard over and over again these things like, “Hey, I consumed an entire library worth of books.” And I was like, “Oh this is interesting.” And so that formed into a chapter. And then are you thinking like, “Oh, this would be a great section to have a graphic with”, and you’d start drawing or the editor being like, “We need something that’s going to show this.”

Allen Gannett: So the art of a book is really interesting. Basically as an author you’re responsible for delivering the finished manuscript, including all images. So I went and found an illustrator who I liked, who happened to be my neighbor and I wanted like a zillion images and they wanted like 15. So I think I sent 40 and they were like, “Let’s start with 15”, and they edited the ones they didn’t like.

Dave: You put them in where you want them?

Allen Gannett: I put them where I want them.

Dave: Also every business book is like 250 pages.

Allen Gannett: Yeah. That’s the thing.

Dave: So that’s perfect.

Allen Gannett: That’s the thing. The cover is actually really fascinating.

Dave: Tell me about the cover. Did your illustrator friend, neighbor do that?

Allen Gannett: No, this was a different one. So the cover is one of these processes that you have as an author. Very little ability to veto, but you have some influence over because you’re like, “I want to sell the book for like years of my life.” And so the cover was one of these processes where you’re like, do we make it very businessy? Do we make it very creative? What if we want to aspire to young people, old people? And so it turns out thus, people judge books by their cover.

Dave: Oh sure they do.

Allen Gannett: It’s really important. So basically I hired this guy Rodrigo corral, who’s like a baller. He did Jay Z’s book, Diaz’s books, like all the Chuck Palahniuk’s books.

Dave: How did you find him?

Allen Gannett: My agent … This was again, I’m like kind of a little bit of an idiot sometimes, was like, “Oh, you should talk to this guy.” And I talked to him and he was like, “Oh, I’ll work with you.” And then I google him and there’s like this New York Times article about how he’s the cover guy. And I was like, “Oh, okay.”

Dave: And then you use all your advanced money to pay for [crosstalk 00:29:13]

Allen Gannett: Yeah, exactly. There’s no money. And so basically it was cool though seeing that process because it went from like, “Okay, do we go very, very formal?” To “Do we go very, very artsy?” And we ended up at something in the middle because we realized that this is a book that aspires to help creatives achieve great things. But it also has a lot of applicability, like the CMO of like a big Fortune 500.

Dave: Totally.

Allen Gannett: So you need to hit that crossover.

Dave: All right. I love it. I wanted to talk about that because I know you’re going to do 100 other podcasts, and I think that they’re not all going to ask you about the whole process.

Allen Gannett: They’re not.

Dave: But before we wrap up, I got to talk to you about something.

Allen Gannett: Okay.

Dave: I want to know your Linkedin video process because this is the guy that I got this from. For the last two months, just Linkedin video has blown up, but you were there even earlier and you were the one that DC was sending me all these videos, all these comments, all these views and you have a crazy system. Can you tell me about how you got on? Actually, I want to know like all the way back, when did you start doing Linkedin video?

Allen Gannett: The Linkedin video started really silly.

Dave: Tell me.

Allen Gannett: Okay.

Dave: It’s always silly, it’s never like calculated.

Allen Gannett: It’s really silly. So I literally saw … A big part of the book is about timing and so as I was writing this book, Linkedin video came out and I was like, “Oh, like a big part of my book is about how like anytime there’s a new platform, there’s also opportunity.” And so I was like, “Oh, well this is kind of meta. And so it was in private beta and I was like thinking way too much about this, like I’m not Dorky at all. And so I had a dream. This is a really embarrassing thing. So I literally had a dream and for some reason in this dream, Jeff Bezos owned Linkedin, let’s just go with it. My dream got confused with Jeff Weiner and Jeff Bezos and so I was on a rooftop hotel bar. This is 100% true.

Dave: Okay. I believe you. I believe you.

Allen Gannett: I have this dream that Jeff Bezos, I’m talking to him and I’m like, “Jeff, you’re on Linkedin, I don’t know why, and you really need to give me access to Linkedin video. You really do.” And he was like, “Sure man.” And gave me access. And I woke up-

Dave: On the rooftop, I got this.

Allen Gannett: I woke up and I was like, “That was a bizarre dream.” And then I was like, “I should post that on Linkedin.” I bet you someone will find it funny in Linkedin and give me access. And so I posted on Linkedin, I changed Jeff Bezos to Jeff Weiner, because that part was too nuance for the internet.

Dave: People would not even get it. You would have got a thousand comments, “He’s not the CEO of Linkedin, you idiot.”

Allen Gannett: Yeah. And so I posted this and it was like, “I just had a dream that Jeff Weiner gave me Linkedin video beta access.” I think this officially means I spent too much time on Linkedin. And that was the post and literally like all these comments, and literally eight hours later, Jeff Weiner posts, “No, it just means you can see the future ‘smiley face'”. And he gives me a Linkedin video access.

Dave: He did that personally?

Allen Gannett: He did that personally.

Dave: And like what,  you got an email?

Allen Gannett: No, it’s just like turned on.

Dave: Amazing.

Allen Gannett: And then that post got ridiculous amount of comments and likes. So then I started posting-

Dave: You were already primed to be the video guy.

Allen Gannett: I was there, yeah. And so I basically was like, “Okay, what can I do on video that I would enjoy and the other people enjoy?” And I spent a lot of time of my life, just because I’m like a customer-facing, market-facing CEO, meeting people. I was like, “I’ll just harass my friends to do videos.”

Dave: I love that. Because what I liked about your videos a lot was-

Allen Gannett: We’re going to do a video after this.

Dave: We’re going to do a video after this. They never seem to be script … They weren’t scripted and what I love is it always seemed to be like you were at a conference, you ran into Joe Chernov, and you’re like, “Joe, let’s do a video together.” And he’s like, “Fuck, do I have to do this, right?” And then you do a video, and you started doing all those. But what I learned from behind the scenes DC Thomas, you have an awesome system behind the scenes that made this work, which is not surprising now that I know your book process. It seems similar.

Allen Gannett: Yeah. So basically the process is do these videos, I record on them on my iPhone. Super simple, not fancy.

Dave: Super simple.

Allen Gannett: I have a microphone, a sure iPhone microphone-

Dave: Yeah, I got one of those now too.

Allen Gannett: That is like it’s good.

Dave: I got all the apps. Oh that’s the Baby Shusher App for Annie, but I have D-Shake, Typematic, whatever the other ones, it’s 4.99.

Allen Gannett: Basically what happens is I shoot the video, we’re going to do it after this, it literally takes three minutes of film. It’s 90 seconds max video. I upload it to Dropbox from my phone, I email it to my intern-

Dave: Which takes forever by the way. That’s the worst. And then if you lose service, Internet these days, kids these days. I just wanted to say that because I wanted to make sure you didn’t have some special hack because-

Allen Gannett: With Dropbox?

Dave: Yes.

Allen Gannett: Oh no, I don’t.

Dave: Okay.

Allen Gannett: Okay.

Dave: Maybe we should go to Box on that, then-

Allen Gannett: Box [inaudible 00:33:38].

Dave: Maybe.

Allen Gannett: And then my intern uses D-Shake, which is this app that for like $3 makes it look like you had a stabilizer, at least decently. Then we send it to this other guy on Fiver who for like $10 captions it, trims it, cleans it up, sends us back a Dropbox link and basically there’s a Dropbox folder of just like an army of backlog of videos. As at right now I’m kind of low, which is why we’re doing a video.

Dave: Okay. So I’ve two questions then we’ll wrap up. Number one is I totally get the captions thing, but I want to and I don’t know if I should test this or not, I probably should. I feel like when I see a video with captions though, so for a while I believed that captions is what you needed because everyone’s scrolling with the sound off. But now I kind of believe more that like when people see captions, they know that’s some marketing video. Where if it’s like me walking down the street, I don’t know, maybe we’ll figure it out.

Allen Gannett: Okay. So Dave, I can promise you with like 100% accuracy, captions, mind boggling.

Dave: Okay. I’m in. I’m going to copy your system.

Allen Gannett: One, that’s the marketing aspect, and the second aspect is accessibility.

Dave: Accessibility.

Allen Gannett: So two for one.

Dave: You’re right? Yeah. So all my videos will start, “Yeah. So, um”, and a man drinks coffee, stumbles says [crosstalk 00:34:53] I like that system. I don’t know what my second question is. Oh yeah. Okay. So then, my other problem is I want to post this video now. I don’t want to wait.

Allen Gannett: You have to wait.

Dave: I gotta wait.

Allen Gannett: You gotta wait. Yeah, I do it. On Linkedin I find that the morning’s the best because people are going to work, they’re rolling in.

Dave: But like tactically do you have something on your calendar that’s like, “Today, Post Linkedin video?

Allen Gannett: So basically on Sunday afternoons I write all my softcopy for the week and then my intern posts in the morning, because otherwise-

Dave: On Monday?

Allen Gannett: It’s every weekday.

Dave: Every week day you post a video?

Allen Gannett: Every week day, no, no. I post a video of Tuesdays and Thursdays but I post something on Linkedin every day.

Dave: Gotcha.

Allen Gannett: But otherwise like if I have a breakfast … It’s just like a little too much coordination to go on.

Dave: Nice. I like that. I like that. Yeah. All right, we got to jump. We’re going to go record a video, you’ll check it out on Linkedin. You’re Allen Gannett, which by the way, you’re @allen on Twitter, so-

Allen Gannett: Check it out.

Dave: Shout out for [crosstalk 00:35:46] on twitter when you’re running Facebook ads back today.

Allen Gannett: Anything else?

Dave: Not the story, but we can’t say it on … It’s a much darker story.

Allen Gannett: There’s a much longer story, yeah.

Dave: Someone’s dad, they’re in a ditch somewhere and you stole their art first thing.

Allen Gannett: Yeah, I pushed him down the hill, it was a horrible thing.

Dave: All right. Thank you for doing this. I will see you.

Allen Gannett: Bye.

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