Stories and Strategies Podcast
Guest: Robert Lund, Chief Creative Officer and Co-Founder Studio TBD
Published April 2, 2023
Doug Downs (00:10):
You probably brush your teeth every day, hopefully even twice a day is part of a good health regimen. It’s really only in the last century that brushing on a daily basis has been adopted by the masses. It was slow to evolve as a habit, even though it’s obviously good for us. It was in the 1870s. The first commercially produced toothpaste was produced by Colgate. It was sold in a jar and a complete commercial flop toothpaste was flavorless at the time, and tooth decay extremely common
Billie Holiday (00:45):
When you’re smiling
When you’re smiling,
The whole world smiles with you.
Doug Downs (00:55):
So most marketing focused on the fact you need to brush your teeth for health reasons, but that didn’t work. Then the marketing narrative shifted to brush your teeth so you’ll look better. But that didn’t really work either. Then around 1914, Pepsodent took a page from what the ancient Egyptians had figured out thousands of years earlier. They added some mint flavoring and targeted their marketing to dentists so they could convince their patients. Tata. The mint flavoring made people feel like their mouth was cleaner, and having dentists, the subject matter experts make the pitch to consumers. That was the magic elixir to a daily habit, shifting human habit on a mass scale. That’s the essential challenge of developing public relations and marketing for Web three technologies. If you’re working to support a Web three company, there’s a whole new customer acquisition framework. Tokens replace traditional marketing, and the concept of customer is different, including not only users, but developers, investors, and partners today on stories and strategies, PR and marketing support for a world where if you’re on the white list, you’re approved for the N F T Mint as long as you get there on time and can afford the gas fee.
My name is Doug Dows music off the top, Billie Holiday from 1938 when you’re smiling, written by Larry Shae, Mark Fisher and Joe Goodwin. My guest this week is Robert Lund. Hi, Robert.
Robert Lund (02:43):
Doug Downs (02:44):
And you’re joining us today, Robert, from Manhattan. It’s April. So easy question. Yankees or Mets?
Robert Lund (02:52):
I mean, I’m European. I would say not nothing to do with baseball. I don’t understand that.
Doug Downs (03:00):
Not your jam.
Robert Lund (03:01):
Don’t understand how it’s a sport. I, I do understand the historic references and the culture and everything. I don’t really get how it’s a sport because you’re people are standing around watching and then throwing a ball once every 25 minutes,
Doug Downs (03:14):
Whereas with what you would call football, that’s just nonstop action. And cricket is just heart thumping, nonstop, nonstop.
Robert Lund (03:22):
I’m not going to die on any hill for cricket, I can tell you that. But when it comes to soccer, yeah, that’s the sophisticated sport now. I guess it’s just a cultural difference. But no, I think the police are rooting for the Yankees and everyone else is rooting for the Mets. That’s what I’ve heard on the streets, but I don’t know if that’s true either.
Doug Downs (03:48):
I’d love to see a showdown in the World Series between the two. Robert, you’re the co-founder of Studio T B D, which focuses on a couple of things. Cannabis infused edibles, which is not our focus today and Web three. And by the way, those two business lines will explain. They do have a commonality, especially when it comes to PR and marketing. And we’ll explain that toward the end of this episode. You have director level experience with a number of marketing agencies in New York overseeing work created for brands like Chevrolet, Volvo, Ikea, Reebok, and Unicef. So first, Robert, let’s define what Web three actually is.
Robert Lund (04:29):
Well, first of all, I think it’s it. It’s important to say that it’s early. It’s more of an experiment than a category, I would say, even though it has a market cap over a trillion. But basically it, it’s a sort of category name that has evolved from, first of all, it was just crypto and blockchain, and then there was different currencies. So people started talking about crypto, and then NFTs sort of burst around to the scene, non fungible tokens, and that’s where I think the word web three started to get used more and more. So basically what my interpretation of it is that it’s anything that is based on the blockchain. So if you have a business or a project that is based on the blockchain, that is usually what people refer to as web three. It’s a broader category name than just cryptocurrencies or some of the more siloed parts of it, is what I would say.
Doug Downs (05:36):
Okay. And these days I’m hearing, I’m seeing so many PR and marketing professionals on LinkedIn on their websites when I meet them, handing out business cards that they are a PR and or marketing professionals for Web three. Differentiating the service for web three. So simple question, is PR and or marketing specific for web three? Is it any different from what I would call public relations and marketing?
Robert Lund (06:10):
Yes and no. I think that’s a simple question that has a very, very complex answer. And also because it’s evolving, it’s not really clear exactly how that answer ends up, but I could do some metaphors for you. I come from an advertising background, so I’ve dealt a lot with all kinds of marketing. I’ve been a strategic designer, creative director, copywriter. I’ve dealt a lot with PR firms, et cetera, et cetera. And I’m old enough to have been part of this for so long that it has changed. And when I came onto the industry in 2007, basically it was the land of microsites. It was a lot of campaign sites, microsites, and then it turned into social media after that. And what’s important to remember is before that, it went from no internet at all to banners and microsite. And before that, it went from out of home print and radio to television.
And I know that in America, TV ads has been running since the fifties, but in Northern Europe where we had state television for a long time, it was kind of a new thing in the nineties. So every time, and what will happen is what seems to happen every time that there is a shift in technology where you can do marketing or pr, there is all these experts that all of a sudden show up from nowhere. So back in the nineties in Sweden, there were TV creatives, and then towards the end of the nineties, they were web creatives and web producers, and then it became social media managers, social media producers and social media creatives. And I’m sure in the PR world, it’s the same thing. It’s like if there’s a new technology, the us, the clients that have the money, they’re a bit confused and they want to listen to someone.
And that’s a great opportunity for new people to break into the business. And sometimes those specialty sort of roles are needed over a period of time, but you would never find an agency in the world now that has a set of TV creatives. So these are our TV creatives and these are the other creatives like that. That sounds ludicrous, but I guarantee you that we’re going to see web three creatives and web three PR people and web three, et cetera, et cetera. So is it needed? Maybe it might be needed for a time to just to make everything sort of normal, if that makes sense. In an essence, if you are good at marketing or pr, I don’t think that you need specific experts in web three, but with everything else, you need to know what it is and you need to follow it. You need to understand how it evolves so that you can do a good job in the environment that’s at hand, basically.
Doug Downs (09:07):
So essentially, you’re taking your existing communication skills, learning how they can and should be used in a specific industry and perhaps learning not just the lingo, but some of the cultural shift that is taking place in what I’ll call the blockchain world. That’s the essentials to PR and marketing for Web 3. Do I have that basically right?
Robert Lund (09:31):
I think so. It’s moving. It’s also something that’s moving so fast. So I think that the old ways of doing things might apply to a certain extent, but you would have to update in some other areas and exactly where this is going. Nobody knows yet. Nobody knows, right? I mean, there are a lot of people who are saying who’s going to be in the future, but they don’t know. Nobody knows. That’s like, and I think for me as a creative, that’s my happy place. I like that when I don’t know what’s going to happen, that’s a good place to be in. Whereas if you’re an accounts manager at a PR firm or you are the marketing director of a brand, that might not be the best place mentally to be in, but for a creative, that should be your happy place. So it depends a little bit where who you are. And I feel like when it comes to Web three, it’s severely misunderstood even by the experts, I would say
Doug Downs (10:37):
Podcasting. Now there’s an idea, you listen to podcasts, maybe a podcast is right for you or one of your clients stories and strategies is a full podcast production company with clients in the United States as well as Canada, Great Britain and Australia. If you want to chat, send me an email, Doug@storiesandstrategies.ca, and we’ll set up that chat. Let’s talk podcasts.
Some listening will have specific opinions about cryptocurrency, perhaps NFTs, maybe even blockchain or Ethereum. And those beliefs may be, oh, no, no, no, this is hocus pocus. Too risky. Not look at the market right now. Right? I’ve holding Ethereum, it’s not going well. I can tell you that at this specific moment in time. Others will say, just look at what blockchain actually is. It’s inevitable that it’s going to be the future. I’ve always kind of felt that it will be the big banks that are going to fight cryptocurrency probably for the rest of my working life only to eventually capitulate because they will adopt and take a stake in blockchain technology somehow in a way that they can make money from it. So to capture that, I think the big banks see blockchain as the ultimate threat right now because they’re not ready and it’s too democratic for them. They’ll find a way to make a stake and lay a claim and ultimately make money from it. Do you see the same or how do you see it unfolding? And I get it, nobody actually knows.
Robert Lund (12:28):
Well, I think it’s an interesting take and it’s probably not wrong. We’re already seeing it a little bit. I mean, the hedge funds who are, at least in my opinion, sort of the pioneers of finance industry, they get a lot of hates from media and from certain people. But because they don’t do anything, they just to invest, that’s not really true. They do not produce any goods of value, but they push the boundaries on what the finance industry is. And so without hedge funds, you wouldn’t have Robinhood today, for example. So the hedge funds are the ones who are usually, or at least in last 20, 30 years, it was one that’s been mostly pushing the boundaries to change the financial industries and then the bigger banks follow and take over parts of what the hedge fund industry actually figures out. So I’m simplifying a lot.
There’s probably finance people out there that are like, Hmm, it’s not that easy buddy. And no, it’s not. But, and I see the same thing happening with blockchain. We’re already seeing hedge fund funds come in and investing heavily in blockchain and not really saying anything. So if they’re doing it and they’re pushing the boundaries and they’re starting to play with it and create new schemes of investment within it, I’m sure big banks are going to follow. But of course, a big banks, they basically, they’ll run the most profitable thing for them is as if nothing ever changed and people keep giving them money.
Doug Downs (14:03):
They’re doing well.
Robert Lund (14:04):
Basically. Yeah, yeah, exactly. So are they going to fight it? Certain parts of it, I think yes, it’s the same thing as, but there’s also this thing we’re in newspapers fighting the internet, maybe not hard enough. Maybe they didn’t adapt hard enough. That’s a good analogy. So it’s a little bit, alright, we don’t need to fight. Let’s just ridicule it for 10 years or something. That’s also a weapon they used red ridicule it and go, ah, not real money or whatever, and then they just keep doing their thing. So I think it’s got to be a mix of things. I also think that there’s a big misunderstanding in where, which might help to understand a little bit that the power struggles here, and I think it’s a little bit of an misunderstanding in where blockchain or web three actually is in terms of its evolution.
And I hear a lot of people are comparing it to the.com. Basically the second half of the nineties, I hear things saying, people saying, oh, we’re like where the internet we’re in 1997 or something like that. And I don’t see it. I don’t agree with that. I think blockchain and Web three right now is where personal computing was in 1982. There was, because if you look at the end of the nineties, everyone was doing the same thing. It’s like, all right, we have these computers, there’s big industrial computers in big companies, and IBM are making them for big industrial companies and hospitals and stuff like that. And then we have Dell and Microsoft and Apple obviously that made a lot of personal computing, and I’m forgetting some big players here. And that was the environment. And then you built things online using that, knowing that that’s what people had as tools to access the things that you were building online right now in the blockchain, I think is more akin to the beginning of the eighties where people didn’t really know what computing was going.
There was a ton of startups in Texas that’s completely forgotten. There’s a ton of startups all over the world that had their take on personal computing that was completely right or completely wrong, or they failed for one reason or the other. Some people were like, whoa, the screen is more important than a computer. Some people went all in on size and some people went all in on portability and some people went all in on different, it was wide, it was wild. It was a lot of different things that were happening. And a lot of these companies got funded. They went up a little bit and then they crashed because they couldn’t deliver whatever they said that they wanted to deliver. And that’s what I see in blockchain a lot. It’s like, it’s a lot of wild ideas that are very, very different in nature. We have on the Avalanche blockchain, which I find to be one of the more interesting ones for mass adoption.
They tokenize a lot of physical things. That’s like their game. So they tokenize real estate market in Florida, for example. So there are companies onto the Avalanche blockchain that offer you to invest in certain weird slices of real estate. So you can invest in one building, a skyscraper that is built somewhere in Tampa, for example, or you invest almost in a mutual fund, like a tokenized mutual fund almost of a specific type of house all over Miami. So two family houses all over Miami. That’s what we have in this token bucket. So that’s like, that’s one thing that’s such a huge business that nobody talks about ever. I never see that I’m the press, but I see a lot of talk about Bitcoin, Ethereum and bored apes and NFTs. So there’s a lot of stuff that’s happening and we don’t know what’s going to work. We don’t know which of these companies or projects are going to be the Microsofts, Dells, and Apples of tomorrow, and that’s the game. So I think that we’re so early that people don’t understand how early it is, if that makes sense.
Doug Downs (18:18):
And this is understanding at least the drivers of that is what will make someone who says they specialize PR marketing for web three. That is what will make them truly special. They’ll have the disciplines of PR and marketing, but understanding components of how this business is changing will help them. Lastly, I mentioned your firm as two business streams, web three and cannabis infused edibles, which seem, whoa, completely, but they’re not. The ultimate goal here is to change the narrative. If you are marketing for either one of these business lines, you are trying to establish a cultural change, which is really hard. Where I live in Canada’s Rocky Mountains, cannabis is a talkable subject, legal, heavily regulated, but legal. Listeners in different parts of the world will live in areas where cannabis is not legal, and it’s a taboo conversation. Dive into that. Changing the narrative. I mean the ultimate challenge for any communications pro.
Robert Lund (19:23):
Yeah, exactly. I mean, that’s the interesting part. I think the similarities between these two industries are everywhere culturally. They’re both anti-government, decentralization, classic rebelly things. They are both a bit shunned by traditional traditionalists and establishment. So those are some extremely shallow similarities, but there’s other things both are extremely misunderstood as well. I think both of them are also in the same phase where it’s like for a long time, maybe 6,000 years we’ve been smoking cannabis and now all of a sudden there’s new form factors that we can design the experience around. Same thing with blockchain. Even though blockchain only been around since 2009, it’s, it was just Bitcoin and then Ethereum for a long, long time, but now all of a sudden it’s changing completely. So there’s a lot of stuff happening and a lot of things are evolving super fast. So when it comes to changing the narrative, it’s like, it’s almost like, and this is actually a huge thing that we realize in the beginning, it’s not about changing the narrative, it’s about creating a narrative. Because the narrative is not around cannabis and around blockchain is not really made by the industry itself. It’s made by people on sidelines. So it’s about change. It’s not about changing. It’s developing a new narrative. And I feel like when it comes to cannabis, for example, the culturally, it’s been stuck in rap music and attitude since the nineties
Doug Downs (21:07):
Cheech And Chong.
Robert Lund (21:09):
So we need to change. We need to show the world that cannabis can be different things, and I think that’s same thing with blockchain. It’s like, well, it’s just scams and speculations. It’s like, yeah, but if we can make things that actually makes life better for people we’re doing with our cannabis products, then we can show the world this is actually a good thing. This is really useful for everybody, and I think that’s our mission. So it’s because they’re new or developing industries, it’s also, it’s not just as traditional as just creating a messaging around it. You actually have to build what you’re going to message about, which is a little bit new. Think about it like the energy drinks, for example. There were no energy drinks before Red Bull. Now there’s a thousand of them. So it’s a little bit the same thing. It’s like we have to build it and then we can start fidgeting with narrative,
Doug Downs (22:07):
Chase them until they catch you.
Robert Lund (22:11):
Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it.
Doug Downs (22:12):
Robert, thank you so much for your time today. I really enjoyed this.
Robert Lund (22:16):
Thank you for having me. Yeah, it’s an interesting topics to talk about.
Doug Downs (22:19):
If you’d like to send a message to my guest, Robert Lund, we have the email address in the show notes, stories and strategies as a co-production of JGR Communications and Stories and Strategies podcasts. Our little podcast is growing significantly, and I appreciate you for listening and helping it grow. One favor, if I could, would you mind leaving us a four or five star rating? It doesn’t actually help the algorithm to be honest, it doesn’t make the podcast more searchable. What it does is when someone sees those ratings and they see the number of them, it convinces them that this is a podcast worth listening to. Thank you for listening.