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Ep. 26 – How to Build a Brand to Disrupt an Industry

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This week Eric talks to David Brear, CEO of 11:FS, live from Money2020 in Amsterdam. David talks about disruption, his background, why 11:FS produces a huge amount of content, and why you should, too.

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David: I think actually if you can build a community of equally minded geeks and nerds of the stuff that your geeky and nerdy about, then actually that is how to kind of insulate yourself from any issue in the long term from any downturn perspective, but also to garner other passionate people who believe similar things that you do and who can really bring those things together.

Eric: I'm Eric Fulwiler, and this is Scratch Bringing You marketing lessons from the leading brands and brains rewriting the rule book from scratch for the world of today.

All right, my guests today, some guy named David. Is it Brear

Bra, Brad, Bri, Bre, whichever.

David: Yeah, it's fine. Yeah, you called me a lot worse. <laugh>.

Eric: <laugh>. How you doing, man?

David: Good. Busy. Busy, but good. It's been a funny old year for sure.

Eric: Yeah, for sure. Well, it's really good to see you apart from the 15 minutes. So we just spent chatting, haven't talked to you in, well, I haven't seen you in person in a while with Covid and everything like that.

David: Yes. Feels like a long time. We've talked in a bit, And actually, I mean your first week when you joined 11:FS was here as well, So it feels,

Eric: I remember it

David: Feels oddly reminiscent, doesn't it? Yeah.

Eric: So that's literally my first day landing to this. Not only my first day at 11:FS, my first day in FinTech. Yeah, this was my welcome to that one. The Money

David: 2020 festival. Yeah, it was amazing.

Eric: There's a lot, I mean, there's a lot of people. I still really good friends and connections now that I met that first week. So everybody looks a little bit different.

David: They, I've bumped into 10, 10 or so people where I'm like, you look like that person that I knew three years ago. But the lockdowns here, different people in different ways, isn't it?

Eric: So I should say we are recording live from Money 2020 in Amsterdam. We are in the Money Pot studio, and I've been told that it's going to get very hot in here because there's no fan or air conditioning. So we're going to keep this to time. We are going to be talking about how to build a brand to disrupt an industry, something that you have a bit of experience in. And I know a lot of perspectives and advice on, we have not prepped for this at all. Literally, you said before we walked in here, what are we talking about? And I said, look at the title of the episode, and away we go. So David, how do you build a brand to disrupt an industry?

David: Sort of one slice at a time to a certain degree in terms of why are you saying out to do That would be the question. Because I think a lot of people start businesses because they want to achieve something. And what is that thing that you want to achieve? For us, it was very much about two angles, really. There was a view on the industry that's kind of stagnated and actually, well, what do you need to do in order to get cut through to help those people? And then the other side of it for me, in terms of building a business was to build a business that I really wanted to be at. And I wanted other people to want to be in that sense as well. So from my perspective, it was, well, how do you build the brands that disrupts? It's like, well, I wanted to disrupt not just financial services, I wanted to disrupt corporate life really in that sense, in terms of what it means to be in business in that sense as well, which sounds very highfalutin and it sounds very grandiose in the sense of, well, this is the mission that I set out to achieve. And it's not really that, if I'm honest with you, it's almost just learning from all of the bad experiences of a bunch of places that I've worked at. Well, how do I not be that? Yeah.

Eric: And how much of it was a structured strategic, great, we're going to build out our brand platform of what our point of difference is, et cetera, versus something that just came naturally because you had a bit of a marketing background, you also had a computer engineering background and a product background and a semi-professional basketball background. But with the marketing background, how much of it was something that was just naturally there with you, Jason, Simon, the founding team versus something that you had to kind of craft? And then I guess a follow-up question would be, I'm assuming keeping that point of difference and continuing to deliver on it as the business and brand scaled was a different challenge in itself as well.

David: Yeah, I, so yeah, my background was marketing and actually I started in marketing mean from computing to affiliate marketing. There was a weird jump in that sentence.

Eric: What was the affiliate marketing?

David: So literally before I started, a first real job was a company called Foolproof but I worked for nine months at Affiliate marketing agency before I started in financial services at all. And I loved it. It was fantastic because it was so quant focused. And was it back in the dirty days of affiliate marketing mean it was white text on white background stuff to kind of bun bunch up your seo. But it was about, well, how do you create, you infiltrate a system. How do you exploit that system to benefit you in some way or form? And search rankings was the thing that we were trying to, not hack, but and not manipulate in a particularly negative what sense, but how do you create advantages for yourself in that sense in terms of what you can do? And that's really what marketing is, isn't it? Marketing is about garnering attention in that sense. And how can you do that in the most cost effective way, really? So was it purposeful with the 11:FS? Yeah, actually was, it was purposeful to bring those group of people together who had differences of opinion. That was interesting. And then really it was about a lack of marketing budget that made us go in a certain direction in order to do things. Because I've said this a bunch of times before, is you start a business with five people. I mean, Deloitte hired, I mean JP Morgan hired out seemingly the entirety of Schol airport on the way in. We couldn't do that. Well, how do you really compete? It's about what you do in that sense. Yeah but I mean, back to your question around how do you build a brand in that sense? I mean, if anybody listened to any of the content that we do, we purposefully, and this Eric purposefully don't really talk about what we do. And that's important because I think the beliefs that you have, I think are much more important to align on with people than the thing that you do. Because if it was just a by 11:FS stuff podcast, then actually what's the fun in that? And what's the benefit to the listener of that? Whereas actually, if you are actually conveying your convictions, you're conveying your beliefs, well, you can connect to people in a much more meaningful way in that sense.

Eric: So there's a few things I want to draw out and double click on. I want to talk about the point of differentiation. I want to talk about your comments around budgets because I really believe that constraints are a big driver of creativity. And then I obviously want to talk about, and I'm sure for a lot of the people listening, they're very interested to hear from you directly on how you built a media company around the brand and actually in places like this. I know you were in the podcast booth earlier when I was here three years ago, my first week at 11:FS, we had a podcast. We were there as a media as much as anything else. But going back to the point on differentiation, because I think 11:FS has done such a good job of standing out in a good way, financial services, consulting, corporate life, as you call it, at the highest level is so cluttered, so beige and 11:FS really cuts through that noise and, and maybe it was there from the beginning, but now you can boil that down to truly digital financial services, the kind of brand pillars of provocative, authentic and human. But I guess my question is, or build on that slightly and then I'll come to a question. I think so many businesses, particularly B2B businesses, in order to build a successful brand, a brand that disrupts an industry, you need to be relevant to the audience you're trying to reach, but also differentiated from the other brands that are there. I think too many businesses focus on relevance and don't put enough effort into differentiation. And I think particularly in today's day and day and age, when literally, I mean, look at us, every business is a media company, whether they intentionally do it or not. There's so much content, so much competition for attention, differentiation is the X factor really. And actually, I always use the example of the best gut check of whether you're differentiated enough is whether you could take your logo off your marketing and it could only be you. It could not be a competitor. And I think 11:FS, I always throw that out as the example, the stuff that 11:FS does. It couldn't be Deloitte, it couldn't be another management consulting firm.

David: So I think some of that lends itself to tone though, doesn't it? In that, yeah, and it's what you say and it's how you say it, right? Yeah. And I think that's where we have tried, we, we've intentionally created differentiation in that sense because I think there's I really hate bandwagons. I hate the, okay, everything's web three or, okay, well what's the cryptocurrency? Who's your cryptocurrency expert? Because all of that stuff is transient. You know what I mean? It's actually this year's trends of what's hot in FinTech type thing. Well, if you're known for that thing, when that thing's not hot, well, you're not hot anymore. Sound like Paris Hilton. I don't mean to, but the idea that actually, what are you known for? You're not known for. You are known. Being at the edge of what possible is you're known for being is 11 is meant to be about creation of outside of the normal range of one to 10. So actually being known for that belief system around, that's why we always talk about digital banking being 1% finished. And we will always talk about digital banking, 1% finished because it's not statistical significant in terms of what it means. It's a mindset about there's always more we can do. There's always more we can achieve and mean. We talk about it internally as much as externally, which is 11:FS is 1% finished. We will always stay hungry. We will always stay motivated to keep evolving ourselves. There is very few things that are sacred at the business in that sense in terms of things that we will always hold onto. There's the values, the attributes of the code of conduct of how we operate as a business. But everything else is up for two years from now. Throwing it away and starting again because that's how we know we're evolving to meet the demands of the market. It's basic evolutionary steps, isn't it? It's just breaking it down into how do you deploy that in podcasts and social media.

Erci: And actually just building on that, I mean, one of the things that we talk about a lot, obviously we work with or try to build successful challenger brands, and that can be startups and scale-ups. Of course, that's kind of the stereotypical challenger, but it can also be more established businesses. Really any business can be a challenger if they think an act with the right mindset and model. And actually being a challenger means essentially being fit for purpose for the world of today. And in order to do that, you need that beginner's mindset. How would you do things differently if you were going to start them from scratch? So you kind of need that cultural and strategic flexibility to be able to not necessarily throw everything away, but at least ask the question, is this still fit for purpose? Yeah, do we need to do something else? We need to push ourself further or differently?

David: Is it relevant as the market moved on? I mean we, we've talked about this in the 11:FS context before. So we share sharing our conversations, but it's like, look, the podcast, if people don't care about the podcast anymore, we'll stop doing the podcast. Actually, you do it for a benefit of, and I think that's the other thing is I think there's a big difference in the mindset of corporate organizations. Marketing is dr, it's a direct response thing. You're expecting to put some money to generate this amount of leads, to do this amount of thing. But if you're really trying to create a differentiation from a brand perspective, you've got to take a much longer game plan than that in terms of what you're trying to build. And I think it's all about community really. I think actually if you can build a community of equally minded geeks and nerds of the stuff that your geeky and nerdy about, then actually that is how to insulate yourself from any issue in the long term from any downturn perspective. But also to garner other passionate people who believe similar things that you do and who can really bring those things together. And that's not just potential customers. That's like we do crazy amounts of content and it's like students pick it up or regulators pick it up, or random people outside of the industry pick to get into it. There's no real benefit to 11:FS from a revenue perspective of that. But actually our vision is about changing the fabric of financial services. And there's no way with the small company that we are, even if we meet all of our wildest aspirations, there's no way we can change the fabric of financial services on our own. So we know that is a community thing. We need tens of thousands of other companies to think similar things that we do to get to the point where actually we can really make those things happen. So I think it's a mindset. It's really comes back to what is marketing to people. And actually I think that's where we just have a bit of a different view on both the expectations in the short term of what marketing really generates for you but also a much higher expectation of if you're really consistent about what you do, what fundamentally the returns can be.

Eric: So let's talk about the media company model. Cause I think that's a lot of what you're alluding to. So obviously that's a lot of what I spend my time on working with you on developing that structure, actually splitting the media marketing team, bringing in Tobias who's had a media for a while now. It's all being run by Marrit but literally, and obviously this was there before I got there, but literally the way I thought about it, the way that we worked on it in the time that I was at 11:FS was we're not building a lead gen marketing machine for 11:FS. We're building a media company for financial service professionals around how do we change the fabric of this industry. So was that there from the beginning and how do you think about it now? How does the media company model fit into the early plans for11:FS and where you are now?

David: I think the makeup of almost hires into a business is almost shaped by the nature of the founders, if I'm honest with you. We had Simon who's really good at talking. Jason is really good at talking

Eric: You're all really good at talking

David: <laugh> and actually being in a situation where it's like, well, we're all also really bad at editing or the other side of the equation in terms of doing those things. So I mean, Michael and Laura who are here today as part of the 11:FS media team, I mean, they are what Michael was employee number one, and I think Laura must have been up there as 10 or 11 or something. So it very much was in the sort of ethos of the business from the get-go. We had no plan on doing paid media in the sense of paying other people to market. But actually, I think that's where you think about it the other way, it's actually what's the value exchange? Well, actually, if we've got a really differentiated point of view, and actually we've got a platform that we can create that differentiation for other people, well that's something that's beneficial to us, and that's something that's valuable to other people. So I think it's, again, it's thinking about it the other way, you know what I mean? Mean there's not many marketing departments that make revenue, but actually from our perspective, that's something that from the beginning we thought, well, how do we capture some of the conversations? The sort of ecosystem in the UK in 2016 was really shifting and shaping in terms of, and then some of the conversations we were having were just other people needed to hear those things. So actually, how did we and a lot of people talk about privilege in more of a different way from a DNI perspective, but we were in a privileged perspective to be able to have conversations with really senior people at banks just because we asked and my whole don't ask, don't get type thing. It's like if you just rock up and ask often, you get to talk to people like Gary, how we met. We said, Hey, Gary V can, in fact, actually I think it was who was it from our team who got in touch with you?

Eric: I don't remember to be honest. I remember the interview

David: And next minute, me and Jason had sit in there, chatted to Gary V and talking about these types of things. And at that point in, we were saying this before we started recording, but at that point we were asking Gary, we were doing an interview, but we were asking him for advice on our own business problems that we were dealing with, and it really helped us. So it's really stuff like that really sticks with me, which is, there is things that have come through for me through doing the interviews that we've done with people like Gary or Patrick Collinson or whoever, where it's materially shaped how I think about how I run our business. And that's amazing. So hopefully if there's 10 other people who get any material benefit out of what we do because of that, then that for me makes it really sort of worth doing. But again, I do think it kind of comes back to it's what really is marketing actually. It's everything. It's walking around with your badge on here, it's being present in the community. It's adding value to that community in that sense. I think people get too distance from the process of marketing and the people that it impacts. Big brands kind of lose connection with their customers. So their marketing is a spreadsheet with some numbers in it. It's not the reality of the manifestation, the services of the products that they really offer to people. And again, we just think differently in that sense, which is if people think about 11:FS, we want them to have a positive feeling, not just be like, they're the guys who do those banking things. It's like actually we want them to have a positive affiliation with the brand because we want to help people genuinely.

Eric: So now, and how did you at the beginning, think about the commercial side of this? I mean, you hired two people just to produce content in the first 10 hires of the company or whatever it was. And one of the questions I get a lot when we talk about the media company model and conversations that we have with clients or potential clients is, well, essentially how do you justify the roi? It's less that direct and it's more like, okay, I buy it, focus on the customer, focus on adding value through content. It's going to do good things in the long term, but a lot of businesses don't have a c e o like you that are comfortable with making that investment. So what advice would you have or how have you thought about it through the evolution of 11:FS of, Hey, you got to make this investment actually without trying to tie the investment to a short term return? Yeah,

David: Yeah. I mean there's this sort of three concentric circles that we sort of deal with in that sense, which is there's things that we want to do, there's content we want to produce there's content that we know other people will want to produce with us, and then there's things that other people want us to do that we don't want to do. The other things that people want us to do that we don't want to do those incredibly rarely just because actually it's not worth the short term negativity. Why would we do something that doesn't materially benefit the community or in the long term in that sense and the things that actually sit in the middle of the things that we want to do and other brands want us to do. That's where the sweet spot is, quite frankly. And I think the challenge with that to a certain degree is it's kind of EEA e. It's easy now because we've got a podcast that has a bunch of people listening to it, therefore we've got leverage in that sense. But at the beginning, I mean, we got I won't say who, but somebody paid us 80,000 pounds to do the podcast when we had zero listeners and we'd done two episodes and my editing was shitty. Do you know what I mean? So it's all about how you position it, you know? I mean, it's all about how you sell, what it's going to be and what it stands for. Again, it comes back to beliefs. If I went to somebody and said, we're going to start a podcast, we've never done it before, we've got no experience doing it, and I'm terrible at doing it, nobody's going to give you any money to do it. You know what I mean? But actually, if you tell people what it is for, what it stands for, and I still remember the pitch pack that I sent around to two or three people of this is what I want FinTech inside it to be. It was loosely loose women and top gear for FinTech. And actually really that's what it is still. It is that have a laugh can be wrong. It's about camaraderie and entertainment as much as it's about subject matter. And that's why I think people like it, if I'm honest with you. I know we've talked about often we've gone, we've had conversations where we're like, why do people like this? What do they get from this? And it is, when we've asked, it comes down to the relationships of the people on it rather than necessarily the subject matter.

Eric: Yeah. And so was it profitable from day one? Is that how you justified the expense of hiring producers investing in building out the media in the early stages? I think that's the pain point of the hurdle that a lot of marketers out there are trying to get over if they want to do this, is they can't the model in order for it to work. You can't be focused on short-term return. Sure. If you only put out content that is going to bring you a client that's going to direct sales, that is by definition driving the value towards you, which is the opposite of what the media company model is bringing the value to the audience. So a lot of them I know struggle with, how do you justify this to a CFO? How do you justify this to a CEO? That's like, what's the ROI in a 90 day window? So is it making it profitable from day one? No. Or is it something else?

David: No, I mean, we would've done it all in without sponsorship actually. We would never have expected it to go as well as it had done. But we knew we could garner some momentum in it pretty quickly in that sense. But in terms of the profitability of it, then never really, the ROI of it is always the work. The content you do today pays off two years from now. And actually you've got to kind of think of it in that term, which is, it's part of the business. I mean, anybody's in the business with what we do with ventures, it's like actually, it's part of everybody's business. It's part of everybody's job to be involved in the media thing. It's not an aside. It's an important part of it because it's essentially the shop window. It's our shop window. So yeah, no, I think that exactly to your point, I think that's where people get stuck on this stuff, which is like, okay, how many people downloaded this report?

David: And it's like, well, that's not enough. I'm not doing it anymore. But it's when you're creating, you are operating in a very crowded market. And actually there is, that's particularly now, I mean, at the beginning when there was 10 other podcasts in FinTech, we actually, differentiation is quite easy to create. But actually at the point where you are, if you were starting it today, you've got to have the momentum in it, and you've got to have the stamina, I think, to really see the benefit from it. But again, that comes back to how you do it. I think marketing is in single factor. I think a podcast or a blog or a newsletter or a long form report, I mean, we've done a documentary a couple of times, or we've done short form actually. You've got to kind of find the different medium for the right types of people. And then that just cloud of content you can put out there just from a search engine optimization perspective is incredibly beneficial to your brand in the long term. But yeah, I don't think a lot of people have the stamina enough, as you say, to really wait for the benefits. They're too quick to want to eat the cake before they've made it.

Eric: So you actually let me to the next question that I wanted to ask you, which is, if you had to start over from scratch today, so you alluded to a little bit how you would think about it, but let's get really tactical. You leave 11:FS, you set up 12 Fs tomorrow. What are you doing from a content and media standpoint? Is it another podcast? Is it something different? How do you differentiate? Where would you start?

David: Well, I'd have to say in our shareholder agreement, there were some pretty explicit things there I would say that wouldn't do that. But yeah, I, I think the model would be very similar. I don't think it would be a podcast now because we're the incumbent in that sense in terms of what's there. So I don't think we would do a podcast because it's a game. You kind of can't win. So it makes it difficult. I've always said to you, it's like, I don't like going into fights. I don't think I can win, and therefore, well, why would I do that? Do you know what I mean? So I think from a media perspective, I still think social media is the most effective way of creating brands. And then the difficulty is that people have got quite good at doing it from an individual perspective, but they're not great at doing it from a brand perspective. And that's the challenge. Do you know what I mean? If I I've purposely poured every single ounce of credibility into 11:FS, because actually that's an asset. Do you know what I mean? I'm hoping 11:FS lives a lot longer than I do. Therefore, actually in the context of an asset, then that's where the value really needs to be. And that's where the value puts money in the bank and pays everybody else's salaries. Because me being me on my own, and this again was almost a thesis at the beginning of the business, really it was the sell to Jason and to Ross and to the guys was like, actually, we've talked me, and you've talked about this a number times before this Avengers model. We could all do things individually and it would be great, but actually if you really have to come together and do something significant, change the fabric of financial services, you don't do that on your own. That has to be a network of people. It has to be a group of people because it's just too bloody hard to do it on your own. You'll never be able to port the right level of momentum or brand in is few just in individual. And that's why I think a lot of organizations really struggle, you know, get a good one, but don't have the two and the three to follow that up. We'd definitely not be anywhere near as successful as if I was on my own and I didn't have Jason or Ross or whoever to be the second and third in that sense, because not only from a podcast perspective, but things work best when they're, they're dialogues, not monologues. And at that point, it's probably good for me to stop monologue.

Eric: Okay, so it wouldn't be a podcast, but you would probably still focus on social, you'd get the right kind of people around the table. And I think that's such a good point because that is, honestly, there's the strategies and the tactics of how you think about the model, the channels that you go on, the type of content that you do. So much of it comes down to just the quality and that comes from the people. And so I think that's a big part of it was right channel at the right time in terms of podcasts. There wasn't a lot out there, kind of won that market as it were. But part of it is also people wanted to listen to what you had to say and how you wanted to say it. I think part of it is who you put behind the mic, who you put behind the camera, who you put behind the screen.

David: Yeah, I think definitely again, found a bias to a certain degree. It's like I am not a written guy. Do you know what I mean? I put our newsletter every week now and I have to really be inspired to write about something else really hard. Whereas actually just having a conversation. And so video or audio is really easy for me. Ask me to write a 3000 word essay on open banking and it's going to take me a year to do it, but if you want me to just sit down and talk to somebody, I can do it with no problem. So for a different set of founders, they'll find a different bias that actually a different medium will be most effective for them. But I think the powerful thing about audio and video is like you get the meaning and actually the intention, A big part of our brand is about being authentic. It's about being who we are, all of those being who we are. And that's really hard for bigger brands to compete with. To your point earlier on around sort of differentiation, well actually, if you've always got to tow the party line, then we can't all have a conversation and disagree with one another be that's not the corporate approach, but audio, and we got this wrong to start with. If you listen, go back and listen to the first sort of five or six episodes of FinTech Insider. We remove the ums, the Rs, the pauses, the whatever. And I, it listened to a lot of podcasts now and some podcasts that I go onto where I'm like, yeah, that hour long conversation became 20 minutes, but the 20 minutes is factually very good, but you don't get the warmth or the understanding or the relationship with the people.

Eric: It's Less authentic, or Less engaging.

David: Exactly. And you really why we're doing it. We're not doing it to sell some open banking stuff or whatever. It's to be really create relationship with the community that we really feel passionate about.

Eric: I totally agree. And it's how I like to run this podcast also because you, I'm much more of the, I want to show up and have a conversation with somebody. I don't want to spend five hours prepping and five hours editing after the fact, but also because I think that it's the most natural, we technically have standard questions. I didn't even bother sending them over to you for this podcast, but most of the time it's just like, let's have a conversation and just forget that there's a mic in front of you. And it just leads to the most authentic, the most engaging and hopefully the most valuable content. Cause that's what it is at the end of the day. Well go back, which is just on that, sorry.

David: Yeah, particularly on I think audio stuff, the amount of feedback we get from people where it's like they're listening to the podcast while they're commuting or they're listening to while they're cutting the grass or walking the dog or whatever. I think when people are choosing to engage with you, they're not choosing to just download the latest pieces of information into their brain. They're doing it because we say it has to be as entertaining as it is informative. Because if it's not fun, then what's the point? And actually are both for the people in the room in terms of actually doing it but also for the people listening. If you don't get some sense of entertainment from it, I think people will just switch off really quickly. I would for sure.

Eric: And to me it all comes down to value information or informative delivers value, but entertaining delivers value. And it's a whole other spectrum of value that I think you need to tap into in order for your content to be competitive. And it also is a huge way to be differentiated. I think Ghana are the days where you could just put out something that's informative and people would appreciate it because they have FinTech Insider and they have all these other companies putting out content and experiences that are informative and educational. So it's not enough just to have the dry information anymore. So I want to go back to something that you touched on earlier that I think about a lot. We talk about a lot, which is community building. So I'd be curious for you to just unpack that a little bit. I know obviously there's the after dark events that are a huge kind of rallying point for the community that y'all have built around the 11:FS brands.

David: I know this was before I got there, but there was also kind of a Reddit forum type thing that I know y'all tried to do that was kind of a community play. But how do you think about community? And you touched on it a bit at the foundational level, how important it is, how it's kind of not a byproduct, but it's part of standing for something in the industry. As people come to you, you're a lighthouse, you're a magnet, people with a shared perspective rally around that, but then how do you actually build the platform for people to connect with each other, because that's essentially what community is. Yeah, I think it goes back to that point around creating dialogue rather than the monologue. Actually, we purposely create opportunities for people for us to talk to people and for people to talk to us. And I think that's really important, particularly in a podcast sense, mean the podcast doesn't feel any different now that we're putting out to hundreds of thousands of people than it does when we put out to three. You know what I mean? And one of those was my mum, you know what I mean? So it's actually being in a situation where you don't change that thing that you're doing because the magnitude of it changes, but you've also got to work out ways of engaging and bringing the community into what you're doing, whether it's the what's working, what's not working, what's resonating with people in terms of the content or what can you do better to evolve things, whether it's the topics you want to deep dive on or anything really in that sense. But I think it is all content, I think is just provocation for engagement really. I think that's why when you said provocative, a authoritative in human, the provocative one I think is so important. I think the authoritative bit makes sense because it's, we'll only talk to talk about things that you know about. Make sense, human makes sense because it's like, well, actually this is about being talking about talking things in a language that anybody would understand. And we get a lot of feedback on that, which is like students can pick up our content and understand it, but we also talk about it with enough clarity that the CEO of a bank doesn't feel like we don't know what we're talking about. Or if we have to, we can really jump into the weeds with people in that sense. But the provocative one, I think a lot of people, brands fail quite miserably on, which is like, well, they've done a crypto report, we need to do a crypto report. And most organizations are just stating commonly held facts. I really think a lot of people, I remember my mom said to me when I was little, it's like, if you've got nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all. But I honestly think it's like if you've got nothing interesting to say, don't say anything at all. Because actually, if you don't have something where you are adding value to the community, then all more you're doing is just just another echo of something else that somebody else has said. Yeah, and I find that if I'm, honestly, I find that as a bit of a weakness of many conferences today. It's like, man, I've heard these stories like 50 times and I've heard that comment or whatever. It's, I feel like if you're not adding newness to those things which if for honesty is an interesting challenge. What, after you've done 650 episodes of a podcast and a bunch of people have listened to all of those things, you go into a meeting them having quite a disarming sort of advantage over you when it comes to knowing, which is interesting. But that for me, actually, somebody you was saying to me earlier on I was chatting to, it's like, well, when you build a business, you start focusing more and more into running the business than working in the business. But actually, I'm still as fascinated about FinTech and financial services as I was when I first got into the industry, or first started 11:FS. So I think if you've got a job where it's your passion as much as it's sort of your job, then you just stay on top all of those things to stay relevant as well.

Eric: And so much of it is just down to, and you were kind of talking about this before with your concentric circles that may or may not have been a Venn diagram. Let's try to visualize it, Maybe a bit of both. It's kind of documenting the things that you're doing anyway, and that was a big push that I know we both made at 11:FS, and you were talking about it before as well. There's so many brilliant people at that company doing so many interesting things with such unique point of views on what's going on, how can we get more of them just to share their thoughts and share their opinions. There's so much quality content locked up within the people of probably any organization. If you're a marketer in a company, probably unless you're the second hire, there are a ton of people there that you can just put a mic in front of, put a camera in front of, to your point of find the thing that people are comfortable with and that will help unlock the content. I think that that's a huge piece of it.

David: It's an interesting challenge though, is I, it's something I haven't really talked about publicly, but different people react to that in really different ways. And actually, I mean, it's something that as your company scales, hiring's so important and we've got that wrong in a few instances sometimes. But presence, I think it all comes to, you know, look at that authenticity point that we talked about earlier on. It's a difficult thing. The podcast gives people like a false sense of reality sometimes because you can bump into somebody who you've never known before who have listened to you 500 times on a podcast, and that gives some weird sort of MicroFame thing that, and I, I've seen that go to people's heads who run other podcasts or even people that we've had working at 11:FS. It sort of distorts their view of the world in that sense. But that's why for me, I think again, it's like it's not about you. It's never really about you. If you think the things that we do, the spotlight shows about the people that we bring on the news is about everybody else. Like actually got to, if you can create a platform that benefits other people more than it benefits you, well then it's likely to be really successful. To your point, if it's marketing where essentially you're sitting there, let me tell you about feature, this new feature alert we're releasing, blah, well, actually that's never really going to work because that to your point, you are you setting the gravity up for you or are you setting the gravity up for the industry? And I think that's where I, we really draw the line from a differentiation perspective.

Eric: But I do think and maybe it's not what you're saying, but I do think that it is about the person as well, kind of somebody coming up and saying, oh, I heard you on the podcast that go into their head. That is a related but separate thing for me. But I think that in order to do this well, I mean you even said it yourself, it's about the camaraderie. It's about the people and their relationship with each other. So you can't really extract the person and their personality from the content. And there is, personally, I don't view it as a downside, but I know there is a cost and a risk to building a business that has a media company that kind of elevates people's personal profiles because then they have an opportunity and more demands to potentially go do something else. And to me, that's kind of a cost of doing business because I think the pros outweigh the cons, but that's part of it as well.

David: I think that's definitely another reason why I don't think corporates like that type of, for sure distribution, the tone of voice the differentiation of opinions it makes it really difficult, I think for them to manage that sort of tension in that way. Because I remember when I was at Gartner I ran Gartner's district banking capability before 11 at Fest, and actually there was a lot of concern about social media and the presence of analysts or anybody working at Gartner from a social perspective because it dilutes the brand's narrative. If you look at 11:FS, we are purposefully very thin at a brand narrative perspective and actually very consistent in those messages. Again, digital banking is only 1% finished, right? We're going to stick to those things in terms of what we're looking for, but we give the individuals within the organization their own personality. And I think that's super important because again, if you had to learn the 15 mantras of whatever and then distribute them in everything, then well, that's not you. That can't be authentic. That's the brand manifestation. That's no real person. I think, if I'm honest with you. I think this is why corporate struggle more broadly though, and startups actually have an advantage. Definitely. I know with brands me and you've worked on before, it's actually, if you don't have a founder narrative, sometimes it's actually very difficult to anchor your brand principles or the values of what are you creating and why are you creating it. Definitely when we build out something like Mox with Standard Chartered getting to grips with, well, who is this for? Who's on the front of this ship? Kind of point it in the right direction because this is going to get hard. And actually you need that consistency. You need the voice, you need the physical manifestation of that brand. And that's where I think back to your point, yes, it's hard to distinguish between the person and the business in that sense but I think at the end of the day, it has to bias towards the business than the people.

Eric: Yeah, I mean, I agree in that sense, and at that level, and actually I'm kind of reflecting on how we've thought about building the rival brands. I do now want it to be Eric Fulwiler sonsulting. I did not want that from the very beginning, both because of who I am and because of it's inherently less scalable a person and less sustainable.

David: But it's weird how many people do want that, isn't it? Well,

Eric: I think it's a different thing, not kind of right or wrong, it's just about what you want. And I made the decision that I want to build a company with my co-founders and the team and so there has to be someone in front of the mic and I'm very passionate about and really enjoy doing this. And so right now it's me, but people will hear more and more from DuBose and Jenna and other people on the team as we grow. And I really want how we communicate and what we talk about to be the rival message, but it has to get delivered through an individual because otherwise it's less engaging, less authentic, less valuable at the end of the day. So I know that we're getting up on time. There's one other question I wanted to ask you and then we can move into wrapping up. So we've talked a lot about what I would call the baseline content from 11:FS, the podcast, even after Darks, even though they were kind of bigger activations, they were kind of something that you did consistently, blogs, white papers, et cetera. But also, when you mentioned it a couple times with things like the documentary, there are what I would call breakthrough activations as well. And so probably people listening to the podcast have heard me talk about baseline and breakthrough and how you need both. How do you think about that? Because I think that was something that you always pushed for when I joined you. Obviously you were doing the content, but you weren't involved in the day-to-day production of it anymore, but you were very involved and pushing in a good way to make sure that the team was consistently doing these breakthrough activations. Things that were a bit unexpected, that were different, that were like one-off that really cut through on top of the baseline content building over time. So how do you think about that?

David: Yeah, I mean, it's weird actually. I sat down with Mary yesterday and we had a H two events meeting to make sure that we were, are we challenging ourselves enough? Are we pushing ourselves enough? I think there's two things, which is there something big enough that's been not told or told in the way that we would want to tell it. But the second part of that is really, I kind of see it more as a challenge to the team to keep growing and expanding their capability. Like Michael had never recorded a podcast before he started recording podcasts, and we never shot a documentary before we shot documentary. The first video interviews we did was with my iPhone, you know what I mean? So it's actually, I honestly think big companies kind of do something successful and then sort of ossify around it. But I think mean Laura and Michael wouldn't still be at the business if they were just still doing the same thing over and over and over again,So I think there's an element, particularly with really creative, brilliant minds, it's giving them more and more interesting things to be creative with really whether that's the kit to use or whether it's the subject matter to go out, or whether it's the manner in which we're kind of capturing or recording those things. So I think breakthrough content I think is important though because it kind of allows you to create a bit of a tent pole around the things that you matter most. And actually, I think in an industry, as we say, financial services can be pretty dry if you do it wrong in an industry where it is changing so quickly. But actually there are so many things that are very misunderstood. I mean, the latest series that we've just done recently, it's just breaking down some core principles of actually what banking business models are. And it's amazing how many people work in financial services but don't understand that. And actually it's amazing. I mean, we put that content out for us because actually we'd created it internally as a on-ramp for the business was about building a content library to allow us to explain to new joiners the interdependent pieces of financial services and why they matter. And we did it in a way that actually we could just kick all that stuff out to people. And now we've had I won't mentioned the names, but there's a bunch of companies who use that on there onboarding now to explain those things to people. So it's like, dang, we should have charged for that. But that's why, again, the community could be arrival of our business. It could be whatever, three years from now, they might be working at 11:FS or four years from now, they might be working at Visa and want to work with 11:FS or whatever. I think you've got to take a very different view on community when you are building content in that way.

EricL Great. So we are almost out of time, so it's getting pretty hot in here. So last two questions to wrap things up. What is one thing that people listening should do differently after hearing this conversation?

David: I really think it's just the limitations for creating content is so the bar is so low now in terms of getting in and making it happen. I think most people are just terrified of starting God, if I can create a newsletter and kick it out every Wednesday given how enable I am at actually writing anything, then anybody can do it. So go and start, whether it's recording something, a thought you've got on the industry and putting it on LinkedIn, or whether it's doing a LinkedIn live and putting it out there, or whether your medium is writing and you kick out a blog every couple of weeks, do it. But then set yourself a target. Hold yourself accountable to it because it's really easy. Suddenly, if we just stop doing the podcast because we got a load of work, well we wouldn't be where we are now. You've got to make it part of your routine. You've got to document versus create, like we've talked about it a million times before, right? If you document the process of doing the things that you're passionate about doing, it never really feels like effort.

Eric: Last question, who else do you think we should have on the show?

David: So, I mean, one of the guys that I talked about earlier on, Dennis Govan, I'd definitely bring

EricL Dennis up. Actually, you know what? I've been messaging with him and we were trying to do it in London, but it didn't work out. So yeah,

David: He's good. So Dennis, I mean, Dennis ran, ran as the CEO of Mox Bank over in Hong Kong, which is an organization that 11:FS helped startup, and I'd highly recommend him as well. Actually from a culture, from a marketing, from a tone of of the business, tone of the culture, tone of voice, F for working within a corporate. He's the most startup but corporate, literal person, literate person that I've ever kind of come across

Eric: And He's here, right? Used to be bumped into an early, all right, we'll see if I can track him down, All right, David, so good to see you. Thank you for doing this. Thanks to Money 2020 for hosting us, giving us the space. It's a fantastic event this year. Feels amazing to be back in something like this.

David: It greatly does. Fantastic. Amen.

Eric: See you soon.

Eric: Scratch is a production of Rival. We are a growth consultancy that builds challenger brands, strategies and capabilities to disrupt categories. If you want to learn more about us, check out we If you want to connect with me, email me at or find me on LinkedIn. If you enjoyed today's show, please subscribe, share with anyone you think might enjoy it and leave us a review. Thanks for listening and see you next week.

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