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#49 Brian Swichkow – The Multidimensional Art of Storytelling, Brand Playing and Marketing As a Game

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In this episode of the Sugatan Effect, Deividas is joined by Brian Swichkow – a recovering growth-hacker and now can be best described as somewhere in between an entrepreneur, storyteller, and artist. 

First things first – Deividas thanks Brian for the books he sent. 

Finite and Infinite Games, and Out of Your Mind helped Deividas look at things in a different way, because of which he eventually participated in a Peyote ceremony in Mexico.

The two then discuss internal voices and going with your gut. 

Brian recalls an incident of going with the voice in his head that said to “go left”. He followed the voice and ended up in a restaurant he didn’t like before. He took an empty seat and met someone who would change his life, career, and set in motion steps that led Brian to meet his future wife. 

Brian explains that sometimes all you can do is look back and think – “Well, I’m glad I listened to that voice”.

Then, Deividas and Brian discuss work.

Brian recalls his first piece of creative non-fiction marketing project: The time he pranked his roommate using clever Facebook custom retargeting. He wanted to create a prank that would be long-lasting (link to article below).

So, naturally, when Facebook retargeting ads were still somewhat new, he created a custom audience of only his roommate. And all the ads he was targeting were disguised to be as if they were for other people.

But for his roommate – they were extremely creepy.

Pranks aside, there’s a bigger takeaway here.

Brian explains how through psychedelics, meditation, reading new perspectives – you can prompt new awareness about reality. With his article, Brian intended to teach and learn a few things.

First, the value of play in learning. He didn’t know if his retargeting ads would ever work when he did them. He just wanted to see if they would work and to have fun while doing them. After he played and learned, it became a story to tell manifested in different dimensions of capital.

When he pulled off that prank, he was playing (spiritual capital), in pursuit of intellectual capital (learning), and after he published the article explaining the details, it became cultural capital (art). Eventually, he received financial capital for the recognition of his intellectual and cultural capital.

All this to say, he managed to break down the quantifiable, financial value of playing.

Very few companies and people know who they are, explains Brian.

So, the concepts of play and storytelling are difficult for them.

For Brian – Reddit ads and his ventures are more art, and he goes on to reflect on what his mindset was back then.

Deividas agrees and says that the more dimensions you discover about yourself and your brand, and the more stories you have to tell, the more social capital you’ll gain in return. 

Stop labeling yourself and start naming yourself, explains Brian.

Most brands do know how to create value. But they get trapped along the way because they can’t associate the value with the reward. If you do something for the reward, it’s not true. They already know what to do. It’s that they corrupt what they already know with the desire to fit it into something measurable.

From a pure value-creation standpoint, Brian says he can’t give a direct answer. As that answer would be based on Brian’s perspective and experience. 

As a consultant, no one liked his answer when he would say this.

So, he recommends listening to employees and playing instead. There’s a lot you can come up with experimenting and exploring.

You set aside time and money. Play and brainstorm. Protect that space. 

If you force people to come on a Sunday and nudge them into things that you can quantify in sales – it won’t be as effective.

Next thing Deividas wants to know – What questions does Brian ask himself when he’s creating these kinds of stories and values for his audience?

The answer: Where is this coming from?

He goes on to explain that there are 3 different parts of your brain:

  • Your head brain – what you think.
  • Your heart brain – what you feel.
  • Your gut brain – what you know.

When creating stories, Brian first tries to understand which brain he’s coming from.

Is your consciousness in solving problems analytically and trying to figure out how to increase the ROI? 

Then that’s your head brain talking.

The stories we tell create the reality that we see.

Brian explains that he could have introduced himself in a hundred different ways in this podcast and they would all be true in part. 

Play with your stories, Brian recommends. It’s about letting go of old stories when they no longer serve you and recognizing that you can create new ones at any time.

America is a story. France is a story. Money is a story. It’s all words and symbols.

Finally, for storytellers, Brian recommends reading:

  • The Ascent of Humanity by Charles Eisenstein 
  • Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse – For anyone who wants to get out of their box.
  • Out of Your Mind by Alan Watts – For anyone feeling spiritually confined.
  • Companies that Mimic Life by Joseph H. Bragdon – For anyone who is pretty stable in where they are as a human and is trying to shift their company to be more dynamic.
  • Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake – For anyone who is interested or is intending to experiment with psychedelics. 
  • Braiding Sweetgrass by Wall Kimmerer – If you’re looking for more fiction.
  • The End of Storytelling by Stephanie Riggs – How to tell stories in the multi-verse, immersive platforms like AR, VR, Topia, and more. 

Now, parting thoughts for eCommerce entrepreneurs, marketers, and all the other crazy people in between:

The better questions you ask, the better answers you’ll get. When you’re asking a question to someone you don’t know (digital empathy), think about that person’s experience of their inbox and ask a really great question.

Read, share gratitude, play, ask questions, and see you in the digital world!

Here’s what we cover during episode #49:

  • Meet Brian – a recovering growth-hacker and now an entrepreneur, artist, and many other things
  • How Brian got his name as a mischievous marketer and fell in love with playing after pulling a few retargeting advertising pranks
  • Where do we start? Books, shifting perspectives, and why all of this matters 
  • Internal voices and going with your gut
  • eCommerce, spirituality, and psychedelics 
  • Creative non-fiction: How Brian explains his work with retargeting ads 
  • Ego is the sacred actor: It just got stuck playing one role
  • Brian breaks down his retargeting prank in detail, explaining the value of play in learning through his story, and how spiritual, intellectual, and cultural capital all played a part in it
  • Why many companies fail at “playing” because they don’t understand who they are properly, and how to overcome this
  • Brian breaks down Reddit marketing and how to find the most authentic contribution you can offer in terms of value
  • Why Brian stopped selling education and started being himself
  • How an article Brian wrote 6 years ago is STILL bringing him capital – how DO you measure the ROI for that?!
  • Brian’s thoughts on being a brand and how companies can adapt the same mindset to grow
  • BrianBot – how Brian rebranded himself as a bot to continue the conversation with his parents about his dating life
  • Brian’s online, interactive, and multi-dimensional wedding project
  • How Brian writes stories so that they’re entertaining for everyone, not just marketers 
  • Why your gut is so much smarter than your head in every dimension – from business to personal life
  • Where is this coming from? The question Brian asks himself when creating stories and values for his audience
  • Why the stories we tell create and shape the reality that we see
  • Deividas on psychedelics, marketing, and understanding your target audience
  • Why Brian got years and years of consulting work and investment offers because of just one article that came as a result of playing
  • The importance of asking the right questions
  • Mu: The Japanese and Korean philosophy when the context of the question is too small for the truth of the answer – ask again. Here’s how to come back with a better question instead
  • How do you explain to your investor the concept of ‘play’ and show that it’s profitable
  • What Brian recommends reading to expand your online horizons to get inspired by other things you see
  • How these 3 different parts of your brain affect your decision-making and thought process. And how to tell which part of the brain your thoughts are coming from
  • Topia.io – an online space to connect face-to-face in a multi-dimensional and interactive way. In which Brian held his online wedding
  • Telling your truth and creating stories
  • 7 Exact books Brian recommends reading for anyone interested in storytelling
  • Everything you need to learn about social skills from decoded from Princess Bride’s Inigo Montoya iconic phrase
  • Signing off and parting thoughts

Follow Brian:

Find Deividas:

Links mentioned in the episode:

The Ultimate Retaliation: Pranking My Roommate With Targeted Facebook Ads

Ghost Influence

Stoned and Single

Topia.io

Oxford Book of Aphorisms

Gatherings.one

Inc.one/studio

eCommerce Growth Hacks | Facebook Ads, Creatives, Email & More | by Sugatan

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