Transcript | Fortune favors the Bold | Billee Howard (Founder @ BRANDthrō)
The transcript from my podcast with Billee Howard
Billee Howard 0:00
I left to write a book. Right around the time that the sharing economy was taking off, it was called WooCommerce. IBM actually took note of it, and asked me to be a futurist for them and an influencer to help them introduce Watson at the time. And the greatest kind of art is business. And the greatest kind of businesses are AI gives us the speed of getting stronger and faster, getting smarter and smarter over time. And it ultimately becomes a query of a database that just is built upon over and over again, the only way to have the opportunity that you want is to have the courage to push yourself to a point of discomfort, and get step out of a sense of feeling complacent, what you need to do is you need to do one thing, and you need to do one thing better than anybody else.
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Max Matson 0:52
Hey, everyone, welcome back to future product. This week, I'm sitting down with Billy Howard. She's co founder and CEO at Brand throw, Forbes, columnist, Fast Company, executive board member, and a lot more. Billy, thank you so much for joining me on the show today. Thanks so much for having me, Max. Oh, my pleasure. So Billy, I want to dive right into what you do at Brand throw. But first, would you mind just taking a little bit to talk about how you see customer experience, and why you've kind of made it the cornerstone of what you do? Sure, I mean, I think what's most critical today is figuring out whatever type of brand you are on how to pivot from having a transactional relationship with a customer to having a relational relationship with a customer. And in order to do that, you really have to figure out what the experience should be built upon. And that can no longer be cookie cutter in any way, shape or form, it can no longer be linear meaning going from point A to point B, it really has to be circular from the standpoint of understanding that you need to deliver value in a way that is most relevant to whomever it is that you're trying to reach. And in order to do that, you really need to not only find new means of imagining what customer experience looks like, but really reimagining how you get to know the customers that you're trying to serve. I see I see it makes a lot of sense. Would I be correct in saying that it's kind of an extension of psychographic data?
Billee Howard 2:16
What we do, yes, I mean, it's relational. For sure. What we do is, in the most simplistic of terms, we create emotional lookalikes. Our model is based off of data science, machine learning and AI that is designed to precisely score based off of primary and secondary emotions, how different targets feel about different component parts of a brand experience, so that we can predictively create, go to market strategy that's designed to in advance let you know how to deliver on the most critical KPIs that you're trying to convert upon. And we also have an ability to do what we call predictive storytelling at scale, which is being able to again use primary and emotion and secondary emotional response to literally know how a target is going to feel about any different component part of how a brand experience is brought to life, the behavior that they're going to take as a result, and your ability to engender things such as trust and loyalty.
Max Matson 3:21
I see I see. Would you mind diving a little bit into just defining what that primary and secondary emotional responses?
Billee Howard 3:28
Sure, what we've done is, you know, really with with a lot of intentionality behind it aim to move emotional understanding from where it sits right now, which is in the customer feedback loop. And is populated by things such as natural language processing, biometrics, and sentiment analysis, to the strategy stage. And in fact, because we were so successful in doing that, Gartner actually created a new category for us called natural language, technology, emotional, textual analysis, because we're able to get into the customer mindset as early as possible, certainly able to optimize throughout the lifecycle of a campaign. But this whole notion, going back to your your first question of, you know, what is customer experience about today, customer experience today really has to be about getting into the customer mindset as early as possible. And that's really what we have worked on through the use of direct primary response and emotionally and secondary response emotionally, which has enabled us to be the only ones to do what's called Predictive emotional signal analysis.
Max Matson 4:38
I see. I see. I want to break that down a little bit and talked about the last piece a little bit, but first, let's just talk about how you kind of realized that this was such an important kind of lane to develop, right? Because as far as I'm aware, you're you're one of the preeminent kind of people on the forefront of, you know, customer experience in this way, what was it that tipped you off that this was going to be kind of the wave of the future.
Billee Howard 5:05
So about 10 plus years ago, I stepped away from agency life, I was an agency person for many, many years specializing in, you know, helping corporate brands and their leadership tell their stories around the world. And I left to write a book, right around the time that the sharing economy was taking off, it was called the converse. It was about how creativity, collaboration and technology were quickly emerging, not just as functions of corporations, but as critical drivers of business strategy. And the book did rather well. And IBM actually took note of it, and asked me to be a futurist for them and an influencer to help them introduce Watson at the time, to more creative minded CMOS. And in doing that, throwing myself into the deep end, quite frankly, several years ago, really having no idea what the intersection of AI, machine learning and all of the new technology with what I'd always done, which was be a marketer, and storyteller what that intersection looked like, on the journey of working with IBM, they asked me, What do you think the most compelling use case would be? And I did some research.
And I found a study that Kurt Vonnegut did in the late 60s at Berkeley, where he said that stories should be able to be fed into machines, no different than shapes. And around the time that I was doing this research, the Atlantic hired a team of scientists to see if that theory could be proven out. And what they were able to prove is that there are six most resonant narrative ARCHITEC narrative structures that exist within history. And they were able to draw an axis between an a through line between the Old Testament and Cinderella. Feel that too, and it was all based off of emotion. So when I showed that to IBM, I said, Wouldn't it be amazing if we could use the power of all of this technology to bring emotion and empathy to scale? So brands could be able to do that? Yes, in storytelling and in brand assets and things like that, but really, in this future of CX that was at the precipice a couple of years ago that we've certainly seen, unfold and accelerate even further since the pandemic.
Max Matson 7:23
That's amazing. I have a bit of a fan of Kurt Vonnegut myself, he's tends to find his way into these pods more than I would have expected.
Billee Howard 7:32
He's everywhere, right?
Max Matson 7:34
Yeah, absolutely. That's fantastic, though. It's, it's such a novel concept. Let's talk a little bit more about the the kind of start of that. So your book we commerce, what was kind of the thought process that went into that? And what did you learn kind of from the reception?
Billee Howard 7:50
Well, it's funny. I was in Rome, ironically, I know, it sounds poetic. And I have always been a writer. So you know, it follows me that this would be a dramatic story that happened to unfold. But I was enrolling the way that Lehman Brothers failed. And I was literally walking among the ashes of the Colosseum. And it reminded me that, you know, another another concept that I had been thinking about for a very long time, which was creative destruction by Clayton Christensen. And it just struck me that the world was at an inflection point at that moment where everything would need to be torn down again, very much like what happened with Rome. And it reminded me that, or gave me the idea that there was going to be this enormous pivot away from the me, which is what led us to the fall of 2008. With a new world that would be inspired by the way, and I set out to to think about how that was unfolding. Over the next year or so, with the idea that creativity would emerge as a new currency that would drive business forward. And I did a lot of research. And it proved out that the three the three factors that were going to drive the next phase of business, which almost was a new industrial revolution, were creativity, collaboration, and communication, all bundled around technology. And that's how we came up with the idea of WooCommerce. And really explaining that the sharing economy was much more than just Uber and Airbnb, but a fundamental shift in where the power would lie moving forward. And I think that you can see that evolution. The book came out in 20, early 2016, late 2015, you know, seven years later, you know, you're seeing things like web three, you're seeing the Dewar's movement, you're seeing all of these things occur where it is absolutely without question, very, very clear that the power dynamic has shifted and the people who are in charge today are you and I as custom immers, not brands. And that's what we're seeing right now is this rapid sea change of people in brands in leadership, trying to pivot and respond as accurately as possible? Because there is no loyalty anymore. And there has to be something more. And we believe that that X factor is no longer just satisfying functional needs. It's satisfying them on an emotional level first,
Max Matson 10:25
I see that makes a ton of sense. You mentioned was it the Doomer movement?
Billee Howard 10:28
The do-er movement…
Max Matson 10:32
Okay that’s different haha.
Billee Howard 10:35
Max Matson 10:38
Yeah, I was gonna say, let's, let's talk a little bit about that. Because I think you're absolutely right. I think and it's really funny. I mean, in 2016, right, to have the vision to be able to see, and I think these things were definitely, you know, kind of exacerbated and pour gas on by COVID. Right. But that is certainly bear it out. I mean, the the sharing economy, and in general, the shift to kind of the power of creators of individuals in dictating what they get from their brands has really, really borne out. Absolutely. At that time, were you kind of seeing what what was it that made you think, you know, the internet and everything that you were seeing was leading to this, this movement?
Billee Howard 11:20
Well, it just struck me and I, you know, I had a lot of inspirations for for the book, I've always been, you know, kind of a trend forecaster and very much aligned with even though I was always focused on the corporate or business side of the house and working with the CEO to understand how to do thought leadership and position brands. You know, as innovators, the key to that success always came from looking at the intersection of culture and commerce. And one of the major influences that had me rethink things of creativity as a currency and where the world was headed was somebody who has influenced me throughout my entire career who is Andy Warhol. And if when you when you look back, and you think about how he intersected culture and commerce to create pop art and reimagine, or permanently, how he inspired people like Keith Haring to create the pop up shops, you know, that we see today. Keith Haring had those in the 80s. But most importantly, this whole notion of everybody will want to be famous for 15 minutes. And the greatest kind of art is business. And the greatest kind of businesses are those were the things that were cues and clues to me, that we were entering what I call a new called in the book, new age of artists of business. And it was all about the fact that you could no longer just succeed from the no criticism here.
But the GE Six Sigma model of trying to, you know, play every role possible. But leaning into another person who has a major influence on me was whose Steve Jobs, who flipped that entire notion on its head and said, You don't need to play every role in it in a company to be a successful leader, what you need to do is you need to do one thing, and you need to do one thing better than anybody else. And when you look at what was at the core of that idea, the core of that idea is artistry of business. And that's kind of what led me on the path of understanding that business was going to change in response to consumers, it would just be a matter of how those two things would fuse together. And there were a lot of early adopter brands that that got ahead of that. But many still are looking to figure out the right fit and follow suit.
Max Matson 13:38
Oh, absolutely. I love that intersection that you talked about there. Are you yourself in artists, you definitely have the vibe of somebody who is very creative.
Billee Howard 13:48
Well, that's very sweet of you. I am an artist in the sense that I'm a writer, I have always extremely expired inspired by music, Avid, avid music fan. Now that the pandemic is over, one of the things that I'm most happy about is I love to go I like to go to a concert at least once a quarter if not once a month. And you know, there's just been a lot of great bands that have come out and, you know, brought their artistry, you know that one of the one of the greatest influences on business and me is the Grateful Dead. And it's not because I'm a deadhead, and you know, all the things associated with it.
But what is most interesting to me was when the Grateful Dead actually appeared on the cover of the Harvard Business Review. And you scratch your head and you said why it happened right after I wrote my book, and I happened to write a chapter about them. And the reason that they were on the cover is they invented the experience economy. They reported a couple of albums in the studio, so they created a couple of products that people could buy in a commoditized way. But the reality is, is that because they still endure today, I went to their final show in New York a couple of weeks ago. And I've read it's very very rare to see an artist or some type of art span four or five generations. So that's a long winded answer to your question.
Max Matson 15:08
Oh, that was a great a great answer. I really appreciate that. I love kind of connecting these seemingly disparate things, right?
Billee Howard 15:15
My favorite thing to do? Yeah, absolutely.
Max Matson 15:20
So going back a little bit to brand throw, you mentioned emotional KPIs. And that really stands out to me. What are you know, and at any level of depth that you want to? How does one quantify emotions, right, it sounds like a pretty challenging thing to do?
Billee Howard 15:37
Well, it sure is. And that's one of the reasons that we've created precise emotional scoring as part of our offering. You know, we have an emotional decisioning engine that's offered as a SAS and what drives all of the decisioning and the insights that we're able to on Earth, and make them actionable, or these precise emotional scores and an ability. Because we use data science, we only need 100 data points to be predictive of a population or more our data science was actually founded upon Wall Street, and was originally used to predict the markets and when we met our head of data science, he was like what is more similar than the markets then emotions that are never in stasis, whole idea behind emotional KPIs comes from the fact of, you know, everyone is struggling for new means of measurement, Everyone is struggling for new means of growth or attribution. And we have proven out in a variety of different use cases, whether it's, you know, b2c b2b, or even B to E, business to employee, that when you inject emotion into whatever the scenario is, and you AB test that before and after you have emotion, emotional KPIs that are certainly qualitative, which we're all aware of reputation, word of mouth, things that are the squishy things that emotion has always been associated with.
But what we've been able to do that is so groundbreaking is attach emotion to quantitative KPIs. So we have worked with brands where they have injected emotion and seen, you know, a significant uptick in employee retention, a significant uptick in sales, a significant uptick in organic growth or customer acquisition that they trace back to this emotional, this agile emotional intelligence. And, you know, I think that that's why it's actually catching on, not only because people want so much more than having their functional needs met, not only because people are so emotionally raw from the last several years pandemic plus everything else that's going on in society, but also because if you're going to deliver an experience in a way that someone values, how could you possibly do that just with traditional demographic data that gives you a what, but gives you absolutely no information about who I am? And actually what is going to make me feel in order to act. And that's what we're really focused on.
Max Matson 18:09
100% That's fantastic. I mean, I completely agree with you. And I think that it's something that a lot of marketers are starting to come around to right is the fact that prescriptive analytics, right? This person is of this demographic, and therefore, this person lives in this geography and therefore right, fall flat in the face of psychographic or emotional data points, right. So what would be an example of a KPI for emotions?
Billee Howard 18:36
Exactly what I said. So I'll give you you know, a very broad use case, we were hired by a major, let's call it alcohol and spirit brand. And we were asked for a very specific mandate of helping them pivot their brand purpose, but very, very specifically engage people, again, in the drinking of one type of spirit that had lost market share to brown liquor and tequila. We were also asked to engage two specific cohorts, more actively and on premise experiences. They were Hispanics, and they were blacks. And they were cut across two generations, millennials and Gen X. And what we were able to see after we looked at how the campaign which was a beta perform before the emotional optimization, and after the after showed a 27% increase in sales of the actual product that was launched, as well as a 47% increase in engagement on premise by the two groups that they were trying to engage, really because what we're providing that's so different besides this emotional lens, and this emotional focus is we're not giving you what an agency gives you because we're not an agency. We're a technology company. One of those 150 paid decks that tells you you know, all these personas and what just most were giving you maybe for what I like to call tentpole insights of what you actually need to do to move the needle to get people to go from point A to point B, we also, you know, a totally divergent topic we we've been doing a lot of work with not for profits, because, you know, they're very, the space for dollars right now is very competitive, not only because there are so many causes, but because people are not in spending mode. And, you know, to be able to unpack how to make a specific, cause an emotional priority, and get people to not only give up their time and out of their wallets, but in this particular use case, give up their organs, right, because organ donation was part of the, the ask, these are very, very critical and complex issues that we're able to unpack with emotional blueprints of exactly how to do so.
Max Matson 21:04
I see, I see, it makes a ton of sense. It's, it's meeting them where they are right, and really understanding them as a person, which I think is absolutely crucial. And I like that you kind of draw that distinction between the traditional kind of agency model, which is here's 150 pages of theories, right? Versus Here are four actionable things. Yeah, definitely. Yeah,
Billee Howard 21:25
for sure, for sure. And then we always, we always want to be able to say, you know, reverse engineer, this is what you're trying to accomplish. So this is why we're actually going to execute this work for you and obtain this data and analyze these insights, so that you can put it against those KPIs that we're talking about.
Max Matson 21:48
I see. Yeah. Makes a ton of sense. Did you? Was this approach kind of born out of your experience with agency life?
Billee Howard 21:56
Um, I would say it's a part of it. So when when, when I figured out, you know, what exactly was the secret sauce of why I was very successful at not just positioning people as a leader within their industry as CEO and the C suite that sat around them. And I was one of the first people to do corporate brand storytelling on a globalized basis, I realized that that secret sauce was yes, the blending of culture and commerce, but also an ability to foresee trends. So, you know, the predictive nature of the storytelling, the predictive nature of the go to market strategy does come from my roots, and my entire team's roots. We're all marketers who have built, you know, technology for marketers, by marketers. But yes, that particular component comes from my past. But the ability to understand how to activate it, you know, came from the time with IBM, and also, I've always, without realizing it had a very high degree of emotional intelligence that went into a lot of hypotheses that I have that proved out. And now we have technology to prove out that they're correct. As opposed to, assuming they are and having executives sometimes say that they're wrong when the data says that we're right. And people laugh that we have a blackbox to prove that we're right. And we kind of
Max Matson 23:23
know, absolutely. And it's crucial. I mean, having been in that position, right? You need something to point to. So that last point, let's let's go on that a little bit. How do you use AI and brand throw? Well, what's kind of the role that it plays?
Billee Howard 23:39
Well, you know, the data science is responsible, really, for being able to provide the very precise calculations that we do the AI gives it, the speed and the computing power for us to turn around what we do in the amount of time that we do, I mean, we're able to go out and create emotional lookalikes of let's say, five different targets, cut it across region, age, household income, and come back to you with an entire emotional blueprint of how to action it around the world in two weeks. So the AI gives us the speed of getting stronger and faster. And then when you add the machine learning on top of it, once a client is embedding this emotional intelligence, or this emotional decisioning engine in their own organization, it's it's getting smarter and smarter over time, and it ultimately becomes a query of a database that just is built upon over and over again. And yeah, that's kind of how it works.
Max Matson 24:39
Gotcha. Gotcha, makes a ton of sense. So all that being said, you were kind of on the front end of predicting this kind of, you know, trend towards democratization in the market. Where do you see the economics of emotion, right, and the kind of customer experience being funneled into what every brand is doing? changing in the next five to 10 years.
Billee Howard 25:03
You know, there was a there was a story in Harvard Business Review about a year ago that talked about the democratization of insights, and the power that companies who will actually use the democratization of insights to reimagine their future, we'll be the ones who are most successful. And I truly believe that that's the case. Because in order for someone to be able to deliver an amazing experience, you first have to start internally and give people who work for you the tools to be able to have the insight to make better decisions. That's why we call what we do in emotional decisioning engine, because that's the idea is to gather as much insight and emotional intelligence as possible to make better business decisions that lead to better business outcomes.
So if you, you know, our vision is that everybody would have, you know, our emotional dashboard, right on their desk, almost like a Bloomberg table, you know, screen or terminal, if you will, to be able to understand, and it's not just emotional insights, it's all types of insights that enable better decisions to be made internally, which then will play out externally, and hopefully, lead to better decisioning that provides better experiences for people. I also think that, you know, this, this approach to precise emotional understanding is groundbreaking and is going to be critical, because not to minimize anything we've seen in the past. But MIT had a story that came out also two weeks ago that said, The time has come for predictive emotional signal analysis. And obviously, we're very happy about that, in general, but particularly because they juxtapose that against why biometrics sentiment analysis, and NLP are no longer enough, they're no longer enough because every dollar needs to count. And wouldn't it be more amazing to know what's going to happen before you spend a billion or million several million dollars on something and try to guess how someone's feeling from an emoji or a positive negative signal or from social listening? And it seems that that's what we're the market is headed. So I think it's this democratization of knowledge through insights, but also specifically with a fine point on giving people the emotional intelligence that they may not have naturally, in an artificial manner that can be operationalized. At scale.
Max Matson 27:31
Absolutely, absolutely. And that trend, I feel like somewhat ties into some of the advancements that we've seen in behavioral economics and neuroscience, right? So what are what are some of the kind of the ties between those two fields that you've built into brand throw, because it's pretty clear that you all have built these models that are very robust and understand human behavior in a pretty advanced way.
Billee Howard 27:52
Neuroscience is part of what we do, we use the ocean personality analysis model as one dimension of our audience development or emotional lookalike toolkit building, if you will. We also have a variety of future plans, let's say to create a neuro database of sports that will kind of build off of what we're doing today, which is, in the most simplistic terms, we're debunking or reimagining traditional segmentation, because it doesn't work. And what we're building is what we call emotional phenotypes. And what an emotional phenotype is, is an ability to say, Okay, we're not going to look at soccer moms who are 40, who live in California and New York, because that doesn't make sense anymore. For a multitude of reasons, what we're going to try to do is figure out, what does Max and Billy have in common that you would never know in a million years so that we can be targeted with the same exact message, because we are emotionally the same. We're not just moving demographically. But emotionally, we're exactly the same. And that's where we've begun to build what we've built, which is the baseline of an emotional Phenotype Model, that with the addition of neuro data added to it will not only make it smarter, and faster, it'll make it much more query able and accessible on you know, from a wider point of view.
Max Matson 29:27
Gotcha, gotcha, that makes a ton of sense. So to the people who kind of wonder and ask about like data, security, data, privacy, these types of things, what is your guys's kind of approach to that when it comes to you know, synthesizing this data, collecting it and and analyzing it, and we're very,
Billee Howard 29:44
very sensitive to it. You know, there's a lot of players out there who, as you know, have skated really close to the sun in in kind of imagining what consent means. When it doesn't really mean that like, if For example, I sign up for a credit card promotion, that that means that you can resell my data to 500 people. So, you know, we know that that's going to continue to go away. Hopefully, Apple has set the right lead, but there are so many bad actors out there. You know, it's something that we're very passionate about ensuring that we are not doing so everything we do is completely anonymized. Anytime we integrate into another data set, you know, all of our data sits in the cloud, there is no PII associated with it. And we ensure that everyone's privacy is 100%, guaranteed, and you have to opt in to want to participate and be a part of our data collection process. So we're very, very, very intentional about that and hope that others follow suit. Oh, it's
Max Matson 30:49
fantastic. It's always great to see leaders like yourself kind of setting the, you know, the way that things should be done from this front. And I really appreciate that. So that being said, when it comes to driving personalization at scale, right, we mentioned how segmenting is kind of broken at this point. Sure. And you guys seem to have a pretty great answer to doing this at scale. But what are some of the largest challenges that you guys have faced when it comes to, you know, taking this from the individual to the organizational level?
Billee Howard 31:18
Well, you know, it's, it's a great question, because it's very, very, very difficult, as you know, when you're working with big organizations, and that's where our wheelhouse says, I mean, we certainly work with smaller organizations, but the majority of our clients are in the Fortune 500, or 1000. And getting them to break down systems that they've used for decades is is a challenge. Having said that, you know, when you do a proof of concept, and unfortunately, you know, you mentioned my Forbes column and the book. So I'm very, very fortunate as our team to work with some of the top CMOs and insights people in the world who have, you know, given us the opportunity to explore, imagine and innovate with them, because of our friendship with them, our partnership with them, they're, they're basically, you know, live r&d. But the reality is, when you take off, bite off a small piece of the apple, and you say, for example, we work with a partner of ours, agency that specializes in multiculturalism, and they were like, listen, we know that the census data that exists does not match what people think of when they do segmentation for multicultural audiences, how can you help us debunk that?
And we said, we can. And what we did was we looked at Caucasian plus other Hispanic plus other Asian plus other black plus other with the intention of replicating what you see, when you look out the mirror, excuse me, when you look out the window, that's actually representative of the population today. You know, it goes back to exactly something that you said earlier that I think is critically important to this entire conversation, whether it's what you and I are talking about, specifically or broadly CX is that brands don't understand that rule number one today, from an engagement point of view, is you have to be able to understand how someone's self identifies whether that's from a cultural point of view in the way that we're talking about, or the other groundbreaking work that we've done from a gender and sexual identity point of view, where we broke out the LGBTQ plus cohort into the L, the G, the B in the queue. And yes, there are commonalities that sit across all of those groups. But when you look at them as individual segments, you're able to actually begin to fulfill that promise that you're talking about, of commercial intimacy, or individualized experiences at scale, because there's absolutely no way that you can do that with the existing means of customer understanding.
Max Matson 34:07
Right. I love that. I love that example. I think it also kind of speaks to a bit of an antiquated perspective that a lot of marketing leaders have had to this point of lumping right of kind of lumping people into these categories and prescriptively, you know, assigning traits to them. So I love that you guys are kind of breaking down those barriers. So now, you mentioned earlier in your answer that in your role of the columnist for Forbes, you've interviewed a lot of brand leaders, what are some of the kind of, you know, more surprising insights or trends that you've been able to kind of glean from that role?
Billee Howard 34:46
Well, I think one of the things that people probably are not aware of that I've become acutely aware of particularly over the last six months is you know, everyone talked about the pandemic being an accelerant for transformation. And that's not really a big aha Ah, but what is AHA is that transformation is no longer a moment, it's something that's going to forever happen in perpetuity until I'll let you know, an unknown date ever. Right? So, you know, being able to understand that you are never done evolving, you are never done changing is very interesting. Another thing that I think is really interesting is the changing roles and dynamics as a result of everything that we're talking about, that's taking place in the C suite. The CMO role today, as compared to 235 years ago, looks nothing like it did the CMO, you know, Forbes does their list every year.
And interestingly, the the out this year, they call the CMO, the ultimate entrepreneur, because they be able to work as closely with their CFO as their CEO, as their CIO. And ultimately will constantly be figuring out what is the best path to innovation, and have an ability and a boldness to do that. Very similarly, you're seeing the CIO step up into more of the gap, where the CMO was focused on so many other things, that CX is a critical, critical focus for the Chief Information Officer today. And that's why, you know, a lot of them have a lot more responsibility for creating these nonlinear experiences that we talked about. The CFO and the CHR. O are working more closely than ever, which is not something you would ever imagine. And when you think about why it's because no one is really ever going back to work anytime soon, as far as I'm concerned, full time. So it will there's just so much change that's going on that you know, people talk about trends, like you know, nostalgia and marketing and things that okay, that there, that's somewhat interesting. But what I find more interesting is the groundbreaking work that real marketing leaders are doing, and leaders beyond marketing to reimagine how business is done. And there's a ton of that going on right now that I think is super, super exciting.
Max Matson 37:14
No, it's absolutely a very exciting time. I love that the ultimate entrepreneur. So putting that on my resume.
Billee Howard 37:22
I get that feeling from you, Max.
Max Matson 37:25
Thank you very much. Likewise, obviously. So you were a futurist at IBM, which is quite a role. was interesting. Yes. Yeah. Do you want to talk about her?
Billee Howard 37:37
Yeah, I mean, I will always be grateful to IBM, because, you know, they, they approached me to do this, you know, to do that role. And, frankly, I always tell the story, I'm really not afraid of many things. And I was they asked me to do a keynote at their annual think conference. And I was actually terrified. I'm not afraid of it. I was terrified, not just afraid, terrified. But the reason that I mentioned that is a because it was a life changing moment that set me on the journey that I'm on today. And I couldn't be happier. But it's also a great lesson for people, right? I think that, you know, Fortune favors the bold. It's a cliche, but it's actually very true. And a lot of people sometimes complain that they're unhappy, or they don't have the opportunity they want. And you know what, the only way to have the opportunity that you want is to have the courage to push yourself to a point of discomfort, and get step out of a sense of feeling complacent. And I can't think of a better example of that in my life that really literally changed my life, just saying yes, to that opportunity, when my natural instinct was to say. Well, it was it was a great, great experience. And, you know, it's, it's something I'll always be grateful for.
Max Matson 38:59
That's awesome. No, it's it's quite awesome. And I think a lot of people, at least in theory, would like to have a job where at least in concept, you're thinking about the future all the time, right? Was there, from your perspective, having, you know, been a person who is kind of at the top of this industry who's thinking about trends and is close to them? Are you more excited or more scared about the future?
Billee Howard 39:22
You know, I think that there's a lot of things that people are and should be afraid of, that range from everything from what's going on politically, to what's going on with climate change. But something that I'm actually really interested in from a trend point of view, is the massive leadership shift that we are experiencing right now is the first one we've had and probably let's call it 30 years, baby boomers are handing the mantle over to Gen X. And that is a really, really exciting thing. Because the mentality of Gen X, you know, Gen X is the Forgotten generation. You And you know, yeah, everyone knows who the millennials are. Everyone knows who baby boomers are, no one really knows the about Gen X except that I am Gen X that we're very angsty. But what we also are is very driven to make change. So we are inheriting all of these problems at a time when business must step up and take much more of a role than the public sector in solving for these things. And I think that because of this, this, like we saw the transference of wealth, the millennials, this transference of leadership to Gen X is happening at a very, very interesting time. And I'm very, very hopeful as to what's to come.
Max Matson 40:43
Awesome. That's always great to hear. And I completely agree with you. So all that being said, let's go back to kind of your role as an entrepreneur, right? Because you're you're a highly accomplished entrepreneur, brand throw is a fantastic company, and you seem to be making some real revolutionary change. What are some of the less glamorous parts of being an entrepreneur of being a co founder, CEO of somebody who's, you know, the tip of the spear, in these situations,
Billee Howard 41:09
there's a lot of glamorous. You have to have a very, very strong emotional constitution, because as many highs as you might experience, there are as many lows and you have to have a willingness to hold on to your convictions and endeavor forward, regardless of what a given day might dish out. The other thing, you know, is an ability to hear no, probably 1000 times before you get to a yes. And you know, people who know me think it's very funny, it's very difficult for me, because I don't take rejection Well, in any part of my career to being an entrepreneur is literally being rejected on a daily basis. But you know, if you believe in what you're doing, and you work really hard, and most importantly, you love what you do, and you love who you do it with. Those are things that make all of the things that are a bit challenging, really rewarding, because you're building something for yourself, but you're also building it together. And it's something you know, having worked in corporate America, no one else can take credit for it, it's yours. And that's something that's extremely rewarding.
Max Matson 42:29
I'm sure I'm sure I appreciate your vulnerability in that answer to how do you how do you kind of position work and the company and the rejection that comes from that as being different from the rest of the things that you experience in your life? Right, because I do think that there's a certain amount of separation that entrepreneurs have to have when it comes to the emotions that they invest in, you know, what is effectively their baby in their company? Right?
Billee Howard 42:54
Yeah, it's very hard, especially because, you know, the line between personal and professional has been blurring for you for years. And now it's, quite frankly, whether you're an entrepreneur or not, it's, it's, it's virtually invisible. I'm not gonna say that I'm very good at it, because I'm not the best, but I can. And, as I said, I think one of the most important parts of being able to balance the emotional tightrope that you have to walk as an entrepreneur, is surrounding yourself with people and partners who balance you, you know, that that's one of the most critical parts of my day to day, right now is I have partners who are great at things that I'm not, and we complement each other. And if I'm down, they're up. And if I, if they're, if they're down, I'm up. And, you know, it's, it's finding the right balance, but it's also knowing when to, again, to your point, be vulnerable, and, and ask for support. You know, you can't you can't really do anything more than that. But if it's your dream, and it's what makes you happy and want you want to get up every day and do it, then all the risks, make the reward hopefully, worthwhile.
Max Matson 44:09
Absolutely. That's a great answer. So final question. Yeah, what? Well, actually, I'll let you pick. So I typically have to go two final questions. The first one is, what's your biggest talk?
Billee Howard 44:22
By the way, I have to say, wonderful interviewer.
Max Matson 44:25
Oh, thank you. I really, really appreciate that. That means a lot to me. So, okay, so the first question is, what's your biggest hot take? And the second question is, if you had any advice to give to a younger version of yourself, what would it be?
Billee Howard 44:41
Um, I think the advice that I would give to a younger mate would have been to have had the courage to leave a situation sooner than I did. Something that it's funny. I was talking to a friend about this the other day, one of my favorite Are things to do still is read a hard copy of Vanity Fair. And the Proust questionnaire at the end, Elton John was asked like what is like his worst nightmare and his worst nightmare was to not go out on top. And I'm not saying that I didn't go out on top in the first part of my career, but I think I should have pulled the ripcord on that a bit earlier and have the courage to do so. So I would say when you're feeling uncomfortable, when you're feeling that you've lost the passion for what you're doing, or more importantly, that you feel that there are others in your way that are intentionally or not intentionally, whatever the reason might be blocking you from being your full self or getting to where you want to go. You need to have the courage to pull that ripcord and get out as soon as as possible. And if I could tell myself to have done that.
I'm not going to say how many years ago several years. That is, that is what I would have told me.
Max Matson 46:00
That's great advice. I'm sure that there's people out there who need to hear it, too. I definitely agree. So, Billy, thank you so much for your time here. This has been fantastic. It's been so great. Learning more about you about brand throw. Where can people find you follow you?
Billee Howard 46:15
You can reach us brand throw.ai To learn more about the company and I'm extremely active on LinkedIn. So it's Billy bi ll E. Howard. And, you know, I post I'd love you to DM me and happy to catch up.
Max Matson 46:30
Perfect. Thank you so much, Billee.
Billee Howard 46:33
Thanks, Max. It was such a great time chatting with you.
Max Matson 46:35
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