“Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re dealing with Psychology”
What do you get when you combine a CrossFit competing, ski instructing, $1.1 million kickstarter business success-story dad of two with some serious knowledge of the brain, and branding?
Mind. Blowing. Work.
Using expert psychological skills to find the ‘why’ behind a brand, Ross takes a tactful approach to create strategies that bring teams together, and accelerate them to success. Working with the likes of Dymocks, Vetassess and his own business Timebirds, he’s all about making the winning mindset a reality, and we’re mighty glad he’s on our side.
So how does he do it? Let’s kick-off…
You’ve balanced being a dad with your consultancy and at the same time successfully co-founding a startup business Timebirds, which raised $1.1 million via Kickstarter. What has that ride been like?
It’s been epic! Interestingly, I find that being a dad doesn’t add to the workload – it actually helps me to keep things in perspective and give a clear purpose to everything. Plus it finally gives me a good excuse to deploy the dad jokes. Timebirds has been a wild ride, especially when we take the time to stop and reflect on how much we’ve achieved in just a few months. But, it ticks some important things for me – working with great team mates who I respect immensely and enjoy spending time with, working with a product that I’m proud of, and all for a purpose that is meaningful to me.
You come at marketing through a lens of psychology – how does this guide how you work with brands?
We take a Cognitive Behavioural approach to tackling business challenges. Sounds fancy, huh?? What this means in reality, is that beneath any business results are the behaviours (of customers, employees etc.) that create them. These behaviours are driven by the beliefs or perceptions that those people hold about the business. And, those beliefs or perceptions are formed by their experience or experiences with the company. And of course, those experiences are created by touchpoints.
Many businesses attempt to directly impact the behaviour itself, often with price based incentives – discounts for customers, bonuses and commissions for staff etc. We like to dig a bit deeper, first helping businesses clarify and align on what they want people to think and feel about them by defining their Purpose, Vision, Mission, and Values, then working through those cognitive behavioural layers to understand what has to change at a touchpoint level to achieve that.
It’s important to note that this isn’t just about Marketing. A business is a whole system of touchpoints which create experiences, and a brand is the sum of the perceptions or beliefs that these form, across customers, employees and anyone else who comes into contact with the business. The most successful businesses have a strong Purpose, Vision, Mission, and Values (or some form thereof) giving them clear direction to all their touchpoints, and therefore if you were to speak to employees, customers, shareholders, supply chain, potential customers……anyone that’s come into contact with them really, you’ll find that they have the same or similar perceptions of the business. So it’s about an aligned approach to your Marketing, your products and/or services, the way your leaders lead, your employee experience etc. etc.
So if a brand strategy doesn’t start with looking at psychology… what could this mean?
Businesses are a group of people who sell something to people. If we think of Psychology simply as an understanding of how people think, feel and behave, then whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re dealing with Psychology. The key to success is how well you understand it, and more importantly how well you understand and align the psychology at play across all the various parts of your business, internal and external.
Your personal passion of sport and fitness is clear- with ski instructor qualifications and a side-hustle business in the CrossFit world. How do you think sports psychology can be applied to business?
Again, it’s about the same human beings and how we think, feel, and behave, so our understanding of how to optimise performance in sport can certainly apply to business and vice versa. Of course, most high level sport these days is also business.
One of the most obvious things businesses can learn from sports is the psychology of teams. If we look at the highest performing teams; they have a crystal clear Purpose (why they exist) and Vision (what they want to achieve), they also have a clear way of getting there (Mission) and an agreed way of being with and around each other (Values). Everyone has a clear role to play, they understand their own roles and the roles of others inside out, including any overlaps, and any interdependencies, and they trust each other explicitly to execute their roles. They have a clear way of measuring and tracking progress, and everyone has some individual way to measure performance that they can connect to improving overall team performance. The best teams now also understand how their performance doesn’t just exist in the game – they recognise the importance of training well, of representing the team in the media, of being role models to the next generation etc. If businesses could apply some of these principles not only at a team level, but at an organisational level, I think it can be incredibly powerful.
We always see you taking part in webinars and panel discussions (we’re in admiration of you finding the time with two young children!). A recent topic of ‘the science of high performing teams’ definitely spoke to our MASH mission! We’d love to hear your insight on this?
If we can establish that clear direction (Purpose, Vision, Mission, Values) for a business; recruit and retain employees who feel connected to and believe in that direction; give those employees some autonomy, choice and input into how they and the business can more effectively move in that direction; invest in their development so they grow skills and knowledge to take the business in that direction; and measure, track and celebrate progress towards that direction, then we create the ideal conditions for motivation, wellbeing, perseverance, resilience, and innovation. If anyone’s interested in reading a bit more of the hardcore science behind this, they can go to (https://selfdeterminationtheory.org/theory/)
Your super collaborative approach to projects gets a big thumbs up from us. What physcology ninja skills do you use when working with other creatives? (Is this like asking a magician for his secrets?)
Haha, no real secrets or even particularly ninja-y skills I’m afraid. If I was to boil it down into a couple of pointers, they’d be:
– I aim to listen more than I speak. If you get more than two people who speak more than they listen – well, I’ll let you do the maths.
– Linked to that; I try to ask interesting questions. That requires being genuinely curious and listening intently to what others have to say.
– Be open to new perspectives and challenges to my ideas. This is easier said than done, often I find myself being defensive and it can be interesting to reflect on why – personally, I feel that it’s ideas that I’m less confident about that I get defensive over, rather than the ones I’m super comfortable with.
2020. We’re not even sure how to sum it up! How do you think this rollercoaster has impacted how people psychologically interact with brands and advertising?
Hmmm, this is a tricky one! Overall, I think the initial response by businesses to the pandemic was make or break in terms of trust – some executed well and built trust and credibility, others destroyed trust by lacking empathy. Much of that came down, again, to whether those businesses were aligned around a clear Purpose, Vision, Mission, and Values – those that were guided by that compass were able to (*2020 buzzword alert*) pivot quickly and communicate effectively whilst staying true to their Purpose, therefore being seen as authentic. Others had no choice but to react by responding to the immediate environment, and therefore came across as predatory.
I suspect 2020 has accelerated the increasing demand from Customers and Employees for businesses to provide that clear higher purpose for them to connect to.