Think Tank

What’s in it for you? What’s in it for me? That’s the candid calculation when considering any request to collaborate on content. It’s about risk, reputation and whether it’s even worth the effort in today’s vast ocean of multimedia.

If it’s to support someone else’s brand (in this case, creative agency Clyde Golden’s marketing podcast series “Input Doc”) grasping that value proposition for both sides is paramount.

Agency principal Tim Yeadon — and podcast producer Meghan O’Neill — clearly did their research. Ultimately, I’m glad I said “yes” as their provocative interview poked and prodded at my worldview, for a wider audience.

We cover a lot of ground. It compelled me to reflect: much of my work over the last two decades has explored an upheaval in narrative and power — almost all of it enabled or amplified by connected technologies.

  • How to set up a successful interview
  • Hanson’s book, “Storyteller Uprising”
  • Hanson’s documentary, “Independent America: the Two-Lane Search for Mom and Pop”
  • The shifting perspectives regarding technology
  • Thinking profoundly about social platforms
  • How algorithms favor stories that have the most intensity and heat
  • An argument for making communication difficult
  • What Hanson is doing with MIRA!
  • Teaching the new generation to think things through ethically before they join the tech workforce
  • Whether companies actually know how to use the first party data that they have
  • The mistrust in institutions
  • Agreeing on a single narrative as a country, and what happens if our country can’t agree
  • Sharing your political stance as a business owner
  • Being politically and socially useful as a small business
  • How people react in a crisis
  • What it is like to be a reporter during a crisis
  • Documenting a story while living it
  • Deciding if a moment is worth recording
  • Defining loyalty and trust in relation to storytelling

Also available as an Apple podcast

As an experienced interviewer, how do you do introductions?

It’s very contextual. I prefer the improvised method, so I don’t have a template. Fundamentally, I just want to make sure that I’m hitting relevance and credibility for the audience, so they know that this is worth investing their time in. I also want to create a platform for my guests to feel comfortable enough to open up. One thing I never do in an introduction is read somebody’s official bio. It’s so boring, it shows you’ve done no homework, and it just presages a really terrible conversation

We love your book, “Storyteller Uprising” (from 2012). But in our pre-production meeting when I held it up, you groaned and said, “that’s so old, that’s so long ago.” Why was that?

I even have a hard time recommending books to my students that weren’t written in the last six months. This stuff just moves so darn fast.

In your documentary, “Independent America, the Two-Lane Search for Mom and Pop”, you, your wife, and your dog drove around America. I love that you took the dog with you and while I was watching I was always wondering where’s the dog? How did you navigate that?

That was inspired by John Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley.” In it, Steinbeck was saying how the dog was a great icebreaker in uncertain situations. He was traveling primarily through the segregated South at the time. This was in 2005, and my wife and I were a mixed-race couple traveling in rural America. A dog is a great way to say, “Hey, I come in peace.”

Tell us about the shift in your perspective regarding technology and digital media. When did you go from being excited by the possibilities of using digital technology to tell stories and cut past bureaucratic red tape, to feeling like that same technology is being used as a lever on people?

Something I learned over the last few years is that power just cedes to new forms of power in the end. There are these lulls where it looks like everything’s going to work out and you’ve gotten permission to do something that has traditionally been in the hands of the power brokers. But then you realize it was just a con, You were only allowed to try out that thing to make sure it actually held water. Now somebody else gloms onto it, makes a lot of money off it, and then passes the baton to the next power broker.

I have enjoyed that lull in terms of being able to break away from my own power brokers, which at the time was NBC News. I was thinking about whether big journalism could tell stories differently. But I was young and it’s a Pandora’s box, once you open that up, it’s not just you doing good by telling new stories. It allows for abuse and for people to do and think and say differently. And then for companies to take advantage of that because they see how they can maximize their profits, especially by leveraging your data. Then afterward they say mea culpa and they realize that all that polarizing stuff benefited them, but now they’re going to shut it down because of the pressure they’re facing.

I noticed this happening almost 10 years ago as we were seeing these companies about to go public and recognizing that that data was going to be misused and seeing how they were tracking data.

And that’s one of the reasons why I run this graduate program in digital media at the University of Washington. I want to see how we can leverage stories differently away from the gatekeepers. Then I began to see that the platforms we are being increasingly forced to use as the weak get winnowed out, were going to use everything they could to make as much money off me as possible. So my attitudes shifted on them. Especially with Facebook, I decided the only time I was ever going to use that platform was when it would benefit me professionally. I would never use it to enjoy connecting to people because I knew how they were leveraging that data.

What are your thoughts on the phrase “when something’s free, you’re the product.”

I’d like to come up with a better one. It’s become so cliched that we don’t think profoundly enough about what’s truly going on. And even when we say that people still continue to use those platforms. It is almost impossible to resist them. It’s similar to how you can’t rent a car without a credit card, so you must have a credit card. Facebook would love it if we couldn’t exist in the real world without being able to use them as the currency for whatever we do. And that’s just something I completely resist.

Are the algorithms pushing down stories that should be told in favor of stories that have the most intensity and heat? 

You know, we had the Hollywood system before, which decided what we should be told. And now we’ve got these algorithms, and the greatest challenge has been that the algorithms go where there’s the most intensity and where people really want to engage. Which is usually when you highlight an enemy or something else that’s against you. And there’s really no ground for the middle anymore. That’s in politics, that’s in economics, and it’s certainly in storytelling. People want to be surprised and they want to feel emotion, and frankly, more often than not, they want to feel enraged about somebody who’s doing them wrong.

It often seems that as long as people have a good experience, that matters more than the quality of a product or a service at this point. Is the quality of the platform itself, the user’s experience, or something else most important?

A lot of these platforms are run by content strategists and experts who are maximizing UI. We saw that the person who invented the little red number that shows you how many notifications you have on Facebook truly regrets doing that because he realized that it’s creating an ongoing dopamine hit to the brain making it all more addictive. It is all about creating frictionless experiences. 

In my old age, I actually think that the contrarian thing to do is to create as much friction as possible. To make communication hard, make content creation hard, make it in a way that leads to something completely surprising and different. In my own company, if you go to my website I don’t make it very easy for you to contact me. I don’t put a telephone number. I don’t put any real contact information. My attitude is that if you want to do business with me, you’ll figure out a way to reach me. Because if it’s too easy, I probably don’t want to do business with you.

What I’ve found in the last few years, and especially during the last year of the pandemic, is that I don’t really have to be on Twitter, I don’t have to be on Facebook. LinkedIn is the primary platform I use, I keep a website that catalogs my thinking. If somebody hears about me and wants to know if I’m useful to them, they’ll go check me out. I’m there and they’ll get the essence of what I do and who I am and they’ll decide if it’s worth it. Having a viral post is not something I’m interested in anymore. Essentially what I’ve decided is I’m not playing the game.

When communication becomes this easy, it makes it valueless. All this stuff goes out there, the wrong things are prioritized because that’s what the algorithms like, and it robs us of what truly matters. Some people say that as a species, we never meant to be this connected or have this much reach. So I’m looking for opportunities where that creative constraint of not being easy to reach and, “what do you want me for?” is part of how I can communicate thoughtfully.

How is MIRA! an organizational response to this frictionless digital experience that has overwhelmed us?

MIRA! stands for, Mobilize Innovation Re-imagine Agency. It’s ultimately an extension of what I’ve been doing with the University of Washington. It’s also reimagining who we are moving forward as technology continues to rewire our relationships and our institutions. Right now we have a handful of companies with a lot of power over us, more power than most nation-states, and they have almost zero accountability to us. It’s very David and Goliath. The government can’t regulate them or is not interested in regulating them, and they continue to run roughshod over whatever we might need, thinking that they have our best interests at heart. So what do you do?

The only way I can think about this is as community power. Over the last few thousands of years, the only institutions that ever had enough power to do things at scale were governments, or, now, corporations. What I’m looking for is that third way that, as we move forward, can communities come together in a meaningful way to be able to counterbalance and advocate and learn. Right now they don’t know enough about these things to be able to hold anyone accountable. But if we can create these new educational opportunities, re-imagine the university system so that it can be more at a community level, and then convene these conversations so that we can begin to hold these corporations accountable in some way.

That’s what MIRA! is ultimately about. Rebalancing power without a Marxist approach — or Communist — or without going for anarchy. But is there a way to think differently about community in relationship to government and to corporations? 

There’s this whole thing called “the tragedy of commons,” where communities just don’t trust each other, fellow neighbors, or whatever else, to collaborate in a way that we can actually manage the common good.

And we’ve attempted to do this in different ways through capitalism and socialism and communism and all these other ideas that have gone out there. There may be a low-pro, local, community-based way that is effective and highly impactful without requiring a ton of money or a ton of technological power. That is what inspires me most, to see how we can reimagine our institutions with community at their center.

Would a fix be to infiltrate these corporations with people who have thought these things through ethically before getting there?

It’s one of the paths. In fact, I’m using my ongoing role at the University of Washington to do exactly that. A couple of years ago we crafted a Declaration of Communication Leadership for the master’s program because I saw that when our graduates went to work at these different organizations, if they were well equipped around how they could think differently within those organizations and lead differently, that that would be the beginning of a very positive virus. Because they’re the sense makers. They’re not the technologists and they’re not the finance people, but if they understand all those things that are orbiting there and sort of say, we represent the interests of humanity, of people, and we’re going to make sure that as you even think about developing these new things, you have this set of principles and ethics first.

So I’m teaching a class right now about that, it’s called “Leadership in Emerging Technologies and Trends”, but it actually should be called, “Emergent Leadership in Technology and Trends”, because there is a different way to lead.

You do need people within those organizations caring enough to effect that change, but that in itself is not enough. And that’s why you see so many people within Facebook or Google or Amazon who are so militant against their own leadership on certain issues, whether it’s equity in AI or military contracts or police contracts. But there’s only so far those people can go, and they know that. They’ll all vote for a certain political party because they think it will create some kind of legislation or regulate these companies. But in the end, we need to create an exterior outlet for them as well. MIRA! has been thinking about how we create a membership so that we can bring the people within those organizations to be better equipped to make that claim while they’re working at those companies. There’s only so far they can go because they’re still being paid or getting stock options by these companies and they certainly don’t want to get fired. But they need to be in a position that they can hold that accountability.

The problem is that there’s a very small window of time. This stuff is accelerating faster than ever, especially caused by the pandemic. And I think there’s been a massive surrender. People are saying “I just want to get back to work. I want to open my restaurant. If you want me to track me on my phone to say that I’ve got the vaccine, or if you want me to do telemedicine, or taking my kids to school, if I need to fill out this app every day as an attestation that they’re healthy before they can even get out of the car to get into the classroom, I’ll do that.” That is more data and these systems are getting smarter and we’ve just sort of said, “I just want to get back to normal.”

A lot of companies that I work with have a lot of first-party data, or access to a lot of data, and don’t really know how to use it. Is it just a small group of corporations that really have the ability to leverage this data? 

I think the dirty little secret is that even the giants don’t know how to work with that data. All they know is that that data either will have value now or will have even more value later. It’s worth accumulating and they’re still messing around with it. It’s similar to Bob Dylan knowing in the 1960s that whatever he wrote he’d be able to sell for nine figures later on. It’s just knowing that the data will continue to have value and that you will continue to learn from it. So nobody really knows. We do know that it’s moving fast enough that even a small company or organization can leverage something like a black box of AI. Now it’s here it’s just getting bigger and bigger and smarter every day

There’s a huge mistrust in institutions. You see it in the news, you see it every time there’s an election, it’s a national narrative. Is it a local narrative?

The mistrust in institutions is a mistrust of power. There’s usually more power at the national or global level, at least that’s perceived, and we’ve let those national and global narratives dominate our perception of trust. It may also happen at the local level, but I think it’s those national and global narratives that have dominated our thought around this. And I think there’s legitimacy there. I think we instinctively or subconsciously feel that we have less and less agency over our lives, over our income, over how our families are going. And so it permeates everything. Then demagogues and technology come in and accentuate those feelings because they can profit from it. And it’s going to make you feel better about having no power over this. It’s a really terrible situation. 

My attitude is that these institutions actually are weak, and this is why they can be attacked so easily by some of the leaders that we’ve seen over the last few years. If the institutions are weak, it means that they’re losing relevance in our lives. That’s where I see the opportunity now. We probably need new institutions. Maybe democracy or capitalism doesn’t work for us anymore, maybe those religions don’t work for us anymore. The thing that will drive the new institutions, fundamentally is a narrative that we can agree upon so that we can trust each other to collaborate at scale, to build those things moving forward. That’s all America was in its founding was a bunch of guys who came together and said, you know what? We can do this differently. Here’s a story we should tell about it. Oh yeah, here’s a declaration. Here’s a constitution. Presto. Country.

What if our country can’t agree on one narrative?

I think that’s the thing that most people can’t get their heads around. There is this status quo bias that we all have, that things aren’t really going to change. It’s always going to be like this forever. And I absolutely completely reject that. And right now the bias is that America will always exist. Nation-States will always exist. We have to remember that those things have only been around for a few hundred years. And I believe that we are moving towards this... I’ve been calling it “platforms and enclaves”. The platforms are the tech platforms, we’re all on Facebook or we’re all on Android, and those are the places where you find alliances and allegiances. And then enclaves are in terms of geographic location, we will continually find ways and places where we find people who we agree with. We have the bias to find people that we agree with.

And we’re seeing that even in how people are leaving Seattle because they can’t stand the politics. Where are they heading to? They’re going to Spokane or Idaho, where they find like-minded people that they can marry and raise kids with and everything like that. So I think we’ll see an ongoing fragmentation and that our alliances will be very different over the next 10, 15, 20 years, to the point where it will be either fragmented or just sort of these nano-communities that are further facilitated by the companies that provide us with the benefits. If Amazon is in retail, if Amazon’s health, if Amazon is selling us a car, then that’s a platform, Apple, the same thing. And we get reputational points and our currency is within those platforms. And then we find like-minded people that we can get along with.

So how do I navigate this as a business owner?

I think you choose your poison and you stick with it because you want to have a high reputational standing within that world so that people want to do business with you. I mean, for me, I’ve done business with Facebook and, not Amazon but with Jeff Bezos and a few other people in the past. But right now the company that I most ally with is Microsoft in terms of where their ethics are, in terms of technology. So I do business with them and there’s that sense of quid pro quo in terms of how we interact with each other. So I think we just have to choose where we feel most comfortable and go at it, knowing that there’s always gonna be compromises.

How do I have a voice? How does my business have a voice? I feel like I have some sort of responsibility to society, and I don’t know how someone can just keep their head down all the time, but I don’t always know the best way to use my platform. When I know that I’ve gained capital of some sort, how do I spend it in a way that’s useful?

The challenge is that, especially through the pandemic, it’s actually very hard for small businesses. I think we are now entering the world of giants. Everything has to be done at scale to be effective and to be sustainable. And we’ve seen even how, and I addressed this in my second documentary, which was post-Katrina and New Orleans in terms of when there was a disaster and crisis, what did the powers that be do to get us back up to speed? Well, they favored the powerful. Small businesses, which might’ve been the first to come back because that’s what they do to support their communities, nobody cared about that and they didn’t get any support. And that’s the same thing. Now, there’s just such expediency in going for the big and the powerful businesses to get things done and get us back to normal that small businesses just fall by the wayside. And so to a certain degree, there may not be any salvation for you or me, unless we play with the big guys.

At the same time, there’s greater tolerance for having a point of view in terms of how you do business. There’s very little division now between online and offline. In fact, you shouldn’t even talk about that anymore because the two are so inextricably connected. You could say almost the same thing about the personal and the professional. Leaders of companies, even small businesses, are expected to have a position on something even if it’s controversial. And even if it ostracizes a good percentage of your base. Because that’s what people are looking for right now. They’re looking for clarity, transparency, and intensity. And so you might ostracize 30% of them just like Nike has with some of the moves they have, but the people who stick with you are even more intensely allied to you. And that’s that loyalty element. And they’re going to do business with you. I think that the worst you can do right now is be milquetoast, right? To be so ambivalent that people can’t see you, you’re competing with all these sharply defined entities. Now, whether they have power or whether they just can be seen very clearly because of how they express themselves. And unless you play that game, either with the big powerful ones or the sharply defined ones, you’re kind of left behind.

Sometimes I don’t have anything to say. Sometimes I’m absorbing it and just watching and probably like everybody else I’m thinking, “what was that?” But is a response required from me all the time?

I had a conversation with the CEO of Lincoln Center recently who’s a friend — he’s been in the job for 18 months. And the Lincoln Center is just like any other traditional institution. Like KUOW, NPR, that has served well-meaning people, but of a certain demographic, older, whiter, better educated, and affluent. And he knows that’s not a winning equation anymore. And also that the times dictate that you do and think differently. And so he’s taking a stand in terms of DEI and all these other things that are definitely going to alienate some people. But it’s the thing that he knows he has to do to remain relevant as we go into the next chapter of things.

And we’re seeing that everywhere. We’re seeing a lot of companies taking a stand, especially on some of the latest headlines, which is very unusual. They’re not supposed to do that, but the stakeholders within those organizations, in those communities are demanding that. And so in a way, it’s actually part of the business model, you’re not sure you’re not deviating too much from it. You’re trying to serve the market the way the market wants to be served right now. And it’s that sharpness of voice, and that taking a stand on certain issues that are really interesting right now from a leadership point of view and from a storytelling point of view.

I know that having a more representative team usually leads to better work and that it gives me a better chance of spotting opportunities and understanding client needs. And this is something I want to do and can do. As far as making big public statements, I think I’m just not there yet. But I think I need to get there. Do you have advice on how to feel comfortable making those big public statements?

Well, even as I say this to you… I am not personally in the business of making big public statements myself. I’m a much bigger fan of letting my work speak for itself. Whether it’s creating a graduate program or doing MIRA!. I just can’t stand the empty sloganeering that goes on a lot of social media, just to show that you’re playing the game. I just won’t do that. But this is where the friction comes in. If you look really hard at what I’ve been doing you’ll see what I believe in and where I go. I think to a certain degree, that’s probably a better way to do it, because it shows more substance and less, and it’s less vacuous.

And so I would say don’t put so much pressure on yourself in terms of how you’re thinking. Maybe it’s how you choose your clients, or it just may be your unique approach to creativity that you bake into all the work that you do that just sets you apart. So I would say to you, don’t worry so much about how you take a stand on some of these issues and think more about, what is your approach to thinking and creating and bringing people along for the ride that really speaks to this moment that can be interpreted also in a positive way. I don’t know if that sounds too oblique and abstract, but maybe that’s more comfortable for you.

In listening to you talk about MIRA! and talk about data, talking about storytelling. I wonder if you’re operating from a sense of outrage at this point. Maybe not in your tone of voice, but in your actions.

No. I can be impatient. I can be frustrated, but I think everybody is, it just seems like that’s such a default emotion these days, outrage. I don’t think it gets us anywhere. I tend to look at the world from a very high level, as you can tell from this conversation. It’s like people talk about speaking at 30,000 feet. I’m usually at 60,000 feet. And I think it’s maybe because I grew up speaking French, so I have this natural propensity to connect to existential thinking, but I kind of see the universe and the world as either very connected and there are these energies out there, or as a big cosmic joke. And so I find it very hard to take it all very seriously because I know how fast things move and I know how things are connected.

I’m not outraged, but I kind of fly above it sometimes and say, “Hmm, that’s interesting how that’s working out right now.” And so I do a bit of pattern recognition and try to figure it out. And I also know that it’s not going to last. I know that things will change again. I didn’t foresee the pandemic, but you could tell that cataclysm was coming and it was going to be very interesting to see how people behaved in that. And maybe that’s the old war reporter in me that sort of says, “I want to go see a crisis. I want to see how people behave. I want to see what good can come from it.” And so, even though I’m not necessarily a positive person, I am looking usually for that light in the darkness, and I’m not outraged.

When I was a reporter I always found it fascinating to go see a catastrophe or a crisis and talk to the people around it and just hear their stories. And there was never a specific signal I was looking for. But after a while, you began to just meet these different types of people and see different types of responses and some were healthy and some weren’t. Which of the stories that you came into contact with did you find to be most powerful?

That’s a really good point. I mean, I think for me, knowing that we have a propensity for self-destruction as a species. I’m looking for those little flashes of inspiration that say, in the end, we’ll pull out of it. When I was doing reporting in the Middle East, I was not interested in the big political press conferences. And I certainly wasn’t that interested in who was blowing up who. I was really interested in, for an average person, what side of the line they were gonna fall on when it came to survival. Were they going to help other people? Were they gonna be more selfless or were they going to just play the game so that they could maximize their ability to survive? And it comes from, as a kid reading Albert Camus, this book he wrote called, “The Plague” where there’s this town that’s under siege from a pandemic and a third of the population truly misbehaves, as you would expect as a part of survival. But then there are people who rise above it. And those are the stories I really love. And that’s what I’m most interested in.

When you’re reporting, are you actually missing the experience? Can you document something and experience something? Or do you feel like you’ve missed out on a lot of things because you were so busy trying to document the story?

The extension of that is like saying when we used to go to concerts, “are you really enjoying the concert if all you’re doing is lifting up your camera phone to record the concert?” Are you really in the moment and having that experience or are you so keen on documenting it that you are removing yourself from it and therefore you’re not really there? And it’s a good question. You can see philosophically that if you are so busy trying to tell the story, are you really living the story or seeing the story. There are actually two schools of thought on that. Sociologists argue about this all the time: if you’re doing research on a community, do you live within the community and are totally transparent about it so that you can truly experience it, or do you have to remain outside of it so that you can be as fair and objective as possible?

When I was in journalism school, many thousands of years ago, I was in New York at Columbia. One of the ethics classes was taught by Fred Friendly. He was famous for being a CBS producer and was documented in Good Night, Good Luck. George Clooney played him. And one of the ethical dilemmas that was placed with us is, if you were a reporter, should you vote? Because by even the action of voting, even though nobody knows how you voted, are you taking a stand? Are you actually integrating yourself into the community? And now we think that’s ridiculous. And people are demanding more transparency from reporters in the way that they should say what their biases are upfront when they’re reporting and be transparent in their work. So there’s all that from a journalism point of view.

But I think for me, whether it’s an interview or having a conversation like this with you or telling a story, I truly believe that it’s an act of profound listening and respect. And so I’m in major antenna-receiving mode at that point. And maybe it does shape my view of what is going on. But I think that I’m actually taking in more than I normally would if I was just a passive member of that environment. And I am constantly in a stage of storytelling. And I think my perception is extremely sharp, whether I’m shopping or going for a bike ride or having a conversation with somebody, I take that moment very seriously and I’m interpreting it always. And so I think I’m deeper in that than I normally would be if I weren’t in storytelling mode,

My entire life is documented, and sometimes I just want experiences that are mine. I’ve come to the conclusion that nothing is truly mine because the things that I get odds are somebody enabled me to go do this thing. I struggle to decide what parts of my life I want to tell stories about.

You have to ask yourself who you’re telling those stories for. If you believe that this is a story that will benefit others, then yeah, go ahead. Or if you think it’s even worth capturing for yourself, just so that you can capture the moment in time when you look back on it later. But in the end, because of this state that we are in with technology and communication, your default should be that it doesn’t really matter. You’re just adding more to try to put us into a world full of junk, and it may be meaningful to you at the moment, but it’s such a sliver that it’s not gonna make a difference. 

And so rather than thinking, you’ve got to take a picture of everything your kids do. And you and I grew up in a world in a time when that was not on board, there might’ve been, you know, a year’s worth of photographs on a camera phone would maybe represent a lifetime 20 years ago. It’s not that important. And so I don’t take that many pictures. I take something that’s meaningful that I would like to share as communication with family. I don’t post to Instagram anymore. I don’t post to Facebook. Because all I know is I’m feeding that gaping maw of data that they’re going to use against me at some point. 

So the question is, what are you documenting for? And I think for me, it’s almost like a personal meditation to just make sense of things for myself. And if at some point I think it’s worth making public, I’ll put it out there, that’s not my default anymore.

With this podcast, the goal was that I had questions, and we were in the pandemic so I couldn’t go and have coffee and ask you 500 questions about this thing. And so I decided to do this and to add a little more input into the loop, and I really enjoyed it. And it has been a very public thing, but really one of the most selfish things I’ve ever done, which is, I just have questions and I’m curious.

That should just be good enough if that – and that is good enough. Because my assumption any time I create content now is that nobody’s going to see it. As important as I think it is to me, it’s just not going to make the cut, unless it’s something egregious or gets scaled up by some algorithm or whatever else. So I have to be very cautious about putting my energy into something that I know that’s not going to pay back like that. So if your reason for doing this is just to have cool conversations with people and maybe find inspiration for yourself and share it publicly and whatever happens, happens. That’s good enough.

Many years ago, Chris Matthews is talking – and he’s talking about what loyalty is – and says that people weren’t loyal to you because you did something for them, but because they did something for you and they enjoyed the experience and thought, “I did this thing for Tim, I enjoyed that, I would do this thing again.” And that is loyalty. What is the relationship between that sort of loyalty and trust told through storytelling? Because often in marketing, we’re trying to build brand loyalty and it sounds like the vehicle is story and trust.

One may be a component of the other. I think loyalty is almost a filter of convenience. I used to talk about storytelling as an act of trust, even as simple as what say watching Star Wars, right? And so George Lucas says, take some time to watch this and there’s going to be some kind of tension, but I promise you that it will pay off when I show you the resolution. And so I say, okay, I’m going to, I’ll try this out, I’ll go along for the ride. And I see that first Star Wars movie and say, Oh shoot, he did it. So, yeah, I now trust George Lucas with my time and my attention because he built that story that now establishes him as a credible taker of my time. And so that’s where my thought around trust happens.

Now, am I loyal to Star Wars and George Lucas? Well, as long as you keep sort of providing that benefit and that experience. But then along the way you can lose it because you make the prequels, which really suck. And all of a sudden, I start wondering whether you have the ability to do that. But I think especially now we are looking for payback for our loyalty and you see it from brands and companies in terms of how they incentivize that all the time, and the algorithms that come with it. Because we are so inundated with information and stories that we just want to know who to trust and who to believe. And if we have that first experience as positive, like buying something from Amazon using Prime, and it gets to us faster than before, we’re just going to throw out any critical thinking. And say, okay, I trusted them once, let’s just stick with that. It’s like somebody who buys a Ford pickup every three years without fail. Is there real trust and credibility there? Maybe, or maybe they’re just looking for convenience in terms of relieving the cognitive anxiety that goes through every decision-making process. So there may be a connection between loyalty and trust, but sometimes loyalty can be shorthand for, let me not have to think about this decision anymore.