Thierry is Bradford’s second best marketer (after your not-so-humble host), a data expert and a product inventor.
In this episode we discuss:
- The joy of a non linear path
- Learning from our community
- Why Bradford is bouncing
- How fusing ideas, cultures and thoughts creates greatness
- Launching his first product
- What’s the worst that could happen
- You are not your customer
- Launching a peanut butter
- Monetising bull semen (yes, you read that right)
- Using data to tell stories
- Why people are the most important part of data (not just a dashboard)
- How AI can impact data collection and usage
Thierry is the Head of Data Insight at SALT.agency. Overseeing SALT’s data and insight product offering, which combines our renowned SEO and content proposition with a data-driven strategy – helping clients become more visible and execute their growth strategy.
The data team’s wealth of experience, comprehensive understanding of data analytics, data-led PR and SEO best practices is invaluable in driving clients data-centric growth, including campaigns for the likes of Showpiece, Whiskey Investment Partners, GAME, Missguided, PrettyLittleThing, M&S, Monzo and GoCompare.
Scary Smart by Mo Gawdat
Black History Month
This is the first in a mini series of podcasts for Black History Month. Throughout October, we’re celebration some of the best black marketing talent from the UK, with episodes of the Strategy Sessions.
Strategy Sessions Host – Andi Jarvis
Make sure you subscribe to get the podcast directly or sign up for it here to have it emailed when it’s released.
If you enjoyed the show, please give it a 5* rating.
This transcript has been done automagically using Happy Scribe and hasn’t been checked by a real person, so there may be some hilarious mistakes where the AI can’t work out our accents – I’m sure they’re trained on just the American accent.
[00:00:00.000] – Thierry N
What one thing would I wish I’d known 10 years ago? To be fair, I’m going to be quite cheeky with this one because it’s not one thing that I’d wish I’d known 10 years ago. To be honest with you, it’s actually probably two things.
[00:00:14.070] – Andi J
Eyup, and welcome to the Strategy Sessions. My name is Andi Jarvis. I am the host of the show. And that voice you heard just to start off, is Thierry Ngutegure. Thierry wants to break all the rules of the show and answer two things when I only asked for one. But do you know what? They’re both good, so we’ll let him off. And he’s great, too. He’s a data guy. He works for Salt Agency, but he’s also a product inventor, a founder. He comes up with all sorts of stuff: some brilliant products, alcohol products, peanut butter products. And one which is interesting, it’s bull semen. But the story behind it is incredible, so listen to that. Thierry is also from Bradford, which is where I’m from, city close to my heart, my hometown. And we talk about the future and what that holds for it. Because I think we both believe the city’s best days are in front of it, not behind it. So have a listen to that. Thank you to the guests who’ve been the Black History Month miniseries, Sharif, Anu, Kevin, Collette, and Thierry to finish. After this, we’re going from weekly release back to the normal release.
[00:01:10.690] – Andi J
There’s not going to be as many episodes, but it’s been fantastic hearing five different perspectives of what it’s like being Black in the UK and in marketing. So enough of me, Wafflin. Let’s hear what two things Thiery has to talk about.
[00:01:23.020] – Thierry N
The first thing really is that there isn’t a singular path. I think that when, at this point, what was I? Like 11 or 12 years old. You’re looking at finishing or talking about your GCSEs. You’re probably talking about A-Levels and where you’re probably going to go to university. I think that we live in a society where at the time, it was almost like a conveyor belt. It was like, bang, bang, bang, this is your process. This is where you go fall off the end, get a job, crack on, see you later, pay. Stay in your role for 35 years, cash in your pension, and everything’s hunky-dory. I do wish that somebody had told me that I do not have to prescribe to that linear process that there is 10 ways to get to the same destination. I think that was super important, which to be fair, I almost stumbled into after that point, which we’ll touch on a little bit later. Then the second thing that I was going to do a cop out as well is that people aren’t inherently as mean as we first think they are. What I mean by that is that I think back in the day, back in the day, we used to have more faith in our communities and the people around us in the sense of whether it materialised from a sense of kids playing out on the street or whatever that might be.
[00:02:39.530] – Thierry N
And then we’ve become to a point where media drills down on the bad things that are happening in the world, and so then it feels like it’s happening all around you. And then that manifests as well, the ripple effects of that is that within your career, you believe people are scary and you don’t approach them for help in where you would like to go and the things that you would like. Right now in my career, there isn’t a single person I wouldn’t DM a thing and say, Listen, I think what you’re doing is absolutely incredible. We should do something one time. Quite literally, it’s almost like how we met Andi. It was social media and saying, Hey, I think what you’re doing is cool. I think you’re a cool person. I think we’d vibe, et cetera. And then you start on this trajectory of friendship and career support and everything else, you look after each other. But at that time, it wasn’t a thing to jump into someone’s DMs who you believe is doing something incredible way ahead of you to learn what they’ve done.
[00:03:35.950] – Andi J
The second point particularly really chimes with me, well, both points really chime with me, but that second point is something that I love and I love talking about because we live in a world, certainly in the UK at least, where there’s this relentless message that people are out to get you. And sometimes people, especially people who look different to you and who are not from around here, are out to get you. And generally speaking, I don’t believe they are. I’m 43 years old, I reckon in my entire life, I think I’ve met maybe two or three people who I would call absolute bad bitches. I’ve met people all over the world who will stop and will put themselves at risk or will take themselves out of their way to help you. Actually, the human spirit is a beautiful thing. And if you just stop and open yourself up to look at it and go, Actually, just take those shutters down, and go, Right, people are actually there trying to help you. The number of people who will do something for you is just incredible. It’s a huge number of people. I love that you’ve seen that and you’ve also seen it in your work life as well.
[00:04:48.720] – Andi J
Just ask sometimes and people are like, Yeah, okay, we can do this.
[00:04:51.950] – Thierry N
Yeah, absolutely. I think most of the mistakes we make are as a byproduct of actually not asking for help. Don’t get me wrong, I think we live in a culture as well now where I can’t scroll Instagram for 10 seconds without an entrepreneur telling me, You have to fail. You must fail in order to succeed. I totally do agree that you do. But a lot of those failures can be mitigated just by speaking to another human who has encapsulated that failure. The most powerful thing about failing is the ability to turn around and tell somebody behind you, By the way, watch that step. That’s really the power of the human race. That’s why we’ve been able to evolve and overcome diseases and famine and et cetera, because we have the ability to turn around and disseminate that information. And so then if we’re not really speaking to each other in any way, whether it be business, society, et cetera, that is why we always say history repeating itself because we didn’t speak to each other, ultimately.
[00:05:43.540] – Andi J
My last take on that then is that you probably need to retrain your Instagram algorithm, because all I get if I start scrolling Instagram is people falling off of things, and honestly, it brings joy to my heart. I said people, it’s always men. Always men falling off of things.
[00:05:57.320] – Thierry N
Because once again, they don’t speak, Andi. Me.
[00:06:00.440] – Andi J
If only someone could have predicted this would have happened. Everyone predicted it was going to happen except you.
[00:06:07.800] – Thierry N
[00:06:09.950] – Andi J
Thierry and Gautegore, who broke all the rules this morning by having two answers to the question where it only asked for one answer. You can see the man is a rebel at heart. Thierry, welcome to the Strategy Sessions.
[00:06:21.950] – Thierry N
Thank you so much for having me. Yes, a rebel at heart is very much what I’ll have on my tombstone.
[00:06:27.550] – Andi J
You’ve got that. Mine is going to say talk to your customers. I think I know who wins this. It’s definitely you. I’m going to start at the beginning because I want to talk about your rebellious nature because we share an amazing heritage of being BD kids. If you don’t know what a BD kid is, it’s Bradford. But in West Yorkshire. The place, everyone’s like, Where is that? And you have to say it’s near Leeds, which breaks everybody’s heart if you’re from Bradford. But you went to school in Bradford, and is that where you got your rebellious streak from?
[00:06:57.090] – Thierry N
Yeah, definitely. I mean, it’s really interesting because Bradford has birthed many a things. I ran into Chris Camara the other day and I didn’t even know he was a proud Bradfordian as well. Charming. Do you know what I mean? Even Zane Mallick, and then we’ve got me and you. Listen, Bradford is churning the excellence out, realistically.
[00:07:16.740] – Andi J
There’s about time. Absolutely, right? Yeah. Gareth Gates. Don’t forget Gareth Gates.
[00:07:19.900] – Thierry N
I’m telling you right now, we’re churning excellence out. But yeah, I love growing up in Bradford. There’s an extreme sense of community when it comes to Bradford. There’s an extreme sense of like, outside of London, it’s the first city I’ve seen that has extreme pride on a postcode. So even when somebody’s like, Oh, where are you from? I’m like, BD6. I’m like, Oh, yeah, I know that area. So yeah, it was a beautiful place to grow up and it’s one of those spectacular cities where you are in the city centre one second, but your house is situated on lands of greenery, which is incredible and a blessing when you’re growing up as a kid to be able to roam around those areas. And so, yeah, Rebellious is in its nature because discovery then occurs when you have lots of things to run around in. So, yeah, Bradford very much, if not Ignited, kept that fire alive, for sure. Yeah.
[00:08:15.410] – Andi J
And I think if you only vaguely know Bradford listening to this podcast, you probably only heard bad things about the city, right? Yeah. Let’s be honest, it’s a city that has struggled to find its way in modern society. So very quick history, listen, it was a massive city during the Industrial Revolution, wool was its main industry. Lots of mills, some of the most beautiful buildings. I always say from a distance, Bradford’s one of the most beautiful cities in the UK. You stand on a hillside, you see these amazing mills, these beautiful streets, looks fantastic. Unfortunately, there is no wool industry in the UK anymore. All the mills have shut down, all the industry disappeared, and Bradford struggled to find its feet since then. And that’s led to some challenges, areas of deprivation. There was a large migration came in at the area and all sorts of stuff, which has led to different communities and different pockets of things happening. That leads to people telling you all the bad things about Bradford. But when you get into Bradford, it’s just an amazing city. There is just this energy about the place, which I don’t find in many other places, and that sometimes is mischanneled, but there is an amazing energy about the place that leads to this fusion and this creation and different things banging into each other, which just causes creativity to happen.
[00:09:31.840] – Andi J
I love going… I haven’t lived in Bradford since the 90s, sadly, but all my family is still there, and I love going back to the place. I love it. There’s just something, I don’t know, maybe it’s in the water, I don’t know, but it’s just a great place to be, isn’t it? And it’s great. Do you tell me all about it where you think it’s great?
[00:09:48.860] – Thierry N
Yeah. I love it. I’ve even bought a house here. It’s ultimately where I see foundations being built, and that’s why you see such intergenerational families living here for decades upon decades upon decades. It’s an incredible staple. I think the worst thing to happen to Bradford was probably Leeds. Leeds has become such a melting pot of people. Leeds is almost like a small London. I’m obsessed with Leeds just as much as I’m obsessed with Bradford. But I do think that because it’s so close, it’s had that ripple effect of like, you know when Brighton used to be somewhere people would go to retire, and now it’s full of people like me, like little hipsters who go down there. It’s like the ripple effect of London has meant that people have a far-reaching effect. It’s almost happened to Bradford in the sense of because Leeds were so close, people just went to Leeds. And so then almost compounded some of the struggles that it’s had. But over the last decade or so and City of Culture bids and things like that, there’s a lot of people really pushing for it to not get back on its legs, per se, it’s knocked that down.
[00:11:01.400] – Thierry N
It starts sprinting again. It was a world-class winner, and that’s exactly where we’d all love for it to get again.
[00:11:08.700] – Andi J
Absolutely. And there’s lessons, though, that you take from… We were talking just before we started about sometimes the problems of having too much, we’re talking client problems, too much money problems, in that I think sometimes money can stifle innovation. And that might sound like a counterintuitive problem, but I once interviewed Professor Robert Winston, the owner of one of the most mustaches on British TV, and I talked to him about maybe having more money for research. And he said the same thing. He was like, Too much money into research stops you thinking creatively about problems. I take that approach and roll that back to… There’s a chance for Bradford, I think, because it doesn’t necessarily have all the bells and whistles that everything else has, to then find something different by crashing things together and going, Hold on. This is something that could have only ever come from Bradford and have that real unique home spin on it. I think that there’s something brewing there. I get to feel that there’s a positivity coming back to the place that I haven’t felt in probably 10, 15 years.
[00:12:09.520] – Thierry N
Yeah, I totally agree. I could not agree more. And you know what? Andi? It might be that we help you get there. We might be the things that need to crash together.
[00:12:19.260] – Andi J
Absolutely, watch this space. For this to happen, ideas have to come from out between your ears and into action. Probably out of all the people I’ve ever met, no one does that and puts ideas into action better than you. We are sometimes polar opposites in this. I am criminally an overthinker sometimes when it comes to like, I have this good idea, I’m going to sit on it for three and a half years and see if it comes to fruition and nothing ever happens unless you do something. But you’re a serial product launcher. Would that be a good way of describing you?
[00:12:53.820] – Thierry N
Yeah, I’m a serial action taker, and I think it’s one of those things where it’s really took to fruition over the last probably four or five years to say. Because as I say, it’s difficult to articulate because there was once upon a time as well where I was afraid of talking to people or I didn’t want to look wrong. And when I looked at adults, when I looked at adults in my head a decade ago, 30-year-old me, I was like, Listen, adults have got their shit together, man. I was thinking, How on earth am I going to get like 30 years old? And you’re like, You’ve got a mortgage, you’ve got a house, you’ve got kids running around, you’ve got this, you’re balanced in this. Then you go on holiday, then you’ve got your career and you’re sourcing or dancing. And it looked like, obviously, the life that my parents portrayed was obviously very well together and it’s a really tight knit family. And I was like, I have a lot of love and respect for my parents. So then I was like, How on earth are they running this shit? This looks nuts. But then when you get closer to that age, you realise that actually is the greatest spinning plate act as anyone has ever seen, and everybody’s just trying their best.
[00:14:05.130] – Thierry N
And it’s not perfect every day. The trendline over decades, it’s okay. Do you know what I mean? If you can get past… The confidence comes through knowing that you can get through a bad day and that those days will come. And so then actually, when I realised that it’s not perfect, I was like, Well, what’s the problem if I’m just doing this thing? Like, if it fails, all right, cool. It is what it is. What’s the worst thing that could actually happen apart from me over Criticiser? Because there’s nobody that’s going to critique you more than yourself. So I was like, I like myself. So therefore let’s just give it a crack.
[00:14:40.830] – Andi J
A friend of mine, Andi Borthwick, hello, Andi, he’s probably not listening. I talked to him for about, I don’t know, maybe 18 months, maybe two years before I launched Xmo, including a number of other people as well. And at one point over a beer, Andi, I think had just had enough and he was like, Just fucking do it. I was like, Yeah, but… And he was like, What is the worst that could happen? And you build up these worst things that could happen. But the reality is, actually, I’ll go back to what you said right at the beginning, if we just ask somebody, you work out that the worst that can happen is not all that bad and the things you’ll learn along the way. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I remember someone going, Yeah, it’s a bit cheesy, but sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. And when you reframe it as that, you’re like, Actually, you can’t ever really lose when you launch something, can you? If you do something different, you’re always learning something. So products you’ve launched, peanut butter, that’s probably the one that appeals, not appeals to me most, but confuses me the most.
[00:15:43.460] – Andi J
In that it feels like a really difficult segment to crack. It feels like a difficult product to make, and it feels like a section that… I’ll tell you what, let’s roll back a step. Tell us about some of the products you’ve launched, and then we’ll talk about peanut butter.
[00:15:59.190] – Thierry N
Yeah. Oh, God. The very first one I tried to launch, and it didn’t fall on its bum, I tripped it over, was I started a videography company. I used to dance competitively at university, so hip hop and breakdance. And we used to go to different universities and even go abroad and compete and stuff like that. And I realised a niche. So I did a videography specifically, dance videography company, back when YouTube was young. I’ve done two or three beers with Northern Monk, which is quite cool. A peanut butter. I am looking to launch a handbag rental business, which is quite cool. I sell bull semen a little bit about that later.
[00:16:49.450] – Andi J
[00:16:50.570] – Thierry N
Then peanut butter and then I’ve got one more product coming out this year, which I will keep on the raps, but it’s very up our street, Andi, and it’s something that post-30 more of us will need in our social lives.
[00:17:03.580] – Andi J
Excellent. Hopefully it’s cocoa on a quiet night in because that’s all I feel like I need now. Bullseye we will come back to, but some peanut butter. Beer, I can get my head around. Maybe it’s because I know a little bit about the beer market, having worked in it and alcohol, I can see. But that FMCG product that may need supermarkets for shelf space to actually take off to any particular level just feels like a really brutal space to enter. What was the thought process behind Mother Nutter?
[00:17:35.750] – Thierry N
Yeah, correct. Yes, Mother Nutter, peanut butter. With a lot of these types of ideas, I always think that if you don’t start and yes, inevitably something might not work, et cetera, there is no compounding effect. I believe ideation and something of success is the compounding effect of try and try again. And so even with Mother Nuttered, that was a beautiful thing because I’d done the beers and I was trying to launch tequila at the time as well. And so then actually, people around me saw that trial mentality within me and said, Hey, I have a friend. They’re currently running a really successful jam and mutney business, but I think they see a corner in the market within the peanut butter industry. Would it be something that you could world collide and you create something beautiful there? What the hell do I know about peanut butter? In terms of peanut butter, I go to the gym and I eat peanut butter because it’s a healthy way of eating good fat and high protein. Is it.
[00:18:42.160] – Andi J
Spoon in the jar?
[00:18:43.920] – Thierry N
It’s everything. I put a spoon in the jar. I use it.
[00:18:47.230] – Andi J
To as well. It’s underrated. People who don’t put a spoon in the jar, I’m telling you.
[00:18:50.800] – Thierry N
I’m telling you, it is the one. I put my hand in the jar if there’s none left as well. I’m an absolute fiend for it, literally. And so then that was it sounds really bizarre, but it’s really not. And it can be it’s just taking the career that I have within marketing and me being a consumer merging those worlds together. So people thought peanut butter was weird, but it’s not really because it’s not even that saturated. It’s actually quite a boring market. So what I mean by that is when you go and buy peanut butter, the typical experience is you’ll stand in front of a shelf and there is no brand loyalty. You’ll go and you say, I love Crunchy. Okay, that’s like one pound, 50. Cool. And it’s almost price-driven by that point and it’s a convenience product. And it’s something that you inherit from your parents as a brand in terms of like, Oh, my parents always had this in the jar, or a partner or a housemate or whoever. There’s never really somebody who almost instinctively makes a decision unless you are either a vegan following a specific diet and so therefore have had to look for other sources of protein and good fats and things like that.
[00:19:52.470] – Thierry N
And so therefore you are really looking at your diet in general. But the average consumer really, it’s a thing that they they stumble past when they’re passing bread and go, Oh, yeah, I need that. Like, Oh, I should probably get that. That signifies health. And so there’s a real opportunity in the market there to therefore create a brand that actually had a voice and an opinion and was cool and do almost like what Liquid Death has done to water, where rock stars don’t want to be seen on stage with Evion bottle. That’s not very rock and roll. But if you’ve got a can that signifies who they are as an individual and no one can see that they’re drinking water, you can have water and still look very rock and roll. So then similarly with peanut butter as well, can we create a brand that allows people to signify something to them and to their partners and to their friends as soon as they get out and be like, Oh, my God, have you seen Mother Nut? Or, This is a certain brand that I have, et cetera. And it creates that community aspect. And if it gets picked up by a supermarket, fantastic.
[00:20:55.490] – Thierry N
If it doesn’t, so be it. It doesn’t really matter. With the larger portion of these products that I launch, the ethos I stick to is that, are me and my friends going to use it? Do me and my friends need this product? If they don’t, then I will not do it, simple as that. There’s many products I’ve just not started or opportunities I’ve not jump on board. But yeah, if it’s to the benefit of my friends and I think I would buy it, then we’ll go for it.
[00:21:19.940] – Andi J
There’s something really interesting there. I know people who have spent any time in a workshop with me might be screaming at the phone right now going, You’ve got to ask the question, Andi. Ask the question. One of the things I say all the time to clients is you are not your customer, and you’ve got to take yourself. The thing I hear the most in workshops is I think, and usually a hand goes up, I’m like, Let me just stop you there, because in the politest way possible, nobody cares what you think because you are not the customer, and we need to… It’s interesting to hear that part of your product launch ideation, I suppose, is that I might be the customer and there may be more people like me. So in my marketing head, I’m going, Does that, though, lead you down a path where you can be blinded to problems or issues with it because you become so invested in it? And that’s what I tried to say to people. I was like, You’re not the customers. Just take the other step back and take a dispassionate look at it as opposed to being involved in it so much.
[00:22:15.050] – Andi J
Is that a problem for you?
[00:22:16.670] – Thierry N
Yeah. I totally agree with that narrative as well. It’s something I’ve had to be really careful with because it’s the reason why a few of my earlier ideas flopped as well, because I was a narcissist around the product. As I said, I put myself into the middle of that when it was unnecessary. In terms of with the peanut butter and these other brands I’m building at the moment, I see myself as a consumer in terms of the physical product as opposed to the marketing aspect and the growth of said brand. Do I think this level of this peanut butter is good enough quality for me to be happy to consume? Yes. Amazing. Then I’ll build a team around the branding, the marketing, et cetera, who have a complete diverse way of thinking and a way of executing certain things. Because in previous attempts, when I’ve tried to be like, Okay, I know how the market is going to look like. I know that I’m going to need this. I know that I’m going to need that. I haven’t got a clue. And it fails almost immediately just because there is no diversity in thought that I’ve accounted for there.
[00:23:21.810] – Thierry N
And what I’ve also learnt is that you can have… If we look at my protein, for example, both me and my mom shop at my protein. So if they looked at those demographics, they would be like, Oh, all right, there is a 30 to 55, 60-year-old demographic going on here. Cool. They probably all want health-based products. Right, well, I’ll give Thierry as well as Theirry’s mum 25 % off weigh protein. Whereas actually the intent is vastly different because I’m going there from a perspective of performance, whereas my mum is going there for collagen, longevity. So the intent is vastly different. And so that’s where I’m like, Actually, I bring in other people to help me disseminate what that intent is, because in my head, I’m like, Well, people come to eat peanut butter because they love peanut butter. Actually, no, it’s a great food, for example, to introduce children to when they’re going on to solid foods. It’s a great thing from a health and performance perspective, as well as longevity, as well as baking, as well as… I cannot cover all of those intents. And so then as long as the quality is good, I introduce a team to help me disseminate that intent.
[00:24:36.000] – Andi J
So to throw a hand Grenade at you. Yeah. You come up with products that you want to be the consumer of. Beer with Northern Monk, tequilas, peanut butter. Okay.
[00:24:50.360] – Thierry N
Oh, God. How the.
[00:24:51.730] – Andi J
Hell did you get to bull semen then? And what do you do in the evenings and weekends? I mean, is part of some weightlifting thing? Are you taking shots of bull semen and just like, Toreen, aah.
[00:25:06.870] – Thierry N
They want us to have a drink of Red Bull. You know what I’m talking about? Yeah, so no, although the protein intake is very high, I assume, it’s not my problem.
[00:25:21.470] – Andi J
It’s the texture that’s the problem.
[00:25:23.490] – Thierry N
Yeah, it’s definitely not for me. I’m all right. But that is… When you start things serially, you spot patterns quite easily. I think that product launchers and starting business or building things like that is actually more so pattern recognition. I have the ability to spot, okay, this thing will happen. Okay, knock on effect. Five steps, I can predict this thing will go on. And so then with being able to monetize an idea, which is ultimately really what I do for a living, you spot certain patterns that that thing can occur quite quickly and spot markets and things like that quite fast. I enjoy attempting to commercialise things. I love that. The idea of trying to almost manifest money almost, that’s ultimately what a side hustle is. Long story, my grandad, we went to go visit him. Traditionally, when you go see an elder, hes in trouble. He had to deal with a cow, both him and my sister. When we came then back home to the UK, we obviously then had to take the upkeep of that cow. It wasn’t going to fit in our carry-on on Ryanair, so we had to take care of the upkeep as well as the vet bills.
[00:26:46.630] – Thierry N
It was a financial toll because at that time, we’re like, what, 15, 16? My sister was like 12 at that point as well. It’s a bit intense. Then I started to have a little read around like, What do farmers do with cows? What happens around the land? Bulls and things like that. It led down a bit of a dark hole, but there was a lot of ways of monetising cattle and things like that. But the quickest, what I was looking for was, because I was desperate for cash, I was like, What is the quickest turnaround for this thing? Because a lot of the stuff is like, let them graze or quite final, like a finite in terms of I’m not going to get that cow back. I was like, How do I have longevity against this? Now, I’d had a bull where my sister was then given a cow. Then I did my homework around it and saw the value of a cow and I said, Right, okay, I will give you 250 cash right now if you give me your cow. My sister was like, Absolutely, take it. I ain’t got time for that.
[00:27:47.110] – Thierry N
Then the transaction occurred. I then called up my granddaughter and said, This is what I want to do. We’re going to breed the bull and the cow. Then also from a longevity perspective, any offspring of that process that produces milk or anything else like that, keep that for your farm. That is almost like a me to you, thank you so much type thing. Any bulls that then come from that procedure, could we then basically start selling their semen? Because they’re quite healthy, it’s a great farm, and so therefore longevity of that process, the semen is the easiest way to give them a great life as well as reap the from that. And so yeah, built up to about 12 or so cows, 12 to 14 cows, and it did quite well.
[00:28:38.090] – Andi J
Excellent. I’m based in Northern Ireland and did once have a client that was involved in the dissemination of cattle. Apparently, massive business within the farming world. And I think this is about, you mentioned diversity of thought. As a city boy, I had no idea about this. I go and ask questions at clients, that’s 90 % of my job is asking questions and listening. I was just like, Oh, this is big business, right? Isn’t it? You do all right. Oh, okay. And it’s incredible, this world that exists outside of the city that is there. And it’s the bull seaman business still going?
[00:29:17.920] – Thierry N
I have sold off a portion of those cows, but yeah, it’s something that my family still run and benefit from over in Rwanda as well, which is quite nice.
[00:29:30.780] – Andi J
Brilliant. But it’s not a product you use personally, which is good to know. Excellent. It could have been an awkward end to the podcast, that one. But then you also mentioned something at the beginning of the Bull story about pattern recognition, which segues us nicely into your day job, if I want to have a better description. Your data is your day job, right? Yeah. Tell us firstly, what is it you do with data? You work for an agency, Salt Agency. You’ve worked in a couple of agencies. What do you do with data? You don’t just sit there surrounded by spreadsheets going, I have all the data. What do you do? What are you looking for?
[00:30:13.320] – Thierry N
It’s pretty much spot on there. I think that my title is interesting because it’s the best current fit for the understanding of what we do at this moment in time. I think it will evolve and change as we start to have a larger vocabulary around data. I think AI will do a large proportion. Will help us to do that. In the emergence of something that powerful allows tangents to occur. But ultimately, although it’s data, my job is twofold, is understanding people and then telling those stories. That’s flat out what it actually is. Regardless of what it is that I’m reading, I think at the moment it’s just because, as I say, our vocabulary isn’t large enough for us to break down specific types of data and truly understand that on a commercial level. My job is ultimately, at the moment in time, we live in a world where we know more about ourselves and humanity than we ever have done before. We collect more data than has ever existed. Therefore, you’d think the natural correlation would be that if I collect a lot about you, I understand a lot about you, but that is just far from it.
[00:31:22.500] – Thierry N
It’s almost like the more we collect, the more confused we’re getting about each other. Then my job is to ultimately sit between those teams. The people collecting and the people trying to understand, and I sit between those teams and I help bridge that level of communication. It’s not a case of saying, Yes, I have 100% of data and I need to understand 100% of it. 5% of it might only be pivotal to your business or your brand or what it is that you’re trying to do. So hyper-focus on that 5 % because it matters right now. But obviously in the long term, it’s great to keep an eye on the rest of that 95 %. But yeah, that is my job to the strategic application of data into creativity in some way.
[00:32:05.520] – Andi J
I love the bit you say about the more data we collect, the less we seem to know about people, and that’s been a bane of my existence for a decade, I think now. I’ve always skewed towards qual research rather than quant. I’ve always found it more useful. I think that’s partly because I hated SPSS at uni, so the data just felt like something I didn’t ever want to do. But more than that, I felt the… I always referred to quant as black and white and qual as colour. Not that no one’s better, they just do different things. I think I always found the stories and the texture and the nuance to what people said much more interesting. It was something I could play around with and see the patterns in. Whereas looking at numbers and spreadsheets always felt like I was just looking at a magic eye puzzle and could never quite step far enough away from it to see the thing. But I do have a realisation that you need both together. So the fact that you’re taking data and trying to tell stories with it and bridging that gap, I love that. Have you got any examples you can share with us of where that’s maybe come to fruition?
[00:33:10.070] – Andi J
Obviously, you don’t need to mention client names or anything like that, but where there’s been a knotty problem that the data has helped shape the solution to.
[00:33:18.840] – Thierry N
Yeah, I mean, even the stuff that I’ve talked about when it comes our earlier one, so without having to step into any, accidentally name any brands knowing me, but even the example that we’re using for my protein earlier when we were talking about intent, we got to a point where there’s only so much weight protein you can keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing. It’s like, Well, how do we talk to more people about the same product? And so then that is ultimately my job to come in and go, Okay, brilliant. At the moment, who you have typically been selling weight protein to is this audience. The people who have the ability to consume your product are this much. Then within that is exactly what you’re talking about. I’m trying to understand right of those groups, what is similar about them and makes them different to other groups as well, and then understanding those groups and what their intents are. What is it that they want? What are their psychographics do? Is there a different in… Are they more price-elastic, for example? Then should we be sending Thierry’s mum 25% and Thierry 15% because we know Thierry will convert at that point.
[00:34:25.210] – Thierry N
Is Thierry’s motivation actually something completely different? Does he want to know when he is looking at the product, does he drop down on the product details? Therefore he wants to understand the nutritional information versus Thierry’s mum, who maybe comes from Facebook, bounces onto our website, is like, I’m already pretty much sold. I’ve absorbed the content on that perspective. So she just buys it because her and her friends talk about it. On that customer journey, what makes them similar, but also what makes them distinct and different to other groups, and how can we then understand that story and carve an experience that helps them? So it might be product bundles from that perspective. It might be the way you surface your content. It might even be the influencers that you use and the surface to those individuals. Channel execution as well. If I want to get Thierry, I would get him on Instagram and TikTok. Whereas if I want to get to hear his mum, you would be getting her on Facebook and other mediums that way. And so then it completely shapes the way that… This is the thing why communicating data is so powerful if listened to because it has the ability to tell you the possibilities and avenues you could go down when you’re in a moment of not even struggle, when you have the tried and tested method has come to almost an end in a way of like, Okay, we’ve done it too much, oversaturated, or it’s getting expensive.
[00:35:53.460] – Thierry N
And it has the ability to be like, Okay, well, there are these other revenues. Also super important, like you said as well. Sometimes creativity is born from the fact that you don’t have a full budget because you could just be like, Well, if I want to get more, I don’t need to do think about segmentation because I’ll just put more money in. It’s like, Well, actually, no. If you put less money in, you need a little bit more strategically creative in the way that you talk to these people, there’s probably more longevity in that conversation than there is of just dash among.
[00:36:22.930] – Andi J
We can call it the Timu approach to marketing of just buy market share by pouring billions into blitzing everybody with ads. I’m worried that I’ve actually said the word Timu in a podcast now, and I’ll be targeted even more. But to roll back a step, the great advertising guy, Dave Trott used the phrase, said, Every number tells a story, and that’s how you have to look at data, is that every number tells a story, and it’s our job to try and tell it. I think what you’re talking about there is this new data role. My big frustration with data roles for the probably last decade, maybe even more, is that my one criticism is they are always, always, always backwards looking. So if you’re looking at data, you’re only ever standing where you are now and looking backwards. And people then go, Oh, yeah, but we’ve got all this data from Facebook, all this data from Google. I said, Yeah, that tells us what has happened. It doesn’t tell us what is going to happen. Or we can predict. Yeah, but the skills weren’t there. The skills were there for analysing what was there in the past.
[00:37:24.470] – Andi J
But I think what you’re talking about now is standing at that bridge and saying, So now we have that. Now we can look at what’s going to happen in the future. There’ll be dead to people listening and going, Oh, no, we’ve always been doing that. I think they always have, but I’m not sure they’ve been doing it with the correct depth and nuance and understanding. Actually, all they’ve been doing is saying, This is the pattern that we had in the past, so this is what we’ll have in the future. I think what you’re saying is, This is the pattern that we’ve had in the past. Now we can shape the future based on that, which is a slightly different thing.
[00:37:54.900] – Thierry N
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve worked with some change behaviour brands as well, where it’s like, yeah, knowing how people perceive act around smoking, how do we therefore change a behaviour? I have no historic data on how that changed behaviour will look like. I just know how they previously behaved, and now I need to cultivate a way of changing their mind and the cultural and psychological principles around that as well. I think that those data skills have always existed. Let’s be realistic. Data people have always been at the forefront of that type of innovation in terms of collection, et cetera. I think where we fall down is the dissemination of information correctly to individuals to help them do that. I’ve come across a lot of people who sit high and mighty when it comes to data, and a large portion of their role is actually saying, I told you so. And it’s like, That’s fantastic, mate. You have.
[00:38:54.880] – Andi J
The- As soon as you’re saying that, I’ve got three names just going bang, bang, bang straight in the mind. I was like, Oh, yeah, I know that guy. I know that guy. And I know that guy as well.
[00:39:03.660] – Thierry N
Yeah. And they hold the keys to the kingdom, and their job is to say, I told you so. Actually, where the superpower comes into its own is if you have the ability to find somebody who has the ability to collect said behaviour aspects or information that you need and then has a unique ability of giving that to people who are maybe not so data literate and they just want to understand the story that is being told and how it matches with their own story or narrative or how it doesn’t match and help them understand that. So instead of saying, Okay, brilliant, I’m just going to create a dashboard that everybody can go on and self-serve and look at the data themselves. They’re like, That’s fantastic. But we’re assuming a level of data literacy across an organization of completely, vastly different people from all walks of life and completely different skill sets because ultimately not everybody comes into it with a level of data literacy that you’re trying to apply to them. And so you’re like, Well, obviously it’s that. Well, no, it’s not obvious at all. And the fact that you’ve even said it’s obvious just goes to show how weak your level of communication is against your own work.
[00:40:12.510] – Thierry N
And you’re actually stifling your own growth at that point because, unfortunately, in business, you’re only as powerful as what you’re able to tell and leverage and help other people understand, because regardless of holding the keys to the kingdom, I truly believe that all business is about relationships. So if I can help you help yourself, I therefore help me. And so there is a data and a people problem occurring there that goes hand in hand.
[00:40:43.140] – Andi J
I think when you spend a lot of time, I feel lucky that I spend a lot of time dipping between companies and organisations. I never go into a company and see a lack of smart people. I don’t go into a company and see people who don’t know how to do the job or see people who don’t want to do the job. There’s always someone who’s just taking the money and hoping they don’t get found out. But going back to what we said right at the beginning about the human spirit, 99 % of people are in work wanting to do something different. They’ve got the smarts for it, they’ve got the desire to do it. But there’s often these processes around them that stop it from happening. There’s often these work-based, whether it’s tribes, whether it’s silos or whatever, that stop people getting the information they need in a way they need it to be able to do the thing they want to do. I think if we could just harness how people work better, it’s not more data we need, it’s more of people being able to work together that we need. That seems to be the problem that we need to solve.
[00:41:40.740] – Thierry N
Yeah, I do totally agree. I think that you are right in the sense of there is like a people and a process problem per se. So a process in the way of the way we work, getting in the way of the way we communicate the work that we do to other people and why it’s important and so therefore, or even why it’s not important, and therefore we should focus on your thing, for example. And then yes, there is a people problem from a perspective of even the way that we measure people’s performance is very much like… If you look at how an all-hands meeting goes or end of the month, it’s like, Oh, and what have you done? And now it’s a data team. What have you done? And now it’s to this team, what have you done? So then even the way we talk about it like that is very much it forces me to be insular and create those data silos within organizations. And the next thing you know, you’ve all got different audiences. You’re actually talking about the process and the journey for the customer is completely fragmented. And you don’t even know who you’re actually physically focusing on.
[00:42:37.670] – Thierry N
I think that a really easy step one I’ve seen in quite a lot of organisations is sounds like the simple… I think we do actually need to go back to the simplest things. That step one is the best performing teams I’ve seen in terms of the way they disseminate data across a company has been teams that quite literally sit next to each other. It sounds really silly, but if I sit next to my finance team, I immediately understand why I should not be costing my proposals in that way because it is therefore not profitable or you’re going to be overworking or over servicing, et cetera, immediately. If I sit next to our social team, they are like.
[00:43:15.730] – Andi J
[00:43:16.260] – Thierry N
We’ve got to put this content schedule or calendar together. We are drying up with ideas. We’re not sure where to go. I go, Oh, amazing. Well, actually, if we take our SEO data in terms of the way people search and look at that from a seasonal perspective to 12 months, then people actually buy cyclically. Therefore, in terms of ideas, we should be focusing on this form of ideas in order for us to land for Q1. Therefore, as a buying team, we should be focusing on this because these are the products that have been outperforming. We start having these conversations that would have never really occurred if all I do is create a dashboard and go, at all, please read this stat and do it as you wish. And also.
[00:43:53.430] – Andi J
Then- We’ve got Power BI, the world’s much better.
[00:43:55.630] – Thierry N
We’re like, yeah. And then we’re quite narcissistic when it comes to numbers as well. Like, if I find a number that aligns with my bias, I’ll use it. So therefore, if you’re just sending out dashboards to people, they’re like, Oh, 20 % of this. Amazing. Bang, put on my deck. Amazing. So therefore, 20 % of people do this. And it’s like, Actually, what is the nuance within that 20 %? How have we got to that 20 %? Is that 20 % as much of a failure as it is a success? What has led us down this garden path instead of just taking a number and using it for our own narcissistic tendencies?
[00:44:29.290] – Andi J
Look, the number of times people are under pressure and building a deck or writing a report, and just need that one number to support the thing that they’ve said, and now they’re on the hook for it, so they have to make it. We’ve all written those reports, right? We have all written those reports, me included. So yeah, absolutely right. But to move away from people then back to the tech for maybe one last question. You mentioned AI very early on in the conversation about how it might change data. Is that in terms of collection, processing, understanding of? What impact is it going to have, do you think?
[00:45:03.970] – Thierry N
Yeah, so I think it’s going to have this leaning effect of the storytelling aspect. So I think that where it’s going to be the most powerful is I do not believe AI for a very short amount of jobs, yes. If you ever watched Charlie in the Chocolate Factor, I think his grandad lost his job to the mechanical arm that puts toothpaste screws on. Yes, a large proportion of the client manual tasks like that, it will ultimately take the job. But what it does for everything that something like that takes, so for every robotic arm that put a chair into a Toyota vehicle, there was an engineer, there was a software developer, there was a quality assurance officer. It creates a lot of other jobs in order for that thing to happen. But what it did was then create mass production of vehicles so we could do that. If we think about it from a vehicle perspective, it’s a great way of putting it. All the parts that go into the vehicle are going to become faster for us to do. Data processing, collecting, mining, cleaning, et cetera, standardization, certain types of analysis were extreme regression at this point.
[00:46:08.700] – Thierry N
So all of that can be done at now quite a speed, amazing. But what it’s going to take, just like the car factory line is, it’s going to take a lot of quality assurance individuals to make sure that the level of quality of data and the things that we are creating are to a certain standard. And then there is right at the start as well, like the people who conceptualize that piece of research in terms of understanding, okay, this is the thing that we need to create in order to understand humanity better. And then there’s the people at the end who tell that story. So yes, we could produce 50 billion cars, but how do we tell people that they need this car, that it is incredible, vital necessity to their lives and actually tell families that it’s N Cap Safety Five or whatever that might be? How do we tell those stories? So I think it’s going to create a lot more jobs around the dissemination of what it is that we’ve physically created, as opposed to wasting the time creating the thing. Then this is where I think it needs to become like what we can all do in terms of AI is not trying to be like, Oh, my God, I’m going to have to start figuring out how do I build my own LLM?
[00:47:22.460] – Thierry N
[00:47:23.880] – Andi J
[00:47:25.220] – Thierry N
How do I tell the story a little bit better regards the output that the LLM has? Or how do I leverage it to be able to speed up a lot of the manual processes that I possibly don’t like about my job, but the end result allows me to tell a more compelling narrative and to help us understand each other a little bit more, I think that’s where the greatest growth is going to occur.
[00:47:52.480] – Andi J
I love that. It’s a bit like when something new happens, we always think of how we can use it in exactly the same way as we do now. I use this Disney example. If you ever watched early Disney films, and by early I mean Snow White and The Seven Dwarves early, it’s effectively a theatre production done by painting and drawing cartoons. Even the way it switches between scenes, the curtain comes in, and then it switches to the next scene. Why is that? Well, talkies, silent movies were a thing, which were effectively stage shows there with no talking. But Snow White was shot in the ’30s, was it? I think late ’30s. Movies with talking were only started five, four years earlier, and then they were doing animation. The only frame of reference they had was theater shows. This was a movie theater. It was just a theater with a different output. You look at Toy Story, that is not theater that has been animated. But first of all, it’s part of the same line, right? It’s the end of the same line that started there. And we are at the minute of doing Snow White and the Seven Dwarves with AI.
[00:49:04.280] – Andi J
We’re just doing what we know, but something new. What’s the toy story version of this? How do we do that? How do we get there? So it’s a really interesting time to be in that world, I imagine, and there’s plenty of opportunity with it.
[00:49:18.850] – Thierry N
Yeah, there definitely is. I was reading a really good book, actually. I’ve got it here with me, actually. It’s called Scary Smart. This was by an incredible author. He was a former chief business officer for Google, Mo Gauder. He’s probably more famously known for his Happiness Equations. He talks about how do we.
[00:49:38.880] – Andi J
Achieve- Yeah, that’s where I’d heard that. I was like, I know that name.
[00:49:41.680] – Thierry N
Yeah, super, super smart dude. And he, in scary smart talks about the future of artificial intelligence. I read this actually a couple of years ago, but the way he articulates how AI or how our fear of AI is going to certain behaviours, he’s in the camp of, We can’t stop it. It’s ultimately coming. That’s it. It’s as simple as that. Now, what AI ultimately does is it will start to understand. If we give it a task, it will do the most efficient work in order to be able to execute that work for us. At what point do we believe… What do we conceive as consciousness? Because at some point it will have the ability to almost think and feel in a sense of certain things, depending on the information we give it and it derives from us. And so then it actually becomes a human problem rather than a tech problem once again, where it’s like if this thing is completing or doing things based on how it thinks we will behave or think and feel about it, then the way we behave is of vital importance. So the way we behave on social media or the way we interact with AI, the way we move around and maneuver around our financial climate, it will have a trickle down effect onto how AI will therefore be able to maximize our life for us.
[00:51:10.550] – Thierry N
Because it could come to a point where there’s like two dystopias. So there is one where it’s like the matrix, we are being farmed for electricity because AI has realised these people are a danger to themselves and the entire planet. Please put them in an egg and just harvest them for electricity and we’ll live forever as machines. Fantastic. Then there is the other utopia of like, actually, humanity at its core is absolutely fundamentally positive for the existence of the Earth and themselves. They are incredible creatures and just sometimes misled. The things that are the pressures that help mislead them are like healthcare, financial stability, et cetera. Okay, brilliant. Well, as machines, if we can create a world where there is no disease and nobody really needs money because there is of everything and people can have access to things, then actually humanity is super positive and an incredible thing to have around. And so then it’s really interesting for us to be able to think that far ahead, because at the moment, what we’re talking about is very tactical things. It’s very like, How do I use AI to increase my ROI? Where it’s like super tactical today type stuff, whereas his conversation is very much like, What’s the future of humanity in the face of artificial intelligence?
[00:52:32.790] – Andi J
Any book that forces you to think differently is always worth reading. I’m a fan of that already. I’ve got to note to that. Excellent. Well, listen, it feels like it’s gone really quickly with a little tech issue in the middle, but that’s okay. It feels like it went really quickly. But Thierry, thank you very much for your time. It’s been brilliant to have you on. I will put your contact details and everything in the show notes, but it’s all right to get in touch. We will all sit with bated breah waiting to see what the next product of the production line is.
[00:53:05.010] – Thierry N
It’s going to be good. It’s going to be a banger.
[00:53:06.930] – Andi J
I cannot wait for this one. I cannot wait. Thank you so much. Thank you, Thierry Ngutegure. Thank you very much for your time. See you again.
[00:53:13.120] – Thierry N
It’s been my pleasure. Take care.