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How to Change Behavior with Ryan Kutscher

George Grombacher October 6, 2023

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How to Change Behavior with Ryan Kutscher

LifeBlood: We talked about how to change behavior, giving people what they need while giving them what they want, how to help people when dealing with highly sensitive and embarrassing subjects, the role of shame in marketing, and making things easy, with Ryan Kutscher, Chief Creative Officer with Circus Maximus.       

Listen to learn the role confidence plays in behavior change!

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Ryan Kutscher

David Miller

Episode Transcript

yan Kutscher 0:28
Sure, yeah. I mean, I think I do what I do, because I have no other options.

george grombacher 0:02
Rob Kutcher is the founder and chief creative officer of Circus Maximus. They’re a three time Grand Prix winner at the Cannes Advertising Festival. They also helped a Roman scale from a $0 valuation to over 6.8 billion. Welcome, Ryan.

Ryan Kutscher 0:18
Thank you. Thanks for having me. Glad to be here.

george grombacher 0:20
excited to have you on man. Tell us a bit about your personal lives more about your work, why you do

Speaker 1 0:25
what you do?

Ryan Kutscher 0:33
So once I figured out that advertising, and being able to kind of have a career where you kind of solve problems, cultural issues, behavioral kind of behavioral economical issues, stuff like that, was like, I think I got to do that. I don’t know if I’m gonna be real qualified for much else here. And so that’s how I ended up in advertising. I was studying economics. And then I had a teacher for one semester in my senior year of college that was in warmer madman, from, you know, the Madison Avenue days of New York. And when he showed up, it was just so different than all the other teachers that I had had school who were, you know, straight laced accountants or economics professors, stuff like that. And everything he was saying was so different, and yet still involved a lot of that same kind of business thinking and in all the stuff I’ve had kind of learned in college, and I was like, well, let’s do that. And so that’s how I found myself kind of falling into the business, personal life. As you and I discussed before the show, I’ve got myself, a three month old, which is teaching me some interesting lessons. But that’s the main transition live here in Austin, Texas, got a dog, got a wife, and got a truck and a half. And if this doesn’t work out, I’m gonna write a country song and move into a new career. So that’s kind of the background. I love. Ya.

george grombacher 2:08
You go live in the American dream, man.

Ryan Kutscher 2:11
Yeah, the American Dream is still alive in small towns, man.

george grombacher 2:18
So I imagine that people ask you a lot about how you, how you just the whole Roman story.

Ryan Kutscher 2:27
Yeah, so with Roman, we had a friend, former colleague that had moved more into venture capital backed brands. And they were starting Roman. And they didn’t even have a name at the time. This is 2014 ish. 2015. So kind of the beating heart of the middle of the VC backed brands. And they were the ambition was to create a vertically integrated men’s pharmacy, which has since expanded into men’s and women’s print. Medication to serve Edie, the IDI market. And at the time, you know, there’s some interesting statistics around Ed about how many men really suffer from it. Of course, there are underreported, of course. And so their, their their hunch, and their suspicion was this market is a lot bigger than it’s being reported. And one of the fundamental problems with it is that men don’t really want to talk about it. That’s why it’s underreported. So if we were able to provide a discrete online telehealth service, you absolutely can tap into this market, and we want to build a brand around it. And how do you build How do you basically build a digital brand around a service that serves a an issue that no one wants to admit they have. And so that was like kind of the marketing challenge can be built row, or Roman. And the tagline that we came up with, was to a healthy manhood. And it was really about, you know, the sort of a double entendre there a plan words, but there’s really about more than just Ed. Ed, as it turns out, is kind of what we call the canary in the coal mine of men’s health, it’s the most obvious thing that can go wrong, you know, besides being shot, or being in a car crash, you know, you’re like, hey, this thing’s not working. So it’s also serves as an indicator that you may be suffering from a kind of a constellation of other health ailments could be low blood, blood pressure, heart issues, obesity, and kind of a host of other kind of important issues. So the, the way in to solving that problem was Ed, and then from there that helped Vertical pharmacy kind of saw a host of other issues as well could be a result of smoking. So that was how we, I guess kind of created a, a beachhead with with consumers, and then built the brand from there. And now, you know, they offer all kinds of stuff from smoking cessation to alcohol cessation, and it was epic. Which is gigantic. Yeah. So that was that was the business side of it. And then the fun side of it was, like I said, coming up with the campaigns, that would get guys engaged. So we had a campaign, for example, guys did not want to admit that they were dealing with this problem. So we ran a campaign that was like, this isn’t for you. It’s for your friend, and friend. And it was like, your friend may have a lot of questions, you know how friends are. So knowing that you don’t need this information, but as to be a good friend, you should let them know. And then we would list off all the things that you know, they needed to know. So, you know, we kind of had, we kind of had some fun with it.

george grombacher 6:03
Which, which totally makes sense. So in that scenario, do you put yourself in the shoes of do create, like an avatar? Just the guy who doesn’t want to talk about it?

Ryan Kutscher 6:16
Yeah, so you try to get as much information, right, you’re going to do some consumer research, you’re going to get as much direct information from your potential customer as you can. And then there’s the sort of the psychological, you know, the behavioral economics side of like, well, alright, you got that person that doesn’t even want to admit they have a problem? How can you give them a solution? It’s like, a fascinating challenge. And you have to kind of dig in there to get them. You know, the, the idea behind the friends campaign was that it was like, well, we could other this thing, we’ve meaning we could make this feel like it’s someone else’s problem. But we knew that guys would listen in. And so it’s like, it’s a little like, cheat code that are, we’re gonna get them to pay attention by pretending like, you know, playing along, that none of us deals with this thing. So it’s sort of getting an understanding of like, what’s the what’s the kind of like, the decision making mechanism that’s going on in people’s brains or like, what’s what’s driving their behavior, that’s a barrier for them, or, you know, kind of getting that, to the extent that you could ever know those things we wanted to understand, you know, what’s driving this weird behavior. But we knew that guys were going online to get Viagra because there was this huge gray market, you know, billions of dollars are being spent online to buy, you know, dodgy Viagra that’s made and, you know, some, some bathrooms somewhere that doesn’t have any medicinal purposes at all. So we knew that guys that wanted the solution, we just it was the, it was the communication and behavioral unlock that we had to figure out.

george grombacher 7:55
It’s fascinating. And so getting people’s attention to, to click on it, and then it’s the probably never, probably less apt to walk into a drugstore to buy it off the shelf. I remember when I was, you know, a teenager, how embarrassed I was buying condoms. And then having it show up at my house, how all that happens. So the actual delivery once you get them to buy it.

Ryan Kutscher 8:22
Like hundreds thing is so funny. But yeah, I think people are like, certainly apprehensive and we knew that you’re walking into a fairly impersonal meeting with a doctor. I mean, people lie to the doctor all the time, you know, about how much do you drink about, you know, three, four drinks a week. Okay. Like, so that’s kind of a behavior that, you know, I’m actually kind of paraphrasing a guy named Rory Sutherland, who I just I just shared, he was on a podcast, with a guy named Rick Rubin, who people might know. And Rory Sutherland is a famous ad guy. And his fascination with business is sort of the same as mine, which is like these, you know, this kind of behavioral economics triggers. And he was saying that, if you’ve been to McDonald’s recently, you probably have ordered through, like a tablet or the kiosk. And he was saying that, what they found is that when men are ordering through the tablet, there’s something like 90% more inclined to order two hamburgers instead of one. Because we’re actually because we’re actually hungry. Right? But when you have to make that order to a human, you feel a little self conscious about it. So the the thinking was that like, there’s a level of in personalization, that actually allows for a degree more, whether you call it honesty or and that was sort of experienced that same thing with Roman which was like, you’re gonna be able to go online, it’s a little bit so a little bit more distance, right? Like you’re not like, you’re not face to face with someone looking them in the eye telling them you need EDI medication. And so that was really the whole reason for the success was guys were just more willing to sort of stay anonymous through this telehealth process. And that was a really powerful value prop.

george grombacher 10:23
Yeah, that’s really interesting. And it makes sense. And the the data or the research on ordering through a screen and ordering more food than you would in person, it makes all sense in the world. So

Ryan Kutscher 10:37
since but it’s there’s no way that you would have ever you wouldn’t ever be able to do consumer research to discover that, do you? I mean, it’s almost like an accidental discovery, that that once you see the behavior, and you have the, the you have the data, you can sort of go like, Oh, that’s what happened. But if you ask someone, Hey, are you more likely to want to buy EP medications from a doctor face to face? Or, or through a tablet, they probably would have said through a doctor because more trustworthy, and you can answer questions or something like that. But so it’s one of those things where you because you asked how do you get into the mindset of the consumer? And it’s like, well, you kind of you can only do it so much. But that seems to have been the takeaway, you know, which, which was endemic to the platform of Roe. But we wouldn’t have you know, you wouldn’t have been able to do a bunch of consumer research and come away with this idea that like, Oh, I know how to have this. It was just kind of like a happenstance that the way that people wanted to buy this particular product was a side benefit of the way that we took this brand to market through telehealth, telehealth. Kind of fun.

george grombacher 11:55
Yeah, I think it’s fascinating. Do you see other industries that are similar? You mentioned how Roman is now selling weight loss drugs? What else do you see as as potential to use this kind of strategy?

You sir, are muted.

Ryan Kutscher 12:39
Great. Where did we lose each other?

george grombacher 12:40
It’s all good. You just, you just explained the psychology of how you wouldn’t necessarily be able to replicate it. So and we’re good there, because I had asked a question, and then you kind of cut out so I’ll just re ask the question. That’s all right. Yeah, absolutely. So it’s, it’s fascinating. Do you see it will Roman getting into not to keep going back to them, but getting into weight loss drugs? So there’s embarrassment? There’s maybe some shame around that. Do you see other industries that are similar using that approach of maybe the other?

Ryan Kutscher 13:18
I think it’s like, you know, probably a better question for their product roadmap people, but with ozempic. Certainly, I mean, I think their their mission was basically to deliver any kind of medication that people might need. I think this surprising. Speed and growth behind ozempic has certainly been probably something that all online pharmacies have benefited from. I wouldn’t speculate. I mean, they knew that the goal was, you know, trying to help people with other challenges, whether that’s smoking cessation, or weight loss or hair loss, things of that nature. So the shame around that, I guess, probably consistent, but but there are other factors. I think with weight loss, I think, yeah, everyone, you know, across the board, I mean, the rise was epic has been insane.

george grombacher 14:18
Yeah, it really has. I was I was just I was, I was selfishly thinking about my own work. I work in personal finance. And there’s certainly a lot of shame around money, and so many people struggle with money. And I wonder if there wasn’t if there’s not similar psychology that could be used by a company to to get their service out?

Ryan Kutscher 14:38
Well, I’m sure you know, I mean, I think, you know, in the world of personal finance, what’s interesting is like, two thirds of Americans in an emergency don’t have $1,000 of cash laying around. And that that actually crosses income swaths, so you might be a high earner and you’re still hand to mouth, which is you know, obviously Got a problem. So they’re the thing about it is that people are kind of afraid to address that, though they don’t know how to get around that. And sometimes the solution isn’t always that fun, you know, which is like reduce your spend, and in a world of Instagram where like, we all feel like we’re supposed to be driving, you know, BMWs and stuff. How do you how do you reconcile that? I’m definitely there’s interesting psychology in there, that would be fun to figure out. For the right brand,

george grombacher 15:31
what is that? What does that roadmap or that process look like for, for brands, for companies that are thinking, You know what? I think that I would like some of that success that that Roman experience. So what does it look like somebody’s listening to call you up? What does that conversation look like?

Ryan Kutscher 15:49
Well, usually it starts it is a conversation, and it’s, Hey, what did we try to do? You know, what do we what do we what is the ultimate goal here? What are we? What do we want for our customer? How are we helping them get there? Trying to really think through kind of the the big picture on what is this brands role and kind of serving a customer get from point A to point B? And how much do we understand about that, and really just kind of asking as many questions as we can to really get to the heart of the issue. You know, like with Roe, or were some of the other brands that we’ve worked with qingsiya Gillette as an example. There’s kind of a behavioral situation that’s going on. And you know, with with qingsiya, Gillette, this is a brand that we launched for Procter and Gamble. You know, they sort of saw, it wasn’t hard to see that behavior around shaving had changed. So now a lot of men are growing beards. But those same men don’t really know how to grow beards, or that, hey, taking care of this hair on your face isn’t just about letting it grow, you have to trim it and you get ingrown hairs, and you have to shape it and you have to take care of it and it gets dry and and it gets itchy. And it’s like, there’s all these things that we had to kind of educate guys to help sort of become excellent beard growers the same way we could spend 100 years helping them become excellent shapers. And so it turns out that it wasn’t just kind of giving guys products, it was giving them information and confidence in education. So you know, the more questions you kind of ask, the more you realize, like what is the role that this brand is going to play in someone’s life? And then you kind of build it around that. And if you’re doing that, if your hunch is correct, and you’re sort of answering the right questions, solving the right problems, you do tend to find success, but it’s not an iterative thing where like, you know, the difference between kind of like anyone that’s watching madman is that, you know, some guy like Don Draper walks into a room smoking a cigarette and ghost fellows, here’s where you got it wrong. And here’s the answer. It just doesn’t quite work like that. You know, it’s usually a lot of back and forth and failure and ad ad campaigns that that got it wrong or products that didn’t quite get it right and, and you kind of inch your way towards something that’s a little bit more successful.

george grombacher 18:15
That makes a lot of sense. Love it. Well, Ryan, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage? Yeah,

Ryan Kutscher 18:23
I mean, I think on LinkedIn, Ryan Kutcher, and then you can find circus is the name of the agency. And between those two places, you’ll be able to find me.

george grombacher 18:36
Excellent. Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did show, run your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas could find Ryan Kutcher on LinkedIn, it’s ry, a n k U T, S, C, H, E, R, and then check out circus and I’ll link all of those in the notes of the show. Thanks again, Ryan.

Ryan Kutscher 18:57
Thank you really appreciate it.

george grombacher 18:58
Till next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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