August 23, 2022

Developing Empathy for Relevance in B2B Marketing — 3/4

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Episode Highlights

Music has the power to transport us through time by harmonizing with the way that we feel. In this episode, we continue the story of musician and filmmaker, Kishi Bashi, as he explores the past to make sense of the present. We also speak with Quacy Superville from Transmission agency about developing empathy in account-based marketing to produce more relevant messaging and business relationships.

Topics Discussed

  • Recap [00:56]
  • Kishi Bashi on the influence of history on music [02:29]
  • Kishi Bashi reacts to Muslim ban in news [02:54]
  • Kishi Bashi travels to former camps to learn about Japanese internment [03:53]
  • Kishi Bashi’s research project turns into feature length documentary [07:25]
  • Reach team reactions [08:37]
  • Introducing Quacy Superville [09:58]
  • Q Superville on the tendency to dilute messaging [12:07]
  • Q Superville on using empathy to define value [12:57]
  • Q Superville relates experience of sales associate at fund raising event [16:51]
  • Wrap-up and preview [18:49]

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[00:00:00] Hiromi: Has a song ever transported you to the very moment when you first heard it? What made that song relevant to a period of time? Was it the beat, the melody, or did it simply express the way you feel? In this episode, we continue this story of musician and filmmaker Kishi Bashi, as he explores the past to make sense of the present. What does his journey teach us about the power of empathy, and how can we harness that power to improve the relevance of our messages and marketing practice? This is a podcast about communication, marketing, and the account-based mindset. This is Reach. Thanks for joining us in this third episode in our series on relevance and empathy. I'm here with CEO and agency founder, Jason Thorvaldsen.

[00:00:51] Jaycen: Hello everyone.

[00:00:52] Hiromi: And chief creative officer Garrick Kristki.

[00:00:55] Garret: Happy to be here.

[00:00:57] Hiromi: Well, in this series we've been following the story of one of my favorite modern musicians, Kishi Bashi. And he's been candidly describing for us how he grew as an artist by thinking a little less about his own aspirations and more about the concerns of others, right?

[00:01:11] Garret: Yeah. So in our last episode K is talking about having that experience of getting the feedback and gaining the perspective of what the audience resonates with, what they want, what they feel, and how a piece of his humanity might speak to them. And what I super appreciated was this idea of relevance and being present and K understanding that creativity is a snapshot in your creative stream. And if you can be mindful of what's happening socially and culturally around you, the snapshot of your creative stream at that moment will be relevant. And that's just such a beautiful thing in music because you have this three and a half minutes of beats and melody and it's a snapshot of that time. And then in the future that snapshot of music can bring you back to that time.

[00:02:08] Hiromi: Yeah. I think most of us have experienced something like that, right? Where music is able to transport you to another place or time, maybe last summer or last year. But what if it could take you even further, like to a time before you were even born? In this segment Kishi Bashi describes empathy's power to take you to places you've previously never experienced.

[00:02:29] Kishi Bashi: I love history. I read books. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I like to imagine what it was like back then. And if that means interment times or World War II or Pacific War or early indigenous people fighting pioneers in the early days of America, they kind of paint of picture of what it's actually like. It's probably connected to how grateful I am of how I don't have to like fight for my life. [laughs]. I had an orchestral piece, like a symphony I wrote. I was commissioned by the Symphony of Miami Nu Deco Ensemble to write this piece that included visuals, audio visuals. And so I looked for inspiration. At the same time the President, he had some of his aides were going on TV talking about the Muslim ban and bringing up Japanese-American internment.

[00:03:16] News Clip: ...agree with it. But in this case I absolutely believe that...

[00:03:20] We can't be citing Japanese internment camps as precedent for anything the President Elect is going to do.

[00:03:23] Kishi Bashi: You know, they're like, we've profiled immigrants before and they're bringing it up as like precedent for this Muslim ban that they're trying to push with the same implications of just rounding up people based on race. And I couldn't believe, I just couldn't believe it you know? This was clearly a miscarriage of justice. And I had a whole month where I did a lot of reading and I, I kind of got up to speed with a lot of history. And so I went to these incarceration camps, visiting these sites when I was writing the symphony piece. I, I went with a group first out of Brown University, it was a bunch of grad students and we traveled the West Coast. Some [laughs], some of it was sleeping on floors and a lot of it was just visiting the sites, going to museums, talking to former incarcerates.

[00:04:08] I spent a lot of time in Wyoming. I went to Japan, visited Manzanar. Just, close to LA. We'd go a week and then, you know, I'd do a concert every time I went to one of the cities to raise money to pay for like an extra rental vehicle or something. And then like a month later, if we find more money then we'd kind of go out for another trip. Went to the South. Went to Jerome, and while we were in Arkansas. And on the way there we went to Selma and Birmingham, did a show there. Then, you know, so I went to the South and I kind of learned a lot about... I wrote a song about Jim Crow era, prison labor, you know, forced prison labor. It's called convict leasing, which I learned when I went to the slavery museum in, in Selma. And I think more than locations, I think it's like the stories that you hear and how similar they are to yours.

[00:04:55] Internment Prisoner: But my father was taken away and although I was with my mother in a concentration camp...

[00:05:04]'re not going to get your diploma because your people bombed Pearl Harbor.

[00:05:10] Kishi Bashi: That's when I really get moved to empathize with that history.

[00:05:16] A lot of the people I was traveling with had family who had been incarcerated and so they had personal motivation to kind of see this for themselves. And Erin Omiona was in the first trip and I became really close friends with her and she had a grandmother in Heart Mountain. Heart Mountain, 10 miles from Cody, Wyoming, which is like desert mountain region. It was a huge incarceration center, had about like 11,000 people maybe, peak population. I think Erin, she's kind of like trying to imagine what it's like to be a teenager during World War II. She was probably like 19, I guess, her grandmother. So it's like to, to think of doing your best for your entire community that's being uprooted, setting up a livable situation in the desert. And so, she was working there and we kind of visited her there and we had also like filmed a lot there.

[00:06:03] And I started to feel like there was a lot of Japanese culture there. Because a lot of the essays, the tree immigrants, that were kind of caught between their native country that they're at war with and their new country, that was their home, their voices were really kind of suppressed. Like all the culture, and I think that was really painful when I started to realize that it was necessary to have this all American voice to be like look, "we play baseball, we play American music, we don't have accents, how could you lock us up?" And that, that was the narrative for the longest time, and it was necessary because white people could not understand otherwise. But there was a whole immigrant population that was really just kind of living in the shadows. They were just beaten down, forced their children to assimilate. And that's why probably a lot of people wouldn't speak Japanese is because it was a survival tactic.

[00:06:58] And basically what I thought was a singular incident, a singular historical moment that I was looking at, I, I started to really see a wider kind of like universal message that I was really, really interested in. Which is basically the suppression of minority identity throughout the history of the United States. It's not just this one thing. There're parallels in every single corner of our history where we just basically either incarcerate, murder, or suppress marginalized communities in this country.

[00:07:28] It just transformed into this larger project. I started to um, look into my own artistic expression as a voice for these feelings I was having. To be able to communicate these things to my listeners, my fans. So I started writing an album and I also started making a movie, a documentary movie.

[00:07:44] My name is Kishi Bashi. I'm an American song writer and a violinist. I sing from the heart. But before I make my next album, I feel that I first need to tell a story. [singing].

[00:08:01] I didn't know it was going to be a feature length movie, but about four years later we have a 90 minute movie that involves the creation of my album and also all these performances. And me really learning about minority identity and also the history of World War II Japanese-American incarceration. [singing]

[00:08:22] [foreign language 00:08:24] the word, it means to have empathy, consideration for another person. As the basis of protecting everybody, all the marginalized people in the communities, or just being a better person in general, and I think it kind of resinates with all the stories I was hearing. [singing].

[00:08:43] Hiromi: You know, it takes effort to consider the perspective of others, but in doing that K was able to take a journey and produce a great album, a film. None of that content would have existed if he hadn't of taken the initiative to take that journey to step into the, the shoes of others.

[00:09:04] Garret: So I, I really felt like something about being in the journey, having a, a mindset of discovery, led him to [laughs] you know, the title of his movie, this considerate care for others, because the journey he went on and being willing to go on the journey of someone else. And K emersed himself. There's a commitment to empathy in that emersion. And I think a question is, what does K's journey literally mean for a marketer? You know, how do we get that level of raw connection baked into the messaging, the whatever, so that it feels like we're taking action for them?

[00:09:50] Jaycen: Right. It's like where can we create this moment that is remarkable, it's worth talking about, it's so uniquely different that it stands out?

[00:09:58] Yeah. Well, I think I might know a guy who has some ideas. Um, he's an account director at Transmission Agency, which is one of the largest independent B2B agencies in the world. Quasi Superville, most commonly known as Q.

[00:10:12] Quacy Superville: [laughs].

[00:10:12] Hiromi: Thanks for taking some time today for us, uh, Q.

[00:10:15] Quacy Superville: I'm excited. I really appreciate the opportunity.

[00:10:17] Hiromi: Awesome. So we were just talking about empathy and relevance is music. Um, mind if I ask you a personal question to get us started?

[00:10:25] Quacy Superville: [laughs].

[00:10:25] Hiromi: What's on your playlist right now, music wise?

[00:10:29] Quacy Superville: I think in preparation for this it was, um, [laughs] some house music to be honest.

[00:10:33] Hiromi: Hey, nothing wrong with that.

[00:10:34] Quacy Superville: Sometimes as a medium it gets me into the zone of just powering through and getting all these ideas sometimes out on paper.

[00:10:41] Hiromi: Yeah. Sure, love it dude.

[00:10:43] Jaycen: Love it. Love it.

[00:10:43] So what, what's like a day in the life like for you with your current role? I'm curious.

[00:10:47] Quacy Superville: As account director I, I work with multiple teams. Um, I work with creative, I work with activation, I work with project management, and other stakeholders across the business, really to deliver on the work that we secure for clients, so.

[00:11:00] Hiromi: Yeah. So there are maybe various departments within your agency that specialize in specific applications and you're going to meet with the client and ascertain what are their business needs and then connect them with the right teams? Is that kind of right?

[00:11:13] Quacy Superville: One hundred percent. And it actually, it goes I think one step above that. You know, understanding their needs, digging a little bit deeper to see, is that business outcome something that is realistic, attainable, and can we put a measure against that business outcome. So that way it's a lot more of an efficient process.

[00:11:30] Hiromi: Yeah, that's nice.

[00:11:31] Jaycen: You are the glue at Transmission. [laughs].

[00:11:36] Quacy Superville: I love that. I love that analogy. Some people just say air traffic control.

[00:11:40] Jaycen: Air traffic control, yeah. [laughs].

[00:11:43] Quacy Superville: Other people just say overhead.

[00:11:45] Jaycen: Overhead, yeah. [laughs].

[00:11:46] Yeah, it depends who's talking, [laughs] right?

[00:11:51] What are you... I'm curious, so as we're kind of exploring mindsets that help, obviously, marketers to do more, what are you finding maybe as a, maybe common pain points or challenges that, that customers are trying to overcome?

[00:12:07] Quacy Superville: Yeah, yeah. Well, [laughs] I think one of the biggest obstacles that some clients are facing is that inherent need to over complicate or dilute messaging [laughs] to encompass everyone. And you, you probably know [laughs] as well as I do that if you're trying to talk to everyone, you're really talking to no one. And so I think that's one of the biggest challenges.

[00:12:31] Jaycen: Yeah. I mean I think everybody struggles with our tendency to complicate things. Everyone has an audience that they want to connect with and as you stated beautifully, we can't do that if we're talking to everyone. And it kind of ties into what we're talking about here in terms of this mindset of relevant communication. So what role do you think this mindset plays in reaching and connecting with our target audience?

[00:12:57] Quacy Superville: Well I see relevance as finding value and finding a way to deliver that value, right? And it starts with empathy. It starts with empathizing with your end audience. And not necessarily [laughs] empathy at the surface level where you look at the interest and desire, but deeper than that. At, at a level of what is our audiences day to day look like? How do our marketing communications show up in that day to day? What can we do to show and embody value for the end user? And value is sometimes more than just monetary ROI, right? It sometimes is cutting down delivery time on certain elements. Sometimes it's how do you make that persons day better? Sometimes you even go a step further and how do you help that person progress in their career, right? And so I think empathy is one of the foundational elements of that value that delivers relevance and it's being able to identify and empathize with these audiences and figure out a way to be a part of that conversation I think is one of the fundamentals of brands that are going to win.

[00:13:58] Jaycen: Yeah. So much of what we do as you highlighted is just human behavior, right? It's like do we recognize that in how we communicate?

[00:14:06] Quacy Superville: Oh yeah. I got a really, really keen interest in phycology and human behavior in college and that grew into a lot of the work that I have done in sales and marketing. And it's helped me so much because at the core, and, and I think this comes back to relevance, right? At the core of people want to be understood and people want to see that they've been understood, right? And so I think if you're able to demonstrate that and your brand is able to relate to these audiences and not only to where they are currently, but to where they're going. Their hopes, their dreams, their aspirations. If your brand is kind of headed in the same direction or at least a subset of your brand, then the connection is going to be there, that brand is going to resinate, and you're going to convert.

[00:14:46] Jaycen: Yeah.

[00:14:47] I'm curious like even in this, this idea of this mindset, this showing up in a relevant way, empathizing with who we want to talk to, who we want to connect with, have you seen any success's? Do you have any personal stories that highlight doing that?

[00:15:00] Quacy Superville: Yeah. One hundred percent. I can remember two years, or two and a half years ago, I had a client reach out to us who we were working with on the enterprise and commercial space. They reached out to us because they had launched a product and you know, they weren't getting any traction into positioning that product into the marketplace. And they came to us really wanting to tap into the power of influencer marketing and we listened to them, but we did dig a little deeper. You know, and we noticed really quickly that there was a broken customer journey on the website. And so we helped them address that issue first before we started driving traffic [laughs] to that website, right? And so that pilot was pretty successful.

[00:15:37] That pilot led to a global relationship with this customer to position the brand globally in priority countries. And one of the reasons why it's been that successful is because we started with understanding the audience. Understanding their watering holes. Understanding the hopes, desires, dreams. And things that surround the purchase, right? Not only the business drivers, but there are also personal drivers and specifically for this audience that we were able to find out because we invested a time to understanding that audience. Of course that developed into developing messaging and creative and innovation, and we were actually able to win some awards [laughs] for that campaign. But even better than that, the client was able to gain some market share in that market place. And so it was something that we were able to do Tom.

[00:16:22] Jaycen: No, that's a great story. And I think it goes back to something you said before about relevant is really recognizing the value that you bring, you know. And so it's like maybe when someone doesn't see it, can you make it present for them one hundred percent?

[00:16:35] Hiromi: Right. Yeah. I think what we're discovering with this mindset is that we can't create a value prop that's just good for us and our org and expect fans to just come flocking. Like we have to fit within their interests, their concerns, their motivations, right?

[00:16:51] Quacy Superville: Of course. And you know, actually, it's funny, so [laughs] we had a story from one of the sales folks, the senior sales folks over there who was trying for years to get into a specific company and you know, build a relationship with a specific SISO, senior information security officer. And um, he wasn't getting through, wasn't able to build that connection until he found out that this specific SISO was really interested in a specific cause and the SISO was gonna be in the dunk tank [laughs] at the fair. And that goes back to what we talked about, right? Understanding the audience and understanding even outside of work, you know, their hobbies and things that are, that might help build that connection.

[00:17:30] But it's interesting because he was able to go to that fair, before the SISO got into the dunk tank, he was able to talk in that social setting and he was able to make a little wager with the SISO and say, if I can get you in the dunk tank three times in a row, I think it was four or five tries, [laughs] like would you think of meeting with me? [laughs] And he made it, he, and he made it, he made it fun, right? He made it fun. But little, little did that SISO know that that sales person, he, he had like a, professional, like a baseball career [laughs] prior to, I think it was like a pre major leagues baseball, but um, he was able to get that meeting, you know, the week after because he went out of his comfort zone and he was able to connect with that prospect, you know, in a, in a place that was relevant, right?

[00:18:14] Yeah.

[00:18:15] Hiromi: That's awesome. [laughs] That's a great story.

[00:18:16] Quacy Superville: Well [laughs] it was fun, right? So he was able to raise money for the cause and be a part of that. And all of that I think is connected experiences, right? And if I think back in my life and I think back at the most memorable moments in my life, it's moments that are out of the ordinary. It's, sometimes it was stressful moments, but it's moments that mean the most because you're able to get over that obstacle, or get over that thing. Sometimes if we're looking at these obstacles and all of it look so grandiose, but in the grand scheme of things life is a, [laughs] a fun, you know, journey.

[00:18:53] Hiromi: Well we'd like to think Q Superville and Transmission Agency for sharing some insights with us today. If you'd like to connect with Quasi you can hit him up on social @marketingqs, and of course at We'll include some links in the show notes. We also want to thank our friends over at Ikigi Stories for collaborating with us on this piece. If you like inspiring stories that highlight the journey toward purpose, visit Kishi Bashi set out to create an historical music documentary and returned from the journey with a fresh perspective.

[00:19:33] Kishi Bashi: I'm still the same person. I'm curious to see how it will effect me. I'm definitely less selfish, I think. I think I used to make music about anything I wanted. Now I understand I have a bigger responsibility.

[00:19:46] Hiromi: Next and final episode in this series, Kishi Bashi explains how he's grown as an artist in the past ten years and how empathy has effected his approach to music making. We'll also be speaking with Microsoft's tech marketing leader, Keith Pranghoffer to see how empathy plays into relevant communication in an enterprise. We hope you'll join us next time on Reach.

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