Inside the mind of a Marketing GURU
In this episode of the Ascent Podcast, Andrew interviews Bonin Bough, a well known marketing guru, investor, author, and television show host. Bonin is an absolute powerhouse with wide range of knowledge and experience, a unique passion for innovation, and conscious awareness.
Have you ever heard of Gatorade’s real-time “Mission Control” campaign? Are you familiar with a time that an Oreo tweet took over the Super Bowl? How about someone jumping 25,000 feet with no parachute and land on a net suspended 200 feet above the California desert (a stunt most professionals considered insane)? Bonin is the person behind all three successful campaigns.
Mentality for Success
In this interview you’ll obtain an understanding of his approach and the importance of believing in yourself. Go in to the mind of the person that was fundamental to these projects. Understand the importance of being adaptable and fearless in your decisions, when to give up on ideas, and what it means to hear no.
Get an in-depth scope into what motivated him to make the leap from the marketing industry to show host on “Cleveland Hustles” with producer Lebron James. Listen to Bonin talk about that experience and the transition into his current role. Entrepreneurs, philanthropists, anyone in the marketing industry will get access to new perspectives on how to approach circumstances with a different viewpoint.
Moving Forward / Growing Through Diversity
In this one-on-one interview, they provide first-hand knowledge on the importance of being resilient and show you how to master fundamental points that have been imperative to his success. Listen to the opinion of a proven professional and learn about what to look out for in the coming months and dealing with a market post COVID-19.
Bonin also talks about the importance of Corporate America actively taking part in social change. You get an understanding of the benefits of social change (aside from as he says “simply doing the right thing”) from a corporate standpoint. Obtain access to insider information regarding how established corporations operate versus start-ups.
If you want to learn about a proven leader with success in the marketing industry thinks, this episode is for you. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to view of the mentality and approach of a proven industry leader!
00:01: Intro, Welcome
00:19: Welcome Guest Speaker Bonin Bough
02:07: Rapid Fire Questions
14:37: A day in the life of Bonin Bough
16:04: Work history / Role in Triller
19:40: Finding the right partner
21:25: Identifying skills with a diverse Career past
25:07: Pivoting careers
29:49: Comparing Start-ups and Established organizations
31:33: Opportunities to drive change
38:25: Growing through Diversity / Good Business doing good
39:30: Reaching your goal/ Believing in yourself
43:55: Challenges for entrepreneurs to look out for in 2021
47:10: Explain that picture
Andrew Tarvin [00:00:00] Hello, hello, hello, welcome, everyone, to a another episode of the Ascentpodcast, a live video conversation where we get to know the human being behind some of the top leaders in tech. My name is Andrew Tarvin, your host and emcee for today. Today, we are talking to Bonin Bough, the chief growth officer at Triller. But first, a couple of quick announcements. We are streaming this out live on to Facebook and YouTube. So if you are watching live. Hello and welcome. Certainly feel free to share any thoughts or hellos or comments in the chat. We may be getting to some audience Q&A in the future. If you are listening to this as a traditional podcast and I have to do is sit back, listen and enjoy. I’m particularly excited about today’s guest because not only is he well known within the marketing space, but also has experience as a TV host, does TV interviews, has written a book and many other pretty exciting things which I’m excited to jump into. Our guest today is Bonin Bough he’s a Chief Growth Officer at Triller. He is a marketing guru, investor and author. Is one of the foremost award at marketing executives in his field. It’s one of the youngest sea suite executives at a Fortune 50 company, and he spearheaded some of the industry’s largest global marketing campaigns across digital mobile television print experience, including the premier of the first ever 3D printed food, a customizable, real time 3D printed Oreo at South by Southwest, which is amazing. Also, his LinkedIn banner is just him casually hanging out with LeBron James, which of course, fantastic. So please welcome to your eyes and ears. Bonin Bough, thank you so much for joining us.
Bonin Bough [00:01:42] Hey man. Thank you. And hello to everybody out there. Can’t wait to jump right into it.
Andrew Tarvin [00:01:46] Yeah. So I’m really excited to hear a little bit more about your experiences and kind of how how you’ve kind of transitioned your your career. But before we do that, we start with a rapid fire round, just as way to get to know the human a little bit better. So for this round, you can kind of answer in just one or two word short responses before get started. Are you ready to get some rapid fire questions?
Bonin Bough [00:02:08] Ready
Andrew Tarvin [00:02:09] All right. Excellent question. Number one, are you more of a morning person or a night owl?
Bonin Bough [00:02:13] Night owl.
Andrew Tarvin [00:02:14] OK, how late is late?
Bonin Bough [00:02:17] Too late to love it. He may have not even gone to sleep yet.
Andrew Tarvin [00:02:23] So when we’re talking about an Apple or Android.
Bonin Bough [00:02:25] Apple.
Andrew Tarvin [00:02:26] All right. Introvert or extrovert.
Bonin Bough [00:02:30] Depends on the day.
Andrew Tarvin [00:02:32] OK. All right, how are you feeling?
Bonin Bough [00:02:33] I think probably more of an extrovert than anything.
Andrew Tarvin [00:02:36] OK, being getting more energy from from people.
Bonin Bough [00:02:39] But what? I’m off. I’m off. I think people find it pretty interesting how I go from like zero to one hundred and then but when I’m trying to disconnect, I’m just focused on understanding more about me.
Andrew Tarvin [00:02:51] Yeah. No, I can completely respect that. I am a speaker as well. And I tell audiences, hey, I love speaking, I love even networking afterwards, but I’m going to be very happy when I don’t have to see any of you later. I think I need that time to to recharge for sure. I love it. Let’s see, when you were a little kid, what did you want to grow up to become?
Bonin Bough [00:03:10] An astronaut
Andrew Tarvin [00:03:11] Oh, did you get close?
Bonin Bough [00:03:14] I was a young astronaut, went to space camp. So, I mean, I guess I don’t actually live on 20th and 7th. And I went to I was a young astronaut on the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum here, just like 20 blocks up. Did I get close? Not close enough, but my my plan is that my retirement career will be space tourism. So, you know, everybody can do that right now.
Andrew Tarvin [00:03:39] Yeah, that’s right. Well, and in fact, actually, that reminds me. So we had Vanessa Lu on not too long ago and she said that you were co astronaut, buddy. He’s growing up now.
Bonin Bough [00:03:49] I didn’t even realize you had for that song, but. Yes. So that is the story. Yes. We met when we were twelve years old as a young astronaut. So, yes, Vanessa knows that very nerdy version of me.
Andrew Tarvin [00:04:00] OK, and so I asked her this question and she wasn’t quite sure. Would you take probably a one way trip to Mars?
Bonin Bough [00:04:07] No.
Andrew Tarvin [00:04:08] No? You’re like, I’m just I’m going to go up when we can go into space for a little bit and then come back down. You’ll do that. But you’re not you’re not spending a year on a rocket ship to go to Mars.
Bonin Bough [00:04:17] I mean, I know you said one way trip, OK, I would go for, you know, four or five years. But, you know, I’m trying to create a family, so. OK, you know, I’d like to get that done.
Andrew Tarvin [00:04:28] Yeah, I should do that here. All right. I get it.
Bonin Bough [00:04:31] I get easier. Probably a little easier here. But but look, you know, it also exploration is a young person’s game, my friend. You know, like let these twenty eight year olds take the trip to Mars. Let me know how it is. And then, you know, once it’s once it’s ready for tourism. That’s what I mean.
Andrew Tarvin [00:04:49] Yeah, exactly. Once they once they’ve put in the plumbing and you’ve got hot food and a hot shower and all that, you know, I think I’m on board with you. Maybe maybe I can help that together. What is currently a favorite hobby?
Bonin Bough [00:05:03] I like building Lego.
Andrew Tarvin [00:05:05] I was actually going to ask about that coming up, because there’s a fantastic photo of you on Instagram building a Lego bus. What is it about the Lego experience that that draws you in?
Bonin Bough [00:05:17] I grew up building Lego for a very young age. I mean, that was kind of like what I did to the point where, like I would I had a friend who actually teaching robotics now, but we would go up to his cabin in Massachusetts and we all would carry all of our Lego with us, which was a pain in the butt, because then you have to remember who’s who’s it like. And we would build Lego cities around the house and like and then I anyway, so I just grew up building Lego. And, you know, there’s a hiatus, of course, that I took as I began my professional career. And then I decided every single new job that I got, I would buy a piece of Lego that signified like an accomplishment. And that red Bus that you saw me building was actually when I partnered with Justin Watkins, who’s my business partner. So when we came together, she’s a Brit. I bought that bus to signify our partnership together. And so, yeah, I hadn’t built it until pandemic. So, you know, I guess, you know, pandemic. But to be honest with you, I have so much Lego that I bought through pandemic of Jeeps cars. I bought a lot of Ducati. Shoot it out, think about it is a Maserati, and it was a collector’s edition that actually has a serial number on and I haven’t built it yet. So a Ferrari, I’m looking at the legal around, so I’m going to give it to you know, it’s interesting to to take a moment and build something that has some precision and to see something being built from nothing, I think is is a is what makes it interesting.
Andrew Tarvin [00:06:55] Oh, for sure. And I think and I love that as I love especially the the symbolism of it as well. Like that you buy it for certain cornerstone moments or milestones that you pass. I, I love that it can be symbolic, not only a fun activity to do, but symbolic and and the way that you do it, so are you what’s a what’s a TV series, book, movie or something that you’ve recently watched that you enjoyed or that resonated with you?
Bonin Bough [00:07:21] And I watched so much no, I’m sure everybody’s bingeing pandemic, I think you know what’s most interesting for me, not recently, but I guess over the last four years have really been podcast’s. I mean, I’m a voracious podcast listener. I do a lot of the true crime stuff. But what I thought what’s what’s amazing is, you know, my dad’s ninety three and he’s always told me stories about growing up with the radio and you know, you’re absent of the visual, but you’re creating the visual in your mind. And I think podcast storytelling, that’s really what it is that, you know, your your mind has so many more places to wander and to create as you’re listening to the story being told to you. So but I listen to everything from American scandal to true crime to, of course, this American life, to, you know, I can rattle them on and on and on and all of the like Dr Death and, you know, all of those things that come out. I just find it fascinating, the storytelling component, when somebody is a really good storyteller, it’s just it can put you in a very trance like state and you’re kind of just at one with the content.
Andrew Tarvin [00:08:22] And that’s a great perspective to have like that. It brings back the the days of the radio where you’re creating kind of this idea in your mind. And so so Trencrom I find it interesting because I feel like there’s kind of half of people listen to the true crime and they’re like they’re on the side of the detective where they’re like, I’m trying to solve the case and stuff like that. And then maybe a smaller percentage of people are like listening and be like, oh, that’s a dumb way to commit that crime. This is how you should have done it. So which way do you follow you more on the detective side or more of the like? I could have gotten away with it.
Bonin Bough [00:08:56] More on the detective side that I think I could have gotten away with. But, you know, there’s a couple I think true crime is interesting and at the same time scary because it shows the worst of humanity and what humans are willing to do, which is or capable of doing, which is very scary on some levels, you know, going into that psyche. On the other level, I think it shows the puzzle making components of what goes into detective work and and really finding and hunting people down. And so I don’t know. It’s an interesting it’s a it’s an interesting genre. But, you know, look, I like law and order for you as well. And the Mazola and Nilles and all those DCI banks, all that stuff.
Andrew Tarvin [00:09:41] So I love it. And who is someone who you admire?
Bonin Bough [00:09:47] My dad.
Andrew Tarvin [00:09:48] OK, and what what about your dad that makes you admire him?
Bonin Bough [00:09:53] I had a chance to look at my so many people. There’s so many amazing people in this world. But it was interesting. I had a chance to my younger brother. My dad was a photographer for 60 years here in New York. And my younger brother maybe two years ago called me and said, look, there’s a lot more photos in the archives than we know about. And I said, I’ll be the judge, younger brother. And I went out and looked. We thought there was probably about twenty five thousand. We ended up renting a 5000 square foot space in Soho, pulled the whole archive in terms of there were half a million photos. I had never been digitized or archived. And I mean prints. Four by five. Thirty five, eight by ten. He really focused on special effects. So a lot of techniques that are actually represented in filters and stuff today in Photoshop or stuff that didn’t exist in photography that he created. And I remember growing up with it. But you don’t realize the scale at which so I would walk in sometimes to the studio and nobody’s there because we had an army digitizing, archiving, and it would just be tables and tables of prints everywhere and boxes. And you just look around and you’re like, it’s amazing how much went into learning his craft. We did a documentary and talks about that too. But just and just the amount of you forget how much the human experience, how much we actually experienced, like, here’s a guy who probably took a photo like almost every second of his life. It was crazy you know.And but more than that, as a craftsman, you know, and I think sometimes we forget even in the work that we do, that there is a craft and art to it and that honing your craft in art makes you that much better. But also, I think that what I admire is that, you know, he loved what he did and he just loved capturing whether it was showcasing African-American women when nobody else would, or the largest collection of black theater or jazz musicians or street scenes or the ironic or whatever it was. He just loved to bring a single story to life and an image, not something I admired, like somebody who can love their work that much at.
Andrew Tarvin [00:12:02] Oh, I think I mean, he raises a great point of kind of like the what I’ve heard from Alan in January. I’m sure other people have talked about it as well. But the unseen hours, the things that you don’t see, all of the work that people have put in. And I think in today’s world, because of social media, we we we feel like we almost get a sense of that. But we are still mostly seeing people’s highlight reel, the highlight reels vs. the hard work that they’re putting into to get to those stages. So I love that as.
Bonin Bough [00:12:29] The visual influencers. I mean, the reality is, is that they’re putting in hours lot of programing. Just one video could take hours to cut to know expectations are. So just yeah, we forget about all the pieces that come behind the finished product.
Andrew Tarvin [00:12:46] Yeah. And love it. So last question kind of on the get to know your side. Certainly can answer it in more than one word. But we’re curious the kind of idea of what’s the story of your name. Does it have a specific meaning? Did it come from a specific area named after someone? What’s the story of Bonin Bough?
Bonin Bough [00:13:06] I thought you were going to give me something where I could answer one one word, but, you know, I was very blessed to have a mother who was very thoughtful and almost everything that she did. So actually, my first name is really Brant. My middle name is Bonin, and my last name is Bough. They all start would be they all have five letters. And Brant is the name of a bird. Bonin is the name of Japanese islands on an island. And Bough is a tree like a bough of a tree. And so the name means a bird on an island sitting on a tree. And so that’s pretty much it. So you could imagine she took quite a bit of time in that, you know, and my you hear my dad tell it. The reason why they called me Bonin is because they wanted the first initial to suggest and remind me that there’s only one person I could be, which is Bonin. So be Bonin. And then so but it kind of was rough growing up because you can imagine Bonin, the hard name to say anyway, and then you’re in school and the first thing they’re calling is your first name brand. And then you got to explain to them, well, I’m not brand. I’m born in the same you can’t pronounce. And so, yeah, it was a little tormenting growing up, but I’m grateful.
Andrew Tarvin [00:14:22] Well, I’m sure it’s great for SEO now because.
Bonin Bough [00:14:26] The problem is there’s a serial killer named John Bonnin. So that’s the only problem. So it took me a little bit of years to kind of eclipse that.
Andrew Tarvin [00:14:33] So if it’s just Bonin in there, one, I love it. And so as we start to think about kind of the work that you’re up to, what’s what’s the day in day in the life of Bonin Bough, you up to a lot. And one of the questions that we do ask every person. So maybe to start with that question is in 60 seconds or less, what’s your morning routine? If you have one, what’s the start of the day?
Bonin Bough [00:14:57] I get up. We probably now go to the local deli and grab some breakfast. I make a pot of of tea lemon zinger, which I’ve been iced down and a drink that so I can make sure I’m drinking at least a gallon of water. And then, you know, and then it’s usually start off with a daily stand up with the team, kind of set the goals for the day, or actually it usually starts with me talking to Justin in the morning and then going before because she’s doing a daily stand up. And then I think the day to day is really focused on how do we take this brand shriller and how do we continue to grow it and how do we make sure that it remains authentic to its core user base and audience? And then also, how do we bring brands into the platform in a way that is beneficial to them and, you know, and drives them back for their business. And so I think that that’s what we think it is. The first time I’ve ever been on the platform side. I was the first one on the show. Yeah. So that’s what a day to day looks like.
Andrew Tarvin [00:15:57] Yeah, I love it. And so so I’m curious about this role with Triller because you started after graduating, you started in the agency world were Defen Weber Shandwick, then you moved into Consumer, PepsiCo, Kraft, Mondelēz, then you went from marketing guru to TV host and author of Text Me Speaker and Investor and then now chief growth officer at Triller. What was it about the thriller opportunity that you’re like, this is something that I want to dedicate some time to that I think I can can help with. What was the criteria that said, yep, this is good for me?
Bonin Bough [00:16:31] You know, there’s a couple of things. We had so when I quit, I started investing, met my partner, Justin, and we began to really look at the portfolio in a different way and start looking at. I had quit. I was living in China. I was watching WeChat grow and I quit to invest in messaging technology. I believe that the future I still believe that there’s a huge footprint there that’s untapped. And so I really believe that everything that existed for ADTECH today will have to be recreated from Texas Tech tomorrow. And we’re seeing that play out right now. Right. Writing the book and just really looking at where human attention was going and what was actually happening from a humanity standpoint in the book was meant to be less of a it’s not a book or a marketing. I think people get disappointed. It’s more a book around the societal impact that the mobile device has had on every aspect of life, from dating to parenting to religion, memory and more. But I saw this piece shaping more than just, you know, how we communicate with each other, but how we approach society and how we live in the world and believe that that not just the platform, but messaging, which I believe is the stream of your life. If you really think about it, your text messages are where you send your most intimate information, your most important contacts, yada, yada. So that truly the stream of your life as we think about streams and platforms and started investing there, that Justin really she expanded the aperture of what we were doing from a thought process. We ended up with a beauty business, which we sold to Unilever after 12 months, taking from 200 to 300 chief growth officer there, and then started making investment in things like our bread machine. Our autonomous region started looking at shriller. And it was really she really, really kind of opened up my mind to what was possible and the fact that there was really this cultural movement that was happening. And quite frankly, Tuileries is at the center of of culture. And then as we spent more time, one of the co-owners was a good friend, spent more time and really understanding that the ethos of the platform is really to create a platform that helps creators monetize their creativity. And so many times we forget that these platforms are built in the back of actual people who create the content that they put in there. And that’s what drive and to be a part of a platform that is really trying to focus their efforts on giving back to that community in terms of creating tools that allow them to monetize their businesses in bigger ways and also trying to find ways to continue to work with them and bring their work to life, whether it’s with brands or whether it’s, you know, broadly or bigger in the world ofthe platform, that to me felt like a good place to be and the right ethos of an organization to be a part of.
Andrew Tarvin [00:19:20] Well, it sounds like a lot of that kind of coming to bear of one, having a little bit of this future focus, thinking around messaging and understanding that. And just in some ways, what that how that changes, how people interact with things and then to looking at these opportunities. And so it sounds like, as you mentioned, Justin being a big part of that role. How did the two of you come to work together? Because I think sometimes, you know, some of the people that we have listening are entrepreneurs. They might be a CEO or thinking about starting something and recognizing that maybe they want someone to kind of have those ideas or share back with them. What any advice or thought you would share in terms of how other people can find an equivalent kind of Justin? Is it just serendipity? Is it strategy? What what came into play?
Bonin Bough [00:20:07] Yeah, I think it’s serendipity, it’s strategy, it’s chemistry, I think it’s openness, I think so just, you know, just my situation aside, like I’ve seen this so many times in watching founders and leaders try to find a counterpoint or counterbalance. I think the I think the single biggest thing to look for somebody who’s not you, you know, I think that that’s the that’s the hardest thing is trying to find someone who complements, you know, the other aspects of who you are. And so and being trying to be as cognizant as you can about what that means and and to you and to the other person. And that’s that I think is is probably the starting point. And then I think the the next piece is really can you guys create a shared vision? Because, you know, that’s the other thing is you guys you know, everybody on the team has to believe to some extent in that same direction, you know, they might not agree on how you get there. And that’s what I think is important because there are multiple path to success. But the end point has to be agreed upon or else you guys are just running in different directions.
Andrew Tarvin [00:21:21] Yeah, which which makes a lot of sense. And I’m curious because, you know, with the variety of the career that you had, would you say is there a through line in terms of a skill set that you bring that kind of underlies those? Or have they been you’ve had to completely kind of evolve your strengths and stuff for each different type of role. But like, what is it that in that partnership that you bring to the table? Is it the strategic thinking is that execution is a content creation?
Bonin Bough [00:21:51] I think that. Yeah, I think there’s a through line for my career. I think that the I think there’s really three cornerstone pieces. One I think is, you know, in nineteen ninety nine, I read an article that said the mark of a great number one is where their number two go to sleep. So at the end of the day, you know, making the people who are around you are on this journey with you as better than you as humanly possible, I think is, you know, is the first piece to that. I think the second piece from my throughline that those are both that’s been in my throughline, too, but I think is curiosity. So I think healthy curiosity. So, yes, I have to learn other skill sets, but I think always remaining curious and always trying to find new and interesting ways to deliver upon the objectives of whatever you’re doing. And that curiosity and always wanting to be wrong in some respects or wanting to do it, you know. And then I would say the other pieces is not being afraid to. To go out and execute in different, you know, not being afraid. Worst case scenario, you fail. It’s not know, some things are rocket science. You know, some things are true. But in many cases, the stuff we’re working on is not. But that willingness to create that disruption is what creates a disproportionate amount of value in the marketplace. And so that I think not having that being fearless, it’s interesting. That was our motto. Mondelēz and I learned so much from working with Dana Anderson, who was my boss there. And we came up with this idea of fearless that we were going to be fearless marketers, we were going to do the things in the world and nobody else was willing to do. And so that allowed us to drop out of the sky with no parachute, no wingsuit and twenty five thousand feet and landed on, you know, like we would do that. And so but it also allowed us to create a mindset within the organization that pushed the organization to push themselves forward in unique ways. And, you know, when you step back and look at a lot of the value that was created during that period, you know, it was huge, whether it was almost two billion in topline just from shifting digital media from four percent to thirty two percent alone know. So and that that was difficult at that time. Now it sounds like a walk in the park, and yet it was it was hot, you know, like getting markets around the world to actually wean off of this drug, you know, and. Yeah. And so I think just those three pieces is, you know, supporting the people who you work with, making sure you remain healthily curious and then being fearless.
Andrew Tarvin [00:24:34] Which I think is it’s great advice and has applications and a lot of different areas. Certainly curiosity is a big part of what we do is, is teaching people the skill of humor for their workplace. And curiosity is a huge component of humor. It’s your sense of humor is kind of defined by what you find interesting, that curiosity also leads to research. It leads to interesting engagement, et cetera. Of course, I love that. And that that fearlessness, like you said it and saying it as a mission allows you to push the envelope a little bit. And so it’s kind of speaking of that fearlessness, you are having success as a marketer, getting onto a bunch of lists in terms of top marketers and 40 under 40 and all of these other things. And you’re at Mondelēz and then you’re like, I’m going to I’m going to say bye to that and go and host a TV show through LeBron James, his production company and all that, and write a book. What was that? What was that pivot coming from like? Was it I’m just tired of this. I’m curious about it. Like talk a little bit about the the reason for that maybe. And then also how you manage that uncertainty.
Bonin Bough [00:25:42] It’s interesting. There was a. There was two pieces, which is, you know, it all depends on the organization, but many organizations and I’ve learned over the years that I think we approach it wrong. So many people want to change agent and what that one magician is going to pull a rabbit out of the hat and like change the future of their old company. Right. But the reality is those companies that win, every single person in the organization believe they’re a change agent. So it’s really a culture change agency, which that’s what Google, Facebook, all these guys really are at the end of the day, like the is like I’m going to change. So the whole organization believes that and that’s that. Whereas more traditional organizations were struggling with that there. It’s always like, here’s the innovation officer. Here’s the you know, and and but what happens is, is that a lot of you know, you’re taking a lot of slings and arrows on that journey. You’re fighting a lot of battles. You know, people ask, how are you successful in those kind of roles, especially when you’re at the center and you’re on a global role. You have to basically generate a lot of ideas. You have to put a lot of things into motion because the organization, they want innovation, but the moment they see it, they don’t know how to react with the innovation going to get it right. So you’ve got to create a lot of different things happening. So it’s like whack a mole. They can’t get them. All right. I think they’re going to make it through. But that means you’re spending a lot of plates, but you’re also on those journeys. You know, there’s a lot of people that disagree or agree and you see a lot of things that you would do different that hard to get over the finish line because people are either they don’t want to take the time to actually understand. So, like before I was born, I tried to buy something that looked very much like that, but in the food business and that was very difficult to get through. There were just a number of pieces that after five years, you know, you’re like, OK, you know how much I made that big of a glutton for punishment. Now, having said that, you the organization, you’ve accomplished a lot. A lot of people are. You know, I think my biggest thing was have we helped a lot of the mid tier and junior level people be more inspired about the work that they come to work to do? And I think we’ve accomplished a lot of that. And then I got to a point where I was looking for what was the time period between me and CEO? And there was a lot of years on that journey that were still left, you know, a lot of years. And so I figured, you know, at this point, hey, let me explore other things. And reason why the LeBron show was important was because it was a way I spent so much of my life in big corporate, although I’ve worked with small businesses and startups. But this was a way to directly impact and create a model for for revitalizing neighborhoods, which we did like that in communities and most importantly, people who built storefronts and at the same time investing in small businesses and helping small businesses grow and hopefully a teaching moment and a lot of peace that can be learned. My big thing was just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean you need to think small. So how do we take ideas from, you know, look, what I think a lot of small businesses don’t think about is they are massively concerned around credit and things like that, whereas larger organizations use different type of capital instruments to manage cash flow. So just all those kind of lessons learned from innovation to marketing to finance that can be leveraged at a small business level, we seek to kind of to teach. And so to me, that became a very, very, very exciting place to spend another chapter of my life, which was how do I you know, small businesses are the largest employer in the world. And yet 10 percent at that time, the small businesses were being created than the year before. So small business were really under attack and they truly are the lifeblood of our economy. And so even now, today, as we’re thinking about it, we’re trying to figure out what more can we do for small businesses, because at the end of the day, that truly is what drives our our our society. And so the more that we can do to help that than I think, you know, the better I sleep at night.
Andrew Tarvin [00:29:44] And like you said, in many ways, that’s where the innovation can happen, because certainly and I spent time at Procter Gamble, I think you said you almost had to push so many things so that at least one thing gets through and and partially because they’re looking for things that will scale and things that they can kind of trust. And all of that versus a small business. There are a lot more agile. They can move a little bit quicker. And and I love that, especially for the people listening who are entrepreneurs are starting something that is unquote small, maybe in size, like small businesses. I mean, while like I love that it’s not a mindset for entrepreneurs and business.
Bonin Bough [00:30:18] Right. And the things with the larger organizations is it’s it’s not even that they’re looking for things at scale. They’re looking. Look, the funny thing is the walls of these organizations are littered with products, marketing campaigns, stuff that was flat out failures that didn’t work. Right. So what they’re looking for things that look the same. That’s the problem is that they don’t look for things that look different. And so, you know, the problem is that more of the same generates more of the same. It doesn’t. Generate sharp cuts and disruption, which is why a lot of that is coming out of other companies where they buy now that look and by the way, that’s they’re building successful businesses in some cases, but at the same time, they’re creating real holes and gaps. Now, more than ever, for smaller startup thinkers to come in and and kind of capture a marketplace that they might have held for a long time.
Andrew Tarvin [00:31:10] Yeah, for sure. Well, one one of so one of the things that you shared in a interview on CNN last year was you talked about kind of speaking of this, like wanting to give back, wanting to help small businesses. But in this interview, you talked about the opportunity and in some ways the responsibility that corporate America had to or has to drive change. And so I’m curious, what is what is that opportunity and how do you think entrepreneurs, business owners, senior leaders within different organizations, how can they go about and fulfill that change, that responsibility for supporting drive in supporting and driving that change?
Bonin Bough [00:31:48] I don’t know which interview that was. It might have been the one. We’re kind of addressing diversity, I think, typically. So when it comes to that, look, we went through a very interesting time and and we’re going to a very interesting time, and, you know, again, we went through a place where I think humanity was at one with each other, and then all of a sudden this powder keg erupted and, you know, the killing of George Floyd was the strike a match. But there was an underlining, you know. And what we’re seeing still today, issues that. You know, systemic, historical, whatever word you want to use for it, and I have gone through a personal journey, as I’m sure almost everybody did during that time period where the first day it happened, I’m like, you know what, let’s riot. And then the second day when people are burning stuff down, I’m like, you know what? Burn it down because I haven’t seen change in the 43 years of my life on this earth. And then that Saturday or sorry, that Sunday, I went to visit a friend who owned a store that had actually gotten a restaurant that they had broken glass on the rest of the block. He got lucky at my dad’s photos, actually in the window. And so I was like, OK, we can’t burn it down. We have to sit down to work together. Then you got people getting tear gassed in D.C. on Monday and we wake up the black squares on Tuesday and the whole emotional rollercoaster. And I had all my friends reach out or a lot of people reached out. What can we do? What can we do? And it just made me step back and really think about from what I’ve seen, actually. So then I went and talk to my dad on that Tuesday night and I said, What do you think? That he said, nothing ever changes. And here’s a person in almost one hundred years of his life went through like Jim Crow. I mean, like, you know, thinking that nothing ever changes. And I just felt that Jesus Christ like we have to do something, something. And corporate America being a part of that, you know, I felt that it was necessary for us to think about what our responsibility was. And I think all corporate America that as well. And I tried to figure out what were the things that I saw that were some of the challenges. And I think that, you know, I said in that specific I was saying we’ve got to stand up or be left out. And those companies that choose to take this seriously are going to be those companies that are going to come out on the other side, not just on the right side of history, but with people actually wanting to support them. And there were really five pieces that I laid out. And the first was, you know, we need to look at the makeup of of the boards of organizations. You know, the fastest way to bright is boards because they’re appointed versus trying to hire through through the ranks. And we’ve done it in different time periods. And we want to bring about systemic change. So we want it to change companies to be tech friendly. We got we protect people on the board. There’s no difference. Right. Then the next piece is we have to figure out middle management so that one of the challenges that we have is that most people of color fly through the organization, but they hit something in middle management. There’s not enough sponsors that reach down and pull them up that look like them. And so we have this gap. So we have to figure out how to solve for that, because that’s the only way we’re going to get more senior people into into the ranks of these organizations. And I know that specifically, I I was the highest ranking African-American at thirty six years old. And when you think about that, it’s like really I mean, like, I think I’m good. I really only want to like, come on, guys, you know, there’s something here, right. There’s really an issue here. But the other piece is we need to look at our partners like, so who are we partnering with? Like, are they requisite of the ideals that we want and we need to because corporate America can hold their partners accountable. Other piece there is what are we investing in the communities, not in the communities where we have offices. The actual communities where we’re selling the product like those are diverse communities. And what are we doing to invest and support and grow those communities? And I think the last piece of it is how are we tracking change? So when we wanted to make companies more green, we published a great report. And I know that there’s stigmatism and it’s like, oh, quota’s. It’s not that it’s are we actually progressing towards a better tomorrow? And the only way we know that is if we track our progress. And so those are kind of the five pieces that I laid out in that. But, you know, look, as as we continue right now, we’re seeing, you know, how do you know without going too deep, how do you think, you know, people around the world like, you know what it makes me feel like when I see us storming the Capitol building and knowing that the complexion of those protesters were different. The outcome has been vastly different. And, you know, that is just a continued. Reminder of where we still are as a society, I’ll tell you, people ask me, you know, why do I love movies so much? I love Bubar because it that I can no longer be discriminated against by taxi cabs in New York. And I spent a lifetime, like, chasing cabs down, like it’s mind blowing. And yet the other day I came out of my office building. This is maybe two weeks ago or a week ago to get an Uber and the guy pulled up, took one look at me and drove away and I couldn’t believe it. I’m like, dude, I know how to find you. And you have to, like, chase them down and videotape them. You just wouldn’t tell me why you would pick me up. And you’re just like Jesus Christ. Even with Uber, it’s like, you know. So I guess the big point is that corporate America, we forget how much impact we actually truly have on society, our culture, and on how the world is approached and those that understand the biases that need to be addressed. We have an obligation to help use the footprint that we have to make society better in many aspects, whether it’s being better for the environment. But here we have a real social divide which can provide a lot of value to changing it.
Andrew Tarvin [00:37:39] I think that there’s a component that business is more than just to make money. It’s more than just to drive profit. And you’re seeing more and more kind of leaders bringing that on, I think, entrepreneurs as well. And there’s also a it makes business sense to do some of this stuff, right? Exactly. Like they’ve done study after study where it’s like more diverse employees leads to better innovation, better work results, all of that kind of stuff. Millennials and the younger generation are more like more kind of passionate about working for a company that they feel has corporate and social responsibility. And so if you want to attract the best talent, you need to make some of these changes anyway. So it’s not just like, you know, we’ve got to make the world a better place. That’s a that’s that enough would be out there. That alone would be enough, but also this fact that it’s good business sense to do a lot of these things. So I think it’s a great perspective to share and to remind people that it’s not just about how are you driving that profit, but how are you also driving that that positive change?
Bonin Bough [00:38:41] Right. I think that that’s the big message. I think that the big piece of it is well, I think there’s just two pieces. One is in some respects, just what’s the right thing to do. It’s part of the whole is at least the dogs, you know, like what are we doing as we’re looking at this? Like who’s looking at this as our America? Like, how is this right? Look, I understand some of the issues that got us here. And we have definitely certain personalities that are driving this descent even more and more and more. But wow. But then to your point, the other big piece is, is that if you’re if you’re astute at where the economics of organizations are today, you realize that diversity is a business imperative because standing behind that is a lot of untapped growth.
Andrew Tarvin [00:39:25] Absolutely. Love that that articulation of that. So the other thing that, you know, as I was doing some more research, really enjoyed the interview. Also, there’s a Fast Company, Fast Company article for a few years ago and asked for this advice that you would give to your younger self. And in this particular article, you said, when people say no, that’s when you know you have something really good. Can you share it kind of an example or a thought process where that kind of like that lesson came from love, like hearing notes and really realizing like, OK, there’s something here.
Bonin Bough [00:39:58] I feel like it’s coming my whole life, you know, like there was just so many things like dropping that guy, the sky, it took us three and a half years to get it done. Everybody said, no, you couldn’t be done, can be done. We shouldn’t do it. The big thing is we were trying to create a model where we actually made money off of the advertising. So we actually got sponsorship around the event and people told us it wasn’t possible. We created an iPhone game that was top number one app in ten countries. People played it for two months before even talking to the app made money. People told us we could never have a branded app that made money. And I’m looking at Candy Crush and thinking there’s no difference between Candy Crush and Cadbury. It’s just that they got a billion people that are paying a buck every power up. So we’re just as smart as them. And we’re the largest candy company in the world. Why don’t we have our stuff? I mean, look, there’s the I think the I think the there’s a lot of news out of that I’ve seen over time. But I think really the essence that I was trying to drive out there and this is what I think for everybody who’s listening, right, is that at the end of the day. You alone or the circle around you. Usually, if you’re passionate about something, you’ve been focused, you’ve been spending time, you’ve been reading the tea leaves, you can sometimes or usually see the future better than many who have not been focused on that. And so just because they’re saying no doesn’t mean that it’s a bad idea. And at the end of the day, I firmly believe if you can see it, then the question is just how fast can you get to it? Like, if you can see that the pieces is possible, then how fast you get. Can you get to that pieces? And that’s the but the hard thing is building that muscle memory of understanding how to identify when something is good on the other side now. And that takes a lot of I think either you’re born a genius, right. Or you spend a lot of time hearing ideas. And so what I love, what I do miss about speaking is that I could come off stage and I would have a line and I would stand there and talk to every single person all the way to the end of the line. Two reasons. One to one, they were nice enough to come here and speak. I want to give them as much time as I can. In the second piece was I would hear idea after idea after idea. So I had a way of hearing high throughput ideas so I could begin to see what was actual trends and what were not trends and what were, you know, and that just was a perspective that many times people didn’t have see face a lot like we were told, no, you can’t do 3D printed area of personalized audio. Not impossible. We have two months. Impossible to do it. We got it done. We built unique technology at HP that had never been done before. Shipping technology, the shipper. We allow people to use a mobile app to color in every aspect of the Oreo. And by the way, we charge for X what we charge for based Oreo. Now, it was a failure in the US because we got a bunch of things wrong. But when we got to Brazil did better. By the time we got to China, it was a rocket ship. And so, you know, yeah, I guess I guess that, you know, it’s funny. I wonder if I would tell my younger self the same thing now. I guess I would, but yeah.
Andrew Tarvin [00:43:12] Yeah, well, no. And I think I think it’s a it’s a great clarification or additional insight into that. It’s just because someone says no, that it doesn’t mean that it’s a bad idea. And to that point of like if you really are passionate about something, I mean, it’s kind of that idea of like it’s it’s good to have that vision because if you like, I think this is going to happen in the future. Just by you kind of stating that and wanting to put effort towards it, you’re more likely to make it actually happen, right? You become a quote unquote, fortune teller because you’re like, well, this is my plan. And then you just worked hard to get there to do it. I think it’s I think it’s great advice and that that perspective. And so as you think about the future, as you’re looking at the tea leaves and things like that, from your perspective, what are the what’s the challenges that entrepreneurs or business owners and staff are going to face in twenty twenty one? What’s the what’s the thing that they should maybe be aware of and trying to to solve for?
Bonin Bough [00:44:09] I think we should be very careful about recessionary pressures. I think that it changes consumer behavior. We go into a value based mindset which doesn’t necessarily have to be discounts or money off, but could be just additional services. I think thinking in a value based mindset is is very important. I think we’re going to see what the new leadership, at least from a US centric standpoint, I think globally, but geopolitical what are going to be some of the geopolitical implications of what we just went through and how is that going to change supply chains and routes and, you know, those type of and, you know, think about a lot of countries are going to try to jump start the economy by encouraging by encouraging people to set up shop or do, you know, move manufacturing and that kind of stuff. I think as an entrepreneur, depending on the business you’re in, just thinking about about those pieces, I think we are going to see, you know, a greater sensitivity to social conscious of of businesses. So I think that that’s huge. And I think the biggest thing is that we have literally the consumer behavior has been changed. So online buying and shopping and utilizing this channel and platform is here to stay. There’s no question about that. And we’ve changed every type of consumer, whether you’re young or old, they’ve been changed. And so what does that mean and what are the implications of that have to the business that you’re in? You know, not everybody is a tech entrepreneur, someone to open up a candy store. So what does it mean in the realm of the world as it as it exists today? And so that that and then I actually I think there’s one other macro trend, which is we’ve talked about it so much and it’s like the one to one relationship building, but truly owning that relationship. And I tell people, again, like I believe in text messaging, as you can imagine. But if you have the phone number of my friend who owns the restaurant here, I said capture everybody’s phone number, who comes in in the summer because in the winter you’re going to need them. And if you have the phone number of every single person who ever came into your store or interacted with you, whether it’s offline or online, think about how many businesses would be in a different place right now. And so really thinking about understanding how you capture true information on your core consumer that you own. It’s not just intermediated by a platform, but that you own that you can reach out to. I think it’s going to be crucial because loyalty is going to be a big driver for those that succeed if we face tougher recessionary pressures.
Andrew Tarvin [00:46:52] That’s a great articulation right there for maybe you go back and listen to that a couple of times, because that’s a great articulation of some of these things, too, to keep in mind, especially depending on what happened going for a while. And this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. Last question for you. We sometimes do a kind of explain that Graham just kind of taking a picture from Instagram when I’m curious to hear a little bit more the already curious about the Lego heart about that. You’ve also got some great pictures there. But I’m really curious about you and KRS one at a young age, like what you’re just hanging out with with the hip hop superstars and the New York area.
Bonin Bough [00:47:29] You know, just to get my people, you know you know, it’s funny. It’s a really he’s a beautiful human. You know, I grew up listening, of course, to Kerith one. But when I was young, I started a magazine. I lived in Harlem. I was know I tell people a story like I haven’t really shared a lot about my background that often, but I feel very blessed because if I really look back, I’m one of those, you know, statistically I shouldn’t be here. My parents, while they start a studio, while they were together, they were struggling artists. They separated. My mom moves as a single parent up to Harlem. She’s got two kids now. And you know where, you know, for a number of years on welfare, struggling to make it by. She gets her footing. But really focus on us from an education standpoint, making sure like when you listen to thank you White parents, that whole movement around the gifted, she really focused on making sure that we were in the talented, gifted classes. My. It’s the twenty seventh of December. Usually they will see you back a year. She would let them do that same thing. My brother really focused on us getting the best education humanly possible and not going public schools. You could get a good education. And she also wanted to have extracurricular activities. So I started a publication called What Washington Heights Action Team, which was the guide so that you could find places to go and things to do as a you know, as somebody who was, you know, in sixth, seventh grade, we presented to the Board of Regents. I think I was the youngest person to present to the Board of Regents. We got it approved. And I went through two months in the New York City public school system. And one of the interviews was an interview with Karith, one for the publication. So that’s me interviewing KRS one. But he said something in that interview, which was really interesting. He said that. He said that we were just talking about and I got to remember correctly, we were talking about, you know, parenting and the relationship, I don’t even know how it got to that. Anyway, he told a story about his mom. You know, she didn’t believe in hitting him or any of that kind of stuff and which, you know, I agree. But she did make sure that he had memorable lessons. So I don’t remember what he did, but he had done something wrong. Mom punished them. There was a tank of piranhas that her mom, his mom used to have. I guess they had an aquarium, as one does, I guess. And and she blindfolded him and said that and put his toe over the tank suggesting that. And then I kind of pinched his toe and he said he remember that never did that again. But it was like the psychological but other ways to create memorable teachable moments for people. But anyway. But it was a great it was a great interview. And he’s just such a, you know, just such an intelligent. And I think if we’re brutally honest, what he did for the consciousness of so many people who listen to rap in terms of understanding the background of just black, the black experience was phenomenal. So, yeah, and I’ve since seen him perform live a number of times. So big fan.
Andrew Tarvin [00:50:43] Yeah, that is fantastic. Well, what I what an incredible story to close things out for us. Boninn, thank you so much for joining us once again. For those of you listening, this has been the ascent podcast brought to you by the Ascent conference, which you can learn more about at a dotcom, as well as by humor that works where we help organizations learn how to use humor to be more effective in their work. You can learn more about us at human networks dot com. Keep kind of listening. Subscribe make sure you write us as well, because we’ve got some other fantastic interviews coming up pretty shortly. Actually, you all have been great. I’ve been and your tarvin, thank you so much for joining us.
Bonin Bough [00:51:20] And if anybody wants a copy of the book, feel free to just text me six four six six nine one eight three seven and then just try. You can find it online and just drop in the ascent and I’ll send you guys a free copy of digital copy of the book.
Andrew Tarvin [00:51:33] Perfect. Yeah. So that is fantastic. I make sure you text Bonin there. Also you can find them on social media. Like I said, his Instagram is pretty fascinating with some cool pictures. So find him on Instagram dotcom slash. Bonnin, luckily the serial killer, John Bonnin, does not have Instagram or social media, it seems like. So that is good. But once again Bonin thanks so much for joining.
Bonin Bough [00:51:56] Or find me on Triller Bonin as well.
Andrew Tarvin [00:51:57] All right. Thanks
Andrew Tarvin [00:51:59] Yup.