Brain+Trust With Tim Hayden

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TSP Tim | Brain+TrustEpisode Summary:

Ep Desc: In today’s fast-paced world overrun by technology, understanding how the human brain behaves, works, and reacts is an important aspect of digital consumption. John Livesay delves more into this topic with Tim Hayden, the founder of Brain+Trust and chief business strategist at The Next Practice, by discussing how empathy and getting a full grasp of audience emotions can result in a compelling marketing strategy. Tim also explains how data science is being applied to COVID-19 trials as well as the concept of sonic gardens.

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Brain+Trust With Tim Hayden

Our guest is Tim Hayden, who is the Founder of Brain+Trust, which is an agency that helps companies use empathy and technology to anticipate how to get inside their customer’s head. He’s also involved with a company called The Next Practice, which is about anticipating what’s coming around the corner. We go into things like how to tend to your sonic garden, a consent management platform, what’s happening in the world of AI, and consent and data privacy. All through a lens of how do we make the world better. Enjoy the episode.

Our guest is Tim Hayden, who has many years of marketing and business leadership experience. He’s been the founder of new ventures and a catalyst for transformational progress with some of the world’s largest brands. He is a strategic business executive, studies human behavior and how media and mobility are reshaping all of the business. From operations to marketing and customer service, he assembles technology and communications initiatives that lead to efficiency and revenue growth. He’s an investor and advisor to technology startups. He actively works with entrepreneurs and ventures to capitalize on opportunities and shifts across many different industries. Tim, welcome to the show.

John, thanks for having me. I appreciate that introduction.

Tell us your own story of origin and take us back a little bit. You can go back to childhood. You can go back to your days at Texas State. How did you get interested in being involved in startups in general? It seems to be a part of your path.

Growing up, my mom was a school teacher and later on, she became an executive with several nonprofits including The Hurst Euless Bedford Chamber of Commerce, right in the middle of the Dallas-Fort Worth. My dad on the other hand was in software. That’s probably what made me acutely aware of what was happening with technology and how it was iterating as time went along. Technology got faster. It got better. My dad, I wouldn’t say it was cumbersome, but he was absent for a lot of my formative years because he was working for somebody else. That’s the easiest way. I’ve always thought if I could wake up on Monday mornings knowing that the world is on my shoulders to win, to survive, or to do whatever else, that’s the path I’m going to take. That’s even been the case when I’ve gone to work for a large corporation or somebody else. I’ve always tried to be entrepreneurial in my approach.

Doing my research in preparation for this is, you have a fascination with human behavior and that’s why we’re looking forward to getting to talk with you because I share that passion from my advertising background. That’s what made me get into advertising was, what motivates people to change their behavior or buy one product over another. The same concept to persuade one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. You have certainly done a deep dive into that. Let’s start with what you’re doing at a company where you’re the Chief Business Strategy at The Next Practice? I find that concept fascinating “unlocking what’s next?” This premise that we all have to find what’s coming around the corner, we can’t stay in our comfort zone is what I get from what you’re doing there.

Going on the next level by having empathy is what every entrepreneur should keep in mind. Click To Tweet

I’ve worked across a number of industries. You take municipalities and state local governments. This comes from even me sitting on the board of the Austin Chamber of Commerce at one time. The art of economic development is always being able to look 5 to 10 years in the future to understand what do you need to do to develop an infrastructure, the systems, the processes, and the environment for business to be conducive for a long period of time. That’s one part of it, but at The Next Practice, we’re all about doing that in terms of marketing customer experience and communications. We think that without calling it digital transformation, how can we help organizations with their endeavors be able to realize revenue growth, find new customers, and experience repeat behaviors from the customers that have already bought from them?

How can we do that and always be ready for how behavior is going to change? That’s the important takeaway there is that, as the world becomes more automated as immediacy. During COVID, we can buy anything and have it delivered to our house in a matter of minutes, hours or days. That’s been a reality for some time, but we all know it way too well and we expect the rest of the world to be that way. At The Next Practice, we’re about being always on the next level if we can. It doesn’t mean that we’ll overshoot what needs to happen, but it means that we’ll have an understanding or maybe empathy with where things need to go from here.

You were very involved with the Austin Chamber of Commerce. Let’s give a shout-out to Austin and what an amazing community. I live here myself. I’ve been impressed by the friendliness, openness and collaboration that everyone finds here. A lot of people are moving from Silicon Valley here. The city has been voted the number one place to live for a couple of years in a row. There’s so much that it has to offer. From your perspective, both with your experience at the Chamber of Commerce and being an entrepreneur here, what is it that makes Austin special for you?

I went to school in San Marcos about 30 miles South of here. In the early and mid ‘90s, I was exposed to a lot that was happening with Austin. My wife went to UT. Neither one of us grew up here. She grew up in East Texas. I grew up in the DFW area. It’s the vibe that Austin has built on the edge of the Hill Country with a river running through it. It’s between the University of Texas and Ohio State, which has the largest public university in the country. Lots of young people live near the middle of town. You put a state government in the middle of it. The state government that leans a different way than the local government leans. It makes for an interesting mix of developments in terms of culture and business. That’s why Austin is the place for a creative class and for people whether they want to start new companies or they have fresh new ideas, this is a wonderful Petri dish to do that in.

You add in how green it is with an aquifer, the beauty of all the parks, amazing food, and live music. There are many special sauces to it that companies, even Tesla are coming here. It continues to attract and see what makes it unique. The thing you said that resonated with me, Tim, is as it relates to The Next Practice is this concept of empathy. Can you define for everyone reading what empathy is from a business standpoint? How is that a great tool to anticipate what’s coming next?

We look at it through the lens of design thinking about being human-centered, customer-centered in business is to understand exactly the preferences, needs and disposition of your audience. You said it first, “No two people have the same behavior traits, no two people have the same wants and needs, or have that same disposition.” When you talk about empathy, it’s about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes as best as you can. That’s a tall order. It’s an impossibility to do at scale, but thanks to the way we’re connected digitally these days and more so every day, we have the beauty of data turned into insights. That helps us understand how people behave, what their preferences are, what they imply and state, and maybe how they respond to questions we put in front of them.

It’s always about understanding and being customer-centric. That goes for internal communications, as well as understanding teams and business units, how can they better share information, how can they be on the same page having a true north of insight on that customer behavior. We believe at The Next Practice and Brain+Trust partners, that’s the remit for companies that want to not just survive, but want to succeed and grow over the next decade.

TSP Tim | Brain+Trust

Brain+Trust: Being customer-centered in business is to understand exactly the preferences, needs, and disposition of your audience.


Let’s take some companies, maybe Kodak or Blockbuster. They had a little more empathy and been able to take a look at what’s coming. Maybe they would have seen that the business model that they had relied on for so long wasn’t going to stay either because the technology was changing and customer preferences were changing. The hassles of back in the day going to a store. Imagine young people today, they don’t know how to even operate a rotary phone. Let alone the concept of you had to wait for a movie to be returned before you could see it. All that is fascinating to me. You touched on Brain+Trust. As I said, you are busy in many projects. Tell us your role at Brain+Trust and what the story of origin was there?

In 2016, I was in the process of moving back from the Bay Area in California to Austin. I was out there in the Bay Area for two years. I had a couple of colleagues that I knew who had come from large global digital media roles with major companies. We all had a conversation and said, “There’s a wave of new technology coming into the market.” Artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, not to mention what was happening with social media. Not to mention what’s happening in mobility in the automotive space with cars getting smarter. Some cars are able to drive themselves. All of this and the speed at which it’s happening is extremely confusing to decision-makers and leaders.

We built Brain+Trust, first and foremost, to be a sage counsel and at least a resourceful guide to be able to help business leaders roadmap where they need to make investments and decisions for investing in the future, whether that’s new process and operations or new technologies. Thanks to the pandemic in one way, it accelerated the need for companies in light of customer data privacy laws. In terms of the imminent threat that companies like Amazon and others pose to certain verticals, is to build a direct and personalized experience with your customers and to operate on their terms, which brings us back to empathy. Understanding your customers in their needs and serving those needs, that’s what businesses must focus on.

I spoke at the Coca-Cola CMO Summit and it was the CMOs of all of their quick-service restaurants that serve Coke. I was speaking to the CMO of Domino’s Pizza. He was explaining that their philosophy was creating the perfect pizza experience. Meaning you have a thought, “I’d like a pizza,” and it magically appears and fast. He and his team created that app that tracks the thing. I want to ask you about that whole thing of transparency and that people feeling part of the process is a new behavior. They’re using artificial intelligence.

That’s one of your areas of expertise. They said, “If you tend to order the same pizza at the same time every day, and you open the app or pick up the phone, the AI notices it and says we’re going to take a risk the odds or whatever. Put the pizza order in before you finish completing what you want on it to try and shave off a few seconds of the delivery time.” The bigger picture is the perfect pizza experience, and that’s where I’m fascinated to get your insights on because technology is great. Unless we’re connecting it’s feelings and emotions. What’s coming next and have this overall vision of in this case. I think about a pizza and it shows up and then using AI to make that happen without the customer even knowing it is something that you’re talking about.

We used to call that surprise and delight. KLM Airlines does this in several airports in Europe, where if you put up a signal, if you tweet or back in the days when everybody’s to check in on Foursquare. If you let the world know you’re at the airport and KLM has got their ducks in a row from a technology standpoint. They sense that you’re at the airport because you said you were. They already know what flights you’re on, what gates you’re on. They’re going to surprise you with a gift. They’re going to surprise you with something. We’re going to see more and more of that. What’s fascinating though is that because of the choices that consumers have, in terms of where they can get the goods and services they need. The way they can go about discovering new flavors, new products, and new brands. We got to be careful.

Understanding your customers in their needs and serving those needs—that's what businesses must focus on. Click To Tweet

We need to know that it’s okay when I call my local pizza. I order from East Side Pies a lot here in Austin. If I call them up, I’ll ask, “What did I order last time?” They tell me what I did. I said, “Let’s do it again.” I don’t have to tell them my name. Because of caller ID, they knew who I was. That’s good but understanding that maybe shaving a few seconds off the delivery doesn’t mean that you have to preempt the consumer. Let’s allow our customers to be in control as much as we can. Let them opt-in. You’re required to do that because of data privacy laws that are popping up in 27 states. The bottom line is let’s make sure that they’ve consented, they’re opting in, and they’ve given you the green light to do that thing.

Which leads me to an article you wrote about, “If you can’t give a customer a cookie.” You talk about this premise of Consent Management Platform or CMP. Tell us what that means and how that can help businesses do better marketing.

Most people that are reading this are going to be aware of websites, especially news websites that they visit. That has a little banner that comes up and says, “Will you accept these cookies?” Most of those outlets will allow you to click on a different link and be able to see how your information is used. That’s how global data privacy regulations in Europe, which started a few years ago. That’s how that spelled out and how you’re supposed to do it. That’s how the California Consumer Privacy Act, which went into effect here in the United States. That’s what it says you need to do. What’s happening is Google is no longer going to support third-party cookies, which empowers brands to do so much from tracking a customer from a search result to the website. Maybe to the mobile app, to an eCommerce store, to a physical location and to do so on their terms, not Google’s.

Google is saying no longer will they support third-party cookies or use them in terms of how they do everything from rank searches and guide people to your doorsteps. You’re going to see probably more of investment directly with Google that will be required to leverage the behavior that’s there within Google. Apple at the same time has come out with a new operating system, iOS 14, which puts the customer in total control of who gets access to their data. Who gets to understand where they go with that device, whether an iPhone or an iPad or a Mac. What is consumed on that device, where has it been used, maybe what speed were you going, what direction you were going back to your place. Your point about predictive pizzas, “Does he drive by here every day?”

What we’re seeing is twofold. One, commitments to customer data privacy. That’s what we see there, but we’re also seeing that Apple, Google and others are doing all they can to be able to compete with Amazon. They understand that in Apple’s case with maybe Apple News before but with Apple TV plus, they’re getting more minutes of the day and more hours of the day with you in their ecosystem. You’re consuming media that flows from Apple. You already have the devices. You carry Apple with you all day that, how do we get more of your time while you’re in at home, your vehicle, and other environments. That’s what’s going to be fascinating over the next few years, as we see that shake out alongside more scrutiny to customer data and customer data privacy.

The other thing that I was interested in and impressed by was your Brain+Trust partners are a member of The Next Practice Group and you’re working with the Johns Hopkins University on their trials during the COVID. Can you explain how you’re helping all of that effort that everyone is concerned about?

I can’t tell you everything, but I can tell you that we’re employing data science to be able to identify audiences and opportunities to have people enroll in the trials. This is for convalescent plasma. This is a partnership between Johns Hopkins University, UCLA and several other universities. It’s about helping them as quick as possible as the trial needs to run, because with COVID, it’s a race for everybody to get the best possible treatments in place. The best possible vaccines through the approval process and trials. It’s a treatment with convalescent plasma and it’s not different than a company that’s trying to get to market as fast as they can before their competition does. In this case, their competition happens to be a virus.

TSP Tim | Brain+Trust

Brain+Trust: The flip side of understanding consumer human behavior is how to get on the other side with behavior change.


It’s always a race and this case, the stakes are very high. How wonderful that you and your team have the technology that you used, crafted and honed to help companies have successful launches and anticipate what’s around the corner and play all scenarios out of imagining. What could go right, wrong and how can we mitigate those to help us all lead happier and healthier lives again without this fear hanging over us. There are some to going back to the empathy thing. There’s a toll that we all feel over time that we’re going to start to look at. What is the toll of isolation, depression, and all these other things that are separate from the fear of getting sick? I was talking to people at assisted living and how much longer it’s taking to get people to put their parents in an assisted living home because of those fears. Not being able to visit the parents and all those issues come up into play. You’re at the cutting edge of anticipating what’s going to be needed to help people get through what could be seen as a post-traumatic syndrome situation when this is finally over.

That’s the flip side of understanding consumer human behavior is how do you get on the other side of it with behavior change. How do you be able to temper expectations because there are many statements being made some by the government, some by brands companies that purport to have solutions, whether that’s vaccines, it’s more hospital beds, or it’s certain types of treatment or medicines. In terms of the fear that hangs over us, it’s intimidating or even worse than that it creates anxiety. There’s the associated things that happen there if going to the office was the only time you socialized with others. I think is the case for a lot of people.

There are some problems that can occur in terms of depression and isolation. How do we manage this in terms of a much calmer approach to educating people on how to stay safe. Educating people on when there may be changes to certain protocols, whether that’s businesses reopening, schools reopening, or new types of testing being available in the market. There’s much in the way that we can all learn from this experience on how we should go about education, which is a communications remit. Not only understanding behavior, but helping change results in better outcomes for certain populations or the population at large.

I have to ask you about your concept that we all need to tend our sonic garden. First of all, nobody loves words and can appreciate good writing as much as I do with my advertising background, speaking and helping people become storytellers. That’s what sticks is when our brain goes, “I know where the garden is. I know what sonic waves are. What is a sonic garden?” You have the skill of pulling people in with your words crafts. Tell us what you mean by tending a sonic garden.

People talk about elevator pitches. There are certain tones that when you’re on your couch, in your home, and a TV spot comes up of your favorite fast food restaurant or an automotive brand, you can tell within the first few seconds who that is. Even without looking at the screen, you usually can tell. The same thing with jingles, for shows tones like for Intel Inside, these are all pieces of us at Brain+Trust. I need to give all the credit in the world to my business partner, Tracy Arrington. She comes from years of advertising and has always looked in audio, especially with radio, satellite radio, and podcasting. The opportunity to build more trust with an audience and to do with certain sounds, audio cues, messaging, and the narrative you put forth.

Back in the day, television shows used to have a theme song and then they got so frenetic about every second costing money. They’re like, “Can we cut that out and have a show without a theme song, friends, and all that stuff?” A song that people would hear that and they smile. Now because they want more time for ads, they have cut that out. If people want to know more about Brain+Trust or The Next Practice, any other way you want people to follow you? I see you’re big on Twitter.

How to forge better relationships with your audience and catch their interest? Understand their needs and emotions first. Click To Tweet

I don’t know that I’m big on Twitter. I’m @TheTimHayden on Twitter. I always doing a podcast or anything like that would say, “If you had about anything we talked about or want to challenge me on it, please do it out in public. Bring it on Twitter.”

Any last thought or quote you want to leave us with, Tim?

We have a number of things that are going to greatly reshape how the country and our cities and our states are run because of all the different positions and different referendums that are up. The sun is going to come up tomorrow. Saddle up. Know that there’s always a new day.

Thanks so much, Tim.

You got it, John. Thank you for having me.

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Tags: covid trials, customer experience, data privacy, Empathy, Sales, Technology

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