This is a transcript of Casey Neistat’s Q&A after his talk at Ping Helsinki Business Festival on 28th of April 2017.
I have based this transcript on a video that I recorded of the talk. You can watch the recording on Youtube.
(Casey) Hey, it’s good to see you!
(Man) Good to see you!
(Casey) Oh, hi!
(Woman) Awesome, thanks Casey! I love the virtue and blessing of not knowing what to do.
So we have time for a couple of questions and something that was percolating in my mind looking at your path and just how much insecurity one has to tolerate when you take that path of figuring out the shit. So what would be your message for… so Finns are this… You know, we’re innovative and we have lots of courage. One thing we do struggle with sometimes is this fear of losing face. We deal with… How do we deal with fear and all these things?
So would you have something you’d like to tell us on threading that thin line between fear and courage?
(Casey) Sure! I mean, I think tying that idea sounds sort of noble and virtuous to marketing which is the opposite of noble and virtue.
(Woman) We can elevate it!
(Casey) I think that there’s no choice. You don’t have a choice. I think if you want to succeed in the marketing space, if you’re anything but brave and you’re anything but willing to embrace risk then you failed before you begun.
And I think if you look at a video like that it’s hard to judge the merits of a video like that as far as success or return on investment.
The secret life of Walter Mitty was Ben Stiller’s movie that we made that for which really was a great inspirational movie that had no literal connection with that video whatsoever except for that video is about sort of doing something that you were driven to do.
And Ben Stiller’s feature film, this fictional feature film, was also about pursuing something you were driven to do. So when I think of sort of being brave especially in the marketing space I think you don’t have a choice.
If you’re timid, if you take the safe path, it’s a non-starter. You fail before you’ve begun. Mediocrity in any creative avenue yields exactly nothing. Mediocrity is worse than bad.
In marketing, there’s only one thing worse than making something bad and that’s making something invisible. Anytime you play it safe, it’s invisible. It’s those commercials that we see during the show that we love to watch. It’s the commercials we flip pass when looking at a magazine. It’s what we scroll past on Facebook. That’s invisible. And that’s the very worst thing you could ever be in marketing. It’s invisible.
(Woman) Okay, so it’s better to completely fuck up rather than to be mediocre!
(Casey) Well, I think there’s always a consequence if you’re pursuing risk. Anytime you embrace risk, by very definition it means that there could be consequences if things don’t turn out as planned.
(Man) Casey, there’re lots of influencers in this room right now. So what’s the message for them?
(Casey) You know I have like seven words written down in my notes for this entire talk. But one of those notes that’s very, very important for anyone who ever either wants to work with someone who has influence in the creative space or someone who has influence in the creative space and wants to work with a brand. And that’s never use the fucking word influencer!
Influencer should be a curse word! It’s a horrible, horrible word because influence is the byproduct.
Influence is what happens after you create something. Influence is, like, call the very best football player ever a shoe salesman or call a musician someone who sells headphones. Influence is what happens after they make something great. So I’ve no idea what your question was!
Ask me again and don’t use the word influencer.
(Woman) So can we change it from social influencer to social activist? Can we?
(Casey) I think identifying what that individual does is what matters. I think that influence comes in so many different shapes and sizes.
Um, what was your question?
(Man) Yeah, yeah, yeah, so what advice you have?
(Casey) So, what advice I have for an individual creator is to sort of always see through your work the opportunity to diversify the way in which you monetize it.
And I think this is a particularly relevant thing right now for all youtubers. Because YouTube right now, if you’re a creator on YouTube and you make any money whatsoever because of Adsense, you’ve seen a huge, huge, huge hit lately. Because YouTube is having all kinds of problems with their ad buy gone across their platform and we’re getting hit. And I look at my friends, the very most successful youtubers, they’re seeing 80% drops in their income. And it’s because, if had they diversified or had they figured out ways to monetize their content beyond just the intrinsic monetization, you’d be much less vulnerable to these sorts of fluctuations.
So what that means more literally for the individual creator is it’s up to you to build a business around what it is that you make. And I think this is new and this is foreign. At times this can be sort of sacrilege to suggest something like that. If I’m an artist, I don’t make things as a business. I make things because I love doing it. Well, that’s cool! But you also have to eat. And you also have to pay for a house. You have to have bread. Don’t be naïve to those things.
So, for me, like, what I saw is, is every time that I would have an opportunity with a brand, or I would create an opportunity with a brand, there is a golden rule that I would adhere to. And I think this is true for all the marketers in this room and all the creators in this room.
And that golden rule is make sure whatever it is you’re doing is as good for the brand as it is for me.
The video that I made right here in Finland earlier this year where I had a drone pull me around – don’t ever do that – pull me around on a snowboard and then lift me in the air. We shot it in Lapland.
Thank you for your hospitality with that by the way. We shot here because one, it was the most beautiful place in the world and two, because Finland was the only government in the world that would let us do it. Totally true!
But that video was huge success for Samsung. Huge success for Samsung! Something like 70 million views across all platforms for Samsung. A huge win for them!
But the video was also a movie that I always wanted to make. And it went on my YouTube channel. And it did, whatever, like eight or ten million views just on my YouTube channel, another 40 million on my Facebook channel. That was huge for me! I was so proud of that movie and Samsung was so proud of what that did for them. And that is the Golden Rule.
And I think it’s easy to highlight it with big successes like that when you’re successful in this career but I think along that way there are a million tiny successes.
The Atkins candy bar was maybe good for the brand, it wasn’t good for me. That was a good example of what not to do.
(Woman) That’s a good place to wrap up. So when the needs of someone meet your passion. I mean, that’s kind of the golden intersection.
(Casey) Yeah, the thing I would add to that is that if you’re waiting to find that you’re also making a big mistake. You have to create that. And when I say you I mean you the brands, you the marketers and I also mean you the creators. You have to create that. That synergy’s there. But it does take work and the impetus shouldn’t just be on the marketers to find that.
(Woman) Thank you!
(Casey) Thank you very much!
Like I stated before, I really hope there are no critical errors in the transcript. English is not my first language so I might have misheard or misunderstood something. I have edited away some um’s and like’s.
If you spot any errors, please comment and I will fix them.