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How Plants Were the First Marketers with Leo York

September 20, 2021
Episode 31
The Recognized Authority Podcast Cover

The podcast that helps experts & consultants on the journey to becoming a recognized authority in your field, so you can increase your impact, command premium fees, work less hours, and never have to suffer a bad-fit client again!.

Marketing and branding are often conflated: the distinction can feel more like semantics. But there’s a very real and easy to understand difference.

In this episode, Leo York and I discuss the primitive origins of marketing, how plants were the first marketers, and how and why color choice impacts how we think about brands.

We also discuss how experts can use the 3 Aristotelian modes of persuasion: ethos, logos and pathos, or the appeal to authority, the appeal to logic, and the appeal to emotion.

On a personal note, this was one of the most fascinating conversations I’ve had on the podcast so far, and I hope you enjoy it too!
– Alastair.

Show Notes

Guest Bio

Leo York is a copywriter, podcaster, vice president of Inventors Network KY, and armchair entomologist in Lexington KY. He popularized the use of Evolutionary Behavior in marketing and branding.


marketing, people, branding, appeal, client, color, pathos, authority, brand, logos, big, absolutely, words, buy, commercials, red, important, logical argument, association, primitive

Alastair McDermott, Leo York


Leo York  00:00

If we look at the primitive origins of, you know, trying to get a individual to make a decision based on on external stimuli, plants did this first. What happened was plants were dominating the world and they were doing just fine without animals. And then animals showed up. And now they’ve got this problem because they can’t move. And now all of a sudden, there’s these things that can move that want to eat them. So what plants did is they had an amazing pivot, is they decided to start marketing to these these animals to get an advantage from them rather than to be just destroyed by them.


Voiceover  00:34

Welcome to The Recognized Authority, a podcast that helps specialized consultants and domain experts on your journey to become known as an authority in your field. So you can increase your reach, have more impact and work with great clients. Here’s your host, Alastair McDermott.


Alastair McDermott  00:50

Hello, today, my guest is Leo York. Leo is a copywriter. He’s a podcaster. He is the Vice President of Inventors Network KY. And he is an armchair entomologist in Lexington. And he popularized the use of evolutionary behavior in marketing and branding, which is a really fascinating sounding topic. Welcome, Leo.


Leo York  01:10

Thanks for having me.


Alastair McDermott  01:11

So the first thing I just want to ask you something you mentioned, just before we started is the difference between short term marketing and long term branding. You said to me that branding is borderline permanent. Can we just dig into this a little bit? Can you tell me what what your thinking is on this?


Leo York  01:24

Absolutely. And I don’t know if this was deliberate, but you can even see it in the etymology of the two words, like if you think about what marketing is, like, the first instance is of human beings marketing. And that is an important distinction, that human beings aren’t the first marketers, but thinking that the term itself it means in the marketplace, you’re creating visibility for yourself in a marketplace. And the early examples of that would be imagine an open air market and somebody’s yelling, the product they have, you know, figs, figs, that’s, that’s marketing, that’s all it is. It’s visibility. It’s a short term thing, the minute somebody stops yelling figs, they might as well not be selling figs. And you know, that evolved over time to you know, fresh figs, juicy figs, I know though the farmers I get first pick, these are the best ones you’ll see today. That’s what marketing is, you are creating visibility in a marketplace. And that’s what I’d like people to think of when I think of marketing is visibility.  And short term branding, on the other hand, that’s in the name to branding means to burn with hot iron. That’s what that means. And you can see that, for example, in cattle, they are branded with hot iron. Well, not so much anymore, but it still happens. But that’s a permanent thing. And so when I want people to think about branding, I want them to think of the word association.  So marketing is visibility. And it’s short term, you can change it, you can play with it, you can, you can do a lot of experimental things with marketing, branding is association. And it’s long term, and it’s debatably permanent there. I’ve seen big, big companies change their branding, I might even talk about an example of that. But for the most part, if you get your branding wrong, or you try to change your branding, it’s not going to work, at least in terms of your marketing, because that’s your association.  And a perfect example of this with marketing versus branding is think about all the Pepsi and Coke commercials that you’ve seen over the years. You think about how many you’ve almost certainly forgotten about because they were marketing, but then think about the branding of both of those companies, when people think when they have associations, word associations, like a Rorschach test with those companies. When when people think Coke, they think classic. That’s a big one. They think wintertime and Christmas to a point where I know in Ireland Father Christmas is a skinny guy in America, he’s quite fat. And that’s actually from branding Coca Cola came out with a fat Santa, and it’s stuck and it influenced the culture. Like when I think of Santa I think of Coca Cola is Santa. It’s that big. So that wintertime, that’s a that’s a big one. And then the above all else, Coca Cola has that association of long lasting it’s it’s always gonna be there. It’s people even joke that it’s sort of a new apple pie with regard to Americana. So classic winter time, aka Christmas, and long lasting.  And then when people think of Pepsi, they think New It’s the new kid is the voice of a new generation, the taste of a new generation, they think of Pepsi challenge, which is inherently an a reaction to the older brand. So they dovetail in that respect, you know, you’ve got new and you’ve got challenging the old and then there’s this weird Association also with summertime and music and the two also go hand in hand because it’s more of like outdoorsy music festivals, at least in the in the States. That’s not going to change. Pepsi is about 120 years old, and Coca Cola is about 130 years old, and yet Pepsi’s new Pepsi’s it challenges the old it’s still that mindset if if they twisted that around. If Coke tried to do a summertime campaign and Pepsi tried to do a Christmas campaign, it wouldn’t work well, because it doesn’t have that association.  And that’s the difference between marketing and branding. Branding is long term Association. Marketing is just visibility. Marketing is what you’re doing to let people know that you’re out there. And the good strong points the arguments for why they should buy your product or service.


Alastair McDermott  05:22

Right, right. So when we’re just trying to think like on a practical level, so if somebody is listening to this is an independent consultants. And so when they’re thinking about branding, they’re very much thinking of like, my personal brand.


Leo York  05:36



Alastair McDermott  05:36

So so one of the things I talked about is the different Well, I would call them like lead generation methodologies or channels, you know, in terms of like positioning, and like referrals being a big one word of mouth. And then you know, things like content marketing or authority marketing, where you’re creating content and putting it out there. And that’s a type of marketing, I think, I think that that that fits within your short term thing as well, if you’re producing content and putting it out. Can we just talk about about how somebody can use what you’re just talking about, in a practical way, when it comes to their branding and the marketing?


Leo York  06:10

Absolutely, one thing I would think of is, is try whenever you’re testing your market, whenever you’re talking to older clients, and you do, to some extent, have to have a pre existing client base, you can’t just start a business one day and then say, Well, I have a brand new, you have to get out there a little bit and do some of the work and get some some clients. And then ask them the especially the ones that your real cheerleaders, the ones who absolutely love what you’ve done for them, ask them what they think of when they think of you and your business and who you are.  Because it’s really hard to see your own brand A lot of times, but an outside source, especially a trusted source, they can give you an idea as to what those associations are, like what they think when they think of you and then all of your content from there should be synergistically tied to that those branding associations. So your content from there on out will reflect whatever those associations are those three words, whether you’re, you know, you’re seen as loyal or authoritative or or commanding or playful, whatever they think of when they think of you it should be reflected in your marketing,


Alastair McDermott  07:20

Right? And going the other way, if you want to try and influence how you were seen, you should try and create that brand by creating content that that resonates with those those words that you want to add associate with.


Leo York  07:35

Absolutely, yeah, the to have a synergy. That’s it’s very important. And the important thing to remember though, is that the brand once you have it locked in once you figure it out what you stand for it who you are those, I like to put in three words, just because it’s simple to define yourself in three terms. Once you have that don’t play around with that formula. You can play with the marketing formula, but don’t play with the branding formula.


Alastair McDermott  07:58

Okay, very interesting. Okay, so let’s switch then to the primitive origins of marketing. And you were talking about the evolutionary components. Can you talk a bit about that?


Leo York  08:10

Sure. You know, I mentioned that the first human marketers were salespeople in an open air market yelling figs, but the first marketers were the figs, actually, plants are the first marketers, they, if we look at the primitive origins of, you know, trying to get a individual to make a decision based on external stimuli, plants did this first what happened was plants were dominating the world and they were doing just fine without animals. And then animals showed up. And now they’ve got this problem because they can’t move. And now all of a sudden, there’s these things that can move that want to eat them.  So plants did is they had an amazing pivot is they decided to start marketing to these these animals to get an advantage from them rather than to be just destroyed by them. And you see the first alpha beta test too, because some plants want to actively market to birds. And some plants want to actively market to mammals. And we see this in our own biology, we are very drawn as mammals to dull red and purple colors. In fact, if you look at the evolution of human vision, we went from black and white to black and white and red first and foremost, and so red really stands out, purple really stands out. And on the flip side, plants that market to birds, they usually have waxy fruits, not dough, that are often a violent read much more crimson, and yellow. those are those are big ones, whereas white in the fruit world usually means it’s poisonous for anybody, so you should just stay away from it.  And that was the origin though it was it was pretty much a way for plants to say hey, you want to eat a plant food. But if you’ll eat this instead, this this lovely, very odd plant ovary that I’ve created and filled with sugar. You can actually walk around which I can’t do and you will eventually pass my children somewhere where they can grow and it will both benefit. So we weren’t, we were customers for the apple trees originally. And that was that was how that all got started. And that’s sort of my specialty is I focus on how to appeal to those reptile and mammal brain components of the human mind. Because that makes a lot of marketing decisions for us or customer related decisions. And you’ve seen this in the grocery store, you walk in a grocery store, you bananas are the most popular fruit in America, and yet, they’re always in the back of the grocery store. Because bananas are yellow, and yellow is poison.  It’s great for birds, it’s not great for us. And so you walk into the grocery store, the first thing you see, the first thing you see is the plants because you want that fresh greenery in mind the rest of your trip, so you’re gonna buy more pork and beans, because you’re thinking of apples and figs. So that’s, that’s one way that that’s hijacked in the marketing world, the way the grocery store is organized. But then the next thing you see in terms of fruit is you see the dull purples and reds, you always see the grapes and the blueberries and the apples and the plums way before you get to the more yellow and you’re just not mammal appealing fruits. And similarly, humans used to gather fruits in the dawn and dusk because you admit you are less likely to be seen by a predator. Because at night, predators can see us and we can’t see them in the middle of the day. Less adept predators can see us and they can outrun us. So dawn and dusk is when we would pick fruit.  Well, you go in the grocery store, they missed that fruit because that condensation, you even see it in direct mail. I got a coupon from all these the other day. And all the other pictures were just normal. They showed deck chairs, they were normal, they showed up. I think it was an Allen Wrench. It was normal. But the apples had mist on them. They had condensation on them. Because that appeals to the more primitive recesses of our mind that tells us “Hey, that Apple looks good, because it’s morning, even though it’s not and I’m not gonna get eaten by a saber toothed tiger when I go to pick it”.


Alastair McDermott  11:55

Fascinating stuff. Love it. You talked about how you mentioned, we’re not making cognitive decisions. Is that what you said?


Leo York  12:03



Alastair McDermott  12:04

So what does that mean?


Leo York  12:05

What it really means is when I when I think of me, as a concept as an abstraction, and what makes decisions for me, I think of this very rational thing that’s completely aware of all the processes going on, leading to a decision, oh, I bought an apple because it’s healthy, and it tastes good, for example. But it’s not just that, in nature, calories are the currency that is necessary to exist, you know, the the original currency wasn’t money, it was calories. And what the apples doing is, it’s appealing to me on a very primitive level that I’m going to enjoy the goose station of sugar, because those calories would benefit me. And we see this also in branding too, branding directly is connected to these non cognitive thought patterns. For example, if you look at the branding of fast food and fast casual food to a lesser extent, they always go with the most violent colors. They go with red and yellow and sometimes orange.  And in nature, those are the colors for the most part. We’re not talking about the dole plum color. Now we’re talking about crimson, we’re talking about, oh my god, that’s a stop sign. One. That’s something we we noticed when we’re driving around, because we’re very, very aware of those codes, because they say we’re dangerous, we’re poisonous. It’s called aposematism. It’s the reason why you’ve never had any desire to eat a monarch butterfly. They don’t look tasty, because they’re poisonous. And they let you know by being brightly colored. And yet fast food always actively uses these bright colors. And they do it for three reasons.  One, you’re driving around, and you notice it immediately, because you’re on the lookout subconsciously, not cognitively, for danger. So you see that and instead of going away from it, you cognitively do recognize, oh, well, let’s say burgers. But the other reason why they do that is not just for your awareness, it’s because it’s fast food, they don’t want you to go in and sit down and just stay for a long time the way a sit down restaurant does. So those excitatory colors actually work is an appetite suppressant. So these are real food, places that are suppressing your appetite. And they’re doing it because they want you to buy your burgers and get out of there.  So the next person can go in and buy their BBs and get out of there. And that’s why you will see red in yellow, at McDonald’s and in and out all those other places. But you won’t see it at a steak house. For example, if you went into a steak house, and it looked like a Georgian themed brothel with crimson walls, you wouldn’t want to sit around and enjoy your steak long term because this again, those reptile and mammal brains will be telling you, this isn’t a safe place, you should really get out of here, and you’re going to eat a lot less and you’re not going to stick around for dessert.  So even with branding, colors play a huge role. And that’s another important thing. It’s not just a question of what three words describe your business, but also colors, colors matter. Blue, for example, is a color of trust. It’s a calming color, it tells you hey, I want you to take your time with this and make a rational decision. I’m not trying to rush you. So that’s why you go to hospital. blues are everywhere. That’s why a lot of politicians and lawyers and insurance agents, they love to use the color blue. It’s a trustworthy color.  On the flip side, back to red. I mean red means a lot of things. Apparently red means danger. Red means poison. Dull red means delicious. So reds a complicated color for us. But whenever a an ape now we’re now we’re above reptile minds. Now we’re going expressly to mammal minds. If you look at apes, when they’re in heat, or when they hit a certain period during sexual maturity, they’re their butts get red. It’s kind of comical when you see him at the zoo. But because of that red has an association, even even among humans, with maturity, with sexuality, and more importantly, with power, with authority.  And that’s why even you you look at almost every country in the world, about half of them have red and blue in their flags. And then you also look at political parties, they tend to be designated as red and blue and red is usually the more authoritarian party, the more Federalist Party, I guess you could say. So red has that connotation. And so when you think about your brand, are you an authority? Are you authoritarian? Are you powerful? Are you willing to fight for what you believe? Red. Are you trustworthy? Are you calm? Do you want your clients to really take the time and mull over what you have to offer? Blue is a more active theme. So so when it comes to branding, it’s not just a question of words, colors play a big role as well.


Alastair McDermott  16:28

Yeah, and this is why when we had the Marketing for Consultants brand, we use blue, navy blue as as a dominant color. And I decided to shift it to red when we rebranded to The Recognized Authority. And literally for for that reason.


Leo York  16:45

A good deal.


Alastair McDermott  16:46

You know, and there’s a lot like there’s a lot of companies that use that read, I mean, there’s like a cannon, you know, Lego is playful, you got target your Coca Cola, Virgin, CNN, like, you know, it’s YouTube, the logo, you know, Netflix reuse read. So there’s that, you know, it can can be used in a lot of ways. I’m really into color theory. So like, because I do a lot of branding for websites and for businesses, so so yeah, I’m with you on that. And I think that you can, you can take it too far, maybe?


Leo York  17:19

Absolutely. Yeah. Get analysis paralysis. Oh, sorry.


Alastair McDermott  17:23

Yeah. Yeah. Cuz you can probably make an argument for almost any color on the spectrum.


Leo York  17:28



Alastair McDermott  17:29

So I think part of it is okay, what looks good and feels good and feels right. But yeah, blue is always a very safe choice, which is why Facebook and Twitter and a lot of these companies, a lot of banks use blue, because it’s literally means trustworthy, reliable. And also, it doesn’t have any negative cultural implications, which some of the other colors have,


Leo York  17:47



Alastair McDermott  17:48

Because that aspect as well, very low.


Leo York  17:51

JOHN DEERE, for example, had a big fiasco when they tried to market to China for that reason, because green hat in China means you’re a cuckold. So it didn’t fly too well.


Alastair McDermott  18:04

And there is a brand that is so dominant, you know, I’ve got two nephews, and they love tractors and things like that. And you know, you can spot a John Deere, from from literally from miles away, because of the combination of the the yellow wheels and the green party, you know.


Leo York  18:20

It’s almost become the color of agriculture. Another great example of how branding can influence culture.


Alastair McDermott  18:25

Yeah. And they’re also one of the oldest content marketers, they have a magazine that they produce going back, I think, I think it’s 150 years or something. But they they have them that Joe Palouse, uses this as an example in the Cotton Marketing Institute. He is that was one the examples of the first content marketing. So really fascinating stuff. But there’s something I want to ask you about, because you mentioned, like we’re not using our logic here is not cognitive, it’s kind of subconscious. But I have heard you before, railing against people in copywriting, not trying to appeal to the logic, so that when people are writing like that they appeal too much to the emotion of our forgetting about the logical part. Let’s talk about that for a sec.


Leo York  19:08

Yeah, no, that’s that’s very true. And it is almost paradoxical. But, but when you think about marketing itself, you know, branding is association, branding is not an argument, you’re just showing what you stand for. It’s like introducing yourself. If I say my name is Leo, it’s not an argument. I’m not convincing you that I’m Leo.  On the other hand, if I, if I tell you, you know, well, I think that this cereal is the best. Well, now I’m trying to convince you of something. And in that instance, I’m using one of the weakest but very common forms of rhetoric because there’s three, I’m using appeal to authority. I’m saying, I think that the cereal is the best and if you trust me, then then you will think so too. And that’s what pathos is. And when I speaking of cereal, I always think of Wheaties when I think of pay those because it’s got these athletes on the box. And that’s the whole argument. That’s the entire argument for I should have weighed is they don’t talk about taste. They don’t talk about its nutrition. It’s literally Just this guy runs fast he’s on the box, why don’t you buy the box. And and appeal to authority can be great when it dovetails with logos, which is the appeal to logic. And that’s the one that I, I do think we need to see more of in marketing.  A great example of a combination of perfect combination really, of pathos and logos Appeal to Reason an appeal to authority is nine out of 10 dentists recommend insert dental brand here, that’s a big one. Because what they’re saying is they’re saying you trust dentists to understand what’s going on with your teeth more than you do, right? You outsource that knowledge to people who specialize in it, right? Well, they think that this is the best. So it’s a logical argument on that level. But it’s also an appeal to authority simply because you’re going to respect those numbers. So whenever I see that, I always think that’s a great combination of appealing both to pathos and to logos.  But then there’s the third one, which is ethos, and that’s the appeal to emotion. And the reason why it bothers me that too many commercials, in my opinion, nowadays appeal exclusively to emotion is, one it’s lazy, because it ignores the other two altogether. And secondly, because emotion itself is not a primitive thing. Emotion can be very human. And irrationality isn’t necessarily primitive.  If you in fact, if you look at the reptile brain, all the things I was talking about about poison, and subconscious cues, none of those are emotional, none of those who are irrational, they’re actually so rational that there’s not really even an emotional component to them. And yet, we see so often and with insurance commercials, for example, that’s fine, I get it, because that’s an emotional argument of what if something happens to you, how are you going to take care of your loved ones. But if we’re looking at something like food, a great example would be a lot of modern Pepsi commercials. It’s literally just people dancing, for example. And it’s to make you feel good, it gives you a little dopamine boost.  But there’s no commentary on why you should buy that over, say any other sugary fructose carbonated drink. In that instance, it’s not that it’s a bad commercial, it’s that it’s missing a key component. I think good marketing employs all three. And I think the most important thing to employ is logos. And just look at the older commercials, for example, one of the older commercials, the whole point is, it’s you should buy this fabric softener, because it’ll make your clothes nice and soft. And that’s the whole point. And that’s even though that might sound emotional, because you’re dealing with, you know, the desire to have comfy clothes, it’s still a logical argument. And the same thing goes with the value of something, you know, it’s more bang for your buck. That’s a logical argument. That’s not an emotional argument.  So whenever we’re looking at these things, it is important to stress that just because something appeals to primitive levels, it doesn’t actually mean that it’s not appealing to logic, it’s just appealing to lizard logic instead of human logic in many respects.


Alastair McDermott  22:56

Right. So when you are when you’re doing copywriting, say for, let’s say, just for a website, how do you use this? Like, what like, what when you’re talking to a client, and they’re, they want you to help out with their, you know, their their website, like maybe with a product page or their services page, or maybe their homepage or their eBay page? How do you actually, you know, take take these concepts and translate that into words on a page?


Leo York  23:21

Absolutely. The first and foremost, the landing pages is the single most important page, everything else is more secondary. And the very top of the landing page should be something that resonates with that brand. First and foremost would be color scheme that resonates with their brand. And then the second would be some sort of tagline, or title that stands out that reflects, you know, what they stand for and what they can do for you. So that’s number one.  And usually, more often than not, that tagline has a combination of logos and ethos, for example of if it was, say, an attorney, it would be something like, you know, Johnson and Johnson, you who that would that? Would it be a bad one, actually, you know, Mike Myers and Myers will fight for you. That’s, you know, they’re saying what they do, that’s literally what all lawyers do all your SpyFu it’s a logical argument, but it there’s an emotional appeal, because when you need a lawyer, you really you’re scared, and you want somebody to defend you. So it appeals on an emotional and cognitive level. And then, you know, in tandem with that color scheme, which you know, as you mentioned, four would almost certainly be blue. So where would if though, if that incorporates ethos, and logos, where would pay those fit in?  Well, a landing page, I think for most businesses is is very incomplete unless you’re dealing with like food and beverage or you want to showcase the more primitive components, you know, actually highlighting the the visual aspect of the food. A good landing page should include reviews, especially if you’re a consultant, and you know, we should see some of your cheerleaders what they have to say about you. And it’s it’s funny because when people think of pathos and they think of appeal to authority, they think of the top of a pyramid they think of well, okay, what is this celebrity thing? What is this doctor think? But no, we do this all the time we look at, I look at Amazon reviews all the time to see if something’s good. And if I see a bunch of people who are frustrated, I trust their authority as fellow customers.  So if you are, for example, a consultant, and you’re helping people with, you know, whatever pain points, you’re helping them with, how what what, what do your previous clients have to say, about addressing those pain points, because if I was a new client or I was in the market for someone, I’d want to see that and that’s how pathos can really work on on a rational level, that’s, that’s one of those few things that’s very human, we’re a very social animal. We’re a very cognitive animal. And pathos really appeals more to that than anything else. It’s not just a question of, you know, the strongest or the fastest being the authorities on a matter, it can be your customer base.


Alastair McDermott  25:58

Yeah, this is really interesting. Because when I think about, you know, what we might call social proof, which is, I guess another term for what you’re talking about here is social proof, appeal to authority. So one of those might be like a logo block of your customers. So just, you know, like, for example, I did some work for Xerox, and a lot of people know, know, Xerox are a very well known brand. So I can put that on there and say, Hey, here’s somebody who trusted me to hire to bring in to do some work. And that automatically gives you that credibility, that appeal to authority versus the other. The other one is that you can use in terms of logos is media, a media block, as I was featured in, and that can be a really good, so I’m just thinking of alternatives to, you know, reviews are?


Leo York  26:45

Absolutely no, those are excellent examples.


Alastair McDermott  26:48

And so, you know, you can still use that same logic of appeal to authority just in different ways.


Leo York  26:54



Alastair McDermott  26:54

I think a lot of marketers or a lot of online marketers websites will call that social proof rather than rather than pathos.


Leo York  27:01

Yeah, I’m a bit old school. I like Greek law.


Alastair McDermott  27:07

Yeah, it’s okay. We got Cicero on the line here. So that’s cool. Okay, so yeah, this is really fascinating. So and then so so our appeal to logic then. So we have the, you know, we have some social proof, we have some, some pathos there. What’s our appeal to logic, then, is that, you know, some copywriting that says, you know, this is why we’re the best or something?


Leo York  27:30

That’s, that’s a very common one. You can be as it can be as transparent and basic. I don’t recommend this personally. But it could be as transparent and basic as just pointing out your rights. One of my favorite, for example, of purely logically looks silly. I don’t know if they have this in Ireland, but in the US, we have this insurance, this auto insurance called The General and it’s the silliest thing ever, it’s a little CGI man, he looks kinda like the monopoly man. But he’s dressed like a four star general. And he’s usually hanging out with somebody like Shaq or something, which that’s the pathos component of it. But the whole point of every single one of these commercials, as silly as it usually unfolds, like a almost like a kid’s cartoon.  The whole point is you need insurance. In order to legally drive a car, we have the the cheapest insurance, we they don’t mention coverage at all, it’s something like for the lowest rates you can have, it’s the General. And it’s a very logical argument. They’re not, they’re not presenting themselves as great with coverage, they’re not presenting themselves as trustworthy. The whole point is, pay money to us, and you won’t pay a lot of money, and you’ll be legally able to drive. That’s the whole shtick.  Sometimes just looking at cost versus benefit can be a great way to appeal to logic, and it doesn’t have to be in that particular order. It can be we have a really high quality and that’s why we charge more, you can showcase that as well. And it’s still a logical argument. That’s that’s one big way of showing it but when you’re dealing with a product or service, the best thing to do is to highlight the strong points of it, you know, what does it provide to you? And why does it stand out and anything that that showcases how it addresses whatever your pain points is, if you if you’re caught, you’re I’m sweltering right now my office, my office is very hot if I want to watch an AC commercial ever written for trying for example, you know, they’re going to showcase we’re going to keep your house cool for insert you know, low low rates, whatever their purpose is, what you’re doing is you’re addressing why they should buy it and the Why is usually low ghostwritten wise are almost always logos driven and then the the more ethos and pathos components they they attached to that. And that’s one of my big complaints though is a lot of commercials now, they don’t give you a why they just give you the emotion and yeah, you know the why is so important.


Alastair McDermott  29:44

So what is the emotion? What is the ethos for a consultant? So somebody’s got to go to a website for like, it’s a personal brands, their their management consultants say, the appeals of authority and the appeal to logic is fairly straightforward, but what’s the Emotion part there?


Leo York  30:00

I think one of the big ones, when it comes to a consultant is with very few exceptions. What you’re wanting from a customer standpoint is somebody to have a long term relationship with that you can you can trust and rely on for those particular needs. So I think the emotional component there is just that, that you’re not going to just be a name on their digital Rolodex, you know, this is going to be a long term thing, you are going to know this person, a perfect example of how ethos works with a lot of customer and consultant related relationships is really simple things like getting a notice on your birthday, or an important day that, you know, they’re aware that you exist, you know, that can matter a lot. I see that a lot with, for example, financial advisors, a lot of financial advisors, they will keep track of the birthdays of their clients, and they will tell them happy birthday on their birthday. And it just lets them know, like, yeah, this person is managing my money. But they also realize I’m a person and not just a credit card, that they happen to know the numbers too.


Alastair McDermott  31:06

Yeah, yeah. That the only thing I’ll say about that is I think that Facebook has cheapen that a bit with the overall kind of emphasis of you know, that plus, people always say happy birthday to me on the wrong day, because I sent it wrong on Facebook to tell them my real birthday. That’s, that’s because I worked in security. So,


Leo York  31:28

It makes sense.


Alastair McDermott  31:29

But yeah, okay. So then the other thing just to mention, you know, if you are doing you know, you want to make yourself look trustworthy, please do not put a picture of a handshake, like a stock image.


Leo York  31:40

Yeah, because let’s really try and stay away from stock images as much as possible. And if you do use us use good ones, use your best judgment. In fact, that’s one of the big takeaways here is your instincts, your reptile and mammal instincts tell you a lot about the decisions you need to make as you interface with the very big complicated world out there. So if it doesn’t feel right, there’s a good chance it’s not, that’s something I actually do is a little test with some of my clients is, you know, they talk about instincts and they act like oh, well, instincts don’t you know, people don’t have instincts. And I will actually show them pictures of poisonous and edible plants. And I’ll ask them to pick out the edible one. And I always think, Oh, I just picked the poisons, they almost never pick a poisonous plant, they always pick the edible one out of like six or seven plants, because your instincts tell you a lot. And if your website is telling you this doesn’t look right, this looks this doesn’t look like me, I’m not being true to me. Never not be true to you. I’ll remark a little more on that later probably.


Alastair McDermott  32:38

Yeah. And this is also the reason why people make snap decisions based on looking at a website. And so I like I think that you should invest in your website design, not just as a former web designer, but I just think that, you know, this is a first impression that people get from you, it’s your, it’s, it’s the one thing on the web that you have entire 100% control over. So you know, like invest a little bit and making it look good and looking looking, make yourself look trustworthy by having good photography, and put some thought into the words that you choose to put on there. So yeah, I think that’s really important deal.  Is there anything else that you would say that would be important for somebody who’s a consultant or an expert in their fields in terms of copywriting that, that they might think of that might be useful?


Leo York  33:23

One of the one of the big recommendations I have is, you know, anybody can write. For the most part, if you’re literate, you can almost certainly write you probably learned how to write in kindergarten, but it’s really important words are and if you just try to do it all yourself, or you you go on Fiverr and you spend $4, for for copy for your website, use your best judgment on that. You know, sometimes words are so important that they’re worth paying extra for from somebody who does it for a living, and that I’m not I’m not even talking about me, because I sell them do II website copy, for example, in consultants really aren’t the ones I usually write copy for. I’m just saying, Look at that it is important. People tend to tend to think about photos and imagery is important. And they are very important. But so are words. And if you you mix the words up, you’re going to set off the wrong signals and people are not going to fall in line the way you want.


Alastair McDermott  34:16

There’s another thing I guess is curiosity is one thing. When I look at a lot of older ads, in, you know, clips from magazines and things back in the day, they used to be a lot longer in terms of word count. They were very wordy. And now, we seem to have gone away from that. I’m just wondering, like what has caused that or is it you know, is that an improvement? Or is that you know, is that a regression,


Leo York  34:43

it depends on who you ask. On one hand it because things were slower paced, and people had much longer attention spans. That was a lot of it. And then we’re also just fewer products out there. Now we’re absolutely inundated with marketing content. And so in order to stand out it has to be faster. has to appeal a lot quicker to all those three minds. And yeah, older ads, they tend to be a lot more logos driven for that reason they would, they would highlight all the major points as to why you should buy that product.  And in that sense, you know, advertising has gotten a lot more efficient, because it can address those things a lot quicker. But and this is, this is me getting on a soapbox, but I, I really, whenever I see a lot of marketing foibles, for example, really expensive ones, sometimes sometimes, you know, you’ll see a company make a billion dollar mistake. A lot of times it comes from this, and this is definitely something to take home.  Please don’t think of your customers as consumers. You are vying for their attention. They are human beings who make rational, complicated decisions every day, and you’re trying to get them to use or buy your product or service, you’re getting their attention. They’re your customers or your clients. They’re not consumers. They’re not veal calves, for you to fatten on whatever you happen to have. And I think a lot of advertising where we’re seeing it get really short, almost to a point where it’s condescending and purely emotional. I think you could go to almost any boardroom where that decision was made. And you will hear the word consumer bandied around rather than customer.


Alastair McDermott  36:17

Right. Interesting. Yeah. Okay. Let’s just talk about your business.


Leo York  36:22



Alastair McDermott  36:22

A little bit for a minute. Can you So how long have you been self employed?


Leo York  36:26

Almost 11 years, which feels weird.


Alastair McDermott  36:30

Yeah, I’m just a little bit of heavy on my element 14 now. Yeah. And so I’m just interested, like, I’m guessing that the answer is BS. But have you experienced some significant business failures along the way? That you’re


Leo York  36:43

Oh, sure? Absolutely.


Alastair McDermott  36:45

Yeah. Is there anything that you that you can share with us, that was like a an important lesson for you?


Leo York  36:51

Oh, big time, to two big ones. One goes hand in hand with I actually mentioned before, I said, I probably mentioned being sincere and being true to yourself. And sure enough, I had a client early on, and they were completely the antithesis of everything I wanted in a client. They stood for something I was very against their personality type didn’t jive with mine at all. And what I tried to do, I did what a lot of single men try to do when they start trying to court, pretty women, I decided to be everything that they wanted me to be and not me at all, I just sort of became a blank canvas. And it didn’t work out. They ended up finding somebody that they truly matched with. And I spent a lot of time courting that client and wasting my time. And at the end, I felt awful, not not just because I didn’t get that client, but because I felt like I had kind of, you know, for lack of a better word, hoard myself out to get that client and ultimately didn’t work. And after that, I thought, I’m never going to do that, again, I am going to


Alastair McDermott  37:55

Be compromised yourself.


Leo York  37:56

Yeah, I compromised myself. And I thought, I’m never gonna do that, again, I’m gonna be perfectly honest with people about, you know, my views. And I don’t mean in the sense that like, you know, I would never strike up a conversation with a client be like, so what’s your political opinion, slash religious beliefs, or anything like that. But this was one of those things where, you know, two minutes into talking to this person, I knew it was a bad idea. And I still went with it because I thought, well, a client’s a client, and that’s not the case. You should your website, your copy your branding, everything that you put out, there should still be you. It shouldn’t be a persona. It shouldn’t be a mask, it should, it should reflect to you in some way in your values. So just yeah, try never to stray away from that, because it’s never good. Even if even if you win, you lose. So,


Alastair McDermott  38:44

Yeah, yeah, that’s a good that’s a good way of putting that. So what was the other one? The other one.


Leo York  38:50

The other one’s far more embarrassing. This was this was two in my defense. I did something very unethical. But in my defense, it was like my first three months as a copywriter. This was a very early on. And I got I commercial script, which is my favorite thing to write. It’s my forte. It’s what I like. First thing I tell people, I write commercial screenplays. So I get this commercial screenplay gig from this pharmaceutical company. It’s for some kind of medicated lotion. And they wanted me to do a turnkey operation and find an animator to animate the script. And I thought, that’s great. And I gave me a budget. And I won’t say the budget, but it was a lot. Well, it was it was a middle amount. And so I thought, okay, I’ll go find an animator.  So I had friends who were in animation, and I asked them, and they wanted way more than the whole, the whole pot. So I thought, well, I’ll ask other animators and they wanted more than a whole plot. So I went on one of those fiber type websites. It wasn’t fiber, but it was like that. And I put out the request and immediately got three hits and three people wanted to do the animation for me and they asked for a song each. I mean, we’re talking they over they were different rights, but that was so More than I thought, this is great, I’m going to get so much more money at the end of this because, you know, it’s for the whole shebang. And now I’m, I thought I was gonna make this much, I’m gonna make this much, because I’m gonna have three people and I’ll pick the best one, and I’ll pay all three, and I’ll still be doing great.  So they all got it done in days rather than weeks. And that was a red flag. And the first one pops up and I look over it. And it was awful. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen it, I could have done a better job and I can’t draw a circle, right? That’s like, Oh my god, this is bad. So then I open the next person’s, and it’s the same thing. But the white, he has different colored hair. So open the next one. And it’s the exact same thing. But now she’s a redhead instead of a brunette or blonde. So what had happened is I basically I spent this client’s money, and had to go back to them hat in hand and say, Hey, the money that I spent on that animator, none of it was was any good. So the real thing to take on there. And this goes for when you’re buying a writer, or hiring a writer, or hiring an animator or hiring a graphic designer, you do get what you pay for. And, and you don’t try to cut corners. Because if you try to cut corners, what you’re going to end up with is a very subpar product. So that’s, that’s my advice. I’m not against Fiverr I actually love Fiverr I love Upwork I think they’re good sites for certain things. But you do get what you pay for.


Alastair McDermott  41:25

Yeah, I think it’s the thing where if you scratch the surface of almost any kind of Expert service, what you’ll find is that it’s usually much more difficult than appears on the surface. And, and getting somebody good is going to be much more expensive than you expected. If you’re not familiar with it.


Leo York  41:44

I’ve had other clients, you know, who have paid me, you know, at first they balk at my rights, I leave and I think oh well, and then they come back and you know, they spent a pittance on somebody else. And they told them what to write and I just wrote it. It’s like, oh, okay, yeah, that’s you, what you did is you hired a stenographer instead of a copywriter, because, you know, you get what you pay for?


Alastair McDermott  42:07

Yeah, yeah. You really need somebody who is able to push back in almost every kind of service like that. You need somebody who can push back and say, Hey, you know, unless more directive, yeah, yeah, what I found is that the usually the cheaper supplier, they, the less experienced, but also the less directive that they are a great and, and so you, you might be getting a set of hands to do the job, but you’re not getting any of the strategy, which is usually the really important part, as some clients don’t are not looking for that they’re looking for like just staff augmentation, they already have an idea of the direction. And so a set of hands to do the work is perfect. That’s just what they need.


Leo York  42:47



Alastair McDermott  42:48

Then sometimes you need somebody who can actually direct and provide the strategy as well. And usually that’s much more valuable.


Leo York  42:54

Yeah, I couldn’t agree more.


Alastair McDermott  42:56

Okay. So let me ask you, are there any resources that have helped you along the way any great books that you’d recommend people read?


Leo York  43:02

Oh, yeah, absolutely. The I’m trying to think of the actual names of them. One of them I’ve got actually right here in terms of copy the “AdWeek Copywriting Handbook” is phenomenal. Anything with Leo Burnett’s name attached to it, that’s the guy who kind of got me interested in copy of King a copy is what he’s called. He’s actually one of those rare cases where he did help a company that had branding for like 50 years solid branding, had to change their branding and he helped them. That company was Marlboro. Marlboro used to be a woman cigarette brand. And women stopped smoking in the 60s and he turned it around with the Marlboro Man. And now one out of every three cigarettes is Marlboro and it’s this masculine symbol. That’s but again, that cost a lot of money and they almost went bankrupt rebranding, so just something that Oh, yeah, but yeah, I really liked that one. And I also really like the “Freelancers Manifesto” by a good friend slash mentor. Well actually just just look up the “Freelancers Manifesto”. I won’t even I won’t even name them. I’ll let his book Damon.


Alastair McDermott  44:07

Excellent. And I will include links to those in the show notes.


Leo York  44:10

Thanks so much.


Alastair McDermott  44:11

Cool. Well, thank you so much for being with us here today. Oh, yes. There’s one of the questions I like to ask just about fiction. Um, do you have any fiction books that you read that you that you would recommend?


Leo York  44:19

I I’m super, super nerd for the “Lord of the Rings”. And currently, I’m actually reading “Ivanhoe” for the first time. Like most people read Ivanhoe and they’re like, you know, in middle school, but it’s been really fun so I really like it but yeah, I like fantasy and sci-fi for the most part and horror of course. I don’t know why I said of course, but I mean, who doesn’t like a good scary book?


Alastair McDermott  44:43

I think I got over my Stephen King phase a long time ago.


Leo York  44:47

Oh yeah, yeah, I went way past King. I’m Lovecraft is my absolute favorite horror writers. rats in the walls. Oh, my gosh, such a good story.


Alastair McDermott  44:57

Okay, okay. I think yeah, I’d be more of the sci fi fantasy end of that spectrum. Okay, so where can people find out more about working with you? We’ll find out more about you if they’re interested in learning more.


Leo York  45:10

The best way to reach me is either on LinkedIn because I live there or on my beacons link, which I sure you’ll also provide, even though I don’t know if I sent that to you, but it’ll it’ll be there probably.


Alastair McDermott  45:22

Absolutely. Okay. So go go check out Leo York on LinkedIn. And I’ll put the rest of the links in the show notes. Thanks so much, Leo. Thank you so much for being with us.


Leo York  45:32

Thanks for having me. This was great.


Voiceover  45:36

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