Episode 60: Bridging the Human-Digital Divide, With PRSONAS’ Chuck Rinker
Chuck Rinker: Stop trying to create people. Stop trying to recreate people. If you don’t want to talk to Chuck Rinker, why would you want to talk to a fake Chuck Rinker? Stop trying to replicate humans. Forget about photorealism, ultra hyperrealism. If we want humans, we’ll stay with humans. We need to do something better.
James Gilbert: I’m James.
Brian Schiff: And I’m Brian.
James Gilbert: And this is Spamming Zero. Welcome to another episode of Spamming Zero, everybody. Thank you for all of our listeners out there who subscribe and rate the podcast. Hopefully we’re doing a good job for you. Excited about today’s episode. We are joined by Chuck Rinker. Now, I got to give a little bit of a background on Chuck because here’s an amazing story. He’s the CEO of PRSONAS. He’s an ex- cattle farmer. We might dive into this farming thing because I am a big fan of that. I was a farmer myself a little bit.
Chuck Rinker: Wonderful.
James Gilbert: He’s a former Madden programmer. We’re going to dive into that a bit too. He was an NCAA director, big sports fan. So yeah, we’re going to dive into those things. He was a cancer survivor, and he is in five years of remission, so congratulations on that, Chuck, welcome to the show.
Chuck Rinker: Thank you very much, James. Appreciate it.
James Gilbert: So today, for the most part, even though we have a lot of things we want to dive into, we’re going to be talking about the mix of humans and digital. So, for our listeners out there, that’s the main point of the topic here. But Chuck, everybody can’t come on the show without getting this strange question in the very beginning that I like to ask. And it’s different for everyone. But for you, I’d love for you to tell us if you were stranded on an island, okay?
Chuck Rinker: All righty.
James Gilbert: And you only had one store that you could shop at for all of your needs or your favorite store, what’s it going to be?
Chuck Rinker: Home Depot, no questions asked.
James Gilbert: That’s a good one. You know, you could pretty much do anything you want. If Home Depot was on that stranded island, you could build yourself a house. Like great pick. I like it. Chuck, let’s start by, let me just ask you, why are you so passionate about the mix of humans and digital, and what do you think is wrong today?
Chuck Rinker: That’s a great question to start off, and I’ll try to keep it as concise as I can, because tying right into the old cattle farmer, I grew up in a pretty rural area, cattle farming. My nearest neighbor was a quarter mile away, half mile away. Our school had less than a 100 students per school and such. So there wasn’t a whole lot of engagement going on that was anything relatable here. And then I was lucky enough that my parents bought me one of the original football games, the LED Football games. And what was inspiring to me that still sticks with me today is that we have an imagination that was able to turn that little three dots of LEDs, those little red dots. And to you, that was a quarterback running back and a blocker. And the fact that the human imagination can engage at that level, always intrigued me, which got me into computers and programming at an early age and such. And I realized as I progressed through all the realms, this will show my age a little. When I first got into computers, we were literally using ticker tapes. And if you have any audience members that remember ticker tapes, I’d be surprised. But there are a few of us where we literally would punch holes in the tape, and that’s how we talked to computers. Keyboards didn’t even exist. And we got into punch cards, you had to punch multiple holes in pieces of the paper. Then you got into magnetic tapes, then you got into cassette tapes, you got into… Heaven forbid, we had a big disc that looked like washing machines when I first started. And they were 20 megabytes a piece, like woo. And it kept advancing and advancing. And eventually we got to CRTs and stuff like that. And as we got more and more technology that could engage with humans, we were able then to relate what we wanted these machines, these amazing machines to do. So the more we can communicate to those machines, the more productivity, the more benefit they can give to us. So now we’re living in this amazing age that people don’t even realize this entire thing happened just since I was a kid in the ’70s and’80s, and in less than 50 years we’ve gone from red blips on the screen to hardly being able to distinguish whether you’re talking to a human or a digital personality that scares a lot of people. But to me it excites me because it really opens up the possibility that you and me have evolved. A human race has evolved for millions of years in the way we communicate, the way we can express to each other, eye gestures, hand movements, a little bit of eyebrow movements, smiles. That relays so much information to us, and that’s how we communicate naturally. Computers are now starting to get sophisticated enough that now we don’t have to learn how to use technology and computers, we can teach technology, computers, how to communicate with us at our level. And that’s really what we’re trying to pull off here is human communication. Break down the barriers human- computer interface.
James Gilbert: Before we dive into, I want to ask you a question. Because I think right now, it’s especially relevant. We’ve seen certain situations in the history of time, the internet, that was one, the Industrial Revolution, another. Just different situations in the history of time where those who were early adopters of those situations came out on top, and typically were leading those areas. And I think we’re seeing the same thing, to your point. And when we look at the history of just time and what’s happening right now, we’re seeing the same thing happen with AI. And I know that you say you’re excited about it, and there are a lot of people that are concerned about it. Just like they were when the internet came out. I read a LinkedIn post the other day, and this guy had a picture of a really old school newspaper and it was like, ” Oh yeah, this is, the Internet’s not going to work. This is a bunch of garbage,” or something like that. And it was written by, I think it was the New York Post or something like that, a very prominent news outlet. And it just goes to show you that things change quick. And I’d love to get your perspective on… I know you’re excited about it, but what do you feel like people in general, when they think about AI and when they think about this revolution with AI, what do you think that they need to be considering right now? As they’re either early adopters, or trying to figure out is this something that I want to use in our general operations?
Chuck Rinker: Awesome question. Another one of those topic I could sit on my soapbox for hours, but I’ll try to be as brief. I’ll start with the anecdotal that I always tell people about. That people are always scared of the new, the different, the oh, this is going to take over. And if you go all the way back into history when the stethoscope was first created, simple stethoscope, doctors can’t live with it at all. When the stethoscope first came out, a lot of the physicians raised their arms, ” Oh, this is the end of proper medicine. You can’t replace the human.” It’s not sensitive enough, you can’t do this, you can’t do that. And quite honestly, the medical community was up in arms over a stethoscope. Because it was new, it was different, they didn’t learn that at the end of the day, it enhanced our ability to perceive certain things and now we can’t live without it. So if you fast- forward that to what’s going on with AI, there are things everybody’s got to be concerned with. We got to look at ethical usage. It’s now pretty easy for us to create deep fakes, to literally steal someone’s personality or their voice, their aesthetics, their look and feel. So there’s a lot of ethical concern that people have to be concerned with. What is the proper and ethical use of it? However, from my perspective, I get excited about it because, to me, it does a couple of things. It’s, don’t focus on human replication. I’ll say that, and my competitors out there listening, that’s a little bit of our secret sauce is being from the gaming background and have almost a predominantly gaming company. We really think about human engagement, not human replication. So it’s human communication, not human replication. But what that does for us is, like I said, it creates this ability for us to work with this technology, and to let the technology be nothing more than a productivity tool. Nobody’s complaining about laptops right now. Our laptops can talk, our laptops have eyeballs. Our laptops can now better understand what your intention is out of that machine. All this about conversational AI, natural language parsing, language understanding, language translation, all these things really are just an easier way that when I express what I’m trying to get done, I’m expressing that how I’m talking to you right now in a very natural conversational way. So when you look at AI and this advances in AI as a productivity tool, not a way to replace humans. You take a little different perspective. It’s not, ” Oh my God, you’re taking people’s jobs.” Now let’s wait a second. What if I had another 10 or 15 hours a week to do what I do best, which is I create, I imagine things. I innovate. That human innovation, creativity, and perspective. Even when you talk about generative AI, and you talk about, ” Oh my God, ChatGPT can now write my resume for me, or it can write an artificial interview and people all that.” Now what do we do, because I don’t know if this is a real person. So what? It doesn’t matter. Because if I create that initial starting point, and I give you more options. You’ve been in the music business. There’s a lot about the synthesized voice from Dre and stuff like that. Oh my god, what’s going on? Well, the reality is all’s we’re doing is getting farther down that pipeline, and taking less of the repetitive mundane task off your human plates, and let this little gray matter up here, do what it does best, which is innovate and create. So if I get 80% there with ChatGPT, and then I can focus my time on making that last 20% uniquely Chuck uniquely me. That’s just a productivity tool, whether it’s for creativity, business productivity, or any kind of engagement. That’s really what the power of what we’re doing now is.
James Gilbert: I love that, and I couldn’t agree more with you. We try to not talk about Flip when we’re on the show, because we don’t like it to be salesy. But that’s one of the main promises that we try to make with people is, we’re an AI company, and we’re in existence because of the fact we’re trying to make humans even better. And there’s no reason why certain tasks cannot be handled by automation and AI, and there’s no reason why you should be having your staff continually doing the things that are repeatable that can be automated. Because guess what that’s doing? That’s actually costing you more, because here what it’s doing. It’s causing your agents to leave. It’s causing their burnout to happen. And then on top of that, after they leave, then you’re having to train new staff, which is more cost and more… Just it’s crazy how there’s not more brands and organizations that see it that way. It’s just fascinating to me. I got to tell you though-
Chuck Rinker: Because you’re a 110%, we could be flipping roles right now. You could be on this side of the camera, because that’s resonated exactly with what we promote as well. And you mentioned that people don’t get it, and we have found our biggest challenge when we’re pushing this type of engagement is that fear factor of human engagement. What’s obvious to you and me, it’s like, ” Wait a second, I’m out here. What are you talking about? Do this, this, and this. And now you know what? We’re all going to be elevated.” It’s been a hard message. It really has been a tough message to get out there.
James Gilbert: I got to ask you, and this is a little bit off- topic, but I’m very curious about it. Now, you are a former Madden programmer. So as a programmer and coder, do you play a lot of video games?
Chuck Rinker: Yes, I was a programmer. I actually did programmer on Madden. I was the director of Madden, and I was the director of NCAA. But my early career was a programmer. And yes, I am a sports fan, not as much as I used to be. I’m a more limited, in my early days, I was a big, big, big time college football fan. Now I find myself watching Snakebite during the PDC, throw his dart taping chips at the Ally Pally. Because I can drink beer and make fun of people when I’m playing darts… So in any sense, that’s my background a little bit there.
James Gilbert: So you don’t get into video games very much anymore then, yeah?
Chuck Rinker: I do. A lot of my gaming, because of my time constraints, are more of a social game. But I think I’ve been a seven- year veteran of the Clash Royale clan. I’m probably up on that one inaudible front. So the things that I can play at five or 10 minute stints… Back in the early days when I was gaming, persistent worlds didn’t really even exist. One of the first MMOGs out there that had a persistent world, never had commercial success, but it was a small game we were working on here in the Raleigh area with a small startup. And we were creating one of those first, early persistent worlds where we had to put up our own server farms and everything, and manage everything ourselves. So yeah, I’m a gamer from way back, but more nowadays it’s more of social gaming.
James Gilbert: That’s fascinating to me. My son has a little bit of interest to potentially do some video game programming. What would be your advice for my son?
Chuck Rinker: That’s a great question. And ironically, I do speak at several colleges that have CS in computer engineering, and I talk to some of these young kids that are trying to make their mark. And the only thing I can put to people is, to me, the people that have succeeded. I kind of jokingly call the gaming industry Hollywood for geeks. Because it really is, you really got to eat, drink, sleep, that gaming. If you have that same passion for gaming that people do for, oh my God, I want to make it as an actor, an actress or a singer, or whatever the case is, or a director, whatever the piece is. The gaming industry is just like any other industry. You’ve got everything from people running IT computers, to creative writers, up through the 3D animators, and audio production and audio development, to technical development and programming. If he has that programming prowess, the one thing I would highlight to all good computer engineers is you got two sides of your brain. Those that excel in the gaming industry are those that can bridge the gap gap between your artists, between your creative development team and the programming team, and make sure that the visions that the artists are putting forth, is what’s going to be relayed on the screen, that’s what’s going to resonate with the players. So if he’s a programmer, then he or she’s a programmer. I’m sorry, you said son, is that correct?
James Gilbert: Yeah. Yeah.
Chuck Rinker: So if he’s a programmer, tell him to take some work courses, learn a little bit of Photoshop, get into the creative side, and understand what the creative thinking is. Because that dual side brain is the hardest piece of the puzzle to fill out in the gaming industry is those that can think on both sides of the brain.
James Gilbert: I love that. That’s some great advice. And I couldn’t agree more. Plus, I think the generation growing up in today’s world, I think needs to be a little bit more creative outside of doing their TikToks.
Chuck Rinker: Absolutely.
James Gilbert: Okay, so let’s dive into more of this topic. You had briefly mentioned gesture communication when we were talking about our facial expressions and things like that. I want to dive into this a little bit more, because I do think that this is something that also plays a role into our ability to understand people at a different level. And I want you to dive into how gesture communication and ASL can play a role into the customer experience. And one of the things that your team had mentioned was why just having voice is not enough. And I agree with you on that, so dive into that a little bit.
Chuck Rinker: Great. That’s another tough one, but it’s easy to talk about. It’s hard for people to think that way. I can start up with a term that is kind of common in the marketing world called brand intimacy. You take brands like Disney, you take brands like Apple. Disney has probably the most loyal customer base on the face of the planet, but they don’t do it through having the best price or even the best product. They do it by creating an emotional bond and an emotional connection. There’s some pretty interesting clinical trials and clinical studies. We do a lot in the pharmaceutical world in the healthcare. So I tend to read a lot of STOPS’ trials and studies, especially since that whole cancer bout my wife and I had to go through. But the point here is that it’s not just a feel good, oop, just because Chuck says it’s true. I highly recommend any marketing team to dig into some of these studies. And you’ll find that an emotional connection, and that emotional connection comes when you and I smile at each other. When we raise our eyebrows and wave a little bit. It eases stress. It creates a less anxious piece. It creates trustworthy avatars, it creates that sense of familiarity. It makes them approachable. Our characters can be created in any cultural diversity, inclusivity, sign language, whatever language. We have two members of the deaf community on staff that we work directly with the ASL community. So what you do is you really create a trusted advocate for that brand. And that’s I think the underlying piece that’s not as easily quantifiable. If it was, I think it would just be a mad flood, and it wouldn’t even be a, oh, should we think about this? It would be, oh wait, this is just part… We got to do social media, we got to do LinkedIn, and we got to do avatars. It would be that deterministic if we got some more data points submitted. I think in five years, it probably will be, as we gather more data and analytics. And people start really looking at like Gartner’s doing some great researching the metaverse, and how avatars play into that brand intimacy as well. And I think it’s going to be commonplace, and it’s going to be the early adopters that we’re going to set the pace for that.
James Gilbert: It’s interesting because there’s so many people that I know in today’s world, that have kids like myself. We have a 16- year- old, a 14- year- old, a 10- year- old, and a seven- year- old, I have four of them. And so many of them are so afraid of human interaction, they’re like afraid of it. And I don’t know if that’s just my kids. Maybe it is. Maybe that’s something we’ve done wrong.
Chuck Rinker: No, it’s not.
James Gilbert: I don’t know.
Chuck Rinker: You’re not alone there, my friend.
James Gilbert: Yeah, I don’t think it is though. And I think there’s a lot of kids growing up in today’s world that hide behind an avatar. And sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes it’s a bad thing. So from your perspective, how do we bridge that balance in making sure that those things are done in a good way, rather than a bad way? Where people are hiding behind an avatar to bully and do those kinds of things. Because I know that’s something that a lot of our listeners are probably thinking about.
Chuck Rinker: Yeah, that’s a really tough topic. Everybody has perspectives on that front. And like anything, any technology, any new push. Of course, COVID. Just to address that, my kids, I have two daughters. I mean, the anxiety levels pre- COVID versus post- COVID are just off the charts. College kids. I have a lot of nieces and nephews that are just getting out of college and all. And it is, it’s a very clearly differentiated population from just five years ago to now today. As far as how that relates to hiding behind avatars. The point is, in general, I actually like it. I’m not saying there aren’t things you have to look out for. There’s obviously the cyber bullying that we won’t dive into, but there’s real life bullying and cyber bullying that contributed to a death of a 13- year- old girl that was real close to our family. So it’s a very real and painful topic to talk about. So it is something that needs to be addressed. It needs to be controlled at the ethical level. However, on the flip side, to try to be the optimistic person I try to be, is when you create an avatar of yourself, whether it’s just Facebook postings or fun, or whether you want to dye your hair blue, and you want to do piercings or tattoos or what have you. It becomes a way for someone to express theirselves, and create an identity. And when someone creates an identity, whether it’s a physical world identity with tattoos and hair color, or whether it’s an online presence and they say, you know what? I’m got an avatar. My avatar is going to have little goat horns. And whatever the case is, they’re creating a personality that’s reflecting the way they’re feeling, which to me builds confidence. It builds confidence in who they are. It creates their own identity. And it’s actually typically, from what my experiences have been, it allows those people to open up more. So it’s almost like an amplifier. The bad people are going to get worse, but the good people are going to develop the social skills, and the confidence in who they are, and they’re going to come out a little more. And they’re going to be more adopting and more less anxious about engaging in public.
James Gilbert: Yeah, I think you bring up some really, really good points. And I feel like we could talk for hours just on the brand stuff, and your examples with Disney and things like that. Do you guys do a lot with sensory marketing? I’m a big believer in that stuff. If you want to create emotion, one of the best ways to do that is to tap into the five senses. There’s a reason why, and I’ve said this many times before, so it’s probably going to be annoying for people to hear this again. But there’s a reason why some of your most creative thoughts happen when you’re outside walking around, than when you’re… Because it invokes all of your senses at the same time. And that can create the strongest type of emotional connection and creativity. When we go outside, we smell the air, we feel the air on our faces. If a car drives by, we smell the gasoline at times. We see everything around us, and then sometimes you can even taste the air. You know what I mean? It’s all five senses. And the same kind of thing happens, believe it or not, when you’re in the shower. It’s when you’re in your most unconventional situation to be creative, that you’re the most creative. And it’s because your senses are activated. So I love that. And I feel like we could talk about, again, that for hours, because I’m a huge believer in it. I think that it is incredible. One of the brands that I think has invested more than I have ever… It’s crazy how much money they’ve invested in doing this, but actually MasterCard. Their CMO has invested a crazy amount of money into Sonic branding, having a sound, that record that they can write. They have a whole album. MasterCard has an album you can buy on iTunes. It’s wild.
Chuck Rinker: I’m going to have to look that one up. I didn’t know that.
James Gilbert: Yeah, it’s-
Chuck Rinker: That’s awesome.
James Gilbert: It’s wild. So they’re probably one of the brands that I feel like has invested the most money into something like that. But I want to come into this digital personality thing. And what’s your advice for brands that want to try to create digital personalities? I think one of the things that happens, especially with our listeners is they’re trying to create more interactive experiences. And to your point, that’s engagement, right? So I know brands that are trying to use virtual reality or AR, which is basically like they’re trying to do online shopping experiences where it’s interactive, you can do sizes and things like that. So what’s your advice to them if they want to start going down the path of creating better engagement with these areas?
Chuck Rinker: That’s a great question, and it actually plays into your comments about the sensory marketing. In a broader sense, I’ll call it more like experiential marketing. With brands, the commonality there of what’s going to create that brand intimacy, that brand loyalty is really about the personality of the brands. We actually kind of stayed claim to fame whether it’s true or not. We kind of claim we have the first tattoo hologram in history. Where we worked with a Vans brand, and we created a Vans avatar and we put tattoos on the Vans avatar. Because that was their personality, and that’s what they want people to think of. And you were talking about experiential AR, VR, and there’s an interesting, I call it an interesting article because I wrote it. It’s on LinkedIn if you go to my profile, about how people don’t realize, to me, Walt Disney was the quintessential original virtual reality created. Disney World, Disneyland. He wasn’t able to put on goggles and headphones to isolate your sensors, so he created a whole world around him, and he did weird things like at Disney World, he built the whole Disney World on the second floor of a big storey building. So the Magic Kingdom has tunnels and corridors underneath, so that characters can go from different parts of the world and trash can be taken out, and you’re never doing what in game business, we call the suspension of disbelief. Which is, you never take someone out of that experience. So when we talk about experience marketing, when you think about a brand and you say, what advice could you give brands? Is I would say stop delivering product features inaudible. Stop telling people why you’re better than other people. And start creating an experience that gets these people hooked on your brands, and get these people there. And that experience would be from a digital avatar, how does it relate to a digital avatar? If you take any brand, let’s just pick… Well, let’s take Home Depot because I love Home Depot so much, and you’ve heard that’s the one store I want on a deserted island. Is, if you were to say, ” Hey, who is Home Depot?” Home Depot is no longer a store. Home Depot is no longer a franchise. Home Depot is no longer a retail outlet. Home. Home Depot is a person. Home Depot is a personality. Who would that personality be? What would he/ she look like? What would they look like? How would they act? What would be their demeanor? How would they treat people? Are they tongue in cheek? Are they stoic? Are they humorous? Are they serious? What is that brand image that you’re trying to get? Because when you create a personality around your branding, you think about your brand as a person, and you learn how to encompass that into an avatar. Now you’ve directly and immediately created a personal relationship with the consumer demographic that’s going to be attracted to your brand. That’s really the advice to think about is, if your brand was a person, what would he/ she/ they look like, act like, sound like, talk like, what knowledge do they have in the brain? And then focus that on creating that connection with your customer.
James Gilbert: I couldn’t agree more. So as a CMO of Flip, right? We went through a rebranding exercise, and we spent a lot of time with the personality stuff. How do we want our brand to be seen and heard? And we all agreed that we wanted it to stand out. And to stand out amongst a very busy world, you got to be edgy. So we needed our color scheme to match that. We needed our name to be edgy. We needed to use swears often, right? Because that’s what people aren’t used to seeing. And it does evoke emotion, more so than I think we realize. And it’s funny, because a little while ago we had one of our investors, and been like, ” Hey, maybe you should tone down the swears of it.” And we were like, ” Okay, yeah, we could do that.” But there’s a reason why we actually chose the name Flip, because it can be used in an emotional way. You’ve actually said our name on this podcast already when you-
Chuck Rinker: Oh yeah?
James Gilbert: …said it’s, yeah, we got to flip it around. And so many people don’t even realize that they use our name. And we did that on purpose, because we also want people to realize that doing this kind of stuff can be fun, and it can be really interesting and engaging. And I remember coming up with this brand Will, and it was essentially all the components of our brand. We have a very specific sound that we use with our podcast, but also with our Flip brand, we have an earcon, all those things. And I remember presenting this Will to the whole organization when we came up with it. And one of them was like, the emotional aspect, and the description words that we wanted to be known for. And it was fun, edgy. We try to do that with everything we do. So the videos people see, they try to be fun and edgy. Our podcast, it’s different. We play games, which we’re going to get into here in a second. I think it’s what makes brands stand out when you can do those things, so I couldn’t agree more with you. And it does create a deeper emotional connection.
Chuck Rinker: It really does. I mean, you’re really speaking to the choir here, because I do notice, unless I’m mistaken over your left shoulder, you got a Tony Robbins book.
James Gilbert: Yep.
Chuck Rinker: I was one of those early, early Tony Robbins back when he was doing this in the mid- late’90s. And he used to use the term, if he still uses it, called neuro- associative conditioning.
James Gilbert: Yep.
Chuck Rinker: Neuro- associative conditioning basically says, and it relates to exactly what you’re saying. We really, at the core of who we are only do two things. We avoid pain and we seek pleasure. So when you relate that to everything you ever do, everything we do here, people have given me a little bit of, I won’t necessarily say a hard time, but let’s say they raise their eyebrows and go, ” Hey, why are you creating cartoony characters for kids that are having MRIs and CT scans?” We did a piece with the Disney Hospital right down there in Orlando in celebration early on. And we’re like, ” Well, because you need to give the kids that are going through so much pain a little bit of pleasure, let them be relatable.” We created this bear, we call it Buddy and Max, instead of having CT scans, we work with a group that are called Bear Facts Entertainment. And now inaudible, imagine they do wonderful stuff in the hospitality and hotel… I mean, a hospital business as well. And basically trying to take a little bit of… ease that little bit of pain, give that anxiety, take some of that anxiety, take some of that stress away. And that creates that bond. And exactly what you just said there with brands in general, everybody needs to avoid a little pain, and get a little more pleasure out of life.
James Gilbert: When you have positive thinking and pleasure when it comes to those things. The other thing that happens is you’re able to heal. Doctors still to this day, can’t figure out exactly why it happens, but it does happen. And it is a very real thing. I remember my best friend in high school had a really bad form of cancer. It was sarcoma, and he had it in his hip. And I would go down to the Huntsman Cancer Center in Utah with him, and drink the chalk. You know what I’m talking about?
Chuck Rinker: Yep.
James Gilbert: And drink the chalk with him because it was disgusting. I’ll tell you, it’s disgusting. I don’t know, it’s tough. And we kind of go around and just visit with people. And it’s true, the moments where… This is another reason why I became such a big Utah jazz fan. I was already a big Utah jazz fan, right?
Chuck Rinker: Right.
James Gilbert: But then this kind of solidified it. It was like his family couldn’t pay for his rest of his treatments. And so John Stockton and Karl Malone at that particular time, actually came to the Huntsman Cancer Center, visited with him.
Chuck Rinker: Oh, amazing.
James Gilbert: And they’re like, ” We’re going to pay for the rest of your treatments.” And this probably prolonged his life even longer for probably another four months longer than he probably was going to make it. He ended up not making it. But I still remember this vividly, because there is something to say even with our e- commerce listeners out there. When you are trying to create an emotional connection with your customers, and you’re trying to invoke your brand emotions, it is imperative that you create pleasure in the process. And you can call these whatever you want, you can call them wow moments. You can call them things to remember you by, you can just call it a good customer experience, whatever you want to call it. But it’s got to be something that is different than the normal. And I think that’s the key. So Chuck, what’s your advice to people that want to create something that’s different than the normal?
Chuck Rinker: That’s a great one. And I feel for you on that story. And my wife’s a two- top cancer survivor just within five years. I’m a metastasized colon cancer survivor as you know. And you talk about the theory of positivity. I have sisters who are in the healthcare industry, one of which is a GI specialists. She got us all hooked up with great and wonderful doctors and oncologists. But my other sister also worked at an oncology facility. And I just want to resonate on that a little, because what she said about the theory of positivity and thinking, and people go, ” Well, what happened there?” Mary always would say, when a newly diagnosed cancer patient comes in to the ward, just by the way they look and how they carry themselves. With a pretty high level of accuracy, she can talk to them for five minutes, no diagnosis, no reports, and she has a pretty good idea if that person is going to react well to treatments and get through it. So it really is, there is a lot of power to the thinking, that goes beyond medicine. And no, I’m not trying to get too deep on this, but there really is that. There really is a power of the human brain and the human body to react to positivity. And if you look at that brand intimacy, I always go back to Disney, because Disney, to me, was one of those heroes of mine. Because I think despite what people usually think, most of Disney’s Academy Awards were for technology advances, not for creativity. You know what I mean?
James Gilbert: Yeah.
Chuck Rinker: He was a technologist at heart, he really was, he was an innovator. So in any sense, the point there is to create that brand bond and intimacy. The power of connection is not to be trifled with, if you can say it that way a little bit. So I think that is the value of companies like Apple. Apple’s another great example. Apple and Android, people will put on the boxing gloves and get into it, to see which one’s better. They really get almost defensive and emotionally defensive against the brands that they really have a bond with.
James Gilbert: I love that. All right, Chuck, so we’re going to play a little game to kind of finish things off. Are you ready?
Chuck Rinker: No, but go ahead anyway.
James Gilbert: All right. So we’re going to play FMK. Our listeners are used to this, but we’re going to do it. So in the broad scope of what we’ve talked about, we’ve talked about the gaming industry, we’ve talked about the science behind branding, we’ve talked about how this can be applied to creating an emotional connection. So when you think about all of this, what’s something that you feel like is really innovative and sexy right now when it comes to that?
Chuck Rinker: Great one. Actually, the ability to take this technology and apply it to diversity, inclusion, communication. We can speak our avatars 150 languages, sign language, unspoken sign language, gesture communication. We can make characters, female, male, non- binary, Hispanic, Black. Any culture, any diversity, we do. We have units in the Middle East, we have new units in the Netherlands. We have units almost everywhere. So the fact that now you can take your messaging and branding, and you can break down cultural barriers, communication barriers, gender barriers, and create a personality that is irrespective of that, that, to me, is pretty cool.
James Gilbert: Yeah, I like that a lot. Okay, so what’s something that has been around a long time, and it’s not going anywhere?
Chuck Rinker: It’s been around for a long time, and it’s not going anywhere. Is not as advanced as it needs to be, but I think what needs to stay is that emotional intelligence of the AI. I think misuse of AI, a misappropriation. People get scared of it is when that AI becomes a little creepy. Well, that’s a little weird, it’s a little creepy. And a lot of the creepiness comes in when there’s not some inherent value behind the emotional intelligence of the responses. The responses, you have to be careful with generative AI. They’re amazing, they’re wonderful, and they’re going to expand productivity. But at the end of the day, generated AI responses don’t really contain the emotional maturity of the human response.
James Gilbert: Yeah, I like that a lot. Okay, so what’s something you’d kill? What have we got to get rid off?
Chuck Rinker: I think I’ve got an easy one, and people might disagree with me on this photorealism, uncanny valley. Stop trying to create people. Stop trying to recreate people. If you don’t want to talk to Chuck Rinker, why would you want to talk to a fake Chuck Rinker? Stop trying to replicate humans. Forget about photorealism, ultra hyperrealism. I want to take the Turing Test. I want you to be indistinguishable. If we want humans, we’ll stay with humans. We need to do something better. We need to be better than that. So in my opinion is I would just pull the plug on this whole hyperrealism, deep fake stuff. I just think that’s-
James Gilbert: It’s dangerous too.
Chuck Rinker: …what can be done. It is very dangerous. And the only good use, I think out of it, and I shouldn’t say this, is if someone wants to scale up, a celebrated personality, an image, we’ve worked with some doctors who are key opinion leaders in their space. And you go, okay, how can this doctor, who is a leading key opinion leader on an X, Y, Z condition, how can he or she be at 20 locations that people respect her? So there are personal uses for that, but stop trying to replace humans.
James Gilbert: Yeah, I like that a lot.
Chuck Rinker: Always trying to replace humans.
James Gilbert: We’ve had people ask us, ” Hey, can you make the voice sound like Morgan Freeman?” And we’re like, ” No, we’re not going to do that.” One, did you get Morgan Freeman’s permission for this? Of course you didn’t. So no, we’re not going to do that.
Chuck Rinker: Replicate humans. It almost annoys me, as you can probably tell.
James Gilbert: So we’re almost at time check, but I do have a couple of more questions-
Chuck Rinker: Okay.
James Gilbert: …to keep having fun here. When was the last time you played Madden?
Chuck Rinker: Oh, lordy. It’s probably been, you’re going to kill me. It’s probably been 15 years.
James Gilbert: Okay. So the last time you can remember playing Madden, what was the one thing that you felt like it needed to have and it didn’t have?
Chuck Rinker: That’s a good, good question. The audience. We always focused on the players so much. We put refraction on the helmets, we put gang tackling. We were one of the first groups to put gang tackling in our game. We were able to promote from NCAA characters into Madden characters. So we focused so much on the game, that we kind of forgot that a football experience is about the stadium and the presence. So it probably needed more of that. I’m going to turn on you for a second, and be a little self- promotional, but since you like to have fun. Who are the first two 3D mascots in NCAA football history for eSports?
James Gilbert: The duck, Oregon Duck. Okay.
Chuck Rinker: No, close.
James Gilbert: Darn, that’s what I was going to-
Chuck Rinker: I’ll give-
James Gilbert: The guy from Texas?
Chuck Rinker: Do you know Sebastian?
James Gilbert: No.
Chuck Rinker: Miami Hurricanes.
James Gilbert: Okay. Okay. Okay.
Chuck Rinker: Number two.
James Gilbert: Who?
Chuck Rinker: HokieBird.
James Gilbert: Oh.
Chuck Rinker: Do you know why?
James Gilbert: Why?
Chuck Rinker: Hokey. I was a University of Miami undergrad, and then I’m transferred to Tech as a sophomore. So I was lucky enough to be around early enough that the first time we ever digitized mascots was on my watch. So I was able to get Sebastian and HokieBird into NCAA as the first two 3D mascots.
James Gilbert: Oh, that’s awesome. I remember one of the coolest parts about the NCAA franchise and the games that I play, was being able to play as the mascots. I loved that.
Chuck Rinker: Yeah, they’re great.
James Gilbert: And they’re actually bringing that back. I don’t know if you know that, Chuck, but they’re bringing that back for the first time in a long time.
Chuck Rinker: That’s pretty cool.
James Gilbert: I’m excited about that.
Chuck Rinker: Now it feels like a world ago to me. I mean, since then I left DA Sports in 2000, 2001. So yeah, it’s been a long time. I show my age here, but it’s been a while.
James Gilbert: So, Chuck, let’s end with this question. Tell us about an experience that you’ve had with a brand that you felt like left you with the wow factor, and something that you’ll always remember. Maybe it’s Disney, maybe it’s something different, but?
Chuck Rinker: Well, of course, I can always say Disney. And how do I say this politely? Disney, to me, is kind of a inaudible most, because Disney is really all about experience. They’re selling experiences. So, I think Rise of the Resistance, if your viewers haven’t had a chance to see that. I’ve been going to Disney since they opened, since I was a kid. Disney World, Disneyland. And Rise of the Resistance, when Disney opened that, it’s not that incredibly technically advanced ride, I guess kind of it is. But the scale, to get that sense of scale, you can only get either in a virtual reality environment, or if you’re like Disney, and you build anything to scale. So when you went on to the bridge of the battle cruiser, and you had the rows and rows and rows of storm troopers and everything was lifelike in the scale and what it would really be, that’s just, you go, wow. They really just put you in perspective, and it made you feel small. And that was a pretty intriguing moment.
James Gilbert: You’re speaking my language. I’m a massive Star Wars nerd, but I haven’t had a chance to experience this Star Wars experience yet at Disneyland.
Chuck Rinker: I can honestly say, right hand on the old stack of Bibles after being at Disney for almost 50 years. That to me is the most impactful piece they’ve done. So you need to get down there. You need to get down there.
James Gilbert: I can’t wait to go. Chuck, you’ve been an absolute pleasure today. Thank you for joining us on the Spamming Zero show.
Chuck Rinker: Absolutely a blast. I appreciate it, James.
James Gilbert: To all of our listeners out there, we have episodes like this every single week. Great guests, please join us. We’d love to hear from you also. So if there’s a topic or a person that you’d like to have us on the show, let me know through LinkedIn. Appreciate it. We’ll see you next week.