Interview with Joey Roth
All right, so this is joey roth he's an amazing would you call yourself an industrial designer or industrial design is a good start, so this is how I met joey I don't know if we've ever talked about this, but joey sent me an email from my website like many years ago like probably five years ago and we were supposed to meet up when you were in l a one time and we didn't and I was like, yeah, sure, we'll grab a drink and we didn't and I didn't really know who you were and what you did and then I was reading the newspaper one day and I was looking at the new york times does like an annual like gift guide yeah, and I saw his stuff and I was like, that name sounds really familiar and I googled it in my I looked it up in my g mail and it was like, oh shit that's that guy who's been emailing me he's legit I should have changed my plans and now our friends and we have known each other a long time I'll show you some of his stuff because I think that's probably speaks better than any intro I cou...
ld do, so these are your ceramic speakers and how how long did you make these these came out in two thousand ten ok, just so these air like keep what I don't know geeks love these right? This is like these are some of the best speakers on the market yeah I mean it's uh I don't think anyone was really applying these kind of materials or this design philosophy to desktop speakers when they came out so yeah I've been really happy with how they've been received and then I have you've also designed these two posters and I have both of them in the wall of my office and I think they actually we'll talk about it later but I think they sort of connect with our marketing philosophy a little bit so there's this one you this is a self water and plant and cell phone implanted here uh this is your other poster yeah uh which is my favorite I give us his gifts to people um this is the sort of pot yeah um and this is t freaks like just love this everyone talks about this yeah again the first time I think people took this approach to it um and now you know working on version too there's a lot of good feedback that I have for so obviously joy makes great products and you should all on them and tell people about them and whatever but I think it's not just that he made he's designed great stuff it's that he's also a great marketer and if you look at some of the press he's gotten um pretty much everyone that matters online is written about at least one of your products um and so what? When I when I saw the amount of press that you got when I bump into your stuff new york times I would assume that you have this huge team behind you and that you're just the designer who makes the awesome products and then you work with a firm or you know you've sold you sold your company and you're just you're just the designer but that's not your situation it alright, right, right what is your how does your business work? So um my wife and I worked together way have a studio in our house and basically at the beginning of the year I come up with new products, new ideas we go over them, see which one's air going toe test out in the market which ones we should put on the back burner on dh then usually I do a trip to visit my manufacturers sometime before the summer get the things into production and then hopefully for the holidays dio dual launch s o that's like typically how the year works out in terms of the market in its it's kind of surprising to me the press that have gotten because I really don't I don't have the same kind of strategy and creativity that I try to bring to my designs I definitely a much more straightforward with the market and um and I think that I depend so much on the products themselves being compelling and being the kind of thing that people we'll want to both own but also talk about um and that really does I'd say eighty percent of my marketing for me so sort of back up a little bit so you you design your own stuff, you manufacture your own stuff, you do your own marketing and you ship products all over the world you're doing quite well, your business is quite successful and you do it all with two people yeah, I mean two people who I mean I'd say that we're the actual employees but then you know, there are lots of people in the warehouse shipping the stuff there are a lot of people at the manufacturer and engineers I work with over there too make sure that the products air manufacturer ble at a certain price point so there are a lot of people involved in making my work happen, but they're not employees. I guess what I'm saying is you're on these gadget blog's writing about your products you're competing with products developed by companies with billion dollars rd labs, multimillion dollar advertising budgets, professional pr firms and your stuff is going not just head to head with them they would kill to get the kind of reviews and press that you get that you run out of a studio in your house, and I wanted to have you on because I think you're that's, sort of the platonic ideal for small, small businesses, entrepreneurs, marketers, that's what we that's what everyone wants to accomplish, like, how how is that possible? Well, I think my advantage, if they need to break it down, it's like a really attractive person at a bar there, the press, they're rare times and all these big companies, or that douchebag hitting on them the way they've been hit on many times before, and they know what to do with that, right? They know they already have the defences built, they know exactly what to do, but then someone like me comes along, you know, devastatingly unique and handsome, and whatever unique and not what they're expected, and I think that that really helps cut through and that's the advantage that any small, very passionately creative person has. You're not a douchebag. You're not like everyone else, and you could be authentic and riel and actually form a connection with them, and they've liked writing about you and feature in your products maur than they like featuring the other people. Yeah, I mean, the way that a lot of blobs I think now create revenue are affiliate networks, and for a while, it was ads as a pretty worthless now, so affiliate networks, you know, they need to write about things that are sold on amazon are sold on these prices because that's their revenue, but they also need to get people on the site to read them. So what I've realized is, when they write about me, they're getting people on the site because it's an interesting thing, right? So they do need that combination of revenue generator and interest to keep people coming back. So one thing you said and I, this jives with my philosophy, which is the products themselves to eighty percent of the sort of the marketing have you lifted now that to me that's, not contradictory to the idea of life just make great stuff and that's enough, what you're doing is you're thinking about when you're thinking about your products, your thinking and you're designing them, you're thinking about what will be compelling to people and what will be interesting and worth sharon and you're building those things into the product? Definitely. Um, yeah, I'd say that when I talk about making the product great or designing the product from the point that I'm thinking what material am I going to use for this? I'm also thinking how is this going to be talked about or what's the narrative going to be behind this product so I guess in that way a marketing from the very beginning um it's just for my process I mean I've never worked in a traditional company where the you know mark specifies the product the engineers make it the designer's refined it then it's thrown over the wall back to market it right so for me it's all the same thing it's just a complete hole where everything flows into everything else and you can't really separate the parts or else it wouldn't be the same product so like deciding to make the speakers out of to make them ceramic to use what is that balsa wood uh baltic birch but uh this that sort of contrast intention and interesting part of the design to you it is not just the design decision it's also a marketing decision absolutely and you know, deciding you know even as faras the speaker's electronics the fact that it's all analog and it does it hooks up really easily two turntables it doesn't have any wireless built in that's you know, positioning in opposition to what the trend is now of the small you know, bluetooth wireless speakers and I've talked about that two journalists before I said this is the anti jam box right and that's interesting for them because I am taking a stand, in a point of view, with this product on putting into the world and that's how I'll get you in a second, I think the idea of taking the stand in a position that's, that's what I mean, when I talk about controversy, um, positioning and market and market fit is a marketing decision as well decided, like, for instance, let's say you're doing a book. The best thing the best marketing decision you could make for that book might be to write a book for people who don't get books written for them very often, rather than writing another women's romance novel because there's a lot of books in that space, and now you're gonna have to go head to head with them, you find people who don't buy books, you write a book for them. Now they're going to tell everyone because this is the first book they bought since high school or whatever, and so we'll talk about this later as well, but I think the idea that everything could be a marketing decision that everything has a marketing connotation takes on it different, uh, importance when you're the only one involved because you you couldn't afford to make a crappy on interesting product and then advertises shit out of it. Because that's, not your model well, any sort of brute force approach to anything is not possible with what I do and I think that's a good thing, right? I think that a brute force approach unless your resource is air, just tremendous is not a good play now it isthe right. So knowing that I can't out spend or out, you know, develop or anything like that, my resource is air, not my advantage. So my advantage has to be my point of view, and it has to be the meaning that I bring to the products and there's no other way to break through, right? You want to go cool in your box are awesome, but I'm sure there's a lot of other people who have, like equally cool things like, what are you doing that's different than what were you just in the right place at the right time? Or, um, what do you do, that's different from them to get so much press? Well, I think there are now other people in the independent tech space who are getting the press that I'm getting even more precedent getting mean, kickstarter has been a big push in that direction. When I started, I was sort of in the right place at the right time, I mean, I was just out of college. Blog's is more than like a place where high school people put their like suicide poems or it was a new concept as like some sort of serious part of journalism eso wind blog's started writing about the teapot I think a lot of people thought it was already a product even though is part of my college portfolio and so that kind of got me thinking that I could really do this um but I guess it's it's a combination of momentum but also approaching press as a means to an end and not ever looking at press is some sort of validation for what I'm doing because I think that journalists really pick up on that attitude and it's really off putting to them on dh it will cause you to make bad decisions if you need to get press in order to validate something for yourself looking at press as a tool to get more customers is really the only way to look at it. One thing I like about your approach correct me if I'm wrong is your press started online with small sort of gadget industrial blog's and now you don't know if you've done television but you've you've been on all the sort of the the significant influence or ones that we've talked about as well from the new york times so wherever how did you why blog's what do they do for you? How does that fit into your approach well, when I was starting out in two thousand seven, blog's really were the central sort of the center of gravity for where you want to start with press, right? Eh? So when he started interacting with the press, blog's were the natural choice because they were responsive fight emailed the new york times off the bat with a picture of a funny teapot, right? They would have never gotten back to me, and I'm sure they got all kinds of weird shit right time, so the reason blog's made sense is because they were just sort of on the come up at that point, but what's happened jumping from blog's, too. Now the other types of press I'm getting bloggers who started it gives moto could now be writing for the financial times of the new york times write, and so those relationships with individuals that I developed from the beginning that has really panned out because I still know the people, even if they're not still bloggers now they're mainstream journalists, they're still ready to receive e mails that I sent them and you guys have grown together. They they got a lot of value out of writing about you, you got value out of writing about them, yeah, and never be. Start small because these bloggers air growing as well like there's one blogger that I started working with with american apparel way would send him close use this cool you two blogger and then the next thing I know I'm I'm watching tv one morning and he's in the running to replace regis on regis and kelly um and he he place second behind michael strahan who is now the host and that's sort of what you're talking about which is used to reddick is moto now that the tech writer for the new york times and they love your stuff and they they like that you took the time and connected with them and you made a great product that stood the test of time yeah question coming in from online and you mentioned something joy that people are really jumping on online he said is positioning and opposition yeah right about this a lot in your books so you can talk a little bit about how you position in opposition is it a matter of you look at the marketplace there zigging and you define those bullet points how you con's act and get more specific online this is good someone ah peace bureau I'm in a great man a lot of people are we have a cd coming out at the at the end of march so the whole bunch of other bands you know he's gonna figure out what can he do to make things newsworthy for his band should he play at a homeless shelter? I mean again he's trying to find some ideas but zigzag opposition, etcetera? Well, I think that you know, my my opposition teo trends in the audio space it's it's more just a result of not following trends and that creates an oppositional position by default. So once I've done that through the design, I just designed exactly what I want I don't really pay attention to what the trends are then the marketing I can use that as part of the narrative where I just completely made the speaker system I wanted what I think is the best speaker system and that's a really strong point of view for a market that's really trying to chase these thes trends that you know, our different month to month so I think you know, being in a band I would really focus on the type of music um and think about how does the music that they're making you know, I'm assuming that it's music that they personally like and find meaning and how does that now relate to what's happening and what kind of narrative can they develop from why their music is the way it is? Why it's not, you know, more trendy right position? It is far deeper than deciding what then you you're going to play it's what kind of music you're going to record how you think about music, what your approach to distribution is all those kind of things like, I think a great example of that sort of zigzag from you brought up is so you made these great industrial products, but then two of your most popular things have been these posters. So you designed this one poster was for a magazine or something, right? And it was you did what? A thousand of them that was a limited how many customers do you think you brought into your funnel or into your world through these posters that if you just designed another set of expensive speakers, wouldn't have found out about you? Yeah, it's, I mean, it's in the hundreds easily, I think that definitely getting people used to buying from you, something that's attainable certainly primes them to go for something more expensive later down the road, I think it also, you know, a lot of the time people who were successful in a field write a book or they, you know, start talking or something, that and the way I definitely wanted to share what I've learned from, you know, the four years I've been in business, and the way that made the most sense for me, was putting it in a graphic form, right like this, and people certainly responded to that and it also it's not just gave customers like an entry point into your work, but it gave journalists and media outlets who otherwise maybe wouldn't be able to talk about your stuff it made you it opened up new avenues, and they could write about you and then also mentioned that you have speakers or link to your website. You know, I think I saw the speaker on like the daily what, which is a great sight we have sort of like viral internet it interesting things on the internet, they're not writing about teapots normally, but a cool graph think of something they can share with their audience, and it definitely sets the frame for viewing the rest of my work because, you know more so than like a paragraph bio on the about section of my sight, I think it lets anyone who encounters my work for the first time see, in a certain way where I'm coming from, and that makes it a lot easier to I mean, people respond to narrative so it's really just about setting up a narrative that both the journalist can transform into a story really easily or a customer can start understanding the entire spectrum of what I do, and so do you guys kind of get that? And I think the audience who would be nice to hear, um, the idea of okay? And it's not how dowe I market this product by doing things about this product, but how can I do something new or interesting, or even make a different product? That's a loss leader? Or what a means of getting attention for that thing? So that's what I mean by doing something newsworthy to promote your industrial projects, and you did something newsworthy that made it possible for people to talk about you? Yeah, yeah, we'd love to see the studio audience. You guys have some questions, and before you guys ask a question, you're talking about things people can do, but but, ryan, joey, were some things that people just flat out get wrong? Yeah, it'd be great to know, like mistakes, maybe you made or s o mistakes that I've made, sending any sort of mass email anyway, untargeted, I mean, I've never like spammed a list of people, but it definitely gone on tio websites or you just get journalists emails sent the same thing to a bunch of people, and that's never worked out because his craft is you think you're being they can detect that somehow, I don't know, but so that's, that's like an obvious beginner's mistake, and clearly I don't do that anymore, um, I think that what that sort of a symptom of is not realizing where your own leverage points are because I didn't have to do that I never had to do that it was just like I didn't understand what they should do that exactly I thought I should do that I thought that it's like what people did but I didn't understand that I already had these relationships with like three people three relationships were all I needed that because those bloggers have relationships and readers if you make something great for them and they write about in an interesting way that other people are going to e mail you all the time I'll get a feature on one blood and then I know that I could expect emails from other related writers and maybe they won't say like, hey, I read this on this other site like, oh, I heard you're doing this new thing and it's like yeah, I made sure that you heard about that because I know what sights you're on yeah, I'd say in general just remember that journalists are people with their own agendas and their not like post bots who are just goingto like take your stuff is a real difference between controlling your media and manipulating the media I think that's you know a good phrase of his manipulation implies you have a bunch of elements each with their own agenda and you can sort of these things in your direction control implies that you could just send something and they'll do it right it's not true and I think that most mistakes come from the assumption that you should be able to control your media it's an art weigh more than its the science for sure and maybe that's why as a designer and as an artist you've sort of been able to do what other people I think who have maybe more systematic minds can't they see it as like oh do this this and this and this yeah we're like no I'm gonna make this cool product it's gonna be awesome and then I'm gonna e mail my friends about it and we'll see where it goes from there yeah I think that's actually really great if I can interrupt I've seen that question a lot specifically for a visual artists how do you get it out there and talking about positioning so yeah look media is an art too and you can think about just like seduction is an art or um writing is an art how do you how do you find the triggers and leverage points as you brought up that are goingto that are going to make people do or respond in in a way that you want and you want them to respond positively and I think your products trigger that and then your outreach efforts do the same thing? Yeah so um yeah, we had some questions here yeah, so the point of this is around like pr public relations building relationships and we talk a lot about narrative and right now we're focusing on the narrative of the product or the campaign that you're looking to build around but how much of it do you think is equally as important to build a narrative around you and the individual the story that you have in context too building the product how much of a do show behind the scenes in the process and bringing people along with you to creating it and feeling like there's like they even have I mean this is part of partly building a culture of your followers vs just the media but uh I'm kind of curious how do you handle that relationship? Well, it's something that I'm always tryingto figure out actually because it is a fine line between making this about the products and joey roth is a brand or is it actually about like me should get like an instagram and take pictures of like my rahman lunch in like my dogs? I mean it's it's it's tough because I think it is really powerful to create a personality around yourself and teo do have a public personality and have something that people can follow but for my case specifically I am trying to push the brand in the direction of being about the products uh, so I think that it really depends on the kind of company you're trying to build, um, if the value that you bring to people is more about your opinions and your thoughts, and specifically like what? What you were doing, I think creating followers is critically important on dh interacting with them in engaging with them. If it's about products, I think creating opportunities for customers to interact with each other is critically important, and I think there's a difference. I mean, I want people with the speaker system to talk to other people who bought it, give them tips about where to place the subwoofer music there listening, teo, just creating a community around the things that you've made, uh and, you know, still making it clear that I'm the one designing the products, but not making that the point of why people come to my sight or why people buy me my things, I think it goes its first, the product you make an amazing product that's clear, it stands on its own, um then it's the brand around the products and then it's the person behind the brand in that in that order, like and that's, why I'm setting the day's up like this, like so for you. I'm not totally sure what you do yet like I don't know what your product like you told me about it a couple times but I don't get it and so for you it's really tempting to think like oh how do I tell people about myself and all this stuff? But first you gotta nail that the first part then you've gotta nail the company and then you've got a nail this sort of the let's call that the meta behind the scenes I've got all these dedicated fans how do I show them like about about stuff like for me first have to write a great book second got to get that book uh got to get that it's this sort of the brand of me and the other things that I write and then it's like of a smaller group of people who just like care about what I had for breakfast or whatever um and you've got to get the product right first because everything stems from that yeah, I mean you can you khun get a lot of press really quickly without a good product by doing a number of things but that's not going to be productive in anyway so starting with the product ensures that the press you getting the attention you get well actually lead to something right? Because as soon as you if the product sucks and then you stop doing those things sale stop yeah, you could never get another piece of media again in your life. You could say, I'm go on j d salinger but the product is good, it will still continue to sell because people are talking about it on dh that's the call that's why making a great product matters umm but again, if you make a great product but you don't spread it out there you're dead too, you know? And I just I think this is why I love this poster, which is you can't be all talk. You can't be all action it's gotta be both. So I have one more question here. It could maybe tie into timeframe of things so big ben comedy is asking, how many different products did you design before you got your first hit? And how many years in was that? And how how long does this all take toe happen? Um, well, I pretty much started with a company out of college, but well, I was in college, I designed an an a thirty different kind of realized products that most of them really should never see the light of day, and they didn't. So I think that I never had a like a product that I released, it was a failure, and I'm very, very, very biased. Against taking that risk. Like, I have to really be sure that the product's going to do well before I release because I released like, one or two products a year. Um, but I think that, you know, my process involves throwing out tons of ideas, the beginning of each year on dh killing all but one or two, so I think that internally, like having a lot of ideas and failing with them, he's very productive, I wouldn't I wouldn't try to fail publicly a whole lot. I mean, you know, that's that was a trend a few years ago, but I really don't think that's a good idea, um, certainly not with what I do. I'd say even if you're a comedian, probably not a great idea to do a lot of shit for forms is publicly I mean, you should probably do this in the mirror is a great place to do those so well, it depends on the space, I think I think one of the best things about creative lives that you never know when you're going to get a j d salinger reference. Joey, thank you so much for joining us. People do want to find you to find out more about you, where can they find you in your work? Um, well, my website is just joey roth dot com. And then on twitter, I am at joey roth. So if you want to ask me something, specifically, probably twitter is the best way to do that. Fantastic everyone, please give joey a round of applause.