Andrew Zimmern defines himself as a culinary anthropologist. He hosts the show Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel as well as the Go Fork Yourself podcast. He has made a name for himself not only in the food industry, but as a branding and positioning expert from his experience in magazine writing, radio, and TV. He is also a Corporate Spokesperson for Target, Toyota, Pepto Bismol, General Mills, and Proctor & Gamble.
A Quick Preview of the Podcast:
- Why uniqueness is so important in business and how to market it
- How you should engage your audience in order to convert
- How Andrew achieved success in the TV industry with just one idea
“What comes from the heart, reaches the heart” – @andrewzimmern [Tweet This]
“I don’t seek to be the best with every project I do… I can seek to be the only” – @andrewzimmern [Tweet This]
“The concept of uniqueness is everything” – @andrewzimmern [Tweet This]
To See These Tactics In Action:
To See The Transcript:
Tim:Welcome to ConversionCast, the only podcast that gets to the heart of the metrics. Now here’s another data driven case study.
Hello fellow marketer. I’m so happy that you’re here because today’s episode of Conversion Cast is quite unique. But before we dig into that, I really want to encourage to join me on the free live webinar this Thursday at 3pm Eastern time, that’s like noon pacific 8 o’clock London time. Yeah, so anyway we’ll be discussing the four most important pages in your business and how to tweak them to quickly grow your email list in a next 6 months. It’s super interactive and I’ll be answering your questions throughout the webinar. So, bring your burning questions and join us on the webinar. Registering is really easy, just text LeadPages that’s all one word, LeadPages to 38470 and you’ll be all set. Again text LeadPages, all one word to 38470 and I’ll see you there.
Okay, so let’s get out on with the show. Today I’m talking with the host of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods as well as the host of the Go Fork Yourself podcast, branding and positioning rock star and overall awesome guy Andrew Zimmern. Now, if you’re not familiar with Andrew, he’s basically made a huge name for himself, initially through his show Bizarre Foods which features him travelling all over the world to experience exotic cultures through the foods they eat. It’s an incredibly unique interesting show and what most people don’t know is that Andrew is highly involved in about 743,982 other projects. Including as a product and corporate spokesperson for Target, Pepto-Bismol, Toyota, General Mills, Proctor & Gamble and a bunch of others.
One of the self-proclaimed keys that Andrew success revolves around his response to trying to be the best. He actually doesn’t try to be the best, he tries to be well I’ll let him share it with you in the episode. Andrew and I talk about how we want from being a young kid chopping beans in a restaurant to being one of the most well-recognized, well-respected names in the food and travel industry and how he parlayed that into one of his biggest passions in life. You won’t want to miss this because this is the story of how one of the most successful people in the food business was able to make it happen in honestly one of the most competitive markets in the world.
It’s not a hard core split test with intense metrics or anything like that. But it’s a really incredible story that you need here if you want to position yourself to rise to the top of your field or actually to do what Andrew suggest you do, which again you’ll have to listen to find out. I’m Tim Page the Conversion educator here LeadPages. This is Conversion Cast and here’s Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods.
Tim: Hi Andrew! How was going today?
Andrew: Fantastic Tim! Yourself?
Tim: Very well. Thanks so much for coming on the show and sharing a little bit of your time with us.
Andrew: My pleasure.
Tim: Yeah, so I’m really looking forward to this and what we’re going to talk about is going to be interesting because you know, a lot of people that come on the show are people that are focusing a hundred percent of their time on marketing. But you do about 150,000 thousand different things, all of which involve kind of marketing on an interesting scale. So, I’ve given a little bit of an introduction to who you are, but can you tell us kind of how did you get into doing all of these amazing things that you’ve been doing with food?
Andrew: Ah, Oh gosh! I’ve known since I was 5 years old that I was going to be in the food business. My parents knew it. I was a precocious eater and adventurous diner. Loved the sexy allure of restaurants, begged my parents when I was 12, 13, 14 to let me work in restaurants during the summers in Long Island where we spent our warm-weather months. I’ve worked in high school one night a week my junior year for Leslie Revsin at a restaurant called 1/5 making salads. Got in the backdoor thanks to a family connection. I just wanted to be around food and food people, I think food people are the greatest community of human beings in the world and I wanted to be a part of that.
I also had a natural talent for it you know when young kids can play guitar without reading sheet music and can hear a song and then replicate it. You know they’ve got something going on. It’s no predictor of success but it is an accurate way to assess talent. And you know success and talent are too very different things. A lot of talented people who haven’t become successful and I think that’s where some of the marketing and the brand positioning sort of comes into to play.
But as a young cook I’m sure about 10, 11, 12, 13 you know my mother was a fantastic cook. My father traveled the world and was a great cook and an insane eater. I’m a pale version of him. So I was exposed great people and great ideas for a long, long time. I think that gave me great background so by the time I was 18 and stared travelling to Europe and to Asia and walking into kitchens and they throw a cutting board at me and a 10-pound bag of green beans, you know, 5 minutes later they were done. I had some good knife skills and I’ve been cooking for a while and my food career took off. I did a lot jobs in the food business over the course to the next 13 years from the time I was 18 to the time 31.
I managed to squeeze in college as well. I have a degree in history and a degree in art history from Vassar College, profoundly affected how I viewed the world as a storyteller, as a culinary anthropologist, as a teacher, as an adventurer, as a learner which is those are the things that I defined myself as.
And along the way, I developed a horrific drug and alcohol problem, moved to Minnesota to go to treatment 23 years ago, stayed here, stayed sober. Opened up a restaurant for 5, 6 years it was sort of the big restaurant in town and we’re very successful but there was something missing. I would do Asian night on Wednesday in our French restaurant, and I would do a turn off the century bespoke Vietnamese French food -French food because I felt that it was a great angle for our restaurant. The reason I did that was because I traveled to Vietnam and there were stories to tell through the food. I felt that the story was very powerful, it made the food better.
I realized that with everything I was seeing with food magazines, food television, with the tenor of food conversation in this country that I thought if I didn’t leave the restaurants and get into other things, I would never have the opportunity again to do so. Well certainly it would be a lot harder. So I literally chucked everything in, a volunteered at a magazine, a radio station and a news station for 90 days and each one hoping that I’ve learned some stuff and some would give me a job. And I’ll be able to either write or do food radio, do food television whatever. I just started coupling together a career and then ended up developing bizarre foods, sold it to Travel Channel and the rest as they say is history.
Tim: So you know this is really interesting and it sounds like you had kind of this passion for food all along. But you came to a point where there was something that wasn’t — there was a kind of a hole in the market and you kind of found that niche. Was that something that happened organically or did you go–
Andrew:Nothing in my life happens organically. Everything is very intentional. The success, how it’s received I can’t be responsible for how the product is received, whether people like it or not. You know success is — that’s not up to me. What I can do is I can work my hardest to assess the situation and tried if I want… If I honestly have a goal and I work on goals very, very, very tenaciously, if my goal is to get on television I needed to figure out how and where I wanted that to be. My first goal and I’ll pick up at age 30, you know, 35 with the TV show. For about 5 or 6 years I wanted to do a television show about interpreting culture through food using food as a lens by which to interpret a place and a people. I always felt I had the talent to look at a bowl of soup and tell you what that meant to that culture in those people.
In the same way that sitting in a dark room, I could look at the slide of a 16th century Dutch portrait and tell you a lot about Northern Europe in the 1580s. I mean you can deduce a lot by looking at a society’s cultural meme like food, music or arts. I was very, very passionate about this idea. he more I pushed it around, I mean I made a 5-minute-clip of my own to push around called the Food Freaks where I went and ate rooster balls in some farmhouse in Northern Minnesota. I made umpteen pilots with 30 different production companies. I volunteered to work my ass off to put myself in front of producers and TV cameras to get practice doing the work of television. I needed to sort of develop my skillset very, very intentionally. I mean you can sit there and sell all the shows you want but if you get front of the camera and you can’t talk, it’s an issue.
I expanded my role at local news. I realized that with live local news, I could tell stories, write, edit, produce and be a part of production every single day that I went to work. At the magazine, I learned how to write. I had a great editor and that I was a good writer but he made me a contemporary real writer. I was very, very lucky to have such a great editor. Radio doing drive time radio ,I learned how to carry conversation. I learned how to pace myself.
People listen to 15-minutes on the radio while they’re in their car, you have to be the same at 3:15 in the afternoon as you do at 5:15 in the afternoon and that’s very helpful when you’re shooting for a week. You don’t know how the thing is being edited so you can’t be a sour puss in the morning and deliriously happy in the afternoon. It’s not going to match up very well in edit.
So I learned a lot. Everything was very, very, very intentional and I wanted to be on Travel Channel. I didn’t want to be one of a thousand people on Food Network. I wanted to be the food guy on Travel Channel. Along the way Tony’s first show with them got picked up, A Cook’s Tour. Travel Channel bought from Food Network. So A Cook’s Tour and then no reservations started the year before my show actually started airing. But a guy named Pat Young who’s the head of the network at that time created, you know, bought both those shows in an effort to transform Travel Channel from a clip show of unhosted, a cook’s network of unhosted programs to a network that had reliable savvy immersionists who the audience wanted to travel with and tune into every week.
I don’t seek to be the best with every project I do. That’s a little too objective for me anyway but I can seek to be the only. I believed food with a story was better than food on its own and food with a story that people hadn’t heard about was best of all. So I very intentionally created a show that had a unique point of view and that is that food from the fringe was oftentimes the least diluted and the most interesting stuff by which to view another people, society, culture etc.
The networks wanted to commercialize it and call it Bizarre Foods and I acquiesced at the time. It was not my choice for a title. I think I wanted to call it chew on this. They thought that was too aggressive and somebody else said had the mark for that at a time. But I was very, very conscious of creating a show that was sort of like a Trojan horse. I accepted the commercial rationale that the network had and I made a Faustian deal. I mean I wanted 20% of intelligence, they wanted 80% of entertainment so we shook hands.
I tried to grow the percentage of intelligence on the show every single year that we’ve been on because my secret mission, the Trojan horse that I sort of snuck in behind the fortress gate so to speak was that I really wanted… My ultimate goal was to do a show about practicing patience, tolerance and understanding of cultures in a world that was running short on it. So I had an even higher purpose to the entertainment at large as well. With everything that I have done since then, once we established the flag of our brand on the radars screen of the world, I wanted to at that point make sure that every single thing that we did was about adventure, learning, exploration and interpreting culture through food.
If it does those, we keep having the conversation and once we get those projects in the door and we have, I think 46 active deals and relationships right now Once we get the project in the door, whether it’s a book, magazines, the content stuff deliverables that we create for clients, my web series, appetite for life you know for Toyota and MSN. No matter what it is, if we want to be the only ones doing that or certainly the only ones with our point of view, we have a lot of higher purpose stuff and we have found a really great blend of altruism and entertainment. We have a fairly recognizable brand that’s about the adventure, education, learning and exploring culture through food. Now 12 years later it’s pretty amazing.
Tim: Yeah. I love that you’ve used kind of a different, an interesting vehicle to kind of promote what it is that you’re passionate about and what’s important to you. There something in here that I really, really just want to ask you. A lot of people don’t know that you are such kind of prolific marketer, that you’ve done all these things and you consult with all of these companies I don’t know if I’ve used the right terminology, but companies like Target and stuff like that. I’m curious if somebody’s listening to the show right now and they’ve heard you say you know I don’t seek to be the best, I seek to be the only. You know how can a marketer used that maybe to kind of gain an advantage in what is most likely a crowded market place?
Andrew:Oh my gosh. The concept of uniqueness, I think is everything. It helps you establish — it gives your audience or your customer a reason for listening. It makes them pause and stop and consider. I mean then you have to have a good product and a lot of right other things. But I’ll give you a really good example. We did 5 6 years of international travel for Bizarre Foods and the network wanted to do a domestic season and a lot of people on the team and at the production company you know there was mixed feelings about it. Do we want to change what we do? That’s dangerous, we could lose audience etc.
I thought it was a fantastic opportunity and here’s why. Every single year we would do press and marketing around the new season and there was nothing new to tell them. So why would talk shows want to have me on? Why would new sponsors want to engage? It was the same thing, Yeah we had a couple more viewers every year but it was –you know, and the show did expand to be in 70 countries. I mean I’m not going to make it sound like we were struggling, we weren’t. But there was nothing new to hook people. People want a reason to engage with you whether that’s potential clients and vendors coming on board your team, new business partners, customers or viewers.
So it works. It goes in the back door and the front door and it’s an osmosis situation, it’s flowing. They want to engage with you, but they need to have something new. I told everyone I thought that doing a couple of seasons of the domestic show would be the best thing that ever happened to us because it allows us to call everybody up and when they say “well what’s new?” To say “well, we are going to tell stories exclusively in America about Hidden Cultures from the world around us that have influenced how we do things, think about things, eat things here in America.” Much in the same way that these season premiere in a couple of weeks, we are in the position to tell people “Hey, we’re back overseas and here’s why”.
It’s wonderful to create reasons. You know I can’t tell you how many press releases and things like that I read that I throw in the garbage after 2 seconds because there’s nothing new in there. There’s nothing that’s compelling to me that makes me want to keep reading. But if you focus on uniqueness and if you focus on differentiation in the marketplace then you get people’s attention. I have a hundred different batteries for my laptop and phone and all the rest that I plug in and charge and take with me and I threw them all away when I got my little solar pack one. Because it was a point of uniqueness that attracted me to it.
You can look to all the big new thing that have emerged over the last 5 or 6 years whether it’s Greek yoghurt, it’s thicker to hybrid vehicles that have alternative fuel and I’m picking big obvious ones. I’m not asking that the sleepy little startup in the middle of the country to invent electric cars. My point is that you have to come up with a point of difference. What’s different about your product, your vehicle, your thing? What makes it different?
If you focus on why it’s different than all the others in the marketplace, you begin to develop the story, the history, the tale, the legend of your product, your vehicle, your show and you quickly start to define it about what makes it different than other peoples show.
You know one of the things that made our and I talk about our differences all the time because that’s what makes us unique. That’s our unique ability. We have a host in our show in me who actually lives his brand. I’m the same guy on television as I am off television. When I’m done, you know, the crew is done wrapping, you have to drag me out of the little hut that I am in the middle of the Amazon rainforest and tell me to stop eating the little sautéed grubs. I mean I like my job, I’m curious, I like the people that I’m working with on camera because I love food people.
We try to every year develop new reasons to enhance our legend by what makes us different. Even switching cameras and having a different look to the show helps us.
Tim:Yeah. It’s so interesting Andrew because you’re talking about ways to kind of be new and have something kind of fresh and currently relevant. You know, the kind of the domestic version of Bizarre Foods is it’s new and it’s unique because it’s here and it tells a different story of what’s here in the States. But the thing that I find really fascinating is that, then you had something new in Bizarre Foods as it was kind of going international again. It was new in the sense that you were focusing on the States for a while and then you were going out. So, it doesn’t necessarily take some insane level of kind of innovation like you’re mentioning with like electric cars to do something new. But, it does take kind of thinking a little bit differently and kind of focusing on what’s going to keep people’s attention and get them to pay attention to you. Does that sound right?
Andrew:Very, very accurate. I think we also, I think it was Rod Serling once said you know, don’t – I’m paraphrasing here. But he famously said when writing don’t talk down to your audience. There’s nothing worse than someone who sits there and feels like they’re being talked down to.
Andrew:And we take that attitude very seriously even when were in our online Merck store, in the books we write, in our corporate relationships. You know we do an awful lot of deals that you know we… I have a big website and we take advertising for it, we do sponsor content and I have a lot of sponsorship relationships and things like that. We tend to shy away from the typical, typical. We work with the Shun Knives, a fantastic company that I loved and we do sponsored content on our website and video and stuff like that for them. A lot of other knife companies will have someone say here’s how to hold the knife and here’s how to chop an onion and here’s why our blade is stronger.
You know for us, we took a really hard look. We did a lot of thinking about it and we realized and Shun didn’t tell us this. We’ve sort of just delivered products that acknowledged that the people who had a Shun knife and we’re going – that’s who they wanted to buy more. You know, that’s who they needed as their customer. The Shun Knife customer is someone who has 2, 3, 4 blades. The casual user gets one as a gift from somebody and is never going to buy another $200 knife.
Andrew:It’s just not going to happen. So we decided that the best thing to do since we really love doing more business with the people that we’re in business with already rather than trying to spend a lot of time hunting and killing new animals to drag back to the cave. We realized that maybe that could be a good niche for us is let’s not talk to consumers like they have no idea what a good knife is about. Let’s talk to these consumers of the Shun-Andrew Zimmern partnership as if they’re already members of the special club. It’s been widely successful for us. I
mean that’s the kind of thing — and we loved social media. I mean obviously there’s a great way to open up a huge bucket of worms for folks but I mean social media we have embraced since day 1 and we do everything. Pinterest, Facebook, Google+ ,Twitter, Instagram you name it and it’s a very, very important part of what we do as well.
Tim:Yeah. And it’s allowed you to have such a conversation. I’ve noticed that you really have an open dialogue with your audience and that kind of, that segues to just the last short little bit that I wanted to talk about and that’s go fork yourself. Clearly as a podcaster, I’m really fascinated by this because you have this massive medium in television and you have the opportunity to interact with millions through the TV show. And then you have the podcast which is another amazing medium where you have the opportunity to interact with millions. So, I think what I am primarily curious about is what was just the thought process behind getting into the podcast and what are you excited about kind of going forward?
Andrew:It’s one of the favorite things I do. I missed radio, I missed just talking to people. I miss having a conversation about the things that interested me and there’s a lot that interest me that goes beyond the television show, stuff that’s it’s not germane to that brand. I can’t rant about antibiotics for 25 minutes in Bizarre Foods. I can’t talk about the implications of a country and a culture like the people of the Faro Islands making cheese for the first time in their country’s history and what that will mean to the global cheese market or for that matter what happens when 800 million Russians and Chinese immediately burst into a new age middle class and start buying tuna because of their obsession with Japanese food. And what that means for the global fish economy I can’t talk about those things. I can’t give Icarus awards on television to people who flew too high, too close to the sun with the warm equipment.
Andrew:You know, and have perished from a fatal flaw. I’m [0:27:10] [Indiscernible] geek. I love the pleasure I get from other people’s misery. So I get to poke a lot of fun at folks on the podcast. And I get to have a conversation with people. I love the podcasts. I don’t know, I did it for fun.
Tim:I love it. And has it resulted do you think in increased level in engagement for your brand and maybe new audience?
Andrew:Well I think so. You know I mean I think the people that listen to the podcast are sort of like the P1 consumer of my brand. I think it’s growing. I think it’s the type of thing that’s tough to grow. There’s a gazillion great podcasts out there. I do it for my most loyal fans and for myself, and if it goes somewhere great I wouldn’t call it a vanity project because I certainly don’t treat anything that way. But I do it because it’s fun. There’s some things—
Andrew:– you just do because they’re fun. And quite frankly oftentimes those things become the most attractive things in your portfolio simply because they’re organic, you’ve used that term before. I mean what comes from the heart reaches the heart. I think people who –I’ve never heard someone say we listen to podcasts then we listen to it the second time, it’s not for us. The exact opposite and so I’d be weak, I think once people listen, they sort of stay hooked because it’s fun.
Tim:Yeah. It’s really funny because I heard Kevin Smith talking about something similar. He’s got a new movie that just came out and he was talking about how he’s got all the podcast you know smodcast and all like kind of stuff. And he forgot in between doing movies he forgot how much kind of he had to pander to certain people and certain audiences and certain businesses when he was making movies. But in the podcast, he can just kind of go off and do his thing and run the show and it sounds like it’s kind of similar feeling to you.
Tim:I love it.
Tim:I love it. Well Andrew this has been awesome. Thanks so much for sharing some stuff that we don’t get to hear a lot of here in the marketing world. And so it’s been really valuable and I really appreciate your time. Thanks again for coming on the show.
Andrew:Thanks Tim. Goodbye.
Before you go, don’t forget to text LeadPages to 38470 to join me on this Thursday’s 3pm Eastern live webinar about the four most important web pages in your business and how to tweak them to grow your email list super quickly in the next 6 months. It’s going to be such an amazing webinar. I’ve got tons of great content lined up for you. And again there’s a really easy way to join, all you need to do is text LeadPages one word to 38470. I’ll see you on Thursday and then I’ll see you next Monday for another episode of Conversion Cast.
Listen To Discover The Strategy Andrew Used To Take His Show To The Top