By Bob Johnston
March 12, 2021

The Bob Robert Podcast

In the immortal words of Monty Python, now for something completely different…my guest today is Robert Dowling, who might win an award for being the most interesting person. He also happens to be one of the most accomplished and connected PR execs on the planet, having cut his teeth heading up Weber Shandwick’s Silicon Valley Office, running Fleishman-Hillard’s east coast office, and now operating his own firm, Hudson Cutler, which has offices in New York City and Los Angeles.

Robert is an old friend and I trust his firm to handle my own PR. He and I have had a lot of riff sessions over the years and we decided to video our latest chat, since we had many topics to catch up on. 

He and I cover Bitcoin, Tesla, and GameStop…and also discuss cancel culture, why President Biden needs a CMO…and wrap with some banter on cannabis, longevity and anti-aging hacks…plus we get a tour of Robert’s loft in SoHo NYC (fun fact: his wet bar a re-purposed perfume bar from a major luxury retailer on 5th Avenue) and his one-of-a-kind motorcycle…enjoy!  

Robert's Bio

Robert Dowling is founder and CEO of brand marketing agency Hudson Cutler. Hudson Cutler is shortlisted for PRWeek’s 2021 Agency of the Year and was named New Agency of the Year by the Holmes Report in 2016. Robert is also co-founder of Candy & Flowers, a public relations agency serving the cannabis industry.

Robert is a recognized marketing and communications professional who has worked with the world’s leading brands including Nike, Samsung, L’Oreal, and IBM, among others. Robert was recently included in the Holmes Report’s list of the industry’s top 25 innovators.

Robert has held senior industry roles including president at FleishmanHillard where he managed the agency’s East region and brands including HighRoad Communications, Lois Paul & Partners, and TogoRun. Robert was president at Weber Shandwick where he also managed the technology practice. In addition to his agency experience, Robert has worked in the content, technology and consulting industries.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Castbox, or your preferred podcast platform.

A bad behaving brand will be under siege by it’s public
On why brand's must maintain loyalty with its customers
Internet 1.0 was not just for reading your daily newspaper
On the hindsight that technology evolves beyond our needs in the moment

2:40 - What’s on the horizon for Bitcoin (BTC)?

There’s been a change in attitude

Bitcoin is more finite than gold

New burgeoning discussion about Bitcoin becoming a currency

4:10 Tesla announced the day after the Super Bowl that they would be accepting BTC and other forms of cryptocurrency

The timing was important because many companies spent millions of dollars on Super Bowl ads, just to have people buzzing about Tesla and Bruce Springsteen.

This also started the conversation on BTC no longer being a long-term investment, but being a real currency

6:10 Robert says BTC will evolve into a currency

It has taken this long for major financial institutions like PayPal and Square to recognize BTC as a commodity

It will be another cycle of time until people are comfortable with BTC and other cryptocurrencies to be used as they were intended - as a currency

In order for that to happen, we have to have: real value, transfer of risk, other outlets, ways of exchanging in a more convenient way

10:35 The problem with BTC as another commodity

Like most commodities - they go up and they go down, you have to understand how to trade

At some point when we have that mental change about crypto, it will be regarded as a currency and not a commodity

Great shift in our ideas as to what these things are

BTC was controversial a few years ago, but so was cannabis and now we are on the cusp of adult-use legalization nationwide 

Internet 1.0 not just for reading your daily newspaper

14:15 Technologically-driven changes

Not only with cryptocurrencies, but with the implementation of AI, we are finding a cultural shift

That cultural shift is driven by certain generations - millennials are more apt to support marijuana legalization whereas boomers are less supportive overall

It is a cultural shift going on, making way for new ways of being, one of the major shifts will be when it comes to sustainability and being environmentally-friendly    

17:55 Robert believes there will be dramatically increased scrutiny on corporate behavior

The expectation of corporations has changed over the past 18 months

Corporations are not just here to make money

Shareholder value is not the only driver of CEO behavior, but consumers deciding to purchase from ethically behaving companies, companies that will be punished for bad diversity and inclusion numbers

The idea of creating markets around carbon, diversity (lack thereof), and credits for corporations who are not changing their behavior are going to be increasingly difficult for people to accept

We’re at the point of people not tolerating companies not acting on their best behavior and/or failing to open their mouths when something bad is going on in the world

20:25 It’s going beyond “voting with their wallets”

A bad behaving company will be under siege by it’s public - the brand will be attacked, stores will be boycotted and protested, partners will pull out

The damage isn’t always immediate but it’s for everyone to see   

It’s seemingly random and sometimes you have to be in the thick of it, but it’s happening

22:25 The idea of “Cancel Culture” is a huge topic right now

It’s easy to see the crowd heading off to Frankenstein’s castle, sometimes mistakenly

The underlying sentiment is good and positive and is often directed in the right way, but it’s often directed in the wrong way

26:43 Massive shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine needed in Texas

Texas is opening as of March 10 with no masks

We’re in the home stretch, businesses are opening more and more, but these are still dangerous times

The longer COVID-19 is around due to bad behavior, the more variants we are going to get, the process will be extended, and the more danger to people

It’s not that big of an inconvenience to wear a mask when you’re around other people to save their lives

29:40 We’ve approached this whole thing (COVID-19) from a marketing perspective all wrong

We needed to directly connect our COVID-19 behavior (handwashing, social distancing, etc.) with economic incentives - if you want the funding for your state, you need to follow protocols

This is about our national duty to get through a national crisis, not about the math or statistics, there’s no collective sensibility about this

Local, disparate efforts are at odds with one another leading to prolonged exposure and massive difficulties

35:10 Policy is about public relations

Communications is so important

The idea of a Chief Marketing Officer for the US is a genius idea

We need to fill this role on a national level

37:40 Equity when it comes to adding transgender people to the 1964 Equity Act

We’re not telling the story - here’s how we’re doing this and why

43:55 Some of the biggest celebrity endorsements are in cannabis

Seth Rogan has his own line

Jerry Garcia products - Garcia Handpicked

There has to be an authentic connection - true to the individual and a good product

Part is “I smoke weed” but the process, branding, and voice also play huge roles 

Celebrity rights have been sold in many cases

49:50 Put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others

We need to focus on health of the community as well

It’s hard for you to be healthy when you have a family member who is suffering

Health is individual, but it is also collective

We have a lot of work to do to make sure our country is healthy

This includes diversity, equity, and inclusion

52:35 Robert’s intro to biohacking

His girlfriend wears a Whoop

They’ve have done intermittent fasting, cleanses, meditations, plant medicine

There has never been more options on how to be physically healthy, but also how to be emotionally, psychologically, mentally and spiritually healthy