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Doodle videos are hot, and a new software product called Doodly will help you make them, even if you have absolutely no drawing talent. I first came across doodle videos about ten years ago when CBS Sunday Morning had a recurring segment called The Fast Draw. Around Christmas, I saw an ad for a company called Doodly that made it look easy to make such videos oneself. I purchased (at my own expense) the biggest of the three packages for a ridiculously low price, and in a couple of minutes I made my first doodle video, which got a lot of positive responses on my social media platforms.
I wondered what the creator of this fascinating software was like, so I invited him for an interview via the company’s Facebook page and was pleased when he said “yes.” Here are excerpts from my conversation with Doodly creator Brad Callen, in which we discussed ethical issues with this new technology and the ethics of upselling, among other topics.
Bruce Weinstein: How did you come to develop this software?
Brad Callen: Seven or eight years ago, a chiropractor and I created a weight-loss product and had a typical sales video: text, audio speaking, some images. It was doing pretty well, but I came across a hand-drawn doodle video on YouTube, and I was just glued to the computer. I just wanted to see what they drew next.
So I thought, “How can I take this way of increasing engagement into the sales process?” We hired someone to create a whiteboard doodle video and tested it against our original PowerPoint-style video. The doodle video blew the other one away. The level of engagement was much higher on these whiteboard doodle videos, and so were the sales. I saw that there’s a lot of power in watching other people draw and create things.
Weinstein: What fascinates me is that you saw a video that was not involved in marketing, and you asked yourself, “What if we did this in another context?” That kind of curiosity is at the heart of so much creativity.
Callen: Yes. I love to create.
Weinstein: Who uses Doodly and, and how do they use it?
Callen: It’s pretty surprising because we created it mainly for marketers. You have a product and want more engagement, such as with a Facebook ad where you want people to stop scrolling. As it’s evolved, we also have creative people who maybe can’t maybe draw on their own but have always wanted a creative outlet to make things.
For example, we’ve seen posts in our Facebook group from men who have created anniversary videos for their spouses. One member said she woke up in the morning, opened her computer and saw that her eight-year-old kid had created a Doodly video to tell her he had not yet done his homework that day.
Weinstein: Can you talk a little bit about your background–where you grew up, what your family life was like?
Callen: I’m a simple person. I’m not the most well-spoken person, and I think that’s the reason the Internet has been so great for me. I can sit down and think about what I’m writing before I put it out there.
My dad was a blue-collar worker and my mom was a sweet kindergarten teacher. If you’ve seen the movie Hoosiers, that was us: honesty, integrity, hardworking people. My parents are still married, I had an ideal childhood, one brother was my play buddy–we’re just nice people. I don’t really have a background where I went astray at any point. I’m never been that much of a risk-taker.
Weinstein: One of the questions I have about the Doodly software concerns the diversity of the characters that one can select as subjects of the video one creates. I purchased the enterprise version so I have access to everything, but you have to scroll down pretty far to get beyond the world of white characters. What’s your take on that?
Callen: When we first created Doodly, we had a fairly even mix to the main demographic of characters. As it’s evolved we’ve added more characters but as far as the order goes, they’re not randomly inserted but instead go to the bottom of the list.
Weinstein: When you say “we” created, who was the team responsible for creating this?
Callen: We have a team of 8 to 12 designers. All they do is create Doodly images.
Weinstein: That sounds like a fun job.
Callen: If you love to draw, it is!
Weinstein: Is it a culturally diverse team?
Callen: I wouldn’t say culturally diverse. The team is based in India.
Weinstein: Do you think that by having a more culturally diverse team of creators, there might have been more of an awareness early on about the value of having a broader range of characters to choose from?
Callen: We’ve been made aware by users that would prefer us to have certain ethnicities. We’ve addressed this, but as you saw the diversity of characters is at the bottom of the list. So I think it’s more of a matter of reordering the list and to add more and more as we go.
Weinstein: Would it make sense to be able to search for gender, ethnicity and other parameters that you could use to populate your slides with the kinds of images you wanted?
Callen: Yes. I like that.
Weinstein: When I was growing up, the people you saw on TV ads were primarily white. As time has gone on, we’ve seen a range of cultural backgrounds, sexual orientations, a much wider group of people, more reflective of the way the world really looks.
You could say that businesses are doing this because it’s right and fair to acknowledge different people. But my guess is the main reason businesses are doing this is because they are now tapping into markets they didn’t tap into before.
Callen: For me, it’s not about more diversity equals greater sales. It’s that when I interact with our Facebook group, I don’t want to hear complaints. I want to see happy comments and happy customers. I can’t think of everything. If someone gives a great suggestion, we take it into consideration and do our best to satisfy that.
Weinstein: In terms of putting your team together, what role, if any, does character play in your decision making?
Callen: That’s evolved over time. When I first got started I didn’t know any better, and I focused on skill set levels, experience and previous projects. Now I look at other things too. I want positive, self-motivated people.
Let’s say I’m looking for a software developer, which is important for the business that I run. Suppose one candidate has a 9 out of 10 skill level but terrible personal skills. He’s super fast, a great developer, but he complains a lot. Another candidate is maybe a 7 out of 10 on skill level, but he’s personable, motivated, a happy person, loves to engage, talk with you. I would take the 7 out of 10 by a mile now. In the past, I may have taken the other candidate.
Weinstein: What are your thoughts about upselling as a business strategy?
Callen: There are different ways to go about doing that. Some people do it the “wrong” way, which might lead to more sales up front, but in the long run it just irritates people. I think there’s a happy medium.
I think three upsells, maximum. Two upsells is probably a good time to stop. The point of a sales funnel with the upsells is that it allows you to increase your customer value so that you can then spend more money on advertising to attract more customers.
If you truly believe in your product, I believe you have a moral obligation to reach as many people as possible.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
April 3, 2019 at 03:46PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs