Human Psychology: The Most Overlooked Aspect of Modern Marketing With Sarah Levinger

Sarah Levinger is a creative strategist, Forbes-featured consumer behavior analyst, and performance creative consultant. Having spent 10 years studying the human mind, consumer psychology, economics, and behavior science, she helps DTC brands increase paid advertising ROI using psychology-based creative. Previously, Sarah built and managed a marketing agency, where she developed social media and marketing strategies for small businesses, multilevel startups, and community associations.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • How Sarah Levinger discovered the relationship between advertising and psychology
  • Sarah addresses a major miscommunication in advertising
  • Strategies for leveraging psychology to target consumers
  • The role of language in advertising and marketing — and the importance of intentional designs
  • Sarah’s recommended resources for psychology-based marketing
  • Influencing consumers’ emotions: how far is too far?
  • How AI can tap into human psychology — and tips for improving creative prompts
  • Sarah gets personal with host William Harris

In this episode…

While many marketers optimize their ads for technicalities, neuroscientific research shows that 95% of daily decisions are made from the subconscious mind, so ads must influence emotional decision-making. How can you leverage basic psychology principles to customize your ads for the consumer experience?

Rather than solely relying on demographic information to develop your ads, creative psychology integrator Sarah Levinger says to collect experiential and psychographic information about your target customer. This includes psychological fears and emotions surrounding a core issue. Sarah recommends gathering this information through a natural language processing (NLP) report, which identifies key emotional motivators. You can then incorporate these fundamental human experiences into your ads through humor and intentional language.

In this installment of the Up Arrow Podcast, William Harris interviews creative strategist Sarah Levinger about implementing psychology into advertising and marketing. Sarah explains the importance of intentional ad designs, why influencing consumers’ emotions can cross a line, and how to leverage AI to tap into human psychology.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode

This episode is brought to you by Elumynt. Elumynt is a performance-driven e-commerce marketing agency focused on finding the best opportunities for you to grow and scale your business.

Our paid search, social, and programmatic services have proven to increase traffic and ROAS, allowing you to make more money efficiently.

To learn more, visit

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:03  

Welcome to the Up Arrow Podcast with William Harris, featuring top business leaders sharing strategies and resources to get to the next level. Now, let's get started with the Show.

William Harris  0:15  

Hey everybody, William Harris here Founder and CEO of Elumynt and the host of this podcast from interviewing the best minds in E commerce to help you scale from 10 million to 100 million and beyond. Excited about the guests that I have here today Sarah Levinger. Sarah is a Forbes featured consumer behavior analyst, creative strategist and performance creative consultant. To date, she has helped hundreds of E commerce brands increase their paid advertising ROI using psychology based creative and has worked with brands such as Fadl, attics, Avi, and original grain. And I was trying to think about who introduced us and the first time that I remember meeting you, we were on a panel together, and you are chatting even before the show I was going through. I don't remember what the panel was. But we spoke together on a panel. And I remember, I was like, this girl's smart. I really liked her. And I want to follow up and talk to her a little bit more. I probably shouldn't remember you, but welcome to the show.

Sarah Levinger  1:05  

Thank you. I mean, to your credit, I can't remember either, I just I feel like D this. Do you see it's changed so much in the last couple of years series, and I can't sometimes they just can't remember my own name. So thank you. I'm right there with you. It's just it's been nuts. This is just enough time to be in this industry. So I'm excited though. It's

William Harris  1:26

me too. And we're going to talk about like ad psychology and some of the things that people are getting wrong right now about advertising and a little bit, I do want to announce our sponsor. This episode is brought to you by Elumynt Elumynt is an award winning advertising agency optimizing ecommerce campaigns around profit. In fact, we've helped 13 of our customers get acquired with the largest one selling for nearly 800 million. And we were ranked as the 12th fastest growing agency in the world by Adweek. You can learn more on our, which is spelled That said, onto the exciting stuff. I want to start with your backstory. It's where I always start, how did you get to where you are what made you say, Hey, I'm going to dedicate my time and my energy to add creative.

Sarah Levinger  2:13  

I always feel that when people asked me this question, because it was entirely by accident, I didn't actually mean to come over here and hang out with all of you awesome people. I was very lucky that I did. But I started originally in my 20s as a freelancer and I was just doing like generalized marketing. So lots of blog posts, and I did WordPress websites, and Amazon FBA and email marketing and SMS, like I just was kind of all over the place. Because I kept having people ask me, Do you know how to do Facebook ads? Do you know how to do this and this? And I would always say yes, even though I had no idea how to do them, because that's what you do as an entrepreneur. So I have to I'm sure you've heard this story before, but I had to learn how to do all of those things. So I went to the library, because Sarah hates truncated information, I have a really hard time learning online, because it's just it's so small, like they give you a bite of what it is. And I need all of it, like give me the whole thing. So I was going to library to pick up books on all of these different things that I needed to learn to do my job as a freelancer. And right next to kind of like all of the technical information was psychology and consumer behavior. And like all these really interesting books. So I was just picking up books because they looked interesting. And I did that for 10 straight years, because I'm crazy. And if you've ever been to a library, you know, the library just has a lot of like 1980s textbooks and like the weirdest, most random books that you've never even heard of. So I was lucky enough that I got to study for a long, long time, 10 straight years of tons of psychology and neuroscience interesting things. And then fast forward to COVID. I had two babies at home and I was like dying. Like I can't, I need to talk to some people, I'm going to lose my mind over here. So I randomly got on Twitter and started just chatting. Because I was like It froze. And that just grew into what this is today. So I was entirely by accident. I just started sharing like, this is an interesting psychology hack that you could apply to advertising. And then people got really excited about. So

William Harris  4:15  

a lot of the best things in life, though, are, let's say based around opportunity, rather than for thought and just being able to say, Okay, this is here. Let's take it and run with it. And so that's I got into this by accident as well. And so that's I love hearing about people who just said there was a thing that sat there right in front of me and I jumped on it

Sarah Levinger  4:39

serendipitous, so serendipitously because I had assumed that everybody in marketing had the same psychology knowledge that I did. And I I don't know why I assume that I just was like, everybody probably already knows this. So I'm just sharing it because for no reason at all. And then it turned out that I was a media buyer at the time and I was working with law I believe a friend of mine, who owned a small agency, and he was like, here's the thing. You're not that great of a media buyer. But you are a very, very good creative strategist, like you're so good at creative, and everything that you design and we run hits really well and has good longevity to it. So from there, I started developing kind of like a duplicatable system, because I was doing a ton of research upfront, before I even started creating just because I found it interesting. I just liked diving into the customer base and understanding what they wanted and what they needed. So anyways, it was quite interesting, because I didn't mean to do it. But it's been so amazing. Like, I can't tell you how lucky I am to have the job that I do and like be able to do what I do on a daily basis. So

William Harris  5:42

it may have felt offensive when somebody is like, yeah, you actually not that great of a media buyer. But here's the thing that I love about that. I remember earlier in my career running Elumynt, where I would bang my head against the wall sometimes because some of my media buyers were extremely logical, and they could do these amazing things. They had zero creativity whatsoever, their bodies, and then there were other ones that was like, this is the most amazing I've ever seen. But you didn't even exclude you know, previous customers or whatever. And there's what I started realizing, though, is like finding how, like, as a good coach, it's you got to look and say, Okay, I love basketball metaphors. Let's say you've got somebody that's five foot and you're putting them in the NBA, don't put them at the post position as a center, they're not going to thrive there. That's not where their natural gift set is. And so I think that's the same for, you know, us as media buyers to where you might be 6040 5050 or 9010, weighted towards creative or logic. And that's okay to recognize where your strengths and weaknesses are and say, I'm going to really go in on this because this is something that I have a gift that other people don't get.

Sarah Levinger  6:51  

Yeah, yeah. And I would love to encourage anybody who's like currently struggling in their job to really take a look at what you actually find enjoyable, right about your job, because there's so many pieces of it that you have to do, I hate the admin work that comes with my job as you know, Freelancer consultant, but I have to do it, it's just a part of the job. Now, that doesn't mean though, that like I focused heavily on trying to get better at like my book for tax, I hire someone to do that. I think it's important that all of us kind of try and stick ourselves in that right spot like sweet spot for us, which is difficult sometimes, because I understand some people don't have the flexibility of movement that I did, I was lucky enough that it was just me. And I didn't have like a whole bunch of employees, I didn't have a lot of like, extra hanging on that I needed to move around. It was just wherever you want to go, you can go. So it was interesting, too, because that kind of led to a lot of these really interesting things that I've never had an opportunity to do before. So as you said to your point, it's really important, I think that you build up skill set, because opportunity really is kind of the crossroads between like skill set and right time, right place. So just luck and skill more than anything else. But without the skill part, you won't be ready for it like you just opportunity will come and you won't know how to handle it or you won't know what to do with it. So it's really important to have both, I think,

William Harris  8:09  

yeah, absolutely. So digging into your unique skill set of the psychology of ad creative. One of the things that you had told me about when we were talking before is that there's this giant miscommunication in the industry. What is this miscommunication?

Sarah Levinger  8:25  

Yeah, I don't want to like burst anyone's bubble. But I want everyone to start to kind of realize that we have been heavily placing all of our marketing efforts on the technical side of what we can control, when in reality, everyone is purchasing based upon subconscious motivators, and all kinds of experiences and lots of deep, deep emotions that they're having. And it's all basically predetermined. And this is based upon neuroscience that's come out that says 95% of our daily decisions are being made from the subconscious mind, which is the one that we cannot control. It's one that just records things constantly. So in relationship to ADS, we don't control much, honestly. Sorry, for anybody who's listening. We don't control almost any part of this. Now, there are things that we can put in place to basically speak to the subconscious as much as we possibly can. And I see a few psychology things being used in this industry. But there's there's a huge amount of psychology that we're just missing out on, which is so important because again, it's not technical anymore. Like everybody's making decisions based on emotion. Everybody. Yeah.

William Harris  9:43  

And so what what are some of the biggest areas that you see people using psychology? Well, right now?

Sarah Levinger  9:54  

Yeah. Oh, okay. So one of the best that I've seen actually is true, classic and bend over there, it's just he's just a marketer, like the guy knows some stuff very, very well verse guy is just very talented in general. But I love the way that he has kind of directed his team to prioritize psychology first. So every time you see an ad from two classic, it's not necessarily talking about the shirt or the benefit of the shirt itself, the softness or, you know, the, you know, even the cut in the fit is like just a little bit of it. But in general, they talk a lot about DadBod, which has been really interesting, because I haven't seen a t shirt, like brand do this before, when they talked about a cultural or a lifestyle issue, before they start talking about a benefit or a feature of the actual brand itself. So they are just crushing it. And I'm seeing like pockets of other little brands doing this as well, obviously doing it really, really well. One of the brands that I just worked with a couple weeks ago, Original Grain is now starting to do it for their watch collection. And they're seeing amazing results, just by focusing on the actual experience of the customer, before they get to the brand, like the pre experience.

William Harris  11:04  

So what are the parts of the customer that we need to know? So if we're making these decisions, subconsciously? What is it that we're missing, as technical marketers that we need to be thinking about? Oh,

Sarah Levinger  11:19  

okay, so what are the things that I see most common? Everybody has demographic information, we're going after a 25 year old female lives in Chicago, she's married, she's got two kids, right? Almost everybody has some sort of like psychographic information, where they know maybe she's a millennial, right? Or maybe, you know, she's really concerned about losing weight, but she doesn't know how to those type of things. Very, very few people have tracked experiential information on their customer. And when I say experiential, I'm talking about when does this person psychologically feel? The biggest emotion around her problem? Is it in front of the refrigerator? When she opens the door? Is it when she's getting into her car, and the seatbelt is too tight? Is it when she's putting on her pants? Is it when she's trying to find a shirt that fits? Is it when she's around other moms? Like, I want to know, experientially, what's happening in your life that you continuously come up against, because this kind of information is just it's so important, like, and you'll notice this too, on the organic side, most of the stuff that goes organically viral is talking about a specific human experience. And they just kind of added humor to it, or they added something polarizing to it, or it's shock value, right? So they've just added basically a modifier to the human experience. And then it just, you know, expanded it. Movies do this all the time, the only thing movies do is present a human experience, basically. So I, I struggle with a little bit because even with the clients that I work with, I try really hard to get them to understand all of this comes down to how well can you communicate, one, situational human experience, and add your brand to it. Those are the brands that are going to win at the end of the day.

William Harris  13:05  

You know, and I think that that's interesting, obviously, I can remember one of the areas that people are talking about as it's like, save time, it's like, then I can remember this being applied very, very poorly, even in my early days to where it's like, okay, you know, this thing saves you from having to do this, this SAS program saves you from having to do it in Excel. And so it's like, we save you 10 hours a week. It's like, that's, it's doesn't really get into like making like, I'm not excited about that you're like, from what like that doesn't do anything to me. And so what are what are tips that you can use to help get like, Are there are there like frameworks or things we can use to help us take it from just like, hey, you're saving 10 hours a week from having to use Excel to like actually turn it into something that actually matters to them from a psychological perspective?

Sarah Levinger  13:51  

Yeah. So I use something called an NLP report is natural language processing. And I take down just massive amounts of reviews, and I'll put them into an Excel spreadsheet. And then I will categorize them one by one into nine different emotional motivators. So that's the process I use the emotional motivators came out of a book, of course, that I wrote. Yeah, I wish that would be a no, will leach actually wrote this book, I think, three, four years ago. And I actually became good friends with him just because I loved his book. And I emailed him and I was like, How can I get this to more people because your work is amazing. So he and I became really good friends. But his model was based upon a bunch of psychology, and he's actually an economist. So he has like, do data level experience. And so he applied all of his work to come up with anything, but he does it for like Pepsi. So he's like, he's leveled up for mine. But his his model works really well for ads. So I went through and I basically adopted his model into my own framework and system which is the NLP report that I do. From there though, we can pull up all kinds of different things, not just the emotion To motivators, but I'm also pulling out things like what I call like self adopted terms. So everybody has this any sort of like community or industry that they're involved in, you will have a self adopted term that you usually use interchangeably with everybody you work with. Indeed, a C media buyer is like a really widespread, self adopted term, but the correct term for it is technically paid, like social buyer, I guess, would be the long form term for sure. But we shortened it right? Same happens if you like beer, you're either a hophead or you know, like, your IPA, like you have different words that you use for yourself. pulling these out will help a lot, because you can, you can qualify people a lot easier, a lot faster, the ads, and you can also understand a little bit of that life experiential thing that we were talking about. So if I'm somebody who has some sort of a beverage brands, and I see a lot of this, like hophead terms in the reviews coming out, then we know that these people not only like hoppy beer, but we also know that they're very extremely attached to that term. I only drink happy, right? This is it comes out and everything. Every time I've done an NLP it comes out, people just start to share pieces of their experience.

William Harris  16:19  

You know, and I appreciate how you're tying this back to the emotional side of things too even from NLP. Are you familiar with a book by Neville Medhora called this book will help you write better or some this this book want you to write better?

Sarah Levinger  16:33  

Okay, I read that ages ago, and I loved it. Yeah,

William Harris  16:35

I love I same I want to save me like 2014, maybe 2013. One of my favorite samples from that book is he talks about two letters that are identical, same paper, same envelope, same pen, same stamp, right? Everything's identical, the only difference of the words. And on the first letter, you write, Dear Mom, you know, I hate your guts. You've ruined my life. I hope you die. PS dad sucks, too. And then on the other one you write, you know, Dear Mom, you have been the biggest source of inspiration for me, I owe all of my success to you. I love you, your loving son, you know, William, and you mailed both of those. And they will have a massively different visceral, emotional reaction. And there's nothing different about them. As far as whether they're static images, or video, whether it's UGC or high produced, all of that does not matter as much as the actual psychology that was used behind that.

Sarah Levinger  17:45  

Yes, yes, it all comes down to not what you're trying to say, but how you are saying it. And I tell my husband this on a daily basis, because they'll come up to me and just say the most random thing that I'm like, Dude, it is not what you're saying. It is how you're saying it right now that's driving me crazy. So like, this, this applies to any human communication is really interesting, because we're very good at producing a lot of it. We're not very good at being careful about what is in the kitchen. And this is I mean, half the reason why we have all kinds of problems with the country socially. But it's also how we have giant disconnects between consumer and marketer, because the marketer wants to say, in a way that they think will have the best impact your bottom line retention, acquisition, and religious conversion. But in general, most of the time consumers can see right through that, you already know what you're going to say before you say, Yeah,

William Harris  18:42  

which is wild, isn't it? And I feel like this is kind of like a nice segue into something that you brought up to me before. I don't want to spill the beans, I'll let you do that. But something about linguistics, psychology was Steven Pinker. Take us through what what was going on was that?

Sarah Levinger  18:59

Oh, my gosh, this was ages ago that we talked about this, you'll have to remind me, what was the conversation because I remember us talking about this, but I can't remember which direction it went

William Harris  19:08  

to be completely fair. I don't remember either. Other than this is a note. That was all that was good. And I'm gonna come back. But But I think it's how you order them in the phrase.

Sarah Levinger  19:18

We were talking about how like, just gonna bug me until I figure this out. Now.

William Harris  19:21  

That's okay. But I think it was something along the lines of like, how you order the things in the phrase that you're using? So it's not so much about what you say, but how like, what order did you say then? Did you lead somebody from the solution to the problem? Are you similar from the problem to the solution?

Sarah Levinger  19:37  

Yeah, well, I'm this is really interesting, because they've actually done studies on it just outside of what Steven Pinker's wrote, they've actually done a lot of studies on how you situate the words inside a sentence. It really does change how the sentence works. So the best example I can give is, you can say we already ate common grandma, right? And it just means you don't need food, or you can say, we already ate grandma on that's like really terrified, like you shouldn't ever say we already ate Grandma, that's very concerning sentence. So it matters, language matters almost more than what you're trying to sell what offer you have on the back end, like which framework, which format of ad you use, it all comes down to the language use. Because again, if you go to any other country, if you're using Chinese, or if you're, you know, Swedish, if you're trying to sell out the German, like, whatever it is, your language is going to have a very different take on things than you will in English. And this This is, you know, straight from science as well, there's just a ton of data that says the language that you learned, as a child growing up, directly impacts how you view the world as an adult. So in the English language, a lot of the times we use the term I think, what, especially when interacting with other people, I think I think I think all the time, even if it's not true, we always bring up I think which changes that your brain to really accept intellectual ideas, right? Or very technical ideas over ones that about I feel, which is very different. So if you if you look into the German languages, the Romance languages, a lot of the times they will start sentences with, I feel that this is the thing, I feel that you're doing this, I feel that we should go out to tacos, like whatever it is, right? Changes that you're much more receptive to emotional information. So it's very important, I think, to understand that language has a lot to do with why your ads aren't working. But some of this is also how the brain has been developed, depending on what country you're in. That's wild.

William Harris  21:39  

It reminds you of something that I heard from a speaker a long time ago named Ray Vanderlaan, where he talked about like this eastern versus Western way of thinking. And one of the things that he explained in this was, if you were to ask somebody to describe God, and you asked like a Westerner to describe them, they'll say, omniscient, omnipresent, right? Like these, these things that describe these attributes. Yeah, but if you ask, like an easterner like to describe God, they'll say, bread, water, things that you can picture, it's like you can't picture them. But you can picture like the symbols and, and like you said, it's like, just a difference of the way that your brain has been trained based on your language from a very young age. changes your perception. So I think that's interesting. I think you talked about even, like, for English, it's like left to right. So it's like your ad to go left to right, or something along those lines, right? Something like that.

Sarah Levinger  22:34

Yes, yes. So the design also matters. Obviously, language is where we start, like the actual communication of the message. But after that, we always have to lean on what humans are built to do, which is see things obviously, like eyes are on the front of our face, like we're very visual people. It's really important, I think that you place a lot of weight on what the image says, not necessarily what the text what the copy is saying. Now, I know I just told you, it's all about the language. But in general, the copy is secondary to what the image does, especially on platforms. And this is mostly because we're scrolling platforms is really interesting too, because if you ever hold the phone on your hand, and you start to scroll, especially on Tik Tok, you're going from bottom to top, and all of the images are scrolling with the same motion of your hand. As soon as you click on someone's website, or the link to their website, the operation is flipped. Now usually you're going top to bottom. So the brain has to basically flip what it was doing before. The other thing it's having to do is on social media platforms, they are psychologically built to keep you on the platform. That's what they're supposed to do. And there's basically very few things you can do in there. Right? They've they've cut down the amount of buttons with the exception of meta meta is ridiculous, but tick tock, right Twitter, they've cut down the amount of buttons that you really can push anywhere, because they don't want you to read. So it's really odd, I find that once we get to landing page, or even once we just show an ad, people want to get really intense with it and just add as much stuff in there as possible. And I'm like, Guys, you got to slow down, slow down. So in general, though, English speaking countries, like you're saying, because we read left to right, top to bottom. That's how we actually read words. The eyes will also do that for basically anything. Web pages, landing pages, emails, we also do it for ads. So we'll start at the top right we'll kind of bounce around in the Z pattern. And or we'll start at top left, sorry, and then end up at bottom right. So usually when I'm designing, I will keep that in mind. Even if everything's centered. Even if I have things on the left or things on the right. I always want whatever is most important to be upper left or lower right.

William Harris  24:40  

Okay, now, if somebody wanted to study to learn some more of these psychology tips and ideas that you have for this, what resources would you send to them? Is there stuff on your website? Do you have a you know printed off bibliography or You know, so you don't have to go to library and check out the same books you did or

Sarah Levinger  25:05

I have like a ton of books that I can send you if you want. I mean we can we can give all kinds of different references to things. Top five at this point definitely Will Leach his book do we have to go Marketing to Mindstates he's probably one of the only people that I have seen easily translate emotion into marketing unless you're a copywriter, but even copywriters are very specific. They're only focused on the words they're not necessarily focused on, like full campaigns. So marketing to mind states. The second one to that would probably be I have like a whole list on my phone. Dan Ariely has like a ton. I probably read most of his books all the time and nobody else's. Cuz like, everything he writes is amazing. Predictably Irrational, Predictably Irrational, was one of the best books because it just taught me a lot about myself, honestly, it has to do with kind of like the hidden forces, right, that influence our lives. Lots of really interesting studies in that one, too, just about things in the room. Objects, the temperature at the time of day, where the sun is that who you were talking to, before you got into kind of scroll mode, all of that will affect how you do what you do. And whether or not you actually like buy things. Fascinating stuff, though. I mean, I have more if you want to share, but no,

William Harris  26:21  

this looks good. And do you like what you were just saying, like who you're talking to before you decide to buy this? I mean, it reminds me of going back to NLP stuff. It reminds me of what was that? White Collar? Right? Do you remember the show white collar? Where he talks about? He's like, he's like, What do you think? Do you this pen is out of ink. And he was trying to get him to choose the pink one, right? Just by using this. And it's like, it's a very gimmicky way to go about it. But do you think that there's even like these subtle things that we can use? And then I would say, a follow up should use in our ads? Or are we beginning to cross a line?

Sarah Levinger  26:58

Like? That's a really good question. I think about this on the daily. Because as as, like an act of what I do, a lot of psychology obviously comes into play, because that's, you know, what I'm well versed in, and I constantly try and weigh the balances of is this healthy for people? Is it safe for marketers to use these tactics to be able to get people to purchase things, we always have to remember again, though, that like, no matter how hard we try, no matter how much psychology we use in our ads, we are still talking to a very specific person who has to have a psychological propensity for it, like they have to be already in the mode of I need to fix this. So I truly believe that the relationship between the two, it's a relationship between you and the consumer. And as long as you're not selling shady stuff, like things that don't actually solve a problem, I think it's very important that we start using more psychology, mostly, because at this point, we're basically just throwing out stuff for people to look at, that's just nice to look at, that doesn't have any sort of impact in their life. Using psychology, in your ads, you can connect with somebody a lot faster, a lot easier, a lot cheaper. But you can also help them a lot faster. And that's that's the reason I got into this industry is just, I want to help people find things that will solve big, deep seated issues in their life. Because really, you know, finding a true classic shirt might change that man's entire life, he might get a different job because he bought a different shirt. Yeah, I mean, you know, he might find someone he loves because he bought a different shirt, all because of a shirt. Like, it doesn't seem like it's that big of a deal. But it really is to some of these people. It's very important. It

William Harris  28:41  

is wild how such a small change can make such a big impact sometimes. What about AI? I've seen you post a lot about using AI in advertising in it's come a long way. I still feel like a lot of AI feels still gimmicky a little bit. Are you finding that there are some ways where this can really truly get into the human psychology? Not just you know, fluffy, creative, whatever?

Sarah Levinger  29:08  

Yeah, yeah, I think this is a really interesting topic. Because I am starting to see especially on some of the, like stock photography sites, you can see the images that look AI, like they they're just a little too polished, right? Or they just look a little bit different than normal photography. So it's starting to become prevalent. I mean, it's basically everywhere. Now. I actually am running AI through a couple different brands that I consult for right now. And those ads are crushing. They're just crushing. But again, I'm very careful with what I run. Like. We it all goes back to that psychology piece of what are we going to run and what does that image actually say? So one of the ones we're running right now is actually an image of like a really dirty shoe. It's just a shoe and I couldn't find a photographer quick enough to get me a dirty shoe picture right? So I was like, we're just gonna go to the jury and see what Medtronic creates The image that it created is very stylized, it looks like sort of, I would say, 1990s, Nike kind of shoe, right? Where it just looks like somebody drew it, basically. But it was exactly what I wanted it to be. Because psychologically, it told the right story for me. And that, like I said that that has been running for a couple months now. And it's like, just so there is a place for AI. I will say caveat to that, you have to be pretty good at prompting, you have to kind of understand what the input should be. So that you get the right output, you can't just run basically anything that comes out of that. It's very, it's a technical side, which I think is interesting, because right now, we're losing a lot of technical side in the media buyer row. But I think all those media buyers should just shift straight over to the technical side of AI, and you'll be perfect good to go. Because we're gonna need a one

William Harris  30:56

of the things that I think about when it comes to AI. And like you said, the right prompt, is that idea that a lot of people don't actually know what they want. And so they're putting prompts in there, but they don't know how to describe it, they're hoping that this will all of a sudden, just do it for them. You knew what you want it, you're like, I want this old, ugly shoe. And you're like, No, that's not what I want. It's like you have this in your mind as you're giving it different prompts until you get to that that point. But I think a lot of people are still looking for it to solve their creativity. And it's doing the best it can. And it reminds me of working with, let's say, you know, ad creative, so just creative people in general, a graphic designers and you're like, No, it needs more pizzazz. And then like that's not a descriptor, like, something to work from. And I think we're doing the same thing here. And it's just exposing that. And I always think of the quote from the notebook, right? Where he's like, What do you want? What do you want?

Sarah Levinger  31:50  

My gosh, I find it interesting too, because just going back to that one piece that you just said, adding more pizzazz is something I heard constantly because I started my career as a graphic designer, and then moved into generalized marketing. And I heard that constantly like, it just needs some extra oomph, it just means more, add something else to it to make it like pop. That's the word everybody uses. It just needs to talk more. And I just find it interesting, because clearly, the direction that the graphic designers were getting, was coming from a place of like somebody had a vision in their mind that they just, they couldn't communicate data communication, which is just funny to me. Even with AI, it's going to talk about communication. So I think AI has its place, and it's gonna get more and more advanced and more and more usable. But it's not gonna get usable until the people start to learn how to communicate.

William Harris  32:45  

Yeah. So I want to ask you, what are the tools that you like? And what are you what hints you have or prompts. Let's start with the tools. What tools outside of mid journey Are you enjoying?

Sarah Levinger  32:56  

Really, I only use two tools. I think that I should probably try a few more. Right now. I'm using chat. GBT imagery that I haven't tested yet. Well, I just had borrowed. I've tested Google bar for a little bit. And the bars have Bart bars because bar. Yeah, I keep like entertaining. It's okay. It does not come back with the same stuff that I need from chat. It just it has like a different voice. Like it just sounds interesting.

William Harris  33:29  

It's very factual. I picture it being like, it's got its, you know, what's it like pocket protector? And it's like, here's the right answer for you, sir. And he's like, okay, great, thank you, but it's not creative.

Sarah Levinger  33:41  

That's the most interesting part about it is it just, which is weird. I'm like, you're Google, you should be as creative as anybody because you have so many data points. But it goes to show you that no matter what the creativity level of AI comes down to the creativity level of the person talking to it. Yeah, totally. And that comes comes down to communication. Can you actually tell somebody an idea and have them understand exactly what you are thinking? That's really difficult, it's a very hard skill to learn is how to communicate what's inside your brain to another person and have them like directly come back with the same exact thing you just write? And oh, man. So

William Harris  34:23  

then to that effect? Are there things that you're using to help you improve your prompts? Or how can somebody get better if they've got these visions in their head, but they they aren't graphic designers? And so they don't know the right terms or phrases? How can somebody get to the point where they can get more out of AI products? One

Sarah Levinger  34:42  

of the ones that I was using the other day? Oh, I'm gonna have to send you the link to it. I can't remember what the link is currently have it bookmarked somewhere. It's basically a mid journey prompt generator. So it will ask you predetermine, to just determine these fields right? What image do you want? What do you want me image, what colors do you want? What kind of style do you want those type of things, then you just click go and it will create the prompt for you. So that helps a little bit just to see how your prompt should be formulated. To get better at prompting, though, I think just takes practice. Yeah, and I'm on YouTube constantly, just seeing what the actual mid journey creators are doing this, I know that like, not everybody has a ton of time to just continuously, like consume content. But if you have an extra 10 minutes, I would go on there and just type in majority prompts. Because there are people who are spending hours every single day just messing with the actual platform and talking to the AI and it just it cuts down on time. So for me, I'm in chat every single day, majority at least once or twice a week. So it just repetition. Yeah, when anything else. Yeah, just

William Harris  35:48  

like anything else. If you're learning how to communicate with another human being, practice, get out there and volunteer. With kids, you've got kids who it's like playdates, right? You're like, Okay, you need to learn how to interact with this other human being. Same thing with AI. It's like, start practicing interacting with AI. Yep,

Sarah Levinger  36:03

yep. Okay, and you just get better at it over time? I think so.

William Harris  36:07  

Totally. I want to switch into a little bit about who is Sarah Clevenger? Because I like this part of the show as well. How do you deal with the stress of this job? This is a very stressful job.

Sarah Levinger  36:20

It is a very stressful job. You don't, I would say you just don't. Um, the interesting part about this industry and I've seen this from almost everybody I've met over here is the people that reside in DTC love the game, like they just like playing the game. Now, it's not necessarily the game of money. It's more of the game of how big can I build? How far can I go, right? Because they're really, if we're honest with ourselves, there's no end to this, like, this is infinity, you can literally build hundreds of 1000s of businesses and never be done. Because there's too many to actually, like, end it somewhere. You also could make billions of dollars and still never be done. Case in point, Jeff Bezos, like the guy is still not done. And he's a billionaire. So I don't think you ever really handle the stress, I think you just get addicted to the game, which I got addicted to it when I was 22. And I'm still doing this, I'm gonna be 35 this year, like, you just you just love it too much to quit that I think that's the optimistic side of it is just, we all really just love this game. It's too much fun to stop playing. I think if you if you're the type of person that really loved the game of life as a child, or a clue, I love blue. Oh, it was just like, I got to figure this out. You just want to figure the game out. So that's where I kind of lean towards every day when it gets hard, especially like what can I do today? That's just fun. Yeah,

William Harris  37:49  

well, it reminds you a lot of what Simon Sinek Simon Sinek has talked about as well with, you know, the finite game versus the infinite game. And just that idea where it's like, Look, if you were happy to be able to go to school and get your a, in a very finite, rural structured environment is gonna be a challenge when you're all of a sudden in an infinite game, and you will burn out. And I actually, I think I experienced it a little bit myself for a while where it's like, very good at school. And then it's like, this is a little different, right? And you're like, you're burnt out and you're just like, Okay, well, I achieved that. Now. What? Yeah, yeah.

Sarah Levinger  38:22

Right. Yeah. Yeah, there's just no structure over here. And that's the most interesting part. I've talked to people who own nine figure brands, and I've talked to startups and I've talked to SAS and b2b and b2c, I've talked to everybody on the planet, because I'm a consultant. So I'm lucky enough I get like insight to everybody. And everyone says the same exact thing. They're like, we have no idea what we're doing. We have no clue what's going on, or what we should do next. We're just we're making the next step. And the next step that we think is the correct one. Sometimes it is sometimes it isn't. And you just you move forward, because that's a part of this, like process. Yeah.

William Harris  38:59

Tell me about your childhood. What was it like for you growing up and how do you think that is helped to shape you to be the woman that you are today? Oh,

Sarah Levinger  39:06

gosh, I think I had a pretty like, standard, I would say childhood. I only I grew up with one brother have a half brother and I have a stepbrother but only grew up with like my full brother, Josh. And I had my mom and my dad at home and they are all I remember is that they worked a lot like my poor parents were in that particular demographic of people that my dad was a truck driver. So he drove all the time. Sometimes we wouldn't see him for like three or four weeks because he was just driving. Like, I'll tell you made money. My mom bounced around a ton, but she was usually either admin work or like accounting. And she went back and actually got her master's and like she's full on like, accounting master at this point. And I just remember a lot of them working really hard. So that was kind of always presented in the family, which I think is half the reason why I became an entrepreneur. Because like, you follow what your parents do. Even if you don't follow all of it. You usually Follow the representation that you've got as a child. So I think a lot of that followed me into this particular period of my life because I love working, I just really enjoy being in this office and like getting down into the work, which is just weird because my husband has the opposite. He enjoys working, but he's like, I would much rather be golfing right now, I don't know why. This is just a waste of time. So that was a part of it. But honestly, and this is a weird step. For me. I did not see myself as an entrepreneur. Until I got married. My husband's parents owned their own hotel in downtown Fort Collins where we live. And it's it was like a boutique 1920s, like really old, super cute, had 43 Or not 40. Yeah, like 30 or 40 rooms in there. They renovated the entire thing. They bought it when my husband was like 12, renovated it all by themselves. And then ran this hotel for 13 years, between the two of them, they had never owned a hotel, they never did hospitality before that this was the very first time they'd ever done it. And they I mean, they crushed it, like it was just that hotel does so well. And when we got married, I was 23. And they sold it when I was 28. I want to say 29. So I spent a good seven years with them running the marketing and just being a part of the business and the front desk and I was doing, you know, hospitality, all kinds of different things. So I got a very clear picture of what it took to run a business. And that was something I had never got from my parents because they were kind of exchanging dollars for time, right? It was kind of that model. And I just remember thinking, I don't necessarily want to trade time for money, I would so much rather own something that makes its own money. And that became pretty important to me. So I had kind of Rich Dad Poor Dad a little bit in my lifespan. But honestly, we're both like, super influential, for sure. Yeah.

William Harris  41:53  

And it gave you the best of both worlds feel to see both sides and see how to blend that.

Sarah Levinger  41:57


William Harris  41:59

What do you fear? Oh, God.

Sarah Levinger  42:02  

So many things. Besides height. I when I was 16 This is really interesting. I remember having this thought from 16, all the way up to about 20 to 23 I really was a terrified of living kind of an unlived life, I was so tight, like terrified of being unfulfilled. Then I got into my 20s and I started to experience a little bit life more. And I started to get terrified of not being good enough. And that was all in my 20s because I had I had hostel for my entire 20s and nobody knew who I was because I never had a social presence. I never really told anybody I knew stuff. So I was just hustling 6070 hour workweeks in my freelance business being burnt out all the time. So tired, and just thinking I'm never gonna get there, I'm never going to see the kind of money I want to make. I'm never going to have the business I want. Now that I'm in my 30s I'm honestly more afraid of. I'm more afraid of going too hard at this in a stupid way. Right now I am like terrified that I am hustling in the wrong direction. That scares me a lot. Because this is a lot of work. Like even just a consultancy. I don't own giant brands like AVI or you know, FedEx or whatever it is. That in itself must be an undertaking. I'm a consultant. So my business is smaller. And even in my own business, I'm like, I don't know if this is the right direction. I'm making steps but like, am I getting anywhere? I just have no idea. So it's, I think it's just the fear of working towards nothing. That's scaring me right now.

William Harris  43:42  

Yeah, I think that's something that I think a lot of entrepreneurs can relate to. And I think the the key is you're working towards something. One of the things that I remind myself, though, too, is that even if the destination of where you're working towards right now is not the destination that you'll end up, the skills that you're developing along the way, will be used, whatever the next thing is to, and I think that that's something that I remind myself of often.

Sarah Levinger  44:08  

That's, that's such a good reminder, because really, the entirety of my 20s was built on building skill set, I had to go through those 20s to get to where I am in my 30s I would have never built this ecosystem, had I not spent all of my stuff. So it'll be interesting to see what what of my 40s Bring possibly my 30s or just to front, my 40s and that's fine, too. You know, it's all a learning game, because we just don't know where this is going. And so, most of the time, I'm okay with that. Like, this has led me to places I never would have dropped for myself. But it's way better over here. It's just way better. So

William Harris  44:49  

you if I was in the office with you, what would I learn about you that I can't otherwise tell from your social media presence?

Sarah Levinger  44:59  

Um, Um, gosh, in my office, probably that I'm like kind of a stickler for cleanliness. Which is really odd because as a creative, I've noticed that creative offices usually have a lot of stuff in them, right? Like, it's just creatives are usually really, really chunky with, like their environments, which I think is great. Like they always add a ton of stuff on their desks. They have a lot of like knickknacks and things, lots of stuff hanging all over the walls. I have very little in my office, I think because I'm, I'm one of those weird brains that's analytical and creative at the same time. I have like a split brain and I drive me crazy sometimes, because I can't handle clutter. But I am highly creative. So I just Yeah. Have you ever done this test?

William Harris  45:51  

Your right brain left brain? Have you ever done those tests? Yes,

Sarah Levinger  45:53

yes. And I always get like, No, we don't know. Yeah. I

William Harris  45:57  

always get 5050 is like, yeah, you're, I'm very much in the same boat with you there.

Sarah Levinger  46:03  

Which drives me a little crazy, because now I can't plan anything. I have no idea what I'm doing. Yeah. Like, if I'm a creative, they always give you those. Here's the jobs that will be right for you. And I'm like, but I'm both so like, then what do I do with it? So you know, just make your make up your own job. And that's what I did.

William Harris  46:16

Same. I'm right there with you. This has been a lot of fun. If you're gonna give one more piece of advice to ecommerce stores that are trying to grow from 10 million to 100 million plus they're reaching a plateau they can't figure out what's next. And they're looking at this from the psychology side of things. What's that? What's that parting word that you would give them.

Sarah Levinger  46:39  

I would say open up your marketing, open up your actual market base, most of the time you hit a cap, because you have into infiltrated the entirety of one market set. If you hit that 5 million cap, if you hit 25. If you hit 50, or 100, and you can't get past it, it's mostly because you've already infiltrated the entirety of that market. And the easiest way to open it up is to start targeting psychological, emotional targets and messaging that applies to lots of different markets, not just one.

William Harris  47:14  

That's brilliant. If people wanted to work with you follow you connect with you, what's the best way for them to reach out stay in touch.

Sarah Levinger  47:21  

So I am on Twitter literally all day long. is probably the best place. That's @sarahlevinger. I'm also Sarah Levinger you're on LinkedIn. I'm on there quite a lot too. And then I do have YouTube channel that I'm slowly starting to spin up but outside of those two. you go check me out over there. And yeah, I have a lot of different things at this point. I'm trying to narrow down. That's great. So much of it is in the 10th year for therapy. But yes, please go follow me. I just want to hang out with cool people.

William Harris  47:52  

That's a good thing. Sarah, it has been absolutely amazing talking to you today. Thank you for sharing your time, your wisdom with us. I appreciate it.

Sarah Levinger  48:01  

Yeah, thank you for having me. This is great.

William Harris  48:03  

Thank you, everybody else. Hope you have a great rest of your day.

Outro  48:07  

Thanks for listening to the Up Arrow Podcast with William Harris. We'll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.

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