Meet Ben Custer, one of Heart+Mind’s senior solution consultants and curator of odd collectibles! Ben is a long-time Heart+Minder (12 years and counting) and advocate for in-office shenanigans. But there’s more to Ben than delivering strategic insights and consulting to our clients. Read on to discover his current obsession, his opinion on pineapple pizza, and his secret trick.
Q: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: It’s been an ongoing journey — both growing up and figuring out what I want to be. When I was really young (like pre-school) I wanted to be a police officer so I could protect others and put away the bad guys. As I grew older and moved to elementary/middle school, I developed an interest in sharks and wanted to be a marine biologist. As I reached high school my focus started to shift towards psychology and understanding why people do the things they do. That interest continued, but morphed into a more applied setting and eventually led me to market research and doing work to understand consumer decision making.
Q: You’re secretly really good at…
A: If we are talking weird human trick stuff — I have an unusual ear for music. It’s hard to describe, but I can hear obscure patterns and similarities in different songs. When watching the Italian Job, I could hear a distinct “style” in the soundtrack that reminded me of the music from the Bourne Identity series. Turns out it was the same producer. Another time I was watching Moana with my kids and thought one of the songs sounded nearly identical to a song in Hamilton. Turns out both were produced by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Turns out I wasn’t the only one who could hear that similarity in cadence and tone. Check this out…
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: I’m a dabbler. In other words I like to try all kinds of different things. I was trying to learn the Banjo and taking Krav Maga before the pandemic hit. Post-pandemic I’ve shifted to tinkering with my Jeep and more outdoor activities.
Q: What is your current obsession? Tell us about it.
A: Hunting for fossils, specifically shark teeth. I’m lucky enough to live close to a few places where you can hunt for fossils and shark teeth along the Potomac river and the Chesapeake Bay. It started as a way to get the kids out of the house during the pandemic, but I got hooked pretty quickly. One of my favorite spots has a fossil formation from the Paleocene time period and the shark teeth you find there are over 50 million years old. It’s mind blowing to think that you are holding something in your hand that is that old. I’ve found hundreds of teeth, but am still on the hunt for the elusive Megalodon tooth (which can be as large as 5 to 6 inches — and would have come from a 50 foot shark).
Q: What’s your favorite genre of music to work to? How does it influence your work?
A: Music has this really great ability to transport you to other places, so the type of music I listen to on any given day depends a lot on where I want to go. When December hits, look out! I am all in on Christmas music. For the rest of the year it runs a pretty broad spectrum from House to 90s Hip-hop to 60s Soul Music to Bluegrass/older country music. I really enjoy 80s music as well.
Q: What smartphone app can you not live without? Why/how does it complete your life?
A: Of all the apps I use, I have to say I am most impressed with Shazam. The fact that I can pull out my phone, have it listen to a few seconds of a song, and there is a good chance it can tell me the title and the artist is pretty amazing.
Q: What is one thing about yourself that would surprise people?
A: I’m an introvert. While it’s true that I like to listen more than talk, I am not shy about jumping into the discussion and sharing my perspective.
Q: In your opinion, does pineapple belong on pizza?
A: As a dabbler, you might guess I am team pineapple. You’d be wrong. While I am a dabbler, I am not an uncultured savage. Pineapple does NOT belong on pizza.
Q: What question are you dying to answer that we haven’t asked?
A: What’s your sign?
Q: What’s the answer?
A: I’m a Sagittarius — the only Zodiac sign that can’t commit to being an animal or a human. It would suggest I am notoriously non-committal and probably explains the whole “dabbler” part of my personality. Working in branding I would counter that it is less about being non-committal and more about giving each and every opportunity an equal chance. Nothing like some good old school reframing to turn that challenge into an asset!