Friday, December 21, 2007

Story time

The Harvard Business Review is not the first place you’d go to for advice on telling stories, but that is exactly where I found a great article by Peter Guber. Guber is a long-time movie producer whose credits range from Flashdance to Rainman, Batman Returns to Tango & Cash, so he’s not exactly your usual HBR management geek. As an executive producer, he’s someone who's had to make the call on whether a story works or doesn’t, so his article struck a chord with me. His ideas aren’t based on abstract theory, but on whether real live people are going to shell out cash for your story.

Guber’s article is behind a subscription wall, but I think his four truths about what makes a great story are useful whether you are pitching an idea for a website, reporting results to the Board or inspiring staff to work up to the next level.

  1. Truth to the teller. Yes, authenticity again. Show and share who you are with an open heart.
  2. Truth to the audience. It’s Value for Time. They give you their time on the understanding that you will give them emotional value and personal insight.

  3. Truth to the moment. Be prepared and then – improvise. The preparation will ensure you don’t lose focus. The improvisation will make sure you don’t lose your audience!

  4. Truth to the mission. Don’t even try to inspire people to do something you don’t believe in yourself. They won’t believe in it either.
In my book, sisomo: The Future on Screen, I wrote a chapter on stories and storytelling. The status of stories is transforming. Their ability to inspire people and connect with consumers is putting them at the heart of business. I’ve often quoted Rolf Jensen of the Dream Company that “The highest-paid person in the first half of the next century will be the ‘storyteller’.” That’s a prediction to make people pay attention!

In sisomo, I had 12 ideas about what makes a great story.
  1. Great stories touch us. They connect with our own desires and experiences and what we care about.
  2. Great stories are contagious. The itch to pass on a great story is almost unbearable. Stories have to be shared.

  3. Great stories are cloaked in credibility. They make practical sense, intuitive sense, emotional sense.

  4. Great stories connect with the emotions. Genuine, compelling emotion drives every story.

  5. Great stories surprise and delight. They are infinitely capable of the unexpected. It’s not just about novelty and revelations but also creativity and emotional truth.

  6. Great stories have context. Whether it’s a fairy tale or a business lesson, stories weave facts and events together so we understand their larger meanings.

  7. Great stories are fast workers. They get in ahead of our rationalizations and logic with their own compelling truth.

  8. Great stories are crafted. We all like stories to be recounted with skill and effort.

  9. Great stories make us laugh. Humor disarms us and opens us up to new ideas.

  10. Great stories teach us to be smart. Through great stories we learn to spot disinformation in an instant. Shoddy stories reinforce prejudice and hide the truth.

  11. Great stories introduce us to great characters; people we want to spend time with.

  12. Great stories open us up to other worlds. Welcome to the world of the imagination, to new geographies, to new realities.
Merry Christmas and have a great 2008. KR

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Flight Of The Conchords - Broke, Bumbling & Brilliant!

One of the most unlikely cult hit shows in the US this season has been the Flight of the Conchords. Bret Mackenzie and Jemaine Clement are two bumbling, hilarious Kiwis trying to make it in the Big Apple. They bring to life the pragmatic, laconic, but hopelessly inadequate side of everyday New Zealanders attempting to make it in the big wide world. The humor is real down home New Zealand; the kind you see at every University, every pub, and every rugby game back home. These two guys are broke, struggling, inept, bumbling and accident prone in the extreme. They get taken for rides, dumped, mugged and stalked. It’s on HBO and shouldn’t be missed.

And to make the story real, in real life these guys actually do struggle back home. They’ve made it in New York, but not yet in New Zealand.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

If you can dream it, you can do it

I was in Orlando for the weekend for a USA Rugby Board Meeting. Nigel Melville, ex-England captain and Director of Rugby at Wasps, has had a fantastic first year as CEO of USA Rugby. He has really established a foundation for growth. The Board has also pulled together well and made a real contribution, working with tons of passion and in total harmony. What a change from most businesses! We wrapped up after a very productive 6-hour session and I was left with Saturday afternoon and Sunday in Orlando.

This was not as bad as it sounds because I was staying at the Ritz Carlton, which delivers first class quality experiences wherever you go. I retired to the Club Lounge for a 6:30pm Heineken and reading that morning’s Wall Street Journal, when I was amazed to see on the front page an article on the new Ritz Carlton campaign. It is a series of short films created by Chris Graves, our Creative Head at Team One, Los Angeles. The films were all 4 to 10 minutes long and designed to demonstrate that the Ritz Carlton was aspirational quality but also good fun. It is along the lines of - if someone comes into our bar dripping from the pool barefoot and wet, well that’s not very Ritz Carlton, so we give him a bathrobe and slippers and serve him a nice cold Heineken. That’s the new Ritz Carlton.

Chris and his team do a great job on Lexus so it was fantastic to see them getting such terrific press with such an innovative media idea and smart positioning terms for another luxury brand, the Ritz Carlton. That took care of Saturday night. So how about Sunday?

Well, you guessed it. A 20-minute ride to Disney World. I haven’t been to the Magic Kingdom for all of 13 years. I went there 7 or 8 times when the kids were younger, and just couldn’t resist checking it out one more time. Of course, I went on Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain, and had a blast. The whole place was full of parents, kids, teens, pensioners, people my age, all having a ball. The cast members were still just as enthusiastic and full of life, and the guests all seemed to be high on adrenaline and hope. It’s a peculiarly American phenomenon that I think really captures the classic American way. I guess it’s easy to scoff at and feel superior, but I was there for 4 hours on a hot, sunny day – 82 degrees in early December – and I really enjoyed it. It was all about hope, imagination, inspiration and family fun. And now that Stella’s come along, I’ll have many more reason to return.

P.S. I’m also pleased to report that the old favorites, It’s a Small World and The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party are still thriving.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Designing a better world

One thing I know is we’re not going to get a better world by bossing people around. That’s why business needs to take a lead in our search for sustainability. Rational laws, sensible regulations and well thought-out policies have their place, but they ignore one huge fact. People run on emotion. Intuition and gut feeling are how we pick our way through life. We find ourselves attracted to this and repelled by that. If you’ve picked up a newspaper or magazine in the last six months, it’s becoming absolutely clear that just being responsible is no longer enough. Today we have to become inspirational. We have to attract the heart as well as the head so that people want to make the choices that make a difference.

In a competitive market where the struggle for differentiation is relentless and everything is at parity, percentage points matter. Just 10-15 percent of consumers need to make choices guided by sustainability to have a massive impact. Our challenge as sustainable enterprises is to inspire consumers to make such choices. That’s one of the reasons I’m such an advocate of design. Take this brilliant transformation of the Plain Jane, long-term light bulb by Hulger, a small electronics company based in London. Tell someone about the energy savings they’ll make with long-term light bulbs and they may buy one to shut you up – and put it in the laundry. Design a long-term bulb that they love and they’ll buy them for life. These stunning prototypes are just waiting for an inspired manufacturing partner.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Time to Celebrate

Last week at the Holiday Inn Woking, the great and the good of the IRB decided to maintain the current Rugby World Cup format of 20 teams.

This was a major turnaround from the thinking before the World Cup when it was all but a done deal to cut the number of teams from 20 to 16. This would have been a terrible move for developing nations. It would also probably have meant that teams such as Japan, the US, Canada, Georgia, Romania and even Samoa, would have to fight to qualify. Luckily the performances of these teams at the World Cup was very strong, and with support from players, fans and the media, it won the day.

There was terrific support from journalists around the world led by the nemesis of New Zealand rugby, Stephen Jones of The Sunday Times. The UK, France and New Zealand also passionately supported it. Nigel Melville, USA Rugby CEO, attended the conference along with John Kirwan representing Japan. I think they both did a terrific job in explaining why a 20 team competition was great for the game. This is a progressive forward thinking move by the IRB, and one that will be supported by rugby lovers throughout the world, particularly those living in developing rugby countries. Led by Argentina and Fiji, the developing nations of Samoa, Tonga, US, Japan, etc., now have 4 years to show the IRB that their investment is a good one. All these nations need to put together their high performance programs, get some new competitions going and raise the level. Then come 2011 in New Zealand, a couple of these sides can beat the Tier One nations and qualify for the knockout stages.

As far as the US is concerned, we are about to embark on a very important stage in our development. At our recent board meeting, we committed to turn a nucleus of elite players professional, and to appoint a world class, high caliber Eagles coach for a 4-year term leading up to the 2011 World Cup. We’ve spent the year bringing on board some top sponsors and we are within spitting distance of generating enough revenue to make our first step into professionalism. And we will do it without, in any way, shortchanging the grassroots game which is the foundation of rugby in the US. The next 100 days will be vital as Nigel and his team attempt to squeeze another million dollars from the budget. By doing that we can make the next key step in bringing the US into top tier world rugby. Exciting times.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Food for thought


Top left: Mexico: The Casales family of Cuernavaca Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09 Favorite foods: pizza, crab, pasta, chicken. Right: Germany: The Melander family of Bargteheide Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07. Bottom Left: Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23 Favorite foods: soup with fresh sheep meat. Right: Bhutan: The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03 Family recipe: Mushroom, cheese and pork

Peter Menzel
creates incredible books. In Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands we featured photographs from Material World: A Global Family Portrait. Peter had travelled the world and taken photographs of people with all their worldly goods arranged outside their homes. If a picture is worth a thousand words, some of these were knocking at the 100,000 words level. Now Peter and his wife, Faith D'Aluisio, take another slice of global life with Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. Published last year, its relevance just keeps increasing. This time, Menzel photographed families with what they ate in one week. Just as in Material World, the results show how compellingly different and intimately local we are even when we are doing the same thing: nurturing our families.

Menzel’s startling images illustrate the huge gaps between people who have resources and those who have very few. He is not simply pointing up inequalities, and certainly not suggesting that the more you have, the better life you lead. I suggest he is asking us to respect all these different families on their own terms and to learn from them. In other words, to observe with empathy and to be touched by others’ reality. From the German family’s line-up of packaged goods (weekly expenditure of US$500.07), to the harvest festival of fruit and vegetables of the Mexican family (weekly expenditure of US$189.09) to the sobering reality of the Aboubadar family in Chad (weekly expenditure of US$1.23), the food on which we sustain ourselves speaks the truth about who we are and what we desire.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Old Friends: Gold in the bank

“Old Friends, sat on their park bench like bookends...Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a park bench quietly? How terribly strange to be seventy. Old Friends.” (Paul Simon)

Well, I’m not 70 yet, although it felt like it was when I was in Ecuador, but I spent last weekend in Grasmere with one of my oldest and best friends, Joe McCollum. We ended up at 3am on a cold but crisp wintery morning sitting on a David Truebridge bench in my garden. We were overlooking 'The Lion and The Lamb' in Grasmere and reminiscing about the past 25 years. Together, we remembered those glory days. And, fueled by some Becks and local Bluebird Bitter (named after Donald Campbell’s beautiful but ill-fated speedboat which crashed on nearby Lake Coniston 40 years ago) we were also sharing our dreams for the next 25.

Joe is a remarkable guy. Of good Irish stock and one of 7 or 8 brothers, he trained to be a priest but was kicked out early for good behavior. He hooked up with Kate and then pursued a series of adventures: working for a hospital in Saudi Arabia, buying a bar in Bangkok, and ending up as my HR Director at Pepsi in Cyprus. After that, he did an MBA at Columbia, which is not too bad for a young Brummie Irish boy, and was elevated to a top HR position at PepsiCo HQ in Purchase, New York. From there he joined me on my New Zealand adventure by heading up HR for Lion Nathan. Together, we moved the company from a domestic New Zealand brewer into a peak performing Australasian operation. Much of New Zealand business today is run by Lion Nathan alumni brought in and nurtured by Joe. Joe went on to greater glory in ICI and EMI and also works with me in our purpose-driven, Peak Performance leadership company, Inspiros.

Kate stuck with him all the way (through thick and thin) and through Joe’s nomadic wanderings. She gave him 3 terrific kids; my goddaughter and brilliant musician Lizzie, the wonderful warm Amy who is training to be a chef and just passed her grade 2 National Qualification on Friday, and the energizer himself, Mr. Perpetual Motion, young Rory.

On Thursday, Kate joined us, and after reminding all of us of our past misadventures, left the two of us together all day Friday and Saturday morning. On Friday night, we went to another of those Lakeland pubs, The Mason’s Arms at Strawberry Bank. It’s a 700-year old pub that has now become a cozy eating house complete with its original crooked floors, low hanging ceilings and beams. You know you’re in the right place when they serve you black pudding and poached egg on a bed of local mash as a starter! From there it was a short journey to a steak and ale pie with Joe opting for the liver and bacon. Well done, of course. Two bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape to wash it down and it felt like we had just put on a battered old sweatshirt, a pair of track pants and some 5-year old floppy sneakers. At The Mason’s Arms I saw an old plaque that read, “Some friends are new, some friends are old, new friends are silver, old friends are gold.” Cheers, Joe!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Jeff Koons: Heart felt

Some symbols are just so powerful you can’t get past them. Take the auction at Sotheby’s last month of Jeff Koons’s gigantic stainless steel sculpture 'Hanging Heart', from his Celebration series. The price? $23.6 million. That makes Koons the most expensive living artist in the world, and I guess, 'Hanging Heart', at 9 feet tall and more than 3,500 pounds, the most expensive heart.

I have just bought three much smaller heart sculptures by Mackenzie Thorpe, an artist who works in the UK. They are sculptures of small people and tell the stories of their lives, their joy, despair, love and sorrow. Then in Miami a couple of weeks ago, I saw that the Miami artist Britto was having an exhibition. The main piece on show? A 6 foot heart in his trademark brilliant South Beach reds and yellows. As if that wasn’t enough, in Orlando the other day I look up and there is a skywriter, his cloudy script forming the word LOVE. As the songs says, “love is all around”.

Back in the early days of Lovemarks, I asked people to go easy on the heart symbol. I didn’t want Lovemarks to be overwhelmed by the flowering of a thousand hearts. What was I thinking? Trying to control the break-out of hearts is like trying to lay down strict guidelines for what you’re allowed to feel. Even with all the excesses of Valentine’s Day, the heart is still capable of some heavy emotional lifting. The hearts in your life might not be in the $23.6 million stratosphere, but then again, I can guarantee that their power lies in the connections they make for you, not their price. A heart cut from paper and placed with love on your pillow costs nothing and yet its emotional pull is irresistible. No wonder hearts have won a place at the center of Lovemarks.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Who wants to be a CMO?

Life in Elizabethan England was memorably described as nasty, brutish and short. While this might also describe one of my competitors in global advertising, it is also a perfect description of the life of a Chief Marketing Officer. Tenure has now reached an all time low in the US. Twenty-six months in the job and you are gone.

This short-termism is the bane of my life. It means we are constantly dealing with newcomers who have no knowledge of the business they are in. They also don't have a clue about their brand narratives and legacy, their consumer or how to get things done in their own company. The biggest single rupture in an agency-company relationship is driven by the arrival of a new CMO trying to change everything whilst knowing nothing.

Wall Street obsessed CEO’s are driven by quarterly results and yet have very little feel for the new, rapidly changing Consumer Republic. It is a world where most of the marketing techniques they learned years ago are of no use whatsoever. With the consumer as boss, the mass market approach of yore - driven by research, precedent and sheer weight of spending - is no longer a panacea. The bean counters are obsessed with ROI and measurement. The trouble is that it’s emotional connectivity which is driving success, and emotional connectivity is very hard to predict and to measure with today’s archaic tools. Consumers are moving faster than companies, faster than CEOs, and CMOs are finding it hard to keep up. Add to this the fact that almost everybody you know (without any substance whatsoever) has strong opinions on marketing and advertising. You see the dilemma. John Costello, who I worked with at P&G, PepsiCo and Pay By Touch, and was also CMO at Home Depot, Sears and Yahoo!, can go on for hours about the constant second guessing CMOs have to put up with from every quarter. You don’t see people discussing the options CIOs or CFOs put in place; but everyone’s a marketing expert.

Building a brand is a long-term process that requires inspiration, intuition and vision. It’s incremental, as transformational changes need to come into play. Above all, it requires patience, flexibility and a long-term point of view. Of course this is completely at odds with most CEO’s fixation on short-term results driven by the short-term demands of market makers and traders.

Successful companies like P&G, General Mills and Toyota take a much different view. Their top marketing chiefs are given time, support and the tools to build brands and to get the job done. This is what sets these great, sustainable, long-term companies apart from the mass.

So if your mate is a CMO, buy him a beer and give him a hug tonight.

Monday, December 10, 2007

English Football, English Dreams

While the All Blacks and USA Eagles have been going through a process to find a new national coach for their premier rugby sides, England has been thrown into deep despair by their inability to qualify for the European Football Championships in 2008. This will probably cost the English economy around £2 billion and has really shattered the nation. The so-called 'Golden Generation' of players have been over-hyped and have under performed for 3 years now, but this is the final embarrassment. Failing to qualify against Croatia, Israel and Russia is pathetic for these high priced prima donnas. To top it off, Steve McClaren was fired and walked away with a payout of £2.5 million.

I find this appalling. The whole FA should resign on the spot. Putting this nincompoop in charge was never going to work. He was a classic #2 and Blind Freddy could see that he didn’t have the leadership, imagination or inspirational qualities for the #1 job. At best he was a solid #2, but leading England in soccer is as important to that nation as the All Blacks coaching job is to New Zealand. I was never a fan of McClaren’s predecessor, Sven-Göran Eriksson at an international level as I believe he did not understand English players and how to get the best from them. He has been a tremendous success with my club, Manchester City (much to my amazement) because he has put together an impeccable defence, some great ball players and a very sound strategy. That said, he only has four English players on the side, so he’s done it with Continentals and South Americans whose mentality he understands.

The Premier League and English players are a different breed. They are generally working class boys who have focused on football for most of their lives and not much else. What they do have is national pride and patriotism; what they don’t have is the ability to innovate and to strategize. They need a coach who can communicate a simple game plan based on stamina, running, determination and grit, someone who can inspire the players to commit themselves totally to the cause.

The job also needs someone with a sense of humor and a sense of theatre to keep the cynical English media on board - or at least on the hop.

Now the papers are all about another foreign saviour: Luiz Felipe Scolari (the Brazilian), Rafa Benitez (a Spaniard), Jose Mourinho (a Portuguese), Marcello Lippi (an Italian), Fabio Capello, (another Italian), Juergen Klinsmann (a German) and Martin O’Neill (an Irishman) are all in the frame. But what the FA should do is give the job to Harry Redknapp. He is a straight talking, optimistic English football man with passion and joy in everything he does. He understands English players and knows how to get the most out of limited resources. He knows football is a very simple game made unnecessarily complicated by too much analysis and over thinking (a bit like business really). Players would play for him, the media would never be short of a story and we’d have an English football man in charge at last.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Shelf life

Having spent many years in the Middle East, I can’t forget what our highly packaged world has lost in terms of Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy. The rise and rise of stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s seems to reveal our growing desire to connect more sensually with food. That means being able to see it and smell it, as well as touch and taste it – once the hygiene inspectors have given the nod. The French understand. Sociologist Claude Fischler from the French National Center for Scientific Research asked a typically French question, “If you are what you eat and you don't know what you're eating, do you actually know who you are?” For retailers, letting us get closer to the food we eat is not easy. How do you remove as much packaging as possible to give shoppers a better idea of what it is that they are going to eat, and run an efficient operation, keep costs and waste down, and end up with the manufacturers still talking to you?

Ten years ago the answer was easy. Packaging was about operational efficiency. It was a bit of appeal on the side and went unchanged for years. Everyone said shoppers liked it that way; it helped them find what they were looking for on the shelves. Then design entered as a competitive differentiator and all that logic was abruptly thrown out the window. Suddenly manufacturers didn’t back off from packaging that winked and blinked, made noises and smelled great. Packaging went into constant Beta. There was sure to be an even better idea out there somewhere. I love the buzz around design and the store, but have a warning as well. Winners aren’t fixed on grabbing attention with the latest gimmick. They are passionate about attracting shoppers with understanding and engagement, meaning and empathy. It's about fantastic packaging that makes people’s lives better, more fun and easier.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Desert Island Discs: My All Time Top Ten Tunes

Thanks to Steve Jobs, we no longer have to concern ourselves with taking 10 songs to our desert island. Now, if we feel like it, we can take 10,000. But don’t panic, here are my all-time Top 10 best songs.


10. No Surrender
The Boss plays this fast, he plays it slow, and no matter what the tempo, it still rings true. “I learned more from a 3-minute record than I ever learned in school.” There is also a great line along the lines of “these romantic dreams in our heads”. I love the 'No Surrender' attitude. It’s not too far away from Saatchi & Saatchi’s 'Nothing is Impossible'. This will always be a Top 10 song for me.

9. You Still Believe in Me
From the great Brian Wilson's Pet Sounds album. I’ve seen Brian Wilson at the Roxy in LA and my son, Ben, and a couple of his mates went to see him last month in London. There he was belting out songs from the Pet Sounds album and a medley of Beach Boys greats. Wilson has lived the hard life of an artist, but there is no doubt that some of his writing and arranging will last forever. 'You Still Believe in Me' is a beautiful little song and always reminds me of the many people that have believed in me during my ups and downs.

8. Celluloid Heroes
A song by one of the world’s greatest storytellers, Ray Davies. The front man for The Kinks is still going strong with a new album currently out, but his heyday was in the 60’s and early 70’s. That was when he captured that very English spirit of Bulldogs and Union Jacks in a way no one else ever did. Ray Davies wrote some of the great songs of that era, including 'Well Respected Man', and 'Dedicated Follower of Fashion', which were sound bites for the Carnaby Street of 1967. 'Celluloid Heroes' broke into my consciousness before I had ever been to the US; it made me want to visit Hollywood right there and then. “Everybody's a dreamer and everybody's a star.” You could put me down for dreamer.

7. A Whiter Shade of Pale
At the Oscars a few years back, I was at an after party and bumped into the lead singer of Procol Harum. 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' must be one of the most loved and most difficult to understand set of lyrics the world has ever been given. It’s one of the defining songs of the 60’s and recently has been the subject of a bitter lawsuit between two of the members of Procol Harum. Almost everybody from that generation can sing the first verse, particularly late in the evening after a couple of bottle of Bordeaux with a bunch of mates. And I can still skip the light fandango.

6. Fairytale of New York
'Fairytale of New York' starred The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. She was tragically killed in a water ski/swimming accident but was a terrific talent. From Croydon to Cuba: An Anthology is a must own. The video showing McColl singing with The Pogues is an experience second to none. Living in New York as I do, this song represents a fairytale story for all the immigrants who hitched up and made their homes in this most vibrant of cities.

5. Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
How do you represent Bob Dylan in a Top 10 list? My mate, Brian Sweeney, swears by 'Joker Man'. For me, I’ve always loved 'Forever Young', 'Mr. Tambourine Man', 'The Times They Are A Changing', 'Positively 4th Street', 'Desolation Row', 'Tangled Up in Blue' and so many others. One of the great Dylan stories is 'Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts'. I must have half a dozen versions of this on my iPod, ranging from Joan Baez to Tom Russell, with the crème de la crème being an impromptu jam version by Mary Lee’s Corvette. But this is more than a great song, it’s also a movie. Russell Crowe as the Jack of Hearts (now that he’s earned his chops in 3:10 to Yuma, we’ll let him play the good guy), Uma Thurman as Lily, Nicole Kidman as Rosemary, and Al Pacino as Big Jim (personality, not size). There are 17 verses and I’m still waiting for the sequel.

4. Bird on the Wire
Leonard Cohen was instrumental in shaping my youth. It was very fashionable back then at Bohemian dinner parties (and if that isn’t an oxymoron, what is?) to play Leonard’s first 3 albums. I went to see him countless times, bought all his poetry and sucked up his artistic suffering. When I die, I’ve instructed for the words “I have tried in my way to be free” to be inscribed on my tombstone. It comes from perhaps Leonard’s magnum opus 'Bird on the Wire'.

3. In Spite of Ourselves
Time for a love song - but a fresh, realistic, humorous love song. Try John Prine’s 'In Spite of Ourselves'. He wrote a whole album about relationships and duetted with many top female singers. It’s also the subject of a great music video concert he gave at West 54th Street, and you’ve just got to listen to the words of this song. If it doesn’t have you grinning, you’re just not country. And, as a bonus, the wonderful Iris DeMent joins in.

2. The Road Goes On Forever
If you’ve ever been to hear Robert Earl Keen live, you’ll know that everyone there knows all the words to all the songs. The one they really belt out, their Shiner Bocks in hand, is 'The Road Goes On Forever'. It is a classic romance song that should also be made into a movie. It is the story of Sunny, his girl, chivalry, loyalty, impetuosity and pragmatic reality. A great tale, a great idea, and alone is worth a trip to hear Robert Earl Keen. "The road goes on forever and the party never ends."

1. Thunder Road
At number one, leaving off where we came in, is another song from Bruce - 'Thunder Road'. He sings it at different tempos and at different times, and I’ve probably got 20-25 versions of it. I never tire of 'Thunder Road'. It fills me with energy and enthusiasm for the day ahead.

Let me have your Top 10.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

NZRU: two fantastic choices

Note: this is my column for NZ Rugby Monthly. Because of publishing deadlines, this was written five days before Graham Henry and his coaching panel finally decide to reapply for their jobs. So despite the deadline reality, I’m going to have to risk writing about what might become a non-issue if the incumbents decide not to stay - and if so, Robbie Deans is the standout candidate. He has made a commitment to run, his record is impeccable, he’s been there before and he’s head and shoulders above any other competitor. Warren Gatland and dark horse John Kirwan are building experience overseas and will come back into the running post 2011.

The downside of the coaching decision to New Zealand rugby is absolutely nil. We either continue with what I consider to be the best-in-world rugby coaching panel today (particularly now that Jake and Eddie have left the Springboks) or we go with a zero risk option in Robbie Deans.

A decade ago, I was on the Board of the New Zealand Rugby Union, and in 1998 there was a rebellion at board level about John Hart’s performances that season. There was strong movement on the Board to ditch Hart and convince Deans to take the reign with 12 months to go before the 1999 World Cup. It went down to the wire to a single vote and the Board was split with the majority keeping Hart in place. The passion and vitriol generated during this episode was staggering to watch. It became very personal and I can see the same thing happening if the incumbents choose to stand. In my experience, nobody sits on the fence on this kind of issue. Everybody on the Board will have very, very strong points of view, and it will make for a gladiator-like spectacle; unfortunately, taking place behind closed doors and not at the coliseum.

There has been a lot of criticism in the press about the NZRU going to a review. To me, this is naïve and unfounded. Rugby is a business as well as a sport. NZRU has an obligation to all stakeholders, including players, coaches, sponsors and partners, to deliver the best All Black team possible and deliver a team that can win every game. This is vital to the development of every aspect of rugby in New Zealand, and nothing is more vital in that mix than the coaching.

NZRU are doing what every strong business board would do. They are taking time to consider all the facts, all the evidence, and to study the cases of top contenders to see who is best equipped to move us forward. They will judge which of the contenders' approached is most likely to deliver success on and off the field for the All Blacks, and thus generate a strong trickle down effect for the rest of the game. I am sure they will go into the process open-minded and hoping that one contender will blow them out of the water with a plan they can believe in.

Critical to Saatchi & Saatchi are three things in business: responsibility, recognition and joy. The current All Blacks coaching team took responsibility, they stood up and were given plenty of recognition, and they delivered great joy to us until that fateful day in Wales. We should not forget that 42 out of 48 test matches were won, the Lions were annihilated, that brilliant grand slam in the UK, the Bledisdoe Cup has been retained for the last four years and the Tri-Nations victories in ’05, ’06 and ’07. Nor should we forget the players they discovered, the initiatives they took and the brilliant rugby they played so often.

The trick now is to see whether they have learned from the disaster in Cardiff, and whether they have a new plan in place which will deliver a similar kind of win record and put us in place for victory in 2011. It will be particularly interesting to see how they plan to deal with the breakup of their team through age and the exodus into Europe. Robbie Deans will stand on his Crusaders record, his time with the All Blacks with John Mitchell (which was much more successful than people recognize) and his go-forward plans.

At Saatchi we believe, “fail fast, learn fast and fix fast”. We failed in Cardiff. Have the current panel learned? Are they ready to fix the issues immediately? In the past, England and Ireland have gone down the road of accumulated experience being crucial and England saw success when Woodward turned one campaign’s failure into success in 2003. Ireland’s decision on Eddie O’Sullivan has yet to be proven.

I really hope Graham and his panel signal their intent to stand as this gives the NZRU two fantastic choices. It also demonstrates to the public that the current trio value the job and the experience, and are willing to fight for what they believe in. Full credit to Robbie Deans for turning down motor-mouth across the ditch.

The USA Eagles are also on the hunt for a new coach. Our own Peter Thorburn did a fantastic job for us, guided initially by Alan Solomons and then by Nigel Melville, lifting the USA to four of their best ever Rugby World Cup performances. We have delayed our closing date for applications as we watch the NZ scenario unfold (funny that), but we’ll be appointing a top class, proven leader before the end of the year. We’ve had a lot of interest from the highest profile coaches who feel that the chance to bring USA Rugby into the top tier of nations is real and a once in a lifetime opportunity. They like our governance structure, our clean reporting lines, our speed and the raw talent of our athletes. Living in Boulder, Colorado doesn’t hurt either.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Ruby Fowler - Inspirational Player

I believe that inspiration is the one certain way to transform business. It’s about being the best you can be, stepping up and being determined to make a difference. The challenge today is not just to be inspired by your own ideas, but also by the ideas of others. The people you want to connect and communicate with, sell to, build relationships with. You have to understand what thrills and attracts them, be able to delight them with your commitment, empathy and passion, and to learn from them so you can find exciting new opportunities.


The great thing about inspiration is that it can appear anywhere. I was reminded of this when a friend from New Zealand sent me a newspaper article about a woman called Ruby Fowler. It seems that Ruby has put together a clothing business that has become an instant Lovemark. The numbers are still small, but through her intense empathy with the people who buy her garments, she is quickly building up a business that is filling an important need. The kicker is that Mary is 88, and many of her customers are in the same age range! Mary not only saw that there was a gap in the market for attractive clothes for older women, she did something about it and inspired others to join her.

The truth is you don’t have to wave your hands around and put gel in your hair to inspire people. What you do have to do is understand what attracts them and create things that are meaningful in their lives.

Let’s pop a cork to Ruby Fowler, Inspirational Player.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Stella - Welcome to the world



Dateline: November 24, 6:46pm, Rome.

My eldest son Ben and his partner Clarissa are walking on air. Baby Stella was born within 24 hours of her predicted due date. She was 3.3kg, 51cm and beautiful. She was also born on our friend, Richard Hytner’s, birthday. Richard immediately texted me with the news that she was destined to become a Red, a Manchester United supporter like the deluded Mr. Hytner. Fat chance. She’ll be Roma and Manchester City!

Stella is Ben and Clarissa’s first baby, and our first grandchild. Rowena was at the birth, my daughter Rebecca has flown over from New Zealand, great-grandma Rita is on the scene, along with Auntie Julie and Tio Pedro. Annette Ettorre and Andrea were also there for the birth, giving Ben love and reassurance from his Italian family. The hospital has been inundated with Clarissa’s family and friends, and of course, her proud mother, Patrizia. There is nothing the Italians like more than babies and family. So, a red letter day for the family and a life changing moment for Ben and Clarissa. The sun shines brighter today!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Is Tom Russell the Next Johnny Cash?

Let me tell you about Tom Russell, a man who’s just out there waiting to be discovered as the next Johnny Cash. He’s cut stacks of albums over the years. Indians Cowboys Horses Dogs, Love and Fear, Box of Visions, Modern Art, The Rose of the San Joaquin and Heart on a Sleeve are all worth listening to. This man is an American living legend, unappreciated as of yet, but so was Johnny Cash for many years. Of all people, Russell was mentored by a Canadian, a guy named Ian Tyson. I first came across Ian in 1988 when I was living in Toronto working for Pepsi-Cola. I learned to love parts of Canada during my term with Pepsi, particularly Edmonton, Calgary, and the Pacific Northwest. Tyson is relatively unknown in today’s music circles, but in over 40 years of recording he has written some brilliant songs of dreams and truths.

What prompted this post is a new album released by a small Canadian label, Stony Plain Records. They’ve pulled together 15 Tyson songs called The Gift, which is a great introduction to his life’s work. Tyson learned his trade staying up all night, every night, playing for rowdy audiences and making friends with like-minded renegades in the saloons and casinos of Elco. Ramblin' Jack Elliott called them “a cowboy time”.

If I hadn’t been born in Lancashire, I would have loved to been born in the Wild West, and Tyson’s music takes you right there. He had Blue Rodeo, Jennifer Warnes, Chris Hillman, Gordon Lightfoot and the great Tom Russell singing on this album along with a great track from Ramblin' Jack himself.

45 years of great songs. For me they are stirring, vivid reminders of the good times in Calgary and Edmonton.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Meric Kara and the spirit of Benetton

We all have ideas. Ideas we dream could make us a fortune or change the way the world thinks about catching mice. Of course having ideas is one thing, having great ideas is another, and then doing something with the idea, let’s not even go there! In my travels, I have found that some places generate ideas better than others. There is something about the atmosphere, the attitude, the environment, that charges them with energy and creativity. One such place is Fabrica, the research center of Benetton. This is a company that has never flinched from a great idea and has always been very supportive of anyone who needs to put creativity at the heart. I think that some of this unique spirit comes through in the words of Luciano Benetton in The Lovemarks Effect. Luciano invited me to work with some of the remarkable students at Fabrica and I came away inspired by their focus, passion and crazy ideas. I guess that is why it seemed right to find that the very smart, very funny object pictured above was the work of Fabrica designer Meric Kara. Here is someone who sees the world differently to you and me but still connects with high impact, high emotion images and objects. Her two-necked Heineken bottle certainly made me laugh and inspired me to reach for a regular one when I had the chance. It’s fashionable to say that “ideas can come from anywhere” and to a degree it’s true. But great ideas come from the hearts and hands of very special people like Meric Kara. The rest of her work is terrific too. I’d put it right into the Lovemarks quadrant on the Love/Respect Axis.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

6 Days, 15 Mangoes and a Heart full of Dreams

A week or so ago, I spent 6 days at Chiva Som, The Haven of Life, in Hua Hin, Thailand. It’s my fourth visit in the last 7 years and it is well named - a haven of tranquility, renewal and cleansing. I spent 5 days fasting, drinking only vegetable juices and consommés, and eating nothing. Each morning was spent in the gym and then into the pool for some water aerobics. Afternoons I worked in the library, and in the evenings it was spa treatments and massage.

For 6 days I didn’t speak with anyone, which I found particularly renewing and invigorating. I used the time to drop some weight, get my head around adopting a much healthier lifestyle despite the vicissitudes of 250 days on the road per year. I also spent time setting dreams and challenges for the next 5 years.

Chiva Som does it beautifully. I stayed in the Chamomile Suite, which overlooks the pool and the ocean. The weather was turbulent and tumultuous with extreme heat, extreme storms and extreme wind. Just perfect (unless you want to sunbathe – which I didn’t). I sent ahead of me 8 books and a dozen magazines to get in to, and thanked Steve Jobs every morning for the iPod. My brain has been full of music, my heart full of dreams and my gut full of resolve.

Check Chiva Som’s website. It really is a haven in today’s hurly burly, fast paced world. No cell phones or Blackberries allowed except in the privacy of your own room. They have every kind of spa treatment, ranging from the physical to the spiritual, and it’s full of meditative tranquility. I never moved out of t-shirts and shorts, except to put on a bathrobe. And, yes, that includes meal times which took all of about 15 minutes. Juice and consommé don’t need a lot of effort.

To top it off there is also award winning spa cuisine. The chef, Jacky Oberti, is one of the most accomplished in Asia, bringing together healthy, local ingredients with great taste.

All the facilities are tremendous and the rooms are very Thai; very sensuous. Chiva Som drips with mystery, sensuality and intimacy and is a classic Lovemark.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mind games

Successful people often have great memories. Who says so? My personal experience does. Any advice to someone moving out in life has to include practising memory skills. Now that doesn’t mean having instant recall on the sales figures for the last ten years sliced by every possible variable. Some people seem to find that useful, but it’s not so important. I’m interested in the startling personal effects of having a good memory. How often have you met someone you haven’t seen for a while and been deeply touched when they remembered your name? This is empathy at its purest. Someone is not just telling us, but showing us that we matter to them. Getting someone’s name wrong is an instant empathy killer. You have to do a lot of make-up work to get over a blunder like that. With the number of people we meet every day, it’s not surprising that the name game has become important as a fast check on whether someone connects with us or not. Too often, people find that they forget names at the same moment that they are being introduced. If you spend as much time in the United States as I do, you soon become familiar with the American trick of repeating a name two or three times when you first meet. It certainly works but can sound odd, and once you figure it is a trick, the magic of intimacy fades a little. Just as memory is invaluable for connecting with people who matter, it is also fantastic for connecting with ideas that matter. A memory aid I’ve been using recently is: FREDA. Focus, Reinvention, Execution, Delivery and Accountability. It is a simple formula for success, based on a shared dream, an inspirational purpose and a set of common beliefs. Organizations that unleash inspirational players at every level who are committed to FREDA are out on their own. If you put anything to memory this week, make it FREDA.

Monday, November 26, 2007

New York Rock and Roll

Robert Earl Keen, Florent nightclub in New York, Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe star in American Gangster.

There’s nothing like good old time rock 'n' roll/funky country.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Fillmore East New York on Irving Plaza at 10:00pm on a Saturday to see Robert Earl Keen. As you know if you read this blog, Keen is one of my favorite artists and also one of my favorite people. He played two dates in New York, both of which were sold out. Keen also dropped by the agency on Friday for a catch up and did a couple of things for us.

The Fillmore East is the offshoot of the famed Fillmore West in San Francisco. During the summer of love, the Fillmore West was the place to be. The Grateful Dead were virtually in residence there, and Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Byrds, Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company were all regular fixtures.

If you want real old time rock 'n' roll, the place to go is the Fillmore East. It’s just a great big hall, standing only, with bars wherever you look and so called VIP sections on the balcony. I needed to show ID before I could buy beer - how rock 'n' roll is that (not). Having satisfied that law, they served beer in long-necked glass bottles which I thought stopped a decade ago. At Robert’s concerts there is no violence, just great times and massive sing-a-longs. Everybody in the audience seems to know the words to every song, and at one stage, Keen just said “It’s great to be amongst so many great singers”. I had more fun watching a couple of the die-hards in the audience than watching the show. The highlight for me was an incredible version of Bob Dylan’s 'Tangled Up in Blue', with Robert and the band belting it out during the on chorus. This was the only song that caught the fans napping. Only a few Dylan die-hards knew the words to that one.

Backstage after the show for a couple of beers (they actually served Becks as well as domestics, which is new age roll 'n' roll) and then off to Florent. Florent is an institution in the Meatpacking District on Gansevoort Street. I used to go there 15 years ago when it was the only place I knew that was opened 24 hours. I’ve had one or two 6:00am breakfasts there, along with bottles of cheap red wine and eggs and bacon. Nothing has changed at Florent, but everything has changed around it. All the transsexual hookers have disappeared and have been replaced by Soho House, Gansevoort Hotel, Pastis, Lotus, Stella McCartney, Jeffrey and other objects of gentrification. Through all this, Florent has stayed the same - a diner with a liquor license that’s open 24/7, serves breakfast from 2:30am and brunch/lunch/dinner throughout the day, and has an eclectic crowd whatever time you go in. Only in New York.

I went to see another piece of retro rock 'n' roll on Sunday afternoon in the form of the Ridley Scott movie, American Gangster. Oscar winning performance from Denzel Washington as Frank Lucas, with a strong performance from Russell Crowe. Denzel filled the screen in this true story of Harlem drug crimes during the 60’s. Brilliantly shot, it is a telling indictment of the US Military being used as drug carriers out of Vietnam and the corruption within the NYPD. 75% of the NYPD’s Drug Enforcement Agency were convicted of corruption. That’s right, 75%. Contrasting this scene with a post Giuliani New York really does reflect well on the current Republican front-runner. The film is perhaps 30 minutes too long and there’s needless attention paid to Russell Crowe’s character’s marital woes. However, the rest of the movie is first class.

All in all, a pretty good retro rock 'n' roll New York Winter weekend.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Neil Young: Chrome Dreams II

Review by Danis Roberts

40 years since his first album, and Neil Young is just getting better and better.

Following the rightly acclaimed Prairie Wind and Living With War albums, Young has released Chrome Dreams II, his best album since the masterpiece On The Beach. It’s a collection of both new songs and some unreleased material two decades removed. Chrome Dreams II offers 10 incredible tracks perfect for both the Harvest loving singer-songwriter fan, and the Crazy Horse rockin’ riff-heavy one.

There’s already been a lot of talk about the epic 18 minute single, 'Ordinary People', but the highlight for me is the equally epic 'No Hidden Path', a hypnotic rock masterpiece that should never end. Other beloved songs are 'Beautiful Bluebird' and 'Shining Light', both tracks reminiscent of what brought Young to the mainstream; easy going, non-threatening ballads. This is in no way a negative statement, just a testament to his songwriting skills.

Although the album is an eclectic mix of style and has no overall theme, the quality of each song is astonishing, almost forcing it to be accepted as an exceptional album. Like his iconic counterparts Dylan and Springsteen, Young proves that age does not dictate quality and that they still have a few things in reserve to teach younger generations.

Welcome to America

When the Department of Homeland Security and the US Department of State wants to welcome the world to America, who they gonna call? If you answered “Disney”, you’d be right. The creators of countless American icons, the tellers of hundreds of great American myths and legends. No one tells the stories America wants to hear, or builds the places America wants to visit, or understands American dreams, better than Disney. That empathy with the American emotional landscape made Disney the natural choice to create a multimedia welcome to America for international visitors. The resulting seven minute film Portraits of America features hundreds of Americans from all states and situations. If you’re looking for poverty or conflict or discussion of global problems, you won’t find them here. This initiative is unashamedly up-beat and emotive. The road to winning minds lies first through the heart and no one understands that better than Disney.

The US Government clearly knows it’s got a problem with how the world feels about the experience of crossing its borders, and that it’s time to start turning that around. They’d be right. Every one of us without an American passport seems to have a story to tell about that time we came into America, and seldom are the stories happy ones! Portraits of America can help inspire different stories but it can’t alone offset the prickly authority America currently presents at its borders. The Government’s challenge is huge. “To ensure passengers entering the United States experience a process that is welcoming, understandable, respectful, time-efficient and less stressful.” That means the right people working in the right spaces following the right processes and all inspired by the same idea, “Welcome to America!”. Here is where Portraits of America plays its part. It certainly shows that the nation has much to be proud of, with a diversity of people and places that are hard to match. That's something else we often forget – what an achingly beautiful country it is.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A day in the life of . . . Part III (the adventure continues)

Day 3

4:00am. I am still at Lima airport due to air traffic controllers being on strike in Lima and a delayed Continental flight from the US. But at least they’re talking to us. They may be feeding us wrong information, but I’m grateful just to be acknowledged.

12.01pm. I arrive in Newark only 4 hours late and am greeted by the attached communiqué from Mr. Duncan Patterson, American Airlines Sales Manager in Ecuador. This is a man conspicuous by his total lack of presence during our 24 hour lock up in Ecuador (in Mr. Patterson’s airline speak, this is interpreted as “complications for the passengers”). Mr. Patterson called the “smoke in the cabin” a false alarm. How can smoke be false? And if so, why was the plane still not in service 24 hours later?

May the Bird of Paradise fly right up Mr. Patterson’s nose!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A day in the life of . . . courtesy of American Airlines - Part II (just when you thought it was safe to get back on the aircraft)

Day 2

1:00pm. We board a coach which is, allegedly, headed for the airport. No such luck. Instead we end up in our second hotel! Apparently the Grand Hotel is full for the night so we are moved to Guayaquil’s equivalent of cellblock H. We're talking about a hotel that doesn’t even appear on Google. And so, having to climb over a bed to get in, I am ensconced in a sparse, tiled floor room. There is still no sign of American Airlines but we hear a rumor that the famous flight 917 will now take off at 11:00pm. This means arriving in Lima at the salubrious hour of 12:44am tomorrow morning, 26 hours later than scheduled.

A brief pause while I eat chicken and rice for lunch.

The afternoon passes torturously slowly as I realize that cellblock H is located 5 minutes from the airport with nothing else of interest anywhere nearby. I come to this conclusion thanks to several jets flying by my window at maximum noise levels. Still no sign of American Airlines. Dinner is Groundhog Day. Chicken and rice, rice and chicken, salad and chicken, salad and rice, and for the adventurous, chicken salad.

9:00pm. After waiting half an hour to be picked up, we finally arrive at the airport and are whisked through Passport Control. Still no sign of American Airlines. I have now been in and out of Ecuador with no evidence whatsoever. I’m confident that this will be a big help as I plot my 2007 Day of the Jackal story. One thing has come out of this unwanted stay - I now know how to be invisible in Central America.

An announcer comes to say the flight to Lima will be an airplane coming in from Miami. Makes sense, I mean why would we expect American Airlines to put on anything special? They’ve simply shifted us all onto an existing flight. And guess what? This means a further delay of 1-1/4 hours. We will now theoretically leave 15 minutes after midnight, arrive in Lima at 2:00am and reach my hotel around 3am (what are the chances of me ever seeing my bag again?). American Airlines eventually sends an even older Airbus 3000, manned by the same crew, though it actually got us to Lima. We arrive just one hour later than the latest, latest estimate. Of course, it took ages to board everyone back into the same seats they had last sat in 24 hours before. The captain shows his disdain for the situation by not opening his mouth once during the entire boarding procedure and flight. No apologies and no roses from American Airlines.

4:00am. We make it to Lima. A huge sigh of relief from all concerned when we finally touch down. And wonder of wonders - my bag arrives too! At last paradise beckons at the Miraflores Park Hotel, who were kind enough to upgrade me to the Presidential Suite on the 10th floor, complete with private outdoor pool, sauna and internal whirlpool. If only I was going to have more than 3 hours in the hotel.

7:00am. It was up and at ‘em. A day of speeches at Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas, Saatchi & Saatchi and the Swisshotel to the business community before turning around and heading back for New York at 11:58pm on Continental!

Monday, November 19, 2007

A day in the life of . . . courtesy of American Airlines

2:30pm. I leave the haven of The Setai in South Beach Miami for a five-hour flight (my first) to Peru. I'm flying there to be honored by the faculty of Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas and welcomed as an Emeritus Professor in Communications. This trip involves a forty-minute minute speech to faculty (in full regalia) followed by a lecture to the students and a visit to Quorum Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi. It is the first time an incumbent Saatchi & Saatchi CEO has visited the agency and on the books is a one-hour presentation to clients, new business prospects and the business community of Peru. It's going to be a hectic day, starting at 7:30am and finishing at 10:00pm. Still, it is combining things I really care about – academic learning, recognition and a chance to influence smart students living on The Edge. It’s also going to be an opportunity to celebrate a far flung outpost of the Saatchi world and a new business pitch. I promised the Peruvians in Cannes last year I would do this to honor their winning three Lions at the Cannes Festival; an incredible achievement for this edgy little country.


4.00pm. We board American Airlines 917 on time, which in itself is a minor miracle. One hour later we are de-boarded when “the guy driving the tow truck pulling us out of the gate noticed there was hydraulic fuel leaking from the plane”. Good on you American Airlines for such tight engineering and security checks. Lucky the tow truck operators are so very highly skilled nowadays. So our plane is going nowhere. Naturally, there's no spare part to be found in Miami and we have to find another airplane. Thanks to American Airlines giving us regular incorrect data on take-off times, we had to huddle by the gate.

9.00pm. We are airborne in our second piece of equipment, four hours late, with an arrival time of 2:30am at Lima Airport, giving me about three hours sleep before kick-off the next day. The plane is even older than the first one and, on the inside anyway, is falling apart - the seat next to me has two big pieces of red adhesive tape looking like a crime scene saying the seat is broken. Everybody is becoming somewhat anxious, particularly a group of 60-year olds from the UK who have been traveling for 30 hours, speak no Spanish and are clearly lost. They are matched only by a French group of a similar vintage speaking only French. The crew are tired and stressed and the worst is yet to come.

1:30am. 4-1/2 hours into the flight, from just behind me, comes a smell reminiscent of a microwave being turned on after not having been used for a couple of years. It's the smell of smoldering electricity. I can tell you it is not the fragrance of champions when you’re at 35,000 feet flying over Central Latin America. The air hostess reports it to the captain. Now American Airlines might have very average equipment, but they obviously have highly skilled tow-truck operators and air hostesses. Obviously, safety is now their daily responsibility. The result? The captain announces that an air hostess has identified an electric smell and as this was clearly unsafe, “We are about to make an emergency landing in Guayaquil”. That was it.

The plane grows silent and down we go. I knew Guayaquil was in Ecuador and I knew Ecuador was next door to Peru, and that sums up my total knowledge of all things Ecuadorian.
We make it to the airport and are surrounded by a batch of ambulances and fire engines. The captain disembarks, leaving us sitting out there, comforted that the air hostess is still on the plane. I figured that as she is clearly the expert on all things security, we obviously aren't going to explode.

The captain comes back in an extremely disgruntled mood. “I’ve been on the phone to dispatch in Dallas and I am not taking this plane over the mountains. I know this will aggravate many of you, it’s been a long day already, we’re very stressed, you’re very stressed and this plane is going nowhere.” With that, he leaves the aircraft and we are put into the hands of… um…no one.
Eventually, we get off the plane and onto a bus that takes us to Guayaquil Customs. When we get there we are told we will be staying overnight - given the lack of a plane that worked and a crew that were stressed - two pretty important things for air travel.

3.30 am. We are shipped into the Grand Hotel Guayaquil (have you noticed that when names make big claims they most often protesteth too much. Comfort Inns aren’t comfortable, Grand Hotels aren’t Grand and Holiday Inns are no holiday.) The Grand has to come up with a couple of hundred rooms off the cuff in the early hours of the morning and there is no one from American Airlines in attendance. That means no one can tell us what is happening or what will happen next. In the meantime, the hotel is busy matching up strangers to share rooms, because even the Grand Hotel at Guayaquil finds the last minute booking of 200 somewhat difficult to accommodate. I’m not the best roomie, although my last experience with Philip Sycamore certainly beat my prior one with John Kirwan. Fortunately I am able to plead a contagious disease, which means I am given my own room.

8:00am. After three hours sleep and many phone calls to alert everyone, I check the American Airlines website to find that the famous flight AA 917 was “in transit and expected in Lima at 8:32pm”. A mere 22 hours late, but I liked the precision of getting the arrival time down to 32 minutes past 8!!

Reception tells me that we are leaving the hotel for the airport at 1:00pm. I forgot to mention, of course, none of us have any bags, which are still on the microwave plane. We have no toiletries, no clothes and no idea of what is happening. I grab a cup of coffee and face the day on the main street of Guayaquil. I was lucky enough to bump into Mi Comisario, which I hope is affiliated with Wal-Mart. Since it uses the selling line “Siempre, De Todo A Menor Precio. Siempre” that translates into "Always Low Prices. Always", which is a lot like the old Wal-Mart line. For less than $10.00 I got a tube of Crest toothpaste, an Oral B toothbrush, a full-size can of Gillette shaving foam, a Gillette Mach III razor, and a Gillette roll-on antiperspirant. I head back to the hotel to shave and shower, and emerge a happy chappy. Ah, the little things in life.

We still have seen no one from American Airlines and have no idea what time the flight is taking off or our arrival time in Lima. Everyone seems to have forgotten us except the coach drivers, who were told will arrive at 1:00pm to take us to the airport and on to the next stage of our adventure.

1:00pm. Still in Guayaquil. Now 23 hours into the journey.

Anyone want to ask me why American Airlines and the US Airline Industry is not a Lovemark?

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Attraction Economy: a side bar

When we first launched Lovemarks into the world, a few people found it hard not to associate the idea with sex. Lucky we didn't name it Lovebites! Or perhaps unlucky if you want to grab attention. This article about Australian miners being given sex education to increase production simply leapt out at me. The faint-hearted can stop reading here. Apparently hundreds of men at the Bulga mine in Australia’s Hunter Valley have been attending classes on topics like menopause and foreplay. The reason? Management has decided miners who don’t get regular sex can be “grumpy at work”. I kid you not. What's more, Xstrata Coal's management (the people responsible) claim that the classes have been a great success. I can report that flyers covering the classes were “snapped up” by the miners. As the course leader, Tammy Farrell of Core Health Consulting said, “We’ve obviously got some cranky men with cranky wives out there who want some help”.

Meeting Francis Ford Coppola

As you know I spent last week in Latin America. I was in Sao Paulo and Mexico City and both cities were throbbing with vitality, increased confidence and self belief. The highlight of my visit to Mexico City was meeting Francis Ford Coppola. He gave a very interesting session to 600 Mexican executives where he focused on the crossover between art and business. Coppola outlined the need for artists, rather than what he calls “the engineers”, to have a greater say in business, and to bring to it persistence, belief and a refusal to give in to “the struggle”. He told many great anecdotes around Marlon Brando and The Godfather, as well as about his interesting times in the Philippine jungles shooting Apocalypse Now. What struck me about the guy, in the one-on-one we had after his presentation and before mine, was his sheer love and passion for the cinema and food. These are the two passions of his life and he’s lived both of them to the hilt. His movie making is legendary; his wine making and food business are now a $150m enterprise. And the kicker? Coppola told me he personally approved all the products against the single criteria - “Will people love it or not?” It doesn’t get much better than that.

Later, when I asked him who his mentors were, I was expecting a list of the great directors. His simple response was his mother, father and siblings. One of the good guys.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tractors, Chocolate, Passion and Lovemarks

When we started the Lovemarks site, we resolved it would be about people; the voices of people who were willing to stand up and talk about the brands, products and services they loved. They owned Lovemarks and so they were the ones who had to also own Lovemarks.com. This idea has paid off big time. Every day we get nominations for Lovemarks from all parts of the world, and every day we learn something about people and what they love.


Something I often hear is, “Sure people love Apple and Cartier, but what about stuff that isn’t in the luxury goods market?” Fair question. So how about tractors?

"Growing up in John Deere country, you become intimately aware of why this brand is so much more than a brand. It’s reliability. It’s American Dreams. It’s a color. It’s a symbol of spring and autumn. Owners of their tractors and combines seem to trade their typically stoic persona for a slight giddiness when they speak about their machinery - whether it's decades old or brand new." From mentalWidgets in the United States in October.

Lovemarks.com reveals the anguish people feel if their Lovemark is not on the shelf. Now that’s a metric of engagement that should be put straight into marketing textbooks. Here’s Paola from Mexico.

"I love Cadbury chocolates! Ever since by chance I tried one, I adore them! The problem is that I live in Mexico and they aren't always available, and for a while the supermarket, when you could find them, withdrew them from the market, no idea why… but I almost had a heart attack. I kept looking for them every time I visited the supermarket, but without luck, until one day I found them again! Months later my favorite chocolates were back on sale!! I swear I hugged the rack they were in. I missed them so much. Nothing makes me feel as good as a Cadbury."

Lovemarks.com can be a valuable tool for any marketer. When you really listen to the authentic voices of people who want to share what matters to them, you can get all the marketing lessons you need, and more. Even better, along with this learning you get to experience the dreams, passions and stories of the people who have the power to transform your brands into Lovemarks. It doesn’t get better than that.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Theatre of Dreams

I was in Sao Paulo recently speaking to 6,000 (that’s right, 6,000 – Brazil does numbers!!) Brazilian executives about the power of emotion. Afterwards, I took an hour out to visit one of the most interesting stores in the world, Daslu. It was founded a couple of decades ago by two Brazilian women who started with a store in their home. Then their daughter took it to the next level by creating a beautiful Italianate villa, stocking all the world’s great fashion brands, and displaying them beautifully. When she first built the villa, it was in the middle of a favella (slum) which is now completely gentrified.


To get into Daslu you need to be a member with your own black card. When you do get entry, you are met by a bunch of 25 valets and led into the store. If you are a woman, it’s open house in keeping with the store’s legacy. If you are a man, you can go everywhere except the 1st floor which is restricted to women. This is where Daslu’s own brands are sold. Every entrance to this 1st floor is blocked by a 4-foot alabaster statue of a Rottweiller with a sign saying “No Men Allowed” hanging from its neck. When you visit Daslu you are talking about a full day. It has a day spa, hairdresser, beauty salon, Japanese restaurant, champagne bar, two other restaurants and incredible maid service. Every single department has two or three Brazilian women dressed in traditional maid’s uniform who are there to take garments from the shoppers, try them on, fit them and stack them up. It really is a theatre of dreams, dripping with mystery, sensuality and intimacy. The mystery that surrounds not being allowed on the 1st floor is an absolute killer. You can visit Prada, Chanel, Dior, Gucci, M.A.C. and all the others great names throughout the store but you can’t get into the engine room. Very clever.

As if Daslu wasn’t enough, I had another great store experience on the same day. Right next to the hotel Emiliano is one of the best delis I’ve ever been into. It is called Casa Santa Luzia and makes Dean & Deluca look like a corner shop. It has the best fruit (pineapple sized tangerines, mangos that could feed a family), incredible meats, a fantastic Brazilian bakery and sweets to die for. The fresh produce is terrific and service is first class. Casa Santa Luzia is run by an entrepreneur who has a real feel for flavor and quality. Definitely worth a detour.

The Assassination of Jesse James

I've asked my son Danis to guest-write a post for you today. He studied film at Otago and in New York and is now back in Auckland. With this debut post he features a film made by the New Zealand-born director Andrew Dominik. Now he's on board, I'm pleased to say you can look forward to more posts from Danis. KR.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is the second feature film by Chopper director Andrew Dominik. It stars Brad Pitt, in possibly the finest role of his career, and Casey Affleck.

This is a film that doesn't pull any punches or surprises; the plot is spelled out in the title. However, it is the way the story is told that makes this incredible film, that spans almost 3 hours, entirely captivating.

[Spoiler Alert]

The Assassination of Jesse James... is a film that shines in its portrayal of celebrity. Although based in the 1880s, it portrays America's fascination with stars. It does this by centering around Bob Ford's absorption of his idol Jesse James, and his obsession with befriending James and joining his gang, only to grow disillusioned by the outcome.

The film is also blessed with beautiful cinematography, providing a real and gritty look at what the West was really like. This look is complimented by an incredible score (and cameo) from Nick Cave. It also features stunningly detailed and developed performances from not only the two drawcards, but also a handful of the supporting cast.

Along with The Proposition, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is part of a new breed of Western; slow burning, gritty, honed and not falling back on gun slinging and knife fighting. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Shop smart

We all know that shoppers are becoming more and more concerned about the food they buy and where it comes from. Ironic that product information is becoming critical to shopping at the same time as shoppers are becoming more pressed for time and overwhelmed by choice. With as many as 60,000 products in some hypermarkets, who wouldn’t be? A recent report from the technology giant EDS in the UK tackled the information challenge in Shopping Choices: Attractions or Distraction? In fact, one of the key findings was that while shoppers demanded more information, the information did what it usually does - it overloaded their ability to make choices so they became so confused that they ignored it and focused on price. Not the response that manufacturers and retailers hoped for. My argument has always been that we have to stop obsessing over the information we provide and start responding to shopping as an essentially emotional experience. In other words, we have to be empathetic about what shoppers want to know, not what we want to tell them. 73% of respondents in the research were confident that they understood the information they were given. Well I’m in the 27% who don’t and that admission brings me to useful shopper technologies. Smart shopping carts can already keep track of what shoppers are buying and where products are in-store. It seems to me that we are only one small step away from a super-smart cart that can show shoppers exactly what is in the products they take off the shelf and what the implications may be for their families and communities. These implications could go as far as working conditions in distant factories, environmental impacts or local initiatives supported. I imagine all this stuff on cool little screens that mix icons and sounds to make finding what you want an attractive and memorable sisomo experience.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Microsoft Surface - Minority Report, Here and Now

Steven Spielberg’s movie Minority Report remains memorable for me for two reasons. First, it featured an amazing Lexus concept car designed for the year the film was set, 2054. Second was the incredible touch screen that Tom Cruise manipulated with his arms and hands. I remember thinking that this was the future of the screen. The idea even made it into my book sisomo: the Future on Screen. Now that future has come a step closer thanks to Microsoft’s breakthrough touch technology, Surface. Now you can manipulate images and data right on this digital table using your fingers. Very cool. No mouse (about time) and no keyboard (more than about time). But not only does this screen let your fingers do the walking, it also interacts with objects, cameras and other stuff placed on it. I see a world of interactive walls, floors and tables opening up. Great to see a company that so often seems cold and stand-offish coming up with a device that makes sisomo even more emotionally attractive. And check out the way they talk about their new baby: magic, experience, intuition, touch. Very Lovemarks.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Fields, Dreams and 2.5 Hours to Montmartre

I've mentioned before how much I love old fashioned train travel. This is fortunate thanks to the rapid disintegration of any form of air travel touching down on any airport in the UK. I’m writing this from Paris where I made a mistake yesterday of traveling by air on Air France from Manchester. My bag is, of course, still in Manchester 24 hours later, courtesy of Manchester Airport and Air France.

I’m a regular traveler on the Eurostar and now use it exclusively between London and Paris. The new St. Pancras station opens next month and high speed trains now whisk you between these two great cities in less than 2.5 hours. That’s about the same time it takes to get through check-in, security and passport control at Heathrow! Once you are on the Eurostar the experience is tremendous. Comfortable, fully operative and very social. In fact, it feels like travel used to be.

I also now use the train to travel from London to my place in Grasmere in the Lakes. It stops at some wonderfully named places, including blasts from the past such as Wigan, Warrington, Crewe and Preston - don’t ask me why. The journey itself is not as reliable as Eurostar but it’s a lovely reminder of how beautiful the English countryside can be. If you are lucky enough to get on the train between 8:00 and 10:00am, the full cooked English breakfast is still a ritual not to be missed.

Train travel is a great way to reconnect with the countryside, meet some people and get a load of work or reading done with zero hassle. One thing to watch though; there is zero security on domestic train travel, which you can put down as a vital missing link.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Walt Disney Spirit: Swimming in the East River

Walt Disney once famously said, “If you can dream it, you can do it”. (He also went on to say, “Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse,” but that’s not where I want to go today). Disney’s spirit is echoed in the inspiration that drew me to join Saatchi & Saatchi: “Nothing is Impossible”. I love stories about people who transform dreams into reality and a great one has been taking place in where I live, New York City.


Over summer just gone, across the water in Brooklyn, Ann Buttenwieser brought the floating swimming pool back to New York (complete with a very cool website). It’s a strange thing to live on an island like Manhattan and be surrounded by water in which people can’t swim. Ann clearly didn’t just think about this, she did something about it. She was determined to get a floating pool launched so that disadvantaged kids can have the opportunity to get into the water and swim. She has been working on the idea for 25 years. She had read about the last floating pool in New York closing way back in 1942 and decided that this was an idea worth reviving. Through love, passion and sheer will power, Ann Buttenwieser made her dream a reality. Thanks to The Neptune Foundation she founded, a substantial 80 x 260 feet (24.5 x 79 meters) barge was constructed in Amelia, Louisiana. Named The Floating Pool Lady, it narrowly missed being destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and was towed to New York on a 10-day voyage. Since July, its 25 meter pool has been open to the public and filled with up to 175 swimmers at a time. No big surprise that Ann Buttenwieser was runner-up in the prestigious Cooper-Hewitt People's Design Award. A floating pool is a fantastic idea that will keep bringing joy to thousands each summer. Walt was right, if you can dream it, you can do it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

What Makes a Truly Great Bar?

I touched down at Narita airport in Japan following a 15-hour odyssey from Milan via Paris. After spending a couple of hours catching up with emails and work stuff in my Tokyo eyrie, the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku, I was invited by the manager to go up to the New York Bar and Grill for dinner. Sitting there on the 52nd floor, listening to a quartet from the U.S. play True Colors and looking at the Tokyo skyline, I started thinking about what makes a great bar. First, let me say that the New York Bar in Tokyo is great. It is one of my favorites. It’s always jammed pack with an interesting range of locals, ex pats, artists (Courtney Love was in town), and it is, of course, where Bill Murray wandered around in Lost in Translation.

Because I’m on the road so often, I don’t go out very much and tend to hang around in hotels. As I go to the same places most of the time, I always go to the same hotels to keep it all fairly familiar and relaxing. I’m no authority on the world’s greatest or coolest bars, but I do know what my favorite hotel bars are. The New York Bar in the Tokyo Park Hyatt is definitely in the top 10 for me. The Kirin classic beer is always fresh and served at just the right temperature - very cold. Asahi, the rising sun, is probably the best known Japanese beer overseas but classic Kirin takes some beating. It uses local hops and is reminiscent of great European beers like Becks, Kronenberg and Stella.

So what is it that makes a truly great bar?
For me it’s down to:
1) Lighting. Vitally important for intimacy, relaxation and comfort. All this trendy, hot, cool lighting is no good for me after an 18-hour flight, a full day’s work and an early start in the morning. I need a place that’s calm, tranquil and warm.
2) Music. The music has got to be satisfying, interesting and familiar with a touch of intrigue. And the volume has to be just right. I’m long past the stage where I go into a bar to shout.
3) A good bar has exactly the right mix of people. It’s your tribe but it’s not your family. They are people you’d like to get to know, people you wish you knew, and some people you’re glad you don’t know. But they all look as if they belong to your tribe or one close by. They look interesting, inspirational and there are enough of them to make you feel you’re in the right place.
4) Bars should be 60% full. No more, no less.
5) Good bars serve very good red wines by the glass. Bad bars don’t.
6) Good bars serve European and local beers fresh and at the right temperature, and in tall, slim, European lager glasses.
7) And finally, the service in good bars is unobtrusive, anticipatorial and never noticed.

So here’s a selection of my top hotel bars starting with my ol’ time favorite, the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz in Paris. Regular readers will know this one from a previous post. It’s run by Colin Field, one of the world’s top 3 bartenders and led by Christophe, a good rugby man. It’s as good as it gets. It’s a man’s bar but it’s sexy. It has history, legacy and the greatest cocktails in the world with all the aforementioned prerequisites met. I’ve had some huge nights there. The bar officially closes at 3:00am but I’ve been in there with Fitzpatrick, Kirwan, Mexted, Whetton, Kirton and other rugby names until the early hours.

The Polo Lounge in Beverly Hills makes the cut on every dimension. Plus you can throw in a bit of celebrity spotting. There’s a new bar now opened along side it at The Beverly Hills Hotel in L.A., which I haven’t been to yet but my betting is it’s going to be great. They know how to do bars at the Beverly Hills.

I’ve been a member of the Met Bar at the Metropolitan in London since it opened just over a decade ago. It had its period of notoriety driven by cool Britannia, Oasis, etc., but it’s still one of the great hotel bars. Great music, great atmosphere and always lots going on.

The bar at the Bulgari in Milan cannot be overlooked. Great Super Tuscans by the glass along with probably the best lot of hors d'oeuvres and freebies I’ve ever seen. By the time dinner comes around it’s almost time to go out (or upstairs to bed).

As you’d expect, Rocco Forte knows how to do bars. He does intimacy beautifully at the Amigo in Brussels, at The Lowry in Manchester, at the Villa Kennedy in Frankfurt, at the Hotel de Rome in Berlin and so it goes on. He understands the lighting and music stuff particularly well and always has a great range of wines available.

I don’t often stay in hotels in the U.K., but before I got my place in Grasmere I had a few good nights at the Linthwaite House Hotel in Windermere. Up there, overlooking the lake and usually in the snow and the rain, you can feel pretty cozy. I can tell you we’ve had one or two late ones in the very snug easy chairs at Linthwaite House. Try it next time you’re up in the Lakes if you want to relax with a piece of great Lancashire cheese and a 40-year old Tawny Port.

Finally, the WooBar at the W in Seoul and Dragonfly at ZaZa in Dallas are not to be missed. The WooBar is the longest in Asia, has great cold pints of OB beer, an amazing space age DJ pod and brilliant Space Odyssey style bleacher seating. And Dragonfly...just a great place full of beautiful people.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Google Vanity Ring: Status Symbol for the Attraction Economy

Here’s the demo of a cool idea for someone to jump into. A clever guy named Markus Kison has developed a finger ring that shows the number of hits you get when you enter your name into Google. Not surprisingly, he calls it the Vanity Ring. Smart huh! It reminds me of another Google accessory I love – Google Fight. A true metric of the Attraction Economy. Put in your brand and your competitor’s and let them fight it out to see which is attracting the most hits. It’s a fantastic way to grab another slice of the perception pie for free. Like the rest of us, you won’t be able to resist setting up endless Google fights between your Lovemarks and the rest. Getting back to Markus’s ring, he’s looking for an investor to help him produce it commercially. I don’t have his number, but the email on his website is baisen@gmx.de.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Loving it in Italy

Last week, I was in Milan speaking to 1,500 businessmen at a World Business Forum. Michael Eisner, Colin Powell and Alan Greenspan were also presenting, along with one of the creative geniuses of our age, Renzo Rosso, the Founder of Diesel. Renzo is constantly reinventing fashion, advertising and the in-store experience as he restlessly and rapidly drives Diesel forward. This is a brand based on belief and experience. One of my favorite things last year was to go up to Renzo’s farm in the hills, close the doors, eat suckling pig and drink the red wine he produces on the slopes just outside. Meanwhile, back at the forum, the participants lapped up the two days (having payed, I think, around 2,000 euros per delegate for the privilege) and the feedback was tremendous. I focused on making the world a better place through business, with a strong call to arms on sustainability at the individual level. We also used the occasion to launch The Lovemarks Effect in Italian and the initial reaction has been fantastic. L’Espresso ran a few pages on the idea just prior to the conference. There was also a lot of interest from marketers in Milan as to how they could add emotion and passion into their brands locally. I met the principals of Illy and Lavazza coffee within minutes of each other and both had the same aim - to really establish their brand as a preeminent Lovemark.

One of the side benefits of speaking in Milan is that I was able to catch up with my friends Attilio and his team at the Bulgari. The Bulgari Hotel in Milan is the ultimate Lovemark experience. It drips with mystery, sensuality and intimacy, and really puts the customer at the heart of everything they do. When you check in, your passport is taken. But this is not for Italian bureaucracy reasons. It is so that the staff can be emailed your photograph so that they can call you by name wherever they see you.

Attilio told me he had just met with the top team from Lexus. They were interviewing him about customer service and what they at Lexus could learn from the Bulgari in terms of treating their guests. Pretty inspirational idea from Lexus don’t you think?

Catching up with Renzo and Attilio made the whole 36 hours feel like a family event. However, an even bigger highlight was meeting one of the most inspirational females I’ve ever met. She’s a legend in Italy but perhaps not so well known elsewhere. Marina Salamon is one of the founders of Replay and is one of Italy’s most successful business leaders. She’s incredibly creative and has a number of ex paramours and ex husbands, including Luciano Benetton and Marco Benatti, who is currently in the news enjoying some hefty debate with his ex boss, Sir Martin Sorrell. Marina has four kids (all of whom play rugby – way to go Marina) and is full of passion, energy and inspiration. She introduced The Lovemarks Effect at the Milan Fair and spoke passionately about the role of women and creativity in Italy today. Her story would make a great movie.

Late Breaking News: Bulgari are taking their Lovemark thinking to Tokyo and opening a four floor restaurant on the Ginza in December. They are also going to open a smaller and more casual outlet in Omotesando, close to Saatchi & Saatchi. Should be worth a visit.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Elephant hunting on the Champs Elysées

The top 12 executives of the Publicis Groupe came together on the Champs Elysées last week to embark upon an elephant hunt. Before all you animal lovers out there revolt, let me explain. At the heart of Blue Ocean Strategy is a grid which talks about transformation and reinvention coming from figuring out what you need to:

  1. eliminate
  2. reduce
  3. raise
  4. create
Most organizations talk about transformation (when they really mean incrementalization) and what comes out is generally a lot of additional activities. They are in the raise and create boxes. What really counts in today’s fast moving, fast paced, consumer-led society is what you can reduce and eliminate. This is what allows you to provide time, space and room to maneuver, and inspirational freedom for your people to fulfill themselves and perform.

Cirque du Soleil did a fantastic job in this elimination area when they reinvented the circus. When we were growing up and visiting circuses, the key thing we all went to see were the big exotic animals – lions, tigers, elephants. You won’t see any sign of these at Cirque du Soleil. They didn’t get rid of a process or a layer, or a region or an office; they got rid of the elephants. That's pretty tough to do when most companies have no taste for it. Most companies won’t even acknowledge there is an elephant in the room, let alone get behind the idea of hunting it. And if the elephant is identified, it’s usually shipped off to a bunch of people to study. Lo and behold, time passes and the elephant survives. In the meantime the competition are busy stealing your lunch.

Companies today are faced with the fact that transformation is an inevitable constant. Technology is the great enabler, people are the great barriers. Most people are inherently resistant to transformational change and would rather give another fistful of hay to the elephants than shoot them. One company I know that isn’t inflicted with this disease is Toyota. Through kaisen, continuous improvement, they have made elephant hunting a way of life. We could all talk about their manufacturing process and the Toyota Way and so on, and there are tremendous things to learn here, but at the heart of their success is their constant desire to hunt elephants. It is the way they eliminate waste and focus only on activities which serve customers. And yes, we did find a couple of real elephants at the Champs Elysées session and we’ve got them in our sights. Now all we have to do is pull the trigger.