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.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Take my iPod, steal my heart

Love is a powerful emotion and apparently people love to steal iPods. The level of theft has increased to the point that the Urban Institute in Washington has dubbed it an “iCrime Wave”. In 2005, for the first time in 12 years, violent crime increased and the suggestion is that the iPod played a part. Portable, visible, desirable and everywhere. In the jargon of criminologists they are ‘crime-creating artifacts’ (the criminologists could sure do with some new language) just as expensive basketball shoes and jackets were in the 1980s and 1990s. Already, New York’s subway has put up signs to warn people to protect their iPods and remind them that those cool white earphones are a giveaway.


This iCrime Wave has got to be bad news for iPod owners, although perversely, there could be another side to this coin. We could use this high rate of theft as a kind of heuristic from the dark side. Another way to support the status of the iPod as a Lovemark! What do people want passionately enough to steal? A black mark for Lovemarks? I don’t think so. What we all love is the Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy that is at the heart of the iPod, and they can’t take that away from us.