Friday, May 30, 2008

Bowers & Wilkins

One thing I never leave home without is my iPod. I’ve now got the 160GB version with 9,600 or so songs loaded to keep me company on my travels. I also carry a set of e-Motion speakers that allow me to play music in the odd hotel room that's still not yet iPod connected.

My homes are now all iPod compatible from a speaker point of view, but in my offices in New Zealand and New York I have simple speakers. The best by far are Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin. This company was founded in the UK in 1966 during the swingin’ 60’s and was a Lovemark for me way back when. I bought my first pair in the 70’s (as soon as I could afford them) and since then they’ve gone from strength to strength. Some of the speakers go for $60,000 a pair, but that market is drying up (I think it’s around $1.7 billion per year in total). Portable MP3 player speakers already do more than a billion dollars.

The Zeppelin remains head and shoulders above any other speaker. I don’t know all the technical stuff but I do know that the Zeppelin sounds as close to a full strength B&W system as you can get for something 25” wide, 7” high and 8” deep. Try it and you’ll never go back to any other system.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Walking the Google Streets

I took my first steps on Google Streets the other day. Like a billion other people, I had already experienced the extraordinary sensation of flying over countries, cities and hoods I knew well. The zoom function on Google Maps must be one of the most emotionally charged tools online. When I was young, the only person who got to do what any kid can routinely do on Google Maps was Superman himself! Now Google is right down to street level in many U.S. cities. In Street View you can click on any of the blue-lined streets on the map and a pop-up window takes you on a drive along that street and around the block. This amazing hi-tech experience was achieved by the very low-tech and commonsense method of cars with 360 degree cameras on their roofs (and GPS) systematically driving the streets on your behalf. For those of you with an iPhone, this takes you into never-get-lost-again-in-your-life territory.

What fascinates me is that this amazing technology returns us to classic navigation by landmark - “walk past the green house and turn left at the school”. Then you simply check out in real-life what you see on the screen in front of you. Kinda. There is, in fact, a curious time lag that Google Maps has introduced into our lives. A digital memory trace. Places and cities change all the time, and with Google Maps you can sometimes walk history into the present. As you pass that newly-built condo, Google Street View is showing you the house that was there when the condo was still in blueprint. The old car that has finally been towed out of the neighborhood is still on Google, blocking the entrance to the kids' park. Maybe this is the virtual Everywhen. The zone when the past and present harmonise.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

...and Lovin' Paul Smith too.

I guess you will have worked out from my last post that one of my creative heroes is Renzo Rosso. Another man I admire enormously is Paul Smith. His New York retail store, next to his good friend Murray Moss’ design emporium in Soho, is one of the best Saturday morning experiences to be had in the city. It’s full of books, toys and quirky, homely icons of Paul Smith’s world. Then of course there are also plenty of massively desirable fashion objects for him and her. So far, the new Paul Smith store in London Heathrow’s Terminal 5 is the only good thing you can associate with the accident prone, luggage eating Terminal from hell. New boutiques have been opened in Paul’s hometown of Leeds, and also in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Istanbul and St. Petersburg. Each store is designed individually and lovingly filled with Paul’s treasures. It’s a world of Hovis bread, pork crackling and Vimto, perfect for all expatriate northerners and Anglophiles. This is a True Blue Lovemark to so many of us, including Ben’s partner and Stella’s mother, Clarissa. Long live the red, white and blue.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lovin' Diesel

Well, Renzo Rosso has done it again. Diesel is celebrating its 30th anniversary and Rizzoli are publishing a book about the brilliant, brave, diverse advertising Diesel has pioneered. I’m honored to have been asked to write a commentary on the work and will get cracking on this before the month ends. Coincidental with this celebration, Diesel continues to break new ground and next month will launch Diesel Homeware. The range will include bed linen, furniture throws, towels, etc. and has been designed by Diesel’s Wilbert Das. I also hear that lighting and furniture are on the way and I can’t wait to see what Diesel bring to this category.

One thing I do know is it's certain to be humorous, innovative and breakthrough. Diesel continues to reinvent itself by bringing in fresh creative talent and young people of all nationalities, and like no other brand, stays aspirationally in touch (well let’s face it, slightly ahead) of its core market which it constantly delights and surprises. Diesel products, look, quality and voice are so of the moment it’s a pleasure just waiting to see what they’ll do next. Whatever it is, you can be sure it will be fun.

Monday, May 26, 2008

OurBrew: Power in Numbers

Ever since the rise of Marxism, crowds have been trying to take the power out of the hands of the powerful. And good on 'em (us!). Over the last hundred years or so these ideals have certainly had their ups and downs, but recently the trend has emerged again, this time in the form of Crowd Clout.

Crowd Clout is the online grouping of people working together to achieve a common goal, whether it’s managing a football club, supporting an emerging band or buying an Eco-clothing store.

There are many crowd sourcing and funding projects already out there but youngest son Danis has pioneered a world First - OurBrew. (We’re talking about a good Kiwi boy with a genetic love of good ale!) OurBrew is not about buying an existing product, it's more organic. It is the crowd working together to produce something from scratch; all paid for by a lucky brewery.

This idea could open a world of possibilities for FMCG companies around the world. As you all know, I've been saying for years now, the Consumer is Boss and good to know Danis was listening. Consumers have the power (and the desire) to barter with companies – this is no longer a one-way conversation. Now there is a chance for companies to work with their consumers and give something back. Who hasn't dreamed of owning their own brewery! Visit www.ourbrew.co.nz to join the fun.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Design to feel for

In the Attraction Economy, design is King. Well, Queen too, for that matter. We are way beyond modernism’s rubric of ‘form follows function’. Now ‘form follows feeling’ - how does a design make you feel about an experience? Creating the feeling begins to ignite in those hotbeds of attitude and talent, craziness and personality: design schools where there are no limits except the ones you choose to observe, no protocols, no politics (office ones, I mean) and no set processes. It's my idea of heaven and a place where young people can take giant steps toward understanding people and the experiences that can help enrich their lives. I was pointed to a great example of what happens when you unleash the spirit of students with a smart project by my new friends at Nestlé. I have had the opportunity to talk with almost a thousand Nestlé people over the past two years. I love their evolving attitude toward design, as well as their commitment to their own traditions: the fledglings in the nest has got to be one of the archetypal brand identities.

Nespresso is the part of Nestlé that ensures you can make a perfect espresso yourself, and they came up with the Coffee for Design Contest in 2005 (if you are in Paris, go visit their concept store on the Champs-Elysees. Maurice Levy did and now we have Nespresso machines throughout Publicis HQ. Yes!). The idea? To inspire espresso (and Nespresso) with fresh perspectives. The people with those new perspectives? Students at top European design schools who get the opportunity to see their work exhibited at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, plus some pretty serious cash prizes.

The latest competition was themed COFFEELUXURY. No constraints, no budget worries, just design, coffee and luxury. The results, which you can see here, are spectacular. One of the judges commented that the definition of luxury is as unique as a person’s fingerprint, and these young designers were certainly inspired by that conviction. I love the way young people leap to a challenge. Entries ranged from sensual new looks for the coffee machine and mugs, to chocolates designed to die for.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Label project

Here’s a cool idea. Artist Luca Pizzaroni (Italian-born, living in New York – what a perfect combination) is creating a sculpture to represent every country in the world. No, he’s not using flags or stamps or coins, he’s gone way deeper and more personal. He is collecting an item of clothing from each country and his criterion is what’s on the label: the “MADE IN …” details you see on every garment you buy but which you often ignore in your search for whether it’s your size and whether you have to dryclean it. Luca is creating his work out of what people ignore and making a rich net of connections. Algeria, Nicaragua, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan. Human beings need clothes. They are made everywhere and labeled with care. As he puts it, his work will be “a metaphor for travel capable of tapping memories of time and place to reveal a sense of unspoken collective identity”. Then there is the amazing variety of garments attached to these labels. Luca understands the Mystery suffusing personal belongings long after their owners have left them behind. I have mentioned this same sort of thing with chairs and the way they represent the history of their owners.

Luca is still short a few countries, so here’s a job for KRConnect readers. If you have an item of clothing made in any of the countries below, please send it to Luca Pizzaroni. You can contact him at info@labelsproject.com.

Countries still to be represented include:
Burundi, Central African Rep, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Palestine, Eritrea, Gabon, Liberia, Mozambique, Sudan, Zambia and East Timor.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Paris Top 10

I love Paris. So very lucky I go there every month as part of my Publicis Groupe duties - what a hardship. One of the things I love most about this city is its beautiful light. Here are 10 spots with great light to guarantee great photos. (Brian Joseph, this is for you). Thanks Peter Christian Christensen.

Palais de Tokyo
13 Avenue du President-Wilson, 75016
A terracotta-colored museum that is great for shooting on a grey day. When you’re done, drink at Tokyo Eat inside.

Marche Les Enfants Rouges
Rue Bretagne, 75003
I take some of my best shots in the streets near where I live, and then enjoy a drink and a snack at Café Charlot.

Under the Pont Alexandre III
Port de Champs Elysee, 75008
Try a drink at the Showcase nightclub.

Top of Beaubourg from Terasse
6th floor centre, George Pompidou, Rue Renard, 75001
Trust me, Restaurant Georges is the place to go for a quiet refreshing drink.

Trocadero
17 Place du Trocadero, 75016
A great mix of classic types and skaters. Drink outside at Café de l’Homme.

Side Street from Musee du quai Branly
75007
Another terrific angle of the Eiffel Tower - it is Paris after all. Get a drink at Les Ombres at the Jean Nouvel musee.

Canal Saint-Martin
For a nice and a very un-Paris look, this place is perfect. You can get a drink or a coffee at Café Ephemere.

Pont Neuf
Totally Paris and a great look for pictures. Get a drink at Kong restaurant and bar.

Rue de Irlan
Behind Pantheon, 75005
This is one of those very small, but very French streets. Drink at the corner café, next to the church.

Rue Oberkampf
75011
If you’re wanting a picture of a rough Paris street, this is the place to go. Follow it with a drink at Café Charbon.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Stretch and grow


I remember reading somewhere that Roald Dahl, the brilliant children’s writer who created Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, used to sit down and sharpen about thirty pencils every morning before he began writing. It always sounded to me like he was putting off the evil moment when he would have to stop thinking and actually do something, but what it was, of course, was a habit. Maybe a habit dressed up as a good luck charm, but a habit nonetheless. The truth is that habits get bad press. The label ‘creature of habit’ doesn’t exactly bring to mind the most active or entrepreneurial human being. Yet it is often habit that saves us from danger – checking the traffic before we step out onto the road, for instance. Habits often work under the radar so we don’t get driven crazy by having to make hundreds of routine decisions.

In The Open Mind and at Professional Thinking Partners, Dawna Markova looks at the processes we use in decision making and how we form habits. Anyone who makes decisions as a job knows that what you are really doing is casting aside possibilities, as well as settling on a way forward. I expect that is why some creative people are such terrible decision makers. They just don’t want to give up the potential of different possibilities and make a choice. Nice work if you can get it.

Dawna Markova says we make our decisions in one of four ways: analytical, procedural, collaborative and innovative. But because we have standardized the way we test our ideas before applying them, guess which two have taken a back seat? You’re right. Analytical and procedural dominate; collaborative and innovative take a back seat. How does this happen with almost everyone? Because we tend to repeat what worked in the past. That gives us three zones to operate in: comfort, stretch and stress. Most of us are familiar with comfort and stress but by stretching and learning about new things, getting out of your comfort zone and pumping up the curiosity, you can put your mind into the collaborative and innovative zones, and start creating new habits. Markova also suggests a way to use the stress mode that rings a bell with me - Kaizen, the Japanese commitment to small continuous improvement. It sure worked for Toyota. So try putting a little mental stretch into your life and move toward thinking innovatively and communally. To use a phrase that I have learnt as a grandfather, now incredibly knowledgeable about baby clothes – stretch and grow.

Monday, May 19, 2008

thehinitiative



thehinitiative is a fashion house that produces cool t-shirts in New Zealand; nothing startling about that. After all, New Zealand is now recognized as a distinctive influence in fashion. But thehinitiative has combined their passion for clothes with a passion for making the world a better place. Even better, they’ve called their blog Leaning Over the Edge and headed it with a quote from Kurt Vonnegut I have often used myself, “I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center”. Yes, these people are true edge dwellers. You catch it from their designs, but it also shines through in their attitude. As they say themselves: “thehinitiative is a New Zealand street wear fashion label playing Robin Hood. We all know that we love spending ourselves but we still want to help out somehow! However, it just seems a little easier to buy that latest stylish top than to pop that same amount into a collection bucket. So, why not kill two birds with one stone: LOOK GREAT, DO GOOD.”

This is totally in tune with where Saatchi & Saatchi are going with Saatchi S. We have to start grounding sustainability deep into the lives of people. To help them bring sustainability into their world rather than have the immense problems of the planet hung over their heads. We call this moving from Green thinking to Blue action – and you’re going to be hearing a lot more about it. thehinitiative is True Blue. Visit their site and order some t-shirts.

Note: The secret behind their rather mysterious name is revealed on their blog. What’s the extra “H” stand for in thehiniative? Hope. I love it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Nostalgia for beginners: the times are a changing

Written by Rich Robinson, Senior Manager, Music and Brands, EMI.

“Let’s never be a part again”. That’s what I lovingly whispered to my iPod when it was returned to me this Monday morning, after having left it in a friend’s bag on Friday night. Although at the time I was messing around doing my best Homer Simpson impression, I actually really did mean it. Three days without my iPod proved unbearable.

I know it’s a bit old-hat to have an iPod as your Lovemark now, it’s almost a given for music lovers. Yet despite taking it for granted, being able to have your record collection at your disposal in your pocket still staggers me, and I flatly refuse to get in my car without it.

What’s really weird is that I was always such a hoarder. Still am, I guess. I own thousands of CDs, records and tapes. The difference is I used to spend whole evenings with them, picking out records, looking though them and playing tracks. But slowly and unconsciously I’ve switched to digital, which is as much a mindset as a technology. Whilst I’m not rushing to throw any of that stuff out just yet, I never looked at any of it over the past weekend without my iPod. What I wanted was everything, instantly at the touch of a button.

Kevin has remarked how often he gets asked how people can really love inanimate objects. My view is that some of them are so important in our lives that using a word less than love would be a disservice. I remember clearly with my old cassette player, how inconceivable it was to have any more than than a few tapes in your pocket. Let alone a whole jukebox.

I actually used to dream of having a device inserted into your ear drums so you could hear whatever music you wanted. It would be inside your head and your brain would sense exactly what it was that you wanted to hear, and play it for you. It seemed like a pipedream, but my iPod is pretty damn close.

Even being up with the play and being an iPod user, I still find it a bit of a jolt when I realize that I’m not quite as young as I used to be. It’s especially obvious with something as specific to a generation as music. I guess there’s three different ways to react to it. You can pretend to be hip, throw yourself fully into things and risk looking like the oldest swinger in town. You can not try to understand it, feel resentful and dismiss it with the old ‘things were much better in my day’ (something despite our best intentions we all have a twinge of!). Or you can step back and graciously pass on of the baton.

So standing at the back of the University of London Union watching the “new rave®” of Does it Offend You, Yeah?, I stood with a contented smile and made my peace doing the baton thing. The band was great and it just made sense seeing the whole thing come together in that environment. It was such a powerful coming together of like minds. Similar dress sense, attitudes and taste, all jumping up and down together in a sweaty mass. I didn’t really need to GET IT, but I got why they got it, if you get me! If in the end some blokes in their 30s at the back feel old, that’s part of the point.

The other day I found myself sitting, listening to and loving, Bon Iver’s amazing new record. I was mulling over the tragic irony that a lot of great music, as with so much art, is made under such sad circumstances. I’ve always thought it somewhat unfortunate that misery tends to be so beautiful. I guess we just can’t help responding to the humanity of it. I always think it’s actually the sincerity that really connects us to it.

In 2006, recently split from his girlfriend and his band, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon upped sticks and moved alone into the remote wilderness of a Wisconsin cabin. Over the course of three months, he wrote and recorded the nine tracks on For Emma, Forever Ago. What’s truly amazing is you can hear it all in the songs. The loneliness, the disconnection, and that quest to find oneself, before you can go back.

I guess I’m a sucker for that somewhat self-indulgent sadness. My favorite Dylan album is Blood on the Tracks ('If you see her say hello' gets me with its plaintive simplicity every time), and Bon Iver creates such a feel of fragile beauty, it’s hard not to secretly wish on him some bad times before the next record.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

You say art, I say design

You may remember just over a year ago, I wrote a post on the Lexus 460 degrees exhibition in Los Angeles. This time it is the Italians who have inspired artists with Lexus to create a great experience radiating Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy. Hats off to Japanese design sensations nendo who surrounded a concept Lexus vehicle with dreamlike forms that are both delicate and robust, strong and flexible. The exhibition “elastic diamond” was held at the Museo della Permanente in Milan in conjunction with Design Week and is another example of how designers are blurring the boundaries between design and art. nendo are as comfortable creating installations on the island of Naoshima, Japan (see my 20 things to do list), as designing fantastic furniture or creating chocolate pencils for a savvy new dessert. Watch out for more design as art as great creative talents push the boundaries with amazing new materials and technologies.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

20 things to do before you do the other 20 things you were thinking of doing

JOURNEY: Route 66, United States


It’s not easy to stay on the heavenly highway any more. It stops and starts and ends abruptly, but a drive along what is left of Route 66 is a must. Do as much as you can and watch the US pass by in all its flawed and magnificent grandeur.

EXPERIENCE: Visit the Grand Canyon, United States
It’s not called 'Grand' for nothing. Stand at its edge and gaze across, down and up. If it doesn’t inspire you to get out there and help make the world a better place, you’ve had a soul bypass.

ART: Naoshima
It’s a bit of a mission to get to; a train or plane, then a local train or rental, a ferry – you get the picture. But the island of Naoshima has one of the greatest art experiences in the world. The Benesse Foundation has two museums with stand out Jasper Johns, Warhol and Basquiat works in abundance. In the village there are incredible art installations, including an incredible James Turrell piece that brings a whole new meaning to the word 'Mystery'.

VIEW: The Lake District, England
OK, I have a house in Grasmere as you all know, so I'm biased, but this is one of the most beautiful spots in the world. Don’t even think of coming here without reading some Wordsworth beforehand. There’s wisdom there: “In human life there are moments worth ages”.

EXPERIENCE: The Khan el-Khalili bazaar in Cairo, Egypt
Mystery, Intimacy and Sensuality all distilled into a maze of alleys, courtyards, staircases and doorways. The Khan el-Khalili is unforgettable for the sounds of pots being cobbled, the smell of spices in the air and the intensity of shoppers deep in the complex process of getting the best price. It’s impossible not to get lost in this total confusion of color and sound, but when you eventually stumble on one of the huge entrance gates, grab a taxi and head off to the other great wonder of this wondrous city, the Pyramids. The only wonder left standing of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World.

EXPERIENCE: Visit Disneyland, Anaheim, Florida, Tokyo, Paris, Singapore
People will tell you it has had its day, but don’t believe them. The Magic Kingdom is still magic and the Disney dream is still alive.

CITY: Dubai
They’re changing the shape of the world in the middle of a desert. Is it going to cost the planet an arm and a leg? Not anymore. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum has decreed that Dubai will be the first sustainable city. And then there is the Burj Al Arab hotel, still one of the most awe-inspiring buildings in the world. When you’re there, don’t miss out on my favorite, the One&Only Royal Mirage resort and, if you’re in the neighborhood, don’t forget, 24 September is the big opening of the Atlantis.

JOURNEY: Machu Picchu, Lima
High in the Andes is the Lost City of the Incas. It was never lost to the locals, but it wasn’t until 1911 that Yale’s Hiram Bingham rediscovered it for the rest of us. It’s a long hike, a breathless experience (in all senses of the word) and one of the greatest sites (and sights) you will ever see.

EXPERIENCE: Buy a work of art
Every life needs something in it beyond explanation. For me, it is art. There is nothing to match the enjoyment of something that lives with you everyday and exudes mystery, challenge and beauty – all at the same time.

CITY: Paris
The windows of the office of Maurice Lévy, the CEO of Publicis, the company that owns Saatchi & Saatchi, looks out onto the Arc de Triomphe. That view always gives me a rush of the past, present and future all together. I’m not suggesting (indeed Maurice would positively forbid it) that you all go up to his office, but a walk up the Champs-Elysée with a thoughtful pause beneath the weighty presence of the Arc de Triomphe is unforgettable.

PEOPLE: New Zealand
I call New Zealand home. There’s nothing better than stepping off the plane in Auckland, taking a deep breath and putting on my sunglasses because the light is so bright. We are talking about one of the most beautiful places in the world, but what I love most are the New Zealanders themselves. They are an intriguing mix of passion, easy-going comradeship and intense loyalty, spiced with guts and creative eccentricity. Look them up.

EXPERIENCE: Las Vegas, Nevada
Love it or hate it (and I hate it), Las Vegas is an unforgettable experience. Forget the gambling, just walk down the Strip and immerse yourself in more free entertainment than you’ll be able to absorb. Guaranteed.

ART: Jeff Koons’s Puppy at the Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain
Sitting outside one of the most spectacular museum buildings in the world is Jeff Koons’s largest sculpture, Puppy, made entirely of flowers. You’ll also want to check out the museum and don’t miss Richard Serra’s extraordinary sculptural installations. When you’re been through the galleries, stroll along the river, gaze back at Frank Gehry’s masterpiece framed by the narrow winding streets of the old city, and salute the people of Bilbao who had the vision, conviction and guts to make this happen.

VIEW: Rio from the air, Brazil
There is nothing, and I mean nothing, to match the thrill of flying into Rio. Well, maybe only the huge fun and pleasure of being on the ground in Rio. You don’t have to hit town during Carnival (although it’s never a bad idea!), but whenever you do make it, stroll along the beach at Copacabana, take a few steps of the Samba, and be touched by the extraordinary statue of Christ the Redeemer who seems to protect the city from the top of Corcovado mountain.

JOURNEY: Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge towards the Manhattan skyline, New York
The graph-like skyline of New York is the shape of the twentieth century. Seeing it framed by the stanchions of the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the world’s great emotional journeys across time and place.

MUSEUM: The great Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, London
Even without the art, this would have to be one of the most inspiring spatial experiences in the world. Put it together with Anish Kapoor, Olafur Eliasson, Bruce Nauman or Louise Bourgeois, and you’re talking about a sensational experience that plays brilliantly with scale, metaphor, material and light.

EXPERIENCE: The Souk Marrakech, Morocco
Two Middle Eastern bazaars in one list? I could easily throw in another half dozen. There is nothing to match the local, and nothing in the local that is such fun, or such a visual and sensual experience, as a great bazaar, local fair or densely populated shopping precinct.

WORK OF ART: The Taj Mahal in Agra, India
Some wonders of the world are just that. Wonderful. See it by moonlight or during the day, the magic is always there. A friend saw it lit by lightning recently. You and I should be so lucky.

BUILDING: The Colosseum in Rome, Italy
I was going to put Rome as a city by itself but I figure that if you go to the Colosseum, you won’t be able to stay away from the rest of the place. Walking through the Forum is one of the most compelling history lessons I have ever had. I must admit as I walked around the mighty arena of the Colosseum, I‘m sure I saw Russell Crowe as Maximus, decked out in sandals and sword, for just a fleeting second.

EXPERIENCE: Watching the All Blacks play a test match
There is nothing, I repeat nothing - even flying into Rio - to match the thrill, excitement and passion of being with a crowd of New Zealanders watching an All Black test match. See one in their home country if you have the chance, but anywhere will do.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Rugby and soccer

I spent most of the last couple of months in Europe watching a mix of football and rugby. I must say I find it impossible to understand people who can’t get enjoyment from both games. The idea of being either a rugby fan or a football fan is so limiting. My suggestion? Put a bit of and/and into your life and start enjoying both! Besides, I increasingly find crossovers between the two sports. A classic example is the news that Sunderland manager, and ex Manchester United hero, Roy Keane, is coming to New Zealand as part of his coaching badge assignment to study with the All Blacks. This was arranged by one of our unsung coaching heroes, Ricki Herbert, a guy I came to know when I was on the Board of New Zealand Soccer a couple of years back. Ricki is an inspirational leader and an innovative thinker.

I’m glad the All Blacks have accepted Keane because there is no doubt that he has an inspirational belief and commitment rarely seen in modern day football. If he had been born in New Zealand, he would have been central to the game in the mould of Tana Umaga or Frank Bunce. He said, “I don’t know if I’ll be allowed into any team talks. I’ll keep my head down and just watch them; try to plug into what they are all about”. The idea of Keane with his head down keeping quiet is a novel one to say the least. I hope it’s an inspirational and beneficial partnership for both sides.

While all this has been going on, Nigel Melville and his team at USA Rugby have been making terrific progress. We’ve signed Scott Johnson as our National Coach, fresh from his successes in Wales and with the Wallabies. Scotty is a larger than life personality who will go down well with players and spectators in the US. He’s really bought into the adventure and challenge of inspiring all Americans to fall in love with rugby, and to take the Eagles onto the world stage. We’ve given him a four year contract so that he can use the time to maximum advantage and prepare for a Qtr Final run in New Zealand in 2011. We’ve got the Churchill Cup against England A, Argentina A, Ireland A, Canada in June, followed by two tough games against Clermont Auvergne and Munster. Then we tour Japan to meet Mr. Kirwan’s Cherry Blossoms in November. It’s going to be quite a year.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Smile

By now anyone who goes to a meeting knows enough about body language to remain practically immobile throughout. Arms neither defensively folded nor arrogantly behind your head; sitting forward to show you’re engaged but not so far forward as to appear domineering, etc. I remember in the early corporate days of Body Language, everyone you sat down with was either mirroring you or not. It was all a bit obvious and, in some cases, just plain funny to watch groups of people unfolding their arms at the same time or nodding in agreement in unison.

Now a new and altogether more subtle form of body language has been discovered. It seems researchers in Portsmouth, of all places, have found that there are 50 different types of smile. Yes, 50. We’re talking triumphant, bitter, delighted, surprised, suppressed…they’ll be part of your repertoire too. More researchers, this time from California, have also discovered that smiling probably influences our behavior. Yes, I know it seems obvious but they’ve proved it. Smiles influenced the decisions of study participants when shown photos of smiling and neutral faces. Even though the researchers flashed through the smiling photos, these were still the ones that shone through, as was illustrated by the next phase of the study. Offer people a soft drink, and if they had seen the smiling faces they would offer to pay up to triple the asking price.

The relationship between smiling and getting your own way won’t come as news to some people. In the advertising world, clocks are always shown with their hands at 10 minutes to 2. Some say that it is to represent a smile. I often use the smiley face to show my appreciation of great ideas and insights. Still, as the French have it, it’s good to know that something that works so well in practice also works in theory.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Blogging with Wal-Mart

What do I like most about blogging? Moving on. Being part of the flow of ideas and inspiration. Sometimes it feels as though I’m on a ship leaving posts behind in my wake as I keep my eyes on the horizon for what’s coming up. I am sure I’m not the only one to respond to blogging in this way. It’s great to play around with ideas and not get overly exercised about upsetting the odd person or making the occasional mistake. There’ll be another post tomorrow and people who agree or disagree can always get in on the conversation. The freedom of the blogosphere is fundamentally changing not just how people express their passions, but how companies talk about themselves and what they’re doing. Blogging pushes us past the old model of “Let’s talk about you. What do you think about me?” into new territory of having a point of view, admitting to a personality and even risking a joke now and then.

The Wal-Mart blog www.checkoutblog.com has been online since December last year, so it’s had time to find its feet. How are they doing? I’d say great. The roster of bloggers is varied and you can learn a little about each of them, their experience, see what they look like and sometimes familiarize yourself with their pets. These are the men and women who influence what Wal-Mart stores will sell, and while decision-makers are important in any business, when you’re Wal-Mart-sized, they have more than a passing interest. Some bloggers can get promotional and personally - I’d rather find out about upcoming product launches in other ways - but these guys are keen to connect with us. Ryan seriously wants to know whether we think there is a mass market for Linux OS. Tifanie shares her Wii fitness extravaganza with such enthusiasm that you don’t want to make rational shopping decisions, you just wanna play! Rand has a sustainability agenda that’s so passionate it feels personal.

This blog strikes me as a leap of faith by Wal-Mart. Having looked through some of the comments, it’s a feisty world Wal-Mart is tapping into. Their philosophy seems to be neatly summed up by one of their communications people: "Trying to control who can speak and what they can say does not work." Amen to that.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Hope and Change

The endless and mindless U.S. election process continues (and continues, and continues!). Now, I have to tell you, I’m finally convinced that Barack Obama represents the best option. His promise is simple - hope plus dreams plus change equals turnout equals victory. To put it simply, he has a dream, a dream about optimism and change. Boiled down, his policies are not too different to Hillary, if anything he is rather short on the ideas front. His detractors believe that hope is not a strategy but I think they miss the point. After a never ending menu of Bushs and Clintons, America needs hope and change more than it needs strategy, policy and tactics. There’s a whole generation of Americans who have lost faith in today’s politicians, and with some justification. They will not vote for Hillary, who is now the safety candidate. Safety isn’t what this generation wants. It’s change and progress. Obama represents that and backs it up with authenticity, freshness and charisma. He is a man who comes across as genuinely effortless and empathetic.

I believe Obama is tapping into today’s generation in real time, in a real way. He is giving voters an inspirational dream and a vision of collaboration, connectivity and togetherness. This is in direct contrast to Hillary’s conflict driven, black and white world.

If Obama wins the Democratic ticket, he will be up against John McCain, a genuine American hero, but a hero who is out of sync and out of touch with today’s young America. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a principled, staunch, true blue man. But I think he’s a little at odds with what’s happening in today's culture. Look to Barack Obama to surf that particular wave.

Love Cyprus

I ran Pepsi Cola’s Middle Eastern business and, in the mid 80s we had the pleasure of living in Nicosia, Cyprus for 5 of the happiest years of our lives. It is an idyllic island paradise with a great climate, great people and a wonderful variety of experiences. It will always be a Lovemark for me and my family. Marc Anthony (the Roman, not the singer) gave Cyprus to Cleopatra as a gift. Not bad, as gifts go. Smart man.

Cyprus is one of the oldest civilisations in the Mediterranean and one the newest, most vibrant members of the European Union. It has so much going for it as a Lovemark today that it’s been rebranded it “Love Cyprus”

Cyprus has more claim to owning love than most – it is the birthplace of Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty. She emerged from the sea foam in 1,200 BC at Petra tou Romiou, a majestic rock on the south coast of the island.

Mystery
Cyprus has lots of myths and icons associated with its long 10,000 year history. Not just the myth of Aphrodite, but stories associated with the many conquering foreign powers – Ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Venetians, Ottomans and British - who have all left their mark.
• In the 15th century BC, Cyprus had its own "Cyprian Script", derived from Minoan
• Cicero, the eminent Roman statesman was Governor of Cyprus
• Cyprus was one of the first countries to adopt Christianity and the first to be governed by a Christian, the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus
• Richard I, leading the Third Crusade in 1191 took the island from the Emperor of Byzantium and promptly sold it the following year to the Knights Templar
• It is the only country in the world to appear on its own National flag

Sensuality
Cyprus’ economy and wealth in antiquity was based on its copper; it may even have given the metal its Latin name, cuprum. We have reflected this in our use of warm orange throughout the communications.
Cyprus’ position at the eastern end of the Mediterranean gives it a wonderful all-year-round warm climate – hence the positioning as “the year round island”. On average, the sun shines 340 days per year. The eastern coast is famous for its fine, white sandy beaches with shallow turquoise waters.
If you’re talking personal favorites, two of mine are:
Number one. Commandaria is an amber-coloured dessert wine made in the foothills of the Troodos mountains. It has the distinction of being the world's oldest brand of wine still in production. It was described in 800 BC by the Greek poet Hesiod, Richard the Lion Heart had it served at his wedding and (legend has it) it won the first ever wine-tasting competition held by King Philip of France in 1224.
And two. Halloumi cheese, indigenous to Cyprus, is traditionally made from a mixture of goats’ and sheeps’ milk. It has a salty flavour and it can be fried until brown without melting. Cypriots like eating halloumi with watermelon in the warm months for the perfect breakfast after the night before is Haloumi. Delicious.
The island concentrates many different, evocative landscapes into a condensed space – you can move in minutes from green forests to blue sea to snowy-white mountains.

Intimacy
With so many invaders over so many years, Cyprus is used to welcoming visitors. (The Greek / Cypriot word for hospitality, philoxenia, actually means ‘love of strangers’ and the first word you will hear is kopiaste – ‘welcome, come in and join us’).
Intimacy is well expressed in the traditional preserved fruit, glyko. Glyko is found in every home and is the first thing to be offered to a guest together with a glass of water. Cypriot women continue to make glyko in the traditional way handed down from generation to generation and serve it with pride. The local cuisine is based on meze – the intimate sharing of little dishes of food; local delicacies washed down with good wine and friends over many hours as the sun sets.

Cyprus - 9 places to fall in love with
1. Larnaka: Ancient Kitium; home to the Island’s first documented settlers, a city continuously inhabited for 6,000 years. Legend has it that the first settlement here was founded by Noah's great-grandson, Kittim.
2. Petra tou Romiou (Rock of Romios): This is the beach where Aphrodite emerged.
3. Platres: A mountain resort favoured by the rich and famous, like King Farouk of Egypt. The village inspired Nobel Prize-winning Greek poet George Seferis to write his famous poem, ‘Helen’.
4. Lefkara: The mountain village where women create the embroidered lace known as “Lefkaritika”. Leonardo da Vinci is said to have taken some Cypriot lace to Italy and visitors have done the same ever since.
5. Paphos: The town where you will find stunning archaeological gems such as the Tombs of the Kings and castle in the harbour. My own personal favorite.
6. Akamas: Site of the Baths of Aphrodite, where the Goddess is said to have bathed after entertaining her lovers.
7. Lefkosia: A city full of special secret places to get you rejuvenated, such as the famous 16th century Hammam offering traditional refreshment & beauty treatments.
8. Limassol: A cosmopolitan town where you can meet many people, stay at luxurious resorts and enjoy life around the yacht marinas
9. The Painted Churches of the Troodos: ten Byzantine churches, all United Nations World Heritage list, like Panagia Asinou, with some of the finest 12th and 14th century murals in the world
An, to top that off, 6 things that are not to be missed.

Smell the jasmine and the wild thyme in Kakopetria. Walk in pine scented forests, or ski on the snowy peaks in the morning, then take a dip in the warm blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea in the afternoon.
Wonder at Greek temples, Byzantine churches and artifacts thousands of years old. Play a round of golf, go cycling, or hiking round the countryside.
Feel at one with nature, or dance the night away. Picture yourself getting spoiled and pampered in a luxurious thalassotherapy health spa in Anassa, a place we spent a great week a couple of years ago.
Visit Pedoulas, high in the Troodos mountains, known for both its luscious cherries and the Forest Park Hotel where Daphne Du Maurier wrote her famous novel, Rebecca. The inspiration for our choice of name for our youngest daughter.
Dance in the Anthestiria festival, a celebration of spring and nature's rebirth. Enjoy a delicious dinner in Limassol, rounded off with a glass of one of the oldest wines in the world.
Feel the religious spirit in Agios Loukas monastery.
So take a look at Cyprus. I’m sure you’ll fall in love with it just like we have.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Sao Paulo

The Latin America adventure continued from Rio to Sao Paulo. This is the world’s fourth largest metropolis and Brazil’s commercial hub.

We arrived at the new domestic air terminal and went straight to my favorite Sao Paulo hotel, Emiliano. Sao Paulo has three top class boutique hotels, Emiliano, Fasano and Hotel Unique. I am an Emiliano lobbyist with particular affection for Room 1001. There are only 4 rooms per floor and the 01 rooms are all spacious, light, with marble dining tables embedded onto the floor and beautiful curved pinewood desks. Another plus is the heliport on top of the hotel if the traffic gets you down.

One great thing about the Emiliano is its proximity to one of the grooviest boutiques in Brazil for environmentally friendly, organically pure and ethically direct t-shirts. It’s called The Nonsense Boutique and also features Amy Winehouse and A Clockwork Orange, in case it’s all getting too morally highbrow for you. Also, just on the next street is my favorite supermarket, Santa Lucia, which you may remember I posted on last year. Bex excelled herself by picking up mozzarella bites stuffed with anchovies along with some taramosalata with caviar running through for her pita toast.

It was straight from the Emiliano to F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi’s 14th birthday party. This was an intimate affair for 1,000 close friends of the agency at the newly opened Buddha Bar. Brazilians certainly know how to party. Fabio and his team took over the bar, moved out all the tables and turned it into the hottest spot in Brazil for the evening. The action started at 10:00pm and was still going at 6:00am. To celebrate the 14 years, seven famous Brazilian singers were paired in duets with singers they hadn’t sung with before, and each sang two songs. It was an amazing evening.

Sao Paulo
is the commercial capital of Brazil and is the poster child for a no poster environment. Last year, the mayor pushed through a non-constitutional bill banning outdoor advertising; a so-called clean city law. There’s a lot of resistance to it. Whilst Al Gore and Naomi Klein might be positive, independent business and media owners, advertisers and consumers are not too happy. Now the government is realising that they are losing tax revenue of around $130,000 million US per annum from this decision, along with job losses of around 20,000 people.

The result of all this is that the landscape looks pure but drab. You are also seeing the birth of the buzz agent. Almost everyone you talk to is recommending or trying to sell you something. It ranges from taxi drivers offering vacation advice to pretty girls offering you just about every brand of spirit you can imagine.

To me, I think Sao Paulo lost a lot of the color and also the vitality that outdoor advertising can offer.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Rio

If there is a better place to spend a lazy Sunday with your daughter than Ipanema Beach in April, let me know. I’m writing this while staying at Fasano hotel on Ipanema Beach in Rio and it’s pumping. It is 90 degrees outside and the beach is full of beautiful body conscious Brazilians. We have an infinity pool on the 8th floor where you can look at Leblon Beach and Ipanema. On Sundays, the beach road is closed to traffic and becomes a big pedestrian, cycling, running extravaganza. Christ the Redeemer is overlooking Copacabana, the palm trees are blooming, the coconut juice is free, and the mango, papaya and other exotic fruits for breakfast this morning were fantastic. They’re almost as good as the strong Brazilian coffee that went with them.

The Fasano has one of the coolest hotel bars I’ve been to. It's called The London Bar. "God Save the Queen" is emblazoned on the outside and there is a huge, very funky Union Jack mural on the inside. It’s very private and was certainly thumping last night. We had dinner at the Copacabana Palace at Cipriani’s where Cipriani continues to weave his magic. Calf’s liver and lentil risotto to the fore! We’re off today to see Sugarloaf Mountain, the statue of Christ and Santa Theresa. It doesn’t get much better than this.

And things just keep on getting better. Lee Child’s new Jack Reacher novel, Nothing to Lose, is just out. That will keep me going on the 14-hour flight from Sao Paulo to Dubai on Thursday. The 12th Jack Reacher novel in as many years. Pure escapism and pure pleasure.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Buenos Aires

As I write this, I’m in what I think is probably the hottest city in the world right now. Buenos Aires.

Because Argentina is a country that is constantly in crisis, it is also a country full of progress, ideas and change. After all, if you face a crisis every day, there is nothing to do but to believe in the power of ideas to get you out. Structure and process don’t help. This is a country which is located in South America, but culturally it sits between Italy and Spain. Like them, it throbs with mystery, sensuality and intimacy.

I’ve been to Buenos Aires three or four times, but over the past two years I have seen it really take off. Urban development has been a priority, and Norman Foster’s complex near the river with Philippe Starck’s Faena Hotel + Universe as its centerpiece reminds me of Terence Conran’s work down at Butlers Wharf in London. Faena is a terrific hotel. New age Philippe Starck, built for comfort, not for speed. The Library Lounge is a candidate for my top ten list and the two restaurants, El Mercado and El Bistro, are first class. The highlight space has to be El Cabaret, where I gave a presentation to 80 clients on Friday morning, but is used every night for a super sexy tango show. My daughter, Bex, is with me and went to the show last night with an old mate of mine, All Black Marc Ellis, who was with his Argentinean partner Augustina. He was very excited as they are coming to live in Argentina for a year in October to learn Spanish and enjoy La Vida Loca.

Bex had a fantastic time with her new best friend, Paz, who works with Pablo Del Campo at Saatchi here in Buenos Aires. Paz’s father is a Puma who played against the All Blacks, and Paz is a first class hockey player herself. She’s also a first class party animal. The two of them were out both nights until about 5 in the morning sampling the city's terrific, vibrant nightlife. If you’re a young woman, this is the place for you. The music is great, the drinks are cheap and almost every guy looks like a movie star. Luxurious long hair, tan skin, white teeth, beautiful features and all soccer and rugby fit. And they know how to dance.

Del Campo Saatchi & Saatchi has been Agency of the Year in Argentina for the last three years and their creativity is the best on the continent. The agency is housed in a block of old converted stables near the Jockey Club in beautiful surroundings that nurture creativity. While Bex and Paz were all out dancing, Pablo and I played a couple of hours of tennis at the traditional Buenos Aires tennis club with two of his old friends, Alejandro and Enrique. These boys have been members since they were about 3 years old and know everyone. We played on traditional clay courts and it reminded me of a Latin version of The Queen's Club in London. Argentineans play tennis beautifully of course, and this is the club where Guillermo Vilas learned his art. I can tell you they pound away with heavy top spin and chase everything. It was a pretty good blowout and, although we lost 6-4 in the third set, it was a great afternoon. Pablo and I are now 3 all head to head so Argentinean honor was restored.

Buenos Aires is also a great hub to use as a base to see the rest of the country, and Argentina certainly lives up to the hype. If you live in North America, it’s a simple overnight flight from either Miami or New York with only one hour time difference. The red wines are pretty good, the steaks are exceptional, the shopping is incredible value, particularly fashion and leather jackets, and the people are smart, educated, warm and fun. I’ll be back in October to talk at an HSM management conference and to the students at the University of Palermo. I’m looking forward to it; particularly to getting back ahead on the tennis court.

Three Lovemarks from Argentina are:

  • The Faena Hotel with it's great pool, great pool bar, and a full on, fantastic party atmosphere every night.
  • Boca Juniors - the working class soccer team; its stadium, La Bonbonera (the chocolate box); along with its greatest player, Diego Maradona.
  • La Martina. A chic range of polo (the national sport of Argentina) inspired sportswear. This brand is very trendy now throughout Europe. A fashion tip: the sports shirt is worn with white jeans as this summer’s in thing.

Friday, May 2, 2008

At the movies with Danis

A couple of great movies are out right now in the States and should be with the rest of the world soon. Danis checked out I’m Not There, with its great soundtrack and standout album track by Los Lobos. Here’s Danis’ review...

I'm Not There is definitely my film of the year.

It's five completely different tales of Bob Dylan’s life; some true accounts, some fables. To add to the mix, they are all shot differently to enhance the themes. The acting is superb – initially I thought Cate Blanchett got too much credit for being a female playing a male, but it was all deserved.

I'm Not There is based around the idea that everyone has a story or myth about Dylan that they remember, even if the details aren't always clear. It also focuses on how much Dylan changed during his career, from young folk singer through to finding God. It certainly helps having a knowledge of Dylan as none of the characters use their real names and the movie is loosely edited.

Although I am not a huge Bob Dylan fan, this film has great appeal for its art house attitude; a good example being the Fellini-esque scenes featuring Cate Blanchett.

So if you haven’t seen it already, make the effort - you will love it.

And now, one that caught me by surprise. Gone Baby Gone is directed by Ben Affleck and stars his brother Casey and Morgan Freeman. Although Gone Baby Gone feels predictable, it is anything but. It is also one of those films that has three or four lame endings, but don’t be fooled, in the end it picks you up, gives you a good shake and makes you think again. It’s a dramatic moral dilemma revolving around selfishness and selflessness. It’s also one of those rare movies that I reckon will appeal to both male and female, young and old. Give it a go.

The One&Only

The sun was low in the sky when the young Bedouin sensed restlessness among his usually imperturbable camels. Stopping the caravan, he scanned the horizon. He could see in the distance the placid dunes rise into a raging wall of sand, devouring all before it. “Shemal!” he gasped and turned in fear towards home, knowing that only shelter could be his salvation.

Diriving his camels onwards, he heard the wail of the storm closing in. Then, as he crested a giant dune, he saw the fortress nestled between the desert and the Arabian Sea. Shimmering in the late sun and crowned by a majestic dome, this was clearly no normal desert fortress. The gates opened as he approached, and upon entering, it was as if he had crossed to another world. For three days and nights, the storm raged outside the giant walls, yet inside he was able to relax amid palm trees and luscious gardens. He was treated like royalty and accommodated in a luxurious apartment, with feasting and music long into the night.

When the storm subsided, the young Bedouin bade farewell to his kind hosts and with a heavy heart, continued his journey. At the summit of the dune from where he had first sighted the fortress, he turned. Before him lay only desert and the distant shores of the Arabian Sea. The fort was no more.

Of course, whisper the old nomads around cracking desert campfires, that is the way of all mirages – indeed of all things magical. One day, it is said, the fortress will rise again from the sands in all its glory, and once again travelers will arrive at its mighty gates in search of a memorable welcome.

The fortress has risen again in Dubai today. It’s the One&Only Royal Mirage. Book one of the suites in the Residence. I did, and spent a great weekend there, along with giving a speech to my old friends at P&G. I was also there for the launch of The Lovemarks Effect at Borders in the Mall of The Emirates, which is right next to the largest covered artificial ski slope in the world. And that’s not all. I also gave a keynote to the IAA and a dinner/speech to Saatchi & Saatchi clients at the Dubai World Trade Centre. Dubai is no mirage. As I mentioned earlier this week, we are seeing the beginning of an Economic Miracle, and a sustainable one at that.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

NY/NZ



As I’ve said it before on KRConnect, cracking the US economy is a tough one. Still, Kiwis are made tough, and it was good to meet the more adventurous amongst them at the New Zealand: New York: New Thinking event a few weeks ago. I had been asked to moderate the event that had been put together by NZTE’s Beachheads Program and Kea New York. It was a good mix of New Zealanders and New Yorkers, and everyone was in the mood to listen and learn.

It was a great line up. Bill Fredrickson of Tait North America, Dion Mortimer from Mead International, Victoria Vandagriff of Bendon USA, and Paul Viskovich of Orion Health North America were all there and participating. A highlight for me was an open floor Q&A. This was when the inevitable “How do we crack America?” question came up along with some spot-on answers and suggestions including:

• Make sure you have a strong business in NZ. No point building a skyscraper if you don’t have solid foundations.

• Find your own way of being distinctively NZ. I call it originality; focusing on why and how you are trying the crack the US.

• Tap into dreams about NZ. You need to capture the mystery of New Zealand and bring the magic from the Edge.

• Remember the international dateline is your best friend; it sets you free of the weekend hiatus and adds to your service time.

• Be realistic. It costs more and it takes longer. Think of a budget and a timeframe, and double it!

• Listening and observing a new culture is critical. The US, like any country, has its own ways of doing things. The best way to learn these things is to listen and watch, watch and listen.

Like Kiwis, Americans are “doers” and don’t waste time sitting around philosophizing. In this sort of environment, the key to success is keeping a sense of momentum and an awareness of opportunity.

I was pumped by the energy, passion and forward thinking I saw in the room. New Zealand and New York are two of my favorite places to be. Nice to see them getting along so well together.