Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tom’s Top 10

There are some real gems lurking on the web if you know where to look. Tom Eslinger is Saatchi & Saatchi's Worldwide Digital Creative Director and each week he does a wrap up of unique web experiences that will bring a smile to your face. Some sites give you an inspirational boost, for instance the Nike+ Fuelband, others show you things you never knew before like the ability to play games using your face while you work out, but most are just plain entertaining such as the ability to build your own President. Each edition of Tom's Top 10 has a theme, and whether it's serious or purely for entertainment, the key is that the sites really connect with people. They're creative, beautiful and downright funny. You want to see it again, you want to share it, you want to figure out how to make it better - three factors, which in my opinion, determine online success.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Getting Happier

Family, friendship and relationships are the number one factor in why people invest in the pursuit of happiness; we all love the feeling of being loved. The Ipsos Global happiness survey, which asked 18,000 people in 24 countries questions about how happy they are, has positively reported that people are happier now than they were in 2007.

Indonesians, Indians, Mexicans, Brazilians and Turks were the top five happiest people, showing that family and community-oriented cultures produce a greater sense of wellbeing and happiness in people. Equally the survey has proved the old saying of "Money can't buy you happiness" is correct with wealthy nations including Canada and Britain only ranking in the middle of the survey index.

The Ipsos survey is just one of many that have been undertaken over the years to identify which nations and people are the happiest or have the most life satisfaction. Frequent high scorers in these surveys are South American and Pacific Island countries where Church and family play an essential role in how people live their lives. For instance Costa Rica regularly scores high in the happiness stakes and Brazil is also moving up the list.

In 2010, British Prime Minister David Cameron commissioned a happiness and wellbeing survey to take the temperature check of the nation. Results showed that at least 70% of people rated themselves as at least a 7 out of 10 on how happy they are. Despite the survey taking in place in the midst of a worrying economic outlook and carried out during the London riots, the results show that there is more to a country's wellbeing than just overall GDP.

Monday, February 27, 2012

I Love Rio

This month I was in Rio de Janeiro, presenting to Brazil’s biggest company Petrobras about Winning in the Digital Age (Brazil is a digital and social network Mecca). Brazil has always oozed fun, love and excitement, and if Rio is anything to go by, these days the whole country is pumping adrenaline.

Rio-based mega-company Petrobras is developing massive pré-sal (“below the salt”) oilfield discoveries right off Rio’s coast; the country is gearing up for the 2014 FIFA World Cup (surely the party of the decade); and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio follows – making for a one two knockout. Reportedly 90 million of the near 200 million Brazilians are now in the middle class. The country has passed Britain as the world’s 6th largest economy. New President Dilma Rousseff looks to be popular with the people, and it’s Carnival season. The country is on a roll.

I’ve always been a Brazil ‘nut’, and it’s hard not to be in this land of jaw-dropping beaches, lush forests, startling cities, irrepressible people and musical language. There is a wonderful optimism in Brazil, and it’s hard to find someone who, as the Brazilian’s would say, thinks he is king of the black coconut sweets.

Lovemarks are all around, from Havaianas and Feijoada to beautiful Rio and the wizardry of Brazilian football. Check out the new Brazil national team jersey, which celebrates 'The Brazilian way'.

In São Paulo, my Lovemarks include the supermarket Santa Lucia, and the wonderfully-located superb boutique hotel, Emiliano. Rio de Janeiro is a different world, with its rowdier edges and the sensuality element up full. My kind of town, and The Marvelous City – as it is called – is on a major comeback fueled by the energy industry.

In Rio, sensuality and grandeur play together from the dazzling beaches and Sugarloaf mountain to the Corcovado (statue of Christ the Redeemer) to two of my Lovemarks – the Orient-Express Copacabana Palace and the Santa Teresa neighborhood.

“Nature was very generous with Rio” says Brazilian Designer Daniella Helayel, which sums things up. See you at the Maracanã Stadium – Brazil’s temple to football – for the 2014 FIFA World Cup final.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Power of Goosebumps

If you regularly read this blog you'll know that I love music. It's a powerful mood setter, transcending time and place, and has the ability to evoke memories made yesterday or thirty years ago. We all know that music makes us feel, but what is it about music that gets us pensive, or full of life and on our feet and dancing?

British psychologist, John Sloboda, conducted a study where he asked participants to identify the parts of a song they thought were most powerful. The results showed that a significant number of the 'powerful song parts' were created by appoggiatura – a process which creates emotional tension in the listener.

If appoggiatura doesn't sound familiar, you'll be able to relate to it when I say it's the moment in a song when you feel shivers down your spine. If you've heard "Someone Like You" by Adele, you'll know what I mean. Appoggiatura creates an emotional connection with our brains which leads us to think that these are the most powerful parts of a piece of music.

What's really interesting is that listening to emotionally charged music, whether happy or sad, releases dopamine which makes us feel good. The more goosebumps you feel when listening to a song, the more your brain craves it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Three Social Thunderstorms

Many of us would admit that we spend too much of our time on social media. While we don't want to let go of our obsession, most of us would prefer to find a more efficient way to manage our time online. This is according to George Colony, CEO of Forrester Research who spoke on the 'Three Social Thunderstorms' at the LeWeb 2011 conference in Paris. These are 1) Death of the Web, the approach of App Internet, 2) Social is saturated, 3) Enterprise Social is the next big opportunity.

Research has shown the people are now spending more time on social media than volunteering, shopping, or talking on the phone. No wonder so many start-ups are looking to capitalize on this huge audience. Colony says that we are heading towards social saturation, meaning that there isn't enough consumer attention to go around all these sites and as a result the social start-up bubble will burst.

Colony believes that the industry will move towards a more "app-internet" as people increasingly look for applications that offer real value for the time they devote online. Consumers are now asking for better and more efficient apps and won't hesitate to drop an app for one that provides a better service. Companies who are innovative and provide a better overall experience to consumers than what is already on the market have the leading edge. Watch this space.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

100% Kiwi Adventure

This Friday I'm heading to stunning Queenstown in New Zealand to speak at Entrepreneurs Organisation Queenstown University Conference – US and AsiaPac entrepreneurs all wanting to win in the age of now. The idea is pretty ingenious – entice 400 entrepreneurs to the jewel of the south and fill them with Kiwi knowhow. Tony Falkenstein has started several New Zealand companies and instigated learning in entrepreneurship at his old school, Onehunga High. He is the Learning Chair for this conference and his infectious energy resulted in the conference tickets being snapped up in record time (ie in minutes). The Entrepreneurs Organisation is a global business mentoring and networking group and I'm sure attendees are going to come away with a wealth of exciting ideas and knowledge that they can immediately implement in their businesses.

Speakers at the event include Craig Nevill-Manning, brainbox from Blenheim via Waikato U who founded Google's engineering centre in New York; Kirsten Manning who is Facebook's director of global recruitment (former Christchurch psychologist and social worker); Sarah Robb O'Hagan, Auckland U grad and Gatorade President North America; Linda Jenkinson, CEO of Les Concierges and a seasoned entrepreneur who has built two multimillion-dollar companies focused on chaos-based service businesses (ex Massey U); Ray Avery, medical innovator who has given tens of thousands the gift of sight; rugby legend Jonah Lomu; and world champion discus thrower Beatrice Faumuina.

Bring it on Queenstown!

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Art of Storytelling

During a time where cinema is focused on being bigger and louder than ever before, it's refreshing to come across a film where telling a great story remains at the heart. Directed by Michel Hazanavicius The Artist follows the journey of George Valentin, a silent movie star whose career goes to ruins following the advent of 'talkies'.

As film about the changing nature of storytelling, Hazanavicius stripped the film back to basics, preferring to film The Artist in black and white to 3D; using music to tell the tale in place of dialogue and sound effects. These brave moves paid off with the film striking a powerful chord with audiences, the lack of visual and audible distractions enabling them to become swept away in the story.

Like The King's Speech in 2011, this film uses the fundamentals of story, characters and performance to captivate the audience and engage them in the tale being told. Despite the lack of audible dialogue The Artist takes the audience on an emotional journey, using a well composed musical score and terrific acting to enchant and enthrall.

It appears this return to storytelling is both a hit with both cinema- goers and industry insiders alike, with The Artist scooping up nominations and taking away awards at some of the world’s most prestigious awards shows. Now up for ten Oscars – the second highest of any film this year – The Artist is lining up to become a critical success. The wait is now on to see if great storytelling will prevail at the most prestigious award ceremony of the year held on February 26.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Spartacus Unbound

I spoke at a conference in late 2011 that had a lively Green Room, illuminated particularly by the presence of Lucy Lawless aka Xena Warrior Princess and Lucretia in Spartacus. Her husband the producer Rob Tapert spoke prior to me about his early challenges assembling the investment to make crazy films.

Just as Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor and others spearheaded Wellington's move to the front seat of global movie-making, Rob and Lucy have for over a decade been powerhouses for international television production in Auckland.

Series three of Spartacus – "Vengeance" – has just started screening in the US (I read the Greek battle classics by torchlight when growing up), and it comes at a time when in New Zealand has just been named (by P3 Update) as one of the top ten filming locations in the universe. The report cites recent and current productions of Avatar, Tintin, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Hobbit and Jane Campion's new mini-series Top of the Lake as evidence of how writing, acting and producing talent, crews, locations, facilities, and attitude have coalesced.

Add to this last week's announcement that director James Cameron is coming to live with his family in New Zealand (he must be channeling Tom Peters), and you have an edgy creative cocktail.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Un-Plugged Happiness

Technology is shaping the way we live and interact with each other, but as it becomes an increasing central in daily life, researchers have begun to wonder about the affect it has on the happiness and emotional development of the next generation. Unfortunately, according to a recent study from Stanford University, it's not looking good.

An online survey completed by 3,400 girls aged 8 – 12 found that those spending a considerable amount of time using multimedia each day described themselves in ways that suggest they're less happy and socially comfortable than their less connected peers. Girls spent almost seven hours each day digitally connected compared with just over two hours engaging face-to-face with family and friends.

Are these girls less happy because of their multimedia usage? Or does their unhappiness lead them to increase their multimedia use as an escape from the 'real' world?

I'm an advocate of technology and love the connection and possibilities it brings into our daily life, but it shouldn't replace genuine face-to-face interaction with the world around us. Too often social and online media distils conversation down to an unnatural two-dimensional form where body and vocal cues cannot be expressed, stifling the growth of authentic relationships.

It's the relationships in life that make you happy, so unplug your kids - and while you're at it unplug yourself! Bring a little happiness back into your life.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Beauty in Function

The Italians are never short on style and they have a history of creating innovative art from simple forms. The 'Opera' tool set by the Italian design firm De Castelli is a terrific example. It's modern with a touch of the past, and draws on inspiration from the countryside to give something as functional as garden tools the 'wow' factor. What De Castelli has done is bring the nostalgic joy of working the land and connect it with the present. It doesn't matter if your gardening skills only extend to potted plants on your windowsill. These tools are irreplaceable in function and irresistible in appeal. It's clever craftsmanship at its best, and things of beauty that resonate with people always result in Lovemarks.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Perfect Storm

In the face of 8 billion people on earth by 2030, Gianluca Comin, Director of External Relations at Enel (left), Italy’s largest energy company and a client of Saatchi & Saatchi Italy, and Donato Speroni, a senior Italian economist, have written a brave, thought-provoking book 2030 The Perfect Storm: How to survive to the big crisis.

The book confronts several issues that are major risk factors to our civilization and which will deeply modify the face of the planet – demographics, migration, economics, climate change and food shortages, all in the face of weak and divided international politics.

I speak frequently about the VUCA world we live in – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. The Perfect Storm certainly lays this out, and as the book points out, we need to start acting for the future this very moment. We seemed to give up on the idea of the future in 2000, but in actuality it's coming roaring at us.

In my superVUCA world – vibrant, unreal, crazy and astounding – there is lots of space for radical optimism. The authors cite the aptly named Grin technologies (genetics, robotics, computing, nanotech) as changing the life of the planet by 2050, to the point of creating a new human species "enhanced" by machine implants (with all the risks connected).

Significant inroads in energy, information and sustainability have already been made to address factors influencing the 'perfect storm'. These developments may not be enough to solve the problems of the next 20 years. The critical factors will be in the hands of citizens, businesses, governments and organizations to work on policies and programs that will make a material difference.

At Saatchi & Saatchi we have a sustainability program for individual and group initiatives. We call this DOT, for Do One Thing, then another, and another. The authors feel that the general attitude towards effecting a sustainable planet is already changing.

"There are hundreds of thousands organizations in the world which promote ethical and sustainable growth, cities with the highest concentration of inhabitants are trying to become "intelligent", companies are giving new strength to the often vain speeches on "social responsibility", even working together with not-for-profit agencies. From these seeds, in the fertile environment of global communication, a new "new global" civilization may arise."

The Perfect Storm is one of the most confronting books of 2012, but also one of the most inspiring for the pathways to action it proposes.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Training 2012

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to get fit in 2012. Dan Harvey, a LA based fitness guru, who is Robert De Niro's personal trainer, arranged for me to work with one of the gang, Erik Hansen. Erik is a clear thinking, passionate, empathetic personal trainer with Norwegian roots. He's an optimist and a dreamer. He's got a blog which he recently started which is about adding things to your life to make you happier and healthier. It's really uplifting and worth a look.
http://erikhansenfitness.tumblr.com

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Send a Little Love

Traditional mail has lost its heart in recent years – e-cards replace posted cards, letters are now emails and postcards arrive infrequently at best. It seems that the mailbox is mainly there to gather bills, rather than the messages of affection from loved ones they once collected.

But the US Postal service is seeking to change this, bringing a little bit of love back into your mail with their series of 'Love' stamps. Each year since 1973 a new beautifully designed stamp is issued with the intention of it being used to send mail to friends and family when you want to express a little love.

The most recent stamp in the series – entitled 'Garden of Love' - features flowers, birds, butterflies and a strawberry with vines intertwining each stamp. Designed by award-winning illustrator Jose Ortega, this series cleverly incorporates a heart into each design.

What better way to show your love this Valentine's Day than by putting pen to paper and posting your affections the traditional way? Be part of the revival of the postal service and help bring a little love back to the mailbox.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Old Ideas

At 77 years old, Leonard Cohen has just released his first album in eight years and what an ode to life it is.

"I love to speak with Leonard. He's a sportsman and a shepherd. He's a lazy bastard living in a suit. But he does say what I tell him, even though it isn't welcome," he sings on the new album "Old Ideas".

He brought the house down.

I first saw Leonard Cohen in the mid 60's in London. He kept us waiting for 1 – 1 ½ hours and then appeared on stage in a cream suit with an acoustic guitar and nothing else. I bought all his poetry, listened to his music till 4 – 5 am, accompanied by bottles of Bordeaux - and suffered with him. Through the years he has traveled down many highways and up many mountains and written some of the greatest songs ever written. I saw him last year at the Beacon Theatre where he told us he'd studied all kinds of philosophies and religions and deep, deep thoughts, but despite this he is finding that cheerfulness keeps breaking out.

He's in his 70's now and has little time for alcohol, tobacco, drugs or sex but when you see him in concert, the cheerfulness is still there.

Like Leonard, "My friends are gone, my hair is grey, I ache in the places where I used to play." And, also like Leonard, I can't stop cheerfulness from breaking out.

Monday, February 6, 2012

30 Second Insights

Fast Company's website 30secondmba.com is a great source of short video insights on leadership, business success, teamwork and innovation from some of today’s top business people. This "advice from the trenches" is a wealth of easily digestible information and a font of real experience.

One headline that caught me was the role of imagination in leadership. Senior leaders from Intel, DreamWorks and Current TV among others give their version as to how imagination is crucial to good leadership. Imagination allows leaders to see opportunities and obstacles that others can't, it fosters collaboration and creativity, and it creates energy, all of which lead to motivation. Imagination fuels success and a winning attitude. Imagination gives us the courage to wonder 'what if'.

30secondmba.com has a range of different topics from how to inspire your staff, making mistakes and the toughest feedback you're ever received, to how faith influencers your leadership. Get bites from Professors Mark Zuckerberg, Reid Hoffman, Tony Hsieh, Noreena Hertz and Conan O'Brien.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Tweeting @sweden

Swedish tourism officials have relinquished its Twitter account. To its people.

To generate interaction and breakdown perceptions about its country, Swedish officials are handing over the reins of its Twitter account to a different Swedish citizen each week. For seven days the person who has control of @sweden can recommend things to do, places to see, share opinions and offer insights into their lives. So far an advertising executive, a truck driver, a Bosnian immigrant, a Gen Y blogger and university student have all shared their viewpoints on their Sweden to the world, making for very interesting reading.

The project is being billed as the “world’s most democratic Twitter account” and has so far attracted over 24,000 followers.

The project is rich in Lovemarks elements that make campaigns successful. There is mystery – you don’t know who the next person in charge of the Twitter account will be; innovation – this ‘freedom’ is pushing the boundaries; participation – people are encouraged to interact with the tweeter and the account is recording a huge number of tweets with people engaging from all over the world.

@sweden twitter account. #interestingsocialmediaexperiment.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What do Riyadh, Amsterdam, Cannes have in common?

What do the Global Competitive Forum in Riyadh, Amsterdam Fashion Week, and the Midem Music Industry conference in Cannes have in common? You guessed, I visited them all in the last 7 days, as a guest and keynote speaker. The large fantastically-well convened and organized conference at the Global Competitiveness Forum in sunny Riyadh was all about freeing the spirit, a region learning to take its hands off the wheel a little and drive development through an entrepreneurial spirit and an unshakeable belief in the future. The range of inputs from speakers was incredible. (Thanks Rasha and Richard). It was great to be back in Saudi Arabia again, it had been 20 years since I visited.

Sanoma's reception at the Amsterdam Fashion Week was full of brave, positive people with cutting edge insight and innovation celebrating their industry. The cocktails made the conversation flow further, and the irrepressible Dutch were on fine entertainment form.

Rounding the week was the Midem conference in Cannes. If ever the music industry needed the optimism of Nothing is Impossible, it's now. As record labels cede space to tech start ups and new ideas about distribution, and brands are hunting the next big partnership in music, I spoke to a large audience on music and branding. Making Lovemarks through music. Music is the fastest way to make that connection in the consumer. Music is a shortcut to the heart. As humans we want to be smile; and we love music; it's a simple equation.

At every venue the one constant was a hunger for ideas, creativity, and emotion. Riyadh and Amsterdam had it, and I felt stirrings amongst the fearless in Cannes. Cynicism withers resolve quickly; optimism is its own reward.

There was just one more thing I noticed these three locations have in common: at all three, everyone knew how to dress in black, with plenty of style!