Sunday, December 17, 2017

Making food people love

General Mills is an iconic American company that makes food loved by people throughout the nation - Cheerios, Betty Crocker, Yoplait, Pillsbury, Old El Paso, Häagen-Dazs, and Lucky Charms. They were a major Saatchi & Saatchi client for many years, in fact their relationship with agencies that became part of the Saatchi group went back to the company’s founding in 1928.

We introduced Lovemarks to General Mills back in the early 2000s, and while there wasn’t a wholesale embrace of the idea, the thinking certainly permeated the work that our creatives produced.

So it’s nice to see that General Mills is adding a little “love” to its logo with the launch of a new symbol to adorn its products. The new logo features the company’s familiar cursive “G” with a red heart along with the words “General Mills: Making Food People Love.”

“With our newest logo, the familiar ‘Big G’ continues to exemplify strength, longevity and trust — and now love,” the company said.

It’s also a nice way for chairman Ken Powell to bow out of the company. Ken was CEO of General Mills since 2007 until earlier this year, and we had a constructive and respectful relationship.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

64 Shots: “Nuggets of wisdom and inspiration”

It’s list time of the year, and it’s nice to be at the top of one. Matt Devost is a technologist, entrepreneur, and international security expert specializing in cybersecurity, counterterrorism, critical infrastructure protection, intelligence, and risk management issues. 

Matt has just done his 2017 book wrap-up. Here’s pretty much what he wrote, lightly truncated.

“In looking at advances in technology over the past year, I’m reminded of the Lenin quote “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

“It seems that to make the most sense of the top security and business trends you need to have a keen eye for advancements in AI, virtual currencies, and other technologies. That perspective has influenced my Top 10 books for 2017. Another influence was my desire to study past innovations and innovators. I found myself too focused on the innovators of my era, and while they are certainly important, I wondered what value might be derived from studying innovators of the near-past.

64 Shots: Leadership in a Crazy World by Kevin Roberts. My favorite book of the year. It is filled with so many nuggets of wisdom and inspiration that it was also my most highlighted book of the year. Thus far, I’ve gifted over 25 copies to friends and colleagues and have received great feedback from the recipients as well. I’m a firm believer that the right book finds you at the right time and I’m grateful that this book found me.

Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money
by Nathaniel Popper. My best performing asset of 2017 was Bitcoin. Bitcoin’s history is only just being written, but this book provides an accessible look at the story thus far.

Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes by Richard Clarke. An essential look at those analysts and researchers who provided advanced warning of significant global events and the societal, organizational, and leadership barriers the prevented them from being heard. It concludes with some thoughts on how we can identify and act on future warnings and discern realistic predictions from sensational doomsayers.

The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter by David Sax. A fascinating exploration of tension between digital and analogue.

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant
Provides several case studies of how mavericks persisted and persuaded in large organizations.

You Belong to the Universe: Buckminster Fuller and the Future
by Jonathon Keats. An eclectic inventor of many technologies that were deemed to be the realm of science fiction at the time, his persistent vision of the future is a worthy exploration for those looking to understand our future now.

The Man Who Designed the Future by B. Alexandra Szerlip. As much a look at the emergence of culture as it is a look at innovation.

The Field Researcher’s Handbook: A Guide to the Art and Science of Professional Fieldwork
by David Danelo. David J. Danelo reminds us that all we know about the world shouldn’t be observed via a computer monitor. As Le Carre once penned, “A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world.”

Void Star by Zachary Mason. A failed medical trial results in a handful of patients with malfunctioning neurological implants. One of them develops a capability to interface and negotiate with rogue or malfunctioning cooperate AI systems.

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz. Dealing with issues of biohacking, artificial intelligence, and robotics it uniquely weaves a story largely told from the perspective of autonomous and indentured bots.

Great list. I'm off to Amazon. Thanks Matt.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Shopping List

What goes on in newsrooms these days? There is serious journalism – The Washington Post and The New York Times are recording record readerships and subscribers – and there is the rest. The most visited news website in the world is The Daily Mail (a personal favorite…great editor, maybe the world’s best, and a great owner, certainly the world’s best) – British in its origins but universal in its appeal to human prurience, with a taste, amidst its serious scoops – for pimple popping videos, people acting badly, cute animal photo essays, and just-escaped-a-traffic-death story. Some media offers surprisingly useful stuff. Business Insider, the Buzzfeed for adults, with which I have a tested relationship, comes up with the most interestingly tangential article ideas. What supplements do they take with their morning Kombuchas? Today was a headline 32 things we need but always forget to buy. This appealed on three levels.

First, I have a lifelong professional interest in stuff that sells in supermarkets.

Second, the blurring line between editorial and advertising – all 32 items listed link to an page, founded by Business Insider investor Jeff Bezos.

And third, a 1992 memory: when President George H.W. Bush travelled the country in search of re-election, he ventured into a supermarket ahead of making a speech to the American Grocers Association. He shopped for a quart of milk, a light bulk and a bag and candy, and ran them over an electronic scanner (picture above). The New York Times reported that “The look of wonder flickered across his face again as he saw the item and price registered on the cash register screen. “This is for checking out?" asked Mr. Bush. "I just took a tour through the exhibits here," he told the grocers later. "Amazed by some of the technology."” The fact that grocery stores began using electronic scanners as early as 1976, and that the devices have been in general use in American supermarkets for a decade, had evaded the cloistered-in-The Beltway President Bush.

Business Insider records that “For whatever reason — an appreciation of suspense, a distaste for routine, or an unwillingness to part with more money than we absolutely need to — an overwhelming amount of us don’t buy the things we habitually need in advance.” Here’s the list (and I love a list):

Laundry detergent
Paper towels
Toilet paper
Can and bottle openers
Light bulbs
Cotton balls and pads
Dish soap
Shampoo and conditioner
Trash bags
Clorox wipes
Pet food
Bobby pins
Hand soap
Shaving cream
Olive oil
Nail polish remover

And who doesn’t have Lovemarks in all these seemingly mundane categories?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

AT Kearney Weighs in on 2018

My friends at AT Kearney have called their VUCA world shots on 2018.

“In today’s increasingly volatile world, it is difficult to speculate about what might happen next week; predicting the course of events over the next year is even more challenging. Shifting attitudes and heightened tensions in society, rising populism and nationalism in politics, and rapid technological change are all contributing to significant uncertainty in the external environment. There are, therefore, some domains for which we cannot make predictions for the year ahead with a reasonable degree of certainty. Despite this mounting volatility and complexity, there is a compelling case for the ongoing need to scan for future developments. It is with this argument in mind that we issue this annual set of predictions, which we hope will contribute to active debate on the various forces of change at work and the consequences they imply.

“In that spirit, the Global Business Policy Council makes 10 specific predictions for 2018, all of which will have important implications for the global business environment."

1. Quantum supremacy will be achieved. (KR note: if you are any doubts about the supremacy of quantum computing, read the new novel by The Washington Post’s David Ignatius, The Quantum Spy).

2. Difficult negotiations will raise the risk of a hard Brexit in early 2019 (KR note: the binary choice of In/Out was one of the dumbest electoral decisions in history; to decide this the electorate should have been presented with a series of multiple choice questions).

3. Facial recognition technology will become omnipresent. (KR note: I rely on Head & Shoulders despite having a sparse cranium; how will it figure in the scanner?)

4. The threat from the Islamic State will metastasize in Southeast Asia, Africa, and beyond. (KR note: radical optimism is the only route).

5. Domestic politics in Germany and France will cut short the “Merkron” honeymoon phase. (KR note: despite France’s anxiety about its who/what/why, it did put on a gracious show for the funerals of cultural icons who died within a day of each other this week, author Jean d’Ormesson and Johnny Hallyday. Said the FT, “Johnny Hallyday’s death, a day after d’Ormesson’s, comes at a time when French society is a bit disorientated. France has a hard time projecting itself and is in search of meaning. Both men were cultural compasses. There’s a widespread feeling of loss.” As for Germany, get your s*** together. New Zealand formed a coalition in 19 days. Germany is heading into 100 days without resolution.

6. Catastrophic natural disasters will put even more pressure on global insurance markets. (Give to Puerto Rico).

7. New regulations will emerge as scrutiny of the US Internet giants’ power and autonomy reaches a fever pitch. (KR note: beware weapons of mass distraction).

8. Rapidly rising demand for electric vehicles will spark a spike in global sales. (KR note: Um, I have a Maserati, a Jaguar and a Land Rover in different garages in the world; driver’s cars).

9. Chinese foreign investment will accelerate but will face growing resistance. (KR note: I gave a speech in Shanghai in 1998 titled “Brand China;” worth a re-read).

10. Breakthroughs in cancer treatments will accelerate at an unprecedented rate.” (KR note: Too late for my first love Barbara. But not too late for others).

My Team

The Financial Times have just published an extensive mumbo-jumbo piece on my team Manchester City, “the ‘Disneyfication’ of football.” It is a tenet of peak performance that in order to win, you have to always be “in contention.”
Amidst the financial analysis of Man City – “decades in the shadows” of ManU, and “noisy neighbors” according to Alex Ferguson – under its owner since 2008, Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi and his sprawling City Football Group encompassing the UK. Australia, Japan, Spain and Uruguay, and evaluating takeovers in China, India and Southeast Asia, asserted by the FT’s of being “designed to exert Emirati soft power” - the truth lies in the team’s control of the ball and the ability to break through the defenses.
Man City’s unbeaten run - now 11 points clear in the Premier League - under Pep Guardiola is attributed to it ability to string together passes better than any other side in Europe, using possession to good effect: they reach the attacking third of the pitch more often than almost anyone else.” In the sequences of 20+ consecutive passes per game, Man City is without peer in 2017.

Lesson: “Always be in contention.”

Friday, December 8, 2017

Flashback Friday: Desert Island Discs: My All Time Top Ten Tunes

DECEMBER 6, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me have your Top 10.