Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Henry Gets it Right

Graham Henry has picked 16 forwards and 14 backs for the Rugby World Cup. They will be led by the 2 best players in the world today, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter. Henry has also gone for a raging attack in the selection of Sione Lauaki and Andrew Ellis.

I first saw Lauaki in 2004 playing for the Pacific Islanders and absolutely destroying the All Blacks with his physically explosive running. Having him on the bench to back up So’oialo and Collins is a master stroke. I reckon the AB’s game plan will be to play tight rugby for the first 50 or 60 minutes and then explode from the bench as the opposition tire of making tackle after tackle. The thought of Lauaki wreaking havoc for the last 20 is enough to make grown men tremble. Troy Flavell missed out on selection, which I suspect is largely due to indifferent form over the last two months, and a lack of agreement as to whether he is a lock or a flanker.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was Andrew Ellis at half back and the omission of Piri Weepu. Even Ellis didn’t believe it. When he had a message on his mobile from the All Blacks manager, Darren Shand, Ellis ignored it, thinking it was one of his mates winding him up. When he finally called back, it was to hear the good news that at the age of 23, following great performances with the Junior All Blacks over the past two months, he was in. Ellis, along with Brendon Leonard, gives us 3 different half back options - Kelleher’s feisty aggression, Leonard’s sheer speed and energy, and Ellis’s all round toughness.

The other unfortunate was Rico Gear who had the misfortune to be playing his rugby with Rokocoko, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Howlett, 3 of the best wings in the world. Howlett’s work rate, defense, resilience, and commitment were enough to give him the nod.

So the hard work now begins. The All Blacks have committed to winning every game in 2007, including the Rugby World Cup Final on my birthday, October 20, in Paris. They go into Paris with the Bledisloe and Tri-Nations trophies securely in the cabinet, along with a positive attitude and a great squad. Lock is the only vulnerable position having lost Jason Eaton and James Ryan to injury. It’s going to be important to use Keith Robinson sparingly and hope that he holds up. There is no doubt that he adds real mongrel to the All Blacks, as well as providing Chris Jack with some relief in lineouts.

Dylan Cleaver, of The New Zealand Herald, wrote about “squeaky bum time". This is a phrase Alex Ferguson uses for those defining moments in a season we’ve all experienced. The pressure’s on, the stakes are high, reaction times are limited, the sweat builds, and bums begin to squeak. The All Blacks know what this feels like, having succumbed to squeaky bum syndrome in the Semi-Finals in 1999 and 2003. I think this squad have enough on-field leaders, enough game time together and enough experience in the tank that, come October, it will be the opposition who feel the pressure, not the ABs. I also believe you’ll see a lot more variations from this squad as the tournament progresses. Scrummaging dominance, old fashioned rucking, pick and drives, new set piece moves, lineout drives, and more forward pressure for the first 60 minutes. Then you’ll see off loads, speed, turnover attacks and slashing backline play. Bring it on!

p.s. I’m picking South Africa to beat France in the Semi to become the All Blacks' opponent. Jake White has picked a very experienced, tough, abrasive squad, boasting 833 caps between them. No bolters, and the same 16 forwards and 14 backs make Graham Henry’s picks. They will be very tough.

p.p.s. Check out the video archive on allblacks.com:

Monday, July 30, 2007

Fan Films

By now you will know my enthusiasm for consumer instigated media. I see the consumer’s passion for sisomo as the essential emotional resource for anyone who wants to win in the Attraction Economy.

The wisdom of empathy tells us that if we immerse ourselves in the passions of consumers, we will be in the right space to come up with creative products and brands that win their hearts. If you believe this, as I do, one place to pay close attention to is fan films. Not only are these productions often bizarre and wildly entertaining, they also map ideas, personalities and aspirations with serious powers of attraction.

What are fan films? They are films made by fans responding to the movies they love. Franchises like Star Trek, Batman, Star Wars and Harry Potter are out front as inspirations. Painstakingly created with actors or actor substitutes, they are frequently compelling, most often entertaining and always created out of passion and commitment to the movie they homage. But don’t just read about them. Check out some of these productions for yourself. If you learn nothing else, you’ll discover what is truly meant by the expression, a labor of love.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Living and Working to the Four Agreements

Some years ago, Don Miguel Ruiz wrote a book called The Four Agreements. It’s lessons are as powerful today as they were when they were first published:

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t assume
  4. Always do your best
All simple truths and excellent principles for inner happiness. Let’s face it, always doing your best and being impeccable with your word are pretty good foundational principles for anyone. And “don’t assume” is unbeatable as sound advice for life and for business. How many times are inaccurate assumptions the root cause of problems? Too many in my experience. In the end, communication and empathy are key. Think how often business gets derailed by someone taking something too personally. The only way through is to stay focused on the idea, the issue, the facts and the solution. Check your ego at the door and you’ll be amazed at how fast stuff can move, and how even the most complex issues can be resolved. This is not even to mention the reduced damage to your psyche, and the subsequent improvement in your happiness quotient. The Four Agreements has been around for a while, but it's a book that is definitely worth reading.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Transformational Ideas

In the ideas business there’s one thing you've got to have: ideas! Not everyday ideas like “let’s go shopping”, but big transformational ideas. With the spectacular exception of Sir Issac Newton and the apple, these kind of ideas don’t just fall out of the sky and into your lap.

Over the years I have worked with many great ideas people, including our creative director Bob Isherwood (who is a one man ideas machine), and I find they share the ability to put things together in surprising ways. It doesn’t sound like much, but the talent comes in not backing off from where the strangest connections may take you.

I am always on the hunt for these exhilarating combinations and I’ve been tracking a terrific example. Imagine. You’re sitting in Dubai, too hot to move and watching sport on television. Dubai/sport, your mind drifts back and forth between the two thoughts. What’s your big idea? Well Majid Al Futtaim came up with Ski Dubai. I kid you not.

The resort is more than 22,500 square meters with more than 6000 tons of snow on its artificial slopes. It even snows. This idea transformed what people thought was possible - anything! in the desert city. Ski Dubai greeted its one millionth visitor earlier this year.

I was mulling over other odd combinations when inspired by New Zealand’s gallant participation in the America’s Cup. The team is sponsored by Air Emirates (another quirky marriage of minds pointing to the Middle East), and on a recent visit to Wellington, New Zealand, I came up with this. Wellington has a reputation for being the windiest city in the world – yes, windier than Chicago – and it rains a lot too. A broken umbrella could be the symbol of this unique place. To this thought add the fact that New Zealand is a world leader in sailboat technology – the technology of harnessing wind. From there it is not too hard to propose that New Zealand produce an umbrella that could survive anything nature cares to throw at it. I see broken umbrellas in trash cans in most places in the world . This is an idea that needs to happen, preferably before next winter. The unbreakable umbrella. Let’s call it The Wellington.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Sheer Delight of the Gastro Pub

I left work early on Friday for some light release. It was 90 degrees in New York and humidity seemed close to 95%. I needed a cold beer, good company, good food, and a good dose of informality. So it was down to The Spotted Pig. The Pig is a great gastro pub opened by English expatriate, April Bloomfield, and is the spearhead of British style gastro pubs in New York. There are no reservations and only one room with its windows opened to the street. It’s in the Meat Packing District so there is lots of hustle and bustle. I can tell you that the Ricotta Gnudi is the best you can taste outside Italy, and I had faggots (the waitress was careful to call them bangers so as to avoid politically incorrect dramas in the US). I haven’t had faggots for about a decade, and boy were they the real thing. The chicken livers on toast with a cold, local Pilsner also hit the spot. High quality, beautifully prepared, non-pretentious pub grub. Heaven.

The experience reminded me of The Drunken Duck, which is a similar approach in vastly difference circumstances. It’s a pub near my place in Grasmere, and again, serves exquisite pub food with great local beers. It also has an unpretentious wine list with some pretty good French Bordeaux hidden amongst the new world stuff. My eldest daughter Nikki was there on Sunday night giving it a whirl. Her report? The Morecambe Bay Shrimps with Jalapeno and spices are a must, along with the locally baked Granary Bread. If you are up that way you should also go The Punch Bowl in the Lythe Valley. Another great experience.

Apple's Tipping Point

Can another single word be added to the mountain already written in praise of the iPhone? You bet your sweet life it can. Being tied up on the big launch day, I arranged for someone to line up and get one of Steve Jobs’ latest sensation. The key instruction? Get it back here as fast as possible. I pretty well had to wrestle it from their hands. What is it about Apple that gives them such an intimate understanding of magical objects? Commercial mobile phones have been around for over 30 years and nothing has come close to the elegance and wonder of the iPhone. Sure there were hints of what to expect. The iPod has been getting slimmer with every model, but the iPhone is still a quantum leap. What I love the most is the way the entire object feels devoted to the screen. It’s not about numbers to punch or controls to play with, it’s about a perfectly beautiful screen. I think we’ll look back on the launch of the iPhone as the moment that tipped us into a pure screen culture.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Gucci Invents its Future

About a year ago, I was invited by Robert Polet, CEO of Gucci Group, to talk to his CEO's at a conference at the Villa d’Este in Lake Como (the Villa d’Este is a Lovemark. Give it a go.)

An inspirational leader, Robert has freed his Creative Directors to lead the development of their brands, and to drive the business side of life, he has also partnered them with CEOs. We practice exactly the same philosophy at Saatchi, teaming CEO and Creative Director at the top (e.g. Bob Isherwood and I) throughout all our offices. I believe it’s a great and defining system.

Robert’s new approach will be put to the test this year on lead brand Gucci. Frida Giannini has just taken over as the new Head of Design. She’s dumping the G-spot made famous by Tom Ford, and taking Gucci back to its Italian roots. While Tom Ford trailed us into the nightclubs of New York and L.A., Frida and her CEO partner, Mark Lee, are taking Gucci back to the streets of Rome and onto the beaches of Capri. They are going for humor, eccentricity, irony and nonchalance. So it’s good-bye Paris Hilton and welcome back Sophia Loren. Which reminds me, I just bought an iconic image of Sophia Loren in her prime wearing a very tight corset. It is by NY artist Daniel Dens. Emblazoned over the full length image are the immortal words, “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti".

So Giannini is taking Gucci from sexy back to sensual. I can’t wait to see the new range which will be full of flowers, colored stripes, stars and fishes. Joyful and lots of fun.

Gucci is amongst the top 5 most valuable luxury brands in the world, and the most valuable Italian luxury brand. The Wall Street Journal recently named Giannini as one of its 50 Women to Watch. You can count on the fact that men everywhere in the world will be doing just that.

Monday, July 23, 2007

No More Putting a Cork In It

Is there anything to match the sound of a cork coming loose from a great bottle of wine? Well, there better be. Corks as sealers for wine bottles are on their way into history. Even though consumers resist, the shift to screw caps on wine bottles is building. While still limited in America where only around 5 percent of wineries use screw caps, in Australia, 40 percent of all wine has screw caps and in New Zealand, 80 percent. The traditional wine growing regions will hold out for as long as they can, but the writing is definitely on the cork.

From the wine industry’s point of view screw caps make sense. Bad corks spoil between 2 to 15 percent of all the bottles they seal and that’s big money when you spread it across a $130-$180 billion dollar global industry. Screw caps don’t actually save money themselves. The savings come from protecting the quality of the wine. Now, while this all makes good sense for the wine industry, I believe we wine drinkers of the world should unite and demand a better sensual experience to make up for what we are losing. They can start with the texture of the screw top, the sounds it could make as it is unscrewed, a visual surprise inside the top, maybe such wonderfully designed caps that they become collectible objects of desire – like champagne corks. I’m assuming that no one is going to try to put screw caps on the great champagnes. I may be a champion of change, but that’s going too far!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Cartier’s LOVE bracelets

I’ve written before about how I wear a Lance Armstrong LIVESTRONG wristband in support of a close friend who has cancer. LIVESTRONG’s bands are made of yellow silicone but when Cartier makes a band for the wrist, expect something different! Silk and white gold to be precise. Their second annual LOVE charity bracelet collection was launched earlier this month on Cartier’s LOVEDAY and it is spectacular. I was in Maurice Levy’s Publicis office last week. It is right opposite the 6th floor window of Cartier’s shop which had a huge LOVE sign in the window. Maurice thought I’d put it there! The Cartier connection with LIVESTRONG is bigger than bracelets though. Cartier is donating more than $1.2 million from the global sales of the LOVE bracelet to charity- that’s $100 for every $475 gold bracelet. Even better, they made it personal. There are eight bracelets with each one identified by a color, a celebrity and their chosen charity. Edward Norton went for green in support of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, Liv Tyler for deep pink and The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Michael Stipe got black for Mercy Corps and Gulf Coast Recovery. Very cool, very distinctive, very Cartier.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Learning from a napkin

Anyone familiar with the birth of Lovemarks knows that my core idea about the future of brands was to add love to respect, and how this relationship could work was first drawn on a restaurant table napkin. A sign of the sensual promise of Lovemarks is that it was a linen napkin, not a paper one! Working out an idea on a napkin has become part of creative tradition. People so excited by the speed and clarity of their thoughts at that moment, they simply seize whatever is closest at hand. Who is surprised that so often it happens over good food, good wine and good company?

When Dassault Systèmes wanted to celebrate the introduction of their new CATIA V5R14 package (they need to do something about that name!), they teamed up with design connectors Core77 and invited designers from around the world to explore ideas of form that deal with a fundamental element: Water. And this is where the table napkins come in. Plain white paper napkins were dispatched to leading designers and 750 napkin sketches from more than 65 countries were the response. Entries ranged from quick ideas to complicated fantasies on the theme of “imagine and shape”. The organizers summed up that “the medium of ink on paper napkin provided unstructured foundations on which to play". To check out the best of the entries and to see who won prizes, go here.

There’s another angle to this that Dassault might explore the next time round. I spoke at their Annual Leadership Convention earlier this year and of course the shift in power from manufacturers to consumers inspired my remarks. Every project always raises the same question for me: where are consumers in this? While consumers don’t want to take over the design process – why would they want to? – they are immensely important to it, particularly in the early stages. The idea-on-a-napkin stage in fact. So here’s a thought. How about extending the competition next year to the people who have a profound understanding of water – the people who drink it?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Dealing with threat

I was in London as the street car bombing terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow were foiled. I must say I was pretty chastened at the thought of Baghdad tactics arriving in the U.K. I was also in New York on September 11 and watched from my Hudson Street office as two planes flew directly in front of me on their way to destroying the World Trade Center. The incident with a bomb being discovered outside London’s Tiger Tiger club turned my stomach at the horror man is prepared to inflict on fellow man.

I left London to spend the weekend at my house in St. Tropez. You would think that was about as far away from terrorism as you could get. However, at 1:30am that evening, I was woken up by a panicky neighbor, yelling at me to get out of the house because of a fire. Having lived through countless false alarms in hotels, I’m afraid I didn’t take it too seriously. I picked up my passport, credit cards, and briefcase and leisurely made my way through the front door. “What fire?" I asked. Phillipe Jacques pointed to the whole hill behind the house, ablaze with orange flames 20 feet high and spreading like crazy as the mistral blew it through the area I live in. “That one,” he said.

Two neighbors’ houses were directly in the path and we were all rushed down to a security point. Twenty-five fire engines (yes, twenty-five) were on the scene within minutes, followed by a dozen police cars. Two hours later, the fire had been controlled and extinguished by incredibly competent and brave firefighters. The police had also caught two perpetrators; two arsonists had a grudge against the estate on which I live, and had taken it out by setting a random fire, which could have destroyed property and human lives. Many of the people involved were shocked and panicked by this incident and the inhumanity of the arsonists. We need to find a solution to all this somehow.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Imagination@Lancaster – The Journey Gets Underway

Following our inaugural dinner to kick-start on 24 May, Professor Rachel Cooper and her band of collaborative nomads caught up with me for a one-day session at Linthwaite House in the Lake District last week. It is a fantastic location with incredible views over Lake Windermere, and we had a great session with an eclectic group of folks from various disciplines including product design, politics, social technologies, and sustainability. It was a heady mix of Welshmen, Italians, Germans, and Anglo-Saxons.

The day was spent creating a purpose for this pirate-like adventure, and creating a space we could all play in without being inhibited by yesterday or today. The dream for Imagination@Lancaster is ‘to be a global leader in imagining new concepts and new collaborations for the common good’. We plan to launch this initiative on October 24 at the Design Museum in London, but I feel so excited about the day I can't resist giving you some tantalizing tidbits of what Imagination@Lancaster will feel like. The team is a bunch of collaborators with a total commitment to sustainability. It also has a strong will to act as passionate catalysts to bring the future into the present. Core to the team is the belief that creativity happens at the boundaries, the exceptional is in the everyday, and that uncertain ground is the place to be if you revel in a challenge. Rachel Cooper was the perfect inspirational den mother for the session, helping us to bring a wandering bunch of nomads into a collaborative and connected space. Drew Hemment, who runs the Futuresonic festival in Manchester and who works at bringing art and science together in what he calls 'social technologies', was a leading insurgent instigator at the session. I can promise you much more to come on this potentially groundbreaking idea.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Better People Make Better All Blacks

The countdown to the September Rugby World Cup is well underway. But still, there’s lots of issues out there in the world of rugby, and many commentators believe New Zealand has the best two teams in the competition - the All Blacks A side and their B team! The Northern Hemisphere are of course waiting for them to choke, as we have done four times before. This time I believe they will be disappointed. While it is true South Africa, Australia and Ireland will become competitive and push the All Blacks to the max, I think this time the AB’s will be ready for them. And the reason they’ll be ready is Graham Henry, an All Blacks coach who has taken a different view on player development. Rugby has only been professional for a decade, and it was only three or four years ago that we saw players coming through the system who had done nothing except play rugby. And it was a pretty boring way to spend your life – gym in the morning, gym in the afternoon, naps all day and that’s pretty much it. The result was mental stimulation and personal growth at a minimum and underdeveloped personalities ill equipped to cope with public expectations and pressure. Men expected to become leaders because they wear the black jersey, but incapable of boiling an egg for themselves.

In August 2004, Graham began a process of change that has proved the most significant in the history of the All Blacks. Prior to becoming a professional coach in 1996, Graham was a very successful school teacher in New Zealand, and one of the most admired principals in the nation. He opened up his All Blacks campaign with a belief that “better people make better All Blacks". His focus was on good balanced lifestyles that included interests away from rugby and learning every day. Simultaneously, the management team made a concerted effort to stamp out the drinking culture that’s been endemic to the All Blacks for many years.

Empowerment is all the rage in my world, and is now all the rage with the All Blacks. The players have been set up into specific leadership groups that they run themselves. It is these groups that provide feedback to management. We lost the Rugby World Cup in the Semi-Final at Twickenham because a) France played sublimely, b) the ball bounced for them, and c) our leaders were the coaches on the benches, not the players on the field. Now we have an eleven-man leadership group in the All Blacks with each player/leader taking responsibility for a bunch of six other All Blacks on and off the field. To do this job they are empowered to construct their own parameters, their own culture, their own ethics and their own punishment systems.

In my business we believe in unleashing and inspiring our people, not in command and control. Now the All Blacks are thriving under the same system. If there is an unsung hero of the squad, it is Gilbert Enoka. Gilbert is a sports psychologist who has helped identify with the players what it means today to be an All Black, with all the history and all that expectation. The new Haka was first performed twelve months into this program and reflected what this new team of All Blacks felt the Haka and the All Black jersey meant to them.

Graham and his management have maximized the potential of this All Blacks team on the rugby field and have given us our best chance of success. They also help make the NZRU job much easier because this new approach is obviously of much greater appeal to sponsors.

Gregor Paul, on the NZ Herald’s website, wrote a great summary of Graham’s initiatives, which I think are both groundbreakers for rugby, and offer a great stimulus for business everywhere.

Empowering the players – what they do:

  • Set the alcohol limit for any given night.
  • Help determine protocols for dealing with media, sponsors, fans.
  • Assess management’s performance and provide feedback about training sessions and game plans.
  • Recommend punishments for those who break protocol.
Building better people:
  • Richie McCaw has gained his pilot’s license.
  • Anton Oliver is heading a lobby group opposing the construction of a wind farm in Central Otago.
  • Nick Evans is a qualified physiotherapist.
  • Conrad Smith has completed a law degree and worked for a legal firm last year while he recuperated from a broken leg.
  • Dan Carter has opened fashion retail outlets.
  • Byron Kelleher launched a plastic pallet business.
Sport learning from Business; Business learning from Sport. A virtuous circle.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Beautiful Success

The last time I was in Paris I was invited to the headquarters of Clarins. Clarins is a billion dollar, family-owned company with around 6,000 employees across 150 countries. This is one of France’s greatest stories; how 50 years ago Jacques Courtin-Clarins created a company that now has 24% of its category in France and 30% in the UK.

Jacques died a couple of weeks ago which was traumatizing for this family company. My invitation to their headquarters had come from Jacques' eldest son, Christian, who leads Clarins today. Christian and I spent two hours together. Our conversation started with his admiration for the All Blacks and then moved on to his early journey into sustainability in Amazonia in 1985, his work for the oppressed through Soeur Emmanuelle and his dreams for Clarins. Christian is well over 6 ft., an ex-rugby player, and a man’s man with a beautiful feel for the mystery, sensuality and intimacy of beauty. Clarins products are particularly revered by the ageless French woman who, with Clarin’s help, continues to look and feel younger every day.

Christian, who was very close to his father, is obviously reeling following his death. Nevertheless, he was fascinating company and an exquisite host. Clarins is a brand that is irresistible to many and is certainly a Lovemark, a fact supported by Tânia from Portugal who wrote on Lovemarks.com: “Par amour Clarins”.

In fact, the reason Christian and I met was because he had read Lovemarks and followed up by sending a copy of the book to every member of his company. Lovemarks and love hearts were scattered throughout his conference room as we talked about new media, new in-store experiences, new consumer led packaging design and the future of beauty. To complete the picture, Christian rocked up to the meeting on a big 500c motorbike. A beautiful success indeed.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Inspired by Concorde

People don’t like to see a Lovemark leaving the market. They get mad, and when they’re Inspirational Consumers, they do something about it. A classic example is the effort to give that languishing Lovemark, the Concorde, a second chance. It seems there are Concorde supporters out there who are determined to see the sound barrier-buster back in the air. This group, led by Concorde ex-pilots and ex-passengers, have called themselves Club Concorde. Club President Paul James showed true commitment back in the good old days by chartering a Concorde to take paying guests from London to the Pyramids. Now there’s a guy who knows how to combine Lovemarks! Club Concorde’s idea is focused: get the Concorde flying at least six times a year with flights limited to their own club members. Life membership is only around $20, and already 30,000 Inspirational Consumers have signed up. One person who is sure to have signed up already is Garth, who submitted a story about Concorde on Lovemarks.com. “As a child I folded this plane in paper and dreamed as I watched it fly. As an adult I lived under its flight path and watched it thunder by. The ultimate in power, speed and beauty! The emotions and memories that this plane brings will remain forever, even if Concorde can no longer fly.” My thought? The man we need for this job is Richard Branson. Come on Richard… what sweet revenge for the Dirty Tricks Campaign!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

sisomo Beijing

When I wrote sisomo: the Future on Screen, an extraordinary part of that future must have already had its foundations laid. A Beijing shopping complex called The Place is a sisomo inspiration. This high voltage people-attractor claims the largest LED screen in the world. Hovering six stories above shoppers, it literally uses the soaring heights of the complex as a place to tell stories and showcase dreams. Designer Jeremy Railton was part of the Jerde Partnership that created the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas (still amazing after more than a decade). He explained what he learned about the creation of engaging mega-sisomo.

To begin with, mega-screens can’t function as a single movie screen. People can’t focus on that much at a time, and this makes cuts and dissolves a problem. People need to follow objects as they do in big stadium events and they need to move in real time. And this is the part I love: “Objects have to make an entrance and an exit just as in a live performance.” It’s wonderful that when sisomo is delivered to us on such a scale, only the rules of the real world beyond the screen help us make sense of a story. Exciting times for anyone in the imagination and ideas business.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

To T or not to T?

I’m conflicted. I love Mystery and I also love great ideas. So, what to do when the online t-shirt company Threadless produces 'Spoilt'? On Threadless anyone can submit a design with the best being produced, and Oliver Moss’s 'Spoilt' has got to be one of the best. Oliver’s design reveals the central mystery around 18 great movies. ‘Rosebud was the name of his sled.’ ‘Soylent green is made of people’, etc. So what do you do when someone undercuts Mystery with such brilliance? First, you check out whether you can name all the movies. Second, you don’t put an image of Oliver’s T-shirt on your blog. Third, you do give a link to it on Threadless because it’s such a great idea. New Threadless Ts are released on Mondays – always worth a look.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Say cheese

No one believes in the power of the senses more than I do. Over the years I have suggested to many brands that they should consider making a soundtrack or developing a scent. This offering from Stilton Cheese, however, tests my belief in the power of smell to its limits. Last year, the Stilton Cheese Makers Association commissioned the creation of Eau de Stilton. They claimed that, “Blue Stilton cheese has a very distinctive mellow aroma and our perfumier was able to capture the key essence of that scent and recreate it in what is an unusual but highly wearable perfume that we are very proud to put our name to". These are also the people who brought us Stilton ice cream, so I am on the look-out for the sweet sound of Stilton ripening for my iPod! (Not!)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

One pizza at a time

A feeling of helplessness is a huge problem facing us all today. The sense that nothing you do will make a difference, so why try. Many people give up at the immense scale of the task of making the world a better place. There is a saying I love: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time". And I’d add – you have to get started. For inspiration as to how it works, let’s turn to the creativity and speed of the market.

One of the most successful immigrants to the United States has to be Neapolitan street food. Pizza. In the 1940s, pizza was slow to catch on, but a decade later it was taking over America, one pizza oven at a time. Today 93 percent of Americans eat pizza at least once a month! So don’t ever give up on the idea of a step-by-step revolution. There are few problems that can’t be solved if enough people commit themselves and get started. We saw it happen with Band Aid. Person by person, song by song. We see it with the removal of landmines in Africa. Not all at once, but step by dangerous step, one landmine at a time.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Changing the rules

How often have you heard the phrase, “Rules are meant to be broken”? I have to admit I have been a king rule-breaker, especially around my teens and, ok, my twenties. Breaking rules brings up one big challenge though: you just end up being defined by the rules you tried to break in the first place. These days I don’t want to just break the rules. I want to change them.

The people who turned this idea into an art were W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne with their book Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant. My favorite example in the book is Cirque du Soleil. They changed the rules of the circus. They dropped the animals and kept the extraordinary physical skills, dropped the sawdust and opened theaters, dropped the circus menu format and told stories. Amazing stories of dreams and magic and emotion. Lots of emotion. They added to the attention-grabbing spectacle of the traditional circus, the attraction drama of great theater. That’s a lot of rules to change in a business that has defended its traditions for centuries. The rewards for Cirque have been huge, with global audiences and the inspiration of great artists like Canadian theater director Robert LePage.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The authenticity challenge

I recently bought a work by the American sculptor Dan Flavin. For most of his life, Flavin made sculptures out of fluorescent tubes. His combinations of different lengths and colors of everyday light fittings made him one of the most interesting artists of his time. His work is much sought after but, as is the case with many art works these days, Flavin’s sculptures come with their own issues.

Many of the lighting tubes that Flavin used are no longer available. So for people who own his work, a big question looms when you run out of the kind of tubes Flavin used: can you replace them with another type, or is the work irreparably damaged? Does a Flavin sculpture with a tube that was not specifically chosen by Flavin retain its authenticity? I have heard that technicians who have looked after Flavin’s work since his death in 1996 have assembled a large stockpile of Flavin-approved spare tubes. That’s reassuring for those of us who own Flavin’s work, but the bigger challenge remains.

To what degree does authenticity matter, not only in art, but in the market? Authenticity is a hot topic at the moment and to me the Flavin debate points out something crucial. Scarcity makes objects and experiences feel more authentic to us, and the closer we get, the more minute degrees of authenticity become. Concern about the exact color and brightness of a Flavin tube comes from the same emotional response as fans pursuing every last episode of Star Trek or every bootleg record of Leonard Cohen. We fans sense authenticity instantly and that’s what attracts us. Finding it at a level that satisfies us is never easy because it comes from the heart, but this challenge is what we relish. Such unreasonable desire can never be wrestled from the rational mind.

When I'm 64

The Beatles or the Stones? Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen? Butch or Sundance? Lennon or McCartney? Popular opinion, I guess, might have skewed towards Lennon, given his quirky creativity, but over the years I’ve become a Paul McCartney fan. Last week Team Saatchi in London presented to the man himself, his daughter Mary, and the commercial team who run his late wife Linda’s organic food company.

Managing Director of Team Saatchi, Sophie Hooper, and her people were really impressed with Paul’s creativity, his down-to-earth business sense, and his enthusiasm for the brand and the cause. He was focused, funny and generous. To that you can also add very wise, given that he awarded us with the business!

A couple of years back we were fortunate enough to persuade Paul to play for the Lexus Dealers at their National Conference. We’d taken a track from Chaos and Creation in the Backyard for one of our Lexus spots, and Paul agreed to play a private concert for the Dealers. He was amazing. This is a man who loves to play and entertain. We’ve been privileged enough to see Eric Clapton, Billy Joel, Elton John and many others perform in an intimate environment, but none of them had the sheer enthusiasm and energy of McCartney. He played his own tracks, great Wings work, and the best of The Beatles. Warm, human and very engaging, he played and played, and played.

What has prompted this outpouring is McCartney new album Memory Almost Full. This is the album he was working on before all the recent, highly publicized, personal problems, and had to shelve for a couple of years. I’ve been listening to it non-stop for a couple of days. It really is McCartney’s biography put to music. He comes from Liverpool, about 30 miles from where I grew up in Lancaster, and I find I can relate personally to so much of the stuff he sings about. Musically it’s outstanding, of course, given that Paul (an amazing musical talent as well as a great lyricist) plays all the instruments. “Don’t live in the past, don’t hold on to something that’s changing fast.” McCartney sure isn’t. He’s re-inventing himself and the music business, again. This latest CD was issued on the Starbucks label, Hear Music. It wasn’t so long ago that Hear Music was just a small listening post in Santa Monica and Starbucks a coffee shop in Seattle. In our new world of and/and they can now join with one of the legends of pop music. You can also find the lyrics for Memory Almost Full on paulmccartney.com. Who’d have thought being 64 could be so much fun?

View Paul McCartney 'Dance Tonight' music video.