Friday, August 31, 2007

Sampling Japanese-style

There are some cities that radiate energy. New York is one, so is Shanghai. But if you want energy plus a whack on the side of the head, the place to go is Tokyo. This time the energy is all being channeled by my three favorite Lovemarks elements: Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy. Called the Sample Lab, this business idea, like most of the great ones, is based on very simple, very human insights. People love trying things out (Sensuality), people love being in on new stuff (Mystery) and people love being part of a special community (Intimacy). The Sample Lab is housed in the wonderful “Iceberg” building in Harajuku and extends what cosmetics companies, in particular, got started: Inspiration through experience. Think Sephora creating a playground for women. The Sample Lab picks up sampling and mixes it with the idea of a membership. You have to pay a fee (not a big one) and that gives you entrance to the Lab by pressing a code on your cell phone. Once you’re in you’re free to sample beauty products, test stuff like exercise equipment, and generally have fun. How you respond is part of what the Lab offers back to manufacturers as feedback. Check out the site. It’s in Japanese so a few adventurous clicks will draw you in.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Business, ready and willing (almost)

Following up on my recent post on the Edelman Survey that found that people trusted business more than government, let’s look at the role of business from a different angle. The most recent issue of McKinsey Quarterly adds to the thought that consumers look to business to help make the world a better place with the suggestion that business executives are eager to step up to the task.

In a survey of 721 U.S. executives, McKinsey found that 84 per cent agreed that the role of corporations went beyond just meeting their obligations to shareholders. In a show of acute self knowledge, only 100 individuals agreed that they were playing active leadership roles in addressing public issues. By public issues we’re talking the big four: health care, education, poverty and climate change. Of the 100, 56 were board members and 14 of them also CEOs. 5 were CEOs but not on a board.

So what influenced the active 100 to take a leadership role in shaping public issues? The most important factor was a strong network of peers who shared their interest in public issues alongside a strong personal knowledge and understanding of those issues. And the biggest barrier? No surprises there – a lack of time.

Some of you might think 100 out of a 721 survey is not at all impressive, but I believe it represents a groundswell of change. There may be major gaps between what business people think they ought to be doing and what they actually do, but articulating that gap is a powerful motivator. One thing is for certain, with the challenges facing our world today, the inspiration, leadership skills and acumen of senior business leaders have never been so important.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Getting a foot in the door

A few days ago, I was talking to a bunch of young inspirational players from Saatchi & Saatchi. They were telling me how difficult it was to break into the job market nowadays. First up we talked about how important it was to have a positive, upbeat personality, and to get past that horrific first barrier of a process-driven HR Department. Then we got onto making CV’s more personal, more human, more interesting. How to make them interactive and engaging by using pictures and ideas, not just lists of qualifications. But it struck me that all of this was only half the problem. It also brought to mind what John F. Kennedy said during his inaugural speech...“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” So instead of focusing on what young talent can offer us as businesses, I want to share with you what I think we should offer today’s youth and tomorrow’s leaders. It boils down to four things I believe young people are looking for today:

  • responsibility

  • learning

  • recognition

  • joy
If you fail on any one of these four, they’ll leave you. In a complex and changing world, many companies still put too much value on value hierarchy, continuity, power and pressure, and run their staff through command and control. Well, they are going to miss out on the greatest competitive differentiator of all - talent. Responsibility, learning, recognition and joy are four things we all deserve, and four things we should make sure are part of our days and part of the lives of everyone we employ.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Get Personal with Kiva

This video shows New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof personally following up on a loan he made through Kiva to a baker in Kabul. As a card carrying optimist, I am often baffled by people who find the world a complication of impossible problems. Certainly there’s a lot to be done and done quickly, but there is also cause for hope. People do want to help each other out, but often they just don’t know how to go about it. Enter Kiva and its smart use of the Internet to make contributing to other people’s dreams compelling, accountable and very personal. Kiva is founded on the fantastic principle that the way to change the world is one person at a time. The idea is simple and draws on the ground-breaking work on microcredit done by Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, who were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Through Kiva you can make small loans to people who want to get ahead, in places where that is often not an easy thing to do. The key word is loans and all but a small fraction of them are repaid. It is a classic case of thinking local and going global. Kiva works with organizations on the ground in places where a couple of hundred dollars can make a difference to someone with entrepreneurial spirit. A woman wanting to expand her restaurant in Mexico, another in Cambodia who needs to increase her retail stock of fish, a family that wants to build their daughter’s tailoring business. What’s great about Kiva is not just that you can learn about what different businesses need, you can also read about the other lenders and their motivations. We may not all being able to pay a personal visit as Nicholas Kristof did, but the Web certainly can draw us closer together. Kiva is helping to make the world a better place one person at a time. Way to go.

Monday, August 27, 2007 Insights, Idiosyncrasy, Intuition If you’ve dropped in, you’ll know how much fun it is to browse around the thousands of nominations, group them, compare them, list them. Here you can come up close to consumer reality. These are the things people love, and here’s what they’ve got to say about them. Get past the fun and you’ll also uncover insights into how a huge number of incredibly different brands have surged over the love barrier and attracted intense devotion. What is this but proof that Lovemarks are not rationally created by companies, but built up by the personal, idiosyncratic and intuitive responses of thousands of individuals?

We’ve been using the site to explore what distinguishes a brand from a Lovemark to consumers and found some strange and wonderful insights on the journey. Join us and dive into the passion pool of nominations and stories that give its personality and power. Bring insights on fragrances to the surface, for instance. tells us that the top three things people love in a fragrance are that:

  • It’s fit for everyday use. Fragrances may be luxuries, but people want them to be everyday luxuries.
  • It draws comments from others. Fragrances are a way we communicate and express ourselves. No wonder choosing one can be such an important decision – and changing one more important still.
  • It recalls memories of loved ones. Fragrances are usually associated with stunning models and actresses, but what do we do? We think about the people we love ourselves, truly connecting dreams with reality.

Here’s a challenge. How about using these three responses to fragrances with other scents like food, or soap powder or, (why not?) engine oil. When you can make that inspired leap you can start moving from insights to transformational ideas.

Nearly 40 percent of the stories sampled specifically referred to an earlier memory associated with a Lovemarks fragrance. I’ve always believed that one of the great sensory memories of my childhood is the scent of freshly ironed sheets. Come on someone. Bottle it.

The most loved fragrance on is Chanel No 5. My favorites? I wear Le Male by Gaultier and love Hermes 24 Faubourg.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Business tips from the movies: avoiding a knife in the back

I saw a great movie en route to Seoul last week - Breach. It’s the true story of Robert Hanssen, a FBI double agent. Hansen was responsible for the deaths of half a dozen American agents, and the cause of untold damage to America’s national security.

The movie has been shot by Billy Ray, almost as a documentary. Ray has described the movie as “a story about lying in the pursuit of truth”. The tension never ebbs and the cold, chilling sets and tone feel totally believable. Even though you know how the story ends, you can still feel yourself being clouded by confusion and doubt.

Anyone in business will recognize and feel for this real life drama where everyday institutional office pressures are overlaid on the stresses of a typical family life. The acting is brilliant. Two primary characters, Hanssen, and FBI rookie, Eric O’Neill, are intriguingly interlinked, taking turns at playing on the insecurities of one another. There is a universal truth that lies at the heart of this movie; people who want to make a difference, and want to be known for something, need to be appreciated. It’s a theme I hold dear, and we must never forget just how important responsibility, learning, recognition and joy are to everyone in the work place. Create this sort of environment in your business and you are unlikely to be betrayed.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Acquired tastes

Anyone who knows me well or has ever worked with me knows that I am rarely more than an arm’s reach from a can of Diet Pepsi. I love the taste, I love the sound the can makes when it opens, and I have many great memories of drinking this Lovemark. Who could be surprised then that when Japan launched Pepsi Ice Cucumber, some wag sent me the details. As if I’d swap! Still, it did get me to thinking again about taste and how it forms such powerful emotional connections. It is interesting, for instance, how many of the tastes we love are, at first trial, difficult, and in some cases, downright unpleasant. Anyone who has seen a small child with a mouthful of food considering whether she is going to spit it out or swallow it knows exactly what I mean. Who can honestly say they loved their first sip of coffee or first encounter with an anchovy? What drives us on to learn to love? We want to be part of the gang, we want to show we are all grown-up, we simply want to prove we can. Today the range of foods we can get is amazing and curiosity about flavor is a shared passion. The best part is that out there on the Edge there are still remarkable tastes and textures to explore. Jonathan Swift said that it was a bold man that first ate an oyster, and he was right. We might not be there first, but how about expanding your taste repertoire with one of the following delicacies listed by Wikipedia. Go on, you know you want to!

  1. Casu marzu, a Sardinian cheese containing live insect larvae

  2. Durian, a pungent southeast Asian fruit

  3. Fernet Branca, a particularly strong, grape based, herbal digestif

  4. Haggis, a traditional Scottish dish mainly consisting of minced sheep offal, boiled in a sheep's stomach

  5. Hákarl, putrefied Icelandic shark

  6. Head cheese, a dish made of meat from an animal's skull and covered with gelatin (usually set in a mold)

  7. Huitlacoche, fungus-infected maize, popular in Mexico

  8. Pu-erh, a compressed, aged tea dominated by strong, earthy overtones

  9. Salmiak, Nordic/Dutch ammonium salt liquorice candy

  10. Tempeh, a fermented food made from soybeans popular in Southeast Asia

You should add to that list two of my own favorites care of Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck, where I ate last week and which is, along with El Bulli, the best restaurant in the world. They are snail porridge and egg and bacon ice cream. You can check out The Fat Duck’s tasting menu here.
These tastes may be a long way from the global mainstream today, but so was sushi 30 years ago. Sometimes we most enjoy the things we work for. This is certainly true of many Lovemarks. The relationship is not always instant because people are getting used to the ‘taste’. Brand creators should remember this when they put new brands into the market. In these days of fast change, it is easy to lose faith too quickly when something don’t take straight away. We have seen this happen with some terrific TV shows. Given an extra season, they might well have become hits. You’ve got to have faith to win Loyalty Beyond Reason. Faith in the taste of the consumer.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Art and Business, Business and Art

There’s always been a demarcation between the art and business parts of art museums. That line is about to be challenged big time soon, and it’s not by a sponsor or power mad business manager, but an artist. The Japanese artist Takashi Murakami hit the global art world like a meteor. Anyone who was in New York last year will remember his amazing sculptures at the Rockefeller Center. Combining high art and popular culture, he mashed business ideas and art ideals. Franchiser, edition maker, brand manager and licenser, Murakami sends his work into the world as high-end sculptures, collectible vinyls, limited edition soccer balls, even luxury key ring accessories. In collaboration with the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in Los Angeles, Murakami is putting his no seams vision of business and art into higher gear. The provocation in this major survey exhibition will be a fully operational Louis Vuitton store. Murakami has already designed bags and accessories for the luxury brand, but to demonstrate that this partnership is as central to his art as his million dollar paintings, the Vuitton store will be in the middle of the exhibition. A store that takes credit cards and wraps merchandise right at the heart of it. Murakami and Vuitton won’t be quarantined at the end as in most see-them-and-shop-them shows. As MOCA’s Chief Curator says, "People have touched base with the play between the commercial arena and high art, but this is a little more confrontational."

The exhibition opens in October and the prospects are fascinating. I’ve always seen the future of the store as a Theater of Dreams and Murakami is accelerating that future. I often look to art for foresight into how we will do business and connect with consumers – like any creative outfit that wants to stretch, we have provocative art around at Saatchi & Saatchi – and Murakami’s Vuitton store is a fantastic new attractor. As Andy Warhol once said, “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Finding Opportunities in Singapore

I spent a great weekend in Singapore last week. I was speaking at the Global Brand Forum with Al Gore, who is certainly making a splash around the world on his sustainability tour. He certainly carries gravitas as a former US Vice President, and his message content is conceptually spot on. I thought the delivery was somewhat over-rehearsed and overly packaged. He’s not too comfortable with provocative Q&A either, and no photos allowed! I had a blast though, and one of the results was great media coverage from the BBC, CNBC and local newspapers/magazines.

Singaporeans are hot for learning and are searching for answers on how to make brands, Asian brands in particular, more successful. The key, of course, is learning to let go. This is not totally compatible with life in Singapore, where brands are managed and marketed by command and control, with emotional connectivity and risk frowned upon. A little more play, a touch of randomness, and some fun needs to be injected into most brands and companies. The locals seem to live to shop and eat, and there’s plenty of mystery, sensuality and intimacy as far as cuisine is concerned. There’s a terrific fusion of Indian/Asian, Western and Arabic going on at every level and the shellfish and seafood are amongst the best in the world. Local Tiger Beer can't be beaten either and is not to be missed. But none of this passion morphs into their Management Philosophy.

While I was in the city, I had breakfast with a bunch of Kiwis who are thriving there. It struck me that Singapore is the perfect headquarters for New Zealand business. It’s got great infrastructure, terrific history, and a size and scale that makes it possible for New Zealand companies and businesses to compete in and win. So while everyone is focusing on China and its market size, smaller Kiwi entrepreneurs and businesses should look to start in Singapore and work outwards. The scale alone makes it a much lower risk/good reward proposition.

I stayed in the Valley Wing at the Shangri-La, which is old school decadent with a new school casual restaurant called The Line. It has echoes of Philippe Starck design and a cool 24th floor bar and French restaurant called BLU. Not dissimilar to Felix in The Peninsula, Hong Kong, and a great place for a night out.

Of course, Singapore boasts the Lovemark airline, Singapore Airlines, and the Lovemark airport, Changi. Now that’s an experience that reminds you of what air travel used to be before it turned into a European/US cattle movement. All in all, a great place to stop over en route to/from New Zealand or Australia.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Gastro Pubs II

One of the most interesting celebrity chefs around is Gordon Ramsay. Following his early days with Marco Pierre White, he has made a name for himself in the UK and now in New York at The London hotel. His restaurant at Claridge’s, in the UK, is not bad. The last time I was there we got chatting to Pierce Brosnan and were ignored by Mick Jagger and his 6-foot something model wife. Gordon has now opened a new gastro pub called “The Narrow” at 44 Narrow Street in London. If you’re in the city, give it a whirl. Have the fish ‘n chips or the pig’s cheeks, which I last had at my old time favorite, The Spotted Pig.

My youngest daughter, Bex, lived for a while in Islington. She’s now back in New Zealand but Islington is the Fulham/Chelsea of the 60’s. My favorite pub there is The Albion on Thornhill Road. It has a great wine list, is incredible value, and includes some terrific Bordeaux secrets twinned with the best Sheperds Pie I’ve had for a long time. And then there’s the boarding school treat of treats, Rhubarb Crumble. But someone needs to persuade them to find some custard to go with it!

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Everywhen

One of the characteristics of Mystery that fascinates me is the power to connect past, present and future. That’s why I jumped on a terrific word used by anthropologists to encapsulate this idea – the Everywhen. The indigenous people of Australia have their own inspiring way to describe this confluence of time – the all-at-once. It always amazes me how few businesses take an interest in the past as a way to shape their future and inform the present. Most of them behave like sharks: keep moving forward because if you stop, you’ll drown. Connecting with the past, present and future of your customers does not mean doing some data mining and sending them a birthday card. It does mean understanding them in a profound way and having the foresight to do something real and meaningful about it. An outstanding example is the way Prada used the unlikely venue of the Central Market in Valencia for their America’s Cup party. They left intact much of the Market’s everyday functions and simply added a few of their products among the salami and cheeses, as well as party pleasing DJs and dining tables. In this way they captured the elegance and sensuality of the market and wrapped it up as a wonderful surprise for their guests. Intuitive combinations can be very powerful. Prada turbans and Parma ham may not be what logic dictates, but this is the way we live. Families keep their family photo albums alongside today’s newspaper and brochures for next year’s holiday. We live our lives in the everywhen, and businesses, if they are to attract us, need to understand it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Short is the New Long

Later in the year, I’m to help judge the best 60-second film at Filminute, The International One Minute Film Festival. The other judges include Canadian author Michael Ondaatje, Kenichi Kondo, a new media curator at Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum, and Samira Makhmalbaf, who is a member of an extraordinary family of Iranian filmmakers. You can guess why I’m there. For one thing, my son Dan is a budding movie maker and recent graduate of the New York Film Academy. I’m also, as a passionate believer in sisomo and lover of 30-second movies (aka TV commercials), and this is going to be a fantastic opportunity to see some of the world’s best in action. Filminute asks a big question about what makes a great one-minute film, and answers it with:

“A great one-minute film will deliver a well-balanced equation of content, acting, dialogue, storytelling, photography and sound design. It’s everything a good film or animation should be, only in 60 seconds – no more, no less!”

Personally I’d put a question mark over ‘well-balanced’, but that’s a debate for another day. The attraction for me of short, short films is their accessibility. They are pretty well within the creative reach of just about everyone. Maybe not to the level of Filminute award winners, but most of us really can express ourselves in short sisomo. We just have to jump in. I had a good experience of this at a workshop in Geneva last year. As part of the day, each group was challenged to create a short film. The theme? How to change your world. The results were surprising, fun and fantastic proof of sisomo creativity. Try experimenting with sisomo to tap into ideas, engagement and connection. Start with a digital movie camera and a laptop, mix them with a whole lot of enthusiasm and get moving. The deadline for Filminute entries is August 20, 2007.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Curating the Sightseeing Tour

An idea that has recently slipped from the art world into business is curation. Curated stores have rapidly become a staple of retail (think Moss and Colette at the top end), but the act of curating, of selecting with intent, has fantastic potential in a world overwhelmed with choices. I’ve already noted Saatchi & Saatchi’s partnership with the curating house Formavision to create exhibitions around the launch of the Lexus LS. Now our content group, GUM, is working with CULT-GEIST on a project called The Sightseeing Tour. This is the first event from 4C – a long-term programme from CULT-GEIST and Gum @ Saatchi – and designed to celebrate the convergence of culture, content, communication and commerce. Anything with that many C’s has got to be good for you! The Sightseeing Tour is a selection of work by 24 young artists inspired by the city and connects urban culture with creativity. There’s three more C’s right there – city and creativity and connection. The Tour includes video, photography, installation, street art and painting, and was co-curated by Samuel Gassmann. First exhibited at Saatchi & Saatchi in London, it now lives online.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Susan956 says…

One of the pleasures of writing this blog has been the responses of readers. For those of you who follow the comments at the bottom of each post, you will have noticed that alongside friends, acquaintances and connectors who chip in with opinions and information, we have a few regulars who take the time to tease out some of the ideas I raise. I am referring in particular to three: Susan956, Piotr Jakubowski, and ideas revolutionary Kempton, all of whom are now part of the KRConnect family. Very generous with their ideas and insights, they always seem to be able to come up with something relevant that takes my thoughts further. I am very grateful to them for that. I was particularly taken with Susan’s suggestion that Google Earth might play a role in retirement homes. “I hope portable units can be taken into some retirement homes and stories encouraged from those folks who may not have ready computer access. History and future are nice to see together. I enjoy blending of generations on such projects.” Now that strikes me as such a Lovemarks idea for someone to pursue. The past starts infusing the present more richly as we get older – I can feel the pull myself. I have already noted the London Museum project and the delights of joining stories and maps. Combine that with the memories of people with time to spare, and you could get something big happening. The places where retired people gather (whether it’s residential or clubs or events) have the potential to become true centers for lively discussion, sharing and the creation of new emotional knowledge and emotional connections.

Monday, August 13, 2007

At Home on the Range

Like most young lads growing up in Lancashire, I was a fan of the Saturday morning matinees with Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers, and later Bonanza and Rawhide. My favorite author at age 10 was Zane Grey. I was addicted to short stories from Zane Grey’s Western magazine, Argosy, and dime western magazines, which I bought in a second-hand bookstore in China Square, Lancaster. The magazines were dusty and ten years old, but it was there that I discovered Elmore Leonard. In 1950 (I was already one!), Leonard graduated from college, and decided he needed to make a living while learning to write. His first story sold for 2 cents a word. From there he moved onto Get Shorty, Be Cool, Out of Sight, and Rum Punch. His books are now full of urban cowboys with Detroit, Atlantic City, Miami and Florida as locations. Over the past four days I’ve been on a trip down memory lane. I’ve been re-reading The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard, written between 1950-1956. It’s real escape stuff. Apache, cow punchers, scouts, robbers, rustlers, and bounty hunters all thrive in Leonard’s world. And I must say the writing stands up pretty well 55 years later. They’re earthy, sparse, tough, ironic and always on the sides of good vs evil. It’s Unforgiven territory. I love Arizona and I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend a couple of weeks. Feet up, reading Elmore Leonard stories down there in Sonoma.

Cowboy Up!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Jarrod Cunningham

I was heavily involved with the All Blacks in 1993. This was through my working with Lion Nathan, and the All Blacks' major sponsor at the time, Steinlager. During that time, I met a young guy from Hawke's Bay who was international class but just couldn’t get through the long line of world-class All Blacks ahead of him. He led Hawke’s Bay to a famous 29-17 win over the British Lions, and then moved across to Britain to play for London Irish. His name is Jarrod Cunningham.

Jarrod died in late July after a long heroic battle against motor neuron disease. He never gave up the fight, despite five years of intense suffering, and was constantly motivating and inspiring others. One of his favorite sayings - “Make sure you turn every mountain into a mole hill".

Four years ago, the Six Nations countries were scouring the world for New Zealanders with ties to them so they could be rushed into their World Cup squads. Remember Grannie Gate in Wales? Well, Jarrod had an English mother and a Scottish grandfather. Both Clive Woodward and Ian McGeechan attempted to convert him to the English and Scottish causes. Many players would have grabbed that opportunity, but Jarrod was a different kind of bloke. He said he could never imagine himself singing another country’s anthem with a New Zealand team on the same pitch.

Jarrod was diagnosed with motor neuron disease when his balance and coordination started to go awry in training sessions. A specialist told him conventional medicine could prolong his life by about 3 months and that was that. Jarrod decided to fight the killer disease without conventional medicine, through personal willpower and determination. He set up the Jarrod Cunningham Charitable Trust which raised close to £100,000 for fellow sufferers, and he was raising funds to the very end. The day before he died he was opening new facilities at his local club in Havelock North. Jarrod Cunningham was an inspirational New Zealand hero.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Curling up with a Good Book

The most innovative design draws on paradox. Two different ideas brought together to create something better. Here’s a terrific design that not only uses sensuality in a unique way but enhances it with simple functionality. Somewhere comfortable to read and somewhere stylish to store the stuff you read. Talk about being literally surrounded by books. Designed by Sakura Adachi, CAVE also comes in a kid’s version and even in a fun arrangement for pets. If you want to add something special to curling up with a book, Sakura Adachi is your kind of designer.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Three years ago I read Darkly Dreaming Dexter, a book by Jeff Lindsay, with the tag line, "A serial killer to fall in love with". Dexter Morgan appears to be the perfect gentleman, working as a forensic officer for the Miami Police. Everyone likes Dexter, but Dexter has a secret hobby. Turns out he’s an accomplished serial killer. But this is a serial killer with a difference. He only kills the bad guys. Jeff Lindsay has since written more Dexter books, all of which are gripping and creating what should be an impossible result - empathy for a serial killer. It’s the same play on emotions that made us love the charming thug, Tony Soprano. Now Dexter has just made his debut on the U.S. television network, Showtime (the new HBO). They have fantastic shows like Sleep Cell and The Tudors. And that’s not to mention Brotherhood, which was probably the best drama of 2006. Dexter Morgan might the first cold-blooded serial killer you’ve ever cared for. A killer with principles. Weird and mysterious.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Harry Potter Mysteries

Someone could write a great book about what marketers can learn from Harry Potter. And I’m not just thinking about the number of sales, or how fast they have been made. Certainly Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the fastest selling book in history and that is amazing, but I’m more intrigued by how Mystery has fueled the Harry phenomenon at every level. First, of course, there are the layers of Mystery at the heart of the story that have kept readers fascinated year after year. Then there’s the personal drama ignited by the way J.K. Rowling has protected her story. She has run a virtual master class in how to keep people guessing – and caring. The technical challenges overcome by the publishers, Bloomsbury, in keeping the final revelations about Harry on shelves but off the Internet, have their own fascination. However, what has astonished me has been the respect shown for the Potter Mystery by reviewers and commentators. This has been respect inspired not by the publishers or even by J.K. Rowling, but by the experience of readers. I’ve noticed what seems to me an unprecedented use of the term 'Spoiler Alert' in headlines to Potter stories. A warning to not to read what follows if readers do not want to find out what happens. Yes, the Consumer is Boss, and if you don’t respect their need to know, or need not to know, you’re in trouble. Anyone in the attraction businesses should be studying the Harry Potter experience very closely.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Who Are You Going To Turn To?

I believe that the role of business is to make the world a better place. It is clear to me that Governments are too unwieldy, too compromised and too distant from people to undertake this task although it was once left in their hands. The job requires focus, agility, optimism and the ability to understand people and how they can be inspired to undertake the transformational changes we need to thrive in the future. You can imagine my satisfaction when a recent Edelman Survey announced that the trend of people trusting business more than government continues. Unfortunately, this also means that the credibility of government has reached an all-time low, which is not good for any of us. In the United States, the difference between trust in business (53%) and government (38%) is the biggest since 1999 when the survey was first conducted.

Before you go off on a tangent thinking that this is an American phenomenon, the Edelman survey found that this level of trust in business is a global trend. Richard Edelman says, “Business is the most trusted institution of all in the less developed parts of the world and that’s remarkable. Why is this happening? Because business is bringing prosperity to those economies”. Certainly anyone who has worked with global companies, like P&G, know this to be true.

Another finding that pushes home the growing power of intimacy and empathy in making connections with people, is the huge trust that people place in others who are like themselves. Edelman looks at the question through the PR frame of the spokespeople who are trusted most, but there a wider implications for all kinds of communications. A ‘person like me’ turns out to be the most trusted spokesperson across the European Union, North America, and Latin America. In Asia, that ‘person like me’ is second only to doctors. We are all under peer pressure, literally!

Monday, August 6, 2007


Anyone who has seen the exhibition Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years at MoMA in New York will agree with the critics that he has emerged as one of America’s greatest artists. The scale, the ambition and the sheer sensual power of Serra’s monumental sculptures are out on their own, speaking for the American spirit in a way few other works do. But that’s not what I want to talk about. I am fascinated by Serra as the unlikely inspiration of a heavy industrial enterprise called PICKHAN Heavy Fabrication. Based in Germany, this company fabricates oil drilling platforms as well as cones, toroidal and spherical plates, pressings, special weldments, and Serra’s masterpieces. So far they have made over 50 of them, working in close cooperation with Serra on design and development, production of mock ups, fabrication and finally rigging and installation. On their website, they list sculpture with pride as one of their business areas alongside shipbuilding, ship cranes, oil platforms, and aircraft construction. What Serra offers them is stretch. He challenges them to solve structural problems that are not often found in their usual business. The result? PICKHAN feels confident enough to take on projects they would previously have found too daunting. That’s what great art can do and that’s why I love having it around.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Nothing is Impossible

Three years ago, one of the most athletic, competitive, world class rugby players of his generation retired prematurely after a bad car accident left him with a shattered knee. His name is Bobby Skinstad. He was in his early 20’s, Captain of the South African team, and the youngest, most attacking No. 8 on the scene. Two years ago, I was in my house in St. Tropez when the phone rang. It was Bobby, who had been given my number by All Blacks captain, Sean Fitzpatrick. Bobby was anxious to start a new life. Having had his own agency in South Africa, he was keen to hear what the future looked like in today’s advertising world and wanted some advice on how he should best go forward. I get plenty of phone calls like this from rugby players - all too few of which ever get followed up (by them!).

Anyway, I gave Bobby a few tasks to do and some questions to answer. Ten days later he was back on the phone with a set of very well thought through responses. It was obvious that even though he had retired from the game because of his injury, he was ready to commit himself to the hard yards needed to build a successful career. Saatchi & Saatchi and Bobby formed a joint venture called Esportif, designed to take a whole new look at sports marketing. During the course of this entrepreneurial adventure, Bob and I became friends, and I have come to admire his leadership, dedication, professionalism and eagerness to learn.

A couple of years later, Bob and Sean Fitzpatrick (universally known as Fitzy), came up to my old school, Lancaster Grammar, and held a Captain’s Dinner to raise funds for the school’s first 15 Tour of South Africa. They also coached the first 15 and second 15 sessions, and then ran a ‘coach the coach’ session for a bunch of school teachers around the Lancaster area. Lancaster Grammar had never seen the like. A Springbok and an All Blacks captain spreading the knowledge, and all through mateship and the love of rugby. I must admit a pretty big night followed, spearheaded by Colin Povey, ex Head Boy at Lancaster Grammar, ex MD of Carlsberg-Tetley, Director of Northampton Saints rugby, and CEO of Warwickshire County Cricket Club. He played water polo for England and probably drank a swimming pool full of Stella that night.

Last year, Bob called me again and said the World Cup was in his sights and dreams. His knee had recovered, and he was wondering whether he could regain his test place and represent South Africa in the Rugby World Cup. This kind of comeback is unheard of in professional rugby. Naturally, I thought it was a great idea! Bob went back to South Africa, dedicated himself to getting fit, and played in the Super 14. He then fought his way back onto the bench for South Africa and finally back on the team. He was then restored to the Captaincy shortly before he broke a rib. Last week he called me again from Johannesburg. He made the World Cup squad and will be representing South Africa in September.

Imagine it. The 2007 Rugby World Cup after four years out of the game. Let’s hope he goes all the way to October 20 and we get to see him run out on the Stade de France to face the All Blacks. It would be the ultimate Nothing is Impossible story.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Museum of London Brings Love Down to Earth

Nothing attracts people more than other people’s stories. The more personal, the more authentic, and the more they resonate with your own experiences, the more they attract. I was thinking this very thing when I was shown a new way to use Google Earth. This time it is in association with the Museum of London and they are compiling a virtual Lovemap of the city. It is surprisingly simple. You register, locate a place on the map (like all Google-style maps it zooms in from a bird’s eye position to close-ups of houses and streets) and place a virtual pin on it. With your pin you get the opportunity to add a personal story connected with that place. The groupings of the stories could have been taken from the pages of the Lovemarks book: love and loss, friendship and loneliness, fate and coincidence. The experiences that matters most in life. The project is in its early stages but people are already transforming maps into an emotional story of the city. Where love affairs began, places with special meaning, stories about houses that have long family traditions, all sorts of stuff. If you have ever been to London, get involved. Add your story to this inspirational tapestry.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Creativity and Reckless Ambition

I’m no academic. I hit the business world running straight from school and learnt from a bunch of mentors who continue to have a profound effect on my ideas and actions. I think this background is one of the reasons why I empathised so strongly with a talk by education visionary Ken Robinson. The talk was given at last year’s TED Conference and Sir Ken’s talk lives on courtesy of the Internet. It is wise, funny and profound. He tells great stories to illuminate creativity. He shows how obsessed we have become with training brains to the detriment of all other human potential. He brings to life dancers who languished at school until their need to move constantly was recognized as creative rather than irritating, as well as academics who regard their bodies as a way to get their heads to meetings. He stresses how kids often reveal how cautious and fearful we become as we grow up. He reckons we aren’t educated into creativity, we are educated out of it. In one story, Sir Ken summed up everything that I believe about the joy of creativity, the power of optimism and the huge value of recklessness. Here it is.

“I heard a great story recently and I love telling it, of a little girl who was in a drawing lesson. She was about six, in the back, drawing. The teacher said this little girl hardly ever paid attention but in this drawing lesson she did. The teacher was fascinated. She went over to her and asked, ‘What are you drawing?’ The girl said, ‘I’m drawing a picture of God’. The teacher said, ‘But nobody knows what God looks like’. And the girl said, ‘They will in a minute’.”

You can bet that I will take this story to the next gathering of Imagination@Lancaster and to my classes at the Universities of Waikato and Cambridge.

Toi and Moi

Last Saturday in New York, I trekked up to Chelsea to visit Karim Rashid’s studio. He’s just designed a Loveseat for Veuve Clicquot. It’s a limited edition of 120 pieces and one of them is heading to the reception area of Saatchi & Saatchi New York now. The piece is a fresh take on the famous 18th century armchair, Toi and Moi. Rashid’s version has two huge, pink flower petals joined on a chrome-plated pedestal, and topped by a pistil in the form of an ice bucket. But, the Loveseat is more than just a seat for two. It takes 3 days of loving attention to produce each one in Italy, and they enter the world representing romance, fun, color and effervescence.

I’ve been a fan of Karim Rashid for some years now. An Anglo-Egyptian raised in Canada, he is playful, colorful, trendy and totally in tune with yesterday, today and tomorrow. His Loveseat is the perfect addition to the Lovemarks Company.