Monday, March 31, 2008

The Lovemarks Effect in Germany

A couple of weeks ago I was in Frankfurt launching the German edition of The Lovemarks Effect. Saatchi & Saatchi people put their hearts on their sleeves and gave a terrific welcome to the book. There was a billboard the full height of their office building featuring the dramatic new cover created for the German edition, a launch party at the über cool Ich Weiss where Stephen Galloway (who has worked with The Rolling Stones) introduced the book, and full-on engagement. From my own experience, books still have an incredible power to spread ideas. People value and respect books. Since it was first published in 2004, Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands has now been released in 17 editions and 14 languages (including German of course) while the German edition of The Lovemarks Effect makes it four editions and four languages.

I still love books and I’m always fascinated by the way the digital world has been shaped by the idea of the book. We scroll, we read Web pages and some sites even display virtual pages that ‘turn’, just like a book. Check out the British library’s online gallery Turning the Pages for a fantastic example where you can leaf through the Library’s treasures like Baybars’ Qur’an or sketches by Leonardo.

People often adapt to the new by connecting it with the familiar. Why else would early automobiles be called horseless carriages and steam trains be called iron horses? We may have finally grown out of that naming phase though. The ‘horse’ link of the 19th century feels heavy-handed in this ‘i-” family world where we shift from Pod to Touch in months. A word of caution. Many years ago I recall a statement by Alvin Tofler, author of the landmark book Future Shock. Tofler said, "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who can’t learn, unlearn and relearn". Now that puts reading in its place. Who’s going to write the book about it?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Nostalgia for Beginners: Raintown

There is no one more switched on to music than my friend Rich Robinson. Rich is the Senior Manager for Music and Brands at EMI, and I have asked him to be a regular contributor to KR Connect. Here is the first of his posts in the series Nostalgia for Beginners, a perfect mix of emotional response and great insights. KR

Today I heard Raintown by Deacon Blue for the first time in about 20 years. It’s by no means the most fashionable record from that era, to say the least. It’s no Queen Is Dead and it’s not going to appear on any of my ‘Best Of’ lists. I don’t even remember getting particularly excited about it with my friends at the time I first heard it. You’ll certainly never see it on any of those Top 100 lists that magazines roll out every couple of months. Yet, somehow, it managed to do something that practically nothing else in the world ever could. It transported me back to a specific moment in time. Suddenly, I was 12 years old. I was in the bath, after being dropped off at home from football by my brother, listening to it on a tape recorder with the cable stretched out from my bedroom. He’d gone to the pub with his mates, and being 7 years younger, I was left home alone, wishing I were grown up. There I was, feeling the frustration and hopelessness of youthful entrapment, contemplating my own mortality and the world around me.

It’s not a particularly significant moment in my life. Far from it. I would have never normally recalled it at all. Why would you? But for the 45mins of that record, I could feel the same exact feelings as I felt that day in 1987. Every track reminded me of my life at that point in time. I could feel it in the nerve endings of my skin. I suddenly remembered friends I’d forgotten all about, girls I had crushes on, hopes and dreams of my younger self, and all things that had been locked up in my brain somewhere for the last 21 years. It was amazing.

What else could possibly do that to you in an instant? So vividly that you’re not remembering, but feeling it. It reminded me of the power we possess in communicating through music; an ability to be able to harness emotion and document the minutiae of moments in time without needing pictures, explanations or slogans.

Of course, not every song will do that. It’s about relevancy. Right time, right person, right place and right song. But get that combination right and you can have people feeling something emotional and deep forever, whenever they hear it.

Can anything other than music generate retrospective emotion so powerful that you can feel it again and again?

Mankind has tried every scientific and technological advance imaginable to make us travel through time. Turns out, all you need is an average 80s band from Glasgow.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Week To Remember: Part 2

I had already experienced the week from heaven so I was in good spirits for a client meeting in London on Friday. I took the the train from Euston up to Manchester at 4:05pm, where Jan Walker picked me up at 6:30pm and we rushed to Edgley Park to watch an English Premiership rugby match. The game was between the number 4 side Sale Sharks and the League leaders Gloucester. Our tickets had been arranged by Magnus Lund, an England player and old Lancastrian, who plays for the Sale Sharks. All went well and we caught up with Paul Fitton, an old school friend and his mate, John, a local entrepreneur and ex-rugby player with Broughton Park. Sale Sharks, led by All Black Luke McAllister, were unbelievable and trounced Gloucester in what was their best display of the season.

In the players’ lounge after the game, I caught up with Magnus and the Sharks. You won’t be surprised to hear that a pretty good night was had by all. The comparison between homespun English club rugby and Chelsea could not be more stark. Chelsea has the cosmopolitan, international feel of Milan, where Sale is real down to earth homespun Lancashire (even if it is in Cheshire!). We reached Grasmere at 2:00am that morning and I was looking forward to some tranquillity at the Lakes with Ben, Clarissa and Stella, who were coming up for a break.

Saturday saw the final stage of the Six Nations, and Sunday, of course, was an odyssey to Manchester for me and Ben. There we were, sitting with a deposed Prime Minister who had just returned from a triumph in Bangkok. It was surreal. Later we were taken through the dressing rooms and onto the pitch to feel the atmosphere and watch the players warm-up. I was dreading Thai cuisine for lunch, but as it turned out, we were served Lancashire hot pot and a carvery - you can take City away from the Manchester owners but you can’t take Manchester away from City. I have to say the Thais are certainly committed to taking the team forward and we explored a bunch of ideas for doing just that. John Wardle, the previous owner and Chairman, also joined us for the meeting and it was a terrific combination, with the go-forward ex-patriot owner coordinating closely with the local entrepreneur whose heart was deeply in the roots of the club.

A perfect week was then capped off with a 2-1 win to City taking us one step closer to Europe.

If it gets better than that, I’ve yet to discover it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A week to remember: Part 1

Last week I had a board meeting in Paris, the launch of the German edition of The Lovemarks Effect and some client meetings in Frankfurt, and a regional CEO meeting in London. Through an amazing set of coincidences, it turned out to be one of the great sporting weeks of all time.

Sport has been a passion for mine since I was old enough to kick and catch a ball. I’ve played rugby, soccer, cricket, tennis, squash, badminton, table tennis, as well as track and field, all my life. As a fan, I’m passionate about the All Blacks, Manchester City and Lancashire County Cricket Club. This week, because of the magic of serendipity and Saatchi & Saatchi, I attended four great sporting contests. I did it live and, as you will read, in some style.

Here, in two parts, is the story of my week.

It started last Friday when I flew overnight from New York to Dublin. I was catching up with Munster Chairman, Roger Downer, and his wife Jean, and we were hosted by the Irish Rugby Football Union. They were keen to explore marketing possibilities with USA Rugby. A splendid Friday night was held at The Horseshoe Bar in The Shelbourne, which has just been refurbished. In its time, The Shelbourne has hosted W.B. Yeats, Brendan Behan, Oscar Wilde, and pretty much every other literary lion Ireland has produced. And that’s not mentioning Marianne Faithful's one night fling there with snooker player Alex “Hurricane” Higgins in the early 70’s. How weird is that? Still, lucky Hurricane!

Anyway, after a few draughts of Guinness we went to dinner with the Irish Alickadoos. From there it was back to The Shelbourne, where we bumped into the reigning Miss World and a bunch of Irish beauties, before taking off for Lilly’s, the hot spot of the moment in Dublin. We were ushered straight into the VIP room and a very pleasant evening was had by all. I took my leave, as News of the World would say, at 2:30am and went to my hotel, The Merrion, a haven from international weekend rugby madness.

Saturday afternoon was at Croke Park where, along with 76,000 other rugby fans, I watched Ireland play Wales. I’d never been to Croke Park before. It is the spiritual home of Gaelic football in Ireland and is being used temporarily until Ireland’s own rugby mecca, Lansdowne Road, is renovated. We were once again hosted by the IRFU and it was a fantastic day - bright and sunny. It was also a fantastic game with Wales playing brilliant attacking rugby to win a pretty good match. I was pleased for Warren Gatland, an ol’ Kiwi mate who coaches the Welsh. Warren has taken Wales all the way to a grand slam this season.

I had to leave Croke Park immediately after the game and miss the black-tie dinner with the teams. But believe me, after having gone to probably 50 of these in the past, this was no great hardship.

As I was traveling onto London for the regional CEO meetings, my mobile rang. It was Alistair Mackintosh, the CEO of my favorite team, Manchester City. Alistair asked if I would be interested in helping City go global and meet with their owner Thaksin Shinawatra, ex-Prime Minister of Thailand, to discuss how this could happen. Would I ever! Coincidentally, Thaksin Shinawatra was on his way back from Bangkok (where he has 800 million sterling assets frozen by the current government) and would be in Manchester on Sunday when City were hosting Spurs in the top of the table Premier League clash. “How would having a private lunch in the Chairman’s lounge with Dr. Shinawatra sound before watching the game together?” Pretty good actually.

Before all this, Mike Forde, the performance director of Chelsea Football Club, invited Ben and I to visit Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening to watch Chelsea play Derby County and also meet the top brass in Mr. Abramovich’s suite. Now that was a special treat not to be missed. The owner’s suite seats 24 around 2 dining tables along with 24 plush leather seats outside. I’ve never watched soccer in such comfort. The food was high-class Nobu-like Japanese and the beer was Moretti. The hospitality lounge next door was Armani’s, reflecting the cosmopolitan chic of Chelsea.

When we sat outside to watch the game, I found there was a button on the side of my seat. I pressed it and waited for lift off. Instead I got heat! It was like sitting in a Lexus. How about that? A heated leather seat to watch soccer from. Luxury. Bloody luxury. And the game was fantastic with Chelsea winning 6-1. It was also fascinating to meet old Chelsea players and managers and see the two cultures (the current Russian owners and the old school Chelsea staff) working together.

Tomorrow: Part 2 - The sporting thrills continue...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Eat my shorts

Sometimes I give measurement a tough time on this blog. My irritation with metric mania is well known. But hold the bus. Sometimes the passion for precise measurement takes us to strange and fascinating places. For example, the speed at which electrons move can only be measured in attoseconds. To get to grips with the attosecond, we have to get relative. An attosecond is related to a second as a second is related to the age of the universe!! That makes electrons way beyond fast and impossible to catch on film. And yet, Nothing is Impossible. Now we learn that scientists have filmed an electron in motion for the first time. How cool is that? They’ve given new meaning to the term "short" film. Fortunately for us, the motion has been slowed down so the human eye can actually pick it up. Ok, filming an electron is great. They’re fast and very illusive. Time to ramp it up and capture something even faster and more illusive. How about filming an idea? Now there’s a challenge.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Surprised by a tall tale

Here’s a cool demonstration of pure engagement. No, it’s not an innovative new media idea or the hottest viral on YouTube. It’s a “How tall are you?” measuring stick. As kids most of us had our growing height pencilled on a door frame somewhere in the house, and as parents, most of us followed the tradition. Watching the kids inch up to their adult height is one of the great pleasures of parenthood – until they creep past you, that is. What’s riveting about this ruler is that it opens up the height competition far beyond your own family and the kids next door. Now you can measure yourself against great icons of today and yesterday. Are you taller than Peter the Great? Not unless you’re playing on a basketball team somewhere. Are you a few centimeters taller than Brad Pitt? Venus Williams is. And what about Danny DeVito compared with Mother Teresa? It’s Danny by a whisker. OK, most of the names are entertainers but there is a peppering of sports stars and royals for spice. What’s engaging about the idea is the density of associations these names have and how cool it is to see unlikely people placed side-by-side. From this experience one thing jumps out: the importance of surprise to engagement. We keep on checking and comparing the names because we like to have our assumptions confirmed (I’m right!) and we also like the spark of a new association (What?) even if it’s about something as quirky as height. On its own, knowing Arnold Schwarzenegger is 187 cm tall doesn’t grab me, but the knowledge that Maria Sharapova is as well …. Queen Elizabeth II and Drew Barrymore. Gwyneth Paltrow and Johnny Depp. Salvador Dali and James Dean. Odd couples all. Where do I stand? I’m not telling, but it’s somewhere between Paris Hilton and Clint Eastwood.

Friday, March 21, 2008

How babies make it easy

It’s always great to be proved right by a scientist. So here’s to Morten Kringelbach, a Senior Research Fellow in Psychiatry at Oxford University who has proved what anyone who has ever held a baby already knows: babies are hard wired into our hearts.

My recent re-introduction to the art of holding a baby and speaking in that strange language adults save for the small was an instant delight, so Dr Kringelbach’s research was an affirmation rather than a revelation. By flashing pictures of the faces of adults and of babies for just 300 milliseconds, Kringelbach’s team recorded distinct differences in the way people responded to the two kinds of faces. And it’s not just whether we come up with baby talk or a request for a hamburger. They discovered that the physical place that is stimulated in our brain is different. When we look at adult faces, the response comes from the back of the brain; when we look at a baby’s face we respond from a part of the brain that is just over the eyeball region. Guess what part of the brain that is? You’ve got it, Sherlock. The emotional part. Morten goes on to suggest that this explains why many men prefer women with baby faces, but let’s follow him there. Maybe Morten Kringelbach has never held a baby in his arms without a stopwatch in hand. I reckon it would have taken him less than 300 milliseconds to figure it’s an emotional thing.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

iPod heaven

A couple of friends hijacked my iPod the other day to check out what I was listening to that was new and fresh. Here’s what they found. The most recent and frequently played 15 albums on my permanent companion - a classic 80GB iPod.

1. The Felice Brothers. Their first live album is Tonight At The Arizona. Almost impossible to find and once found, equally impossible to categorize. And listen to 'Ballad Of Lou The Welterweight'.

2. In the late 60’s I was a big fan of the Amen Corner with their No. 1 hit 'Bend Me, Shape Me' and '(If Paradise Is) Half As Nice'. Over the years their preppy lead singer, Andy Fairweather Low, has made a great living as a multi-talented session musician and writer. Now he has just released a new solo album called Sweet Soulful Music. Perfect lounge/airplane listening.

3. Jan Walker, who works with me at 'Allinspired' in Grasmere, turned me on to British phenomenon, Amy MacDonald and her This Is the Life album. Optimistic. Joyful.

4. Don’t miss The Broken Heartbreakers in their debut album called, originally enough, The Broken Heartbreakers.

5. I’ve been a fan of the Scottish band Camera Obscura for a while. I play two of their albums more than the others. Let’s Get Out of This Country and Underachievers Please Try Harder. And listen to their homage to kooky legend Dory Previn.

6. Bex and Danis went to see Cat Power in Auckland a couple of days ago. Bex saw her in Barcelona a few months back and was entranced. She’s a great live performer and played in the Powerstation, a small venue in Auckland, where she went down beautifully. Her new Jukebox album is her best yet.

7. Bolton is not a very exotic town for a pop career, but I promise you, Cherry Ghost and Thirst for Romance is not to be missed.

8. I’m also listening to two 70’s records from Dory Previn. Mary C. Brown and the Hollywood Sign and Mythical Kings and Iguanas. She was a hippy folk who was married to Andre Previn before Mia Farrow arrived on the scene. I also bought a couple of great books about her search for her father - pure California 70’s.

9. Eliza Gilkyson is a terrific artist who has been around for a while. Her latest album, Your Town Tonight, is real, earthy, gritty and authentic. Her cover of 'Jokerman' is the best yet. For my money, it’s as good as Robert Earl Keen’s live 'Tangled Up In Blue' which I heard at Filmore East.

10. Another 60’s icon for me was Francoise Hardy. I was in love with her breathy French pop. She’s still chic and glam (although silver haired now) and has done a stunning duets album called Parentheses.

11. Bob Latham, a passionate rugby man from Dallas, sent me Ian McLagan and the Bump Band’s tribute to their dear friend, ex-Small Faces rebel rouser, Ronnie Lane. It’s called A Spiritual Boy and it’s not to be missed.

12. The King Creosote Bombshell album is very hip. It’s sort of Ben Harper mixed with Jack Johnson and Ray LaMontagne.

13. When our Saatchi & Saatchi Asia Pacific team gathered a few weeks back we were lucky enough to have New Zealand’s best, Moana, play for us live at my house in Auckland. Her new live album is a classic.

14. Talking classics, I hope you’ve all bought Raising Sand by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, which Danis turned me on to immediately upon release.

15. And finally, having watched Tom Russell live at the Cactus Club in Austin, I’ve been obsessing on his live stuff, particularly the first ever release of a late 80’s concert in Leon. Make sure you get a copy. Lost Angels of Lyon. Punchy stuff, especially the Springsteen covers of 'I’m on Fire' and 'Reason to Believe'.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The obsolete alphabet

I love new stuff. Ideas, technologies, experiences, connections – they all inspire unexpected possibilities and adventures. Most of us never think about the stuff we shed as we head forward – I seldom do – so I was fascinated by this huge list of skills declared obsolete. As I was on a long flight, I had some fun adding a few of my own and making up an alphabet. There’s a few that may be obsolete in most people’s lives but still feature in mine (7 actually, but who’s counting?). Over to you to figure out which ones. And if you’ve got any additions, let me know.

A for Adjusting the rabbit ears on a TV set
B for Building with Meccano
C for Carbon copies
D for Dialing a phone
E for Eating a high carb diet
F for Filing
G for Getting down a dictionary to look up a word
H for Handwriting anything
I for Inserting a fountain pen into a bottle of ink
J for Jokes
K for Knowing how to do long division
L for Loading film into a camera
M for Memorizing phone numbers
N for Navigating with a compass
O for Operating an overhead projector
P for Paying cash
Q for Quitting work at 5 pm on the dot
R for Replacing heels and soles on your shoes
S for Setting the time on a VCR
T for Tying a Windsor knot
U for Using a beer can opener
V for Vinyl records
W for Winding down car windows
X for X and Roman numerals in general
Y for Yodeling (in my world anyway)
Z for Zip drives

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Inspiring Brand Loyalty on FOX

Last month, I had a hugely entertaining time talking over the big issues facing the advertising industry. Was this around a boardroom table? No. Was it in a smoke-filled room? Not on your life. It was where it should be, out in the open for everyone to hear, and it was on the FOX Business Network. When people tell me that television is dead, I reach for my remote. I’ve had a fantastic response to that one short interview. TV is still the best and fastest way to make powerful emotional connections. As a way to present ideas, it is unparalleled as long as your ideas are clear, focused and make sense fast.

So what did I talk to FOX Business’ Dagen McDowell about? First I disabused her of the notion that ad spending is becoming a thing of the past. I told her that as far as I’m concerned, advertising is the most fun it has ever been, and in large part that’s because all the rules have been thrown out. The reality is that our biggest client, P&G, has increased its advertising spend and Toyota is unstoppable. Sure, some companies on lower levels are finding it tough and have started playing defence, but that’s not the way it is at the top. What great companies see in tough times is opportunity - and we’re right there with them.

For us, times aren’t tough, they’re exciting. In our industry, most of us are faced with a simple proposition: change or become irrelevant.

We’ve chosen to change. The digital revolution is the best thing that has ever happened to us. For a start, it has meant that the average age of our staff is now around 27. These are all people who grew up in the digital age. Give them a fountain pen and they’ll just squirt ink on the floor trying to figure out what it is. They don’t find advertising a risky profession to join. All they see are opportunities to do cool stuff that they never believed possible. It has never been easier to attract great talent into our business. Make a movie, develop a computer game, collaborate with feature film directors, dance with wolves. Their horizons are as big as they want to push them – and you sure won’t see me fencing them in.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Making Sustainability Irresistible

The agenda for the next three years is shaping up and sustainability is towards the top for every business I know. There’s been a lot of talk, but to me the challenge is clear. We have to get beyond talk to action, and action that is big enough to make a difference to the problems we face. Starting with ourselves.

I’m seeing 2008 as Saatchi & Saatchi’s breakthrough year. It’s the year we brought the San Francisco-based sustainability consultancy, Act Now, into the Saatchi family. It’s the year Adam Werbach, Act Now’s founder, one of the great thinkers in the global sustainability debate, joined us as CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi S. It’s the year we’ll be making sustainability irresistible to our clients and partners, and irresistible to the people who choose and buy in the marketplace.

Saatchi & Saatchi S is founded on the simple conviction that we can make the world a better place one person at a time. I’ve talked about this idea before on this blog. Remember the amazing online small loans site Kiva, and the Japanese government encouraging men to wear cooler clothing so the air conditioning can be turned down? Well here it comes again. Saatchi & Saatchi S’s signature offering is created around an idea. The Personal Sustainability Project or PSP. Adam and his team encourage, cajole and inspire people working in organizations to take personal responsibility for one small change in their lives that helps sustainability. For one, it might be committing to walk to work twice a week. For another, saving water at home. For yet another, organizing the clean-up of a local stream. Not big world-changing commitments in themselves, but together they make a difference and start to build the vital momentum we all need.

One of the people involved at Wal-Mart explained that it’s not so much taking on a project that is important, but the change it makes to how you feel about sustainability. Instead of sustainability being something that people ‘out-there’ push at you, it becomes something you embrace for yourself. It becomes a way of thinking and feeling and acting that permeates what you do at work, at home and in the community. I believe that without this intensely personal commitment, attempts to encourage sustainability risk becoming isolated fads demanding huge amounts of energy and resources again and again.

Saatchi & Saatchi has always been inspired by the spirit of 'Nothing Is Impossible'. Saatchi & Saatchi S lives by this spirit too. Its initial goal is one billion. That’s one billion people committed to adopting sustainability practices. In other words, around one sixth of the world’s population. What a fantastic challenge. Fortunately Saatchi & Saatchi S is off to a flying start, bringing rich experience with major companies including Wal-Mart, P&G, General Mills, Kaiser Permanente and General Electric.

Taking a cue from the name of Adam’s original company, we have to Act Now. Not tomorrow, not next week, not when we have time. Now. How will we do this? By trading in limits for possibilities. By working at the scale of the problems we face. By connecting environmental, economic, social and cultural streams of action together. By making sustainability irresistible.

When we developed Lovemarks we understood that the shift of power to consumers would change brands forever. Now consumers are subjecting Lovemarks and would-be Lovemarks to another tough test. Not only is a Lovemark owned by the people who love it, but it has to front up to the sustainability challenge. No sustainability, no Lovemark.

Has there ever been a time when business and the future of the world were so closely aligned? Has there ever been a time when a healthy planet needs happy, engaged and fulfilled people? Not in my lifetime.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hotel Mini Bars

I spend over 200 nights a year in hotels around the world. As you can imagine, in-room mini bars play a significant part in my life. Most of them are unimaginative and average. There are notable exceptions such as the Delano in South Beach Miami, which is all about sun, sand and sex, and the Metropolitan in London, which has the same focus (just without the sun). I would also add the Hotel Monaco in San Francisco, which is West Coast funky.

Most hotels just go for bland. For a start, they put middle of the road, everyday brands in the fridge and charge a 400% premium. How irritating is that? Being everyday brands, they have no mystery and you are only too well aware of how much you are being gouged on price. Another pet hate is the location of mini bars. There seems to be some in-house joke that has fridges hidden out of sight or requiring yoga-trained dexterity to bend down to floor level (often in the middle of the night), risking serious injury to life and limb. This isn’t how we stock drinks at home or in bars so why would you do it in a hotel room? Finding a new solution that delivers a quality experience at eye and hand level would be a major breakthrough in hotel culture.

What makes the ideal mini bar? Here are 10 ideas to work with.

1. Physically, it needs to be at eye level, easy to open, big enough for you to put your own supermarket soft drink purchases inside. It should not hum or make an unpleasant noise during the night.

2. It should be full of local goodies that you haven’t tried and don’t know the price of.

3. A great mini bar will have a dual focus on indulgence and health. Indulgent foods for when you’re feeling all alone, miserable, depressed after a bad meeting. Healthy foods for when you’re feeling motivated, committed and inspired.

4. They should all feature a mixture of savory and sweet snacks. Savory to be enjoyed with a quiet beer or glass of wine; sweet for midnight cravings brought on by jetlag.

5. Half a half bottle of a very good Bordeaux within arm’s reach, along with screw cap bottles of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for 2-3 day stays. Essential in every mini bar.

6. The best two local beers, in bottles, ice cold.

7. It should have some ready to take, hard to find, gift items for the inevitable situation where you’re rushing to meet someone and don't have time to pick anything up.

8. Packets of potato chips and snacks in local flavors you have never tried before on the top shelf.

9. And don’t forget pre and post hangover cures/preventives. Add to that lots of water, aspirin and Berocca.

10. Finally, we can live without the Toblerone and Snickers bars. Replace these tired old war horses with the best local milk chocolate available.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A country for great movies

If you’re looking for two great movies, you need to see No Country for Old Men and In the Valley of Elah. Both star Tommy Lee Jones, both had plenty of Academy Award nominations and No Country took away 4 Oscars, including Best Picture.

I read Cormac McCarthy’s book, No Country for Old Men last year (it was great to see him sitting front and center at the Awards). I’m a McCarthy fan and it was a riveting, spare, tough gritty story. As for the Coen Brothers, the cinematography is outstanding; the pace is perfect (slow, real and dripping with tension). The three protagonists, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem, are incredible. Bardem plays a psychopathic, coin tossing killer who steals the movie. Apart from anything else, he has the haircut from hell. I read that the stylist, a Canadian Paul LeBlanc is pleased to be associated with what Bardem described as “one of the most horrible haircuts in history”. That maybe so, but through his performance he has turned it into an icon. I’ll pass on calling it a Lovemark at this stage but it does show you the impact of a great creative idea. Back to the movie, I can tell you it has an ending that hits you smack in the gut.

In the Valley of Elah was in and out of U.S. theaters at lighting speed. For me, it is our generation’s Deer Hunter. The film tells a story of the Iraq War which is totally reminiscent of the movies I saw 30 years ago about Vietnam. Tommy Lee Jones plays a retired military policeman investigating the death of his son on his return from Iraq. This has got to be Tommy Lee Jones’ career high. He was up against tough Oscar competition with Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd and Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will be Blood (who I always thought was too hard to beat). And so he was.

Both these movies portray the seedy side of life in the belly of today’s USA. They are the antidote to most of the garbage being turned out by the major studios.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Testing the Shroud of Turin

When we started out with Lovemarks, I couldn’t resist having a go at metric maniacs who dismiss every idea unless it is nailed to the floor with facts. In fact I so disliked the way they sucked out emotion, I called them 'research vampires'. To their faces. What is it about people that they want to reduce everything to numbers? Last week Jack Welch said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Good!! Look, I can count as well as the next guy and I do appreciate that gravity is here to stay, but sometimes measurement just blinds you to what’s important.

That’s why I was astonished to see that science is having yet another probe at the Turin Shroud. Now I don’t think it matters whether you are a believer or not, the Shroud of Turin is a remarkable icon. Millions of people believe that it is the cloth that wrapped Jesus Christ when he was buried and that the image is a representation of him. Over the years, the Shroud has not just attracted believers but it has drawn scientists. They just can’t let this bone go. They test, they measure, they analyze, and now they photograph to bring this icon down to size. The first photograph was taken in 1898 and the latest effort is a 12.8 billion-pixel job cobbled together from 1,600 high-definition images. The conclusion from the Oxford lab was that the Shroud was a fake. Again. It was what science resolved 20 years ago and yet in 2000, when it was last displayed, three million people saw it. This is about emotion and faith, not about reason. Testing the Shroud to prove it is real is just as silly as trying to show it’s a twelfth century con job. As long as people feel such a passionate connection with it, all the photographs, measurements and carbon dating won’t make a scrap of difference. Millions will make the pilgrimage to see the Shroud the next time it is displayed publicly in 2025. Let it go guys.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Doodling your way to great ideas

I’m a longtime fan of that most powerful of icons, the smiley face. I use one every now and then to give an emoticon nod to a smart idea. There’s something so direct about that little face. It expresses not only approval for a job well done or a brilliant idea, but personal appreciation as well. I think of the smiley as part of the doodle family; a doodle that decided to settle down and get a real job. To me great doodles track a direct line from the subconscious, where ideas and creativity come from, right onto a page, a margin or a paper napkin. I caught up with Edward de Bono last week at our World Changing Ideas evaluation. He often presents his ideas as a continuous doodle on long strips of paper that are then projected onto the wall. It becomes like a stream of consciousness, and as his audience, we feel privileged to see it happen in front of our eyes.

Visuals give you a fantastic way to capture an idea and, sometimes, they can change the way you think. When Saatchi & Saatchi’s Chairman Bob Seelert and I sketched out the Love/Respect Axis for the first time (on a table napkin of course), it wasn’t a model or a diagram. Now there’s a book dedicated to such sketches, tables, doodles, diagrams and the like. Dan Roam’s The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures identifies some of the visual inspirations that have helped shape businesses in new and surprising directions. One of his examples is a doodle by Rollin King, the founder of Southwest Airlines. The picture? A triangle that connected three circles with the names San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. A great business start-up story told as simply as possible, but no simpler. Yes, another Einstein quote, but what a fantastic one.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bringing FREDA to the All Blacks

When my colleagues and I wrote our book on Peak Performance, we approached great sports teams to find out how they excelled time after time. I believe the time has come for sport to learn from business, and who better to benefit from this than the New Zealand All Blacks? The fact is that if the All Blacks were a company and Graham Henry was its CEO, I would hope that the 2008-2011 plan would be built around FREDA.

F is for Focus.
The focus of the last program was to win the Rugby World Cup. Ok, that didn’t work.

This time our focus should change and revert back to “Winning every test match we play”. It should be about picking the best team to win that particular game against that particular opponent. Vince Lombardi, the coach of the Green Bay Packers, said that winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing. We need to get our players refocused on winning one game at a time, every time. The only way we’ll be ready for sudden death situations is if we practice that sudden death mentality every time we run onto the pitch. That’s how it used to be and that’s what we need to get back to.

R is for Reinvention.We must re-imagine and reinvent in two areas through the power of paradox. We need to commit to the last detail and the big idea. Nothing should be left unscrutinized. An example? Is it time to change our view on the Haka? Have we spent too much time investing in its cultural implications and the reaction of the opposition?

Should we - a) perform it for ourselves in the changing shed as we did successfully in Cardiff against Wales, b) perform it after the game in celebration of victory as Titch and the Sevens teams do, or c) put it under wraps until we win the World Cup in 2011.

We’ve also spent a lot of time culturally integrating Samoans, Tongans and Maoris into the All Blacks. That was a good thing but it’s time to acknowledge that we are all New Zealanders first. Tana Umaga was a great example of a man who was dignity personified in his own culture but reminded everyone that he was a New Zealander first and foremost.

As for the big picture, we need breakthrough. And for that we probably need to look outside New Zealand and outside rugby. Is it time for Graham to look at learning from wrestling coaches, basketball tacticians and other innovators?

E is for Execution.We did not execute superbly during the World Cup. On-field execution was sloppy, sporadic and far from perfect. Off the field, the Management team was top heavy. Too many meetings with too many managers. With 19 managers in the room, there will always be 19 points of view and endless chit-chat. From my own experience, this kind of hierarchy drives towards the urgent, not the important. Everyone is too busy listening, talking and doing, to think. One of the key tenets of business is never make assumptions. But when you have 19 people, there is just too much going on for you to clear your mind and execute against the important.
A reduced management team focused on execution on and off the field and every day will be vital for the next four years.

D is for Distribution.
We had a fantastic 3-1/2 years and a lousy World Cup. The key to changing this is to make tough calls early and distribute them in a way that creates a desire for everyone to succeed. I’m a big believer in constant distribution of ideas, praise and reality. There is nothing like immediate gratification and great communication to ensure that long-term results are buoyed by constant short-term victories.

A is for Accountability.The best business accountability system is RASCI. R for responsible, A for approver, S for support, C for consult, I for inform. This means every project has one person responsible and only one approver. Everyone else is designated to either be supportive and do the work, to be consulted or to be informed after the event. With this clarity in place, there is total accountability for every project and every decision. In most businesses politics, confusion and complexity reign. This was definitely the case in the All Blacks World Cup campaign. To get accountability, Graham should implement RASCI throughout the All Blacks.

All that said, I’m starting the New Year with a burst of optimism and will soon be ready to sit down for the first time and watch the video of the Quarter Final (maybe!). If Graham has the wisdom and foresight to change and learn from business, I believe the next four years will be the crowning achievement his career.

Friday, March 7, 2008

A great story

The recent death of Roy Scheider got me thinking about storytelling. First up, let me say that I was always a fan of Scheider. He was one of those performers who do the magic without having to wear the flashy cape and shiny top hat. When he was on screen he was always at the service of the story, stepping back when it was required and stepping up when needed. Scheider’s passing got me into storytelling because what stories need to stay alive are connections inspiring other stories. Today those connections have become impossibly easy to make with the linking culture of the Internet, but there are other cool links a great story can make beyond the screen.

In his iconic role as Police Chief Brody, Scheider connects us into the heart of Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning movie Jaws, inspired by the Peter Benchley novel. First is Frank Mundus, the shark hunter who told Benchley the story of how he’d harpooned a giant shark with lines attached to barrels and chased it until it ran out of steam. Mundus was also the guy who caught a massive 3,000 pound shark that had been terrorizing swimmers off a bathing beach in New York. And he’s still at it aged 84. His boat, the Cricket II, is out in the deep blue more often than not with its crew tossing out chum to attract a man-eater or two. Mundus connects to Richard Dreyfuss, as the character Matt Hooper in the movie. He sums up those man-eaters Mundus pursues in one of my favorite movie lines: “Mr. Vaughn, what we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine. It's really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks, and that's all.” Sounds like a few CEOs I’ve met in my time!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Worn free

When I recently posted on the use of the Tide logo by Neil Young, I was sent a link to the terrific site Worn Free. These guys have made a business out of recreating vintage t-shirts. The twist is that we’re not talking any old tees but ones worn by icons like John Lennon, The Ramones and Debbie Harry. Worn Free’s mission? “To resurrect the coolest shirts of all time.” To tap into the authenticity of music, they’ve combed through thousands of photographs searching for tees that reveal the true story of entertainment. The Worn Free people pursue the last detail. Inside each t-shirt is a label that looks like a backstage pass. It shows either a photo of a rock star wearing the original t-shirt or a drawing of the design, along with info about where it was originally worn, who wore it and when. And in case you’re thinking – like I did – “Is this a pirate venture?” No, for every design they use they have worked through the necessary permissions. A huge job.

Check out the Worn Free site for inspiration into harnessing the incredible power of combining the past, present and future to make emotional connections. While you’re there, buy a t-shirt. I’m keen on Radio Clyde 261 as worn by Frank Zappa in 1977. In black, of course.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

In Praise of New Zealand

North & South is one of my favorite New Zealand magazines. For a start, it has great writers like Margot Butcher, Jenny Chamberlain, Deborah Coddington, Phil Gifford and Warwick Roger. Sure, we miss the founding editor Robyn Langwell who was made redundant in the never-ending series of staff cuts publishing companies are making nowadays, but Virginia Larson has stepped up to the plate. February’s edition featured the sweet smell of success with Sarah Lang and Stacey Anyan picking 15 areas where New Zealand punch above their weight globally. Here are some of them:

1. Agricultural Research
New Zealand has managed to turn apples into brands with great fruit like the Braeburn, Royal Gala and Pacific Rose. Our horticultural research program is second to none, particularly in the area of developing new hybrid fruits such as Zespri's Gold Kiwi. Super fruits are the new area of expertise. Kiwi fruit, apples, pears and berries are now being bred to combine well-being and defense immunity attributes.

2. Extreme SportsAJ Hackett started it with bungee jumping and his epic 1987 leap from the Eiffel Tower. We just shot a commercial for Toyota showcasing Zorbing – tumbling downhill inside of a giant inflatable ball. It was invented in Rotorua by Andrew Akers and Dwayne van der Sluis and is now rolling in 10 other countries. And let’s not forget, black water rafting and commercial jet boating made their debuts in New Zealand.

3. FilmmakingWellywood is owned and operated by Peter Jackson’s film production center and Richard Taylor’s Weta Workshop. In the world of computer generated film graphics, Weta is the undisputed global leader. You won’t believe what you see when you watch what Weta and James Cameron have created for Avatar. It’s due for release later this year and will bring 3D movies into the main stream – blockbusters will never be the same again. Other Kiwi Oscar winners include Jane Campion for The Piano, Roger Donaldson, Andrew Adamson, Martin Campbell and Sam Pillsbury.

4. Literacy
New Zealand has one of the world’s best leading reading recovery programs. It was initiated here in the 1960’s and implemented nationally in 1983. The following year it went global and is now offered in 7 other countries. It works regardless of language and background and has been endorsed by the United States. A friend of mine, Wendy Pye, has played a huge role in this area, publishing more than 600 titles which are the mainstay of New Zealand’s School Literacy Program.

5. Back from the Brink
New Zealand leads the world in saving endangered species (our own flightless Kiwi was an early adopter and evolved because there were no predators to kill it!). Now offshore islands are another great conservation success story. They’ve been transformed into arks for critically threatened species that are too much at risk on the mainland. New Zealand’s biodiversity strategy works. We even have the kakapo – the world’s only flightless parrot.

6. Boating
Recently I had dinner with Grant Dalton, who heads our America's Cup campaign. Along with Sir Peter Blake and Russell Coutts, he is New Zealand’s most famous sailor. Despite our defeat in the last America’s Cup, the country’s yachting profile continues to soar globally. Our sailors and skippers are in demand everywhere and we now have a NZ$1.5 billion marine industry employing 10,000 people and earning NZ$560 million a year in exports. That’s almost a tenfold increase over the last decade.

7. Exporting Nature
More than 250 natural product companies are based in tiny New Zealand. They export around NZ$3 million to Asia, the United States and Europe. Nutraceuticals are growing tremendously and benefit from New Zealand’s halo; its 100% pure and clean green positioning.

8. Wine
Our 2006 Vavasour Sauvignon Blanc and 2005 Villa Maria Pinot Noir took top honors at the International Wine and Spirits competition in London. Now New Zealand wines are sold in 95 countries around the world and command a premium second only to France. Last year, exports rose by 1/3 and will hit NZ$1 billion by 2010.

9. FitnessA few years ago, I spoke to a conference of Les Mills trainers in France. These days Les’ son, Phillip, runs the company and was recently named Entrepreneur and Exporter of the Year. Phillip has a great product, combining exercise and entertainment. He aims to have this sold in 25,000 clubs by 2015.

Along with all these achievements, North & South also covered our Medical Manukau, Medical Research, Longitudinal Studies, Wearable Arts, Sports Equipment and Espresso Coffee business.

Our website, celebrates New Zealand heroes and it was great to see North & South devoting their keynote article to the sweet smell of New Zealand success.

Just in case you didn’t notice, we did all this without even mentioning rugby! We also didn’t mention that New Zealand tied with Finland and Iceland as the world’s least corrupt country according to the international watchdog group, Transparency International. In terms of quality of life, Auckland was rated 5th and Wellington 12th in Mercer Consulting Worldwide Quality of Living Survey.

In media terms, we have more radio stations per capita than any other country and we read and buy more magazines per capita than any other country. And, as if that wasn't enough, we also manage to eat 67 million pies a year.

It’s a great little country. Makes you proud.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

100 Day Plans

I am an optimist. I believe in our ability to shape the future, right wrongs, make life better and create new opportunities. That’s why I am a huge believer in 100 Day Plans. The 100 Day Plan lifts your eyes, mind and heart up off the pavement and out to the horizon. It cuts a path through detail swamps and meeting deserts to create action. A great 100 Day Plan demands a great challenge. A challenge that can be achieved but only with dedication, a little sacrifice and a big stretch of the imagination. When I started this blog, my 100 Day Plan included a determination to get back in touch with the things that were important in my past as well as pushing toward the future. That’s why around 100 Days after launch I was posting about family, my connections with Grasmere and the friends I had known for life, as well as what’s changing, what’s new and what’s unexpected. Never forget that some business tools are also terrific for shaping your life.

100 Day Plans require focus and commitment. They help you keep on track with what’s most important (not just what’s most urgent) in the center of all your decisions. Getting started is deceptively simple. First list around 10 things you need to achieve over the next 100 days. Start each plan with an Action Verb and use no more than 3 words each. Win vs France, Rehab left knee, Win US Presidency. And don’t forget to let FREDA come out to play! Make sure each action is measurable and that each one is a stretch. You’ll know when something is a real stretch and when you’re just creating a list with things you can tick off. Review your list every Friday morning. When the 100 Days comes round, the goal is to have each item checked off. All you need to do then is get a sheet of A4 paper and get started.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Living on the Edge

Late last year, I let an important anniversary slip by unnoticed - I had other stuff on my mind - but then good old BusinessWeek published an article on the same theme and it all flooded back. The anniversary I’m talking about was of an idea that has been very important in evolving how I think about innovation and creativity. A decade ago on 18 November 1997, at the 30th Anniversary Dinner of the Strategic Planning Society in London, I gave my first speech with the idea of Edge at its center. It was there I made the connection between innovation, creativity, risk and intuition with the Edge. I’m not sure what the Strategic Planning Society made of it, but for me it began to reflect my real life experience that the Edge matters, especially when I moved with my family to New Zealand. Within a few months of further work, Darwin had got into my head and has stayed there since. “Changes in species almost always occur first at the fringe of a species’ range, where the population is most sparse and where the orthodox ways of the center are weakest.” Again, New Zealand springs to mind and somehow brings us back to BusinessWeek and that article. Here’s John Hagel and his colleague John Seely Brown with their three guidelines for embracing the Edge.

1. Engage. If you’re going to get the benefits of the Edge you have to spend time there, not just pop in for a quick visit. Anything that starts with “E” is always good by me. Energy, Education, Emotion, Experience and, yes, Edge.

2. Sustain relationships on the Edge. The Johns and I are drifting apart at this stage. They see the world divided into ‘Executives’, presumably lodged in the center, and ‘Edge participants’, who bring value and relationships to the Executives like puppies used to bring newspapers. The focus is on the value of the center’s relationships out, not the Edge’s relationships in.

3. Bring the Edge to the core. And here we part company. The two Johns believe that you exploit the Edge. Set up outposts and then bring back any riches to revitalize the core. My instincts tell me to do something very different. Try to make the center more like the Edge. The danger to true Edge thinking is not alienation as the Johns suggest, it’s accommodation. The Edge matters because it takes different perspectives, works from different assumptions and lives different lives with different priorities. Best of all, they are location dependent. Ship them to the center and they do not survive. Trust me. You destroy what you are trying to leverage and any advantage rapidly leaches away.

Throughout the Saatchi & Saatchi Network, we protect our Edges like our children. We know that great ideas come from countries like Argentina and New Zealand, Thailand and Poland. It is because they live beyond the centers that they are valuable to us. To worry about them “becoming isolated and alienated from the core of the business” as the Johns do is to misunderstand the power of the Edge. Viva la difference.