Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cartier in love

This time last year I posted on Cartier’s second annual LOVE charity bracelet collection. It was a natural for this blog – love and beauty in one stunning package. This year Cartier are taking their message of love online, to MySpace to be precise. While brands putting up digital billboards is as old as rock, Cartier are upping the ante. Cartier asks the question: How far would you go for Love? The answer is a full-on sisomo experience. The site has songs to download from a great and wide range of musicians. Phoenix is there, but so is Lou Reed. The songs are backed up with interviews and photographs on At the center of it all is this year’s Love bracelet, with a percentage of sales going to Action Against Hunger to help malnourished kids in Burma. Finally, a gift for all Cartier lovers. Twelve perfect sisomo inspirations by Olivier Dahan, director of the wonderful film and double Oscar winner La Vie en Rose. Each item is a perfectly told story based on a different aspect of love. When it comes to love, Dahan had to be the perfect choice as director. His next movie, now in production, is called My Very Own Love Song.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

As good as red

Anyone who has read Lovemarks: the Future Beyond Brands will know how important color is as an attractor to our senses. It gives Sensuality vivid appeal. Just look at how often we use color to describe our emotional responses from 'seeing red' to being 'green with envy' or 'feeling blue'. Color also shapes much of how we feel about our surroundings and each other. Fashion designers have always understood this and now, according to an article sent to me by one of you, sports people need to take note too.

I’d like to say this is new news but in fact the research dates back to 2005. That was when a couple of UK biologists demonstrated that sports people wearing red jerseys were treated better by referees. To get their results, they invited a roomful of refs to score a series of martial arts rounds with half the competitors wearing blue and half wearing red. They then changed the color each competitor was wearing digitally and got the refs to score the rounds again. The result? The competitors wearing red did consistently better. In fact, those wearing red scored up to 13 percent more, even when their performances were exactly the same. I’m not sure what sport can do with this information even though a 13 percent difference in scores is not to be taken lightly. It’s sure not going to make sense for every team in the world in every sport to vie to wear a different shade of red, but there is a cool counterexample. In New Zealand our great rugby team has won game after game, year after year, wearing no color at all. Just Black.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Tour

A while back I wrote about L’enclume (The Anvil) and announced it was sure to become the hottest new restaurant in the world in 2009. I went there again last week and had the “Tour”. It is a 15 course degustation in L’enclume’s private room. I can tell you Simon Rogan and his team are the bee's knees. The restaurant is in Cartmel, a lovely, lovely little village near Grange over Sands, midway between Morecambe and Windermere. It is perfect rural England. The food is right up there with Heston Blumenthal’s, and the setting is perfect. To get your juices flowing, here is the “Tour” as presented at L’enclume. I’ll leave it to your imagination to figure out what it all means.

• Re-hydration, De-hydration
• Cones of piquillo peppers
• Memories of Venus
• Whim 01
• Egg drop hot and sour soup
• Cornish crab, vanilla, argan oil
• Foie gras, figs, corn, sweet bracken
• Razor Role reversal
• Langoustine, tamarind, peanut
• Monk cheeks, squid ink, Saffron
• “Hot Pot”
• Cumbrian pink veal, namenia
• Expearamenthol frappe
• Surrealists Nitro Slammer
• Violets and Yuzu

Monday, July 28, 2008

It’s only words

A friend and I were comparing how many tunes we had on our iPods the other day and we got to asking why. Of course there are decades of music we now have easy access to, but he gave the idea of volume a twist. He reckoned we need more memory today because songs have so many more words in them. Simple, intuitive and true. According to Harper’s Index, the average word count of a song during the sixties and seventies was 176 words. Last year it exploded to 436 words. Do we really have so much more to say? I know for my presentations I work with 120 words per minute as a rough guide. On that basis, the earlier songs would take roughly one and a half minutes and the new ones nearly four. Now that feels about right, but what fascinates me is that if we are as time starved as we claim, why are we attracted to songs that are longer and have so many more words? Here are a few thoughts.

• Rap rules pop music, and rap uses words as much as musical patterning as persuasion. Rappers are not trying to convince us. They want to overwhelm logical objections and arguments with waves of words, sound, music. Maybe some of the old jazz classics were long too because they used words in the same way.

• Musicians have much more control. They make their own recordings (often in their own studios), write their own songs and sometimes even control their own distribution. Trent Reznor of NIN and Radiohead come to mind. Can you imagine a producer or song writer trying to tell these guys to cut back on the lyrics!

• Digitalisation. If you’re not limited by the two sides of an album or tape, why stop?

• The attractions of storytelling. Poet song writers like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan have always let songs take the time they need, but for a lot of sixties material it was a matter of saying the same thing a few times and getting off the stage. The new generations of singers and song writers are happy to stay in the spotlight and create complex characters and stories.

One rule still applies across the decades though. If a song can’t make an emotional connection, it doesn’t matter how long it is. To say “I love you” takes only three words, however you sing it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Shopping: it’s a guy thing

Women love to shop. You don’t have to be a genius to see it in their eyes when they walk into a store. You can certainly see it as they caress, tap, stroke, sniff, squeeze. From my personal observation, women can be just as happy in a store full of things they would never buy as one that has everything they want. It’s that experience thing. For women (and yes, it’s been backed up by a mass of research) shopping is an enjoyable sensory experience that can be as much about learning what’s new, imagining what’s possible and planning what’s next, as actually purchasing anything. With all that going on, no wonder a recent Australian report reckons that women in that country spend about a year of their lives shopping.

And then there’s men. They tend to know what they want, get in there, buy it and get the hell out . Ok there is a bit of browsing when it comes to electronics and maybe tools, but overall it tends to be grab-and-go. So if shoppers should be at the heart of creating great shopping experiences, why don’t stores spend more time on making the experience better for men? The high point is probably a bench down the back of women’s fashion stores so bored men can slump with their newspapers for half-an-hour while their partners have a great old time searching the racks.

What’s to be done? I believe the attraction action has to start before men even get to the door. Apparently parking close to the store was listed as the number one shopping problem for men, so here’s an idea. How about locating part of the store in the parking building or in the parking lot? We’re all familiar now with the value of pop-up stores. Why not use the idea to reach out to shoppers in our own precincts? What’s needed most of course is a change of attitude – ours, not theirs! A reinvention of the store as a place where men will enjoy spending time. I’m sure you will have seen that saddest of sights: men waiting in their car in the parking lot rustling a newspaper while women do the shopping. There’s the evidence right there. There is nothing in that store that can compete with a newspaper. Of course some of them might have avoided stores for so long that they don’t realize that the shopping experience is changing. So how about showing them. The Web is one way. Loyalty rewards another. Or you could just knock on the car window and invite them inside.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

English, She is Changing

Reading Wired magazine the other day, I saw an incredible statistic. By 2020 people who speak English as their first language will make up only fifteen percent of the estimated two billion English speakers. That’s right. 85 percent of people speaking English in 2020 will be non-native speakers. Now that’s going to rattle the cages. It seems to me that a lot of the easy assumptions we make based on language will be given a good kick. What’s an ‘accent’ going to communicate when it (finally) becomes obvious that everyone has one? What’s correct if only, say, 10 percent of people say it that way – and most of the other 90 percent don’t even understand what it means?

Understanding language and how it changes is at the heart of the advertising business. Words to fire collaboration, connection and communication. Words to inspire ideas and entertainment. Words to express empathy and intimacy. The practice of advertising has always been attuned to changes in the way we speak and write. If you are playing with words to attract and excite, you have to be sure people understand the game.

We know that language changes all the time. In my lifetime I have seen the massive influence of American English. My accent and my spelling on this blog, for instance, would have had me punished at school. They would simply not be correct. So many varieties of acceptable English are flourishing globally that we have to throw away the rules and simply try and keep up. Think about how fast the grammar and spelling of texting has taken hold. When people need to communicate, they just do it and the rule makers trail along behind.

As the world economy shifts and adjusts, it is unleashing new ways to mix language, people, culture and attitude. Who would be surprised if the way we speak today becomes as unrecognizable as the English of the Middle Ages? One accelerator is the need for common ground between English and Chinese. And so to Chinglish. A growing vocabulary of words spoken or written in English that are influenced by Chinese, as well as the ways those words are put together. So it’s lexicon, grammar and tone. While the name Chinglish might sound a little derogatory, get used to it. Chinese people are using it. The Hong Kong Museum of Art held an exhibition titled ‘Chinglish” last year which looked at this accelerating mix ‘n’ match emergent language. Yes, it looks like the moment for Asian speakers to take English somewhere new.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Paris: city of mystery

When it comes to Lovemarks you’d expect Paris to be right onto Sensuality and Intimacy, but it’s Mystery that drives one of the cleverest city promotions I have heard of for a while. This Lovemarks experience – because that’s what it must have been for the participants – was open to anyone who was in Paris on 5 July. Like many great ideas it comes out of something we loved as kids: a treasure hunt. Excitement, adventure, challenge and mystery. By following up a bunch of clues treasure seekers embark on a tour of the city. But this is not a Louvre on the left, Palais Royal on your right kind of gig. We’re talking some locations which are known only to the most local of locals so getting from clue to another demands more than solitary sleuthing. In some cases you even have to ask with real, live Parisians for directions through the maze of streets and alleys. Like all great treasure hunts the clues combine to lead you to one final mystery destination. As someone with a long and deep love of Paris, I know this is a city you can only get to know by getting lost in it. A treasure hunt sounds like the perfect way to do just that. Like so many Lovemarks, Paris gives up its secrets slowly, and there’s a lesson in that. Attracting people is not about giving away the store on first sight but creating layer upon layer of stories and experiences that draw people near. And the prize if you win the Paris Treasure Hunt? Obvious really. Entry to a secret Paris Cabaret which only opens once a year.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bell, Book and Kindle: Ringing the changes for books

I am a great believer in and/and. When two seemingly opposing ideas appear in the market or a couple of paradoxes seem to conflict your business, I say give room to them both. It’s by embracing paradox that a new third idea may develop that could move us all forward. I’m not talking about convergence here but the process of change. That’s why I took notice of news that Blackwell, a large bookstore chain in the UK, had joined the print-on-demand trend. Blackwell is setting up an operation in 50 of their stores to print books on demand from a selection of over one million titles. They’ve called it the Espresso Book Machine. I love books and printing one at a bookstore has a faddish kind of appeal, but it seems to me to be a solution that side-steps a paradox rather than comes to grips with it. The paradox in its simplest form: paper v digital.

Books are still important icons for people so book sales haven’t gone into a nose dive, but reading time is competing with everything-else time. I’ve always believed that the best way to work out what will happen in the future is not to look at what you think is in front of you, but at what’s happening around you. People loved reading stuff on stone tablets back in the day, but I don’t imagine they all complained that these new-fangled scrolls on papyrus were too light to hold the door open. Same with books. The qualities we love about books might not change (their portability, the feel of the pages), but the people who love them are changing right now. With digital natives under 30 living on their computers and phones, books are under huge pressure. The announcement that half of the top ten selling novels in Japan were written on mobile phones sends one big signal. These stories might be brief, fragmented and episodic, but people want to read them - and often in hard copy too.

At the moment everyone is throwing paper around like it grows on trees and the number of titles published is extraordinary. But I don’t think more can be a sustainable long-term option for the publishing industry. I believe that books will have to become increasingly high quality and beautifully designed, they’ll often be tied to celebrations and events and they will truly deserve the resources and time expended on them. That will leave the functional end of information and reading to be increasingly picked up by digital devices. Andy Murray, who runs Saatchi & Saatchi X, is in love with his Kindle and apparently publishers make as much from a Kindle download as they do from the sale of a book, but that won’t last. Just ask the music industry!

Are books going to die tomorrow? Of course not. When my granddaughter Stella leaves her teens will most of them still be printed on paper? Not a chance.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Wonder Walkers

When it comes to keeping fit and healthy, women are leading the way; it’s often right out of the gym and onto the road, beach or hills. In so many places I go to, something new jumps out: women in ones and twos and in groups walking (and talking) their way to fitness. And no more so than in New Zealand. Here, one of the nation’s cultural heroes has been a fantastic instigator. She doesn’t just talk about the benefits of fitness, she takes action to encourage women to get started through an emerging movement called Wonder Walk.

Susan Devoy is a genuine New Zealand sports hero. She ranked as the world Number One women’s squash player every year from 1983 to her retirement at the end of 1992. Over those years she won the British Open Squash Championship eight times. Not a big surprise then that Susan has become a role model for women (and more than a few men) who want to have a positive active life. With her business partner Paula Thompson, Susan is putting into practice what I have long believed - there is no point in waiting around for governments to get started on the right things.

Susan and Paula, frustrated by the amount of money they saw being misdirected on government health programmes, decided to do something about it themselves. As they enjoyed their regular walks together, they used that personal experience as the inspiration for a simple and fun way for women to exercise and socialize at the same time. They knew that women have a huge influence on shifting cultural attitudes, so if we’re going to change, women are the smartest way to make it happen. The idea of the website was as a one stop shop for women and walking. It’s full of walking resources, events, tips, interviews and news, all supported by social networking opportunities online and in the real world. It’s good fun and easy to use. Check it out and start to walk the walk.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Hey Hollywood

I’ve written before about what a big fan I am of Jack Reacher and his exploits. Currently in the U.K., Lee Child’s new Reacher book Nothing to Lose, and the previous title, Bad Luck and Trouble, are #1 best sellers in hardback and paperback fiction. Lee Child is the pen name for an English guy called Jim Grant who now lives in New York. I just discovered that Jim used to work for Granada television. After being made redundant in 1991, he moved to Kirkby Lonsdale, a small market town in Cumbria 10 miles from my home in Grasmere and about the same distance from where I grew up in Lancaster. Kirkby Lonsdale is well worth a visit as it is one of those authentic market towns full of real crafts people, shops and old pubs.

Jim started his first book with three pads of paper, a pencil, eraser and pencil sharpener. Five months later, Jack Reacher was born in Killing Floor. The hero had no name at that time and Jim was working temporarily as a warehouseman in Kendall. Being a tall guy, there was always “a little old lady” asking him for help to reach the top shelves. His wife was with him one day when this happened and said, “if this writing thing doesn’t work out, you could always be a reacher”. And so Jack got a name.

I cannot for the life of me understand why these books haven’t been made into an ongoing film series. I understand that they have been optioned but no one’s yet taken the plunge. It really is time for James Bond to be re-invented. Jason Bourne is a step on the way but Hollywood needs to finish the job and put Jack Reacher to work. And with twelve books already written, we’re talking ready-made franchise.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Trash talk

Pushing a rock uphill is hard. Following it as it rolls downhill is easy. In legend Sisyphus was doomed to keep pushing the same rock up the same hill into eternity. If he was still around today he’d write a business book about it. The thing is, the best ideas have little to do with pushing – that’s the thought the Attraction Economy is based on. You give an idea a little nudge and it starts racing ahead gaining momentum as it goes. Why are some ideas so much better at doing this than others? I believe it’s because some of them are grounded in how human beings actually think and act intuitively rather than in assumptions about how they ought to act. Behaving sustainably amidst plenty is a discipline human beings are new to. ‘If you’ve got it, flaunt it’ has been the motto for most of us for centuries so we need new patterns of behavior we don’t have to keep close track of. The best new patterns don’t rely on New Year’s Resolution determination; they simply require a nudge in the right direction. Like noticing that everyone in the supermarket has a cloth shopping bag except for you or your next door neighbours noticing that you’re putting out double the trash they are. The same social signals can be sparked in the office and I’ve just come across a great one. Swapping everyone’s regular size trash bins for tiny ones. Like 5 1/5 inches tall. Harvard Business Publishing’s Leading Green blog covered the regular to tiny idea recently. It works on the same principle as smaller plates make us eat less. Smaller trash cans make us throw less away. A lot less. At Sonoma State University they found that most of what went into the trash could have been recycled but people simply weren’t taking the trouble to do it. Once they decreased the size of everyone’s trash cans, guess what? The campus increased the amount of recyclable material by 55 percent. People threw away less when the cans were smaller and putting stuff into recycling became an easier option. Two jobs here. 1. Get small trash cans into your business now. 2. Someone, please, design an elegant, appealing small trash can. Now. The ones that illustrate the article may be made of recycled plastic but they should be banned.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

For the love of chocolate

For someone who finds quantifying everything by the numbers to be a mind-numbing way to reach any sort of conclusion, let alone one that involves human beings, I get a surprising amount of pleasure out of the odd whacky statistic that gets sent my way. The truth is that you can’t keep a good research vampire down. Garlic doesn’t work and wooden stakes just make them laugh into their calculators so you might as well enjoy what you can. This week some wit sent me a set of figures that show that women would sacrifice anything but chocolate for blogging. This important piece of news – note to self: get R&D to develop chocolate keypads – came after interviewing over 6,000 women. “Er…excuse me, we have an important question for you. Assuming you had to make the choice, would you rather blog or eat chocolate?”

Ok, they did ask other questions too. That’s how they also discovered that 55 percent would give up alcohol rather than lose the right to blog, 42 percent (the musically challenged, I imagine) would give up their iPod, and in an alarm bell for the women’s magazine industry, 43 percent would give up newspapers and magazines. As I have already flagged, only 20 percent would give up chocolate. So what does this tell us, apart from the fact that chocolate is irresistible? (especially Cadbury’s Dairy Milk - a Lovemark for gorillas everywhere!) To me, it says that these women are finding the sense of community and identity they need in blogging, which should be worrying for the people who market magazines and newspapers as this is something they once owned.

As I have found with my own blog, the ability to exchange ideas and experiences with a global community is both exhilarating and fruitful. It is a world where you can float an idea or an opinion in your own time, at your own speed, and to an audience that grows or diminishes on nothing more than your powers of attraction. Blogging is revealing itself as deeply emotional and an important way to unleash communities and passions, commitment and truth. Newspapers and magazines have already dipped their toes into this world, but their next reinvention will have to take blogging from their readers far more seriously. Selected columnists blogging is not the same as readers becoming activists, creators, connectors. Magazines and newspapers need even more audience participation. If they do it right, women night even sacrifice their beloved chocolate now and then.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

And so it continues . . .

The rising disenchantment with U.S. domestic air travel continues across the nation. Services are being canceled everywhere, prices are going through the roof and airlines are finding new and more creative ways to rip you off, such as their creatively charging $15.00 per suitcase. The air travel system simply isn’t working. Now every airport is a zoo and air rage is always bubbling just beneath the surface.

Three days ago I took an early morning flight from New York to St. Maarten to relax. The plane was overbooked and the famous American Airlines were offering $300 per passenger for anyone who would disembark and take a flight twelve hours later. Two people agreed, but as we remained sitting on the runway it was apparent we still had three people too many. No surprise here. The ante was raised to $500 per passenger and three people, who had obviously played this game before, jumped up, took the money and ran.

So guess what happened then? We sat on the runway for close to an hour waiting while they off-loaded the I’ll-take-the-money crowd’s baggage. Great result. Five people had money but nowhere to go, and the rest of us full-fare payers sat on the runway for an hour while American Airlines scrambled to make their margin. Just another petty annoyance and now typical of virtually every flight you take in the U.S.

There’s a new book just out called Terminal Chaos. It is written by George Donohue, a former top ranking Federal Aviation Administration official and insider. He says that today’s massive delays, cancellations and airport chaos are the product of more than two decades of bad decisions. According to Donohue, rising fuel prices are just providing political cover for airlines like American, United and Delta to retool and go after their smaller, more profitable competition like Southwest. Part of this routine is quitting less profitable services to smaller airports. American Airlines, who are about to layoff 7,000 people or 10% of their workforce, are cramming passengers onto smaller planes and reducing the number of seats available at an escalating rate of knots. This leads to more passengers on fewer flights for which airlines can charge higher ticket prices with less and less service. The book details the ways in which Donohue believes the air travel system is broken, including how the FAA and airlines work together to make ridiculously optimistic assumptions about weather, resulting in a routine of over scheduling flights. That, of course, is followed by the inevitable domino effect of departure delays, flight cancellations and customer outrage.

By the way, did you know that iPods, cell phones and laptops have absolutely no impact on airline navigation systems? So why are we being asked to turn them off? Part of the 'customer comes last' philosophy airlines seem to share.

This problem needs a solution, and fast. Bill Gates, now that you’ve left Microsoft, let Melinda run the foundation and come and fix air travel. Please.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Walmart, not the shouting type

True or false? The Columbia Pictures logo (the woman in robes holding a lamp high - doubtless based on the Statue of Liberty) was changed when the Coca-Cola company owned Columbia for a while back in the 1980s. An article I read swears that the woman was rounded and smoothed to look more like the shape of a Coke bottle, although she has since been slimmed down. A lot. Fact or fiction, this story reveals how much corporate strategy can influence brand identity, or perhaps how much people would like to believe it does.

This month one of the best known names in America is having a major face-lift. I’m talking about Wal-Mart, or Walmart as we will come to know it. Walmart isn’t the first company to slim down in this era of brevity and text messaging. Every character counts and I’m sure there are management consultants out there who could calculate the cost of each one. Apple Computer last year became just Apple – which is what we all call them anyway. Federal Express followed the people and became FedEx.

As a name, Walmart has been shrinking for decades. When Sam Walton started the business back in the 1950s it was as the leisurely Walton’s Five and Dime. Name plus price right up-front. Then it was Wal-Mart, and in 1992 the hyphen gave way to the star and Wal•Mart. That version never quite added up for me. The * may be OK for a logo, but I’m sure no one ever wrote it that way so there was always a question mark over it. Icons and logos matter. Lovemarks include them as a key quality of Mystery. I think the new logo and name give Walmart a strong sense of design sophistication as well as a constant reminder that shoppers are tempering their focus on price with their concern that price does not come at the expense of the planet.

What I like best about Walmart’s move is not the hyphen loss or starburst gain or different colors and the rest. What speaks to me most strongly is the simple shift from upper case to lower case letters. Remember when newcomers to email would sometimes accidentally send a message all in caps? “Stop shouting” was the usual response. And that’s what this latest logo shift means to me. Walmart is turning down the volume. Remember, in the Attraction Economy there’s no selling by yelling. Walmart is getting in tune with shoppers.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Best service

There’s a thought out there that the best service is no service at all. I guess it’s gaining currency from the book of the same name by the ex-Amazon customer service guy Bill Price and David Jaffe. I get the idea. If you eliminate all the problems around customer service, your customers won’t have to contact you and that will be a good thing. You transform any customer relationship you’ve created back into transactions and save costs.

I’m not buying it. Errors and dumb contacts have nothing to do with service, so eliminating them doesn’t get you any closer to best service. I think Price and Jaffe have set up a straw man suggesting that service levels are judged by the number of customer calls and contacts made. Seriously, if there are still companies out there counting contacts and complaints as their key service metric, they’re dinosaurs. The Lovemarks position on service is clear. Sure you have to get rid of the dumb stuff, but to eliminate only gets you to tablestakes. If it were that easy everyone would get it right.

Blue Ocean thinking tells us that the value lies in the ability to create. To create opportunities to interact with people and serve them in ways they have never experienced before. The more you know about your customers and how they feel and what they find important, the better service you will give them. To me, Amazon’s service only starts with the trouble-free delivery of the books I want. Tablestakes. Amazon creates value for me through the connections I can make: with the world of ideas, with entertainment and then with other people’s tastes and opinions to guide and inspire me. That’s the heart of service.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Joys of Ex Pat Living

I’ve lived in lots of countries including Morocco, Cyprus, Switzerland, Canada, the United States, France, New Zealand, and Australia. But I was brought up in the northwest of Lancashire, which is where I’ve returned following my purchase of Michael’s Nook Cottage in Grasmere last year.

Visiting the Géant supermarket in St. Tropez a couple of weeks ago made me realize the importance of the food you have when you are brought up. For instance I still have Vegemite in fridges all over the world following my stint in Sydney in the early 90’s. At Géant all the shoppers were ex pat holiday makers and it was very funny watching them try to ferret out anything remotely connected to home. The English seem to be the most particular and incredibly nostalgic for their food, which of course doesn’t travel well generally since it is usually unhealthy, fattening, bland, and processed. One shop near the Meatpacking District in New York, Myers of Keswick, has made a great living out of this for over a decade, and so has Salt & Battery and Tea and Sympathy on Greenwich Avenue. Between them they serve all the British essentials such as fish ‘n chips and deep fried Mars bars!

Talking to a few friends, it seems that what English ex pat’s miss most is:

1. Walls sausages
2. English tea (depending on brand it was Tetley’s Typhoo, or PG Tips)
3. HP Sauce
4. Heinz Baked Beans
5. Jacobs Cream Crackers
6. Cadbury Dairy Milk
7. Carrs Crackers
8. Marmite
9. Oxo Cubes
10. Branston Pickles

And there is the story of my youth. Throw in some Hovis bread (which Bob Isherwood wrote some wonderful advertising for 30 years ago) and you have my entire youth laid out in front of you. And, if you want to put on that final shine some refreshing Vimto and Tizer, both of which you can get at Myers at Keswick, and it’s a done deed. Amongst hard core UK Ex Pats you will find some aficionados of Bassetts sweets, Mr Kipling cakes. McVities digestives and Walkers Shortbread which you could also add to the list with Colman’s Mustard and Bird’s Custard Powder also considered prized treasurers. Cheddar cheese travels well, but it is almost impossible to find my Lancashire, Red Leicester, and Wensleydale favorites.

My mother-in-law, Rita, is with us at the moment and she actually brought over some cheddar cheese and Walls pork sausages for me. A couple of the sausages with some HP Sauce washed down by a glass of Lucozade…

… Expat Heaven!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Combien de bises?

I’ve just been in Europe – the kissing continent. One kiss on one cheek or one on each? That’s the question, usually. But then in some places there is the difficult and often unexpected third kiss - the norm in Geneva, where I lived for 6 years. What we need is some sort of guide to tell us whether we are in a one cheek region or have drifted into a two, three or four cheek one. Help is at hand. In my mail today, a very useful map of France shows where the kisses fall and how often. As you can see, it’s one kiss in only a small section of the country with most of France going for two or three. The extreme four kisses is largely experienced in the Northeast.

As for the rest of Europe, by my reckoning, it’s one in Belgium but three is considered respectful when greeting older people. It’s three in the Netherlands, and for most of the rest, Spain and the Scandinavian countries included, it’s two. In Germany, stick with a handshake unless you’re family or very close. The same works in Italy.

In the UK it is all very difficult and embarrassing. Who will ever forget the miss-timed peck Charles bestowed on the back of Diana’s neck? (In his defense and to this day I still believe he was aiming for the basic single cheek kiss).

The New Zealand Maori sometimes greet with a hongi, the pressing of noses. This is most often done in a formal greeting line and traditionally with your eyes closed. It can be one press or two depending on no rule I have ever worked out except that the mingling of breath is at the heart of the custom. The truth is that once you get away from the now routine handshake, rules often don’t get you very far. You have to feel the emotional subtleties rather than know all about them.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Jerry Flint

As you know, I’m a voracious reader of magazines and I read across all political spectra. I get Forbes (the capitalist tool) largely because of one columnist. Jerry Flint has been writing since 1958, mainly on Detroit and the auto industry. His stuff is not to be missed. Flint is an incorrigible rogue with a patriotic fervor for all things automobile, something that doesn’t stop him from constantly throwing bricks where they are deserved. I’ve never met him but after all these years I feel as if I know him. The thing about Jerry Flint is that while he’s confrontational, abrasive, chippy, and extraordinarily provocative, he gives credit where credit is due. He’s also very supportive of the U.S. and its auto industry or what’s left of it. But, and this is one of the things that makes his writing stand apart, is he doesn’t indulge in cheap shots at other competitor’s expense. With Toyota kicking butt, he was one of the first to recognizes it, celebrate it, and point out the lessons for Detroit. His June 30 article talks about the US domestic auto industry being on the verge of extinction, and how the US risk becoming side lined like the Brits. His point is that in the UK there are now no British owned auto companies. The Japanese and American built cars there but all the Brits are water boys, assembly workers, and they obviously don’t mind it. He wonders whether the U.S. is spiraling into the exact same position.

On the other hand he recognizes that Asian car companies might have cheated by keeping us out of their countries and leaving their currencies weak. He also points out that the U.S. government changed the rules to allow foreign brands to sell in domestic dealerships. And, yes, he also points out that the U.S. unions played their part by ignoring the destruction they were causing until it was too late. But Flint places the blame fundamentally on Detroit’s executives. They just didn’t know enough about their own business to build better cars than the foreigners did and they weren’t prepared for the inevitable $4.00 a gallon gasoline pricing. If you are into cars I recommend you get to know Jerry Flint.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Music Man

Recently, a guy I’ve worked with for 18 years left Saatchi & Saatchi to follow his heart and his own personal purpose. I first met Jim O’Mahony in 1990 when he was running 250 pubs for Grand Met in the UK. Joe McCollum persuaded him to join us on our great Australian adventure and Jim came over to handle a very tricky industrial relations/union issue. He soon moved into line management, running our Lion Nathan breweries in the South Island of New Zealand, Sydney and then China. Jim broke free for a couple of years and took an Aussie company public before linking up with me again, this time running Saatchi & Saatchi Australia. Later he handled the Asia Pacific region along with Europe. Jim’s passion is music and he has a view that music in all formats should be free. No more $15.00 CDs for Jim, or iTunes either. He believes artists should use recordings to build a megabrand where they can make money through sponsorships, concerts, t-shirts, etc. It could well be that Jim is the future of music.

At the moment everybody seems to be flailing around trying all kinds of stuff. Warner Music have pitched a tax to pay for music, EMI have got a Google guy running their business, and iTunes is apparently looking at a subscription type service, just like a magazine. There’s a good chance though that Jim’s model will win. The premium pricing is going into live music with ticket prices and attendances going through the roof. They will look at what we call in marketing terms 'adjacencies'. Bob Dylan hosting a radio show. Elvis Costello hosting a talk show. One thing is for certain, music has never been so much part of our lives as it is today.

And while all this liberation is going on, what is France doing? Check out Sarkozy’s latest initiative in the music field. Talk about fiddling while Rome (or in this case, Paris) is burning.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Dollars and sense

I’m not sure when money was invented, but my guess is that it was only about three-fifths of a second later that its inventor figured that it wasn’t going to be the secret to happiness. However, I’m not advocating poverty either. Being poor, as I remember from my childhood, is no fun, but it is a fact that once you and your family are well-fed, educated and sheltered, money takes on a different hue. No one enjoys top-of-the-line gourmet dining in an exotic location more than I do, but I still understand that I can get the same pleasure (and often more so) out of a simple meal at home with my family. So here’s a question about happiness to follow up my last post on the subject: Do money and happiness connect? Ask the academics.

According to a recent study by Professor Michael Norton and his colleagues at Harvard Business School, the answer to that question is “yes”. In science, they argued that the amount of money you earn isn’t as important as the way you spend it. Ok, I think most of us would have had that covered for a win and a place. Their next finding is more interesting. Although most people think that money can buy happiness, it turns out they are in fact happier if they give some of it to someone else. Their research also puts a dollar value on the experience. They reckon that an amount as small as $5 may be enough to up your happiness quotient on a given day. Five bucks can help you have a good day. Now this is exciting. I’ve always believed that we can improve our lives and the lives of other people by personal commitment and combine this individual action with our corporate responsibilities. As I have said before on this blog, it's about and/and.

• Being inspired by corporate social responsibility and through personal involvement.

• Giving money to causes and living in a way that reflects our dreams for the world.

• Making positive change on a global scale and one person at a time, in our own communities.

As Professor Norton and friends have proved, we can buy happiness. We just have to spend it on the right things: other people.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Learning from failure

Why is it that someone slipping on a banana skin is funny, while other people laughing as you take the fall is no joke at all? I mention this because I am still laughing at the misfortunes of one of my Fallon colleagues, Laurence Green. The man is a fantastic storyteller. I’m no fan of flying or bad hotels, so when I see an article headed 'Traveling without toothpaste', I feel the pain before I read the first paragraph.

Laurence’s account of a nightmare flight and hotel deserves to become a classic of the travel genre, and even better, he pulls some smart customer service tips out of the experience. The scenario is simple. Laurence is caught in one of those “we’ll be taking off any minute (read hour) now” flights that inevitably heads for a substitute airport. The first big service snafu occurs on landing when the pilot announces that he’s “sorry for the anxious moments”. As Laurence relates, he wasn’t even aware there had been any such moments! Then of course once they stumble out of the plane there is no one to assist them. Here, Laurence gets dramatic. “There is only one person who can help and they’re trying to get hold of him. (Cut to image of Cary Grant, or similar, sleeping next to beautiful wife in full uniform. Him, that is, not her. The big bedside phone rings. He’s wanted at Midway.)”. Eventually Laurence gets to a Hilton and the customer-o-meter plunges further. His examples may seem trivial when you’re comfortably settled at home, but if you’ve ever been far from everything familiar, in a place you don’t want to be anyway, you run on emotion. Laurence’s attempts to find a corkscrew mean the mini-bar sensor charges up a storm of bills, and (of course) the toothpaste never turns up. The final blow is the delights of self service checkout out in the morning.

Laurence lessons from all this?

• If you can’t walk the customer service walk, don’t talk it.
• Don’t paint customer service onto your organization, live it.
• Exploit crises as customer service opportunities.
• Be careful what you say and how you say it.
• Don’t get greedy.
• Don’t outsource customer service to the customer.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Another Great Weekend

This was a pretty good weekend for New Zealanders. The All Blacks slammed England 44-12, the Black Caps beat England at cricket, and the Baby Blacks under 20 rugby side beat England in the final of the World Championship 38-3. It was particularly uplifting, given the amount of stick I had taken the week before by many of my English friends when I was in London for a couple of weeks before the first test match. The wishful thinking and arrogance prevalent in England, perennial underachievers in sport, is formidable, particularly when fueled by the idiotic media over there. Everyone was telling us how New Zealand was in crisis, how they hadn’t got over the World Cup loss to France, and even more comically, how this was the best England side tour for years. Well, New Zealand beat them 38-20 and 44-12. Happy as these two games were, it was even more uplifting when the under 20's romped home 38-3 because this is a great predicator for the future. Once again, the British media were certain that this was England’s year and once again, they fell short when faced with New Zealand passion, commitment, skill and athleticism. All in all, not the worst weekend I’ve had in my life.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Mickey Mouse guide to store design

I was recently talking to some people about the store as a Theatre of Dreams, a place of irresistible attraction and experience. A few weeks later one of them sent me 'Mickey’s 10 Commandments'. Yes, that’s Mickey Mouse I’m talking about. Incredibly these ten rules for theme park design were developed by Walt Disney Imagineering international ambassador, Marty Sklar, way back in 1987. They may be over 20 years old, but the rules are a blueprint for any store that aspires to be a Lovemark.

1. Know your audience. How often do I go into a store that is designed for women with no thought for the men who often accompany their wives or partners? And, it works the other way too. Knowing your audience is more than just your idea of who they are, it’s being empathetic with what their idea might be.

2. Wear your guests' shoes. Everyone I have ever met who runs a great store spends face time on the floor and behind the counter. There is never enough time for busy CEOs or store managers to get down there, but there’s no other way to get truly close to shoppers.

3. Organize the flow of people and ideas with good stories. Our people at Saatchi & Saatchi X proved this when they worked with Wal-Mart to redesign their store at Plano in Texas. High impact graphics provided a strong sense of where everything was and helped tell the story of the store as soon as you entered the front door.

4. Create a weanie. By this, Disney meant a connected set of visual magnets that draw people along. Think in Disneyland of the Castle at the end of Main Street. This strikes me as a central idea for store design which so often assaults you with visual confusion.

5. Communicate with visual literacy. The Disney people recommend making good use of all the non-verbal ways of communication - color, shape, form, texture. To that I would add sisomo. Sight, sound and motion on screen.

6. Avoid overload. Selling by yelling doesn’t work. We live in an Attraction Economy where simple ideas that are connected with people’s lives will win every time. Get rid of the trumpet section and bring in the strings.

7. Tell one story at a time. If I’m in the BBQ section, I don’t want a million signs telling me about charcoal, cooking equipment and deli goods. If you want to attract me, you need to bring them all into one story about enjoying a Sunday in the backyard.

8.Avoid contradiction. I need to know what sort of store you are from the moment I walk in and I want it to stay that way. There is nothing worse than thinking you are in an upmarket boutique and finding yourself at a messy sales table.

9. For every ounce of treatment, provide a ton of fun. To the Disney guys, that means lose the information and lecturing and ramp up the participation, experience and a rich environment that attracts all the senses.

10. Keep it up. You’re only a Lovemark for as long as people love you.