Friday, October 31, 2008

Small comforts

You have to love CNN. How else would I find out in the midst of one of the greatest shifts in our economy for decades that the big selling items in the UK are safes and chocolate? Safe sales have been up 45 percent in the last three months and chocolate up 20 percent over September.

It’s classic fight and flight. Fight the bastards trying to lose your cash by putting it in a safe, and flight to the world of small comforts with the mega-comforter chocolate. That is especially true if it is made by one of my Lovemarks, Cadbury. And let's not forget their Irresistible Gorilla either (Thank you Fallon!)

I expect many people see the purchase of a safe as a highly rational decision, especially in these tumultuous times. I see it as completely emotional and in fact rather romantic. I suspect most people who buy safes aren’t doing it to prevent burglaries but to buy into emotional metaphors for safe-keeping. That’s the way we are. I further suspect that any safe salesperson who found a way to touch this emotional need would be on their way to a tropical island as Salesperson of the Year. For most people safe-sellers are not in the security business at all; they are in the comfort business. The chocolate people have always known that’s where they belonged and built a US$74 billion business on the insight. No one who sells chocolate ever thinks of it as food. Try and talk about chocolate as a food without sounding ridiculous.

Keeping an eye on what your business is really selling to consumers is the way to get focus and stay focused. The archives of every business school are littered with case studies of the many, many companies that have faltered for the want of understanding that, for example, while they thought they were selling cameras, consumers were buying boxes to capture memories. Take a few minutes out to capture what you think you’re selling and then go out and listen to consumers. Is that what they think too?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Peter Alexander, the store

Our Worldwide Head of Design at Saatchi & Saatchi is Derek Lockwood. It was Derek who designed the Lovemarks book and who is now helping to take Lovemarks in store. I’ve always liked stores that take the name of the person who first had the idea. Australian Peter Alexander, who opened his first leisure wear store in LA last week, is in the class. Shoppers now expect an experience that resonates with their own personalities and aspirations. I call this creating a theatre of dreams and that is just what Derek and his people did for Peter Alexander. Their central idea was simple: the different emotional responses to leisure. They then designed a store format based on a number of alcoves, each speaking to a part of the leisure experience. There’s a kids’ section and a place for men who come in with their wives or partners – very smart. How many times do men end up in a store that is essentially for women and find themselves just standing around waiting? Not in Peter Alexander. They can wander into an alcove where any guy would be happy to spend some time and, importantly for the store, some cash too. The clever layering of colors, textures and ideas onto shoppers’ lives is enhanced by a strong dose of visual humor. I like the series of gold-framed light boxes on the ceiling that show clouds scudding about above your head.

Peter Alexander started his retail life in Australia as the pyjama guy. His great idea was to create pyjamas you could go to the store in. This idea has now been extended into a wider leisure range and that’s what you get to see in the LA store. You also get to see the personality and passions of Peter Alexander himself in the objects selected and the style. Nothing, in my experience, goes down better with shoppers than personality and passion. If you are in LA, the Peter Alexander store is a great opportunity to see them both in action.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thumbs rule

The thumb’s first moment of triumph was when the opposable thumb proved its worth. The difference between those who could grasp and those who couldn’t sent human beings on a fast track to invention. We haven’t stopped since and the thumb has been with us all the way. It pointed up and down for the Romans. It helped us thumb through a book fast. It proposed rules of thumb that might not be exact but would get us started. And today it has brought a whole new way of communicating to life. When I wrote the sisomo book I talked about people starting to talk with their thumbs. Back then texting was in its infancy but you could already sense the potential. Two trillion text messages later (that’s the current annual number) you have to wonder why people still get antsy about all the tricks users resort to to get their messages through as simply and as fast as possible. Abbreviations, code-like acronyms, extreme punctuation or no punctuation at all. I love the creativity and invention of it all but I do empathize with those who have come through an education system obsessed by spelling. If you talk to a linguist about the rights and wrongs of thumbspeak you’ll get a surprise. They assert that most people who tap out CU L8R on their phones do in fact know how to spell and that the couple of trillion messages they send are too small a fraction of our global communications to worry about. That puts it into perspective, right? Who cares about two trillion? The objection to thumbspeak turns out to be more emotional than functional. People who have been taught to write one way don’t like their rules to be ignored by the next generation. What a surprise. Wait until texting is increasingly integrated with visuals and sound and a whole new wave of vocabulary and shortcuts sweep over us. It’s going to be GR8.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Worth a try

One of the personal challenges I have set myself is to help unleash the sport of rugby on the American people. USA Rugby’s mission captures the spirit: 'Inspire America to Fall in Love with Rugby.' So with my head and heart occupied by taking Rugby to America, I’m fascinated by some action the other way. For instance I read the NFL is attempting to take American Football to the rest of the world. It has always struck me as strange that the two classic American sports, football and baseball, have not had the international uptake you’d expect. That means very limited international competition and the loss of huge sources of potential excitement, creativity and authenticity.

The NFL’s problem is that people who have not been born into the culture of the game just don’t seem to get it, or don’t want to get it. I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe the razzmatazz has gone to such heights that it’s what the game seems to be about. Cheerleaders and extreme uniforms rather than superb athleticism combined with awesome discipline and timing. At its core American football is simple. It’s all about territory. Take it, hold it, repeat. But this fundamental idea is surrounded with hundreds of complicated rules, a stop/start rhythm the uninitiated find irritating and the distinctive two-teams-in-one offence/defence system.

Despite the challenges, winning international audiences has become critical for any sport. We’re not just talking about high level competition (although the contribution of national style to global football is a topic of endless fascination – who could forget the drama of the methodical and disciplined Germans defeated by the stylish and adventurous Spanish in the Euro 2008 final?) but the opportunity to participate in the gigantic sports media market. In 2006 FIFA enjoyed about $1.4 billion in TV and new media rights – nudging the top-dog Olympics Games. The IOC reported $1.6 billion in TV revenue from Beijing. Why wouldn’t the NFL want a piece of this action?

To take on the job the NFL has invented Coach Stilo who is heading online to teach the world the ins and outs of the game. How long does it take to learn the basics? Three hours apparently with tutorials and tests. Sound like fun to you? Personally I’d rather go to a sports bar for a couple of games and ask the guy next to me what’s going on.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Who's the boss?

You knew the answer already – consumers. And it turns out that they have a major direct effect on a huge abstract force that affects our future. I’m talking about green house gas emissions. It’s estimated that around 65% of US emissions are controlled directly or indirectly by consumers, and their choices. So the power to change is not all in the hands of anonymous bureaucrats and corporate cartels at all; it’s largely in the hands of all us. I’ve always believed when we put our individual skills together, all of us are more powerful than any one of us. It’s the wisdom of crowds, the passionate spirit of teams, the enduring love of families, they all lead to this conclusion. What’s great is that the bigger the group you are part of, the more dramatic change you can effect. Nowhere is this more true than in changing our actions and attitudes toward creating a more sustainable world. I have already talked about how Wal-Mart harnessed the power of its huge staff by developing their own Personal Sustainability Projects. Wal-Mart believes that once their associates personally commit to a sustainability project, whatever the scale, they start to make a difference and their conviction also touches the shoppers and communities they interact with every day. So often in debates about people and planet scale is seen as a negative, but sometimes scale can create dramatic effects. Small individual shifts in consumer behavior can make huge gains. It’s the same as the way people used to talk about making it big in China. “If we could sell one widget to even 20 percent of the population, we’ll make a fortune.” Most didn’t of course, but if we can get even a modest reduction in greenhouse emissions or other sustainable savings from most of the people in the US, the result for the world would be immense. Sometimes big is beautiful.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Emotional Rescue

I love that phrase. 'Emotional rescue' strikes the right note during weeks of meltdowns and bailouts. This is a time of high emotion indeed, so multi-billion dollar rescue packages can’t do the job alone. They need emotion.

In Lovemarks, I talked about the primary human emotions. We’re talking Joy, Sorrow, Anger, Fear, Surprise and Disgust. Have those six had a workout in recent weeks! People are struggling to work out who’s to blame and what the future holds for them! These are the emotions that are brief, intense and cannot be controlled. This period of turmoil comes into more constructive focus when we get to the six secondary emotions. Love, Guilt, Shame, Pride, Envy and Jealousy. What’s relevant is how social they are. You can feel the primary emotions when you’re alone, but for the secondary ones you need someone else around. Someone to love, someone to be proud of. This is the volatile mix from which human relationships are formed and human responses to the world are shaped.

John Bargh of New York University claims that everything is evaluated as good or bad within a quarter of a second. No wonder confidence can evaporate in a heartbeat and disgust and anger kick in. No one can feel we are at our best when business leaders are taunted and abused, but we all understand it emotionally. In the coming weeks the negative dynamic of our emotional DNA will be tested further. It’s evolutionary. Our emotions tell us what’s important and in our ancient past it was smart to pay the most attention to the bad stuff. Pay attention with our emotion and reason, evaluate and then either take action or move on.

Right now the same deeply human process will kick in. The result we are all hoping for is that word you see everywhere today: Confidence. I’ve always liked the pattern that connects the words beginning with the letter 'c'. It might not be logical but it feels intuitively true. Start with Community and Connection. Add Collaboration and the big 'C' of Communication. What’s the pattern that attracts me to these words? They are all fundamental to our future as a connected and connecting world economy. It’s not about globalization any more. It’s about connections that run in all directions at all scales. A community of human beings supporting, trusting and respecting each other. This is the only way to the confidence our markets have lost so dramatically and the real bottom line we need to re-orient ourselves to: Creativity inspired by Consumers.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Jo Malone a winner in Auckland

They are celebrating at Jo Malone in The Chancery. Ro’s Lovemark store won New Zealand’s Top Shop award in the Health and Beauty category (I guess by now most of you know that Ro is my wife). Jo Malone also toddled off with the Innovation Excellence in Retail Award.

The store absolutely drips with mystery, sensuality and intimacy and is a theater of dreams for many loyal Jo Malone fans. The Chancery in Auckland is based on Beverly Hills' famed Rodeo Drive, and the store was inspired by Jo Malone’s original Sloane Street store in London (made famous by the patronage of Madonna, Donatella Versace and Elton John!!). The layout inspires trust, faith and confidence which is elevated into the world of Lovemarks through sight, sound, smell and taste. The experience is fabulous, with customers being encouraged to create their own fragrance on the spot, and being treated to a relaxing hand and arm massage by Jo Malone staff.

What I most like is that when you enter the store, you immediately become a friend, not a customer. The experience is second to none. It’s enhanced by beautiful packaging and thoughtful presentation. Today, the Jo Malone box rivals the famous Tiffany blue box in its instant appeal.

At the black-tie Top Shop dinner held at Auckland’s Sky City Convention Centre, Ro, Bex and the Jo Malone team found themselves seated at a table near the back as the Oscar-like award ceremony took place. They figured their table position was a sign that they hadn’t won anything. How wrong could they be. Iloa, Raewyn, Minal, Lisa, Ro and Bex were settling back and enjoying the evening emceed by Mark Ferguson, a New Zealand TV veteran. In true Oscar style, the envelope for Top Shop in the Health and Beauty category was opened by Jennie Ryan, Head of Partner Channels at Telecom. She announced Jo Malone. The table went berserk. Ro and Bex quickly realized that the table placement had been arranged so that they had the longest possible walk up to the stage, and the longest opportunity to walk on air and enjoy the applause. The team were delighted. As they settled in to enjoy the rest of the show they were staggered to hear the Jo Malone name again for the Innovation Award, which was across all categories of all stores in New Zealand. More celebration ensued as the team collected their second award for the night.

These Top Shop awards are international and I think they are a tremendous inspirational tool for driving excellence in customer service. Everyone likes to compete; to test themselves against the very best. And winners are grinners!

Jemima Puddle Duck visits Portland Road!

Being away from home as much as I am, I miss all the fun. Here is a story from my daughter Bex in New Zealand. Enjoy it. KR.

When I arrived home last week I went upstairs to my bedroom and glanced out the window. To my surprise there was a beautiful duck and eleven newly-hatched ducklings paddling about in our swimming pool. I rushed out to see them and phoned my mum, Ro, who turned out to be just coming up the drive. She whipped out her camera and came straight to the garden to join me. The ducks and chicks looked so cute quacking away and following their mum around the pool. We quickly realized, however, that the noise they were making was not about having fun, but because they couldn’t get out. They had obviously been swimming around for the best part of the afternoon and were getting tired and frantic. Mummy duck - whom we named Jemima - swam around to each side of the pool and hopped out with the little ones trying desperately to follow. Unfortunately, their little webbed feet slithered all over the sides of the pool; it was just too steep and they kept flopping back in.

So it was Ro and Bex to the rescue! Ro got a plank of wood and placed it like a ramp in the corner of the pool and gradually we coaxed the ducklings over. By this time, Jemima had already hopped out and was quacking madly at them. We managed to get five of the ducklings out, who huddled together on the side of the pool quacking encouragement to their siblings. One of the ducklings got a wee bit confused and, seeing some of his siblings still in the pool, jumped back in only to be stuck again! A few minutes later four more followed leaving just two on the other side of the pool. Finally they swam over and we helped them out.

Jemima tried to lead them back to the creek at the very bottom of the garden, but they were distressed and tired. They eventually found comfort in my garden though unfortunately for them this was right in view of my cat, Alfie. I had locked him inside so he couldn’t have ducklings for dinner, but he was going mad trying to get out, frantically scratching at his cat door. Meanwhile Jemima had spread her wings and completely enveloped all her little babies to keep them protected, warm and dry.

At this point I wasn’t really sure what to do and was worried about them being eaten by neighborhood cats. While Ro duck-sat, I went and phoned the “bird lady” at the SPCA who told me what to do.

Taking her advice, we managed to get Jemima to move off her babies, who immediately started to scatter round the garden. We rounded up the eleven ducklings and put them into a box and walked back past the pool onto the driveway and back down to the stream. They were screeching away while Jemima followed us, quacking at her babies who she could only hear but not see. After making a few wrong turns, she finally found us in the bush and we were able to gently tip the box so the ducklings could hop out into the stream to join their mum and swim safely away.

And I’m please to say there were no feathers found in Alfie’s mouth that night!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Light fantastic

Here’s the toughest question to deal with in any relationship, whether it’s with your partner, your kids or your friends: How do you keep the love alive? If you’re not prepared to give constant care and attention, every relationship will drift. To me that doesn’t require dramatic gestures like tickets to Paris or diamonds, but the intimate thoughtfulness of everyday life. Empathy is central and so is reciprocity. Reciprocity is a fantastic emotional connector. It’s based on empathy but you don’t simply feel for someone else, you do something for them. What’s so wonderful about human beings is that when we are given something, it seems to spark some kind of deep response and we want to return the gesture. This is my idea of a true virtuous cycle.

The principle of reciprocity meets design in this inspired coin lamp. What a great idea. Feed in a coin and you get light. For some of you who are old enough to remember feeding coins into hungry gas metres in the UK, this might not strike such a welcome chord, but for anyone under forty I think this lamp will be a total charmer. It doesn’t simply remind you of the reality of the cost of resources with a touch of humor, it introduces a whole social dimension. After a meal at a friend’s home, who will be the one to show appreciation by putting a coin in the slot? At a birthday party without a gift? There you go. To me this coin lamp is True Blue through emotional design.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rugby: Going global

Maori talk about whakapapa - unbreakable bonds - and the best example I know of whakapapa is the global rugby family.

In 1987 a prodigious young talent burst onto the rugby scene, from Canada of all places. Gareth Rees became the best player ever to come out of the nation and led Canada in three World Cups. He was a great captain, a shrewd rugby brain and an inspirational leader. In John Daniel’s words, Gareth had the body of a seventeen stone shot putter who demanded seconds of everything. His boss at Wasps and our USA Rugby CEO, Nigel Melville, agreed and told me Gareth was the only guy who trained by eating and drinking. To give you an idea of Gareth’s physical makeup, a UK rugby commentator was once heard on TV to say, “A large gap opened up and Gareth Rees romped through it to score. Well, it had to be a large gap, of course”.

I met Gareth in 1991 when he brought his brave Canadians down to Eden Park in Auckland to play the All Blacks. At the time, I was heading up Lion Nathan and our flagship beer, Steinlager, was the All Black sponsor. Gareth was very gracious in thanking Steinlager profusely for their contribution to the game; an early indication of his commercial sensibilities.

I caught up with Gareth last week in Vancouver and had a fantastic dinner with him and his partner, Denise. We kicked off at 9:00pm and were still enjoying ourselves at 1:00am at the 5 Sails Restaurant at the Pan Pacific.

Next day I rocked up to the sailing center to watch Gareth’s Vancouver Academy youth-side play Kinross, a touring Scottish school. The ground was voted by Rugby World as one of the 10 most beautiful in the world and it was a night of pure grassroots rugby. Gareth had the teams line up and sing their national anthems, which was moving for the handful of spectators and parents at the game. The Canadians, fresh from a New Zealand tour, thumped the Scots but both teams played enterprising, attacking, inventive rugby. You had to be impressed. Here was Canada’s best ever player with his tracksuit on, coaching a bunch of 17-year-olds.

Then it was back to the clubhouse where parents had all chipped in for the barbecue, complete with burgers, beans and a couple of beers. It was interesting to watch the Canadian team standing back to make sure the Scots got their food first before they dug into the feast. All part of a well coached team, or a sign of whakapapa; both I would guess. I left after a couple of hours with all 30 boys heading back to one of the Canadian lad’s house for a party.

Next day I flew to Victoria Island to catch up with Robin Dyke, an adjunct professor with the University of Victoria MBA program. I hadn’t seen Robin since 1988 when he and I played rugby together in what was my swan song year. At the time Robin was working for Lever Bros. and I was at Pepsi. We had a lot in common on the marketing front but what created unbreakable bonds was rugby. As Robin reminded me, as soon as I joined the club I took charge of training, strategy and tactics while the more polite Canadians stood back and enjoyed (perhaps) the spectacle.

Anyway, Robin and his wife, Marlene, were wonderful hosts in Victoria and a great day was had by all. I spoke to the MBA’s, met with the Dean, and the Faculty and did my best to persuade these very bright talents to make the most of their education and to follow their destiny hopefully into an ideas-driven creative environment. I’ve attached the message as covered by the local paper.

It felt like only yesterday since I’d seen both Gareth and Robin and it was a great feeling to see that all three of us are still passionate about this great game of rugby. And also to find that we are all three contributing to the game’s development in our own ways. In this increasingly cynical and self-centered world, I’d urge all of you to get your kids involved in rugby. It’s a great game and one which will provide Whakapapa for life.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Many hands

At its heart, the move from Green to True Blue is a shift from focusing on the planet in the abstract to focusing on people in the particular. Sometimes we need the power of governments to make changes, but most of the time change that sticks demands that we get real and get personal.

The main trouble with large organizations is just that, they are large and they act large. There’s nothing wrong with scale (and a lot right with it) but if you can’t leverage that scale, it’s deadweight. The metaphor of the speed boat and the ocean liner sums it up. The speed boat may not carry as many people to its destination, but it gets there faster, is more willing to try a different route and can easily change direction. By the time the liner changes course it has already stopped to take on ice. You can see this with governments as they bicker about change and end up with so many goals that the idea of focus is a distant memory. An extraordinary result of the current financial crisis has been usually tectonically slow governments like the UK’s, responding with speed. The familiar management idea of having to have a ‘burning platform’ to effect change has been proved right yet again. Get people emotionally and personally involved, and stuff happens fast. Get them enmeshed in rationalizing their conclusions, and get ready for years of talk.

The Blue revolution has to be market-led, enterprise-driven and people-powered. People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. The big challenge is to stop obsessing over everything that’s to be done and start concentrating on what we can do. Until we get passion and commitment from individuals, nothing can change long term. If we can change the conversation, we can change the way of the world. My guess is that if we all did something simple like turning off the lights when we left a room, the energy savings would be significant and the boost to a personal sense of control would be incalculable.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Opinion Leaders

The world is overflowing with research. Most of these solemn studies by companies, scientific associations and academics elicit a yawn, sometimes a grin and on rare occasions a jolt of surprise. Recently I got the surprise response to a paper from the American Psychological Association. These are not guys I follow every day but their finding is so much in line with mainstream advertising commonsense that you really do have to wonder where they’ve been for the past 50 years. The past 50 years of TV advertising.

Their paper claims that repeating yourself is more effective than a number of people pitching the same idea individually. In fact, they put numbers around it. One person stating the same thing three times is almost as effective as three different members of a group expressing that same opinion (well 90 percent as effective anyway). Of course this is one of the reasons we don’t do focus groups much any more. The talkative person in a focus group who is prepared to keep saying the same thing sways the rest. The result? Group think and the loss of what can be most insightful from the perspectives of different people.

This is not And/And it’s and, and, and, and oh… did I mention and? I guess my surprise is that this rather depressing fact of human nature has to be proved yet again, but that surprise is surpassed by something more important. I'm convinced that diversity of people, opinion and ideas is absolutely critical to success in a world where every innovation is quickly copied. The lesson here is clear. When you are looking for people to work with, go for the ones who think saying anything three times and repeating what everyone else just said is boring.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


My pet gastronomy project, L’enclume in Cartmel, is going from strength to strength.

The Good Food Guide’s Editors’ Choice Awards salute those chefs and restaurateurs who are making a difference, often away from the London limelight. This is what they had to say about Simon Rogan and L’enclume:

“At L’enclume, [Simon] continues to push the boundaries, producing impressive tastes, textures and often bizarre combinations. Garlic and truffle is a play on texture and temperature with frozen truffle pearls and garlic crisps, while Middle East on the plate combines slow-cooked confit lamb, date foam and the lightest hummus and tomato confit.”

L’enclume came in the Top 10 Restaurants outside London as voted for by a national panel of 150 food writers and chefs.

They said, “…[L’enclume] pushes the boundaries of thought, flavor and imagination, but the seemingly off-the-wall combinations and whimsical flavor paths are all painstakingly researched and tested to make the best of the natural flavors he finds around him in the Cumbrian valley. The cooking is the result of hard work and a questioning mind and has won him fans the world over”. Including me!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Love and design, design and love

Putting the words 'love' and 'design' together on the cover of a book is sure to grab my attention. That’s exactly what Robert Brunner did with his compelling title Do You Matter?, and less compelling sub-title, How great design will make people love your company. As a huge advocate of the connections between design and Lovemarks I was keen to hear what someone else had to say on the subject. You probably best know Brunner for his work as Director of Industrial Design at Apple Computer in the late eighties and nineties. He was the guy who designed the original PowerBook and was followed in the job by design genius Jonathan Ive.

But when you write a book about design, you have to expect people to leap onto your own design. This book seems to me rather severe with its big type inserts and seventies style orange cover. In fact, it looks as if it leapt out of the Attention Economy - ready for action - rather than being part of the Attraction Economy where listening and observation can bring writers and designers closer to readers. Despite the assertive look of his book, Brunner totally gets the importance of design to the Lovemarks effect and uses many of the Lovemarks I talk about in my own books. Harley Davidson, Whole Foods and Jones Soda all get a mention. The connection between great design and the future beyond brands has always been central to the story of Lovemarks, so it’s great to see the story filled out by someone who helped write it.

Many of the examples come from Apple and that’s ok. Apple is a Lovemarks company – check out for proof. They’re an important model but sometimes I think we should take on the challenge of discussing design, institutionalized innovation and committed customers without using a single Apple example. Is that the impossible challenge of our era? Can we think outside those glamorous white and black boxes?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The new streetcar connection

I spend a fair bit of time in Cincinnati. It’s the hometown to one of our largest clients, Procter & Gamble, and a place with an amazing heritage of innovation. That heritage lost energy for a while, but there has been a recent resurgence. I have watched Cincinnati transform from a city looking cautiously inward to a place starting to understand great city dynamics. The city made a great start with an incredible sports precinct with major stadiums lining the Ohio River, and the destination museum, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

Now they are fixed on making major physical connections throughout the city and integrating sports, cultural hotspots, shopping and entertainment. They’re doing it with one of my Lovemarks, and I’m talking about streetcars, or what we call 'trams' in New Zealand. Friendly, familiar and fast enough to get the job done, street cars are making a comeback in a number of cities that want to get their citizens back downtown. In the United States alone, there are around 40 or so cities that are using the streetcar to cut back on traffic gridlock and tie neighborhoods together. I have a friend who, whenever he visits a city with a streetcar system, takes at least one of them to the end of the line or right through its loop. Talk about Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy. Of course San Francisco held onto its street cars and what a tourist and community boon they have proved. So did New Orleans and the streetcar to Desire still rumbles through the city. Sometimes to move forward, it is a matter of stepping back.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Toward Sustainability: Obligation to Opportunity

Last week I talked about heading from Green to True Blue. My logic was simple: Green has become table stakes in our efforts to make this world a better place for everyone. If we can’t get the environment right, we might as well just pack up our tents. Of course while this is true, it’s very high level. Most of our environmental problems are intensely complex and their practical resolution excludes most of us. But while we might not be able to change the course of rivers or genetically recover a species, we certainly can help affect aspirations and priorities, and this is where I think there has been a real failure of leadership. We seem to be suffering from a kind of Obligation Fatigue. Even important figures like Al Gore push generalized obligation, tinged with personal failure. This is not the way to motivate and mobilize people. Scare them, yes. Inspire them, no.

Martin Luther King didn’t say, “I have a nightmare.” He said, “I have a dream”. I believe that until people feel inspired emotionally with the potential of sustainability, we’ll simply keep running on the spot. After all, sustainability means nothing less than a revolution in how people will live and the biggest business opportunity of the next 50 years. You sure can’t squeeze all that into the straitjacket of known obligations.

Many of you will be familiar with the tool called SWOT. With SWOT you look at your challenges through four very different lenses: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. You don’t have to have done Brain Surgery 101 to understand the Threats and Weaknesses in an unsustainable world, but I’ve found that Opportunities and Strengths are where people come alive. We can move from Green’s focus on impending disaster to Blue’s belief in the human spirit and human ingenuity. From being burdened with obligation to being inspired by opportunity. This is the only way we can reach a solution the size of the challenge. A challenge to make sustainability come alive for 6.6 billion people.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The sisomo type

We need sisomo to lift our ideas and experiences into the realms of emotion. The suggestion that sight, sound and motion on screen needs three cameras, a crew of sixty and a catering van is old-think. Throw it in the old-think bin and come up with something different. Start with type. OK, I know typography is key to great communication and great advertising, and I do enjoy the style and glamour it can bring to a page, but type in sisomo?

Sometime ago I posted a cool video featuring hands signing the words of a Daft Punk song. If you missed it, check it out here. While I hesitate to call words printed in biro on fingers type, you know what I mean. It was a left field approach to sisomo. Well here’s another one. This one is more sophisticated and has a profound purpose. It too uses simple type, photographs and music to connect and persuade with emotion.

The Girl Effect is a major initiative ($100 million major) to help girls in developing countries bring change to their families, communities and countries. The sisomo I want you to look at was supported by Buffetts’s NoVo Foundation and the Nike Foundation, and created by ad agency Wieden + Kennedy. It starts with the simple statement: “The world is a mess”. You either 'Agree' or 'Disagree'. If you are an eternal optimist like me and 'Disagree', you are challenged to change your mind. 600 million girls can’t be wrong and the site claims they all think the world’s a mess. But let’s not be waylaid and 'Agree to Disagree' so we can move onto this in-your-face sisomo assertion that these 600 million girls are the ones who can change the world. The message is personal, direct and believes, as I do, that great things happen one person at a time. The core of the idea: Invest in a girl and she will do the rest. This core is supported by extraordinary facts like ‘A woman or girl will reinvest 90% of her income in her family. A man will reinvest 30-40%’ and ‘For every development dollar spent, girls receive less than one half of one cent’. A big focused idea given great sisomo treatment of words, not images.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The One&Only

The last time I was in Mexico City I headed over to Cabo San Lucas for the weekend. If you are ever down in Mexico it’s well worth the visit. The One&Only Palmilla has everything it takes to become a real Lovemark.

It was originally built in the 50’s, started as a 15 room hotel with its own private landing strip for the Hollywood elite and has now been bought by Sol Kerzner, hotel developer sans pareil. This is a man who does personalized luxury like no other.

Over four years he’s put $80 million into the One&Only and it’s now an incredible place. Around 160 rooms, two beautiful infinity pools, tennis, golf, the best spa I’ve ever been to with a lot of innovative treatments, and a fabulous gym with the most up to date technological equipment.

What makes the difference besides the brilliant beaches, intricate touches and hammocks outside every room, is the intimacy and service. Every time you make eye contact with a hotel employee, the employee returns with a gesture, an open right hand to the heart. It is a gesture originated with the Huichol people of the Jalisco mountains. The One&Only MD, Edward Steiner, visited there and noticed his hosts would greet him by bringing both hands to their chests and bending forward as a traditional way of showing appreciation that an outsider would honor them with a visit. Steiner realized this was exactly the sentiment that the One&Only Palmilla wanted to express to its guests to build intimacy. He adapted the gesture, making it one hand to the heart and a subtle nod. The message remained the same – we are honored by your visit. It is a beautiful, beautiful feeling.

So, try to include the One&Only Palmilla in San Jose del Cabo in your travel plans. I should also tell you, it has the best guacamole in the world.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Women and cars

What role do women play in the design of cars? It’s true that when we see hot car designers they are usually cool guys with attitude, but recently I’ve sensed a shift. People in the industry are talking about what women use cars for, about their desire for safety and security, and about fashion. They are even going beyond with special teams of women engineers and women being allowed to contribute to color and trim. Yes, the automobile as an object of desire for women as well as men is with us. Finally.

For women the car plays many different roles in her life, but not many of them envisage themselves in a Mommy Wagon. OK, a lot of women have to drive kids, dogs and shopping back and forth across town, but they see themselves as individuals with flair, not the Transport Department. The automaker who has empathy with the complex demands and aspirations of women will win.

Empathy starts with insights. Here are three, gleaned from a handful of reports I have seen recently, into women and the vehicles they could love.

Women are independent. They’ve got money and increasingly they’ve got confidence. Put those two together and you’ve got more and more women eager to choose the vehicle for the household. 30 percent of working women in the US earn more than their husbands. Sure you’ve got to factor in some pester power from the kids, but in many households, women have the final word.

Women care about the environment. Guys might still want to put the pedal to the metal, but for at least 20 percent of women fuel efficiency is huge. When you put that 20 percent together with the number of women (60 percent) who research their car purchases online, you’re confronted with the easiest question for anyone buying a car to ask: “How many miles to the gallon does it do?” This question is a challenge dealers and auto companies are starting to take seriously. They’ll have to do better than “it’ll get you there and back”. It’s not simply driven by commuting costs, it’s inspired by wanting to make a contribution to improving sustainability.

Women love their families. OK, that’s a no-brainer! But while men’s concern about safety is affected by speed, styling and status, women’s passion for security is a pure burning flame. In their famous 'What Women Want' study, Good Housekeeping and JD Power found that even in 2004, safety was number one in how women decided the car they’d buy. In fact, 77.8 percent wanted safety over style.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

20 Things I Love About South Beach

I’ve been coming to South Beach for over 20 years now and the change over that time has been dramatic. It’s Party Town USA and I get there four times a year, every year. South Beach is a cultural, sporting, social, fun hotspot and is, of course, the gateway to the growing Hispanic cultural phenomenon. Whenever I visit South America I try to weekend in South Beach, and if you ever get the opportunity you should do the same. Here are 20 reasons why:

1. Girls in summer clothes
As Springsteen said, “Girls in their summer clothes in the cool of the evening light; Girls in their summer clothes pass me by”. South Beach is home to America’s most beautiful and sexiest women. It’s the St. Tropez of the US where everyone is dressed up morning, noon and night to make an impression. The sunshine brings out the best in them all including the shortest dresses, the highest heels, the tightest jeans and the tiniest bikinis. It is hedonism at its very best. (And I guess the guys are hunky, too – not my area of expertise.)

2. Art Deco Road aka Ocean Drive
South Beach has been meticulous in keeping their beautiful Art Deco heritage. The hotels throughout South Beach are fantastic examples of original, beautiful architecture. Make sure you take a walk in the morning on the beach side of the road and just look up at the architecture.

3. Lincoln Road
I love pedestrian precincts and Lincoln Road is alive with cafes, bars, outdoor restaurants, fashion outlets, palm trees and a perfect European style 5pm paseo. Again this is classic stroll territory and comes complete with the sensational Books & Books café.

4. Romero Britto
Romero is Miami’s artist. His gallery, Britto Central, on Lincoln Road is full of color, passion and energy. I have six of his pieces going back many years culminating in a giant heart which he has dedicated to The Lovemarks Company. It sits outside my office in New York. Romero originally came to my attention when he created a limited edition Pepsi can and later a Smirnoff bottle in the Britto style. He now also has a giant size pyramid in Hyde Park, London. And, on top of all that, he’s an all round good guy.

5. Escopazzo
Escopazzo is my favorite Italian restaurant in the US. Giancarla Bodoni has been there for 15 years and she runs a fantastic operation, helped by her mom who looks after the money. Giancarla is in the kitchen every night and has pioneered a new style of organic, healthy Italian cooking that is the tastiest I’ve ever tried. I go there every time I’m in Miami. Escopazzo is sandwiched between a sex shop and the Playwright Pub on Washington but it has a great, buzzy front room and a terrific big back room complete with bar and internal fountain. The food and service is beyond belief.

6. Delano Hotel
The Delano is where I used to stay. In fact I’ve stayed there over 20 times including a never to be forgotten New Years Eve with my kids. The Delano was one of Phillipe Starck’s first creations and is still super cool in terms of its layout, décor, all white rooms, The Rose Bar, the giant chess set, oversized chairs and plant pots in the garden. Its restaurants have gone through many births and rebirths, including at some stage a Madonna owned enterprise, but its latest edition is the Florida Room which was designed by Lenny Kravitz and features a replica of his own Lucite piano. The Delano is the place to see and be seen with its pool acting as the hot party spot in South Beach.

7. The Boardwalk
The boardwalk runs right alongside the ocean passing the great hotels from Ocean Drive to all the new developments en route to Bal Harbour. Walking this path first thing in the morning (and it goes on and on for miles) is the nearest thing to being on Venice Beach.

8. The Setai
One of my top ten hotels in the world is The Setai, which opened in August 2005. I stay in the Residences which have wraparound ocean views and feature tranquil Indonesian colors, harmonious browns, bronzes and golds. As an additional bonus, each room has beautiful candles. The Setai has three pools with a beach bar/café for afternoon dining, a great gym, a spa, two great restaurants, and fabulous bar and courtyard for those hot Miami nights. Patrick Little, who oversees the restaurants, is an Irishman with a true flare for the business. He’s living proof that restaurants are not there to serve food, their real job is to serve people. The Setai is easily South Beach’s top spot and perfect when you want to get away from the rhythm and hum of the Delano, Shore Club and, I’m sure, the soon to be opened W.

9. Hear Music
Hear Music is on Lincoln and has a great indoor/outdoor vibe. It is also the best place to hear the latest Hispanic artists and add a little salsa to your iPod. And all this, whilst, drinking an ice cold Frappuccino.

10. Carl Hiaasen
Carl Hiaasen is the patron saint of Miami novelists. His books are inevitably set in Miami and are full of South Beach passion. Check out Double Whammy and Hoot to get yourself started.

11. Miami Vice
The classic TV series, not the idiotic movie.

12. Miami Sound Machine
I first saw Gloria Estefan and Emilio Estefan live in Puerto Rico with the Sound Machine in the mid-80’s. I’ve been a fan ever since and she is still the reigning Queen of South Beach.

13. The Sagamore
This is another great hotel. It’s on Collins Avenue and full of terrific art, in a generous spacious architecture with terrific light. The Sagamore is particularly hot during the Miami Basel Art Fair. Check out one of the penthouse style rooms, there are only a few of them and they open onto the pool. Not to be missed.

14. Sport
The Heat and Dolphins both play here. In fact, one night during a visit to Casa Casuarina (the old Versace villa) I met and had dinner with Pat Riley, the head coach of the Heat. This is a great sporting town and Dolphin Stadium in particular has a lot of action generated by the Miami Dolphin franchise. They are also real keen to host some USA Rugby down there. I’ve always been a fan of Dan Marino, one of my proudest possessions in New Zealand being a Dolphin shirt signed by this great quarterback.

15. Coconut Grove
Coconut Grove is definitely worth a visit. It’s just up the road and it’s a different world entirely. The Grove is the home of one of the most creative agencies in the US, Crispin Bogusky, and is also full of beautiful shaded lanes and villas.

16. Sultan Kebab
This is a gem of a find and is on Collins, next to The Setai. As its name implies it is a replica of thousands similar kebab shops throughout Lebanon and the Middle East. Aluminum tables, simple cooking; hummus, tahini, tabouleh, with the meats all freshly prepared, juicy and tasty. Sultan kebab is cheap, cheerful and always packed.

17. Joe’s Stone Crab
The biggest revenue restaurant in the US, Joe’s generates $29 million a year despite being closed for the 3 months when there are no Stone Crabs available. No reservations, first come, first served on seating. Get there early, you won’t regret it.

18. Yuca
My favorite Cuban joint. Salsa upstairs, great food downstairs. Chef Maria Manzo has come across from China Grill and adds her own touches to the classic Yuca range.

19. The best club scene in the USA
……or so they tell me!!!

20. The Raleigh Bar
Small and intimate, The Raleigh is an deal way to start the night. For me it’s worth a visit to just enjoy the quiet, get away from it all feeling of the place. I don’t know if Hemingway ever drank here but, if he were around, this is where you’d find him. André Balazs, who has done such a great job with luxury hotels in Miami, has applied his magic and done the hotel up.

And, as a bonus, let’s add Flamingo Park - the best park tennis scene in Florida. Always someone waiting to give you a game...and take their chances.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Stella’s World: From Green to True Blue

At Saatchi & Saatchi we’re changing color - from Green to True Blue. The shift was sparked when Adam Werbach (Adam is CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi S) announced the Birth of Blue to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. The idea, in brief, is that we need to unleash the creativity and imagination of the global public if we are going to overcome the challenges our planet faces.

What does Blue mean to us as individuals? That we all have to commit, and commit quickly to leaving a smaller footprint on our planet. Even the most diehard conservative who won’t accept that polar bears are having to swim where they once walked, knows that something is changing. It may be temporary (you won’t get my vote for that one) or it may be permanent or we may have ventured past some planetary tipping point, but which ever way it plays out, most of us agree we each need to get serious, get involved and start changing. Fast.

Up to now most people have looked at the future in silos. People who were passionate about forests, oceans and the creatures we share this place with, identified as environmentalists. People and the cities they mostly live in were a problem to be lectured and criticised. I respect this purity and focus – and seeing a bird with its wings glued with viscous oil is a challenge to anyone’s sense of environmental balance – but it does not offer solutions at the scale of the challenges we face.

When I look at my granddaughter Stella, the future immediately races into the present. What can feel abstract and distant (and frankly not a priority) becomes specific and personal. I might not be there, but she will be. Stella’s ability to live in harmony with her world will be as much about her as the place she grows up in. We’ve all got to work on that new sense of harmony but I believe that if we can create a state of flow between people and the planet, we’ll get much further much faster than lecturing and criticizing each other. This is at the heart of what I call True Blue which is inspired the idea that we can make the world a better place one person at a time.

Don’t get me wrong, Green is still fundamentally important but to many people green means choosing the environment over everything else. Blue means you don’t have to choose. As Adam reminds us, “We want to keep the parts of green that have brought us change and innovation, but let go of the narrowness. Blue builds on the foundation that green has laid but lets go of its baggage”.

Without the will of the people at our backs, nothing will be achieved. Here are my first thoughts on the key differences between Green and Blue.

Next Monday I will start working through these differences and look at how Blue can help make the world a better place for everyone.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bowery Days

Last week I went up to 315 Bowery. For many New Yorkers the address is iconic. For 30 years it housed CBGB OMFUG.

The story starts in 1974 when the US was in the middle of a deep, dark recession. Just like today, people had no money. It was a struggle for everyone although, unlike today, New York was a mess. The promise of the 60’s had died on the vine. Instead we had Richard Nixon and Vietnam. In the US and UK it was a period of misery, fear and anger for young people.

At the very heart of this decay was the Bowery. An infamous two-block radius with six flop houses holding about 2,000 men, most of whom were alcoholics, drug addicts and mentally unstable. Many were Vietnam veterans lost in life or down on their luck. The streets were just full of these guys sleeping it off with muggers hanging around and prying on them. Now this has all changed and the Bowery has become the new Meat Packing District with funky hotels, restaurants and bars. Good for you, Giuliani.

Perhaps the ugliest and largest flop house on the Bowery was the Palace Hotel. Have you noticed how anything named Palace Hotel is guaranteed never to be a palace? Back in the seventies, Bowery residents would stagger into the Palace bar at about 8:00am for their first drink of Muscatel or white port. The bar was the largest in the city, over 165 ft. long and 25 ft. wide. The whole thing was a mess.

Then in December 1973 Hilly Kristal opened CBGB.

That single-handedly started the punk movement in the US. CBGB discovered The Ramones, Talking Heads, Debbie Harry and Blondie, John Cale, and of course, the legendary Patti Smith.

Hilly broke the mold by focusing on originality. The only way to play at CBGB was to perform original music. He didn’t pay guarantees to the bands; they kept the gate money and CBGB kept the bar.

It was all about originality, back to basics, street rock, and as he put it, “Come as you are and do your own thing”. Originality was prime, technique came second. (Not a bad mantra for any of us in the creative business.)

Incredibly enough CBGB stands for Country, Blue Grass and Blues, which was what Hilly originally intended the club to offer. Rock and punk just took over. Omfug stands for 'Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers'. A gormandizer? A voracious eater, in this case, of music. (People are usually disappointed to hear this, secretly hoping Omfug stands for something much dirtier.)

After 30 years CBGB closed last year with Patti Smith playing the final show. It’s still there but has been transformed into the coolest store I’ve been to this year.

Now John Varvatos has opened up at 315 Bowery. He’s maintained the structure of CBGB, leaving the stage, all the walls decorated with flyers and posters and an instrument set up on stage. The place is full of vinyl albums, vintage clothing, cool new stuff, all targeted at rock ‘n rollers of today and yesterday. Varvatos earned his chops at Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein; I think and he was named GQ's Designer of the Year last year. He also outfitted Joe Perry from Aerosmith on their recent comeback tour. I bought a winter coat, a vintage reefer jacket, a grey silk scarf (watch out Keith Richards) and a very cool black jacket. The staff, particularly Rick Tyndall, are attentive, fun, bright, breezy and into the whole place. When I walked in Jimi Hendrix was playing Stars and Stripes (not live!). I love it because they are not up themselves. They know it’s all about the experience and even encourage you to take photographs of the old club, thus keeping the legend alive. My best shopping experience of 2008.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I’ve often challenged retailers to get more emotional, more intuitive, more imaginative and aspire to a vision of the store I call a Theater of Dreams. During New York Fashion Week in September, I got to see that vision made real by the talented designer Mary Ping. In case you think I spent my time rushing around NY Fashion Week shows, Mary’s exhibition was held in our own Saatchi & Saatchi offices on Hudson Street. And very fitting it was too given that Mary’s company name is Slow & Steady Wins the Race. Yes, S&SWTR was an added bonus – if anyone who saw the show thought we were part of the creative brilliance, well, luck is where you find it!

For the New York show Mary worked with a local architectural firm, Bureau V, to present an installation they called Perfume Counter / Department Store / Wedding Dress. Bureau V also had its own exhibition of current projects in our space at the same time.

The installation was a mix of museum, store and entertainment center, exactly what I believe fantastic retail needs to be. Everything was priced at Ping’s signature price of $100 – and that means sunglasses, shirts and even, incredibly, the wedding dress. But Mary Ping is never stuck on formulas. I see she also has a three-tiered Luxe collection with prices stepping up from $1,000 to $10,000 to, yes, $100,000 for a Russian sable trench coat.

Mary Ping is a testament to the power of simplicity and ideas. Simply stunning.

Check out the SlowAndSteadyWinsTheRace website here.