Friday, December 19, 2008

One is one and all alone…

I remember when I was CEO of Pepsi in Canada, telling my people that given we were number three in the soft drink stakes, there was really no point in being number two. So we did what all companies should do in those circumstances, we became number one. I was reminded of this experience by an article by Peter Jessup, a New Zealander, looking at some of the great number ones in sport and the effect they have.

Let’s start with the obvious. The past few years have not been a good time to be a world-class golfer if you want to be number one! Tiger Woods is a phenomenon like Michael Jordan, Mohammed Ali, Pele, Don Bradman, and Lance Armstrong. They don’t just dominate their sport, they remake it in their own image.

Peter Jessup’s article was about another of these remarkable sports people, Kelly Slater. Early last month, Slater won his ninth world title, 16 years after he won the same title for the first time. Where did he achieve this remarkable feat? Just off the Spanish Coast. Kelly Slater is a surfer or maybe it’s more accurate to say, The Surfer.

Jessup suggests that given the extraordinary fitness, agility, and timing required in surfing (let alone grit and inspiration), Slater may be one of the greatest athletes ever. Imagine that. One of the world’s greatest athletes and most people have never even heard of him. If we put up others in that rank like Tiger, Ali, or Pele (the guys who only have to use one name), they are household names and remain so long after retirement. Slater is probably better known for his appearance in Baywatch as the recurring character Jimmy Slade than as a man of astounding athletic ability.

Of course I assume that in surfing households, Slater enjoys enduring renown and love. In the end that is probably all he or any other athlete needs. It’s a local global thing. Winning world championships is Irreplaceable, but being loved by your community, now that’s Irresistible. That’s why I’m picking Kelly Slater as a Lovemark.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Value in the eye

Repeating something does not make it so. Millions of words must now have been written telling us that brands are in a value race and that those who win will be those who can shave cents best. Wrong call! Focusing on just one end of the value equation drags you right into the nightmares of the vanishing margin. It’s like those Olympic records that have to be measured by more and more sophisticated equipment because they have become vanishingly small. The margin game can be played the same way: cut them so finely until counting profits becomes like adding up angels on the head of a pin.

What’s to be done? Simple. Create products and services consumers find more irresistible than anything your competitors are putting to market. As someone wisely said, only a fool confuses price with value. Of course, that’s where Lovemarks can come to the rescue. We’re not talking a rulebook but an inspiration to creativity shaped by Mystery, Sensuality, and Intimacy. Tough times test our mettle. They give us the opportunity to show who we truly are. Are you truly committed to making the world a better place, or are you about tactics you think will capture the elusive green consumer? Do you believe that stories and mystery attract human beings at a profound level, or do you really think that all they are interested in is price? Are you convinced that people will fall back on the tried and true, or do you know they want to be surprised and delighted?

If you opt for delight, check out this terrific site that pushes the sense of sight to extraordinary heights. The Web Urbanist has put together a range of visual effects designed to delight. Gathered from around the world, they are in turn funny, charming, awesome, and unbelievable. They spark curiosity, humor, and surprise at every click. They are true attractors in the Attraction Economy. With artists and designers capable of presenting us with such wondrous gifts, and the human desire for delight, I believe the power of price is only one factor in the complex, living connections Lovemarks make with the people who love them.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

That was a week, that was

Getting up to face the snow in Grasmere a couple of weeks ago, I went into my study to see what the fax machine had brought overnight. On top of the pile was a letter from Lancaster University’s Vice-Chancellor, Paul Welling, inviting me to accept an Honorary Doctorate from the University. The award of Doctor of Laws (LLD) is to mark the contribution I’ve made to the field of creativity and innovation in business and education. Wow.

Talk about totally unexpected and out of the blue. I was blown away. There’s no recognition like local recognition.

Ever since leaving school somewhat prematurely in 1966, I’ve been committed to the concept of a great education as being the best preparation and foundation we can offer kids. As far as I’m concerned, it sits right beside giving young people a sense of purpose, values, performance, unconditional parental love, and support. I spend a fair bit of my time working with students in various countries. I particularly enjoy going back to my hometown of Lancaster and working there as a Governor of my school, Lancaster Royal Grammar School, and having the opportunity to mentor Rachel Cooper as she sets up her innovation and creative design lab, ImaginationLancaster, at the University.

So to be recognized in this way by my hometown university is a thrill that’s really beyond compare. The ceremony will take place during the week of 13 July 2009 and, as cream on the cake, the degree is to be conferred by the Chancellor, Sir Christian Bonington. Chris Bonington was a hero of mine in the 70’s as he knocked off peak, after peak in his incredible and inspiring career. His books on mountaineering were my constant companion during that time.

The honor arrived a day after I visited Oxford University at the invitation of John Hood. John went across to Oxford as Vice-Chancellor four and a half years ago after a brilliant business career in New Zealand. In that time he has taken the University forward across every dimension. I had the privilege of talking to his MBA students and then joining a dozen or so of them for dinner at the Vice-Chancellor’s lodgings later that evening. It’s invigorating to be around MBA students, particularly ones who have taken the courageous step of leaving their jobs and investing in themselves and their education. These people are on the verge of transforming their lives and, having talked with them, I certainly get the feeling our future is in great hands.

To cap off a great week, I signed a contract with the University of Auckland to become a member of their staff as an Honorary Professor of the Faculty of Business and Economics. I’m committed to working with Vice-Chancellor, Stuart McCutcheon, and Business School Dean, Greg Whittred, to bring real life experience to their MBA program which starts in January 2009.

What a week. It has been a time of connecting past, present, and future. Connecting my upbringing in Lancaster to my adult life in Auckland - the common thread being education.

I feel humbled and honored to be able to give back to these young students, and I’m looking forward to inspiring them to make a difference and play their role in making the world a better place.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In Praise of Sisters

I managed to get up to Grasmere last week for a couple of days and thoroughly enjoyed battening down the hatches as the season’s first snow tumbled down. Everything around me was covered and all you could see was the odd deer track. The bordering fields, fells, and hills glistened beautifully in the crisp, bright sunshine. It was truly a Winter Wonderland.

I didn’t leave the cottage for 48 hours until my sister, Trisha, arrived from New Zealand and we went for a great dinner at Holbeck Ghyll. The chef there worked at Michaels Nook for eight years so it felt very much like home away from home. Holbeck Ghyll is a hotel with a one star Michelin restaurant, and is where Renee Zellweger stayed when she was filming Miss Potter. It’s a classic Lakeland house with beautiful views over Lake Windermere, a roaring log fire, and a lovely lounge full of comfortable easy chairs; the perfect place to order your pre and post dinner drinks in the most leisurely fashion. It also has the beautiful Lakeland habit of personally welcoming and farewelling you.

Trisha and I started to talk at 6:30pm and we were still going strong at 2:30am.

There’s a lot to be said for brother/sister one-on-one’s. Trish and I certainly don’t do it enough; there are always other people around. This time, however, it was just us and it turned into one of the most enjoyable nights of my year. Trish emigrated to New Zealand way before I did and paved the way. She’s made a stunning success of her career, starting out at the Housing Corporation, going to Shell, then heading up HR at Fletcher Challenge and latterly Telecom New Zealand. She’s probably the most highly respected HR leader in New Zealand and is certainly the most caring and nurturing. Now Trish is about to embark on a new adventure having tired of corporate life and eager to take on a new challenge in recruitment/HR development. When we met at Grasmere she was looking at loads of options and it was great seeing her so excited.

She’s been my greatest supporter over the years and, although younger than me, has acted in many motherly ways. I’m pleased to say, my daughter, Bex, has much the same relationship with her elder brother, Ben. So here’s a Christmas toast to sisters all over the world. Long may they thrive.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Getting Around Town

When Ben and Danis arrived in Paris recently at Gare du Nord on the Eurostar, the queue for taxis was about 200 yards long. Having lived in Paris for a year, Ben knew his way around and he and Dan grabbed a couple of the €1 public bikes just outside the station and set off to their hotel near the Place Vendôme. It’s a great way to get around, although you do take your life in your hands with Parisian driving.

I would like to see this tried in New Zealand. I think it would be an enormous hit particularly in our smaller, tourist-oriented towns where traffic is light anyway.

One of my favorite cities in the world is Montreal (a great place to eat, drink, and watch ice hockey). It has a terrific public bike system nicknamed Bixi. It’s really state of the art. The module bike racks are all Web enabled and solar powered (although I’m not sure how much sun you get in Montreal in winter.) The bicycles are designed to resist the inevitable public thrashing they get everyday and are equipped with special tags so they are easy to track and trace. From a sustainability point of view, this is one of the great ideas that we need to see being adopted in more and more cities.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Go Pepsi, Go

I spent seven years working for Pepsi at the height of the Cola Wars. I’m still a Diet Pepsi and Pepsi Max fanatic to this day. The hardest working Pepsi logo was developed in 1971 and survived until a rebranding took place when I was with company in 1987. It was a change that cost over $100 million to implement. We had to change every truck, vending machine, fridge, postmix machine, stadium sign, and point of sale material all around the world.

Now a new logo has just been developed and will be introduced next year. It’s only the 11th in Pepsi’s 110 year history, but it’s the 5th in the past 21 years. I haven’t seen the logo yet but I’ve read about it. It’s a white band in the middle of the Pepsi circle that forms a series of smiles. A smile will be the central identity of brand Pepsi; it will turn into a grin for Diet Pepsi and a laugh for Pepsi Max. Sounds very Lovemarks to me and adds intimacy and sensuality to the brand.

It’s very interesting to see how the pace of change in packaging has accelerated, reflecting modern times where the consumer is boss. It also reflects the idea that we can connect past, present, and future and not hang on to things that become more outdated more quickly in today’s highly visual marketing arena. As well as making the brand feel more intimate, it also adds personalization and brings together a variety of the Pepsi brands in an interesting, mobile, dynamic way. I think it’s very exciting.

Full credit to CEO Indra Nooyi and Marketing Head Massimo d’Amore. This is a rewriting of the rules. Very Pepsi.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Farewell Jean Roberts

My mum joined my dad last night.

Jean Roberts (née Lambert).


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Lovemarks store

Monocle magazine goes from strength to strength. It still has the same rich mixture of current affairs, business, culture, and design that makes it a must-have on any long flight. But now Monocle has leapt off its pages and out of it website into the big wide world and done something close to my heart. In London, just off the Marylebone High Street, Monocle has launched a tiny store in which they have arranged their Lovemarks. They’ve put their money where their mouths are and stood behind some products taken from the advertisers in their own pages.

I’ve always thought that a Lovemarks shop would be a winner. Some of my favorite retail experiences are those curated by smart and skillful hearts and minds. Those savvy people who can put together objects and ideas to create a unique experience with special shoppers in mind. Colette and Moss both continue to reinvent themselves so they can inspire us. We all know from our own retail experiences that it is the mix that makes the magic. Some shop windows stop you in your tracks with a clever assortment of products you never thought of being together. That is the beauty of the Lovemarks store idea. The curatorial premise (as they would call it in art museums) is that each item is linked to the others simply by the love of Inspirational Consumers. There’s no functional associations or category limit, just insight into what matters to shoppers.

Imagine you are walking down the main street and you see a small, well-lit place that has this line-up on its shelves: Moleskine, iPod, an IKEA chair, Tiffany & Co. jewelry, Bose, Dualit toasters, Beyond toothpaste, Mrs Ball’s Chutney, Matt & Nat bags, Natura skin cleanser. What connects this variety of products? It’s not the superb taste of Murray Moss or the pulse of the latest trends picked up by Colette, it’s the simple fact that they all are included in’s Top Five lists. Who wouldn’t push open the door and step inside?

One day I hope to create my Lovemarks store, but as I love Monocle, their store sounds like a great start.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The All Blacks: A matter of faith

Well, the All Blacks achieved the second Grand Slam in three years over the weekend. Convincingly. In a year which started horrendously with our exit from the World Cup, we have now collected the Bledisloe Cup, the Tri Nations, and a Grand Slam. What a fantastic vindication for the New Zealand Rugby Union who were brave enough to vote Graham Henry, Steve Hanson, and Wayne Smith back in as coaches. It would have been all too easy to bow to public pressure and knee jerk into a new coaching era, forgetting everything this trio had done prior to that one disastrous 80 minutes. Instead, the coaches buckled down, eliminated a lot of stuff, changed their views on things like rotation, and really delivered a highly motivated, highly professional, all round performance.

The defensive effort on the tour of the U.K. has been unparalleled. No international team scored a try against the All Blacks and no one scored any points in the second half against us. When you think about the exodus of players from New Zealand this year, the result is even more important. It is a strong endorsement of continuity, commitment, focus, re-invention, and creating a culture of responsibility throughout the team.

We can now all put the World Cup behind us and move forward.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Dream team

I’ve spent a lot of time in rugby changing rooms, both as a player in my youth and as a passionate supporter. There is nothing more electric than this place at half time when the team’s down half-a-dozen points or more. On a recent memorable occasion, the coach came into the room, looked at the long faces on the benches, and said seven words. “If you really want it, it’s yours.” These words could be the foundations of sustainability. The New Zealanders went on to defeat their Australian opponents 34-20 to win the Rugby League World Cup for the first time. I believe that we can only inspire people with the determination to make sustainability part of their lives. We cannot direct, instruct, or command them.

I’ve written before about how I believe that for greater sustainability we first need to change how we think about the task ahead. Big problems give big headaches and an inability to take effective action. Ask any CEO the best way to tackle a big problem and they will tell you to break it down into manageable parts. It is the same with sustainability. Take the problem apart and light an inspirational fire under it. “If you really want it, it’s yours.”

The team that heard those words went out onto the field and trounced opponents that everyone else thought out-classed them. From the moment they ran back onto the grass, it was clear that each one of them totally understood what was required and believed in the dream. Together they were literally unbeatable. I believe it will be the same with sustainability. Once we all understand the problem in a way that makes us believe we can make a significant contribution, and we are inspired to work together to give that contribution some heft, change will start rolling.

A sustainable world will come from an inspirational dream, not an insurmountable threat. It is the same with the economy, social issues, and the environment. A sustainable planet is possible if we all have the same dream.

If we really want it, it’s ours.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Haven of Life

A couple of weeks ago I spent five days in "The Haven of Life". Chiva Som is a two and a half hour drive from Bangkok and is one of the most beautiful places on earth. This is my sixth visit and I always stay in the same room every time, room 303 – The Chamomile Suite. I love this room that overlooks the pool, palm trees, yoga pavilion, and ocean. It is a place where I recharge my batteries for the year-end and take time out to refresh the mind, body, and spirit. I dropped 8lbs. by following a 5-day Classic Cleansing diet comprising of vegetable juice, potassium broth, wheatgrass, and lots and lots of water.

I combined this with a daily massage (including my first ever facial) and a brilliant 5 Element Massage using hot and cold stones. I also worked out every morning, played tennis with Tam every day (four wins out of four – 3 in a tie-break and one 7-5). I had a water aerobics class daily and at least one hot tub and steam every day. I didn’t speak to anyone except the tennis pro for the entire five days and it gave me time to focus on positivity and replenishment.

In the hectic business life we all lead nowadays, I find the person we most often neglect is ourselves. Instead we spend lots of time worrying about the business, our clients, and our people.

“If your thoughts are always positive you will be at peace with yourself and all around you the world will smile.” Joy is one of the great motivators of peak performance. Reminding ourselves to find the joy in every situation by making people smile is not only a great equity position for Crest toothpaste (where healthy beautiful smiles for life are the order of the day), but it is also a highly inspirational code to live by.

Chiva Som was only 40% full when I was there and it was mainly women. In fact, I only saw three male guests during the five, which meant the men’s spa was always empty. Perfect.

Chiva Som is a favorite among celebrities like Elizabeth Hurley and Sarah Ferguson, and you’ll find lots of Thais and expats from Bangkok taking a weekend break. Women were using the time away from husbands, family, and work to pamper themselves, mothers and daughters were bonding, and a few couples were getting in shape (spiritually and physically) together. I was the only person there on the Classic Cleanse; everyone else was enjoying the health spa lifestyle and food which is delicious. I wrote about Chiva Som last year but it really does get better as the pace of life gets faster.

I did lots of reading during the five days and was also reminded of one of the core tenets of a good life: “It is always good to grow in the spirit of forgiveness. But we must also learn to forget.” Instead of going over many wrongs that may have happened to us in the past, let us forget them and live in the present.

I almost forgot to tell you about the work part (oh, yes, that too). I spent three hours a day in the library keeping things whirling. I did this with my iPod on, with total tranquility all around, and wearing only a t-shirt and shorts.
The news everyday wasn’t too hot, with American Express laying off 10% of their workforce, people’s 401K funds in the U.S. being hammered, and job losses wherever you look. And it was happening in businesses as varied as Chrysler and Yahoo!. Once again, though, my readings helped me, “Conditions are always good, never bad; we need to know how to make good use of them. The man who waits for conditions to improve may have to wait for eternity”.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Eye Spy A-Space

My kids are all on Facebook. I’ve so far resisted the temptation as I grow older gracefully (another birthday just came and went). The move towards social networks has really accelerated over the past 12 months and it certainly is one of the key phenomena of the century’s first decade.

In September, the U.S. government launched A-Space, aka Facebook for Spies. It is a highly restricted website only available to members of the FBI, CIA, NSA, and 13 other intelligent services. I spoke to this mob 3-4 years ago and I can vouch for their smarts, work rate, analytical skills, and overall geekiness. Social skills did not seem to be a prerequisite so A-Space was launched. The spies’ very own social network designed to encourage the sharing of ideas, information, and hot dating amongst this very high-powered, high security classified group.

I wonder if the Russians have got access?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Loving the Kindle

Andy Murray, Global CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi X, is an early adopter of the Kindle and never leaves home without it. He is the greatest evangelist (second only to Oprah, who showed it last week and drove her viewers straight onto where Kindle sales are once again going through the roof). Andy’s after me to get one and somehow he has convinced himself that the retro design is cool and Atari 80's-like. He also finds it emotional and sensorial. Andy has always been a voracious news reader and tells me he now downloads, free everyday, the Financial Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Onion, Slate, Time, BusinessWeek, and Newsweek. Without commenting on Andy’s somewhat conservative reading taste (!!) I wonder if anyone else out there has any views on the Kindle? I love to read but I still love the physical fix you get from newspapers. That’s why I still buy CDs which I then of course, put onto my iPod. Am I being a dinosaur? Should I give in and Kindle?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Have a Seat

My dear friend, Jorge Oller from Costa Rica, and I share many interests, good wine, great music, and Lovemarks amongst them. As I have posted before, we also have a passion for chairs. Over the years, chairs have been a fascination to me and a few weeks back I took possession of the Villain Chair. This chair first appeared in Sean Connery’s Bond adventure You Only Live Twice. It was Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s key prop, along with the Persian cat and the eye scar Donald Pleasance wore in the part. Now SUCK UK have just introduced the chair in a gorgeous Cadbury Dairy Milk colored leather with 20 aluminum panels angled to cushion you in decadent, criminal luxury. Naturally it also swivels for maximum malevolence.

This chair now has pride of place in my TriBeCa loft alongside La Chaise from Charles and Ray Eames, Shiro Kuramata’s 'How High is the Moon' chair, and hanging from the loft ceiling is the Eero Aarnio Bubble Chair. On the deck I have a range of Frank Miller’s 1960’s iconic garden furniture, alongside the more up-to-date Philippe Starck Bubble Club armchair and sofa.

In Auckland, I have a bunch of chairs from Ross Lovegrove, David Trubridge, Marcel Breuer, Philippe Starck (including the Royalton Sofas and armchairs I first saw when that hotel opened a few years ago), the classic Mies van der Rohe Barcelona Chair and Day Bed, Verner Panton Heart chair and, my favorite, the Milana chair from Jean Nouvel.

In Grasmere, I have Eero Aarnio’s Ball chair, along with two amazing Peter Blake deckchairs Ro surprised me with for my birthday last month.

When I visited Jorge in his home in San Juan, Costa Rica, a couple a years back, it felt like home away from home with many of the same pieces scattered around Jorge’s home and the agency. He’s too warm and friendly to have the Villain Chair though.

p.s. You can see most of these on and the Villain Chair on

Monday, December 1, 2008

Don’t swing that cat inside

After my post on iPhone Apps and reintroducing 'small is beautiful' as an idea that’s right for our time, a friend recommended a great site featuring another small triumph. This time it’s housing. In a video on the site, a couple of people have settled into small (and I mean small) houses as a way to reinvent their lives, and tell their stories. In some places in the world, even these 800 square feet (70 square meter) dwellings would be spacious but, as in all things, size is relative!

There is quite a movement among architects in New Zealand to build houses using shipping containers. The idea works on the 'small is beautiful' principle, and once you have a few of these metal boxes piled up and clad with something more appealing than steel, they can turn into roomy and well designed homes. Just last week, a story on IKEA from Matroshka beautifully summed up this philosophy of simplicity: “Plain, Nordic, simple. Reminds me of my youth when we were poor and full of hope.”

There is the opportunity to put a whole lot of small things together to make one large one. This has happened in the U.K. where Travelodge has created a 100 room hotel made from, you guessed it, shipping containers. It cost the hotel chain ten percent less and took ten weeks faster to build. Regrettably the process has been gifted the rather unlovable name of ‘box and build’. On a more positive note, the hotel can be easily reshaped and resized and the rooms look as good as any regular hotel room you are likely to see. Projects like these have a lot to show us about thinking outside the box – literally. We need innovative ways to add value; initiatives that push ahead recycling at scale and a serious reconsideration of the amount of space we take up on the planet.