Thursday, April 30, 2009

Paradise Road

When catastrophe looms, a great place to focus is not the eye of the storm, but the edge. Start with the economic edge of the world rather than the conventional centers. There you can still see significant improvement and development. While the suggestion that emerging markets would be untouched by the global economic crisis proved false (as anyone who spent a couple of minutes considering the interconnected nature of the global economy could have predicted), the reality is that countries that have been on the edge of disaster for decades are making sustained economic and social progress. I’m thinking sub-Saharan Africa, Bangladesh. In much the same way as India was relegated to the non-performing heap in the 1970s and is now a major player, many of the world’s poorest nations are making inspired use of their edge status.

The Edge
was an idea I helped develop with my colleague, Brian Sweeney, ten or so years ago when we were working out what made New Zealand distinctive and where our competitive strengths as a nation lay. It has been an idea that has evolved and developed online and then gone off to take action in the real world. This seems to me to be a very twenty-first century model: explore, experiment, test, and then get out there. Since then, Brian has created another website called Paradise Road. It is a very cool collection of images from Brian’s travels and our home country New Zealand. I’d not realized what a committed photographer Brian was until a few years ago when I saw some of his images of New Zealand’s South Island. In this stark landscape, Brian saw an austere beauty that often goes unrecognized. Brian has been with me helping to develop Lovemarks since it began. On you can see how he has created a Lovemark of his own.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Once upon a time

Image from Lovemarks: Saatchi & Saatchi Designers' Edition. Original tattoo by Adam Craft (Illicit), design by Kane McPherson and Lorenz Perry.

I had a wonderful experience recently. I was invited to a wedding. With my kids in the prime marriage zone you might not think this surprising, but this invitation was something out of the ordinary. The form of the invitation was a visitor’s pass to a conference aka The Wedding. As an effort by the couple to get past some of the formality of wedding celebrations, it was smart, but something else entirely took it into another emotional dimension for me. The once-upon-a-time dimension.

The invitation came from Suzan and Piet Hein, who first met on the occasion of one of my presentations in Amsterdam three years ago (in fact, it was on 7 April 2006 and they even recall that the presentation was about sisomo and Lovemarks!). It turns out they were both journalists and had been sent by their magazines to interview me. First Suzan, then Piet. While they were waiting for me to turn up they started talking and, by the time the interviews were done, had agreed to meet again. This time for a date. The story then transforms into a fairy tale. They fell madly in love and three years later here we are – with a wedding. I like to think of it as a true Lovemarks wedding. Emotional, authentic, surprising. All hallmarks of the Attraction Economy.

Who wouldn’t respond to this couple and their beautiful Lovemarks story? By inviting me to share in it, they have let me feel part of their joy with extraordinary generosity. As they said, the chance of my being able to attend was a “long shot”, and unfortunately I’ll be in New Zealand on their big day, but I will certainly be thinking of them and talking about this unexpected experience. Of course, that’s exactly where great stories come from – personal experience spiced with the unexpected and infused with emotion. You can make anyone feel anything. You can entice and intrigue them, invite and entertain, and make them feel at the heart of something important. Well, Suzan and Piet, you have certainly done all that and more for me, a virtual stranger. I can only imagine the love from your friends and family. Be happy.

So if you are in Amsterdam on 16 May and see a very happy couple draped in conference passes, blow them a kiss and give them a wave from me.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Vanishing

I love lists and one of the fantastic results of my list-loving on KRConnect has been more lists from readers. This week, I was a sent a link to a list on of Top 25 Things Vanishing from America. Their selection is smart and provocative as it tracks products and services, behaviors and technologies, and everything in between. From maple syrup to cars-with-manual-shifts, neighborhood-kids-who-will-do-odd-jobs, butcher shops, sidewalks, cameras-that-use-film, personal checks, and a personal favorite I have posted on before, handwriting. A great list is a constant work in progress, so in that spirit here are a few of my own additions.

Analogue watches. When I was a kid, learning to tell the time was all about the big hand and the little hand. No longer. Even the few clocks and watches with hands on their faces are just facades for digital innards. It’s a classic And/And solution and typical of much technological change. It is what kept cars looking like horse buggies for years and why airlines tried to reproduce ocean liner service for so long. The loss? You can’t fix a digital watch yourself. The gain? It probably won’t break down!

DVDs. They are still with us, but spend even five minutes with someone under 30 and you’ll know that online downloads is where it’s headed. As for the last remaining video rental stores (they didn’t even get a chance to change their name to DVD rentals), they’ll need to find something else to do with that space. Strangely, in amongst this incredible change, movie theaters are doing very well. I suspect that this is as much about the community of sitting together for a shared experience than anything else.

Passivity. It’s vanished. Once people got their hands on easy-to-use, personal screens, they were off on an action high. Try telling the movie industry that viewers aren’t in control as hundreds of messages panning or praising a movie zap out of the theater before the end credits have rolled.

SMS. It seems that texting has just arrived but it’s already coming under pressure. Young people seem to love communicating across a community rather than one-on-one. Think Facebook, MySpace, and now Twitter. Just look at the names! Which sounds more now – texting or Twitter?

Ashtrays. All I can say is, if they can stop public smoking in France and Turkey, they can stop it anywhere. RIP ashtrays, and good riddance.

Plastic bags. They’re on my mind. I wrote about them and Anya Hindmarch’s great tagline “I am not a plastic bag” last year. A New Zealand supermarket chain recently made a move to charge five cents for each bag. It might not match the radicalism of countries like Bangladesh where plastic bags are banned, but it’s a start. I am bemused by some supermarkets who won’t have plastic at the register but supply nothing but plastic bags to pack fruit and vegetables into as you wander through the store.

Photo albums. Kodak built a Lovemark on the icon of a family sitting together, flipping through the photo album. No more. With huge photo sharing and management sites like Flickr, the family album has vanished into cyberspace. Digital photography has stripped the costs and multiplied the choices. Though one thing that will never vanish is parents mooning over photos of their kids and grandparents of their grandkids while the real thing is playing in the same room!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Journey past the center of the earth

As a kid I was fascinated by what was on the other side of the world – and we got very literal about it. Digging a hole in the beach always seemed like a sensible start until we got tired and the tide came in! In Lancaster, where I grew up, we believed we could dig through to New Zealand because it looked like it was on the opposite side to us on the globe we had at school. Was this experience in the back of my mind when I made my home in New Zealand? An outfit called Antipodes Map wouldn’t be surprised. This is a company fueled by opposites. Using Google Maps, they can show you the antipodes of any place on earth. The antipodes is the opposite point on the planet from where you are. I was a little disappointed to find that in fact the antipode of Lancaster is deep in the Pacific Ocean. Not far from New Zealand for sure, and intriguingly, right on the International Date Line, but still not on dry land. As the ocean covers about two-thirds of the planet, I guess that’s a common result. However, Antipodes Map does reveal that my home in Auckland has its antipodes mid-point between Malaga and Cádiz in Spain.

Is this just a game? Of course it is, but like all games it shows something profound about human beings and what drives them. Start with the romance and the mystery the ends of the world have always exerted. What’s round the corner, over the hill, across the sea, and on the other side of the planet has always been a magnet for the adventuring spirit. I reckon that Antipodes Map would be a brilliant tool when you’re choosing people to work with. Turn the tedious old recruitment exercises on their heads. Give people the software, and anyone who can’t play around with it for ten minutes and come up with a flood of ideas probably lacks the crucial quality I hope you are looking for: curiosity. For me, the unknown is one of our great driving forces. It’s why even in tough times like now, when no one has any idea about what’s coming next and they even admit it, challenge is the only thing worth turning yourself upside down for. Still, I’m glad I didn’t dig that tunnel and drown Lancaster under the gushing waters of the South Pacific.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Do the ton

It’s important to live life to its full potential. Here’s a list on the formula for a long life. It was proposed by 97-year-old expert physician Shigeaki Hinohara. This is a man who still chairs two large hospitals in Tokyo and has written around 150 books since his 75th birthday. They include Ongaku no Iyashi no Chikara (The Healing Power of Music), Shin Rojin o Ikiru (Living as a Senior Citizen), and Ikikata Jyozu (Good at Living) which has sold 1.2 million copies.

Not surprising that such wisdom comes from Japan. This is a country that is experiencing the impacts of an aging population before the rest of us. It will take 20 more years for Europe’s population to become as elderly as Japan’s population is today, so we can learn a lot from the Japanese experience of having fit, active, senior citizens.

Shigeaki Hinohara points out that the single factor shared by all people who live long lives is that none of them are overweight. He even claims that he never gets hungry because he focuses on his work. Now that we’ve got that out of the way...

1. Feel first. Energy comes from feeling good, not from eating sensibly or sleeping a lot. It’s your emotional state that drives your physical well-being.

2. Plan ahead. If you don’t believe in the future you can’t participate fully in it. Make a list of all the things you always wanted to do and start working your way through it. Write that novel, climb that mountain, go and teach in that village school. Fill out your diary for the next ten years. Book for the 2016 Olympic Games – whether it's in Chicago, Tokyo, Rio, or Madrid, make plans to be there.

3. Put off retirement. The current retirement age of 65 was set 50 years ago when average life-expectancy was a lot lower. However, while older people have wisdom and experience to contribute to any business, it’s crucial that young people have opportunity, and plenty of it. We have to create enterprises in the future that do both: make room for the wisdom of age to work alongside the energy of youth.

4. Share what you know. Sharing what you know has got to be the most inspiring, nurturing thing you can do. It may be great for the people you work with, but it also makes you feel great.

5. Carry your own stuff. Don’t let others carry your bags. A great way to keep focus on what is important is to carry it with you. Shigeaki instructs us to take the stairs. He takes them two at a time, and at 97.

There’s more but I want close with this great quote from Shigeaki Hinohara: “I still put in 18 hours, seven days a week, and I love very minute of it. I believed I was privileged to live, so my life must be dedicated to other people."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Nike spirit

I’ve been a sports fanatic since I was a kid. I’ve played rugby, cricket, and tennis to a serious level and a number of other sports for fun and relaxation. Try keeping me away from an All Blacks game and you will see what Loyalty Beyond Reason looks like when it’s riled. Those are my credentials for writing this post. Deep, personal commitment rather than professional evaluation.

A few years ago I gave a presentation to one of the modern icons of sport, the Nike corporation. At that time, they were the subject of constant discussion and their swoosh logo was popping up everywhere. Some companies might have let this sort of corporate celebrity go to their heads, but Nike have always been a company that keeps its focus.

Evidence of that can be seen in some of the discussion during their 2009 third quarter conference call. It was just part of my usual scan of sports business as Chairman of the USA Rugby Board, but it turned out to be more relevant and interesting than I’d expected.

Nike’s CEO, Mark Parker, totally gets the growing importance of sport. I say growing because I often hear people say that sport has been bobbing around in a kind of ‘sports bubble’ for the last decade. And we all know what happens to bubbles! Mark makes a great distinction between attendance (fronting up to the field to watch a game) and viewership, which is of course, the all-important sisomo and screens connection. He suggests that because we can count the number of people at a game, we give this metric more importance than we should. To him, what matters are the new access points to sports – communities, environments, connections, the whole 24-hour maelstrom of debate, opinion, and aspiration that seethes online. That’s where Nike is working hard.

And then he nails it for me: “Maybe if you are in the old and not transitioning to the new you may feel like you are in a bubble and it is about ready to burst. But if you are part of the new it is really almost an infinite landscape from which to engage with consumers in new and energetic ways.”

Fantastic! Parker understands that being a great brand, or a Lovemark, is not a forever thing. As people change, a Lovemark must change with them. As Nike puts it, the company’s history is not as important as its potential. Mark believes, as I do, that this potential will be created by the people who love the brand. In today’s Value Economy, value means much more than price. Charlie Denson, President of Nike Brand explains, “We are seeing the rise of new expectations based on quality, performance and sustainability in products. We are seeing consumers gravitate towards authentic brands that work hard to earn their trust and keep it.” Spoken like a true Lovemark.

This is the spirit that will get great companies through this current catastrophe. Only by putting your brand in the hands of consumers can you lay down a clear pathway for success in tomorrow’s world.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Heroes and villains

Growing up in 60’s U.K., one of my favorite programs was That Was the Week That Was. It was a terrific satire from Cambridge University graduates and was the forerunner of many of today’s political satires. David Frost was a regular and went on to become the U.K.'s, if not the world's, preeminent talk show host and political commentator. His breakout moment took place in May 1977 when his showdown interview with Richard Nixon drew close to 50 million viewers in the U.S. and was aired throughout the world. Toward the end of the final interview, he finally broke Nixon down.

Nowadays, Frost is working at Al Jazeera with his Frost Over the World show and continues to break new ground. He has interviewed every U.K. Prime Minister since Harold Wilson and every American president since Nixon. I watched the movie, Frost/Nixon, yesterday aboard Singapore Airlines. It was tremendous theater and, as far as I could remember, around 85% true.

Michael Sheen, who plays David Frost, has received many kudos for this role and is on a hot streak at the moment. He played Tony Blair in The Queen and, one of my own flawed heroes, Brian Clough in The Damned United. His physical resemblance to David Frost is remarkable but I thought he played the part too light and was a little too flaky. For me, the compelling performance was Frank Langella as Nixon. He starts slowly, but by the end of the movie he is totally credible. His hulking, domineering presence fills the screen and his breakdown is an incredible moment. It’s like watching 'The Rumble in the Jungle' or the 'Thrilla in Manila'.

The detail in the movie is riveting and I’ve rarely felt two hours go by so quickly. Watching Frost put his reputation and his career on the line and nearly losing all of it before his final knockout on the Watergate episode is drama of the highest order. Then there’s watching the devil inside Nixon come to life. It is frightening but simultaneously manages to create a sympathetic character. (Did I really say that?)

Don’t miss this movie.

And don’t miss the new Jack Reacher book either. April 7 saw the global launch of Lee Child’s Gone Tomorrow. I’ve already devoured it. My favorite hero is back at his best.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Being squeezed

When a member of the Lovemarks community describes his Lovemark as "an everyday, close to religious, choice for me", you have to sit up and take notice. This is how ‘Jeffrey’ described Tropicana orange juice. If you follow the ups and downs of brands, you will have heard a lot about Tropicana in the media over the last few months. None of it good. PepsiCo – who are responsible for Tropicana – redesigned the packaging of this iconic product, put it on the shelves, and stood by in shock as all hell let loose. According to Information Resources Inc., unit sales dropped 20%! (AdAge).

Why did PepsiCo change the packaging without so much as a word to the people who buy it? Because they were convinced they owned the brand and that some discussion over mood boards with a focus groups or two would capture the contribution of consumers. Not so. As PepsiCo learned and as the world now knows, Tropicana consumers were furious when the iconic orange with its protruding straw was removed. Designers and brand managers might see it as out-of-date and generic, but shoppers refused to see past it. The result was a barrage of emails, phone calls, and letters to PepsiCo demanding the old packaging back in no uncertain terms. Thanks to online media, this wave of response was very fast and easy for consumers to deliver. The old days of sitting down, penning a letter of complaint, getting an envelope, and going to the post office are long gone.

PepsiCo are a smart company. They reacted fast and returned to the familiar packaging that people turned out to be so committed to. Does this mean there should never be change? Of course not. The new PepsiCo campaign is a joy in itself – XOXO. What it does show is that the consumer is boss.

I have no doubt that Tropicana could change their packaging to the delight of their customers. Great design coupled with a deep understanding of taste and need would do it. If they do decide to venture out again after this most recent experience, they could check out Naoto Fukasawa. He has done the most incredible designs for fruit juice containers with the look and feel of the fruit they contain. Clear, pure, and very, very tasty.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika (Lord Protect Africa)

Next week, I'm going to South Africa to speak at the AdReview Awards and renew my relationship with a country that, like every New Zealand rugby fan, has a piece of my heart. The relationship between South Africa and New Zealand has been forged with blood, bone, muscle, and heart on the sports – and protest – field.

All Black legend Colin Meads summed up the rugby challenge: "If you're ever going to play good rugby, you'll play it in South Africa. The atmosphere demands it of you, the contest is hard physically, the sun throws its heat on to your shoulders and there is always that feeling inside you, as an All Black, that this is what it has all been about, that this is South Africa and these are the players you most want to beat..."

It's a country of hard won gains, a land of creativity, energy, music, and enthusiasm. Few other countries have been so full of dreams of freedom, renewal, and evolution. The African National Congress won their long fight against an evil system, Nelson Mandela became the inspiration of a generation, and the 'rainbow nation' was born. I'm arriving on Election Day, which has been declared a national holiday.

With the Football World Cup in South Africa just over a year away and Hollywood visiting (Morgan Freeman plays Nelson Mandela, Matt Damon plays Francois Pienaar, and Clint Eastwood directs in The Human Factor), South Africa's colors are starting to shine globally. My friend, hotelier extraordinaire Sol Kerzner, is back with another stunning property at One & Only Cape Town.

In South Africa, English is the most common language in business and government, but it's only the fifth most spoken home language. On my return, I'm hoping to find more of the diversity that gives the country its unique profile. Futurist Rolf Jensen says that the heroes of the 21st century will be the storytellers - so which of the 11 official languages in South Africa are they speaking in? Like the national anthem, alchemy can work magic.

Everybody knows the country's challenges. Infrastructure development needs further improvement, education and health (particularly HIV/AIDS) must benefit from aggressive funding and commitment, and the country's natural blessings must be conserved. Saatchi & Saatchi South Africa have just worked with WWF on Earth Hour and helped save 400 MW of electricity, 400 tonnes of carbon dioxide, 224 tonnes of coal, and about 576,000 litres of water. Taking an inclusive, 'we're all in this together' approach, is the way forward.

It's not always easy, but I'm optimistic. South Africa is a country full of inspirational players, on the field and off, and the world is about to find out how many there are in next year's World Cup. Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Backing Brand America

On this blog, I have often written about places I love – Auckland, tiny St Maarten, Buenos Aires, Dubai, Cyprus, as well as the incomparable Rio de Janeiro and Paris. I’ve also thought about these places and written about what makes a successful place brand (Signs of a Nation 1 and 2).

A note from Edward Burghard grabbed my attention. Edward is a Harley Procter marketer. That means he is one of P&G’s top people and wants to stay in marketing rather than take on the role of general manager. P&G offers these specialists the opportunity to remain in senior marketing roles while stretching their expertise and enriching their contributions. They get biennial sabbaticals so they can broaden their marketing experience and work on suitable projects outside P&G.

Edward decided to stay in Ohio but wanted to start something big. He is convinced that place branding as a driver of economic development can be dramatically improved by the use of private sector branding skills and principles. To do it he has instigated a place branding community of practice. The explicit goal? To help strengthen Brand America. Edward doesn’t sugarcoat: “Brand America is in trouble.” It may have been the biggest economic engine in history, it could still be the economic powerhouse that returns us to economic stability, but it is a brand under serious competitive pressure across both dimensions of the Love/Respect Axis. The Pew Global Attitudes Project reported in 2007 that, “Since 2002, the image of the United States has declined in most parts of the world. Favorable ratings of America are lower in 26 of 33 countries for which trends are available”. Edward made these connections and explores them in his blog post, “Love – The Secret Ingredient in Place Branding”.

  • Lovemarks have important potential in place branding.
  • The top 50 Lovemark places sent in by the community to are a valuable resource of places that have successfully created valuable connections inspired by emotion.
  • Lovemark status can help increase tourism revenue as well as improved competitiveness in accessing capital investment.
Edward shows how a clear simple idea can create energy and focus but there’s an element missing. In my experience you need to put what you aspire to on the table. People might disagree but that’s the way to start the conversation. I don’t think there would be any disagreement about the need to strengthen Brand America, but what would that brand stand for?

Bob Seelert took a “start with the answer” approach and has put “a harmonious and sustainable society” on the table. Every action governments, businesses, institutions, and individuals take can be measured against this. America would stop doing a lot of stuff and start doing a lot of different stuff if it was committed to this no-brainer goal. Check out Edward's site, subscribe to the blog, and join the conversation. And don't forget to buy Paper, New York's hippest magazine. I'll be writing some ads for the new America in their June issue. The series includes Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger. It should be fun.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Popular is good!

To build a great company, you need passion and focus. A smart way to get both is for people to have some skin in the game. We’re talking about people who invest their own money into the enterprise. They are owners. The franchising model is a fantastic example.

A few weeks back, I talked to Boston Pizza’s annual franchisee conference in San Diego. In front of me was a room full of people who had made their own business decision to be part of the Boston Pizza franchise and were reaping the rewards. Sales for 2008 were up 9 percent over 2007. Boston Pizza is No. 1 in Canada with 325 casual dining restaurants and counting. It’s also making headway in the U.S. This is a substantial business built restaurant by restaurant, community by community. The founders, Jim Treliving and George Melville, were at the heart of the conference. They seemed to know everyone and everyone certainly knew them. There was a great sense of family inspiring the event, with partners' kids and grandkids in the front rows. Sometimes conference themes can seem imposed from the outside. This one came straight out of what matters most to Boston Pizza: how to be the best you can be. Immediately I felt at home. Malcolm Gladwell was on the bill too, and it was great to meet up and share a lively Q&A session talking about his new book, Outliers, and to listen to his great stories.

The restaurant business is competitive but it can flourish in tough times if it has true empathy with what customers want from the experience. I said to the franchisees that the Lovemarks challenge is to discover motivating and relevant insights so they can connect more effectively, more deeply, and more emotionally with their customers. One of the big challenges is right at the frontline. Service. How do you coach your people to not just deliver efficient service (the right food and drink to the right people in the timeframe they expect), but how to make people feel welcome, talk to them, anticipate their needs, make your service part of a bigger and more meaningful experience. It's the environment, menu, atmosphere, and people - elements that make a restaurant popular – and popular is good!

The Boston Pizza family care about their customers, they care about tangibles that win Respect like distribution and process, they care about the intangibles – Mystery, Sensuality, and Intimacy. Those three may seem out of left field for a pizza company, but left field is where ideas and passion are.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Brain fever

I’m a heart guy. When I see metrics, I look for emotional subtext. If someone measures something, I’m thinking about where it comes from, what shaped it, and what’s out of the frame. Numbers seldom resolve complex challenges or decisions. I don’t say this to be awkward, although it often is. It’s just I have the feeling that there are heart people and brain people. Brain people listen to their hearts and vice-versa, but most of us favor one or the other. It's just more natural to us. It’s always smart to challenge what feels most comfortable, so I don’t let my heart allegiance stop me from taking an interest in recent work on the brain.

It turns out that even with the triumphs of the Human Genome Project, our knowledge of the genetic composition of the human brain is pretty much at ground zero. There is a lot of work going on to create an Atlas of the Human Mind (perhaps some of the banking brains we’ve seen in action recently would be ideal subjects for research). Allan Jones, one of the scientists heading the project, refers to our knowledge of the brain being at the same level as the Ancients had of geography. On the hippocampus read, “Here there be monsters”. All in all, they are talking about mapping nearly 20,000 genes, a huge undertaking that was kicked off with a $100 million fund by Paul Allen of Microsoft fame.

Already there has been one major discovery. Each human brain turns out to be unique and infinitely more complex than anyone thought. Well, more complex than any scientist thought. I suspect the rest of us knew that all along – especially those of us with children and grandchildren. The idea that the brain can be simplified so it can be explained seems to me like massive conceit. I feel a King Canute moment coming on when scientists finally discover the secret of the brain. Their conclusion? We are all just cogs in some intergalactic experiment being conducted by another species with even bigger and more unique brains.

Me, I’ll stick to being a heart guy. I believe that in the next few years, intuition, gut, and heading where your heart pulls will create winners.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Monocle on retail

Tyler Brûlé’s Monocle magazine gets more and more interesting. The April edition focuses on the state of retail and talks about what drives retail success in these tough times.

Ten key attributes in the retail experience according to Monocle are:

1. Service minded, smartly dressed, enthusiastic staff
2. Obsessive attention to detail
3. A memorable welcoming scent in the air
4. Good music in the background
5. Flattering lighting
6. Treats with all purchases
7. Impeccable packaging
8. An inviting façade
9. A unique original product mix
10. A passion to constantly innovate

In other words, Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy.

Jo Malone delivers across all ten of these attributes and to my mind is one of the best retail experiences in the world.

I would add an 11th point to Tyler’s top ten. A hands-on, inspirational and passionate store manager.

I’d apply the same checklist to a great restaurant. And Simon Rogan’s L’enclume in Cartmel fits the bill perfectly.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

All you can eat

I love food and as you will have seen, a number of my Lovemarks are restaurants. Travelling as much as I do – with food temptations constantly before me that are skilfully prepared and beautifully presented – keeping trim is a constant challenge. Tennis, walking, workouts do a lot of the heavy lifting and because I’m not one for complicated eating regimes, eating smart has to be eating simple. That’s where my own indispensable rules of thumb come into play. Such heuristics shape our lives by shaping our decisions with intuition and common sense.

Here’s a classic example from my family (and probably the mantra of every mother in the world): “Eat your greens.” While this rule hasn’t made me a vegetarian, it has given me a healthy respect for vegetables, their nutritional value and how great chefs can create great vegetable dishes with flair and imagination. Now the simple Greens Rule has been expanded to “Eat colored”. It turns out that brightly colored vegetables have the highest nutritional properties. Beetroot, oranges, tomatoes, berries, all the green guys, are in. Potatoes, not so much, despite the gallant efforts of the potato industry to promote their wares.

The “Eat colored” rule of thumb connects directly with another one that gives us a guide to the sensible volume of food to eat. It’s set out in an interesting book written by a couple of ad guys, Alex Bogusky and Chuck Porter. It’s called The 9-Inch Diet (another classic from powerHouse Books, publishers of the Lovemarks suite of books). They have taken up another commonsense food idea (eat less) and followed it in all sorts of fascinating directions. It’s entertaining and instructive with an action message in the tail. Alex and Chuck traced eating habits (particularly of Americans) over a few decades and found that the size of plates and drinking glasses has exploded. If you don’t believe me, go to your kitchen cupboard and take out a dinner plate that is nine inches wide. The first thing you will discover is that you don’t have one. They have vanished from American life. If you are curious about this extinct species and check it out in store, you will find that the old school nine-inch plate looks more like a side plate than a dinner plate to contemporary eyes. Like the proverbial frogs that get used to slowly increasing temperatures and don’t leap from the pot to safety, we have slowly become used to larger and larger plate sizes. The problem is not of course the dinnerware, it’s the amount of food we heap onto it. It’s all part of what the brilliant Brian Wansink calls Mindless Eating .

To get to more mindful eating, put a nine-inch dinner plate together with another classic of motherly advice: “Leave something on the plate when you’ve finished,” and you’re on the way to a successful weight maintenance (and perhaps even reduction) program.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The History of a Poster

Here’s an inspirational tale of a poster that spoke across generations. A great example of the power of simplicity and the power of story telling, taken from Barter Books whose shopowners rediscovered the poster in 2000. We just sent these out to all our offices. Great advice for today's tough times. KR

In the spring of 1939, with war against Germany all but inevitable, the British Government’s Ministry of Information commissioned a series of propaganda posters to be distributed throughout the country at the onset of hostilities. It was feared that in the early months of the war Britain would be subjected to gas attacks, heavy bombing raids and even invasion. The posters were intended to offer the public reassurance in the dark days which lay ahead.

The posters were required to be uniform in style and were to feature a ‘special and handsome’ typeface making them difficult for the enemy to counterfeit. The intent of the poster was to convey a message from the King to his people, to assure them that all necessary measures to defend the nation were being taken, and to stress an attitude of mind rather than any specific aim. On the eve of a war which Britain was ill-equipped to fight, it was not possible to know what the nation’s future aims and objectives would be.

At the end of August 1939 three designs went into production with an overall print budget of £20,600 for five million posters. The first poster, of which over a million were printed, carried a slogan suggested by a civil servant named Waterfield. Using the crown of George VI as the only graphic device, the stark red and white poster read ‘Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution will Bring us Victory’. A similar poster, of which around 600,000 were issued, carried the slogan ‘Freedom is in Peril’. But the third design, of which over 2.5 million posters were printed, simply read ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’.

The first two designs were distributed in September 1939 and immediately began to appear in shop windows, on railway platforms, and on advertising hoardings up and down the country. But the ‘Keep Calm’ posters were held in reserve, intended for use only in times of crisis or invasion. Although some may have found their way onto Government office walls, the poster was never officially issued and so remained virtually unseen by the public – unseen, this is, until a copy turned up more than fifty years later in a box of dusty old books bought in auction.

Shop owners Stuart and Mary Manley liked the poster so much that they had it framed and placed near the till in their shop. It quickly proved popular with customers and attracted so many enquiries that Stuart and Mary decided to print and sell a facsimile edition which has since become a best seller, both in the shop and via the internet.

The Ministry of Information commissioned numerous other propaganda posters for use on the home front during the Second World War. Some have become well-known and highly collectable, such as the cartoonist Fougasse’s ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’ series. But ours has remained a secret until now. Unfortunately, we cannot acknowledge the individuals responsible for the ‘Keep Calm’ poster. But it’s a credit to those nameless artists that long after the war was won people everywhere are still finding reassurance in their distinctive and handsome design, and the very special ‘attitude of mind’ they managed to convey.

Primary source of information: Lewis, R.M., ‘Undergraduate Thesis: The planning, design and reception of British home front propaganda posters of the Second World War’.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Inspiring business with sport

Let’s talk sport. What does it have to teach us as we face the new reality of no cash, less credit and an economy turned inside-out? I’m a passionate sports fan from way back so I’ve been trying to work out what it is about sport that keeps me pumped about the teams I love, even when the going gets tough. If we could connect some of the amazing emotion and passion that sport inspires with business performance, what a fantastic competitive advantage we’d have. That was the rationale of the book I wrote with a bunch of academics called Peak Performance: Business Lessons from World’s Top Sports Organizations, but today I’m more interested in the fans who follow the sports gods.

Why is sport so important in the lives of so many people? I’ve got four thoughts to share.

1. Sport can be an important marker of our lives. There’s the everyday routine – and then there’s those memorable sport challenges, victories and defeats. I know if I want to date an event in the past, the easiest way is to do it is through what my kids were likely to have been doing, or through the great games and players of the period. A great example for me was the All Blacks v Springboks at Eden Park in 1997. I just watched it again on an Air New Zealand flight from LA. Fitzpatrick was a real leader.

2. Sport demands energy and participation. We’re never ‘just watching’ whether we’re at the ground or in a sports bar or settled on the couch. It is never about politely clapping when one of our heroes wins a point because they are our heroes and they matter to us. Some of the funniest comments I’ve ever heard have been directed at the hapless ref or opposing team, or even to the person sitting next to me. Michael Parkinson has a great story of being on the terraces of Barnsley FC as a fan reminded a newly signed player, “You’re about as much use as a chocolate teapot!”

3. Sport is collective. Sure, the stars are extraordinary individuals but they are engaged in a great collective enterprise. An article attacking the joys of being a fan, a spectator, a follower, suggested that the thrill of being part of a crowd was Darwinian: the more of us there are, the safer we feel. Tell that to someone working on the production line in Detroit! There is more to sport than simply being one of a large number of people engaged in doing the same thing. That’s important, but what matters most is what that experience inspires.

4. Sport inspires radical optimism. You know I love this idea if you read this blog and that is exactly what you tap into when you’re into sport. As a fan you’re following a dream you believe in because that is what the great sporting franchises offer: a dream, a story, a purpose to commit to and defend. The journey is as important as the destination. It’s great to win, of course, but the drama comes from the journey and radical optimism is the only way to accelerate that journey. You sure can’t do it with stats and training regimes and star purchases. Teams that consistently win never tap into that wild strain of optimism. We relax into being realists who get what they expect, and our teams start to seem machine-like. No one is a fan of a machine. We’re fans of supremely talented human beings that usually get it right and sometimes, heart-stoppingly, don’t.

And let’s not forget, when we are looking for role models, that the business of sports is one of the fastest growing in the US, and one of the largest. I read that it is valued at around $213 billion, which puts it around twice the size of the auto industry and seven times that of the movie industry! Then when you consider the fitness and health benefits – well, I rest my case.

New times call for new ideas about work and business and performance. If sport could inspire us to do the work we want to remember, to feel engaged and energetic, to take on radical optimism as our personal mantra, and to do all of that together, I believe we could transform business.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Barb Jungr: You’ve come a long way baby

In this fast moving world, some things don’t change and are more valuable because of that.

One of these institutions is the Café Carlyle at The Carlyle hotel in New York City. Dining and watching cabaret there is pretty much the same today as it was 30 years ago. We’re talking traditional high quality food, a sensational wine cellar of classic French and Italian reds, old world service, and top entertainers. Bobby Short made the venue his own for half a century and I was lucky enough to see one of his last performances.

Last week I went to see Barb Jungr. Barb was born in Rochdale and grew up in Manchester about the same time as I was growing up in nearby Lancaster. She put on a performance singing songs written by men she admired, including a great performance of Springsteen’s “The River”. There were also magnificent selections from Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Todd Rundgren, Edwin Starr, and a barnstorming “Red Red Wine” (Neil Diamond). It made for a great night.

I got into Barb’s music through a Dylan cover she did called “Every Grain of Sand”. Last week I bought her latest collection of Nina Simone pieces. Awesome. She’s a terrific entertainer, linking every song with a story about her background and what the song means to her. Many of these stories collide with the places and times I remember so well from that great 60’s/70’s period in the Northwest of England.

After the show we had the chance for a quick catch up to reminisce about Rochdale and Lancaster. She’s come a long way baby!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Start with the Answer

The answer in this case is Bob Seelert, Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi. I’ve just had a sneak preview of a book written by Bob called Start with the Answer: And Other Wisdom for Aspiring Leaders (Wiley). Smart advice from a very smart man. You may recall that it was with Bob Seelert that I first sketched the Love/Respect Axis when I was working out the basics of Lovemarks. Working on a table napkin, he gave yet another demonstration of his skill at taking a complex situation and distilling it into clear, concise ideas. Best of all, they're ideas you can act on.

This skill is exactly what his book showcases. Take “Start with the Answer”, which is so fundamental to Bob’s approach it just had to be the title of this book. “Start with the answer, and work your way back to the solution.” Instead of picking over past problems, focus on where you want to be and then, how you are going to get there. It’s solid advice, and Bob gives it new energy and relevance by expressing it as a paradox. That’s true wisdom: take a simple and important idea and talk about it so that people feel its power anew.

I think Bob’s book is a new kind of business book that we’ll see more of over the next couple of years. Personal, grounded in experience, practical, and succinct. The idea that business is a battle and that business books need to explain how to defeat the enemy has run out of steam. Bob suggests that business has lost direction and I think he is right. We need new perspectives on leadership because today working out how to work together is where the action is. I like the way Bob talks about wisdom. He’s not afraid of experience; he’s not into the next new, new thing; he draws as readily on his family (especially his wife Sarah) and friends, as his business colleagues. He’s about mentoring, reflection, and fantastic practical advice. As Start with the Answer comes up to its launch date on 5 May I’ll have more to say.

And the question? “Who do you most want at your side in a crisis?”