Monday, December 27, 2010

Welcome to the world Chloe Rita Roberts!

A sister for Stella, a daughter for Ben and Clarissa, a grand-daughter for us. December 20 in Sydney. Everyone doing fine. Hosannah!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

‘tis the Season... be jolly, and shoppers are making the most of it. Forbes reported that November same-store sales for the big US retailers were generally beating analysts’ expectations. This is positive news for an economy comprising nearly two thirds consumer spending. Leading the charge was (our client) JCPenney with a 9.2% gain and the biggest Black Friday sales event in the company’s history – a great reward for the efforts of CEO Mike Ullman and his team.

JCP also said that traffic on is well ahead of last year, which gels with another report that says American shoppers spent some $17.5 billion online between 1 November and 5 December – up 12% on 2009. Add to that the prediction that overall $127 billion or 28% of US holiday spending will involve some form of mobile commerce or social networking and it’s clear that screen-influenced shopping is gathering pace.

With retail energy levels on the up mid-way through the season, getting momentum through screens will come down to 2 big questions: Do I want to see it again? Do I want to share it?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Here Come the Men in Black

It’s easy to get a touch euphoric about the All Blacks, so I’ll let the facts speak for me. It’s been a champagne year (if you’ll excuse the French connection) for the Men in Black, who took out the Tri-Nations, the Bledisloe, and completed their fourth Grand Slam.

In the process the All Blacks took their all-time winning percentage to over 75% for test matches. That compares to somewhere in the low 60s for the Springboks and the mid-fifties for the New York Yankees if you prefer to compare with another sports team with a long association with success.

There were also special milestones for this particular All Black team in 2010. Richie McCaw and Mils Muliaina are now the most capped All Blacks ever, with McCaw also being named IRB player of the year for the second time. Dan Carter passed Johnny Wilkinson’s record for most test points.

We also saw the long-awaited emergence of Sonny Bill Williams, who has helped to give the selectors a dilemma most national sides would love to have – which combination of world class talents will make the best world class mid-field?

Perhaps most encouraging of all, the All Blacks showed great composure in some tight test matches this year, which bodes well for the pressure matches of the world cup in 2011.

Some fans will be nervous that the ABs have peaked too soon, or might be developing a sense of complacency. They need not fear. If there’s one thing that the long break between world cups has taught us it’s that your track record counts for nothing, and the players know that better than anyone. Only the next 80 minutes counts – which is why they’ve been so successful this year.

Congratulations to an inspirational team of everyday guys. You’ve given us a great year, some thrilling victories and brilliant tries to reflect on over the summer break.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Single-tasking on the iPad

Regular readers of this blog know how much I adore the iPad, and with Wal-Mart and Target stocking Apple's magic tablet in time for the holiday rush millions more are about to fall in love with it too. They’ll be getting a more nimble device as well, thanks to an Apple software update that finally lets users multi-task. As any honest fan could tell you, one drawback of the original iPad (and iPhone) was that it didn’t let you switch between multiple open applications, the way you do on a regular computer. Problem solved. The new update also introduces other exciting creations from Steve Jobs, like AirPlay (wireless iTunes streaming) and AirPrint (wireless printing). I, for one, am MADLY in love.

What’s great about Apple’s version of multi-tasking is that it offers the convenience of, say, listening to your favorite Pandora station while surfing the web, without diminishing the joyfully intuitive and interactive user experience – which offers a powerful incentive to single-task. Even with multi-tasking, only one app can fill the whole screen at once, and switching between open apps feels more deliberate than it does on a computer. That feat is noteworthy in light of a recent New York Times piece that examines shrinking teenage attention spans in our ever connected digital world, and cites multi-tasking as one of the chief culprits.

The article follows a bright student at Woodside High School in Silicon Valley, whose struggle to balance schoolwork, YouTube, Facebook, and an endless stream of text messages underscores the big challenges teachers face in attracting the wandering attention of their students. The school's principal, David Reilly, has responded – rightly – by peppering the curriculum with innovative, tech-based offerings. Very popular: a class in audio production based in Woodside’s brand new multimedia lab. Not as popular: a Mandarin language class taught using iPads.

But it would be unfair to draw any larger conclusions about the iPad’s utility in the high school classroom based on a comparison of Reilly’s two experiments. For one thing, learning how to become the next Rihanna is always going to be more popular than traditional subjects, whether languages, science, or history. My hunch – and the comparison that educators should look at – is that the iPad Mandarin class drew a lot more student interest than plain old book and chalkboard Mandarin.

If not yet, it will. That’s because the iPad’s stunning sisomo invites the user to interact. And nesting amidst the no doubt captivating treats of iPad Mandarin are the same vocabulary lessons found in the books. Great teachers have always used drama and mystery to make emotional connections with their students and inspire them to learn. The same secrets – inherent in the iPad user experience – might just end up winning back some ground for learning by our distracted kids.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Detroit Calling

What better way to understand a place and its people than to move into the neighborhood? Over the last year the writers of Time Inc. magazines have done just that from a five bedroom house the publisher bought in Detroit’s West Village.

The D-Shack – as the house was dubbed by Kid Rock – has been a base for the Time stable to tell the stories of what they call America’s most challenged city. Hundreds of articles have been published online and in print in Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and other titles. Aside from Time’s own people, the project has involved 11 high school bloggers from Detroit, giving these young voices a massive opportunity to be heard on a big stage. The most popular post I Don’t “Speak White” generated close to 40,000 page views.

Time Inc. is now pulling up sticks, and has guaranteed a $100k donation from the sale of the house to be divided among a group of nonprofit organizations that invest in Detroit’s youth.

Some have seen the project as a gimmick. I think it was inspired. By putting all kinds of things in the spotlight – the good, the bad, the ugly and the complex – Time’s efforts will help to provide a lens for the kind of deep and continuous reflection needed to tackle Detroit’s tough issues. Assignment Detroit may be wrapping up, but it’s great to see urban renewal projects in any shape or form, and I’d love to see more efforts like this in other challenged cities around the world.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kinecting with the Consumer

Microsoft’s Kinect is getting some airtime, and I’m all for it. Kinect is a controller-free gaming device that works by understanding the 3D space in front of it. It sees and follows body movements, recognizes faces and voices. Talk about mysterious, sensuous, and intimate.

Adding to the fun, Microsoft has welcomed well-intentioned hacking of the Kinect so that it can be used with a PC rather than just with the Xbox 360 gaming console as it intended. True to form they were guarded at first about endorsing this kind of tinkering, but it was inevitable and they've done the right thing by embracing it.

Already people are doing things with the Kinect that its designers may never have dreamed of. The New York Times picks up on a few of the best, including a guy who has used the Kinect to create a holographic image of his study (1.3 million hits on YouTube). Others have put together a virtual puppet show, 3D doodles that can be grabbed and rotated, and a robot that can be directed around the room at a wave of your hand. Thumbs up to this guy, who has used the Kinect to turn a broomstick into a light saber.

This is the Participation Economy at full throttle. While creative consumers the world over surprise and inspire us, the upside for Microsoft will be a greater appreciation of the true innovation that the Kinect represents, and the ability to apply the best ideas to future Xbox 360 applications. Everybody wins.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Power of Values

Richard Hytner is the Deputy Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, has been a close colleague for several years, and is a Lovemarks evangelist and instigator and director of our Lovemarks Academies which immerse our people throughout this approach and practice. Richard is also Executive Fellow at London Business School, and in this interview he tells Richard Brass how values can sharpen a company’s competitive edge.

You have been part of numerous leading-edge companies, from Publicis and The Henley Centre to Saatchi & Saatchi. How important are values in such firms?

Tremendously important. At Saatchi, we talk about being purpose-driven, having a really clear purpose. Typically what differentiates companies is less what their goal happens to be and much more the kind of character, personality and beliefs that drive them.

Do some companies stand out in this regard?

Virgin’s an easy one to quote, but also note Southwest Airlines and, these days, the Amazons and the Googles – they have values that in some way make it really clear whether you belong or you don’t. They’re kind of lighthouse companies.

And Saatchi & Saatchi?

Of course. We have what we call a spirit, which is: “Nothing is impossible.” That’s a spirit that’s quite topical. We just celebrated our 40th birthday with the original Saatchis, Maurice and Charles, who coined that mantra. It’s something we have held very dear since they left.

Communicating values

How do you get that kind of thinking across to your clients?

Like anything else, values are best demonstrated as opposed to talked about. You have to be a little bit wary about shouting about values because, quite often, you can protest too much. If I want to make you feel that I’m funny, I tell you a joke. I don’t say I’m funny. Values work like that.

Saatchi has developed the concept of ‘Lovemarks’ instead of brands. Have they become part of your values?

We have eight core beliefs, one of which is that we believe in the power of creativity to earn clients’ loyalty beyond reason. Everybody who comes to Saatchi, if they don’t buy into the fundamental idea of Lovemarks, then they’re not really going to have a great time with us.

How do you instil those values?

By a massive commitment to training and development. In the last three years, I have personally overseen the training of 3,500 people. I’ve been to every continent in the world to talk about the purpose of the company. Everywhere we go, we get the purpose out first. Our chief executive, Kevin Roberts, is fantastic at referencing the purpose in pretty much every communication he has. Whether it’s one-on-one or an all-staff communication, it’s always rooted in “We are this kind of company, this is what we’re trying to do, here’s what we believe and that’s why we’re making this decision.”

A better world

Are values more important in business now?

I think they are, because people today have huge expectations of the companies to whom they’ll lend their talent, particularly Gen Y. That kind of generation is simply not going to gift their talent to companies that aren’t really clear about what they stand for. And increasingly, if they don’t stand for making the world a better place, then they will just be rejected.

What does Saatchi do in terms of contribution to the community?

For years we’ve encouraged our creative talent to unleash their brilliance on social causes. We have huge pro bono programmes in place that allow people to do fantastic work for causes they care about. That’s number one. Number two is that, three years ago, we launched a programme called ‘Do One Thing’, which is to give people a mission to do one thing every day that they think is going to make their lives, their immediate families or their communities feel better. That was launched in a spirit of real optimism. It isn’t saying: “you must stop drinking water out of bottles” or “you must stop bringing the car into work.” It’s much more giving people a sense of “we want you to do one thing that’s going to make you personally happier and feel better” because we feel these movements are best done in a spirit of optimism as opposed to fear.

What do you do to contribute to the community?

I personally chair a sustainability educational enterprise in Sierra Leone, and I went there this year to have a look at how our kids are doing. I’m currently chairing the Mending Broken Hearts appeal for the British Heart Foundation for a big piece of pioneering research. And Michael Hay at London Business School has a thing called the ‘Business Bridge Initiative’, and he’s asked me to be a trustee of that.

In the curriculum?

Should values be part of business school education?

I do and I’m really encouraged, because I have been in the privileged position of seeing the emergence and development of London Business School’s own ‘Vision and Values’ project. One of the great things that Sir Andrew Likierman is bringing to the school is a really strong sense of values. He’s leading the values from the front, he’s encouraging strident debate, he’s encouraging diversity of thought and he’s letting people have their say, which I think in a business school is so important.

What values have guided you in your career?

I believe that emotional intelligence is every bit as important as intellectual intelligence. I’ve always believed in family first. I believe in the power of humor and humility in business. These are the kind of things that I hold dear and try to practice as best I can. As you get older and wiser, you get more sure-footed about what works for you and, more importantly, you get more unabashed about living the values that you hold dear, which makes it much easier to navigate your way through the tough times and complexity in business, because people begin to see what kind of person you are, what it is that’s going to really bring out the best in you. I’ve shared this thought with my kids and with anybody who seeks out advice: get on with being who you are – just get better and better at it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Heads Up

Literally. Apparently the best meteor shower of the year will be visible in the skies of the Northern Hemisphere and some parts of the Southern on the night of 13/14 December. And the best news is that you won’t need a telescope to see it – a comfortable chair and a good rug should see you right according to the experts.

This particular meteor shower is known as the Geminids – named after the constellation Gemini. The brighter Geminids, or you might say ‘Gems’, can be colored yellow, green, blue and red, conjuring up images of precious stones and making this particular meteor shower a bit like fairy lights on a much grander scale. A little cosmic cheer seems appropriate heading into Christmas.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hands Up for Love

My son Danis posted this inspirational video on Red Rose Music last week. Put together by Walter C. May from the band The Daylights with some help from his friends, it’s a heart-felt long-distance message from Walter to his girlfriend.

Set on a black background, the video features hands forming different shapes and faces as they act out a fantastic song written by Walter called “I hope this gets to you”. Now it’s been released onto the web in the hope it’ll do just that.

Maybe Walter’s girlfriend follows Red Rose? Maybe she’s on KR Connect?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tell Me Something Good

Here’s an interesting one. Share a scary problem with someone without giving them a solution, and they’re less likely to believe there is a problem.

That’s the guts of an outtake from a study by UC Berkeley about people’s perceptions of global warming. The study says that warnings about the catastrophic implications of global warming threaten people’s fundamental tendency to see the world as safe, stable and fair. As a result there is a danger that they will dispute the evidence on global warming and may even cut back on their plans to reduce their carbon footprint.

On the other hand, earlier experiments show that when presented with possible solutions to global warming at the same time as the doomsday scenarios, people have greater confidence that we can beat this thing.

While that seems obvious, I like the angle on human nature. It suggests that in our heart we believe that any dire prediction not accompanied by a strong dose of hope is actually incomplete. It says we’re optimists when it counts, and sends a message to start with the answer and work back to the solution.

This rings true with the shift from Green to TRUE BLUE action. Time to throw out the top-down baggage of the old sustainability and the scaremongering that comes with it. Get ready for a fresh approach from the people-up.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Are You Happy Now?

That’s what British lawmakers want to know. In the wake of moves by some other countries, the UK Government is embracing the fact that people’s well-being has more to do with immediate experience than with GDP, unemployment and the national deficit. That’s why officials might soon start measuring the happiness of the British people; and not before time.

As I’ve written, money and happiness don’t always go hand in hand. Money definitely helps people achieve their goals and have meaningful experiences, but in the day to day it’s no guarantee.

This is a truth for governments to get a handle on. Economies will have good years and bad years, but what’s truly important for the health of a nation isn’t the bank balance of its citizens; it’s their wellbeing. It’s the job of lawmakers to create an environment where people can thrive and enjoy those experiences that make life meaningful.

This goes for business as well. Enterprises that become loved don’t just focus on delivering the best value to people; they leap the high bar from ‘Product as hero’ to ‘Consumer as hero.’ They switch price-focused value to priceless value. There is a determination to make consumers’ lives better in ways that transcend price.

The experience could be anything from the youth, escape, and freedom in a can of Pepsi to gesture-based time travel of the universe on an iPad.

By shifting measurement from GDP to something like GDH, “Gross Domestic Happiness”, governments get into the priceless value business. In Britain the deficit is gaping, and the Cameron government is determined to scale back government spending at every turn. The goal should be to trim the fat in ways that make people’s everyday lives better. In the Age of Now, measuring national happiness will be integral to pulling this off.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Energetic Exercise

Here’s a cool idea whose time has come: Exercise machines that generate electricity. It seems that more and more gyms are starting to latch on to this concept, which sees the energy from people’s exercise converted into power and fed back into the mains.

Aside from the fact that you’re doing something good for the environment while you’re doing something good for your body, I like the fact that all of that energy being spent is doing something productive, even if it’s just helping to keep the lights on in the room where you’re working up a sweat.

This is a small taste of mass electricity generation being turned on its head in favor of a distributed approach. From consumer-generated content and ideas to…consumer-generated energy. Power can literally shift to the people.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Insights From Andy

Shopping is a trillion dollar global event, and when it comes to shopper marketing Andy Murray, Global CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi X (our shopper marketing agency) is the pioneer and practitioner par excellence. He’s always ahead of the curve and putting new ideas to the test.

Recently Andy took part in an interview sponsored by Google and the Wharton School at Advertising Week in New York.

Here you’ll find Andy providing marketing foresight into 2011:

  1. The importance of the marketer/retailer relationship
  2. The possibilities that are being created by “check-in” technologies
  3. The innovations that Andy’s most excited about
  4. The 2011 trends that he has his eyes on, and
  5. How to navigate the new marketing terrain.

Soak up some wisdom from the master of shopper marketing himself.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Can Buy Me Love

After a legal wrangle and a few back room meetings, the Beatles are finally available on iTunes and the world is better for it. The Fab Four’s catalog has been a yawning gap in the playlists of the web’s favorite record store for years.

The question has been asked how much it really matters, given that it’s possible to easily convert songs from CDs to MP3’s and get them on your iPod that way. Questions have also been asked about the cost of a box set on iTunes, given that you don’t actually get a box.

It feels like a classic case of AND / AND. There’s not much in this world that’s more love-laden than a Beatles song, and there can never be too many ways of sharing that kind of musical genius. Such was Saatchi & Saatchi’s experience when appointed to market the Beatles back catalog globally a few years back.

I actually think it’s great that it took so long for the Beatles to reach iTunes, because now they’ve arrived in style. The people have spoken – less than 24 hours after the band’s catalog was made available, five of their classic albums were within the US Top 20. After a week, 450,000 Beatles albums had been sold, including 119,000 in the US. It’s an exhilarating throw-back to the time when they were first rewriting the charts. And the box set is climbing, with 13,000 sold.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Magical Evening

Passion and Purpose are a great combination and I can report that a recent rugby fundraiser was a resounding success thanks to a good dose of both. For the 250 NZ & NY hearts who came to the event at 375 Hudson Street, New York, thanks for your generosity of sharing and friendship. The event was initiated by Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and supported by New Zealand Trade & Enterprise and Saatchi & Saatchi, and was part of New Zealand’s 2011 Rugby World Cup international build-up which is happening around the world.

The rugby movement is growing in America. This year 200,000 young people have played rugby for the first time for a season. With the help of the $23,000 raised by the event, two rugby players from New York City public schools, where rugby has been introduced, will be coming to New Zealand to study, play rugby, and get immersed in the great New Zealand culture. The sum will also be used to fund coach/player exchanges between the US and New Zealand.

AUT Chancellor and former New Zealand Governor-General Sir Paul Reeves led the powhiri, (a formal welcoming ceremony), gave an intense Maori oration which had New York jaws dropping because of its fluency and purpose, and then welcomed everyone with a joke about when he last lived in Chelsea. He is a singularly impressive New Zealander.

Between NZ wine, beer and food there were auctions, speeches and a panel I led with New Zealand greats Michael Jones, Frano Botica, and Tawera Nikau, USA Rugby development champion Mark Griffin and sports marketer supremo Andrew Gould from NYC & Company. Rugby players have a natural, exuberant humor and a gift for storytelling, and the panel and the audience rocked together with laughter.

I was then surprised when Sir Paul on behalf of AUT made me the amazing honor of awarding me a mere, which is a flat stone weapon used by Maori warriors. Made from pounamu, New Zealand jade, the mere is a symbol of chieftainship. Topping this off, Maori present further honored me with a Haka, the iconic battle dance practiced by the All Blacks, capable (as those who face it have frequently discovered) of winning a rugby game before kick off.

Thanks very much to all involved.

PS here is a great video of the event filmed by Lynette Chiang, an original Lovemarks believer who came from Bike Friday and Saatchi & Saatchi back when. The video is 4+ minutes and worth every second. The Haka had been performed on Good Morning America by Tawera, Michael and Frano with guest Denzel Washington who was on the show talking about this latest film.

Video from

Monday, November 29, 2010

Science on the Move

I’m fond of saying there’s no point being brilliant at the wrong thing (thanks Edward de Bono). Which is why any news of a boom in new ideas might be taken with a grain of salt. Quantity is not quality, nor is every idea a winner.

But quantity does increase the likelihood of stumbling on that one crazy, simple idea that changes everything. And diversity across the group of crazies asking the questions makes it just that much more likely.

That’s why the latest UNESCO report on the Current Status of Science Around the World is exciting. If you can make it past the uninspiring title, the topline outtake is that the power base of world science is making moves.

Where once most of the world’s spending, patenting and publishing of scientific work was done by the EU, Japan and the US, today more and more is being done by emerging players like China, India, Brazil and the Republic of Korea. In 1990 the established doyens of science and technology were responsible for more than 95% of R&D globally. By 2007 it had dropped to 76%.

The bottom line is more insights and ideas are being tested by more people in more places everywhere. The challenge will be for the new players in science to remain in a fluid state of emergency, and avoid the inertia that most institutions fall prey too, a state that kills the best ideas at birth.

The good news is the creative revolution has gained momentum to a point where anyone who stagnates will be replaced by someone with more edge. In the meantime, look out for the next big thing to come from somewhere new.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nation in Mourning

To learn today there is now no hope the 29 men will be brought out alive from the Pike River coal mine in New Zealand is saddening news.

My heartfelt condolences to those who are now grieving this great loss of husbands, fathers, brothers, sons and friends.

John Key expressed the feelings of the country when he said New Zealand was a "nation in mourning. New Zealand is a country where we are our brother's keeper, so to lose this many brothers at once strikes an agonising blow. The 29 men whose names and faces we have all come to know will never walk amongst us again."

Kia kaha


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Inside the Ad Game

Sometimes the best way to cap off an intense week is to go on television and talk about it! So it was with Fox Business last Friday when I was the guest on the Closing Bell with anchor Liz Claman. The studio is in the heart of Rupert Murdoch/Roger Aisles territory in the News Corporation building on 6th and 47th Sts, and the program – as with all of Fox – is as fast-paced and focused on the moment as the markets are themselves. And in the middle of this we managed to stop time with an emotional charge that came from a simple television ad about the lifetime of love between a son and his father. Liz had asked what my favorite ad of all time is. Malcolm Gladwell asked me recently what my best “tearjerker” ad of all time is. To both these questions I gave no hesitation in naming the 1997 Telecom New Zealand “Father & Son” from Saatchi & Saatchi (New Zealand) featuring the music of Cat Stevens – not because it is a tearjerker but because it inspires a genuine emotion response. I play it all over the world because it is a universal story with universal music. Watch the interview and savor the moment. Liz cries.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bruce – The Boss at his Best

I spent the weekend listening to the greatest album of 2010. Well, it was released last week, but strictly speaking it’s 30 years old.

I got the deluxe version of Bruce Springsteen’s The Promise – The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story. It comes packaged in an amazing exercise book with Bruce’s handwritten lyrics and comprises the re-mastered Darkness album, The Promise and a couple of live performance DVD’s from the 70’s, and the 2009 Asbury Park, a Darkness on the Edge of Town live concert. Yes, it’s label driven; yes, it’s expensive; who cares – it’s The Boss at his best.

Darkness was Bruce’s “samurai” record stripped to the bone, confrontational and highly personal. The Promise is like revisiting old friends, reliving the past and making up some stuff that didn’t happen but should have happened. These songs haven’t been put together as a story before and they are amazing. Big melodies, big choruses, big vocals, and big lyrics. I’m exactly the same age as Bruce although he’s wearing a little better. It took me back to my mid 20’s and left me feeling totally stoked. Buy it today.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Happiness Happens Now

I’ve been talking lately about the Age of Now. We’re living in a time of electronic instant everything, constant updates, limitless choices and channels.

According to a new paper by Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert just published in the journal Science, there’s a reason why people strive to live in the moment. Simply, it makes us happier. The Guardian reports: “Happiness is found by living in the now ... the benefits of living in the moment are extolled by many philosophical and religious traditions, but until now there has been scant scientific evidence to support the advice.”

The study showed that daydreaming takes away our happiness. People are more likely to be joyful when doing things that involve them in the moment, whether it’s having a conversation, exercising or making love.

It’s a surprisingly obvious outcome in these uncertain economic times, where dwelling on the past or thinking about the future can be huge sources of anxiety.

Satisfaction, pleasure, fun, entertainment, connection and, most importantly, love are things that take us into a fuller moment. For enterprise of all kinds, the inquiry goes: am I creating a magic moment? Am I turning down the volume on yesterday and tomorrow? Am I turning up people’s fun dial – today?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Better Than The Real Thing

Scientists who study consumer behavior sometimes discover things that marketing practitioners instinctively have known for years. Case in point: a new study from a group of brain scientists at the California Institute of Technology.

According to American Scientist magazine, the scientists, headed by Antonio Rangel, wanted to find what affects people’s buying decisions more: a picture of a product, a description of it, or the real McCoy.

It’s an interesting question. Today more and more shopping is done online, though contrary to belief we still mostly use the web just to research the trip. The world of virtual search is a wonder wall but you can’t touch reality until you buy. You have to wait until desire shows up on your doorstep.

Rangel and company got together a group of 50 Cal Tech students. Each was either shown a picture of a snack, a written description of a snack, or the snack itself (the same experiment was run with Cal Tech key-chains, hats, and pens). Sure enough, the students who saw the real thing were willing to pay, on average, 50 percent more.

A good indicator of how sensuality can rule our actions. Many marketers see a digital day when changing people’s minds in-store will be a lost cause. Not likely. No matter what intention we arrive in store with, when we cross the threshold from consumer to shopper, our emotional fires can be lit.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More Than Just the Facts

I just came upon an eye-opening little volume called The Little Book of Shocking Global Facts. There’s nothing like a sobering fact to arrest our attention.

The book – produced by London design studio Barnbrook – sheds light on some of the biggest issues affecting the world today – including trade, the environment, health, population, human rights, the arms trade, war, and drugs. On each page, a fact is spelled out in bold type which can turn thinking toward action in one way or another. Some of the facts:

  • 59.3% of the global population lives in just 10 countries: China, India, USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Russia, and Japan; 40.7% lives in the remaining 219 countries.
  • There are over 250,000 child soldiers involved in twenty conflicts zones around the world.
  • 25% of greenhouse gases are caused by deforestation.
  • Just one percent of China’s 561 million urban inhabitants breathe air considered to be safe by the World Health Organization.
On a brighter note:

  • Between 1990 and 2007, negotiations led to the end of 59 conflicts around the world. In those 17 years, military victories resulted in the end of only 27 conflicts. This has become the first period in recorded history where more conflicts have ended in negotiation than in violence.

What I like about this book is that it goes beyond just facts. It’s overflowing with incredibly powerful visuals. Every page is covered top to bottom in vivid images that add clarity and emotion to the truth and consequence being illustrated, whether in the form of pie charts, graphs, photos, drawings or graphic art. The information architecture works.

Imagery adds emotional depth. If the information was presented on a white screen with black type (as with the above 5 facts), it would be too easy to disassociate. Visually communicated, the urgency hits home.

Monday, November 15, 2010

You Say Collaborate, I Say Participate

The Participation Economy has been motoring along for some time. People no longer want to be passive recipients of product and services, they want to engage with them as experiences, put their personality and passions into things, and pass on the fun to friends and family.

In their new book What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers bring this idea to life. They focus specifically on the “explosion in sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping” that is going on in our economy.

Their examples are spot on. Just look at the car sharing service Zipcar. Instead of each person buying a car, the service enables an entire community to share a fleet of autos, save a little money, and help the environment in the process. The same principle is at work with the bike sharing service Velib as well as the giants of the Participation Economy, Ebay and Craigslist. More than ever, consuming is a collaborative, participatory activity. As they rightly point out, these new ways of consuming not only reduce costs and environmental impact, but they are also a way for people to live more engaged, stimulating lives.

The authors do a good job of identifying some of the causes of this shift as the “convergence of peer-to-peer social networks, a renewed belief in the importance of community, pressing unresolved global environmental concerns, and cost consciousness.”

I’ve described the main undercurrent as a shift from an Attention Economy to a Participation Economy.

Botsman and Rogers see the big shift as:

I like their observation that advertising is dead, and community has taken its place. It’s now about building movements around ideas that people want to participate in, ideas loaded with Mystery, Intimacy, and Sensuality, ideas online, on-screen and in store that answer the question: “How will you improve my life?”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Different Way to Learn

A few weeks back, I posted a very cool video on the book Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson which consisted entirely of a disembodied hand drawing on a whiteboard. Aside from the visuals, the message about how truly creative ideas come about really hit home.

My son Ben just sent me another video, and once again, it’s a whiteboard illustration. This time with some game-changing ideas about education.

The audio is of a lecture given by Sir Ken Robinson, a celebrated British creativity guru who I’ve written about here before. In fact, he was a client of our new Fallon, London CEO, Gail Gallie’s consultancy, GallieGodfrey.

His mission: to stop schools from robbing kids of their innate creativity.

Sir Ken is most mind-blowing when he poses questions that have been staring us in the face for years. Why do schools batch children together by age group? Why teach them all the same thing? Why drill into them the idea that there is only one correct answer to any question?

It’s almost as if schools are designed to stunt creativity.

Children are enormously good at what Edward de Bono called lateral thinking, and what Robinson calls divergent thinking: the ability to devise many answers to a single question. According to Sir Ken, 98% of kindergarten students score at genius levels in divergent thinking. But that number drops dramatically as they get older.

How do we stop this? Instead of putting them in conformist environments that frustrate their creativity, Sir Ken tells us, we should be fostering independent thinking and experimentation in our schools.

To confront the problems of the present and the future (the energy crisis, unemployment, war, poverty, just to name a few) we’ll need armies of creative geniuses in all sectors, from engineering to advertising, climate science to industrial design.

The InspirUS program at Lancaster Royal Grammar School, which my old mate Stan Hilling and I support, is in this space. The program provides an environment where gifted students can exercise their creative impulses, and escape the conformity of a traditional classroom.

Not quite the revolution that Sir Ken is calling for, but it’s one of many important steps towards unlocking the creativity of today’s young people, and preparing the mindset needed to make the world a better place for everyone.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Greek Legend and a Lovemark

We just received a heart-warming nomination on from a regular contributor, Anita De Las Moses. In the past, Anita has written eloquently about recently deceased Lovemarks of hers like Tony Curtis and Patrick Swayze.

This time, she’s written a powerful eulogy for Yiannis Dalianidis, a legendary Greek filmmaker who passed away on October 16th. He’s known as the “father of the Greek musical,” and is a true national treasure. This nomination was from the heart, which is why I wanted to share it with you.

Yiannis Dalianidis who was eighty seven died last Saturday and will be laid to rest in the First National Cemetery in Athens. Dalianidis made incomparable contributions to the Greek cinema . He was a titan. Dalianidis discovered Zoe Laskari and Martha Karagianni. It is noteworthy that he worked in all cinematic genres. Dalianidis wrote screenplays; he directed; he created the musical on film that was wildly successful commercially. Yiannis had elegant and fine taste in all things he did.

His films had exceptional choreography and protagonists whose beauty and acting suddenly was amazing and became the stuff of legends. Due to and because of his commercial success in Greece, Hollywood came knocking and Dalianidis was tempted . But his honour won him out in the end. He explained that he could not leave the elderly lady he called mother and had adopted him to go anywhere outside of Greece. Dalianidis might be called Greece's answer to Billy Wilder as he once made a comedy film called "Some Like it Cold."

Wildly charismatic and charming so many thespians were and are beholden to him for discovering them. Yet he always made them feel that they were special without him. Dalianidis created films with happy endings always. Greece mourns the loss of yet another fantastic creative force with monumental contributions to the nation. Dalianidis is a Lovemark for the witty and aesthetically beautiful films he gave us so magnanimously.

He worked against many obstacles and time. He uplifted the Greek nation from the marasmus of the post war days. The entirety of his ideology asks us to maintain an optimistic disposition on life. Adieu Yiannis Dalianidis, and may the ground that covers you forever be light.

You live in my heart forever.

Lights , camera , action . . .

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Returning to Israel

Shimon Peres, Kevin Roberts. Photographer: Yossi Zamir

Last month I was in Israel to celebrate the 25th anniversary of BBR Saatchi & Saatchi at the Peres Center for Peace. BBR has been on a tear in recent years, including a recent rebranding campaign for Kosovo entitled The Young Europeans. They’re also behind one of the most ambitious projects to come out of a creative organization: The Impossible Brief.

We launched the Impossible Brief this summer at the Cannes Lions Festival. The goal is to get creative thinkers around the world to contribute innovative ideas for how to bring about peace between Israel and Palestine. The project is based on
the belief that creativity can be a powerful force for positive social change. And if any cause needs a jolt of creative thinking, it’s the ongoing Israel/Palestine conflict.

Beyond a doubt the most memorable episode of the visit was my meeting with the President of Israel and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres. We discussed the future of the Jewish State, Israel’s image in the world, and the phenomenal innovation in the Israeli economy.

The highlight of the exchange was when we traded leadership philosophies. President Peres is a founding father of Israel, having held leadership positions in the Israeli military and government for nearly 60 years. Lucky for me, he obliged with his wisdom on leadership. As soon as I got into the car after the meeting I took out my pen, here’s what I wrote:

1. Leaders must not be afraid of being alone.

2. They must have the courage to be afraid.

3. A leader must decide. He should not agree or disagree. He says “yes” or “no.”

4. A leader must pioneer, not rule.

5. A leader is not on the top of his people but ahead of them in front.

6. Leadership is extremely hard work.

7. When you have chosen a destiny . . . never give up.

8. Leadership is based on a moral call.

9. What is right today is different tomorrow.

10. It’s not enough to be up to date; you have to be up to tomorrow.

11. To lead is to listen, to pay attention to every detail, to decide.

12. Everything that once was controversial ultimately becomes popular.

These are the lessons of a lifetime of service. Tattoo the list to the backs of your eyelids.

Overall, the trip was a revelation. BBR Saatchi & Saatchi has reached No.2 in the Agency of the Year rankings in Israel, and throughout the agency and across the country I found energy and inspiration wherever I went. The nation is constantly in the grip of crisis and yet it continues to flourish, not least due to the moral leadership of President Peres. I’m looking forward to a trip back there soon.

Monday, November 8, 2010

An Evening With New Zealand Sports Greats

For my fellow New York-based rugby nuts (and I know you’re out there), I’m hosting a rugby fundraiser at Saatchi & Saatchi this Thursday night, 11 November. The event will feature my friends former All Blacks Michael Jones and Frano Botica and New Zealand Rugby League legend Tawera Nikau.

The proceeds will help send two rugby players from New York City public high schools to New Zealand to study and play rugby in 2011, year of the Rugby World Cup. The money will also support two player/coach exchanges between the US and New Zealand. The scholarships have been created by Auckland’s AUT University and Friends of AUT and funds raised from the event will directly support the scholarships. AUT University is active in USA rugby and has been developing a network with various American universities to offer students exchange opportunities between New Zealand and the USA.

I’ve been looking forward to the event, and particularly to seeing Michael, Frano and Tawera. New Zealand has produced several world top 10 openside flankers – Ian Kirkpatrick, Graham Mourie, Michael Jones, and Richie McCaw included. Michael has achieved great things academically, for his Samoan people, and for the game of rugby. Frano and I played the same position, first Five-eight, he was prolific, rugged, competitive and between 1985 and 1998 played for North Harbour, NZ Maoria, NZ Sevens, the All Blacks, Wigan, the Kiwis, the Warriors, Llanelli and even Croatia for the World Cup!

Tawera Nikau is an inspirational leader. He had an all-star career in New Zealand, Australian and UK Rugby League including eight years in the Kiwis. In 2003, he lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident. For most of us, this would be devastating, but Tawera is an irresistible force of nature. He’s come back and on Sunday he ran the New York City Marathon (6.35). Let that sink in: he ran the New York City Marathon, a feat most grown people with two legs only dream of accomplishing!

I’ll be moderating a discussion on “the strengths of rugby as an international model for success.” which will include Frano, Tawera, and Michael among the panelists. There will also be an auction including two round-trip tickets to New Zealand donated by Goway Travel, not to mention New Zealand cuisine, beer and wine.

Tickets are still available at, either general entrance or pre-event VIP cocktails where you can also meet the legends and experience a traditional Maori powhiri (welcome). So, if you’re in New York on Thursday and want to see some rugby greats mix it up for a good cause, stop by 375 Hudson Street at 7pm.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

All Blacks Don't Cry

I just saw a highly emotional film based on the memoir of All Blacks great and my great friend John Kirwan. “JK” was an All Black winger for 96 matches between 1984 and 1994. Despite his enormous success on the field, for years John suffered from crippling depression. In JK’s words, “there’s no reason for it, it just is.” It wasn’t until he sought help from friends, family, and professionals that he was able to battle his illness, and live a full, satisfying life.

The memoir is an enlightening and uplifting story about how, even those people who seem to have it all are sometimes secretly dealing with overwhelming adversity. The film version of All Blacks Don’t Cry was made by actor, director, and friend Julian Shaw. It’s a deeply emotional dramatization of John’s struggle, and an effective tool for raising awareness of this serious, and frequently neglected illness.

You can stream the film for free at, and I highly recommend that you do. For my New Zealand brethren out there who are suffering from depression or know somebody who is, pay a visit to, and join JK in his effort to spread the word.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lovemarks By The Numbers

Over the last decade our understanding of how emotion relates to consumer decision-making has grown enormously. Insights and findings around creating Loyalty Beyond Reason continue to illuminate Lovemarks, most recently from Peter Boatwright and Jonathan Cagan – two professors at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. They have released a book with Berrett-Koehler Publishers entitled Built to Love: Creating Products That Captivate Customers.

The book is full of insights on the benefits of creating products, services, and technologies that inspire love, what they call “high-emotion companies.”

You can instinctively know a high-emotion company because you feel its warmth. It can be anything from an electronic glow like Apple to a big rig designed to drive a payload with tremendous respect and a lot of love to a retailer who knows how to charm your cotton socks. These are all experiences designed specifically to elicit emotion. They build emotion into every interaction with the customer, whether it’s advertising, store design or letterhead. And it shows in reputation.

Boatwright and Cagan move this concept forward with their “High-Emotion Index” which compares the stock performance of companies that provide more emotion with those that provide less. They compiled a list of 40 promising, innovative consumer product companies based on rankings from BusinessWeek and Interbrand. Then they surveyed consumers to identify which brands elicited the most powerful emotional response.

It turns out that you would have been wise to invest in one of the high-emotion companies Boatwright and Cagan write about. Between 1997 and 2007, over 80% of investors in high-emotion companies did better than the Dow Jones index, the NASDAQ, and the S&P 500. A solid example of the premiums powered by emotional connections.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Kudos to Wojo!

A New Zealand innovation making moves – and which I wrote about last year – is Wools of New Zealand’s sustainable line known as Laneve. Wools of New Zealand is a subsidiary of Wool Partners International, a joint venture headed by my old mates Theresa Gattung and Iain Abercrombie.

Laneve is produced from sheep (obviously) farmed according to the highest standards of animal welfare, sustainability, traceability and the environment. Every inch of Laneve is tracked from the time it sprouts from the backs of New Zealand sheep all the way through to the time it’s woven. This inspired focus on sustainability and quality has made Laneve the stuff of Lovemarks from the get-go.

In October, Wools of New Zealand played an important role in a joint venture between Starbucks and the Wellington-based design company The Formary. Using Laneve, the Formary has created a new sustainable fabric for upholstering furniture for the coffee giant. It was launched during Wool Week in London recently.

“Wojo” was created by combining Laneve with fibre from Starbucks’ jute coffee sacks (70% wool, 30% jute sacks). Furniture made from this innovative material will be featured in Starbucks locations from the UK and Europe to the Middle East and Africa. A nice example of businesses working in harmony to make the world a better place for everyone. Way to go Wojo.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Answering the World’s Toughest Energy Questions

Any list of the biggest challenges humanity faces would place energy near the top. Meeting the challenge will require immense creativity, determination, and the help of some of the greatest minds in the world. In order to power the future, we’ll need to create cleaner, cheaper, more dependable sources of energy. For this reason, Saatchi & Saatchi Russia has been working with an inspirational cause called the Global Energy Prize.

Introduced in 2002, the Global Energy Prize has been awarded to 22 scientists from countries around the globe. Aimed at spurring groundbreaking research in energy, they award three prizes each year (adding up to almost $1M) for breakthroughs, discoveries and the large-scale achievements in energy science. Candidates are nominated by the greatest thinkers in the field, including Nobel Laureates for physics and chemistry, past recipients of the Global Energy Prize, and winners of the Kyoto, Max Planck, and Wolf prizes.

This year’s awards will be given in St. Petersburg in June 2011. As a lead-in to the festivities, the organizers have partnered with The Guardian to collect what readers think are the “world’s toughest questions” in energy. If you’ve got one, stop by The Guardian’s Environment page and submit it. On 3 November, a team of past Global Energy Prize winners and members of the selection committee will tackle your questions and, in the process, jump-start the conversation about this important issue.

Already, the responses have been flooding in. The Guardian has collected over 500 questions from people who are concerned about our energy future and are eager to hear what these experts have to say. Here’s a sampling of questions that have come in over the last few days:

1. To what extent is nuclear a safe form of energy (including its production and mining)?

2. How viable is wind power as a clean, alternative energy source?

3. How long does it take to recoup the energy used in the construction of the various non-fossil fuel energy generating systems, including nuclear?

4. What is the single worst consequence of continuing our use of fossil fuels?

5. What is the most dangerous problem that awaits humanity in the next five years?

6. What are the most effective methods of reducing energy consumption?

7. How much of the big "global energy change" is going to rely on new, emerging technologies compared to individual contribution and governmental policies?

8. How far are we on the way to fusion power?

9. When will solar panels be made more efficient so that they can turn more of the sun's energy into electricity?

10. Can the world meet its current and future energy needs without fossil fuels using existing technology?

We need innovative energy, and with the help of some of the greatest minds in energy science, the Global Energy Prize is blazing the way.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Out of Africa

Here’s a blog post from my eldest daughter Nikki, who just returned from an amazing trip to Africa.

My journey to Kenya was an astonishing experience! I arrived and was transported to the domestic airport by a driver who did not know where it was. I spent an hour traveling between terminals, asked a random guy from the street to direct us. Eventually returned to the terminal we tried first to find a pilot looking for us after writing my name on a scrap of paper. It was time to board, with luggage.

A forty minute flight on a tiny plane and myself and seven others were deposited in the middle of nowhere and obviously there was no one to meet us. The arrival of the plane prompted a few lone Masai to appear from nowhere offering us beads and bracelets, carrying their stock around their necks. The pilot stayed with us in case of lion attack, of course!

Eventually two vehicles arrived and our journey to our first camp began. We immediately saw zebra, giraffe and ostrich and the excitement began to bubble. Our first camp consisted of tents, shared or individual with a tiny bed and solar lamp. A basin of river water (browner than brown) warmed by the sun was provided to freshen up and each tent had its own toilet tent, a hole dug in the ground with a makeshift seat on which to balance and a stick to shovel soil on top afterwards. We had bucket showers of (yes, you guessed it), sun warmed river water and sat round a camp fire in the evening. The camp had staff and grooms for horses. They cooked, set the table made afternoon tea, cleaned your boots, polished your chaps, put hot water bottles in your bed a night dug out your loo, washed your clothes (no thanks) and brought you coffee at 6.00am. All very ex pat.

We broke camp every 2 to 3 days and the vehicles would go ahead and set up the new camp.

We had tiny but fit Somali ponies, I trusted my little man “LoDieger” (catchy name) and we rode for 50kms a day, jumping and galloping over obstacles in the blistering heat. We encountered herds of wildebeest and herded groups of galloping zebra, we rode quietly through herds of gently grazing giraffe and in leopard gorge played hide and seek with a large family of hyena.

On day 2 we rode at dusk to lion rock. We had encountered bush buck, wildebeest and giraffe on the way. We were all chatting happily when our guide hushed us “sshhh we are being stalked by a lion right now” he pointed and there she was, the lioness, crouched low at the base of lion rock, only a few metres away, her cubs hidden above, dusk being the time that predators hunt. The atmosphere was electric, you could have heard a pin drop. Our guide asked us to group together as close to each other as we could, so no one could be picked out. We all had to stay perfectly still as movement stimulates the chase.

Our leader approached the lioness carrying a bull whip as his weapon (!!??) and a stand off commenced. She seemed so huge, her eyes so cold, her presence so calculating. I felt very small and insignificant just one mouthful when face to face with this ferocious hunter! Time ticked on she circled behind us and our leader kept advancing towards her, gaining ground, our back up rider became agitated as the lion passed behind our group. At this moment I looked down and somehow on the ground in the middle of this vast wilderness was a single tattered shoe! Aagghhh!!! After what seemed like an eternity the lioness retreated and took cover. It took me some time to find my voice after that. What an experience!!!

Game drives were also offered where we would go out at night with “Netty” our Masai spotter to kills we had found earlier and watch the lions feeding in the vehicle spotlight. Driving across the vast plains at night where all the herd animals huddled for safety watching aardwolves, zorillas, springhares and mongoose scurry along in our lights, some of these animal species I have seen only in pictures.

We traveled to the heart of the great migration and were in the presence of over half a million animals we watched both zebra and wildebeest make a river crossing where hundreds swarm across and many do not make it, becoming overwhelmed and unable to climb up the bank, falling in their droves back into the water where the crocodiles roll and snap and the lions pick them off and suffocate them as they emerge, the water awash with floating corpses.

We were inches away from cheetah kill where three brothers took down an impala, opened it up and devoured the innards like they were sucking spaghetti. Powerful stuff.

The horses were terrified by elephants and we were chased by huge trumpeting flapping beasts every time we approached, galloping after our back up rider for the escape route as our lead rider stood between us and them.

At night the lions roared and the hippos sounded so close I was convinced I would open the tent and come eye to big pink eye with one of these lumbering giants. The horses were tethered at night on a long line and guarded from the lions by local Masai warriors with spears and bows and arrows (!!). If I emerged from tent at night the comforting glow of my oil lamp would reveal conversations, all was protected, safe and at peace.

It was astonishing, terrifying, incredible, electrifying, breathtaking and I loved every single second of it. I am buoyed up with happiness, floating as if I’ve got balloons inside.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Power of Putting it Off

Procrastination is something we are all prone to at one time or another. Case in point: I sat down to write this blog post thirty minutes ago. Before I finally got to writing, I first opened a bottle of wine, flipped through the latest issue of Monocle, and answered some emails.

In his review of the new book The Thief of Time – a collection of essays by writers, social scientists, and philosophers on the topic of procrastination – the New Yorker’s James Surowiecki explores some interesting aspects of this ubiquitous bad habit.

For instance, Surowiecki tells us that procrastination is “a powerful example of what the Greeks called akrasia—doing something against one’s own better judgment.”

In other words, procrastination is proof that our decisions are more emotional than they are rational. I often say that 80 percent of decisions are emotionally driven, and that’s exactly what happens when we put things off. We succumb to the emotional pull of delaying unpleasant activities like starting a new diet or visiting the dentist.

The Lovemarks approach actually uses this aspect of human decision-making to help create powerful, positive experiences. Clients too often retreat to campaigns that list the virtues of a product, and invite the consumer to perform cost-benefit analyses before making a purchase decision.

Inherent in the Lovemarks philosophy is the understanding that, even if the customer weighs the costs and benefits of a particular purchase – whether it’s a new car, a laptop computer or even a toothbrush – their decision will be driven by their gut. If this wasn’t the case, we’d never miss a dentist appointment or cheat on our diets.

It’s the reason that Lovemarks seeks to make products, brands, and services irresistible, not just irreplaceable. By making a product irresistible, you appeal to consumers on an emotional level. And, as Surowiecki’s article shows, reason leads to conclusions, but emotion leads to action.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Choosing Optimism

The writer Douglas Coupland, coiner of the phrase GenX, is an ominous kind of guy. In a reverse mirror image, he’s calling himself a “radical pessimist” against my school of “radical optimism.”

By radical I’m not just meaning extreme, but consciously applied, as per the Rules for Radicals classic by late veteran activist Saul Alinsky. Coupland’s school of radical pessimism has led him to create “A Radical Pessimist’s Guide to the Next 10 Years” which has just appeared in the Globe & Mail, and true to form, offers a bleak depiction of the coming decade.

Of the 45 “tips for survival in a messed-up future”, the first one is to recognize that “it’s going to get worse”; the last is that “we will accept the obvious truth that we brought this upon ourselves.” In between are a bunch of glass-half-empty insights and predictions such as “You're going to miss the 1990s more than you ever thought” (I don’t think so), “Hooking up will become ever more mechanical and binary” (I’m still cheering for romance), and “Dreams will get better” (this I can vote for).

Most of us are well aware that the future will be VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous). But it’s easy to make that same assessment from the point of view of the optimist. I see the future as being vibrant, unreal, crazy, and astounding. When I think about the possibilities of the future, it raises my heart rate with excitement.

Ultimately, however, optimism is a choice. In my experience, it’s the correct choice. At numerous points throughout history, it was easy to make gloomy predictions about the future. Whether it was World War II, the bursting of the dot-com bubble, or the aftermath of 9/11.

And yet, time and again, we find ways of banding together, harnessing our creativity, and not just persevering but thriving. The challenges of the future will no doubt be novel, but they won’t be insurmountable. Whether it’s breakneck technological change, environmental sustainability, or economic turnarounds, these are issues that need to be met with radical optimism and the conviction that Nothing is Impossible.

Monday, October 25, 2010

From Green Bay to Broadway

Earlier this month, a new play based on one of my personal heroes, former Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, premiered on Broadway. My first reaction to this news was utter surprise. It doesn’t seem like Vince’s life would lend itself easily to the Broadway stage.

But, as I began to think about it, I realized that his life really was the stuff of good theater. His no-nonsense determination to win, his endless ability to inspire, and his penchant for delivering pitch-perfect motivational wisdom are all characteristics that have the potential to create great theater. If nothing else, I'm sure the show is interesting.

I’m also eagerly awaiting HBO’s documentary on Vince, due out this December, and also a motion picture about Lombardi produced by ESPN films and starring Robert De Niro. It’s great to know that, even 40 years after his death, there’s no shortage of enthusiasm about this inspirational character.

Here’s a taste of vintage Lombardi:
"Coaches who can outline plays on a black board are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their player and motivate."

"Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence."

"The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you're willing to pay the price."

"Football is like life - it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority."

"The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That's real glory. That's the essence of it."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mind the Boss

Gap Inc. recently received a lesson in the power of Lovemarks. Earlier this month, the clothing retailer unveiled a new version of its logo which ditched the classic all-caps blue box emblem that the company had used for over two decades. The company replaced it with a sleeker logo featuring helvetica typeface and a small floating blue square.

According to one Gap spokesperson, the redesign was intended to help shift Gap’s brand from “classic, American design, to modern, sexy, cool.” What Gap failed to realize, however, is that, like all Lovemarks, their brand doesn’t belong to them anymore; it belongs to consumers.

Only two days after the new logo was unveiled, popular outrage on Facebook was so intense that the company had to reconsider. At first, Gap responded by inviting fans to submit their own design suggestions (which sucked in 4,660 submissions from over 1,000 designers in five days). Soon after they announced that, for the time being, they’re sticking with their classic logo.

This is clear proof, as if anymore were needed, that in today’s Participation Economy the Consumer is Boss. If she doesn’t like something, she has more power than ever to make her voice heard and change things.

Gap failed to realize the strong emotional connection that its consumers have made with their company logo over the last twenty years. It wasn’t just a rabid Twitter flash mob that caused this change of heart by Gap, there seemed to be a genuine outpouring by fans who love their Gap just the way it is.

This incident, although seemingly negative, is actually good news for Gap; it’s uncovered a well of activism (and it seems, affection) for the company that Gap hadn't appreciated. New fans! Proof that the company occupies a special place in the hearts of customers.

Gap’s snap decision to nix the redesign plan shows some responsive listening. Their intuition about the new logo was somewhat astray, but like Tropicana, they did the right thing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Business of Sport

Earlier this month I spoke at the Leaders in Performance conference at Chelsea Football Club in London. James Worrall and team at Leaders in Football, who run the event, brought together coaches, managers, performance directors and other sport professionals for a one day conference. There were concurrent conferences for leaders in football, and leaders in sponsorship. In all, 1000 delegates from 40 countries representing 28 different sports.

Sport has grown to be a very big business, with PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimating annual global revenues for professional sport from gate takings, sponsorships and media rights to rise 3.8% a year from US$114 billion in 2009 to US$133 billion in 2013. It’s no wonder there are conferences about how to run a better sports organization (especially as a bunch of them are up to their eyes in debt).

A decade or so ago I co-authored Peak Performance: Business Lessons from the World’s Leading Sports Organizations. Five of the lessons we took from sport to business are:

  1. It all starts with Purpose and a Dream.
  2. It’s not about Team.
  3. It’s about The Last Detail.
  4. BFI’s.
  5. It’s not about Managers or Leaders.
At this year’s Leaders in Performance, I turned this idea on its head and offered some wisdom from the business arena that sport professionals could benefit from:
  1. Nail down Respect (essential at a time of debt bombs, matchfixing, ambush marketing, penalty dives, Tiger, manos de dios)
  2. Unleash the unreasonable power of creativity (ask the crazy questions “what if?” that create transformations)
  3. Inspire your own people first (give them Responsibility, Learning, Recognition, Joy)
  4. Make a real difference (the role of business is to make the world a better place).
The leaders, innovators, and executors within a sports organization are just as valuable to creating the inspiration and respect that people look to clubs like Chelsea (who have a real performance leader in Mike Forde) and the New York Yankees to provide.

As the world of professional sport continues to grow and gain more influence, it’s important for leaders to gather together, share valuable knowledge, and reaffirm their professional values. Looking around the room and seeing Johan Bruyneel, Gianluca Vialli, Arsène Wenger and many more was fun, and I even managed to talk some rugby with Brian Smith, and Martin Johnson.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Decal Décor

Star fullback for USA Rugby, Francois Viljoen, just told me about a new business his South African-born wife Mia launched earlier this month.

It seems Mia, a former Walt Disney Imagineer and stickler for good design, was struggling to find exciting ways to decorate her new daughter’s nursery. Most of what she found on the internet was bland and uninspiring.

Instead of settling, she set out to create her own line of colorful, well-designed wall décor. The result is her brand new venture, Pop & Lolli, which specializes in making “chic, oversized fabric stickers” that cover entire walls. It’s what she calls “experience design.”

The business has a sustainability angle: for every set of decals you purchase, (it’s) Chic 2 Change, the charity arm of Pop & Lolli, will provide educational materials and support to a South African child in need. I wish her luck.

If you’re a design junky who’s looking for a unique way to add flavor to a child’s room, you’re sure to find something fun and funky at Pop & Lolli.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dolletta and Daddy

More and more families are being re-invented. The typical mom and dad and three kids of the 50’s have been replaced by the most diverse variables imaginable. What doesn’t vary though is what makes any kind of family work; unconditional love and support, sacrifice, trust. Families are caring yes, but they are also demanding. And that is what makes them so special.

I’m blessed with a diverse and fun family. Rowena’s younger sister, Julie, has a couple of kids and one of them I was particularly close to when he was growing up. Despite him being a fanatical Liverpool football supporter and England rugby supporter, Stephen is a top man. Energetic, funny and a real contributor to the family. He has a beautiful young daughter, Tia, with his former partner.

Tia is the apple of his eye and they spend as much time together as they can. It isn’t easy entertaining an energetic young toddler and Steve was amazed to find relatively little written on the daddy/daughter dynamic. He’s never written anything in his life. He’s a good athlete and a skilled electrician. But, hey, nothing is impossible.

He’s just written a terrific little storybook called Dolletta and Daddy. It tells about Dolletta’s constant search for fun with Daddy and Daddy’s constant search for new ways to have fun. It’s a beautifully told story. Steve pretty much self published it thanks to the enabling power of modern technology. Check it out on Amazon or Waterstones.

I’m proud of the lad (or should I say Dad).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hagley Park; A New Lovemark

Last week I was in Christchurch for the Telecom New Zealand Annual General Meeting. It was great to see how the city and the people had got on with life following the recent earthquake. Cantabrians are resilient, community-minded and take no nonsense. They reminded me very much of New York City post September 11 (without the attitude!).

I stayed at a beautiful small hotel, The George, which I last visited seven or eight years ago when I flew with Princess Anne to Antarctica. The George is staffed by Kiwis and Europeans enjoying a break in New Zealand. The service is intimate, anticipatory, relaxed and friendly.

The hotel itself is on Hagley Park, which is one of the wonders of the world. With 165 hectares of trees and broad green fields, Hagley Park is the largest urban open space in all of Christchurch. Thankfully, when the government created it in 1855, they ordered that it be “reserved forever as a public park.”

I took a bike from the hotel each morning at around 7am and put in a few miles for an hour or so around the park. It’s incredible. The daffodils are out, the cherry-blossoms are out, and the people were still indoors. The park is an amazing thing to find in the middle of a city. It has lakes, woodlands, rugby pitches (it is New Zealand after all), a golf course!, tennis courts including half a dozen beautiful grass courts, mountain-bike paths and terrific areas for walking and exploring. There’s no better way to start the day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Thoughts on Bob

What’s your favorite Bob Dylan album? The early Freewheelin’ album is hard to beat and a few months ago I managed to source an original edition of the front cover photo showing Bob and his girlfriend Suze Rotolo walking through the streets of downtown New York. This and Bringing It All Back Home are two early favorites.

Blood on the Tracks is hard to beat and the bootleg album of the Rolling Thunder Revue in 1975 is a favorite. I have recently been listening to Empire Burlesque which I think is a hidden gem and is worth looking at again. The writing’s cool, the melodies are strong and Bobby’s voice is intriguing. And "Tight Connection To My Heart" is right up there.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Investing in Genius

The MacArthur Foundation recently announced this year’s recipients of their “genius” grants. For those who don’t know, each year the MacArthur Foundation chooses 12 individuals “who show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future” and award them each a $500,000 no-strings-attached grant which is dispersed quarterly over five years. They make their decisions based on applicants’ “breadth of experience, excellent judgment, and curiosity.” I can think of no better criteria.

I’m consistently impressed with the diversity of the group they select each year. This year is no different. The recipients include a type designer, a jazz pianist, a population geneticist, a quantum astrophysicist, a stone carver, and even a television writer.

What I find most inspirational about the MacArthur Fellowships, however, is the group’s innovative approach to dispersing money in a way that will make a difference. Instead of giving support to a specific cause, the members of the MacArthur Foundation go to great lengths to identify individuals who have the potential to change the world in exciting and unexpected ways.

Implicit in this method is the idea that we can’t predict what problems lay ahead; we can only make sure that those most suited to overcome the complex challenges of the future are well-equipped to do so.

If ideas are the currency of the future, then financing the leading ideas people of the present is a sound investment.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Age of the Acronym (TAOTA)

My life is full of acronyms. Whether it’s my DOT (Do One Thing) sustainability philosophy, my view that we live in a world that is deeply VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) or the RASCI management system we use at Saatchi & Saatchi (Responsible, Accountable, Supportive, Consulted, Informed).

More Intelligent Life, the Economist’s superb culture quarterly, recently published a shrewd examination of the role that acronyms play in the English-speaking world. It’s one of those articles (my personal favorite kind, in fact) that takes as its subject some unexamined part of our everyday lives.

Believe it or not, I’ve never thought all that much about acronyms, their significance and their history, before reading this piece. It’s true that they can be, at turns, efficient (RSVP) and annoying (OMG! BTW! NBD!). But, for me at least, they’re simply a useful tool for communicating a complex idea – or set of ideas – in a way that people will remember.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Do Many Things

On the issue of sustainability, I’ve adopted the “Do One Thing” strategy. Pick a practice that makes your life better and helps sustain the planet, and stick to it. This can be something as simple as riding your bicycle to work, watching less television, or purchasing energy-efficient light bulbs.

It’s a simple strategy, and, if executed properly, is followed quickly by “Do Another Thing.” In most instances, small changes in behavior can have a massive effect on the world.

I stand by this approach to sustainability, but sometimes you’ve got to shoot for the moon. I’m proud to say that that’s exactly what my friends at Procter & Gamble are doing.

P&G has just announced a sweeping and ambitious Sustainability Vision, which includes powering their plants entirely with renewable energy, using 100% recycled or renewable materials in all of their products, and having none of their waste end up in landfills.

What’s most inspiring about P&G’s sustainability efforts is that they extend far beyond the environment. Through a variety of initiatives aimed at providing food to hungry children around the U.S., increasing access to education in India, and helping Chinese school children adopt good hygiene habits, P&G is fulfilling their responsibility to improve lives and make the world a better place for everybody.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mingle and Swap

If you’ve got four minutes and want to have your mind blown, take a look at this entertaining (and educational) video from Steven Johnson, author of the book Where Good Ideas Come From, which was just released today. If the book is as good as the video, I’m sure you’ll be seeing more about it on this blog in the very near future. (And what is it about watching someone draw on a whiteboard that’s so hypnotic?!)

Johnson brings a fresh perspective to examining how breakthrough ideas are formed. Instead of focusing on the psychology of innovation, he asks why certain environments seem to produce more original and exciting ideas than others.

His conclusion: many of the best ideas come from the “collision of smaller hunches.” Environments that enable people to bring their inchoate ideas into contact with other people’s are where the magic happens.

This reminded me of something our Chief Creative Officer at Saatchi & Saatchi NY, Con Williamson, recently said about his creative management style. He described it as a “Big Italian Dinner.” Get a bunch of smart, creative people into a space where they can feel comfortable being loud and opinionated, and wait for breakthrough connections to form.

It works. If you look at history, the big bursts of creative thinking often happened in a comfortable public space. Johnson points to the coffee houses in the age of the enlightenment, or the Parisian salons of modernism. In both examples, these places offered creatives a venue where they could get out of their private space, discuss their ideas and collaborate.

As a CEO of an ideas company, it’s nice to be reminded that a big part of my job is to create the type of workplace environment where ideas can “mingle and swap” as Johnson puts it.