Thursday, July 29, 2010

Te Ao Hōu – The New Dawn: 100 years of Maori Rugby

More than a decade ago I was given the responsibility by the New Zealand Rugby Union Board to find the right long-term partner/sponsor for the All Blacks jersey.

Chairman Rob Fisher, CEO David Moffett and I set off on a journey which culminated on a decision to recommend Adidas, in the face of strong interest from two other fine firms, Nike and Canterbury.

The decision in favor of Adidas came down to four things. The immediate on-the-spot decision-making capability of major shareholder, CEO Robert Louis-Dreyfus, his promise to devote all Adidas rugby efforts to the All Blacks (including walking away from the French team), a very, very long-term deal (which is now nearing its 15th year), and most of all, Adidas empathy with the essence/spirit of the All Blacks.

The relationship has been a brilliant one, full of mutual empathy, passion and support, even when performances by the All Blacks left fans on their knees. Adidas and the All Blacks is a real example of shared values and commitment.

It comes through in the way Adidas has developed a jersey – Te Ao Hōu (The New Dawn) – for the NZ Māori's 2010 Centenary. This was worn in the three-match “Sealord New Zealand Māori Series” in June where the NZ Maori team inspirationally and passionately defeated the New Zealand Barbarians, Ireland, and England.

Designed by Dunedin creative director Dave Burke, New Zealand Rugby Union Māori Liaison Officer Tiki Edwards, New Zealand Māori team Kaumatua Whetu Tipiwai, and Luke Crawford, the centenary jersey honors all those who earned the right to wear it and the sacrifices made by their whanau (families).

Through the design flows the story, meaning and achievements of 100 years of Māori rugby. The imagery represents a journey from past to present, the dawning of a new era, lighting a pathway for the future of New Zealand Māori rugby.

Mai i te whaiao ki te ao marama

“From the dim of light of morning to the bright light of day.”

On 21 May 1910 the first official New Zealand Māori team played its inaugural game in Rotorua against the Rotorua sub-union. NZ Māori won 25-5. The affinity and ability Māori have for rugby is second to none: strength, speed, agility, boldness, dancing together. My first memories of Maori players are Mac Herewini (I was a first five for my playing career) and the ranging, to be feared, openside flanker Waka Nathan, on the 1965 All Blacks tour of the British Isles.

The Centenary jersey’s design is inspired by the team haka "Tīmitanga," which the New Zealand Māori players perform before each game. It’s also based on two iconic features of the Māori world: the Korowai (cloak) and the Wharenui (meeting house).

In addition to the Adidas stripes and Silver Fern, the jersey is loaded with symbols and meaning including:

· the blackness of the Beginning,
· the Four Winds,
· the land, the mountain, the Koru design, ferns
· whakapapa (ancestral/genealogical links)
· Poutama (Stairway to Heaven)
· Te Manaia and Wairua (Spirit)
· Hei Tiki and Hinengaro (Mind)
· Mangopare and Tinana (Body)
· Tanerore (god of Haka and Māori Rugby Team Kaitiaki), the central figure on the front of the jersey.

“In wearing this jersey your mauri (life force) and the spirits of your tupuna (ancestors) bring it to life and it becomes the korowai which supports you for the challenges that lay before you.”

Rugby is the game they play in Heaven, and Te Ao Hōu is a fitting tribute put together by a group of inspirers with legacy, belief, craft at the forefront.

You can buy this jersey online for NZ$199.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Great Plate

I recently came across the work of Fernando Ramo Beltran, a talented industrial engineer who specializes in creating dishes. Not plates of food, mind you, but rather actual table wear, like bowls, plates and saucers. His creations are nothing less than functional works of art. They use a variety of shapes, sizes and textures to create objects that are just as sensuous as the haute cuisine that so often sits atop them.

I love it when a passionate individual is able to change the way I perceive everyday objects that, normally, I don’t even notice. That’s exactly what Fernando does with his dishes. Take a look at his blog, and I’m certain that you’ll never look at a soup bowl or a dessert dish the same way again.

Fernando has an extensive background working with everything from automobile bodies to furniture. He draws on this experience to create objects that are surprising, provocative and inspirational. Who knew a plate could bring so much pleasure!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Don't Doubt DOT

When I first began writing about the Do One Thing (DOT) approach to sustainability on this blog last year, it sparked a heated debate. Many readers believed that the DOT philosophy let people off the hook by perpetuating the idea that real change can be accomplished through small alterations in our day-to-day lives.

There’s no doubt that, to create lasting cultural, social and environmental sustainability, we have to fundamentally change many things about the way we live. But this doesn’t mean that making small changes isn’t a good way to start.

Indeed, scientists at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London have discovered that small efforts to consume less electricity are actually much more effective at reducing carbon emissions than had been previously estimated. As the Independent reports, “simple measures such as turning electrical appliances off at the mains and installing energy-efficient light bulbs could slash the UK's carbon dioxide emissions by about 40 megatonnes a year, or up to one third.”

As for the claim that a DOT strategy gives people license to continue their wasteful behavior, I believe that the opposite is true. It’s often the case that, in times of economic insecurity like the one we’re experiencing, concerns about conservation and sustainability fall by the wayside.

But, if you’ve resolved to Do One Thing every day to make your lifestyle more sustainable, you have no excuse. No matter how bad the economy gets, you can still choose to ride your bike more often, purchase energy-efficient light bulbs or turn down the air-conditioner. In fact, all three of those changes save money as well as energy.

To those who still doubt the virtue of this approach, it’s important to remember that DOT isn’t just an individual philosophy; it’s also a corporate philosophy. For instance, Google recently announced that it is Doing Its Thing to make its business more sustainable by laying the groundwork to begin powering its data centers with wind energy. The internet – from individual PCs and mobiles, routing infrastructure, phone networks, and server farms – chugs an enormous amount of electricity to keep stuff moving and keeping it all chilled (how did we imagine that digital equaled green?).

Saatchi & Saatchi has also proven the effectiveness of DOT. At the end of 2009, our Hudson Street New York agency and HQ distributed free coffee mugs to our staff, and began offering free morning coffee. As a result, in the first quarter of 2010 alone the office reduced the number of paper cups and lids used by 9,005, and saved $4,237 in the process.

The philosophy is Do One Thing, Do Two, then Three, and so on. A virtuous domino effect. Long-term sustainability can start incrementally and we start by Doing One Thing.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Inspired Minds at LRGS (Part I)

I’m a firm believer that early education is among the most important determinants of life success. As a high school dropout (actually, I was expelled), I’m well aware that I’ve beaten the odds by achieving success despite my lack of formal education.

And yet, all too often, young people don’t get the instruction and support necessary to help them develop their abilities to the fullest. Far too many young people, particularly those who are gifted, become jaded and bored with school early on, and suffer from a lifelong apathy about education as a result.

In fact, according to a recent study, one in ten Britons aged 15 to 19 aren’t in school. Only four other countries in the developed world have a higher dropout rate.

It’s for this reason that I’m a proud supporter of the InspirUS program at my alma mater, Lancaster Royal Grammar School. InspirUS is an innovative 10-week program aimed at motivating gifted young students to pursue excellence and challenge the limits of their abilities. It’s open to bright students in the Lancaster area in primary school grades 3 and 4, particularly those who are disadvantaged. (Jenny Cornell, the Development Director at LRGS, has written about the program here before.)

The program uses a variety of interdisciplinary lessons to get kids thinking outside-of-the-box. Instead of memorizing trivia or solving arithmetic problems, students engage in exercises that stimulate their imaginations through science, math, art, storytelling, and drama.

In one session based around water, for instance, students are challenged to explain why the percentage of the earth that is covered by water stays the same over time. Looking at a glass of water, students are asked to theorize about where that water might have been before it got to the glass. They’re also instructed to create works of art based on water, and also to strategize about ways to use less water. Not exactly the kind of classroom activities I grew up with!

One of the most rewarding aspects of the program is its focus on failure. It’s common for young people to fear failure so much that they avoid even attempting challenging tasks. InspirUS encourages students to embrace failure as an opportunity to learn and improve. In other words, it instills in students a philosophy of fail fast, fix fast, learn fast.

In January, 209 students from all over Lancaster entered the program. The results have been truly extraordinary. Just look at these parent testimonials:

InspirUS is Catherine’s highlight of the week at school. She is always buzzing when she gets home – we have difficulty getting her to switch off to go to bed! She would like everyday to be like her InspirUS days.

Marianne has enjoyed both the sessions and the homework activities. The challenges & topics used/chosen have really captured her imagination. Thank you very much to all those involved for making it so rewarding. She is hoping you will run more! A summer school week would be good!

Just imagine, kids are actually asking for summer school!

To give you a better idea of the kind of work InspirUS students are doing, I’ve included a two recent homework questions below, set by our inspirational teacher Kathryn Page. Take a crack at them, and I’m sure you’ll see how InspirUS is challenging students to solve problems through creative thinking. I’ll be sure to post the answers at the end of this week.

1.) What Comes Next?

A E A P A U U U E _ _ _
U O U E _ _ _
P U U _

2.) The Next Line Would Be?


Thursday, July 22, 2010

What's Your Story?

Among the most effective ways of inspiring love in the hearts of consumers is through storytelling.

Stories play an indispensable role in the way we see ourselves. The philosopher Daniel Dennett has written extensively about how the capacity to tell stories is a key source of human consciousness. It’s also what makes humans unique from other animals. According to Dennett “our fundamental tactic of self-protection, self-control and self-definition is not spinning webs or building dams, but telling stories.”

Stories permeate our every thought. As psychologist David Schiffrin once wrote, “we dream in narrative, daydream in narrative, remember, anticipate, hope, despair, believe, doubt, plan, revise, criticize, gossip, learn, hate and love by narrative.”

So, it’s no wonder that stories have a seemingly magical power to captivate and inspire.

As technology has advanced over the centuries, our ability to use Sight, Sound and Motion to generate rousing narratives has advanced as well. And when it comes to telling stories that use Sisomo to create rich emotional experiences, Pixar is the uncontested king.

A recent Sunday Times of London story outlines the 10 surprisingly simple rules that Pixar follows when creating their modern masterpieces. The article is for subscribers only, but the rules are as follows:

1. Do Your Research
2. Stay True To The Materials
3. Never Compromise
4. Know Your Characters
5. Be Fearless
6. Make It Timeless
7. Consult The Experts
8. Keep It Simple
9. Ditch the Demographics
10. Break the Rules

For the Pixar team, the story comes first, and they will stop at nothing to ensure that the integrity of the story is protected.

Those who seek to create a Lovemark should take a close look at the Pixar rulebook. The way to inspire both respect and love in the hearts of consumers is to create something that isn’t just a commodity or a brand, but a profound entity with an engaging story behind it.

Just consider the difference between a commodity, like a drug store brand diaper, and a Lovemark like Pampers. When I think of Pampers, I’m brought back to the early days of eldest son Ben's childhood in Casablanca – some of the most poignant and powerful moments I’ve ever experienced.

When a product can transport you to an emotionally significant place in your life story, it doesn’t matter what it costs or whether or not it performs better than its competitor. It will inspire the kind of loyalty that lasts decades and generations.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Your Attention, Please

Nicholas Carr’s new book The Shallows has sparked a lively debate over how the Internet affects our brains. Carr believes that twitter feeds and blog posts have rendered us less able to concentrate on involved intellectual tasks like reading novels or watching opera.

In fact, many notable thinkers have voiced this concern in recent months. Playwright Tom Stoppard recently lamented that, as a result of our “world of technology . . . the printed word is no longer as in demand” as it has been in the past. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has warned that, in the Internet age, “information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment."

Certainly the content explosion that the Internet has ignited can erode our ability to concentrate. But only if we let it. What makes the Internet such a liberating medium is that individuals can decide for themselves how they use it. If you’re looking to procrastinate, there’s plenty of content to divert your attention (I’m partial to Youtube.)

But the internet can just as easily be a tool for strengthening our minds by enabling us to sample from billions of sources and compile our own unique vision of the world.

For instance, I no longer rely solely on the New York Times for my morning serving of news and analysis. Instead, I read The Times, the NZ Herald, Arts and Letters Daily, The Huffington Post and a half dozen other publications and blogs before breakfast. I can weigh a variety of facts and opinions and use my judgment to decide for myself what to think about the BP oil spill and the Elena Kagan nomination.

In other words, the Internet is the perfect medium for the and/and world that we live in. We all crave substance as well as frivolity, and the Internet is a superb delivery system for both.

Overall, it’s hard to deny that, thanks to the Internet, consumers are now more empowered, informed and free than at any other time in the history of capitalism. Consumers don’t have to trust the potentially inflated claims of marketers and sales representatives. Now, anyone can instantly query a sea of people on Facebook or read product reviews on before making a purchase. They can gather information from company websites, consult message boards and read product review blogs.

It’s this wave of consumer empowerment that has made Lovemarks necessary. With all of this information at their disposal, consumers are no longer interested in the empty hyperbole that characterizes most brand marketing. What they are interested in is emotional experience. And, no matter how much content the Internet makes available to us, real emotional connection will always be in demand.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tell Me More, Tell Me More

In search of hopeless devotees, old and new, Paramount Pictures recently released a sing-along version of the hit 1978 hit musical, Grease.

It seems like a great idea – so good, in fact, it begs the question: why has it taken 32 years? Sing-along versions of movie musicals are hardly new – Sound of Music is a perennial favorite, along with Hairspray and the cult classic, Rocky Horror Picture Show. Grease comes ready-made with the perfect soundtrack for amateur warblers. Songs like You’re the One that I Want, Grease Lightening, Summer Lovin’ and Hopelessly Devoted to You have long been staples of shower stalls and karaoke bars. Anyone who spent even part of the late seventies and early eighties within earshot of a radio is likely to know a good portion of the Grease song-sheet by heart. The catchy, uncomplicated lyrics combined with unforgettable melodies to make the long-running Broadway smash an instant and enduring movie classic.

Paramount has released the sing-along version in a handful of theaters (it’s a sell-out everywhere, including in John Travolta’s home town of Oscala, Florida). The modest roll-out comes accompanied by a PR campaign to inspire fans on a much larger scale.

The movie, set in 1959 and released in 1978, has truly reached all the way to 2010. There’s a Twitter and Facebook campaign aimed at directing grassroots pressure directly on theaters to bring the show to town. It’s an interesting approach – invest in a low-cost, limited release and wait for the drumbeat of viewer enthusiasm to do the rest. It’s a good bet that, in the sizzling hot US summer of 2010, a joyful (and air-conditioned) nostalgia trip will hit all the right notes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Frank Gehry’s Moment

It’s been my experience that transformational ideas are almost always met with hostility and opposition. Advocating a world-changing idea and making it into a reality is often a tiring process that involves constant self-doubt, rejection and failure.

If you’re a revolutionary in need of inspiration, take a look at this month’s Vanity Fair, which features a piece on one of my favorite radical expressionists, architect Frank Gehry.

Gehry’s ideas steer clear of conventional architectural thinking in just about every way imaginable. From the beginning of his career, he was considered an outsider by artists and architects alike. As he says in the article, “I was different from the architects, who called me an artist, which was their way of marginalizing me. And then the artists got competitive and said, No, you’re still an architect, because you’re putting toilets in your buildings, in your art. Richard Serra dismissed me as a plumber.”

The Guggenheim Bilbao stands as a monument to unconventional thinking. In Vanity Fair’s poll of 52 prominent architects and critics, including 11 Pritzker Prize winners, 28 named the Guggenheim Bilbao as one of the most important buildings of the last 30 years. In fact, the building has inspired a surge in experimental architecture dubbed “the Bilbao effect.”

The Guggenheim Bilbao is a truly breathtaking example of how Mystery, Intimacy, and Sensuality can be harnessed to create a stirring emotional experience. It consists of odd, stacked geometric shapes, windows slanted in unpredictable directions, and the most mesmerizing curves. It’s a truly original creation that would not have existed had Gehry hewed to stale traditions and abandoned his own radical vision.

Here’s to transformational thinking, and the power of creativity to change the world for the better.

As an aside, who did Gehry vote for? His ballot includes none of his own work:
Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium, Beijing (Herzog & de Meuron)
CCTV Building, Beijing (Rem Koolhaas/O.M.A.)
Church of Santa Maria, Marco de Canavezes, Portugal (Alvaro Siza Vieira)
Cartier Foundation, Paris (Jean Nouvel)
MAXXI Museum, Rome (Zaha Hadid)

This 2007 portrait of Frank Gehry is by Trent Nelson, Chief Photographer at The Salt Lake Tribune (check out his arresting images on his website).

Meanwhile, across the bottom of Manhattan from where I live and work, Gehry's 76 story tower for Forest City Ratner on Beekman Street has been topped off. This is Gehry’s first skyscraper. NY Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff has called the building “Hypnotic", "Landmark", "Intoxicating.” “Mr. Gehry has designed a landmark that will hold its own against the greatest skyscrapers of New York. It may even surpass them.”

Go Frank!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lovemarks Around The World

One of the things that makes the Lovemarks concept so powerful and intuitive is that it is universal. I have given lectures on Lovemarks all over the world, and no matter where I travel, I meet people eager to tell me about the places, people, brands and products that hold a special place in their hearts.

The comments that flow into every day are testament to the universality of the Lovemarks idea. Here are Lovemarks nominations and comments from the past few weeks. They have come from around the globe, and they show how Lovemarks transcend culture, language, and geography.

Mohammed Rafi – Megha (India)
He is definitely a Lovemark for the millions of listeners who are touched by a certain sincerity and soul he lends to a composition. He renders a folk-style song with as much ease, expressiveness and élan as poignantly he would the Bhajans and Kirtans, notwithstanding his religious milieu. Listening to Mohd. Rafi singing feels almost like a responsibility/duty, well-fulfilled towards the hours of hard-work the team put in to make each song. That's the sincerity of making not only his willowy voice, but also the connotation of lines written, noticeable to the listener – that's almost as pure as a child's love. This makes anyone who has some sense of music truly 'feel' the songs.

Pasculli – missk70 (Germany)
Pasculli is a small brand for roadbikes, single speeds, etc, based in Berlin. They are producing tailor made frames, which are manufactured by hand in Italy. The brand is inspired by an Italian oboe musician and they are working closely with a great designer and sports photographer. The whole concept is based on the love for cycling, design and art and you can feel the passion of the team behind this brand on the website, in the store, from the people working for the brand and see it in the bikes.

John Lewis – emmajane (UK)
Simply the best retail stores in the UK. If ever there was a 3 minute warning I would head straight to John Lewis as 'nothing bad could ever happen at John Lewis'. Excelling at both customer service and value the company has no employees as it is a true co-operative and therefore only has partners. Interestingly enough like COSTCO, it is also the largest and the fastest growing store in the UK returning a cash profit share to all partners twice a year. I have shopped at John Lewis since I was a child and would not shop anywhere else as I really really trust them.

Wong – Guille (Peru)
This place is actually cool! It’s true that the ambience is nice and clean, but the attention is remarkable. You won’t find any supermarket in Peru in which employees bring your stuff to your car. Buying at Wong is a whole experience, their service transforms it into a new living style!

Primo – Nick (New Zealand)
The ultimate in flavoured milk. Could be a very New Zealand thing but I personally have a huge fascination and affection for this brand. Apart from the usual flavours, the Limited Edition (although popularity has now kept it in stores for ages) Choc Crunch has got me through a lot of long days and late nights. A true love affair for me.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Unlocking Your Inner Edison

Aside from patenting over 1,000 ideas in his lifetime, Edison gave birth to the modern ideas-driven organization. As the Time article points out, his Menlo Park “invention factory” was “the forerunner of every business-world creative cockpit, from the Ford engineering center to the Microsoft campus and Google’s Googleplex.”

I’ve always admired Edison’s seemingly endless capacity for innovation. But, after reading the article, I am even more in awe of how focused and productive he was. The Menlo Park laboratory, Edison famously claimed, would produce a minor invention every 10 days, and a major breakthrough every six months.

As if that weren’t enough, Edison’s invention to-do list was ambitious to say the least. It included, among other things, a long-distance telephone transmitter, an electric piano, a new version of the phonograph, and ink for the blind!

Edison is one of the greatest exemplars of the term “purpose-inspired, benefit-driven.” He very deliberately – not casually, not tangentially – sought to make the world a better place. He was an interventionist, a provocateur, a radical optimist.

Edison’s commitment to goal-setting can be directed at more than the future of the world. As I’ve written here before, I have found great success in creating 100 Day Plans. These short-term to-do lists keep me focused on the big picture and prevent me from getting consumed by the urgent at the expense of the important.

How many times have you spent an entire day dealing with immediate problems – sorting through email, going to meetings, straightening up your desk – without devoting any time to your broader goals? The 100 Day Plan is a simple antidote to this problem that only requires a pen and paper.

My 100 Day Plans always consist of about 10 items, each of which starts with a verb and contains no more than three words. This ensures that goals are simple and well-defined. What might be on the President’s 100 Day Plan: Fix Gulf oil. Stimulate jobs. Solve Iraq/Afghanistan. Solve Social Security.

Don’t underestimate the power of this technique. Many of the ideas that Edison wrote down in his notebook are now realities. And it all started with a simple to-do list.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Listen Up

I’m always excited when a writer takes something that is commonplace and uses it to illuminate the world in a brand new way. That’s exactly what Garret Keizer has done with The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise.

We spend most of our time trying to ignore noise (think about the construction site next to your office, or that upstairs neighbor with a taste for high-decibel music). Keizer, on the other hand, pays close attention to the noise around us, and draws on it to create a fresh and stimulating commentary on western society.

Among other things, noise is often the natural byproduct of progress – technological, social, and otherwise. The blaring car horns and purring engines that are the audible hallmarks of modern cities are a lot noisier than the charming “clop-clop” of 19th Century horse-drawn carriages. Add in televisions, cell phones, iPods, and all the other sound-emitting technologies that have become ubiquitous over the last decade, and you start to realize just how much noise progress has brought with it.

This may seem like a simple point, but it has important implications, particularly for professional communicators who are trying to rise above the noise that constantly bombards the modern consumer. Although Keizer focuses on audible noise, for me, our modern world is also full of noise in the form of useless information and visual distraction.

Competition for consumers’ attention in our noisy world is fierce. It’s been estimated that consumers are exposed to as many as 5,000 advertisements every day, a great many of which are ignored completely.

Take a walk down Times Square sometime and you’ll see just how futile an enterprise “look-over-here!” advertising can be. There you’ll find thousands of billboards, screens, street vendors, and stores all trying desperately to grab your attention through gimmicks and spectacle. If Keizer is correct, winning consumer attention will only become more difficult as societal progress continues, and the planet’s noise levels rise even higher.

This is where Lovemarks come in. Brands contribute to the noise and, thus, are easily ignored by consumers. Lovemarks stand out from the information clutter by creating meaningful emotional experiences. If you want consumers to pay attention, you’ll have to ask yourself, is my brand just part of the noise?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Auckland U’s $1M NZ Entrepreneurial Challenge

I’m on the faculty of the University of Auckland Business School in New Zealand where I teach an MBA class. The School has a fantastic million-dollar challenge open to New Zealand entrepreneurial businesses. The challenge has been established by London-based investor Charles Bidwell, New Zealander and former Auckland stockbroker.

The competition is open to NZ small and medium enterprises with a turnover of at least NZ$1million p/a, which have been operating for at least two years, and are seeking finance for business growth or expansion. Winners of the competition receive access to funding for growth and development from a pool of up to NZ$1m over three years, expert feedback, mentoring, publicity, recognition and networking opportunities.

I spoke at the awards in 2009 – winners were coffee roasters Allpress Espresso (for London expansion), smart water meter technology developers Outpost Central (growing business in water-deficient Australia) and hot water heating control technology company Senztek (R&D and marketing new products for Europe). Kiwi Innovation!

The Bidwell Challenge is part of Auckland University Business School’s movement of the bar for aspiration far beyond “bach-and-boat”; it’s to take on the world.

Enter here before July 19.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Why So Serious, Microsoft?

Humor is extremely important for navigating life and business. Humor is a winning tactic in advertising. Humor helps make the world a better place. It was valuable therefore to find this hilariously deadpan page from Microsoft’s corporate website where humor is presented as a Core Competency. Here humor is coached with bullet points, management-speak and a Proficiency Level chart (Basic through to an Expert, “who can see humor in almost everything, and uses humor as a uniting dynamic across a range of situations”).

The software pioneer has not been the hippest of high-techs, so I’m hoping they’ve aced it this time by suggesting that employees “practice learning frivolous and fun skills” like square dancing and juggling, find humorous role models such as clergy or community leaders, and develop humor based on universal topics such as “misers, bad drivers and absent-minded people”.

Some gems from the self-assessment section:
  • “Am I funnier than I think I am? Less funny? Who will give me an honest assessment of my sense of humor?”
  • “Do I ever encourage a near party atmosphere because of my comfort with using humor?”
  • “In a seemingly serious situation, what nuggets of humor or irony can I find?”
“Learning on the Job” humor lesson #5 is about “Being funnier.” “There are some basic humor tactics. Use exaggeration, use reversal, be brief. Cut out unnecessary words. Humor condenses the essential elements of a situation, just as good writing does. If the time of day or the color of the sky or city it happened in is not relevant, leave it out. Be on the lookout for the ridiculous around you. Jot down funny things that happen around you so you can remember them.”

The humor dossier puts forward an alarming picture of life on campus: “We all have bad bosses, bad staffs, hopeless projects, impossible tasks, and unintended consequences… the key is how you can learn from each of them.”

Some have suggested to me that this isn’t tongue-in-cheek but for real - particularly since it’s a component of their color-wheel of 39 success factors. Say it isn’t so Steve.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Heavenly Awards

If the iPad has shown us anything so far, it’s that print magazines need to up their game. There will always be a place for quality print, in newspaper and magazine, elsewhere there’s a lot of migration to the net.

When we buy a magazine at the newsstand, we’re buying a point of view, editorial that we trust, from respected opinion leaders. At least that’s what I do. And that’s why I agreed to get involved with Gregor Paul and NZ Rugby World Magazine.

I’ve been writing a monthly column for the magazine for seven years, and it’s great to hear that they’ve just won the Qantas Media Award for best newsstand magazine in New Zealand, winning ahead of other quality titles like The Listener and North & South. The Qantas Media Award is the most prestigious in New Zealand – and it’s an award across all genres, so it’s a tribute to Gregor’s editorial eye that a rugby magazine has scooped the pool over the very high quality of current affairs, business, design, food and lifestyle magazines published in New Zealand. While Rugby has a head start in the New Zealand consciousness, winning against mainstream titles is a huge achievement.

The judges say that “NZ Rugby World has raised the bar on what a specialist magazine can achieve. The magazine has both flair and reach. It serves its target readership well, but its entertaining writing, combative analysis, humor, clarity and intelligence make it an appealing package to a wider constituency.” That’s how to build Loyalty Beyond Reason.

Over at the Magazine Publishers Association Awards the awards continued for NZ Rugby World – also voted Sports Magazine of the Year, beating out Cut Magazine and New Zealand Boating.

The current issue of the magazine has Captain Incredible Richie McCaw on the cover “Loyal to the End”, a feature on the dark arts of scrummaging, and previews of the forthcoming Tri-Nations tournament between the All Blacks, Springboks and Wallabies. Above is a 2009 cover featuring Mils Muliaina in haka pose.

Congratulations to Gregor and his team for shining a light on the great, the good, and the up and coming in Rugby around the world.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Smile Until You Mean It

I came across another good list of happiness starters the other day. Like the one I posted a few months back, the emphasis is on small, simple things that can have a major impact on your mood.

A lot of them deal with the way we interact with others:
  • Talk about something new
  • Forgive someone
  • Spend more time with your happy friends
It’s a virtuous cycle – the more interesting, open and positive we are, the more we’re likely to draw other people like that into our lives and connect with them.

And then there are those which focus on basic physical actions:
  • Wake up the way you like it (the smell of coffee and relaxing music beats the jolt of an obnoxious alarm any day)
  • Rearrange your furniture (an easy way to refresh your living space and mind)
  • Smile on the outside (it’ll work its way inside eventually)
Scientific studies indicate that our physical movements don’t just express our emotions, but sometimes also influence them. Wired recently posted about a study of people taking the seemingly neutral action of moving marbles up or down between a couple of boxes while talking about their memories. When moving marbles upwards they were more likely to recall happy moments. When shifting the marbles down, however, sad memories occurred more frequently.

So keep your happiness flowing by harnessing the small stuff. And smile…

Monday, July 5, 2010

Please Please Me

What is it about Adidas sneakers that makes me so happy to wear them? Why does New Zealand’s mountainous landscape bring me so much enjoyment?

These sound like rhetorical questions, but Yale University psychologist Paul Bloom wants answers. In his new book How Pleasure Works, Bloom takes a crack at explaining the nature of pleasure. Considering the complexity of his subject matter, the answer he provides is actually quite simple:

“What matters most is not the world as it appears to our senses. Rather, the enjoyment we get from something derives from what we think that thing is.”

When an art collector is told that his favorite Monet is a fake, it dramatically reduces the amount of pleasure he derives from the painting. Even though all that’s changed is the way that he thinks about that work of art.

At the same time, everyday objects that have historical, sentimental, or symbolic significance can create immense pleasure, even though they are otherwise quite ordinary. It’s the reason why, as Bloom points out, a tape measure owned by John F. Kennedy sold at auction for $48,875.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s familiar with the Lovemarks philosophy. A can of Pepsi wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable if it was dispensed in a nondescript paper cup. The Pepsi can, and all of the things it evokes (childhood memories, care-free fun, youthful energy), add vast amounts of pleasure to the experience of drinking the soda.

It’s no wonder that, as Bloom observes, “children think milk and apples taste better if they’re taken out from McDonald’s bags.”

I can understand how many people will find this appalling, but it’s a reality, and Paul Bloom’s book gives me a much richer understanding of why that is.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tatt's All Folks

When it comes to displaying your love for something – person, place, or even product – you can’t get much more extreme and long-lasting than a tattoo. That kind of adoration – a desire for an all-day, every-day tribute on your own body – is clearly Lovemarks territory. In fact, when we launched Lovemarks: The Designers Edition at the Frankfurt bookfair, we had master tattoo artist Adam Craft tattoo a “Loyalty Beyond Reason” design on several volunteers and tattoo aficionados (see the video).

It reminds me of a great quote about brand loyalty: “Retention is for wimps. We measure the percentage of customers who have our name tattooed on one of their body parts” (Harley Davidson annual report would you believe! See more below). These are the customers who plan to stick with you, no matter what, who literally have “skin in the game”. Who will pay to be a walking ad for what you stand for. Who want everyone to know how much you mean to them, how much they love you. The etymology of “branding” actually originates from a process closely linked to tattooing, back when farmers used to burn their mark into the skin of cattle to indicate ownership.

Martin Lindstrom explored the brand-tattoo phenomenon in his 2005 book, Brand Sense, sharing the results of a survey asking which brands people would most want to have tattooed on their arm. (And ask my youngest daughter Bex about Betty Boop!!!)Here’s the top ten:

1. Harley Davidson (18.9%)
2. Disney (14.8%)
3. Coke (7.7%)
4. Google (6.6%)
5. Pepsi (6.1%)
6. Rolex (5.6%)
7. Nike (4.6%)
8. Adidas (3.1%)
9. Absolut (2.6%)
10. Nintendo (1.5%)

Of course, choosing an option in an online questionnaire is one thing – getting inked up is another. Last year, Australian law firm and trademark attorneys Nicholas Weston conducted a survey with 20 tattoo businesses in Melbourne, asking them about the popularity of various brands:

1. Harley Davidson
2. Nike
3. AFL (Australian Rules) club logos
4. Vegemite
5. VB (Victoria Bitter – Australian beer)
6. Disney characters
7. Holden
8. Ford
9. Fox/Alpinestars (motorcross gear)
10. Triple J (Australian radio station)

Their results were significantly more local, but three names remain consistent: Harley Davidson, Nike and Disney. Perhaps it’s bizarre that Disney is up there (although that Mickey’s an iconic fellow!), but it’s no accident that the grand winner of both cases is Harley Davidson. The company has long known that the passion of their customers is more important than any figure on a spreadsheet, as evidenced by this extract from their 1997 Annual Report:

“Customers show their loyalty in different ways. Buying a product says one thing, customers tattooing their bodies with our Bar and Shield says quite another. We see Harley-Davidson tattoos on our customers (and some of our employees) 365 days a year. Our Daytona and Sturgis Bike Week tattoo contests recognize these lifelong customers. What greater evidence is there of the strength of our brand than a customer who wears our name like a badge of honor? Now that’s a passionate commitment.”