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.