Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ode to the Olfactory

Sight, sound, touch, taste and smell are all hardwired to our brains, but as expert and professional engineer of smell, Steve Pearce, says the power of smell is too often underestimated.

Engaged by organisations throughout the world, Steve has recreated smells from the hair of the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra to outer space for NASA’s training programs. His insights on smell are like lyrics for a Lovemarks songbook.

Smell is by definition sensual. It’s the most powerful of our senses because it’s a direct extension of the brain. Its direct contact means we get a very quick, intensive reaction to odors.

Smell is mysterious. No one really understands how it actually works. The nerve receptors are linked directly to the brain, but there is nothing between them and the brain, unlike other senses.

Smell is also intimate. It’s the first sense a newborn uses to identify with its mother, but as we grow older that sense slowly fades.

Sensual, Mysterious and Intimate, the DNA of Lovemarks. Want to make your brand loved in record time? Choose a heavenly scent to associate yourself with, and find a creative way to deploy it in-store, in packaging, in the product itself. Fresh laundry. Cut grass. Sea salt. Wet concrete. Leather. If you can imagine it, Steve can create it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Grown in Detroit – A Food Moment

Last year Time did a great project on Detroit, setting up shop in the city so that it could do run a journalism project focused on people, opportunities, and dreams. I thought it was a great idea, going beyond headlines to tell real stories of an iconic city with depth and credibility.

In the last decade more than 250,000 people have left the city. Hope springs eternal, and some places are irrepressible. Rome went from being the imperial capital to grazing land and back again to become the capital of modern Italy.

Detroit, once the heartland of America’s industrial belt, is discovering a new social and economic model. Almost one third of the city lies empty today, but that is rapidly changing as small community groups, neighbors and entrepreneurs converge on the opportunities this presents for urban agriculture, according to Scientific American.

At the heart of these plans is Recovery Park, designed to become the epicenter of a large scale urban garden and aquaculture project that will create up to 5,000 jobs.

Detroit is having a food moment. Like bringing a family together around the table – this project is from the community, for the community. Green shoots from a city of steel – this is the kind of creativity America needs.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Loyalty Beyond Relevance

A few months back I posted on Google’s new Zero Moment Of Truth (ZMOT) e-book, featuring a foreword by our own Dina Howell, Global CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi X. ZMOT is the principle that more people are doing their research online before heading to the store, home of P&G’s famous First Moment Of Truth, when the shopper stands at the shelf and decides what to buy.

The importance of ZMOT is reinforced by a recent Australian study that also adds fuel to the Lovemarks fire. The study not only found that people are using the web more often to research product purchases - it showed that when going through search results, they were more likely to click on websites from a brand they trusted than links that were relevant to their search terms.

This is loyalty beyond reason, the heart of Lovemarks - where emotional connections and relationships trump information and irritation. Relevance is irrelevant. To win in this moment of truth - as in all others - you need to be irresistible.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fresh Thinking

Edward de Bono recently made an appearance on ABC down under, sharing some typically flamboyant thinking, mostly around the subject of thinking itself. I’ve been a de Bono fan for years and this was fresh as ever. Among his key insights were:

• For too long the world has majored purely in thinking for the purposes of analysis, forming judgments and finding the truth, rather than thinking for creating value. Some inventors and entrepreneurs have broken the mould, but culturally we haven’t developed this type of thinking. This is a problem bigger than climate change.

• At an everyday level, thinking can help to unravel the problems that make us miserable – become better thinkers and we’ll be happier people.

• Teaching creative thinking puts wayward young people on the right track (de Bono cites the outcomes 20 years after a UK school started teaching his approach to thinking) and reduces recidivism rates when taught in prisons. Happy thinkers are less likely to turn to crime.

Like or lump the train of thought, there’s no denying we need out of the box ideas to solve problems where the usual approaches have failed. For the unfiltered version check out the full interview here (fast forward the first 20 minutes to get straight to de Bono).

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Here’s another inspirational idea, sent my way by a social entrepreneur with a big dream. Sophie Bartho has the aspiration of wiping out inequality in child healthcare and education by asking people everywhere to donate one dollar once a year. I like the simple, emotionally compelling story behind the idea:

Our inspiration was born in the daily ritual of kissing our kids good night. As parents of three lucky children who sleep in a warm bed, in a safe home, who enjoy a great local education and nourishing food, we asked why do some children have so much, while so many have so very little. And basic things like safety, education and food.
Creativity in the fundraising arena is vital right now – a stream of global tragedies is contributing to donor fatigue, with many urgent causes struggling. This is a classic DOT (Do One Thing) approach that makes a big problem seem much easier to tackle, sans merchandise and gimmicks. 1$day is on 20 October 2011.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Blood Relations

The Middle East has been a regular feature of KRConnect over the past year. Last year I was in Israel celebrating the 25th anniversary of BBR Saatchi & Saatchi, the highlight of which was a meeting with the President of Israel Shimon Peres. In May 2011 I covered the efforts of Dr. Alan Kerr, a New Zealand surgeon who has been credited with saving the lives of hundreds of children in Palestine over the past 11 years with his specialist skill of pediatric cardiology. In July I celebrated the awarding of the prize for The Impossible Brief to French creative Jean-Christophe Royer. This is an effort from the creative world to bring peace to Israel and Palestine after more than 60 years of conflict. Jean-Christophe’s idea, both rich in symbolism and high on pragmatism, is called “Blood Relations” and today – on the UN International Day of Peace – we took the first steps to activating the program.

At the reception event at the Peres Peace House in Tel Aviv tonight we launched “Blood Relations”, an Israeli Palestinian blood donation operation in partnership with the Parents Circle Families Forum (PCFF), an organization of Israeli and Palestinian people who have lost an immediate family member in the conflict. Born out of the idea that shared blood would create an impossibly close bond between two peoples, The Impossible Brief’s leading idea asked: “Could you hurt someone who has your blood running through their veins?” To answer the question and spring new hope among two peoples, we launched a blood donation operation between volunteers from both countries.

This week people have come together in solidarity to donate their blood side by side. Blood donations have been taking place at the headquarters of the Israeli Blood Bank, Magen David Adom and in a mobile blood donation ambulance set up in Cinematheque Square, Tel Aviv. Blood donations will be shared by Israeli hospitals through the Israeli Blood Bank, Magen David Adom and by the Al-Makassed Islamic Charitable Society Hospital for Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

The events at the Peres Peace House also includes an exhibition of all the finalists in The Impossible Brief, a film documenting the blood donations, and a group of international, Israeli and Palestinian communications and media experts conducting a panel discussion on the role of creativity and advertising in promoting the relations between the two nations.

At the time of the UN vote on a Palestinian State, this is a symbolic act of healing and one way Saatchi & Saatchi can help make a difference.

Support the program by virtually donating blood at

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Symbolic Obituary

June this year marked the passing of one Alan Haberman, a guy who ushered in one of the most distinctive inventions of the 21st century.

It gets scanned over 5 billion times daily. It enables buying and selling, tracking and saving. It’s on everything from products to animals to people, and it touches almost every pulse of modern existence. Its new generation cell phone-scannable format is a powerful enabler in the consumer revolution. Yes, it is that ubiquitous squashed zebra, the bar code, aka the universal price code.

The detail on how this standardizing revolution emerged via the grocery industry, and the enterprising character behind it, is an interesting case. It involves everything from necessity to conspiracy theory. The UPC is an idea that gradually (across about a quarter of a century) found its way into our lives through inventiveness, tenacity and technology, and like many innovations that make life wonderfully easier, today we take it for granted. It’s the power of an idea.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Travel at The Speed of Common Sense

Scientists are notorious for using sledgehammers to crack nuts, but an astrophysicist has solved a modern conundrum with brilliant simplicity. Stuck in a long queue while boarding a plane a few years back, Jason Steffen thought there must be a better way.

His idea was to start boarding alternate rows from the back of the plane, from the window seat in, rather than the usual block-by-block approach. A trial of The Steffen Method by the producers of an upcoming UK TV show found that it works: passengers boarded a mock 747, baggage in tow, in half the typical time.

Frequent flyers rejoice! After 60 years of convention – the first commercial flight took off in 1962 – Steffen has surprised with the obvious. Who will lead the way by taking on the new method? Air NZ? Emirates? As well as making people’s lives better by taking some of the endless waiting out of air travel (check-in, security, boarding, getting off, customs, baggage claim) it could be a real edge in an industry where minutes matter everywhere.

But the real lesson for airline execs isn’t that it takes a rocket scientist to add more value – just a passenger who wants a better experience. Time to tap the customer for inspiration.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

US Eagles Soar

In heartland New Zealand last night, 15,000 people came to New Plymouth’s Rugby Park (voted the 3rd most spectacular Rugby ground in the world) and saw a great performance from the USA Eagles Rugby World Cup team. We subdued the Russian Bear to win 13-6 in a terrific display of heart, passion, and commitment. Over 1.2 million people in New Zealand tuned in to watch this classic USA versus USSR encounter. Before the game, we were hosted by the US Ambassador, David Huebner, and a fantastic street party kicked the evening off. The US Marines from Hawaii played a tremendous set from the rooftops (reminiscent of the Beatles at Abbey Road) and then went into the street to bring traffic to a stop as everyone photographed and videoed this terrific band playing upbeat American jazz. The streets were crammed with US supporters decked out in Stars and Stripes, face painting, great costumes ranging from the Wild West to the current day. The Marine band then put on their dress uniform and paraded through the town and onto the pitch to great acclaim. The warmth towards the US from the Taranaki people was amazing. We watched the game next to NZ Prime Minister, John Key, who was a passionate supporter of our efforts and Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Zhukov who handled the disappointment pretty well (maybe they are getting used to it). Celebrations continued after the game at L’Escargot, a terrific French Brassiere in New Plymouth, until USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville and Vice Chairman Bob Latham and I finally called it a day at 3:00am. A great day for USA Rugby.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fashion Shoot

Our team in Sweden has put a fresh spin on laundry for Ariel by staging a fashion shoot with a difference. They set up a giant robot in Stockholm Central Station that fires stains (a cocktail of ketchup, chocolate and jam) at high end designer clothes swinging from a conveyor belt. The robot could be controlled by anyone from Denmark, Finland, Norway or Sweden through Facebook. If you hit something, the garment would be washed with Ariel in a big glass washing machine, then sent to you in the mail – as clean as it was before you gleefully squirted it with gunk. Nice work guys, keep dialing up the fun.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Go Pro Dono

Glen Jeffries, a fellow alumnus from Lancaster Royal Grammar School back in the UK (albeit one 30 years my junior!), has founded a charitable initiative with an aspirational take on fundraising.

Pro Dono is a not-for-profit organization arranging one-to-one conversations with famous figures in aid of charity. Ambassadors, as they are called, give a couple of hours of their time to meet a member of the public for a donation to the ambassador’s charity of choice.

Pro Dono has over 100 ambassadors ranging from cricketers to Michelin-starred chefs, politicians to the editor of The Economist, the “godfather” of the hedge fund industry, and founder of Wikipedia.

You can sign up for some face time with your hero and leave it at that, or dial up the experience with back to back power meetings: a tour of Lord’s with Geoffrey Boycott could be followed by a coffee in the Houses of Parliament with Alastair Campbell and a cookery course with Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.

Check out Glen’s new website Find someone you’ve always wanted to ask a burning question and support a good cause at the same time. Dare to dream and dig deep.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Delightful Dining

My favorite restaurant, Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume in Cartmel has just been rated the second best in the UK by the Good Food Guide 2012. Number four last year, L’Enclume is now second only to Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck.

I was at L’Enclume a few weeks ago and it was delightful. The sun was shining in the garden next to the stream and the eclectic cooking was better than ever; imaginative, fresh, extraordinary. All local produce.

It’s worth going out of your way for. Cartmel is a beautiful village and handy for the Lake District, Kirby Lonsdale, Lancaster and the Coast. There is a great pub/bistro in the village, also owned by Simon, for lunch too. Give it a go.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Game to Remember

Rugby World Cup. No. 8 ranked team in the world Ireland vs Rugby Minnows USA. A morning remembrance service in New Plymouth. Tears in the eyes of the USA team. The US Ambassador to New Zealand in tears. The US Marines band fly in from Hawaii and parade down the longest high street in the Southern Hemisphere. Both teams wear black arm-bands. The US team belt out the Anthem so they can be heard in New York. Rugby Park is full to capacity. And for 80 minutes we belt every green shirt we see. We play with ferocity, courage, spirit and heart. We lose (narrowly) by 22-10. We have never played better. God Bless America.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Party Time

Flew back to Auckland yesterday for the Opening Ceremony and first match of Rugby World Cup 2011. 50,000 people on the Auckland waterfront. 60,000 in the stadium for a celebration of all things New Zealand. Party time . . . New Zealand's had a terrible 2011 with the Pike River mining disaster and the Christchurch earthquakes. Everyone needs some relief. The All Blacks won, our friendly neighbors Tonga played well and gave their all, and one billion people around the world tuned in. That's better!!

9/11: Rise Up

It’s 10 years ago this Sunday that America was attacked. Three thousand people were killed on the day of 9/11, thousands more directly affected as survivors or as grieving family members. Our Saatchi & Saatchi New York office is close by on the Hudson River, and I watched in horror as the events of that fateful day unfolded. We remember with a heavy heart the people whose lives were lost and the individual acts of heroism that accompanied the rescues.

The events of 9/11 precipitated the trillion dollar “War on Terror” which, will be probably never-ending: in the years following 9/11 I was called to a meeting with the Pentagon and a dozen other government agencies to address the semiotics of the War on Terror. Things were going badly for the US not only in the field of battle but the court of public opinion. I ventured the view that the mission had to change, not simply the language. Rebranding the War on Terror was not an option per se, there had to be a whole shift in imperative and action – to make the world a better place for all citizens of this planet.

The rhetoric of the War on Terror largely exited with the Bush team, and we are seeing some signs of successes being achieved without the previous obligatory chest thumping. A more palatable outcome. The globe has however been engulfed by economic turmoil. The cracks are now showing on Wall St itself where multi-billion dollar law suits are flying between the banks and other financial institutions. Countries are under siege economically; self-interest abounds; survival is a priority. Unemployment is the real #1 issue, even ahead of the crushing debt that many countries and states face. Make the world a better place? Yes, let us remember this spirit. Emotion alone can’t fix failed systems, but it can sure put hearts in the right place.

My soul is lost, my friend
Tell me how do I begin again?

Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!
Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!
Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!

Bruce Springsteen My City in Ruins

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Freeing Creativity

New research highlights that while many workplaces encourage creative thinking, organizational behavior often kills a creative idea before it gets a chance to fly.

Jack Goncalo, a member of the research team from University of Pennsylvania asked: "How is it that people say they want creativity but in reality often reject it?"

Jack et al’s research paper found that creative ideas are by definition novel, and novelty can trigger feelings of uncertainty that make most people uncomfortable. These ideas are often dismissed in favor of the tried and trusted, and that even supporting objective evidence may not help break down barriers.

Jack says that the anti-creativity bias is so subtle that people are often unaware of it. This can interfere with their ability to recognize a creative idea, perhaps when they need it most. It also suggests that the field of creativity may need to shift its focus from identifying how to generate more ideas to how to help innovative institutions recognize and accept creativity.

This is really a gut thing. People often associated creative ideas like “poison”, “vomit” and “agony”. All of which says that it takes an adventurous spirit to free creativity. It can feel right without feeling safe. Want to change the game? Embrace discomfort. Now go make people sick.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

La Guerre Des Post-It

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on a nice stop-motion animation of Post-It notes sweeping Sao Paulo. Now Paris is following suit, bringing some childlike happiness to the city through the power of the humble sticky note. Office workers are raiding their stationery cupboards and livening up city blocks by creating brilliant window designs entirely out of Post-Its.

The City of Love is awash with some amazing designs, with everything from Tetris and Pacman to the Mona Lisa and Michael Jackson making an appearance. Known as ‘la guerre des Post-It’ or ‘the Post-It wars’, the collage challenge is transforming typically bland corporate environments into a sea of color that’s hard not to love. It’s creativity at its best, from the crowd – individuals seeing possibility in the simplest if items, consuming an entire city with playful joy. Viva La Difference!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Do The Math

An interesting study from the journal Emotion (summed up here by MSNBC’s BodyOdd feed) confirms that stress in itself isn’t a bad thing. Sure some people melt under it. But others thrive on it. What’s the difference between the two? Attitude.

The study looked at people with ‘math anxiety’ – a fear of crunching numbers. Scientists found that people could have similarly high stress levels when given a math test – as measured by their cortisol levels, a hormone produced by the body in response to stress – but would dive or thrive depending on their pre-existing feelings about math. Worry eats up working memory in the brain and performance suffers. Nothing adds up. But if you believe you can do rise to the challenge, a racing pulse is just a sign that you’re into it. Confidence multiplies.

Failure is in the mind. Attitude matters. Make up your mind that you can do the math…and it’s more likely that you will be able to.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ready To Share

Just been for a run? Odds are you’re more likely to ‘like’, tweet, post or forward something I send your way. That’s the outtake from this interesting piece by Maria Konnikova on the work of Jonah Berger on The Big Think. Turns out if you’re pumped you’re a lot more likely to pass things on.

Berger’s work makes a distinction between arousal – in a scientific sense, referring to the state we’re in when our heartbeat is elevated and our nerves are charged – and emotion. In experiments he found that people presented with just an emotional stimulus weren’t as likely to share something with their friends as those who had their nervous system cranked up. But get them firing on all cylinders and you’ve got a potent recipe for domino-like pass-it-on connectivity; one touch and everyone follows.

From a Lovemarks perspective this should all be in the mix. Berger’s arousal feels like the Sensual dimension to a compelling brand; the thing that engages you physically and makes you come alive. To know that this is what makes you more inclined to share something is a welcome revelation. Add Intimacy and Mystery and you’re turbo-charged for powerful connections not just with individual consumers, but with entire communities. So reach out and move someone to share today.