Thursday, August 30, 2012

An Uplifting Arrival

Airports can be heaven or hell – and too often it is the latter. Consider there are 7 billion people on the planet and more than 5 billion passengers travelled by plane last year. You would think that the first and last impression that visitors have of a country would be a priority, but more progress needs to be made on that front.

With such high numbers of foot-traffic, airports have always been considered a retail attraction but less so as a place to display the best of a country’s culture and people. Why should your visit start past Arrivals? Why shouldn’t it start once a plane has touched the tarmac?

Fast Company looked at airports in places like Jeddah, Stockholm and Seoul that are making the move from being places to becoming spaces. In Munich, you can visit a brewery while waiting for your connection. In Singapore, you can take a swim in a Balinese pool. In Hong Kong, you could watch a movie on the largest IMAX screen in the country.

Imagine if you actually wanted to spend time at the airport. The more than half a million flight delays that occur each month wouldn’t be so agonizing and travellers would have a more positive experience all round.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The World We Lead In

Old models of leadership are out of date in the modern context in which leaders operate. To inspire, motivate and journey your brand through this VUCA world, much of what has been practiced before needs to be re-visited. How do leaders operate in an emotional world? How do you shape your worldview when your teams, clients and suppliers are from every part of the globe and represent a wide spread of cultures?

Pondering this question, the World Economic Forum recently released a paper exploring new models of leadership that take into account the hyper-connected, resource poor, global environment that we all now work, live and play in. It draws on contributions on topics like Purpose, Connectivity and Society from great thinkers from organizations like Google, MIT, Harvard, London Business School and even the assistant coach from the Edmonton Oilers ice hockey team.

In his chapter on the Leader and the “Edge” of self, designer John Maeda quotes Dr Mario Alonso Puig: “When we embrace a difficult situation as if we’ve chosen it ourselves, we transcend our mental limits.” This is the mindset of people who lead real change.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Magic Of Musha Cay

As more people make their choices of where to stay online, the experience of being on holiday really starts on screen. When people look for places to holiday, they want to book themselves into a place that looks like they’re going to have a really good time. Not somewhere that will make them wish they were at home.

David Copperfield is best known for making big things like the Brooklyn Bridge and Eiffel Tower disappear, but less known for his magical island of Musha Cay. For someone who has stayed in hotels as much as I have, you’re really looking for an experience that will take the idea of what a brand can be to a new level. And at Musha Cay, the magic starts with your visit to its website. It could be a little faster, but the music, mystery, storytelling and anticipation it creates lets you know that this is the start of a great adventure.

If you can get there, there are surprises in the form of a library dedicated to magic, letters from Charlie Chaplin and Arthur Conan Doyle, equipment used by Houdini, secret beaches, an outdoor cinema, and you can even choose to go on your own pirate adventure. When dreams become reality, it’s a great escape.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Read To Lead

Some of our most successful leaders have been prolific readers. Winston Churchill won his Nobel Prize in Literature, not Peace, and Nike founder Phil Knight’s private library tucked behind his office was legendary – you had to remove your shoes before entering.

The form of books and the way we buy them may have changed, but reading opens windows in the mind. It increases general knowledge, improves articulation, grows emotional intelligence and also helps you relax. A Harvard Business Review blog post recently listed the benefits of reading, but did you know that reading for 6 minutes can decrease stress by 68 percent?

One of the best traits of leaders is their ability to connect with, inspire and influence a variety of people. Most of these abilities are innate, but some are learned. Reading allows us to experience from outside our sphere of awareness. It teaches us to open our eyes, to see things differently and reflect.

So, if you’re serious about leading, get reading. I always have about five books on the go (currently Sam Hunt’s Knucklebones, Daniel Silva’s The Fallen Angel, Anthony Reynolds’ Leonard Cohen: A Remarkable Life, This Land is Your Land a Woody Guthrie 100 year celebration by Robert Santelli - and Lee Child’s new Jack Reacher adventure A Wanted Man makes its global debut in New Zealand on August 30).

To quote the Doctor: “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sprints And Marathons

Video source: TheDrum

For marketers two things became clear at the recent London Olympics:
  1. The need for speed was not exclusive to the track; and
  2. People are hungry for content.
In the UK, there were no less than 26 channels covering the Olympics. In the US, all 32 sports and more than 3,500 programming hours were streamed over the internet, including the awarding of all 302 medals. Add to that 150 million tweets during the 16-day event and you’ve got a lot of buzz.

A lot of this content bolted out of the blocks in record time in response to people’s desire to celebrate with their favorite athletes. Saatchi & Saatchi London produced a fantastic 10 second clip of Usain Bolt after his win of the 100m, which attracted 20 million viewers soon after it aired on TV and online. Other agencies released similar work honoring athletes in a matter of hours from their medal ceremonies.

The Age of Now may be all about action and creating a movement at warp speed, but there is also a lot to be said in running the long distance when it comes to campaigns. First impressions do last, but good things also take time.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Yeah Yerevan!

The world is a continuously surprising place. I was in Moscow last week and spoke to a jammed-packed public auditorium of young Russians seeking both a vibrant and trusted path to the future. This week’s surprise was at an airport book store in San Francisco when I came across Yerevan, a beautifully art-directed and substantially populated magazine about Armenian people and culture, with not a Kardashian in sight. Yerevan is a serious diaspora connection for Armenians worldwide, mixing three “I”s – information, ideas and inspiration. Who knew? Armenian achievers in motor-racing, art and photography, rock music, fashion, retailing... the best story being a feature on international spy Gevorg Vardanyan who with his wife Gohar prevented assassination attempts on Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. Armenia, for the 2013 diary.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Great Scotts

Tony Scott, film director, from a bridge in LA. Tragic, but what a life’s offering: Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, The Last Boy Scout, True Romance, Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State, Spy Game, Man on Fire, Déjà Vu, The Taking of Pelham 123 and Unstoppable. Thanks for the thrill ride Tony, and for your dual achievements in advertising film.

Scott McKenzie, who seduced a generation with his song San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair) written by Mamas and Papas’ John Phillips. It was the anthem of the counter-culture and no matter where you were in the world or how old you were in 1967 the song got into your psyche and forever changed it. It was the ugly period of the Vietnam War, the apex of Haight Ashbury, the advent of music video, and the precursor to 1968’s twin tragedies of the assassinations of MLK and RFK.

Wear flowers today.

Monday, August 20, 2012

More Than Just A Face

Facebook is more than a just a book of faces. It’s an archive of events and memories. But with nearly 1 billion profiles, the vast majority of these stories get lost in the cloud; something that Facebook has recognized with the launch of Facebook Stories.

Each month, the company will select a handful of tales in the context of a theme. With a focus on ‘remembering’, the first installment features the story of Mayank Sharma, who lost his memory through meningitis; David J. Knight, a 47-year-old archaeologist who is trying to save a historically significant building in Ontario; and a moment that a White House reporter will never forget as he recorded a story in Air Force One’s bathroom before taking off. In addition the site analyzed users’ Biggest Life Moments from Timelines, which revealed some pretty interesting statistics about people.

Facebook is just one tech company bringing emotion into the very rational world of hardware. Though we live in a world full of screens and interfaces, we are still looking for the human element that drives us to share our lives with one another.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lead With A Story

When newspaper editors lead with a story, they always use the strongest one they’ve got – and with good reason too. You’re more likely to pick up a newspaper if it has an attention grabbing headline that you can’t walk from away from. For newspapers this means higher readership, higher circulation and more revenue.

The same goes for successful business leaders. Those that can tell a great story and those who can connect with their audience - whether in theatre full of hundreds of people or in a one-on-one meeting - will have more success in making a difference and getting heard. The best business leaders share stories that people want to be a part of.

Paul Smith, Director of Consumer Research at Procter & Gamble, has just published a book to this topic. Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives that Captivate, Convince, and Inspire has examples from over 50 companies (including Saatchi & Saatchi) that use storytelling in their business. It’s a great guide that will help leaders influence and inspire.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Creating The Space For Ideas

Considering that universities are places for inspiring minds, it’s always been a bit of a paradox that many of them are in some of the most uninspiring of spaces. Heritage may have the prestige of history but it’s hard to think outside the square when you’re staring at a lot of grey.

Bangkok University, which brands itself as the “Creative University,” is designed so that students can interact with their environment and express themselves. How cool is it that at the entrance of the building students can change the color of the wall or leave a digital message for friends?

While visually stunning and fun, Bangkok University’s branding is part of a campaign to encourage the growth of a creative economy. Heavily dependent on the industrial and service sectors, the Thai government is looking at The Republic of Korea, which has been successful in creating an innovative ideas-based economy. With a campus like this, it looks like Thailand is off to a great start.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Legacy Of Leadership

Stephen Covey, one of the world’s leading experts on organizational leadership, passed away in July leaving behind him a legacy of game-changing ideas. Covey’s unique combination of intellect and empathy helped him pave the way for new ways of thinking about Peak Performance.

While the world will best remember Covey for his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, The 8th Habit resonates with me the most. In it he outlines the issues of managers trying to apply outdated, Industrial Age principles in an environment that no longer functions in the same way. He urges managers to stop looking backwards, focus firmly on the here and now and change the way they look at business. For me this means moving into the Age of Now.

Regardless of whether you look at employees or customers, it’s clear the era of carrot and stick motivation is well and truly over. Businesses that thrive most are those that engage people with emotion, inspiring them with a goal bigger than themselves.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Home Of Sport

I've been a long term subscriber and fan of The New Yorker magazine. It has great writers, funny cartoons, great observations on what's happening in New York, and an eclectic view of the world.

In the middle of Olympic fever last week, I was intrigued to read that 26 sports were played in London with medals awarded in 302 events. To my amazement, The New Yorker went on to inform me that the majority of those medals were given in sports that originated, in their modern form, in the UK. Archery, Athletics, Boxing, Badminton, Field Hockey, Soccer, Rowing, Sailing, Swimming, Water Polo, Table Tennis and Tennis were all born in the UK. As, of course, was Rugby, my own passion, which is scheduled to become an Olympic sport again in 2016. No other country comes close. Three Olympic sports originated in the US (Basketball, Volleyball, Triathlon) and two (Handball, Gymnastics) originated in Germany. And for once, Britain did not live up to its reputation of inventing the sport and then losing leadership in it at these Olympics. Their athletes and their development programs did them proud, and as I write this, the UK were #3 in the medal table behind the US and China and level with Russia.

It's been a great Olympiad; brilliantly organized, brilliantly executed and full of outstanding performances. In what I now realize must be the true home of sport.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pint Of The Future

Beer is one of the first drinks humans ever produced and continues to be one of the most popular beverages to this day. Basic ingredients haven’t changed over the centuries, but over the last few years we have been getting glimpses of the future of beer as producers explore new markets.

When I worked at Lion Nathan, the beer market was still pretty simple. We had premium beers but none of the craft or low-carb beers that people buy from their local supermarket. Price point was pretty competitive, but now, with a burgeoning middle class in developing countries, growing demand for super-premium and a market saturated with options, beer brands have to innovate fast if they want to stay at the top.

Diageo is an example of a company using innovative ideas to expand their market. It introduced a low-price beer in Kenya so that people would choose it as a safer option rather than the cheap hooch that was making people ill. Price is kept down through using local ingredients and by putting the beer in kegs operated by a hand pump. But then again, we may just see more non-beer related companies getting into the brewing game. The old joke of bottling success and selling it has come to pass as IKEA recently released its own line of branded beers in its UK stores. Are they on to something?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Stroke Of Genius

Bars are pretty hot right now. And I’m not talking the kind where you sit down and have a pint with friends. Beauty bars give manicures in-store, yoghurt bars double as tasting labs, Lexus has a service bar that helps customers understand the advanced technology their cars have to offer.

I’m a fan of this concept because it puts the customer at the heart of business. It’s the opportunity for brands to develop strong relationships with their customers and provide the personalized service that people are looking for. For consumers, it’s the chance to work through issues with a real person who is trained to answer your question or fix your problem in the fastest way possible.

The key for any bar concept is that it needs to retain its original associations as a place to socialize and have a good time. Despite being a ‘help desk’, the Genius Bar is a lively, friendly atmosphere where customers sit down, relax and chat about their issues with one of Apple’s resident Genius’. They may have come in with a problem but they almost always walk away feeling inspired and empowered, rekindling their passion for everything Apple.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rest To Fight Another Day

Watching Rafa Nadal move around the court could make you believe he is super-human, but with tendinitis in his knees, Rafa is subject to human frailties just like the rest of us. As a person who has also suffered for tennis, it’s a painful reminder of how dependent we are on our bodies.

Rafa has had to pull out of big tournaments in previous years due to injury, but this time it has cost him a place at the London Olympics. This is a double blow for Rafa as his lifelong dream of bearing the Spanish flag at the Olympics has also been dashed. At 26 years old with 11 Grand Slam titles, even a professional athlete like Rafa has dreams that need to be put on hold when the body calls you to hit the brakes.

Whether you’re wielding a tennis racquet or the mighty mouse, we all need to take time out to reassess, re-prioritize and recuperate. Driving ourselves too hard can be detrimental to reaching our goals and stop us from enjoying life. Like Rafa, we should make what is sometimes a difficult decision to step back and rest so that we can come back stronger and fight another day.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sleep On It

When faced with the decision to capture Osama bin Laden. President Barack Obama decided to ‘sleep on it’ before authorizing the raid that would eventually see the death of Al Qaida’s terrorist leader.

Most of us won’t make such huge calls in our lifetimes, but research from Harvard Business School suggests that when faced with complex decisions, letting the unconscious take over isn’t such a bad thing.

The conscious mind is great when you need to play within certain rules. For example, you are told to buy a car that is below $30K. On the other hand, the unconscious is good for more complex issues. You need to find a car that suits your lifestyle, which your husband will like and that is fuel efficient, so you school yourself in the facts and then put the decision off to tomorrow.

Every day, executives face challenges that can be solved with a little creativity. Often you are dealing with complex personalities and factors beyond your control, but the buck stops with you and something needs to be done/said. Taking time out to go to the gym, or listen to music - or just doing something that is completely unrelated - gets the unconscious working.

Thanks to Pedro Simko, Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Switzerland, for the article. It works for me.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Making A Creative Match

The Saatchi & Saatchi Network is made of approximately 6,000 people in 72 countries worldwide. As the demands of our industry diversifies and the way people do business changes, finding and keeping the best creative talent is a challenge. You need to give them responsibility, learning, recognition and joy, but also create an environment that’s fun.

Recently, we’ve attempted a few novel ways to hunt out the best creative minds. We’ve gone to where they are most likely to be found and invited them to engage with us through the mediums they know best – through apps and games.

Saatchi & Saatchi Germany created the 'Mobile Creative Director App' that allows people to share their ideas with the agency and Yossi Lubaton, CEO of BBR Saatchi & Saatchi, Israel, has just run a recruitment drive within Diablo III to great success.