Thursday, December 19, 2013

Be Grateful, Be Good

There are many things that make us human. Compassion, grace, love. The ability to forgive. Another I hadn’t really given much thought to, until I read this article, is gratitude. As the author says, Thanksgiving in America lends itself to taking stock of the good in our lives. Other countries and cultures reflect at different times of the year – whether that’s Christmas or New Year. The point is, ultimately gratitude is a powerful force for good. It’s how friendships are maintained and love blossoms, because gratitude is an act of selflessness. It’s an emotion we then feel compelled to pay forward and society at large benefits.

I was struck by the simplicity of this notion, but also the complexity of how gratitude, or a lack thereof, is reflected in modern society. We live in a screen age where everyone is constantly on the go. Gratitude is often an after-thought, if a thought at all. For a lot of people, the stronger emotion is a sense of entitlement. That someone else must help them because they’re so busy. Others see good deeds imparted on them as a burden, favors they are now obligated to pay back.

But if we all just took a moment to slow down and recognize what we’re grateful for and who we’re grateful too, we can understand that being grateful is integral to the fabric of our society. It keeps us in tune with each other. It makes us better people and the world a kinder place.

To Improve Mental Strength, Here’s What Not To Do

Being a leader, or even just a do-er, requires stamina and mental strength; the ability to blow-off the personal element of criticism while applying it into your work constructively, ignoring the noise, and identifying your weaknesses so you can become stronger is all part of it.

Ann Morin, a psychotherapist and college psychology instructor, provided with 13 attributes deficient in the mentally strong. It’s a great list for reflecting on our own mental limitations and finding areas where we can develop. While you can read the full list here, here are some of my thoughts on a couple of her points.

The mentally strong…
  • Don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves. Fail fast, fix fast, learn fast.

  • Don’t give away their power. This isn’t about relinquishing responsibilities, but about not letting someone or something disempower you mentally. If someone gives you some criticism, learn, fix, don’t sulk.

  • Don’t shy away from change. Change will happen whether you like it or not, so relish it, welcome it, be a vanguard or laggard.

  • Don’t waste time on things they can’t control. You’ll waste more time getting over someone stealing your park than you will finding a new one. D.H. Lawrence said, " If you can change it, change it. If you can’t, don’t worry about it.” Shit happens. The world is chaotic and random. Luck, bad or good, is a real deal.

  • Don’t worry about pleasing others. Don’t go out of your way to hurt someone’s feelings, but don’t shy away from giving constructive criticism either. Respect them, and don’t make it personal. Focus on the issue… play the ball not the man.

  • Don’t fear taking calculated risks. Embrace failure. Learn from it and Pin it. Experience of failure will only make for a stronger success.

  • Don’t fear alone time. Grasmere is one of my favorite places. It’s quiet and unassuming I retreat there whenever I’m feeling under pressure. Alone time is great for calming yourself, resetting your energies, and figuring out the next challenge.

  • Don’t resent the success of others. Be happy for them. The world is big enough for lots of winners. Celebrate with them. You’ll be happier.

  • Don’t think the world owes you anything. Because it doesn’t. We owe the world and the communities we live in. Grow through your own merits and help others along the way. It’s a wonderful world.

  • Don’t expect immediate results. The mentally strong don’t expect things to happen as fast as it does in their mind. The reward is often the journey.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Attack is the best form of defense

If you were lucky enough to see my Man City blues run up the score against Arsenal on the weekend, you witnessed firsthand a growing trend in the premier league – attack is the best form of defense.

Arsenal came into the match top of the league and City took the pitch undefeated at the Etihad. Both have been praised all season for their attacking styles, and boy did the match live up to the expectations. Ninety minutes later the crowd had seen nine goals (six for City!) and a free-flowing game that offered some of the most entertaining moments of the season. The Etihad has been electric this season, with City regularly putting up cricket scores. In the past 5 months:

4-0 vs. Newcastle
4-1 vs. Man United
5-0 vs. Wigan
7-0 vs. Norwich
6-0 vs. Spurs

Talk about Attack! Bring on Barça.

And the fun thing about the Prem this season is it’s not just been City. Clubs like Liverpool, Everton and Arsenal have shaken the traditional “hoof it” English tactics for fun, attractive, attacking football.

There’s a business lesson here too. Status quo, conservativeness and stability aren’t bad . . . but you have to power forward and take risks to grow and win. A solid defense matters; a lightening-strike attack matters more. My other team, the New All Blacks - unbeaten in the 2013 season - are a benchmark for this.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Bloomberg Surveillance

Monday morning on Bloomberg Surveillance with Tom Keane, a sharp man who knows the difference between Dusty Springfield and Buffalo Springfield. I was guest host for an hour with a focus on mobile advertising but spilling out the sides from the new Beyonce to Google’s robots. There are five short clips on creating movements, creating mobile ads, Peter O’Toole, Moncler and Google’s robots.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Well words

Lawrence Rosen, MD of Oradell, New Jersey is an integrative pediatrician and co-author of Treatment Alternatives for Children. He is the founder of the Whole Child Center, one of the country’s first green and integrative pediatric practices. I came across a recent post of his, he was writing about conversations with patients, clients, colleagues and friends in wellness circles, and certain words and principles kept recurring in these exchanges.

Here are his ten words to live by.
  1. Presence: To be fully engaged in what you are doing right now.

  2. Vulnerability: The willingness to be let others see you as you are.

  3. Clarity: Transparency and lucidity of vision and thought.

  4. Equanimity: The evenness of mind to stand steady in the face of stress.

  5. Gratitude: An intentional appreciation of what and who you have.

  6. Creativity: The use of your imagination to produce something, anything.

  7. Authenticity: Walking the walk. The most honest “way of being.”

  8. Passion: An incredibly intense desire that is barely containable.

  9. Compassion: Love and acceptance for another as if they were you.

  10. Love: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” (Stephen Chbosky)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

This could be us

Right now, the Philippines is struggling to manage the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan. More than 5,000 people have been killed and similar numbers of people displaced and also had their livelihoods destroyed. Aid is now starting to reach the remote areas and there is more organization on the ground. But for the Philippines, this is just the beginning, not the end. The Philippine Red Cross is still in need of donations. You can donate here. If you’re especially creative, think about how you and your community can help.

Weather events are getting more devastating around the planet. Us urbanites in Manhattan experienced this with Hurricane Sandy, a mere puppy compared to Haiyan. Being compassionate to others who are suffering, no matter how seemingly distant they may be, is good karma. Running your business in a sustainable way is good kaizen.


In a year when the word literal’s definition was amended to be both literal and un-literal, Oxford Dictionary has crowned the word of the year, ‘selfie’. The word meaning "a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website”, refers to an action that has increased a massive 17,000% in the last 12 months. What this figure means is anyone’s guess, but it’s an action I have never taken and surely never will. Is “selfie” shorthand for self-centred, self-interested, selfish? Selfie reflects millennial attitudes and they are now used to being in the center of what they see, use and talk about.

Visionary of vacuous? Sometimes called ‘Team Me’ - people who demonstrably act in their own interests and who want brands to understand who they are and what they want, here and now. Consumer is Boss and the ‘selfie’ the most visual manifestation of this idea.

Perhaps a good course in dishwashing would bridge self-ethic and work ethic. Here is a two year old on the job at the sink, and here is the world’s reputed fastest dishwasher. Too busy for selfies!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Nelson Mandela

I was at Ellis Park in 1995 when South Africa won the Rugby World Cup and Nelson Mandela stepped forward for one of the most symbolic political gestures of the century when he handed the cup to captain Francois Pienaar. Rugby was the sport of the Afrikaans, who were the architects of apartheid. Such was Mandela’s embrace of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than vengeance that he was able to don the Springbok jersey and bring the whole world to his side.

I wasn’t in New Zealand for the 1981 Springbok tour, but I have to say that 100% credit must go to the protest movement for taking on the rugby and political establishments of both countries, rejecting the patently ridiculous “politics and sport do not mix” argument, and fighting for what was right and to make South Africa a better place. New Zealand played a pivotal role in leading international opposition to apartheid and the Trevor Richards, John Mintos and Tom Newnhams of our world should be taking a bow at this moment of celebration of a great man’s life.

Of all the news reportage about Mandela’s death, I thought that Paul J. H. Schoemaker’s piece for INC. was especially insightful. His original commentary “The Three Decisions that Made Nelson Mandela a Great Leader” describes three situations in which this leader had to go deep against human instinct in order make the right things happen.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Coming to Claridges

Watching a great chef being recognised by a great institution is as satisfying as relishing one of the that chef’s own creations. I’ve been savoring the inventive combinations and easy atmosphere of the two Michelin starred L’Enclume in England’s Lake District as often as time will allow, and now that restaurant’s visionary leader, Simon Rogan is coming to London. And not just anywhere, but taking over from Gordon Ramsey at the iconic Claridge’s hotel flagship restaurant.

Simon has had experience in London before, and his pop-up Roganic was a great adventure, and he has two more properties in the Lake District - The Pig & Whistle and Rogan & Co.

This is a great move for Simon, and an even greater move for Claridge’s. Marrying locally sourced products and innovative cooking technique makes Simon’s approach fully satisfying, and he is blessed with the touch of transporting magic that only the best chefs can conjure. Claridge’s remain one of the great British institutions, and congratulations to both on taking this opportunity.

This is as good as it gets: impeccable heritage, and clever and charming holistic creativity. Londoners and visitors to London will be able to (try to) book for spring 2014. I'll be there as soon as I can.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Worshipful Marketors

In grey London towards the end of November, a dose of colour, bonhomie, and heritage can really change your outlook. I was lucky – not only did I get all of that, but a sophisticated group of marketing stars past and present picked their way through gridlocked London traffic to attend the Worshipful Company of Marketors’ Annual Lecture, in the historic St Mary at Hill church in the City.

It was a fantastic evening in the Wren-designed church, 200 people in a convivial atmosphere made even more special by the introduction of the Company’s Master, Sally Muggeridge.

I don’t normally get invited back, but this was a second visit to the Marketors, and they were as passionately involved as before. There were plenty of Masters from the other Livery Companies too, and the warm and intimate feeling that chimed with the heritage and ceremony made this an absolutely magical City experience.

The Livery Companies of the City of London are unique – ex-guilds that mutated to trade associations providing a voice and a meeting place for their members. They’re big on ceremony, with gold chains and robes being sported by some of the members. Our crew called it Heritage Bling!

It’s an example of what London can do when positively minded – the best of tradition, the best of iconic locations, and a spirit of togetherness. Thanks to Sally, John, and all who attended for a great event.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Technology and Aesthetics

The best technology finds a balance between functionality and aesthetics. Last week I wrote about the Concorde, the iconic supersonic aircraft that could cross the Atlantic Ocean in just over 3 hours. Well put on your seat belts because the U.S. military industrial complex has designed a plane that can reach Mach 6, or six times the speed of sound. Not only will it be capable of flying from New York to London in less than an hour, it will look good doing it.

Descendant of the SR-71 Blackbird and arriving apparently in 2030, the SR-72 is a hypersonic aircraft with hypersonic missiles that can reach an adversary so quickly it will render radar detection obsolete. Designed by Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works the SR-72 will be an unmanned reconnaissance and assault aircraft, twice as fast as its predecessor with a mission range that spans continents.

Speed is the defining difference in the Age of Now. The military and are aligned on this. Instant delivery of parcels and payloads. Are aesthetics important beyond getting the business done? Ask every owner of a sleek iPhone or an exotic Ferrari.

My bet is that Congressmen will line up to finance the SR-72 because it looks terrifyingly effective. One look and you know what side of this machine you want to be on.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Debunking the Myth of Happiness

One of the most misleading common perceptions today is that success and happiness are synonymous.

People think that as we achieve our hopes and dreams, somehow our daily problems, annoyances, disappointments, and anxieties will magically disappear. Unfortunately the truth is not so utopian. Negative emotions and experiences can affect our daily lives, and despite having it all, even the “stars” among us are subject to depression and disappointment at times.

In his new book Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence, neuropsychologist at Berkeley University, Dr. Rick Hanson, contends that this phenomenon can be explained.

Hanson’s evidence is drawn from the biology of human survival. He describes how our neural pathways are constructed to activate on negative emotions with greater intensity than positive ones. In other words, evolution has driven us to respond more strongly to predators and environmental threats than when we experience something pleasant. With this understanding, it makes it more difficult to create permanent neural pathways for our positive experiences, thus this dilemma with achieving lifelong happiness.

So how can we navigate life without melancholia, considering our own minds afflict the pursuit of happiness?

The answer is not simply positive thinking, but rather the pervasive adoption of radical optimism. I have used the phrase “radical optimism” for years, meaning we must go beyond simply a positive disposition and commit to a program of action and activities that continuously put oneself into a good space, and avoiding negative ones. The truth is that it is possible to harness our biology, since the desire for long term happiness is also part of who we are.

Simply stating that you are an optimistic person does not induce true psychological and physiological change. One must internalize that sense of self that meets our three core needs “safety, satisfaction, and connection”. True change takes persistent radicalism and constant optimism. It takes the will to lift your head up, look around and realize that happiness and success are ALWAYS within your control.

Although the molecular make-up of the brain and the chemical reactions that determine neural pathways are complicated, sometimes something as simple as a fast walk around the block will do you wonders!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Changing Nature of Luxury

It seems you only have to have your eyes closed for a moment before every trend has changed and, unlike fashion, most industries don’t have twice yearly parades to spell it out to us. However, luxury sectors of industries have always been a beacon of where trends are heading, providing inspiration while showcasing some of the best in intimacy, sensuality and mystery. Here are a few of the trends popping up in the luxury scene.
  • Proving unique experiences: A new class of luxury based on unique achievement, craftsmanship, focus, history and rarity. Such as, Hermes Le Flaneur, a $11,000 bicycle, or Prada and Damien Hirst set up a juice bar in the desert north of Doha, Qatar.

  • Getting personal: Saks Fifth Avenue is providing consumers stylistic control with an app that enables users to put together outfits based on their body types.

  • Leveraging history: Looking at the past to provide brands with depth and authenticity. Van Cleef & Arpels promote the reopening of their Manhattan flagship with “8-Seconds of Luck”, a microsite that educates consumers on the jeweler’s history of luck.

  • Return to Tangibles: In a digital world, beautifully designed offerings attract attention away from screens. Take for example Zaha Hadid and Karim Rashid commission to design bottles for Leo Hillinger and Anestasia Vodka.

  • Getting sisomo: Giving sight, sound and motion a touch of luxury on the big and small screen. Recently, Gucci teamed up with Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation to restore “Rebel Without a Cause.”

  • Giving back: Integrating the soul and spirit of the local community is becoming second nature to luxury brands. Ralph Lauren shows commitment to restoring the historic Paris arts school École des Beaux-Arts by staging its first runway show outside the United States at the venue, Fendi is helping to restore Italian fountains.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Business Scents

I give my fair share of presentation and speeches each year, and a question I frequently ask the marketers, CEOs, CCOs, and advertisers in the audience is, what does your brand smells like. Scent, a key part to sensuality, seems to be on the verge of becoming big business, and cities might even benefit from the adoption of a scent – or it would if city planners knew what was good for them and city citizens.

A recent article in the New York Times provides a few justifications for cities and designers to embrace scent: the scent of lemon and blossoms can encourage people to be cleaner; flowers can act as natural air fresheners; scent can encourage recovery, creativity, memory, and reduce stress - the smell of spiced apple has even been shown to lower blood pressure.

When scent is one of the biggest triggers for memory, a brand (whether it be a product or city) should embrace a fragrance that a person can attribute an experience to – and please not the smell of Times Square on a hot and humid New York summer’s day. It could create a more harmonious environment, or spring a memory on a visitor years after they last visited you

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Super Sport

What a great weekend. The New Zealand Rugby League team, the Kiwis, beat England in the last 20 seconds of the World Cup Semi-Final at Wembley on Saturday. 60,000 people at the game (including younger son Dan) saw Sonny Bill Williams lead the Kiwis to victory in the dying seconds of a magnificent contest.

On Sunday Dan came up to Manchester to join me at the Etihad where Manchester City opened the scoring against Spurs with a wonder goal in 13 seconds from Jesus Navaz. 90 minutes later he added his second goal to leave a capacity crowd ecstatic having seen Manchester City score 6 times against one of the best teams in England. 6 nil versus Spurs. Wow. (Sorry, Tim and Terry.) The Man City game was played at exactly the same time as the All Blacks were playing Ireland in their final match of 2013. How could we be in two place at once? Graham Bradford, the Operations Director of the Malmaison Hotels, sorted that out and recorded the All Blacks game for Dan and I at the Manchester Mal. We rushed there back from the Etihad with all phones turned off and sat down to a complimentary bottle of Nuits St. George in the True Blue suite and watched Ireland run up 19 points against the All Blacks in no time. Only 3 international teams in history have ever come back from a 19 point deficit. Make that 4. The All Blacks won 24-22 with the last kick of the game completing the 1st ever perfect season in the history of International Rugby. They won every game of the 2013 season.

Exhilarating, dramatic, exciting and 3 out of 3 results all going the right way.

What a weekend.

It doesn't get much better than this.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Empathy Zone

Empathy. I can’t help but think of Blade Runner whenever the word enters my orbit, and in this instance it’s quite an apt reference. A team of European researchers devised a test to identify the part of the brain that deals with our empathetic response. In particular, they wanted to know why we often find it hard to grasp why someone else isn’t on the same emotional plain we are. Then they wanted to see if they could dial empathy up and down. And they could.

It turns out there’s a part of our brain – the right supramarginal gyrus (rSMG for short), located near the middle of the brain – that showed a spike of activity when test subjects were off kilter with each other. They just had to work out whether that spike was trying to encourage us to be more empathetic, or acting as a road-block. It turned out to be the former.

For some reason, test subjects seem quite happy to have magnetic stimulus performed on their brains. Thanks to their confidence in modern science, the researchers were able to reduce the rSMG activity and find that their subjects showed less empathy when doing the tests. Our brains are actually trying to help us be more empathetic. Hopefully this research goes towards finding ways to improve our empathy levels. The last thing we need is a mad scientist who devises a way to shut the rSMG reaction down. Without it, we’re not human.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Will CBDs Become a Car-free Zone?

By 2030, it’s estimated that five billion people will be pounding the concrete caught up in the hustle of urban living. Over the past two decades, urbanisation has been swift and sustained. There’s no sign of it slowing. The rationale is obvious. Cities provide opportunities. We’re flocking to where we can find work. The 20th century wealth explosion packed plenty of dosh into wallets, but that hasn’t necessarily translated to greater happiness. My native countrymen, the British, grew 40% richer in the past 20 years, while the rate of psychiatric disorders and neuroses grew.

The Guardian recently ran an interesting excerpt from a new book by Charles Montgomery that questions the role urban design plays in our wellbeing. He points to research that shows declining social capital makes us all poorer. We’re less connected to our environment, especially people. We don’t engage. Urban dwellers spend a lot of time living to work. They forget about the simple things. The more time you spend commuting to work, the more likely you are to be miserable. Especially if you’re stuck in a car. A Swedish study found people who have a 45 minute commute are 40% more likely to divorce.

People who walk or cycle to work, meanwhile, feel more connected to their city. They’re not just getting the benefits of endorphins from exercise, they have a greater emotional connection. They’re happier. Makes sense to me. I don’t think there’s a human being on earth who enjoys a traffic jam. The congestion. The pollution. The frustration. But so many modern cities are designed to facilitate cars as the priority transport mode. It can’t be long before urban designers start to consider the unthinkable – banning private cars from CBDs. More communal spaces. More community. The social benefits could be huge.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

There’s an App for Everything – Including Lovemarks

The team at Saatchi Pakistan are a creative breed. They have developed a Facebook app for Lovemarks that streams results from direct engagement. It enables anyone to test out a brand and get an honest account – so long as they’re honest of course – about how it impacts their emotions and their life. By running through a series of questions, the test is able to distinguish from the answers given whether someone views a brand as a product, fad, brand or lovemark. It’s all based on how a brand makes them feel. Do they respect it? Does it incite mystery, sensuality and intimacy?

The Saatchi Pakistan app is in its early stages, but already has over 500 responses and 233 brands evaluated. The results don’t paint the full picture just yet, but as more evaluations are logged on the same brands they will start to get a greater indication of the impact brands are having on people in different cultures and communities. What they really need now is for more people to be aware of the app and take it for a spin. It’s quick and easy. Get into it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Rugby Heaven

I was at Twickenham on Saturday for the All Blacks England test match. Thank you Bob Reeves RFU President and ex LRGS teacher for hosting us so grandly. Absorbing, tense, physical, challenging with the English ahead at half time. But magic won the day in the end.

One more test ahead this Saturday against Ireland at Dublin. Touch wood, the All Blacks will prevail and take an unbeaten season under their belt. Ireland have never beaten the All Blacks, they drew in 1973, but the last outing in 2012 was a 60-0 rout. The English press have been pulling some superlatives out of the draw from this Richie McCaw-led side, and Chris Hewitt of The Independent wrote a pretty laudatory article that appeared before the English game. As I’ve said before, sports writers aren’t actually cynics, they are just waiting around to write copy like this. Here are choice quotes from Chris’ piece titled “All Blacks - the world’s best team... in any sport”:

Richie McCaw and his team are beginning to look like something more than merely the best rugby union team on the planet. They are starting to look like the best team in any sport. Since 2003 New Zealand have played 121 international matches, the overwhelming majority of them against top-ranked opposition, and lost only 14, most of them by a single score. As a result, they are the reigning world champions and masters of all they survey.

That victory over the high-performing French, taken together with jaw-dropping performances against the Australians in Sydney and the South Africans in Johannesburg, puts these All Blacks in an exalted space of their own: previous New Zealand teams have seized the keys to those great rugby citadels, but never with such panache. Should the current crop complete their payback mission at Twickenham and go on to quell the Irish uprising in Dublin next weekend, they will finish 2013 with a perfect “14 from 14” record and stand alongside the 1951 Springboks and the 1984 Wallabies as the finest team to visit these islands in the post-war era.

Greatness in rugby is about far more than the mere winning of matches, irrespective of how many victories are secured. To achieve it, a team must dare to be different: to fly in the face of the sport’s accepted logic; to expand its sense of the possible; to galvanise it with the shock of the new…Back in 1951, the Springbok tourists armed themselves with a pack of unprecedented quality and played a brand of power rugby that left all the major European nations fearing that the sport had passed them by for good. Thirty-three years later, a Wallaby squad boasting such mesmerising talents as Mark Ella, Michael Lynagh and David Campese ripped through the British Isles in Grand Slam fettle, outscoring the home nations by 12 tries to one – and this in an age of international rugby when tries were hard to come by. On this occasion, it was the meeting of minds behind the scrum that left the hosts wondering if they were stuck in a time warp.

Former England attack coach Brian Smith argues today’s All Blacks are placing such extreme demands on their opponents in terms of collective technique, concentration and resilience that unless they defeat themselves, it is difficult to see who might beat them. Among the many points of difference they have brought to their rugby is a mastery of the aerial game so finely honed that it is almost as if they play the game in four dimensions rather than the usual three. No idea is off-limits; there can be no standing still. As Steve Hansen, their head coach, said a couple of days ago: “We’re striving to be better than we are at the moment – which is No 1 in the world.”

Monday, November 18, 2013

Scratching the Mystery Out of Wine

There’s a certain degree of snobbery in the world of wine which has the potential to alienate potential enthusiasts. But one of wine’s elite, one of less than 200 master sommeliers, is out to not only teach the hidden language of wine, and do it with humor rather than intimidation. And really the name says it all, Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert.

The book’s author, Richard Bett sees wine as a ‘grocery’ rather than a ‘luxury’. His manual is a quick read - only 22-pages - but it helps breaks down flavors, colors, and provides 16 different scent stickers that are placed through the book. Scents of bacon, flowers, butter, grass, and even cat pee are translated onto paper to help readers identify the aromatic components in their glasses. The book’s illustrators clearly had fun with this one, including adding wine to paint to get the color of each wine type as accurate as possible.

It’s a book for anyone wants to speak a bit confidently when making a selection off the wine menu; wants to take the mystery out of wine while awakening their olfactory senses; or who is stuck for a Secret Santa present.

Incidentally I drunk a terrific Brunello di Montalcino last week at Massimo Ferragamo’s Castiglion del Bosco (an inspirational Tuscany experience)… Campo del Drago 2007… the 2008 is released this week. Keep an eye out.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ultimate Warriors

Revolution starts with language, and history shows it takes a lot of bravery to start a revolution.

Bravery and revolution aren’t words you’d usually associate with an energy company, but Enel, a long standing client of Saatchi & Saatchi Italy, aren’t doing things the normal way. Head of Communications Gianluca Comin and his team have been challenging Saatchi & Saatchi Italy not to play it safe for some time now, and they’ve been true to their word by backing the #Guerrieri campaign.

The campaign shows a relentless succession of characters portrayed in the environment in which they live, work, study, and fight. In factories, offices, schools and supermarkets, the #GUERRIERI are caught in their daily moments where they fight their battles, as they struggle to build their present and their future.

The campaign is a celebration of the determination and fighting spirit of ordinary people, the Italians who do not give up despite the social and economic uncertainties. The online stage of the campaign – which was launched in late August – has a storytelling platform. Up until mid-October sourced everyday warrior stories on the site.

No strong idea gets away unscathed, and this brave and polarising campaign has generated an intense debate on social media. Enel haven’t been intimidated. Real warriors don’t back down.

Evidence of the revolution: The warrior stories of bravery are becoming episodes of a TV series called Infact Guerrieri. And language: '#Guerrieri’ is now becoming a slang term Italians are using.

Viva Italia!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ryanair Looks for Love

For the first time in its history, Ryanair is going to cut its fees in the name of “service improvements”. It’s not April 1, so it would appear we’re not being fooled. It would be a rare day that anyone puts the words ‘Ryanair’ and ‘service’ in the same sentence. It is, seemingly without parallel, Europe’s most hated airline. Which? magazine named it Britain’s worst brand for 2013. There is even a website dedicated to hating it.

I’m not a fan. It has charged passengers just to print tickets, flown on minimum permitted fuel levels leaving no room for contingencies, kicked people off flights for having the wrong hand luggage, and considered charging for the use of its toilets. At the same time, it has remained profitable because it’s cheap. People remain drawn by the price. But I’m getting the sense these Irish penny-pinchers know they’ve reached their ceiling.

Without a buoyant economy, passenger growth industry wide is stalling. Airlines can only cannibalise each other’s base and the budget travel market is cramped. There is a decent chunk of civilised patrons who refuse to ever fly with Ryanair again.

The only way to win these consumers back is to address the cause. So Ryanair says they have listened to passengers, and responded. Staff have been given more discretion to relax stringent timing and baggage rules. They’ve improved their website and made their smartphone app free. Even chief executive Michael O’Leary, who has revelled in being a self-described publicity hound, admits Ryanair needs to be more sophisticated in its communication. It’s a pragmatic response and the right one. Aiming for respect is the first step. To be loved will take a lot more work yet.

Monday, November 11, 2013

White Beauties

Icons are a powerful part of loved brands; and the best ones are loaded with mystery. Two white Lovemarks made the news recently for different reasons. Both are timeless, instantly recognizable and imprinted on the global consciousness.

It’s the 10th anniversary of Concorde’s retirement. I was one of the lucky ones who flew Concorde. We flew for speed not for luxury (with the noise and rattle it was hard to concentrate on champagne anyway). There were times when I had to be on the other side of the Atlantic at very short notice or for a financial capitals roadshow, and Concorde got me there at warp speed. She was in today’s Age of Now yesterday. A sight to behold, she still takes my breath away. And you can hold a wedding reception or a conference with her in her hangar at Manchester Airport. Cool.

Down at ground level is another white beauty. Think of Australia and you know of course. Happy 40th birthday, Sydney Opera House. And look out brand Australia, a new study says the Opera House is considered internationally as a more relevant and esteemed brand than you are.

Friday, November 8, 2013

What a wonderful world.

November 6, 2013. A great day.

01:01am. Welcome Tilly Plum, My daughter Rebecca's first baby. 7lbs 4oz in Auckland.

Tilly Plum, Rebecca (Tilly Mum), Tim and grandparents are doing well.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

All Saints

Whenever I am in Rome over a weekend I attend the 10:30am Sung Eucharist at All Saints Church. The Chaplain is Jonathan Boardman, a graduate of Magdalene College, Cambridge, where I had dined with current Magdalene Master and ex Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, only two weeks ago.

The service this Sunday was read by Reverend Mary Styles and it was about the letters St. Paul addressed to the saints and the celebration of all of us as saints; the disciples, sinners, and common folk who try hard to live a Christian life and do the right thing. Those adept at seeking redemption are primary candidates for Sainthood.

All Saints have a lovely little tradition each Sunday when they ask various visitors to the church to stand up and say where they are from. This allows an immediate joining together following the service when a glass of wine and a potluck lunch available is shared.

Rome is such a spiritual eternal city but coming together in this way is a very uplifting thing to do. I can recommend it to all who happen to be in Rome on a Sunday morning.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Milan World Business Forum

In Milan today with HSM’s World Business Forum at MiCo Milano Congressi, speaking with Tom Peters, Andre Agassi, Martin Lindstrom, Dan Pink, Chris Anderson and Gerhard Schröder.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Collecting Dreams with Shadow

Dreams, the ones we have in our sleep, have a way of getting away from us. They slip from our memories soon after waking, popping up in odd moments, or as déjà vu. Dreams can be random, but they are more often a reflection of our conscious and subconscious, the interpretation of which can be both enlightening or baffling.

In mysterious fashion, there is new app called Shadow that wants to assist in helping us recall and record our sleeping dreams. It wants to create a community of dreams and use this information to explore what people around the globe are dreaming about (yes, I thought my dreams was the one place Big Data couldn’t get to either).

One might consider that such an app could remove some of the allure from dreams, but I counter this. I think the app could add to the mystery of dreams - causing us to question more the impact of the world around us on our subconscious, our feelings towards a particular person, event, or product. It might even help us realise a brilliant idea we might never have thought of outside our sleep.

Shadow’s goal is impressive and has the potential to shed light on the collective subconscious. To quote the creators:

“.. What do we dream about during a thunderstorm? After an election? Before a disaster? Do celebrities really dream differently than the rest of us? We think these questions hold amazing truths about how interconnected we really are.”

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Airport Unusual

When it comes to travelling, airports tend to be the most forgettable part of the experience – or a part of the trip that you wish most to forget. It’s intriguing that after all these years, and all the millions of people who move through airports around the world, that a great airport still eludes so many major cities. A coat of fresh paint will not appease guests, no matter how transient.

One airport in Burlington, Vermont, has introduced features that not only make large airports seem even more unfriendly, but it has taken an approach that makes other places seem built for robots, not humans. Burlington International Airport (BTV) is only one of three airports in the US to offer yoga classes. It also has private rooms for nursing mothers, ample access to power sockets, rocking chairs (!), a free business work centre, and instead of offering its visitors the same run of the mill coffee chain, food and drink offers are provided by local businesses.

BTV has taken a look at the atypical airport experience (the ones we dread) and democratized comfortable and stress free travel. Their experience is made available to every passenger, not just those in club lounges.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Wisdom of Peanuts

If I were given the opportunity to present a gift to the next generation, it would be the ability for each individual to learn to laugh at himself - Charles M. Schulz

When Charles Schulz died in 2000, the final Peanuts strip was published the following day. No other hand would draw his famous characters. As he said, everything reaches its end. But Schulz’ legacy holds true and the 355 million people who read his comics are a testament to that. The Peanuts Gang are setting up shop in Tokyo for the next few months, for an exhibit on Schulz’s life and the evolution of the comic strip. For anyone who has followed the touching and comical endeavours of Charlie Brown and co., it’s fascinating to learn about the creative mind behind the strip.

The wisdom of Peanuts is often written about. Simple messages about love, friends and life. At times melancholy, at others inspirational. Always endearing. It taught us basic lessons about determination. Charlie Brown didn’t hit a home run for decades. He once stood holding a kite string for eight days while it was stuck in a tree. Then there was his unrequited red-headed love, a direct parallel to Schulz’s own life. There are a number of quotes from the strip that I love, and this would be one of them, from Lucy: "What shape would the world be in today if everyone settled for being average?" Too true.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Rise and shine: the daily routines of history's most creative minds

From the brilliant Guardian, by Oliver Burkeman, 5 October. This is priceless. The path to greatness is paved with a thousand tiny rituals – but six key rules emerge. From the book Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work: How Artists Work by Mason Currey.
  1. Be a morning person
    Very early risers form a clear majority of history’s most creative minds, including everyone from Mozart to Georgia O'Keeffe to Frank Lloyd Wright. The crucial trick is to get up at the same time daily.

  2. Don't give up the day job
    TS Eliot’s day job at Lloyds bank gave him crucial financial security. Kafka crammed in his writing between 10.30pm and the small hours of the morning; by day he worked in an insurance office. Limited time focuses the mind, and the self-discipline required to show up for a job seeps back into the processes of art.

  3. Take lots of walks
    Walking – especially walking in natural settings, or just lingering amid greenery – is associated with increased productivity and proficiency at creative tasks. The ubiquity of walking, especially in the daily routines of composers, includes Beethoven, Mahler, Erik Satie and Tchaikovksy.

  4. Stick to a schedule
    Patricia Highsmith ate virtually the same thing for every meal, in her case bacon and fried eggs. Ritual-wise, Le Corbusier was up at 6am for his 45 minutes of daily calisthenics, and Immanuel Kant had neighbors in Königsberg who could set their clocks by his 3.30pm walk. Iron regularity is the rule. The alternative to a rigid structure is the existential terror of no structure at all.

  5. Coffee
    The only substance that has been championed down the centuries is coffee. Beethoven measured out his beans, Kierkegaard poured black coffee over a cup full of sugar, then gulped down the resulting concoction, which had the consistency of mud; Balzac drank 50 cups a day. Consume in moderation.

  6. Learn to work anywhere
    Agatha Christie didn’t have a desk. Any stable tabletop for her typewriter would do. During Jane Austen's years at Chawton in Hampshire in the 1810s, she wrote mainly in the family sitting-room, often with her mother sewing nearby. Continually interrupted by visitors, she wrote on scraps of paper that could easily be hidden away. The perfect workspace isn't what leads to brilliant work, just as no other "perfect" routine will turn you into an artistic genius.

Monday, October 28, 2013

More Than Music

"Come gather round people wherever you roam and admit that the waters around you have grown and accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone if your time to you is worth saving then you better start swimmin or you’ll sink like a stone for the times they are a-changin."

The beauty of Bob Dylan is that his lyrics stay relevant. In today’s superVUCA world, innovation is the mother of necessity and in business, we need to get over this idea of treading old ground. Musicians have done the business world a huge service in providing examples of breaking the mould, stepping out and delivering show stopping performances.

The Beatles ignored the stale Rock ‘n’ Roll formula being sold by industry reps out for quick hits. They took inspiration from a variety of styles – experimenting with strings, sitars and the famous cornet on Penny Lane. From a business perspective, Radiohead and Jay-Z have ignored the traditional path of getting music to their fan bases and gone their own way.

Radiohead became rightly frustrated with the inability of record companies to keep pace with the way music is being consumed. The industry was rigid. Bogged down by the standard release process. Obsessed with criminalizing fans who file share. So they dumped the typical promotion routine, made an album and told fans it would be available on their website in 10 days – at whatever price they felt like paying. (It worked for them. See NME’s excellent analysis of Radiohead’s Rainbow album release – 3M album sales including downloads).

Business can champion best practice all it likes, but the winners in this world are the ones who can think differently. Like Mr Bob says, it’s time to start swimming.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Go Where the Crowd Carries You

‘Dreams are free’ is a phrase that gets tossed around carelessly. As a radical optimist, I hold that dreams are what you make of them. We’re all dreamers. It’s just that not all of us are do-ers. But Danny and Drew Duffy are.

In a nutshell, these brothers are class acts on skis. They put in the hard yards in Vermont. Hours upon hours of practice. Every morning. It paid off when the US Ski Team came knocking and invited them to join the development programme. The only thing between them and their dream? Money. $25,000 each. Not small change by any stretch. Their family was already effectively tapped out covering their existing costs and education, so the brothers did what any smart kid would do in the Age of Now. They turned to the internet for help. They turned to crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding, at its core, is community currency for dreams. It’s everyday people stepping up and saying: “You want it? Do it”. A communal make-a-wish foundation. Movies, music, start-ups and sport stars. The internet is here to help.

Going professional is an expensive business. The make or break scenario so often comes down to cold hard cash. Even world champions have no guaranteed income. They spend half their time training and the other walking around cap in hand. This is particularly true of sports that don’t register any primetime attention, or require serious kit and travel to stay involved.

This where comes to the rescue. A crowdsourcing platform for athletes, it taps into fans to make the dreams of talented sports people come true. The Duffy brothers looked to and ended up raising $90,000. They were on a plane to Chile two weeks later. How brilliant is that?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dodging Bullets

Vision is a powerful sense, but does it have the power to stop time? Recent research indicates that time moves at a slower rate for some creatures.

If you’re a fly, you can process close to seven times as much info in a second as a human, which is why houseflies split their sides over our attempts to swat them – they see us coming in slow mo.

If you’re a dog you can process information at twice the rate of human, which is why TV is of little interest. A flickering image is all dogs see. If you’re a leatherback turtle on the other hand, time flies. Those guys get roughly a third of the information that we do in a second. It seems that perception of time has to do with size and metabolic rate. Perhaps nature is nodding to the little guys. Now, how to be as fast as a fly and laid back as a turtle?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Passion Economy & Others

New York digital strategist Greg Satell is a smart guy. His excellent blog Digital Tonto of October 9 ran with “4 Corny Business Ideas That Actually Make Sense.” He’s on the money. See the post for the full story of each idea.
  1. Tribal Leadership by Culture Sync based on Robin Dunbar’s research , mapping five Tribes whose cultures respectively are Hostile (rare), Dysfunctional (25% of organizations), Competitive(49%), Collaborative (22%), and Mission-Driven (2%).

  2. Lovemarks: Highly appropriate for marketing in the digital age. As technology makes breaks down traditional barriers to entry, the only sustainable path to advocacy is loyalty without reason;

  3. The Rise of the Machines: Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of MIT argue that automation is taking over in their book, Race Against The Machine ; technology is becoming so productive that machines are displacing humans; and

  4. The Passion Economy (Satell): successful managers must be able to focus the passion and purpose of high performing talent; the key human contribution [in an automated world] will be the ability to imagine and to dream.
Rah Rah #2! Greg calls Lovemarks “decidedly irrational and emotive” and me a “throwback” but “still thinking about humans.” I’ll bow to that.

Monday, October 21, 2013


Big Data is the real deal. The muscular left brain has rolled up to the advertising altar with a diamond promise of marketing perfection. This tech-driven juggernaut heralds fantastic advances in discovering, organizing and manipulating the information deluge to achieve diverse objectives. Outcomes range from awesome to scary – the Edward Snowden N.S.A. surveillance disclosure has revealed just how powerful the data munching is.

We’re in a new era of data mining, excavating, crunching, modeling, measuring, predicting, visualizing, automating, tracking, monitoring, targeting and deciding. Every industry, every institution and every individual is impacted by Big Data. Old-world marketing, personalized healthcare, crime prevention, workforce design, risk management, fertility tracking, energy provision… it goes on. Big Data is our “De-terminator,” a machine programmed to enhance value, but with power to destroy it.

The robot has even reached Hollywood in the form of script analysis to predict hit movies, with mixed receptions. In any industry, the dream side is wont to downplay the machine side of the value equation (and vice versa), but in the future I think they are partners in the sublime. An Oscar-winning writer was recently reported to have been instructed by a producer to get a script analyzed by a data cruncher. Initially resistant, the writer said that “It was a complete shock, the best notes on a draft that I have ever received.”

For the last 15 years, at Saatchi & Saatchi we’ve occupied the right-brain territory in the communications market. We have assiduously invested in understanding the emotional connections that drive humans, fully mapped this space, won by creating Lovemarks for clients, and watched Big Data play catch up. Now the muscular left brain has rolled up to the ad altar with its diamond promise.

I’m excited by the moment. Digital is quarterbacking the future of advertising, making it direct and relevant, personal, immediate and irresistible – and shuffling the players on the board. It’s going to be a fun ride.

Gartner says that by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO. Data will be in the midst of everything. It’s a dream scenario for brands to find their audiences, know individuals backwards, discover what counts for them, and deliver at warp speed.

How much of the future will be machine-driven versus meaning-driven? Everything that can be machine-driven in advertising will be – buying space, pricing, calibrating, discovering, locating, personalizing and even shaping the message. Here’s where Big Data needs Big Love, because the programs will never read humans quite the way humans do, nor will they respond to humans quite the way humans can.

The Big Data machine can read the lines, but not well between them. It can turn up at the perfect moment, but not ignite it. It can spit out stories based on what came before, but it can’t dream the difference that builds loved brands. In the crunch, the crazies break through. Spock to Kirk: “Captain, we are checkmated.” Kirk to Spock: ‘Not Chess Mr Spock – poker. Do you know the game?’

Big Data + Big Love are an arranged marriage the future can’t do without. It’s time for the two to show respect and openness for what each can bring to the party. They need to find ways to work together, not to discount each other as they often do.

Love can’t do without logic because it will never reach its potential. It needs to find the right road, meet the right people, pick the right moment and then throw caution to the wind. Albert Einstein: “Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”

Logic can’t do without Love because efficiency without quality is an end game. Without a surge in the moment, the nirvana of customized one-to-one real time marketing comes up short. The closer Big Data flies everyone’s optimal offer into us all, the more the distribution side gets commoditized, and the more the spark in the message becomes a priceless thing. We decide emotionally, and this won’t change. Big Data leads to conclusions. Big Love leads to action through the three elements of a Lovemark – Mystery, Sensuality, and Intimacy.

Watch as Big Data + Big Love plays out at decision points in every industry, from purchase through to performance. Thanks to Big Data we’re going to learn a lot more about ourselves. Thanks to Big Love we’ll never understand everything about ourselves. Until the data is flesh and blood, it will be the incalculable factors, the unexplainable pulses, and the mind-blowing ideas that fly the machine over the line.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Amazing Adventures

Phil Keoghan is an amazing Kiwi. He hosts and co-produces The Amazing Race which has been literally running for 12 years, and in honor of the new season, Phil was asked to list his favorite travel destinations. Of the people I know, Phil is the one who has been around the world most. He’s seen things most people on the planet will never experience in their lifetimes, and what a success he has made out of sharing it with the world. In the spirit of travel, here are a selection of his top picks. As the happiness equation values experiences over materials, remember that “travel is the only thing you can buy that can make you richer”. Here are four of his locations I’ve tried and three I plan to:

1. Stromboli in the Aeolian Islands
“Rising 3,000 feet out of the Aeolian Sea, Stromboli is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. I once took a chef to the top of the volcano for a five-star dinner that he cooked using the heat of the volcano.”

4. Ginnie Springs, Florida
“If you love water and water sports, put this place on your list. Crystal clear freshwater springs located in dense woodlands, the water at a constant 72 degrees year round.”

6. Maui, Hawaii
“When I think of Hawaii I always think of Jurrasic Park and the lush jungles along the Hana Highway. As far as drives go, this one is hard to beat.”

7. Iquique, Chile
“I first visited Iquique, Chile, in the ‘90s to do my solo paragliding certification. Located on the edge of the Pacific Ocean and the Atacama desert this is a flying mecca.”

9. Cinque Terre, Italy
“This is Italy at its finest. Five traditional villages along the rugged coast line of the Italian Riviera. Plus the wine and food are an equal match for the spectacular scenery.”

11. New Chums Beach, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand
“Consistently voted one of the world’s top beaches. It takes about 30 minutes to walk around the rugged coast line and a climb through the native New Zealand bush before you are rewarded with this spectacular national treasure.”

14. Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
“Spending four years in Canada as a kid I had the privilege of driving across country with my parents in a Volkswagen camper van. One of those adventures included visiting every national park in North America and this park is the one I remember the most.”

18. Istanbul, Turkey
“Istanbul is the gateway between East and West, filled with spectacular mosques and inviting bath houses. If you are a foodie, this city is full of flavor. During one of my visits I made the crazy decision to swim one mile across the Bosphorus from Asia to Europe just so I could say I’ve done it.”

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dancing in the Streets

Boogie, jive, swing, break, mambo, rumba, flamenco, Lindy hop. Call it what you like. Do it how you like. Dancing is a way of self-expression. You can do it in public or private. You can dress up to do it. You can dance at a club, or in your living room. You’re never too young – or too old – to burn up the dance floor. Remember The Hip-operation Crew?

If you dance at least once a week, in whatever style of your choosing, you’ll improve cognitive function and muscle memory and have lots of fun in the process. Dancing is also one of the few physical activities that can ward off dementia. It's better than swimming and reading. The reason? It requires you to make split second decisions, recall steps, coordinate your body, and tune into the rational and emotional parts of your brain all at the same time. The Dance Psychology Lab at the University of Hertfordshire even found that dancing helped people with Parkinson’s Disease improve their divergent thinking skills.

The great thing about dancing is there is no right or wrong way to do it. Your moves may give away your age, but dance is beautiful - even when it’s been translated into code as the people at Universal Everything have just done at the Science Museum in London.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fierce Conversations, Aggressive Listening

Susan Scott's role at Seattle’s Fierce, leadership development and training experts, is to get people to talk to each other. Not small talk; no chit chat or go-over-the-game with your mates, but to get people to really talk to each other and often in terse situations. In a room where there are competing viewpoints, you’ll know that having a productive conversation is harder than two props binding in the scrum.

In her book Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time, Susan Scott quotes French philosopher Emile Chartier “Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when it’s the only one you have.”

When everyone’s success depends on the outcome of a conversation – with a client, a direct report, a board – in a meeting, call, hallway, audio, having a two way exchange is crucial. Making sure what needs to be said is said. Don’t leave it off the table. Good management is about saying things you don’t want to say. Along with being inspirational, being in charge means taking corrective action with the people you manage. There are times to challenge and confront people when needing to have frank conversations.

It’s a complex intuitive task of a CEO. You have to persuade others to come with you. We don’t want to walk away from a conversation the same when we entered it. If you can think that every exchange you have can change your world in some way, you need to leave wide open the door to opportunity. Have a fierce conversation today.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Why Settle for Underrated?

When statistics are being used to champion safe career choices I just hope no one’s paying attention. Forbes recently ran a list of the 12 most underrated jobs in America. Underrated, because they have decent employment prospects, low stress and reasonable pay, but they’re not particularly sexy. That last point being the subjective element.

Top of the list is computer systems analyst. Electricians, plumbers, librarians, accountants and legal assistants also make the grade. The job titles are ultimately irrelevant. What bugs me about these types of stats is the idea that highlighting ‘safe’ criteria is somehow a means to selling a career choice. How about passion? If you love books and want to share your passion, become a librarian. Who cares if it’s a safe choice? Just do it. We spend a lot of our lives working. If you’re settling for a job, you’re wasting a lot of your life not delivering on your potential. Not being happy. Forget the stats. Do what you love.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Grin and Beer It

Tui Brewery is renowned for its irreverent marketing campaigns. Its blokey sense of humor is integral to its brand and its billboards are so imbedded in New Zealand that they’re effectively fused into the country’s DNA. But the success of the Yeah Right billboard slogan has seen it almost become a brand in and of itself. Tui wanted to find a way to get back to the core of its brand – capturing the essence of male bonding. It’s about banter. It’s about celebrating men being men and giving them reasons to share a beer.

At Saatchi & Saatchi we get to enjoy working with Tui to plan its campaigns. It’s not work really. It’s play. The beauty of advertising is we can do things people only dream of. Creativity knows no limits. Plumb a bloke’s entire house with beer without him knowing? Why not? It always tastes better from the tap. So that’s exactly what we did.

The reactions of Russ and his wife when they discovered ice cold Tui beer was pouring out of every outlet in their home, including the shower, were 100% genuine. Only a typical Kiwi would be so relaxed about it. The prank was completely authentic because it had to be. That’s what Tui is about. Months of planning went into the execution and it could have unravelled at any time. But it didn’t. And with risk comes reward.

As the team in New Zealand know well, you can never be sure whether an idea is going to take off and go viral. That’s the goal of course. To create some social currency. Something people want to share. Something entertaining. With five million views online and counting and media coverage from around the globe that box has definitely been ticked. It’s always a special moment when creativity and passion is rewarded. Tui embraced a great idea and it was executed to perfection. Great result.

A Nod to Sir Alex

As a fervent Manchester City fan it sticks in the craw a bit to be praising the sworn enemy but on the back of our 4-1 demolition of United a week or so ago, I’ll choke down the chicken bone just this once. Sir Alex Ferguson has been an outstanding leader and manager. There, I said it.

I don’t know many people that last 26 years in any job, let alone as a manager in the English Premier League. Certainly not in the cut-throat environment of the past decade where billionaire owners demand results or your head on a platter. His longevity alone is proof that he stood above the pack. Throw in 13 premierships and another couple of dozen trophies and his success speaks for itself.

It turns out Fergie and I have some things in common – off the pitch at least. We’re talking in terms of leadership principles. My eldest son Ben, a lost cause as a Manchester United supporter, sent me a summary of a piece on the latest edition of the Harvard Business Review. A must-read that looks into Fergie’s formula for success. It provides insights from the man himself on how he went about building Manchester United into the club it is today. Eight key lessons are drawn out:
  • Start with the foundation

  • Dare to rebuild your team

  • Set high standards and hold everyone to them

  • Never, ever cede control

  • Match the message to the moment

  • Prepare to win

  • Rely on the power of observation

  • Never stop adapting
A lot of what he talks about is directly applicable to business and are ideas I like to emphasise. At its core, Fergie’s formula is about having a strong vision and delivering on it through strong leadership. It’s about people – understanding what they need and how they can succeed. Teaching them to accept nothing less than winning. Practice like it’s the real thing so you’re prepared for all scenarios. Control change by accepting it.

He also makes valuable points about culture, trust and community. A club, or business, is bigger than one person. It’s about working for your mates and trusting they’re working for you. As he says: “The minute staff members are employed, you have to trust that they are doing their jobs. If you micromanage and tell people what to do, there is no point in hiring them.”

So while I’m a lifelong City boy who will never cheer for Fergie’s lads on the pitch, I’m willing to admire how he goes about life off it. Well done Fergie, you’ve earned your retirement.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Brazil’s most popular beer and long-term client of F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, SKOL has been named the Most Valuable Brand in Latin America in a survey of 50 brands conducted by BrandAnalytics , Millward Brown and WPP. The 50 Latin American brands are valued at $136 billion. The Brazilian multinational energy corporation and another Saatchi client, Petrobras, was #2.

Fabio Fernandes is the CEO and creative director of F/Nazca Saatchi and has led the transformation of SKOL from #3 beer brand in Brazil to its ascendancy at the top. If Lovemarks has a country as its natural home, it would be Brazil. Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy – what more can I say! The brand report noted that:

To reach the top rankings of the most valuable brands, SKOL adopted a strategy developed by Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi. According to him, brands need to create emotional connections with their consumers. Only then will be loved by them, are called "Lovemarks".

SKOL take the Lovemarks business really seriously. They continuously monitor and map their Lovemarks standing competitively. Take note clients!

Under his creative leadership, Fabio and his F/Nazca Saatchi team have helped create a brand that is young, irreverent, funny and even a little subversive. From Skol flavored Easter eggs, to bringing the spirit of Brazil’s famous Carnival into homes across the country, and transforming the humble beer bottle into designer homeware, Fabio and co have seen SKOL become an undisputed Lovemark in Brazil, not just in the beer category.

Check out Brian Sheehan’s book Loveworks for the case story on SKOL – and understand how SKOL “goes down round.”

Magnificio, SKOL and Fabio!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Leadership Lessons from the Shutdown

When foreign tourists turn up at the Statue of Liberty only to be told that it’s closed because the government has run out of money, some of them balk in disbelief. In reality the shutdown is embarrassing for America. Muddling democracy they would argue, is better than communism. Many compare the Congress to a dysfunctional family where the inability to have any constructive conversation does more damage than good to the rest of the family (am engrossed in Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards...). It’s a travesty that it has come to this, but like in all crises one thing we need to do is look at what we can learn from it.

In an article on, Samuel Bacharach from Cornell University highlights what leaders can learn from the current relationships in Congress.
  • Don't stay with your base too long. It’s nice where you’re on a team that is cheering you on. Everyone on your side agrees with your plans and what you say. But don’t get lost in it. Know when you get your people together on the same page, singing the same tune, and then know when to start reaching out to others.

  • Make only token gestures to your exact opposites. Don't spend too much time with people you can’t win over. You’ll have your hardliners and though you will need to show that you acknowledge their presence, your efforts will be wasted on trying to convince people who don’t want their minds changed.

  • Try to win the middle. These are people who are open to negotiation. They want a resolution. They may not agree with you 100% but they are willing to make concessions. You’ll have a better chance of winning their vote.

  • Know when not to negotiate. Sometimes talking does do nothing. Especially if no one can agree what to talk about.

  • Don't confuse short-term vs. long-term accountability. Keep perspective. Focus on the larger group. It's not just about your team right now, and in this case it's not just about the Republicans and the Democrats. It's the country Congress needs to be answering to.

  • Keep your ego out of the game. This follows on from the previous point. It’s not about you, and if you can keep it that way the process is easier for everyone. Don Miguel Ruiz puts it best: “Never take it personally.”

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Greatest Match in Modern Rugby?

Video source:

At Baker St Pub on 1st Avenue and 68th St NYC at 11am on Saturday were a bunch of Kiwis (including Bill Middleton, John McCabe, Chris Liddell and me) and a horde of South Africans to witness one of the greatest sports matches every played. Here are the video highlights. It was relentless best quality from both teams; extreme pressure and physicality. Sportswriters are not really cynics, they are just waiting for games like this to show up. Here are superlative extracts from NZ’s Herald and Stuff.

match world had waited for
will go down as one of the all time greats
there was carnage
maimed bodies strewn over the park
played at a frenetic pace
lead interchanging four times
crowd of 64,000 sensed
outsiders held their nerve
crucial try-saving tackle
countless heroes
the first team to record
extended this year's unbeaten run
again defied the odds
all were immense
vaunted physicality
man of the match was a standout
scene was set early for an epic occasion
tactic was to weather the early storm
but they did much more than that
the two best sides in the world
delivered and more
brutal first-half
players didn't survive
taken off in a stretcher with a protective neck brace
freak hamstring injury
quell the rampant locals
scored a brilliant first try
classy off-load
beat four defenders in silky fashion
brought the crowd back to life
one-handed off-load
superb finish
battled gallantly
defiant defence
absorbing to watch
the best rugby team on the planet.
defended their title
several moments of controversy
yet to be beaten
toughest test of the year
stood up to the physicality
too much skill and fitness
playing starring roles
a thrilling test
lead changed several times
sealing the win
courage and determination
the hostile arena
periods of dominance.
the first time since
to cope with
refused to concede anything.
a hell of a match
Messam struck back
the lead continued to seesaw
brilliant individual effort
made an incredible run

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Eating the Weird & Wonderful

As teenagers do, two Kingston boys recently attempted to elevate their fast food experience to a McBanquet. With cutlery and tablecloth in hand, the duo also created a centrepiece of straws and bravely lit candles to shed some light on what would have otherwise been a pretty generic eating experience.

This amusing vignette reminds us that even in the Age of Now, when we want things fast and in bite-sizes, eating remains one of the pleasures in life which we are willing to embrace the weird and wonderful. Forget boring and bland, here are some of the most unique culinary experiences available to be explored and enjoyed.
  • Blind Dining - In London you can eat in the dark at Dans le Noir. When you can’t see what you’re eating, your other senses go into overdrive. Your sense of taste and smell start to dominate, and your mind starts playing games on you. What is this? And why does it tastes like nothing I have tasted before? Not the best for first dates and business meetings.

  • Eating Underwater - At the Anantara Kihavah in The Maldives you can dine in the deep of the sea. They have a wine cellar and restaurant with spectacular views of sea life and you can still send a selfie to friends and family as there is wireless internet.

  • In the Treetops - How about eating in the trees? In New Zealand, not too far from Auckland, you can entertain up to 30 guests at the Redwoods Treehouse. It’s as close to nature as you’ll get.

  • Hanging in Mid-Air - Eating while suspended 50 metres in the sky is not for everyone, but it makes for an incredible spectacle. Dinner in the Sky hosts events in different cities around the world and one event can cater for up to 3 chefs, cooking your fabulous meal for up to 22 people. If the weather is bad, there is insurance!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Feeling Manipulated? It’s Probably the Soundtrack

Our aural senses are hard-wired to our emotions. That’s not a surprise to anyone, I’d imagine. What is interesting is the extent to which music can be used to manipulate our emotions. The BBC took a look at this from the perspective of movie soundtracks. The affects are potentially more pronounced because of the environment and our mental state. We head to the cinema keyed up in anticipation of being taken on an emotional rollercoaster, so we’re prime targets for some emotional manipulation.

The ways that we can be exploited is fascinating. We react physically to music and sound waves, even if it’s not necessarily in tune with what we’re watching. Horror filmmakers, for example, have admitted to using bass waves or vibrations at frequencies below the range of the human ear to induce fear in audiences. They can potentially ramp up the fear levels and heighten anticipation to the point the audience feels sick, even if nothing is happening onscreen. Worth keeping in mind next time you’re nestled in with some popcorn.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

America’s Cup Reverie

Well, that was spectacular, the America’s Cup regatta off San Francisco. Deeply absorbing, highly thrilling, full of technology wonder and human drama. My heart goes out to Grant Dalton, Dean Barker and the crew of Aotearoa for a valiant effort. Inevitably questions will be asked about how we surrendered an 8-1 lead to an 8-9 loss. The magic of sport is that it does throw up extraordinary performances and this is what Oracle produced. You could sense and see their industry in getting their boat going faster, their crew performing better, their decisions sharper.

The CEOs of both teams, Grant Dalton and Russell Coutts, both New Zealanders, are personal friends but a mile apart in terms of temperament and approach. There was something especially Kiwi about seeing 56 year old Dalts grinding on the boat for several of the races; the boss in the trenches, one of the crew, on his way to what was seemingly going to be one of the great upsets in sports. New Zealand vs The World! Our DIY nation against the fortunes of the Oracle of industrial computing! Onshore and out of sight however, was the steely mind of engineering-trained Coutts, corralling his team and machine to wring both incremental and quantum improvements against the clock and eight match points.

It would be endlessly fascinating to ruminate on why New Zealand could not deliver the killer punch and inevitably an interrogation of national character will come into play. Do we need to be more ruthless? More seriously resourced? Less taciturn and more emotional? Are these even the right questions?

New Zealanders will have a decision to make over the coming months as to whether it continues its America’s Cup campaigns. We’ve been in them for about three decades now, and as Larry Ellison said in his post regatta comments, there would not be an America’s Cup today without New Zealanders. My personal view is that the Cup brings great visibility to our sophisticated technology industries and diversifies the view of New Zealand away from being all about sheep and cows. Despite our inability to close out the win, this Cup provides our trade marketers with fantastic material to position our high tech sector given their contributions to both Team New Zealand and Oracle Team USA.

To paraphrase my mate Sean Fitzpatrick, “sport was the winner on the day.” Onwards!

Monday, September 30, 2013

What a Mess

In a world beset with uniformity and complexity, I say the crazies reign. Their creativity has unreasonable power.

Part of creativity is creating the environment where it can flourish. Which raises an ongoing question - is it about order or is it about chaos? Is it about messiness or is it about tidiness? The merits of mess – the question runs personal to professional. It can raise dynasties. It can threaten and even end relationships.

A recent research signal for productivity is that a disorderly mess stimulates more creativity than a clean space.

I think it’s about having the flexibility to allow whatever inspires people. Creativity is 90% inspiration and 10% perspiration, not the reverse. For me, creativity flows in a de-cluttered office and home environment. For many crazies, it’s surely the opposite.

If you’re in the clutter camp, Albert Einstein delivers your knockout blow to the minimalists: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Mystery of Luxury

What makes a $1,000 pen different from a $2 pen? Why would someone pay $300 for a shot of Louis XIII cognac? People ask these questions all the time when they try to understand why some things cost so much more than others. The answer is that what is visible to the naked eye is only part of the story.

“The principle of luxury objects is that all the traces of work must be invisible,” explains Paris-based journalist and photographer, Laurence Picot. And it’s the hidden craftsmanship of these objects that led Picot and a team of artists and scientists at LuxInside to explore their inner mystery with the assistance of 3D scanning technology. The result? A series of photos as beautiful and intricate as the objects themselves. An x-ray of a pair of crystal encrusted Louboutin high-heels not only produced a dazzling image, but revealed a hidden metal structure, made of metal patented in WWII.

The in-depth exposure of these objects’ does not diminish the allure of them. Rather, the opposite occurs. The scans add an additional layer of fantasy, and reveals another level of care, innovation and storytelling that makes each individual item priceless.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Are You Social Proof?

Ever considered why you’re more likely to go to a crowded café for coffee than the empty one down the road? Or why people seem to enter an empty restaurant once you’ve sat down with your mates? The answer, like so many things, is driven by our brains; it’s a phenomenon known as social proofing.

Social proofing is when we make decisions by what we see other doing, under the assumption that this is the safe and correct choice. We assume that other’s decisions are going to be more accurate than our own, and will guide us to make the right choices.

Social proof is part of how we are as people. Look at history. If lots of people drank from the same well, the water was considered safe. If groups of people were eating fruit from the same tree, the conclusion was that it wasn’t going to make us sick. We can see examples of social proofing all around us. We can’t wait to try out a new restaurant of an already acclaimed chef; we’re more comfortable with fashion trends because we see them on other people; and no doubt, there are plenty of us carrying the same phone in our pockets.