Thursday, May 30, 2013

RIP Nessie

Since 1933, the Loch Ness Monster has been somewhat of a modern-day myth fuelled by anecdotal sightings and blurry photography. The legend has lived on due to general curiosity and people’s desire to believe in the incredible. Well, there has been some speculation recently over the fate of Nessie. Apparently it’s dead. It’s killer? The internet.

The death of a creature that may have never existed might not raise too many eyebrows around the world, but that misses the real point. Bit by bit, mystery is being sucked out of our lives. There isn’t a lot left that can’t be revealed by the click of a mouse. It’s not just that we like to know. Sometimes knowing too much takes the fun out of it. Even dating isn’t what it used to be. Youth don’t go in fresh and unschooled. They stalk each other on Facebook first.

When you know everything there is to know, there is nothing left to discover. We need to protect the mystery in our lives and in our brands. Mystery breeds desire and inspiration. It stokes our hopes and dreams. It emboldens our stories and creates legends. If Nessie is truly dead, I say it’s time to start rooting for Bigfoot.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Signal & Noise

Nate Silver is famous for making dead-on predictions. Having made a name for himself in baseball, he has turned to politics. In the 2012 U.S. Presidential election, he correctly picked the winner in each of the 50 states. An impressive feat. But according to Silver it’s not all about analysis.

In a recent interview with CNN, Silver talked about the importance of being able to separate ‘signals’ from the ‘noise’ if we are ever going to get better at understanding human behavior. Signals are things we should focus on. They are the real influences that drive people and their actions. At Saatchi & Saatchi we spend time with people to get to the heart of how brands and products affect their lives. Xploring is what we do to search out those signals. Surveys, questionnaires, focus groups - anything that doesn’t get intimate contributes to noise.

Advertising is more sophisticated today than it was five years ago. We have more access to information on demographics, behavioral prompts and brand loyalty than ever before. We think we can make a pretty good guess at what works and what doesn’t. But the beauty of the human condition is that there is always that little bit of mystery. We are creatures of habit, but we’re also emotional and often irrational. Cutting through the noise in people’s lives and leaving a mark is our challenge. The outcomes of elections can be predicted. But getting people to fall in love with brands is a lot harder.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Best Beats the Rest

To be the best you have to beat the rest, and for one New Zealand sports company, it’s that ethos that has set them apart. OBO makes protective gear for hockey goalies (for our North American friends, that’s field hockey – the third most popular sport). As they like to say, they’re a company from the “arse end of the world,” but that hasn’t stopped them. In 1992, OBO decided they could make a better product than anyone else. So they did just that. Now they have 60% of the world market. Nearly every goalie at the Olympic Games is wearing their kit.

OBO’s business plan is simple. Just be the best. When it’s your job to put your body in the way of a solid plastic ball rocketing at 90mph, you need to know you’re going to get up again. So OBO talked to the goalies. What could they do to not just protect them from danger, but have them laughing at it? OBO researched, innovated and delivered. More agility. More protection. Better performance.

Unlike many companies whose dream is to be a part of the current zeitgeist, OBO set out on a different path. It isn’t enough to just be in the game; they want to lead it. If their product fails, they fail. Their marketing plan is equally as simple. Tell it how it is. Be direct and honest. And stand out. OBO’s tagline is “Good sh*t that really works”. You know OBO when you see it. It doesn’t matter how small you are or where you start out. To be the best, beat the rest. Just like OBO.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The First Taste

Children react without prejudice to what they see, hear, and taste. This is what inspired Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney to make a short video for TEDxSydney. Capturing in slow motion the raw reactions to that first taste of anchovy, gerkhin, olive, or lemon. Thomas, Grace, Poppy, Sebastian, Rose, Alfie, and Miela showed bewilderment, concern, disgust, delayed delight. It was all there. Audiences have been enraptured. Delightful. Authentic. Real.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Spain Back On Top

Bet that’s a title you didn’t expect, especially with Spain’s unemployment at an all-time high. But one thing Spain is currently famous for is their food. They do it with all the mystery, sensuality and intimacy one could hope for. The Spanish are imaginative yet traditional. They understand the total sensorial experience of eating, and they have passion. In the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Spain had three restaurants in the Top 10, and five in the Top 50.

Taking out top spot is El Celler de Can Roca, a restaurant run by the three Roca brothers. Perfecting their craft for over 27 years, they’ve slowly been climbing up the rankings. It’s a family affair, which each brother bringing a different set of skills to the table. One heads the kitchen, the other is the pastry chef, and the third is a sommelier and front of house. They pay homage to the legacy of those gone before them whilst shaking things up with the use of new techniques, and their aim is to evoke memories with their food. Rich, complex and compelling. One for the list.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Nod to Nollywood

As Bollywood celebrates its 100th birthday and enjoys status as the largest film producer in the world, the second biggest film industry is one you’ve probably never even heard of. It’s not American, Chinese, British, or French – though chances are you’re more likely to have watched a movie made in one of those countries. And though we’ve got terrific filmmakers, New Zealand has a long way to go if it’s going to match the output of this small nation.

Nigeria’s Nollywood is going gangbusters, producing a whopping 2,500 movies a year for viewers across Africa, hence putting it in second place. Generally, the average Nigerian film costs about $15,000 to make. When you compare that with big Hollywood budgets (Django Unchained, which I rapped about recently, had a production budget of $100 million), you’ll understand why Nigerian’s are making films with what they’ve got. They film using affordable digital equipment and time on set lasts no more than 2 weeks. Final cuts bypass cinema, go straight to DVD, and the quick turnaround allows for movie-makers to create films based on local, topical issues and melodrama (“think Bollywood via Tyler Perry” – Time), which is very popular with viewers.

In 2003, Saatchi & Saatchi produced the film Critical Assignment for Guinness Africa as part of a campaign featuring the “African James Bond”, Michael Power, and at that time the Nigerian film industry was still pretty young. At 15 years old, it’s still very much a teenager, but there is truth that youth can teach us. With passion, the focus is more on doing than planning. It’s about getting ideas out there and circulating in the market. Failing fast, learning fast, fixing fast. And just making things happen.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Worst Job in the World

Recently CareerCast released a list of the worst jobs in the United States in 2013. Since then, Lapham Quarterly released a matrix of the 13 worst jobs of the last 2,000 years. The matrix looks at jobs in regard to how difficult, tedious, disgusting, and treacherous they were/are. Some of the jobs in the list include:
  • Banquet Attendant (50AD), responsible for cleaning up guests’ vomit and holding chamber pots for them to urinate into.

  • Viking Egg Collector (900AD), responsible for climbing down cliffs to steal eggs from seabirds, using ropes made of stinging nettle.

  • Food Tester (1520AD), it’s the gallows for you if a Royal consumed tainted food.

  • Leech Gatherer (1835AD).

  • Subway Pusher (2010AD), responsible for pushing Toyko’s rush hour subway commuters into packed trains.

  • Merchant Banker (2013AD), oops… I made this up…
After looking at these jobs, being a newspaper journalist (ranked the top worst job in CareerCast list) doesn’t look too bad.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Hackers vs Programmers

I’ve often said that at Saatchi & Saatchi we prefer Outlaws to Sheriffs, Pirates to the Navy and Hackers to Programmers.

The Saatchi & Saatchi Creative Quorum in Singapore - five executive creative directors from the Asia Pacific who drive new creative thinking across the region - defined this for us.
  1. A hacker beats the system.
    A programmer maintains the system.

  2. A hacker is trying to get in.
    A programmer is trying to stop things getting in.

  3. A hacker does things because he believes in them.
    A programmer does what he is supposed to.

  4. A hacker changes the way things are.
    A programmer tries to keep the status quo.

  5. A hacker is agile.
    A programmer is a small cog in a big slow machine.

  6. A hacker has many points of attack.
    A programmer has one job.

  7. A hacker has to be fast.
    A programmer doesn’t.

  8. A hacker is self-reliant.
    A programmer relies on others.

  9. A hacker finds paths that don’t exist.
    A programmer guards the old ones that already do.

  10. A hacker is about being interesting.
    A programmer is about being perfect.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Song In My Heart

When Lovemarks was created, one of the key elements that I could not leave out of the equation was Sensuality. The senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell have such an effect on our emotions that to leave them out would be simply unthinkable. Sound in the form of music has its roots in poetry, and in my opinion, the best songs always tell the best stories.

It is true that we don’t need music to live. It’s not like food - it’s not intrinsic to our survival – but it seems to have been helpful in human evolution. It’s also very good for the soul.

There’s a terrific story in Science of a neuroscientist who just had to study the effect of music on our brains after she was compelled to pull over while driving after hearing Johannes Brahms's "Hungarian Dance No. 5". Her name is Valorie Salimpoor, and with other researchers from McGill University in Montreal, what she has discovered is that when we have an emotional response to a song, we also have a direct intellectual one too.

The intellectual reward we get from music is pattern recognition. When music develops in a way that is slightly novel, but still in line with our brains predictions, we tend to like it a lot. Salimpoor describes it as something of an “intellectual conquest”. This, potentially, tapped in a brain mechanism that was vital for our evolutionary process and is related to our “ability to recognize patterns and generalize from experience, to predict what’s likely to happen in the future — in short, the ability to imagine.”

This explains why music is such a vital ingredient in film and in television advertising. Music creates heart. Music is a direct route to both the brain and the heart.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Winner’s Mentality

I’ve been interested in ‘winning’ for a long time. Thirteen years ago I co-wrote a book that looked at how the world’s top sports teams nurtured Peak Performance so that they could maintain their winnings streaks.

If you haven’t noticed already, I love sport and believe that it has many lessons to teach us about how to be our best. It has it all. Highs and lows. Community, tenacity, commitment. The crucial importance of taking action when the right moment strikes; and what to do in the face of failure.

So when I came across this article from blogger Geoffrey James on getting yourself in the mental state to win, I thought it was on the money.

Here are some out takes:
  • See the moments coming: Be prepared when it counts. Don’t run into the day blindly.

  • Adopt a winner’s physiology: How you look affects how you feel. Stand up tall. Look people in the eye.

  • Visualize the winning outcome: Lots of runners imagine themselves crossing the finish line. It helps them get from where they are to where they want to be.

  • Mentally rehearse what you’ll say and do: Now that you’ve seen yourself past the finish line, what are the steps you need to take to get there?

  • Disconnect from goals and results: Be in the moment.

  • Take action: Make things happen!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Showing

Being judged can be a nerve-wracking experience. More so if it’s for something you really care about. Is it good enough? Will you make the cut? How will you compare to others in your peer group? It’s bad enough to give you the shakes! Saatchi & Saatchi Fallon Tokyo has created a short film that exaggerates this anxiety to promote the first Tokyo Art Directors Club Portfolio Night on May 22. The Showing plays on Japan’s much-loved horror film genre and depicts a young creative talent as she prepares to show her portfolio to a creative director. Warning - there are a few jumps on the way!

Portfolio Night happens simultaneously in a number of cities around the world, and is an opportunity for young creatives to show their work to senior creative directors from multiple agencies in a kind of "speed dating" environment. I know that people are getting braver at letting their creativity be judged thanks to portfolio websites like Behance and the internet at large, but face-to-face feedback is a unique experience I would encourage anyone to expose themselves to. Don’t be nervous. It’s a great opportunity.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Is Business Beyond Education?

The Wall Street Journal sounded the death-knoll for business schools back in 1985. Applications were dropping. Mass closures were on the cards. The same headlines have appeared periodically since. Eight years later the New York Times headlined with “Business Schools Hit Hard Times Amid Doubt Over Value of MBA”. Last year it was Forbes asking “Is the MBA Obsolete?” If you scan the latest stories on business sites and in magazines, it seems to be in fashion to give the impression that innovation and talent trumps education. But is it true?

What is true is that the nature of business has changed. Lines of communication have evolved. Globalisation has opened up new markets and competition is fierce. Innovation is now a global catch-cry and anyone with a half-baked idea is trying to sell it. Yet we are still short of quality business managers.

In reality, it isn’t a competition between natural talent and formal education. We need both. What is important is that business schools adapt their style of teaching. They must ensure our next generation of leaders are learning techniques relevant to today. In America alone, 10,000 baby boomers retire every day. These are the people who have been our business leaders for the past 30 years and we are struggling to replace them.

Business schools know this. They also know the demands on modern managers are unique in the information age. Yale rewrote its curriculum back in 2006 and continues to regularly review it. Wharton rolled out a whole new plan last year. We are seeing a shift to customized courses tailored for 21st century enterprise. There is a greater focus on trouble-shooting, problem solving and communication skills, as I see from my own position on the Lancaster MBA programme where I’m part of Peter Lenney’s and Chris Saunders’ Mindful Manager initiative.

Business isn’t just about brilliant product, it’s about people (ideally, both brilliant). Success will come from ensuring that young people who have chosen business as their career have the right knowledge, skills and attitudes to lead.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Design of the Year

The Designs of the Year awards is bestowed by the London Design Museum and described as the ‘Oscars of the design world’. Entries for this year’s award included Thomas Heatherwick’s fantastic Olympic Cauldron, the Raspberry Pi Computer, The Shard, and a collection by Louis Vuitton. The list is eclectic, but what is even more incredible is who walked away with the big prize on the night. GOV.UK, a new single platform government website bagged the top award.

When you visit the site, you may be shocked. It’s not dressed in a designer outfit like one would expect, but it works effectively in helping people find the information that they need. It changes people’s lives by getting to the point. Driver’s licence? Passport? You’ll find it here. Housing benefits. Here too. It’s convenient, it helps everyone save money. It’s a sweet deal that seems to be getting a lot of hits.

Early on the team at GOV.UK established 10 principles to help them make the right design decisions. It’s a list that works for more than design. You can apply it to your business and most of them can change your life.
  1. Start with needs
  2. Do less
  3. Design with data
  4. Do the hard work to make it simple
  5. Iterate. Then iterate again
  6. Build for inclusion
  7. Understand context
  8. Build digital services, not websites
  9. Be consistent, not uniform
  10. Make things open: it makes things better

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Role Play

TED has just announced their speaker roster for TED Global in Edinburgh June 10-14 – and not a CEO in sight. Check out the job titles of the new millennium.

Anti-guerrilla creative
Women’s rights activist
Systems biologist
Autonomous systems visionary
Drone ecologist
Airborne logistics activist
Musical alchemist
Circadian neuroscientist
False memories scholar
Science-help psychologist
Rating agency reformer
Gentleman thief
Innovation economist
Bees scholar
Wild sex biologist
Accidental theologist
Biomaterials researcher
Regenerative neurologist
Spinal cord researcher
Biomedical engineer
Democracy thinker
Arab sexuality expert
Privacy economist
Plutocracy chronicler
Anti-corruption activist
Open-source engineer

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Big Small Screen

The HBO series Game of Thrones was the most illegally downloaded programme in 2012. Twenty-four hours after the first episode of its third season aired, 1 million people downloaded illegal copies from file-sharing sites. Usually, TV networks are up in arms about piracy, but HBO seems to be more concerned that viewers aren’t going to get great quality when they download illegal episodes. If you’re a real fan, eventually you’ll get sick of poor visuals and invest money to get a great experience. You buy the DVD set. You’ll “Like” them on Facebook. It becomes the topic of water cooler chatter.

Controlling what people do is always going to be challenge, especially if the model itself is changing. People are watching TV on other screens and they are getting rid of their television sets. Five million US households don’t own a television set anymore (this up from 2 million in 2007), but rather than kill the industry, the growth in the number of ‘ZeroTV’ households has played a part in the increasing popularity of programming.

This is the golden age of television. There is Downton Abbey, Breaking Bad, The Wire, Girls and Mad Men for starters. There is variety in theme, depth in story and character, and tons of cultural tie-ins. With mobile devices, people watch TV anywhere. With streaming websites, they can watch their favorite programme whenever they want. You don’t even need to a broadcasting company to bring out full season shows. Netflix has House of Cards and Arrested Development exclusively online for our viewing pleasure, which means more choice and better accessibility for the viewer – and that looks like progress to me.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Organic Bhutan

When Bhutan announced that it was going to be the world’s first 100% organic nation, many people went “??” Where is Bhutan? (It’s a landlocked area between China and India). Then - Is this possible?

It’s not the kind of statement you’d expect from the 162th largest economy in the world whose currency is known as the ngultrum, but it does take the concept of ‘making the world a better place for everyone’ to a whole new level.

Agriculture is the main source of Bhutan’s income and the goal is to have all their produce completely free of GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, etc. Bhutan is going to be known for something, and that something is going to be ‘real food’. They are going to shift nation-produced commodities like corn and rice up the Love/Respect Axis and infuse it with Respect AND Love. Respect, by doing things as nature intended, and Love, by taking care of its people in the process. When you consider that their whole sustainable development philosophy is based on the idea of Gross National Happiness, it’s going to be exciting to see if they can make it happen.

Here are five outtakes:
  1. Reach for the Stars: Great brands start with a dream – they are Purpose-inspired. They pulse with Spirit.

  2. Be a Creative Leader: Having creative solutions, being creative, leading creative ideas, being a creative leader, this is the performance factor to build a reputation around.

  3. Create Love: Reason leads to conclusions; emotion leads to action.

  4. Use the Three Secrets: Mystery, Sensuality, Intimacy

  5. Make It Happen: Relentless execution is the killer app.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Creativity Is Where Everything Starts

Mary Quant did it for me. Jeff Bezos had McDonald’s. For Steve Jobs, it was Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari and American food chain Chuck E. Cheese, who gave him a start in his career.

Now Bushnell has co-authored a book about finding the right creative minds for your company. Though Finding the Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Hire, Keep and Nurture Creative Talent, is titled after Jobs (publishing needs marketing after all), it is less about him and more about finding the right creative minds for your company.

Bushnell tells us to focus on who a person is rather than what they can do. Passion and intensity should take weight over qualifications. Training can fill gaps in skill, but a weak spark is likely to die out fast. If you want to spend your time fanning it into a flame, you’ll be wasting time and energy best placed elsewhere. Also, hire people for their hobbies. “Show me someone who doesn’t have a hobby,” Bushnell says. “And I’ll show you someone who is not very creative.”

In the book Bushnell writes about a conversation he had with Jobs where they discussed the importance of creativity in business. “Without creativity your company will not succeed…That concept may not sound surprising, but what is surprising is how few companies realize it, or actually do anything about it. Creativity is every company’s first driver. It’s where everything starts, where energy and forward motion originate. Without that first charge of creativity, nothing else can take place.”

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tomorrow's going to be a better day

Billy Bragg's a brilliant songwriter. And a great guy.

Here's a cut from his new "Tooth and Nail" album.

“To the misanthropic, misbegotten merchants of gloom
Who look into their crystal balls and prophesise our doom,
Let the death knell chime, it’s the end of time
Let the cynics put their blinkers on and toast our decline

Don’t become demoralised by this chorus of complaint
It’s a sure sign that the old world is terminally quaint
Tomorrow’s going to be a better day
No matter what the siren voices say
Tomorrow’s going to be a better day
We’re going to make it that way."

Count me in Billy.