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.”