Thursday, January 30, 2014

Black Cabs Go Green

New York’s Yellow Cabs are symbiotic with the city, as too are London’s black cabs – they’re a perfect reflection of the British aesthetic. To bring the city and the cabs into a more future-oriented mindset, London Mayor Boris Johnson has decreed that all new taxis must be zero emission capable by 1 January 2018. At least four manufacturers have put their hands up to be considered to create the eco-cab of choice… and their plans go beyond getting you from A to B.

Turkish car marker Karsan’s design is not only low emission, but it’s door can be illuminated, with a ‘getting out’ message and arrows pointing to the respective door displaying on the back window, for the benefit of cyclists, pedestrians and other vehicles. It also has an automated wheelchair ramp – future proofing for an ageing population.

Currently road transport is responsible for around 80 percent of airborne pollution in the parts of central London where air quality is the worst, with black cabs contributing to 30 percent of particulate matter emissions in those areas. Reducing pollution will improve people’s health too, an added bonus in helping to improve London today and into the future.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Book it

Here’s one for anyone who said no to a night out to stay home and read a book; a study has found that reading a compelling novel may boost brain connectivity and create neurological changes that work in a similar way to muscle memory, with some changes lingering around for at least five days after you put down the book.

The research, conducted by Emory University, registered changes in the left temporal cortex – which is associated with language receptivity – as well as the primary sensory motor region – a part of the brain that has been linked to tricking the mind into believing that it’s doing something it’s not – which is probably why we feel a heightened sense of love and suspense when reading a good book.

“The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,” neuroscientist Professor Gregory Berns, lead author of the study, told The Independent. “We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.”

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Come for the Lakes, Stay for Food

I’ve been telling people to visit the Lake District for years and the New York Times has finally cottoned on in their tally of the top 52 places to visit in 2014. The medieval village of Cartmel features at 44 on the list and the emphasis is on the food – “Haute cuisine comes to the lush landscapes of the Lake District” – thanks to the culinary vision of my friend Simon Rogan (pictured above).

Besides the nod to medieval sights, Simon’s two Michelin starred restaurant, L’Enclume, and other offerings – Rogan & Company and the Pig & Whistle – have given foodies a reason to pilgrimage to this part of English country. “Cartmel is also home to a celebrated farmers’ marketCartmel Cheeses and the Cartmel Village shop, renowned for its sticky toffee pudding.” A visit to the Lake District will satisfy your pelt, calm your mind, and make you wonder why you would ever want to leave.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Creative Competencies

Each country has its own established way of testing how good we are at retaining and communicating knowledge. We measure numeracy and literacy, but with creativity there is no set measure or agreed approach. No uniform test. Given the subjectivity involved, I’m not convinced a uniform test is even desirable simply because there’s nothing uniform about it. Therein lies its beauty and its mystery.

Bruce Nussbaum, professor of Innovation and Design at Parsons The New School of Design in New York City, thinks there are characteristics we can look for in people with high creative intelligence. CQ v IQ? It’s a question that sparked Nussbaum to write the book Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect and Inspire.

What interested me was his assessment of creative competencies. A lot of what he refers to is the ability of people to recognise patterns and understand needs. It’s about being able to connect the dots. Knowing what is meaningful to people. Seeking ways to improve their lives through the skills at their disposal. Nussbaum also highlights the importance of self-awareness. Not just understanding our specific skill-sets, but looking at how we can re-frame them to work in multiple scenarios.

He also makes the valid point that we’re being wrongly taught creativity is a rarity reserved for ‘special’ brains. As a result, we are rejecting creative thinking in favour of predictability and conventionality. The safe ground. As I’ve said before, we’re seeing this routinely in our schools. The question is whether, having identified these competencies, there is a way to accurately measure them through a test. We are all capable of creativity. But ultimately, testing for it is no substitute for actively encouraging it.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Ritz Carlton

The Ritz Carlton is a Lovemark. It delivers mystery sensuality and intimacy time after time.

This week I was visiting P&G in Guangzhou and catching up with our Asia Pacific leaders in Hong Kong.

This is what Sophia and the Guangzhou Team gave me on my check out. A personalized Lovemarks card.

Ritz Carlton have delivered an idea our Team One folks in Los Angles gave them re-framing the entire hotel experience from the guest staying with them to Ritz Carlton staying with the guest when they leave.

This Lovemarks post card is a small example of what they forge.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Guangzhou: P&G’s Chinese Marketing Organisation

I was delighted to join P&G's Chinese Marketing organization in Guangzhou earlier this week.

A brighter, more energized, ambitious group of young people you couldn't hope to find anywhere. They are hungry for knowledge, hungry for learning and hungry for new experiences. As I was talking to them, I was reminded of the Chinese proverb which is perquisite served up with my breakfast at the Ritz Carlton the morning of my presentation. "I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand."

That's at the heart of our reflective learning today. Knowledge and information are important but nothing is as effective as learning by doing.

At Saatchi & Saatchi we believe in full 4 pillars to guide our culture. Responsibility, learning, recognition and joy are what makes for an ideas culture. And responsibility means doing things not talking about them, researching them, or strategizing them. Nike were right.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Softly, Softly Does It

In the always-on, impulse-driven, instant-everything world of today, unleash and inspire defeats command and control. People are in power, not production or distribution. Soft power beats hard power every time.

Soft power is driven by generosity. By sharing. By making people smile. By helping people live better, be together, create together, have fun, and feel loved.

For a rough-and-ready portrait of what’s loved, scope this list of top 10 most-downloaded free iphone apps of 2013. Fun and joy in the moment, a dash of direction and loads of connecting and sharing, the defining essence.
  1. Candy Crush Saga
  2. YouTube
  3. Temple Run 2
  4. Vine
  5. Google Maps
  6. Snapchat
  7. Instagram
  8. Facebook
  9. Pandora Radio
  10. Despicable Me: Minion Rush
The road ahead for many people feels hard and rocky, and the ones who soften and smooth it – the enterprises that make life that little better – they will win.

Monday, January 20, 2014

So-prisingly Obvious

The best ideas are often the simplest, they make you say: “I wish I’d thought of that!” We often don’t think if it, because ‘simple’ is not the same as easy. There is genius in simplicity. I’ve noted before that it’s about surprising with the obvious.

From around the world, 10 examples in the SO zone, or on rapid approach:
  1. Beyoncé adding mystery to popularity, with her direct-to-iTunes release.

  2. Affinia Hotels enabling New York customers to order fresh grocery delivery direct to room. Stay healthy + save money + have fun.

  3. A large ear-shaped sculpture in a public place that records and relays opinions over City Hall speakers. One way to give every citizen a voice.

  4. Inviting homeless people to read the weather on TV in cold times, raising awareness and money for the homeless.

  5. Making sports shoes out of wool. A former New Zealand soccer team captain has removed the need for socks. No socks, no smell.

  6. Zappos’ Thanksgiving Airport Game, turning a baggage claim into a pop-up Wheel of Fortune-type game. Win what your baggage lands on.

  7. Turkish Airlines letting startups pitch to business class passengers on in-seat TVs. A way to promote its country's tech industry.

  8. Companies that hire happy people. Happy employers = happy customers = happy shareholders.

  9. Netflix using piracy to pick its programming – looking at what’s popular on Internet piracy sites as part of its content-development strategy.

  10. Canalplay (think French Netflix) creating a coffee brand to attract viewers. Get 'Insomny' coffee to watch shows non-stop, with a free benefit to boot.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Speaking of Charts…

If you’re a music aficionado like my son Danis, then it’s fair to say the Billboard Top 100 is unlikely to reflect the diversity and eclecticism of an industry that is so much more than pop and rock. His passion is contagious. It means I’m never short of a source of new and fresh material. As difficult as it might be, Danis has put his heart on his sleeve and nailed down his favourite tracks of 2013. Here’s his take on the year that was.

On the surface 2013 will be remembered for two things - the chart domination of the female popstar (Miley, Katy, Lorde) and the return of the disco sound – (Get Lucky, Blurred Lines etc). But outside of this it was a stellar year of releases.

It featured breakouts artists, underground acts making the leap, and the return of some heroes (Bowie!). Most importantly, however, was the sheer variety of music. Radio no longer dictates what we listen to and the web can’t discriminate between genres. Every artist operates on a level playing field. Consumers no longer have a favourite type of music, instead their Spotify playlists and Shazam tags are littered with diversity.

This is evident in Red Rose’s 2013 records of the year, each track its own unique genre; from postpunk to c, from crack-rap to freak-folk.

So without further ado.
  1. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
    Blurs the line between punk and garage and is energetic, while being oddly humorous and littered with nods to the subversive sound of the American underground.

  2. Phosphorescent – Muchacho
    A splendid example of relaxed Americana. One man’s yearning for peace and tranquility after years on the road. A must listen for fans of Bonnie Prince Billy and Wilco.

  3. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
    James Murphy has concentrated on production and his fingerprints are all over this album; it sounds like a mash up of The Suburbs and This is Happening.

  4. Pusha T – My Name is My Name
    Solid rhymes, impeccable hooks, beats by the biggest names in the game (Kanye, Pharrell, Swiss Beats) as well as guest spots by some of the hottest young MCs.

  5. Jon Hopkins – Immunity
    Filled with ambient electronica, acoustic piano and downtempo bass. Beautiful and hypnotic – each track falling into a mesmerizing rhythm you could listen to for hours.

  6. James Blake – Overgrown
    Winner of 2013’s Mercury prize for best British album. Blake has given up the idea that he is a dubstep artist and now resides more in some sort of electronic gospel genre.

  7. Rhye – Woman
    A half Danish, half Canadian duo playing downtempo RnB. Relaxed, restrained and romantic. An all-round incredible release from a band we will hear a lot of more of.

  8. Kanye West – Yeezus
    The best curator in the business, the likes of Daft Punk, Nina Simone, TNGHT and the Holy Name of Mary Choral Family choir. Ebbs and flows like a complete piece.

  9. Deerhunter – Monomania
    Out with the psychedelia and in with the nocturnal garage – a new but exciting era for Deerhunter.

  10. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
    60s revivalist pop, wears their influences right on their tie-dye sleeves. A 9 track, 35 minute masterpiece, full of earworms and catchy melodies that will keep you coming back. For boomers it will be like taking a trip back in time, for the rest of us it is borrowed nostalgia to remind us of what we missed out on.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

In The Charts

There’s nothing like a chart to add jazz to the numbers and help people get the picture quick and easy.

Goldman Sachs have worked up 100 charts, from heavier stuff (dominance and disruption, the geography of conflict), to lighter fare. Among the snacks:
  • Biggest cities over time?
  • Where are pigs produced in droves?
  • Where are people honest?
  • Where are taxis expensive?
  • Where does whiskey go down in buckets?
  • Where do the heaviest people live?
  • Where is fast food eaten the most?
  • Which airlines run late?
  • What are the most common passwords?
  • Who are the world’s largest companies?
Want to know more?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Inner, Outer, Other – The Focus of a Leader

Globalisation. Regulatory uncertainty. Industry transformation. Increased competition. The screen-age. 24-hour news cycles. We live in a dynamic time. Throw in the increasing dominance of Generation X and Y in the workforce and it’s no surprise that we are constantly re-assessing the leadership attributes needed for success.

Daniel Goleman, the author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, believes some executives may be too fixated on the numbers. Meeting targets at any expense. That expense shouldn’t be empathy, he says. This is one of three kinds of focus Goleman argues leaders need today – the other two being self-awareness and systems awareness. Or what he calls Inner, Outer and Other focus.

Self-awareness is what keeps us in control. Leaders need to be able to manage their emotions. Adapt to the situation. Focus on what’s important and ignore distractions. They need to understand their strengths and weaknesses without being too self-involved. Empathy is crucial to relationships. Inspiring and motivating people. Reading people and circumstances and reacting. Systems awareness ensures leaders recognise the environment they operate in. The threats and opportunities.

While I agree with Goleman, I would add a fourth. Creativity. In 2010 the IBM Global CEO survey highlighted creative leadership as crucial to success. I would argue that’s growing in importance, not lessening. We need leaders with flair. Risk-takers and innovators. Thinkers who crush the box and embrace the impossible. Ideas are currency. Creativity breeds success.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Two Heroes of Mine Died Last Weekend

Eusebio, 'The Black Pearl', from Mozambique.  Along with Christiano Ronaldo the best player ever to represent Portugal.  Named by FIFA as one of the 10 best players ever.  He mesmerized me when I was 15 years old.  Athletic, strong and an all round good man.  There's a statue of him outside Benfica's Stadium of Light.  Admirers congregated all night there to celebrate his life.  He gave me a signed shirt last year.  I treasure it.

Norman Ellis, gifted teacher, terrific club Rugby and Cricket man, a mentor sans pareil (to me and many others), a husband, father and friend passed on January 5 at 3:30pm.

Norman picked me up off my backside when I was 16, gave me the responsibility of captaining his Vale of Lune colts side, encouraged me to go for greatness - and never give up, picked me for his beloved Lancaster Cricket 1st XI and helped me financially when I couldn't cope.

He made a difference.

A Top Man.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Lovemark

Lovemarks was designed as an open-source idea, and a current expression is The Lovemark an international collaborative project to build a physical architectural structure to signify the power of love. Built piece by piece out of small cubes blocks that each tell a story. Crowd-funded, anyone can be involved. As of now, the project is off the ground and blocks are ready to be bought and inscribed. No one knows where it will end up. That’s part of the mystery. The intrigue. It will be decided by its contributors. The physical specimen is going to be something to behold. I’m excited to see this vision delivered.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

10 Life Lessons From 2013

  1. A tie is better than a loss: US Government Shutdown. There were only losers when Democrats and Republicans failed to compromise on a deal to keep the Federal Government running. Not only did the average American lose faith in the political system, but uncertainty permeated throughout the world.

  2. Inspire by acting: Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela’s influence on the world is so extraordinary because of how he held himself. He was a force for peace because, when it counted, he took the moral high ground and never relented it. Collaboration over retaliation.

  3. Fight for your dream: Tokyo Olympic hosts. Losing to Rio de Janeiro on the final vote for the 2016 Olympics, Tokyo could have been forgiven for not wanting to endure the pain of second loss. Commentators initially believed Istanbul had the better story. More passion. More color. But Tokyo kept fighting. And they got it.

  4. Keep your powder dry: The rise of Bitcoin. From a few cents to $1200, Bitcoin’s value sky-rocketed this year as more users rallied behind it and the Senate showed interest in its potential. It’s still volatile, as seen by its drop back to the $600 range after China decided it didn’t like it, but this story is far from over no matter what critics say.

  5. Nothing is impossible: Lorde. A 16-year-old songbird from New Zealand storming the US singles charts and spending eight weeks at the top. Impossible, right?

  6. Be prepared to over prepare: Twitter IPO. As the NYSE tells it, everyone knew the Twitter float was going to be huge. It was oversubscribed by 30 times and all eyes were on the result. It was a success thanks to meticulous planning.

  7. When disaster strikes, it’s the response that counts: Typhoon Haiyan. It doesn’t matter if you’re a business or a nation. Some things are completely out of our control. What matters is how we react. Never be too proud to ask for help. In many cases we are defined not by how we act but how we react.

  8. Don’t make promises you can’t keep: Obamacare. Embarrassingly, President Obama has been singled out by PolitiFact as telling the biggest lie in America for 2013. When assuring Americans over his healthcare plan, he repeated the line: “If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it”. The problem was this wasn’t true, and millions of Americans had their health care plans cancelled.

  9. Remember your purpose: Pope Francis. The Vatican, for so long, had seemed far too preoccupied with its own politics and policies. Pope Francis has shown what can be achieved when you return to your true purpose – the people.

  10. It’s never over, till it’s over: All Black domination. No international rugby team had ever gone unbeaten for a year in the professional era. Not till now. When the All Blacks stormed back to knock over England, they had only the fighting Irish left to conquer. They should have lost. One mistake and they would have. But with time up they launched a final attacking raid with every man on the field bar two handling the pill before Ryan Crotty crashed over off a sublime offload from Dane Coles, with Aaron Cruden potting the extras (on his second effort) from the sideline to win it. Any other team would have lost. Not this one.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Television Remains the Heart of Media

As we start a New Year blitzed by social network after social network I can’t help but reflect on how television is transforming to consolidate the place as the market of all screens…

1.  In an era where content is king look at the series coming out of television… (where top acting, directing and writing talent is not on movies but on TV). My 2013 TV Top Ten are:
  1. Justified
  2. Homeland
  3. Game of Thrones
  4. House of Cards
  5. Blacklist
  6. Hell on Wheels
  7. Spartacus
  8. Breaking Bad
  9. Elementary
  10. Magic City

2.  TV’s are now beautifully designed, amazingly good value and sensational in HD picture quality (thank you Bang & Olufsen, Samsung, Sony and LG).

3.  The interactive/record buttons are top notch.  Have it your way TV, especially on live sports where TV now invites you onto the field with the players.

4.  Ownership and viewership are increasing every day.  In mature markets and in emerging nations.

International audiences continue to grow: As perhaps the ultimate gauge of the growth of international TV audiences, the Olympic committee predicts a 17% audience growth for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.  Taking opening and closing ceremonies into account, the Sochi Olympics should draw 3.5 billion viewers worldwide.

International audiences and multi-lingual broadcasts: As the US audience grows in terms of number of screens (mobile, tablet, etc.), the number of viewers remains static, therefore the expansion of international markets comes into focus. With the success of satellite broadcasting companies like Dish Network and DirecTV, we will likely see the creation of an international, multi-lingual television culture capable of reaching the remote corners of the earth, turning every person in the world into a potential satellite cable TV consumer.

Streaming content will be the new standard: With Smart TV’s registering 22% of all televisions sold in the U.S. in 2013, up from 11% the previous year, consumers are beginning to demand “connectedness”. With the emergence of devices like Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Xbox1 and Playstation 4, and online streamers like Netflix and HBO GO, companies such as Samsung are now by making 75% of their TV’s capable of connecting to the internet.

Consumer quality control forces cable consolidation: With events like Charter Communications’ bid to take over Time Warner Cable sparking a meteoric rise in cable stock sales, investors and industry experts predict an industry-wide consolidation in order to fight off high programming costs as well as competition. This is good news for consumers. With the cable TV industry seeking to compete with streaming services, we can expect that the product of these big acquisitions and mergers to be greater volumes of high quality content.

4K T.V.’s are here to stay: Predicted to sell 10 times as many screens in 2014 than the previous year, 4K TV’s are predicted to drive television sales growth over the next 5-10 years, sustained unlike the fad that is 3D televisions.  The TV and movie industries are shifting to make the entire production process digital. Thus the medium through which consumers view shows and movies are sure to follow the 4K format.

There is no limit to the human imagination. Trust the Norwegians. Millions of them are tuning into ‘slow TV’ – hours of panoramic landscapes, train rides, fjord cruising, salmon fishing, knitting, and crackling log fires. Over half the population tuned into a five day cruise of the Norwegian coast. Zig while others zag.

5.  Advertising revenues are growing relentlessly.

Advertising is king on America’s biggest stage: At $4M for a 30 second spot, Fox will haul in about $260M in revenue from the 2014 Super Bowl. This is one of the biggest events in television, attracting over 100M viewers in the US (by comparison, 531M people worldwide watched the 2010 FIFA World Cup final).  It’s nearly impossible to reach an audience as large and diverse this one, which is why brands invest in making the “perfect” ad meant to touch every unique community watching the game. The Super Bowl commercials not only boost sales, draw attention to brands, and create social media chatter, they draw a nearly equal amount of discussion as the game itself, illustrating that “perfection” can be worth the cost.

Television remains atop the competition: Amid the emergence of mobile device usage and the popularity of streaming content, television endures as the most effective medium for advertisers to reach their target audience.  Television has 40% of the global advertising revenue ($200B out of total ad spend of $500B), and its share is holding strong. With the emergence of new technology like Ultra HD TV’s and cyclical events like the Olympics and World Cup being broadcasted globally, TV ad spend is predicted to continue to increase over the next 5 years.

Mobile does not detract, it enhances TV: The exponential growth of mobile technology has dominated headlines and innovations in 2013, though not as a replacement for the household TV. There are simply more ways to watch. With the development of mobile DVR, consumers are capable of time shifting so that they never miss their favorite Cable and Premium television shows. Shows like Blacklist and The Following have gained up to 1.5 rating points up to a week after their initial screenings.  

Young people still watch television, just differently: Television is still America’s #1 pastime; the average American still watches four hours and 39 minutes of television daily. Neilsen reports that in 2013 the 12-34 age group watched only two minutes less TV than the year before. The decline in young viewership is slowing as content quality increases and the entertainment providers catch up with technology. TV and its advertising is not disappearing, it is simply migrating screens in order to meet the new consumer demand.

In this digital age, let’s not forget the colours of screens – Television.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Lasting Leaving Left

A New Year begins.  With an Old Friend.  I met Robin Dyke in 1987, in Toronto.

We played rugby together.  He is a warrior (still playing in his 70's) a thinker, philosopher, an athlete (he's an ace bike rider),  a competitor, a gourmand, a punster, a friend, an all round Renaissance man.

And a poet.

He just published his first book of poems.

Lasting Leaving Left

"This morning as I stirred
I sensed your presence -
your form
close as always.

My world safe and right.
Then full awake,
only empty space,
cruel and true,
I am so missing you."

Check it out

Bay Tidings Creations.

Attaboy Robin.