Friday, December 31, 2021

The Girls are Back in Town

Tonto’s is officially open.  On December 22 I posted a blog about the storytelling Outlaws I’d like to invite over for an evening by the fireside in the Desert.


A bunch of wild singers/songwriters/mavericks and outlaws.  I’d like my favourite ladies of The West to join us too:

·       Tish Hinojosa

·       Joan Baez

·       Julie Felix

·       Emmylou Harris

·       Eliza Gilkyson

·       Lucinda Williams

·       Kacey Musgraves

·       Miranda Lambert

·       Dolly Parton

·       Iris DeMent


With three special guests:

·       Debbie Harry

·       Bonnie Tyler, and

·       Marianne Faithfull.


That should get the party started.



Sunday, December 26, 2021

Stand Up The Storytellers (II)


Like all of us, the overachieving, unfashionable NFL’s Cleveland Browns struggled to remain connected through the Pandemic.  The players connected on Zoom by preparing – and institutionalising – the sharing of stories about their 4 H’s.


Heroes.  History.  Heartbreak.  Hopes.


As we discussed in our December 12th post, stories are the most powerful and impactful emotional tool leaders can use to connect in our ongoing remote / virtual / physical reality.  Sharing stories builds empathy, understanding, trust and commitment.  In the Browns example, the 4 H’s were an integral contribution to their 11-5 season, their best record in more than 20 years.


I’m using this myself now as 2022 feels like it will be off to a challenging start for all of us.



Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Riders in the Sky


Listening to a Storyteller playlist I created a while back on an early Arizona morning today (and knowing how much you all love a list) – I compiled a Dirty Dozen outlaw storytellers I’d like to invite around the camp-fire in the soon to be opened, freshly built Tonto’s rooftop bar in our Desert Dream enclave.


Here’s my Wild Bunch:

  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Tom Russell
  • John Prine
  • Robert Earl Keen
  • Bob Dylan
  • Leonard Cohen
  • Kris Kristofferson
  • Jerry Jeff Walker
  • Johnny Cash
  • Townes Van Zandt
  • Guy Clark
  • Billy the Kid (Joel that is)


Steaks on the BBQ, cold beers and fine red wine in the bar, coyotes howling, guitars playing, pianos pumping and stories humming.


What a night that would be.


Next week I’ll have to round up a list of favourite female storytellers to give the party some zing.


Tonight we ride.



Sunday, December 19, 2021

Not Only, But Also ...


And there’s great entertainment being streamed on other platforms too.  I’ve just watched these:


  • Bruce Springsteen – No Nukes, 1979 Madison Square Garden.  The epic E Street Band – out last week on Apple TV.  Rock ‘n roll history being made.


  • Dalida – Recommended to me by Laurent Halasz, Founder of Francine and Fig & Olive.  A bio/drama about a 1960’s legend, part of my impressionable youth.  French, Egyptian, Italian – she was truly iconic and I think was probably the most successful French performer of all time.  She sang in 10 languages and has quite a story.


  • Shetland – Series Six is available on Britbox.  I love the scenery – and Jimmy Perez is addictive.


  • The Long Call – Another British series – via Britbox.  An empathetic, gay detective in Devon.  A murder with no witnesses, no forensics and no motives.





Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Wanderin’ in the West


I grew up wanting to be a Cowboy – but as Mike Harding said:

It’s hard being a cowboy in Rochdale,
the spurs don’t fit right on my clogs.
It’s hard being a cowboy in Rochdale,
cos people laugh when I ride past on our Alsatian dog.”


And the Lone Ranger and Tonto remain my lifelong heroes.  (Despite Disney not quite delivering with Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp.)


There are three movies out right now which prove the Western genre is alive and well – in fact not only has it survived, it’s thriving!


I watched The Harder They Fall on Netflix (twice).  It puts the Wild back into the Wild West.  Tarantino meets Sergio Leone, meets Spike Lee, meets John Woo.  A mashup of hip hop, great music, great fight scenes, revenge, melodrama, violence, morality, spaghetti western, High Noon and Oceans 11.  It features Luther (Idris Elba – Esquire’s current cover star – ‘The Coolest Dude in the World’) and legendary from the real Wild West (Stagecoach Mary), Gunslinger James Beckwourth.  Spoiler alert – it’s visually violent (think Kill Bill).


The Power of the Dog starts streaming on Netflix on December 1st.  It’s in limited US/UK theatre release this week.  It’s opened to critical acclaim, including a four minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival.  Directed by Kiwi icon Jane Campion and starring Sherlock (the charismatic Benedict Cumberbatch), Kirsten Dunst and old favourite of mine (Keith Carradine).  Moody and complex – beautifully shot.  Montana 1920’s at its best.  Brilliant.


Old Henry – downloaded it on Apple and watched it on a Phoenix to Newark flight as we headed to New Jersey for a Family Thanksgiving with Mark, Vanessa and the kids.  Complex, gritty, old school, taciturn, good guys vs bad guys, father and son.  Loved it.


And watch out for 1883 (December 19 on Paramount Plus) – the prequel to Yellowstone with Country Music power couple Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.


And Apache Junction with Trace Adkins getting his cowboy as with lots of killers and thieves.


Buckle up.


Tonight we Ride!



Monday, December 13, 2021

On The Road Again (II)


From Italy to Portugal – four days in Porto, the Douro and Lisbon.  One of our favourite countries – with old friends from Portugal’s finest family-owned wine company – Sogrape.  Sessions with their Board, their leaders and the next generation hosted in their Quinta do Porto – the Sandeman / Casa Ferreira home in the beautiful Douro.  Dinners with Barca Velha, 2011 – The Lion – and my favourite red wine in the world.


Portugal has great people, great hospitality, great footballers – three of whom make up Manchester City’s spine – great food and great history.  Porto is magical and Lisbon is so alive.


Live Life, Love Life.



Thursday, December 9, 2021

Throwback Thursday – Stand Up The Storytellers


December 13, 2011


It was 10 years ago today.  I have been telling stories to the grandkids this week and it reminded me of something I spoke about 10 years ago at a conference in one of my favourite cities – Toronto.  I thought it might be worthwhile giving it another airing.




Last week I spoke to the nextMEDIA conference in the beautiful Carlu Center in Toronto. I was asked to speak about creating Lovemarks in the digital age. I showed how the power of stories is the most important element of digital communications, no matter what you are told about search optimization, email fulfillment, discount turnover, price transparency, screen resolution yada yada; these are all technical details.


The more platforms we invent, the more stories we need. Stories are critical to winning in the "Lifestream" we are in. When you're a marketer with an annual sales target to hit, stories are your best friend for connecting with consumers. Here's how:


Great stories are fast workers, outstripping our reason and logic, with their compelling truth. In the Age of Now you have to get your story across quick and clean.


Great stories touch us. They locate our inner fears, hopes and dreams - vampires and werewolves included!


Great stories are contagious. The three things to ask when judging creative work are:


a. Do I want to experience it again?

b. Do I want to share it?

c. Do I want to improve it?


Great stories bring people together for shared experiences. Sport is an innovator. The 2012 London Olympics will bring the next wave of interactive and collaborative television.


Great stories reframe the market. Lady Gaga reframed weird as wonderful. Steve Jobs reframed presence into absence. Facebook and Twitter have reframed Madison Avenue by literally moving into the street.


Great stories introduce us to great characters, people we want to spend time with. And some you don't.


Great stories make us laugh. Humor is the short cut to the heart.


Great stories create a bigger meaning. To do this you must have a consistent equity across screens, across borders, across retail end-to-end. Tactical promotions and micro-digital CRM plays have their place, but all too often brand managers slip into off-message tactical promotions.


Great stories Surprise with the Obvious. They make you think "Why didn't I think of that?" Apple's retail stores are so obvious! The Start button of the Prius is so obvious. To develop a pen that could write in space, NASA spent millions on advanced technology. The Russians used a pencil.


Great stories are crafted. If you want your talent to shine, give people Responsibility, Learning, Recognition, and Joy.


Great stories result from continuous practice. Like ideas, you have to produce lots of small ones all of the time. This is dedicated work, like Gladwell's 10,000 hours. Perfect practice. Big ideas are scarce, strung out over time, investment hungry. Shelve the idea of writing the 'Great Canadian Novel.' Fail fast, learn fast, fix fast.



Monday, December 6, 2021

On The Road Again (I)

First overseas trip since March 15, 2020.


Fully geared up with endless form-filling and Covid testing for a London transit with a flight to Milan – none of which were needed/checked.  Welcomed back to my favourite Milan haunt – The Bulgari – Attilio still ruling the roost, many of the same staff back in place.  Felt so familiar.


A new hat from Borsalino – a Lovemark.  An unforgettable dinner with Trudy’s cousins Ben, Ziggy and Donna and the perfect guest – former Saatchi & Saatchi Milan CEO Fabrizio Caprara.  Everyone in Milan getting on with getting on.


The Band back together again.  Glen stage-managing flew in from Barcelona, and Mark and Sue flew in from London.  15 years on the road together – our first gig in two years; their first live gig since Covid hit.  You can’t make Old Friends!


WOBI’s World Business Forum.  On stage for 1½ hours – adrenalin pumping, 1,000 people fully present and connected, a sell-out.  Creativity, Leadership in a post pandemic, crazy world.  Selfies, four press interviews, two TV interviews, an evening gig for Novatex and 60 of their stakeholders, a lunch gig for 50 Porsche Consulting guests.  Feels so good feelin’ good again.


Train to Florence for a private session with old friends – the Salvatore Ferragamo Family, followed by a very pleasant hour in their flagship store.  Three nights in one of our favourite hotels – The Villa San Michele – a 600 year old converted convent, with old friends Paolo, Adriano and Sylvestre – all still making VSM a one-off, special experience.


This old world still looks the same.



Thursday, December 2, 2021

Foodie Friday – A Hidden Gem in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey


Visit the Wolf.


Masterchef Adolfo Marisi has upped sticks from his NYC restaurant and settled in New Jersey, 15 minutes from our Farm.  Unbelievable.  He’s a genius.  (Keef!  He’s a Keith Richards lookalike!)  Wild, a repertoire combining old and new, passionate, caring, inspirational.


Dining at LUPA is like being in Italy without an eight hour flight and without Homeland Security.


It’s our home from home in New Jersey.


Escargots, polpo, mussels, artichokes, gorgonzola dolce, burrata, tagliatelle, branzino – everything you can dream of.  Dripping with flavour, nature and delight.


A force of nature.


Son Luca is the master maître’d and host and Isidro puts in the hard yards at your table.


Adolfo runs the kitchen band with a firm maestro’s touch – and it’s all washed down with an interesting, stimulating list of good Italian wines – not flashy – just authentically delicious.


LUPA ( ).


Secretly Famous.