The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


A Great Week …
July 29, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, China

… because as you read this, I’ll be flying to China for pretty much the whole week.

Which means no more posts for this week.

Peace. Silence. Calmness.

How about that for a great Monday!

Oh, and to my friends in Shanghai who are now fearing for their lives now they’ve heard about my impending trip – don’t worry, I’m not going to ruin your Monday – I’m going to be in Beijing, so you’re entirely safe.

You’re welcome.

See you next week, I’ll leave you with this:

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Comments Off on A Great Week …


Self Awareness Stops You Being Self Stupid …

So I was talking at event recently about ‘loyalty’ and mentioned how when the Amazon Dash button came out, one of my clients was ecstatic.

In their mind, it meant they were going to see sales grow because instead of having to risk a shopper buying a competitive brand, they would press the button and the sale would be there’s guaranteed.

In my talk, I went on to say how I told the client that was great in theory, but there were 3 things they had to think about.

1. The real winner is always going to be Amazon.

2. It was going to be a huge race to see who could get the most ‘buttons’ into homes.

3. The result would be the destruction of their hardly fought – and expensively bought – premium brand value status.

At the end, a gentleman asked me why I thought turning a brand into a commodity was a bad idea as it meant more sales and that meant more money for the brand and the shareholders.

I must admit, I was quite taken aback by this response and pointed out that being a commodity might generate more sales, but it loses profitability and – more scarily – leaves you open to a competitor deciding to either launch a price war or disrupt the market with a new product.

He wasn’t convinced and kept going on about commodity value and how soon all brands will end up following that route.

I must admit I was a bit rude to him so after the event, I sought him out to have a chat.

Turned out he worked for a car insurance company and highlighted his category was driven purely by price.

When I asked him what he meant, he said:

“As long as your company name is generally known in a generally good light, you will get business”.

It took all my strength not to laugh in his face, so instead I simply replied,

“So you do believe in brand value or you wouldn’t care if the company name was generally known in a generally good light”.

You could see him look confused, so I decided to just finish the job off by saying …

“And if you believe everything is a commodity, why are you wearing an expensive watch when a Timex does the same job?”

He smiled a ‘fuck you’ smile at me, said goodbye then left.

It was a good evening.



It’s Not Big. It’s Not Clever. But It’s A Bit Funny …

So Cannes sent out a ‘wrap up’ of things learnt from this years festival.

There was a lot of talk about authenticity and audience … great, intelligent speakers with genuinely fascinating perspectives on how we get closer to audiences without them just feeling like ‘the data told us what to say and how to do it’.

Again, this is not an anti-data thing. Far from it.

But for creativity to infiltrate, invigorate and ultimately move culture and business forwards, it needs to be resonant to the audience [and the brand] rather than be some semi-relevant message that has been designed to actively disregard the very things that makes us human.

For that I mean the messiness, hypocrisy, fears, complexity, loves, passions, habits and nuance of how we think, what we think and how we live … the stuff that gives us individuality … the stuff that is very different to just focusing on transactional data points that have ultimately been designed to give specific answers to specific questions that forgets the importance of context.

Great data folks understand the need for this.

Great planning folks understand the need for data.

Sadly, we still treat them as an either/or, which highlights our industry seems to be more focused on the ego of power and control rather than what can liberate the most interesting creativity. Ironically, while I think my attitude shows me in the most professional light that I’ve ever been, I recently got called a ‘corporate anarchist’ – which kind of reinforces my point – however all this is immaterial, because imagine the utter disappointment of the people who spoke their brilliance at Cannes and discovered in the wrap up, almost half the pages dedicated to this subject come from a ranty, sweary Nottingham lad.

Their loss.

The industries shame.

My unbelievable, unashamedly wonderful gain.



Growing Old Stupidly …

When I was in my late teens, I would go to Rock City, every Friday night.

Rock City was a mecca for heavy rock music fans.

From 9 till 2am, it would play none-stop tunes at eardrum-busting volume.

There would be the classic songs by the classic bands – Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Queen, Whitesnake – but the best bit was when they would play something that was just breaking over in the US.

It was at Rock City I first heard Guns n’ Roses, Cinderella, Love/Hate, Badlands and countless others.

Eventually, Rock City gained an international reputation and so bands would not only send them copies of their new album before they were released, but they would ensure they visited and played at the venue as part of their World Tour.

I went to that smelly, sweaty, cramped and pulsating venue for absolute years.

Starting at the Tap and Tumbler pub round the corner before queuing up for entry in the sort of clothes a stripper would balk at before hanging around the edges of the club to say hello to the friends and acquaintances you knew before finally working your way through the heaving, throbbing masses to get into the middle of the dance floor so you could be swept up and pushed around by the intense energy of hundreds of people all loving the same thing at the exact same moment.

They were, quite frankly, some of the best times of my life.

I made friends.

It forged and influenced my love of music.

I discovered what being part of a community was really like.

It pushed me to experience and experiment with things I may never have done.

Which is all my way of justifying why – when I heard they were changing the floor after
40 years and were selling the old one off in pieces – I happily paid them £40 so I could own a piece of my history forever. [See pic at the top of this post]

Yes, it’s tragic.

Yes, it’s pathetic.

But as mid-life crises go, it’s less expensive than a Porsche.

Or an affair.



Trumps Tax Plan Is Genius …

When Trump came to power he made a big deal of lowering tax for everyone.

Of course, what he really was doing was lowering tax for himself – which is weird, given he doesn’t pay any.

Anyway, when I left the country I was still waiting for my tax return to be processed.

A couple of weeks ago, I received this …

Yes, that’s a cheque for $1.

A cheque that probably costs more than $1 to produce.

But better yet, the bloody cheque is void because you only have a year to cash it and that passed on January the bloody 1st.

Given I have another US tax return in the system, I guess I should prepare to live groundhog day in about 12 months time.

You’ve got to admire Trump … he makes big promises that catch the headlines then makes sure they can’t actually happen to which he then blames the people in charge of the operation. The people that he forgets, he is the boss of. Tosser.



Nouveau Cuisine. Nottingham Style …

Yes, what you’re looking at is a piece of chocolate inside a bread roll.

Also known as my dinner.

Now I appreciate this might make you feel ill – it made Jill actually gag – but I bloody loved it and I don’t mind admitting it.

I have a strange relationship with food.

Basically, my pallet is rubbish … as I find everyday grub far tastier and more enjoyable than the nice stuff I get served when I go to a fancy restaurant for work.

I have a theory behind it …

You see my Mum and Dad ensured I grew up eating healthy, nutritious food.

Given we didn’t have much cash, there was no eating out except for birthdays and a treat was a once-in-a-blue-moon trip to the fish and chip shop.

Then – when I was old enough to go out on my own – I discovered a World of shitty food. A World of choice where I could have anything I wanted as opposed to my World being whatever my Mum and Dad wanted me to have.

In some respects, shitty food was my act of rebellion given I didn’t ever try cigarettes or drugs.

I still remember the look of disappointment my Mum gave me when I bought a can of Heinz Spaghetti Bolognaise from Asda … though on that one, she was well within her Italian rights and I’m grateful she didn’t disown me.

Which leads to how I live …

Asking for economy food on a plane even when I fly at the privlidged pointy end or, as the picture shows, thinking a piece of chocolate in a bread roll has Michelin star potential.

Of course I am not a total lunatic.

I know I can’t live like this all the time.

I’d like to … but I can’t … especially if I want to see my son grow up and set him on a path of healthy eating for the rest of his life.

So while I’ll eat tons of greens and lean meat and vegetables of every description, the reality is that every time I chew, my brain wishes it was a chocolate sandwich.

Christ I’m pathetic.



Behind Every Clean Process, Is A Mass Of Messy

I love chaos.

Always have.

In fact, my approach to work can be summed up in 3 words.

Culture. Chaos. Creativity.

And yet, I do appreciate the importance of some sort of process … some sort of systematic thinking in terms of approach … because ultimately we are in the commercial creativity business, so we need some guide rails to ensure we’re heading in the right direction, even if I am removing any specific destination.

Where things go wrong is when people care more about the process than what the process is supposed to create.

Where systematic thinking goes from direction to dictation.

That’s when things go wrong.

That’s when potential and ambition are killed in the quest for control.

But here’s the thing …

For all the processes talked about.

For all the proprietary tools hyped.

The system agencies tend to end up adopting – even when they’re hidden inside a beautifully constructed, clearly planned out, client facing framework – is this.

This is not a criticism.

To get to somewhere new … somewhere interesting and intriguing … you have to take a leap of faith at some point, even in the most well-organised, well thought-out of processes.

Some people don’t like admitting that.

Some people don’t want the pragmatism of creativity to overshadow the ego of their process.

Some people don’t even want to accept creativity rarely follows a straight line through the entire process.

And yet it is creativities ability to solve problems in lateral ways that makes it so valuable and powerful, which is why for me, those who are comfortable with uncomfortable are the ones who create the most enduring ideas for brands, business and culture.

And the ones who aren’t?

Well they tend to be the ones who use words like operationalize or optimise or codify or, the old classic, ‘proprietary tools and processes’ a lot … the ones who want to feel in control, despite the fact what they’re actually saying is they want to replicate creativity rather than ignite it.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s always some element of process in any development of creativity – whatever form that manifests – but there’s also messiness and chaos and to remove that, not make room for that or go around that is either a lie or an act against the incredibly infectious possibilities of creativity.

As Martin and I said at Cannes, chaos creates what order can’t.