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


Goodbye Otis Inheritance …

Last year, when I joined R/GA, I wasted my sons inheritance by having an array of stickers made for the team.

Of course I did it under the guise of expressing our planning philosophy and approach, but really it was so they could cover their laptops in them like the vandals I wanted us to become.

Or something.

To be honest, even as tools towards hooliganism, they were still better than the stickers and badges I have had made previously. Even the one’s I did to say goodbye to America.

Well a year has passed and I’m still here [fools] so I thought I’d waste a bit more of Otis’ inheritance by having some old-school tech made for them.

That’s them at the top of this page.

To be honest, I’m still trying to work out the reason for them but I think it has a lot to do with basically being cheap as chips [go on, say it, “like me”] … so cheap in fact, that I had some made for a Mike and Sam – a wonderful creative team here – who have the misfortune of sitting opposite me.

And they say I don’t know how to win friends and influence people.



Anything Is Easy If You Don’t Want It To Last

I am unashamedly a believer in brand.

I know there is a huge amount of talk about its commercial value, but – like the talk about whether we need ‘insights’ – there is plenty of evidence to suggest it continues to drive companies growth and revenue.

And while there are accademics, like Byron Sharp, who have proven people are far less loyal than they claim, the fact remains that loyalty – whether emotional or transactional – has significant value in building sustainable success for a brand.

But here’s the thing many brand owners forget.

To stand any chance of loyalty from your audience you need to be loyal to them.

Continuously.

It’s not good enough to simply offer discounts and early access.

Sure, that can help, but audiences know exactly why you’re doing it.

Real loyalty – by which I mean there is an almost irrational connection to a brand – is born from brands acting in ways that prove why people should care and keep believing in you.

Behaviour not just words.

Progress over the comfort of repetition.

Authenticity not just chasing popularity.

Telling beautiful stories not just spouting facts or contrived ‘ads’.

As I said, there are some marketers who say none of this matters in a world where digital enables them to have ‘direct to consumer’ relationships at a fraction of the cost of brand building.

I get it. It’s quick and it can be powerful which explains why every day there seems to be a new company claiming it will disrupt the category.

But where they go wrong is not realising disruption without distinction [ie: brand building] doesn’t create long term sustainable value, it just creates new commoditization.

In such an extremely competitive, highly-pressured, fast moving world, I would argue that brand has never been so important to stand a chance of having a stronger future.

And while this might all sound hypocritical given I work for a company who is trying to invent the future of marketing – which includes building new ways to have D2C relationships for clients, finding new ways to interact with subcultures through digital and passionately believes in disrupting categories – the fact is we never do this without an obsessive focus on the authenticity of the brand and how we can help it create the future culture wants to follow rather than just exploiting the offers of the present.

For me, the real issue is we are seeing is companies wanting all the good bits of brand loyalty without much of the effort, for which I leave them with this story I heard when living in China.

The successful farmer plants their seeds and nurtures them in the knowledge that when it comes time to harvest, their crop is bigger and healthier. It takes time, but it is always worth it.



It’s Time To Say Goodbye …

So the time has come to close the door on the house I grew up in for one final time.

I’ve written the reasons for why this is happening in the past – as I have the reasons why the house was, and always will be, be so important to me – but it is the beginning of a new chapter for my family and my Mum and Dad would be so happy.

Anyway, we went to visit her one final time.

While the garden remained pretty much as my parents left it – thanks to us having a gardener visit every fortnight for the past 4 years [and we’ve taken a couple of things from there to plant in our new home so we will forever be connected] – going into the actual house was a very different feeling.

Part of it was because there was nothing in it.

No furniture.

No people.

No noise.

And so the overall effect was the house felt smaller … more fragile … and yet, as I walked through each room, there were so many emotions going through me.

As I watched my son run through the place holding his toys, I could see me – probably at his age – doing the same.

I saw where my Raleigh Grifter was waiting for me in 1989, on Christmas day.

I could see where my Dad – and then Mum – would sit in the lounge, on their rocking chair.

I could hear my Dad shouting ‘it’s ready’ from the kitchen our Saturday Beefburger was ready for scoffing down.

I could see my old clock radio when I was in the ‘small bedroom’ and my big stereo when I got ‘upgraded’ to the bigger room.

I could see the bed Mum and Dad slept in … where I would sit by them and chat throughout my time in the house.

Mum and Dad’s bedroom was especially poignant to me.

Regardless what happens in the future, it will always be ‘their room’ as they used for the entire time they were alive [and I was around].

Below is a photo of their empty bedroom that I took.

I’ve superimposed another photo of Otis that I took on the day after Mum died.

He’d just flown with his Mum overnight from Shanghai and he’s lying on the side Mum used to sleep on, looking at a painting of a mother and her child that hung above her bed.

He never got to meet her in person – he was supposed to a couple of weeks later when she recovered from her operation.

Alas it didn’t work out that way which is why this photo is so precious to me and why I feel, in a weird way, they did get to be together – hugging each other tight – if only for a second.

Another thing that got me, was when I went to the garage.

When we were having the house refurbished because we wanted to help a family live in a good area, we wrote a message on the wall about how much that house meant to us.

Well, when we checked at the weekend, we saw the tenants had left their own note and I have to say – it got to me because while my life is moving on, it was built in those 4 walls and I hope it does the same for anyone and everyone who lives there.

Thank you Mum.

Thank you Dad.

Thank you house … you will always be treasured.



Where Is Lee Harvey Oswald When You Need Him …

Ladies and gentlemen.

Boys and girls.

We have reached ‘peak hipster’ …

A monocle.

A bloody monocle.

It was bad enough when people started wearing glasses without lenses in but this … THIS!!!

And they say ‘splendid clear reading vision, when you need it’

What the hell does that even mean?

Splendid clear reading vision.

How different is that from clear reading vision.

And sure you need that all the bloody time …

I cannot tell you how angry this has made me and it’s only because they had the self awareness to add the word ‘madness’ to their website that I won’t turn up to their store with a weapon, which – given the period of time they are trying to bring back – would probably be pistols at dawn.



How Much Does Your Credibility Cost?

A few weeks ago I saw this …

Have you watched it?

Please watch it …

Seriously, it suddenly makes Ronaldo’s play acting in front of a referee look Oscar worthy.

I know a bunch of Western celebrities do ads in Asia because they get paid a ton of cash and they think no one will ever see it, but the fact is – in these connected times – people do see it.

People EVERYWHERE.

Which takes us back to Ronaldo.

Why the hell did he do this?

For a person who seems very, very aware of his public image, he must have known how terrible this would make him look.

And I don’t just mean the terrible dancing, I mean everything.

The horrific production values.

The embarrassingly tragic script.

The ridiculous premise for the whole ad.

I just don’t understand why he would do it.

He isn’t at the point of retiring.

He absolutely doesn’t need the money.

And with such star power, surely he could – at the very least – have demanded a better script or some semi-decent production values.

Which all goes to show that money might buy you happiness, but it doesn’t buy you taste.



Brighton Is Rubbish. Kinda …

I went to Brighton recently and I have to say, I quite liked it in a try-hard-to-be-cool kind of way.

And while there was a bunch of things to see and explore, one thing stood out from all of them.

This …

I have to be honest, while I am all for sorting out your rubbish, a public bin just for BBQ food is pretty spectacular.

Especially as I didn’t spot a single place selling BBQ food anywhere near it.

But as I wrote about the bins in LAX airport, by not labeling it simply as ‘rubbish’, it did stop me in my tracks.

Made me look more closely.

Made me think.

Which begs the question, for all the logic we are approaching the challenges of the environment – maybe the best way to get people to actually think and reconsider is not to bathe them in facts about our self-created, impending apocalypse, but to use language and imagery that cracks the firewalls we have put up around ourselves to manage this sort of information on our own terms.

It might be counter-intuitive, but as the Ice Bucket Challenge and the Doncaster County Council grit machine campaign showed, sometimes the most sensible thing we can do to create change is to embark on utter madness.

Just like my Boaty McBoatface argument that I am absolutely not bitter about in any way, even thought they completely ignored it and dismissed it out of hand.

Oh no.

When will authorities appreciate that humans are hypocritical.

That common sense is often in the eye of the beholder rather than their being some uniform fire of how everything should be.

This is why we have rubbish ads, rubbish politicians and rubbish products … because while I appreciate we need certain benchmarks to move forward, so many of the things we rely on are as fake as the Emperors New Clothes.

Designed to hide our truth rather than to reveal it.

That doesn’t mean you should stop talking to people, far from it, it actually means you need to spend even more time with them so you can get even closer to them. Understand their realities, their contexts, their truths and dramas and all the nuances and personal rabbit holes they go down to manage what they think and decide to do.

People are fascinating, but it needs more than a fucking focus group or poll to discover it.

As I’ve said before, if you want them to respect your clients brand, start respecting them~.



The Parents Worse Nightmare …

Being a parent is – for me at least – one of the most wonderful and rewarding experiences I’ve had in my life.

That said, it comes with pressure.

Not just in terms of ensuring your kid has a happy and healthy environment to grow up in, but that you balance your parenting time with also being an active and engaged employee in whatever job you do.

We are incredibly fortunate that Jill chose – and was able – to stay at home throughout Otis’ infancy and only now – as he has started school – is she contemplating going back to work. I am absolutely in no doubt this has enabled me to manage my Dad and work commitments in a way that – hopefully – has not let anyone down.

But as I said, we are lucky because frankly, I don’t know how single parents do it.

In a World where employers expect more and more from their employees – the ability to perform at a any level and still be a functioning, loving, caring parent is amazing.

I have nothing but utter admiration for single parents and the children – who adapt to the situation in ways that are remarkable – because I am unsure whether I would ever be able to achieve the same thing.

The reason I am writing this post is that I recently read the lyrics to the song ‘Cats In The Cradle’.

It’s an old song, resurrected in popularity by Ugly Kid Joe in the 90’s, but it could easily pass as a story about parenting … a horror story about parenting.

I don’t mean this because it features death or ghosts or the afterlife, but because it warns you about what can happen if you let your priorities get screwed up.

Have a read [but if you start, you have to read it all] … because while it was written in 1974, if you’re a working parent, it’s as relevant today as it ever was.

You have been warned.

My child arrived just the other day;
Came to the world in the usually way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay.
He learned to walk while I was away.
He was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it.
And as he grew he said,
“I’m gonna be like you, Dad.
You know I’m gonna be like you.”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man on the moon.
“When you comin’ home ?”
“Son, I don’t know when.
We’ll get together then.
You know we’ll have a good time then.”

Well, my son turned ten just the other day.
He said , “Thanks for the ball, Dad. Come on, let’s play.
Could you teach me to throw ?” I said, “Not today.
I got a lot to do.” He said, “That’s okay.”
And he walked away and he smiled and he said,
“You know, I’m gonna be like him, yeah.
You know I’m gonna be like him.”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man on the moon.
“When you comin’ home ?”
“Son, I don’t know when.
We’ll get together then.
You know we’ll have a good time then.”

Well, he came from college just the other day,
So much like a man I just had to say,
“I’m proud of you. Could you sit for a while ?”
He shook his head and he said with a smile,
“What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys.
See you later. Can I have them please ?”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man on the moon.
“When you comin’ home ?”
“Son, I don’t know when.
We’ll get together then.
You know we’ll have a good time then.”

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away.
I called him up just the other day.
“I’d like to see you, if you don’t mind.”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I could find the time.
You see my new job’s a hassle and the kids have the flu,
But it’s sure nice talkin’ to you, Dad.
It’s been sure nice talkin’ to you.”
And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me,
He’d grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me.