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


Illusion Cocks …

So recently I was in Berlin and had one of the most underwhelming dinners of my life at Soho House.

For those of you who don’t know Soho House, they describe themselves as a ‘private members’ club for people in the creative industries’.

Maybe that’s true, but having gone to the bathroom and seen their urinals, I think Soho House Berlin is actually a private members club for men who like to think they’re big swinging dicks so will happily pay their $2000 annual membership fee just so they can keep using their toilets that have been designed to reaffirm their delusions.

Or something.

Regardless, it’s evil genius – because to paraphrase Bernie Madoff, when you offer people something they want, they never want to look too hard into it because they don’t want their fantasy to be shown for its reality.

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Queen Know Music Is Still A Business …

Yes, this is about my favourite band, Queen.

Yes, I know they aren’t really a band anymore and – to be honest – some of the stuff they’ve done in the last 15 years has made me cringe a little bit, but that aside, their music from Queen to Hot Space [I don’t have as much of an issue with it as most Queen fans do] are still albums I hold dear to my heart.

Anyway, as many of you may know, they’re producing a film about the life of Freddie up until the Live Aid concert.

I get why they decided that was the cut off date, because apart from it being arguably their pinnacle moment, he apparently had not yet discovered he was HIV positive so it allows the film to focus on his glory, not his pain.

Anyway, recently they released the teaser trailer for the movie and I have to say, it’s epic.

Not just because of how good Rami Malik looks in the role of Freddie.

Nor because of the bizarrely accurate voice of Brian May.

And not even because of the spectacular stage sets and fashions.

No … it’s because of the fantastic sound design.

Just like when they performed at Live Aid, the band know the best way to get people interested in the movie beyond sad fucks like me, is to remind them how many songs of Queen they know and like.

By mixing some of their biggest hits seamlessly together, they have increased the odds of making a movie about a man who died 27 years ago interesting to people who were born 27 years ago.

That’s pretty impressive, especially for a band that is almost 50 years old.

A band where the guitarist will be 71 years old in a week and the drummer 69 years old in about a fortnight.

[Not forgetting Mr John Deacon, who will be a young 67 in August. And looks it]

Now I know the trailer doesn’t really say anything and – I am still petrified it’s going to end up feeling more like a ‘Lifetime Movie’ than a Hollywood blockbuster [especially with all the issues the production has faced] – but I have to admit I have watched it so many times and been in awe every time … especially the bit between 11 and 16 seconds, where you see the different ‘looks’ of Freddie in concert, because I remember some of them from when I saw the band live.

Oh god, I’m even more pathetic than I thought.



Innovation Is About Opportunity, Not Just Necessity …

So I’ve seen something that – to me – is one of the best bits of innovation I’ve seen in ages.

Admittedly, it’s something that has kind of been done before.

And has a limited audience.

And probably a short shelf life.

But I love it because it shows innovation is not just about what you do, but what you see is possible to do.

What am I talking about?

This …

Or, more specifically, this …

What you’re looking at are the handlebars to a Micro scooter, the sort of scooter favored by my 3 year old son Otis and wannabe-hipsters who really should know better.

Now normally these handlebars have some ‘grips’ on them like this …

… but recently I saw they offered an alternative range and it’s this that I’m blown away by.

You see someone saw that the Micro Scooter handlebars are made of a hollow metal tube.

So far, so boring.

But what someone realised was that with a hollow tubular handlebar, they could make a grip that looked like this …

For those who can’t quite tell, it’s a grip that turns the handlebars into a horn, like this:

I know it seems a small thing and I know you might not be as impressed by it as me, but I think it’s bloody genius … both for the fun it adds to the scooter and – more impressively – for someone seeing possibility in something most people would ignore.

And that’s my problem with a lot of what adland regards as ‘innovation’, because in many cases the starting point is to do something totally new rather than to see the possibilities in our everyday World.

Which explains why our industry often comes up with bullshit like Peggy while other people/companies/brands come up with brilliantly simple but effective handlebar grip horns.



May The Forth Be With you …

I know this is late but then everything on this blog is late, but I absolutely love what Heathrow Airport did on 4th May.

I love it for many reasons.

But the main one is they did it right.

Sure, you could argue what they did was to hijack the day and gain some extra publicity … and I’m sure that was part of their motivation … but what I really like about it is how they went for the highest common denominator, not the lowest.

While the board features names most people will understand – R2D2, Wookie, Death Star, Han Solo, Leia – they have also used elements that only the true Star Wars nerd will get … like the name of the planets, the measurement of time and the weather conditions.

What this means is that not only will they get ‘mass appeal and coverage’, they will also make the hardcore nerds feel good about it … feel they’re dealing with an organisation that really gets them rather than just pretends to.

In a World where marketing is too often expressed as a constant stream of generalised noise … those who show their authenticity through actions and behaviour will win big every time, because as we saw in our America In The Raw study, the future of brand differentiation is going to be less about unique product attributes and more about demonstrating how you truly understand your audience.

Or said another way, resonance not [pretend] relevance.

So well done Heathrow, you deserve to be in a galaxy far far ahead of your competitors.



Microsoft Are Microgood …

Microsoft used to be the joke of technology.

Or maybe the ‘beige of technology’ is a better description.

Creating products for mainstream mediocrity.

To be fair, that perception was driven more because of their marketing than their technology … but it’s fair to say they were certainly lacking that slick sheen that turned other tech companies into Rock Stars.

But a change has been happening in Seattle over the past few years.

OK, less on the marketing side and more on the tech … but a change all the same.

Where other companies are trying to hype up small degrees of change, Microsoft have been trying to push a genuine innovation agenda. But not innovation just for the sake of innovation, but stuff that has a real purpose as demonstrated by their new controller for X-Box.

Now you may argue making a controller that helps those suffering from physical difficulties is a small market, but on a global scale I would imagine it adds up – especially when there is no real viable alternative out there. [Or one that I know of]

But that’s not the point here … it’s that they did it.

Even more than that, they did it with real understanding of the audience they’re catering to.

They spent time and money on producing a product that offers a genuine solution to people often ignored.

[You can see how this affected their process by going here]

For all the talk tech companies give about wanting to ‘help humanity move forward’, few do.

Or should I say, few do if it requires doing something that has a more ‘niche’ appeal.

Yes, I know some are doing stuff that we don’t know about, but to make a physical product specifically for this audience is a big deal … especially in this commercially obsessed World.

So well done Microsoft, this is brilliant.

Brilliant for millions of people who want to play but have been ignored.

Brilliant for showing the power of design to solve problems … again.

Brilliant at showing you use technology to evolve humans rather than devolve them.

Brilliant at being more innovative than your competitors.

Brilliant at making me feel more towards you than I have in years.

As I’ve said for years, products have done more to grow brand value than advertising.

Don’t get me wrong, advertising is hugely powerful and important, but it all starts from doing something good, not something average.

That used to be obvious. Sadly, I don’t think it is anymore.



Freddie And Friends …

Many years ago I worked with a Swedish planner called Fredrik Sarnblad.

I loved him.

I loved him for many reasons …

His brain.

His humour.

His creativity.

His friendship.

His unsatisfiable appetite.

We went through all manner of trials and tribulations together … from highs of convincing work to send us to Bali for a week so we could work on the SONY pitch strategy in peace [which, thank god, we won] to lows of being in Thailand with a client who spent all their time trying to undermine us in front of their colleagues. [which we, read: me, didn’t react to very well]

And while we’ve not worked together for over 11 years, Freddie was always more than an ex-colleague, but a real friend … exemplified by the fact that when we saw each other in Boston a few weeks ago – after almost 6 years apart – it was like nothing had changed.

My relationship with Freddie is different to that of many of my other friends.

One of those reasons is I’ve never made a highly inappropriate blog about the way they dress.

The other is that I can have really personal and emotional conversations about life with him.

That’s not to say I can’t with my other mates, it’s just I rarely do … but with Freddie, we always did and do. Talking about subject many people find uncomfortable but are true for all of us.

The reason this can happen is that Freddie is both self aware and in touch with who he is.

He doesn’t shy away from the big conversations because he knows that’s where life resides … the real stuff, not the things we use to distract us from dealing with the real stuff.

One of the things we talked about recently was happiness.

Initially it was in the context of family but it quickly evolved to the job we are paid to do.

Creativity.

We talked about what makes us happy, what frustrates us and what we can do to make things better … more fun … more interesting and exciting. We even talked about how we can work together again.

Well that conversation must have had a real impact on Freddie because weeks later, he quit his job and started his own agency.

To be honest, I think that’s a bit extreme … all he had to do was say he didn’t want to work with me again … but I’m super happy and excited for him.

I’ve written many times why everyone should experience starting their own business, but in Freddie’s case it’s a little different.

Don’t get me wrong, it will be amazing for him – but the real value will come from the companies that use him because he’ll not only make them better, he’ll make them discover what they are capable of being.

So congratulations my dear Freddie, I look forward to one day being one of your shitkickers …

Knock them dead …

You can find out what he’s doing and how he’s doing it here.



Monday Morning Giggle …

Once upon a time I was working with an alcohol client who was launching a new product.

I sat in copious amounts of meetings and watched loads of men sample – or should I say oversample – the product as part of the research process.

I kick myself I didn’t use the line from this cartoon to define those meetings. Damnit.