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


And You Thought The Mouldy BK Burger Ad Was Provocative …

The fast food industry is having a hard time.

As tastes change and a more healthy lifestyle becomes more desirable, it is getting more difficult for them to operate as they once did.

While some brands are evolving their offering – like McDonald’s – others are taking a more pragmatic perspective.

The most famous, recent example is the BK Mouldy Burger which ignited all manner of debate – often with people quick to say it won’t work without anyone actually knowing what the goal of the work actually was.

Well in South Korea there’s a burger company that makes BK look positively innocent.

It’s not just how they used Supreme to inspire their logo in a way Uncle Martian would be jealous of.

Nor is it their audacious copyright infringement of famous cartoon characters to talk about themselves.

And it’s not even their proud claims of being ‘100% Beef Meat’.

No … it’s none of those, it’s their utter confidence of their product over their competitors.

Take a look …

Amazing eh?

Not just the aggressiveness … but the choice of words.

Linking the words ‘burgers’ and ‘shit’ makes a mouldy burger look positively appetising.

Then there’s the fact it’s in English.

When I lived in China, there were a bunch of stores that used English in their copy.

Sometimes it was for the audience it was targeting.

Sometimes it was because they thought it made them look ‘sophisticated’.

But a lot of the time – as I think is the case here – they did it because it enhanced their ‘authenticity’.

Given burgers are very American, I feel their idea was that by using English and being aggressive in their tone, they encapsulated the American spirit and as such, could say their burgers were authentic.

Of course, given Burger King and McDonald’s are also American slightly undermines that idea, but hey – it doesn’t seem they really put too much thought into how they came across.

I must admit, when I saw it, I couldn’t help feel it was like a Viz fake-ad from the 80’s.

Viz – for those who don’t know – was/is an English ‘adult-humour’ comic.

Years ago, I approached them about starting an ad agency.

They said no, which still disappoints me as not only were their spoof ads brilliant, but based on both Billionbox and BK’s recent work … there’s more and more brands seemingly trying to copy their style but without the brilliance, clarity, humour or memorability as them.



Is Michael Jordan The Best Brand Guy In The World …

Jordan.

Basketball. Baseball. Movies. CEO. Icon.

As careers go, that’s pretty impressive.

But what is even more impressive is his competitiveness.

When I was working on his brand, we heard so many stories about this.

His relentless quest to succeed.

His insane focus and drive.

Of course, a lot of these tales have now become folklore as they became the backbone to many of his – and his brands – most famous ads … with ‘Failure’ probably being one of the most well known of them all.

And while it would be easy to brush all this off as marketing hype, the reality is they all represent Jordan at his core – his ability to reframe better than almost anyone – because he can one see one thing … the power in competitiveness.

Note this is different to winning.

Winning may be the goal, but how you get there is by being competitive.

This means you never take anything for granted.

This means you practice with the same intensity as if you’re in a game.

This means you don’t give an inch, regardless who the competition are.

This means you commit to being your best before your feet even hit the court.

It’s this approach that led us – when I was at Wieden Shanghai – to making a film in China to help kids see competitiveness as a good thing.

You see in China, while everyone knows the sheer amount of people there means you have to be competitive to stand any chance of getting ahead, culturally it is not seen as a good thing to openly talk about your ambitions.

Not because it’s a communist country – though there is a bit of that – but because it’s a country that likes to talk about harmony.

The ability to be balanced and together.

This meant kids were conflicted between acting with grace while feeling the pressure to be get ahead and we saw this tension as the perfect opportunity for Jordan – a man and a brand, built on performance – to help kids see the beauty in being competitive.

Not at the expense of destroying others, but the commitment to always be your best … never resting, never being satisfied, never losing the hunger to win.

And while some may think that is pretty one dimensional … I prefer to see it as believing in your ability to make a difference.

That with hard work, you can be noticed.

You may not win everything.

Hell, you may not win anything.

And the only guarantee is you will face challenges and hardship.

But with commitment, you can – at the very least – make it difficult for the ones who think their victory is inevitable.

And that in itself, is often the best victory of them all.




I’ve Started A Cult. Apparently …

Another day, another post about my love of China.

So a few months ago I was there for the opening of a clients latest venture.

You should all check it out because it’s a luxury fashion mall THAT LOOKS LIKE MARS!

Literally.

It was specifically designed to feel like you are on a space station on another planet.

It features everything from luna modules to robot sheep to video screens that look like skylights that show you in outer space.

It is utterly mad and yet truly amazing.

A place that is like no other I’ve seen anywhere else in the World.

But then, without wanting to sound a corporate toadie, the client is like no other I’ve met anywhere in the World … even when I was living in China, which tends to have a lot of brilliantly ambitious folks than anywhere else I’ve lived.

I have to do a post about him soon because not only is his influence on the fashion world almost unparalleled – and I am comparing him to people like Anna Wintour in that statement, let alone the heads of Gucci, Prada and countless others – but in the time I’ve worked with him, he has taught me to look at strategy in a completely new way.

Given I’ve literally been working in this discipline for more years than you care to mention, that’s pretty amazing … so I am sure you would find him pretty fascinating too.

Anyway, as part of the project, I was interviewed about what we have been doing for him and how we have worked together.

I talked about how much I love China and how much of an honour it is for me and us to be able to go there and help with a once-in-a-lifetime project. This may sound like I was a total crawler, but the fact is it’s all genuine.

We have been allowed to influence and shape at the highest level – strategically and creatively – and that’s been amazing, especially when there have been times you’ve disagreed with some of the things they wanted to do.

That’s hard for companies to hear at the best of time, but when it’s the billionaire founder of an international fashion group, that’s a whole other level of sensitivity and yet he has been nothing but open to us because he knows we’re not doing it for any other reason than wanting him to win better.

And when you’re talking about creating Mars on earth, ‘winning better’ is going to be crazy fun, whatever way you look at it.

But back to the interview.

So off we head to China for the opening.

It was packed with press and celebrities.

Billionaires mingled with paupers – errrrm, me – fashionistas rubbed shoulders with fashion disasters – errrrm, me again – so imagine their surprise when the start of the official opening included this …

Yep … that’s me.

Yep … that’s my interview.

Yep … no one understood why I was there or what I was saying.

I’d love to say I was all cool, calm and collected, but I – along with my colleagues – were pissing themselves laughing.

It was madness and awesome all at the same time.

I didn’t know whether it was like a remake of the classic 1984 Apple ad. or my attempt to be the leader of a Birkenstock cult … but it was like nothing I had experienced in my life.

Which is another reason I love this project and miss China.

Because when you are working with someone who believes anything is possible – and has the drive to make it happen – the journey is equally as much fun as the destination and I feel massively fortunate to be on it.

Even if there are people all around the World asking themselves …

“Who the fuck was that old guy in the camo Nike hoodie?”



Proud To Be Chinese …

As you all know, I lived in Asia for a long time.

And as much as I loved it all, the time I loved most were my 7+ years in Shanghai.

Of course there were moments that were challenging – but that happens wherever you move, even if it’s just down the road from where you have always lived – but without doubt, I can categorically state it was one of the absolute best times of my life and I still miss enormously.

Part of this was because I was in China at a time of great change … where the country was starting to realise its own potential and power. Because of this, I got to witness the character and creativity of the culture came together to start creating something new … exemplified by the ‘coming out party’ of the Beijing Olympics to the rest of the World.

Part of this was because I was working at Wieden+Kennedy at a time where the business World had woken up to the importance of China as a market. What this meant was I wasn’t just part of work that I still feel immensely proud of, but my team had direct exposure to a level of client that few people ever get, with an opinion that has rarely been so valued.

Part of this was because of the people and places I got to meet, go to and work with. In almost every case, everyone was generous with their opinion, compassion and hospitality. In many ways, it is the place where we felt we were part of a real community – where everyone genuinely had everyone’s best interests at heart. The impact was so great on me, that I did a presentation in Australia on how living in China had made me a better person, let alone a better professional. The impact of those years still influences and drives me today.

Part of it was because of this guy …

I am so proud he was born in a country I weirdly regard as ‘home’.

And I am so so happy he feels the same way.

It’s for this reason he wanted to wear this top to school recently.

The symbols are the Mandarin characters for China – or more specifically, Zhōng Guó.

China has been going through a tough time.

Not just because of the Corona Virus, but because of the incredible prejudice being shown towards it and their people.

I get its scary and people aren’t really sure what to do about it … but I must admit I have found the open hostility shown towards it unbelievably offensive.

How the Chinese government have reacted to this situation has been unprecedented – in fact I doubt any other nation would ever react with such pragmatism.

Yes, there have been mistakes, but compared to the terrible way they handled SARS, they have learned their lesson and are actively doing all they can to stop the spread under incredibly complicated situations – exemplified by the fact they basically banned all travel during Chinese New Year when that is the very moment where 300+ million people go back to their homes across China to celebrate with their families.

And how did the World try to help?

By banning and being outright hostile to the people and country.

The paranoia has been incredible.

People claiming to be frightened of Chinese products.
People claiming to be frightened of Chinese services.
People claiming to be frightened of Chinese people.

The bit that upsets me most is that even now – as they are closing their borders to all – the narrative towards the Chinese is aggressive and fearful … which is very different to how they have reacted to other countries going through it.

Why?

Is it because of a language barrier?
Is it because of a lack of awareness?
Or is it because of an inherent prejudice towards China and their people?

Look I get no one wants to go to a place suffering with a dangerous respiratory virus and I get borders of nations needed to be protected [as they should be always] but at a time of struggle you would expect some compassion.

That governments have shown open hostility to a country and its people who they need for their own financial wellbeing is incredible – yes, that’s you America – and they should be grateful that China as a nation does not like conflict, because if the tables were turned, I don’t think other countries would be responding in the same way.

But whatever happens, I will always love and visit China and am grateful to the country for so many things – the main one being that my wonderful son Otis was born there.



Speaking Doesn’t Mean Communicating …

A few weeks ago, I got to go to my beloved China.

While I was there, I met someone who gave me another reason to add to the millions of reasons why I miss living – and working – there.

Analogies.

Specifically the analogies people there use to make their point.

Above was was what someone said to me about the challenge facing their organisation.

Concise. Clear. Brutal. Poetic.

In a world of corporate bollocks, a lot of organisations could learn from this … because quite frankly, the bland monotone of their corporate speak might say a lot, but it communicates little.