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


Strategy Is A Direction, Not A Shopping List …

I am getting fed up of hearing strategy talked about in terms of a process.

Of course, there is one, but it seems people seem to value the process more than what it is supposed to deliver.

Which is clarity and direction.

Something that will change the behaviour of the brand/business from the very next day.

Something that will help create a clear position in culture, not just in the category.

Something that will contribute value, loyalty and appeal to the audience that will move them forward.

Something that is focused on the long-term, not just the next quarter.

That’s it.

That’s all strategy is.

And yet, I am meeting so many people who are getting lost in the process or worse, getting lost in the word ‘strategy’ … saying nothing can be done without it being deeply involved at every step – and I mean ‘every’ step – of the process.

Now don’t get me wrong, thinking and expertise is important – but to imply that only someone with the word ‘strategy’ in their title can do it, is wrong.

Actually, it’s insulting … especially when you consider that so much of the magic happens when you invite people who see the World differently to the party.

But it’s happening.

I’m seeing it everywhere.

And what it’s doing is creating so many strands to the strategy discipline, they’re getting in the way of each other.

That might be good for the agency fee, but not great for the work.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these strands of strategy don’t have value – of course they do – but in many areas, it’s not actually strategy … it’s not delivering on any of the 4 areas listed above … it’s simply helping push along the process of the output to get to a [allegedly] more effective result.

In other words, it’s short-term tuning rather than long term creating.

Adding obstacles rather than taking them away.

Or said more cynically, it’s more tactics than strategy.

Doesn’t have to be.

Not everyone is doing that.

Not everyone thinks like that.

But my god, it seems there is a lot of it about … and when you look at the amount of work that is being produced because of it, you have to admit that while there’s a lot of optimization, there’s not a lot of distinctive, magnetic energy.



Technology Can Make Us More Human …

Technology gets a hard wrap.

It is blamed for all manner of wrongs, when we conveniently forget we are the ones programming it and using it.

Of course, they’re not totally blameless – but like powerpoint – we have to accept that the ‘badness’ that comes from it is, at the very least, equally our own fault.

But sometimes you see something that reminds you of what power technology has.

How is can change how someone looks at the World … feels about that World … thinks about the World.

No where is this more apparent in the area of medicine, where AR is being used in ways that few ever originally considered.

Not just to make people heal, but to make people feel better.

There’s a big difference between those 2, and if you are not sure what they are, then look at this wonderful clip of an elderly, Liverpool football fan, who is suffering from demetia.

Like most things, the role of technology is in our hands. We either use it for good or for evil and the scary thing is – as we’ve found out from countless platform ‘owners’ – the line between them is very thin indeed.



Mario Has An Accident …

So I love video games.

Absolutely love them.

I’ve had pretty much every console since the bloody Philips G7000.

And trust me, if you can look at that console favorably, you must really love gaming because it was pretty shocking.

But of all the games I’ve played on all the consoles I’ve owned, one has been a particular fave.

Mario Kart.

God I love that game.

So simple yet so addictive and always so much fun.

So while I have that game on countless Nintendo consoles, when I heard it was coming out on the iPhone, I quickly downloaded it.

Only to get this …

WHAT. THE. FUCK. MARIO?!

Nintendo have always been the bastions of seamless entertainment.

Turn on and play … but they launch a game on the bloody iPhone, a device that could – in theory – open up a huge commercial opportunity for them and it doesn’t work.

Worse, they openly tell you it won’t work for a few days … which begs the question, why launch it?

Maybe it’s not Nintendo’s fault as it has been widely reported Apple launched iOS 13 too early and it’s littered with bugs [another sign that Mr Jobs is long gone] but whatever the reason, as a Nintendo and Mario fan, this has pissed me off … almost as much as it will piss R/GA off when my timesheet is filled with the job code MARIOKRT.

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I appreciate this is not exactly the best post for Remembrance Day, or maybe it’s the perfect reminder why we should all get along with our neighbours so we avoid ending up causing a wealth of pain and hurt no one deserves or recovers from.



Aspirational Averageness …

This is kind of an addition to the post I wrote a week or so ago.

You see I recently read a business magazine and almost every article – and I mean EVERY article – had a story about a company that was obviously trying to position themselves as ‘against the ordinary’.

Now while I appreciate anti-ordinary can be manifested in many ways, I couldn’t help but think that all the brands featured were selling products that were the epitome of ordinary.

Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Ordinary is both misunderstood and underrated which is why I think it would be great if a company actually embraced and celebrated that’s what they did … however in the context of the companies featured in the magazine, they were suggesting that what they did elevated them beyond all comparison.

I get why they would want to do this.

I get the commercial value of being seen to do this.

But if you’re going to claim it, your products and brands should demonstrate it and in the great majority of the companies featured in the magazine, the absolute opposite was true.

There are probably a ton of reasons for this.

From the ego of management to the job protection strategies of the people below them to the revenue fear of the agencies they work with … but that still doesn’t escape the fact the stuff they made was about as bland as a beige Volvo.

To paraphrase that old joke, isn’t it disappointing the people who know how to create extraordinary products and brands decided to end up making beige and boring instead.



Love Works In Strange Ways …

So good news, this might be the last post for 2 weeks.

TWO.

Though don’t get too excited because it might only be one.

Either way, you have lucked in as it’s definitely the last post of the week because today I’m in Paris and then on Wednesday, I’m off to Lisbon so I can speak at a conference.

Hahahahahahahaha.

I must admit, I still find it hysterical that people want to hear me talk about anything. Especially given all my ‘material’ is available for absolutely nothing on this blog.

Well, if ‘loss of brain cells’ is absolutely nothing.

And yet I do enjoy talking at conferences …

I like the process of trying to think of something interesting to talk about for the audience.

Working out the best way to get the message across without falling into the deadly presentation paralysis.

Then adding the stories that will either make the audience semi-like me, think I’m a cheeky bastard or just plain hate me.

I say all this but I bet the only reason I do get invited is to be the court jester to the audience – and given the wonderful Mr Weigel will also be at the same conference – I’m even more sure of this fact.

But what it means is I’m away till Monday so with that I want to leave you with a delightful story I’ve just heard about.

In the early 80’s, Queen worked with a German producer called Mack.

He was quite revolutionary for the band – helping change their sound and way of recording – which meant they were one of the few artists who went into the 80’s stronger than when they were in the 70’s, culminating in some of their biggest ever hits.

Another One Bites The Dust.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love.

Under Pressure.

Radio Gaga.

I Want To Break Free.

Unsurprisingly, Mack got very close to the band and asked Freddie Mercury to be his eldest sons godfather. And it’s to this background I read this story from Mack about what happened on his sons birthday.

Have a read, see you Monday and here’s a link to the video being talked about below.



Fail For The Win …

A few weeks ago I woke up to find my instagram followers had gone up over 1500 in a night.

A NIGHT.

Given it had been years for me to break 1000 followers, something seemed up.

I checked this blog to see if this rise was reflected on here?

Nope.

I checked twitter.

Nothing.

I couldn’t explain it so in the end I just accepted it must be a weird event and carried on with my day.

Except it happened the next day and then the next.

When it reached 10,000 – yes, TEN THOUSAND – instagram contacted me to say I now could access their tools to further enhance my influencer status, including adding a descriptor of what I do.

Hahahahahahahahahahaha!

Because their list of options didn’t feature ‘annoying prick’, I decided to screw with their algorithm and describe myself as a fashion model.

But why was this all happening?

Well a few days later I found out which is why I write this …

To the [literally] thousands of people who started following me because a very famous rock band [accidentally/stupidly/mischieviously] featured my instagram in one of their stories … prepare to be massively underwhelmed with countless photos of my cat, kid and colleagues.

But on behalf of said cat, kid and colleagues, may I take this opportunity to thank you for letting us all feel momentarily popular until you come to your senses and unfollow the hell out of us.



Professional To The Core …

For reasons I don’t understand – but I do like – I occasionally get asked for my opinion in industry magazines.

While I absolutely take what I do seriously, I have realized that if I was to compile all that I’ve said that has been printed, I would look a bit of a maniac.

For example, there’s this. Or this. Or even this.

And just recently I was asked ‘what Star Wars character would I be’ and this was my answer …

But here is the thing …

While many may think I do this because I need psychiatric help or have a career death wish, there’s another reason behind it and it’s about comfortableness.

You see when I was a youngster in the industry, I was surrounded by super-smart, super-senior people who were full of opinion, personality and provocation.

While I didn’t agree with everything they said, they helped me realise that ‘just because you take your job seriously, doesn’t mean you have to take yourself seriously’.

What this did was let me feel comfortable in taking to any of them about any madcap idea I had … let me talk to clients about subjects that may otherwise seem ‘off limits’ and let me work with colleagues without thinking it made me look weak or incapable.

In essence, cheekiness has enabled me to do – or be part of – things that I may not otherwise never have been able to do.

From work I’ve been a part of … clients I’ve worked with … agencies I’ve worked at and countries I’ve lived in.

Now of course, mischief is in my bones so it wasn’t exactly hard … but being encouraged to embrace my truth rather than oppress it had a huge benefit to my career and so while a bunch of what I say and do is because I’m a bloody idiot, there is a part of it that is intended to create the space and atmosphere to enable my colleagues and clients feel comfortable with being vulnerable … whether that’s expressing their ideas, their fears and ambitions or simply realizing that if I can have a career while still being a sweary fool, then they – with all their talent – surely can.

You might think this is a load of bollocks – and I totally understand get why – but it’s true.

The future of adland is not going to come from more processes, it’s going to come from more people being able to express or explore their ideas without fearing they will be judged, shot down or ridiculed.

And if you think that’s a dramatic statement, just go on twitter and see how the masses react to any idea that challenges the belief system they have bought into, even though they know for a fact that the very small amount of people who succeed – which are mainly white men – are generally the ones who reinforce the cliche rather than push or break them.

Happy Monday.