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


Building A Positive Office Culture Is Easy …

There is so much written about building an office culture.

There’s been books written on it.

Films written about it.

And consultants earning a fortune from it.

And I get it, because a good office culture is bloody important.

In the past I thought it was just about the people in the organisation rather than the organisation itself … but thanks to my experiences at HHCL, cynic and Wieden, I realise it’s as much about what the company stands for and how it behaves as it is the people they hire.

But recently I saw something that boils it all down to a very simple essence.

An essence that would mean those books would become pamphlets … those movies would become ads and those consultants become unemployed.

And why? I hear you ask.

Well, because the answer is simply this …

Can you see it?

It’s 4 words.

DON’T. BE. A. DICK.

OK … OK … I appreciate this might appear hypocritical coming from me, but that’s all it takes.

Don’t be a dick means respecting your colleagues.

Don’t be a dick means respecting everyones standards.

Don’t be a dick means respecting that everyone is trying to get to a good place.

Don’t be a dick is the simplest articulation of how to build a positive office culture.

Not just in terms of pleasantries.

Not just in terms of togetherness.

But in terms of the work you do as an individual and as a group.

It’s easy to get.

It can apply to every person in every situation.

It defines the standards of behaviour you should expect and give … from personal interaction to collaboration to making work.

It’s bloody brilliant.

So next time someone asks if they should hire a consultant to improve the office culture, just look them in the eye and say, “Don’t be a dick”.

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Silent Sexism …

I need to rant.

You see I’m totally fucking over subtle sexism.

Don’t get me wrong, I am over overt sexism as well, but this subtle shit is doing my head in – especially in ads.

On face value, it’s nothing.

It almost feels normal in fact.

But when you stop for a second, you see the little digs.

The references to women loving shoes.

Or the colour pink.

Or some other cliched, sexist bullshit … like doing anything for doughnuts.

Oh they’ll say it’s “all in good fun”.

Or “… it’s not meant to be real, it’s advertising”.

They’ll claim you’re being too sensitive or that you “can’t say anything these days”.

Implying there was absolutely no other way they could approach the task they were given.

As if we’re bloody idiots.

And while some simply don’t get it – having spent their life living in the bubble of another era – deep down they know.

Or at least suspect.

The reality is they just don’t want to admit it.

Even if that’s just to themselves.

So they say this shit. Write this shit. Produce this shit.

And many will let it pass.

Mainly because they’re not paying close attention to the ads.

But it still seeps in.

Leaving it’s message.

Not the one the client wanted, but the one the old, conformist, sexist guys did.

And that’s why I think it’s the most dangerous sexism of all because when it’s done quietly, it affects slowly … creeping into the ears, eyes and minds of those who are exposed to it, while those who are aware of this shit, hear it like a scream.



Is Innovation The Fast Track To Corporate Fucking Stupidity?

Over the years, I’ve written a lot about how so many of the great ideas I’ve seen have come from the minds of designers rather than adfolk.

Where so many in my industry look to create eye-candy, designers are approaching their task in terms of solving the clients fundamental problem in the best and most visually interesting way.

There’s a lesson for many of us to learn in that.

However it’s not all great for designers.

Like that Pepsi bullshit from years back, there’s still examples where designers are taking the piss more than a catheter.

For the latest example, may I present to you Vodafone.

Whether we like them or not, our lives are very dependent on the telecommunications industry.

Sure, we might not use their service to make phonecalls anymore, but our smartphone addiction means we need their data so we can instragram our food at every possible moment.

Now obviously the telco industry doesn’t like being seen as just a ‘service provider’.

Part of that might be because of corporate ego, but the main reason is likely to be that for them to grow, they need to be regarded as an innovation company … someone who creates the future as much as serves it.

Whether you think that’s bollocks or not is up to you, but the reason I’m saying it is because that’s kind of the explanation Vodafone used for creating their new logo.

“What new logo?” I hear you cry.

This one …

“No Rob …” you reply, “… you’ve made a mistake, that’s the old logo”.

Oh no it isn’t folks, that’s the new one.

No seriously.

I swear to God.

Oh hang on, I don’t believe in God … OK, I swear on my heart.

Still don’t believe me?

OK, if you want absolute proof, here’s the old logo for comparison.

“But … but isn’t that basically the old logo just with the colours inverted?”, you stutter.

Well, I would agree with that assessment however we would both be wrong because apparently it is a new logo and, when you hear how the people at Vodafone describe it, it represents a new dawn for the company and it’s role and goal in society.

Here’s Ben Macintosh, Vodafone Australia’s customer business director …

“The changes represent the company’s ability to ‘innovate for the future ‘and supply choice for customers. The wants and needs of our customers have changed, and with that we’ve changed too. We challenge the status quo and push the boundaries to give people something that they won’t find anywhere else.”

I swear to god this is not an April Fool.

This really is their new logo and Ben Macintosh really did say that.

Look, I get Apple generated billions in extra revenue by simply adding a small ‘s’ to their otherwise near-identical product but this is a whole different scale of idiocy.

For me, there’s only 2 possible scenarios …

Either the branding company [which, let’s be honest, is not a design company] are fucking delusional or Vodafone is.

Whatever the truth, if I was a shareholder in the former I’d be buying more shares in them for their ability to charge millions for taking 10 minutes to literally invert the colours of their clients existing logos and if the latter, I’d be selling my shares as fast as I could possibly get rid of the worthless bastards.

On the bright side, I’m about to make a fortune as a branding consultant and my 1997 copy of Microsoft Paint.



If You Want To Learn Insight, Listen To A Criminal …

I work in an industry that spends billions of dollars per year looking for insight.

You’d think for all that cash you’d discover some absolute corkers – but we don’t.

There’s a whole host of reasons for that.

Part of it is because this industry still mistakes insight for what people do as opposed to why.

Part of it is because some clients believe some insights may stop sales opportunity rather than open it up. [Hence the rise of ‘global human truths’ despite their fatal flaw of ignoring the importance of local context]

Part of it is because some believe that unless an insight is positive, the work will be negative. [Which is obviously bollocks, unless you use insights literally rather than laterally and even then, that doesn’t mean the work has to come out like that]

Part of it is because some in the research industry act like the legal industry and realize there is more money in keeping the question going than actually answering the question.

There’s a whole bunch of reasons, and while I believe insights can come from anywhere – I still believe those that reveal people’s beliefs, motivations and behaviours are often the most powerful of them all.

As anyone who has ever worked with/for me will know, I call these ‘dirty little secrets’, because in my experience, they tend to reveal far more than just why people do things, but the circumstances that led to this belief.

It’s not easy … it’s not always perfect … it always requires other work to validate, explore or exclude it … but I will continually push my lovely colleagues to investigate and discover, because when you reveal a dirty little secret, you are already on the road to making work that will be different and powerful.

The reason I say this is because I recently read about Ponzi-scheme King, Bernie Madoff.

While he comes across as a cold, calculated, sociopath … his intellect can’t be disputed.

When asked how he pulled off the biggest financial fraud in history, he said this …

“I succeeded because when you offer people a deal that’s too good to be true, they never want to look too hard into the facts. They say it’s because of trust. I say it’s because of greed.”

There’s a lot of truth in those 2 sentences.

There’s a lot of creative opportunity in those 2 sentences.

I don’t mean to make work that exploits even more people, but to make work for [say, a bank] that can build the sort of conversation that gives them a real chance to prove they have their customers best interests at heart.

But it won’t happen because too many clients think ‘negative insights’ leads to negative work [which is utter bullshit] and most banks already know what Mr Maddoff said, because that’s how they continue to screw the taxpayer out of cash to line their own pockets.

Shame, because a financial institution that decided to be utterly transparent and then communicated, “the reason we tell you everything is we don’t want you to blame us for anything” might be quite a refreshing change.



If More Proof Was Needed …
October 17, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: America, Attitude & Aptitude, Corporate Evil, Culture, Death, Social Divide

A few weeks ago I wrote about everything I thought was wrong in America.

For such an amazing country, it’s mind-blowing to me that there is resistance to dealing with the issues undermining it.

Worse, there’s resistance to even talking about the issues undermining it.

In the post, I highlighted one issue in particular.

Gun control.

Despite the mountains of evidence, the NRA continues to ignore the damage and dangers of gun ownership.

They fight aggressively against any challenge to it.

Any.

They use ‘government control’ as their reasoning behind their obstinance.

That if they give in to this, what else will the government want to take away.

It’s a fucking stupid argument made worse by the fact I received this in my letterbox recently.

Admittedly it was addressed to the person who used to own our house.

A cop.

But that doesn’t take away the fact an organization felt it was necessary to send out a pamphlet about how to deal with school violence – specifically violence that goes ‘beyond the active shooter’.

I don’t know about you, but this makes me ill.

School should be a place of safety.

I know that’s unrealistic, but there’s a massive difference between worrying about bullying and worrying about being shot.

And yet the NRA choose to ignore their role in this situation.

Preferring to blame the shooter rather than acknowledge any role the guns play in allowing people to kill on a mass scale.

The fact this pamphlet had to be sent out at all should be enough for America to realise the gun laws in their country need a major overhaul.

Sadly it won’t be.



America Has A Portion Control Problem …

As many know, America is the most obese nation on earth.

When you know this, I guess it’s less of a surprise when they say anyone who spends 2 weeks in America will put on approx 8 pounds in weight.

I could talk about the many, many reasons that contribute to this situation – from poverty to profit to, as I read recently, that the biggest fear for anyone who has guests is running out of food … hence they overcook by significant amounts.

Anyway, this is all an excuse to show you this picture …

As you can see, it’s a mountain of onion rings.

If you look carefully behind them, you’ll see the look of shock on my sons face.

Now you may think that is an optical illusion, but it’s not … it really was that big.

But here’s the amazing thing.

That wasn’t a portion of onion rings … that was a half portion.

HALF!!!

Seriously!!!

Apart from the fact if you ate that amount there isn’t enough toothpaste in the World to stop your breath smelling of onion for 19 years, that was the starter.

The bloody starter.

Now I like onion.

I bloody love onion.

But even I couldn’t eat more than a few strands and so there was an enormous amount left which – I presume – was then thrown away.

A while ago – 3+ years to be exact – I wrote about the insane portion control of the Hard Rock Cafe in NYC.

What made it worse was they were running a campaign at the time about stopping hunger.

Well given that obesity is a cause of so many illnesses in America – illnesses that have a huge, detrimental affect on the economy – I can’t work out why the government don’t mandate portion sizes at restaurants. Yes, I know for many people, they take what they don’t eat back home … but how much of that is actually eaten versus kept in the fridge for a few days and then thrown out.

The irony here is that fast food restaurants – the ones who often get the most abuse – are way, way, way better than more ‘formal’ restaurants.

Part of that is because they don’t want lawsuits against them … part of that is that they know their audience so well that they know how much they actually eat and part of that is that they have a huge number of stores, so they don’t have to win on quantity but simply offering the convenience of giving people what they want when they want it.

But these big ‘restaurants’ aren’t like that and that’s why I feel they are particularly guilty of creating food wastage.

For me, it is one of the worst things in society.

We have people hungry and we have people getting ill because of obesity.

It wouldn’t take much to actually start helping to reduce this, but sadly America has been sold the belief that quantity always trumps quality and until that attitude starts changing, then the allegedly most powerful country on Earth, will continue to act in a way that seems weak.



Inspired By …

My whole family are connected to the law.

Not the bullshit, sharp-suit, high-charging wankers we hear so much about these days, but the guys fighting for genuine justice.

My father in particular hated what the legal industry had become … from being a discipline that fought for justice to one that now tries to keep problems going so they can keep charging exorbitant fees.

So what has that got to do with the picture of these Gummy Pandas.

Well, I saw these in a local Starbucks and I just thought how mad this was allowed to exist.

We all know it’s a take on Gummy Bears.

We all know they’re trying to steal business from Gummy Bears.

We all know they’re trying to make people think they’re getting Gummy Bears.

OK, so it’s a bloody sweet that you don’t really pay much attention to … but if this was a person, it would be identity theft and yet companies continue to pay huge amounts to law firms to protect their hard work when anyone can set up what is basically a duplicate brand by simply changing a letter or – in the case of Uncle Martian – not even putting in that effort.

Anyway, the real reason I’m writing this is because I wanted an excuse to link to my favorite ever Amazon reviews for [Sugar Free] Gummy Bears and I assure you, it’s way, waaaaay, waaaaaaaaay more enjoyable than this post.