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


The Opposite Of Agile …

Look at this chart doing the rounds right now.

Look at it!!!

Do you know what it is?

Allow me to tell you …

It’s corporate fear culture disguised as a couple of million quid in fees for Deloitte’s.

That simple.

Hell, it even makes that utter insane Pepsi logo design process book look clear and simply in comparison. And let me reassure you, it was neither clear. Or simple.

Look, I get there’s a lot of complexity in this world.

I get that solutions often require a number of processes, skillsets and collaboration.

But come on … this is ridiculous, especially under the title of ‘agility’.

All it reminds me of is something one of my amazing mentors once told me.

He is an extremely successful businessman who has interacted with all manner of consultants at the highest level, so this is an informed perspective, not some bitter and twisted creative obsessed strategist.

“When a solution is more complex than the problem, then you’re not buying the answer, you’re buying the C-Suite’s annual bonus”.

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As an aside, I’ve written about a bunch of other brilliance he has told/taught me over the years, which you can read here.
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I look at that chart and keep thinking it’s basically a version of the board game Monopoly.

And then I realise that’s EXACTLY what it is, because it’s designed for you to keep paying Deloitte every time you pass go.

Or get lost.

It’s the ultimate selling tool.

Because not only has it been designed to put the fear of god into organisations about things potentially going wrong, it doesn’t necessarily have an output other than ‘business as usual’.

The last time they had something so powerful is when they made billions helping companies worried that the millennium bug would bring down their computer systems.

Of course, every few years they come out with something else to keep the money coming in.

Digital Transformation is one of the most recent fads, which my mentor [yet again] had an interesting take on:

“The C-Suite buy digital transformation because it sounds modern and progressive. That they’re moving ahead into a brave, new World. What they’re really buying is infastucture modernisation … designed to simply not leave them too far behind”.

Now it is important to note not all consultants are bad.

In fact, some are brilliant and fascinating. Red Associates are a particular fave of mine.

[You can read about them in more detail here]

And then there’s FNDR, with my old mate Nick Barham … who are doing interesting things and aren’t packaging it all into making a new logo or website to justify their fee.

However this stuff is ridiculous, and while we can point and laugh and say the people who sell this are charlatans and the people who buy it are idiots, the reality is they’re buying more of it – and for more money – than anything adland has done in decades.

But here’s the thing.

Anything is easy if you [1] don’t have to execute it [2] don’t care about the effectiveness and [3] only care about the cash.

Which leads me to something a mate of mine told me recently.

The difference between a liar and a bullshitter.

A liar knows the reality of a situation but changes/exaggerates the facts within the context of that to achieve their goal.

A bullshitter doesn’t care about truth, so will say whatever is needed to achieve their goal.

And with that, I’ll leave you to decide which one this chart belongs to.



Our Purpose Is To Kill You …

Hello!

Yes, I’m back.

And yes, we’re in our new home.

Hell, we’ve almost totally unpacked.

Emphasis on ‘almost’.

We’ve also had more conversations with the people in the village in the last few days than we had with everyone in London, combined.

Friendly is very weird.

I remember when we lived in LA, the neighbours came and brought us ‘welcoming gifts’.

That freaked me out big time.

Fortunately England doesn’t allow for that level of intimacy, so we just had to make do with polite and interested conversation.

Anyway, I want to start the week with a post about this …

That, ladies and gentlemen, is Kraft/Heinz new product push.

Mac and cheese for breakfast.

BREAKFAST!!!

Their rationale for it is apparently that they found 56% of busy parents serve their kids Mac & Cheese for breakfast.

Now I appreciate I don’t know all the facts, but I’m calling bullshit on this.

Part of that is because I am pretty sure cereal and milk or toast is faster than making Mac & Cheese. The other part is that 56% figure lacks any context … in terms of the number of ‘busy parents’ that were asked and where.

David Lin, a friend of mine, suggested the marketing meeting went something like this:

“We can drive growth by building more occasions … we need to own breakfast”

Given the share price collapse of Heinz in recent years, I think he is bang on.

But there’s something else this news highlights.

This Kraft/Heinz brand purpose reads as this …

As a global food company, the Kraft Heinz Company’s ambition is to help end hunger worldwide.

Unless they believe the best way to achieve their purpose is to kill people with obesity, then it suggests here’s another example where brand purpose is utter shit … designed to make the board feel better about what they do without actually having to do it.

Or said another way, Martin was right. As usual.



When McKinsey Turns You Into An Influencer, You Get To Feel Your Privilege, Not Just Experience It …

So a few weeks ago, I saw a tweet that asked about ‘most awkward’ presentation.

Given I’d just read a terribly superficial [and out-of-touch] document they’d written on China, it reminded me of something that happened with me and McKinsey in China a few years ago.

So I wrote this:

As soon as I posted it, I knew it had hit a nerve as my phone was continually buzzing – but whereas it normally stops after about 4 seconds, this carried on. In fact it got more intense. So intense in fact that within 48 hours, it had achieved this:

22,000 likes.
5,500 retweets
300+ comments

In addition to that, I got contacted by people in the US, Mexico and China who said I had set off a vibrant debate in their respective countries via their respective versions of Linkedin, Instagram and Twitter.

Hell, I even got contacted by Consulting Humour [which is apparently ‘a thing’] who wanted to post it.

MADNESS.

But what’s even more mad is that almost everyone who commented was nice to me.

Even the people who disagreed with what I’d written.

And yet, despite all that, I found it overwhelming … like being in a car that’s on the edge of going out of control.

It got so uncomfortable that I had to delete my Twitter for a few hours so I could catch my breath.

But what was obvious was a lot of people have a lot of issues with McKinsey and consultancies as a whole.

The main issue seemingly being they get paid a fortune for their advice but don’t have to take any responsibility for what they recommend.

This was the message a huge range of people working in a huge range of industries said … from small businesses to multinationals to entrepreneurs to ex-McKinsey consultants.

Now I am under no illusion that McKinsey won’t give a shit about what I said – and I don’t blame them – but I do think they should be a bit nervous that an innocuous tweet could create such a shitstorm of commentary and engagement.

However on the off-chance that last sentence encourages the McKinsey lawyers to come after me, I should point a few things:

1. The talk I referred to in the tweet was not a presentation claiming advertising was better than consultancy. It wasn’t even about advertising … more about how cultural innovation can achieve more distinctive brand growth and business optimisation. I think.

2. And while it looks like I pissing on the value of consultants, I wasn’t. I accept, in the right situation, they offer incredible benefits to business … however, when they have no skin in the game – or are offering analysis on cultural behaviour without ever actually interacting in culture – then the effect of their advice can be called into question.

3. But most of all, while I was a cheeky shit in the presentation I gave in Shanghai all those years ago … I definitely said it with a twinkle I the eye and the audience knew that … rather than looking at me thinking I was purely an antagonistic bastard.

Emphasis on ‘purely’.

So while this viral situation was an interesting adventure, I learnt something even more valuable than ‘consultancies’ are the silver bullet to influencer status.

I’m not talking about the grudging respect I might have gained for social media influencers.

Nor the fact I am worried so many people aspire to be one, without maybe realising the mental anguish they will face and the pressure they will place on themselves to perform even better.

No, it’s this …

There are so many people out there who face abuse, judgement and prejudice just for being who they are.

Not just in social media, but in every aspect of their lives.

I can’t imagine having to deal with that level of scrutiny … hell, I couldn’t even deal with 2 days of it and my experience was good.

This not only highlights their strength, but also my privilege.

Of course I knew I had that – but this situation helped me understand it in a way I could feel rather than just understand.

I honestly think it would be worth every white, middle class person to experience … especially the Karen’s of this World, who have the audacity to claim being in their comfortable homes to protect them from catching a deadly virus is equivalent to slavery.

You think I’m making that last bit up don’t you?

I know, it sounds utterly insane to think that could be true.

But in America, insane is often normal.



When You Say It’s A Lie, You Can Say Anything …

I am doing a project about land ownership.

I know that sounds horrifically boring, but it isn’t.

Anyway, as part of my rabbit hole reading and research, I came across one of those sites where you can buy ‘titles’ … like Lord and Lady of the Manor.

And then I saw this …

Have you read it?

No, I don’t mean the bollocks testimonial, I mean the line near the top.

Yes, the one that basically says, ‘these testimonials may all be a pile of utter bullshit’.

Amazing eh?

I have to admit, I love their use of the word ‘illustrative’ … it’s as if they’re trying to say they want to add flair to their product story rather than just admit they’re writing lies.

Let’s face it, if you have to make up your ‘references’, you don’t have any references.

Believe it or not, the ad industry is more closely controlled than the newspaper industry … and while the owners of this company openly admit their references are illustrative rather than real, it still highlights how someone who wants to fuck with the system can fuck with it, regardless how closely regulated people may think it is.

But then even that doesn’t matter, because as I wrote in my post about Bernie Madoff, the people who fall for these scams are often – but not always, especially if they’re the elderly – complicit in some way.

Because as Bernie once said …

“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.”



Eau De Toilet. Literally And Metaphorically …

The fragrance industry is fascinating.

I’ve written a bunch about this in the past [here, here and here for example] but nothing reinforces my view than the new fragrance bottle from Moschino.

Have a look at this …

On one hand I admire how the industry uses creativity to design distinctive bottles and packaging – mainly because the smelly liquid inside has little value – and I love the fearlessness they tend to embrace all they do, but there’s few industries as pretentious as the fragrance industry. Hell, they’re even more pretentious than a Swiss finishing school run by a Victorian father.

Now I accept some are being ironic – or have evolved to be that way, like Gucci for example – but the vast majority continue to have their heads so high up in the clouds, that even the biggest dope smokers couldn’t reach them.

I’m not sure which side Moschino are on, but anyone who makes a perfume bottle to look exactly like a disinfectant spray and proudly puts the words ‘toilette’ on it, suggests either the biggest misstep or act of fragrance genius I’ve seen in years.