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


Anything Is Easy If You Don’t Want It To Last

I am unashamedly a believer in brand.

I know there is a huge amount of talk about its commercial value, but – like the talk about whether we need ‘insights’ – there is plenty of evidence to suggest it continues to drive companies growth and revenue.

And while there are accademics, like Byron Sharp, who have proven people are far less loyal than they claim, the fact remains that loyalty – whether emotional or transactional – has significant value in building sustainable success for a brand.

But here’s the thing many brand owners forget.

To stand any chance of loyalty from your audience you need to be loyal to them.

Continuously.

It’s not good enough to simply offer discounts and early access.

Sure, that can help, but audiences know exactly why you’re doing it.

Real loyalty – by which I mean there is an almost irrational connection to a brand – is born from brands acting in ways that prove why people should care and keep believing in you.

Behaviour not just words.

Progress over the comfort of repetition.

Authenticity not just chasing popularity.

Telling beautiful stories not just spouting facts or contrived ‘ads’.

As I said, there are some marketers who say none of this matters in a world where digital enables them to have ‘direct to consumer’ relationships at a fraction of the cost of brand building.

I get it. It’s quick and it can be powerful which explains why every day there seems to be a new company claiming it will disrupt the category.

But where they go wrong is not realising disruption without distinction [ie: brand building] doesn’t create long term sustainable value, it just creates new commoditization.

In such an extremely competitive, highly-pressured, fast moving world, I would argue that brand has never been so important to stand a chance of having a stronger future.

And while this might all sound hypocritical given I work for a company who is trying to invent the future of marketing – which includes building new ways to have D2C relationships for clients, finding new ways to interact with subcultures through digital and passionately believes in disrupting categories – the fact is we never do this without an obsessive focus on the authenticity of the brand and how we can help it create the future culture wants to follow rather than just exploiting the offers of the present.

For me, the real issue is we are seeing is companies wanting all the good bits of brand loyalty without much of the effort, for which I leave them with this story I heard when living in China.

The successful farmer plants their seeds and nurtures them in the knowledge that when it comes time to harvest, their crop is bigger and healthier. It takes time, but it is always worth it.



New Is Easy, Right Is Hard …

I recently read an article on Linkedin about an agency launching a ‘world first’.

Was it something to save humanity?

Nope.

Was it something to help business?

Nope.

Was it something designed to get the agency some PR even though it had no intrinsic value to culture?

Absolutely.

All that aside, I do get the quest for ‘first’ from agencies perspective … they want to look like they’re relevant, creative, interesting and valuable … but the great irony is that all this stuff does the absolute opposite.

So to dear old adland, I ask you this …

Could you please start being as proud about craft as you are about doing something ‘first’.

Craft makes a huge amount of difference.

It turns potential into possible.

It changes how people look at you and what they can do with you.

It creates division between you and your competitors.

Craft might not always get the PR headlines, but it makes people care – and given the alternative is World Firsts like that fucking Peggy Peg from a few years ago – that is a much better position to be in for all of our futures.



Attention To Detail Is More Than A Set Of Words …

So I recently saw this ad for the new Philips OLED TV.

It’s a beautiful product and – judging by the description – full of fantastic tech to elevate the watching experience.

Or is it?

You see when I read the first line of the copy, I started to have some doubts.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not questioning the quality of a Bowers & Wilkins sound system – they’re incredible – I’m questioning if the rest of the TV matches B&W’s extremely high standards.

Why?

Have a read of the copy. Carefully.

If you can’t read it, it says this …

“Sound by Bowers & Wilkins for audio that lives up our OLED standard”

That’s right, they forgot to add the word ‘to’ between up and our … resulting in the sort of grammar you could expect from a 3 year old kid.

Or said another way, close … but not perfect.

I know it’s a small thing.

I know mistakes can happen.

But if you are trying to present your product as the highest of standards, it’s not a great look.

Hell, if they can let a word slip in their advertising, what standards have they let slip in making the product?

Philips may claim they’ve just launched the OLED+ standard … but judging by the attention to detail they’ve given their ad, it’s much more OLED-.



How Far We Have Come …

When I was young, I loved cars.

OK, I still do … but back then, they held a particularly strong fascination.

Freedom. Independence. Status.

Now while there are many cars that are burned into my consciousness – the Ford Fiesta XR2, the Fiat X19, the Triumph TR7 to name a few – there is one that has a special place in my heart.

Not because I wanted one, but because in my provincial mind, it represented the pinnacle of success.

It was … a Ford Granda.

Yes … that tank like thing at the top of this post.

I know … I know … how utterly shameful.

As I said, it wasn’t a car I aspired to owning or driving – besides, I was years off being allowed to drive – but it was the biggest car on the road and in my small, little mind, that meant the driver was doing one of the big jobs in life.

You have to understand that I was entering as period of my life where school life was soon going to make way for the rat race … and while I was good at school, I was crap at exams so I was looking for direction in terms of a job that could one day, potentially let me own a Ford Granada.

Jesus, I was sad.

It gets worse … because I still remember seeing a man drive a BMW 7-Series when they first came out and going up to him to ask what he did for a living as I couldn’t believe anyone in West Bridgford – my home town – could ever have a job that let them buy a car like that.

The irony was it was less about having something that would convey status and success to the outside world and more about setting a goal that would let me think I have done OK in life if I ever got to own one.

Which I didn’t .

The reason for all this is that I recently watched a video for the launch of the MK II Granada.

It’s long, but it’s worth watching for a whole host of reasons.

Part of it is because it highlights how far the car industry has evolved since 1984 interns of technology and what they regard as driver/passenger comfort and sophistication … part of it is because it’s funny to see them make big claims about small features [digital clock anyone?] … but the biggest part is how much technology we still regard as luxury is over 30+ years old.

It doesn’t make me want a Granada, but it does help me feel less foolish rating them in 1984.



The Difference Between Design And Creativity …

As I’ve written many times, I am a huge, huge fan of design.

Frankly, I have seen more great things come from the design community in the past few years than advertising.

Of course there has been some great advertising, but in terms of solving problems in magical ways, the design industry seems to be more progressive than a lot of adland.

Part of that is that is because a lot of adland believes their job is to make ads to solve problems rather than embracing the possibilities of creativity … however I recently saw something that reminded me the difference between great design and great creativity.

Good isn’t it?

Captures the pain, sadness and horror of the terrorist attack in New Zealand in such a gentle, tender, authentic way.

You see what this work tells me is that while great design communicates a single thought with great clarity, great creativity communicates a 1000 feelings with great emotion.

As much as we need more great design, we also need more great creativity in our lives too.

That’s down to us.

What we do. What we fight for. What we protect.



It’s A Matter Of Taste …

Before I start, let me ensure your Friday is even better than if you were being bathed in a sea of Crunchies by letting you know next week there will basically be no posts as I’m going to be back in the good ol’ USA.

Now I’ve given you a deep sense of joy, let me rip that away from you with some bitching.

So I saw this ad for Kontor – a company that helps other companies find their perfect space.

Now I appreciate I have the style sense of an Australian [Boom Tish] but I must admit I am a bit confused regarding the image they’re using in the ad.

If it’s an example of an office environment they think is good, then I am afraid they’re badly mistaken.

It feels more like a hotel restaurant in any 3 star business hotel you can find across the US.

Or the Costa Coffee boardroom.

But if they’re trying to make it look like the sort of office environment a company would want to move away from … an office environment that Kontor can help them find … then I hate to say it, but it’s not bad enough.

Let me be a bit clearer …

Yes, it’s horrific, but in terms of an image for use in an ad on a tube, it’s no where near horrific – or nice – enough to make whatever point they want to make and so for the poor schmuck stuck on the tube looking at it, you end up wondering if Kontor have as bad taste as me both in terms of what they hate and what they love.



Back Where It All Began …

So today I start my new job.

In England.

The last time this happened was in 1989 which blows my mind.

Of course, this situation is quite different to the last situation.

I’ve had a family.

I’ve lived around the World.

I’ve worked – and started – a bunch of companies.

I’m slightly better off than I was back in the late 80’s.

And while I enjoyed my time in the US, I’m very excited about what I’m going to be doing because whereas previously the big opportunity for me was more around understanding different cultures, this new role gives me that while also challenging and teaching me about possibilities that go beyond my areas of experience, because today I start as the head of strategy for R/GA for EMEA.

There were a bunch of reasons for leaving America, but one thing we knew was that there was no point if I wasn’t going to be enjoying myself.

For enjoying myself, I mean pushing me, challenging me, educating me and helping me make a bigger difference than I thought I could make.

I’ve long admired R/GA – especially R/GA London – so when we started chatting, I was fascinated about the opportunity and was incredibly happy/surprised, to learn they seemed to feel the same way.

Quite frankly, while all agencies talk about ‘creating cultural change’, R/GA seem to be the only one trying to make it happen on an ongoing basis. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some agencies out there who definitely help shape cultural behavior and attitudes – like my beloved W+K – but R/GA want to create the ideas, systems and communication that can encourage longer term cultural change rather than momentary effect.

At the end of the day, the idea of working with smart people who want to use creativity to impact the future and smart clients who want to walk towards the future was hugely infectious for me, especially at my age.

What makes it even better is that my remit means I’ll still get to work and discover different cultures, which is something I’ve done for the past 20 years all around the World … though given it’s been 24 years since I’ve lived in the UK, I’m pretty sure I’m going to find it fascinating understanding what is making this country tick.

All in all, I’m super excited.

At the interview I was asked why I wanted the job and I told them about a friend of mine who works for architect extroidinaire, Sir Norman Foster.

My mate is disgustingly epic … smart, charming and as handsome as hell … but despite all those enviable attributes, the thing I’ve always been jealous of is that his job requires him to create stuff that will outlive him.

I love advertising.

I think it is massively undervalued.

But the way the industry is going – focusing on the present, not building for the future – is scary as hell.

Not just in terms of the longevity of adland, but the ambitions of brands.

So to have a chance to work for a place that attracts clients who want to build rather than just plunder is very exciting for me.

Especially if there’s a shot of creating something that could outlive me.

Let’s just hope I can fool them into thinking I’m worth keeping around for more than a week …

Given my love of chaos, that might be over-ambitious.