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


Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?

So a few weeks ago, in a Starbucks in Epping, I saw this man …

For those who don’t know who he is, it’s music icon Rod Stewart.

I appreciate his best days as a singer are over but the fact he’s 74, still has hit albums and sold out concerts and looks pretty much like he did 40 years ago, means he can look back on his life as pretty bloody successful.

There’s lots of stories about Mr Stewart.

His love life.

His happy feud/rivalry with Elton John.

His tightness.

But what isn’t talked about much is his love of his family.

I saw it when he walked into Starbucks.

In came his wife and a bunch of his kids – young and old – and they all sat together, chatting … laughing and sharing coffee and croissants.

I know this is something we see everyday, all around the World, but there was something lovely in seeing an international Rock Star act like the doting father and husband he obviously is.

I’m not denying he has made some pretty shit mistakes in the past … but without wishing to defend that … sometimes good people make bad mistakes and whatever happened in the past, at least he seems to remember what is truly important.

Nothing says this more than an interview he gave this year …

I don’t know about you, but I think this is wonderful.

It’s also weird his brothers and sisters are NINETY YEARS OLD.

But what I love most is that it is apparent for all his wealth, he feels his family is what truly makes him rich.

Even his ex-wife, Rachel Hunter, doesn’t really have a bad word to say about him.

Their divorce wasn’t because of infidelity, it was because she was young and after 13 years of him being a doting husband, she felt she wanted to go out and live more.

And even then, she – and he – made sure everything was both amicable and respectful.

The reason I’m saying this is because work/life balance is under greater pressure than ever.

Sure companies are talking about it more than ever before, but in the main, what they really mean is ‘it’s important to have a home life but make sure you do your work first’.

I also accept, it’s much easier to have work/life balance when you’re a multi, multi millionaire because when Mr Stewart was starting out, he was so in debt, his manager and record company pushed him to go out on tour so he missed a lot of his oldest kids early years.

But here’s the thing.

If we all appreciate that work/life balance is important [even if that is simply because it makes you more effective at work] and mental health has become an issue that has been accepted as a real issue, how come this isn’t included in any procurement demands from clients or agencies?

Maybe it is, but I haven’t heard about any.

I have heard of contracts that demand female representation.

And I have heard of contracts that demand people of color inclusion.

But nothing on mental health or work/life balance.

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that issues of gender and background are being forced into contracts [but I’m so sad this is what it took to have it happen] but what about making sure these people are looked after once they are there?

Why isn’t that part of the deal?

Why is that not a key criteria of what we are all talking about?

Why is that something shareholders don’t demand of the companies they invest in?

I think we can all guess, but if you’re still not sure, head over to Corporate Gaslighting and read what some people have discovered are some of the reasons why.

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Self Awareness Stops You Being Self Stupid …

So I was talking at event recently about ‘loyalty’ and mentioned how when the Amazon Dash button came out, one of my clients was ecstatic.

In their mind, it meant they were going to see sales grow because instead of having to risk a shopper buying a competitive brand, they would press the button and the sale would be there’s guaranteed.

In my talk, I went on to say how I told the client that was great in theory, but there were 3 things they had to think about.

1. The real winner is always going to be Amazon.

2. It was going to be a huge race to see who could get the most ‘buttons’ into homes.

3. The result would be the destruction of their hardly fought – and expensively bought – premium brand value status.

At the end, a gentleman asked me why I thought turning a brand into a commodity was a bad idea as it meant more sales and that meant more money for the brand and the shareholders.

I must admit, I was quite taken aback by this response and pointed out that being a commodity might generate more sales, but it loses profitability and – more scarily – leaves you open to a competitor deciding to either launch a price war or disrupt the market with a new product.

He wasn’t convinced and kept going on about commodity value and how soon all brands will end up following that route.

I must admit I was a bit rude to him so after the event, I sought him out to have a chat.

Turned out he worked for a car insurance company and highlighted his category was driven purely by price.

When I asked him what he meant, he said:

“As long as your company name is generally known in a generally good light, you will get business”.

It took all my strength not to laugh in his face, so instead I simply replied,

“So you do believe in brand value or you wouldn’t care if the company name was generally known in a generally good light”.

You could see him look confused, so I decided to just finish the job off by saying …

“And if you believe everything is a commodity, why are you wearing an expensive watch when a Timex does the same job?”

He smiled a ‘fuck you’ smile at me, said goodbye then left.

It was a good evening.



Why Purpose Marketing And Planners Need To Be Stopped …

Purpose.

Planning.

Both have had a lot of debate about them in the past few years and both have their cheerleaders and detractors.

The reality is they both have incredible value but – and it’s a big but – only when used responsibly.

Of course, what ‘responsibly’ is, is often in the eye of the brand owner and that’s where the problems starts … because too often, the focus is appealing to the ego of the company directors rather than the pulse of culture which is why we’re seeing more and more ‘purpose work’ that communicates in the corporate monotone of egotistical, bland, business-speak.

The client doesn’t think that of course, they think they’re doing an amazing thing and that people will really believe Hard Rock Cafe’s want to stop hunger or a plastic lighter company in HK wants to save the rainforest [which is true, but I can’t find the post about it, mainly because it was back in 2010] or – hold on to your hats – this …

WHAT. THE. FUCK.

Yes, that really is an umbrella company claiming their purpose is to offer lifestyle solution and protection for the public.

Are they insane?

Even if that was true – which if it is, means they’re bonkers – then the way they’ve written it means the umbrellas are to save you from marketing bullshit raining down on your head.

Purpose has a really important role for brands … but you don’t just ‘make it up’.

I am utterly in shock how many companies sell ‘purpose’ to brands and yet never investigate the soul of the brand.

Go into the vaults.

Look inside every single box.

Discover what made them make their decisions.

Understand the values they lived by and fought for.

Talk to the people who have worked there or shopped there since the earliest of days.

Basically discover their authenticity rather than what they wish their authenticity was.

And yet a lot of companies are paying a lot of other companies to literally make up a bullshit story about them.

Something they think makes them sound good.

Something they think will make people want to choose them.

And while we are definitely seeing more and more people choosing to associate with brands that live by a set of values and beliefs, the thing the brands who ‘invent a purpose’ fail to understand is that this audience seeks truth, not bullshit and so what they’re doing with their make-believe is actually achieve the absolute opposite of what they were trying to do.

Purpose matters.

Planning matters.

But the moment you let ego drive your ambitions rather than your authenticity, you end up being a brand that is flying extremely high on the Planning Purpose Twatosphere.

Remember brands, by being yourself you will be different.

Stop inventing bullshit and start acting your truth in interesting ways.



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.



Gary V Proves The Importance Of Self Awareness …

As I’ve written a few times previously, I am not Gary Veynerchuck’s biggest fan.

From rewriting history to celebrating inauthenticity
… Gary seems to be an individual who represents almost the opposite of everything I value.

Of course, given he is more successful than I’ll ever be, you could argue you should listen to him rather than me – but then values shouldn’t be evaluated against what you have, but how you live.

Anyway I digress because I recently read something that I agree with him on.

No … this is not a joke.

It’s the art of delegation.

This is what Mr V said …

I agree with him.

Too many people completely miss the point of what delegation means.

They think it’s about handing over the shit you don’t want to do, but it’s not – it’s enabling colleagues to bring their talent and way of seeing the World into a project you’re working on in a way where they can win on their terms.

That doesn’t mean you have to blindly support whatever they do.

But it is about backing, supporting and encouraging them every step of the way.

Letting them do what they think is the way to win rather than expecting them to redo what you’d do.

To do that, you do have to let go of your ego.

To do that, you do have to have faith in the talent you work with.

To do that, you do have to want to see your team grow and progress.

In essence, you have to open the door to opportunity and let your team walk in and do their thing … it’s not about opening the door for only you to walk in and leave everyone else behind.

Making sure your team feel backed is vitally important.

Giving them the time and space to think, challenge and be challenged is everything.

But most of all, handing over the spotlight to them with your full support is – at least to me – what delegation is all about.

Not keeping things from them.

Not limiting what they want to do.

Not stopping them from forging their own direction and destination.

I know it can be hard, but it’s also worth it because while you are responsible for the standards being produced – doing it in a way that lets your team grow and develop is the foundation of management success … because the reality is when you get to run a department, success should be based as much on what your team achieves as what you personally do.

If they win, you win.

Simple as that.

Maybe there is hope for Mr V after all.

Maybe.

Though ‘a lack of ego’ and ‘Gary V’ have never appeared in the same sentence before and likely never will again.



When You Don’t Even Have To Try, You Should Still Try …

One of the places I find most hysterical in the World is San Francisco.

Yes … the entire place.

I find it hysterical because it’s often referred to as a liberal, hippy paradise when the reality is it’s one of the most expensive, exclusive and divisive places on earth.

Of course it wasn’t always this way, but the rise of tech has seen so much money coming into the place, that not only is everything hideously expensive, but the service industry – something America was once famous for – has seemingly given up making any effort whatsoever, safe in the knowledge they’re going to get people giving them money for stuff regardless.

No where is this attitude more prevalent than the hotel industry.

Because there are so many people coming into the place – hotels are almost always full.

What that’s resulted in, is even crappy hotels charging rates plush places in LA would balk at.

Case in point, the hotel I stayed in – The Taj – cost more for 1 night than the 2 nights I stayed at the Ritz Carlton at Marina Del Rey.

Which had a water view.

And breakfast included.

What I got at the Taj, was this …

Now I used to have Taj Hotels as a client.

I know their history and the way they approach their business.

Thanks to the Silicon Valley goldrush … the Taj San Fran doesn’t embody any of them.

In fact, I would say the only thing it’s suitable for, is a Martin Parr photo assignment.

For those who don’t know the brilliant Mr P, he is a photographer who specialises in brilliantly capturing the utterly mundane … usually in Britain.

With that in mind, I’ve written him a letter, dedicated to the experience I had at the Taj SF.

Dear Martin Parr.

If you’re looking for inspiration on what – and where – your next photo project could be, may I suggest The Taj Hotel in San Fran.

Not only does it have the depressingly bland interior design qualities of 1980’s middle England that I know you love love, but it comes with the price tag of a modern of Russian Oligarch.

Even when I came back to the room at 2:30am – after a long day at the office – I was reluctant to sleep there, for fear the rundown averageness of the place would do me irreparable damage in the night.

It is a photo exhibition waiting to happen.

Possibly your finest ever.

I even have a name for the shot … Expensive Beige.

You’re welcome.

Rob



It’s A Fine Line Between Pettiness And Revenge …

… and I have always struggled to walk that line properly, but fuck it … the person it’s about has screwed over so many people – including myself – to ensure they are able to maintain [and protect] their career and internal reputation.

Now I appreciate they never went out their way to bring anyone down.

And I know that deep down, they are not a bad person, just a very, very ambitious person.

But when you don’t back your people so you can look good to your bosses, then eventually you get what you deserve.

It might not be as much as the people they screwed over think they deserve … but when you know that their entire ‘reputation’ is built on very fragile foundations, you also know the slightest crumble in their carefully constructed ‘career veneer’ affects them deeply inside.

God, I’m such a bastard, but for good reasons.

After all, the brilliant Rupert Howell once said about me, “Robert is driven by hate, but in a relatively good way.”

Oh, and for the record, while this individual is not part of the post I wrote relating to When Work Tries To Destroy You, he is part of the reason – admittedly, a very small part – of why I started Corporate Gaslighting.