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


Be Interested In What Others Are Interested In …

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been invited to speak at a couple of conferences – in Hamburg, for the APG, and at ‘Closeness’ in London.

In both cases, I was asked to talk about the importance about empathy – something I’ve been banging on about for centuries.

And in both cases, I felt the best way to do it was to talk through the lens my Mum had taught me … which is the title of this post.

For an industry that is supposed to understand people, I’m surprised how few seem to really understand what that means.

Rather than understand hopes, dreams, fears, ambitions and contradictions … it seems we prefer to focus on the bits that are relevant to our business needs, without seemingly realizing the important role context plays in shaping how we live.

If you don’t get context, you don’t get people … and you don’t get context without investing time.

Not focus groups.

Not ethnographic studies.

But an on-going commitment to going down the rabbit hole of people’s lives to understand how they live and the nuances that separate each and every one of us.

You can’t do this if you want to ‘fast forward’ to the bits you have pre-determined will be useful to you.

You can’t do this if you want convenient answers to ‘sell your campaign’.

You can’t do this if you want answers rather than understanding.

This last point is especially important.

Frankly, understanding is becoming a lost art.

Understanding is built on emotional connection, not intellectual.

Where you leave your prejudices, barriers, filters, expectations and hopes at the door and focus. Asking questions to understand more about what someone is saying than to get the answers you want to your specific challenge.

It’s hard.

It takes real practice.

Because while you may appreciate every person has a story … it can only truly be revealed if you let them do it in their own way, in their own time, in their own words. Which means you might end up hearing things that makes no sense to you, even though it makes perfect sense to them … and while that might not initially seem valuable, you’ll soon realise it’s immense.

But all this takes time.

And takes a real commitment.

However it lets you go back with knowledge that enables you to make work that feels like it was born from inside the culture rather than from a bunch of observers.

Work that is filled with the nuances that makes the audience take notice.

Care.

React to.

Feel respect towards because it shows respect to them.

Or said another way …

Work that is resonant to culture rather than just relevant.

And it all starts by being interested in what others are interested in.

Not for commercial gain, but because you are interested in who people are.

It’s why my Mum is still teaching me how to live, 4 years after she has gone.

And now she is teaching others too.

Thank you Mum.

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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



Wakey Wakey Zombies …
May 13, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Culture, Relevance, Resonance

Once upon a time, coffee was something I enjoyed.

I was never a coffee snob – in fact, I still prefer a cup of Nescafe with some Coffee Mate in it – but I would treasure the taste and the moments I got to have it.

Part of this was also to do with the time of my life.

My appreciation of coffee started when I moved to Australia … where there was a real coffee culture, which basically translated to being able to legitimately sit outside a cafe for hours on end and people watch without fear of being arrested for stalking.

But now my relationship with coffee is different.

It’s no longer a pleasure, if anything it’s more like a medicine … because quite frankly, if I don’t have it, I’m even more useless than when I’m wide awake.

I know … you find that impossible to imagine don’t you?

But coffee changes how I look at the World.

Without it, it feels everything is moving at such speed that everything around me is slightly blurry.

Impossible to understand.

Improbable to achieve anything.

But with a big cup of coffee – or, coffee flavored power – it all changes.

I am present.

I feel I’m not going to be left [too far] behind.

I feel I might be able to convince others I have some capabilities.

And while we have seen countless ads in our time where someone sips a cup of coffee and then they’ve suddenly had the clarity to build a bridge out of straws or something … the reality is coffee doesn’t inspire you to do shit, it just makes you a slightly nicer human which – when you come to think about it – is probably more motivating and inspirational for an over-40 audience than 20 hours of brilliant Nike ads, and if not for you, it is certainly is for your family, friends and colleagues.




The Most Selfish Generation In History …

Hello … I’m back.

It was amazing.

OK, it was more for being with the family than the physical place … but that’s because I’m not a ‘stay-down-on-the-farm’ kind of person, though I appreciate some of you may suggest it’s more because I’m not a ‘pay-for-my-own-holidays’ kind of person.

Pah.

Anyway, I wanted to return with a post that matters a lot to me.

To be honest, all of them matter to me … but as of late, I’ve been writing stuff that matters more than most.

Things like female leadership, prejudice and when work tries to kill you

Well, while this isn’t connected to the industry I work in, it is about an issue very dear to me.

Living overseas is one of the greatest privileges you can have.

Sure, there are things you give up and miss – but what you gain more than compensates for it.

Case in point. I recently had dinner with Rodi and David in San Francisco.

The photo from the evening is at the top of this post.

None of us live here. None of us work here. None of us are from here.

In fact all of us live in totally different countries and come from different parts of the world.

Rodi is Australian/Ukrainian, David is Taiwanese and I’m British/Italian.

To make matters even more random, we all met in China.

Yet despite having all moved on from our time at Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai, we remain connected … not because of the company we worked at, but because of the generosity of the country we experienced.

This dinner represents what England has voted entire generations never to have.

It’s an act of utter selfishness.

Utter, utter selfishness.

So many in society like to bestow that label on the youth of the UK, but it’s not them.

It’s the Daily Mail reading, over 55’s who have enjoyed good fortune in their life but don’t want anyone else to have it. Who don’t want anyone else to evolve and grow because they don’t want to be left behind and feel less important.

Selfish, egotistical, bigoted and blinkered pricks.

The reality is my ability to live around the World has made my life unquestionably bigger, better and fuller.

Almost everything I have and treasure is because of my life outside of England.

That is not in any way meant to say life in England is bad – far from it – but anyone who thinks there is greater value staying isolated versus expanding the possibilities of life through adventures, experiences and friends that exist beyond the borders of our shores has either never done it or is frightened of it.

May I have dinners with friends in countries none of us come from for many years to come.



Viagra By People Who Are Massive Dicks …

As you read this, I’ll be on a plane to America – again.

Given I’m not back till Friday – and then there’s a long-weekend in the UK for Easter – that means there won’t be any posts till Tuesday. Hopefully I will have digested all the chocolate I intend to eat by then. Not to mention have got over the excitement of having my new car – which, is exactly the same as my old car – but that’s a post for another day.

Till then, I leave you with this …

So I recently saw this ad for a viagra type product on the tube …

How horrifying is that eh?

OK, it’s not quite as bad as the Eddie viagra ad I wrote about a while back … but it’s close.

From the terrible ‘When Harry Met Sally’ reference to the racially questionable ‘erect dreadlocks’, it’s the sort of rubbish you’d expect to see in a first year ad students book.

And I’m probably being unfair to first year ad students.

But even worse than that is that it comes from a company called manual.

Maybe it’s just me, but the words ‘manual’ and ‘viagra’ seem to be polar opposites.

I don’t know why, but when I see the word manual – in the context of intercourse – I think more of masturbation than copulation … and yet that is what they decided to call their company.

Weird.

At one point I was going to say that even that wasn’t as weird as ending the body copy of the ad with the words ‘Good News, Man’ … because I initially thought it another racist slur towards the guy with the dreadlocks … however having seen a few more of their executions, I see they say this in ALL their ads, even when it features a man without long hair.

Though I note none of them show their hairstyles pointing up.

Everything about this campaign smacks of a company that doesn’t know what erectile disfunction means.

From their ads communicating the effect of the product rather than the emotional benefit for the user, through to the fact the opening line on their website is, Hard Isn’t Always Easy.

I appreciate its an ad on the tube.

I appreciate most ads on the tube are even worse.

But this overly simplistic approach to communication is not building long term business, just a short-term transaction.

Maybe that’s fine for the founders … maybe they’re in it for a good time rather than a long time … but if you think how a strong brand can command a price premium and disproportionate audience loyalty, it blows my mind how few companies seem to care about this.

Oh they will claim they will.

They’ll say all the right things about thinking for the long term.

But the reality is to do that, you have to plant seeds [excuse the pun] for the future and many of these new companies are simply in continuous harvest mode.

Maybe they’re adopting the old saying of ‘make hay while the shines’ … I just hope they realize the other side of that is ‘prepare for your demise, because it’s coming’.

Happy Easter everyone …



Together We Can Make It Better …

I know I said there’d be no posts while I’m away, but this is important.

As many of you know, a few weeks ago I wrote about a management style where the goal appears to be to systematically destroy the confidence and self-worth of their employees.

While I suggested a few possible reasons for their approach, the reality is – intentional or not – what they’re doing is abuse, pure and simple.

I am well placed to say this because – as I also wrote in the post – I had once been a victim of it.

Well that post hit a big nerve because within 72 hours, it had been shared thousands of times on Twitter and I received over 250 stories of abuse from people who previously thought they were alone in facing this cruel and debilitating experience.

I must admit I was initially shocked how many people had been affected until I remembered the reason this topic is so rarely talked about is because one of the ways the abusers get away with it is they make the victim feel so worthless, they believe it’s all their fault and so keep quiet out of shame for their supposed inadequacies.

Reading so many stories of pain made me both very sad and very angry and I knew right them that I wanted to do something about it, but the reality is I didn’t know what I could do.

Then I got an email from someone I used to work with …

Rather than tell me they had gone through a similar situation at work – or even their thoughts on my post – they asked if what I’d written was about them.

After telling them that if they feel guilt, then maybe they needed to take a look at how they conducted themselves [because at no point had I mentioned any names or places in my post] I then realised there was a way I could try and help stop this situation happening to others.

Let me introduce you to a site I’ve set up called Corporate Gaslighting.

Corporate Gaslighting [available at TheyTriedToKillMeButI.Live] is my attempt to try and stop this slow, systematic abuse from bad management while also hoping to help those who have been victims of it.

The goal is simple, but hard.

Simple because all I want to do is fill it with people’s [anonymous] stories of their abuse.

Hard because I know how damaging these experiences are and how survival often means burying them deep down inside and kidding yourself they don’t exist … even though you know very well they do and they’re eating you alive.

But the benefits will hopefully be worth it for two key reasons.

For management … my hope is they come and read the stories to be reminded of the responsibility they have for the people they manage. And if they end up reading something they think is specifically about them … then maybe it will force them to look at their actions and behaviours and – for their sake – start to change them.

For victims … my hope is that by either writing their story or reading others, they’ll not only realise they’re not alone in this slow, viscous destruction of self-confidence, but the reasons for it happening have absolutely nothing to do with them and all to do with their managers. If I achieve this, my hope is it helps removes the stigma of guilt and failure we are all made to feel we brought on ourselves … because then it will remove the power abusive managers have over us … allowing us start to valuing ourselves again and [hopefully] giving us the strength to take action rather than only take the abuse

But none of this can happen without stories which is why this post is directing people to the site where they can learn how they can get involved to help themselves and help others.

Corporate Gaslighting isn’t about revenge. It’s about change, help and encouragement.

With that in mind, it has been designed to be a safe place to be vulnerable.

No names. No comments. No judgement.

What happens next is up to you.

I am just here to help.

Thank you.

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Prepare For Change …

So as you read this, I’ll be on a plane to NY.

Which means there’ll be no blog posts for a whole week.

Better yet, when I’m back, there’ll only be some rubbish for a few days because I’ll be going back to America for 10 days.

Seriously, I don’t know why I moved given I’m spending so much time there.

Oh hang on, yes I do …

Anyway, while I’m gone I hope to set up my response to the post I wrote regarding the systematic destruction of employee confidence and optimism by bad managers.

As I mentioned a while back, when I wrote that post, someone wrote to me asking if it was about them.

I told them that if they feel guilt, then maybe they need to take a look at how they conduct themselves because I mentioned no names or places in my post.

Which led to the idea of setting up a blog of corporate gaslighting.

I would love to fill it with anonymous stories of systematic corporate abuse so that anyone who goes there and thinks a story is specifically about their actions, they will be forced to look at their attitude and behaviours and hopefully change them.

As much as I was tempted to name names and destroy careers, the reality is that would just make me as bad as them.

I know that sometimes good people do bad things – often influenced by issues going on in their life we have no knowledge of – which is why my hope is that if they go to this site and recognize some of the behaviors that are being described, it might help jolt them back into the right frame of mind and actively work on changing their approach to their role.

And if it doesn’t?

Well then they’re not a good person and they deserve all they get … which, I hope, will happen more because this site will give the people subjected to this abuse the confidence and reassurance they’re not alone and can take a stand against it, with our backing.

Ultimately, I just want to try and change a situation that is happening much more than people seem to think. Part of this is because the people who subject others to this abuse, make them feel so worthless, they believe it’s all their fault and so reporting it would ultimiately be like advertising their own inadequacies.

Being told you’re wrong is fine when it’s done by people that you feel genuinely care about your improvement. But being told you’re wrong by people who are doing it to protect or further themselves – especially at the expense of someone elses self belief – is abuse, pure and simple.

I recently registered the domain for the website …TheyTriedToKillMeButI.Live

I hope people will help me populate the site and spread the word.

See you in a week.