Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Over the Rainbow

I’ve seen the great Leonard Cohen Live over a dozen times – in London, New York, Toronto, Dublin and other places – from 1969 to 2014. Along with Dylan and Springsteen, he’s one of my favorite poets.

At a recent concert in Sydney, he was reminiscing on the stages a man goes through in terms of our ‘allure’ to the opposite sex.

For those of us who are also over the hill…

You start off irresistible,
Then you become resistible,
Then you become transparent,
Then you actually become invisible,
Then the most amazing transformation,
You become repulsive,
But that’s not the end of the story,
After repulsive you become cute.

And that’s where I am.

Attaboy Leonard!


Image source: leonardcohen.com

Monday, May 25, 2015

At a Loss for Loss

It’s hard to imagine a world where nothing and no-one gets lost. We’re getting close – you could say it’s been on the cards since the invention of the key hook by the front door, and more recently (and still for the sake of those darn keys) the Bluetooth keychain.

Could the current generation be the last to have any real sense of what it means lose something or to get lost? When I say ‘real sense’ I’m talking about the feelings – the panic, the scare, the fluster, the fright – of losing an important or irreplaceable object. Or the anxiety and discombobulated feeling of being utterly lost, walking or driving aimlessly (but often rather determinedly) to find your way. Now, with the help of technology, we find things and we find our way. We no longer have to search, retrace our steps or problem-solve to find things. We no longer have to experience that feeling of dread or questioning.

Tim Wu plants the seed and recounts the agony of “nurturing a quiet pain” in the hope of finding something that was lost in a recent article on The New Yorker. Wu argues that there’s something to be gained by losing things. It helps toughen us. Shows us that the world is often “quite indifferent to our well-being.” He’s got a point.

Now we’re not quite at a loss for loss. We’re becoming less familiar with it, and future generations even more so. Does this mean that those future generations will suffer more when they do experience loss, because it will seem like a foreign experience to them? Perhaps. Wu calls it the “paradox of technological progress” – in our efforts to progress and to prevent vulnerability, we open ourselves up to vulnerability in other ways. Take note.

Image source: dark.pozadia.com

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Customer Relationship Trump Card

An article by Christof Binder and Dominique M. Hanssens on Harvard Business Review provides further proof that Lovemarks are where it’s at when it comes to how and where to focus your business. They examined the value of brands and customer relationships – two key assets of any business – and found that over a decade, brand valuations declined by nearly half, while customer relationship values doubled.

This finding suggests a paradigm where businesses with strong customer relationships reign supreme over businesses with strong brands. The former comes with loyalty – often, beyond reason. It’s also helped by digital technologies that offer a direct link between businesses and customers, thereby improving efficiency and quality of interactions.

The lesson? I think we knew it all along. The lion’s share of effort for businesses should go towards reinforcing relationships in order to build a brand. Focus on the latter without integration with the former and you might end up with a strong brand, but it won’t necessarily keep your customers coming back.

Here are five ideas from the team at Lovemarks Campus for creating opportunities for customer relationships to begin and grow:
  1. Build in layers – create a sense of belonging and connection through revelation, not explanation. Explore your brand to find resonances that your customers can uncover.
  2. Know what time it is – saying the right thing at the right time speaks volumes. Be there for your customers when they’re in need. Have a presence in their daily lives.
  3. Fan the flame – all relationships go through stages of familiarity. Communicate and reward your customers according to where they are in their relationship with you.
  4. Create strong ties – communities and urban tribes, online and offline, are an important part of modern life. Think of ways of how your brand can be inclusive to friends and family.
  5. Give to receive – successful relationships work both ways.
Image source: lovemarkscampus.com

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Beyond The ‘New’

Image source: metropolismag.com

‘New’ carries a sense of mystery and excitement. I’m not just talking about new objects and things, but ideas and concepts – we’re drawn to them. We often hold things that are new in higher esteem than what might be more appropriate or better. We get caught up in ‘newness’ and can sometimes lose sight of the central values and ideals that make things what they are in the first place.

Designer Hella Jongerius and theorist Louise Schouwenberg lament this focus on ‘new for the sake of new’ in a manifesto ‘Beyond the New: A Search for Ideals in Design’. It asks that one stays true to values and ideals, and implores design companies to get out of the rat race and get back to focusing on the ideal of the “highest possible quality,” imbued with “cultural and historical meanings and values.”

I’ve selected a few nuggets from Jongerius and Schouwenberg’s manifesto here:
  • Cultural and historical awareness are woven into the DNA of any worthwhile product… There is value in continually re-examining what already exists, delving into the archives, poring over the classics.
  • Design is not about products. Design is about relationships.
  • By means of its language and employment of techniques, good design expresses both the zeitgeist and a deep awareness of the past.
  • Without play, there can be no design that inspires the user. Without foolishness and fun there can be no imagination.
  • An industry that is willing to embrace new challenges and experimentation has the power to exploit the full potential of existing and new technologies, including the digital media.
The point is that a shift in mentality is required. ‘New’ doesn’t always mean better. We need to look back – to ideas, objects, and concepts – to look forward. New means dealing with today’s challenges and possibilities, while giving a solid nod to the past. It’s much richer than just ‘new’.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Building an Engaged Economy

The ‘Disengagement Economy’ - what a terrible term. In an article on Huffington Post, Robert Hall describes it as the result of a broader mega-trend, the “steep relationship decline across home, work, politics and faith.”

Every business is concerned about the productivity, commitment, performance, creativity and innovation of their staff, but it comes as no surprise that people are disinterested in work. There are too many leadership approaches and methods stuck in a bygone era. Turning up to work every day doesn’t constitute commitment, and the more people are restricted by the maze that is bureaucracy, the less innovative they are likely to be.

Having Millennials in our workforce has driven the importance of employee engagement and culture, and the key focus is on relationships – prioritizing productive employee and customer relationships (because they’re the “most valuable, value-creating and value-sustaining asset” to quote Hall) and building relationships that are grounded in a ‘commitment-worthy’ purpose.

Hall also talks about multiplying your power by giving it away. Straight from Zen. I sing the same tune – as a leader, your job is to create leaders by empowering them and giving them the decisions to make. To sustain a company, you’ve got to have leaders at every level, not just at the top. A leader is someone who inspires everyone they come into contact with to be the best they can be.

Every generation is different. Millennials are committed to their jobs, they want to work at socially responsible companies and they carry expectations of having a dream job or self-management. I say that providing freedom, not rigidity, is the key to harnessing engagement and talent. Let them go and get out into the world, to have other adventures and start their own ventures. This is how we’ll counter the “Disengagement Economy’ – by building a culture of enthusiasm, experience and fresh ideas.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Vote to Make Whangarei a Lovemark

How often does a small-to mid-sized city have the chance to remake itself as a cultural, artistic, and tourism hub? The founding of museums such as the Clifford Still Museum in Denver, the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the Gehry Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, are once-in-a-generation events that have had transformative impact on those towns.

Whangarei, capital of the Northland Region of New Zealand, now has the opportunity to join that esteemed list. A public binding referendum from May 14 through June 5 will determine whether the city will build the Hundertwasser Wairau Maori Art Center to honor the life and work of Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The Austrian artist and architect came to New Zealand in 1976, creating a sustainable sanctuary in 372 ha of the entire Kaurinui valley near Kawakawa, Northland, and becoming a New Zealand citizen while maintaining a worldwide practice of exhibitions, architectural commissions, and writing. He immersed himself in nature and its humanistic relationship with art. Hundertwasser was buried at Kaurinui following his death at sea in 2000. A community-led group has pledged to raise the required $12m+ funds, with ratepayers expected to contribute just $2.8m to prepare Whangarei District Council-owned building for the major Hundertwasser refurbishment.

The art center will be a unique tribute to one of last century’s seminal artists and a great gift to the people of New Zealand. The art center will be the last Hundertwasser-designed building in the world (the Vienna-based Hundertwasser Non-Profit Foundation retrieved the original sketches from their archive and have given the project their full blessing and support. Using the original 1990’s Hundertwasser design, Heinz Springman, the architect on numerous Hundertwasser’s projects, has produced plans for the cultural center that captures the artist’s vision of boldly colored paintings and structural designs that use irregular forms and incorporate natural features into the landscape. The site in the heart of Whangarei’s beautiful waterfront and the facility would be a multi-faceted, multi-functional building with a state-of-the-art main gallery alongside New Zealand’s first curated contemporary Maori Art Gallery.

The art center promises to become an instant landmark—an iconic structure that will attract visitors from throughout New Zealand and the world. It will also be a boon to the local economy, with estimates suggesting the Art Centre will attract over 140,000 visitors each year, to the tune of $3.5 million per annum in net economic benefit to New Zealand’s Northland Region. Indeed, a report from worldwide consulting giant Deloitte states: “The Hundertwasser Art Centre will deliver cultural benefits at a local, national and international level and is well placed to make a solid economic contribution to the community.”

What cannot be measured in dollars, however, is the impact the museum would have on Whangarei’s identity. The Hundertwasser Wairau Maori Art Center would give New Zealand’s Northland region a way of distinguishing itself on the world stage—in the process instantly transforming the locale into a tourism magnet, and making the city synonymous with a great artist who deeply loved New Zealand and honored its Maori heritage. City branding does not generally happen overnight, and artistic and economic opportunities like this are rare. This referendum vote is a no-brainer from my perspective. Residents and ratepayers of Whangarei: Say yes to Hundertwasser!