Friday, September 28, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
A couple of years back, I spent two days with Daisy Goodwin, a writer, film producer and all around talent in the U.K. She is an avid fan of all things poetic and has published a bunch of anthologies, bringing poetry closer and more accessible to everyone. As you might expect, Daisy is extremely empathetic, warm, emotional and caring. I haven’t seen her since the two days we spent together working on inspirational leadership for a company she was working for at the time. On Saturday, I read a full-page review of her new book, Silver River, which was published in the U.K. on September 17. What struck me was an extract where Daisy talked about her mother leaving home when she was 5. It was in the late 60’s and the piece describes the effect that the departure had on her as a woman and a mother. “When I was 6 my mother moved to Dorset with a man who became my stepfather. Joe didn’t have a proper job, like my father. Joe was a novelist. Always a trend spotter, my mother had found a man who summed up the late 60’s; young, Northern, working class, dirty, rude and sexy.”
Apart from the last adjective, this pretty much described me in the late 60’s. It also made me nostalgic for the great novels of the time. John Braine with Room at the Top and its hero Joe Lampton, Allan Sillitoe’s The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, and my favorite, This Sporting Life by David Storey.
They were gritty, authentic, everyday working class dramas. In hindsight, we can now see that they set the foundation and bridged the gap from post war austerity to the freedom we are all currently enjoying. To complete the story, a few days ago I was in the medieval city of Montpellier, drinking red wine from the Languedoc. I was with a great writer, Spiro Zavos, and a budding talent, John Daniel. Spiro is of my vintage and was waxing lyrical about the same 60’s literature I talked about earlier, though he was reading them in deepest New Zealand. It's a small world.
I’ll be reading the rest of Silver River this week.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
I’ve spent the last few days in France enjoying the Rugby World Cup and watching the Southern Hemisphere sides have the best of times. They are relishing this tournament. The big teams (New Zealand, South Africa and Australia) and the smaller sides (Tonga, Samoa and Fiji) are all reveling in pacey, free flowing rugby. The Northern Hemisphere sides seem mired in defensive, passionless, mechanical game plans where fear of defeat is prevailing over the lust for success. New Zealand will have a tricky Quarter Final to play against a Northern Hemisphere opponent, but then I believe we’ll have to beat Australia and South Africa to lift the trophy. That’s no easy feat, though probably easier than it is for the South Africans and Australians who have to beat New Zealand!
And of course, the 2011 tournament will take place in New Zealand. This will be big deal for a small country, and sweet revenge against all the big money and big countries who seem to be taking over the business of sport at the highest level. I’m a big believer in sport as a liberator for smaller nations and as a way to build sustainable self-esteem and wealth in smaller, underdeveloped countries. I’m also a big believer in countries hosting world-class tournaments. There’s lots and lots of talk about the costs of these tournaments to host countries, but just look at the way cities and countries can be transformed by a major sporting event. Auckland’s waterfront was developed and made world-class by the America’s Cup; Barcelona was dragged from average to the grooviest city in Europe through the Olympics; South Africa was brought back into the world by the 1995 Rugby World Cup; and the Beijing Olympics will, I hope, bring transparency to China. To top it all off, London’s East End will at last be developed and modernized through that city’s own upcoming Olympics.
I hope the International Rugby Board will maximize the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. To do that, I believe they need to:
- Keep the current format of 20 teams. It is by far the best way to encourage the smaller nations to grow.
- Add a plate tournament. Let’s make the long journey to New Zealand even more worthwhile for the Tier 2 Nations.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Anyone who has been to Japan (and many who haven’t) will know the name Muji. The name actually means 'no brand' and is the ‘brand’ of one of Japan’s smartest retailers.
To walk into a Muji store is to be enveloped by calm – the perfect environment for making intelligent choices. Everything in every Muji store is a Muji product. Apart from a small price sticker, which peels off, there is nothing on any Muji product to indicate where you purchased it from. I just kitted out my home office in Grasmere with Muji’s transparent gizmos.
Of course the ‘no brand’ brand is a very clever piece of branding in itself and this smart insight makes Muji a Lovemark for millions of people. The products are incredible; a mixture of Japanese cool and consumer desire. Notebooks to die for, pens, furnishings and clothing that are both understated and, in true Japanese fashion, stylish. Put that together with a determination to create a sustainable stock and you have a model for 21st century stores. People who are passionate about Muji products can pick them out of a line-up with their eyes closed, well half-open anyway. It’s not surprising then that Muji is planning to open two stores in New York. A Muji SoHo store will open mid-November and, sometime next year, they will add a flag-ship store in Manhattan.
The Muji brand is style, confidence and an intimate knowledge of what makes their customers feel good about themselves. With Muji, the call of the brand is a whisper rather than a shout. Perfect pitch for a Lovemark in a world that demands you attract people by presenting them with the things they love.
Monday, September 24, 2007
It's only words, and words are all I have,
to take your heart away
The long journey to Lovemarks has taught me the importance of language, and (as important as it is) I’m not talking about the ability to communicate clearly. I remember talking with Alan Webber way back in 2000. He had co-founded Fast Company in 1995 with the determination to create a different kind of business magazine and he turned out to be one of Lovemarks' early supporters. He printed one of my early forays into how to transform marketing. “There are only two things wrong with brand management. Brands and management.” Alan and I are both passionate about how the market can engage with people in more authentic and inspirational ways. He was convinced that whoever controls the language controls the debate. In The Lovemarks Effect he said: “If you get the language right, if you can change the way an issue is framed, you can begin to woo people into thinking about things your way because language is so powerful.”
I was reminded of Alan’s comments recently by the phenomenon of ‘greenwashing’. Apparently the term has been around since the early 1990s, but has gained huge momentum in the last few years. I guess it’s because business and governments are scrambling to enhance their green credentials by taking short cuts and their critics are less than impressed. It’s easy to ‘go green’ by making claims, but it’s a huge challenge to ‘be green’ for real. Greenwashing is a powerful word carrying all the baggage of ‘whitewashing’, plus the bad karma that goes with it. Its limitation is that it is a label, not a call to action. It points out what’s wrong but doesn’t show us what’s right. What I’m after are those rare words that capture a major shift in attitude and truly change how we think and act.
One of the most compelling examples I know of is the way New Zealand’s Ministry of Transport changed from reporting car ‘accidents‘ to reporting car ‘crashes‘. A single word transformed crushed metal and broken bodies from an unexpected event that was no one’s fault, to a devastating result. If you have any words that have unleashed authentic emotional responses, let’s share them.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Transformation starts with language. That was why Lovemarks had to be Lovemarks, not Brands More or Brands Plus. Come up with a big idea and bring it to life with a name that is provocative, bold and risky. The London borough of Tower Hamlets got it back in the late 1990s. They’d done a large scale survey and found that fewer than 3 in 10 residents used their local libraries, and worse, that most of them didn’t even like the idea of a library. They thought libraries were fusty, old fashioned and not for them.
From this bracing reality check the borough came back strong. Not only are they now in the midst of transforming their library buildings, they are reinventing their funding model to include corporate partners and more conventional public sources. Now here’s the language part - they have renamed libraries as Idea Stores.
An Idea Store is like a contemporary bookstore mashed with an Internet café, art gallery, community center, music store and video rental place. There are now eight of them in communities and shopping centers throughout the Tower Hamlets. Great places to meet, hang out, get informed and be entertained. Strong branding, stylish furniture, wider aisles, access to lots of useful services and books, of course, as well as CDs, DVDs, free Internet, etc. The Idea Store concept thrives in a sisomo world and screens are integrated into every part of the building. Many stores or shops could do well by having a close look at this model. Human beings are messy animals. Anything that goes in straight lines tends to run into barriers. We like to mix and match, cut and paste, and mash different ideas together to create new experiences. In the Ideas Stores a whole heap of “bests” have been drawn together brilliantly.
One disappointment. The Idea Store website is a let-down. Not a hint of sisomo sizzle. The Ideas Store of the future does not need an institutional-style website modeled on the past. Trust me.
Is it just me or can everyone see it? Is James Gandolfini turning into Bill Cochrane before our very eyes? I’ve mentioned Bill before. He’s Saatchi & Saatchi’s Worldwide CFO and a key partner of mine in running the global business. He’s dedicated 25 years of his life to the cause and has seen it all. But I doubt he ever thought he’d get to see Tony Soprano become Bill Cochrane.
Let me explain. The film Lonely Hearts is based on a true story set just after the Second World War in the U.S. It tells the story of a modern day Bonnie and Clyde who turn into serial killers of lonely women. As you will have guessed, the movie stars Gandolfini, who is joined by John Travolta, and they play two detectives who track the killers and bring them to the electric chair. Gandolfini is the narrator, and for those of you who don’t know him, I can tell you he not only sounds like Bill, but as the movie progresses, he looks more and more like him. Gandolfini’s narration is spoken with the same New Jersey accent, the same tonality and the exact same rhythm as Bill’s. His size, presence and demeanor are identical. He’s always on the lookout for possible trouble and tells Travolta stuff nobody else can. Sometimes he’s right, sometimes he’s wrong, but he always tells it the way he sees it and he always tells it with Travolta’s interest at heart. Gee, that sounds familiar!
The movie itself is really well directed and features a magnetic performance from Salma Hayek. Her power, passion and manipulative psyche are simply brilliant. She was electric with Antonio Banderas in Desperado and she is magnificent here. Hayek reminds me very much of Anjelica Huston at her best. The film is a period piece. Prop jets fly from Idlewild, there are great cars from the late 1940’s, terrific shoulder-padded suits, Borsalino hats and big trench coats. All very satisfying and Justice prevails. Shout yourself a night at the movies. Go see Big Bill in action.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
As I mentioned in a previous post, USA Rugby people got together a couple of weeks back for a meeting of the new Board and Congress. The talk was around how we could all pull together to inspire Americans to fall in love with rugby. Core to this dream were a couple of beliefs.
The first is that rugby is a game that can be played and enjoyed by everyone, irrespective of body shape or size. Second, only rugby transcends the local to create a timeless global fraternity. I have also found that only rugby forges brotherhood through blood and respect, creating unbreakable bonds. As most of you know by now, the great passion of my life is centered on the New Zealand All Blacks. To me, they have always been the living embodiment of unbreakable bonds. Hopefully they have now begun what will turn out to be a 7-week odyssey to win the Rugby World Cup for all of New Zealand.
In my last piece on USA Rugby, I wrote about the Maori concept of Whakapapa, which explains a person’s place in the world. It is genealogy merged with mythology, spirituality and sustainability - a simple, beautiful view of the world. New Zealand’s indigenous people, the Maori, see themselves as part of a flowing line of ancestors linked arm and arm, from the beginning of time through to the present, and into the future through yet to be born forebears. The sun moves slowly along this interlinking chain of people and it signifies each person’s life as it shines down upon each of them. And so during every life, the individual is seen as a representative of the people and the custodian of the people’s heritage and values. The chain is unbreakable and the line of people immortal.
These unbreakable bonds are at the core of my own personal value set. Last weekend I spent some time thinking about just that, as I traveled back in time with a bunch of mates. I last played rugby with them 40 years ago in Lancaster and we all came together to watch the USA Eagles kick off their World Cup challenge. 40 years on the bond that held us together was still vibrant and real. It also got me thinking about another concept I discovered through great Maori leaders in New Zealand; that of mana. Mana is a Maori word which we can define in English as respect and presence. You know when someone has mana. When they walk into a room, a bar, or any group situation, they are immediately granted respect from those around them. Sometimes no words are spoken. Their presence is enough. Mana is bestowed, not claimed. The character of someone with mana is summed up in a beautiful Maori saying talking about one of their food staples, “the kumara does not talk about its own sweetness”.
Mana comes from Whakapapa and its connections, through to descendants who have performed great deeds, the personal performance of great actions with humbleness, and being part of a group that has bestowed great charity on others.
All three create belonging and legacy. Sean Fitzpatrick exemplifies it. So does Tana Umaga. So did Buck Shelford. And so does Richie McCaw.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
“Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interests of the producer ought to be attended to, only in so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.”
We only matter as producers in so far as we promote the interests of consumers. When was that consumer-is-boss-like statement made? 1776, in Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. Smart people have always believed the consumer-is-boss. Our challenge is to act on it, and transform belief into action.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Here’s Monocle’s formula.
1. Develop an appealing national cuisine. Every woman knows the fastest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Look at what France, Italy, Japan, Mexico, China and Thailand have done in this area. One thing’s for sure, New Zealand and Australia are not at the top of the totem pole in this game.
2. Develop a local wine, beer or spirit industry. Both New Zealand and Australia have done a fantastic job in wine and beer. Some might argue Bundaberg Rum (but only if you live in Queensland!) and 42Below have proven that nothing is impossible. A vodka from New Zealand. You have to love it.
3. Be recognized for being fair and just. New Zealand has taken a very positive stance in this area in terms of female emancipation, our position on the nuclear issue and view on conflicts that have very little to do with us. Visitors don’t want to get involved in Draconian local legislation, corrupt justice systems, or human rights issues.
4. Re-engineer the heavens. Neither New Zealand or Australia are faced with this particular problem. What passes for summer in the Northern Hemisphere is our winter, and we’re playing rugby. In the miserable Northern Hemisphere winter, it is summer in God’s Own. Places like Scandinavia successfully re-engineered the heavens by having all their travel photography being shot on that one golden day in July!
5. A good brand travels. Last week Air New Zealand was rated the number 2 long distance airline by readers of Condé Nast Traveler magazine. Singapore and Dubai owe everything to their 2 magnificent airlines. Unfortunately, British Airways and Heathrow aren’t quite the advertisement they used to be for the UK.
6. Behave yourself. Lager louts, race riots, taxi and tube strikes are not the best way to encourage tourism. New Zealand must be in the top 3 in this area with its easy going hospitality and relaxed and friendly population.
7. Go easy on religion. Religious fanaticism and extremism is off putting wherever it’s practiced. As Dave Allen said at the end of every show, “May your God go with you”.
8. Master infrastructure. Crowded airports, inefficient trains and public transport on strike do not add up to great experiences.
9. Build brands people want. Italy, Sweden, Denmark and Ireland have all built brands. In some cases they are Lovemarks. So, how did they do it? Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy are the key. Think Italy and Brazil.
10. Invest in sports. Go the All Blacks in France. Bring back the America’s Cup, Dalts.
Monday, September 17, 2007
First look at how Switzerland, Sweden, Ireland, Italy and Hong Kong measure up against these criteria and then run your own nation through them. It’s a fascinating journey.
Let’s start with Monocle’s 6 ways to brand a nation.
- Bank Note
- Road Signs
Simple ideas, but they resonate with me.
In my house in Grasmere, I have a limited edition distressed rug by Vivienne Westwood that depicts a beat up Union Jack. On my wall, I’ve got an iconic photograph of The Who draped in a giant-size Union Jack while sleeping near the Houses of Parliament. A limited edition of 7 prints of the Stars and Stripes by the photographer Art Kane is also iconic, and if you go to the store next door to one of my favorite hotels, the ZaZa in Dallas, you’ll see a bunch of flags of Texas, the Lone Star State, including one with a bullet hole.
We are haunted in New Zealand by a flag that looks like a pale imitation of our colonial past. One of our super patriots, Lloyd Morrison, has led a campaign to find the contemporary iconic representation of what it means to be a New Zealander. To me the answer is on the All Blacks jersey on the left breast. The Silver Fern.
The new U.S. passport released two months ago has elaborate illustrations of U.S. history printed on every page. In New Zealand, they don’t even stamp mine when I leave home. In Britain, we had to turn in our special leather-bound, gold-embossed British passports for European community passports - which means absolutely nothing.
U.S. bank notes are bewildering to any non-American. They are all the same size and color and it’s hard to differentiate between a $1.00 and $100 bill. On the other hand, the Australians have come up trumps in terms of tactile sensuality. Here’s a rough rule of thumb: the smaller the value, the brighter the color.
Bob Isherwood, my creative partner at Saatchi & Saatchi, is a fan of Helvetica. It’s a typeface that lets the idea do the talking and leaves lots of opportunity to do something special.
For me, stamps have the power of a one-scene movie. They should tell the stories of a nation’s history and future. Stamps are a perfect way to connect past, present and future through visualization of great heroes, great events and great experiences. And, of course, every year or so we need to issue a limited edition of one, just to keep the philatelists on their toes.
Think about these in Paris, or in other romantic environments. What a great opportunity for brilliant art direction and iconography. It’s a major opportunity for most countries and New Zealand is at the top of the list.
For the second part of this post, check in tomorrow.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Saatchi & Saatchi’s aging rocker, Richard Jupp, was with me in Singapore the other week when I was speaking at Global Brand Forum. Richard gave me a terrific long-sleeved, collared cotton shirt made from vintage fabric from a Manchester Company called English Laundry. On the left breast was All You Need Is Love and the words to the classic song were on the back right-hand panel. The story behind English Laundry is amazing. A few young lads in Manchester or, as they call it today, The Center of the Universe, picked up a load of original fabrics from the 60’s and 70’s that had been laying in some old warehouses. They produced a funky range of arrogant designs; handmade fabric, handmade embroidery, handmade stitching with tongue in cheek Manchester design elements. One t-shirt has Welcome to Manchester from English Laundry emblazoned on the front. On the back are the words, Now F**k Off. Madness and attitude. It’s an updated version of my retro Lovemark Ben Sherman. I love it. I just ordered 6 of their summer designs, including St. Mary, St. John, Wigan, and Coronation Street! Check ‘em out.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Let’s start with a statement: anyone reading this post will have watched TV. Today you may watch more or less, replace it with the Web or a DVD on your laptop, but one way or another, TV has helped shape who you are.
So here’s a thought. How do you think the millions of people who are just now joining the TV Age are impacted by it? It’s an important question because the momentum towards TV is amazing. Some estimates say the number of television sets in Asia grew from 100 million to 600 million in the last 25 years or so. For these regions, the TV adventure is just beginning and the impacts can be unexpected and, yes, wonderful. For them TV is not life’s trivial pursuits on repeat, but a window to a better world.
Now for a story - actually a whole book of stories about the lives of women in rural India and what happened when their villages got access to cable TV.
Like all good stories, this one begins with a barrier; a mountain range of barriers. It is a story about women living in rural Bihar, Goa, Haryana and Tamil Nadu, as well as in New Delhi. Women who don’t have a lot of control over their lives. Around half of them require permission from their husbands to go shopping, and two-thirds have to ask to visit friends. Sons are more highly regarded than daughters and domestic violence is often regarded as acceptable.
Emily Oster of University of Chicago and Robert Jensen of Brown University found that this very common situation shifted dramatically after the introduction of TV. Cable TV. How did TV change the lives of these women? Simply by offering them emotional connections with other worlds through soap operas. Village women were inspired by a new spirit of independence and possibility. They avidly followed the lives of urban women in shows like Because a Mother-in-Law Was Once a Daughter-in-Law – one of the most popular shows of 2007. The women they saw on screen were better educated and had fewer children. They were able to work outside their homes and have control over their own money. These were new stories to rural women, and in a very short time, attitudes, expectations and behavior began to change. Six to seven months was all it took.
These effects are huge. The academic paper is here but the out-take is clear. While TV is becoming part of an and/and world in Europe, the U.S. and other developed countries, in emerging nations its unique power is just starting to be felt. If the Indian experience is anything to go by, TV is realizing its potential as a great educator.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I’ve been a critic of qualitative research for years (check out ‘research vampires’ on Google and you’ll see what I mean), but sometimes it can be a wonderful thing – when it backs up what you already know intuitively! Saatchi & Saatchi has just had some work done in the UK looking at how women fare in the world of consumer electronics, and it’s tough stuff. We’re talking cause for retailers and manufacturers to get a major reality check.
Do retailers of consumer electronics have any idea how much women dislike doing business with them? One in two women walked out of stores and abandoned websites because she couldn’t find what she was looking for! That’s right, one in every two women, and we’re talking about women who were already shopping and keen to buy. So tell me, when was retail doing so well that it could afford that sort of fall-out? Not in my lifetime, that’s for sure. In the UK, women spend just under $US650 each on personal technology a year. Our report calculated that UK tech brands and retailers stand to lose over $US1 billion in 2007 alone because they fail to connect with women.
Do retailers know how tough it is for women to get the assistance they need? One third of the women surveyed said they didn’t feel confident enough to ask questions in-store. Is that their problem? Not when the consumer is boss it isn’t. Now put this lack of confidence together with the amazing fact that nearly one in two women go electronics shopping without a specific brand in mind, and you have what Jack Reacher calls ‘a situation’. The upside of situations is that they offer huge opportunities; opportunities for retailers and manufacturers who get their act together. The combination of great products that matter plus compelling in-store and online experiences can start to show women who is in control. Hopefully when they head out to buy electronics, they head out towards a brand they find irreplaceable, or even one they find irresistible. A Lovemark.
One final thought. Please, for the next five years at least, lose the pink. Pink has become a cliché: make it pink and bingo, that’s the woman thing taken care of. Our research put another nail in the pink coffin. Only nine percent of the women involved thought it was important that electronic gadgets look feminine – and there was serious resistance to the Pink Solution. The words ‘patronised’ and ‘offended’ were used. Women want beautiful, stylish, sleek, sensual objects. Not the same-old same-old washed in pink.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
At the end of this month, entries close for the Saatchi & Saatchi 2007 Award for World Changing Ideas. An award of US$100,000 in cash and consultancy is waiting for a fantastic idea. The title of the Award tells you exactly what inspired it and an early winner sums up its spirit. David Levy told us, “I go looking for trouble”. The truth is, there can be no progress without ideas and great ideas often make trouble as they challenge, change, and transform us. Take the winner of the award in 2005, the Light Up The World Foundation. How could a Light Emitting Diode change the world? Well, if like millions of people your life virtually comes to a stop when the sun goes down, it could change your world easily. Using LEDs that don’t need articulated electricity, the Light Up The World Foundation has lit up more than 14,000 homes in 42 different countries throughout the developing world from Afghanistan to Zambia. Parents get to read to their kids at bedtime, study, and the family’s social life at home can stretch past sunset. Other winners have included a sonar system that lets blind people ‘see’ with their ears, a tornado warning system and self adjusting spectacles (another life changing innovation for the developing nations).
Shortlisted ideas are judged by a panel and over the years we have called on some great innovators. Danny Hillis, Philip Glass, Buzz Aldrin, David Byrne, Edward de Bono, William Gibson and Lou Reed, to name a few trouble makers in the best sense. I’ll keep you up to date on this fantastic award. Innovation changing lives for the better.
Entries close 28 September 2007. For more information check out www.saatchi.com/innovation or email Norma Clarke at email@example.com
Monday, September 10, 2007
Chicago has a lot to commend it and its architecture is second to none in the US. Music roots, particularly the Blues, also remain alive and well, and there are a few better Saturday nights to be had than a visit to the House of Blues. This is a city where the main business is tourism, and if you can avoid the windy, freezing winter, it really is inspirational. Chicagoans love to eat and they won’t let you forget that the deep dish pizza was invented here. It bears little resemblance to the classic, much lighter Italian pizza but is pretty irresistible after a beer or two. To me, the city is vastly under appreciated and under visited. When you add that Chicago is a great sporting and shopping town, you really do need to take a detour there next time you are in the US.
Friday, September 7, 2007
It was great fun to spend a day in Chicago with the people from USA Rugby who do the hard yards. These are the men and women, administrators, coaches and international athletes that have been brought together by the unbreakable lineage, or whakapapa as the Maori call it, of rugby. It was a room packed full of passion. We kicked off with an inspirational video showing how many rugby skills are already incorporated in mainstream American sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer and hockey. Our message is that it is only rugby that brings them all together. Only rugby has an international fraternity for life. Only rugby is a game that is available for everyone; all genders, all shapes, all sizes.
We then went on to share the Purpose of USA Rugby, starting with our Inspirational Dream of inspiring America to fall in love with the game. We also went through our Beliefs, Spirit and Key Challenges. The USA Rugby Congress played a fantastic role in contributing to and improving the Beliefs, in particular. 2007 has been a record year for US Rugby in terms of cash, revenue, profit and investment. Brilliant new sponsors such as Sony, Setanta and Guinness have been brought on board. All three of our top teams (Eagles, Womens', and 7’s side) are improving in terms of performance and our youth teams are also moving up the rankings’ ladder. Thanks to superb leadership from our newly appointed CEO and President of Rugby Operations, Nigel Melville. Nigel is ex-captain of England, ex-Director of Rugby at Wasps and has relocated to Boulder, Colorado. This is a guy who has really got his arms around all constituents of the game here.
Then to top it off, we qualified for Rugby World Cup '07, and Sunday saw a historic match-up with the 2006 Heineken Cup European Champions – Munster. Leading 6–nil at half-time, we ran out of steam against the experienced Munster pros and lost 10-6. But it was a great day for USA Rugby and 8,600 spectators turned up for it at Toyota Park, home of the Chicago Fire. I can tell you we’ve come a long way under ex-All Black selector Peter Thorburn, and we have the capability to surprise people in next month’s World Cup. Building bridges with Munster has been an important part of our strategy given the passionate following, particularly amongst the Irish Diaspora in the US.
Along with the fans, the local Mayor turned up and the Minister of State from Ireland came over for the game. There were also a bunch of key sponsors. This kind of interest, along with lots of kids getting involved, will provide the platform for accelerated growth in 2008 when we take the first step towards professionalism. For us to qualify for the Rugby World Cup in 2011, we’re probably going to have to beat the likes of Canada, Fiji and Tonga in the qualifying rounds if, as it looks likely, the number of qualifiers is reduced from 20 to 16. We’ll have to turn a hard core of players professional in 2008, which will in turn mean significantly increased revenue generation and funding. The world needs the US to become a playing and commercial force in rugby. Last weekend was a pretty good coming out party.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
I meet a lot of CEOs as I travel the world for Saatchi & Saatchi. Most of them are just like you and me, except somewhat more stressed. Many of them have worked very hard to get to the top and now find they don’t enjoy life as much as they used to. I believe that much of the reason for this can be put at the door of Sarbanes-Oxley and the total, almost irresponsible, focus on short-term share price. Sarbanes-Oxley has turned out to be the proverbial mega-hammer being used to crack a peanut - it’s cost intensive, non-competitive and major overkill. Couple this with the absolute religion of quarterly reporting and you get a stressful, short-term situation where imagination, innovation, fun and passion are squeezed out. And worse, they are replaced by a functional bureaucracy which focuses more on reporting and messaging than innovating and building. It is a situation that disadvantages U.S. companies internationally and acts as a major start-up deterrent.
This total focus on short-term results and short-term shareholder value has got out of hand. Many CEOs are now actively looking to private equity, though not to make money or enrich themselves. It is simply to take away short-term external pressure so they can actually focus on creating long-term value for stakeholders. I’ve always been suspicious of the exclusive focus on creating shareholder value. My view of the eternal triangle incorporating employees, customers and shareholders, is that it’s employees that matter most. If you can unleash and inspire employees to drive together, you will create loyalty beyond reason from customers. Inspired employees will give customers things they never dreamed possible. If you do this, customers will buy more, revenues will increase, and over time so will shareholder value. Bob Seelert, our Chairman at Saatchi & Saatchi, often talks about starting with the answer and working back. To me the answer is inspiring employees to delight customers. Believe me, increased share value will follow. Or, to paraphrase Bob, start with your employees and work back.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
As I have mentioned before, I have been working with Professor Rachel Cooper and her merry band as they create Imagination@Lancaster. Being involved in this project has made me think deeply about what makes people creative and what role imagination plays in it. As with most things, there are a number of factors, but the one I want to look at here is simplicity. To me, simplicity is central to the new relationships that are emerging with consumers. Swamping consumers with complicated information might have worked when they were prepared to be passive receivers, but no longer. Hide important facts in a blizzard of statements and someone will find you out. The better course? Great ideas, simply put.
Check out this fun video:
Following up on my piece about simplicity, here is a great example. The best sisomo is sisomo inspired by the simplest best ideas. Production value is important, but not as important as magic. In some quarters that is has become known as the Zapruder Effect, based on the short piece of grainy, silent 8mm film that showed the tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy and demonstrated once and for all the power of ideas and emotion over technology.
So it is with the extraordinary sisomo you can see here. This single take piece is called Daft Hands, based on the Daft Punk song 'Harder, Better, Stronger, Faster'. Incredibly it was made by a 19-year old called FrEckle. Why is it such a blast? Because it’s smart, it’s simple, it’s economical, it’s skillful and it brings joy to your heart. This version has been taken from The Radar Festival’s Top Ten Low Budget Music Videos. Also included in the Top Ten is one of the most unforgettable short sisomos ever. Bob Dylan presenting Subterranean Homesick Blues as directed by the legendary documentary maker D A Pennebaker. Look out for beat poet Allen Ginsberg lounging in the background.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
I’m writing this in London, just before Manchester City travel to the Emirates Stadium to play Arsenal on August 25. (A regrettable postscript is that we were robbed 1:0, but that’s another story). I’m writing it now because we are in the unprecedented position of sitting on top of the English Premier League. A 30 year first. I’m also writing it now because I know it won’t last (and it didn't!), so time to “Carpe Diem”.