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

Divine Intervention Planning …
March 24, 2010, 6:28 am
Filed under: Comment

I am not a religious person – and yet, when I passed a Church in Singapore, I was stopped in my tracks when I saw this:

I’ll get to the point as to why in a second … however I believe this is a brilliant example of grade-A planning, something that would put most agency planners to shame.

OK, so when you are a religion, you’re not frightened of making big statements … however in the scheme of things, this isn’t too pragmatic, infact its positively gentle compared to some of the thunder and brimstone stuff they could of used.

The reason I like it is because – post rationalised by me – it comes from a deep insight about Singaporeans and their view/attitude to life.

It would be very easy to assume the only things Singaporeans really care about are shopping, status and food.

And you know what … for many that would be a pretty fair assessment.

But here’s the thing, rather than the church putting out a banner featuring a quote that goes along the lines of:

“And Jesus said if you follow the path of the Lord, you will be rewarded with an abundance of riches” *

… they realised that in this fast paced, high pressured, social judging, material acquiring land, the thing many people want even more than high priced goods or just plain ol’ cash … is peace.

That’s right, peace.

A place of quiet and calm.

A place where the pressures of the World are kept behind the door.

A place where their mind can be filled with positive thoughts rather than the worry of keeping up with expectation and ambition.

A place where the body, mind and soul can find equilibrium again … where it can rejuvenate … where they can feel human again.

And the really clever bit – again post rationalised by me – is that for some Singaporeans, their mentality is that only the uber-rich could ever be in a situation where they choose to literally turn their back on the busy and demanding World … so not only does it position the Church as a place where you can get an antidote [or at least a temporary antidote] to the high-speed rat race … but it’s also relevant to the money-hungry culture because they’ll read it as saying by following God, you can get to a point where you have such a collection of riches, you’ll be able to ‘buy’ personal peace and tranquillity.

In short, by NOT using a statement that blatantly links with the Singaporean acquisition mentality, they’ve not only found a way to differentiate themselves from the cataclysmic noises being screamed out by every brand/company on the island … but they’ve come out with something that resonates deeply with anyone who feels they are running a thousand miles an hour just to stand still … which is why as a non-religious man, this ‘ad’ really got to me, however sadly for the Church, rather than rely on God to help me find a place on inner-peace, I’ve got my mild-life crisis to get me there instead.

Still, for coming up with a statement that reflected a deeper insight that simply “SINGAPOREANS WANT IT ALL” [which let’s face it, is not exactly the sort of claim a religious organisation should be putting out, even though I would bet 90% of planners would claim that’s exactly the direction they should be taking] they get a donation to the Church roof repair fund and 3 hail Mary’s.


* This ‘quote’ is completely made up, however I am assuming there’s something like that somewhere in the bible given it contains the most ambiguous/contrary/paradoxical content this side of a Piers Morgan book

One Rule For One, Should Be One Rule For Everyone …
March 23, 2010, 6:05 am
Filed under: Comment

So last week I was asked to present to a Singapore Government ‘youth’ conference about creativity.

The guys were very kind and accommodating given I am a bald, foul-mouthed and opinionated British yob who doesn’t exactly do ‘subtle’ when he has a microphone in his hand.

As I mentioned in the post last week, the title – “Nothing Great Happens If You Follow The Rules” – was kinda ironic given I was doing this in Singapore … a place where rules are treated like Gods … however the purpose of the presentation was to ultimately highlight that Singapore owes much of their success to their iconic and psychological visionary leader, Lee Kuan Yew – a man who broke all the rules of democracy and Asian values to create the dramatic change he felt necessary to enable Singapore to get where it needed to be for long term sustained growth [economic] and stability [cultural].

I guess what I was trying to communicate was if young guys in the conference were fearful of trying something they were passionate about [because certain Asian values dictate failure and/or anti-consensus views/activities are met with mass social distain] they should take comfort from the fact their great leader once went totally against the grain and so when it is done for the right reasons, rules can be – and should be – bent.

[Slides 14-16 are pisstakes on why I think Singapore can claim to be one of the best examples of creative planning in the World … slide 17 is the person who I think can claim to be one of the best creative planners in the World and from slide 18 – I detail what I think were some of the guiding principals LKY used to help him not only shape his vision for Singapore but kept him going even when everything seemed against him]

Anyway, even though you won’t really be able to tell what the preso was given my usual big picture, few words style … I thought I’d put it up anyway … and in the interests of both Andy, Pete and George, I’d like to bring it to their attention that whilst there is a fair amount of CNP [cut ‘n’ paste] there is also quite a few ‘new slides’ too.

Yes, I’m as shocked as the rest of you.

Finally, I should mention that when I was at the conference I met Singaporean designer, Kelley Cheng – who is not only brilliantly talented, charming and funny – but unbelievably versatile, entrepeureal and plain ol’ inspirational.

If you have the chance to check her or any one of her different businesses out [she has some cool cafes, including one dedicated to giving anyone who wants a go, their ’15 minutes of fame’] I encourage you to do so … because if she can do it, then there’s absolutely no fucking excuse why the rest of us can’t.

Seduce, Don’t Attack.
March 22, 2010, 6:09 am
Filed under: Comment

One of the things that always bugs me is when brands try and bash people over the head with 10,000 reasons why they should buy their product.

The most common mistake is that more often than not, the reasons they throw out have little to do with what will make someone buy, and all to do with what will make the brands marketing/R&D/management team feel good.

I know this shows how thick I am, but it’s only in the last few years I have actually realised why clients like having a “REASON TO BELIEVE” statement in all their briefs, because ultimately it lets them brag about what they’ve been doing for the last few years and feel they’ve done something of value or worth.

Of course research should prove that in many cases, the general public don’t give a flying fuck about the stitching on the piece of fabric or the AMR chip in their DVD … but as we all know, corporate ego beats common sense on many occasion which is why we now have consumer electronics ads where half the page is taken up with meaningless symbols just because the company needs to show off all the stuff they’ve been doing even if they can’t be arsed to explain what it does to benefit the purchaser.

The reason I bring this up is because Andy recently sent me the best used car ad I think I’ve ever seen.

No copy talking about 100 point inspections by highly trained engineers … no “we’ve been caring for drivers for 30 years” bland statements … no BMW are innovators in car technology ego bollocks … not even a trade-in or finance options chart … just the appreciation and acceptance that an ad is very unlikely to make someone go out and buy a used BMW on the spot, but – if done well – it could get interested parties to want to find out more and this ad does it brilliantly, thanks to understanding what to say and – more importantly – what to leave out.


International Mindfuck Day.
March 19, 2010, 6:48 am
Filed under: Comment

So thanks to a bit of mischief recently executed by my colleague Olly,, we want to try and pull off an international, workplace social experiment and was hoping you would like to be involved/help us out.

The only things required are:

1/ An individual with a hint of mischief.

2/ The acquisition of an object not normally found in a workplace loo.

3/ A workplace loo.

4/ Frequent trips to the toilet.

5/ Ears.

Interms of the object we would you you to source, it can be anything as long as it is dramatically out of context [which should be pretty easy given we’re talking about an office toilet!!!] and be relatively innocent.

What that means is you can get a rubber duck but you shouldn’t use a rubber doll.

Without going into the details quite yet, we’d like to know If you’re up for it … as well as spread the word … because if we have enough people willing to take part, we’d like April 19th to be the inauguration of International Mindfuck Day.

If you’re willing to take part – and we promise it won’t be anything so bad that you will get in trouble – then please sign up as well as direct your friends/colleagues here, the more the better.


Appetite For Destruction …
March 18, 2010, 6:27 am
Filed under: Comment

Many years ago, the head of R&D at an international consumer electronics company asked me to look at the implications of them being asked to continually develop/launch new products and brands.

Without going into too much detail, what I saw shocked me.

In essence, the senior guys at the company were demanding their R&D guys cut development time by upto 50% ensuring that there was a constant stream of new news to drive communication, sales and profit.

Whilst I understood the economic possibilities of this strategy … especially given their increasing competition … I couldn’t help but feel the implications on the brand were alarming, leading me to write a paper to the organisations board entitled:

Why The Quest For Every Possible Cent Of Profit Will Lead To Loss.

The basic premise was that the way this company looked at their market was ‘how many products can we sell them’ … and whilst that was all very well and good … the reality was they had failed to take into account a number of issues from igniting customer dissatisfaction [basically the fact people will get pissed off when a product they’ve just bought is superseded within 3 months] through to a total disregard for the economics of people’s budgets [in essence they ‘forgot’ that people have many commitments and activities that need to be satisfied so it would be impossible – not to mention ridiculous – to assume they would spend every pound/dollar/cent of their budget/income/credit card on their products each and every month]

However the bit that really scared me was the speed of development they wanted to embrace.

By cutting get-to-market times by upto 50% [without dramatically increasing the R&D budget/staff] I couldn’t help but feel corners would have to be cut, resulting in mistakes and problems that very quickly would affect people’s view and trust of the brand, ultimately encouraging them to choose or seek out alternative manufactures – regardless of price-point, distribution and/or features.


The R&D investment that was being made was focused more on product evolution rather than innovation – a trait this brand had been built on – so not only were they going to be cutting corners, it was going to be on products/brands that were no longer breaking new ground, ultimately making brands with a lot of good-will, worse.

Despite the full backing of the R&D department, my paper was brushed aside with one of the most condescending rationales from the global head of marketing … and you know what, he was right, because for 3 years they enjoyed record share and profits.

Then it all fell apart.


Products that were once seen as the backbone of the company’s reputation were now seen as expensive and unreliable … and when they did release fundamentally new products, they were lacklustre, making you feel they were developed for the sake of development rather than answering a real market opportunity/need.

Fortunately the decline in innovation, quality, reputation and – most importantly – sales, resulted in a change of approach and attitude however even today, they are still fighting the demons of those mad few years of trying to vacuum up every possible penny from people’s wallets and whilst they still were able to make a profit [but only just], it was a real lesson for me both in the arrogance of brands and the power planners have to get to the core issues, not just the communication elements.

The reason I write this is that over the last few weeks we’ve seen major recalls by Toyota, GM and Nissan and I can’t help but feel I’m seeing history revisited, except instead of greed driving the corporations pressure on R&D development times – it’s survival … and whilst I can sort-of understand why that would happen, the thing is as soon as you forget your reputation is only as good as your latest work, you’re investing in your destruction.

Whilst progress and ambition are fantastic – and to a certain extent, vital – attributes to have, it would be pretty useful and beneficial if companies remembered the importance of what Harrison Ford calls the value of value.