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

The Cost Of Living Is Dying …

The cost of living is insane everywhere.




The prices are going up faster than we can blink.

And while there is definitely the suspicion some industries are using this as an excuse to elevate their profits – I’m looking at you fossil fuel and supermarket industries – the reality is for many people, life is becoming more about survival than living.

Here in NZ, the conversation often relates back to the price of food.

Part of the reason for that is because the dairy industry is so influential and economically important.

But right now, you can’t turn on a talkback radio show without hearing people complain about the price of cheese … milk … or vegetables.

Sure, it’s not as bad as it is in the UK at the moment – where supermarkets are putting ‘anti-theft’ devices on cheese, but it’s not far off.

Just recently I heard a 10 minute segment about the price of cauliflowers.

Apparently they’re $12 each in some places and one person interviewed said:

“There’s no cauliflower in the world worth $12”

It’s fair to say it’s a sentence I’ve never heard in my life.

But while the cauliflower conversation may raise a smile … what it indicates is nothing but.

More and more people will struggle.

Will be taken advantage of.

Will wonder if they can cope.

While I hold real concern for a number of groups, one I’m particularly concerned for is youth.

As I wrote yesterday – and all the photos in this post are from our book, Dream Small – many kids in NZ already feel oppressed by the lack of opportunity and the pressure of complicity they face … but now, their situation could be even more tested.

Less possibilities.

More expectations.

Even less consideration.

Even more demands and judgement.

Given NZ already has one of the worst youth suicide rates – per capita – in the world, what could this do to the mental health and wellbeing of the young?

What is this going to do to the dreams they have?

I get it’s hard.

I get there will be many more communities that will require help.

But for all the companies that go on about how proud they are to be from New Zealand, maybe this is the moment they prove it by what they do rather than what they say.

Last year I judged the Effies and read a bunch of entries from supermarkets.

They talked about how their ‘strategy’ had helped them overcome the huge barrier of covid.

All of them … every last one … claimed covid had been a barrier to growth rather than their fast track.

It was an insult to my intelligence.

I would love it if this year, I read submissions from NZ brands who talked about how they used this time to enable a generation. That they recognised the countries future was dependent on the young feeling they could bring their wild hopes, ideas and energy to the fore. That instead of being told to dream small, they were supported to dream big. So the country can evolve and develop so if situations like this happen again, then the nation will be in a better position because it will be stronger thanks to the brains and ideas the young have brought.

I don’t even really care how they do it.

More pay.

Government funded flights for their OE.

A youth venture fund that kids can call upon to help with their ideas.

Tax breaks for youth focused, foreign brands to come into the country.

Fighting against Tall Poppy – or any of the other issues that hold youth back through fear.

And while I know there are a few brands doing it – some of my clients for a start – I doubt I’ll be reading many papers that celebrate that shift, because too many of these ‘proud Kiwi brands’ are more focused on perpetuating and controlling the stereotype than liberating the people who are forced to live by it.

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It’s Not Escape, It’s Reset …

I saw this picture recently and it made me laugh …

However while it was made for amusement purposes, there’s a lot of truth in it.

Especially that Tuesday afternoon picture.

Which leads me to my point.

There’s a lot of talk about ‘the great resignation’.

How people – predominantly the young – are leaving their jobs in unprecedented numbers.

Even Beyonce is referenced because she touches on it in her lyrics to ‘Break My Soul’ …

Now, I just fell in love
And I just quit my job
I’m gonna find new drive
Damn, they work me so damn hard
Work by nine, then off past five
And they work my nerves
That’s why I cannot sleep at night
I’m lookin’ for motivation
I’m lookin’ for a new foundation, yeah
And I’m on that new vibration
I’m buildin’ my own foundation, yeah

But what I find interesting is how many companies seem to be missing the point.

That they seem to think that youth are basically retiring.

That they must have untold millions in the bank to fall back on.

But that’s not the case.

They’re over being treated the way they are by companies.

Being told ‘you matter’, but get worked to fuck.

Or not given training or growth.

Or simply seeing racism, sexism, favouritism.

That’s why they’re resigning.

It’s not that they don’t want to work … or earn money or grow … they just don’t want to be broken or feel they are sacrificing life for hell.

Recently I sent a bunch of people around New Zealand to listen to what youth culture thought about their life.

For a nation seen by the rest of the World as almost perfect, their view was quite different.

We’ve turned this into a book called, Dream Small.

It’s a collection of stories and opinions from across the nation by a generation who feel more tolerated than welcomed.

Similar to America In The Raw, there’s no hype, no judgement, just people being allowed to speak about how they see life.

When you read it, you realise the great resignation should actually be labeled, ‘the great reset’.

Though for some, it could also be called ‘the last hope’.

Youth get a bad rap.

They’ve been dealt a pretty shit hand.

Promised so much until they realise it was all a lie.

Where to survive you have two choices … comply or escape.

For many, escape is not an option.

Too many responsibilities or too little opportunities.

So they are left with the realisation their life is one where they can only dream small.

How wrong is that?

How terrible is that?

But I’ll tell you what’s worse …

The ‘adults’ know all this but pretend they don’t. At least in public.

Preferring to maintain silence to either maintain control or to not have to accept their role in it.

Which leaves me with this …

If this is happening to youth in NZ, imagine what is happening elsewhere.

And yet I still have more faith in their ability to make a better world than I do with the majority of members of my generation.

I’m very proud of what we’ve done, which is why we will be doing a bunch of presentations and talks about what we heard and why we believe everyone in NZ – and beyond – should care about this issue. However if you want to know more – or more specifically, the impact it will have on your future – drop me a line as we’d love to chat, regardless where you’re located.

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Hello 1950’s …

A long time ago, I was incredibly fortunate to meet an old psychology professor who had been told in a Michael Moore documentary.

He told me he’s started teaching in the 60’s and saw his role – and universities – to ignite ideas, debates, thoughts that could change the World.

He was deeply disturbed how over the years, that diversity and energy had been boiled out to be a production line for people who simply aspired to a high paying, white collar job.

I say this because I wonder what he’d think if he saw this …

Seriously, what the hell?

How did no one think this was bad?

How did a university think this was appropriate?

A place of supposedly advanced learning and possibilities now actively promoting the sort of bullshit that is Donald Trump’s wet dream.

Well, there’s good news and bad news.

The good news is the University of Adelaide did not do this.

It’s real … it’s just as sexist … but the association with the University is because of the way the photo was cropped, because they had nothing to do with it.

That’s a relief isn’t it?!

We don’t want our universities perpetuating that sort of bollocks.

However the bad news is the the organisation behind the ad – Renewal SA – are a government agency.

That’s right, the people who are supposedly acting in our interests made this.

Made it and approved it.

I appreciate they may claim that was not the intention of the image … but come on, even Stevie Wonder [Sorry Mr Wonder] could see this is shit and the last place that should be promoting this sort of imagery is a part the government, whose job is to supposedly look after the livelihoods and future of the people they represent.

What on earth were they thinking?

The simple answer is, they weren’t … and that’s one of the reasons this shit keeps happening, with the other being ‘maintenance of control’ and toxic masculinity.

More than that, when I posted the picture on another platform – highlighting that it was NOT from the University of Adelaide, the picture just made it look that way – people kept saying how wrong it was a university was doing this, which meant they just looked at the picture and ignored the words.

A bit like old readers of Playboy. Probably.

I get my words are very ignorable, but it was literally connected to the picture. If they can ignore that – or choose to – what the hell are they doing when/if they read a newspaper?

If only I had the comments section on, I’d be able to look forward to the anonymous comments from men [and it would definitely be men] saying I was virtue signaling or being woke or I’m dismissing the achievements of the male in the ad and am basically being sexist towards him.

That sounds mad doesn’t it … but on the other platform – that does accept comments – I received without irony.

“Now it’s wrong for any man to be knowledgeable and share his knowledge of anything? This is why we are entering the “weak men create hard times” phase.”

Interestingly, they deleted it soon after posting which means they not only knew it was wrong – which makes their action even more pathetic – it serves as a valuable reminder these pricks operate at all levels of society and hide their misogyny in the shadows, rather than place it on an advertising billboard.

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You Can’t Stand Out If You Want To Be The Same As Everyone Around You …

Tone of voice has always made me smile.

A list of cliched terms that somehow supposedly captures the distinctive characteristics of a brand, despite using 90% of the same language.

Fun … but aspirational.
Premium … but approachable.

Blah … blah … blah …

What ends up happening is two things.

1 It ends up all coming down to a ‘look’.
2 It ends up with some people ‘getting the brand’ but never being able to articulate what it is beyond those same cliched words every brand uses

That’s why I loved when Dan Wieden said …

Brand voice was given a huge amount of focus and time at Wieden.

It wasn’t some scribbled words shoved on a brief at the last second that everyone ignored … it was really delving into the soul of the brand.

How it looked at the world.
The Values and beliefs.
It’s point of view.

Oh, I get it, that sounds as pretentious as fuck doesn’t it … but that’s why you can tell a NIKE spot within 1/10th of a second … regardless of the sport, the audience, the language it’s in, the country it represents or even the style of ad.

That’s right.

They get brand attribution and can be as random as fuck.

And before you say, “oh, but that’s just NIKE” … Wieden [who are/were the undisputed champions of this] did the same thing for Honda, P&G, Chrysler, Converse and any number of totally desperate brands.

The reality is, when you really invest in getting the brand voice right – both from an agency and client perspective – it becomes something far more than a look or a tone, it’s a specific and individual feeling.

And that’s why I find this obsessive conversation about ‘brand attribution’ so amusing.

Oh I get it, it’s important.

But the simplest way to get it is to simply do something interesting.

An expression of how you see the World without constraint.

A point of view others may view as provocative but actually is born from your truth.

That’s it.

It’s not hard and you’ll get attribution automatically.

And not just any attribution … but the sort that has short and long-term commercial value rather than begrudged and meaningless familiarity.

However so many brands – and the brilliant Mark Ritson has to take a lot of the blame for this – think attribution is built on the repetition of brand assets.

And while there’s some truth to that … the difference is when ‘brand assets’ ARE the idea rather than born from it, then you’re not building a brand or creating change, you’re literally investing in complicity and invisibility.

Especially if those brand assets are so bland and generalistic that to not make any impact in the real world whatsoever.

Here’s an uncomfortable truth …

You can’t have commercially advantageous attribution and be traditional at the same time.

Oh I know there’s a lot of agencies and consultancies who say you can, but they’re literally spouting bullshit.

I’ll tell you something else …

If you’re relying on opening logos, watermarks or number of brand name mentions per execution to ensure your work is being attributed to your brand … then you’re not just likely to be showing your neediness and desperation, you’re probably admitting that you’re not saying or doing something that is worthy of making people care.

In fact the only thing worse is if you hire a ‘celebrity’ to front your campaign, then have to label who they are because no one knows them.


Now I appreciate this sort of approach may get you a ‘Mini MBA’ from the Mark Ritson school of marketing … and it may help with internal consistency and familiarity … but I can assure you that it won’t get you a sustainably disproportionate commercially advantageous position in your category, let alone culture.

And maybe that’s fine, and that’s OK. But if it is, then own it … rather than put out press releases announcing your leadership position in the market when really what you’ve done is dictate the blandification of everything you say or do because your marketing strategy is based more on ‘blending in, than standing out’.

And nothing shows this more than tone of voice.

An obsessive focus of playing to what you think people want rather than who you are.

It’s why I always find it interesting to hear how planners approach what a brand stands for.

So many talk a good game of rigor but play a terrible game of honesty.

Spending weeks undertaking research and holding ‘stakeholder’ interviews to learn who the brand is – or wants to be – rather than going into the vaults and understanding not only why they were actually founded … but the quirks of decision they made along the way.

Don’t get me wrong, research and interviews have a place, but for me, learning about a brand at the start of life is one of the most valuable things you can do because it reveals the most pure version of themselves. Or naïve.

No contrived brand purpose … not ‘white space’ research charts … just a true expression of who they are and what they value.

Or wanted to be.

And when you start piecing those things together, you discover a whole new world.

Better yet, you get to a very different – and authentic place.

Oh, the things I’ve learned about companies over the years.

Not for contrived, bullshit heritage stories … but to understand the beliefs and values that actually shaped and dictated the formation and rise of the company, even if down the line it failed and/or modern day staff don’t know any of it.

There’s a reason The Colonel purposefully chose bigger tables to be in his restaurants when he started KFC. There’s a reason Honda made their own screws for their machines. There’s a reason Prudential helped widows and orphans.

It’s not hard, it just needs effort, commitment, transparency and honesty.

That’s it.

And while I could say this quick-fix, fast-turnaround, communication-over-change world we live in means good enough is good enough … the reality is for a lot of companies and agencies, they don’t think they’re sacrificing quality. They don’t think they’re sacrificing anything. They think they’re creating revolution and that’s the most fucking petrifying bit about the whole thing.

Inside the vaults lie the stories and clues that help you get to better and more interesting places. Not for the sake of it, but because of it. And when you get there, it will naturally lead you to bigger, bolder and more provocative acts and actions. And when you do that, then brands get all the attribution they could ever wish for, because by simply being your self, you will be different.


For the record, I truly respect Mark Ritson.

He’s smart, knowledgable and incredibly experienced.

He has also added a level of rigour in marketing that has been missing for a long time.

I also appreciate some of the issues I talk about are a byproduct of many other things – from talent standards, corporate expectations and plain misunderstanding.

However, when you say a course is the equivalent to gaining a Mini MBA, it not creates a false sense of ability – to to mention gets more and more brands thinking, behaving and expressing themselves in exactly the same way – it suggests the focus is on personal gain over industry improvement and you run the risk of becoming the beast you wanted to slay.

That said, he’s still much smarter than I’ll ever be.

You Can’t Build A Team If You Don’t Help The Individuals …
July 25, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Management

I received a lot of messages relating to my post of last Friday.

Most – but not all – were very kind and compassionate.

Some were from people having a hard time who asked if they could chat.

I cannot tell you how happy that makes me.

Not because I want anyone to feel that way, but because it means the post maybe helped them realise they’re not the only one going through it. That feeling of ‘isolation in situation’ can play havoc with you. I saw it when I started Corporate Gaslighting … except in many of those situations, companies were actively trying to make employees feel they were to blame, as they knew the shame would keep them quiet and they could carry on pretending all is fine.

A bit like when companies make a ton of people redundant then say:

“We’re doing well and are perfectly positioned to help clients thrive”

Or some other transparent bollocks.

Of course I also got some assholes comments …

A couple of [anonymous] emails claiming I was attention seeking or virtue signalling or just being a prick. It reminded me why I [potentially temporarily] closed the comments down on here …

Anyway, I want to leave you with a bit of management I read recently that I loved.

It’s from the football manager Sean Dyche.

Sean has a ‘no nonsense’ reputation.

He also is known for having worked miracles for Burnley.

But I recently read how he handled a situation when he was manager of Watford.

In 2012, striker Troy Deeney found out his father was gravely ill with cancer.

Soon after, he got involved in a violent fight near a Birmingham nightclub and was detained by police.

At court, he was asked what he wanted to do and he plead guilty – saying “there was not a thought in my mind of contesting it. I knew what I’d done”.

Deeney was sentenced to 10 months in prison.

It was here Dyche showed his attitude to management:

Now some may say this is wrong.

That Troy needed to pay for his wrong.

And I get that. I also get that the managers opinion – no doubt helped by the fact Deeney was a successful and important footballer – was he had paid for his wrong by going to prison.

For the record, Troy did turn his life around and has become an impassioned champion for communities and groups often overlooked or dismissed by society sand government. His book is a phenomenal read. He owns all his wrongs. At no point does he try to mitigate any of it. Given his early homelife, he could. But he doesn’t.

But all that aside, what I love about Dyche’s comment is the acceptance that people learn at different paces and in different ways. That every person has different challenges to overcome and the role of management is to not just drive standards or success … but to recognise the needs of the individual and educate them on how they can be better. In essence, give them the chance to be better, rather than write them off because they did something you wouldn’t, regardless of context or circumstance.

Dyche may have lost his job in football, but he could teach business a lot about management.

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