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


Build A Cliche, Not A Life …

I recently had to go to a DIY centre.

On a Sunday.

For anyone who knows me, this is literally my idea of hell.

Fortunately I asked Jill to go inside instead of me to avoid having to kill myself.

I know that sounds like a shitty thing to do, but she LOVES DIY – and is amazing at it – so it was really a gift.

Anyway …

While I was waiting in the carpark, I saw their sign. This was it …

I don’t know about you. but when I looked at it, I didn’t notice the 15% off price guarantee, I noticed they had designed it to look like it had been done by hand.

Oh I get it, DIY store = DIY sign.

But …

Apart from this falling into the ‘cheeky Chappy’ tone that Uncommon destroyed with their [still] best work for B&Q, I can’t help thinking that if anywhere should have perfect signage and store interiors, it’s a DIY retailer.

Sure, there’s something ‘human’ about the imperfection of creation, but faking it doesn’t make me connect to the brand more, it makes me look at them and wonder what the fuck they were thinking.

Yes, it’s a minute thing.

Yes, Mitre 10 are pretty good.

But – as I am seeing a lot in NZ right now – this obsession with reinforcing stereotypes isn’t actually removing barriers for people to feel they can step in and step up with the ambitions or aspirations they have for their life … it’s keeping them, and treating them, like nothing ever changes.

NZ is an amazing place and has so many things the rest of the world could/should learn from … and we genuinely are grateful for the wonderful opportunity the people here have given us to live here – but for a nation that needs ambition and entrepreneurship to maintain a positive future, it’s amazing how little of that spirit is championed or celebrated by society, government and brands.

And while many will claim it’s because of the humble spirit of this great nation, it’s probably – and terrifyingly – because of this.



Why Being Dangerous Is A Business Strategy …

There’s a brilliant documentary on the band The KLF.

For those who don’t know who they are/were, they’re a band formed in the late 80’s who wrote some of the early 90’s biggest selling singles.

Except, if truth be told, The KLF were more artists than musicians.

I don’t mean that in terms of them having many different business interests …I mean it in terms of them expressing their creativity in ever-more dramatic, provocative and intriguing ways.

From burning a million pounds to sampling without permission to firing a machine gun full of blanks at an audience live on television to delisting every song they ever made … and a whole lot in-between.

It’s a truly fascinating documentary, where you realise that everything they did – while not planned – was definitely deliberate.

But there’s one quote about them that stood out for me.

Not just because it captured who they were, but because it revealed what is missing for me in so much of the work the industry is producing.

I love that.

I love it so much.

But sadly, many in my discipline of strategy – and all the self-proclaimed marketing gurus – have killed that in the quest to flatter their own ego.

And it gets worse.

No, I’m not talking about the clients who value function, logic and attribution over shaping or changing cultures opinion, attitudes and feelings – though I could definitely talk about that – but the agency creative departments filled with people who want to make ads rather than use creativity to push boundaries.

The KLF may have been seen by the industry as anarchists … but for a band who had a few – albeit massive – hits in the 90’s, their work still is remembered, stands up to scrutiny and can be directly associated with cultural change which is more than pretty much anything our industry, or most industries for that matter, produces these days.

Of course, given the untold billions brands spend to have culture know them, value them and want them … this is pretty ironic.

Oh I get these brands still make a ton of money.

More than even The KLF could burn.

But this isn’t about distribution, habit or media spent, but influence, change and ambition.

This doesn’t mean the talent isn’t there to make something like this happen.

It is.

But it means nothing if the role it’s used for is to give clients what they want rather than what culture can never forget.




Beware. Looks Can Be Deceiving …

A few weeks ago, I walked into our lounge to see Jill watching the very first edition of The Golden Girls. For those of you too young to know what it is, have a look at this ‘best bits’ compilation.

After a couple of minutes, Jill asked me to guess how old the main characters were supposed to be in the show.

Given the name of the program and the style of fashion they were wearing, I suggested in their early to late 60’s.

I was wrong.

Jill told me that the ages were 47,53 and 55.

Or said another way, I was older than one and just a few years behind the others.

Then she hit me with this …

The characters were supposed to be the same age as the women in the reboot of Sex And The City.

To help explain why this news impacted me, have a look at this.

Now we are talking about ‘character age’ not real age … plus the ‘backgrounds’ of each show are about as different as you can get … but still.

Then a few days later, this was posted featuring Dorothy from the Golden Girls and Lisa Rinna from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Again, one is in character and the other is … OK, probably also in character … but the shift in age perception – or presentation of it – is startling.

On one hand there’s something awesome about it.

While I – and society – absolutely don’t want to see me sashaying down the street wearing designer clothes and botox lips … the idea that people in their 50’s don’t have to hide themselves away and can feel they are an active member and contributor to society is awesome.

However by the same token, the thought you may need to match the look and behaviour of people much younger than you, just so you can be ‘validated’ is terrifying.

Now of course women have been facing this situation for centuries, which is why the older I get, the more I realise what a brilliant role model I had in my Mum.

You see she always believed age didn’t defy you, your interest in what was happening in culture did.

It’s why she followed emerging artists in film, music, art, literature and politics.
It’s why she would go to a classical concert as well as watch new comedians.
It’s why she viewed ‘growing old gracefully’ as being interested in what others are interested in rather than extracting yourself from modern life because ‘it was easier that way’.

Now this didn’t mean she always like what she saw and learned – and she most certainly wasn’t going to dress in the latest trends and fashions – but she wanted to contribute to life rather than criticise it simply because it was continually evolving.

Which helps explain why I found the Golden Girls/Sex And The City comparison so amazing.

Because dramatic shift in terms of fashion and looks aside, the reality is ageing – especially for women – hasn’t really evolved at all.

Sure, you may not have to ‘hide yourself away’ as much as you used to, but looks are still the foundation of validity and fashion is still the criteria for relevance.

How utterly fucked is that?

For all the talk of modernity, the reality is not much has changed. In fact, it’s arguably even worse now as there is the illusion it’s actually better.

But it’s not.

White men are still born with inherent advantage.

As a 51 year old, badly dressed man, I still receive incredible benefits.

So don’t let the exposure of older, female actresses sway you from the reality.

Sexism and ageism is alive and well.

It’s something perpetuated by the media and championed by society the world over.

In simple terms, if you have to ‘look’ the part to be seen by others, something is fucked up.

And women have to do that more than men. Fact.

Growing old is enough of a pain in the arse without having to deal with that shit.

Which is why it would be so much better if we valued interest rather than image.

Another thing I need to thank my Mum for.



How To Bite The Hand That Feeds You …

The management team at Metallica asked me a while back if I’d give a presentation to a bunch of music execs about ‘artist strategy’.

They said they wanted me to explain how I work with them, how I approach my job and what some of the work we have done together has manifested itself into.

So I pulled a presentation together, took them through it – got their nods of approval – and prepared for the talk.

When the time came, I found myself on zoom at 12am Auckland time … presenting to 200 odd record/band executives in London, NY and Nashville.

Despite looking so tired I probably resembled a Zombie, all went very well and I was happy to answer questions.

One of the people in attendance asked how much ‘power’ I have over the artists actions and decisions.

Despite the reality being absolute zero – and, nor should I have any – I replied that I had a hidden slide that could best explain my influence, to which I showed them this …

At least I found it funny.

And – to be fair to me – it’s a fair reflection of the actual power I have over the band.

Though I appreciate I probably have just sent myself to the ‘where are they now’ dungeon … even though I’m going to try and justify it by saying nothing is more rock n’ roll that smashing up your career. Ahem.

Thank you Q and M for not just putting up with me, but still involving me in this stuff.

My wife has ‘had words’ with me regarding my professionalism. Ahem.



Confidence Is Spelt Beverley …

There’s a lot of talk about confidence.

People who have it.
People who think they have it.
People who don’t have it… but think they do.

The reality is confidence ends up being defined in two parts … the person who thinks they have it and the person judging them if they do.

And while there is always that risk that someone could come over as arrogant, there is something glorious when you watch someone with it in full swing.

Someone who you know has sweated for their craft and skill.
Who has the control and power to achieve at a level few will ever reach.
An individual who never phones it in, even if they could and still be exceptional.

I recently saw a video of the singer Beverley Knight perform the Stones classic, Satisfaction.

It is breathtaking.

Truly breathtaking.

The first time I watched it, I actually cried – it’s that powerful and joyous at the same time.

And while Jeff Goldblum is losing his mind as he watches her – which is beautiful to watch – you know she knows exactly what she’s doing … exactly how she’s impressing and exactly where and when she is showing off.

But it’s not an ego-play … this is simply someone who cares about giving their all. That believes they have a responsibility to themselves to never phone it in. Who wants to show just how good she is … and that is exactly how it comes over.

She’s fierce, audacious and talented as hell … backed by a band who create a platform for her that is more like a catwalk of sonic celebration.

Confidence can be misused.
Confidence can be delusional.
But when it’s real, justified and powerful … you just have to sit back and enjoy it, because it’s something special indeed.

Watch this.

More inspirational news …

I go on my first business trip in 2 years so there’s no more blog posts THIS WHOLE WEEK.

It’s a weird feeling knowing I’m getting back on a plane for work. I used to fly over hundred times a year for pretty much the last 20 years, and yet this 2 year gap has left me feeling very comfortable at home. Maybe that’s more because it represented ‘safety’ in a COVID world but the idea of starting again has really conflicted me. Not for you though … you get 4 days of peace … so have fun and see you next Monday.