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

Customer Care Is When You Go Beyond The Process And Rules …

So as you know, I was in China recently and when I was flying from Chengdu back to Shanghai, my plane was 5 hours late for takeoff.

While that is a pain, what made it worse was it meant we didn’t even take off till nearly midnight.

Now the good news for me is I sleep on planes.

In fact I sleep better on planes than anywhere else.

I’m fast asleep before takeoff and tend to wake up on landing … and that’s what happened to me this time, aided by the late hour.

However what was different this time was I found a package and this note next to me.

Specifically this package and note …

Apparently the crew on the plane were worried I’d wake up hungry but didn’t want to wake me up as they could see I was fast asleep and it was very late so they made up that package and wrote that note.

While I am not sure if the food I received was worthy of that much care and consideration, that level of service – despite the note being written on a sick bag, hahaha – is ‘TV ad worthy’.

China gets a bad rap for customer service, however in my experience it’s miles ahead of most other nations [which suggests it’s driven by ignorance and/or prejudice] because this small act on a China Eastern flight between Chengdu and Shanghai shows what happens when you train your people to not just blindly follow a corporate, cost-efficientprocess, but to actually and actively care about your customers.

Thank you China Eastern.

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Why We Need More John Deacon’s …

Once upon a time, I wrote a post about why we should be like Freddie Mercury in the boardroom.

To be honest, I also wrote about how we should be more like Freddie Mercury fullstop.

I still think that … but I also think there is another member of my favourite band we should embrace.

Not Brian May with his degrees, poodle haircut and home built guitar.

Nor drummer Roger Taylor … with his rock star smile, lifestyle and notches on the bedpost.

No, I mean the bassist … John Deacon.

On first impressions, John is a typical bass player.


Comfortable in the background.

Doing everything to not bring attention to himself.

Yes … I appreciate there are a few exceptions to this rule – Flea, Nikki Sixx, John Entwistle, even Level 42’s thumb slapping maestro, Mark King – but John is not one of them.

I once had him driving behind me in London and he was in a Toyota Yaris.

But behind the introverted persona was someone who was most definitely exceptional.

Not just in terms of writing some of the bands biggest hits – from Another One Bites The Dust to I Want To Break Free.

Nor do I mean in terms of still being married to his first love and having a bunch of kids who all live happily in Putney.

[His son used to have a great Youtube channel but sadly he took it all down a while ago]

No … what I mean by calling him exceptional is that he’s 10000% his own person.

Not in an arrogant rockstar way, but in his own way.

Have a look at this …

I bloody love that photo.

Love it.

Not just because it’s Queen live on stage.

Nor because Freddie is in his magnificent prancing poser phase.

But because despite being on stage, playing at deafening and blinding volume and wattage to tens of thousands of adoring fans, standing behind one of the most flamboyant and iconic rock stars of all time as – at the time of that photo – a member of the biggest band on the planet … John looks like he’s just come from his job working as an insurance salesman at a building society in Norwich.

Put simply, John didn’t give a fuck.

He loved the band – at least the majority of the time – but not enough to change who he was.

Where many would have succumbed to the pressure of being more ‘rock star’, John simply wanted to be more him.

Whatever ‘him’ was on any given day.

And what I love as much is the band didn’t give a fuck about it either.

Despite the other 3 members embracing their rock god characteristics – at least on stage – they accepted John for who he was.

Not that they could have got him to change if they tried.

Because while it has been well documented that John was a fragile soul – suffering from depression and always feeling slightly disconnected given he was the last member to join the band – John was as stubborn as a mule.

Not in terms of not listening to reason, but in terms of knowing who he was and what he believed.

At a time where the word ‘authenticity’ is banded about like it’s confetti … no one deserves that label more than John Deacon.

And while I am sure that led to all manner of tension in the band, they obviously trusted and respected him, even to the point they let him take control of the bands financial dealings … which not only resulted in them becoming multi, multi, multi millionaires, but – for a couple of years – becoming the highest paid company directors in the World.

We live in times where complicity is not just expected, but often demanded.

Where the rule of thumb is you fall in line with whatever the whim of whoever calls the shots.

But John Deacon didn’t follow that path.

Not because he was a rock n’ roll rebel … but because in his quest to be as good as he could be, he didn’t want it to come at the cost of losing who he was.

And while that may have resulted in John Deacon being one of the most underrated bass players of his time, we cannot forget it also resulted in him becoming one of the most successful musicians of all time.

And richest.

Despite never fitting in …

Be that with his choice of stage attire or the expectations of others.

Which leads to the point of this post …

Too often we feel we need to be like others to be accepted by others.

Adland is typical in this, but then so many other industries operate the same way.

It’s like group-think oppression … a clique that you feel you have to be a part of to stand a chance of being seen for yourself.

Which is mad and shit and rarely works out.

Which is why John Deacon should be a role model for us all.

Someone who never lost sight of who he was, what was important or what he expected from those around him.

Forever working hard but never taking anything for granted.

Including himself and his family.

From the outside, Queen may not come across as the poster child for ‘healthy working environment’.

And John Deacon doesn’t appear as the most natural of role models.

But as role models go – it may not be very rockstar – but it is very good advice to follow.

So wherever you are in your life or your career, be more John Deacon and find a job where they accept you like a member of Queen.

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Is It Scary When You Find Barbed Wire Interesting?
November 21, 2023, 7:45 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, America, Comment, Craft, Creativity, Culture, Design

Recently I met someone called Jim, who designs – among other things – barbed wire.

When I was introduced to him, I first thought it was a pisstake.

I never thought of barbed wire being something designed … and I certainly didn’t think there would be different versions of it … but apparently there is, as demonstrated by the photo above that shows different barbed wire over the years.

But once I realised I was not part of an elaborate prank, I found the whole conversation with Jim fascinating. In his view, barbed wire is misunderstood … because while it is there to stop elements getting in – or out – its role is closer to survival than security.

Jim told me how the inventor of barbed wire – Lucien Smith – created it as a simple and effective way to keep cattle from straying. Prior to this, there was no practical or effective way to enclose vast amounts of land and so they had to engage in huge cattle drives for transporting – and controlling – cattle.

But with the invention of barbed wire, this all changed … to the point Jim regards barbed wire as playing a pivotal role in creating settlements across the American plains … which in turn, led to the creation of towns and cities.

As you may have worked out, Jim is a bit of an anorak where barbed wire is concerned … but I bloody loved the conversation – not to mention the way he approached barbed wire design – which all acts as a great reminder that while we all like to talk about creativity, there’s far more of it happening outside of the ad industry than inside it, and yet so little of the conversation ever acknowledges it, let alone celebrates it.

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Don’t Let The Old Man In …

Recently I was talking to a friend of mine about getting old.

Not in terms of age, but attitude.

We were discussing how there are some people we meet who just seem to embrace stepping out of life.

OK, maybe that’s a bit dramatic … more they choose to only focus on what is of interest to them, but there’s a seemingly deliberate ‘closing off’ to the things that are new or different or just happening around them.

It’s like they’ve put on a pair of ‘cultural blinkers’ they don’t intend to ever take off. Expressed in how they look. How they talk. What they like. What they say.

Now … there is absolutely nothing wrong with these people. They can do what the fuck they like. But it’s definitely not how I look – and live – my life.

And then my friend said something that caught me off guard.

He told me this story of someone he knew who used to tell him, “don’t let the old man in”.

[I subsequently discovered, thanks to a post on exactly the same subject by Kevin Chesters, it was a song by country singer, Toby Keith, who was inspired to write it after a chat with Clint Eastwood – who was about to turn 88 years old – while playing golf]

Anyway, I found it fascinating.

Not just the turn of phrase, but the implication that ‘stepping out of pop culture’ was, at a certain point, a default setting.

That to avoid doing that required a commitment to not doing that.

With hindsight, it should have been obvious, given – as I wrote in her post last week – my Mum was the embodiment of that attitude.

She absolutely did not want others to define her – or judge her – by her age.

And while that didn’t mean she dressed like some suburban version of Madonna, circa 1984 [or even 2023 for that matter] it did mean she was always open to what others were open to.

She followed young comedians … she went to see new movies … she read modern literature … she studied politics …

She didn’t necessarily like – or understand it all – but she was open to learning about it.

Because in her mind, the best way to embrace life was to have a curious mind, and for her, that meant caring about what others cared about.

And I took that all for granted until my mate said ‘don’t let the old man in’ and then I realised it was a conscious effort.

I distinctly remember her telling me about a time someone said they were surprised ‘someone of her age’ would be interested in a particular subject or activity. I still remember the defiance in her voice when she said, “I don’t want to live by their outdated expectations”.

Now you have to understand my Mum was the opposite of a rebel.

She was a kind, considerate, compassionate person. But in terms of not living up to stereotypes, she was an anarchist.

That doesn’t mean she ever did something she didn’t want to do simply because younger people did, it just means she found things interesting that people who ‘let the old man in’ didn’t.

This was a revelation to me.

Not just because I now realised my Mum had actively chosen to refuse to embrace the ‘default’ setting, but I was doing the same.

Please don’t think I’m suggesting I’m on the cutting edge of anything … but by the same token, I’m also not closing myself off to life either.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say, the older I get, the more open I am to stuff.

Views. Fashion. Food. Music. Health. Ideals. Art. Everything …

And while I originally thought this was my default setting, I’m now realising it’s not.

It’s an active choice.

A desire to stay open and interested.

Being in a young persons industry helps.
Working with international rockstars and fashion gods helps.
Having parents who were always looking forward, not behind, helps.

But it is also my choice. I just didn’t realise it.

Which suddenly explains so much that I didn’t realise till that conversation.

From the things I buy … the multitude of magazines I read … the things that grab my attention … the people I hire.

It’s the realisation that I live by a ferocious, subconscious desire to keep the old man out.

Not because I want to be young. But because I definitely don’t want to be old.

In terms of attitude, not age.

Which is why I now realise people who say others are ‘growing old disgracefully’ have got it wrong.

Because they’re not growing old disgracefully, they’re growing old with curiosity’.

And as aging traits go, that’s surely pretty awesome?

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Terrifying Tuesday. That Is A Thursday …

So I’m back.

And after an October where I went to Fiji, Australia, China and America … November is wonderfully static.

Don’t get me wrong, I love travelling … but that was ridiculous.

For all the talk of how COVID would change the way companies would work and interact, I’m meeting more and more people who are travelling more than they did pre-pandemic.

And that’s scary for a whole lot of reasons.

Personal, environmental, commercial.

Scarier than the that day where ghosts and ghouls are supposed to come out and haunt us. Also known as the day kids keep coming to your door demanding sweets.

Yes … that’s a terrible link to the point of this post, but I wrote it to originally appear on Halloween, but then I went to the US and missed my chance, so here we go.

Halloween in NZ is definitely less full-on than the US.

Oh my god … they love holidays and Halloween is one they embrace full-on.

When we lived in Manhattan Beach … it was like a community event.

The whole street would basically come out, all dressed in god-knows what, embracing the mood and the moment.

Obviously I hate that level of sociability … but even I got caught up in it, buying a ridiculously sized baby head from a shop, which I tried on in the car before casually looking to my right and seeing [1] I was next to a bank and [2] I had a security guard looking at me as if I was going to rob the joint.

Good times. Ahem.

Anyway, to keep with the ‘scary’ mood, Otis recently became the proud owner of these …

Yep … Crocs.

Fucking Crocs.

I know we talked about them recently in our ‘Strategy is constipated, imagination is the laxative’ talk … I know I have some sort of grudging respect that they are cool with charging $8 for each ‘personalised attachment’ you can add to the shoes … I know, with Otis’ dysgraphia, they are much easier for him to put on than many others … I know I can’t talk with my love of Birkies … but, but, but THEY’RE FUCKING CROCS.

Seriously, compared to them, Birkenstocks are liked pieces of art.

And yet they continue to live.

To thrive.

Like cockroaches of the footwear category.

Which means I have to salute their brand management and imagination.

Which is better than 99% of brands out there.

Which is why we put them in our Cannes talk.

And why I felt scared enough to put them in a post that was supposed to appear on halloween.

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