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


The Fine Line Between Hero And Horrible …

Back from a nice long weekend.

Hey, if this makes you feel bad, imagine how my poor colleagues feel.

Anyway …

I recently read the book Hype, by Gabrielle Bluestone.

It is depressingly brilliant.

While it covers a huge range of topics, it centres on the actions and behaviours of Fyre Festival founder [or should I say, scammer] Billy McFarland.

Now I appreciate with worldwide coverage and 2 documentaries on the subject, you may think you know all that needs to be known, but apart from Gabrielle bringing some new information to the table, what makes it especially interesting is how she compares his actions to others who are regarded as business geniuses.

Like Elon Musk.

Now you might think that sounds like the actions of someone desperate to create hype for their new book. But no. It’s incredibly well written and researched … and as you turn page after page, with hustler/liar story after hustler/liar story, you come away thinking the whole world has fallen for the Emperors New Clothes trick.

Not to mention that either Billy McFarland is unlucky to be sentenced to jail or Elon Musk – and countless other business people and influencers – are lucky not to be.

Society loves its success stories.

It loves trying to ‘codify‘ the system.

But while only a few ever succeed, it doesn’t stop people blindly following some ‘proven’ rules. Often losing themselves in details rather than appreciating context.

All the while making the originator [or person who shouted the loudest, quickest] even more powerful and famous … before they end up a caricature of what they once were.

I’m seeing a lot of this in marketingland at the moment.

Now, I am not suggesting these people are doing it to ‘con’ anyone. Far from it. In fact their intentions are pretty wonderful. But somewhere along the line, their perspective has developed into a ‘system’ and that system now has a number of unquestionable and unshakeable rules attached to it which, ironically, is starting to negatively affect the very industry they want to help.

To be fair, they are not entirely responsible.

They are a bit … because they give their ‘system’ names that suggest intellectual superiority when it’s really ‘an educated beginners guide’, plus they conveniently turn a blind eye to how many of their students are executing what they learnt – without context or real audience understanding – so it ends up just being lowest common denominator thinking. But the real reason this situation is occurring is too many companies aren’t investing enough in talent or training, so they send people off to do courses with fancy names so they can all look and feel like they are.

Putting aside the fact this also highlights how many companies lack a philosophy regarding their approach and value to marketing, what this ‘one size fits all’ approach is doing is educating a whole generation of marketer/advertiser/company that talent, standards and creativity are not nearly as important as having people who can follow – and police – process, formats and parity.

We’re in danger of getting to the point where independent thinking is seen as dangerous.

Or weakness.

Or anything other than strength.

And while understanding how things work is important, creating a singular approach and process where building brands and creativity is approached like an airfix model – where the outcome is always the same, albeit with different brand names/colours attached – seems to be more about undermining the purpose of marketing rather than liberate it.

What makes this even more amusing is the brands who are attracting the greatest cultural momentum, loyalty and brand value right now are not following any of these ‘process rules’. More than that, they’re building their reputation and value through the creation of distinctive brand ideas that talk directly to their audiences rather than focusing on brand attribution that aims to be slightly memorable among their category.

[Please note, I’m talking about brands with a real business behind them, not just social hype]

Now I appreciate the context and circumstances of cultural brands and the brands who are adopting a marketing ‘system’ are very different … but what I’m trying to highlight is that we now find ourselves in this weird situation where the ambition for many brands is to not find ways to get ahead but to not be left behind – all the while bombarding the market with claims of innovation, new thinking, new opportunities.

And that’s why I loved reading Hype so much.

Not just because it pulled back the curtain on the hypocritical bullshit of so many self-appointed ‘business icons’, but it revealed where we’re all heading if we’re not careful … even though I know there will be people out there who read it and see it as their goal rather than their ruin.



What Sort Of Sick Bastard Comes Up With Stuff Like This?
August 17, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Childhood, Comment, Cunning, Dad, Daddyhood, Fatherhood, Jill, Mum & Dad, Otis, Parents

When I was a kid, the Rubik’s Cube came out and a nation was transfixed.

My Dad bet me 5 pounds I couldn’t do 2 sides and 50 pounds I couldn’t do it all.

Now back then, this was big money … and given we didn’t have that sort of money to throw about, I can only assume he suggested it because he knew I wouldn’t be able to do it.

He was right.

So I took it apart and put it back together arguing he hadn’t specified how I solve it.

He admired my attempt to win on a technicality, but still didn’t pay up.

Over the years, the Rubik’s Cube has made a number of comebacks, and while I loved watching the documentary on ‘cubers’, I never engaged with any of them again.

Till now.

Otis has become OBSESSED with them.

But unlike the relatively simple 3×3 I had back then, there are literally hundreds of different combinations.

From cubes that transform into different shapes which means everything gets even more insane … to different shapes that have more sides/combinations to solve that ever before … to cubes where each square is split into two colours to make things even more maddening … to cubes that go up to 33 x 33, which surely is basically some form of modern torture!!!

And while Otis doesn’t have all of them and can’t solve any of them fully – yet – he is transfixed.

Constantly playing, trying, exploring, learning, solving [2 sides] and I have to say I find it amazing.

Amazing for what he is doing and amazing that technology has become so much part of his normal life, that cubes … CUBES … offer a tempting distraction.

Of course I still can’t do any of them.

And of course Jill can do most of them.

Which all goes to prove the person who said ‘practice makes perfect’ either didn’t know what they were talking about or – as I fear – I am just really, really pathetic.

________________________________________________________________________________

Update: Since I wrote this post, Otis has got more cubes and can now do a 3×3 on his own. Me? I remain proudly consistent in my cube performance abilities.



Wanted. Liars With Straight Faces …

The industry likes to talk a lot about purpose.
The supposedly unwavering commitment to its higher purpose, even if it only turns up in marketing.

It likes to talk about agility.

The ability for a company to change focus to maximise opportunities even, if often it’s done to hide a lack of strategy.

And let’s not forget pivoting.

The ability to shift from one area of expertise to another, even if the reality is its because you need to survive rather than you are forward thinking.

Now of course, there are some companies who have purpose, agility and an ability to pivot without using it as an excuse to hide their shortcomings. Companies who have embodied and expressed all these traits, often before it became another marketing or business buzzword.

Or – in the case of pivoting – there are some companies who openly admit why they did it. That if they didn’t, they wouldn’t exist any longer. Netflix for example.

But there’s some organisations who see the writing on the wall, but ‘pivot’ to such an extent that they literally show themselves for the lying, cheating, manipulative organization they have always been.

The best example of this I’ve possibly ever seen is cancer champion – Philip Morris.

You see the tobacco company has decided that their core cash cow doesn’t have the same profitable future as it once did so have decided – to loud fanfare – to pivot.

“What to?” I hear you ask?

Hold on to your hats, because it’s a Health and Wellness company.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

No, that’s not a joke … well, it is, but they don’t mean it to be.

Yep, Phillip Morris – owners of brands including Marlboro are supposedly pivoting to a health and wellness company.

It’s the equivalent of the Trump Organisation becoming an international aid charity.

Or kids TV show, Playschool pivoting to a rival of Pornhub.

How can they say this with a straight face?

They’re even lobbying for a ban on cigarettes within 10 years.

This is worse than poacher turned keeper.

This is an attempt for death to turn doctor … conveniently ignoring all the shameful acts they undertook – and still undertake – to keep their tobacco business killing its customers.

Look I get they have to continue making money.

I get a lot of ‘health and wellness’ companies are as questionable as a cigarette company.

But come on …

Apart from their bullshit being utterly transparent and sickening … what about all the scientists and doctors they paid off, bullied and sued to keep their kill sticks in market.

Do they think they’re just going to nod and think, “hey, we won?”

Will there be a follow up to the Michael Mann movie, The Insider … where Russell Crowe spends 2 hours saying, “I was wrong, Philip Morris are lovely guys really and I forgive them for trying to crush and threaten my life.”

And that’s before we get to the scientists and doctors who work for Philip Morris who must be wondering how a company committed to tobacco can just expect them to change their focus to fixing the illnesses they helped cause in the first place.

But do you know what the sickest part of it all is?

The markets won’t care.

They won’t cast doubt or suspicion.

As long as they make money they will support them.

They’ll call them a poster child for ‘purpose’ and ‘wellbeing’.

It will see the CEO, Jacek Olczak, celebrated and revered by the business press.

It will see him earn millions from bonuses, consultancy and speaker engagements.

We’ll watch holding company CEO’s jostle for position.

We’ll see even more agencies pitching for their business.

We’ll read fawning editorial about their shift in industry magazines.

We’ll hear strategists talk about them as proof of the power of pivoting.

And it will make me hate even more people for the willingness to support hypocrisy for profit.

Philip Morris. You can say you are a health and wellness company, but we all know the only health and wellness you have ever cared about is your own bank balance.



How A Toilet Can Upset Alpha Males …

So recently I went to a semi-posh restaurant in Auckland with some clients.

I know this is too much info, but I needed the loo and off I went.

As I walked in, I saw this …

How brilliant is that?!

I bloody loved it and actually burst out laughing.

Fortunately I was able to take a photo without someone walking in and then rushing out to call the Police … but I can imagine Alpha Males seeing this and claiming it is a blatant attack on their human rights. Which – if you ask me – makes it even more perfect.

Of course, whether a restaurant should be happy one of their customers is raving over the interior design of their male loos rather than their food is another thing altogether … but hey, at least I’m raving about something of theirs.

Many companies talk about how brand experience, well … when you make sure your loo leaves a lasting impression on customers for all the right reasons, then you can say you really understand what experience really means.

Not many can.

🔎 🍆



And They Say Planners Aren’t Smart …

Some people say planners are a waste of space.

That they don’t know what they’re doing.

That they have egos is writing cheques, their talent can’t cash.

To be fair, there’s a lot of truth in all of that.

But recently I came across a bit of planner genius that deserves applause.

Have a look at this …

The handsome bastard in the photo is Henry.

Henry is one of the brilliant planners in my gang.

And while his brain can take you to places normal minds can’t see, let alone reach, I can’t help but think that as subliminal cues go … showing a client your thinking while standing under a light bulb – to reinforce “this is a brilliant idea, you must approve it immediately” – is next level impressive.

Well done Henry, you have single handedly make planners ask their agencies for lightbulbs to be hung down in meeting rooms all over the world.