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


We’ll Meet Again …

So even though we are not leaving for NZ for a month, this is my last post for at least a month.

Moving countries always requires a bunch of things to be done, and despite us being old hands at it, doing it during a pandemic means we have a bunch more stuff to do – hence the blog post rest.

Being back in England has been a special time.

Part of it is because I never thought I would have lived here again.

Part of it is because I have been able to catch up with old friends once more.

Part of it is because I love big cities and always wanted to live in London.

Part of it is because despite its bullshit, it’s still my home and I’ve loved being in a place where so much of it just felt natural.

And part of it is because of the new friends I have met along the way.

To think I didn’t know people like Tanter, Nils, the beautifully irresponsible – in the most responsible way – Mike and Sam, the entire planning gang at R/GA [though Lachlan did remind me when I started that we had once met in Australia … when he was a student, hahahaha], Michael Roberts, Ben Major, Tarik at Onroad, Sam Clohesy, Ian Preston, Trudie, the inspirational [whether he accepts that or not] Murray Calder, Keerti, Munraj, Larissa Vince – who is a better Nottingham Forest than I could ever be, John, Nana at POCC, Asheru, Louise Jack, Eduardo, Sara Tate, Holly Day, Ally and everyone at Brixton Finishing School, Dorcas, Abi, the incredible Kay Adekunle Rufai from the S-M-I-L-E-ing Boys project, Nick Hirst, Tom Roach and countless other people from work or – shock, horror – Twitter [including one of my ad-icons, Trevor Beattie] … is astounding.

And while I am thrilled to be going to New Zealand for our next adventure, leaving England is much harder than I thought it would.

Without doubt, a big part of that is because as much as I’ve been away, it still feels like home.

Not just because we bought our beautiful house here, but because my beloved Paul and Shelly are here.

And while the pandemic meant we didn’t see each other as much as we would have liked, it’s more than I’d had in quarter of a century and I will treasure that as much as I treasure the fact Paul and I are still as stupid together, as we were when we were kids.

England is where I was raised.

And while I have sold the family home to buy our new family home … it doesn’t take away from the fact, so many of the things that made me who I am, were made here.

Of course I wish my Mum and Dad were still alive.

How I would have loved to have made them happy to be ‘home again’.

How I would have loved to have spent so much time chatting and remembering together.

But maybe it they were still alive we wouldn’t have gone to NZ and so it appears they are still encouraging me to explore, even without them here anymore.

Though I would happily swap it all for another day together, even though I am also happy they have not had to endure the hardship that COVID has placed on the country. I can’t imagine what it would be like for them to have to deal with it and I have nothing but admiration for any person trying to manage/balance that situation with their own family.

But we’re off … and frankly, the idea of going to New Zealand feels like one of the greatest gift in the World.

That we will soon be in a country where WE CAN GO OUT TO DINNER IN A RESTAURANT seems almost impossible.

That we will soon be in a country where Otis CAN PLAY OUTSIDE WITH HIS [NEW] FRIENDS WHENEVER HE WANTS is a dream.

That we will soon be able to go visit Jill’s Mum IN A MATTER OF HOURS is madness, given it’s been 17 years since she could do that.

And that I get to do this while working at one of my favourite companies in the World – the brilliant Colenso – is, frankly, insane.

I’m so excited for the adventures we’ll have.
The experiences we will discover and learn from.
Not to mention the work I will able to be a part of creating.

That said, I cannot thank all the brilliant people who have made my return to England so special, enough.

I will miss so much about here, but the memories will also last me through till our return.

And we will be back.

Don’t know where. Don’t know when.

But – not wishing to make it sound like a threat – I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day.

Take care of yourselves. Thank you for everything.

See you on the other side. Literally and metaphorically.



Brand In 10 Words.

I am a massive fan of Rick Rubin.

Actually that’s not quite right.

I am a massive disciple of Rick Rubin.

I think he is incredible. His ability to help others express their most powerful creative voice is amazing.

So much of this is down to how he see’s his role.

Not as a music producer, but as a sophisticated fan.

Someone who wants the band he loves to be their shameless best.

Protecting them from ever feeling they have to compromise on who they are or what they want to say because he fiercely believes the greatest return comes when you express your honesty and authenticity rather than play to be liked.

It’s why the artists he’s worked with reads like a ‘who’s who’ of the most culturally significant artists of their time.

Those who either defined a genre or validated it.

LL Cool J
Run DMC
The Beastie Boys
Slayer
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Rage Against The Machine
The Black Crowes
The Dixie Chicks
Johnny Cash

Look at that list. Look at it.

Hip Hop. Rap. Rock. Metal. Thrash. Blues. Country. Funk.

No one should be able to be so successful with that range of genre and artist.

It’s hilarious and yet there are so many more artists I could mention because for almost 4 decades, Rubin has helped artists not only express their truth but recognise the economic power from doing so.

He has created icons.
He has revived icons.
He has shaped, pushed and provoked culture.
He has influenced, shaped and changed music forever.

When we hear agencies talk about ‘creating culture’, most haven’t come anywhere close to what he has helped create.

But what I love the most about Rubin is how he decides who he is going to work with.

Basically his entire decision making process is based on one simple process.

Taste.

If Rubin likes what he hears, then he’s up for it.

It doesn’t matter whether it has any connection to anything he’d done before, he see’s it less about the music and more about the artist needing help to express … find … or rediscover their voice.

Not their singing voice. Their soul.

It’s not that far off what we as an industry say we do for brands.

Except we’re increasingly forgetting what brand is because we sacrifice it time and time again for the quick win.

I get it, we’re fighting for our lives … but in our quest to show we have value, we’re destroying what makes us valuable.

Oh I know we won’t admit that.

We’ll point to words like purpose, experience and membership as proof ‘we get it’.

We’ll say they’re representative of modern brand building and all else is old.

We’ll show 1000 page decks that show how our unique processes ‘guarantee’ success.

And some clients will buy this, which means we can go away thinking we’ve got it all sorted out and we’re legends.

Except we haven’t and we aren’t.

Yes, all those elements play an important role in building a modern brand … however they’re never the lead, always a supporting actor because …

Sales without distinction doesn’t build a brand.

Purpose without sacrifice doesn’t build a brand.

Data without understanding doesn’t build a brand.

User journeys without nuance doesn’t build a brand.

Eco-systems without an idea doesn’t build a brand.

Personalisation without being personal doesn’t build a brand.

Wanting to be something to everyone rather than everything to someone doesn’t build a brand.

The harsh reality is we’re dangerously close to confusing commoditisation with brand building. Of course this is not all our fault, but continuing to perpetrate it, most definitely is.

While I appreciate Rick Rubin didn’t mean the photo/quote that appears at the top of this page to be interpreted this way … he pretty much sums up how to build truly distinctive and definitive, culturally resonant brands.

And he does it in 10 words.

TEN!!!

And that’s part of Rubin’s magic.

He understands how to get to the simplest expression of his viewpoint, because he knows the simpler it is, the less obstacles to deal with.

Simple lets truth speak and rise.

Simple lets possibilities flourish.

Simple lets distinctiveness be expressed.

Simple is unbelievable power.

Now the irony of simple is it’s not easy to pull off.

Simple is definitely not simplistic. To be simple requires a hard work, experience and confidence … and while as an industry we have known this and advocated this for decades, we seem to have recently decided the opposite – where we celebrate complexity.

What the hell?!

Maybe it’s because we’re making more money from this approach. Or just feel more important. But the endless playbooks, frameworks, processes, tools and strategies we’re producing aren’t building better brands, just bigger obstacles.

Again, there’s a place for them. But the way they’re being used – they’re more like hammers than brushes – forcing them into the process, competing with all around them and ultimately leaving people lost with what they’re following, what they’re building and what they’re actually doing this all for.

As someone recently said to me – someone hugely successful in business – when companies make the solution more complex than the problem, they’re just creating another problem.

Please don’t think this means you skimp on standards or rigour.

If anything, it’s the exact opposite … but because everyone knows what they’re working towards [rather than doing their version of what they think everyone should be working towards], it means they can be sharp and focused and that means your work can be expressed in ways that lift things up rather than bogs them down.

I get some people won’t like this.

I get some people won’t agree with this.

I get some clients would never sign off on this.

But apart from the fact I doubt any of them will have come close to influencing, shaping or creating culture in the same commercially infectious way Rubin has, if they really believe selling the complexity of intelligence is a smarter way to operate, I’ll leave you with something my dad – who was pretty good on this whole intelligence thing – used to say to his lawyers:

“If you have to show how clever you are, you aren’t that smart”.



Days With My Father …
January 15, 2021, 7:30 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Dad, Daddyhood, Emotion, Empathy, Family, Mum, Mum & Dad, Otis, Parents

So if this blog being back wasn’t bad enough for you.

I’m ending the first week of posts with something sad.

At least for me.

You see, tomorrow will be the 22nd anniversary of my Dad passing away.

Over the years, I’ve used this anniversary to write both good and sad memories about dad.

From his last days to reminiscing about some of my favourite ones.

Recalling moments burned in my heart and mind.

Some big, some so small … it could easily have got lost in a corner.

Except to me, they are everything.

Despite him being gone 22 years, I still feel an urge to make him – and Mum – proud.

I am pretty sure they would be anyway – despite the odd ‘episode’, which only Dad ever knew about – but it still is a driving force within me.

But here’s the thing, he – and Mum – never put any pressure on me regarding what job I should do. None at all.

Of course they wanted me to do well, but it was about my life, not theirs.

OK, so they would have loved me to follow in the families footsteps of law, but while I adored the idea, I just couldn’t stand the idea of ending one period of education and then heading straight into another.

Hell, even when I told them I didn’t want to go to university, they backed me.

Of course they wanted to know why.
They also wanted me to apply just in case I changed my mind.
But they never guilt-tripped me into doing something I wasn’t interested in.

That doesn’t mean they were passively interested in what I did.

Nor does it mean they were going to pay for my life while I worked it out. [We all knew there simply wasn’t the cash for that, even if they wanted to]

It’s just their focus was ensuring I never settled.

I don’t mean that in terms of being arrogant or picky.

I mean it in terms of them viewing contentment as a terrible waste of a life.

What they wanted for me more than anything was to feel fulfilled.

That whatever I did made me feel better because of it.

Not because of what it enabled me to do, but because of what it was, how I did it and how it made me feel.

I don’t know if I really appreciated how huge that was until much later.

To give me the time, space and backing to work things out on my own.

Of course they were there for questions, worries, challenges and failures … but they were steadfast in wanting this to be about what I wanted for my life, not what they wanted for it.

Because at the end of the day, all they really cared about was me being happy.

Of course they knew there would be bad days … challenging days … days where I would want to give everything up. But they trusted me – and the lessons they’d taught me in terms of how to deal with life – to be able to work it out and keep moving forward.

It’s possibly the most wonderful, generous gift anyone could give their child.

It’s behind most of the things I’ve done in my life … from where I’ve worked, where I’ve lived and what I’ve done.

It’s also – contrary to popular belief – why I work bloody hard.

Because apart from the fact I deeply enjoy what I do [most of the time], it’s my way of repaying the faith my parents showed in me.

Showing them it wasn’t wasted or lost on me.

I’ll forever be grateful to them for it.

And hopefully so will Otis.

So thank you Dad. I miss you. I wish you were here for us to chat about the adventures.

Give Mum a kiss for me while holding her hand.

Rx

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Happy Birthday To The Best Thing I’ve Ever Had A Little Bit To Do With …
December 11, 2020, 7:30 am
Filed under: Childhood, Dad, Daddyhood, Family, Fatherhood, Jill, Love, My Fatherhood, Otis, Parents

My dearest Otis.

I loved you before I even met you.

I love you more than you will ever comprehend.

And while you can get a teensy-bit exasperated with me, when I tell you that every single day, the fact remains I will continue to tell you. Every single day.

I can't help it.

I couldn't stop even if I tried.

But I don't want to try, I love every single thing about you.

Your kindness. Your cheekiness. Your ideas. Your laughter. Your mischief. Your curiosity. Your heart. Your emotions. Your love.

It’s breath taking for me to see and I am so proud of the boy you are and the boy you will be.

Actually it’s more than that.

I’m proud I’m your dad, full-stop.

So to my wonderful boy, happy 6th birthday.

I know it is a strange one this year with all that has happened in the past months, but I want you to know that spending so much time with you has been one of the greatest experiences in my whole life.

Keep being exactly as you are.

To your Mum and me, you are perfect.

Love you,

Rx



Big Week For A Little Kid: Day/Year 4 to [Almost] 6 …
December 10, 2020, 7:30 am
Filed under: Comment, Dad, Daddyhood, Fatherhood, Jill, London, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad, My Fatherhood, Otis, Paul, Rosie, Shelly

I love the photo above.

We took it while we were still living in London.

I love it because it’s like a perfect encapsulation of Otis.

Bursting with energy.

Throwing himself into things.

Absolutely loving the element of mischief.

When we were expecting him, a friend of mine sent me a plaque that said …

Boys: Noise with dirt on them.

Well, it’s pretty true. At least in Otis’ case.

And I love that.

I love seeing his curiosity coming more to the fold.

Not just in terms of everyday exploring and discovering … but pushing boundaries.

Seeing what happens.

Hearing the questions he has after he’d done something new.

Good or bad … or just confused when something didn’t turn out as he imagined.

These last couple of year have really seen this side of him ramp-up.

Maybe it’s because previously, he was using his curiosity to help him adapt to his new surroundings … but not any more.

Now there is a confidence in exploring.

A genuine interest in understanding more.

And while he is very clear on what he does and doesn’t like, one thing he adores is the getting messy in the quest of discovery.

Moving to the country has been a revelation for him.

Oh he loved the city – like his dad – but there are things here he can do he never had before.

From exploring the garden with his Mum to playing with an entire school because there’s only 30 people in the whole place.

Then coming in to tell us what he’s learnt and what he’d like to learn.

From food to history to video games to the joy of being able to run outside till it hurts.

It’s an infectious thing to witness.

It’s an even better thing to talk about, cuddled up on the sofa.

Keep pushing those barriers Otis.

Everything you want to know, learn and become is on the other side of it.

Love you.

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