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


What Disney Won’t Do For A Dollar …

Good news. Bad news.

Good news: Given I had yesterday off, that means you only have 4 days of this blog to deal with. Seriously, this is the slowest ‘easing you back into my rubbish’ that I may have ever done. What a Saint.

Bad news: There’s no more holidays for ages so prepare for a lot of it. That is if anyone reads this any more. Or if anyone read it, more like. Especially given the lack of comments which was – let’s admit it – the only reason people popped along. Damnit.

Anyway, I thought I had posted this a while back only to discover it was still in my ‘to post file’. The good news is 99.96% of my posts fail to hit the ‘topical sweet spot’ so I can still post it and no one will bat an eyelid.

I have a strange relationship with the Disney organisation.

I appreciate their history.

I appreciate their creativity.

I appreciate their craft and film making.

But they can also be a bunch of assholes.

This is not just based on the 3 years of weird shit – good and bad – I experienced with them when we were launching their park in Shanghai at Wieden [only for them to take the business off us at the last moment and hand it to Ogilvy simply because as the first park in the digital age – we wanted to use digital to bring the story of the characters journey to China to life] but because they have a history of putting their name to anything if they’ll get paid for it.

Now I have to admit they’re very successful at doing that … but it just reinforces there’s two groups the organisation. The craftspeople and the greedy exploiters.

OK, that’s like every company I suppose, but they just don’t even try to hide it … which is almost impressive if it didn’t rob you of the hope of someone good to believe in.

I know … I’m a sentimental idiot.

So you can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was with how Disney decided to handle the merchandise for Black Panther Wakanda.

Rather than sell the rights to Kmart to be shoved on as many t-shirts as possible, they partnered with Actively Black.

Actively Black is a community-first, black owned and run company committed to advancing representation of Black creatives, designers, and brands and they actively invest in the health and wellness of Black communities worldwide.

They’re an amazing organisation and so it’s no surprise the merchandise proceeds would be put towards educational programs and resources that promote physical, mental and emotional health, HBCU athletics, social justice initiatives and DEI advocacy.

It was a great move, especially given the importance and significance of Black Panther in the Black and African American community. Not to mention honouring the tragic loss of Chadwick Boseman.

It seemed Disney understood that of all the characters in the Marvel universe, this was one that had an even more significant role and position in culture and should be treated as such.

I say ‘seemed’ because then I saw this …

And to give you more details, there’s this …

What the absolute fuck?

A screwdriver set.

A FUCKING SCREWDRIVER SET!

I know Disney have form pimping their icons out, but a Kmart screwdriver set?

All that good will.

All that consideration.

All that sense they actually understood.

Let’s hope the reason is as my friend John stated:

“Calm down Rob … don’t you get that you need some serious power tools to dismantle the capitalist white supremacist patriarchy”.

We all know it isn’t.

But I wish it was.

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Putting The Con In Icon …

I’ve talked a lot about how the industry loves to talk about innovation when what they actually mean is evolution.

Hell, sometimes it’s not even that … sometimes it’s just a new name for an old thought process or discipline that was expressed as part of what people always did rather than split out in an attempt to make more money or gain more influence.

I once said to the wonderful Martin Weigel that I am pretty certain marketing is the only industry that would make a paper plane and claim they invented flight.

Now that doesn’t mean people aren’t adding to what is being done … or bringing new thinking and craft to it … or finding new ways to incorporate it into work … but it does mean they’re trying to maybe ‘own’ too much of the narrative of the discipline. Suggesting they’re inventors when they’re actually craftspeople. Valuing ‘theory’ rather than actually making something truly interesting with it.

Now there’s many possible reasons for this.

+ We’re in marketing and so they’re marketing themselves.

+ Being a craftsperson has lost the value it deserves.

+ It’s cheaper to badge than to actually create.

+ People don’t know their history.

Now I’m sure I’m going to be accused of being a prick … an old, condescending prick. And maybe I am. But I am also not claiming I’ve invented anything and I’m just pointing out neither has many of the people who do.

And there’s nothing wrong with not inventing something … because doing your job really well is something worth celebrating, especially when you see what passes for ‘good’ in so much of what is put out these days.

But it appears the allure of pioneer is infectious these days.

Case in point is the talk around eco-systems, flywheels, multi-platform DTC/e-comm and the like. Yes, it’s amazing. Yes, it driving new ways for brands to behave and earn. Yes, technology has allowed this to be done in more powerful and profound ways. But in many cases, it’s not revolution, it’s not really even innovation … it’s evolution.

And why do I say that? Have a look at this.

That is from 1957.

NINETEEN FIFTY SEVEN.

It’s Walt Disney’s ecosystem/flywheel/multi-platform DTC, e-comm [without the e] for the Disney corporation.

The blueprint for how he would use creativity to fuel his business in ways where every division is helping another division.

And while modern expressions of this have evolved and added more nuance, it’s not miles off, which is why whether you like/hate/respect/loathe him or the Disney Company, that’s pretty progressive thinking.

Or it was in 1957. in 2021 maybe not so much.

[Though, being honest, it probably is – which is even more worrying]

And yet we read so much from people acting like Walt Disney … except they’re not building their own brand, they’re selling their concept to build your own brand.

As I said, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Fuck, there’s a lot of value and money in that.

It’s genuinely exciting when you see someone identify opportunities in old approaches and habits that millions have missed. And for that, you should absolutely be using it to build a platform for your future success, growth and change.

I am literally cheering from the sidelines. All I ask is you please don’t act like you have invented flight when you’ve actually made a more efficient and effective paper plane. Not because I’m a bitter bastard – OK, let’s not go there – but because the future of this industry requires bigger leaps not better wrapping paper and the more we manage up our abilities, the more we lower the reality of our potential.

Christ, that’s a heavy post for a Monday isn’t it.

Given I know what the rest of the week has in store, it gets worse. Eek.



The Happiest Place On Earth …

Following on from yesterday’s post, I’ve taken today off so I can take Otis for his first visit to Disneyland.

I can tell you right now he is going to absolutely bloody love it … and I have to tell you I’m glad he will because it has cost the equivalent of the GDP of a medium sized European nation and I’d be devastated to have to sell a kidney for something he won’t enjoy.

As much as I can be rather skeptical about Disney, I have to say they know how to capture kids imagination.

I still remember taking Otis to a hospital in Shanghai and – as soon as he clapped eyes on the TV showing Frozen – his pain and tears disappeared to be replaced with a hypnotic state.

So that’s where I’ll be today and then I’ll spend the weekend trying to recover from it as well as hope my beloved Nottingham Forest end the season on a high, which – given the position they were in last season – already feels like they’re playing in football Disneyland.

Now I know finishing mid-table in the Championship may not seem the sort of thing anyone should celebrate, but when you’ve had the turmoil we’ve had over the last 20 years – and especially the last 5 – it’s feels really good to have a team that is occasionally in the news for the way they’re playing football rather the way the terrible ex-CEO was playing with the club and it’s finances.

So in a way to honor Nottingham Forest being slightly less shit than they were last year [when they were super shit] I hereby reproduce my ‘everything for a ¬£1’ shop version of one of my favourite Nike/Wieden ads ever.

Horrific isn’t it?

Especially compared to the original.

Putting aside the fact I’m wearing something ‘Adidas’, it’s a bit like comparing a pair of Hi-Tec trainers to a pair of NIKE’s, but then that’s like comparing the current Forest side to the team that dominated Europe in the early 80’s.

Or – said another way – how it feels to be a Forest fan for the last couple of decades.

So now I’ve ruined your weekend, I’m off … see you Monday.