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


If Everything Is An Experience, You Better Make Yours Great …

I’ve written a lot about experience in the past.

How important it is.

How it can drive brand value and growth.

How it can create distinction and differentiation in crowded categories.

I’ve also talked about how badly so much of it is done.

That it’s more about consistency than excellence.

That it isn’t a new approach, just a new profit centre.

That many aspire to everything average than some things spectacular.

It blows my mind what some agencies and companies think is ‘an experience’.

Especially when you compare it to people who genuinely ‘get it’.

Whether it’s certain luxury brands or my client, SKP-S in Beijing.

Which is why I love the picture at the top of this page.

At the time, the person on the runway was 62 years old.

SIXTY TWO.

This was taken on the first of 3 nights of performing to 68,000 paying people.

So over 200,000 in total.

In South America.

Think about that for a second.

OK, so the person in question is Brian Johnson … lead singer of rock band AC/DC.

But let’s also remember we’re talking about a group of pensioners.

Literally.

Yes, I appreciate there are all-sorts of factors/considerations/contexts/excuses you could use to explain why they can achieve that sort of response when brands – with all their experience models and big budgets – can’t.

But the one thing AC/DC understand is if you want to keep people coming back, you need to focus on creating a seminal moment for your audience not average consistency.

It’s why I always ask ‘experience strategists’ about their life rather than just their work. I want to know what their frame of references are for experience. Because frankly – and I appreciate I’m being a massive snob here – if it doesn’t include festivals, theatre, art, music, retail, museums … then I don’t know if we’re ever going to share the same ambitions.

Because while I appreciate ‘average but consistent’ has value to some organisations, I would rather drink bleach than advocate that as a brand goal.

Not simply because I have an aversion to average.

But because when you do experience right – which means knowing who you are and who your customers are – the profits extrapolate. See, I’m not totally selfish.



China Is More Than Just Big Numbers And So Is Singles Day …

As I’ve said many times, I miss China.

I miss everything about it. Except the pollution.

It was – and remains – an incredible important and special place in my life, personally and professionally, and I’m so grateful I get to still do work there.

That said, there’s days where I miss it more than most and today is one of those.

Singles day – because of the date 11.11 – has become the single biggest shopping day on the planet. Bigger than the global Black Friday and New Years Day sales put together.

I have had individual clients sell US$100 million+ of product on that single day … and as huge as that is, it’s nothing compared to some other brands. You see, for all the talk of Singles Day being the luxury brand bonanza, the reality is it’s the more mundane things that sell in far bigger quantities.

There’s lots of reasons for that, of which money is only a small part.

That aside, the whole thing has become an extravaganza … even featuring international celebs [before they were in disrepute] in the lead-up … and yet, while it has finally been ‘discovered’ by many in the West, it still blows my mind at how little they really know, or care, about what started it, what drives it and what it represents to millions in the Middle Kingdom.

Of course I shouldn’t be surprised, because where China is concerned, the West still prefers to be deliberately ignorant to the goings on there … preferring instead to either ignore anything until is comes to the West, or just repeating what they’ve read somewhere without delving more into the culture or the history.

And that’s what I saw a lot there.

In fact, it’s a lot of what I saw wherever I lived, especially in Asia.

The preference for headlines rather than the details.

Easy wins instead of earning your rights.

Acceptance only when it was localised.

What scares me is this attitude seems to be extending beyond just knowing other cultures … but approaches to planning.

Answers rather than listening.
Comments rather than thinking.
Responses rather than considering.
Generalisations rather than nuance.
Complicity rather than a point of view.

I appreciate we live in a world where there is commercial benefit in speed. And while that doesn’t automatically mean it is wrong, it only works if you have people with the real experience and knowledge to be able to answer the problems properly.

There’s a massive difference between someone looking things up on Google and someone who appreciates the nuance and layers that goes behind opinion, beliefs and behaviour.

And yet too often these people don’t get valued by their companies.

Viewed as too costly … when the experience and knowledge they have is the difference between resonating with culture or shouting at people.

Or said another way, doing work that is for people rather than about them.

It blew my mind how little Western markets, and companies, valued my – and everyone else I know who spent considerable time in Asia – experience. I constantly felt a sense of distain from those who had never been there … as if the work and culture didn’t count for anything … despite the history, the economy, the culture and the technology.

Fuck, I had someone recently ask me if I knew TikTok was a Chinese company. A person who claims to be ‘an expert’ in digital. You should have seen their face when I told them that not only did I know that, but it had been around in China for years before it had come to the West.

This does not mean you have to live in another country to care about it. But generally, you do have to if you want to have any way of understanding it beyond the headlines and the superficial clickbait.

Which is why in the next few weeks if someone tries to present you a deck entitled, ‘Singles Day: all you need to know’ … just ask them what the premise is.

If they only talk about big numbers – and, god forbid – something to do with Confucius, run the other way. And if you think I’m joking, I can tell you about the time I was in Beijing and sat in a meeting full of CEO’s and the guest speaker started talking about his proprietary strategy for using Twitter, until it was pointed out that the government ban it there.

This guest was the head of strategy of a major ‘global’ digital agency.

Whether you like it or not, China is vital to your business.

Might be directly or indirectly, but it can’t be ignored, even if your ego has to take the hit.

The fact I have to write this in 2021 is mind-blowing, but here it goes:

Hire Chinese talent.
Value Chinese talent.
Learn from Chinese talent.

I promise you they’ll be able to help you and tell you stuff that is far more insightful and valuable that someone writing a presentation on Singles Day from information sourced via Twitter or the Daily Mail.

Love you China. Miss you.



When Is A Logo Not A Logo?

Well I told you I wouldn’t be writing any posts for a while and I have to say, I’m as surprised as you that I managed to stick with it.

Obviously a lot has happened in the past few weeks – including learning how nothing tests how good your family relationships is, like being cooped-up in a small hotel room together for 2 weeks, 24/7 – but we’re happy, excited and up for adventure.

Before I begin, I have to say how amazing the New Zealand organisation is.

So clear, consistent and compassionate.

For someone who had a very privileged covid lockdown period, I was amazed how much it had affected me when I came to a place where I didn’t have to worry about mad decisions and u-turns.

Anyway we got through quarantine, already bought houses and cars [I know, I know] so this week is about stretching our legs, getting Otis a school, ensuring Rosie – the cat – gets to complain as much as she likes and generally getting our bearings of the city before starting at Colenso.

But that’s all for another day, today I want to kick-start the regularity of this blog with this piece of rubbish.

Now I know the re-design of the Burger King logo is not new news.

And neither is what I will be writing about, as I talked about it when it happened.

But while I like many things about the new/old BK design, the thing I like most is how perfect it is for the emoji universe.

Seriously, look at it. It’a the most emoji thing ever.

Sure, I could talk about how clever the B and K fit together.
Sure, I could talk about how I’ve not seen a logo that made me smile since since SONOS.
Sure, I could talk about how it’s as squidgy as sinking your teeth into a Whopper.

But I’m not. I’m going to say how perfectly it would go with other fast food emoji’s already available.

🍔 🍟 🥤

Come on … you so can see it fitting in with that group can’t you.

Now imagine how it could be used to communicate BK’s food menu?

Or, better yet, how it could be used for TikTok/Whatapp order functionality?

Imagine being able to order BK delivery simply by emoji on whatever platform you’re on?

When I was at Deutsch, they tried something like it for Taco Bell using Slack.

Obviously it wasn’t in emoji form and there’s questions how successful it actually was – but it showed there’s more ways to order food than simply going on a website or app.

If that wonderful BK logo was turned into the emoji it begs to be, it could be a really interesting way to drive delivery using the platforms and iconography of culture.

McDonald’s had to pay Travis Scott millions to deepen their connection with culture. BK could do it in an emoji. Their emoji.

OK, I know that is easier said than done and emoji’s are carefully controlled, but given BK’s love of trying to be controversial to be noticed, here is something they could do that has a real benefit and value to all, not just the BK PR department.

Maybe.

I also know some people are slagging the logo off.

Saying it makes the brand look as old as their food or that they need to get their stores looking clean before relaunching their brand design. But apart from those people making the classic mistake of being subjective rather than objective … I’d love to see the work they’ve done recently that proves their actions rather than their words.

God, that was feisty wasn’t it?

I’m definitely back and rested.

But all that aside …

While it’s really nice to see a brand using design to be both distinctive and authentic – versus the corporately beige approach that seems to be the norm for so many – I really hope they see the opportunity for it to be more more than just a static image. Because I have a feeling if they embraced the way culture uses social and platforms, that logo could be more than a branding device, but something that dramatically drives revenue.

You’re welcome BK.



When Hijacking Becomes Criminal …

I’ve written a lot about the ‘hijack’ strategy.

Where a brand pushes itself into a cultural event or topic to either attempt to change the narrative or leverage the narrative.

Some brands do it brilliantly … Nike or Chrysler for example.

However some are a bloody car crash.

At its heart, the difference is simply whether your hijack ‘adds to culture’ or just ‘takes from it’ … however given this approach is now so common among brands, I have to ask whether it can even be considered ‘hijacking’ anymore when most of society expect someone to do it.

That said, it is still a powerful strategy when done right … the problem is, most brands aren’t doing that.

Case in point … social media GAP during the US election.

What the hell?

I know why they did it.

I know what they hoped would happen from it.

But all I can think about is when your own brand of clothes don’t know who they are for, you’re pretty fucked.

And that kind-of sums up GAP’s problem.

Who are they for?

It’s no surprise they are facing incredible pressure in the market these days, to the point there’s talk of them pulling out the UK altogether.

They’re not distinctive enough for people to want to pay a premium for. They’re not cheap enough for people to use them as a foundation for whatever fashion they want to express that day.

In fact, the only thing they have going for them is a collab with Kanye.

It could be amazing.

Reimagining the future of what e-commerce is and how it works.

Combining it with art, not just functionality.

Though whether it will end up making GAP’s clothing range look even older and blander is anyone’s guess.

If they want to learn how to really hijack a moment, they should look at the Four Seasons Landscaping company in Philadelphia.

This is the place where President Trump’s team recently held a press conference, mistakingly booking it thinking it was the Four Seasons hotel.

With all this global attention, they’re leveraging it by selling merch that mimics Trump’s messages.

This is real cultural hijacking.

This is done by adding to the experience rather than just taking it.

Making a landscape company a brand of culture. Albeit for a short period of time.

But let me say this, it’s still more fashionable than the stuff GAP are making right now.

You can buy it here.



What Would A Personalised Number Plate Say About You?

Years ago, I was asked the title of this post by an industry journalist.

I replied with, “it would say I was a prick”.

Given a bunch of people in the industry – not to mention my mates – have personalised number plates, it didn’t go down very well, however compared to this, they’re all saints.

Yep, that’s a real number plate.

Better yet, it’s not even a personalised one. [Someone checked]

That is the number plate the DVLC gave the car.

Now I appreciate that maybe you wouldn’t immediately see the perv potential of PU51BAD … but when it’s written out as PU51 BAD, you’d have to be Stevie Wonder to not see it.

And yet the owner of this Volvo – not sure if it’s a male, but a male was driving it – is happily driving around the UK with it.

Why? Surely they know what they’re doing?

Hell, it seems they even made sure the number plate clearly conveys its questionable words.

Surely they realise the only people who wouldn’t find this cringe worthy are 16 year old boys.

Or maybe I’ve got it wrong.

Given the image of the typical Volvo driver – especially the old Volvo driver – maybe this has given them the bit of an edge they’ve been craving for years.

No longer are they the responsible, safe, family man/woman driver … now they’re sexpests of the most public order.

And to think, Volvo spent untold billions to shed their ‘safe and boring’ persona when all they needed to do was get a perv numberplate.