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


How To Stop The Smallest Minds In The Room Create The Biggest Headaches …

I recently read an article in the Guardian about the launch of the X-Box.

Given the brand has been part of gaming culture for the past 20 years, it’s easy to forget what an achievement this has been for Microsoft.

Let’s remember back then, the brand was far more synonymous with office computer programs than gaming … so to come from such a negative space and place to become the powerhouse it is today, is nothing short of incredible.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing.

Sure, their cause was helped by SONY seemingly forgetting everything that had made the original PlayStation launch so successful … but even with that, Microsoft were still coming from pretty much a standing start.

It’s a great article that’s well worth the read, but there was one part that really stood out to me.

This:

Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there …

Where someone chooses to ignore a statement of obviousness and instead, attempts to turn it around so you look like you’re making a potentially dangerous assumption.

Don’t get me wrong, we shouldn’t blindly assume common sense is common sense, and – without doubt – there’s been a lot of unsubstantiated assumptions that have ended up being the backbone of ideas and campaigns all around the World, but this sort of behaviour is nothing but an act of petty cowardice.

However, let’s assume for a moment the person who wanted proof that people did expect DVD quality to be better than the crunched-up shit that was on screen, was right.

Let’s assume that we didn’t know that DVD brands had been communicating ‘improved image quality’ to the general public for years.

Even if all that was true, the real issue was still not being addressed.

And that is facts doesn’t mean standards.

So rather than fall into a ‘fact inflation fight’ that no one was going to come out of well – even though I get why they were triggered – they should have asked Mr Petty if the image on the screen reflected the quality of product and performance he – and the company – wanted to globally be associated with?

Quickly followed up by enquiring whether Microsoft had the technology to dramatically improve the current standard of performance?

By doing this, they not only side-step the pointless barrier being placed in front of them and refocused the conversation to values, standards and ambition.

I’ve seen this situation happen so many times.

Where political point scoring derails ambition, potential and standards.

Where the company starts focusing on the ‘minimum viable product’ rather than what could drive the brands perception.

And while these situations have also seen me lose my shit – A LOT – I always remember my Dad telling me the real way to win these sorts of arguments, which is to elevate the discussion to reputational standards not down to petty point scoring.

He was brilliant at it.

Me? I’m still working on it.



If A Video Game Company Can Do It, What’s Your Excuse?

For all the talk about diversity and inclusion being spouted by companies, I don’t see much diversity and inclusion.

I still see companies mainly filled with people like me and where there is diversity, it tends to not be at the management level.

And on the rare occasion that it is, you then see the media go after these people with a zeal rarely seen towards anyone white. Or male.

Of course, diversity is more than simply heritage … though companies often use that as a convenient excuse to not hire People of Colour, ignoring that – SHOCK HORROR – People of Colour can also come from low income areas, have physical disabilities, be members of the LGBTQ+ community and/or have any other number of ‘minority’ characteristics you wish to throw at me … which is why I am so excited by a new video game that deals with diversity head on.

Forza Horizon 5 is a brilliant racing game on XBox.

The graphics are amazing.
They’ve introduced a ‘story’ mode to the game.
And the world you get to explore is almost limitless.

But … and it’s a big but … the really brilliant thing is the level of customisation they allow you to make of your character.

Look at this …

And this …

How amazing is that!

You can customise your identity and add prosthetics.

No doubt, this will cause huge offence to presenters on Fox News for succumbing to ‘wokeness’ which makes it even better … but they’re missing the point in 2 fundamental areas.

1. Being called woke means being called someone who considers the context and needs of others so they can live a similar life in terms of opportunity as you. For me that’s a compliment, not an insult.

2. The option is not to get headlines – though it does, because of its rarity – but to allow people who are minorities, feel seen and valued and celebrated for who they are, not who they aren’t. Anyone who thinks that’s a bad thing to do can basically go fuck themselves.

The gaming industry has a bunch of issues – from how it operates to the storylines of the games it makes – however they seem to be far more committed and focused on making change than so many of the companies who talk about their D&I programs on social media and in magazine articles.

People can accuse Forza Horizon of jumping on the woke bandwagon all they like.

They can shout that they’re only doing it because they don’t want to alienate potential customers.

They can say it’s a ‘one off’ and should be treated as such.

People can say what they like … it’s still more than most have done and will mean far more to the millions of people who have been ignored by companies for decades for no other reason than simply being a bit different to supposedly ‘common’ characteristics.

And I can tell you, that will mean more to them than some press release about a companies D&I program that doesn’t change a damn thing.

___________________________________________________________________________

Thank you to James Whatley for letting me steal his screen shots, even though I own the game myself. THAT’s how lazy I am. Not that you didnt know it.



You Can Tell A Company By The Inconvenience It Embraces …

Lot’s of companies talk about doing good.

Sadly, of those who do, many have both eyes fixed on what’s in it for them.

A headline.

An award.

A chance to win favour with someone they want to connect with.

An opportunity to distract attention from all the bad stuff they’re doing.

Now there are some companies who mean it.

Who have a set of values that truly is reflected in a set of behaviours.

However, in my experience, I’ve found it’s often more to do with the character of an individual within the organisation rather than the organisation.

Not always, but often.

What I’ve found is the best way to identify the real motivation behind an act of generosity is to see how inconvenient it is for them to execute.

The more inconvenient, the more they care.

I’ve seen some amazing examples of people going out of their way …

There was the time Simon Pestridge – when he was CMO at NIKE – got me a signed Wayne Rooney, Manchester United shirt so I could give it to a random taxi driver I’d met in Atlanta. Or the time San – also from Nike – humoured me by getting me green M&M’s [my attempt at reliving the Van Halen ‘brown M&M trick] when they asked me to pull a global preso together at the last second.

That’s proof of people who give a shit about others.

But I’ve seen the other side.

The food brand who ‘donated’ $100 to a group collecting food for victims of an earthquake.

Or the travel company who gave schools a 3% discount for train tickets so city kids could see a beach.

Or the international conglomerate who talk about purpose and their desire to help humanity but continue to profit from cultural exploitation and acts of prejudice.

But where you would normally expect me to leave the post there – with a bad taste in your mouth – I’m not going to.

I know, who the fuck am I?

You see a while back I got asked by Coca-Cola if I’d give a presentation to their Asia-Pac marketing team.

I decided a while back, that I’m going to start ‘exploiting’ my so-called position by trying to do things that can positively change things for more people.

So I told them I’d do it if they agreed to hire a young woman [full-time or a long-term paid internship] who hadn’t gone to university and came from a more humble background.

Then – proving I’m still a selfish, blagging bastard – I said I’d also like some Coke Zero for me.

Amazingly … brilliantly … awesomely they agreed and were nothing but kind and open about making it happen – which also helps explain the photo at the top of this page showing Otis with an outdoor furniture set made of Coke Zero supplies.

They didn’t have to do it.

They could have just asked someone else to do the talk.

But they did … and while there are many things people could throw stones at them for, this was more than many and more valuable than most.

Which leaves me with this …

If you’re asked to do a presentation or a talk or even a panel for someone, maybe you could consider doing a similar thing to me.

Let’s face it, if they would do it for me, they’ll DEFINITELY do it for you.

And if they say no, then you’ll know exactly what you’re dealing with.

But maybe they’ll say yes.

Maybe it won’t be an internship, but it could be something else.

A partnership with a school.
An introduction to one of their partner companies.
Some mentorship.
A donation.

And while it might not change millions of lives, it could change one.

And that is most definitely better than none.

Just a thought.

Thank you Coca-Cola..



Hiding Behind A Mask …

Recently I was interviewed by 2 creatives who have set up a podcast about imposter syndrome.

As I wrote a while back, imposter syndrome affects pretty much everyone in the industry and can be utterly debilitating.

In that same post, I suggested one way to deal with it, is not to hide from it, but to embrace it.

Because in some circumstances, imposter syndrome can help your career.

Seriously.

It means it never let’s you phone something in.
It means it always demands you push your talent further.
It means it will force you to keep exploring possibilities.

I’m not saying that isn’t painful, but it may change your relationship with it … because instead of undermining your career, maybe you can use it to build it.

Maybe.

Anyway, I was interviewed about this and a bunch of other issues connected to imposter syndrome and if you want to listen to that – or the much better ones, such as Nils from Uncommon – then you can go here and find out more about something that more people than you’d imagine have to deal with.



Nothing Shows You Care Than When Things Are Shit …

Just like HR is often about protecting management from their people rather than the other way around, the same can be said for customer service.

Of course, no one says that, but there’s far too many examples of companies stating the importance of their customers, and then using their customer service department to completely undermine them.

As I’ve written before, real customer service is demonstrated when things are bad, not good.

Let’s be honest, when a company can spot a sale, the full charm-offensive is on display.But when things go bad … oh, that’s when the truth is often revealed.

The irony is that this is the exact moment you can create a level of loyalty that can last a lifetime.

I’ve talked about the time VW came good after my brand new Golf GTI had the gearbox collapse and the turbo blow up … and I’ve found another example of a brand making something bad, a little bit better simply because they looked at things from their customers perspective and acted accordingly.

Isn’t that amazing?

Considerate. Compassionate. Personal. Helpful. Generous.

At the worst of times, a company has found a way to not just solve a problem – but help relieve some of the pain, that wasn’t even of their own making.

If a pet food company can do that – with their relatively low priced product – then any company should be able to. But many don’t. Not because their staff don’t want to, but their bosses won’t let them.

Years ago I worked with a consultant called Geoff Burch.

He was a beautiful maniac.

What made him great was he challenged management to live up to their responsibilities – both to their companies reputation and their employees ability to be successful.

We were working on an Italian car brand together and at the client briefing, the CEO said the call centre staff were offering too many benefits to appease dissatisfied customers.

Geoff asked why they were dissatisfied and the response was their were reliability problems.

Quick as a flash, he replied:

“Maybe you need to realise your responsibility to your employees is more than just a desk, a roof and a paycheck, but making a product that is fit for purpose. I can’t help a company who wants to blame others for the faults they have created and protect”

It was incredible.

And while there was a very awkward atmosphere in the room after that outburst, the CEO – after what seemed like a lifetime – acknowledged he was right.

To be fair, it helped that Geoff had an incredible reputation, but he wasn’t saying anything truly revolutionary, he was simply saying ‘reputation is based on what you do, not what you say’.

And while that should be plainly obvious, it’s amazing how few companies still don’t get that. The companies who think making a few dollars more today is more valuable than a lost customer tomorrow.

Seriously, the way some companies operate, it’s like a bloody ponzi scheme.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you should ‘spend your way’ into customers hearts.

This is simply about valuing your customers perspective rather than purely seeing the World through your own.

Which is, unsurprisingly, the true definition of customer service.