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


Knowing How To Scramble An Egg Doesn’t Mean You Know The Future Of Chickens …

It’s August.

Month 8 of 2021.

Month 17 for so many of my mates working from home.

It’s quite interesting sitting in New Zealand and reading all these companies releasing reports about ‘the future of work’ when they are doing it from a position of semi-blindness.

Yes, there are many, many benefits from working from home.

For a lot of people, the hours saved on commuting are incredible.

And there’s definitely a lot of benefits for companies having people work of home.

The savings on office space alone do that.

But the reality is after a year of that, being back in an office – albeit in a country that has dealt with COVID better than anyone – the impact has been huge on me.

It reminded me of the thrill of working with other people.

Debating ideas.

Discussing issues.

Talking bollocks.

There’s a camaraderie that you don’t get on a video conference.

In addition you don’t have to always be ‘on’.

Always look like you’re busy.

Always look like you’re paying attention.

Always look like you’re on top of everything.

That doesn’t mean you can be a slack bastard in an office, but it means the pressure of ‘being on’ reduces. That may seem counter-intuitive in an environment where you are always seen, but it is because of that you let your human side come out. The different forms of your energy and presence.

What all these companies banging on about having fixed ‘the future of work’ are actually saying is what is the future of THEIR work. What they want THEIR environment to be. What THEIR individual category allows them to do.

They can put out as many survey monkeys as they like to their employees, if doesn’t mean they know the future of work.

It’s also laughable these organisations are proclaiming they have all the answers when they were often the ones who encouraged/forced people to come to their offices every day … and would then actively fight against anyone who wanted to operate under slightly different terms.

If we want to learn what the future of work is, we’d be far better off listening and learning from companies or organisations who operated this way since before COVID forced change than anyone else. Which means I’d trust Mary Kay Cosmetics or even Anonymous more than many of the big talkers out there right now.

The reality is people can adapt more easily than companies have ever given us credit for. But what the future of work is for them and us is going to dependent on many factors … of which one is remembering what it is like to be in an office again.

At the end of the day it will likely be a balance – something that works for the 3 main parties of people, clients and company – but what I’ve found interesting from the people I’ve spoken to who don’t want to go back to the office, is they’re not just saying it for financial/commute reasons, but because they hated how the company made them feel constantly oppressed and judged when they were inside their 4 walls.

In fact, having spoken to a number of people on Corporate Gaslighting … many have said that working from home would have saved them from the worst of bad management.

Which is the real lesson about the future of work for companies post covid.

Do you have a culture people want to be a part of or want to stay away from?



Just Show You Give A Damn …

I hear so much about brand experience these days.

How the focus is to ‘remove the friction of purchase for the customer’.

That they genuinely believe this means they’re being valuable to their audiences.

And while that is rather misguided – given it is done to ultimately be in their own interests – if brands genuinely want to do right by their customers, then all they have to do is something their customers find valuable.

I’ve written a ton about this over the years.

From Timpson dry-cleaning suits/dresses for free if you have a job interview to the Co-op ensuring their food delivery staff make time to talk to lonely householders and almost everything in-between … but nothing made an impact on me like the experience I had with Texas Instruments.

Brand experience isn’t something you simply outsource to an ecosystem.

Sure, that can help improve overall efficiency or engagement … but in terms of offering an experience that helps people actually connect to the brand, then the brand has to do something that actually connects to the customer.

Something personal.

Something valuable. [To the customer, not just to themselves]

Something that demonstrates going out of normal practice.

Something like this.

Now I know what you’re thinking.

“But brands can’t do this sort of thing on an ongoing basis”.

And you’re probably right.

This sort of thing costs money.

But there’s two sides to this.

1. As H&M have shown with their free suit hire campaign, the return of acts like this can be significant both in terms of driving affinity and awareness.

2. If everything you do is based on the perceived ‘value exchange’ you’re making between brand and customer [which is always bollocks, because brands always over-estimate how much their actions are worth in the eyes of the people they’re dealing with] then you don’t really care about your audience, you only care up to a set amount of money and/or time.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate there are many aspects brands need to manage to keep their business going. But like companies who claim their staff are their greatest asset before treating them like shit, brands better know that they can’t say they care about their customers when they evaluate them purely by a financial transactional value.

It doesn’t mean you have to go crazy, but it does mean you have to actually give a shit about what they value not just what you want them to value.

Which is why I love the Marvel example so much.

Because they did it.

More than that, they did it and didn’t make a huge song and dance out of it.

No wonder they’re the home of the superhero.



Nothing is As Sharp As Simple …

I used to think it took a lot of hard work to be simple.

A lot of thinking.

Evaluating.

Sharpening.

Changing.

But maybe I was wrong because I literally cannot imagine how much time it took to create this:

It’s a masterclass in nonsensical.

A blueprint for showing a company who doesn’t know what they actually do.

A celebration of the buzzword bingo bullshit that permeates so many organisations.

Basically, imposters talking to imposters with words they’ve so bastardised the meaning of, that you’d be hard pressed to recognise their original definition if you were left alone with them in a bar overnight with only a dictionary for company.

The verbal equivalent of Mickey Rourke.

Or Lara Flynn Boyle.

Hence now …

Innovation means ‘we’ve made something average a little bit better’.

Revolution means ‘we’ve never done this before though others have’.

Experience means ‘we offer our customers boring and average’.

Transformation means ‘we’ve caught up to everyone else’.

[hence ‘digital transformation’ is simply code for, ‘not being left so far behind’ as opposed – as many in the industry also like to position it – as reinventing the whole category]

And while adland is the cause of a lot of this bullshit, the consultancies – or worse, the wannabe-consultancies – are taking it to a whole new level. Continually creating nonsensical language and definitions in an attempt to feel intellectually superior to those around them. Believing this sort of language acts as a sort-of ‘code’ that helps identify other delusionists, wannabe’s and/or victims … so they can revel and reward themselves with their Emperors New Clothes bullshit.

Until they can’t.

What is particularly amusing is these companies still celebrate the old adage of ‘quality over quantity’ … even though they show up with a level of excessive vulgarity that would put Donald Trump to shame.

Talking in plain English – or plain any language – is not a bad thing.

If anything, it is the most powerful.

Not just because it is easier to communicate and relate to.

Nor because it shows you can identify the core problem that needs addressing.

But because it captures something my old man used to say to all his young lawyers:

“If you want to show how intelligent you are, you’re not that intelligent”.



We All Need Someone …

It’s easy to think some people can have whatever they want.

That they have the money to buy whatever they choose.

Or the business empire to create whatever they desire.

And while it’s no doubt easier to have things when you’ve got things … the reality is everyone – rich or poor – needs someone at some point in their life.

My Dad always said if you know people, you’re rich … and while mortgages can’t be paid in Linkedin contacts, I do understand what he meant.

When I look at my career, I realise so many of the opportunities I have enjoyed have come because of people I worked with or met along the way.

That doesn’t mean I had things handed to me on a plate – or no more than any other white, male has had that as an advantage – it just means because of the breadth of people I know, I’ve been able to do things that others may never have had the chance to experience.

While I think I’m pretty good at what I do, I am under no illusion I’m special – and yet I’ve been able to do so much that were beyond my expectations, whether that’s living around the World or working with Metallica – which highlights how much of life is down to luck.

In my case, while I didn’t go to a private school or a fancy university [or any university for that matter] I was born a white male … which means I was already hugely advantaged with ‘luck’ where life was concerned.

While this could easily become a rant about how fucking unfair this is – especially if you’re a Person of Colour or a female or gay or someone who does not identify themselves by male/female identity – I’m going to be writing about that next week, so I’ll end this week with the point this post was originally meant to have.

Recently I came across a letter from the writer John Steinbeck to Marilyn Monroe.

While it reinforces my point about the value of knowing people, the reason I’m writing about it is because it’s just beautifully written and shows a side of celebrity rarely seen.

Somewhere along the line, we seem to think all celebs know each other. Hanging out in each other’s pools and houses. Well, while it may be true now [it’s not] it certainly wasn’t true then – as this lovely letter to start your weekend by, clearly shows.

Have a great one.



You Don’t Get What You Pay For …

The picture above is a well known internet image that reflects the value of using professionals.

It’s right.

But where it’s not entirely accurate is that in the real world, what’s happening more and more is that rather than ending up with an image of a horse drawn by a blind, drunk, 5 year old … clients are getting a beautifully image because the professional has been forced to lower his price to get the work.

It’s shit.

What’s worse is that many of these highly talented, exceptionally trained professionals have been made to forget their own value.

It doesn’t happen immediately, it’s often a slow, drawn out process – but the end point is the same, they treat their craft as a commodity. Not because it is, but because they’ve been made to think that way.

When I started working with Metallica, their management asked for my rates and costs.

I gave it to them.

They told me I was a fool and I needed to triple it.

Let me be clear, I thought it was a fair cost – I wasn’t knowingly lowballing myself – and yet here I was being told it wasn’t just low, it was THREE TIMES LOW.

I said I couldn’t do that, it was in-line with market rates and I felt it was fair … to which they asked me a question that changed the way I value what I do.

“Do you think your work and your experience is better than the market?

I knew if I said no, they’d ask why they were working with me, so of course I said yes.

I have to admit, I felt a bit weird saying it, but there were 3 reasons that pushed me to do it.

1. I really wanted to work with them.
2. It was obvious they thought I was worth that amount.
3. Without being arrogant, my experience is pretty huge.

Now the reality is my fee was still a fraction of what many people in the industry charge, but for them to do that when they could have just accepted my fee and said nothing – especially as they knew I wanted to work with them – is something I will forever be grateful for.

It also means I work harder for them, to both repay their faith and keep justifying my rate.

Clever sods.

Since this moment, my relationship with charging for what I do has literally done a full 180.

It’s why I was able to take on a procurement department when they tried to position me as ‘just another supplier’.

It’s why I enjoyed doing it.

It’s also why I was happy to do it in such a mischievous way.

For people who worked with me before – especially at cynic – this shift is amazing.

I was always George’s worst nightmare.

Agreeing to any price if the opportunity excited me.

It’s why I was banned from my own company when dealing with clients about money.

It’s why I still apologise to George for what I did.

Because I was not just undervaluing my talent, but everyone else’s too.

I know it’s hard, but the only way we will educate clients to pay what creative talent deserves – which, let’s not forget, it still a fraction of what they happily pay consultants who don’t ever do the work they recommend – is to give them the standard their budget actually should pay for.

For example the horse at the top of this page.

Because craft is not an expense but an investment.

An investment that doesn’t just lead to better work, but work that lets your client achieve more from it. Whether that’s charging a price premium or simple making more people more interested in what they do.

As Harrison Ford said, the most important thing we can learn is the value of value.