Mama Cass didn't choke to death on a ham sandwich.
It was heart failure.
So now you know.
It's like you got yesterday, today and tomorrow, all in the same room.
There's no telling what can happen.
Things are not always what they seem.
Grudging favorite: Kevin Roberts' Blog. Sometimes I think it is important to disagree. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Agreeing isn't thinking. Baby, this is ThoughtSpurs, round here we think. So the next on my list of permanent links is Mr Kevin Roberts.
Couple of things.
I'm a little annoyed. I was fooling around putting a blog together for Vanishing Act. On Blogger.com I didn't realise i was inadvertantly deleting the template for this blog. So all the customised elements like links to blogs I read and recommend were lost. When I have a minute I'll have to rebuild. It was probably time for a refresh anyway.
A much coveted ticket to the TED conference 2008 which will give the holder access to the main theatre is for sale on eBay. The current bid is for $10,000 (US), the proceeds go to an architecture charity (I know, weird).
Took my daughter to the library to indulge her interest in Roald Dahl - something to be encouraged, yes? I flipped through the latest Car magazine. Delighted to see the new Fiat 500 took home the Car of the Year gong, whipping the likes of Porsche and Rolls Royce. Other than the new Ford Mondeo the judges didn't feel the any of the others shifted the paradigm. It's not enough to be good or even great anymore.
A few weeks ago I was flipping through a copy of the Australian Financial Review's magazine BOSS (which is not as dreary as it sounds). It contained a story about Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com (perhaps you've heard of them?). It reminded me of seeing Bezos being interviewed by 60 Minutes back in the day when new web sites made it to mainstream media. I was impressed by his down-to-earth charm and nutty, un-self conscious laugh. At the time he also drove a humble Honda Accord to work (in spite of being worth 500 million).
I was interested in the idea of Innovating by jumping sideways (from Where's the sausage).
Your competition could be anyone
…focusing solely on your own industry will obscure the fact that in economies of abundance, consumers are increasingly spending their 'play money' on goods and services that net them the experience, the indulgence, the excitement, the satisfaction they're looking for at a specific moment. Which could be new sneakers (even though they already own five pairs), or a new cell phone (even though their current one is perfectly fine) or a long weekend away (even though, if they're European, it's probably their fourth getaway this year). So if you're, let's say, Nike, you're definitely competing with Reebok and Adidas and Onitsuka Tiger once a consumer has made up his or her mind that it's sneakers he or she desperately wants. But before minds are made up, when shopping for a certain kind of excitement, it may as well be Nokia or Starwood Hotels. Or Zara. Increasingly, you'll be competing with anyone and everyone, which means you need to keep an eye on anyone and everyone.
Expectations can be set outside your industry
…limiting yourself to your own industry will make you miss important changes in consumer expectations, and will thus put you at risk of disappointing or even annoying consumers. Every industry has its own 'innovation competence', and the innovations they're bringing to market not only excite their own customers, they also shape their expectations for other industries. Whether it's Singapore Airlines' sense of status, Starbucks' understanding of indulgence and rituals, H&M's obsession with making up-to-the-minute fashion affordable, or Apple's prowess in design and usability. And while flawless execution is never easy, the thinking and attitude behind it isn't impossible to mirror. Consumers know this, too. Hence their aforementioned indifference and irritation when it comes to the non-H&Ms, the non-Singapore Airlines, the non-Apples.
Copying competitors is a race to the bottom
…if you're obsessed with what your direct competition is doing, you will always end up copying new concepts in your industry. Which means that, unless you're comfortable with being a 'smart follower'*, this is not going to unleash your innovative brilliance ;-)
Now, all of this is of course not to say that you shouldn't actively track what's happening in your own industry. But in the next 12 months, do also constantly ask yourself: who are our other competitors? What experiences could our product or service be traded in for? And what can we learn from other industries setting consumer expectations across the board?
Watching Sixty Minutes, saw the story of Davy Hughes - the owner of Swazi clothing of Levin. Turnover 10 million (apparently). He likes to hunt and eloquently argues why that's o.k. - he has quite a line of chat. The whole story was tinged with weirdness though. Mr Hughes has been tarred liberally by the brush of narcissism. Watching him trotting around the (Tararuas?) in a kilt with an eighteenth century musket was all just a little cringe inducing. But the thing that struck me most was the video footage of him killing an Alaskan Grizzly bear. The bear ambles into frame, minding its own business - being a bear (whose diet is usually salmon and berries, not people). With the animal passing by the great white hunter takes a shot from a few feet, felling the bear. Not very noble.
“We all know that brands live in peoples minds. When you first enter the market the brand lives entirely in YOUR mind. In its infancy you get to shape it, create behavioural guidelines, help mold character…and then if you have done a good job, it is taken from you. Your customer wrests ownership in the brand. You become the guardian. That is success.”
His business tips were:
1. It's never too late to talk things over.
2. Fire customers who aren't fun.
3. Tell staff they must have 2 possible solutions to every problem they bring to you.
4. Remember there's more to life than business.
5. Customers own the brand.
6. Forget 'passion', focus on 'love'.
7. Treasure your brand & use intellectual property protection.
Everything produces a carbon footprint - even the most seemingly benign or passive things. Some industries are obvious polluters, but many of those businesses are trading in carbon markets and offsetting their filthy habits by planting trees. Some are even changing their ways.
"DreamHost is carbon neutral. We've calculated the impact of everything that DreamHost uses and leaves behind in the course of our daily work. All of the resources that we use - paper in the office, electricity for our servers, even the gas in our cars that bring us to the office - leaves behind some kind of soul-sucking residue in the world.
When we learned that running DreamHost generated as much carbon dioxide as 545 average-size homes we realized we had to do something to neutralize our emissions.
With a bit of research we found the most effective approach begins with resource conservation: turning off the lights, reducing travel, printing on both sides of the page. Efforts are being ramped up here daily to do what we do with less. The next step is to use clean, renewable energy. Without the option to put up solar panels or connect with a green power utility for us this means purchasing Renewable Energy Credits. Finally, to neutralize those unavoidable emissions we’ve invested in Emission Reduction Credits (a.k.a. “offsets”) which guarantee our remaining impact is effectively erased. A third-party-certification? Never fear. The credits we use to green our energy consumption and neutralize the rest of our emissions meet the highest standards in the industry."
I just deactivated my facebook account. Read an article from the Guardian reprinted by the Sunday Star Times about the background to the site and its founders. The thesis was that it is all very sinister and libertarian (Left and right at the same time? - isn't sinistre Italian for left?). All that is all well and good. The article didn't really chime with my views. Turning off my account was simply a product of finding the whole thing a little lame - as reported earlier in the week.
It has been a while since I flipped through a copy of Car magazine. It once had biblical significance to me when I worked on car accounts. I admire it for the investment in photography and writing that would leave one desperately wanting to expand one's carbon footprint - though such a thing did not exist at the time. I have the same regard for Top Gear on television. It's all in the production values, son. (Actually it's more than that…both Top Gear and Car have something crucial. Their own voice. For better or worse Jeremy Clarkson says what's on his mind. Agree with him like a devotee in a cult of just laugh out loud at his ranting, doesn't matter. He's Clarkson and it entertains).
I was curious to see what my I.Q. was in an online test by Tickle. I'd been bugged by their banners for years. Finally succumbed. I was surprised by the result. I won't tell you the score but I was intrigued by the analysis:
Technology is our friend. Right? I sometimes get the feeling that, no matter how interesting the latest and greatest is it is impossible to play with everything - and get anything done.
…of which many write that it was anciently celebrated by shepherds, and has also some connection with the Arcadian Lycaea. At this time many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy.
Exhibit A: Bjork
"Everybody who is honest is interesting."
Something of a movie day yesterday. I took my daughter Zoe to watch Alvin and the Chipmunks. She had made some chipmunk ears and pinned her faux leopard skin tail to the tops of her trousers, which might have alarmed an actual chipmunk, but never let a little naturalistic verismo get in the way of a good time I say.
One of the things you notice when traipsing about Wellington, the capitol city of New Zealand is that the civic leaders have had the great good sense to plop sculpture around the place. If you've been following this diary you'll know I have a thing about sculpture. Not a studious, learned sort of thing-more a snickering, bloody hell look at that, call that art sort of thing. So, Wellington was a rich vein to tap into.
Back from a trip to Wellington. S'funny I've been there many, many times but never on holiday. So spending time with locals was a revelation. I was invited to stay at Seatoun Heights. The home was brilliant, the view even better. An interIsland ferry would steam by every so often. One doesn't see that in Auckland.