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September 2019

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If you are a business that deals in or with technology.

And you probably do.

This is for you.

Techpledge.

I have been introduced to this pledge because I attended the Techfestival is Copenhagen last week.

You’ve been introduced to it because you have been kind enough to interact with 50odd in some way.

So thank you.

Sign up. 

I’ve signed up.

I hope you do too.

https://www.techpledge.org

Just last week.

An escalator at Newcastle Airport wedged the first few yards of a thousand miles between a teary-eyed me and my teary-eyed daughter.

I was moving.

My feet weren’t.

And I didn’t look back.

So that Izobel didn’t see my tears through her tears.

I was flying to The Denmark.

The Denmark.

Izobel thinks that all aeroplanes fly to The Denmark.

A conclusion that is not so strange considering she currently has information on just one aeroplane.

My aeroplane.

And just one destination.

My destination.

Clearly, Izobel is incorrect.

But I do understand why, for the 20 minutes that I held her close before I left, she pointed at every aeroplane that took to the sky and cried:

Look!

Another aeroplane flying to The Denmark!

Izobel and Donald Trump.

As I sat on my aeroplane.

On my way to The Denmark.

I had a thought.

It struck me that Izobel’s thinking that morning was a little like Donald Trump’s thinking.

I was not proud of this notion.

Not in the way that, traditionally, a father should be proud of his 3 year old daughter using similar reasoning to a world leader.

I smiled nevertheless.

I smiled because I think Izobel thinks all aeroplanes fly to The Denmark.

For similar reasons to why Donald Trump thinks all Mexicans will mug Americans.

And why Nigel Farage thinks all Polish people will steal (steal? really?) British jobs.

And why some people think that all black people will stab them.

The logic works!

But only under two circumstances.

First, if you form a view based only on what you have been told.

Or second, if you form a view based only on what you choose to look at or believe.

Interesting!

Izobel. 

I remain proud of Izobel of course.

Her intelligence and hunger to learn what is right and true will mend the idea that all aeroplanes fly to The Denmark.

And Donald?

Can we mend what Donald thinks?

No.

Donald is 73.

And he still thinks that all aeroplanes fly to The Denmark.

I was chatting to my friend Lizzie Rhodes James this week.

Lizzie is a uniquely talented leadership coach.

And we chatted about schooldays.

Schooldays. 

School, for me, was a place occasionally beautiful.

And often terrifying.

The latter never moreso than when I was being stared at.

By The Picker.

The Picker. 

The Picker was all-powerful.

Pickers moved pairs for obvious reasons.

And they held the power to pick me – or to not pick me – for their team.

Be it rugby, football or something else.

When their imposing silhouettes shifted shape as they passed judgement by raising pointy, bony fingers.

They revealed the invisible hierarchies that Social Media so cruelly points out to every young and vulnerable child every single nanosecond around the world these days.

And a 12 year old me would just stand there.

In my too-long shorts.

Peeping sheepishly through my too-long fringe.

Shivering on my two skinny legs.

Waiting for the inevitable reality of being picked last.

Ambition. 

This is a short story about ambition.

About thinking further.

About goal setting.

About you.

And also about the difference between the 12 year old me and the 30 year old me when I started my first enduring business.

The 12 year old me was frightened.

And I, most of the time, played the cards I was dealt.

I didn’t challenge much.

I wanted to be picked earlier by The Picker of course.

But I expended little energy working out how to make this happen.

Instead, I just let what happened, happen.

30.

However at 30 years old.

I was different.

My legs were still too skinny and my hair was still too long, of course.

But my attitude was not what it was when I was 12.

And here’s the thing for you to think about.

This is a story about the loftiness of your ambition.

It is about aiming higher.

Because a 12 year old me thought I had just two choices.

To be picked last.

Or to be picked first.

And that was that.

I didn’t even see the third choice when I was 12.

And I have to remind myself to see it at 51 years old sometimes.

Because the third choice is easy to forget.

Aim high.

At 30.

I aimed much higher.

I didn’t want to be picked last, of course.

But I also didn’t want to be picked first.

I wanted to stop waiting to be picked.

I wanted to become The Picker.

So I did.

And I picked me.

I have two pairs of glasses.

One for reading.

One for seeing more clearly at distance.

Copenhagen.

When I was on my way to Copenhagen earlier this month.

I felt around in my bag for my two glasses boxes.

And my hand found just one.

Glasses.

As my hand rested on the unopened box.

I wondered which pair I had with me.

Do I want my distance glasses so I can see this lovely country that I am visiting for the first time clearly?

I thought.

Or do I want my reading glasses?

So that I can see my phone better?

FaceTime better.

Read better.

It almost felt like I was choosing the future versus the past.

The Box. 

I just found this tiny, momentary conundrum interesting.

I do wrestle with an over-reliance on my phone.

But I am reading more than ever.

I love visiting new places and discovering new things, though.

And the real magic – especially when I am in new places – is often tucked away around corners and in the shadows.

I need to be able to see clearly to find those.

I like meeting new people, too.

But entering rooms full of new people is also better when I can scan the whole room clearly.

So I wasn’t sure which glasses I wanted to find in the box.

Reading Glasses.

When I opened the box.

And discovered my reading glasses.

I felt happy.

So then I started to wonder if feeling happy about seeing my phone, and feeling happy about sacrificing my ability to explore this new land at maximum clarity was a good thing for my little brain to feel.

Then I stopped over analysing.

And sat in a corner of Heathrow.

Smiling.

Reading my book.

The new Cadbury’s advertising campaign is great.

It is called FENCE.

But the real moment of genius is not this latest campaign.

It’s this bit.

The brand consideration that allows this new campaign to happen:

There’s a glass and a half in everyone.

Which was a brilliant, brilliant update – about three years ago now I think – from this:

There’s a glass and a half in every one.

(If you missed it.

Read it again).

Brand. 

This is a very unusual update.

We are not used to this kind of a move from a brand.

Cadbury subtly shifted the brand position.

By tweaking the slogan.

This opened a whole new narrative.

And, of course shifted the focus from the goodness in the product – to the goodness in the consumer.

Whilst retaining the familiar echo of the goodness in the product at the same time.

That’s the clever bit.

Brand. Marketing. Design.

There is a delicate relationship that exists between brand, marketing and design.

Delicate because we have to stay true to brand.

Always.

We have to understand that marketing should be joined-up and for a reason.

And that it requires constant attention also.

And design and creative should then ice this communication cake with a great degree of care, sophistication and precision.

(And hopefully a large dollop of adventure and bravery, too).

Lucky.

I am very lucky.

Because I have built and led teams that have delivered world-class solutions in the areas of brand, marketing and design for over 20 years.

So I instinctively look for clear connection between the three.

And the evolutionary ‘dance’ that these three areas partake in as a business and it’s communications develop.

These days, I do this kind of work at ANGELFYSH.

If you’d like too chat about that – drop me a line at michael@angelfysh.com.

Or if you’d like a free copy of my book A.BRAND, please sign up to our newsletter.

Commissioning graffiti is like buying sex.

Completely pointless.

Europe.

I really like European capital cities.

Berlin is probably my favourite.

I find Berlin richly experiential and layered.

Copenhagen is smart and sophisticated and welcoming.

Barcelona overwhelming and colourful.

Paris, though a little contrived, I find seductive and romantic.

And in all of these cities I am drawn to the graffiti.

Grafitti.

I find it so revealing and interesting.

Rebellious and raw.

Free and fervent.

And – I think – I can tell which graffiti is real and which is not.

By ‘real’ I mean it’s probably been created under cover of the night.

Covertly.

It’s personal.

And there are messages that I can see and – I sense – messages that I can’t see.

It is authentically unruly.

Painful, even.

The exact opposite in fact, of commissioned graffiti.

The kind of sterile adornment that Local Authorities might commission.

To control and to confine.

To get the creative to colour inside the lines.

To justify, cost and consider.

Thus rendering the graffiti soulless.

Meaningless.

Message-less.

And – ultimately and in retrospect.

I suspect.

Horribly unfulfilling for the viewer.

And for the doer.

And that’s why I think that commissioning graffiti is like buying sex.

Completely pointless.

I suppose it’s quite a simple point.

But one really well made.

When it’s put like this.

Mountains.

One of the people talking at the Techfestival in Copenhagen last week.

Focused on the subject of picking team members.

It was interesting to me because the ANGELFYSH team is growing currently.

And the Always Wear Red team will be growing soon too.

This guy asked us to think about the mountains we are looking to scale.

And this resonated.

Because all of the businesses I am involved with are scaling mountains.

Challenging.

Vast.

To be respected.

And worth conquering.

Team Members. 

Then, this gentleman asked an important question.

He asked:

Are you trying to make a mountain?

Or find a mountain?

Because if you’re trying to make a mountain you need great designers, architects, visionaries, storytellers and builders.

And if you’re trying to climb a mountain you need great navigators, organisers and climbers.

I like this kind of thinking.

The idea that we need the right kind people for our own personal journeys.

Oh; I know this of course.

And so do you.

But this exact framing made me think about silly managers.

That forget the nuances of their own journey.

Or the silly recruitment companies.

That try to place people without fully understanding their client’s journey.

And that’s when things go wrong.

Brand.

In my world of brand, ‘building brand mountains‘ means having fresh ideas.

Developing pioneering approaches.

Innovating.

Educating.

And doing things for the first time in the new worlds that we create.

And ‘finding brand mountains‘ is more likely identifying existing needs and wants.

And working out how to beat whoever is most attractive currently.

By engineering nuanced, differentiated approaches in these existing worlds.

Same But Different.

There are overlaps, of course.

But I surprised myself when I thought about how I’d build the first team.

Versus the second team.

Because I’d need very different people.

Your Team.

Think about who you need in your team.

Or maybe – who you have in your team right now.

Think about the mountain thing.

Because if you are looking to build a mountain, you may need an almost completely different set of people – or at the very list a different way of thinking – than if you’re trying to scale an existing one.

I am not quite sure why I find Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse’s fishing exploits so utterly charming.

But I do.

They visit places I want to go to.

Talk about things I want to discuss.

And they have a friendship that seems to be like the best friendships I have ever had.

It really is, charming.

Click here for an article highlighting some of the places they’ve been.

And click here for the first episode of series 2.

Lovely.