Category

CONFIDENCE

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I was in Finland 6 or 7 years ago.

On holiday.

Away from the control freakery of my day-to-day.

Away from the environment where I tried to control my businesses and every one and every thing in it.

Instead, I had reluctantly handed myself over to the control freakery of the travel agent.

The travel agent was looking after things now.

The Agenda.

There was an ‘agenda’.

An agenda!

On a fucking holiday.

My worst nightmare, really.

Because I like to do what I like to do.

And this agenda included Husky Running.

Something that I had not even processed as a ‘thing’.

Husky Running.

What was the point?

Husky Running.

When my Husky Running time came – I went along.

I complied.

I became the passenger.

And it was transformative.

It is one of just a handful of things in my whole life that has changed me permanently.

Trust.

I was immediately subordinate to an established, complex team of beautiful, perfectly synchronised wild animals.

They just knew what to do.

They just knew who should do what.

They were ‘doing their thing’.

And it was one of the greatest privileges of my life.

To be looked after by animals in this way.

To let go.

And to trust.

The Passenger.

That day, I learned to be a passenger.

Properly.

The huskies just did what they did.

I had absolutely nothing at all to add.

In fact, if I had tried to add anything at all, the experience would immediately have become a lesser experience.

So I remained silent.

The passenger.

The Point.

And the point of this journey through the snow?

Was that it was just that.

A journey.

Every half second, because my senses were heightened, and because I was just experiencing instead of controlling, I noticed something amazing.

The 28 magically synchronised feet of 7 dogs.

The horizon.

The new, terrestrial clouds of powdery snow that the dogs made, to cool and freshen my face.

The trees.

The mixture of barks and squeaks and telepathy that fused the dogs together as one driving force.

All of this was new.

And beautiful.

And unforgettable.

And the only way I could enjoy the experience and the show to the maximum was to become a passenger.

Which was new for me.

I had to become a true spectator.

To forget my ego.

To lose my control freakery.

To control my fear of things going wrong.

And simply trust.

The Journey. 

I try to remember this today.

To enjoy the journey.

And to be led by those that know much better than me.

In a way I never could.

And to leave them to do their thing.

A thought just arrived.

In my head.

As I looked down from the first floor of my house.

Out of the window.

And saw Lisa smiling.

And happy.

In our sunny garden.

Teaching Izobel about water bombs.

(Lisa will, of course, regret this at some point).

Happy. 

Anyhow, here’s the thought.

The one that arrived.

I thought back to when I was single.

And when I really wanted to be with someone.

I thought about when I used to say this to my friends.

And to myself:

I really want someone to make me happy.

Now that I am with someone I just wanted to point out that this is completely the wrong thing to say.

And to think.

And to want.

Because this was not what I wanted at all.

I wanted this:

I really want someone to make happy.

This is what makes me happy, you see.

Seeing Lisa happy.

No wonder I got it wrong for so very long.

I like a challenge.

Doing things that are bloody hard.

I think this is me rebelling against the run-of-the-mill.

And the obvious.

And the ordinary.

Always Wear Red. 

As you may know, I am in the middle of narrowing down my clothing label Always Wear Red to hand knits only.

I was building relationships with wonderful makers around the UK making lots of different brilliant things.

But I was spreading myself too thinly.

And as I crave true excellence in just one thing.

I had to choose where to focus.

And I choose hand knits.

Hard. 

The main reason I chose hand knits is because hand knitting, of course, can’t be automated.

And even if some clever machine materialised that could create hand knits.

Well, I wouldn’t want one of them.

I want hand knits that have been knitted by hand.

But building a brand around this is hard.

Bloody Hard.

In fact, it’s bloody hard.

Quality control.

Consistency.

Costing.

Pricing.

Scaling.

But, I think, that is the main reason that I am doing it.

And because, when I was researching, I couldn’t find any dedicated, specialist hand knitting brand that committed to that one thing.

That adored that one thing.

Wanting to master it.

And wanting to protect the craft.

And paying the makers, the knitters, well.

Ethically, boldly, confidently and with interesting, contemporary design twists and storytelling.

I spent quite a while looking.

Looking for the world’s best brand for adorable hand knits.

Hand knits that couples fight over.

Hand knits that children want handed down to them from their parents.

And because I couldn’t find someone committed to doing this.

I decided that someone really should commit.

And that that someone – should be me.

Here’s how we’re looking so far: https://www.50odd.co.uk/hard/.

I wrote a book a couple of weeks ago.

And released it it digital format online.

For free.

A.BRAND

It’s called A.BRAND.

Here’s how I describe it in the foreword:

A.BRAND is an easy to digest, fast and practical business guide.

It’s for business owners that want to be brand owners. Because brand-rich businesses –are rich businesses.

A.BRAND can be read end-to-end in under an hour. Or it’s a useful go-to.

It’ll feed conversation, and support informed decision making around how to get help with brand building and communication.

Some of the most important and interesting brand, marketing and design conversations revolve around a simple A or B.

Here are 20.

If you’d like a copy, please go to www.angelfysh.com and add your email address to the A.NEWSLETTER signup.

You’ll then get your copy of A.BRAND for immediate download.

It’ll give you the confidence to address issues relating to your Brand Building and Brand Communications – properly.

Thank you.

Great adverts are well paced.

They draw you in.

They contain exactly the right thing at exactly the right second.

So you stay engaged.

And watch to the end.

One Message.

Great ads are also aware that every single thing in the ad revolves around just one message.

One simple thing.

One simple, memorable thing.

Brand.

And great ads focus on an ownable thing.

Something that is about that brand’s offering.

Something they alone want to be famous for.

Not the entire category’s offering.

So they stand out.

Not blend in.

Emotion.

Great ads are emotional too.

They are funny.

Or sad.

Or hard hitting.

Or, if they are really good, they are more than one of these things.

In under 30, 60 or 90 seconds.

Quality.

Great ads are also beautifully produced.

The simple things are just right.

They are clear about what they are portraying.

They are smart enough to put clarity before creativity.

Perfect. 

Here’s a perfect example.

From 2010.

(Go to https://www.50odd.co.uk/adverts/).

(You’ll smile.

And you’ll remember the brand.

And you’ll remember the one thing the brand owner wants you to remember about the brand, too.

Perfect!)

 

My dog Colin thinks I’m great.

He thinks I can do anything.

He has faith in me.

Faith.

The photograph that goes with this short story shows this (https://www.50odd.co.uk/faith/).

You see, Colin is confident that I can pick up this MASSIVE stick and throw it for him.

Over and over.

For hours.

He has such faith that he just followed me around with it.

Willing me to take it from him.

And launch it so that he could gallop after it.

Tongue lolling.

Tail wagging.

Colin.

I just wanted to mention that – it’s nice to have ‘Colins’ around you.

People that think you can do anything.

It’s good for you!

They cheer you on.

And make you do that bit more.

And probably achieve that bit more, too.

Because you push yourself.

Because you don’t want to let them down.

Positivity… It’s powerful!

(I did actually have a go at throwing the stick.

It didn’t go far.

But Colin was happy.

And I was happy.

Happy that I’d given it a go.

Happy that, actually, it was impossible to fail.

Because we had fun trying).

The way I retell this story will be pretty accurate.

However, with the passing of time (and the artistic license I flaunt as the writer of 50odd) I will probably smooth the edges.

That’s OK.

The essence remains intact.

LinkedIn.

Almost 10 years ago.

I sent a Linkedin message.

It was in response to an opportunity that I and my Creative Agency onebestway had been given.

The opportunity was to pitch to deliver high level, broad reaching marketing and communications work for a local College.

I won’t mention the College.

Or the hero of the story.

But they can if they like.

If they read this.

In the comments.

The Opportunity.

The opportunity was for the delivery of design and marketing work.

The brief was pretty standard.

I think it was the seasonal creative campaign for the whole of the college.

You know – the thing that colleges do each year to jostle for attention in their busy marketplace.

Budget and Brief.

The budget was enough.

The College was investing – properly.

But the brief bothered me.

So I sent my LinkedIn message to the Director of Marketing and Communications.

It went something like this.

Hello (I did address this person by name of course).

Thank you so much for asking us to pitch for the development of this year’s marketing campaign for your College.

It’s a great opportunity.

However, if you don’t mind, I have an observation for you.

If your College was a brand that stood for something desirable, that was consistently communicated and ownable (so it was uniquely you), I’d predict that your annual spend on communications could shrink dramatically.

And you’d get a far better ROI year on year, too.

Because you’d be famous for that one thing.

You’d not only be a great College; you’d be a great brand too.

You see, I don’t know why you are different.

And I don’t know why you are better.

So as a student I don’t know why to choose you.

And as the leader of a Creative Agency – I don’t know what message to deliver.

No matter how ‘creative’ we are.

I suppose I am saying that instead of investing heavily in marketing and design – year after year after year – have you ever thought about investing in brand first?

So that your College becomes famous for something that reminds people of you and only you.

That way, you won’t have to come up with transient, snappy, ever-changing (and expensive, because you are starting from scratch in each year’s bunfight) ‘flares’ that are ‘here this year’ and ‘gone the next’.

If you did become a brand, all you’d be asking agencies to do each year is reenforce your unique position.

Rather than come up with this year’s random eye-catcher.

Because you’d have real traction.

You’d stand for something.

The tone of my message was upbeat.

Solution focused.

I clicked send.

And I waited.

Leaders.

Finding ego-free people in leadership roles is quite rare.

Brave, adventurous, positive, clear thinking leaders are few and far between.

Especially (in my experience) in education.

Leaders keen to explore new approaches.

Leaders that have the humility to rock back in their chairs and, authentically, listen.

Not because I or we necessarily know better than them.

Because they know that, even though they are being tasked to lead, they are not being tasked to have all the right answers.

They just have to find them.

This Leader. 

This leader’s response was short.

And fast.

It was (something like).

I know.

I agree.

Shall we talk?

This College.

This College is famous for one thing now.

The brand (and it is a brand) focuses on the endstate that all students really want.

It looks past the facilities (it has superb facilities by the way).

It looks past the delivery (it has superb delivery by the way).

It looks past external badges for performance (it always does superbly by the way).

And it looks past the transient wants of the student (the insta stars and the trainers and the smartphones and the hoodies will always be desired by the students of course. But that’s not really why they come to College).

None of these were right as a brand essence.

This, however, was:

…we have one aim; to make sure you leave us in the best possible position to secure a job.

Brand Position.

This brand position is beautiful.

And pure.

And ownable (because of this College’s history).

And simple.

And memorable.

And brilliant.

But most of all… it came from the College itself.

This quote that I have pasted above is not from our work of over 5 years ago you see.

It is from the College’s own website.

Today.

It’s part of the tagging in the content online.

Today.

It is what I read first when I searched for them on Google.

Today.

Fame.

If a young person wants to go to a College to get a job.

They choose this College.

This College understands brand and how to be a brand.

There is brilliant, largely female leadership and it’s 100% credit to them that they are respected so deeply on a national stage.

They also knew how to really shake a (perceived) number one brand when they were number two.

But that’s another story.

Summary.

For the avoidance of doubt, this is not a story about the work we did with the College.

Because that was a few years ago and for just a couple of years.

It’s about how this College was run and is run today.

As a brand.

With an open mind and an open heart.

They are clever.

And they give a shit.

Really.

And it shows.

Here’s a Facebook post.

I popped it out there a couple of days ago.

Having founded and now running Always Wear Red is a weird journey.

The downs are hard.

The zigging and the zagging.

The learning is constant.

The bruising – when things don’t go to plan – can be brutal.

Wanting to be absolute best… designing bravely… wanting to make a real difference… wanting to build relationships with the best makers in the world takes a lot of time and money.

Creating a brand that I love.

And that I want others to love too.

It drains me.

But then.

If you stick at it.

And ask the hard questions.

And do the hard things – well.

The good comes.

And it lifts you.

It lifts you high.

Here is a word-for-word message I just received.

After I’d asked to meet up with this person.

A person whose work I adore.

I wanted to chat about Always Wear Red.

Her message to me just now:

“Yes darling… once I get off “the road”. I’ll make time for myself and go exploring. Loving your designs, BTW. Cheers”

Well, I don’t know that this will mean something to all of you.

But it meant a lot to me.

The message was from Alison Moyet.

It’s just a nice feeling.

That the things I love today, are allowing me to revisit the things I loved when I was younger.

The message for you?

If things get tricky… keep going.

There are lovely things just around the corner.

I don’t know which corner of course.

And neither do you.

But they are there.

‘Night.

Alison Moyet.

Here’s Alison singing ‘Only You’ in 2016.

At The Burberry Show.

If you’ve not seen Alison Moyet for a few years.

You’re in for a surprise.

Always Wear Red is getting narrower.

We’re focusing down on doing just one thing.

Really, really well.

And that’s jumpers.

Narrower. 

Great brands are almost always narrowly focused.

Duracell know what they do.

Batteries.

And they know what they stand for.

Lasting longer.

Yet as they have the greatest global market share of around 24%.

Common sense might suggest that such wonderful brand awareness means they are a perfectly positioned platform from which to launch other products.

Not so.

One of the reasons they are so dominant in the batteries category.

Is because batteries is all they do.

Always Wear Red

For 3 years I have ignored my own advice.

(I know!)

And I’ve explored.

I’ve mastered how to create, using Britain’s best makers and the world’s best materials, superb caps.

And scarves.

And hats.

And ties.

And pocket squares.

And socks.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

I didn’t know where my true love lay.

So I skipped about.

Learning my trade.

As I grew the offering.

Brand.

The Always Wear Red brand has never changed, mind.

It has always been about creating confidence.

And it always will be.

Making the wearer feel amazing.

So they do amazing.

But the offering was too broad, really.

Until now.

Jumpers. 

So jumpers it is.

And in the same way that Hiut Denim are on the or way to creating the best jeans in the world.

And McNair Shirts are creating the best merino wool shirts in the world.

Always Wear Red is creating the best 100% merino wool jumpers in the world.

Heavyweights.

And Lightweights.

They will be ready later this year.

Time.

It’s taken time.

And care.

And patience.

And money.

(And more money).

And a lot of love too.

But it will be worth it.

One of the best storytellers I have ever known.

Is my friend Pete Zulu.

Because he can capture a feeling in just a few words.

Interpretation.

This tiny snippet is something that Pete wrote on his Instagram page next to a lovely photograph.

A photograph that Pete had taken.

I must stress that I will almost certainly have interpreted Pete’s words incorrectly.

But, on occasions like this, incorrectly is fine.

Because however Pete told the story, I interpreted it in my own personal way.

And that’s the point, I think.

Candles. 

There’s a photograph of a young child on Pete’s Instagram page.

I can’t remember who it is.

But he looks worried.

Beautiful.

But troubled.

The caption, written (probably quite badly but brilliantly all at the same time – a rare skill) by Pete went like this.

It was a simple question that this worried, 4(ish) year old boy had asked.

It was:

Who will blow out my birthday cake candles if I die?

I have no idea what prompted this question.

And it doesn’t matter.

Because, if you are anything like me you will feel something about this question.

And death.

And childhood.

And innocence.

And fear.

And loneliness.

And how we all germinate ideas and fears – good and bad – whatever our age, inside our heads.

I hope that, like me, you are smiling.

And that you feel affection for this boy.

And for all young people.

And that you remember how lovely it is to engage with innocent minds.

To help them.

And – importantly – to re-learn, from them, how to think beautifully again.

Anyhow.

That’s what I took from this.

And, of course, it was a nice reminder about Pete’s beautiful mind.

Photograph.

Please.

If you are reading this in your email.

Take a look at Pete’s photograph, too: https://www.50odd.co.uk/candles/