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CREATIVITY

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So there we go.

Another one gone.

Well; in a month it will be.

Here endeth another decade.

Decades.

I lived for 1 and a half years of the 60’s.

All of the 70’s.

All of the 80’s.

All of the 90’s.

The noughties.

And it’s looking like I’ll make it through the 2010 to 2020 decade, too.

So that’s 6 decades so far.

Dead. 

I’ll leave my 7th decade (2020 to 2030) aged 61.

I’ll leave my 8th decade (2030 to 2040) aged 71.

And, if statistically on-par, I’ll leave my 9th decade (2040 to 2050) dead.

I’ll have died in 2049.

Aged 80.

The List.

The big question for me then.

(Whilst I’m on this ‘decades’ thing).

Is what am I going to do with this next decade, then?

This 2020 – 2030 decade.

What’s on the list?

What will happen to me?

And what will I make happen?

Well; if I manage to stay alive, these things will very likely occur.

I’ll see Izobel become a teenager.

I’ll have no mortgage.

I’ll go bald.

I’ll have a life-threatening or life-shaking health scare.

I’ll get married.

I’ll become increasingly eccentric.

(In both how I look and what I do).

I’ll commit to more fitness – as part of my life, not on the edge of my life.

I’ll drink less regularly.

I’ll need two or three new hobbies.

(These hobbies will. 

I sense. 

Be revisiting things that I used to do.

Or just plain odd.

Or both).

I’ll still be working and I will want my work to be really, really significant and valued by a lot of people.

I’ll be volunteering more.

(I’ll be increasingly generous with my time and my learning).

I’ll live somewhere rural.

(With an AGA and a log fire).

I’ll have a soft-top car again.

And I’ll cook more.

Properly.

Older.

It’s strange as I get older.

I am not really thinking:

Things I want to do before I die.

But I am definitely thinking about legacy.

And in my next decade.

The 2030 to 2040 decade.

(Should I get there).

I will be thinking about legacy even more so.

And all I really want as my legacy.

Based on today’s thinking.

Are two things.

Two things.

I’d like Izobel to be aware that she can change the world.

And that the difference she can make for herself, for other people and for the world could be seismic.

Huge.

Fundamental.

And secondly.

Rather more selfishly.

I want to live forever.

Live Forever.

I want to live forever because I want Izobel.

Every now and then.

To ask herself:

What would my dad have said?

Or

What would my dad have done?

And this is good for me to remember.

Because it guides me each day.

To make sure that, by my actions today.

Izobel.

And Izobel’s children.

Will know the answer to those questions tomorrow.

2011 is my favourite.

John Lewis Adverts.

There have been 13 John Lewis adverts.

The first was in 2007.

And it was called ‘Shadow’.

Set.

Here’s the set:

2007. Shadow.

2008.  Clues.

2009.  The Feeling.

2010.  A Tribute to the Givers.

2011.  The Long Wait.

2012.  The Journey.

2013.  The Bear and the Hare.

2014.  Monty the Penguin.

2015.  The Man on the Moon.

2016.  Buster the Boxer.

2017. Moz the Monster.

2018. The Boy and the Piano.

2019. Edgar the Dragon.

Favourite.

So.

What about you?

Here they all are: https://www.50odd.co.uk/2011-2/.

 

One of my favourite restaurants.

Is Dishoom.

And perhaps the most unusual thing about me expressing this preference.

Is the fact that I have never been.

Dishoom.

I met Dishoom founder Shamil Thakrar in London.

In November 2019.

And I am so certain that Dishoom is one of my favourite restaurants.

(Despite having never ever been).

Because of just two things that Shamil told me.

The first was this.

Shamil said that Dishoom is not a restaurant.

Well, not according to Shamil it isn’t.

According to Shamil, Dishoom is:

A love letter to Bombay told through food and stories.

I love the pictures this creates.

And the sounds that it creates.

And the smells.

And the tastes.

And the atmosphere.

I love the promise that that statement makes.

And because Shamil delivers on that promise.

I love Dishoom, too.

Flathead. 

But it was the second thing that Shamil said to me that sealed it.

And it is a simple story.

It is a story about something that happened shortly after Shamil had been explaining his interior design vision to the team that creates his restaurants.

His designers.

And his builders.

(It is important to note, by the way, that Shamil bases his restaurants on precise eating experiences from a very precise period of time in Bombay’s history.

The year 1960).

The pictures that Shamil creates in the minds of his team are alive!

They are so vivid and beautiful that anyone visiting Dishoom today can breathe in the authenticity of the Irani cafés and the food of all Bombay from that wonderful era.

And it was against this backdrop that Shamil spoke to me about something quite simple.

And something quite surprising.

He spoke to me about flathead screws.

Flatheads.

One day.

As Shamil stood in one of his completed restaurant interiors.

A restaurant that he had painstakingly overseen the refurbishment of for weeks.

Shamil had a niggle.

Something wasn’t quite right.

Eventually.

Shamil walked over to the bar area.

Crouched down.

And gently touched one of the exposed screwheads with his finger.

It was a crosshead screw.

And whilst such a thing existed in the world in the 1960’s.

Shamil knew that this is not how the establishments in Bombay would have been constructed in 1960.

Little things. 

I pass restaurants every day.

So many of them struggling.

So many of them empty.

I see that they are empty as my eyes squint through their filthy fucking windows.

And as my feet crunch through the litter they they leave strewn outside their doors.

I squint to see the waiters and the waitresses inside stood mouthing their complaints about their lack of customers.

As they lean motionless against bars, chairs and walls.

And I think about Shamil.

And I smile.

Because when you get the the little things right.

You’re sure to get the big things right too.

Screws.

In the restaurant I mentioned earlier.

Shamil had every last cross head screw removed.

And replaced.

With the more authentic flathead screws that would have been used in Bombay in 1960.

400,000

Dishoom serves 400,000 meals each month.

(Half of which they give away.

But that’s another story).

And I think I know why.

75 of the top 100 grossing films.

Ever.

In history.

So that’s 75%.

Or three-quarters of the top grossing films ever made.

Have one thing in common.

They’re remakes or sequels.

Originality.

Originality is important.

Being pioneering is important.

And it’s exciting too.

But sometimes.

A thing that was served to one generation.

In one way.

Can be better served to a new generation.

Or a new audience.

In a new, interesting and amazing way.

DJ’s 

I suppose DJ’s are doing this all the time.

Or at least most of the time.

Serving up other people’s music.

Reacting to a crowd.

Being spontaneous.

Creating an experience.

Building mood.

And emotion.

With other people’s tunes.

Remix.

Remixing.

Done carefully and well.

Can be amazing.

Antony.

You know I’m a fan of Antony and the Johnsons.

And I quite like that John Lennon too.

So when I realised that Antony Hegarty (now Anohni) had covered Lennon’s finest tune.

Imagine.

I wasn’t sure what it’d be like.

And whilst it’ll not be for everybody.

I love it’s rawness.

And it’s bravery.

Do Your Thing.

Remix.

Reinvent.

Make it yours.

Just do it really well, OK?

Do your thing with it.

Have a listen: https://www.50odd.co.uk/djs/.

 

In brand building.

Story is gold.

It’s all about story.

And how it is told.

But it has to be your own authentic story, of course.

Because that’s what true and enduring relationships are built upon.

ANGELFYSH.

Here’s how strange one of my current ANGELFYSH clients is.

And by strange.

I mean brilliant.

Because he’s so strange.

That he doesn’t realise how brilliant he is.

Story.

A big part of my job as a brand builder.

Is to help people to find and tell their story.

And it has to be their version of their story.

Not mine.

Look Closely. 

So I have to look closely.

And I have to listen hard.

Because that way.

I find the good stuff!

Gold.

Here is something that a client of mine actually said last week.

This is almost word for word.

And it is solid gold:

Of course, I listened to advice about how to build and run the business.

Advice from accountants.

Marketers.

Other business people. 

But the vision that grew inside my own heart.

And inside my own head was much more personal.

So that’s the vision I’ve followed.

And I’ve managed to get away with doing things my way. 

I’ve managed to get away with doing things properly.

It made me smile.

Because it’s just so ‘him’.

So insightful.

And honest.

And funny.

And authentic.

Authentic.

In brand building.

Story is gold.

It’s all about story.

And how you tell it.

But it has to be your own authentic story, of course.

Because that’s what true and enduring relationships are built upon.

McNair don’t beat about the bush.

They say they make the best mountain shirts in the world.

And personally.

I don’t doubt it for a second.

Red. 

My McNair shirt is red.

It’s this one: https://mcnairshirts.com/product/mid-weight-virgin-merino-shirt/.

The reason I mention it is because I am a big fan of the ‘Do One Thing Well’ ethos.

And McNair embrace this wholeheartedly.

Purpose. 

McNair started because of an itch they had.

The itch, which led them to scratch their head, was this.

Why is it.

When I go up a mountain to ski or whatever.

That I have to wear an adult sized padded baby grow?

In pink.

Or bright blue.

Or both.

Then, they chose the best merino wool.

Harnessed classic design.

Upgraded it for the harshest conditions.

Yet made it practical for urban living.

And away they went.

A McNair Shirt.

McNair.

McNair Shirts aren’t cheap.

But that’s as it should be.

When you do one thing well.

And you commit.

The results are generally superb.

And worth the investment.

And that’s what’s happened here.

Here they are: https://mcnairshirts.com.

I met a guy from IBM this week.

Quite a senior guy.

Clever.

Challenging in his approach.

A team leader.

A man keen to push, push, push his teams to the absolute limit.

A man keen get the most out of his people.

Tactic. 

He revealed to me and to the other people in the room.

The most important thing he did with every single team member.

Every single week.

In order to wring every last drop out of them as team members.

This is what he did.

He emptied half a day of all of their diaries each week.

And sent them out of the office.

Out of Office. 

He sent them to a hotel.

Or a cafe.

With no phones.

And no computers.

And no tablets.

Just each other.

He encouraged them to talk to each other about what they’d experienced in the other four and a half days of the week.

To digest it.

Together.

To describe how they saw it.

To help each other.

To explore how they were actually going to apply what they’d learned that week.

And that was that.

Downtime.

The right kind of downtime.

Even at work.

Is important.

Time to pause.

And think.

And digest.

Or you just end up consuming.

Doing.

Gorging.

Packing all this stuff into your hours and your minutes and your seconds.

Not tasting anything properly.

Not processing anything properly.

Not thinking about anything properly.

Not pausing to work out what’s good so you can do the good things more.

And not pausing to work out what’s bad so you stop doing them.

And this is all wrong.

Pause.

So pause.

Pause in a fixed pattern like the guys at IBM do.

Make the right kind of downtime a habit.

You – and your uptime – will be better for it.

The little dragon in the 2019 Christmas John Lewis (and Waitrose) advert is a lovely thing.

It’s clumsy.

And friendly.

And it has nice eyes.

Nice eyes are important for an animal that doesn’t exist and that can’t speak.

Because nice eyes help us to sense what it’s thinking.

So yes.

The little dragon in the 2019 John Lewis (and Waitrose) advert is a lovely thing.

Gut. 

This review is my gut reaction, by the way.

I know nothing of the budget.

Other than it must have been bloody big.

And nothing of the backstory.

I wanted to comment on the 2019 John Lewis and Waitrose Christmas advert as a consumer.

And as a dad.

Is it any good?

So is it any good?

Well, even though I wrote that question.

I am not sure of the answer.

I suppose it depends who is asking and how they are measuring.

It ticks the ‘sugary’ box.

Which is no bad thing.

Niceness is nice.

Families will watch it together.

And I suppose a woven-in-message is that everyone’s foibles can be strengths given the right circumstances.

That’s a good message.

So, OK.

If it’s me that’s asking if it’s any good.

(And it is).

And if it’s me that is also answering.

(And it is).

Then, yes.

It’s good.

Kindness. 

Kindness is a theme too.

With a sprinkling of tolerance.

And patience.

I like that.

Customer Behaviour.

Will it make me pop to John Lewis or Waitrose for my Christmas shop, though?

Will the behaviour of this particular consumer (me) be influenced in the way that they want?

You know what, it just might.

For two reasons.

Reason One.

First, I am interested in how they have integrated the loveliness in the advert that they delivered to my home.

Into their stores.

So when I pop in (with Izobel) to check, one of three things will happen.

Izobel and I will either be:

  1. Delighted.
  2. Underwhelmed.
  3. Disappointed.

And if Izobel and I are anything other than number 1, that’s really crap.

John Lewis and Waitrose will have failed.

It would mean that yet again a brand is fishing for customers with big budget advertising.

And at the point of delivery the experience just doesn’t match up.

Let’s see.

Reason Two.

The second reason I might go to John Lewis or Waitrose as a result of this advert is because the advert is a superb quality piece of work.

On every level.

I like quality.

And the advert makes my little brain think this:

This brand is clearly committed to quality in the stories they tell.

And in how they tell them.

So they would be worse than idiotic to give me anything less than as good a quality experience in their stores.

Because to raise expectations to a 10/10.

To then deliver at an ordinary and lazy 7/10.

Is quite simply a worse kind of shit than saying I’ll get an ordinary and lazy 7/10 and delivering at an ordinary and lazy 7/10.

At least that’s honest shit.

Such under delivery would, in the longer term, be suicidal for any brand.

Izobel and I.

So the advert has done it’s job.

I will take Izobel (and my credit card) to John Lewis and to Waitrose.

To see if the TV experience extends to the physical environment.

To see if the store itself is doing as good a job as the advert is.

Because such clumsy misalignment would be crazy, right?

Merry Christmas.

(Here’s the ad: https://www.50odd.co.uk/dragons/).

 

Creativity is important.

And I think I know what it looks like.

I think it’s what I see and sense when I peer over a creative’s shoulder.

As they stare at the fresh, untrodden snowcover of a creative challenge.

As they are about to embracing wholeheartedly the newness of this opportunity to make a mark.

Their mark.

The opportunity to use their imagination.

The opportunity to generate and then harness their ideas and their ambition.

Into something meaningful.

To muster something fresh and interesting.

(And yes.

It has to be interesting).

That’s what I think creativity looks like.

Creativity.

And I think I know what creativity feels like too.

And that is much easier and simper to describe.

I think that creativity feels like Free Falling.

Beware.

But beware the enemies of creativity.

Beware the things that block the feeling of Free Falling.

Things like money.

Money, I have found, can be creativity’s greatest enemy.

Because it’s normally somebody else’s money that’s in the mix.

And so there is someone else’s will in the mix.

Or taste.

Or instruction.

Or conflicting ideas.

That can bend your creativity out of it’s natural shape.

Such things can bend and break your natural free flowing, Free Falling creativity.

They bend it away from it’s natural course.

To an unnatural one.

A course where doubt ousts spontaneity.

And metrics neuter the beauty and purity of gut feeling.

Negotiate. 

So negotiate your freedom to create.

With yourself.

And with others.

Look them in the eye.

Look for trust.

Look for a cultural fit.

Where you want them to be them.

And they want you to be you.

And where these two things sit in perfect harmony.

Because there is nothing worse on a creative brief, than when they want you to be just another version of what they already are.

And they think they can do what you do better than you can.

Free Falling.

Free Falling.

Go after it.

You know what it is.

You can feel it.

Not a lot of people know this.

But there is something (so I am told) very, very unusual about Always Wear Red.

I never anticipated it happening.

But I’m endlessly flattered that it has.

(I’ll let you know what it is in 30 seconds.

It’s to do with just one particular Always Wear Red Baker Boy Cap, pictured here: https://www.50odd.co.uk/the-three-rs/

So keep reading).

The Three R’s

Always Wear Red is a D2C (direct to consumer) brand.

That way, I can operate at lower margins and pass as much value and quality to the client as possible.

Because no one between me and them takes a cut.

(It’s Always Wear Red.

Then it’s you. 

And that’s it).

However.

Even with this simple model.

The shadow of The Three R’s still frightens me.

  • Returns.
  • Rejection.
  • Rethinking (changing your mind).

Returns. Rejection. Rethinking.

The cost of things coming back to a business can be catastrophic.

And it can happen for many reasons.

I think that reasons include:

  • The customer not knowing about and caring about the brand and the change it is trying to make.
  • The customer not knowing about and (to some degree at least) caring about the people behind the brand.
  • Crap product quality.
  • Crap packaging and point of sale materials.
  • The customer being generally underwhelmed by, and indifferent about, the whole experience.
  • Ordinariness.
  • An uninteresting experience.
  • Carelessly processed and executed packaging, so there is clearly no consideration of the unboxing or gifting experience.
  • The customer being made to feel that once the sale has taken place, the brand does not give a shit about them any more.
  • The product not delivering on the quality promise that was made at the online store.
  • The product and the brand not making me feel how I thought it would make me feel.
  • The brand not saying thank you to me – personally and sincerely – for me choosing them.

There will be more.

The Always Wear Red Baker Boy Cap.

OK.

So now to this one particular Always Wear Red Baker Boy Cap.

Pictured here: https://www.50odd.co.uk/the-three-rs/.

What’s so special about it?

After around 1,000 individual relationships with Always Wear Red customers.

Why is the customer relationship around this one particular Always Wear Red Baker Boy Cap so significant?

Well – it’s because it was returned.

And more specifically because it’s the only piece that has ever been returned to Always Wear Red since we launched on Valentine’s Day 2016.

Our returns rate is 1.

Not 1%.

1 piece.

And it’s this, one, Always Wear Red Baker Boy Cap.

(The average returns rate for an e-commerce business is 30%.

And it’s 9% in a bricks and mortar store).

First Time. Every Time.

Always Wear Red is imperfect.

I work hard to be better tomorrow than I am today.

It’s because I want to be extraordinary in everything I do.

First time.

Every time.

For just one reason.

It’s because if I don’t aim for extraordinary.

There is only one other description for me.

And no one but no one should ever, ever be comfortable being called that.