Category

CREATIVITY

Category

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!)

 

A number of people played Sting songs.

In front of Sting.

At the Polar Music Prize ceremony in 2017.

Sting. 

The camera flicks between the performer and Sting.

As he sits in the audience with his wife Trudie Styler.

The cameras capture his reaction.

And Trudie’s.

Gregory and José

Gregory Porter covers ‘It’s Probably Me’.

And it’s pretty good.

José Feliciano covers perhaps Sting and the Police’s greatest tune, ‘Every Breath You Take’.

And it’s a bit shit.

Honestly.

It’s not good.

Reaction.

Anyhow, take a look if you have 10 minutes.

And by ‘look’ I mean look at Mr. Sumner’s face.

As he takes in both versions of his creations.

Sometimes, it’s tricky to hide how you really feel.

(Go to https://www.50odd.co.uk/sting/ if you’re reading this in your email).

 

 

Today.

I am fishing.

Fishing. 

I am fishing for feedback.

Please.

I want to know what you think about 50odd.co.uk.

What I write.

How I write.

What you think there could be more of.

What you think there could be less of.

And maybe even (because I am genuinely not sure) what 50odd.co.uk actually is.

To you.

Me. 

All of that said.

I will continue to write for me.

50odd is, and will remain, a creative outlet for me.

‘Writing Tourettes’.

If there is such a thing.

And an extension of me.

In the same way that, I suppose, the best bands write music for themselves.

Think Nirvana.

Not Milli Vanilli.

And you’ll get where I’m coming from.

Thank you.

So thank you in advance.

I am interested.

In the good.

And the bad.

Comment below.

Or please email michael@50odd.co.uk.

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.

I’ve recently discovered a whole new set of things you can do with eggs.

I have had to.

Lisa.

Lisa likes a bargain.

I think that, in supermarkets, she follows anyone holding a pricing gun.

To see where they land.

And to see if they are going to mark something down.

This is one of Lisa’s hobbies.

Eggs. 

I received a particularly excited text recently.

(Excited texts contain capitals and exclamation marks, in case you were wondering).

Because Lisa had discovered some mark-down eggs.

15 eggs per box.

4 boxes.

For 10p per box.

So 40p for 60 eggs.

Two-thirds of a pence.

Per egg.

5 days.

All good.

Apart from the fact that we had 5 days to eat them.

All 60 eggs.

Between two of us.

And a 2 year old.

Still, it made me explore egg-based recipes.

And we probably only spent about an extra £20 on gas and electric to make them.

Bargain!

Here’s a photo: https://www.50odd.co.uk/bargain/ 

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/

I once ran a business called onebestway.

It was a Creative Agency.

Over 14 years it grew from nothing.

To something.

Growth.

Specifically, it grew from nothing to sales of £1,250,000 over about 8 years.

Then trundled on.

Winning awards and creating jobs over 14 years.

But it wasn’t always steady growth.

Sometimes, there was sharp decline.

Consett.

An example of sharp decline happened one cold early morning early in year two.

Our offices were in Consett.

And I turned up early.

I was always in first.

First to see the cold computers and desks.

First to warm them, and the room, for the others.

Except on this one morning.

Because when I arrived at the office.

I saw something quite different.

Different.

On this one morning all I saw.

Was a brick.

Brick.

One way to enter to an office.

In the middle of the night.

If you have no keys.

Is to use a brick.

Throw it at a window.

(That should do it).

And one way to very, very quickly ‘unplug’ monitors from sockets.

Is to hit the cables with an axe.

So the axe cuts through the cable – and the table top actually – with speed.

I learned both these things on this cold morning in 2002.

Momento.

For years, I kept the brick.

I smiled at it.

It was a momento.

It reminded me, and the thought of it still does, that we bounce back.

The brick incident was a mere blip.

A bump in the road.

The road from nothing.

To £1,250,000 of sales.

Paul Lancaster started Newcastle Startup Week 3 years ago.

I don’t know how many more years it will last.

And Paul probably doesn’t know either.

But what I do know is that Newcastle Startup Week is very, very special.

Newcastle Startup Week.

This May.

Over a 5 day period from the 13th to the 17th.

Over 700 people will gather in Newcastle and Gateshead to explore a huge range of subjects around starting and growing businesses.

It’ll be about 1,000 people once we add in students.

But it won’t be at all businesslike in the traditional sense.

Suits will be few and far between.

As will vol-eu-vents.

Instead, there will be the excited and the entrepreneurial, buzzing with optimism and positivity.

As well as amazing local food, coffee and beer served from mid morning to late into the night at amazing local venues like Tyne Bank Brewery, Back Yard Bikeshop (By The River Brew Co.) and Stack Creative Social Hub.

And because of all this.

What comes as absolutely no surprise to me at all.

Is that this event is more attractive, better attended and more loved than anything of its kind that I have ever seen by any university, college, enterprise agency, local authority, networking organisation in the North East of England over the last 20 years.

And I have worked for 4 universities and the North East’s 2 biggest enterprise agencies.

Nothing has ever come close.

Festival.

Newcastle Startup Week is a festival.

The speakers (of which there are 60+ from around the world) are diverse and intense.

Each speaker gets an average of 20 minutes to do their thing.

So the content is sharply constructed and efficiently presented.

The whole event crackles and buzzes with seemingly endless layers of information, entertainment and inspiration.

And it is unencumbered by waffly sponsors.

They’re clever enough to know that just being involved, and a sprinkling of a few well-chosen words, is enough.

Tickets.

Newcastle Startup Week is innovative, layered, surprising, fast-moving and vibrant.

And as I say – very, very special.

Which, I guess, makes Paul Lancaster very, very special too.

All you need to know is here, including how to get a week-long ticket.

And if you email me at michael@500dd.co.uk, asking for a discount code, I’ll send you one that’ll give you a 50% discount in these last few days.

Please.

Go.