Brexit-Adjust Your Sails For The Winds Of Change

There is no getting away from it.  The Leave vote took us all by surprise, even the people who voted for it.

There has certainly been drama to accompany it; lots of hand wringing, political manoeuvring and a massive desire to find someone to blame.

There’s been a focus on the differences in the voters and their attitudes – stereotyping them into urban and global versus patriotic and community minded (that’s the nice version, some of the name calling has been nasty.)

The rehash, London protests and so called experts saying we don’t have to leave, isn’t helping anyone.

It just highlights that the Remain group have the attitude “You are different from me so you are a threat.”  This is the same attitude that drove the Leave camp to want to pull out of Europe

I voted to remain because, selfishly, I am worried about the toll this will take on my small business.  But now, it is time to put the values we espouse into action.

This is bigger than any individual, bigger than my job.  If I fight to protect what I’ve got, at the expense of everyone else, then how am I any different from the people who felt threated by the free movement of Europeans into our job market and our culture?

Some of the best advice I’ve been given is that your sphere of worry should be equal to your sphere of influence.  It’s time to regroup and think about what we can influence. Continue reading

Overwhelmed? Build Your Mental Muscles

We live in a full throttle, reactionary world.  Chaotic cities, a demanding job and trying to balance work with the rest of your life, means sometimes it feels overwhelming.  You need to be mentally strong and that takes work.

We all recognise we need to do some exercise to be physically strong.  We can’t count on occasionally taking the stairs and some weekend sport to be enough to build our strength; we have to work at it regularly.

It is the same with your mental strength.  If you want to feel in control, optimistic and resilient for what life throws at you, you have to do some mental exercise regularly.

The good news is you are already busy thinking.  Reshaping what you’re thinking about will get you in to good shape.

What saps your mental strength?
There are things that research has identified as Twisted Thinking.  These are the things that are NOT helping you.  In fact, they suck out the joy and use all your mental strength with no benefit.  Here are a few:

Mental Filter – Singling out the negative comments and dismissing the positive ones

Catastrophizing – Blowing things out of proportion and imagining the worst

Should Statements – Using critical words about what we think we ought to do differently.

Here is a link that outlines Twisted Thinking, from David Burns Feel Good Handbook. It also talks about how you can overcome those thoughts.

My 6 exercises to build mental strength
Put some of your thinking time, especially that down time when you are driving, taking a shower or watering the plants, to building strong mental muscles.

1. Know what you want, not what others want for you or from you 
Take time to think about what you want from a situation.  When you have clarity, you will be more likely to get it and much less likely to feel annoyed or taken advantage of. Continue reading

Staying “The Adult” At Work

Have you ever been maneuvered  into the “child role” at work?

You know the feeling, someone takes a strong or demanding stand with you and boom – you’re tricked into acting like a kid.

That might mean you try hard to please them, even though you know it’s not your job and they are making an unreasonable request.  Or you take the rebellious teen role and start arguing adamantly, a little out of proportion to the situation.  So what happened?

First, know that you aren’t alone.  I was chatting with a new client, a well-spoken woman with a lot of experience.  She explained the anxiety a senior colleague was causing her.  This person would spring meetings on my client and insist she attend, the colleague had asked to be cc’d on her correspondence and requested a weekly meeting to see what my client had been up to.

The colleague wasn’t my client’s boss. Continue reading

Managing Your Manager

A lot of us think our manager could do better.

I know this because I get to peek behind the curtain. Coaching gives people a place to talk about the things they can’t say to their boss.

This is what I’ve been hearing, does it sound familiar?

What I wish my manager understood
1.  I want you to ask what I’m interested in and where I think I’m heading.  Don’t just toss objectives at me at appraisal time. Continue reading

Content versus Advertising

I was talking to a friend recently who said “while agencies are trying to define and discuss content, consumers are just getting on with it.”

She’s a Creative Director, one smart cookie and she is trying to change that.

The reality is, as consumers we don’t care what it’s called.  If we are entertained, if the message feels relevant and interesting to us, we don’t care how it’s packaged and we don’t even mind some branding.

Here’s a great example in Jimmy’s Iced Coffee.  Jimmy founded the company, then went on to make his own video to promote it.

He said in an interview “It’s really rare for a product or service to have the owner as the frontman or heart of the marketing push, and it’s actually a really useful asset.  All of our communications come from myself – it’s not some agency doing its best to sound like a made-up person.”

The ad is simple, the message is clear and entertaining.  Is it a music video?  Is it an ad?  Is it content? Who cares?  It’s fun.

Use Your Imagination To Improve Your Life

I have worked with people that have the word “Creative” in their job title for most of my career.  They’ve taught me a lot.

I recognize patterns that they have trained themselves to do daily, which most of us could use.

It starts with a little respect for their own imagination.  Most people who are paid to think creatively appreciate that they need to allow some time and space to engage their imagination.   They don’t assume they will come up with the goods while standing on a crowded train, listening to other people’s head phone rumbles and being jostled around.

They also recognize that this is a discipline and not something you can try once and have the best result.  You have to train your brain to allow it to imagine, visualise and fill in the detail of a new idea.

The good part is that we all have an imagination, we can all visualize something new, if we give ourselves the chance.

Why Visualization is so great
Think of your imagination as an amazing cog that syncs perfectly with your subconscious. Continue reading

Images Aren’t Ads – Make It Do The Job

A stunning image is not the same thing as an ad.  One is art.

The other is supposed to inform, motivate and perhaps encourage you to purchase  or do something.

I have noticed that some creatives confuse the two and it is just a waste of the client’s money.

Equinox, Wieden + Kennedy, NY
Equinox Wieden + Kennedy New York

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for subtle messages, but what is Equinox and why should I care?  There is no message at all here.

There are a lot of clever print ads that make you think or make you laugh.  In every case, the good ones leave you with a slightly better understanding of what that brand wants you to know.

These ads don’t do their job.  I don’t understand what they want me from me. Continue reading

Is Confidence What You Need For A Better Future?

I love a good historical drama, I’m a sucker for anything that gives us a peek into the way life used to be.

It seems to me, in the Victorian era, that your Character was your most valuable asset.  Your word, your handshake, whether you honoured your agreements and paid your debts, was openly discussed in society.

Were you honourable?  That was the first question someone asked before they would do business with you or allow you to accompany their daughter.

In one drama a man had written someone a check and it bounced because of insufficient funds, that was enough to make him a social outcast. Imagine the implications if that were true of today’s banking.

From Character to Confidence
At some point, we shifted our values and decided that being honourable, “your character”, was not as important as being confident.

Now we’re in pursuit of this great attribute.  She looked confident, he presented to the Board with confidence, I want my child to feel self-confident, this elusive thing is what people strive for.

It doesn’t matter if a project isn’t well researched, doesn’t appear sustainable or carries hidden risk – if it is presented with enough confidence people will buy in.

We’ve stopped questioning and valuing that person’s character.  Donald Trump seems to personify this – he is supremely confident and people are attracted to that, do they think he’s honourable – I’m not so sure.

Where will Confidence lead us?
Confidence is important – please don’t get me wrong.  I do a lot of coaching to help people find their confidence.  It allows you to be heard when you have an opinion.  It helps you push away anxiety and try something new. Continue reading

The New Men’s Ads – Confidence over Cocky

In the UK, Lynx is known for its spray on sex appeal.  In all its ads an average guy gives himself a spray, girls get a whiff and are drawn to him like a magnet.  The guy does nothing but show up, the girls instantly forget their good sense and their panties.

They aren’t the only ones that capitalized on men being cocky without much substance.  Many brands used that image of young men out for themselves, doing their own thing, with a devil may care attitude for everyone else.

So what changed?
It would appear that there’s some new strategy, it looks like brands are doing their homework.  In this age of analytics there’s plenty of data – you’ve got every opportunity to understand your consumer.

It seems that young men aren’t the strutting, boasting sex magnets they’re portrayed as.   Some have a few insecurities .

Lynx has decided to act on that.  So have Levis and Heineken.

What I love is that they’ve been true to their brand personalities, still confident and stylish, but now the message is better. Continue reading

Your Sphere Of Influence

When I was working in advertising I took one of my clients, a marketing manager at M&M/Mars, out to lunch.

You’d think selling chocolate would be a sweet job but there is a lot of pressure. They have to keep the favourites top of mind, battle for space on the shelves, make the finances work and then develop and launch new things to entice us to try something different.

I admired this manager because he seemed to take everything in his stride.  He didn’t show the obvious stress I saw in others.

He was easy to work with and considered his answers.  He made good decisions that he could explain to us.  His team were helpful and they laughed a lot, making me think they enjoyed working with him.

So back to the lunch, I asked what helped keep him grounded and his answer has stuck with me.  He said he was told, early in his career, that his sphere of worry shouldn’t exceed his sphere of influence.   He said he used that to keep things in perspective. Continue reading

Kick The Habit

As January is the time to kick a few habits, I thought we’d have a look at some old fashioned cigarette ads.  You remember – the glamour, the sex appeal.

Here are two from the 1960’s, portraying the life you aspired to emulate as you smoked.  Back then the cigarette brand you chose said a lot about you, as you flashed your pack to the world.

Kool – Lady be cool

Marlboro Country

Cigarette ads, in their hay day, hoped to lure you to their brand with the imagery they carried.  You could be transported from cleaning your kitchen with just a flick of your Bic, and you’d become an elegant Virginia Slims woman – “You’ve come a long way baby…”

How they’ve changed
What a long way the advertising has come, to market today’s E-cigarettes.

Here are two commercials of the 2015 variety – one is focused totally on tech without a smoker in sight.  And the other, if this is the “glamour” they’re using to entice women into Blu, it’s just cringy, especially that reference to her “special someone.”

E-Lites Curv

Blu E-Cigarettes

It’s definitely time to kick that habit.

Do you have a favourite cigarette story? Jot it in the comments below.

A Merrier Than Usual Christmas

I want to wish you a holiday full of fun, laughter and a very special Christmas.

I hope you enjoy it just a little more this year, more than you ever have before.  I’ve realized joy is where we find our strength.

These last months have seen our news filled with acts of ignorance and hate.  That’s created a big cloud of fear.  You have a choice about whether you live under that cloud.

We’ve also seen courage, compassion, resilience, tenacity and hope.  Each of us has those in us and together we build on them.

I’ve been inspired, and a bit awe struck, by people’s desire to push back against the horrors and live their lives vibrantly and wholeheartedly.

They’ve shown us that we can deny the fear mongers their pleasure, by using happiness, enjoyment and celebration to express our defiance.

My hope for you this Christmas is that you find your strength, defy the fear and rejoice in the things you appreciate in your life.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Kathy

PS: Quick Christmas ideas
If you are still looking for Christmas gifts or a place to celebrate, here are two ideas from people who embody both an exuberance for life and a joy in creativity.

Try something new with London Drawing:  They have gift certificates available.  Their classes range from absolute beginners to life drawing experiences in amazing locations.

Experience a glamorous night at The London Cabaret Club:  A glorious show, great food, dance, music and cabaret acts.  You can even flash your own fancy moves on the dance floor.  This elegant new Cabaret has launched with a bang – celebrate with them this Christmas or as a gift for next year.

 

Love, Resilience, Perfection

Antoine Leiris, wrote an open letter to the terrorist who gunned down his wife Hélène Muyal-Leirisin Paris, during the concert last Friday.
FULL TRANSCRIPT OF HUSBAND’S LETTER
On Friday night you stole the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you won’t have my hatred.

I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know – you are dead souls. If this God for which you kill indiscriminately made us in his own image, every bullet in the body of my wife will have been a wound in his heart.

So no, I don’t give you the gift of hating you. You are asking for it but responding to hatred with anger would be giving in to the same ignorance that made you what you are.

You want me to be afraid, to view my fellow countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my freedom for security. You have lost.

I saw her this morning. Finally, after many nights and days of waiting. She was just as beautiful as when she left on Friday night, just as beautiful as when I fell hopelessly in love over 12 years ago.

Of course I’m devastated with grief, I admit this small victory, but it will be short-lived. I know she will accompany us every day and that we will find ourselves in this paradise of free souls to which you’ll never have access.

We are two, my son and I, but we are stronger than all the armies of the world.

I don’t have any more time to devote to you, I have to join Melvil who is waking up from his nap. He is barely 17-months-old. He will eat his meals as usual, and then we are going to play as usual, and for his whole life this little boy will threaten you by being happy and free. Because no, you will not have his hatred either.

A Question Of Authority

It’s amazing what we don’t discuss.  Most of us want the authority to make decisions, hire who we want or make choices that impact our projects.  But we rarely ask if we have been given that power.

Imagine we charge into something with the belief that we have all the authority to approve things.  Conversely, we might go into a project with the idea that the boss or committee is going to want to approve every step.

Either way, we’re often caught out, when we discover the other people involved have a different idea because it wasn’t discussed.

If you’re charging forward making decisions, you may bump up against an agitated person who’s adamant they should have been consulted.

If you are checking at each step, people may doubt your ability to lead the work and then your reputation gets dented.

Taking the time to think about what authority you are asking for, or granting, can save a lot of headaches later.

So how do you discuss authority?
Here’s an easy way to think about authority and what you are offering when you delegate to someone.

4 Levels of authority
1.  Bring me your recommendations and I’ll decide
2.  You decide, talk me through it, then act on it
3.  You decide, act on it, then let me know what you’ve done
4.  You decide, act on it, let me know if there is a problem Continue reading

Ads With A Twist

It’s always interesting to see what’s sexy in another country.  This ad from CJ Worx in Bangkok caught my attention for a couple of reasons.

The build-up is innocently sensual, leading you to think it’s a gentle ad for a teenage bra.  Then there’s the end, which left me wondering just who was the target audience they were hoping to attract.

It takes really strong creative work to surprise you in an ad. Thirty seconds isn’t much time to develop a story, establish a character, get an idea across and leave us with a product message.  If the creative team can sneak a surprise in there, that’s a bonus. Continue reading

Is Everyday Fight Or Flight?

I just finished a CBT course (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and some things really stood out for me.

One of the biggest is what a blunt drug Adrenalin is.

Our bodies are wired for survival.  When our caveman selves saw a threat to our fragile being, we got a big dose of adrenalin and its related hormones.  This helped us either run away or beat the heck out of the scary thing.

For some reason we haven’t evolved all that much, even though the things that threaten us have moved on considerably.

What Adrenalin Does:
Adrenalin and its associated hormones are triggered by our Sympathetic Nervous System.  This is automatic.  It gets us ready for a major surge of energy.
Heart rate increases                  Breathing becomes quicker and shallower
More glucose is released              Blood pressure increases
Pupils dilate sharpened vision   Cuts back saliva – dry mouth
Slows/stops digestion               Sends blood to muscles, twitchy, on edge
Inhibits immune system

In our brain, we become solution focused, scan for other threats and are action oriented.  Our mind wants to get us out of this dangerous situation as fast as possible.

To give us this increased strength, our body has to shut down a few other parts. It pulls blood away from the areas of the brain where we learn, create and imagine.  This isn’t what’s needed when we’re under threat.  It also shuts down our digestive system while we are adrenalin fuelled.

So back at the office…
Today, the things that feel threatening are usually not physical – certainly not a lion at our cave.  Our fight or flight mechanism can be triggered by an aggressive email, someone saying “Can I have a word”, the possibility of missing a deadline or being late for a meeting.

None of these things are going to kill us, but our sympathetic system doesn’t know that.  It can’t tell the difference, a threat is a threat and the adrenalin comes shooting out to get us prepared. Continue reading

Just Offensive

Smart Cars are great for urban areas.  They fit into little parking spaces, are easy to manoeuvre and make your life easier.  That’s what they want us to understand.

The last three seconds of this ad told me that, the rest of it just offended me.

First this isn’t a new idea.  Last year’s big shocker was little girls dropping the F-bomb to raise awareness for the Feminist Cause.  They tied the profanity into the message – they made an overt correlation between this shocking language and the shocking discrepancies in women’s salaries versus men’s.

You can watch it here: Little girls dropping F bombs for Feminism

BBDO Berlin’s use of tiny tots using foul words has no link to the product and a tenuous link to its entertainment value.

Honestly there is enough swearing in everyday life. It’s not funny because these little ones aren’t in the least embarrassed, they’re just repeating what they’ve heard.  It’s a sad commentary on the parents.

It’s also a lazy approach to strategy. It doesn’t make the brand look cool or do anything to help with perceptions of quality and safety – two things small cars have to overcome.

I’d say this ad does more damage than good – what do you think?

Gliding Is Seriously Underrated

Let’s face it, most of us work hard at really churning the water. On a good day we can tell we’re making progress, on a bad day we’re swimming against the tide and just trying to keep afloat.

We rarely slow down to think about the glide…

I heard about the power of the glide from a wonderful coach who also teaches adults to swim.  She has masses of glorious curly hair and a can-do philosophy.

She was explaining that part of our progress in swimming comes in the stroke, where we push against the resistance in the water. Then the other part is where we slide forward, gliding on the power we already exerted.  She says the glide is equally important and far less exhausting.

I’ve been thinking about how little we acknowledge, and never seem to rate, the times in life where it is essential to glide.

Somehow, if we aren’t forcing ourselves forward and pushing against the resistance, we don’t feel we’re adding value or pursuing our dream.  Yet, we all recognize there are times in life to turn on your turbo jets and other times you just need to quietly glide on and let the opportunities catch up with you.

We can’t go full throttle all the time
A couple of coaching experiences, I’ve had lately, really brought this home for me. Continue reading

Entertaining Ads Can Do The Work

Most people in advertising cringe when Millward Brown is rolled in by their clients.

We think pre-testing and over analysis leads to dead end ads.  We worry they’ll lose their entertainment value in favour of over egging the branding.

But having had several clients that used them, I learned to respect one of their requirements.

They insist that you shouldn’t be able to tell a friend about the ad, without mentioning the product.

It’s an easy rule of thumb to check if an ad will work.  If it’s entertaining but you don’t take out the message, what value is it to the company?  What’s the point of that money spent on media?

This ad from Leo Burnett in Paris fills the bill.  You have to talk about the product.

It’s a brand message which is all that’s needed, we all know how a paper towel works.

I think it’s a good one. The brand should stay top of mind with women, clearly their target, because it’s clever – and so are we.

Take That Two Week Vacation

This is a guest blog written by Dr Sue Guthrie,  Head of Scientific Services at Ogilvy 4D – The health behavior change specialists

The morning rush hour has miraculously disappeared and Wimbledon is but a memory – so it must be the summer holidays.

This is the time to head off with your family for two relaxing weeks, away from your desk, your clients and your email. Sounds perfect, huh?

So why is it that a third of British workers do not take their annual holiday allowance? Are we really too busy? That seems at odds with the fact that UK workers are the least productive of the G7 countries. Do we think we are indispensable? No-one is indispensable – even Apple has survived without Steve Jobs. Is it because managing work around your holiday is hard? Possibly, but that shouldn’t stop you.

Research from the US shows that taking time off is good for the individual, good for productivity and even good for the economy as you spend that holiday cash.

Henry Ford had the right idea back in the 1920s, he recognised that productivity could actually be increased by moving from a 48-hour, six-day work week to a five day, 40-hour week.

Correctly managed, holiday also allows your staff to take on some new tasks and enrich their own role. They have a chance to find new things they enjoy and are good at. They may even develop a better appreciation for what you do! Continue reading