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Yesterday I got a call from a number I didn’t recognise. A few of my friends make a habit of ignoring those calls, but I’m always up for a new conversation (hence my details being freely available). I picked up and said hello in my usual fashion, and then heard some scuffling. I thought perhaps a friend had left her phone unlocked and accidentally dialed it form her hand bag, and then a song started playing.

Quite bemused I sat listening. It was a country-ish sort of tune, pleasant to the ear but I couldn’t make out the words. A couple times I heard the phone move, no doubt the caller checking to see if I was still listening. After a few minutes the song finished, and the person hung up.

Maybe I should find the whole thing a little strange, and to a certain extent I do. Whether it was a wrong number or a person trying to convey a message that didn’t quite reach me, who knows? They obviously had a fairly definite intent with what they were doing. We all at times make moves that seem so obvious to us, while others stare on completely bewildered.

Intent is a funny thing, and a world away from execution. Some days further than others.

Image courtesy of estherase, with thanks to compfight.
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Life savers on the Gold CoastI was back at my parent’s house on the Gold Coast, Queensland on the weekend, in town for a friend’s wedding. On these trips I tend to spend the entire time away from a screen (yes it is a good thing). It’s nice just being able to walk and think and not say much, at least nothing with any sort of agenda. I suppose that in itself is what a holiday is supposed to be about, activities without agenda, unless of course you can call relaxing an agenda.

Anyway, below are a collection of things that popped into my head while I was wandering around, having conversation with old friends, doing my best to do as little as possible. There were countless other thoughts, but they’re lost to the wind now…which is, actually quite alright.

  • Loyalty programs aren’t that at all, they’re blackmail. Not only that, they make the person who has only just started shopping feel left out. The first thing you do is alientate your new customer? Way to go. Hat tip to Zag for fueling that thought.
  • Sitting having dinner with my parents, there is an ease I don’t find anywhere else; the weight strung up in client-deadlines and record deals dissipates, and I’m just their son again.
  • When you care about something or someone to the point that it becomes the focus of your world, it alters both the way you see everything else, and the way everything else sees you
  • When I don’t have a guitar in my hands, or at least access to one, I feel like I may not be able to articulate my thoughts as well as I’d like (I have no idea yet as to how I might convey my thoughts around social media using a guitar, though opening with Smells Like Teen Spirit is definitely out of the question).
  • I like nice clothes. It’s also more important for me right now to spend money on getting my band out there and more recognised (I was also thinking this will never be reconciled or come to an easy conclusion, to quote Kanye, “I got a problem with spending before I get it, we’re all self-conscious I’m just the first to admit it“)
  • Doing beats talking. Every. Time.
  • That last point is something I still struggle with.

Image courtesy of El Fotopakismo, with thanks to CompFight.

Brainstorming ideas for a clients impending product launch, a gun account manager (as in she’s great, she doesn’t manage a client who manufactures guns) and I came up with something that was largely experiential, nailed the target market, and delivered on the promise of the brand all in one. Good idea we said. Great idea we said.

It’s not digital we said – but does it have to be?

When I was thinking about the first column to write for Marketing Magazine, I kept coming back to this notion of what digital wasn’t as opposed to what it was. I canvassed a few opinions and was bemused by Iain Tait’s cryptic reply; “Digital is not a thing anymore.”

Some time after that, indeed quite recently, I suddenly realised what he meant. It reminded me of something Dr. Michael Hewitt-Gleeson had said to me a few months earlier: “The second you try to think outside the box, you’re disregarding a lot of really good, valid stuff.”

A good idea is a good idea, and as long as it delivers for your audience, and it doesn’t have to be anything else.

Image courtesy of NMCIL, with thanks to compfight.

Just saw this, what a great quote:

Screwing things up is a virtue. Being correct is never the point… Being right can stop all the momentum of a very interesting idea.

Can I get an amen? The quote comes from Robert Rauschenberg, which I picked up reading a great blog Stu put me onto, Indie Breakfast Club. I’ve been thinking and writing a lot lately about being wrong, great to see I’m not alone.

What are you still doing here? The post is over! Go check out Indie Breakfast Club, tell ’em I sent you.

Image courtesy of wernerchen, first spotted on and shamelessly copied from Indie Breakfast Club.

I read two unrelated posts this morning which both said the same thing; the generation of children who aren’t yet teenagers have an interesting relationship with and approach to communication.

The first was from Fred Wilson who was after a new phone for his daughter to replace a broken iPhone. Funnily enough, she didn’t want it replaced with an iPhone, 2007’s must have toy.

She wants the new crimson red Blackberry Curve.

Fortunately, it looks like I can get an unlocked one on eBay for between $100 and $200.

I wonder what this says? I realize it’s a sample size of one, but I’ve heard that a bunch of her friends have also given up their iPhones in search of a better texting device which seems to be the one feature they value most.

The second was from Simon Chen who said exactly the same thing:

Ask a teenager to give up their mobile phone and see what happens. Actually, I bet if you told any kid today that the new rule of the house is their phones would be restricted to voice calls only (and that the text or SMS function would be disabled), there would be a global revolt. Parents would be locked in cars and basements and all manner of threats would be shouted from every rooftop.

Kids don’t talk on phones anymore. They grunt. But the little f@#ckers can text. Man, can they text.

I am loathe to carry out a conversation via text, I flat out refuse and don’t respond, or else I call if it is really important*. But I’ve seen this behaviour in my younger cousins, and being somewhat pedantic about grammar and punctuation, have certainly seen it carried out in the way sentences are constructed – or rather abbreviated into forms that begin to border on unrecognisable.

With this in mind, I’ve begun thinking aloud (and with no real clarity yet) about what this means for the way the next generation will communicate, particularly how they will expected to be communicated to and how this will impact their interactions with the rest of the world.

For example, is it reasonable to expect “correct” grammar to be taught if it ceases to apply to their daily lives the way it does to mine? Will an essay in SMS or l33t speak be admissable in new communications courses once they at university? More applicable to me, how does that change the nature of text in ads? How do you affect the tone of a piece if not just punctuation but vowels themselves cease to play a part? Srlsy?

I’d dismiss the above as nonsense, except I already see my own generation with hard and fast mind sets on certain things nobody had to teach us, we just knew. The notion of respecting someone because of their title never even entered our minds; what do I take for granted that the next batch won’t bat an eyelid at?

The changing nature of communication is something I find endlessly interesting, even if there are no easy answers.

*Things that are important:

  1. A guitar I simply must have
  2. The girl I’m seeing accidentally meeting the girl I’m seeing
  3. Confusion over which bar we will begin the evening’s festivities in
  4. A Springsteen tour being announced
  5. More as I think of them…

Ubiquitous, and usually flipped off without a moment’s notice, saying “How you doing?” to someone is usually met with a myriad of responses designed to elicit as little conversation on the subject as possible, largely because (I think) nobody really believes you’re interested in the answer.

Yesterday someone asked me how I was as I stood making coffee at work. “I’m really great, thanks!” was my response. The person in question turned to me a little incredulously and said “Really? Why?”.

“Do I need a reason?”

“To be really great? Yeah!”

How odd I thought, I could have sighed and said “Yeah…ok” and it probably would have been met with a knowing oh-we’re-at-work-aren’t-we glance. Being really great gave pause for thought, and reminded me of a bunch of stuff Seth has written on being exceptional. A mood is enough to stop people in their tracks, to capture their interest.

People want to be part of what is good, what is great, and what is exceptional. You attract others towards you through that attitude, and you attract consumers to your clients brands based on the aspirations they have. Instill the offering with something exceptional (and it can be as simply as being “really great”) and the rest will take care of itself.

…that’s probably over-simplifying, but the point stands.

Murphy’s law: just as you’ve finished bitching about the value you get out of your facewash something like this will come along; nothing like saving lives to put notions of value into perspective. I don’t care what you’re doing, take five minutes to watch this incredible video now. If your boss complains, tell them I sent you.

With thanks to CrackUnit.

Last week Scott and I were engaged in a conversation (likely entertaining to only ourselves) about how the right song at the right time can take a moment and make it seem bigger than it actually is. Sure you can achieve that at a decent gig by any half-wit band, but we were talking more so about times when you’re on your one, or at most one other. It’s how a song becomes “our song” as opposed to just “the song that was playing when…”.

I love and think about music for different reasons to a lot of people, but respond to it in entirely the same way. I can remember hearing The Blue Nile’s She Saw The World (from the album “High” – review | buy), streaming from Pandora (before it was restricted outside the US) in my first couple days at DDB, late one afternoon when the sun comes bursting through the venetian blinds that obscure the city in their Melbourne office, how perfect that was. I remember hearing Take ‘Em As They Come on my birthday last year, an obscure Springsteen song from disc 2 of Tracks. Those moments were much larger than the inherent mundaneness of sitting in an office or thinking about a girl as I walked to meet my friends for dinner.

Now those moments are only made possible by the products that serviced me at the time; Pandora, a music streaming service, and my iPod. When I think about those times, I’m aware of how those moments were facilitated, and they inherently instill good feelings about both companies as well as their offering. The afore-mentioned Scott touches on this in his latest post “The future of advertising and marketing, or why having a boring product means you’re officially screwed”. Music is an easy one, but the lesson inherent here is genuine value was created. The products enriched my life.

A product that creates value gets talked about on its own. If it’s being talked about then it reduces the need for marketing spend. Or rather markets itself. I think was Seth Godin who recently said “Instead of spending $50 million on marketing, spend $50 million on a product that is actually worth talking about.” Brands and products become more than the sum of their parts when they get it right, but first you have to care more about getting it right than that quarter’s results.

Once you’ve made that shift, that’s when things get interesting…

So simple, so right:

Persistence isn’t using the same tactics over and over. That’s just annoying.

Persistence is having the same goal over and over.

Amen.

On my way to the office this morning I stopped by my favourite coffee emporium in all of Melbourne, a shop at the edge of the Prahran Market called Passionut. I stepped inside to see the place flooded with chocolate bunnies, Easter eggs, the layout of the store in disarray. “Where are Tim and Carol?” I asked the eager guy behind the counter. “Oh, they’ve moved on,” he said, and that was that.

Tim and his wife Carol stocked a range of fantastic coffee, wonderful fresh nuts and dried fruit, and some great chocolate. Chocolate and coffee are two of my real passions in life, I can take either in until the cows come home with little loss in desire to consume more. More than that, buying it from Tim and Carol, a couple who I’ve shared lots of music and more laughs with became an experience in itself. I’d share with them my hopes for meetings I was having to get the music I make into a wider sphere, we’d swap mix-tapes of Eric Bibb and B.B. King among others, time in their shop was refuge. To quote Hugh Mcleod, coffee was the social object but the conversation around it was much more important, and that was never so apparent until today when I wandered in to find they weren’t there anymore.

I’m sure the new owner is a lovely guy and I hope he does well. But I didn’t go back to the shop because of the coffee, I went back because of the relationship I had with the Tim and Carol. I can’t count the number of places I can get coffee from Costa Rica in Melbourne, so I’m off to one of those. I’ve no interest in buying from the new guy, they were all out of the one I like anyway. That experience with one of my favourite things in the world gets tucked away now, forever and ever, amen.

When a brand becomes an experience and takes on a life of its own, neither the creator nor the consumer is in control anymore. That’s a really exciting space to be in, the rules are entirely unwritten. But it also means there’s no way that experience can be transferred, because it is so personal. It’s the final destination for the brand that has achieved everything else, the only place left to go is complete reinvention. That’s where Tim and Carol have gone to, and I guess I’m on my way as well. Good luck guys.