Thursday, 22 February 2018

Live to work to live

I realised, with a large gulp, that this year, I'll have been a strategic planner for 30 years. I've been in this business longer than many of today's top brands have been around. There was no amazon when I started, and certainly no Google or Facebook. No one was wittering on about platforms, except for the man who told you to 'mind the gap' in the London rush hour.

I have been lucky with my work. I'm a stayer, rather than a flitter, not due to inertia, but rather due to change just happening as soon as I got itchy feet, rather as if I'd willed it. A new account, a completely different market, an international role. And then, of course, the changes in the world - through technology, which has had a huge impact on the ways of working. I remember the days when you didn't have to schedule a phone call. Yes, there were phones back then (but very few of them were mobile.)

But in terms of what I'm doing, rather than how I'm doing it, the same things are on the agenda. What makes people tick? Why do they behave the way they do? What drives them? And how can brands help to meet this infinite palette of human needs, dreams, desires, wants and hopes?

The agenda has widened for me - on top of this, what is the relation between brand and business? What role or responsibility have brand - and business - in society? These questions retain their fascination.

Back in my college days, I think I did one of those vocational questionnaires that guided me towards suitable fields of work. I seem to remember the legal profession and HM Inspector of Taxes being high on the list. Here is another kind of work-related questionnaire, and rather a good one, from The Book of Life. Rather than suggesting specific careers, it highlights what is important for you in your work, more in terms of what moves you.

I'm pleased to say, that for me, it was creativity. Some things don't change.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Is segregation progress?

Back in the last century, the sexes were segregated - certainly when it came to books and learning. There were boys' schools and girls' schools, and at universities, women's colleges and men's colleges. I considered myself lucky to be growing up when all that was changing, and even made a little bit of history myself as one of the first women undergraduates at Trinity College, Cambridge.

Over the last few years, there seem to be increasing calls for segregation - in car parks, in railway carriages, and more in more in the way some products are sold and marketed. Maybe International Women's Day has brought out the worst in them, but here are just a couple of examples from the (UK) publishing industry.

Penguin are going to pop-up in Shoreditch with their "Like a woman bookshop" from 5th - 9th March. This bookshop will stock only books written by women. A Penguin spokeswoman is quoted as seeing this as a push for "women's voices being heard and taken seriously ..."

Meanwhile, there's the publisher And Other Stories who will only be publishing works by women in 2018.

In my admittedly limited (to children's books) experience of the UK publishing industry, I've noted that it seems, if anything, to be more female-orientated than male. It is rare to find a literary agent for children's books that's male.

Are these activities creating a problem where there is none? Fiction-writing, with its calls for empathy and communication skills seems to be one area, to me, where women might just have the upper hand.

Where there is a problem is in countries whose regimes and cultures still suppress women. This will not be solved by a pop-up shop in Shoreditch. It will only be solved by publishers actively seeking out authors from these countries (and I don't mean comfortable middle-class third-generation UK-based women) and taking on the risks and dangers involved, if they believe that strongly in "making these voices heard/insert next cliche."

Incidentally, I've been invited to join something called Trinity Women's Network and attend several events that they host. Having gone to a mixed college, why on earth would I entertain the idea of segregation now?

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Circle of Life


So many years have passed since the word 'sustainability' entered the language of business that I believe many people have forgotten the difficulties they may have had in understanding exactly what that word means. Although I use the word, it's one I've always had misgivings about. It's a heavily-laden word,  weighed down by its own worthiness, implying a lot of hard graft for not a lot of reward. It has associations with endurance, with injury and suffering, but none with anything positive, be it people, purpose, planet or profit. It's a must-do rather than a want-to do.

I'm pleased that businesses have started talking about the 'circular economy.' Like the idea of the 'sharing economy', it's an idea you can understand intuitively. I'm surprised the term has been around since 1989 (raised by British environmental economists) as I have only been aware of it in the last two or three years.

Rather than a linear economy, with its produce - consume - dispose beginning, middle and end, the circular economy, as you see above is all about keeping resources going and giving value for as long as possible, and then re-cycling.

Incidentally, this ties in well with my abhorrence of the word 'consumer' - in this model, people are active participants, creating, selling-on, adapting, repairing and recycling as well as using the goods.

It's only a pity that many of the major tech companies with their in-built obsolescence don't seem to have got the hang of this just yet.

Friday, 2 February 2018

The Funeral of a Computer



I've said before that one of the hazards of being a trend forecaster is that sometimes, you get it wrong.

But apart from the nuclear bomb and the new ice age, there's very little in the predictions of these teenagers, asked in 1966 by the BBC's Tomorrow's World what life might be like in the year 2000, that's so completely wrong, even if some of it took a little longer to start happening. I wonder what these people - now well into their 60s - think today of their predictions?

Robots and computer funerals, madmen and atomic bombs, overpopulation and radiation.
Automation and people out of work.
People will be regarded as statistics and not actual people.
Boredom, everything the same, people the same.
Housing problems, people squashed together and cramped - or living under the sea.
Battery farming, artificially-reared animals.
Rockets and sputniks interfering with the weather. The sea rising.
Black and white, rich and poor all living mixed together.

Very dull, no fun or anything.  And - cabbage pills.