Sunday 31 January 2010


I had one of those weird synchronicity experiences this week. I usually have about three books on the go at any one time: something work-related, a novel and then something which I reckon is going to be good for my intellectual development in some way. So at the moment, I'm reading the heavy but fascinating "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell.

I'm not far into the book but have just read a section talking about paradoxes and opposites. Campbell quotes Heraclitus: "The unlike is joined together, and from differences results the most beautiful harmony, and all things take place by strife."

Over to my work book. This is "Swarm Branding" by Stephan Sonnenburg - a collection of essays and papers on Brand Management in the time of Web 2.0. It's a bit heavy-going, too - probably because I'm struggling with the academic German. But this too is rattling on about how good brands solve paradoxes - synthesising two things that were in apparent conflict.

And of course, the big talk this week was about Apple's iPad. Whatever your view of what the paradox is - and I tend towards latest technology vs. human-friendly, Apple is up there for me as one of the top examples of a paradox-synthesising brand.

Monday 25 January 2010

The good and the great

If you're looking for a definition of happiness that's slightly out of the ordinary, look no further than Steve Henry's blog.

Once I'd tittered about that one a little, I went on to read the legendary creative man's musings on "good" and "great". I go with him all the way when the subject is avoiding the safe and the ordinary.

But I do take issue with the topic of "good" vs. "great" - and which is more desirable. There's an assumption somewhere here that "good" is rather like "nice" - aka "mediocre".

My view is, that especially today, the two are not a linear progression. Think about it this way. Go back to the Middle Ages and imagine two kings. After Steve, let's call then Henry. There's Henry the Good and Henry the Great. Which of the two was a better king? Or, more to the point, who would you rather have lived under?

My bet is that Henry the Great would have been rampaging around the outer reaches of the known world somewhere, using his people's money to bash up barbarians with a massive spiked ball on a chain. This would be the equivalent of making a big noise at the Creative Awards, I guess.

Henry the Good, on the other hand, was probably taxing all the barons who'd got too big for their boots to provide free mead and ox-roasts for all his subjects.

A question of loyalty, perhaps?

Wednesday 20 January 2010

A brand too far?

How many brands can you mix together to justify an extreme price premium? Here's my best entrant from 2010 so far - the adidas Originals Star Wars Collection of T-Shirts, Track Tops and trainers, which includes a "Darth Vader Superstar track top with cape and light saber holdall", should anyone be interested.

I've just about got my head around Lego Star Wars as a brand in its own right but just look at the launch commercial for this new hybrid.

We've got adidas Originals in there and Star Wars plus three other brands of the humanoid variety - Beckham, Snoop Dogg and Daft Punk. Isn't it a bit over the top?

The endline is "Celebrate Originality". I'm not sure if this is an ironic touch. Or maybe it's a reference to creativity as putting things together that haven't been put together before.

Friday 15 January 2010


My son got a Cluedo game for Christmas. I suppose I was looking forward to cosy evenings in our nostalgic cellar bar, lost in an Agatha Christie-esque world.

So I was quite surprised when I found that the game seems to have mutated into something from the pages of Hello! Not only is it called "Discover the Secrets" - even worse in German - which sounds like the latest steamy teen vampire saga, but it's set in a Hollywood mansion, complete with indoor pool and Spa/Wellnessbereich. The English country house set have been chucked out in favour of a blingy posse including a video game designer and an ex football star.

It's just a game, said my husband, and he's right. And I don't suppose my son really cares whether he's in the billiard room of Tudor Mansion or on the patio on Hollywood Hills. There are a couple of extra weapons, which I grudgingly admit could make the game more exciting.

But I can't help thinking: why? Part of Cluedo's charm is the 1940s world into which the game was born. Look at another well-known - and ancient in comparison - cult brand: Marmite. Yes, there are 'contemporary' line extensions. Yes, there are all manner of funky communication ideas. But they haven't taken the salt out of the product to be 'more in line with today's world.'

Sunday 10 January 2010


I'm already looking forward to the end of January, because that's when the new book from John "Genetically predisposed to the upside" * Grant is coming out. John's books always seem to hit the Zeitgeist of strategy and marketing and "Co-opportunity: Join Up for a Sustainable, Resilient, Prosperous World" looks to be no exception.

With my prejudices unashamedly in place, I know what I'm going to like about this book. It's not going to contain any of that last century military/competitive sport analogy tosh, with the focus on winning and excellence and peak performance and beating the enemy, sorry, competition. There won't be any of that Us vs Them process-driven mechanical thinking.

It will contain plenty of humanity, collaboration, participation, making a real difference sort of thinking as well as humour and a good few surprises.

It will be a book that is about hope rather than fear and that's something we can all do with.

*Jonathan Porritt