Strange

was the big idea of this year’s Marketing Society conference. It proved an inspirational platform. A great conference theme- credit must go to new CEO Gemma Greaves and her team.

This being an individualistic culture (and age) stories were often told as personal triumphs over fear, especially in extreme sports (a big theme of the conference which I suspect made most of us feel distinctively queasy and meek.)

Bravery is enabled by encouragement

Yet , for me, a sub text kept surfacing: brave people (often) could not have acted without both support and encouragement. (Encouragement literally means being given courage by others)

Syl Saller refused to be drawn into the “I” word and insisted on “we”- on the collective corporate bravery that built by internal champions and consensus builders ( like her)  Extreme Surfer Garrett McNamarra said he could not have recovered from injury and found the monster wave that broke the record without his wife. Raha Moharrak, the first Saudi woman to scale Everest, was initially told “no” by her father, when she announced her climbing ambitions, yet received his blessing shortly after. Hassan Akkad, a refugee from war torn Syria, had bravery forced on him by circumstances and has subsequently received support from (amongst others) The BBC in telling his story. His bravery was the most humbling – causing me to reflect on how very fortunate and selfish we are. 

Bravery as solidarity

Francis O’Grady, general secretary of TUC, framed bravery as sticking up for others rather than individual triumph. TUC as a brand has been stuck with dated associations of the “big men” of trades unionism. They seemed to be in denial about the opportunities of a globalised, technologically driven, individualistic world. That’s why Thatcher set out to weaken them.  Yet that promise has turned sour. Economic growth did not “float all boats” but has resulted in gross inequality. So Francis’s call for solidarity, mutuality is timely. She even suggested that a union for the gig economy should be launched – now that would be “a big idea” and perhaps “a symbol re-evaluation” (in Adam Morgan’s phrase) for TUC      

There was another theme that kept surfacing. Not a new one. A  theme of many a conference of old. But always valuable to companies. It is the stuff that actually builds brands and businesses ( not chasing people round the internet with programmatic ads). It was:-

The power of big ideas.

To galvanise everyone, especially your own people

To make teams braver and more focussed

To inspire designers and agency creatives to do their best work

Here are my three favourites from the day:

NEW YORK TIMES. THE TRUTH IS HARD: a clarion call for investigative journalism in the face of mendacious attacks from Donald Trump.

BABYLON APP. Brilliant new AI powered app that enables more accurate self diagnosis of illness and triages people in the right direction. Sure to be a hit with hypochondriacs everywhere – and (hopefully) save time and labour

Pedigree’s insight that it is the innocence of dogs that breaks down barriers and brings people together. This inspired a great social experiment in getting Trump and Clinton supporters to be nice to be each other.

As for my act of bravery from the day:

I think I am off to join a union and buy a dog

 

 

Getty sell their images to agencies who are designing campaigns and so what buyers search for reveals something of the zeitgeist.Agency creative teams have well developed instincts for what is fresh and current. Forget the focus groups, analyse Getty search tends.

“Stand out from the crowd”,”rebellious” and “bold choices” have spiked in search on their website by over 100/200/300 % respectively. As Getty put it as “we become increasingly inundated with mass replicated imagery and aggregated articles our appetite for a unique point of view and stand out visuals increases”  This is a trend they call Outsider in 

Scan 1

Another telling trend is Messthetics, which is a different side of the same coin: as Getty put it ” a breakaway from predictability …the imagery is messy, grimy sweaty, visceral… it comes from our desire to break away from the sanitation and predictability of everyday life and revel in the physicality of human nature .”  Think of the success of campaigns to sell more ugly fruit and veg.

Scan 2

In retrospect the rise of Trump and Sanders seems all too obvious …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some – like Tracy Emin, Damian Hurst and GIlbert&George- have been in ad business for while. Their styles are so distinctive you know them immediately like a pack of Persil. They have mastered the art of effective branding – with “added value” prices to match

At modern art shows the same ‘big’ themes come up over and over again- here are three you can rely on.
1) The artist getting in touch with his/her inner child – Childhood is a time of both maximum innocence and psychological damage-or both. That tension is makes this a rich theme to exploreIMG_3123 IMG_3127 IMG_3117
2) Wearing  masks– a very ancient theme as it liberates the individual to take on different identities and or behave as badly with as they like. In films people always get murdered at masked balls. Venice loves masks-and is the original city of hidden dangers. Sadistic sex often involves masks- anyway you get the pointIMG_3173 IMG_3187 IMG_3168IMG_3167
3) Consumerism=polution 

Today there is just too much pollution . It is covering our beaches , making our rivers poisonous and air cancer inducing.

Our Madmen era pleasures in consumerism-those Andy Warhol soup cans seem so innocent now-have been undermined by the smelly decaying byproducts of our obsession with economic growth. Asia ( for which read China) is the epicentre of this collective act of greed & desire driven  self-distruction. Hence these images

IMG_3152 IMG_3153 IMG_3155

 

Spotted in Chengdu- another insight into JP

Until now this facet of JPs personality has remained hidden-that of Panda cuddler and Panda calmer

JP’s image is just one of many on the wall of the Panda research centre near Chengdu, which feature the great and the good from all around the world- each one holding a panda.

And i must say that most of the the other images revealed people who look tense and uncomfortable with these bamboo chompers.

But JP has clearly got the knack- his Panda looks calm, well fed and satisfied.

Our dear former deputy PM is clearly a man of many parts

JP calms yet another feral beast

Innovation of the week as reported in The Guardian weekend mag by Lucy Mangan

Many urban Japanese live stressful lives in apartments too small to allow them to keep their own pets, so cafes have started to spring up that supply kittens to play with while you are drinking your coffee and eating your cake”

This neatly combines sociability, a return to childhood and physical pleasure- a sweet spot if ever there was one in the world of innovation.

It puts me in mind of those innovation exercises in Edward de Bono’s How to have creative ideas in which you draw out of a hat two random and seemingly unconnected words and see if you can link the two with an innovation or idea. The modern word for this is a mashup but as a way of innovating it is quite old- many innovations simply being a new combination of old element

For Example in an ideas session once I drew out once the words “Fruit” and “Lighting” and ending up inventing a range of fruit shaped lights especially for childrens’ bedrooms- Glowing little strawberries and bananas and apples to hang over the cot at night.

Rubbish idea or a lateral way of inculcating health eating from the word go ?