Archive for May, 2010

England winning the world cup won’t make you happy.

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

You might be surprised to know that one of my favourite consumer magazines is football monthly When Saturday Comes. Not because I am a particular fan of football (I don’t mind it when it is on), not because it is the best source of footballing analogies which are ever useful in explaining new strategies, but because it is usually very funny.

We can all learn something from June’s issue about happiness. In the “webwatch” feature writer Ian Plenderleith cites a column at ( which concludes that if England win the World Cup fans will be no happier one year from now than if they had been knocked out in round 2.

The thing that brings you most happiness about football is actually gathering to watch it with your friends whatever the result which is just as well if you are a West Ham or Watford supporter, say, as the result won’t make you happy most of the time.

This in fact echoes the new findings from Nobel prize winner Dr Kahneman who was my absolute favourite speaker at Google Zeitgeist last week – watch and enjoy at ( In a Zeitgeist scoop he revealed the results of his survey on wellbeing in the USA which distinguishes emotional well being or day to day practical enjoyment (experiencing happiness in your life), with life satisfaction or feeling good about how you’re doing in a keeping score type of way (reflecting on how happy you are with your life). Whilst money buys you a higher score in the latter category when you’re remembering how things are, for the former day to day category it has absolutely no power to buy you any more happiness in your life past a threshold of between $60000 and $80000. Above this threshold, whether you have $90k or $9m you apparently don’t get any happier day to day.

What does make you happier is the amount of time you spend with people you trust. Exactly in the way that the main happiness generator from a football game is time spent with your friends and not keeping score.

The research also highlights the importance of trusted colleagues in the workplace – you spend much too much time there to not be happy day to day. And actually sets finding colleagues you can trust as a much greater career consideration than finding yourself a footballer’s salary.

Interesting food for thought as you watch England’s first round games in June.

Diversity please for business sake.

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

We’ve long had a little motto at MediaCom as far as finding new people to work here is concerned which runs “I don’t like you – you’re hired”. It is based on the thinking of Bob Sutton ( His philosophies include the idea that you need to hire people who make you feel uncomfortable, or even people you actively dislike, because it makes your organisation better and stronger.
One of the seminars at Google’s glorious Zeitgeist conference this week reminded me of this when Ben Verwaayen (CEO of Alcatel-Lucent) clashed on a panel with Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos and author of Delivering Happiness) and Christian Stadil (owner of hummel). As you know usually panellists find themselves in violent agreement about the topics discussed. Not this lot (as you can see at ( Both Hsieh and Stadil were in agreement that you needed to employ like-minded staff. Verwaayen fought hard for diversity instead. Condemning most organisations as “Permission seeking societies where the nod of the boss is more rewarding than a satisfied customer”, he suggested that you needed to find people who were not like you and who could bring a diverse set of experiences and even values to the mix, and who would fight for what they believed was right, even if their boss didn’t approve.

My view is that truly great organisations do tolerate, and even welcome a rich mix of personalities and indeed diverse types of people. When your team disagree it stress tests ideas more and only the really good ideas get through.

It was noticeable this year, and indeed remarked upon by some delegates that there were few women at Google Zeitgeist, either speaking or as attendees. This isn’t a criticism of Google, I am sure it is a function of the business world that they’re operating in. (Our WPP media contingent stood out – Jane, Claude, Ita and Lindsay were all there). It has been remarked upon by commentators in the press of course that the members of our new government are mostly men and look remarkably similar too, and until today (May 20) the same could have been said of the candidates for Labour leader.

Thank goodness for Diane Abbott if only from a diversity point of view.

We should have Nick Clegg in goal for England this summer.

Thursday, May 13th, 2010


Now that we have a government sorted out we can turn our focus to football and the World Cup. A recent caller to Talk Sport suggested “we should have Nick Clegg in goal for England as he’s the only bloke who can turn left and right at the same time”. As it happens Clegg’s got himself another job so we’re going to have to rely on Fabio Capello’s choices of team instead.

Capello’s 30-man provisional squad for the World Cup is now published. But his new commercial venture ‘The Capello Index’ was shut down as soon as it was launched, or at least postponed until after the tournament. The index would have provided data on all players within two hours of games finishing based on a statistical formula. His partner in the business Chicco Merighi is the founder of an online betting company. After a meeting with the FA however the Index has been delayed. A spokesman for Capello said “”Fabio Capello’s involvement has been purely as a technical expert to establish statistical criteria for the Index. He has not been directly involved in the on-line gaming element of the site. However, he wants to ensure that all appropriate protocols are in place before the project proceeds and has therefore decided today to postpone it.”

I’m not entirely sure what the “appropriate protocols” are, but the idea that your boss would publically rate you online after each performance is an interesting management technique. Imagine if you will an online rating system in the office where everyone can see what your boss thought of your performance in your last meeting.

It is not clear that this would be a motivating move and best not tried out on the England team this summer – they will have enough to put up with in the shape of sports commentators in the national media, the weight of national expectation and their own delicate egos.

Vineet Nayar is an evangelist for another kind of transparency in management technique – putting the welfare of your employees above your customers. The Chief Executive of Indian IT giant HCL he wants to destroy the cult of the CEO and the obsession with their omnipotence. The Sunday Times quotes him saying “CEOs behave as if they only care that they have a job and that’s a disaster for society”.

He believes that bosses should put their employees first and their customers second. He’d have Capello nurture the England players in effect in order to bring out the best in them. Invert the pyramid – managers are accountable to their staff. Nayar’s own appraisal, which is open to all 55,000 staff, is published on HCL’s intranet.

So now imagine an online rating system where you rate your boss publically. More motivating than the other way round?

Not the first “internet election”, but the first British Age of Dialogue Election

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

There has been a lot of self satisfied commentary in the traditional media from journalists who seem very pleased that the current election has not fulfilled some people’s prophesies to be the “first British internet election”.  Rather everyone is calling it a TV and press election.  The big turning point was the election debates on TV.  The rise of Clegg in British voters’ minds is unarguably one of the strongest case studies Thinkbox could present as a brilliant example of brand awareness as a result of TV activity.  And at the time of writing the newspapers have taken their sides, backed their candidates and are lining up headlines for this Friday (7th May) to say it “was us what won it!”.

In fact to call this a traditional TV and print election is to misrepresent what is really going on.  Because this election is different to the ones before.  It is the first real Age of Dialogue election. 

The Age of Dialogue is the fourth great age of communication.  The previous ages – Interruption, Entertainment and Engagement – still were times when the brand owner could hope to control its image via communications.  The current age is a time when a brand’s image (or a political candidate’s) is at the mercy of a constant buzz of everyone talking about it and what it represents.  The very exciting twists and turns of the campaign are driven by the 24/7 full on culture in which we now operate. 

If Nick Clegg’s performance on the first televised TV debate was one of the key turning points, another was Brown’s muttered comment about a “bigoted woman” when he was still miked up last week.  Much as he apologised he was completely at the mercy of a huge wave of public comment and opinion.  He wasn’t fast enough to cope with it, he wasn’t authentic enough to cope with it and his advisors apparently either couldn’t or wouldn’t deal with it.

Let’s be honest, many of us thought – there but for luck go a lot of us.  Many people say asides to trusted colleagues that they would be appalled to have made public.  I have had cause to wonder myself –  when part of many an august judging panel for industry awards – how the writers of the papers would feel if they could be a fly on the wall for the discussions.  (And, in the spirit of Age of Dialogue, I repeat my suggestion that there should in fact be a webcam in the judging rooms for the Media Week awards).

In 2007 Andrew Neil (who has had a very good election according to most pundits), spoke at our inaugural Age of Dialogue conference.  He then said that none of the political parties, none of the candidates and none of the campaigns had any idea at all how to cope with the new age of full on out of control public debate.  The key change was not whether or not there was Twitter or Facebook, or email harvesting or YouTube.  The key change was how if you are in the public eye there will be thousands or even millions of conversations happening about you.  And you can’t expect to control those conversations by talking down to the public as the political classes have traditionally done.  Three years on it looks like he was not only correct then, but is still substantially correct now.  None of the parties has had that good an Age of Dialogue election so far.  It remains to be seen how the political system in this country will survive the new age.  And whether we will see a candidate arise in the future to lead our country who has the ability to enter into authentic and positive dialogue with their target audience of voters.

And dealing with the Age of Dialogue remains the greatest marketing challenge of our age as well for brands.  Not whether they should advertise online or not, or how accountable their digital spend is against traditional measures.  It is how to deal with the new age of fast and open dialogue with their consumers.