Category Archives: Writing

You are not who you think you are

How many times have you heard someone say “I am who I am”? Defiantly.

Well, I don’t buy it. Neither from a person nor a Brand.

Nor indeed are you necessarily “who you want to be”. (You may be kidding yourself.)

You are what you DO. You are what you did today. (I could even suggest “you are who you are” when no one’s watching.)

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Captain’s Log

The pilot on my plane this morning was a wizz on the Harmonica.

As he welcomed people to the flight, he gave us all some fast-paced Southern tunes, interspersed with some information about where we were going and some crap about seat belts and exits.

He was warm, engaging and funny – yet still sounded in control, mature and Captain-like, just one in a fahhhn Southern mood.

All it takes to turn me from
a shuddering wreck to a contented happy passenger is communication

Now, I hate flying. Hate it. Terrified. (Actually it’s not the flying so much as the crashing.) But I have a serious deep-seated fear. I hear and feel every bump, every creak, every undulation, every noise, every movement the plane makes and assume either one of our friends that wear fabric on their heads is up to no good or the wings are about to fall off.

Two things get me through this.

1. Drugs and alcohol.

2. A communicative pilot.

If I’m on a flight and we hit turbulence, I freak out. If I’m on a flight and calm Captain John J. Rickenbacker III, who introduced himself earlier, warned me that 20 minutes into the flight we’d “hit a few bumps for 10 minutes,”I’m fine. All it takes to turn me from a shuddering wreck to a contented happy passenger is communication.

And, as a result, my already-high opinion of Air Tran is heightened still further. No surprise this fine airline is now in the Southwest stable.

The Captain stepped out of his cabin as we disembarked and he looked like your average blue-chip fifty-something solid guy, albeit with a grin. And a Harmonica.

“Sully” made us realize than airlines don’t fly us, pilots do.  And as brand ambassadors, they (in my view) account for a huge percentage of my view of that company, once I’m in the air. I firmly believe there are no companies. There are only employees.

One never “sees” or experiences a company, just its iteration, its outward experience – whether that’s a website, an automated phone system or a human.

I find it staggering, still, that so many companies allow their companies to be flown without great pilots.

The Power of Lasting Brands: Man pays $4.2M for Batmobile

I have a strange belief that the power of (and loyalty to) brands you fall in love with as a kid can supplant tens millions of dollars spent trying to lure you elsewhere, in adulthood.

I called them “bedroom wall brands”. To me, as a child growing up in the UK in the early 70’s, those brands were Aston Martin (courtesy of the James Bond franchise), Ferrari (don’t laugh, courtesy of Magnum P.I.) and Liverpool Football Club. Oh, and the United States.

Those loves (what Saatchi CEO, Kevin Roberts terms “Love Marks”) are indelibly etched in my brain.

When I was able to afford a serious sports car, despite the “common sense”of a Porsche, I wanted a Ferrari. And I got one. And, later, I managed to scrape the funds together to buy an Aston Martin. And, eventually, I even managed to secure the Holy Grail: a silver Aston Martin DB5 – the car Sean Connery drove in many Bond movies.

And you know what? It was a piece of crap.

Surely one of the most beautiful cars ever built, but, well, it was like driving a truck. It had a gearbox from a tractor (no, it really did), steering seemingly from a U-Haul truck and the kind of speed and handling one could expect from an AMC Pacer. In short, it was awful to drive. And it was unreliable in the extreme. And every time it ventured to the shop (and by that I mean it needed to go to the Factory) it could clean me out of $15,000 a few times a year.

So did it erode the brand for me?

Actually, yes, it did. They were beautiful, appallingly-built, cars. (Now, for sure, their cars are still beautiful, and now very well made – courtesy of a CEO who used to work for Porsche.)

Do I want one again? Nope.

The brand “promise” was broken. Like a cracked glass, almost impossible to fix.

And so to the man who spent $4.2M on the Batmobile. Well, I hope he enjoys it and sees it for what it is. The materialization of a long-held dream.

I’d suggest he never attempts to drive it.


The “Fear Of Missing Out”. I don’t know who coined this term (it may have been but it sums up, for me, much of the reasoning behind the rise of and obsession with “social media”.

It’s a common enough phenomena in normal “offline” life. Should I stay in on a Saturday night? Or is it worth going to the Joneses party? Or maybe the Krempler’s will be better? Should I attend that conference? Is it worth signing up that networking event? Worth flying to LA for Billy Bob and Mary Beth’s wedding?

(Let alone the “paranoia” that afflicts those who feverishly check the Facebook pages of those who DID do those things we either didn’t do or weren’t invited to, whether they were enjoying it and what they were wearing.)

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