And this year is all about Climate Change. I could write a long piece about how important it is that we start to respect the planet we live on. But instead I’ll leave it to this chap, who has an argument that I can’t find a hole in:

I use the word awesome far too much. But I think this video is more than worthy.

Happy Blog Action Day 2009. Here’s to change.


A few months ago, I announced I’d be mapping out Volvo’s CRM strategy as a prospective customer. Which was wildly optimistic, considering I was about to become a Dad for the first time!

The idea was sparked by a visit to The Baby Show with Lu, where we had a look around the new XC60 that Volvo had on show (see what you’ve done there Volvo, very good..). Lucy was about 6 months pregnant and we were thinking about changing our car to accomodate the imminent arrival. So, having been impressed with the product, I gave my details, expressed an interest in a test drive and looked forward to hearing from them soon.

Got a text within minutes saying thanks for the interest and that a brochure would soon be heading my way. And sure enough, within a week, I had a rather dull & predictable brochure:

volvo 4volvo 2volvo

Yeah, it spoke about safety and clever features blah blah, but it didn’t do anything particularly engaging. Nothing spoke of passion to me. Nothing spoke to me about why Volvo had to make this car, because its customers had been calling out for them to make it etc.

Don’t get me wrong, i know it’s a “Me Too” model in a rather crowded market (BMW, Ford, VW, Vauxhall, Toyota, Honda, Nissan all have small SUVs – and they’re the ones i thought of immediately without giving it any decent thought). But that’s the point. If it’s a Me Too, what makes it different? What makes it better?

A couple of days later i got a phone call from a Volvo call centre. Couldn’t talk, as I was on the other line, so I asked them to call me back. They never did. Nice.

Finally, a month later, I receive a random mailing about their new ‘Drive’ eco range of engines/models. Nothing about the XC60 specifically. Just a total punt. No reference to my previous interest. Oh, and it was a dire, dire piece of DM:

volvo 3

And that was that. Nothing since.

That, for me, is pathetic. Utterly hopeless marketing communications. The one thing that was good was the initial timings of receiving stuff. But the quality was soooo utterly drab, dull and uninspiring. Buying a car is a big purchase. An emotional purchase. A status purchase. None of this came across in Volvo’s approach. And that’s probably why they’re continuing to struggle to sell cars. So I didn’t think about Volvo again for a while.

But then, on Monday, I received the new Howies Autumn Catalogue, which contained the following:

Volvo 5

(Check out pages 42/3 of the catalogue to see the full story, but in essence it explains how a Volvo engineer invented the 3-point safety belt. And made it available to the whole motoring industry.)

It’s the best advert for Volvo that I’ve read in ages. It speaks to me about everything that Volvo stands for. It’s inspiring. And it made me think differently about them. Which none of Volvo’s own marketing or advertising does at the moment.

Sure, everyone can talk about 5-star NCAP safety ratings for their cars. But only one company invented the single most important safety feature in a car.

Maybe I’m wrong, but it sure as hell feels like they’re missing a real opportunity doesn’t it?


Tilly Trainers

Twas a pretty special Father’s Day for me the other week, because it was my first.

And my daughter rocked when it came to the pressie: a sweet pair of Jack & Jones trainers. Love her work.

They cost a mere £20 – total bargain for what I reckon is a pretty sweet bit of footwear (I know I shouldn’t know the cost of a pressie, but i kinda helped Tils & Mum pick them…)

But that got me thinking. I remember being 12 and desperately wanting a pair of Nike Air Max. But me Mum point blank refused to spend £60 or so on a pair of trainers. I think the words ‘ridiculous’ and ‘obscene’ were used on more than one occasion to describe her position on Nike’s pricing strategy. Needless to say I ended up with something way less cool (Head trainers anyone?!), which came in at much more reasonable £34 (weird what details your mind holds on to, eh?).

20 years later, I’m buying trainers for almost half that.

Now, we like to think we’re pretty good when it comes to ethical shopping. We buy organic food and try to give our pennies to responsible corporations, who give a damn about the world we live in. But still the sales/bargain mindset remains. Did I think about where these trainers were made when I bought them? Did I think about the conditions of the workers who made them? Or did I think “awesome – wicked trainers and half price in the sale. Bonus!”

Yup, I focused on the price.

And that’s the problem that the ethical movement faces. The bargain hunter mentality is so engrained in western society’s shopping habits, that it’s such a hard job to shift that mindset. To get people to think about ethics before seeing the price is an almighty challenge. Took me a couple of days to start thinking about the ethics, having bought the product.

And hell, you only have to look at the success of Primark and Topshop to realise what a battle we face to turn this around and stop the madness that is ‘the Primark effect’.

Maybe I’m wrong though. Maybe I’m just sh1te at sticking to my ideals when I walk into a shop full of trainers.

What d’yer reckon?


Is that a smile, or just a little windypops?

Been offline for a few weeks introducing our first child to the world. Tilly was born on Easter Sunday and it’s been a brilliant blur of nappies, winding and projectile puking since :)

Naturally I’m biased, but I think you’ll agree that she’s pretty darn gorgeous. And yes, she’s got her father’s ginger locks. Get in.


best-friends1

One of the crappy downsides of our wonderful Internet is undoubtedly spam. It still amazes me just how many African lawyers there and Viagra dealers there are in the world.

But one of the wonderful and most brilliant side effects are the random acts of love, friendship and affection that seem to swirl around the worldwide web from time to time.

I was reading Rob’s fantastic blog this morning, whilst sitting on the bus. And he’d written a cracking post about friendship, inspired by the story below that he’d been forwarded to by a friend. You’ve all probably seen it before, and if not, something like it.

One day, when I was a freshman in high school,

I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school.

His name was Kyle.

It looked like he was carrying all of his books.

I thought to myself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday?”

“He must really be a nerd.”

I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on.

As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him.

They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt.

His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him…

He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes

My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye.

As I handed him his glasses, I said, “Those guys are jerks.”

“They really should get lives …”

He looked at me and said, “Hey thanks!”

There was a big smile on his face.

It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.

I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived.

As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before.

He said he had gone to private school before now.

I would have never hung out with a private school kid before.

We talked all the way home, and I carried some of his books.

He turned out to be a pretty cool kid.

I asked him if he wanted to play a little football with my friends

He said yes.

We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and my friends thought the same of him.

Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again.

I stopped him and said, “Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!”

He just laughed and handed me half the books.

Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends..

When we were seniors we began to think about college.

Kyle decided on Georgetown and I was going to Duke.

I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem.

He was going to be a doctor and I was going for business on a football scholarship.

Kyle was valedictorian of our class.

I teased him all the time about being a nerd.

He had to prepare a speech for graduation.

I was so glad it wasn’t me having to get up there and speak

Graduation day, I saw Kyle.

He looked great.

He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school.

He filled out and actually looked good in glasses.

He had more dates than I had and all the girls loved him.

Boy, sometimes I was jealous!

Today was one of those days.

I could see that he was nervous about his speech.

So, I smacked him on the back and said, “Hey, big guy, you’ll be great!”

He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled.

“Thanks”, he said.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began

“Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years.”

“Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach … but mostly your friends ….”

“I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them.”

“I am going to tell you a story.”

I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the first day we met.

He had planned to kill himself over the weekend.

He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn’t have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home.

He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile.

“’Thankfully, I was saved …”

“My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.”

I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment.

I saw his Mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile.

Not until that moment did I realize it’s depth.

Never underestimate the power of your actions.

Maybe it’s because I’m gonna be Dad in a week or so’s time, but it really hit me. Cheered me up no end and put a tear in my eye.

And it made me think, where do these brilliant stories start? Is it someone sitting in a room somewhere with a mission to cheer the world up? Or just someone wanting to write something to a pal to get across how much they love ‘em?

Either way, doesn’t matter I guess. What matters is that random things like this happen. All the time.

I’d like to think that this story is forever circling the ‘net, going from friend to friend. Nice thought eh?

So, here’s to friends. And, specifically for me – Lucy, Ben, Charlie, Danny & Rick. Love you.


abbeyroad_packshot

I’ve loved Elbow for a long time now. And their much deserved commercial success is awesome to see.

So, for anyone who’s yet to discover their wonderful music, I thought I’d point you towards their latest release – The Seldom Seen Kid Live At Abbey Road.

Basically, they’ve re-recorded their fantastic Seldom Seen Kid, supported with The BBC Concert Orchestra and the London Choir Chantage.

And, it’s breathtaking.

Please, do your ears and soul a favour and go and buy this record. In fact, buy two. One for yourself and one for a friend.


Sweeet

05Apr09

Lovin the CameraBag iPhone app. Finally gives the sh1tty camera on the phone some decent functions.

This is the Carnaby St Xmas lights, in the 1974 style. Nice.




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